Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Durban: good science always wins






It will take some time before we can digest and understand the actual significance of the agreements of Durban. As usual, some people will see the glass half full, others half empty. But there is an element that gives us hope: the effort to stop climate change continues.

The effort continues despite the opposition of the fossil fuel lobbies, despite the propaganda action of "Climategate 2.0", despite the continuous attacks against science in the media, despite the fact that in the US the whole spectrum of Republican candidates has taken an anti-science position on climate. There was a whole alliance of powerful forces that were trying as hard as they could to sabotage the Durban Conference. They didn't succeed, and not for lack of trying: Christopher Monckton, the arch-enemy of climate science, was so desperate to get attention that he resorted to parachuting himself to Durban. He was ignored, anyway.

Given the coalition that had gathered against science, we can see as an almost incredible success that the conference ended up with a structured agreement that keeps the negotiations ongoing. Evidently, the gravity of the situation is becoming more and more clear: people are getting the message. As I said, climate science is good science and good science always wins in the end.

20 comments:

  1. too late, too little, too discretionary.

    To fix this horrible mess we would have needed a radical action starting 20 years ago, not a very meek action 10 years from now.

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  2. Take it for what it is, Pierluigi. We are fighting a battle for our survival and there is no time for looking at the past. We must go on. Every inch gained is a little glimpse of hope

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  3. "Christopher Monckton, the arch-enemy of climate science"

    i don't know, hes probably a bit of an embarrassment even to the denialists. Even by their impossibly low standards he's clearly out to line his own pocket. Still, any denialist argument, even crap ones are good enough for another denialist.

    I've ever seen denialist take another denialist to task over a rubbish argument. it never happens. 'skeptical' my arse.

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  4. "A bit of an embarrassment"..... :-)

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  5. Ugo, thanks for maintaining such an informative blog.

    I can't help but feel that Durban (though arguably more productive than Copenhagen) was still a flop.

    A legal "agreement" by 2015 will likely be too late to head off the occurance of dangerous feedback mechanisms - especially considering that even if such an agreement can be reached then, it is unlikely it will truly be substantial enough to be effective. Let's be honest, to avert run-away climate change at this stage of the game, the global economy as we know it needs to be almost entirely "shut off" - a possibility that is unlikely in the extreme.

    Regarding an extension to Kyoto, have you seen a recent post by Gail The Actuary over at the Oil Drum? It makes some interesting suggestions about the usefulness of the Kyoto Protocol.

    "If there weren’t a world market in fossil fuels, and in goods made from fossil fuels (with no tariffs on them), the principles of the Kyoto Protocol would work very nicely. The problem is that the Kyoto Protocol doesn’t really address world market issues."

    Anyway, thanks again for the great blog.

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  6. When the majority of the US population is still not aware that they passed their oil production peak 41 years ago and a prime candidate can publish such a book :
    http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51y5M3vzi%2BL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg

    I still think not much has changed at all, besides, CO2 markets even if better than nothing are more or less a way of buying oneself some virtue and prone to plenty of skewing here and there, plain volume based taxes would be much better (fully redistributed or not), fully agree with Hansen in (2) below on that :
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/01/letter-to-barack-obama

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  7. yves,
    I was shocked, shocked that the Newt is charging for his book

    The Mitt is giving his drill baby drill book away for free!

    America, after all, is the land of the free (and the home of the braves)

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  8. @Step Back

    But maybe he buys some carbon credits with the revenus ? :)

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  9. Alexander,

    About "nuclear rennaissance" touchy subject for sure, plenty of talks around nuclear in France these days, especially related to starting presidential campaign.
    Overall EELV (coalition of two green parties) passed a deal with PS (partie socialiste) trying to put an end to nuclear in France as a clear objective. But it has been "mellowed down" quite a bit. And there is also in fact a kind of industrial quarrel between EDF (operator) and Areva (reactor designer builder) about the EPR (new reactor model), EDF finding it too complex/expensive, or something like that.

    Personnaly I'm kind of ambivalent regarding nuclear, but I guess I could summarize my position as :
    - if complete chaos is coming why bother with that as an added issue
    - if we really want to maintain somekind of modern society, doing it without nuclear seems to me almost impossible (what D MacKay analysis also leads to somehow)
    - however there is the major added aspect that uranium isn't a renewable fuel either and the peak under current tech if major nuclear development wouldn't be too far either.

    By the way, were are you from ?

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  10. And would be interested to know Ugo's position regarding nuclear as well !

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  11. Alex, two comments. One is that it is interesting to think of what is going to happen to old nuclear plants if the nuclear industry goes bankrupt worldwide; as it may. I suppose that keeping those things in control would be left to governments, but they would have plenty of other problems and be short of cash...... another interesting facet of the future.

    About the polls; I guess that there are good reasons that make people worried about their jobs. That's wholly normal. Suppose you haven't been eating for days, then your priority is to find something to eat rather than fight global warming. So, that people mention jobs as their main worry doesn't mean that they don't believe any more that global warming is a problem. I think it is much more important to look at more direct questions, such as "do you think that global warming is occurring?" "do you think it is caused by human activity?" If you look at the data, then you see that the positive answers are increasing

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  12. Hi Yves T,

    I am from Slovakia and I work in Brno as an plant ecophysiologist - and obviously I am interested in climate change, peak oil, and peak debt :-)

    actually, I am finishing with translating D JC Mackay's book into slovak language ;-)

    - yes, I do believe nuclear industry is going to go bankrupt (I am doomer anyway!) and many of the planned nuclear power plants are not going to be finished (let's call it nuclear bubble).

    Thanks Ugo for insights,

    - yes, I absolutely understand that people are more worried about their jobs than about their local/global weather/climate under financial crises.

    - the problem is that in order do to something meaningful and sustainable about climate, we need good economic conditions.

    In this sense, I think is is already too late...

    Alex

    P.S. - a found this astonishing if terrifying new (financial) presentation about "peak silver":

    If Silver Goes Down All Hell Will Break Loose In ThePhysical Market: Silver Investment Update

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  13. Yves and Ugo
    Regarding Nuclear. Fukushima has taught some lessons, no?
    It takes years, if not a decade, for the plants and the stored spent fuel rods to safely cool down.
    Any hints what may happen in a serious interruption of supplies, whatever! this may be?
    Now, there ARE things that could be done to prepare and avoid lots of Fukushimas.
    Talk to head of security at IAEA in Vienna was not allowed (they are not allowed to speak to public), various talks to Press Office turned out futile.
    Last argument: Safety is the concern of the countries the plants are operating in, so go, talk to the delegate of your country, which in this case is Austria, the only plant we have, never went into operation.
    Who ever wants to do something, find the delegate to the IAEA in your country and get them to address IAEA this situation: Serious world economic crisis, (to be taken seriously avoid the word collapse?) what happens to nuclear facilities?
    (And most important - find out what they have to do now! to prevent the worst case)

    "End"storage of nuclear waste: Onkalo, the only storage being built at present, gives a "feeling" of the inner condition of nuclear industries.
    The film about "Onkalo":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5llAUQL9Wkk&feature=related
    6 parts, each about 12 minutes.

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  14. My inner jury was still out on nuclear until I translated a French documentary on nuclear energy in France. After a while they showed how dismantling the Brennilis nuclear power plant was progressing.

    After over 25 years the operation has cost 25 times more than anticipated, half a billion € already. They've only dismantled approximately 50% of the plant so far (because every little piece is more or less contaminated) and haven't even figured out a way to dismantle the core yet! Until they do, all the stuff is stored or buried somewhere which also costs billions of €.

    That's when my inner jury said: fuck it, this just isn't worth it. It's like going through chemotherapy to prolong your life by six horribly painful months.

    But anyway, I came across this video and figured I'd show it to the smart people here to see what they think: The Future of Nano-Electric Power Generation

    It sounds awfully nice (the speaker definitely makes sure of that), but somehow I don't trust it.

    In the meantime, back on my own blog there is some news on Arctic methane release.

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  15. Neven, I went to see that video. It is fantastic. Not because of the science - but because of the marketing. That guy is a grand master of advertising! He could sell arctic ice to you!

    More comments on that to follow

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  16. I thought you'd like it, Ugo. You being into cold fusion and all. :-)

    Anyone can sell Arctic ice to me. In fact, the methane story is also pushed by a group who are really eager to geoengineer the Arctic. A couple of million square km extra in summer would be nice though. Think of the children!

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  17. To fix this horrible mess we would have needed a radical action starting 20 years ago, not a very meek action 10 years from now.

    I'm not so sure we still can't do it.  A combination of de-carbonizing electric generation using molten-salt reactors, use of high-temperature nuclear heat to turn organic waste into replacement chemical fuels, and sequestering the byproduct CO2 from those processes would reverse trends pretty quickly.  A little geoengineering could halt any runaway trends until the atmosphere was back to normal.

    It's certain that it's going to take a lot more to do it then than if we'd started in 1980 or even 1990... but there's going to be a lot more political will once changes become undeniable.

    uranium isn't a renewable fuel either

    U-235 abundance is a problem.  But Lightbridge is working on thorium-uranium LWR fuel, Flibe Energy is aiming at pure thorium, and Russia's BN-800 fast-spectrum reactor breeds over-unity from U-238.  The USA has depleted uranium inventory equal to 300 or so years of total energy requirements.  Not reserves in the ground, inventory in warehouses.

    Thorium is 3-4x as abundant as uranium.

    After over 25 years the operation has cost 25 times more than anticipated, half a billion € already.

    There must be corruption involved.  The decommissioning of Big Rock Point, including removal of the reactor pressure vessel to its disposal site, cost only $390 million.  As a first-generation plant, Big Rock Point wasn't designed to be easily decommissioned or refurbished.  We can do better now.

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