Sunday, 27 February 2011

Chill, baby, Chill!!

In a recent post, I declared victory on behalf of science and engineering—noting the requirement for immediate action to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration has been adequately proven and that worldwide experience has demonstrated the availability of deployable technologies—including nuclear energy—capable of achieving the necessary goals. But the lack of political Will, baby, Will!! stands in the way of progress.

This is a formidable challenge. As Jim Hansen and others have repeatedly highlighted, special interests and the money they bring into the political processes in the USA, Australia and elsewhere poison the system by promoting bogus science as equivalent arguments against the need for action. This Swill, baby, Swill!! tends to confuse / intentionally(?) misinform the public and thereby maintains a business as usual scenario.

To a somewhat lesser degree, close-minded, self proclaimed environmentalists (some with advanced degrees, but far from the subject matter at hand and/or with very little relevant/practical experience beyond their academic world) spread nuclear scepticism by significantly exaggerating risks, promoting fear (Spill, baby, Spill!! Kill!!, baby, Kill!!) and thereby limit a credible option within Australia and elsewhere by campaigning against nuclear energy and/or uranium mining—Mill, baby, Mill!!

Hence, the effort to inform and ignite a spirit of change has fallen upon what is mostly a small band of volunteers—an informal group loosely bound by some common concerns or goals such as the salvation of life on the planet, recognition of nuclear energy’s role in global energy production, or general support of fossil free energy sources for the sake of energy security. How can this group hope to effectively battle well financed, professional (Skill, baby, Skill!!) communication/marketing/PR companies?

And then there’s the global financial crisis, topped by an increasing trend of severe (i.e. costly) weather events in recent years. Adding misery to disaster, we are told that the longer action is delayed, the more difficult it will become to pull ourselves out of the hole. Our plant is Ill, baby, Ill!!, with serious threats that could take life here to Nil, baby, Nil!! as the Earth turns into a giant Grill, baby, Grill!!

The most reasonable approach is to adopt a carbon fee and dividend scheme as promoted by Hansen and others. In such a scheme, a steadily increasing fee is applied to all fossil fuels at the wellhead, mine or port of entry. Then all money is returned to citizens as a dividend in equal shares for adults with ½ shares given to children—up to a maximum of 2 children per household.

The fee and dividend approach would immediately reward those who consume less energy (equal money, for less use/expense), reward businesses that improve energy efficiency, encourage innovative business practices such as teleconferencing in lieu of travel, encourage the use of no/low emission transport, and stabilise the energy market; thereby facilitating the significant investments necessary to transition energy production away from carbon emitting technologies. (Thrill, baby, Thrill!!)

Cap & trade on the other hand is a demonstrated failure in Europe, pumps money to financial institutions (Fill, baby, Fill!! their pockets) who serve as middlemen in the emissions credit trading game, awards free credits to the worst polluters, and provides no direct rewards to those who put in the effort to minimize their emissions as costs increase for all, regardless of personal choices.

Significant involvement from the public is required to make this happen. Get moving, write, take the action you want to see from others. Lead by example. Let your representatives know that an ongoing Drill, baby, Drill!! mentality is going to Kill, baby, Kill!! our planet.

Fossil fuels must be left in the ground, in particular dirty, dangerous coal. We’ve got to get our CO2 concentration to below 350 so the Earth can Chill, baby, Chill!!

And this is in addition to the other risks posed by the ongoing quest for fuel. No special interest influence there, eh...

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Welcome Christina

[I received a comment to a recent post from Christina Macpherson. To be fair to Ms Macpherson, she is an anti-nuclear campaigner who, among other efforts, published a blog linked here. To extend me the same courtesy, some time ago, I submited detailed comments to several of her posts... not one of which was published, to my knowledge.

This post is my reply to her comment. It's size exceeded Blogger's 4k character limit, but I thought a semi-comprehensive reply was appropriate.]

I would gladly accept a world free of risks from nuclear waste, weapons proliferation, or exposure to man-made, ionizing radiation. But the fact is, the benefits from nuclear technologies—both energy and non-energy related—far, far outweigh these often perversely exaggerated risks.

Let’s take an example—as you predicted, I’ll ‘dig someone up’ and tag him as an “environmentalist”. Actually I’ll go one better, I’ll call him a globally respected “Scientist”. Here’s what Prof. James Hansen [from the USA’s Colombia University and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies] has to say on nuclear energy’s role in the battle against climate change. From his book Storms of My Grandchildren:

“Germany provides useful empirical evidence about progress in quitting the fossil fuel addiction. Germany is making a major effort to improve energy efficiency. It is also trying hard to promote renewable energy, with large subsidies for wind and solar energies. Wind provides up to 20% of the country’s electric energy in winter, but on annual mean [yearly average] the wind and sun produced only 7.3 precent of Germany’s electricity in 2008. That renewable fraction is still growing, but at a cost—some industries have cited increased electric rates as a reason for relocating outside Germany.

But what is disturbing about the empirical evidence from Germany is that, despite technical prowess and strong efforts in energy efficiency and renewable energies, there are no plans to phase out coal. On the contrary, there are plans to build new coal-fired power plants, which the German government claims will be necessary once the country closes its nuclear power plants. The bottom line seems to be that it is not feasible in the foreseeable future to phase out coal unless nuclear power is included in the energy mix.”

Apparently Germany realised this and made the difficult [and most likely politically costly] decision to recently reverse its nuclear phase-out policy. Meanwhile Australia continues to build coal powered stations despite our politicians and “environmentalists” claiming how ‘blessed’ we are with non-nuclear options.

With respect to your claims [too late, too dirty, too expensive]; the vast majority of climate scientists—held in high regard within the scientific community—project mid-century as the critical date to achieve dramatic decreases in greenhouse gas emissions and the subsequent decreasing trend in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Considering the rate of deployment of nuclear power plants worldwide in the 1970’s, technology advancements since that time and the proven ability to steadily deploy nuclear energy stations in Asia [most notably in Korea and Japan] over the past few decades; there is little reason to doubt that nuclear energy—even in Australia—is well positioned to help phase out fossil fuel use.

Also, lifecycle emissions from nuclear energy—including mining and fuel production—have been independently and repeatedly shown to be among the lowest of available energy generation technologies. [See the Reports linked in the lower right margin of the Blog]

Regarding cost—I can’t speak for anyone else, but all I ask is that Australia make it legal to pursue nuclear energy here and to also put a realistic price on carbon to properly account for its threat to the planet. Utilities can then decide to continue to produce power using expensive and dangerous fossil fuels, transition to renewables, encourage efficiency and conservation, or opt for nuclear energy. [I would also expect the enacting of laws that require utilities to pay into a decommissioning and nuclear waste fund to coincide with other laws permitting utilities to use the technology.]

Considering the extreme weather events of just the past few years, I am surprised by campaigners who continue to see nuclear energy as the great threat of our time. Baseless nuclear scepticism does not add value to efforts to rid the world of dangerous fossil fuels. If you believe the risks from the introduction of nuclear energy are comparable to those from our continued addiction to fossil fuels, please explain your rationale. If you claim nuclear-free options that will permit the phase-out of fossil fuels have been demonstrated, please cite some real world examples.

I’ll give the final word to Hansen:

“Coal is exceedingly dirty stuff. Its mercury, arsenic, sulfates, and other constituents are a major source of global air and water pollution, leading to increased birth defects, impaired intelligence, asthma, and other respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Coal’s effect on air and water pollution is global—nobody escapes its reach. Mercury and other pollutants are deposited on land and in the ocean, infiltrating the food chain and building up in the bodies of long-lived animals and fish.”

“Leading world air-pollution experts at our workshops at the East-West Center in Honolulu agreed that there are at least one million deaths per year from air pollution globally. It is difficult to apportion the deaths among different pollution sources—such as vehicles and power plants—because people are affected simultaneously by all sources. But to get an idea of the numbers, let’s first assign 1 percent to coal-fired power plants. That’s ten thousand deaths per year—every year.

Actually, all experts agree that coal is responsible for far more than 1 percent of the air pollution. In fact, recent data show that more than 1 percent of some air pollutants in the United States comes from Chinese power plants! I point this out to emphasize that pollution and climate change are global problems—we must work together with other countries to solve them. Assigning 10 percent of global air pollution deaths to coal is probably still conservative—that’s a hundred thousand deaths per year, every year.

Yet there are no two-hundred-thousand-person rallies against coal, no nightly “No Coal” concerts. Death by coal is probably not as sexy as death by nuclear accident. Perhaps we have greater fear of nuclear power because it is more mysterious than that familiar black lump of coal—even though we know coal contains remarkably bad stuff.”

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Cap & Trade - inadequate & inneffective

In the video below, two officials from the US EPA explain why the perversion of legal loopholes, the hypocritical application of offsets and special interests' manipulation of a cap & trade system result in windfall profits for utilities, higher energy prices for consumers and - worst - increases to carbon emissions. This idea, in the context of greenhouse gas emission reduction, is a proven failure.

A fee & dividend approach is much more fair and actually is the best policy option to solve the problem. [Much like the deployment of currently available nuclear generation technology, is among the best no/low CO2 emitting technical options to phase out dirty coal.]

in reference to: Gillard unveils carbon price details - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (view on Google Sidewiki)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Meet the Climate Sceptics

UPDATE A second video has been added based on a comment. Normally I don't do 'updates' but this is too good to pass by.

Filmmaker Rupert Murry follows British climate sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton to Australia and America where he makes his case against the link between global emissions and threats from climate change.

The episode has been broken into 4 parts.

Is this credible science or the hijacking of public opinion and policy debates???

And now a video claiming to debunk Lord CM. Please watch and decide.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The nuclear Brand

Longtime environmentalist and former anti-nuclear activist Stewart Brand explains his change of heart and discusses the potential impact of solar, wind, gas, as well as the electrification of transport.

SOURCE: Inhabitat

Check out the About link for Inhabitat. The organisation appears to be a group of young environmentally conscious journalists and environmentalists. It is heartening to see the next generation addressing energy related challenges with such integrity, open mindedness and balance.

We need them.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Spain changes course on nuclear

Most of Spain's main political parties, including the governing Socialist Party, have agreed the country's operating nuclear plants can run longer than 40 years.

The move could have major implications for Spain, which has a long- standing official opposition to continuing with nuclear power in the country.

The agreement came Tuesday in the form of an amendment to the law of economic sustainability currently being debated in the Congress.
Source: Platts
Another data point on an increasingly positive trend...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Switzerland - Bern says yes to nuclear power plant

Phase-out and moratorium laws are falling in Europe (Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy) and US States (Minnesota and Kentucky) to name a few.

And now Switzerland

In a public referendum, the Swiss Canton of Bern has voted in favour of building a new nuclear power plant in Mühleberg to replace the old one there. This trend is evidence of the growing recognition of nuclear energy's role among currently available, demonstrated no/low emission energy generating technologies and Switzerland's commitment (with their Alpine-based hydro generating capacity) to a sustainable, green energy future consistent with the theme of the video linked below.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Only one hurdle remains...

Many authors, scientists and engineers have been saying - for some time now - that
  • the scientific research is complete - adequate confidence has been demonstrated that human generated greenhouse gasses at current levels and rates of release pose a sever threat to humanity / life as we know it.
  • the engineering is complete - demonstrated technologies exist today that, if aggressively deployed, are capable of managing emissions while supplying energy adequate to sustain economic activity, including the rate of growth in developing economies such as Brazil, India and China. Hence the slowing of my rate of posts. If you're not convinced of the technical readiness of nuclear technology and you are still coming here for such info, please dig into the post archive... it's all there.
So, what's left?

Political will. In his online posts, Dr. James Hansen (chief of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies) does an excellent job explaining what concerned members of the general public are up against.
Yes, it may be said, but young people are free to also influence public opinion. However, consider this Heartland chart as an example of what young people are up against. People carrying out these tasks are professional warriors for special interests, well-funded to make the case that global warming and climate disruption are a hoax. Their message is repeated relentlessly. Note that the "free market ideas" phrase in the Heartland bottom line is Orwellian double-speak. They mean the opposite, they want business-as-usual, with fossil fuels subsidized and not required to pay their costs to society.

Dear grandchild, this is a monster that you must face. You will need to figure it out. I am sorry. But it is the shape of our democracy today, which we bequeath to you.
With this in mind, I politely ask readers to consider becoming involved. Have a look at the embedded video and if so motivated, draft a letter. You may even wish to send a copy to your local representative here in Australia.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Garnaut - "you ain't seen nothing yet"

Cue the claims that Australia is a small contributor to global emissions or, more pitiful, outright denial.

In the article, Garnaut goes on to clarify that Australia is stuck with the political reality that we are the "world champions" of greenhouse pollution per capita... "not by a little bit, but by a wide margin".

The whole article suggests a depressing, karmic justice for events from Black Saturday through cyclone Yasi.

As a nation, are we prepared to address climate change; to objectively consider all options; to justly weigh all risks; and consistently apply demonstrated solutions to a schedule necessary to achieve the required objectives?

Or is there more talk in our future, more study and further delay???

in reference to:

"What is more, Garnaut said that since his 2008 review the science has only become more alarming. ''The general trend is to confirm that the [UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its fourth assessment report of 2007] underestimated the impacts of climate change. All the measurable impacts … are tracking right at the top of the range of possibilities identified by the [panel], or in some cases above them.""
- Garnaut updates gloomy review (view on Google Sidewiki)