For Atmospheric CO2 Reduction
This is actually a pretty damning piece. It is a study of the payback point for CO2 after adopting various electric generation technologies as opposed to traditional coal. The study is an awful read because of the requisite dancing around the “elephant in the room”. But, it gave us enough information to draw the reasonable conclusions.
I do wish to premise this article to state I don’t agree with their thoughts on the climate sensitivity (temps) to CO2. I further believe that the life time CO2 is thought to be airborne is overstated. But, on both of those issues, the authors relied on the IPCC.
As we’ve all known for some time, soft renewables such as wind mills have a large upfront CO2 emissions budget. In fact, much more so than traditional energy plants.
A transition from the global system of coal-based electricity generation to low-greenhouse-gas-emission energy technologies is required to mitigate climate change in the long term. The use of current infrastructure to build this new low-emission system necessitates additional emissions of greenhouse gases, and the coal-based infrastructure will continue to emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gases as it is phased out.……., we estimate the global warming expected to occur as a result of build-outs of new energy technologies ranging from 100 GWe to 10 TWe in size and 1–100 yr in duration. We show that rapid deployment of low-emission energy systems can do little to diminish the climate impacts in the first half of this century. Conservation, wind, solar, nuclear power, and possibly carbon capture and storage appear to be able to achieve substantial climate benefits in the second half of this century; however, natural gas cannot.
From that it seems to be just another anti-fossil fuel piece, and it is. For instance, their assumptions about coal with CSS seems out of balance. But, because CSS is such an idiotic idea, I haven’t looked into how much carbon actually gets sequestered. They seem to over state nuclear CO2 emissions as well, but, again, I’d have to look into before making a definitive statement.
Now, here is what I want the reader to notice. Look at the “steps” indicated in the lower left graph for the soft renewables. An explanation is stated in this manner……
For high estimates of life-cycle emissions, periodic replacement of aging plants produces pulses of emissions resulting in substantial, step-like change in atmospheric concentrations. However, in all cases except hydroelectric, continued electricity production results in increasing trends of atmospheric CO2(eq) concentrations.
This is a failure of the eco-nuts. Most often, this is ignored. In fact, this is the first peer-reviewed article I can recall acknowledging this fact. If the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is anywhere near what they believe, then using the sources available today, we will never achieve a reduction in atmospheric CO2, regardless of the technology employed, with the exception of hydro. The paper doesn’t specifically state how long they believe CO2 stays in the atmosphere, but depending upon how you read this, they seem to be implying the half-life at about 40 years. But they fail to put a specific time value on this. You can read their strange logic here. (pdf) Perhaps some industrious reader can elucidate further from that information. I’m still working on my coffee. They state it comes from The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Conservation is thus equivalent to phasing out 1 TWe of coal power over 40 yr without any replacement technology. Even in this case, GHGs (particularly CO2) emitted by coal during the phaseout linger in the atmosphere for many years; in addition, ocean thermal inertia causes temperature changes to lag radiative forcing changes. Consequently, conservation takes 20 yr to achieve a 25% reduction in HGE warming and 40 yr to achieve a 50% reduction.
But, again, look at the steps. According to this paper, we’re not reducing atmospheric CO2, we’re only slowing the curve increase. And in about 80 years, even if we aggressively transition from coal to soft renewables, we will be emitting CO2 at the rate we will be in about 10 years. And the emissions will continue to grow.
There is something else to discuss here as well. In the introduction, the authors state, “Electricity generation accounts for approximately 39% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions.” But, here we see all things are compared to traditional coal replacement. And, that would be legitimate, if all of our energy was provided by coal. It isn’t. Coal produced less than 35% of the world’s electricity in 2009. It’s less than that now.
Continuing in the paper, section 4.
Figure 3(A) shows that, for fossil fuel plants, emissions from plant operation are the predominant source of life-cycle emissions, and they are responsible for the majority of the global temperature increase produced. Conservation yields the largest temperature reductions. In transitions to wind, solar, and nuclear technologies, temperature increases caused by emissions during plant construction exceed those due to plant operation; the resulting temperature increases are dwarfed, however, by those caused by emissions from coal plants as they are being phased out.
Predictably, the study states it’s worse than we thought, and that we need to do something fast! What it doesn’t explicitly state but, is conferred by their own writings and calculations is that it is an entirely futile exercise! If the source of increased atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic, as all of the loons insist, then regardless of the strategies we employ, we are going to have atmospheric CO2 concentrations reach well beyond the magical 560 ppm. Even in their own terms, this is truly a Quixotic exercise.
You can read the entire study here. (html)