Global climate agreements could be counterproductive

by Judith Curry

International climate agreements like the Kyoto Protocol may discourage much-needed investment in renewable energy sources, and hence be counterprodutive, according to new research.

A provocative new paper has been published:

The Dynamics of Climate Agreements

Bart Harstad

Abstract. This paper analyzes a framework in which countries over time pollute and invest in green technologies. Without a climate treaty, the countries pollute too much and invest too little, particularly if intellectual property rights are weak. Nevertheless, short-term agreements on emission levels then reduce every country’s payoff, since countries invest less when they anticipate future negotiations. If intellectual property rights are weak, the agreement should be tougher and more long-term. Conversely, if the climate agreement happens to be short-term or absent, intellectual property rights should be strengthened or technological licensing subsidized.

[link] to abstract (manuscript behind paywall); [link] to earlier version of manuscript.

Science Daily has an article Global Climate Agreements Could be Counterproductive. Excerpts:

Bård Harstad is a professor of economics at the University of Oslo and has done research on climate agreements and international cooperation for many years. In the recent journal article “The Dynamics of Climate Agreements,” Harstad analyses the connections between emissions, negotiations, and the development of new technology. His findings reveal weaknesses of today’s system, but also show how international climate agreements should be designed in order to better stimulate the development of new technology.

“The main problem with emission agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, is that they do not provide incentives to invest in green technology because they are too short-sighted.

The basis for the U.N.’s climate negotiations is that the world requires more energy but at the same time fewer emissions. Hence, Harstad argues that it is imperative to develop new technology to resolve this challenge. According to him, politicians lack an understanding of how new technology is developed and affected by a treaty.

“In order to stimulate the development of new technologies, we need an agreement which is both long-term and ambitious. Instead of expiring, the agreement should be renegotiated at a later stage,” he says.

The main reason why the current, short-term climate agreements do not lead to any increased investments in green technology is described by Harstad as the hold-up problem. In today’s system the countries investing in green technology may be asked to reduce their emissions even more in the next negotiation round. It is often argued that countries, which have the technology in place, can reduce emission in a more effective and cheaper way. In other words, the most committed countries are subject to tougher requirements.

“This was the case when Denmark, which had invested a lot in wind power, negotiated with the other countries in the European Union on how to reduce aggregate emission. Poland, which had little renewable energy, argued that it would be easier for Denmark to reduce emissions than for them,” says Harstad.

Hence, it makes it less tempting to be the best in class, like Denmark, and more tempting to stay at the same level as other countries.

Thanks to this hold-up problem, Harstad shows that investments in green technology may in fact be less with a climate agreement in place than without one, if there is little time left until the next negotiation round.

“In this case, a short-term agreement may be worse than no deal at all, particularly if we believe that green technology is a large part of the solution to climate change.”

“It is very likely that there would have been much more money in green technology today, if we had a long-term climate agreement in place, rather than short-lasting ones, such as the Kyoto Protocol,” he says.

What characterises a good international climate agreement? The time frame may be the most critical issue, according to Harstad. The agreement must be long-term in order for countries to be willing to invest sufficiently to get a sustainable development going.

Harstad suggests an alternative model based on international trade agreements. Ideally, the commitments should not expire, but rather be frequently renegotiated.

“The reason is that the development of technology affects countries’ negotiation power,'”he says.

“In other words, countries which have invested in green technology will benefit from renegotiations. This will make green technology more attractive,” says Harstad.

He points out that international trade agreements do not expire. Instead, they are subject to renegotiation by the parties.

“The climate agreement negotiators can therefore learn from successful trade agreements,” says Harstad.

It is often argued that we need short-term agreements because we do not know how the climate will look like in 50 years’ time. Hence, we need flexibility as well as a long-term time frame, according to Harstad. If we could renegotiate the agreement to adjust the reductions as we go, we would take both these issues into considerations.

The world’s governmental leaders will meet up in Paris in December to negotiate a new global climate agreement. “It is difficult to be optimistic. The basis for the Paris negotiations is that each country will suggest its own obligations, and they will not be binding. This procedure is clearly far from ambitious. The best one may hope for is that the agreement will be long-term and that it can easily be renegotiated to a more ambitious level later on.”

JC reflections

Harstad makes some valid points, but I think the most impactful thing here is the title of the Science Daily article: “Global climate agreements could be counterproductive.”  Harstad is correct that the current focus on short term emissions reductions directs funding and political capital towards implementing existing renewable technologies.  The current renewable technologies are simply not up to the task, and funding and intellectual energy is being diverted away from true innovation. Another problem with the current policy framework is that the problem and the solution has been formulated to be irreducibly global.

It seems a propos to reproduce some of the material from my talk last year at the National Press Club [link]:

When talking about climate change and how we should respond, much of the debate relates to a conflict of values. Sustainability is the value that is driving the UN climate policies that are trying to mitigate damage by reducing CO2 emissions. These policies are in stark conflict with survivability issues in the developing world, where there are severe challenges to meeting basic needs and where there idea of clean green energy is something other than burning dung inside their dwelling for cooking and heating. While the UN policies also include adaptation, which is targeted at increasing reslience, funds for mitigation are in direct competition with funds for resilience. And finally we have thrivability, which is about people wanting not only to make money and support economic development, but also to strive for greatness and transform the infrastructure for society. The goals of thrivability are also in conflict with sustainability, with its emphasis on austerity and obligations and its costs that conflict with economic development goals.

The final points I want to make is related to the different decision-analytic framework associated with each of these columns. In the sustainability column, related to carbon mitigation, we are faced with conditions of deep uncertainty. The precautionary principle has guided policy making, although no regrets and robust decision making are also decision making strategies for conditions of deep uncertainty. The sustainable column frames both the problem and the solution as irreducibly global.

In the other columns, the problems and solutions are local to regional. Some of these problems can be carved out as tame problems, where everyone can agree on both the problem and the solution. Particularly for tactical adaptation, you can make use of probability forecasts on timescales of days to seasons, and ensemble forecast systems can be used for extreme event scenarios. Decadal scenarios can support infrastructure decisions.

My summary point is that framing the problems in different ways supports the identification of more tractable problems and solutions.

Thinking about the problems in new ways, and trying to accommodate different values, can lead to solutions that have greater political viability. For example, at the intersection of sustainability and resilience, you can identify robust strategies that have multiple benefits with little downside.

The challenges of climate change related to survivability can benefit from thrivability thinking, particularly some strategies suggested by anti-fragility strategies, whereby you learn and grow from adversity. Some of these strategies include economic development, reducing the downside from volatility, developing a range of options, tinkering with small experiments, and developing and testing transformative ideas.

The current UNFCCC efforts focus on the sustainability column, with a small dose in the resilience column.  What is missing (apart from addressing concerns in the survivability column, and a meaningful effort in the resilience column) is thrivability, which includes innovation.

I suspect that it is hopeless to turn the UNFCCC behemoth, but hopefully some individual countries can do a better job of fostering innovation.  US Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s emphasis on innovation over regulation [link] points the way towards a better approach.

 

 

 

148 responses to “Global climate agreements could be counterproductive

  1. Pingback: Global climate agreements could be counterproductive | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  2. David Wojick

    I think reducing investment in so-called renewables is productive, not counter productive.

    • The issue is new energy technologies, broadly defined.

      • The need for new technologies is primarily because of ignoring a viable one. See below. I don’t expect China and India to long ignore the obvious solution, if, indeed, CO2 is problematic.
        ==================

      • Judith,

        I strongly agree with David Wojick’s comment. Renewables cannot supply much of the world’s energy so cannot substitute for much fossil fuel energy. This is because of physical constraints not just cost. However, nuclear can provide virtually all the worlds energy needs for thousands of years. The cost can be reduced by orders of magnitude – only ideology, politics, anti-nuke advocacy and ignorance prevents it.

        The issue is new energy technologies, broadly defined.

        Almost no one calls nuclear renewables. If they’d meant “low emissions energy technology” instead of “renewables”, they’d have said it.

      • Jim2,

        Thank you. I didn’t see your comment. However, I didn’t see a report of that study. There have been previous studies showing that life has thrived in the exclusion zone thanks to man vacating it. Studies have shown no elevated effects of radiation on animals living and thriving in the exclusion zone. When will sanity get through to the general public and the 97% of academics who are part of the anti-nuke problem.

      • Jim2,

        I wonder if you’ve seen this

        Admiral Rickover, 1953: http://ecolo.org/documents/documents_in_english/Rickover.pdf
        Excerpt:

        “An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose. (7) Very little development will be required. It will use off-the-shelf components. (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now.

        “On the other hand a practical reactor can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It requires an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of its engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.

        “The tools of the academic designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck; it cannot be erased. Everyone sees it. The academic-reactor designer is a dilettante. …….”

        It can support the point that it takes a very long time from bright idea or “invest in developing new technology” to reach commercially viable for expensive infrastructure with long lives and long time before replacement (like electricity generation technologies).

        Some technology development times to date

        Batteries >200 years
        gas turbine >200 years
        hydro electric = 137 years
        steam turbine >100 years
        petrol engine >100 years
        diesel engine >100 years
        solar thermal engine .>100 years
        Jet engine = 86 years
        solar PV ~60 years
        nuclear >60 years

        nuclear power >60 years

      • Peter Lang

        “Some technology development times to date…
        steam turbine >100 years”

        Yes, but a steam turbine was first installed in a real power station within a few years of it being invented by Charles Parsons (in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I think), and according to Wikipedia within Parson’s lifetime, the generating capacity of a unit was scaled up by about 10,000 times.

      • Regarding the thrivability in radiation zones, I noted that wolves were reported to do much better (have a higher population density) in radiation zones. There is a balance between predator and prey and where predators have a higher percentage of sick/weak animals, then predators will have higher population densities. As long as the rates of predation do not fall below what the population of prey can maintain, then there is no danger of the prey being driven into extinction. Now as a human geneticist I know that ~5% of the human population has mutations in their DNA repair enzymes that makes them much more susceptible to negative effects of radiation. If we started to irradiate ourselves regularly (and some would argue we are doing just that with our higher dose CT 3d scans) we can expect to see increasing levels of damage in that portion of the population. We cannot blithely assume that just because wildlife is thriving in radiation zone that there will not be a cost if we expose humans as well. For example, our decision to add folate to food in North American has resulted in an increased rescue of babies with gastroschisis. Neural tube defects are being prevented by babies with gastroschisis who previously would not have made it to term are surviving instead. We have shifted the medical burden from neural tube defects to gastroschisis. A baby with gastroschisis is much more “repairable” than a baby with a neural tube defect and so the benefits outweigh the costs. But there is some recent research about how susceptible individuals homozygous for the common C677T MTHFR allele have a much higher frequency of asthma if they are exposed to high levels of folate in utero. This seems to be related to epigenetic changes int he fetus. So our efforts to prevent neural tubes defects is causing gastroschisis babies to survive and may possibly be causing more asthma. In a population of wildlife, if you are killing off 5% of the elk population by inducing cancer or other radiation related diseases at far higher frequencies than normal, wolves get more food and that’s all. If you do the same thing to people, the consequences will be quite different to society. So, please, don’t just assume because wildlife are abundant in radiation zones we can be irradiating ourselves without adverse effects.

      • So, please, don’t just assume because wildlife are abundant in radiation zones we can be irradiating ourselves without adverse effects.

        So, please, don’t just assume because wildlife are abundant in radiation zones we can be irradiating ourselves without benificial effects.

        Same thing was found in Japan. People around the disaster zones, outside the area where they did suffer, people had better health than the average population. The best radiation level for best health may well be higher that the average that most people get.

      • Nic Lewis,

        Thank you for your comment. You made an excellent point:

        Yes, but a steam turbine was first installed in a real power station within a few years of it being invented by Charles Parsons (in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I think), and according to Wikipedia within Parson’s lifetime, the generating capacity of a unit was scaled up by about 10,000 times.

        The first steam turbine was 7.5 kW (in 1884). Now they are up to 750 MW, a factor of 100,000 increase in 130 years (average 6 MW/ year)

        The first nuclear power station was 5 MW (in 1954) and the EPR is 1600 MW. This is a factor of ~300 increase in 62 years (average 26 MW/year).

        Capacity doubling rate was about the same. Nuclear doubled its capacity every 7.75 years and steam turbines every 7.65 years.

        However, the important point I was trying to make is that it is unrealistic to expect sudden breakthroughs that rapidly become economically viable in the large sized, long life electricity generation technology. It takes a long time to learn by doing when the turn over rate of infrastructure is many decades to near a century. Nuclear is near the beginning of its technology life cycle. It is using only 1% of the available energy in the nuclear fuel. Breeder reactors have the potential to increase that by a factor of nearly 100 with commensurate cost savings and resource savings (eventually). Then there’s fusion.

        We are totally wasting our time and delaying progress by mucking around with renewables. This explains why renewables are not sustainable: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/ They cannot provide more than a very small proportion of the world’s ever growing per capita energy demand.

      • @PL: Renewables cannot supply much of the world’s energy

        This is as obvious in 2015 as was the oft-repeated claim 100 years earlier that heavier-than-air flight cannot supply much of the world’s transport needs.

        As Einstein, or Bohr, or Yogi Berra once said, prediction is difficult, especially about the future.

      • Vaughan Pratt,

        Clearly you didin’t read or didn’t understand the link provided did you? Otherwise you wouldn’t have mad another of your repeatedly ignorant comments on energy matters.

      • What percentage of world transport needs are accomplished by

        1) air
        2) land
        3) sea

      • Peter, how do you explain that the numbers in what you link to (John Morgan’s guest post) are wildly at odds with the numbers in what I link to (second half of that comment)? The team from ESCI, Columbia U. and Brookhaven National Lab calculate the EROEI of PV (including balance-of-system) in terms of its Primary Energy equivalent as between 19 to 38, showing their work. John Morgan claims 1.6 but does not show his work (where is the formula whose value is 1.6?).

        How could they both be right?

      • Dopey, I said “much”, not “most”. If you’d prefer “significant” to “much”, fine, “significant”. Air plays a very significant role in long-distance travel today; the great ocean liners that the world relied on up to the 1970s to cross the Atlantic have gone extinct thanks to air travel. Planes are a huge time-saver for any long-distance trip.

      • Vaughan Pratt,

        Of course they can’t both be right. There’s bee much debate about ERoEI for a very long time. I haven’t read your link but wonder if it takes storage into account?

        This provides some insight into the debate and what is relevant and not: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/#comment-350520

      • @PL: I haven’t read your link but wonder if it takes storage into account?

        Here’s what they took into account.

        Data were normalized to assume conservative performance ratios (PR) of 75% for rooftop mounted systems and 80% for ground mounted optimal latitude installations, which also implicitly account for module degradation (Fthenakis et al., 2011). In all cases, the complete PV system was addressed, including all balance of system (BOS) components, and the analysis was extended to the full life cycle, including take back and recycling, and assuming an industry-standard PV system lifetime (T) of 30 years (Fthenakis et al., 2011). We also adopted the average southern European ground-level insolation, i.e. 1,700 kWh/(m2·yr), which incidentally coincides with the mean global insolation (horizontal surface) in between the Arctic and Antarctic circles (NASA, 2008). Finally, the EU-27 electric grid efficiency (ηgrid = 0.31) was used, when called for, to convert the electricity generated by PV into its ‘Primary Energy equivalent’, in accordance with the common practice for EPBT calculations.

        I would expect “complete PV system” and BOS to mean that storage was taken into account. However I checked Fthenakis et al, 2011 and it seems that BOS for them means what is typical for residential and commercial installations, namely no batteries, just whatever storage is implied by grid connection.

        I have only once ever seen a PV system with batteries, namely last year on safari in Botswana, many miles from any grid. It had a roomful of huge (four-foot high) 2-volt lead-acid batteries connected in series, backed up by another room with a huge diesel generator which did not run during our stay at the camp. The batteries and generator most certainly would have made its EROEI lower; it would be interesting to estimate by how much. Whether they’d have been better off financially with just the generator and no PV or batteries is however somewhat moot for a camp that made a point of polluting the living areas and nearby jungle as little as possible with the noise and fumes of heavy-duty machinery.

      • (“better off financially” probably should have been “better off energetically”, the latter being what’s in the denominator of EROEI)

    • The renewables are causing problems. From the article:

      The California Public Utilities Commission on Monday holds hearings that could result in changes to the way that solar panel users are reimbursed for the power they generate, improbably making the Golden State the newest front in a battle between power companies and rooftop solar firms. On one side are proponents of solar energy and the companies that make the panels, while arrayed against them are utilities that want policy changes that would result in solar power being less cost-effective for homeowners and businesses that want to use it.

      A bill passed in California two years ago called for reform of the rate structure in the state. Now, the California Public Utilities Commission is reconsidering the policy of net metering and accepting proposals on how it may be changed going forward. The solar industry claims that utilities are proposing changes that would ultimately do away with net metering altogether.

      “What net metering looks like determines the economics of solar power,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association, the leading solar industry organization in the state. “And we need to make the economics of solar more affordable.”

      http://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/05/utilities-newest-solar-battleground-california.html

      • If you are off the grid, you don’t use the power lines that deliver electricity. If lots of people do this, and there are fewer utility users, their costs for infrastructure maintenance will rise. If your solar system has not been substantially paid for by other taxpayers, but the cost has been out of your pocket, the total package is arguably fair for everyone.

        If you are not off the grid, but are allowed to sometimes receive grid power, and sometimes deliver power to the grid, and get paid for this, the power line infrastructure benefits you.

        You must pay for that. Otherwise, you’ve built your solar system in part with regular utility customers paying through their taxes for your system, you’re not just selling your surplus power, but using the utility lines to deliver it, which amounts to getting utility-line usage for free, or at least much lower cost than normal utility customers.

        So a fair deal is you get no solar-system purchase and installation subsidy, everybody pays fair utility-line monthly service charge that covers utility-infrastructure costs, then everybody pays a market rate for electricity, and you get a market rate payment for generating it and delivering it to the grid.

        If electricity price rates are variable, based on time of day, and season, then if you deliver electricity during peak demand and high pricing, you should get the market price for that, and less during times when the demand is less, and market price is lower.

        Should you receive a subsidy for reducing C02? Possibly, if C02 is proven to be dangerous. If so, the CO2 generated to manufacture, deliver and install your system needs to be accounted.

        Then your system’s annual CO2 output reduction vs. your neighbors’ regular utility C02 “footprint” needs to be accounted, and you get a payment for that. If it amounts to $100-200/yr and that doesn’t come close to covering your investment cost, relative to just staying on regular utility-generated electricity, you can still feel good about being environmentally responsible, of course. Feeling good about oneself, being more noble than the rest of humanity is what environmentalism is all about. Seriously, long before tax-credit subsidies and net-metering existed, back in the 80’s, lots of environmentally enlightened people installed solar systems, because it cost more than conventional electricity, and paying more to help the environment felt good.

      • Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission, packed 100% with Democratic Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown political appointees, including his former sustainable energy advisor (no bias there), has approved a rate hike for those pesky little people. It is designed to take a bite out of the lower middle class because, well, they might have some money still.

        http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/California-electricity-prices-to-rise-for-those-6353950.php

      • 1ftpm – but … but … that’s … SENSIBLE! Good grief, you can’t expect support for that!

      • lftpm,

        This is a very, good clear explanation of the issue with free-dride the owners of reneweable energy are getting and with what needs to be done to level the playing field. I agree with you 97%

        The 3% I don’t fully agree with is what is missed this sentence:

        If your solar system has not been substantially paid for by other taxpayers, but the cost has been out of your pocket, the total package is arguably fair for everyone.

        There is another cost that off-grid renewable energy users should have to pay for. Consider this example.

        A new suburb is being built. The facilities for water, sewerage, roads, schools, shops have to be installed. The cost of this is spread across all residents. If half the residents decided to manage their own sewerage and water requirements, the length of main pipes would remain the same to serve the whole suburb although the size of the pipes would reduce a little. The total cost would be slightly lower, but the cost per user would be nearly twice as high.

        Similar would be the case if half of a suburb’s houses were not connected to the grid. The grid infrastructure would be slightly less, but the infrastructure cost per user would be almost twice.

      • lftpm and Peter Lang: I do not know about the rest of the State of California (which I suspect can’t be too different), but customers of San Diego Gas and Electric Co are billed separately for their grid connection and electricity consumption. Thus I could reduce my bill for electricity consumption by installing rooftop solar panels (with or without a feed-in tariff), but I would still be paying for my grid connection.

      • Mathew Marler,

        customers of San Diego Gas and Electric Co are billed separately for their grid connection and electricity consumption. Thus I could reduce my bill for electricity consumption by installing rooftop solar panels (with or without a feed-in tariff), but I would still be paying for my grid connection.

        Yes you could. And it would be rational to do so, as long as you take into account the risk (and likelihood) that over time there will be a move to get solar owners to pay more of their fare share of the many additional cost they are not paying now. The grid connection cost is nowhere near the full cost solar owners should be paying, whether grid comnnected or not (if living in the suburbs as explained in my previous comment. Here is an excellent paper on the hidden costs not currently being paid by solar users, if interested: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/5/4/1406

        There are two ways to look at this. One is what is rational for consumers given the way regulations and pricings are currently set. The other is what is rational for the country and therefore what policy setting should be, and probably will move to over time. From the policy perspective there are many distortions and this is reducing the country’s competitiveness compared with what it otherwise would be. Over time, the attribution of costs will be sorted out. This will mean solar owners will have to pay a larger share of the infrastructure and of the costs of back up generation.

        I can give you much more on this if interested. Let me know. But please consider Graham Palmer’s paper first.

    • One obvious fact that those in favor of renewables (meaning wid and solar) refuse to acknowledge is that they require fossil fuel use from cradle to grave. Fossil fuel driven machinery for mining, transport to/from manufacturing, manufacturing, assembly at site, back up for times when the wind does not blow or sun does not shine, for maintenance throughout their life, for dissassembly and disposal once useful life is over. Without fossil fuels, current renewable technology is not even remotely possible. The need for fossil fuels further reduces renewable eroei if those costs are not already factored in.

      • @Barnes: Without fossil fuels, current renewable technology is not even remotely possible.

        You raise an interesting point here, Barnes. Suppose I have enough solar panels to collect all the joules of energy I use in a year, along with a Tesla battery system large enough to smooth out the obvious fluctuations during the year. Assume I’m off the grid. Why would I need even one gram of carbon in the way of fossil fuels?

      • Why would I need even one gram of carbon in the way of fossil fuels?

        How much fossil carbon do you suppose was burned creating those solar panels and batteries?

      • @AK: How much fossil carbon do you suppose was burned creating those solar panels and batteries?

        Good point, I overlooked “current”—I was thinking about what’s possible in principle.

        It’s indeed true that fossil fuels are currently used in the production of renewables. Furthermore the shift to renewables will be gradual since new technologies are not deployed and matured overnight. California’s assessment of what rate is possible is indicated by its renewables target of 33% of total procurement by 2020 (AB32) with the goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels. Executive Order S-3-05 calls for a further reduction in emissions to 20% of 1990 levels..

        Regarding EROEIs, this 2012 article from Columbia U. and Brookhaven National Lab complains that extant EROEI tables are based on out-of-date data that is inconsistently applied. Using current data and applying it consistently between technologies, they conclude,

        When calculated in terms of the electricity output per unit of primary energy invested, the EROI_{el} of PV ranges from 6 to 12, which makes it directly comparable to that of conventional thermal electricity without CCS (carbon capture and sequestration). When instead calculated according to the often employed formula EROI_{PE-eq} = T/EPBT, i.e. expressing the energy ‘returned’ by PV in terms of its ‘Primary Energy equivalent’, the EROI of PV is up to 19 to 38, which puts it squarely in the same range of EROI as conventional fossil fuels (oil in the range of 10 to 30; coal in the range of 40 to 80).

        This East coast assessment makes the West coast look slightly less loony.

      • @Vaughan Pratt…

        Yes, I think once everybody perceives the role of fossil fuels as a “stepping stone” to subsequent fossil-neutral technology, all the parameters of the argument change.

        Personally, I’ve seen space solar power as the ultimate goal since 1975. The question is, how to get there. By the ’90’s, I realized that exponential improvements in surface-based solar power would make it competitive with the space-based version until people start seeing a high value in not covering millions of square Km of ocean with solar collectors.

        Given it’s out of sight, much of it (sterile ocean surface) has little or no ecology to impact, and the support technology will soon be no more expensive than land-based, I would foresee a growth of such technology by, say, 2030-2040 replacing almost every other form of energy source.

        Based on current science, I’d guess that a large fraction of the energy so gathered will be used to create gas/liquid fuel, with much or the rest transmitted via microwaves to/from satellites to where it’s needed.

        A global system of microwave satellites for power transmission only would probably be within reach of our current space technology. IMO the biggest risk would be from water vapor in the stratosphere. OTOH, I doubt we’ll need rockets by 2030.

      • Very interesting vision, AK. You’d be more familiar with the literature exploring it, can you recommend a couple of links?

        But I think you may be underestimating ocean ecology. A region of ocean that may look empty to you may still have the occasional tuna or whale or white shark swimming through it, so hopefully what you’re contemplating wouldn’t put them at risk. Atlantic bluefin tuna travel routinely between Europe and the East coast of the Americas in as short as 60 days, and range as far south as the north coast of Brazil and as far north as Labrador, spawning in the Gulf of Mexico which has the right temperature and mix of upwellings and downwellings for their larvae, which can’t tolerate temperature extremes the way an adult tuna can. (I’ve been learning all this by spending time in Barbara Block’s lab at the Stanford Hopkins Marine Station across the road from my house.)

      • Very interesting vision, AK. You’d be more familiar with the literature exploring it, can you recommend a couple of links?

        I wish I could. Unfortunately, my own “vision” depends on a lot of detailed research and cogitation, and the references don’t really present the picture I’ve come up with. That’s why I don’t usually push it in places like this.

        I’ll try to come up with some links on the idea of transmitting power from Earth to Earth via microwave/satellites, I think the calculations have been documented. (But I did them myself from first principles.) Space solar power is all over Google, I can’t recommend any site for an intro for somebody not already familiar with the concept. Except maybe Wiki.

        A region of ocean that may look empty to you may still have the occasional tuna or whale or white shark swimming through it, so hopefully what you’re contemplating wouldn’t put them at risk.

        I’m thinking of areas with almost no productivity. I suppose making it possible for such animals to swim through wouldn’t be a problem, shade or not, without nutrients the plankton won’t grow.

  3. Cut the Gordian Knot with a Nuclear Sword.
    =================

    • Thorium, it’s gotta be done… It’s the only near term solution that would allow you to divorce your base load entirely from Fossil Fuels, if that’s the goal.

      There won’t be enough Uranium to go round going forwards and it’s not well distributed. Plus, a Uranium fuel cycle was only really selected due to Cold war pressures – Thorium’s not as useful if your end goal is to produce nuclear weapons, but it’s about 5 times more abundant than Uranium. So it’s a much better bet as a fuel cycle choice….

    • One can almost always learn something interesting with Kim’s comments. Today is the term “Gordian Knot”. But in learning about this term, a story line is that rather than extreme measures (other than the sword) — other solutions may also exist.

      While the vast majority of Commentors here at CE are obsessed with simple black/white framing — the Gordian Knot story illustrates, there may be different ways to “skin the AGW cat”:

      — Fast Mitigation (methane, HFCs, smog, dark soot).
      — Efficiencies (per what the engineering giant ABB talks about).
      — Penetration levels for Renewables using sound engineering economics (e.g., ELCC).
      — Agriculture/Soil Practices.
      — Implementing “carbon management practices” through the use of international trade incentives (something like California’s Lower Carbon Standard).
      — Increased R&D, looking for needed innovation. This should include the solar tax credit — as long as solar’s cost keep on decreasing the way they are.

      As Dr. Ramanathan and Molina argue, it is the trajectory of carbon emissions that we should currently address. The collective above actions can hopefully give us the time (20 to 30 years?) for technology advancements.

      • There are numerous technologies (besides Renewables) that we could be on the cusp on for mass implementation in 20/30 years. Such as:

        Nuclear This article was my top nuclear article last year: http://www.brookings.edu/research/essays/2014/backtothefuture#

        Coal Ultra Super Critical Boilers (dramatically increased efficiency heat rate).

        Natural Gas Bridge Fuel Somehow figuring out intellectual property rights so that this technology can be used throughout the World (also using less water).

      • Heh, pull out the spindle and unwind from within.
        =====================================

      • Stephen Segrest: While the vast majority of Commentors here at CE are obsessed with simple black/white framing

        “Vast” majority? Really?

        You made that up.

      • “While the vast majority of Commentors here at CE are obsessed with simple black/white framing”

        Yes the commenters are divided into two groups:

        Black: those who do black and white framing
        White: those who dont do black and white framing.

        thank you for todays ironic moment.

    • 4th Gen Nuclear is a materials problem.

      High temps, expansion contraction, corrosive fluids. neutron embrittlement

      Surprisingly..the oil refining business inadvertently provides the high temp/expansion contraction and corrosive fluids testing facility.

      There are only a very limited number of accelerated neutron bombardment test facilities and lots of candidate metals.

      So lets just say for sake of argument that you have a great new design…

      1) you file a patent
      2) you manage to get space at the Idaho National Lab neutron bombardment facilty and you get back your test result 3 years
      3) You file with NRC to build a test reactor. Your application is approved after another 5 years,
      4) You complete your test/demonstration reactor in an amazingly quick 2 years.

      You are now 10 years thru your 20 year patent.

      5) You run your small scale demonstration reactor for 5 years.

      You are now 15 years thru your 20 year patent and probably have spent at least a couple of billion dollars.

      6) You finally get your FOAK(First of a kind) customer. It’s takes you 5 years to build the FOAK plant.

      Your patent expires just as you complete the FOAK plant miraculously on time and on budget.

      The SOAK and NOAK customers go to your competitor who doesn’t have to pay for the billions you spent of R&D and gets a lower price.

      No company with a profit motive is going to invest the necessary R&D to get a nuclear design from drawing board to commercial reality without some sort of government incentive.

      Lucky for us that the Gen IV nuclear initiative is doing the materials testing work using Government money.

      Even then the FOAK customer will be in China. One failed construction project(out of hundreds/thousands) can be easily buried in the Chinese Electricity generating construction budget. One failed construction project would bankrupt most US utilities.

      • ==> “No company with a profit motive is going to invest the necessary R&D to get a nuclear design from drawing board to commercial reality without some sort of government incentive.”

        Perhaps that is why countries with a higher % of nuclear power are “socialist” countries with centralized energy policies and tons o’ federal support (with the possible exception of Finland?).

        Which is what makes the whole chorus of “Anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, children-starving Eco-zealots are what’s preventing us from getting cheap energy and reducing ACO2 emissions” rather ironic.

      • It seems more accurate to conclude that the countries most likely to implement nuclear power have a political system where those ruling have the authority to implement; the country has to have the technological base as well as the financial capability. The cost of building a nuclear facility in the US is driven by the excessive time for government approvals of various stages of the process.

      • ==> “It seems more accurate to conclude that the countries most likely to implement nuclear power have a political system where those ruling have the authority to implement; the country has to have the technological base as well as the financial capability.”

        Such as France.

        ==> “The cost of building a nuclear facility in the US is driven by the excessive time for government approvals of various stages of the process.”

        No doubt, long approval times are a part of the financial disincentive, but it certainly isn’t the only one. The long time horizon for expected returns on a massive investment is, obviously, a huge disincentive as investors can find other ways to get good returns on shorter time horizons.

        And also, what is and isn’t “excessive,” is inherently a subjective determination. Particularly if you’re talking about brand new technologies. Not to say that the process couldn’t reasonably be streamlined, but the political expediency of those who seek to blame “the left” and who whine about regulation, even as they attack the very notions of policy centralization along with federal financing, is also inherently counteproductive. The problem is that people exploit nuclear energy and hold it hostage, like so many other issues (including climate change), to reinforce their ideological agendas.

      • harrywr2,

        Excellent comment, again. Thank you. Your comments are invariably some of the most inciteful and valuable posts on energy matters on CE.

        Regarding the materials issues with Gen IV and the many other issues to be addressed before they can be commercially viable and competitive, CE readers may find this excellent post by a senior French engineer of interest:
        Molten Salt Fast Reactor Technology – An Overview
        http://euanmearns.com/molten-salt-fast-reactor-technology-an-overview/

        No company with a profit motive is going to invest the necessary R&D to get a nuclear design from drawing board to commercial reality without some sort of government incentive.

        Lucky for us that the Gen IV nuclear initiative is doing the materials testing work using Government money.

        I agree that it is in humanity’s best interest that funding for R&D be supported from public finances. But, apart from pure research, all applied research should be apportioned to various needs in proportion to the expected return on investment. The likely ROI from nuclear is enormous; whereas from climate research and renewable energy it is negligible. Therefore,. much of the funding currently directed to the $1.5 trillion per year “Climate Industry” and renewable energy would give orders of magnitude higher ROI if redirected to nuclear research.

        However, having said all that, I’d suggest policy should focus on removing the impediments that legislation and regulations have put in the way of nuclear. If the impediments were removed, I believe investors would invest in development of nuclear power, and the rate would acceperate over time. Here’s how I suggest it could be achieved (Harrywr2, I’d welcome your thoughts on this):

        How to make nuclear cheaper

        Nuclear power will have to be a major part of the solution to significantly reduce global GHG emissions. It seems it will have to reach about 75% share of electricity generation (similar to where France has been for the past 30 years) and electricity will have to be a significantly larger proportion of total energy than it is now to reduce global GHG emissions significantly.

        To achieve this, the cost of electricity from nuclear will have to become cheaper than from fossil fuels.

        Here’s my suggested way to get to nuclear cheaper than fossil fuels:

        1. The next US Administration takes the lead to persuade the US citizens nuclear power is about as safe as or safer than any other electricity source http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html. US can gain enormously by leading the world in developing new, small modular nuclear power plants; allowing and encouraging innovation and competition; thus unleashing the US’s ability to innovate and compete to produce and supply the fit-for-purpose products the various world markets want.

        2. The next US President uses his influence with the leaders of the other countries that are most influential in the IAEA to get the IAEA representatives to support a process to re-examine the justification for the allowable radiation limits – as the US announced in January it will do over 18 months:

        US study on low-dose ionising radiation

        The US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Academy of Sciences have been directed to work together to assess the current status of US and international research on low-dose radiation and to formulate a long-term research agenda under a bill approved by the US House of Representatives. The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 directs the two organisations to carry out a research program “to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods.” The study is to be completed within 18 months.

        The Act arises from a letter from a group of health physicists who pointed out that the limited understanding of low-dose health risks impairs the nation’s decision-making capabilities, whether in responding to radiological events involving large populations such as the 2011 Fukushima accident or in areas such as the rapid increase in radiation-based medical procedures, the cleanup of radioactive contamination from legacy sites and the expansion of civilian nuclear energy. The aftermath of the Fukushima accident has boosted concern that unduly conservative standards may have large adverse health and welfare costs.

        WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Radiation-and-Health/Nuclear-Radiation-and-Health-Effects/

        More here: ‘WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-US-House-passes-low-dose-radiation-bill-2001158.html.

        3. Once the IAEA starts increasing the allowable radiation limits for the public this should be the trigger to start the process that leads to reducing the cost of nuclear energy; and the catalyst to keep reducing costs over the long term as the radiation limits are reviewed and increased periodically. As the radiation limits are reviewed and raised:

        a. it will mean radiation leaks are understood to be less dangerous than most non experts believe > less people will need to be evacuated from accident effected zones > the cost of accidents will decline > accident insurance cost will decline;

        b. the public progressively reconsiders the evidence about the effects of radiation > they gain an understanding it is much less harmful than they thought > fear level subsides > opposition to nuclear declines > easier and less expensive to find new sites for power plants > increased support from the people in the neighbourhood of proposed and existing power plants > planning and sight approval costs decline over time;

        c. The risk of projects being delayed during construction or once in operation declines; > all this leads to a lowering of the investors’ risk premium > thus reducing the financing costs and the fixed O&M costs for the whole life of the power plants;

        d. Changing perceptions of the risks and benefits of nuclear power leads to increasing public support for nuclear > allows the NRC licensing process to be completely revamped and the culture of the organisation to be changed from “safety first” to an appropriate balance of all costs and risks, including the consequences of retarding nuclear development and rollout by making it too expensive to compete as well as it could if the costs were lower (e.g. higher fatalities per TWh if nuclear is not allowed to be cheaper than fossil fuels);

        e. The Operation and Maintenance cost of nuclear plants is reduced as the excessive requirements for safety and security decreases over time to the equivalent of other types of electricity generation plant (to AHARS, As High As Relatively Safe). (NPPs have 150 highly trained, well-armed security officers, augmented by comprehensive detection and surveillance systems, on average. That’s $15-$20 million per nuclear plant site per year (about $10 million per reactor).

        4. NRC is revamped – its Terms of Reference and its culture are changed. Licensing period for new designs is greatly reduced, e.g. to the equivalent of the design and licensing period for new aircraft designs.

        5. Small modular reactors are licensed quickly. New designs, new versions, new models, and design changes are processed expeditiously. This will lead to more competition, more innovation, learning rate continually improves so that costs come down.

        6. The efficiency of using the fuel can be improved by nearly a factor of 100. That is some indication of how much the cost of nuclear power can be reduced over a period of many decades.

        7. Eventually, fusion will be viable and then the technology life cycle starts all over again – but hopefully the anti-nuke dinosaurs will have been extinct for a long time by then.

    • blunderberry,

      There won’t be enough Uranium to go round going forwards and it’s not well distributed.

      This is not correct. There is sufficient uranium, when used in breeder reactors) to supply 10 billion people using the average per capita energy consumption (all energy not just electricity) of the average American for tens of thousands of years. hen there;s four times more thorium than uranium (but harder to extract). Then there’s fusion. There is effectively no limit to the nuclear energy available on Earth.

  4. Oh goodie! Columns and bubbles full of academese and buzz-words to help me think! I knew all that tertiary ed and those ivy-covered cloisters would be good for something.

    Sould I thrive or merely survive? Maybe if I can wedge my thoughts into that squeezy overlap I can do both? After all, I can walk and chew gum.

  5. IMNSHO, the best international climate agreement is no agreement. The UN has turned into a monster that we need to stop feeding now.

    • jim2, my letter in The Australian 29/9 in response to someone backing ex-PMs Rudd or Clark (NZ) as UN heads:

      I would abolish or defund the UN. Failing that, I wouldn’t foist on it a failed Antipodean PM, whether Rudd or Clark (“Clark, not Rudd, for UN,” Letters, 28/9). Better to have someone who would cut through the left-wing claptrap, Genghis Khan for example.

      • GK’s got my vote if we HAFTA have a UN.

      • GK’s genes are in a big chunk of China.

        China and India will decide what happens.

      • Faustino,

        Talking of the ideological Left, I was surprised to see the people Rudd and Gillard (leftist recent prime ministers of Australia) appointed to guide the Climate Change Authority: Ian Chubb, Clive Hamilton David Karoly and John Quiggin. All are extreme CAGW alarmists and all were appointed by Labor. The CCA was set up by Labor and their tenure was assured. It really needs a clean out of these extremists.

      • What happened to Australia? This was the land of Crocodile Dundee, and now it’s run by wimpy leftists and climate fwaidycats? There is nowhere to go anymore…

    • The hookers in NYC love the UN.

    • Faustino aka Genghis Cunn | October 6, 2015 at 11:49 pm |
      ” I wouldn’t foist on it a failed Antipodean PM, whether Rudd or Clark ”

      Abbott?

      • Michael, I was replying to a letter from someone on the left who held Rudd and Clark in high regard, and fit to head the UN (which he supports). So Abbott didn’t enter into it. Although, if Rudd did head the UN, it might be the last straw …

  6. JC reflections

    The current renewable technologies are simply not up to the task, and funding and intellectual energy is being diverted away from true innovation.

    Renewable technologies are simply not up to the task. More importantly, they probably never can be. They probably can never provide more than a small proportion of the ever growing global energy requirements.

    World energy requirements will continue to grow. Anyone who thinks otherwise is in naive.

    Renewables are not sustainable and probably never will be. This excellent post explains why – [please read it].
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

  7. Going local gives rise to crazed government programs like rebates and HOV lane privileges to products like Prius and Tesla and bullet trains to nowhere instead of dams and water purification in California. But, if everyone gets serious about doing away with the UN and concentrating on the enemy within, like the EPA and the government-education complex, I’d say that’s a net gain.

  8. “Bård Harstad is a professor of economics at the University of Oslo and has done research on climate agreements and international cooperation for many years.”

    In other words, he’s a professor of thin air who wants to sharpen and deepen taxation/regulation of a tiny fraction of thin air.

    Think there aren’t going to be even more and bigger white elephants at the end of this particular trail?

    Nope. Sack the climatariat. Just sack ’em all.

  9. Waterl00@1755

    Judy:
    I like your “innovation over regulation” meme. What is missing in Harstad’s game theoretic approach are actual market payoffs for producing cheap, clean reliable power.
    I still remain puzzled as to why we are not using and dramatically improving the existing nuclear power technology. My son will soon be joining a nuclear powered carrier, AFAIK, these designs are incredibly safe and reliable – as indeed they should and need to be. If I had my way, I would vote to have my state adopt a nuclear only power grid – like France almost achieved before a neurosis set in.

    • When the lights go out the greenies will paddle out to a Navy nuc in their reed raft so they charge their iPhones.

    • In WW2 my father was in a task force that was hit with Long Lances. Two of the five cruisers had major sections of their bows blown completely off. A third one burned all night, but stayed afloat, and a fourth burned and sank. So I have always wondered about nuclear ships and battle damage.100s were burned, around 400 killed by concussion or drowning, a large number of the sailors in the damage control units gave their lives to asphyxiation from toxic fumes, etc. But none glowed in the dark.

      • JCH: Is that an argument against the use of nuclear instead of fossil fuels for reliable base power generation?

      • No. In war, warships can get blown up. Fossil fuel burns. A lot of the casualties and ship damage were caused by that factor. At that time they used catapult seaplanes to scout for the enemy. Commanders hated having them onboard during combat operations because the things burned like Roman candles. That night all of the catapult seaplanes were sent off to sit in lagoons on nearby islands that formed the slot – iron bottom sound. If not for that, the outcomes would have been even worse. If the warships had been nuclear powered, would the outcome have been less severe, or more severe?

      • Here’s the sad truth JCH, in times of war, wether on land or sea, people die in very grusome ways and regardless of the weapons used, great numbers of people die.

      • In The Mighty HMS Hood went down on May 24, 1941 after a brief salvo killing all but 3 of her complement of 1418. Again, I completely fail to see your point. Are you saying nuclear is not a viable sources of safe, reliable base power?

      • You missed the point. The nuclear reactors provide so much power, so reliably, from so little fuel, in such a small space, for such a long time that an aircraft carrier can stay at sea for decades without refueling. The constraints are food and supplies. The carrier is like a small, floating city with thousands of inhabitants. A friend of mine spent (9?) months at sea on a cruise on the USS Enterprise. When it was completed, they published a cruise book, like a high school yearbook, for all the sailors with photos of sports teams, clubs, musical groups, you name it. Very impressive. You can’t do that with all the solar panels in China.

        I guess you are implying that the ship can be sunk and somehow someone is going to “glow in the dark”. I would never bet that they are infallible, but I doubt it is very easy to get close to one – they have a long reach ( warplanes) and an effective escort. If the ship sinks, the reactor is in water with plenty of heat capacity and effective insulation.

      • JCH

        Less severe for USN and considerably more so for IJN.

  10. Hoesung Lee of South Korea, an expert on climate economics and sustainable development, has been named the new head of the IPCC.

    Also it seems an expert in the essential international agency skill of not appointing the best experts but in spreading the jobs around: “I believe it’s very important that for the next round of assessment, we should be able to increase the intellectual contributions from developing countries,” he said. “And also improving gender balance in our author teams is very, very important.”

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34450051

    • It’s Socialism 101

    • What about people of color? What about LGBQT? What about Repubicans?

    • So this expert on [insert familiar and mindless abstraction nouns] needs more chicks, gays, trannies and Africans for staff photo ops. And if you are a chick, gay, trannie or African you can be sure the IPCC can patronise with the best of ’em. Your presence is already double-very important to Hoesung Lee…and you haven’t done anything yet.

      Way to save the planet, warmie.

      • + many :)

      • Letter to the Oz:

        The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the main adviser to governments on climate change. As such, it surely needs to employ the best, most informed and most independent scientific advisers? Apparently not. The new head of the IPCC, South Korean Hoesung Lee, says that “I believe it’s very important that for the next round of assessment, we should be able to increase the intellectual contributions from developing countries. And also improving gender balance in our author teams is very, very important.”

        I’ve seen the figures on climate scientists. Very few are from developing countries, few are women. But, hey, it’s only the future of the world at stake! Or so we are told. Perhaps Lee knows better – the IPCC is just a big, inclusive pork barrel.

      • If you are all in one, you can demand higher compensation regardless of your actual skill set as the photo op and meeting superficial diversity requirements are of higher value to progressives than real skills.

    • I concluded a long time ago that the UN, especially the Human Rights Commission and the refugee agency UNRWA are worse than useless, they add to the problems. Personally I think the entire UN, with its idiotic biases and its preference and support of by and for despots and tyrants, should be entirely trashed.

  11. The whole UN ‘climate change’ and ‘sustainability’ thing seems to be predicated on the idea that we can somehow achieve a stable unchanging climate by altering the way mankind does things. Is this is this really a realistic expectation? The climate has never not been changing throughout geologic history, the last 4.6 billion years or so, and mankind’s entire history of existence is barely an eyeblink on that scale. It seems to me to be the height of hubris to think firstly that we could have that level of control, and secondly to believe that we understand the entirety of the geo/hydro/bio/atmosphere sufficiently to state with absolute certainty that to achieve this we must reduce CO2 output.

  12. International climate agreements like the Kyoto Protocol may discourage investment in renewable energy sources.

    How can that be a bad thing? That should be the right response for reasonable people.

  13. From the post:

    “These policies are in stark conflict with survivability issues in the developing world, where there are severe challenges to meeting basic needs and where there idea of clean green energy is something other than burning dung inside their dwelling for cooking and heating. ”

    Nothing need be added.

  14. The global technocrats, hmmph, jest bureaucrats running
    the Bureau of Entrepreneurship, ( ha ha ha ha) but not
    up ter the task, Great Leaps Forward anyone?

    The current renewables, subsidize as yer may, are not
    up ter the task. 15 year-life windmills needing back-up
    fer when the wind don’t blow or blows too much, the
    solar energy farms needing land, lots of land under
    sunny skies above, how much ter supply the U.S. with
    its current energy needs? Why yer’d need solar panels
    covering land the area of Spain. A world population of
    nine billions gonna’ need a lot of land fer food and suss-
    tainable energy production. Hey, something’s gotta’ give.

    Better let the free market work, responding to particular
    problems creatively as it does, Better clamp-down on
    top-down- U-N -E-U bureau think- tank solutions to
    problems and solutions they identify, but as Tetlock
    and the EU show, don’t work out as they so confidently
    predict.

  15. Article: Harstad points out that international trade agreements do not expire. Instead, they are subject to renegotiation by the parties. “The climate agreement negotiators can therefore learn from successful trade agreements,” says Harstad.

    Well, the last world trade agreement, the Uruguay Round, ended in 1994, with many issues, such as access for food exports from developing to developed countries, unresolved. Its successor, the Doha Round, has been bogged down for years with no resolution in prospect.

    I’d agree that such negotiations were a good model only on the basis that if it takes more than 21 years to get an agreement, the issue might have died by then.

  16. Nice editorialising in the title.

    A more accurate one would have been;

    “Global climate agreements should be longer term and more ambitious.”

  17. Judith, your “reflections” are vastly superior to the cited material, if Hoesung Lee wants more women, he would do well to start with you.

  18. “If intellectual property rights are weak” – is typical of the academic culture that failed to produce any workable windmills (or as academics call them “high tech space-age wind-turbines”).

    The key to success is not “property rights” but engineering experience – something most academics just can’t understand – but then again, why have university other than to keep academics away from the important aspects of life, like building bridges that stay up?

    • “The key to success is not “property rights” but engineering experience – something most academics just can’t understand”

      I second that.

  19. “The current renewable technologies are simply not up to the task, and funding and intellectual energy is being diverted away from true innovation.” – JC

    Ah, the real deal.

    What are these “true” innovations??

    • Here are two possibles. 1. Viable Grid scale flow batteries. 2. Gen 4 molten salt reactors running either fertile uranium or fertile thorium. Either would extend the fuel supply and reduce radwaste.

      And here are two example of innovations that are not ‘true’. 1.Tesla gigafactory and Powerwall. $1.5 billion in factory subsidies, Powerwall only viable in artificially high electricity markets like California, and then only when combined with solar subsidies. 2. CCS. Guest post Clean Coal pointed out that massively subsidized Kemper, which has effectively bankrupted the local Mississippi utility, is more expensive/MW of capacity than the two Gen 3 nucs currently under construction in Georgia (foglte 3 and 4).

      • Nuclear doesn’t much like “true innovation”.

        I guess it was just arm-waving from Judith.

      • I guess it was just arm-waving from Judith.

        No, just blindness on your part.

        I can offer several examples of what I would consider “true innovation” (see below), but the point of that term is technology that most people haven’t thought of yet, and most people (almost certainly including you, and most alarmists) just won’t see them, even when pointed out.

        •   Deep-sea pumped hydro storage.

        •   Solar power→gas/liquid fuel.

        •   Electrolytic/fuel cell hydrogen storage.

        •   Microwave transmission of power.

        •   Space solar power.

        People like you don’t want innovation, you want to use the problem as a stalking horse for your ideological/political agenda.

      • Microwave from orbiting collectors is easily doable. It’ll warm the earth, but not likely much, depending upon how much is harvested, and, uh, other factors.
        ===============================

    • AK,

      I commend you on your mind reading abilities in perceiving my true intentions.

      Though your list with thing like fuel cells, hydro storage and solar conversion don’t seem too truly innovative. Which was exactly my question with Judith’s “true innovation” . What counts? Your mind reading would now be very helpful. What does Judith think is “true innovation”??

      It does come across as one of those disingenuous either/or positions. We either have renewables or “true innovation”?

      Is there any evidence for Judith’s “funding and intellectual energy is being diverted away…” claim?

  20. If I read your intro correctly, you wanted to provide a link to an earlier version of the manuscript. The link is missing. I assume you may have meant this PDF.

  21. I can’t fathom why geoengineering research is always excluded as a sensible option? I sense an irrational fear of learning.

  22. Before starting to spin (abstract) narratives it might be useful to ponder the necessary economic preconditions of the mentioned ‘values’.

    I believe efficiency can be assumed as necessary for the realization all four values. This demands a competitively organized economy. So a somehow free society.

    Survivability implies certain lower limit of permanently available resources.

    Sustainability ultimately implies a (long term) no growth equilibrium.

    Resilience implies high efficiency, only the best resources are used.
    High EBIT-profits (low debt levels, high interest rates). You will have to actually have the required volatility to make this happen.

    Thrivability implies a surplus of resources over the considerations necessary for the first three values.

    The last one will need innovation and/or the development of ever more resources.

    Equating Resilience with no growth and a free society will be interesting.

    Another issue will be achieving corresponding goals in the social and cultural sphere.

    The only way humanity managed this in the past was via the rise and collapse of civilizations. (Very high volatility).

    I believe thinking and being clear about the necessary preconditions has been a bit neglected in the discussion.

    • We have virtually unlimited energy available on Earth (nuclear). And it can be very cheap if we unleash it and remove the ideologically driven impediments blocking progress (see my reply to Harrywr2 above). With unlimited energy we can have just about anything we want (e.g, fresh water is virtually unlimited so food is virtually unlimited).

  23. CurryJA wrote, “The current renewable technologies are simply not up to the task … ”

    How do “we” convince “them” that this is true? How do we force them to do the numbers with respect to the actual cost of implementing current renewable technologies to achieve their goals?

    • Your ever rising bills should work like a charm…… At least if you’re going to go renewable stick to a Hydro, Pumped Hydro and Tidal Base, scrap the wind turbines, use the rare earth minerals consumed in a more productive way :-)

      Solar technologies have been coming on a tad recently, there’s been some good work done with splitters recently, they seem to be getting a handle on the bleaching issues. So that maybe a very good option going forwards…. We’ll have to wait and see….

      Just stop them building wind turbines would be my only plea….

      • Blunderbunny,

        Solar, wind and most intermittent renewables are not sustainable. They are totally dependent on fossil fuels and/or nuclear power and always will be. They cannot produce sufficient energy through their lives to support modern society and reproduce themselves. This is a physical constraint, not economic. http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

      • Power density and intermittancy are intractable problems. Give it up!
        ==============

      • Hi Peter,

        Not personally banging the drum for renewables, just pointing out wind is useless, and suggesting a Hydro, Pumped Hydro and Tidal would be more useful – Plus, all compatible with base load

        Re: Solar – Traditional Solar cells not good and neither wind nor solar can provide base load, see hydro/tidal suggestions above. But solar splitters are useful, and getting more useful now that the bleaching issues may be sorted out. These use sunlight and catalyst to split water into Hydrogen and Oxygen and could form the basis of a Hydrogen Economy that could replace traditional Fossil Fuel/Petroleum variants.

        Also good recent progress re: Hydrogen storage, it’s a pesky little atom, Metal Hydrides now looking increasingly feasible as mobile storage. No-one likes driving around with a highly explosive device strapped to their backs.

        But Again, not suggesting Solar or Wind for base load – that would be mad/insane – If my post read that way, I apologise…

        Though, pumped hydro, can be a useful storage method, I’d mostly use cheap off-peak power to “charge” this up rather than any intermittent sources.

        Hope that clarifies things?

      • Blunder bunny,

        I got you arguments the first time. Recommend you read the link I gave you. I can provide more on renewables later if up want.

      • blunderbunny:

        Numbers please. Dollars, Euros, Yen whatever. It is only when realistic price tags are put on “solutions” that they can be evaluated rationally.

      • @roving broker

        Really not down to me to provide people with numbers. Splitters for instance have not really made it much out of the lab. But please feel free to Google stuff. It’s sometimes more important to expand ones scientific horizons than to assign price tags to stuff. Depends on how potentially useful it might be. As wind turbines can never qualify as useful. I’d recommend never paying for these no matter how cheap someone’s telling you they might be. Take away all subsidies end all artificial feed in tariffs and the bird shredders will disappear.

      • @Peter Lang

        Colour me confused….

        Hydro and Tidal do not Require Storage – They can feed directly into base load?? And whilst Pumped Hydro, is actually storage, I’m not and would not proposed using wind or solar for this – I’d use off peak energy to do the pumping, so that in times of peak load I can bring the pumped hydro on-line.

        I wouldn’t use wind at all (never, ever to coin a phrase) and I’d really only use Solar to split water, so that you could take the Hydrogen away and consume it somewhere else – In your motor vehicle of choice, car, bike, ?boat, lorry etc possibly backup generators… anywhere where you’d normally use petrol, diesel or gas

        If the efficiency of more traditional solar devices improves then I might alter my opinion or if infra-red cells can actually be made to work properly, then all sorts things would become possible and all sorts of waste heat could be put to useful work. Note: The usual thermo dynamic caveats apply, ideal carnot engines, entropy is still king etc etc

        Most small scale and intermittent power sources are a nightmare when you’re talking about power grids. You can set up localised micro-grids, but these have their own issues and are not really beneficial to the rest of us.

        So, I’ve read the link, but am not sure how it applies to my posts… apart from in relation to pumped hydro… my thoughts on which I’ve hopefully explained.

        Please elucidate?

      • Our governments pledge to who again? Why all the Greek gods of the past too?

        “This is a shocking lapse on two counts: first, the U.S. and the world are losing time on decarbonization; and, second, the U.S. is squandering the chance to develop its own future high-tech industries.

        Together, the Apollo Programme and the DDPP point the world’s governments toward the agreement they should reach at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this December.

        First, governments should pledge to decarbonize their economies in order to keep global warming below the extreme danger zone of 2 degrees Celsius. Second, they should promise to unveil, in the next couple of years, national “pathways” to deep decarbonization by 2050. And, third, they should join together to fund the new global moonshot for clean energy. The pooled financing should start with a minimum of $15 billion per year, and rise sharply thereafter, as key, high-return technology breakthroughs come into view.

        As JFK showed, great progress begins with a great goal, one that is bold yet feasible. The goal today, backed by the Apollo Programme, is deep decarbonization. It is time for world leaders to commit to the planet-saving clean-energy moonshot.”

        Then he was murdered by…

      • Are we clear now?

        Full Definition of PLEDGE
        1
        a : a bailment of a chattel as security for a debt or other obligation without involving transfer of title
        b : the chattel so delivered
        c : the contract incidental to such a bailment
        2
        a : the state of being held as a security or guaranty
        b : something given as security for the performance of an act…

        I am biased as you well know.

      • Arch Stanton’s quote is from Jeffrey Sachs. “The Clean Energy Moonshot”
        https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/renewable-energy-decarbonization-by-jeffrey-d-sachs-2015-10

        Saying today that we can and will Decarbonize the Earth is less like going to the moon and more like a 1948 declaration that we will invent pocketable devices that will let us talk to anyone in the world and access all the world’s history and knowledge — the transistor was invented in 1947, the first working integrated circuit in 1958, Arpanet in the 1980s and the World Wide Web in 1989. Or, less technically, like saying that nine women can get together and have a baby in one month.

      • Kim — SAIDI and ELCC.

      • blunderbunny,

        Colour me confused….

        Hydro and Tidal do not Require Storage

        Hydro and tidal are both storage. Hydro stores energy for years and decades. Tidal for 6 hours. Tidal is not economically viable and unlikely to ever be. That’s why it’s not being developed at anywhere near the rate needed to make an impact.

        Hydro resources are strictly limited. There is insufficient undeveloped hydro potential to maintain hydro’s proportion of global electricity generation, let alone increase it sufficiently to provide a large proportion of global electricity, let alone of all energy. Conversely, as explained in an earlier reply to you, nuclear energy is effectively unlimited.

        See this post and the 24 linked posts (especially the latter ones) to give you some background.

      • SAIDI and ELCC
        Sittin’ in a tree,
        e-learnin’ fact free,
        Storage just in time,
        Or so it seems to me.
        This I get free for my one thin dime.
        ================

    • Roving

      “How do “we” convince “them” that this is true? How do we force them to do the numbers with respect to the actual cost of implementing current renewable technologies to achieve their goals?”

      Vote Republican and the party will cut off the funding. Funding, funding, funding till her daddy took the money away…

  24. Dr. Curry:

    As you note in discussing Harstad’s paper:

    …the current focus on short term emissions reductions directs funding and political capital towards implementing existing renewable technologies.

    Of course, it is impossible to implement non-existing technologies so that may explain why existing renewable technologies dominate his equation.

    However, Harstad’s thesis should only apply when you are playing a zero-sum game. That is, for every dollar invested to implement existing technologies, a dollar is denied to research and innovation. And it should be clear to most observers that we are not playing a zero-sum game since both implementation capital and public/private investments in research can grow simultaneously.

    In other words, regulations can stifle innovation but they also can stimulate innovations if they are properly designed and sufficiently flexible.

    I would further consider the fact that entrepreneurs typically develop their innovations and confront incentives/disincentives at the state and national level in the US. Even in the EU individual members have significant flexibility in implementing international emissions goals. So international agreements probably have less influence on innovation than Harstad appears to be assuming.

    • David Wojick

      Regulations often stimulate innovation because people figure out how to cash in on them. Renewable portfolio standards are a classic case, with huge sums wasted if you passed a rule saying everyone had to have a mule, the mule industry would innovate like crazy.

  25. The operative word is short-term:

    This paper analyzes a framework in which countries over time pollute and invest in green technologies. Without a climate treaty, the countries pollute too much and invest too little, particularly if intellectual property rights are weak. Nevertheless, short-term agreements on emission levels then reduce every country’s payoff, since countries invest less when they anticipate future negotiations. If intellectual property rights are weak, the agreement should be tougher and more long-term. Conversely, if the climate agreement happens to be short-term or absent, intellectual
    property rights should be strengthened or technological licensing subsidized.

    http://www.sv.uio.no/econ/personer/vit/bardh/dokumenter/climate.pdf

    Just imagine if RC did this.

    • Harstad said:

      Specifically, climate agreements are likely to be harmful if intellectual property rights are weak, the commitment period is short, and the number of countries large.

      Harstad’s primary variables are property rights, length of agreements and number of countries. Harstad also discusses technological spillover, emissions goals, and future marginal costs, among other things. His approach assumes the length of any agreement influences the complicated tradeoffs but, of course, the optimal length of any agreement is influenced by the relative values of each of the other variables. For example, Harstad states:

      Negotiating intellectual property rights or trade policies is thus a strategic substitute to a tough climate treaty.

      Just imagine if someone picked only one aspect to focus on … oh, wait.

      • > Just imagine if someone picked only one aspect to focus on …

        Someone could do better than that, opluso, and focus on no aspect at all to claim for instance: I think the most impactful thing here is the title of the Science Daily article. No variable, maximum impact.

        Speaking of optimality, here’s from the conclusion:

        The optimal and equilibrium agreement is therefore tougher and
        longer-term if, for example, technologies are long-lasting and intellectual property rights
        weak.

        That provides less impact for the CAGW meme machine, however.

  26. Gee, what a bunch of “Gloomy Gus” comments here at CE today. On a positive note — video from NASA of what’s going on right now in a Parallel Universe Planet Earth:

  27. Once upon a time, we had a solution. The solution was demonstrated in 1951. The idea was killed by leftist scare-mongering.

    Wikipedia contributors. “Breeder Reactor.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, February 4, 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Breeder_reactor&oldid=645066036

    “A breeder reactor is a nuclear reactor capable of generating more fissile material than it consumes.[1] These devices are able to achieve this feat because their neutron economy is high enough to breed more fissile fuel than they use from fertile material like uranium-238 or thorium-232. Breeders were at first considered attractive because of their superior fuel economy compared to light water reactors. Interest in breeders declined after the 1960s as more uranium reserves were found,[2] and new methods of uranium enrichment reduced fuel costs.”

    Wikipedia contributors. “Experimental Breeder Reactor I.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, July 17, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Experimental_Breeder_Reactor_I&oldid=616575888

    Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is a decommissioned research reactor and U.S. National Historic Landmark located in the desert about 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Arco, Idaho. At 1:50 pm on December 20, 1951, it became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plant when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs.[3][4] It subsequently generated sufficient electricity to power its building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964.”

  28. Speaking of paradigm shifts (twitter super computer link above), e.g…

    By using power more efficiently, a hybrid exascale supercomputer could extend the dynamic range of climate models to below the kilometre scale, allowing deep convective clouds to be well resolved. This would enable more reliable probabilistic predictions of Earth’s future climate.

    … isn’t what’s being talked about here — to put it simply — the replacing of the definitive nature of mathematics and the chaos of probability with the certainty of digitized psychic revelation?

    • Some exascale. The difference between the finest resolution CMIP5 (110km at equator) and what UK Met currently uses for convection and precipitation forecasts out a couple of days (UKV at 1.5 km) is 7 orders of magnitude. UCAR rule of thumb os doubling resolution (halving grid size) requires 10x the computational capacity. The average CMIP5 model is 250km cells, and UCAR says the average time for a single run out to 2100 is 50 days.
      Whoever tweeted that is a twit.

      • Curious George

        The finest grid cell is 110 km at equator. That models still use a latitude-longitude grid shows that CMIP5 modelers are not gifted – mathematically at least.

  29. Evidence of Increasing atmospheric BS levels over the last 60 years: Communism –> Environmentalism –> Climatism –> Conservationism –> Progressivism –> Thrivability-ism …?

  30. “The basis for the U.N.’s climate negotiations is that the world requires more energy but at the same time fewer emissions”

    Hmmm. And developing countries can afford these new energy technologies? I don’t think so. That is why we have this coal problem; i.e., that certain people/governments in position to make things happen have decided that coal is a problem, and, like a cancer, they prefer to cut it out; otherwise, it will spread (metastasize) to the healthy tissues (economies). This reminds me that surgeons view problems in terms of the scalpel.

    It seems the UN addresses their lack of affordable energy solutions for the developed world by advocating developed nations providing reparations. Robin Hood economics; steal from the rich and give to the poor. Ahhh The Prince, the Pauper and that naughty Sheriff of Nottingham.

    The other day I read something about a toxic spill or a poisoning of children as the EPA had abandoned various functions they performed in the past that helped keep the infrastructure that contained, manufactured or transported toxic materials regularly inspected, assessed and publicized. My query to myself wasn’t what were all the functions dropped by EPA, but rather why. I assume the issue was money. I suspect the EPA administrators, in consultation with the Executive Branch of US Government, maybe even the White House itself, changed priorities from infrastructure assessment and moved money into the Kill the Coal campaign that it is currently running. I doubt that these moves were announced in a transparent fashion as the Big Coal lobby and Big Coal State lawmakers would have objected. So the administrative way of taking the same money in their budget, and, not asking for new money for a particularly contentious project, is to first nibble away at vulnerable program budgets until the program ceases to exist.

    I wonder if the drinking water lead poisoning of Flint Michigan residents wasn’t a result of changes in EPA’s priorities, relying instead upon the health care system; in this case, relying upon a doctor who identified the problem and brought it to public attention to catch lapses in infrastructure assessments and testing?

    I guess I am asking for the same behavior of global governments: re-allocating resources (money, minds, and materials) away from the CO2 story to new and cheaper than coal energy to be useful for world populations.

    I wonder what I would do with 1 or 2 trillion dollars? Hmm, let me think.

  31. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #201 | Watts Up With That?

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