At the end of each chapter I note details of ideas in that chapter, sources of data and quotes, and pointers to further information.
2 "... no other possible way of doing that except through renewables"; "anybody who is relying upon renewables to fill the [energy] gap is living in an utter dream world and is, in my view, an enemy of the people." The quotes are from Any Questions?, 27 January 2006, BBC Radio 4 [ydoobr] . Michael Meacher was UK environment minister from 1997 till 2003. Sir Bernard Ingham was an aide to Margaret Thatcher when she was prime minister, and was Head of the Government Information Service. He is secretary of Supporters of Nuclear Energy.
- Jonathan Porritt (March 2006). Is nuclear the answer? Section 3. Advice to Ministers. www. sd-commission. org.uk
3 "Nuclear is a money pit", "We have a huge amount of wave and wind." Ann Leslie, journalist. Speaking on Any Questions?, Radio 4,10 February 2006.
- Los Angeles residents drive... from Earth to Mars - (The Earthworks Group, 1989, page 34).
- targetneutral. com charges just £4 per ton of CO2 for their "neutralization." (A significantly lower price than any other "offsetting" company I have come across.) At this price, a typical Brit could have his 11 tons per year "neutralized" for just £44 per year! Evidence that BP's "neutralization" schemes don't really add up comes from the fact that its projects have not achieved the Gold Standard www.cdmgoldstandard.org (Michael Schlup, personal communication). Many "carbon offset" projects have been exposed as worthless by Fiona Harvey of the Financial Times [2jhve6].
4 People who want to promote renewables over nuclear, for example, say "offshore wind power could power all UK homes." At the end of 2007, the UK government announced that they would allow the building of offshore wind
"Okay - it's agreed; we announce - 'to do nothing is not an option!' then we wait and see how things pan out... "
Figure 1.11 . Reproduced by kind permission of PRIVATE EYE / Paul Lowe www.private-eye.co.uk.
turbines "enough to power all UK homes." Friends of the Earth's renewable energy campaigner, Nick Rau, said the group welcomed the government's announcement. "The potential power that could be generated by this industry is enormous," he said. [25e59w]. From the Guardian [5o7mxk]: John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace, said that the plans amounted to a "wind energy revolution." "And Labour needs to drop its obsession with nuclear power, which could only ever reduce emissions by about 4% at some time in the distant future." Nick Rau said: "We are delighted the government is getting serious about the potential for offshore wind, which could generate 25% of the UK's electricity by 2020." A few weeks later, the government announced that it would permit new nuclear stations to be built. "Today's decision to give the go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear power stations . . . will do little to tackle climate change," Friends of the Earth warned [5c4olc].
In fact, the two proposed expansions - of offshore wind and of nuclear - would both deliver just the same amount of electricity per year. The total permitted offshore wind power of 33 GW would on average deliver 10 GW, which is 4kWh per day per person; and the replacement of all the retiring nuclear power stations would deliver 10 GW, which is 4 kWh per day per person. Yet in the same breath, anti-nuclear campaigners say that the nuclear option would "do little," while the wind option would "power all UK homes." The fact is, "powering all UK homes" and "only reducing emissions by about 4%" are the same thing.
4 "water-powered car"New Scientist, 29th July 2006, p. 35. This article, headlined "Water-powered car might be available by 2009," opened thus:
"Forget cars fuelled by alcohol and vegetable oil. Before long, you might be able to run your car with nothing more than water in its fuel tank. It would be the ultimate zero-emissions vehicle.
"While water is not at first sight an obvious power source, it has a key virtue: it is an abundant source of hydrogen, the element widely touted as the green fuel of the future."
The work New Scientist was describing was not ridiculous - it was actually about a car using boron as a fuel, with a boron/water reaction as one of the first chemical steps. Why did New Scientist feel the urge to turn this into a story suggesting that water was the fuel? Water is not a fuel. It never has been, and it never will be. It is already burned! The first law of thermodynamics says you can't get energy for nothing; you can only convert energy from one form to another. The energy in any engine must come from somewhere. Fox News peddled an even more absurd story [2fztd3].
- Climate change is a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism. Sir David King, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, January, 2004. [26e8z]
- the glorification of travel - an allusion to the offence of "glorification" defined in the UK's Terrorism Act which came into force on 13 April, 2006. [ykhayj]
5 Figure 1. . This figure shows production of crude oil including lease condensate, natural gas plant liquids, and other liquids, and refinery processing gain. Sources: EIA, and BP statistical review of world energy.
6 The first practical steam engine was invented in 1698. In fact, Hero of Alexandria described a steam engine, but given that Hero's engine didn't catch on in the following 1600 years, I deem Savery's 1698 invention the first practical steam engine.
- Figures 1.4 and 1.7: Graph of carbon dioxide concentration. The data are collated from Keeling and Whorf (2005) (measurements spanning 1958-2004); Neftel et al. (1994) (1734-1983); Etheridge et al. (1998) (1000-1978); Siegenthaler et al. (2005) (950-1888 AD); and Indermuhle et al. (1999) (from 11 000 to 450 years before present). This graph, by the way, should not be confused with the "hockey stick graph", which shows the history of global temperatures. Attentive readers will have noticed that the climate-change argument I presented makes no mention of historical temperatures. Figures 1.5-1.7: Coal production numbers are from Jevons (1866), Malanima (2006), Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (2006), National Bureau of Economic Research (2001), Hatcher (1993), Flinn and Stoker (1984), Church et al. (1986), Supple (1987), Ashworth and Pegg (1986). Jevons was the first "Peak Oil" author. In 1865, he estimated Britain's easily-accessible coal reserves, looked at the history of exponential growth in consumption, and predicted the end of the exponential growth and the end of the British dominance of world industry. "We cannot long maintain our present rate of increase of consumption. ... the check to our progress must become perceptible within a century from the present time. . . . the conclusion is inevitable, that our present happy progressive condition is a thing of limited duration." Jevons was right. Within a century British coal production indeed peaked, and there were two world wars.
8 Dominic Lawson, a columnist from the Independent. My quote is adapted from Dominic Lawson's column in the Independent, 8 June, 2007. It is not a verbatim quote: I edited his words to make them briefer but took care not to correct any of his errors. All three numbers he mentions are incorrect. Here's how he screwed up. First, he says "carbon dioxide" but gives numbers for carbon: the burning of fossil fuels sends 26 gigatonnes of CO2 per year into the atmosphere (not 7 gigatonnes). A common mistake. Second, he claims that the oceans send 36000 gigatonnes of carbon per year into the atmosphere. This is a far worse error: 36 000 gigatonnes is the total amount of carbon in the ocean! The annual flow is much smaller - about 90 gigatonnes of carbon per year (330 Gt CO2/y), according to standard diagrams of the carbon cycle [l6y5g] (I believe this 90GtC/y is the estimated flow rate, were the atmosphere suddenly to have its CO2 concentration reduced to zero.) Similarly his "1900 gigatonne" flow from biosphere to atmosphere is wrong. The correct figure according to the standard diagrams is about 120 gigatonnes of carbon per year (440 GtCO2/y).
Incidentally, the observed rise in CO2 concentration is nicely in line with what you'd expect, assuming most of the human emissions of carbon remained in the atmosphere. From 1715 to 2004, roughly 1160GtCO2 have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production (Marland et al., 2007). If all of this CO2 had stayed in the atmosphere, the concentration would have risen by 160 ppm (from 280 to 440 ppm). The actual rise has been about 100 ppm (from 275 to 377ppm). So roughly 60% of what was emitted is now in the atmosphere.
10 Carbon dioxide has a warming effect. The over-emotional debate about this topic is getting quite tiresome, isn't it? "The science is now settled." "No it isn't!" "Yes it is!" I think the most helpful thing I can do here is direct anyone who wants a break from the shouting to a brief report written by Charney et al. (1979). This report's conclusions carry weight because the National Academy of Sciences (the US equivalent of the Royal Society) commissioned the report and selected its authors on the basis of their expertise, "and with regard for appropriate balance." The study group was convened "under the auspices of the Climate Research Board of the National Research Council to assess the scientific basis for projection of possible future climatic changes resulting from man-made releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere." Specifically, they were asked: "to identify the principal premises on which our current understanding of the question is based, to assess quantitatively the adequacy and uncertainty of our knowledge of these factors and processes, and to summarize in concise and objective terms our best present understanding of the carbon dioxide/climate issue for the benefit of policy-makers."
The report is just 33 pages long, it is free to download [5qfkaw], and I recommend it. It makes clear which bits of the science were already settled in 1979, and which bits still had uncertainty.
Here are the main points I picked up from this report. First, doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration would change the net heating of the troposphere, oceans, and land by an average power per unit area of roughly 4 W/m2, if all other properties of the atmosphere remained unchanged. This heating effect can be compared with the average power absorbed by the atmosphere, land, and oceans, which is 238 W/m2. So doubling CO2 concentrations would have a warming effect equivalent to increasing the intensity of the sun by 4/238 = 1.7%. Second, the consequences of this CO2-induced heating are hard to predict, on account of the complexity of the atmosphere/ocean system, but the authors predicted a global surface warming of between 2 °C and 3.5 °C, with greater increases at high latitudes. Finally, the authors summarize: "we have tried but have been unable to find any overlooked or underestimated physical effects that could reduce the currently estimated global warmings due to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 to negligible proportions or reverse them altogether." They warn that, thanks to the ocean, "the great and ponderous flywheel of the global climate system," it is quite possible that the warming would occur sufficiently sluggishly that it
The weights of an atom of carbon and a molecule of CO2 are in the ratio 12 to 44, because the carbon atom weighs 12 units and the two oxygen atoms weigh 16 each. 12 + 16 +16 = 44.
would be difficult to detect in the coming decades. Nevertheless "warming will eventually occur, and the associated regional climatic changes ... may well be significant."
The foreword by the chairman of the Climate Research Board, Verner E. Suomi, summarizes the conclusions with a famous cascade of double negatives. "If carbon dioxide continues to increase, the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible."
10 The litany of probable drastic effects of climate change - I'm sure you've heard it before. See [2z2xg7] if not.
12 Breakdown of world greenhouse gas emissions by region and by country. Data source: Climate Analysis Indicators Tool (CAIT) Version 4.0. (Washington, DC: World Resources Institute, 2007). The first three figures show national totals of all six major greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O, PFC, HFC, SF6), excluding contributions from land-use change and forestry. The figure on p14 shows cumulative emissions of CO2 only.
14 Congratulations, Bri tain! ...in the table of historical emissions, per capi ta, we are second only to the USA. Sincere apologies here to Luxembourg, whose historical per-capita emissions actually exceed those of America and Britain; but I felt the winners' podium should really be reserved for countries having both large per-capita and large total emissions. In total terms the biggest historical emitters are, in order, USA (322 Gt CO2), Russian Federation (90 Gt CO2), China (89GtCO2), Germany (78GtCO2), UK (62GtCO2), Japan (43GtCO2), France (30GtC02), India (25GtCO2), and Canada (24 Gt CO2). The per-capita order is: Luxembourg, USA, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Qatar, and Canada.
- Some countries, including Bri tain, have commi tted to at least a 60% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. Indeed, as I write, Britain's commitment is being increased to an 80% reduction relative to 1990 levels.
15 Figure 1.8. In the lower scenario, the chance that the temperature rise will exceed 2 °C is estimated to be 9-26%; the cumulative carbon emissions from 2007 onwards are 309 GtC; CO2 concentrations reach a peak of 410 ppm, CO2e concentrations peak at 421 ppm, and in 2100 CO2 concentrations fall back to 355 ppm. In the upper scenario, the chance of exceeding 2 °C is estimated to be 16-43%; the cumulative carbon emissions from 2007 onwards are 415 GtC; CO2 concentrations reach a peak of 425 ppm, CO2e concentrations peak at 435 ppm, and in 2100 CO2 concentrations fall back to 380ppm. See also hdr.undp.org/en/reports/global/hdr2007-2008/.
16 there are many other helpful sources on the internet. I recommend, for example: BP's Statistical Review of World Energy [yyxq2m], the Sustainable Development Commission www.sd-commission.org.uk, the Danish Wind Industry Association www.windpower.org, Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy www.ecolo.org, Wind Energy Department, Ris0 University www.risoe.dk/vea, DEFRA www.defra.gov.uk/environment/statistics, especially the book Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change [dzcqq], the Pembina Institute www.pembina.org/publications.asp, and the DTI (now known as BERR) www.dti.gov.uk/publications/.
17 factual assertions and ethical assertions... Ethical assertions are also known as "normative claims" or "value judgments," and factual assertions are known as "positive claims." Ethical assertions usually contain verbs like "should" and "must," or adjectives like "fair," "right," and "wrong." For helpful further reading see Dessler and Parson (2006).
18 Gordon Brown. On 10th September, 2005, Gordon Brown said the high price of fuel posed a significant risk to the European economy and to global growth, and urged OPEC to raise oil production. Again, six months later, he said "we need . . . more production, more drilling, more investment, more petrochemical investment" (22nd April, 2006) [y98ys5]. Let me temper this criticism of Gordon Brown by praising one of his more recent initiatives, namely the promotion of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. As you'll see later, one of this book's conclusions is that electrification of most transport is a good part of a plan for getting off fossil fuels.
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