Last months I haven’t written anything in the blog due to a combination of lack of time in my personal life and spending my remaining “free” hours in coursera platform learning about climate change. It has been a very well spent time, I have learned many interesting things about climate change, but I hope to talk about it in a further post. Today I want to greet the new year with some short wishes about climate change:
1.- It would be wonderful to stabilize the carbon emissions worldwide as many important countries have done in their particular cases. Or even better, to start reducing them making 2013 the peak emissions year.
2.- If the previous is too optimistic, it would be good at least to stop Coal plant growth in most parts of the world.
3.- And combine it with a robust growth of renewable energies.
4.- An international carbon tax would really help, adopted broadly, or at least by the greater emitter countries. Next COP would be a good place to agree on it.
5.- If all of these does not happen, or it is too weak, and international social movement could help to raise public opinion awareness and move some reluctant governments.
6.- or … we could just stop talking and act with the seriousness to be expected from an intelligent being.
Some time ago, I mentioned the known fact that China and USA are the most important players in the World CO2 emissions game as the greatest emitters. But they are not the only ones that matter. At least 25 countries are important in the world emission scenario, In this post I am going to mention two news about other two of those countries: Germany and India, the sixth and third emitter respectively.
News from India are positive: “India Plans To Build The Largest Solar Plant In The World”. In spite of being the third emitter in the world the percapita emissions are low, the lowest among great emitters and even close to the acceptable limit in the world, the ton per person as shown in the figures below. The problem is that the economic efficiency of the emissions has been erratic and the potential to grow in both, economy and emissions at the same time is huge. So, it would be great for the world that India would look for renewable energy to supply its growing demand, investing in their poor grid and forgetting coal or gas. Some studies even consider that wind is as cheap as coal for India, but the grid is a problem.
On the other side, Germany had historically great emissions as a very industrial country not based on Hydro or Nuclear energy and loving good and fast cars without speed limits. But,then they decided to start the Energiewende, their self-convicted ambitious energy transition to get ride of fossil fuels and nuclear at the same time and to be energetically independent. The emissions / GDP rate (economic efficiency of the emissions) has improved dramatically as shown in the diagrams but the per capita emissions have not followed the same speed, and they still are close to 10 in 2010, ten times higher than the acceptable ton per person. I do not know the last figures but this year they have even increased emissions. So it is a bit discouraging to see that the apparent multipartisan conviction and serious efforts are not getting enough results, and even some doubts arose in last elections about economical effects. Nevertheless, I still believe they are committed to succeed and they need more time to show clearer results, if they do it would be a great example of transformation for one of the strongest economies in the world, a great example for China and USA and the rest of Europe.
So let’s hope Germany continues the started revolution and India grows in a revolutionary way, they could be very significant examples.
The following post mentions something that is repeated sometimes in the renewable energy debate.
How Maryland’s New Climate Plan Could Actually Lower Energy Costs
Depending on the regulations or feed-in-tariff, renewables can reduce the base cost as they can enter at 0 cost in the auction. This happens in Spain for example, but this does not mean that the final tariff is cheaper as renewable feed-in-tariff is added later. OK, the total amount maybe cheaper in the end or not (it was discussed here). Electricity cost definition is quite difficult to understand in many countries, in some too difficult. In my opinion, this is not the moment to discuss if solar energy or wind power are cheaper than gas or coal. Happily they have reduced their costs and are more and more competitive but they have been more expensive and will be in some places/cases for some time. I think that a much better and more clear message is to say that even if/when they are more expensive their costs will be much lower than a catastrophic climate change. Even when/if they are more expensive in the short-term, their long-term profitability will be evident. Otherwise, the pure current cost discussion can be quite disappointing, as in Kirguistan. So it is again a discussion between long-term and short-term, about our generation and the next ones.
Nicaragua map from Wikipedia
This link in spanish explains these news. They will install wind power,, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy. It will not change the climate change game as Nicaragua is a small country of 6 million inhabitants that only emit 0.8 Tons CO2 per capita (in 2009). So they are not only well below the world average, they are even close or below the secure emission path. If we all humans would emit like them climate change problem would be close to be solved. They have not created this problem, they could feel quite reassured in their position and ask others for action with solid ethical grounds but, in the contrary, they plan to get most of their electricity from renewable sources. And these are good news because it shows that a low-carbon growth is not only meaningful for poor countries, it is also profitable and more reliable. They are not part of the problem now but can be and should be part of the solution, more if we consider that they are the countries bringing more humans to this stressed world
Among my blogs-to-read it is one from peak oil movement or thinking current. The peak oil concept is easy to explain and really logical at least in the initial concepts:
The oil is a finite substance and consequently someday it will wear out. The second idea is that that day it is not so far and for this reason we have reached the maximum oil production of our history: the peak oil. The next step is that this concept is applicable to many other important substances to our civilization as gas, uranium, coal, copper,… The last one is that it does not have reasonable solution, the only way is to degrowth in an ordered way or do it in a chaos. However the final positive message is that the final world we can reach, doing things well, will be very austere but satisfying in many senses.
I read them with interest although I am not convinced of many of the steps like the inevitability of the strong degrowth or the grade of depletion of many energy sources. So, I was surprised to discover a strong critics to peak oil concept in another blog I read. A stronger grade of critics than mine really, and this helps me notice again how ideas that are different could share common goals, at least for some time, but do not for our strong sense of …
Peak oil and climate change fight are different concepts, in one sense peak oil forecasts a time without oil and will miss it a lot and climate change would like to forecast a time with the oil inside the ground as a synonym of healthy climate. However the current goals are not so far: change the energy production system and make it renewable to a great extent, the hopes or forecasts are not so common but this should not be a problem to find allies in this difficult task..
It is a known fact for anyone reading scientific news that there is much concern and research in renewable energies, energy storage, low C transportation and some other subjects closely related to climate change. This means that there are many scientists warned by our climate future and they have convinced investors from politics or private sector to research in those areas. This fact is not frequently displayed in the news but there are exceptions as this list of 10 emerging technologies of the world economic forum.
5 out of 10 of the proposed technologies are related to energy or transportation, so, to climate change mitigation. These kind of speculative analysis are just that, but as in the case of a previous one in the BBC, show mainly our worries and hopes for the future, and in both of them climate change is present (in this one more clearly in fact)
This very recent paper focuses in costs studies of a fully renewable electricity supply system based in part of EEUU states grid. It is very interesting and deserves a more profound reading but the main conclusion is that for 2030 (less than 20 years ahead) it is not only possible to supply 100% electricity in this part of the USA by renewables, it would even be profitable!.
The good news do not end there, another study says that new wind and solar are competitive in the long-term with new natural gas in Texas. And another study, based on Australian data shows wind is cheaper than fossil fuels in Australia, even without carbon tax.
OK, maybe some of those data have been analysed with a positive bias towards renewables (in the first one for example), and it is true that renewables always compete to already paid systems of energy production, so it is a difficult-to-win battle; (it is interesting the debate in England about the feed-in-tarif or similar to new nuclear, newborns have a hard time even with Uranium). Nevertheless, the good news are that renewables are reducing costs clearly, and have been for a long time, while fossil fuels are more fluctuating and nobody is really confident they will not increase in the near future, so the maths continue to be confusing but they are changing.
Of course, all this without considering the enormous costs of climate change effects, sooner or later they will be evident in the balance and then the doubts will simply disappear, the problem is that by then it may be too late for some and will be more expensive for sure.