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Cut global emissions by 7.6% per year for next decade to meet 1.5°C Paris target (unenvironment.org)
97 points by 23throwaway23 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 199 comments

I think it should be somewhat obvious that it will be impossible for us to avoid the absolute worst of global warming. Humans simply don't have the capability to act in the coordinated, political way that is necessary. Somehow holding out hope that we'll all come to our senses and things will change is like holding out hope that we'll never have any wars again. It is just not compatible with human nature.

I'd love it if I were wrong, or if someone can change my mind, but in a world where we have never had as much access to information, large swaths of the population don't even believe global warming is _real_, let alone something we should do something about.

We should just start planning for the worst case scenarios, because they are going to happen regardless.

I'm not sure how many people are skeptical about the global warming itself, but there are definitely good reasons for skepticism about the proposed political solutions. I have yet to see a quantifiable and accountable proposal in a format "let's allocate $X billion, implement measures A, B and C, so with the probability of Y%, the point where Earth becomes uninhabitable due to global warming will shift by N years into the future". Instead far too many people who haven't tried running even a lemonade stand, are talking about raising billions by taxing things most of us enjoy with a very hazy perspective of having some great outcome way past their own political lifespan. Given that everyone else manages to cooperate in a completely unprecedented way.

To give an example, I personally hate commuting and believe that spending hours sitting in traffic every day is a major waste of time. However, if a politician came by and promised to raise gasoline prices by 50% in order to invest $X billion into WeWork so that they could solve the commute problem once and for all, I would never have voted for them. Not because I love commuting, but because I don't believe this will solve the problem at all, given the track record of WeWork. Of course, people with a financial interest in WeWork would gladly label me a commutist and would try to make sure my arguments are not heard.

There are plenty of ways to reduce the emissions that are much easier to quantify and implement: making nuclear power safer, improving biodiesel, even a national standard for replaceable EV batteries so you could switch one out not much slower than filling in a gas tank. But instead we keep hearing the original sin [0] rhetoric on how we should eat less, not buy a big house and give up on having kids.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_sin

> I'm not sure how many people are skeptical about the global warming itself.

Climate change denial denial. Very meta.


> However, if a politician came by and promised to raise gasoline prices by 50% in order to invest $X billion into WeWork so that they could solve the commute problem once and for all,

Than you should like carbon fee and dividend scheme[1]. Tax emissions, divide equally between all citizens. The end result is unchanged populations spending power, but redistributed towards less carbon-intensive products.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_fee_and_dividend

That would mean taxing most productive or enjoyable activity (raising kids, going to business trips, fine dining) and rewarding depressive low-carbon-footprint sitting in front of the TV and waiting for death. I would rather spend that money subsidizing greener alternatives to common CO2 sources (e.g. EV subsidies), but that's already being done.

Where would the incentive to reduce emissions come from then? If you divide your tax of increase in emissions by 300+ million people, your effective tax increase will be low compared to the money you could make by increasing emissions.

Carbon taxes should be uncontroversial. They're economically sound and use levers we already have and trust to control other aspects of society without much debate (sin taxes are widely used despite the odd objection). But people on the extreme eco-warrior end are suspicious because they look like paper-pushing without doing anything, and people on the extreme capitalist-growth end dislike them because they will in fact be disruptive. It takes a kind of well-intentioned pragmatism that I think is rare - one tends to get selfish pragamtism, or else well-intentioned idealism/fanaticism.

When I hear people say that making nuclear power safer is easier than eating less meat, it kind of feels like people are just promoting the solutions that dont involve them making any sacrifices.

And why should people make sacrifices if you could solve the problem without making sacrifices? This smells of a religious dogma that people should suffer because of the original sin.

If you think CO₂ is something we should reduce, the tree planting idea that's been talked about recently looks pretty good. Even if their costs are off by a factor of 10 it's still affordable; trees are an almost ideal carbon capture tool.

Planting trees will trap some atmospheric carbon in the lumber. However, once the lifespan of the tree is over and it starts rotting away, most of the carbon will get released back into the atmosphere, as it has been happening for millions of years.

In my opinion, it's not about planting the trees, it's about finding a way to turn the carbon trapped by them into something logistically and economically comparable to fossil fuels.

That's not a problem because new trees will grow in their place. Those trees can capture all the carbon humans have put into the atmosphere so far.

But that means that planting a tree binds a finite "tree lifetime" amount of carbon. So, in order to neutralize the worldwide carbon emissions using trees, we would need to keep planting them as long as we keep releasing CO2. So we would need to consume X square miles of agriculturally suitable land per year to simply keep the net emission at zero.

Now, IIRC, the energy density of oil is much higher than the one of lumber. I haven't done the calculation, but we might simply run out of suitable area way before any reasonable effect is reached. Don't forget that the logistics of tree planting will spend some CO2 as well, and given the finite CO2-per-planted-tree amount, it could be considerable.

Also if the trees have not spread naturally in the past millions of years in the area where you would want to plant them, there might be some ecological reasons to it. Hence, they may not survive long-term, or may get wiped by forest fires, or may require irrigation, fertilizers or other support that also produces CO2.

I agree it isn’t a complete answer to the question of how to return co2 levels to some level forever, but it has a good cost benefit ratio and could buy 50 years.

The study showed that the available land at a low cost, much less than alarmist propaganda, is enough to reverse all the co2 emissions so far.

That sounds interesting. As a numbers person, I would appreciate a link to the study and some basic TDLR napkin math.

This article contains a link to the paper: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jul/04/planting...

I really like and vouch for the last paragraph

I agree that this is a tragedy of the commons situation. But there is a tiny bit of hope. After all, we did fix the ozone hole, even while someone in China kept releasing massive amounts of CFCs. So at least when the problem is limited and the solution doesn't require overwhelming sacrifice we can and do sometimes work together. This problem is much less tractable though.

It's hard for people to work out what information is true, what information is denial, and what information is hyperbole. Unfortunately the warnings we are getting via the media are inconsistent, alarmist, and don't put things into useful human terms that you can use to make decisions by. There needs to be a concerted effort to do better on the messaging front. I don't have any hope that the news media will do better while Western society puts little value on honor and doing the right thing, and puts high value on making as much money as possible.

Given the inconsistent messaging, people cannot rationally work out the answer to the following question: Which is worse? Giving up meat, my SUV, and air travel... or dealing with a +1.5C temperature shift? Most people think the former is worse, and quite rationally keep living as they have been at carbon footprints well in excess of 10 mton-co2e/year. Alarmist messaging doesn't fix that situation because people aren't dumb and can tell what is alarmist and what is a statement of solid facts. In fact, I've yet to hear a statement of solid facts that lays out the case why I should give up my (meat + SUV + air travel) that isn't highly speculative. Personally I am giving up these things and planting trees, but only because I bothered to deeply research the situation. The messaging is still really bad.. especially in the US where people apparently have no will to listen to each other anymore.

We can and act that way... Unfortunately, for most people on earth their CO2 consumption will have to go up significantly for them to have an improved quality of life.

The large swath of population that doesn't believe in global warming is far less important than the large swath that is anti-nuclear. China, India, etc will need substantial energy to improve their quality of life and their populations are so large relatively to that of the West that marginal improvements in the Wests consumption will have little effect.

I used to be pro-nuclear as well, but I‘m not anymore. If you look at fully externalized cost including the consequences of uranium mining and storage of isotopes, renewables plus storage are close to breaking even.

Except that even the minimum reactor size (for technical, security and proliferation reasons) mandates extremely large investment in terms of capital and space, which in turn leads to ownership by large intransparent conglomerates, bickering by NIMBYs, clearances, costly audits and years of planning and validation.

Renewables plus storage on the other hand just get cheaper by automation and are relatively affordable. Any larger company can afford cash and space for solar on the roof plus a PowerPack in the backyard.

Knowledge and learning rate for that track advances at an order of magnitude faster rate than for fission or fusion.

In terms of scaling up as quickly as needed, nuclear is dead in the water.

We are closing in or have hit peak renewable in several states and countries around the world. Unless we figure out a massive improvement to battery technology renewables are not going to help us in the same way they been.

[citation needed]

Wind power is continuously upgrading due to more possibilities opening with higher turbines, as well as old sites being upgraded.

Offshore wind is just getting profitable without subsidies, it's just getting started.

Solar is fitting in anywhere and with still falling prices will get ever more cost competitive even at low insulation sites.

Storage technology is just getting started as well with many investments from the past 5-10 years now reaching maturity (low-cobalt, silicon, solid state, fuel cells...)

You're entitled to your opinion, but I'd be curious as to your sources.

I know it sounds contradictory but poverty is worse for CO2 production then wealth is. The world is in a situation that requires us to grow away from greenhouse gas production. I firmly believe that actions that hurt growth need to be approached with carefully - if X hurts growth but cuts the rate of greenhouse gas emissions it needs to cut them by a large amount - by the same token if Y increases growth and raises greenhouse gas emissions it might make sense if it raises growth by a large amount.

" where we have never had as much access to information, large swaths of the population don't even believe global warming is _real_"

I completely agree. In this age of broadband internet, social media where information is at your disposal, we are not matured enough to handle this, speaking from micro-evolutionary perspective. And where we can not digest/process/retain information, we conveniently convince overselves that it might not be real. Sadly, we are doomed.

Not true. An overwhelming majority of Americans believe climate change is real:


The actual roadblocks to action are: (1) lack of a realistic plan (not like "we're going to subsidize renewables" but "we expect to reduce solar radiation by 0.25%, reduce emissions from power productions by 25%, ..." where the numbers add up to a real change) and (2) the conspicuous inability of the government to demand sacrifices from Elites (Macron's tax cuts), and (3) ordinary people feeling overwhelmed and that any sacrifice is the "last straw" (e.g. Yellow Shirts riot when they try to raise the price of gas)

(2) and (3) are linked because the government needs legitimacy to demand sacrifices and if it can't get them from those that have, how can it get them from anybody else?

If you want something to happen start a Kickstarter to rent a plane and seed the upper atmosphere with SO2 -- that avoids the 'collective action' problem.

> We should just start planning for the worst case scenarios

Who is "we" here? If by "we" you mean those humans that are incapable of coordinated political action, then I don't see us planning for the worst at the moment. You just replaced one unattainable goal with another. If by "we" you mean everyone individually should start building bunkers for themselves, then that's a perfect recipe for extinction.

I have been feeling more and more this way. If the resource constriction and human displacement predicted by many analyses occurs, the state responses will likely be predictably horrifying. Given the response of the U.S. Europe and Australia to the current refugee crises it seems something terrible on a far greater scale is nearly unavoidable.

Like you, I would love to be wrong about this but I have not seen any convincing argument against it.

What's there to plan? Your only options are to move and to do very risky geo engineering projects.

I think the awareness is there on the individual level in most countries; what's lacking is that the political process is broken in various way, so that the interests of wealthy people and shareholders overrule the will of the majority of people.

In the United States, for instance, a majority wants significant action to avert climate change. Some of the obstacles to this actually happening are the electoral college, the filibuster, gerrymandering, first-past-the-post elections, the Citizens United decision, regulatory capture, and so on. We don't need to fix all of those things in order to act decisively, but if we reformed at least some of them it would make progress much easier.

So how should an investor prepare today to the inevitable consequences of climate change?

Buying waterfront property in the great lakes region of the U.S. seems like a good bet.

Lake Erie set a record high water level this year, so timing your purchase might be a little tricky.

Buy tundra. Buy up tons of land anywhere that’s currently too cold to be useful.

Spend your money on entertainment while you still have it.
lugg 9 days ago [flagged]

Pull your head out your ass.

You're the one sitting here on the internet claiming defeat.

How many people have you told to cut back on consumption and fuel use this month?

Yea. That's what I thought.

Don't act like it's impossible to change behavior it's not.

Smoking, drunk driving, domestic violence, racism, homophobia, and a bunch of other social issues have all been largely tackled the last few decades.

In WW2 we repurposed car factories to make tanks in a matter of weeks.

Please, don't act like we're a bunch of invilids incapable of change.

Speak for yourself.

We've banned this account for repeatedly breaking the site guidelines and ignoring our requests to stop.

If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.


I searched for 'nuclear' on that page, and found no mention of the word at all. Whatever you might think of nuclear energy, I don't think such a drastic energy cut is even possible to implement without it. (After all, I see little point in cutting CO2 emissions in the US if people in other countries emit an amount equivalent to whatever gets cut here.)

The time for nuclear has passed (at least fission. Fusion may still be a good future energy source).

I say this because the cost of building a new nuclear plant is more expensive than wind and solar.

Nuclear might still be a good solution for northern and southern habitats. But, at this point, where most pollution is produced, solar and wind are viable.


With all that said, the real viability of renewables is partially going to be determined by storage costs. Nuclear doesn't really solve the storage problem though (it is a base load only power source). Eventually in order to hit a 7.6% reduction goal we'll have to phase out natural gas peaker plants. To do that, we need storage.

We certainly shouldn't be decommissioning nuclear plants in favor of renewables. I just don't think the time to build new nuclear is here. The cheaper and faster solution is new renewables.

The cheapest option is probably to build nuclear to the level that meets minimum demand at night, and solar for everything on top of that, with just enough storage to even out the remaining discrepancies.

Storage is quite a bit more expensive than nuclear, and while the cost is dropping it has a long way to go. At the same time, new nuclear technologies like molten salt reactors could well drop the price of nuclear. For that to be a factor, we'd likely have to get more aggressive with licensing new nuclear technologies; i.e. we'd have to treat climate change with the urgency it deserves.

Here's a Lazard report on levelized cost of storage: https://www.lazard.com/perspective/lcoe2019

Besides the cost problem, deployment is also a huge issue with nuclear. It takes 10->20 years before a new nuclear plant produces it's first watt hour.

I can get behind the idea of pushing for nuclear in the case of baseload and even in the case of high population density areas where wind/solar are simply not practical. But, if there is anywhere to dump a bunch of money, it is wind and solar. We can have those producing electricity within a year, easily. Even if you want to talk about manufacturing costs, those are payed back within 1->5 years. Still shorter than the timeframe to getting a new nuclear plant online.

I'm not saying this to be anti-nuclear. I think it was a great solution. I just think that solar and wind have become the better solutions (at least for the shorter term).

I agree nuclear is more of a long-term solution. Solar is the way to go right now, with nuclear coming online as solar gets to such high market penetration that storage is a serious issue. Until then, we can back solar with the remaining fossil on the grid.

The deployment time is a solvable problem though. We've built nuclear faster in the past, and some places still do today. France converted to 80% nuclear in 20 years, South Korea has recently built modern reactors in about five years [1], and some new designs can be mass-produced in factories. Thorcon is working on building molten salt reactors in shipyards, at massive scale [2].

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/06/21...

[2] http://thorconpower.com/production/

Guess I don't disagree :)

I do thing there is some peak amount of producible renewables that we aren't really anywhere near. New nuclear would work well to decrease the amount of new renewable build-out required year over year.

Particularly, I think nuclear is a great option for islands (Hawaii, for example) where land is at a premium anyways.

This is a great point - solar/wind and nuclear are, as the grid currently works, not drop-in replacements to each other, but complements. Nuclear provides base load (because it's difficult and slow to ramp a nuclear plant up or down), Wind/solar provides as much daytime load as practical, and meeting any remaining demand (especially peak evening demand) will require a peaking source that can dynamically be ramped up or down to meet demand.

The optimist in me believes that we'll eventually get good enough at solving the unit commitment problem in the energy grid that we'll reduce the need for carbon-intensive peaking sources and eventually even eliminate nuclear power. But we're not there today.

Nuclear ramps just fine. French nuclear plants reportedly ramp routinely between about 50-100% capacity, so this isn't just theoretical. Going from full power to less than about 40% tends to run you into a Xenon pit, which causes a two day shutdown, but fortunately nighttime load is roughly half of daytime load, so this point is moot.

They all suffer from the same problem, none of them are ramping sources. You need a peaker plant for all of them (though, you'll need more for solar and wind).

Storage is a problem that simply needs to be solved for any green solution. Nuclear and wind included.

A big issue is that solar, wind, and nuclear simply don't play well together. Nuclear wants to be a base load, solar and wind push down the maximum base load feasible.

Without storage to smooth out the demand curve, you can't efficiently operate either.

The question isn't whether you'll need storage at all. It's whether it's cheaper to build enough storage for windless nights, or baseload nuclear and enough storage for remaining demand discrepancies.

I think the latter is more feasible without too much wind, since solar predictably goes to zero when demand is lowest. I don't think it's at all clear that a grid with high amounts of wind instead of nuclear would be cheaper.

Yeah, hard to tell given the dramatic drop in storage costs.

Today, I agree that if we could make the switch overnight that solar + storage would probably be a lot more expensive than nuclear + storage.

However, who knows in 10 years. I could see liquid metal batteries becoming extremely economical.

What's always bothered me about this argument is: how much of that cost stems from the nuclear industry being misregulated into a pulp over the last 50 years??

Regulatory decisions seem to be made on the basis of hysteria moreso than scientific merit. For instance, that in the US secondary waste is treated equally as dangerous as primary waste, leading to ludicrous disposal costs. And nuclear 'waste' isn't even an issue with many modern reactor designs.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the _current_ cost of bringing a new nuclear plant online is astronomical, but that doesn't mean that the cost can't be brought down tremendously with sane regulation and modern designs. In many ways, the nuclear industry is still in its infancy (how many of the reactors operating worldwide right now are boiling water reactors, literally the oldest and most dangerous design??). No one expects nascent technologies to be cheap, you look to the future.

And beyond that, nuclear and solar/wind are not directly comparable. Solar/wind cannot provide the base load that nuclear is so apt at. What you really need to be comparing is a nuclear plant vs renewable PLUS energy storage. And last time I checked, grid-level energy storage is still extremely expensive.

I don't think you can dismiss nuclear so easily. Not by a longshot.

It still blows my mind that we found an almost magical solution to use of fossil fuels over 60 years ago and fumbled it so hard. Shame on big oil, shame on our regulatory agencies and politicians.

> What's always bothered me about this argument is: how much of that cost stems from the nuclear industry being misregulated into a pulp over the last 50 years??

Agreed! Nuclear could be much cheaper were there not so much fear mongering and red tape in the path. Chernobyl and TMI taught us the wrong lesions as a society. However, fat chance getting those policies, politics, and activists minds changed to decrease those regulatory costs.

> And beyond that, nuclear and solar/wind are not directly comparable. Solar/wind cannot provide the base load that nuclear is so apt at. What you really need to be comparing is a nuclear plant vs renewable PLUS energy storage. And last time I checked, grid-level energy storage is still extremely expensive.

I don't discreet per say. However, for the US, most power grids simply aren't at the point where storage needs to be considered. A large portion of power is coming from fossil fuels (more than the tipping point where storage needs to be considered).

In those cases, the clear path forward that will cut carbon emissions the fastest is deployment of renewable tech. You can bring online new solar and wind plants in less than a year. Nuclear requires at least 10->20 years of time before it can be brought online (mostly due to all the regulations surrounding it).

Storage will enter the equation when a large percentage of the grid is renewable (30->50% someone cited). We simply aren't even near that point yet. However, even before we hit that point, natural gas can provide a stop gap to allow us to have even higher mixes of renewable generation.

Nuclear doesn't solve the storage problem. You still need a peaker plant with nuclear.

> It still blows my mind that we found an almost magical solution to use of fossil fuels over 60 years ago and fumbled it so hard. Shame on big oil, shame on our regulatory agencies and politicians.

Agreed. We SHOULD have been ramping up on nuclear usage. I would MUCH rather have to deal with localized nuclear waste problems vs our current issues with climate change. It was simply a societal failure that we didn't go nuclear for everything from the 1960 onward.

It was the best solution to climate change for nearly a half century and the very people that should have supported (environmentalist) killed it with fear mongering.

Here is what you get some days with solar and wind: https://i.imgur.com/m2snJgg.png . Germany using a lot of standard gas and coal generators.

That doesn't really answer the point, which was that new solar and wind tend to be cheaper than new nuclear as of 2019.

It doesn't matter how cheap it is. No sun and no wind means no power, which means using coal and other fossil fuels. Increasing use of natural gas has reduced emissions more than switching to renewables.

There's a thought provoking web site out there, Low Tech Magazine. Their basic idea is that electricity 100% of the time isn't as important for everyone and everyting as we think. The need for base capacity is still there of course, but if we allow unnecessary things to shut down when there's less supply we can get away with less.

(Yes, of course we need to have electricity in hospitals and for heating 100% of the time - but if the newspapers are unavailable three days per year, or if some non-essential TV channels turn off when it's really cold - maybe not as bad.)


Increased natural gas usage has been primarily pushed because of the rise renewables.

Natural gas is currently the peaker plant solution to renewables. The fact that more of these plants exist is primarily driven by the fact that larger portions of the grid are being pushed towards renewables.

I think it's more because gas is cheap because of fracking. And the timing between the rise in gas use and the rise in renewable deployments is mostly coincidental. If gas were expensive it wouldn't be used. As it is, gas is cheap and has 1/4 the emissions of coal (IIRC).

The thing is, storage is unsolved. Battery isn't going to cut it. Pumped hydro isn't realistic for much, and we're using intermittent hydro about as well as we can. Thermal solar is unproven economically, but getting closer. Power->gas->power is marginal.

A little bit of nuclear in the mix, plus storing biogas, and aggressively pursuing thermal solar is very important, IMO. It just isn't possible to overprovision wind enough to meet 99th percentile supply/demand mismatch, but having a few percent of nuclear base load really helps.

If we want people to stop burning natural gas and heating oil for their homes, and more to move to electric cars, we'll need a ton more base load, too.

Yes, nuclear can't compete with natural gas base load, but we want to stop burning so much natural gas, so...

Natural gas isn't a base load power source, it is a peaker power source.

Even with a pure nuclear grid, you'd still need a peaking source. That would be provided, probably, by natural gas or hydro if available.

A storage solution is simply required regardless of where the grid goes. I think that Liquid metal batteries look to be the best solution for grid level storage. (relatively cheap, super long life, if massively adopted would likely become a lot cheaper).

> Natural gas isn't a base load power source, it is a peaker power source.

Gee, what are all these combined cycle gas plants that take 12-24 hours to start/shutdown, and require high duty cycle use to be economically competitive, if they're not base generation?

(Yes, I know we're starting to get faster combined cycle plants, but they're still not fast, and they still require to be producing power most of the time to be viable).

> Even with a pure nuclear grid, you'd still need a peaking source. That would be provided, probably, by natural gas or hydro if available.

I suggested use of biogas and hydro in the comment you replied to! Did you not read it, or just talked past it?

> A storage solution is simply required regardless of where the grid goes.

Sufficient overprovisioning of renewables and smart grid greatly reduces the amount of storage/peaking needed. A bit of reliable, carbon-neutral base load greatly reduces the amount of overprovisioning needed.

> Gee, what are all these combined cycle gas plants that take 12-24 hours to start/shutdown if they're not a source of base load? :P

:) Fair point. I generally don't think of NG as being used for base load but you are correct.

> I suggested use of biogas and hydro in the comment you replied to! Did you not read it, or just talked past it?

I missed it in your original comment.

I've not looked in enough to biogas, honestly, to fairly say anything about it. Hydro is a little different though. It requires a lot of land and the right geography in order to work. While I think there are more places where you can add hydro, I think it they are generally running out. It also doesn't help that a lot of well meaning, but IMO wrong ;), environmentalist really oppose hydro for the effects it has on the river critters. That sort of red tape makes gums up new deployments about as bad as new nuclear deployments are gummed up.

That being said, states with a lot hydro in place (north west states, primarily) would be foolish, IMO, not to simply go all renewable. They already have the storage problem solved in the form of hydro power.

> Sufficient overprovisioning of renewables and smart grid greatly reduces the amount of storage/peaking needed. A bit of reliable, carbon-neutral base load greatly reduces the amount of overprovisioning needed.

Perhaps. You'd have to somehow incentivize some industrial businesses to participate in the grid smartly. For example, an electric smelter which only operates during overproduction periods. IDK, maybe the power companies get involved in the steal milling business.

You might be able to get there with things like smart ACs and electic car charging, but it seems like the required cost of deploying that sort of equipment would be pretty high (Higher than a special purpose steal mill? I'm not sure).

> Hydro is a little different though. It requires a lot of land and the right geography in order to work. While I think there are more places where you can add hydro, I think it they are generally running out. It also doesn't help that a lot of well meaning, but IMO wrong ;), environmentalist really oppose hydro for the effects it has on the river critters. That sort of red tape makes gums up new deployments about as bad as new nuclear deployments are gummed up.

Yah, I'm not really saying to add hydro-- there's few opportunities to do this.

But lots of hydro installations are already suited to "peaker" use, where you draw from reservoir just when you need to, and many more can be adapted this way. (Really doing this effectively may require large capital costs to increase the amount of peak generation available from them, drawing down the reservoir more quickly).

> Perhaps. You'd have to somehow incentivize some industrial businesses to participate in the grid smartly. For example, an electric smelter which only operates during overproduction periods. IDK, maybe the power companies get involved in the steal milling business.

This already exists. You can get a big discount on your power if you are a big industrial customer and willing to be turned off with little notice. We need to extend this out to delaying house heat slightly, etc, electric car charging points, as you say.

> the required cost of deploying that sort of equipment would be pretty high

Ain't nothing compared to the capital cost of overprovisioning further or doing storage.

That's what I'm saying: use nuclear as part of a series of things to limit the amount of wind overprovisioning needed. We're going to have extra power during the day most of the time.

But the intermittency at night of wind alone is a big problem. It seems like burning some gas-- hopefully mostly biogas-- is part of the solution, along with leveraging hydroelectric to the maximum extent.

As we add things like electric heating and electric cars charging, etc-- nuclear has a big opportunity to address this increase in base load (and can be effectively combined with smart grid on these uses).

In the end, we cannot build out just wind fast enough, anyways, even if we ignore the overprovisioning required for availability. Might as well build out nuclear in parallel.

The point is, we don't really see a path to enough wind + appropriate storage in order to have a carbon neutral grid... but France performed the transition to a nearly-carbon neutral grid decades ago with nuclear, and the fully-amortized cost of French electricity isn't that bad.

France got there by exporting their excess power to other nations.

If everyone does it, then there would be no place to export excess, what do you do then?

Neither nuclear power nor wind/solar is readily ramped up/down economically, but at least nuclear power is consistently available and can be dispatched to some extent.

You can always turn off renewables during periods of overproduction. Whether you build nuclear+renewables or just renewables, you need to overprovision the renewables and be willing to turn them off. You just have to do this more with only renewables.

(Of course, you'd want to use all available strategies to reduce required overprovisioning-- including maximizing use of dispatchable hydroelectric and biogas, some storage, and agreements with utility users to reduce usage during times of critical supply shortages).

In, ahem, "fairness" to Germany, they operate some of the dirtiest lignite coal power plants in all of Europe. [0] Despite their self-promotion as a leader in green energy transition with the Energiewende, they seem unwilling to shut down these very carbon-intensive operations. Even replacing these plants with hard/anthracite coal or natural gas would be a major improvement, but alas.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garzweiler_surface_mine

You can't just look at cost/kwh. You have to look at the cost of meeting total instantaneous energy demands. Sure, solar and wind are cheaper in many places, but they all depend on a reliable fallback like natural gas. I really don't see how we can avoid fission power for the time being. Its the only current technology that is 100% compatible with our existing grid.

For now in the US, you can.

We simply aren't at the point where there are enough renewables on the grid that adding more would ultimately cause more natural gas emissions. Until the renewable profile starts pushing into base load generation (particularly eating into green base loads like hydro and nuclear) then it is pretty much a pure win to add solar and wind. The natural gas peakers ultimately produce less CO2 with renewables than with base load fossil fuels.

However, there is a time where storage becomes the main issue. We aren't there yet. Until we hit that point, deploying as much solar and wind as possible is going to be the fastest, most efficient, and cheapest way to decrease our carbon footprint.

We can’t afford to wait around, especially in the US. As it stands today, nuclear is part of the solution to climate change. The time to build new plants is now.

We can push out new solar and wind today, right now. The lead time for new renewables is months.

The lead time for new nuclear is 10->20 years. It is, frankly, too late for nuclear (at least without serious regulations overhaul). It might make sense to start building plants, but if we want to curb climate change then the only path is renewables.

My point isn’t that we shouldn’t deploy more solar/wind. Of course we should. We will need more nuclear power plants as well. The time for all of these is now. We can’t afford to wait until we hit the limit of what current renewables can provide before we build up our nuclear infrastructure.

Storage and grid stability problems are still largely unsolved. When wind and solar starts to be 30-50% of the capacity, this problems will get serious. If you factor the cost of storage solutions, the cost of wind and solar against nuclear is not that lucrative any more

I'm not sure why the parent comment is being downvoted, it seems like a compelling argument backed up by data.

Greenpeace and the environmental movement have a lot to answer for,

thanks to their knee jerk reaction to nuclear one of the technologies (note that I say "one of", there is a range of choices, not an either/or black/white choice, as is so often case on internet discussions nowadays)

we ended up with more coal/oil power plants contributing towards climate change

nuclear could have been the bridging technology buying us decades to build up real renewables (and/or fusion) and provide base load, but no cant have that, ideology trumps pragmatism

We are where we are now. Turn your effort towards the future -- how do we get to where we want to go from where we are today.

The same attitude applies in engineering -- post-mortems aren't about assigning blame, they are about understanding the current state and how you'll address or mitigate any failures so they don't happen again.

If you want to be backwards looking, at least focus on what the lesson is and how you will turn that lesson into concrete actions that prevent the same failure case in the future.

In the future, there are 450 nuclear power plants that will need to replaced as they are retired.

There are about 100 nuclear plants in the United States generating 20% of the power.

Unfortunately, pragmatism like yours sounds unconvincing compared to the more passionate positions of somebody against nuclear fission power. It doesn't mix well with an expensive project with a long development time that risks being cancelled in a temporary shift of public opinion.

Greenpeace is a farce for sure, but surely some blame lies with big oil's lobbying efforts?

Are you saying these are two different things?


Greenpeace isn't that influential, the reality is that the economics of nuclear never added up.

Also, there really is something off-putting about leaving behind waste that lasts longer than civilisation has.

France is a shining counter-example to your claim.

That isn't that clear-cut. France has lots of nuclear power, but most of the power plants are getting quite old and eventually have to be dismantled and replaced. We will see how affordable the nuclear electricity is, after all costs have been paid. I don't think they will be replacing nuclear power plants with new ones, at current costs.

Still, currently electricity is way cheaper and much cleaner than in Germany. I certainly disagree with the amount of coal used in Germany.

That's a very strange way of saying "it brought them cheap, abundant, safe, eco-friendly electricity for nearly 60 years."

Yes, the infrastructure is aging. Yes, it needs to be replaced ... with more nuclear power.

It has a proven track-record. It works well with the existing grid architecture (which avoids massive costs). It's eco-friendly.

The thing that prevents nuclear plants from being built is not nuclear technology, but rather public opinion. Revisionist comments like yours, are doing humanity a disservice.

Please claim that nuclear is cheap only after all bills have been paid. Dismantling a reactor can cost a billion or more, the radioactive waste needs to be stored for millenia.

And France will show, that you can't just replace nuclear reactors. They are certainly trying, but modern reactors are increadibly espensive. So they are currently building... one.

Enough to impress college kids and stay at home moms to protest and oppose construction of new plants.

> Greenpeace and the environmental movement have a lot to answer for

Gut instinct is that they were sponsored by shell corporations / charities to go after nuclear et. al. and leave other vested interests alone.

I've heard rumors that their budget dropped precipitously after the fall of the Berlin Wall...

Just to add to the two very insightful replies you've already got, yes, nuclear power could have been a great contributor on the fight against Global Warming, 30 years ago. And yes, it is a shame that "environmentalist" movements made so much noise that they ensured we took the most harmful possible path. Those movements should be shamed, and very loudly so because they still didn't give up on fighting improvements and waste the popular focus on useless feel-nice ideas.

But, well, today is not 30 years ago, and the same way that nuclear power never could be the complete solution to carbon based fuels, today it is too late for them to even be a large component of it. So, today pushing for nuclear does more harm than good.

I mostly agree with you (with the caveat that pushing for nuclear has different cost/benefit ratios in different parts of the world, the U.S. is merely one extreme), but this is exactly why I pay very little attention to public debate regarding energy policy and emissions control.

Outside of IPCC reports (which for all their process issues are generally fairly comprehensive and well written) and a small number of other scientific publications, there are few serious attempts to conduct objective cost/benefit analysis, rank order policy measures, etc. Instead, we have people who pretend science doesn't exist on one side and many of the same "environmentalists" who are, by virtue of their ideological stupidity, just as culpable for this mess as their opponents on the other. Given this state of affairs, I see no reasonable prospect of prevention. Instead, we will simply have more or less local mitigation solutions, which will work fairly well in the rich parts of the world and probably fail miserably in many of the poorer parts. The only silver lining here is that localized measures are far easier to implement as they require cooperation on a much smaller scale and, for the most part, will happen to avert dangers that will by then have become obvious to all.

>So, today pushing for nuclear does more harm than good.

You made the case for why you don't think nuclear can do any good (because it's too late), but what's the case for harm?

Every dollar invested into nuclear is a dollar not invested into solar/wind/etc.

Building new nuclear just usn't the most effective use of limited capital to reduce emmisions at this point.

Every dollar in solar/wind/etc is wasted since it can't support the population without falling back to coal and gas. Renewable are a crapshoot relying on new storage technology that doesn't exist to make then viable. Why not focus on something we can 100% guarantee will fix the issues instead of leaving it to chance?

It is not only a distraction, but pushing a non-viable technology reduces the credibility of everybody that is trying to solve the problem with technology.

Nuclear power seems to be considered too powerful to trust in the hands of many nations, making it kind of a non starter globally.

My understanding is that with any type of nuclear plant, in a non trustworthy country, it would still be dependent on importing the fuel from a nuclear state, making it quite unappealing and a security risk for the purchasing state.

I kinda wish there was a NASA equivalent for nuclear that would be given 10s of billions of dollars per year to R&D safer, next gen nuclear power plants. The organization could build/run those plants around the world in order to provide less developed countries with power while preventing proliferation.

An international version of this was Oppenheimer's vision (both for peaceful nuclear applications and weapons) which he expressed in his personal writings and in the Acheson–Lilienthal report. It was not looked favorably on by most of the US government and was the first step to the eventual revocation of his security clearance and removal from any position of influence.

Funny, one of the most often heard argument of those, who try to fight against reducing CO2 in Germany is, that other countries, e.g. the US, are not reducing theirs and we should wait until they do.

That sounds to me, that every country should do its best to cut CO2 and not wait for others to lead first.

That's funny because the US actually has reduced per capita CO2 emissions by about 20% back down to levels not seen since 1960.

Edit: I suppose I should include a source. From the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement sought to do that. Unfortunately the time span between the launch of such talks and the agreement of terms is around the time in office for 1 US Democratic president.

If you break ground today on a nuclear generator, you will not see your first kwh generated for at least a decade, and that kwh will not be cost competitive with anything else on the spot market.

At the same time, you could replace all nuclear in the US currently operating in around three years (even compensating for capacity factor), solely from PV manufacturing capacity in the US. It is plainly obvious why nuclear is not included when renewables and at grid parity and the cost of utility scale storage is rapidly declining. Even if the cost decline of storage takes longer than expected, you can compensate with overbuilding, curtailment, transmission and demand response.

You ask why nuclear isn't being talked about. I can't fathom anyone thinking it's a real option compared to solar, wind, and battery storage, all of which are cheaper unsubsidized than nuclear today, can be manufactured and shipped where ever needed, and scaling up production is trivial (in comparison).

https://www.lazard.com/perspective/lcoe2019 (Lazard Levelized Cost of Energy and Levelized Cost of Storage 2019)

> If you break ground today on a nuclear generator, you will not see your first kwh generated for at least a decade.

If Climate Change is so important, declare a total war against it like during WW2 against the Axis. With most production geared toward nuclear energy, you should have generator up and running a lot faster.

The list of things I don't want built in a rush definitely includes nuclear reactors!

And yet a ten year timeline is obviously nonsense. When these reactors were built in the 1970s, groundbreaking to power production was often 5 years.

Why is the process much worse now?


Yes, but it's also possible to go a lot slower than necessary. France converted their grid to 80% nuclear in 20 years and it seems to have worked out ok.

Cant you do the same thing in regards to renewables?

From that Lazard report, PV with four hours storage costs 10 to 13 cents/kWh. That's "in front of the meter" which is the wholesale cost. For retail cost, commercial/industrial pays 22 to 38 cents/kWh, and residential pays 45 to 66 cents/kWh.

That's with only four hours storage. That's a convenient amount since it's the excess typically generated by solar installations during the day, but to actually get through a windless night we might need more storage. Lazard's retail cost for storage alone is 48 to 104 cents/kWh. Plus you'll need extra solar dedicated to charging it.

At this point people often bring up long-distance transmission. The report happens to include that too, with a cost starting at $2.35/kWh wholesale and going way up from there.

None of this includes the overcapacity we'd need, to get through cloudy winter weeks.

Lazard puts nuclear's cost at 12 to 19 cents/kWh but it's unclear whether that's retail cost; I suspect so since I only pay 12 cents/kWh on a grid that's heavy on nuclear.

Wind/solar is very cheap when the grid is still mostly fossil, but to run a reliable carbon-free grid in areas without abundant hydro, nuclear is still cheaper. The cheapest combination is probably nuclear to the level of minimum nighttime load, and renewables for everything beyond that, without just enough storage to even out remaining discrepancies with demand.

What night base consumption is absolutely vital ? I understand that some of the consumption is necessary to function and that some other is made possible by the fact that fossil energy is as expensive to generate at night and that it's cheaper to function 24/7. But sometimes it can be cheaper to shut down widget X factory at night not to double storage capacity. Maybe this effect will be important, I don't know.

If we have to build twice as many widget factories to make up for shutting them down at night, that's another cost to society that we should take into account. I've seen a lot of renewables advocates talk about "demand management" but not any estimate of this cost.

There's also heating, air conditioning, street lights, etc. Aluminum plants, which can't shut down more than 4-5 hours without major damage from the metal solidifying.

Before long, electric vehicles charging in people's garages at night; it'd be nice if we used them to supply the grid at night but that would require parking lots full of charging stations where everybody works, plus new infrastructure in people's houses, and some kind of incentive to get people to bother. All that costs money too.

At the same time, you could replace all nuclear in the US currently operating in around three years (even compensating for capacity factor), solely from PV manufacturing capacity in the US.

I think that you may have confused PV manufacturing capacity in the US with global PV manufacturing capacity.

The US generated 807 TWh from nuclear power in 2018 [1]. If solar farms achieve a good-but-realistic capacity factor of 25%, you need 368 gigawatts of modules [2] to produce 807 TWh per year. That's about 3 years' worth of global module production at 2019 production rates. US domestic module production is currently below 10 GW per year.

[1] https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-pr...

[2] (807000 / (24*365)) / 0.25 = 368. Actually you need a bit more because most solar farms report capacity factor on an AC basis, and the inverter loading ratio is greater than 1.0. But close enough for a quick estimate.

You are correct. Thank you for pointing out my mistake.


Nuclear power is 20% of electricity in the United States.

If you could replace it all in 3 years, wouldn’t we be better off replacing 20% of coal power over 3 years and wait a little longer on the nuclear power?

If your math is right, half the grid would be zero carbon in 5 years.

Yes, you would absolutely want to stave off nuclear generator retirements as long as (safely) possible to displace carbon producing generators. I use the example only to demonstrate the ease of renewable deployments versus nuclear. You could go do a green bond offer (or PPA contract), bid out the construction project, and build a solar generation facility next to a nuclear power plant to replace its capacity. You cannot do this to build a new nuclear plant.

Coal power is going away, full stop, due to the cheap cost of natural gas and renewables. It is not cost competitive. Natural gas throttles fast; it's why California can have such a steep Duck Curve [1] and support GWs of solar generation capacity. It is a great stop gap until batteries catch up.

Utility scale generating plants coming online over the next year (green = wind, yellow = solar) https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/images/figure_6_01_c...

Utility scale generating retirements over the next year (gray = coal) https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/images/figure_6_01_d...

[1] https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2018/10-years-duck-curve.h... (Ten Years of Analyzing the Duck Chart: How an NREL Discovery in 2008 Is Helping Enable More Solar on the Grid Today)

China started building coal again, and global coal production is rising.


Use economic sanctions if necessary to encourage better behavior from participants in the world economy. There will be some bumps on the energy transition journey. We fixed the Ozone hole [1], this is no different.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion#Public_policy

This seems weird to me. Would that be on the roofs or are you forgetting to count for all that land? But I am European and land is way more valuable here, so that might be the case, I don't know - perhaps you do?

There is a lot of worthless land where utility solar can be installed in the US, not to mention folks who want it on their roof (rooftop solar is cost competitive in most states over 25 years).

Europe has enough wind potential to power the world [1].

"Taking into consideration socio-technical constraints, which restricts 54% of the combined land area in Europe, the study reveals a nameplate capacity of 52.5 TW of untapped onshore wind power potential in Europe - equivalent to 1 MW per 16 European citizens – a supply that would be sufficient to cover the global all-sector energy demand from now through to 2050."

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S030142151...

What about the opposition because of worsened living standard of people around and because of the environmental impact, also hazardous maintenance etc? There is a wind farm being blocked in Germany over these concerns now. Same applies for solar and water (river/nature based) power plants in Europe.

> that kwh will not be cost competitive with anything else on the spot market

Maybe capitalism isn't the right model for energy? Or, if you are a die hard capitalist, maybe we aren't costing externalities correctly and we should get some folks in power who will ensure that the right options are also the cost competitive options?

Even assuming you're not a die hard capitalist, why champion an outdated energy technology when there are superior options. We aren't costing CO2 properly, but then we're also not costing decommissioning of nuclear generators or the waste disposal either.

We're not? https://www.nrc.gov/waste/decommissioning/finan-assur.html We also have a nuclear waste fund that previously received $750M in fees per year and sits at a balance of $44B, but that's been paused since there has been no effort to actually use the funds to dispose of waste.

Accumulating funds for an activity you can't or won't undertake isn't properly accounting, it's aspirational accounting. Talk is cheap.


"Doing nothing often has a cost — and when it comes to storing the nation’s nuclear waste, the price is $38 billion and rising.

That’s just the lowball estimate for how much taxpayers will wind up spending because of the government’s decades of dithering about how to handle the radioactive leftovers sitting at dozens of sites in 38 states. The final price will be higher unless the government starts collecting the waste by 2020, which almost nobody who tracks the issue expects.

The first $15 billion is what the government spent on a controversial nuclear waste repository at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain until the Obama administration scrapped the project. The other $23 billion is the Energy Department’s estimate of the damages the government will have to pay to nuclear power utilities, which for the past 30 years have paid a fee to DOE on the promise that the feds would begin collecting their waste in 1998.

Industry argues that the damages are closer to $50 billion — which raises the bottom line to $65 billion including the money spent on Yucca."

So we're going to build more reactors you say? Where will that waste go? This is not an issue with renewables and batteries.

Moving goalposts to advance a different broken argument.

Your original assertion:

> but then we're also not costing decommissioning of nuclear generators or the waste disposal either.

But we are costing and accumulating funds for that purpose.

> the final price will be higher unless the government starts collecting the waste by 2020, which almost nobody who tracks the issue expects.

You're now complaining that costs are accruing to utilities because the other money we've collected isn't being spent. This means we're effectively double costing the storage/disposal.

I disagree with that precise statement, BTW. The final price in current dollars for final disposal will decrease the more time the waste has sit in spent fuel pools and cooled. Not that this is a great thing to be doing.

Nuclear would be good but here in California nuclear waste is stored on the beach making it less enticing. Most people would prefer home solar.

> nuclear waste is stored on the beach


San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

It is pretty crazy. The government swears up and down that it is completely safe but yet the concrete bunkers are already wearing away now after just a few years.

I don't understand why globalism rarely, if ever, factors into the debate. It boggles my mind that if I walk down to the drug store to buy a toothbrush that toothbrush was likely made in a Chinese factory, shipped across the Pacific ocean in a diesel-spewing container ship, and then driven a good thousand miles in an 18-wheeler. It seems like a tremendous waste of energy for something that could be made locally for cheap.

Here you seem to be blaming globalism for failing to account for the true price of a product. The product should be cheaper if made locally because transport costs are reduced. At the moment transport is extremely cheap because there is no significant cost to producing emissions. If appropriate carbon taxes were added you would see such products being made more locally.

> Here you seem to be blaming globalism for failing to account for the true price of a product.

Fair, but in my mind this is why globalism is a thing -- because it doesn't account for the exploitation of human labor and lack of regulation. If it did, there would be no reason to ship a few dollars of plastic from China to the USA.

I think you're right. Our current form of global trade can only exist by exploiting a kind of lawlessness that comes from being able to distribute owns company beneficially across uncoordinated governmental regions.

In a way it's true that we transport things too much - but container ships are extremely efficient compared to almost all other means of transportation. The thousand miles in the 18-wheeler is probably a far larger part of the transportation emissions than the container ship from China.

So it might be more efficient to make a large investment in the American railroad network and start removing trucks from the road, than to start making toothbrushes in the US.

Container ships are tremendously energy efficient, around 30 gram per tonne-km.

Some back of the envelope math:

- Distance China to US East Coast ≈ 10 000 km

- Weight of 1 toothbrush = 10 gram = 0.0001 tonne

30 g * 10 000 km * 0.0001 tonne = 30 gram of Co2

30 gram of Co2 is the amount of Co2 emissions from ≈ 100 meter of travel with an average car.

Of course there is secondary land transport from the port etc. But even though the sea shipping industry is one of the biggest Co2 emitters (not to speak of other nasty stuff [0]), it's still incredibly energy efficient.

[0]: You saying the ships are "diesel-spewing" is actually doing the ships a favour, it's usually heavy fuel oil.

To be completely fair, it's not like they ran a ship from China just to bring your toothbrush. It's of course with thousands of other items, lowering the total cost per item for shipping. And these costs are still cheaper than making it locally, someone deemed. Though you do bring up the real overall solution, making gas/fossil fuels much much more expensive. Not as a trade measure, though that may be a side effect, but to keep people from burning it so freely.

I think I read somewhere that with containerization the easiest assumption is that shipping is a zero cost activity.

How could it be made locally for cheap? Who is going to pay to build the local factories for everything your local drug store stocks (not to mention all the other local stores)? Who is going to work in all of those factories for cheap? Wont all of those thousands of local toothbrush factories worldwide pollute even more than a single toothbrush factory worldwide?

There are plenty of American toothbrush manufacturers which already compete on price (I use Preserve, made from recycled material in America for $3). It's mostly the big guys (Colgate + OralB) who are trying to maximize profit by outsourcing to China.

> Who is going to pay to build the local factories for everything your local drug store stocks

The manufacturer is going to pay for it by selling their products to drug stores.

> Wont all of those thousands of local toothbrush factories worldwide pollute even more than a single toothbrush factory worldwide?

How so? Even if there was a single manufactory in Oklahoma it could serve the entire country at a fraction of the environmental cost.

What's the margin on making toothbrushes? If you have a pile of money and you want the best return is it really going to be on a toothbrush factory in the U.S.? I have no idea what the answer to those questions are but it seems like "not much" and "something else."

What's the argument -- that if China stopped making toothbrushes we would stop buying them? A US factory might struggle to compete with a Chinese factory on price, but that's exactly my point. Global capitalism does not account for the human cost and environmental cost necessary to make the Chinese factory cheaper.

How cheap can it be made locally? When you consider that try and take in mind comparative advantage.

I understand that price doesn't take externalities into effect. That said price is the best way we have to allocate resources - it conveys that information better then any other tool we have. If price indicates to people that toothbrushes should be made in China and shipped to the U.S. then I tend to think that's probably the most efficient way to do it.

I don't think I've ever seen this here :


It's a think tank working on handling the climate crisis with excellent, pragmatic, efficiency-focused studies, without ideologies or dogma. They have recently been known to put some numbers on the CO2 emissions caused by the digital industry, that is less visible but very real (4 percent of total emissions, 4x more than air travel!)

They have Jean-Marc Jancovici in the management, who also founded Carbone 4 - a consulting firm working on enabling companies to make their transition to a carbon-neutral world. He's an original figure among ecologists in France because he pleads in favor of nuclear energy in France, to avoid emitting CO2 (it's mainly thanks to nuclear energy that France emits 7 times less CO2 for the same amount of electricity produced compared to the OECD). I highly recommend his conferences.

According to EIA global emissions are growing and predicted to grow through 2035. In 2035 global emissions are 40% higher than today.

When the developed world can gradually reduce CO2 emissions, China, India and the rest of the developing world will continue to increase emissions.

Basically, the western world went through their development cycle (aka the industrial revolution) and now the rest of the world wants to catch up. Of course, when we say they shouldn't because of climate change, they say "You had your chance to pollute and develop, now we get to do the same thing." Frankly, I find it difficult to argue with them. The only sensible thing to do is for the Western world to reverse back to where we were prior to the industrial revolution and ask the developing nations to do the same - no technology above a horse drawn plown and horse drawn wagons, everyone reverts to being in the agriculture business or supporting the agriculture business, no cars, no planes, only wind powered sailing ships, no rockets, no computers, etc.

Since that won't happen - we are royally screwed.

There is no reason the developping world needs to go through the same cycle. They can leapfrog ahead to modern technology; particuarly if they are activly helped by developped nations.

I feel like I just don't understand the claim that the developing world should be allowed to have higher emissions.

If we could go back in time and the US had the option at the time of using today's technology, and they chose not to, we would condemn them.

> I feel like I just don't understand the claim that the developing world should be allowed to have higher emissions

Pick some maximum acceptable total level of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Fair would be for each country to be allowed to emit greenhouse gases up to the point that their share of the total in the atmosphere is equal to that total acceptable level divided by the country's population.

Even if you decide to pick a pretty high acceptable total, you'll find that the US is already way over its share, and the developing world countries are all way under their shares. The US has emitted about 8 times as much total as India, for example, and about 4 times as much total as China.

Fair, then, is either for (1) the US to not only cut emissions to zero, but to also implement massive carbon capture to get its cumulative emissions back down to its fair share, so that developing countries can use their fair shares for development, or for (2) the US and other developed countries to kick in to pay for the developing countries to build green infrastructure so that they can develop without making use of cheap non-green energy.

The Paris Agreement includes provisions along the lines of #2.

The per-capita argument only makes sense if one expects the carbon footprint of the citizenry to be relatively equal. What this creates, instead, is that in really large countries the allocation will be taken by the people living really energy-intensive lives while letting the bulk of the population live poorly.

The other problem is that this incentivizes population increases since energy is the limiting factor for a developed nation's GDP and they can effectively raise their limit by having more children. That's not a good thing either and goes directly against the fertility declines that are about the only good news we have.

Per capita is one way to slice it, but it's not the definition of "fair."

naive question, if renewable become cheaper than fossil fuel options, why would they continue to increase emissions.

Renewable are not likely to be cheaper any time soon. Renewable are competing with fossils and competition reduces prices.

Just citing spot price in price/kwh is not telling the truth about total cost. You need to build energy storage, grids and extra capacity to fix the fluctuation of renewable availability.

Chunks of brown coal to used in heating and cooking will be cheaper than renewables for as long as I can see. Only infrastructure cost is a road for the truck to deliver coal.

To stay under the 2°C limit, we need to cut emissions by 4% per year. It happened exactly twice in the past century: at the worse of the great depression in 1932, and after the annihilation of Germany and Japan in 1945.

We're close to the tipping point for geoengineering.

Elites don't want to stop global warming, they've spent billions of dollars trying to stop a response to global warming.

Ordinary people say they want to do something about global warming but if it inconveniences them such as an increase in gas taxes, they will riot in the streets. (See the Yellow Shirts in France.)

The conspicuous inability of governments to make elites feel a little pain (Macron and the wealth tax) means that governments have no legitimacy with which to demand sacrifices from anybody else. Thus you see "last straw" rebellions just about anywhere when there is an unpopular change, say a 4% increase in subway fares.

With geoengineering you only need to scrape together a few billion a year which could be done by a small group of elites or governments (if Bloomberg didn't waste his time and money and reputation running for pres he could do it...)

The best part of it is that a credible threat to Geoengineer might solve the collective action problem for other interventions:


As for all the reasons why geoengineering is seen as a "cop-out" note that if it's really an extinction worth rebelling about, then we have to use "all means necessary" and that includes solar radiation management.

To all, because governments have mostly failed us on quick action I created a climate pledge. It is open to feedback but I think starting with individual commitments and sustainable lifestyles will help us move society forward as a whole.

Governments are not moving quickly enough on climate change with small incremental changes over time. However, people and organizations who champion these efforts can pressure governments to drive faster change.

Climate Pledge

To protect humanity now and for the future of our posterity I am committing to the following.

- I pledge to limit eating red meat. I will restrict intake of cows and lambs etc.

- If I choose to have children, I will have 2 or less.

- I will try to use cycling or mass transit options whenever possible and to participate in efforts to expand transit.

- I will restrict flying to only when necessary and try to limit flying to only when no other choice is available. If I do fly I will try to offset all emissions.

- I will try my utmost to conserve energy and minimize use of heating and cooling appliances.

- I will try my best to limit energy use to renewable sources when I have the choice. When I cannot choose I will fight for the ability to have this choice.

- I will try to help those close to me understand these choices and the need for those able, to also join the pledge.

- I will only consume what I need. I will not perpetuate extravagance and will only support companies who champion sustainable efforts.

- I will do my best to strive for and support sustainable and minimalist technology.

- I will stay involved in the public discourse on environmental issues and stay engaged on efforts to mitigate climate change.

I don't want to discourage you, because everything counts, but I think the real problem with climate change isn't in the West, it's in the rest of the world. The West had the luxury of using cheap carbon in the early 20th century to industrialize and build out infrastructure. India and countries in Africa haven't had that luxury, therefore they are going to use as much carbon as is necessary to industrialize. It would be hypocritical for Westerners to criticize them for it. The only way to change that is if Western countries governments actively exported low-carbon tech to help them leap-frog a centralized power distribution network and go straight to in-situ decentralized power generation without it affecting their rising quality of life. This is a societal, market economics and technological problem. Cutting out meat won't help nearly as much as developing lab grown meat will. Rather than attempt to change individual behaviors, we should strive to make low carbon technologies that align with existing behaviors.

"It would be hypocritical for Westerners to criticize them for it."

I'm not fully convinced. When you know better, you do better. And we now know better.

"A did a stupid thing to achieve X result, therefore B must be allowed to do the same stupid thing" is not a great argument.

There's more than one way to create economic value.

In countries like the DRC or Nigeria, with large oil and natural gas reserves, who are we to tell them that they can no longer exploit those reserves for their benefit? If we don't want oil and gas to be extracted for wealth, then we need to force market dynamics in such a way as to make the exploitation of oil and gas unprofitable worldwide. We have zero moral authority on dictating what these countries can and cannot do with their own resources

Where did I ever say this pledge was only for the West? This is for all individuals world wide.

For those wondering about the relative impact of each bullet, [1] is a quick starting point down a rabbit-hole that goes very deep.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wynes_Nicholas_CO2_emissi...

Sure if one is counting just their personal impact, but in reality the developing nations will have no problem replacing you and the children you choose to not have with their own and it'll be a wash. Those resources don't disappear, the market will move them around.

Is the argument to have less kids to save the planet not just population control propaganda?

For context, I'm very neutral on the matter so take the following as just a musing on the topic. I'm not really familiar with the stats here, so do pardon if I'm starkly mistaken, but it would seem intuitive that having a child in countries A and B would have a different impact based on how developed countries A and B are. If a kid from A grows up to own a car, fly around etc, and the kid from B cannot afford to, the footprint difference between these two individuals would be considerable. This is obviously only looking at a single child, how the fact that people in more developed countries tend to have less children plays into this and pushes the balance one or the other way is unclear.

Did I say this wasn’t for developing nations? This pledge is for everyone. All people from all places worldwide.

Call me cynical, but suppose 300 million westerners decided to stick to this pledge. What is stopping those newly freed up resources from being consumed by the remaining 7.4+ billion?

Cratering energy prices makes it more affordable for developing nations to rapidly industrialize which is a one way street towards massive emissions until a sustainable solution is realized.

Climate Policy is a classic example of how the prisoner's dilemma can cause a tragedy of the commons. I personally don't see how it can be solved in a world where there is intense competition.

America loves blowing up stuff. They can just threaten to destroy anywhere that doesn't meet the environmental targets

I don’t get it? Where did I ever say westerners? This is for everyone. Not sure how you came to the conclusion I was focusing only on westerners.

I mean if it makes you feel better... but the culpability for climate change does NOT lie with individuals. Sweeping systemic changes are our only way out of this mess.

Individual action is the only thing you have direct control over. Yes, governments need to change for success but it's better to do everything in your ability to improve rather than sit around and wait for change to happen.

I think if everyone was doing their best to conserve, they would be a lot more upset when they see others and corporations undoing their good work. Right now it's hard to judge others for doing the same thing we do but on a bigger scale.

> I will do my best to strive for and support sustainable and minimalist technology.

Start by not using the internet. Thank you in the name of 7bn humans.

Over the last 40M years, when CO2 was at current levels (400ppm), sea level was +9 to +31 meters higher. We need to reduce to 280ppm to start rebuilding ice.


Coastal cities are going to move.

This is not representative by current trends nor simulations (which themselves have huge error bars)

Do you have a citation for current simulations?

The +9m to +31m isn't from simulations. It's from ice core sample and sediment analysis.


"Most estimates of global mean sea-level rise this century fall below 2 m."

Is there a chart that shows the progress each nation is making year over year to cut emissions?

The problem with country by country analysis is that people turn it into an excuse not to do anything. "Why should the US/EU do anything if China is just going to keep polluting." Countries should be focusing on what they can do themselves, as well as globally, and be leaders, not laggards.

Yeah, but I have the sneaking suspicion that the countries which have "committed" to meeting these goals, may not actually in fact be cutting their emissions any better than the rest. Seeing some country vs. country data on that, would help.

Also, looking at which countries _are_ having the most success (if any), would help to show which strategies work better than others (e.g. the nuclear debate).

Very good point, transparency can be beneficial. Countries and their politicians are constantly making promises and commitments which they fail to live up to.

You are probably right. I was thinking more along the lines that national leaders have an ego, so there could be a benefit to pointing out they are inadequate.

except that it makes no sense in game theory.

The first state to do it will see its economy shrink, and it will be bought by other who do not.

It's somewhat of a fallacy that green is always more expensive than other options, especially if you've already got to adhere to decent standards. Companies are finding that eco-friendly processes and green energy can be the same cost, or even cheaper, that the old processes.

Also, it is possible for a country to become greener without shrinking its economy. There's a lot of economic theory that public investment brings public and private growth. Green infrastructure supporting green industries is already profitable in many places.

I would add it doesn't take into account imported emissions - when a country emits CO2 to produce things that other countries buy. I'm not really sure who is responsible then.

Isn't this ultimately going to end up being a rationing issue? OK, rationing it's a forbidden word today but maybe we could have carbon credits divided by person and they are free to use them however they want. Even trade them to others. I know this is _super_ simplified but perhaps we need to start thinking in those terms sooner or later?

Who is "we?" Almost every human alive will not willingly accept a quality of life reduction on the scale most people here seem to assume can just... happen. The only way it happens is via brutal dictatorship.

In terms of emissions we are tracking right along RCP 8.5, the worst case emissions scenario: https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-the-high-emissions-rcp...

Unfortunately, it feels like too many people in power would rather go down with the ship than change their ways. Since that would threaten their current privileges.

Good thing China has increased co2 emissions from coal equivalent to the current co2 output of all of Europe.

The US can do better, but China and much of the developing world isn’t exactly helping.

I know change is slow but I can't help but feeling this goal is unattainable. In my own very environmentally concious state two versions of a carbon tax failed (one libertarianish leaning the other more green new deal like). France utterly rejected a climate focused gas tax. With fairly liberal populaces rejecting the economic commitment to addressing climate change It's become very hard to imagine how we'll ever get sufficient numbers of international polities with more conservative leaning voters to ever agree to do something.

So we're all in trouble, I guess.

Or create sequestration systems so the net is that? Or would the numbers change?

Trees. You're talking about trees.

Trees seem to be the solution of the day but, cynically, it seems to be a smokescreen in that some people are promoting this as the solution to climate change. No amount of tree planting is going to solve long term climate change, so it should be seen as one action amongst many. The focus on tree planting shifts the focus away from the action needed to reduce carbon emissions. It's a bit like building an extension to your house whilst the house is on fire. It'll catch up eventually.

"No amount of tree planting..." is a strong statement. Not "we won't do enough", but "No amount..." will work? I find that hard to imagine. Is there a reason you say this?

Two reasons: trees are part of a carbon cycle, most of the carbon returns to the atmosphere eventually, and we don't have an infinite sized planet to keep planting forests at the same rate which we're producing CO2.

New growth forests are good at capturing carbon short term, but established forests aren't as good as the rate of growth is slower and there is more tree decay & decomposition of organic matter releasing C=2. In some places, and more common due to climate change, a forest fire will sweep through a forest and undo all that carbon capture.

If we use trees for fuel it is closing most of the cycle for that carbon, less ancillary fuel use for harvesting, producton & transport, but that doesn't solve the production from other sources. If we use wood for building & materials then the carbon capture is longer, but that's a small fraction of the CO2 capture needed.

Natural forest fires have a fairly minimal impact on old-growth forests and in some cases are even necessary for them to function properly (e.g. some pinecones will only open when burned). The underbrush and younger trees burn off, the older trees are largely unaffected.

What most people don't realize is the trees that exist today are all "new", as in are less than a few hundred years old. The trees that were cut down in the 18th and 19th century are unlike anything you'd see today. Far, far bigger and longer lived, on time-scales that we're really not used to dealing with.

These capture carbon and store it for hundreds of years. When they die they will decay and be recycled back into the forest floor and soil, not necessarily burned off and released as CO2.

Sure, a half-hearted tree-planting effort is not going to solve the problem, but a more ambitious reforestation plan with an emphasis on carbon-sequestering trees instead of those trees intended to be harvested every 20-40 years could make a huge difference.

I'm not able to evaluate the truth of it myself, as it's outside my area of expertise, but at least some who do make a living studying this sort of thing believe it's feasible: https://www.livescience.com/65880-planting-trees-fights-clim...

I guess if we empty the oceans, and cover every inch of the earth with tree, it might work.

Trees used to cover the earth, and fossil fuels used to be sequestered underground.

We cut down trees and burned fuels. Planting trees only undoes one of those two.

This kind of facile response radically underestimates the magnitude of what we have to reverse.

Well, trees can store a lot of carbon while they're alive. When they die, they release a lot of that back into the atmosphere as they decompose. So, trees are medium-term carbon storage. I expect we'll eventually need to figure out some way to store carbon long-term (for example, put it back in the ground in a way that it'll stay there).

Trees are medium-term carbon storage. Forests are long-term carbon storage (the trees that die get replaced by new trees).

Once the forest is mature, though, it's mostly just storing the carbon, rather than acting as an effective sink. So maybe you need to cut some trees down from time to time, and store that wood somehow where the carbon will be locked up for a long time without taking up valuable land area.

The problem is that we keep pulling carbon out of the ground and introducing it into the ecosystem. If we don't have a corresponding method of removing it from the ecosystem, we'll eventually run out of room for forests that we can use to store it. Some of that happens by natural means, but we'd have a bit more breathing room if we could figure out how to make it happen faster.

Trees plant themselves quite well and the planet already got greener in the last decades. You would need bury them though before they decompose.

After the apocalypse a new civilization might find them again as coal and to start the cycle again.

If only some authoritarian would rid us of these meddling emissions!

What are the error bars on those numbers?

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