The Moral Question Of Our Time: Can We Share The Planet?
April 23, 2014 12:13 AM   Subscribe

UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it."

The Working Group III contribution assesses the options for mitigating climate change and their underlying technological, economic and institutional requirements. It transparently lays out risks, uncertainty and ethical foundations of climate change mitigation policies on the global, national and sub-national level, investigates mitigation measures for all major sectors and assesses investment and finance issues.
-IPCC climate change report: averting catastrophe is eminently affordable
-Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple to Save Climate, UN Says

Can we?
  • Rising Sun - "It's no longer remotely true that we need to keep burning coal to satisfy electricity demand. The way is open to a drastic reduction in emissions, at not very high cost. And that should make us optimistic about the future, right? I mean, all that stands in our way is prejudice, ignorance, and vested interests..."
  • Salvation Gets Cheap - "The incredible recent decline in the cost of renewable energy, solar power in particular, have improved the economics of climate change."
  • How Solar Energy Could Be The Key To Reducing Economic Inequality - "Once solar is cheaper per watt than coal, oil, and natural gas, falling energy costs will provide massive relief to people squeezed in recent years by the rising cost of fossil fuel extraction, a burden passed on to the consumer. All else being equal, falling energy prices mean more disposable income to save and invest, or to spend. And because of the decentralized nature of solar energy, the benefits of cheap, plentiful energy can be realized by anyone with a solar panel, instead of being accrued by the capitalist who owns the coal mine, the power plant, or the oil well."
  • Are We Halfway to Market Dominance for Solar? - "So how can 1 percent of all global electricity sales suggest in any way that we’re on the road to a world dominated by solar?"
  • World Solar Power Capacity Increased 35% In 2013 - "With about 37,007 megawatts (MW) of solar PV power installed in 2013, world solar PV power capacity increased about 35% to 136,697 MW. Whereas Europe had dominated annual growth for years up until 2013 (10 years, to be precise), solar PV growth was much more evenly split last year, and China actually topped the tables... with around 11.3 GW connected to the grid. With around 6.9 GW, Japan was the second global biggest market in 2013. The US ranked n°3 with 4.8 GW. Germany was the top European market with 3.3 GW (down from 7.6 GW in 2012)."
  • One-Third of Texas Was Running on Wind Power - "Texas has more wind power than any other state, by a huge margin. And it keeps blowing through these major milestones just about every year. There was some trepidation that Texas's wind industry would slow as fracking rose in prominence and a key tax credit faced expiration, but hallmarks like this underline some very strong fundamentals. Wind power is ideal for Texas, where there's a lot of open land, a lot of breezy plains—and a rising demand for electricity, as the state's population continues to grow. So the wind boom has carried on. After new power lines are installed to better route the power from rural areas to more populated cities, Texas will be the 5th-largest wind power producer in the world. Most importantly, perhaps, is that there's now a thriving industry with real economic and political power—citizens and politicians alike appreciate, work, and profit from the wind sector, so they'll be more willing to fight for it."
Or can't we?
  • The world's dumbest idea: Taxing solar energy - "In a setback for the renewable energy movement, the state House in Oklahoma this week passed a bill that would levy a new fee on those who generate their own energy through solar equipment or wind turbines on their property. The measure, which sailed to passage on a near unanimous vote after no debate, is likely to be signed into law by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin. The bill, known as S.B. 1456, will specifically target those who install power generation systems on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid... Last year, Arizona enacted a similar law."
  • Coal's Best Hope is Costly Power Plant in Mississippi - "Rising from the scrub pines of central Mississippi is a $5.2 billion construction project that may determine the future of coal in the age of global warming. It's here in Kemper County, 90 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that utility Southern Co. is building the first large-scale power plant in the U.S. designed to transform coal into gas, capture the carbon dioxide and pump it underground... there are plenty of doubters."
  • Post-Fukushima Japan Chooses Coal Over Renewable Energy - "Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing Japan's coal industry to expand sales at home and abroad, undermining hopes among environmentalists that he’d use the Fukushima nuclear accident to switch the nation to renewables. A new energy plan approved by Japan's cabinet on April 11 designates coal an important long-term electricity source while falling short of setting specific targets for cleaner energy from wind, solar and geothermal. The policy also gives nuclear power the same prominence as coal in Japan's energy strategy. In many ways, utilities are already ahead of policy makers. With nuclear reactors idled for safety checks, Japan's 10 power companies consumed 5.66 million metric tons of coal in January, a record for the month and 12 percent more than a year ago, according to industry figures."
  • German Energy Push Runs Into Problems - "Chancellor Angela Merkel's government plans to revamp the energy law to focus on wind turbine parks and solar energy as the most cost-effective renewable sources, in the hope of reining in runaway electricity prices. But international energy experts, who recently completed a study of the German energy sector, say the country cannot meet its future needs solely through renewable sources. They say the plan must also include a climate-friendly — even if not renewable — option, like domestic natural gas."
  • Ukraine spotlights Germany's nuclear power switch - "Merkel's ambitious plan is for renewable energies including wind and sun to make up 40-45 percent of Germany's energy mix by 2025, compared with just under a quarter now, and 55-60 percent by 2035. Critics say it's not green enough, though: coal and lignite — decried as dirty by environmentalists — accounted for 45.5 percent of Germany's energy output last year, up from 44 percent in 2012, as nuclear energy dropped to about 15 percent from more than 20 percent at the time of Fukushima... If Germany makes its goal of having 80 percent of its power come from renewable sources by 2050, there is no question it will add to the country's energy security. But along the way, as it takes nuclear power plants offline and builds up its renewable network, the country remains reliant on fossil fuels — and that means Russia."
  • Shale revolution reverses global energy flow - "The United States has replaced OPEC as the marginal petroleum supplier to the world thanks to the shale revolution and improvements in automotive fuel efficiency. Net U.S. imports of crude and products have halved over the last five years, or by an amount equivalent to the entire daily crude exports of Saudi Arabia. Net imports totalled 5.2 million barrels per day at the start of 2014, down from 11.2 million at the beginning of 2009, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)."
Grid Utilities
  • Sol Invictus - "There is a lot of buzz about the effort by the Koch brothers and assorted conservative groups to end 'net metering' for solar power. Kevin Drum and Paul Krugman think that it's mainly about conservative tribalism - conservatives have identified solar as something liberal, so they fight it on ideological grounds. Personally, I suspect that the current fight against net metering is mainly economic - utility companies stand to lose their government-protected monopolies if rooftop solar takes over, and of course the Kochs make their billions from the fossil fuel industry. Anyway, the first thing to realize is that even if net metering gets killed (and if it does, it will only be in red states), it's not the end for solar."
  • Let's Celebrate, Not Lament, Renewables' Disruption of Electric Utilities - "Renewables are making headway in Europe and bringing a low-carbon electricity system to the forefront. Renewables were 69 percent of new capacity added in 2012 in Europe and 49 percent in the United States. Not surprisingly, this threatens utilities unwilling to let go of outmoded business models and fossil-fuel generation."
  • How rooftop solar and big utilities can co-exist - "Solar installations don't just cut into the electricity sold by a big utility. They use its grid, and depend on its generating plants for back-up power. Non-solar customers usually carry the brunt of these costs. California has already cut the link between electricity use and profit. If more PG&E customers install solar panels, the utility can ask for a rate hike to make up for that lost revenue. 'Our profit is not tied to the electricity we sell,' says a PG&E spokesman, Denny Boyles. But PG&E still has to maintain backup power and the grid. To share those fixed costs more evenly, this month California passed a law that allows utilities to bill solar customers an additional $10 a month. The solar industry got a win, too: The law removes a limit on the amount of electricity solar customers can sell to a utility."
  • EBay, Ellison Embrace Microgrids to Peril of Utilities - "Microgrids are emerging as a credible threat to the dominance of America’s 100-year-old-plus utility monopoly. The small-scale versions of centralized power systems, once just used against blackouts, are now gaining thousands of customers as homeowners in states with high power costs turn to them as a way to manage rooftop solar systems, cut electricity bills and, in some cases, say goodbye to their power companies. The systems use computer software and remote measuring devices to control energy sources such as rooftop solar panels and natural gas-fueled power generators. They allow a home or business owner, a college systems engineer or a farmer on a mountainside to generate, distribute and regulate their locally produced power with an ease and sophistication that only utilities had a few years ago."
also btw...
What Does the New IPCC Report Say About Climate Change? (previously)
  1. The warming is unequivocal.
  2. Humans caused the majority of it.
  3. The warming is largely irreversible.
  4. Most of the heat is going into the oceans.
  5. Current rates of ocean acidification are unprecedented.
  6. We have to choose which future we want very soon.
  7. To stay below 2°C of warming, the world must become carbon negative.
  8. To stay below 2°C of warming, most fossil fuels must stay buried in the ground.
Some Myths of the Economics of Climate Change and its Economic Conclusion - "Ultimately, economists need to step up on climate change. It is more than a textbook example of externalities and far more nuanced than many simple accounts make it to be. It is also far more harmful than many of their models suggest (consider the limits). Economic logic sometimes fails... [I]f an asteroid was about to crash into New York City, we wouldn't ask economists to create a poorly-founded model of its costs. We would tell NASA to do whatever it can to save us. Economists need to stop telling us what the program for change should be, but rather identify the most efficient means of implementing a program scientists already deem necessary."
posted by kliuless (49 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
I notice the amazing stupid taxes on solar energy passed by Oklahoma and Arizona made the post. Even in the universe of incredible idiocy that tends to pass for conservative legislation that one's bad. In fifty years the people who passed that will be looked at like cavemen.
posted by JHarris at 12:39 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I get overwhelmed by all the facts about global warming but I try to look on the sunny side.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:05 AM on April 23, 2014

"We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy"

If it won't 'wreck the economy', it's not what American Industry wants to do. Perpetual rebuilding of what you've wrecked is the only kind of 'growth' they understand.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:18 AM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

So they're not taxing solar power exactly. They're taxing "liberal-ness".
posted by telstar at 1:23 AM on April 23, 2014 [10 favorites]

[I]f an asteroid was about to crash into New York City, we wouldn't ask economists to create a poorly-founded model of its costs. We would tell NASA to do whatever it can to save us.

No, we'd tell everybody to move out of New York City - at their own expense - and invest in real estate in New Jersey.

What is it about Capitalist Solutions don't you understand?

And they're not taxing "liberal-ness", they're taxing anything that doesn't make THEM the most money.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:26 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

We've reached the point where organic chemistry - really the chemistry of carbon - has produced structures (I'm looking at you, intricately evolved carbon-based life forms) that will die unless they learn to mitigate carbon.

I wish you well. Myself, I'm silicon-based, but your planet fascinates me.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:34 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

JHarris: in 50 years, they'll be changing the subject. And the media will let them, because, you know, balance.

The GOP will never be held to account for what they've done. At some point in time, it'll become all of out faults for not acting now. Never will the Wolf Blitzers and David Gregories and Washington Week-types say that it was the GOP and those who fund them who fucked us on this.

Because it's better not to be called liberal by Hannity than it is to properly assign blame for the destruction of the planet.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:34 AM on April 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

So now it's easy, almost cost-free, and we've got fifteen years before we need to have got properly started down the road?
posted by Segundus at 1:49 AM on April 23, 2014

Prevention now is much cheaper than mitigating the damage will be in 50 years. Sometimes I wonder if we should just pay off the fossil fuel industry to stop opposing 'Decarbonization'. It'll still be cheaper in the long run.

Maybe instead of trying to lobby the government, we should focus on lobbying and influencing the oligarchs that actually set policy.
posted by heathkit at 2:05 AM on April 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

If we face a problem such that:
(a) it could easily be solved if everybody just pitches in and gives up a little wealth and comfort
(b) there's a 1 in 10,000 chance of a really expensive and hugely labor-intensive technological solution...

My own view is that we'd better start investing in R&D.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 2:37 AM on April 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Are you people talking about my planet?!?
posted by fairmettle at 3:28 AM on April 23, 2014

But there are neat tricks you can do to make it seem like you're doing the good thing! Like that one time when some sort of an international summit published a declaration which was completely environment-friendly, except that all instances of the word "sustainable" were replaced by "sustained". Or you can say with an understanding nod that "The environment is part of the economy and therefore we must take it into account (heh)", and many people will not not notice the subterfuge at all.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 4:18 AM on April 23, 2014

My own view is that we'd better start investing in R&D.

The people that control the purse strings for R&D (i.e., Congress) in the US believe that climate change is a liberal myth, and the people that hold their purse strings only care about their bottom line.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:53 AM on April 23, 2014

I don't believe that solar can be painted as liberal for long, because what could be more self reliant rugged individualist than generating your own power.

If you want to win this battle just start talking about the government controlled power infrastructure, about how the government built that power grid (did they? in the us... hold on.., like communists might.
Who uses more coal than anyone? CHINA! COMMUNISTS!

(yeah, alright, it's a broad caricature, but it would work)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:19 AM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Fantastic post.
I've read a lot about alt energy tech, and it seems as if we can do it, but the economy won't let us.
Australia, for example, can significantly cut its greenhouse gas emissions (by a third, if I remember) by shutting down all the brown coal power stations in Victoria, but apparently that would expose us to compensation for billions to the owners of Hazelwood and Loy Yang.

If we invested now, in five years we could have sufficient baseload to kill them, but that would raise economic issues, so we don't.

And that's a single example.
posted by Mezentian at 5:25 AM on April 23, 2014

The people that control the purse strings for R&D (i.e., Congress) in the US believe that climate change is a liberal myth

Corporations have more than enough to invest in R&D. The problem is: renewable energy doesn't have a long-term profit strategy.

There have been some fantastic innovations, and at times Governments (Australia for sure, possibly others) have been prepared to match dollar for dollar, but the private sector evaporates, or policies change with Governments.
posted by Mezentian at 5:28 AM on April 23, 2014

Also worth reading, Chris Hayes on the new abolitionism:

The last time in American history that some powerful set of interests relinquished its claim on $10 trillion of wealth was in 1865—and then only after four years and more than 600,000 lives lost in the bloodiest, most horrific war we’ve ever fought.
posted by Cash4Lead at 5:55 AM on April 23, 2014 [14 favorites]

The solar power tax is actually a really interesting and complex issue. The reason these laws are being passed is not to protect fossil fuel companies, it's to protect the infrastructure companies (or government entities, depending on jurisdiction) who own and manage the electricity grid. And also other electricity consumers.

The basic problem is that someone who is generating their own solar power and selling it back to the grid can effectively zero (or turn negative) their power bill, but they aren't really providing their own energy.

Say I use 500KWh per month at my house and generate exactly 500KWh per month from my solar panels. In theory, that's a wash and my energy bill should be zero. But I'm not "off-grid." I'm generating all of that power during the day, and surely I'm using some of it at night. And I don't experience brownouts whenever a cloud passes in front of the sun. So, during the day, the grid is being strained by moving my energy to other people who need it. And at night it's being strained bringing (fossil fuel or nuclear) power back to me. Not to mention the vital effects of voltage regulation that the grid provides.

The net result is that I am making more use of the grid infrastructure than a regular customer, but I'm not paying a dime for it. Long term, this has the effect of driving up prices for anyone who doesn't generate power on their property.

I'm not saying the taxes are a good thing, but they aren't strictly anti-green.
posted by 256 at 5:59 AM on April 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

The solar power tax is actually a really interesting and complex issue.

The interplay between distributed generation, centralized generation, and the power grid is, indeed, an interesting and complex issue. Taxes on solar power are not.

Taxes are imposed by a government and the revenue generated goes to the government imposing the tax, not into the pockets of some notional grid operator.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:18 AM on April 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

In the case of Oklahoma at least, bill S.B. 1456 is not properly a "tax" despite being called such throughout the media and in this post. It is in fact a law which empowers electric companies to collect a surcharge from customers who generate electricity, specifically to offset grid costs.
posted by 256 at 6:32 AM on April 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

And I apologize for further clouding the issue by continuing to use the "tax" terminology in my own comment.
posted by 256 at 6:33 AM on April 23, 2014

Ahh; indeed, that is a different situation. I was actually working on a more technically-oriented comment when I saw your update, and will post that in a bit.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 6:37 AM on April 23, 2014

Does Betteridge's Law apply to post titles?

I hope not, but it probably does. Dang.
posted by aramaic at 7:57 AM on April 23, 2014

"Share?" Sounds like socialist talk to me.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:59 AM on April 23, 2014

Australia, for example, can significantly cut its greenhouse gas emissions (by a third, if I remember) by shutting down all the brown coal power stations in Victoria, but apparently that would expose us to compensation for billions to the owners of Hazelwood and Loy Yang.

There's also this giant problem of 0.5% of the entire Australian workforce being wrapped up in coal mining. If the industry were to shut down overnight it would cause a jump in the unemployment rate from 5.9 to 6.4%.

We need to make sure that we have the employment, retraining, and if necesary, retirement assistance available to the employees of these industries before China decides coal just isn't worth it. I assume right after they get a billion more nuclear power plants at which point I assume we switch them from coal mining to uranium.
posted by Talez at 8:13 AM on April 23, 2014

SO not surprised that Juffo-Wup thinks we shouldn't tax the hot light in the darkness.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:15 AM on April 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

There's also this giant problem of 0.5% of the entire Australian workforce being wrapped up in coal mining.

Yes, but that is mostly for export coal.
(And, if I understand, "cleaner" coal than other places).
The brown coal mining in Victoria is a modest employer. A "blip".
posted by Mezentian at 8:30 AM on April 23, 2014

Great post. The microgrid idea looks potentially disruptive, will need to research that more. Sort of like how Ma Bell was upended by MCI and other local CAPs, but now in the energy supply world. Why the hell not, just regulation holding back competition (the provider of the cable in the ground to the customer)
posted by stbalbach at 9:59 AM on April 23, 2014

To provide 100% of California's energy needs from solar would require using an area smaller than greater L.A.

You say that as though it's supposed to suggest it isn't all that large. As someone quite familiar with L.A. that sounds really freakin' big to me. Not that it might not be a good idea but "smaller than greater L.A." isn't exactly narrowing it down much.
posted by Justinian at 11:56 AM on April 23, 2014

Awesome post. Saving it for later...
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:24 PM on April 23, 2014

@Justinian: How about somewhat larger than the Chernobyl exclusion zone?
posted by No Robots at 1:19 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

As Krugman said 5 years ago:

Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.
posted by Jakey at 2:55 PM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

You say that as though it's supposed to suggest it isn't all that large. As someone quite familiar with L.A. that sounds really freakin' big to me. Not that it might not be a good idea but "smaller than greater L.A." isn't exactly narrowing it down much.

Larger or smaller than 'entire face of the planet'?
posted by biffa at 3:28 PM on April 23, 2014

To provide 100% of California's energy needs from solar would require using an area smaller than greater L.A.

The linked document says 3200 km^2, that's 1236 square miles.

California has 387,000 miles of roads. (Warning, PDF)

A lane on a road is about 12 feet wide. Maybe 15 with the shoulder. 15 feet is .00284 miles.

Putting that together, there are about 1100 square miles of road in California.

So, this solar power plant would be larger than EVERY ROAD IN CALIFORNIA COMBINED.
posted by Hatashran at 5:47 PM on April 23, 2014

Walmarts range in size from 70,000 sq feet to 260,000 sq feet. A square mile is 27,000,000 feet. So covering the roof of 101 large Walmarts would provide 1 square mile of solar power. There are more than 3800 Walmarts in the US. This sounds like a good start. Include the roof of every other big box store, every movie theater, every mall or strip mall, and suddenly this doesn't even sound like a challenge. Include every school and every warehouse, and this is downright easy.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:59 PM on April 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Alberta Oil Sands cover 140,000 square kilometres, more than 40 times the size of the area required to meet all of California's energy needs with solar.
posted by No Robots at 6:17 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

And don't forget the tsunami of job-creation when we start insulating residential and commercial buildings to some reasonable standard! We'll be importing coal miners from Australia before you can say Jack Robinson.
posted by sneebler at 6:21 PM on April 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

You say that as though it's supposed to suggest it isn't all that large. As someone quite familiar with L.A. that sounds really freakin' big to me. Not that it might not be a good idea but "smaller than greater L.A." isn't exactly narrowing it down much.

It's a lot more narrow than the size of California. It's the ratio of size between the area powered and the area needed to do the powering that's the point. The second might be subjectively large, but it's a lot smaller than the first.

The the area needed is smaller than the area powered is important, because it implies the problem can be solved at all; that it's much smaller is doubly important, because it implies the problem could be practically solved.
posted by JHarris at 3:25 PM on April 24, 2014

Holy shit. This kind of blows my mind:
Remarkable new figures from Spain's grid operator have revealed that greenhouse gas emissions from the country's power sector are likely to have fallen 23.1% last year, as power generation from wind farms and hydroelectric plants soared.

Red Eléctrica de España (REE) released a preliminary report on the country's power system late last month, revealing that for "the first time ever, [wind power] contributed most to the annual electricity demand coverage". According to the figures, wind turbines met 21.1% of electricity demand on the Spanish peninsular, narrowly beating the region's fleet of nuclear reactors, which provided 21% of power.


The study follows news last year that Portugal had successfully generated over 70% of its power from renewables during the first quarter of the year, driven by a surge in wind and hydro power output.
70%! I had no idea some European countries were doing it so well.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:01 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Smart Wind and Solar Power: Big data and artificial intelligence are producing ultra-accurate forecasts that will make it feasible to integrate much more renewable energy into the grid.
posted by No Robots at 9:20 AM on April 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Okay, you got me to do yet another look at the cost of a small household rooftop solar power installation. Price per peak Watt is down quite a bit since last I checked. Retail, you can get solar panels shipped from China and expect to pay somewhere around $1.00 to $1.50 per watt. Suppliers willing to ship in smallish quantities and actually advertising a price are a lot more common than last time I checked on this, a couple of years ago. Solar panels are now for sale at Home Depot website, at prices not too much worse than the best you can find elsewhere, and as part of packages including inverter and etc. So that makes it a whole lot easier to get a rough idea of the cost of a complete home PV setup. Just add mounting hardware, some wiring, and installation costs.

It's still far too expensive to make any economic sense in Canada or northern Europe, but in California where you get twice as much sun and pay more for electricity you might almost break even financially with a home solar power setup (assuming no subsidies), even if you have a not-insane discount rate. Breaking even is a long way from being "The Key To Reducing Economic Inequality", but it ain't bad. However, the economy of scale advantage that larger centralized solar power facilities have over individual home rooftops is only going to get larger if solar panel costs keep falling faster than rest-of-the-system costs.

The Alberta Oil Sands cover 140,000 square kilometres, more than 40 times the size of the area required to meet all of California's energy needs with solar.

The Alberta tar sands may occupy that many square km in total, but they're mostly covered by boreal forest and will remain that way. Not all of the oily sand is going to be practical to extract. According to the same page you link to: "As of January 2013, oilsands mining operations have disturbed 715 square kilometres of boreal forest." This gigantic, decades-long project involving dozens of big oil companies pouring billions of dollars into it and a government eager to help them, has thus far strip mined less than 20% of the area that would allegedly be required to supply California with solar power.
posted by sfenders at 4:46 AM on April 26, 2014

^The document states that 66% of the total oil sands has already been leased for development.
posted by No Robots at 5:40 AM on April 26, 2014

Last month the IPCC analysed the dire impacts of climate change, from declining agricultural yields to water scarcity, heatwaves and reduced biodiversity. This month’s report shows that carbon emissions continue to rise, driven by economic and population growth. Although it may still be possible to cap the global temperature rise to 2C, the internationally agreed target intended to avoid catastrophic effects, this will require a radical change in energy policy, with greatly increased investment in renewables, nuclear and energy efficiency...

Yet the IPCC faces extraordinary – almost visceral – hostility in some quarters. A sceptical minority seems to regard it as a self-serving conspiracy designed to trick governments into spending billions of dollars more on climate research. Nothing short of a sensational rise in global temperature is likely to win them over.

More realistic is the prospect of enthusing the majority, who accept the reality of man-made climate change but are rather apathetic about tackling it. This will require a quality of writing and argument in the “synthesis” report – which the IPCC plans to bring out in the autumn as the final offering in this fifth assessment process – that exceeds anything produced so far.

In particular the economic cost benefit analysis of climate change and its mitigation needs improvement. The most recent report gave a reassuringly low figure for the cost of an ambitious fight against global warming: it would shave between 0.04 and 0.14 percentage points off annualised economic growth, which is assumed to be 1.6 to 3 per cent under a “business as usual” scenario. But there has been no meaningful attempt to compare this with the costs (or benefits) of climate change itself.

Of course, the science and technology, politics and economics of climate change are immensely complex. But it should still be possible to present the risks, benefits and options for action more clearly in good time for the next really big event in the climate calendar – a summit in Paris at the end of 2015, which is meant to achieve the comprehensive and legally binding global agreement that the Copenhagen event failed to reach.

Although failure in Paris would still leave scope for action by individual nations, regions and cities, the battle against climate change must rest on the bedrock of international co-operation.
  • Two degrees: How the world failed on climate change - "For 20 years, climate policy has centered around one goal: making sure we don't get more than 2°C of global warming. That goal is looking increasingly delusional."
  • The West Is Burning Up - "wildfires are affecting more and more of the Western US each year"
  • A map of where climate change will make nights uncomfortably hot - "It happens that many staple crops, like rice and corn, are seeds, so warm nights are one way climate change could slash crop harvests."
  • The 'War' In Global Warming - "Last month, in an op-ed for Fox News, retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley made a national security-based case for worrying about climate change. Eric Holthaus interviews Titley about his belief that the changing climate will be a main driving force for conflict in the 21st century."
  • Inserting Slavery Into The Climate Debate - "Because the abolitionists were ultimately successful, it’s all too easy to lose sight of just how radical their demand was at the time: that some of the wealthiest people in the country would have to give up their wealth. That liquidation of private wealth is the only precedent for what today’s climate justice movement is rightly demanding: that trillions of dollars of fossil fuel stay in the ground."
  • Companies are starting to open up about their environmental risks. They need to do more - "ON MARCH 20th Exxon Mobil, surely the world's least tree-hugging company, became the first oil giant to say it would publish details of its 'stranded assets'—the value of oil and gas fields that it might not be able to exploit if there were a high carbon price or tough rules on greenhouse-gas emissions."
  • Thorium reactors: Asgard's fire - "The team plan to fire up a prototype thorium reactor in 2015. Like India's, this will use solid fuel. But by 2017 the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics expects to have one that uses a trickier but better fuel, molten thorium fluoride."
  • When It Comes to Solar Power, the Market Is Finally Making Environmentalism Easy - "It's not just oil and coal that solar is gradually beating. Renewable energy sources are also getting cheaper than nuclear power, according to a new report from Germany's Agora Energiewende, a group focused on clean-energy transition (which their name translates to in German)."
  • Nuclear Is Better Than The Alternative - "So what happens when a nuclear power plant gets retired? It depends on the region. But one recent study of a shuttered nuclear plant in California found that greenhouse-gas emissions surged, as the nuclear plant got replaced by fossil fuels."
  • A Grim Climate Milestone - "carbon dioxide concentrations in the Earth's atmosphere exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in human history"
  • Greening Economics: It is time - "The concept of environmental capital is thoroughly entrenched in policy discussions but largely missing from mainstream economic curriculums. This column argues environmental externalities, climate change, and constraints on natural resources will constantly and deeply affect humankind's future. The teaching of economics, especially growth economics, should stop ignoring them."
  • Obama Intensifies Focus on Climate With New Assessment Report - "A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in January found that climate change ranked last on a list of 15 issues when people were asked what the administration should make its priorities."
  • Climate Change Is Harming Economy, Report Says - " 'I'm sure he'll get loud cheers from liberal elites—from the kind of people who leave a giant carbon footprint and then lecture everybody else about low-flow toilets', said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell."
  • The Koch Attack on Solar Energy - "The Koch brothers and other big polluters are spending heavily to block state incentives for renewable energy."
posted by kliuless at 6:39 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

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