December Open Thread

Anything goes, per usual.

Also, we are taking nominations for the Golden Horseshoe Awards for 2014 – We usually like to avoid the noise and focus on the signal, but for the New Year we’d like to send some awards for the biggest and most misleading claims in the climate world.

See the previous awards here.





  1. The European Union's Horizon 20:20 work programme has just been made public. It's the main EU funding framework for the next seven years, replacing FP7, 10 billion euros a year, open to any organisation (university, business etc).

    The topics are all framed as practical problems to be solved; most of the funded projects are going to be large (i.e. one I just saw suggested ~9m euro funding for one).

    But P3-wise, I was most interested to see the list of topics in the Climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials (PDF) work programme. It includes: "moving towards a circular economy through industrial symbiosis" and many other topics focusing on raw material throughput / procurement. Which is (maybe) a curious contrast to stated aim of the whole programme, maybe, which is all about "creating new jobs / growth / innovation / competitiveness"...

    Another ("Making Earth Observation and Monitoring Data usable for ecosystem modelling and services") aims to give "open and unrestricted access to interoperable ecosystem Earth Observation data and information"; another is on "citizen observatories".

    Since I've been wiffling a bit here about industrial policy, 20:20 is one approach: open competition with a defined set of problems to solve that encourages universities/industry/other bodies to collaborate. Ten billion a year maybe not such a huge amount of dosh, though, compared to (say) actually underwriting deployment.

    Compare, in the UK we just lost a proposed £4b 1.2GW offshore wind installation because of political uncertainty and mixed signals. Versus £16 billion for 3.2 GW of nuclear and a whole load of uncertainty about waste the taxpayer appears to be responsible for.

    Windfarm: £3.33 billion per GW vs Hinkley Point nuclear: £5 billion per GW. Oh good. (Looking here the windfarm output figure is an annual average output based on some meteorological models / data, so should be comparable.)

  2. Thanks for the trip down memory lane, including some terrific Horatio Algeranons. I was thinking of nominating President Obama, which may be unfair since he has done some good by executive fiat and using what he can. However, he promised his way through an election without addressing much of anything. And recently he's approved yet another pipeline under the radar, since it wasn't the Keystone XL. In any case, I'm not prepared for the level of homework involved.

    But what really got my attention was an item about Secretary Chu being muzzled, and that's from previous years:

    "Want to Piss Off the White House? Talk About Climate Change"

  3. Susan bought up the issue of carbon capture over at Stoat's, it'd be good to hear more views on it. Susan mentioned MT saying capacity was large and the idea technically feasible.

    I suggested there'd only been one near-feasible CCS project in Norwaythat folded this year. There are others pumping CO2 back but it seems economically viable only because it's being used to force out more carbon (cf. list of projects at wikipedia).

    Quote from the UK's CCS roadmap: "according to the International Energy Agency, CCS will play a vital role in worldwide efforts to limit global warming, delivering a fifth of the emissions reductions needed by 2050. To keep to that trajectory, more than 3,000 CCS projects must be up and running by 2050″.

    The strongest part of Kevin Anderson's argument against carbon offsets for flying, I thought, was that offsetting keeps demand up for exactly the infrastructure we need to escape from, locking us in. The same applies to CCS, though one might counter that we need the energy regardless.

    Just having a chat, turns out my office mate wrote an article criticising CCS. Follow-up from that suggested there's a lot of money coming from the fossil fuel industry - kind of obviously, really. CCS provides a way to keep on digging up and selling the stuff with impunity.

    So - a 1/5th of total carbon reductions from CCS by 2050? Or a complete dead-end based on unproven, uneconomical tech and a narrative acceptable to (and promoted by) incumbent fossil fuel players?

  4. A couple of other CCS links. IEA CCS roadmap: "As long as fossil fuels and carbon-intensive industries play dominant roles in our economies, carbon capture and storage (CCS) will remain a critical greenhouse gas reduction solution."

    Been trying to dig out any working examples. The "Global CCS Institute" have a press release citing two not-quite-in-production (PDF): "we need to build upon and share the experience to be gained from the world’s first two coal-fired power plants with CCS – Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan, Canada and the Kemper County Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) Project in Mississippi. Both are expected to be operational in 2014 and will deliver carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery."

    Emphasis added. So - the only feasible examples currently in the pipeline are to be used to squeeze more carbon out of the ground. AFAIK (and I'm not saying IK much), CCS only appears economically feasible if it's being used this way.

    Questions I have: are there any technical differences with using CO2 for "enhanced oil recovery" (OER; using CO2 to do this is fairly old tech) that don't transfer easily to attempting permanent storage? That is, even before one gets on to economic considerations, are there physical considerations that mean developing CCS for EOR might not make for easy transfer to locking it away forever?

    Also: burying it permanently is clearly the opposite, economically, to using it to access otherwise impossible-to-acquire reserves. Might it be that a fossil fuel industry pushing CCS as the solution to our climate woes is doing something much worse than just greenwash, i.e. selling the poison as the remedy? (To quote the Prodigy.)

  5. RC needs your help! They've discovered that the IPCC is not composed of communication geniuses.

    "Also the word ‘uncertainty‘ is not a good choice – what does it mean really?"

    MT posted a list of terms and their meanings long ago. Uncertainty = range for starters. I can't find the old post. I don't know if it was in Planetary times or back in In it for the Gold days.

    I'm sure Planet 3.0 regulars can contribute there to RC's benefit.

  6. What is usually called CSS is not an obviously cost effective approach, but I don't want to cut it off. It will be easier to buy off the fossil fuel industry than to destroy it, that's for sure.

    There should be a price on carbon emitted and a reward for carbon absorbed sufficient to drive net emissions to zero or slightly net negative for a while. Let the chips fall where they may. But omitting the reward for carbon absorbed is sort of silly, because without somewhere to put the carbon, there is no way to drive emissions to zero.

  7. Two parts.

    Murdoch Award nomination to these clowns: . Unfortunately, they have the ears of many UK tories, and are also, surprise surprise, enemies of wind power. They are also unbelieveably mendacious whilst simultaneously being intelligent enough to know better, and therefore utterly culpable.

    CCS: info from a friend who had consulted on dozens of energy infrastructure projects; the C bit (capture) is not overly expensive, but it does make power stations less efficient & therefore Utility company finance committees won't fund them unless they are getting a subsidy which is higher than for plain coal, so their shareholders are protected. The S bit is unresolved. Personally, I think all the sequestered carbon should be compressed into diamonds and given to the poor sods in least developed nations who have suffered so much for the sake of our collective comforts, whilst maintaining the market value of same.

  8. Fred Pearce wrote a piece in the New Scientist a few weeks back about criticisms of Earth Overshoot Day.

    I for one imagined that the footprint analysis was a bit smarter, that it had some handle on how we are overusing our soils and water reserves. Sadly, it does not measure the things that most of us assumed it does – and the things we really need to know.

    I think Pearce often writes sensible things, but I'm sceptical of him too and uncertain of his motivations. I wonder if he really did think that Earth Overshoot Day was based on some detailed and complex calculations - I'd have certainly been surprised if it had. It doesn't seem realistic to expect anyone with an organisation below the level of the IPCC, say, to be able to compile such an obviously complex statistic with any high degree of accuracy.

    I'm sure I had some meaningful thoughts on this when I started wrting the comment, but they seem to have dissolved away. I guess my question or point is how useful is a statistic like this which is obviously open to attack from people like the Breakthrough Institute, who want to appear all hard-headed and unemotional about things by dismissing anything that can't be easily measured? I suspect it's going to be a similar argument to the one about Earth Hour.

  9. Having just been idly looking through the Population Bomb thread I note an apposite comment from Michael:

    The number 1.5 is in my opinion not very rigorous and is rather contingent. However, it is a useful concept.

  10. Cheers for the CCS comment Fergus. The new EU funding structure I mentioned in the first comment is funding CCS research as well as fracking (PDF). The whole funding thingyo uses the technology readiness level idea to talk about what it wants and where any particular funding chunk is being targeted.

    AFAIK, technology readiness level includes no economic component - it's purely as it says, a technological assessment. Does anyone else know more about it? It'd be interesting to hear about other tech assessment criteria. Tech readiness level is important, but not if it's impossible to make the costs work (meaning the full costs, not just the economic ones).

    I'm resisting my kneejerk reaction to CCS; early tech may not appear cost-effective for a start. But I'm also worried that it allows both politicians and the oil industry to relax about the need for a genuine transition to a fundamentally different infrastructure.

  11. Ditto on thanks for CCS information.

    "unbelieveably mendacious whilst simultaneously being intelligent enough to know better"

    There's a lot of that about. As my interest in my fellow humans as people worth having about increases (y'all didn't know I was a closet misanthrope, and I'm not sure I did either), it becomes more painful to see their situation being bolluxed.

  12. Remarkable appreciation of academic work and thought, independent of politics, in the person of Noam Chomsky in NYTimes Op Ed by Stanley Fish today. Added value in the discussion of how language works and its limitations.

    ".. if someone were to ask me what exactly is it that academics do, I would point to these lectures and say, simply, here it is, the thing itself"

  13. On growth - these terse couple of paragraphs from Jorg Friedrichs' The Future is Not What it Used to Be (p.3-4) have had quite an effect on me:

    For the sake of the argument, assume that world economic output continues to grow by 3 percent per annum. This implies that global GDP will double within twenty-three years, and quadruple within forty-six years. It also implies that, a century from now and other things being equal resources consumed and pollutants emitted will have increased by a factor of more than sixteen. It is easy to see that such enormous growth would not be sustainable. The obvious objection is that resources consumed and pollutants emitted can be reduced by efficiency gains and other forms of technological progress. So let us assume, again for the sake of the argument, that resource intensity and thus pollution can be reduced by a fairly ambitious 50 percent. Even so, under the above scenario, a century from now the world economy would consume eight times as many resources and emit eight times as many pollutants as today.

    To continue the thought experiment, let us demand that the world economy should grow for a century by 3 percent per annum, but without any increase of resource consumption and pollutant emissions. By how much would it be necessary to abate the resource and emission intensity of the world economy (resources consumed and pollutants emitted per unit of GDP)? The answer: by a staggering 94.8 percent. To reconcile a century of 3 percent growth with the more ambitious goal of reducing resource consumption and pollutant emissions, the abatement of resource and emissions intensity would have to be even more drastic.

    Urgh. (Maybe MT would say "well duh.") Along with stuff coming out of today (and tomorrow's) Tyndall Centre radical reductions conference (hashtag #radicalplan)- finessed arguments about the theoretical possibility of decoupling growth/ material throughput / carbon (i.e. what I tend to do) seem a little silly.

    A great line from Kevin Anderson today at the conference: "People will say what we're trying to do is not practical. A four, five, six degree future - is that practical?"

  14. In case anyone misses it - best quote I've heard in a long time, from Rebecca Solnit via Caroline Lucas talking at the closing session of the Tyndall Centre's radical emissions reduction conference:

    Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth's treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal... To hope is to give yourself to the future - and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.

  15. Since the commenting didn't work there I ask here: shows that someone jumped the arktic penguin shark once again. Reuters?

    🙂 or %( ?

  16. I can jump even further over that shark. I link current North American and European cold linked to trend in Arctic melt. (note current temps in Alaska and Siberia) Silly me, or time will tell. I predicted our current weather last summer, but that just shows that correlation is not causation when Susan pretends to be superwoman and wildly waves her hands.

  17. What I meant was this image at desdemona's page: Ice with penguins on it. Dunno who put the image there - the linked Reuters article has no such image.

    Dear science reporters: There are no penguins in the Arctic! Wrong side of planet.

  18. Isn't it? By far the best thing I've read in ages. It's also a testament to the alchemy of words: it's gone some way to transforming my own view of what use hoping is. "Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky" - exactly how I viewed it before.

    +1 for new P3 featured quote! Cheers Caroline Lucas.

  19. Dan, it is interesting to compare the IEA's ambitious CCS proposal, which envisages 8,000 Mt/yr of CO2, with the socio-economic model supporting RCP2.6 which envisages a much bigger CCS contribution, some 20,000 MT per year by the same date (see the right-hand graph in figure 4.9 in this reference some biofuel CCS is included, note that the y axis of that graph is in Mt of C, not CO2).

    In comparison, the total mass of the product moved by the fossil fuel industry in 2010, all of the coal,oil and gas together, was about 12,000 MT; so in 2050 we will have to bury about twice as much material as we currently extract from the Earth to follow the pathway that will keep us under 2 degrees. And by 2090 the amount of CCS will have to double again, to 40,000 Mt/yr, according to this model.

    Unless a miracle happens.

  20. thanks. I meant to post this one, but must have been feeling assertive. The words are along the lines of a lot of thinking about compassion and empathy and trying to get people sharing (some nice stuff about this on RealClimate, I guess there's a fair amount of synchronicity hanging about here). Much for suitable for the season.

    Love is but a song we sing,
    Fear a way we die.
    You can make the mountains ring,
    Hear the angels cry.
    Tho' the dove is on the wing
    You need not know why.

    Hey, people now,
    Smile on your brother.
    Let me see you get together,
    Love one another right now.

    Some will come and some will go,
    We shall surely pass.
    When the wind that left us here,
    Returns for us at last.
    We are but a moment's sunlight,
    Fading on the grass.
    If you hear the song I'm singing,
    You will understand.
    You hold the key to love and fear,
    All in your trembling hand.
    One key unlocks them both, you know,
    It's at your command.

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