Climate change is happening now


You can’t deny it — or rather, you can, but you have to ignore all the evidence. Here’s a list of seven climate hotspots where the shifts are already obvious: southern Spain, Bangladesh, Malawi, the Svalbards in Norway, Brazil, the Philippines, and so the Americans don’t wander off and wonder where those places are, New York. They’re all depressing, but I found the news about the Amazon to be most discouraging.

Perhaps most ominous is the fact that a positive feedback loop appears to be in play. As the Amazon dries, Nobre says, tropical forest will gradually shift to savanna, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and further adding to global warming.

“When we see a dry season of over four months or deforestation of more than 40 percent then there is no way back. Trees will slowly decay, and in 50 years we would see a degraded savanna. It would take 100–200 years to see a fully fledged savanna.”

The Amazon then would be unrecognizable, along with much of Earth.

We don’t know what all the global consequences of losing the Amazon rain forest would be, but apparently, we’re going to do the experiment and find out.

Meanwhile, there are still people who believe it’s not a problem, and that market forces will compensate for our new hot, dry, stormy, flooded reality. The scientific research is 97% in agreement, which is already remarkable, given how much scientists like to argue. And the other 3% is junk science.

But what about those 3% of papers that reach contrary conclusions? Some skeptics have suggested that the authors of studies indicating that climate change is not real, not harmful, or not man-made are bravely standing up for the truth, like maverick thinkers of the past. (Galileo is often invoked, though his fellow scientists mostly agreed with his conclusions—it was church leaders who tried to suppress them.)

Not so, according to a review published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology. The researchers tried to replicate the results of those 3% of papers—a common way to test scientific studies—and found biased, faulty results.

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, worked with a team of researchers to look at the 38 papers published in peer-reviewed journals in the last decade that denied anthropogenic global warming.

“Every single one of those analyses had an error—in their assumptions, methodology, or analysis—that, when corrected, brought their results into line with the scientific consensus,” Hayhoe wrote in a Facebook post.

But of course it is that flawed 3% our elected officials have chosen to accept, and we don’t have a mechanism for removing deluded idiots from office.

Comments

  1. rietpluim says

    So now those liberal scientists are modifying test results to fit their alarmist agenda? I knew it!

    …will be the predictable reply.

  2. jrkrideau says

    market forces will compensate

    The belief in the “free market” may well have replaced organized religion as one of the more pernicious influences in the last half of the 20th C and into the first quarter of the 21st.

    It certainly has claimed more lives.

  3. cartomancer says

    Don’t have a mechanism? Have torches and pitchforks stopped working thanks to climate change?

  4. TheoLib says

    Just want to point out that we have more than just climate change to worry about: 9 planetary boundaries (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planetary_boundaries). The boundaries are lower limits; catastrophic tipping points are difficult to estimate because many of the problems interact in known and unknown ways.

    * Climate change

    * Biodiversity loss

    * Biogeochemical (human-caused conversion of stable nitrogen from the atmosphere into reactive nitrogen in the atmosphere, on land, and in the oceans; human-caused dumping of phosphorus into the oceans)

    * Ocean acidification

    * Land use (especially the amount of land devoted to agriculture)

    * Freshwater

    * Ozone depletion (once exceeded, but now expected to recover by 2100)

    * Atmospheric aerosols

    * Chemical pollution

  5. Dunc says

    The belief in the “free market” may well have replaced organized religion as one of the more pernicious influences in the last half of the 20th C and into the first quarter of the 21st.

    The belief in the “free market” is an organised religion.

  6. Ichthyic says

    we don’t have a mechanism for removing deluded idiots from office.

    yes, you do.

    That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government</b.

    you’re just too cowed to follow your own history, and accept that the current government has become corrupt beyond repair.

  7. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Re 8
    Let me be first to note you sarcasm:
    Remember “There is No Planet B”

    That was on my sign for Science March

  8. Hairhead, Still Learning at 59 says

    You forgot another climate hotspot: British Columbia.

    Here, we are still going through our WORST FIRE SEASON EVER RECORDED. Tens of thousands of people evacuated; hundreds of thousands of hectares burnt; smoke covering 1/3 of the province. Why? Partly because the forests are filled with millions dying, dead, dried-out trees — perfect fuel for wildfires.

    And why are the trees dying and dead? Because of the pine beetle. Now, the pine beetle has been endemic to the area, but the damage they wrought was always mitigated by their die-off during the winter. Pine beetles could not survive the long periods of below-zero temperatures the of the north and interior of BC. That is, until global warming.

    In the last twenty years, our winters have warmed to the point where the pine beetles now live, eating and destroying trees, year-round. The result? Millions of dead,dying trees, a vast economic loss, as trees have be harvested quickly (and sloppily, I might add), and their damaged wood is less valuable. And the dead, dying trees that remain are now fuel for the LONGER, DRIER summers.

    Here in Vancouver, BC (named by us as RAINcouver) we just went through 3 months of summer with a total of 1.8 MILLIMETRES of rain.

    Yup, global warming.

  9. says

    Hairhead, don’t forget the fire that destroyed a fifth of Fort McMurray in Alberta last year.

    The irony of the tar sands city being hit so hard was lost on this province as people keep screaming out for more tar sands developments as they also whine about the carbon tax.

  10. Storms says

    Politico had an article on 9/13 about food losing it’s nutrient load due to increased CO2. This is horrifying if the science proves out. The articles observations seemed to be in line with the paper abstracts.

    “Before the industrial revolution, the earth’s atmosphere had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Last year, the planet crossed over the 400 parts per million threshold; scientists predict we will likely reach 550 parts per million within the next half-century—essentially twice the amount that was in the air when Americans started farming with tractors.”

    Right, so rising CO2 is good for food growth, yes?

    “These experiments and others like them have shown scientists that plants change in important ways when they’re grown at elevated CO2 levels. Within the category of plants known as “C3” – which includes approximately 95 percent of plant species on earth, including ones we eat like wheat, rice, barley and potatoes – elevated CO2 has been shown to drive down important minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc and iron. The data we have, which look at how plants would respond to the kind of CO2 concentrations we may see in our lifetimes, show these important minerals drop by 8 percent, on average. The same conditions have been shown to drive down the protein content of C3 crops, in some cases significantly, with wheat and rice dropping 6 percent and 8 percent, respectively.”

    They also took a longer look at bees and goldenrod since 1842

    “Goldenrod, a wildflower many consider a weed, is extremely important to bees. It flowers late in the season, and its pollen provides an important source of protein for bees as they head into the harshness of winter. Since goldenrod is wild and humans haven’t bred it into new strains, it hasn’t changed over time as much as, say, corn or wheat. And the Smithsonian Institution also happens to have hundreds of samples of goldenrod, dating back to 1842, in its massive historical archive—which gave Ziska and his colleagues a chance to figure out how one plant has changed over time.
    They found that the protein content of goldenrod pollen has declined by a third since the industrial revolution—and the change closely tracks with the rise in CO2. Scientists have been trying to figure out why bee populations around the world have been in decline, which threatens many crops that rely on bees for pollination. Ziska’s paper suggested that a decline in protein prior to winter could be an additional factor making it hard for bees to survive other stressors.”

    http://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/09/13/food-nutrients-carbon-dioxide-000511?lo=ap_a1
     
    The bee paper is here:
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1828/20160414
     
    The food paper is here, (of course behind a paywall.)
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v510/n7503/full/nature13179.html?foxtrotcallback=true

  11. rietpluim says

    “There is No Planet B”
    I’ve always liked that one.

    This one from the WWF is nice too:
    “SAVE THE WORLD – We may need it later”

  12. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    And we have most of the so-called environmentalists to blame just as much as the climate science deniers. Nuclear was the only workable answer. Had we started a few decades ago, we could have had this fixed. Instead, when faced with the reality of choosing between global warming and using nuclear, the environmentalists damned us all and chose global warming.

  13. Ichthyic says

    Nuclear was the only workable answer.

    aww geez, not this shit again.

    nobody’s buying, and you’ve been selling this same tired crap for years now.

  14. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    The same tired crap is true. Practically all of the environmental movement is intellectually bankrupt. Since last I’ve been here, I’ve engaged even more, and at practically every turn, I see everyone in the environmental movement ultimately cite a certain person by the name Mark Jacobson, and some quick research shows that he’s liar and a fraud, who should have been drummed out of respected academia, and instead he holds the position of the most respected expert on green tech in the environmental movement. This sin is inexcusable. Basically all of the environmental movement is intellectually rotten to the core. Any semblance of a proper “consensus of experts” should be dismissed.

    Citations are available upon demand, with direct links to his academic papers and non-peer reviewed papers, where he performs outrageous lies, mistruths, and other misinformation. There’s plenty of material on him as well for his other improper behavior w.r.t. peer review practices.

    You are a naive fool to trust the so-called environmental experts on the matter of technical ability of green technologies. Doubly-so for continuing to do so after I have pointed this out. (Sarcasm:) But please, continue to take false security in the so-called consensus of experts.

  15. says

    I see everyone in the environmental movement ultimately cite a certain person by the name Mark Jacobson

    Never heard of him. Is he a guru of some sort?

  16. Ichthyic says

    This sin is inexcusable. Basically all of the environmental movement is intellectually rotten to the core. Any semblance of a proper “consensus of experts” should be dismissed.

    nothing like a healthy dose of your usual well poisoning and ad hominem to make your usual blunted point.

    fail.

    as usual.

    ta.

  17. rietpluim says

    Nuclear was the only workable answer.
    It never ceases to amaze me how people think a power source is sustainable when it leaves waste so dangerous that it has to be put away for a time at least ten times the life span of the longest lasting civilization ever on earth.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    EL @17: Please do provide citations, and specific examples of Jacobson’s “outrageous lies”, etc.

  19. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Funny, EL. The only mention of Jacobson in this thread is by you. Might you be perhaps a bit obsessed with hippy bashing if you come into a responsible discussion, find no mention of radical environmentalist ideology and feel the need to inject it yourself just so you can bash it.

    I have no problem with nuclear technology–particularly the latest generation of reactors. I have radioactive minerals in my rock collection (yep, I’m that much of a nerd). I work in radiation physics. I could hardly be called phobic when it comes to radiation. However, I do have a few problems nukes as a solution to all our power needs:
    1) Reliance on fossil fuels has given fossil fuel companies way too much power–and it may be what kills us when it comes to climate change. Why the hell should we rely on another corrupt extractive industry for our salvation.
    2) Nuke waste. Nobody knows what to do with it. The French solution appears to be falling apart. The Swedes have come closest, but nobody has a good solution. I think that until you solve this problem, you don’t have a solution.
    3) What I call “the problem of the ingenious fool”. Nuclear power is…well, powerful. There is a reason why we have all those safeguards and rules and bypasses, etc. Nearly every nuclear accident has been the result of some ingenious idiot bypassing those safeguards and usually removing themselves and others from the gene pool. Until you solve the stupid problem, nukes may not be a viable option.

    Finally, I don’t consider climate change to be part of the “environmental movement”. It is mainstream science. It has been around over 120 years. It is simply reality. You accept it or you deny it like a dumbass.

  20. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    EL @17: Please do provide citations, and specific examples of Jacobson’s “outrageous lies”, etc.

    Let me give the worst lie that I know, which is also quite relevant to this conversation.

    In a popular, not peer-reviewed, article authored by Mark Jacobson (and another) that discusses how to stop CO2 emissions, the article practically mentions and dismisses of nuclear power with only a single sentence and only a single fact.

    > Article in Scientific American
    > Date of publication: 2009
    > Title: A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables
    > Authors: Mark Z. Jacobson, Mark A. Delucchi
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030/
    https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/sad1109Jaco5p.indd.pdf

    Quoting:

    Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refi ning and transport are considered.

    I went checking some of his papers around this time, to see if he based this outrageous claim on his own peer-reviewed work. My first thought was that he was lying by assuming diffusion enrichment instead of centrifuge enrichment, but the lie is much, much worse than that.

    I found the same claim made by Jacobson in his own paper here:

    > Article in peer reviewed journal “Energy Policy”.
    > Date of publication: 2011
    > Title: Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power, Part I: Technologies, energy resources, quantities and areas of infrastructure, and materials
    > Authors: Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi
    https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/JDEnPolicyPt1.pdf

    Second, nuclear energy results in 9–25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, in part due to emissions from uranium refining and transport and reactor construction (e.g., Lenzen, 2008; Sovacool, 2008), in part due to the longer time required to site, permit, and construct a nuclear plant compared with a wind farm (resulting in greater emissions from the fossil-fuel electricity sector during this period; Jacobson, 2009),

    I’m marginally annoyed that “9-25 times more” became “25 times more”, but that’s a minor annoyance compared to what I’m about to go into.

    The citation “Jacobson, 2009” in the above quote is a citation of the following paper (I know the years are different, but the hyperlink in the linked document makes it exceptionally clear that it does refer to this paper).

    > Article in peer reviewed journal “Energy & Environmental Science”
    > Title: Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security
    > Date of publication: 2008
    > Author: Mark Z. Jacobson
    https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/ReviewSolGW09.pdf

    And what do we find here?

    The first sin was already explained in the above quote. The first sin is that the given CO2 emissions from nuclear is in large part the CO2 emissions of coal power plants, under the assumption that nuclear takes a long time to build, and we’ll burn coal in the meantime. In an explicit context, with the explicit context of evaluating technologies according to a very short time horizon, this is a reasonable and honest sort of argument to make. However, look at how Jacobson presented this fact in the Scientific American article quote, given above. He didn’t give this context. He simply stated it, and he knows that any reason person will take this to be a description of steady-state operation. A reasonable person, if they find out that a substantial portion of the “(9-)25 times more” CO2 emissions actually comes from coal, and not nuclear, then they would be be greatly upset, and quite justifiable so, because they’ve been misled.

    This already rises to the level of outrageous lie. However, it gets worse – much worse.

    In this same paper, Jacobson assumes that increased use of nuclear power will lead to regular nuclear war, picks the number of nuclear wars per year directly out of his ass, and the number and size of burning cities directly out of his ass, and he poceeds to describe the average contents of cities and how much CO2 these cities will release when burned by nuclear war. Jacobson then calculates these CO2 emissions, and includes these CO2 emissions under the “nuclear” column – which perhaps might maybe be reasonable with proper context (but not really). However, he also uses this numnber, without context, in the number that he reports in the Scientific American article. Consider the person who feels outraged that they’ve been lied to and the “CO2 emissions from nuclear power plants” number includes substantial coal power plant emissions. Then, consider how this person feels when the CO2 emissions also include substantial amounts of CO2 from burning cities, from hypothetical periodic nuclear wars!

    In one of the above quotes, Jacobson also cites Sovacool, who is also well known to make this same sort of outrageous lie in their own work: assuming periodic nuclear war, calculating CO2 emissions from burning cities from nuclear war, and dishonestly reporting CO2 emissions of nuclear power plants by implicitly including CO2 emissions from burning cities from nuclear wars.

    I also want to emphasize that this is not just a problem with the Scientific American article. In the paper that cites the other paper, it cites the “9-25 times more” number, without mentioning that it’s based in large part on assuming periodic nuclear war, and asspull calculations of CO2 emissions from periodic nuclear war. Again, this is a fundamental and unforgivable act of gross dishonesty in a peer reviewed paper, that he wrote, involving a dishonest quote of another paper that he also wrote!

    Let me briefly describe a few other lies that piss me off. I don’t have sources for them immediately, but I’ll dredge them up if you wish. I’m hoping that the above is enough of a good start that you’ll take me seriously on this point, and look it up for yourself, but I’ll include some further suggestions on where to start for some other severe problems.

    2-

    At one point, Jacobson said / wrote that his 100% wind water solar (100% WWS) plan was cheaper than fossil fuels. (IIRC, Jacobson also said that we should be doing his 100% WWS plan anyway, because even without global warming.) That was a lie. In the original context, he simply said “cheaper”, and if the speaker was honest, that meant simple money costs excluding externalities. Rather, he arives at “cheaper” in his more-formal work by including externalities of global warming and mundane pollution from fossil fuels. As a thing to do, this sort of reasoning can be honest, and very useful. However, like above, the problem was in his other reporting of his work. His reporting was grossly dishonest. IIRC, in actuality, by his own work, his plan is like 6x more costly than the status quo (and that’s assuming his wildly outrageous generous numbers, technologies, modeling, etc.).

    3-

    Here’s a lie that’s also incredibly important to the discussion “how do we stop burning fossil fuels?”.

    Jacobson once said that 30% of wind is as reliable as coal. IIRC, he might have even written a peer reviewed paper to this effect. I don’t remember exactly – it might another case of writing a paper for the purpose of using it to support dishonest representations later.

    The dishonesty here is subtle, and it takes a little bit to break down. Jacobson starts with the well known fact that a coal power plant only run about 90% of the year. The roughly 10% downtime includes planned and unplanned outages. Jacobson then takes the historical wind data of like 17 different wind installations across a very large geography, IIRC across the eastern United States. He then does the simple calculations, and finds that roughly 30% of the nameplate capacity of the aggregate 17 wind farms is available 90% of the time. “Ergo”, he concludes, “30% of wind nameplate is as reliable as coal”.

    The astute reader should already realize the gross error, but it’s very subtle for someone without a background in engineering. Your electricity at your house, and at your factory, etc., does not have an up-time of 90%. It has an up-time of about 99.95%. “99.955” means that you lose electricity for only about a few hours per year. The question that you should immediately be asking yourself: “How is it that coal, which is only 90% reliable, can keep my electricity on about 99.95% of the time?”. The answer is independent redundancy. A single coal power plant only has an up-time of 90% approx, but when you get a large pool of coal power plants, as the engineering joke goes, the question is “How many 9s do you want after the decimal point?”. With enough coal power plants, we can achieve very, very high up-times, because any one coal plant might go down about 10% of the time, but, because the down-time of any plant is an independent variable of any other, we can achieve very high aggregate up-time.

    Jacobson is not comparing apples to oranges. He’s comparing a single coal power plant, to a very geographically disverse set of wind farms. He’s comparing a single coal power plant without redundancy, to one of the best possible cases of redundancy for wind. Taking him at his word (which is a very dangerous thing to do), and assuming he picked the case study which makes the best case possible for wind, this means that the best that geographically diverse wind can do is achieve 90% up-time, and that’s horrible. Unacceptable. 90% up-time means that you don’t have electricity for more than 1 month per year!

    At 1+ month per year of little to no generation, we would need to have a backup / alternative that is capable of supplying 100% of the load. In other words, without fantasy levels of storage (which his 100% WWS paper does assume, but I won’t), wind can only offset fuel costs and cannot reduce the number of alternative / backup power installations that we need, because we need enough backup to handle the 1+ month where there is no wind. Note: in most cases, fuel costs are only a small portion of the overall cost of electricity generation, which means wind is much less valuable than a simple levelized cost of electricity would lead you to believe.

    4-

    There’s plenty of other problems, misinformation, and lies, from Mark Jacobson. For some other secondary sources that describe some of these shenanigans, I suggest starting here:

    http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2010/01/bill-hannahans-on-his-difficulties.html
    https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/03/wws-2030-critique/

    I’m sure there’s more. This is just what I’ve managed to find in my unguided wanderings. It’s not like I have actually read every paper by this guy. The guy is a complete tool. Either he’s a “liar for Jesus” kind of guy, or he’s actually a paid shill by the fossil fuel companies. I don’t know which. Mark Jacobson is one of the few people that I truly hate in this world. Full-on hate. The amount of damage that this one man is single-handedly doing to humanity is almost unimaginable.

    Ok, he has a lot of assistance in his work too, like all of the people that I see cite him. Just offhand:

    * The blog author for Oceanoxia recently posted a video about global warming, and the video name dropped Jacobson as the foremost expert in moving off of fossil fuels.

    * On his new show, Bill Nye had Jacobson on for a special anti-nuclear power episode.

    * I’ve heard his name dropped as the foremost expert several times on NPR, and I’ve even heard him once or twice as an “expert” in formal debates on NPR, on a program sponsered by the California Commonweath Club.

    * Anecdotal, but: I was arguing with someone on Richard Carrier’s blog (while I was momentarily there asking “wtf are you doing Richard, suing PZ Myers et al?”), and the other guy name dropped some experts, and Jacobson was like the second “expert” given by this person on the blog.

    * I don’t know how many “expert scientists” get to write articles for Scientific American, but there’s that too.

    I feel like I’m forgetting an important example, but this will do for now. Jacobson is everywhere. Further, if you read the literature and debate like I do, Jacobson’s 100% WWS paper is king. It’s the most cited paper by far (AFAICT) for showing that we can get off fossil fuels, and how to do so. This solar and wind fantasy has a foundation of this paper, which is full of shit, written by a well-known liar, who should have lost his professorship as Stanford over it, or at least ridiculed and shunned over it. Fucking environmental movement is intellectually vacuous.

  21. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Quoting a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    Finally, I don’t consider climate change to be part of the “environmental movement”. It is mainstream science. It has been around over 120 years. It is simply reality. You accept it or you deny it like a dumbass.

    Come on man. “Attacking wind, water, solar” is not the same as “attacking climate change science”. I totally accept climate change science, and that’s why I am so passionate and interested about this issue. We need to be doing something now – the status quo is completely unacceptable, and even most environmentalist proposals – even if they were not based on pseudoscience – do not go far enough, fast enough, to combat the very real and severe threat of global warming and ocean acidification.

    Please stop strawmanning me.

    Quoting rietpluim

    It never ceases to amaze me how people think a power source is sustainable when it leaves waste so dangerous that it has to be put away for a time at least ten times the life span of the longest lasting civilization ever on earth.

    Solar and wind manufacture produces a lot of toxic waste too. Much of the toxic waste of solar and wind has a half life of about infinity – does that mean it’s more dangerous than nuclear waste (/sarcasm to hopefully provoke you to thought).

    Nuclear waste is not magic. It’s not infinitely dangerous. The amount of nuclear waste that will kill you, i.e. its LD50, is comparable to things like ricin, nerve gas, etc. – stuff that I don’t want to inhale or consume in large concentrations. However, people don’t act as if the sky is falling because of a few hundred tons of these other, incredibly toxic things. The amount of nuclear waste is so small, and that is what makes it uniquely very easy, and very cheap, to handle. The real problem is what to do with the massive amount of toxic waste that solar panel manufacture makes, and what to do with it. There’s so so much more of it, many magnitudes, that it is no longer easy nor cheap to properly dispose of it. I know “hundreds of tons” sounds like a lot, but it’s actually really, really small amounts of this stuff.

    Most people have a hysterical exaggerated understanding of the dangers and risks of nuclear power plant waste, and radiation in general. This is based in part on pseudoscience in the mainstream literature, and specifically the “linear no-threshold model”. There’s interesting evidence out there that this model was pushed by fossil fuel interests in order to squash nuclear power, in spite of contradicting evidence known even then, among other reasons. (It was also probably pushed, despite known contradicting evidence, as a political tool to get an international treaty to ban above-ground nuclear testing.)

    In reality, like basically any other toxin, there is a dose threshold below which it’s not harmful (or at least substantially less harmful than what a linear model would suggest). Practically all of the grossly exaggerated harms you think you know about radiation come from the use of this wrong model. In reality, the number of deaths from radiation from nuclear power plants is at most 4000, and perhaps only 300, with a vast majority of those coming from Chernobyl.

    For example, we have on video a spokesperson of Green Peace (IIRC) saying that there is an international conspiracy, including the World Health Organization, about the deaths from Chernobyl, and that the actual number of deaths is a million of more. IIRC, the video is part of the movie Pandora’s Promise, which is an excellent resource, albeit missing in some of the basic hard science, aka partially a fluff piece, but still has some science.

    This is before I even get to well known cranks and frauds out there who publish studies about elevated risks of cancer around nuclear power plants. There are several well-known and widely shared “studies” that purport such a thing, but they’re nothing more than simple statistical hacking, e.g. lies, i.e. choosing to include or exclude certain months based on nothing, in order to gain statistical significance. I’m not saying all such studies are like this, but a substantial amount are.

    There are a few perhaps legitimate such studies, but then it becomes like the studies that try to link cell phone use and cancer. If you do enough studies, eventually a few of them will come out positive just by chance. Just like “cell phones cause cancer”, there are many studies that show no link between nuclear power plants and cancer rates in the surrounding areas.

  22. Dunc says

    And we have most of the so-called environmentalists to blame just as much as the climate science deniers. Nuclear was the only workable answer. Had we started a few decades ago, we could have had this fixed. Instead, when faced with the reality of choosing between global warming and using nuclear, the environmentalists damned us all and chose global warming.

    This is ahistorical nonsense. We did start building nuclear a few decades ago. We only stopped in the mid-80s (here in the UK, anyway), and the reason we stopped had absolutely nothing to do with environmentalists, and everything to do with economics – particularly the availability of cheap natural gas, and the need to make electricity generation attractive to private investors in order to enable privatisation. At the time that decision was made, global warming was not particularly high on anybody’s radar (with the possible exception of a handful of climatologists).

    Even now, it’s not environmentalists who are stopping the construction of new nuclear power plants – it’s accountants. NPPs are very difficult to finance. (See, for example, the ongoing Hinkely Point fiasco.)

    I believe this is the point at which you traditionally claim that some wonderful new generation of NPPs that nobody’s even fully worked out on paper yet will solve all of our problems… Of course, that’s what they said about every previous generation of NPPs too. However, even if it’s true this time, I’m still not buying it on faith, and the timeline for taking a new generation of NPP designs through development, piloting, and build-out is such that even if everything works perfectly first time, next-gen NPPs can’t reasonably start coming on-stream in significant numbers for something like 20 years.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    EL @24:

    I went checking some of his papers around this time, to see if he based this outrageous claim on his own peer-reviewed work. My first thought was that he was lying by…

    Ah, so you somehow knew going in that the claim (“up to 25 times more carbon emissions”) was outrageous, and that he was lying? How? Do you have numbers* for average and range of footprint (say, in grams CO₂ per kWh) for wind and nuclear? Do you have the numbers for nuclear starting with low grade ore (say, 0.02%)? I don’t find the statement particularly outrageous.

    *And I mean from life cycle analysis, not including coal burning during construction of nuclear.

  24. Rob Grigjanis says

    BTW, the numbers (in g CO₂ per kWh) I recall for wind and natural gas are about 30 and 600 respectively, over life cycle. And I read somewhere that with low grade ore, nuclear is comparable to natural gas. So “up to 25” doesn’t look too horrible. I’ll dig up sources later if I have time and you can’t find them.

  25. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Rob
    Please. Give me the source. It’s going to be full of shit, and I’ll be happy to read it and find out how. It’s well known in the pro-nuclear side that the anti-nuclear side regularly lies, plus other wrong assumptions, to grossly inflate CO2 emission numbers. Here are some of the more common tactics:

    In actuality, IIRC the majority of the “unavoidable” CO2 emissions from nuclear comes from the concrete of construction of the plant. IIRC, that’s about 1% of equivalent CO2 emissions from coal power plants.

    The anti-nukes often assume the standard anti-nuke line about the dangers of radioactivity, and from this they calculate wildly exaggerated decommissioning costs and waste storage costs, which they then use to calculate much higher CO2 emissions.

    The anti-nukes often assume gaseous diffusion enrichment instead of centrifuge enrichment. This is a way to grossly increase energy costs, which they somehow use to calculate much higher CO2 emissions. However, practically no one uses gaseous diffusion enrichment anymore, and for quite a long time, centrifuge enrichment has been the norm. This is somewhere around a “pants on fire” lie.

    The anti-nukes often include, and fairly so, CO2 emissions from mining equipment for the uranium, because they run on fossil fuels. Curiously, I’m betting that such numbers are not included in the emissions of wind nor solar. I’d need to look up these numbers again, because I don’t remember clearly now, but I believe “surely it must be small because the raw ore requirements are small”.

    Based on the language that you remember, odds seem good that the error is either diffusion enrichment, or numbers from the mining equipment. However, maybe they’ll go the distance, and use some of the following lies, which, for example, Jacobson did the later paper that I cited, and in the Scientific American article.

    Then we get to the truly outrageous lies that I’ve detailed above from the likes of Jacobson and Sovacool. They include large amounts of burning coal in coal power plants for nuclear emissions, because they’re fucking shitters. Then, they also include CO2 emissions from burning cities from regular, periodic nuclear war, because they’re unimaginable shitters.

  26. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Dunc
    It’s 2017. 1980 is “a few decades ago”. We started building nuclear reactors in the 1940s and 1950s.

    Even now, it’s not environmentalists who are stopping the construction of new nuclear power plants – it’s accountants. NPPs are very difficult to finance. (See, for example, the ongoing Hinkely Point fiasco.)

    Mostly wrong. Cheap natural gas is definitely a factor, but it’s far from the only factor, and it’s arguable that it’s not even the most significant factor. It is the environmentalists that are increasing costs, through government and legal action. I don’t know much about the British context, but I assume it’s roughly the same as the American context, and like most of the western world which went the wrong way on nuclear regulations after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

    Let me talk about my home state of California.

    By law, the state must get 50% (IIRC) of its electricity from “green” sources, and the law defines “green” to exclude nuclear. That hurts the economics. Thanks environmentalists!

    The environmentalists have also largely captured the American federal nuclear regulatory agency, the NRC. The NRC has adopted safety standards that are extremely rigid, for basically no safety value compared to reasonable regulations, but they do impose a very high cost, both in licensing and in plant construction. The standard used is “as low as reasonably possible”, which imposes ever-increasing costs on nuclear power plants. The standards continuously “ratchet up”, as soon as “problems” as discovered, and “fixes” are found. The British legal system is undoubtably very similar here.

    Further, the law is set up so that any group, i.e. environmental group, can sue in court over safety problems. If they discover something that they can phrase as “a problem”, then the laws kick in based on “as low as reasonably possible”, and suddenly the plant is facing extreme expenses to quote unquote “fix” their plant. Similarly, radiation emission standards that existed during licensing and construction can be changed to be more stringent after the plant has started operating.

    The NRC is also incredibly stagnant, and their regulation and licsensing standards are fine-tuned for pressurized light water reactors. If you want to build another kind of reactor, a safer kind of reactor, like a integral fast reactor, or a molten salt reactor, no one is quite sure how that’s going to work, and industry insider reports are that they have to design their plant and pass the regs “pretending” to be a pressurized light water reactor. Ex: “Ok, do you have safety part X?”, “I don’t have safety part X, because I don’t have problem Y, because I’m not a pressurized light water reactor”. “Ok, what about part Z?”, “Again, I am not a light water reactor”.

    Further, the basic political environment is a huge problem too. Any competent investor will see these problems, see that they are political problems which are (unfortunately) not likely to go away, and the investors properly conclude that nuclear is a very bad investment.

    I believe this is the point at which you traditionally claim that some wonderful new generation of NPPs that nobody’s even fully worked out on paper yet will solve all of our problems…

    Current tech is quite sufficient, for the short term at least. In most of the western world, after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, ridiculous safety standards and legal systems were put in place, that killed nuclear’s financial viability. However, in other places in the world that used reasonable safety regulations, we see a different picture. Excepting Russia, China, and India, South Korea is the best example. They have been building nuclear plants continuously for many decades, and they are seeing capital costs go down over time, in a learning curve comparable to any curve for solar or wind. This is in part because of better regulations, and in part because they stuck with one design, and kept building them, thereby benefiting from standard learning curve efficiency arguments.

    We may need next-gen reactors in order to solve the nuclear fuel shortage problem. Seawater extraction might work, I still don’t know well enough there, and that might be sufficient for modern reactors. However, if we ever get a breeder up and running, then nuclear fuel will be inexhaustible.
    http://energyfromthorium.com/cubic-meter/
    Everyday rock becomes nuclear fuel, with more useful energy than the same volume of coal. We’ll run out of sun before we run out of rock.

  27. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS: Next-gen reactors can also be much safer than the already very-safe modern reactors. I think this is a good selling point, because Fukushima is very unfortunate. It didn’t kill anyone yet IIRC, and probably will never kill anyone except maybe for clean-up workers, but it’s still something we should avoid.

    One of the major benefits of next-gen reactors is further cost decreases. Because the physics is fundamentally different, e.g. “inherently safe”, for many of the designs, we don’t need as many redundant back-up systems, which will decrease costs, both in licensing costs and actual construction costs. Increased fundamental safety is a huge driver to decreased costs.

    I am not going to say “too cheap to meter”. That was always silly. However, “cost competitive with coal, or cheaper than coal” is something that we can probably do.

  28. Rob Grigjanis says

    EL @29:

    Based on the language that you remember, odds seem good that the error is either diffusion enrichment, or numbers from the mining equipment.

    “the error”? Actually, what I remember is that the grade of the ore used was the major factor. Lower grade means more processing. Tell me what you think the life cycle footprint is, in grams of CO₂ per kWh, if you use 0.02% ore. Just that, please. No more jeremiads on the nefariousness of the ant-nuke crowd.

  29. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Rob:
    Wait, thinking back on it, I strongly suspect you found that line, and stopped reading my post altogether. My problem is not that I disagree with the “9 – 25 times more” claim. Rather, my problem has to do his methodology in his paper for obtaining that claim, and for his dishonest reporting of the claim in later paper, and in his article in Scientific American. My problem would exist if he said “2 times more” or “2 times less”. The number here is utterly immaterial to the nature of his outrageous lies. Please go read my post.

  30. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Rob
    I will do that. However, I have one demand first: I want confirmation from you that you both read my post, and understand my post. I want something from you that shows understanding that the current discussion “how much CO2 does nuclear release?” is utterly immaterial to the outrageous lies by Mark Jacobson. With that out of the way, sure, we can change topics, and we can argue about how much CO2 nuclear releases.

  31. Rob Grigjanis says

    EL @33:

    I strongly suspect you found that line, and stopped reading my post altogether.

    No, I stopped reading after the complaint about Jacobson’s security risk assessment. I read it, and saw nothing wrong with it.

    My problem is not that I disagree with the “9 – 25 times more” claim.

    Bullshit. You explicitly called the “up to 25 times more” an outrageous claim.

    You’re just pulling the same old “wall-of-typing and hope something sticks” crap.

  32. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Rob
    An “outrageous claim” is not an “outrageous lie”.

    I spent a majority of that post dissecting the lies inherent in the peer reviewed papers and the presentation of those peer reviewed papers. I spent practically zero time engaging on the topic “how much CO2 does nuclear power actually emit?”. My focus and complaint should be quite obvious. And here I am, further clarifying for your benefit.

    Why do you insist on strawmanning me, and then forcefully request that I defend this strawman position? Again, I think the claim is outrageous, but the actual problem is the outrageous bald-faced willful lie of how he “presented” his work in the later peer reviewed paper, and the article in Scientific American.

    What is your problem?

  33. Dunc says

    Mostly wrong. Cheap natural gas is definitely a factor, but it’s far from the only factor, and it’s arguable that it’s not even the most significant factor. It is the environmentalists that are increasing costs, through government and legal action. I don’t know much about the British context, but I assume it’s roughly the same as the American context, and like most of the western world which went the wrong way on nuclear regulations after Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

    Well, yeah, you very obviously don’t know anything at all about the British (or other European) context. You might want to learn a little about the experience of people actually trying to build the current generation of NPPs right now before you start pontificating about where you think the problems lie. I even gave you a link to the relevant wikipedia article which summarises the issues quite nicely, but you obviously didn’t bother reading it.

    The issues we’re having in the UK (and elsewhere in Europe) are absolutely nothing like the issues you describe. Not even close. You might as well be claiming that the problem is that the leprechauns are insisting that the reactor vessel be built out of unicorn shit.

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    To Dunc
    Sorry, I was assuming that England was probably similar to the other western countries, including the USA, France, Canada, and West Germany. In those countries, when you look at the data on total construction times, and total construction costs, for nuclear power plants, you see a very interesting thing. Sometime around 1970, construction times and construction costs of nuclear power plants skyrocketed. The clear and obvious answer is that increased safety regulations and other forms of obstructionism from the environmentalists have resulted in drastic price increases that persist to this day.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421516300106
    For other countries, notably South Korea, but also China, Russia, and India, we don’t see this same extreme spike in construction costs and construction times circa 1970. What happened circa 1970? Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

    Based on some of the skimming that I’ve just done concerning Hinkley Point C as an example, it does seem that a fair portion of the cost is coming from the increased safety regulations. In part, it comes from the choice of the EPR design, instead of cheaper (and probably safer) alternatives like the AP1000, and purportedly from my quick googling, it would be harder for the AP1000 to pass the sometimes arbitrary and excessive safety standards, and more complicated and expensive EPR was chosen in its place.

    Of course, there’s also the problem that this is the first of its kind design and build. Of course it’s going to cost a lot. Nuclear power is only going to become reasonable in price with a fixed design, and probably a much smaller design. You don’t get economies of scale when you build the most expensive thing ever build on planet Earth, aka Hinkley Point C. You get economies of scale by sticking to a simple light water reactor, and building lots and lots of them, such as what South Korea has done.

    Further, It seems like the United Kingdom does have a “as low as practicable” standard regarding radiation release.
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-t-z/united-kingdom.aspx
    I have little doubt that the local anti-nuclear environmentalists, acting through their politicians, have used this language to impose extreme cost increases, just like every other country has been doing after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

    So, I do think that I know what I’m talking about. However, I just started looking into this. I’d be curious on what specifics that you think I have wrong.

  35. Dunc says

    Sometime around 1970, construction times and construction costs of nuclear power plants skyrocketed. [..] What happened circa 1970? Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

    Oh, for God’s sake… Three Mile Island happened in 1979, and Chernobyl happened in 1986. Do these environmentalists have access to a time machine or something? France still gets the majority (over 75%) of its electricity from nuclear power, and was continuously constructing NPPs through the 70s, 80s, and 90s.

    I should probably just stop right here, since it’s now incredibly obvious that you haven’t got the least clue what you’re talking about, but what the hell…

    In part, it comes from the choice of the EPR design, instead of cheaper (and probably safer) alternatives like the AP1000

    That would be the “cheaper” AP1000 that caused Westinghouse to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this year because of the massive cost overruns and delays on all their current projects, yeah? And also the “safer” AP1000 whose design has been severely criticised by not just environmental groups, but senior engineers at the NRC?

    my quick googling, it would be harder for the AP1000 to pass the sometimes arbitrary and excessive safety standards

    So your quick googling didn’t manage to turn up that there were already three AP1000 developments scheduled and approved in the UK before Westinghouse went bankrupt?

    Of course, there’s also the problem that this is the first of its kind design and build.

    Hinkley Point is the fifth EPR project (after Olkiluoto 3, Flamanville 3, and Taishan 1 & 2), and is a joint project with France (Europe’s great nuclear success story,as noted above) and China (who you seem to think know what they’re doing). Of the four other EPR projects, two are in China, so I don’t see how you can simultaneously claim the the EPR design was only chosen because of excessive safety considerations and that this isn’t a problem in China.

    I have little doubt that the local anti-nuclear environmentalists, acting through their politicians, have used this language to impose extreme cost increases

    I have little doubt that you’re talking out of your arse, and know less about the politics of nuclear power in the UK than you do about when the Chernobyl accident happened.

    I’d be curious on what specifics that you think I have wrong.

    All of them.

    I could go into some detail as to why the EPR was chosen over the AP1000 for Hinkley Point (short answer: politics and financing), but what would be the fucking point if I’m talking to someone who thinks the Chernobyl accident happened in 1970 and that the AP1000 can’t get regulatory approval in the UK? What colour is the sky on your planet?

  36. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    What happened circa 1970? Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

    Not sure what point you’re trying to make here, but Chernobyl was 1986, TMI 1979. It’s a bit of a stretch to call those events circa 1970.

  37. Dunc says

    Not sure what point you’re trying to make here

    I believe his point is that nuclear power has been stymied by time-travelling hippies who control the government. (Although, for some reason, their diabolical powers seem to be largely ineffective on any other topic, with the possible exception of whaling…) Anyway, it’s certainly not because of the fact that if you ordered a friggin’ toaster from Westinghouse or EDF, it would be three years late and cost a billion dollars… Oh no, that’s all down to those diabolical time-travelling hippies imposing onerous new toaster safety regulations. I expect they’re behind the cost overruns on the F-35 and the Littoral Combat Ship too.

  38. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Oh, I saw a documentary about the whales thing. Starred some guy with pointy ears.

    So they saved whales and Wales? Pretty cool….

  39. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Concerning 1970 – I misspoke. The data in the linked peer-reviewed paper is quite clear. For nuclear power plants starting construction circa 1975 there’s a huge spike in construction time and cost, e.g. nuclear power plants that would still be under construction during these events.

  40. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal #38:

    I have nothing to add to the discussion in hand. I just want to address this:

    In reply to a comment which employed the adjective “British” and the noun-acronym “UK,” you said…

    Sorry, I was assuming that England…

    Look, this really isn’t difficult. England (a political-geographic entity) is but one of the three countries occupying the island of Great Britain (a physical-geographic entity). The UK (a political-geographic entity) comprises those three countries plus Northern Ireland. The appropriate adjective for “of the UK” is, for historical reasons, “British.” Though not technically correct, the word “Britain” may sometimes be used as a loose-speaking synonym for “UK.” The word “England,” however, may not.

    Or perhaps we could start referring to the entire USA as “Virginia”? It would make as much sense.

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