Climate

Hansen et al: We must phase-out coal emissions by 2030 and stabilize at or below 350 ppm

In a few days, James Hansen and several other leading climate scientists will release a major new study, “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” in the Open Atmospheric Sciences Journal. You can read a first draft of the study and my commentary on it here: Hansen (et al) must read: Get back to 350 ppm or risk an ice-free planet. Hansen has just put online a draft press release and FAQ (reprinted below).

First, though, Hansen responds to those of us who were critical of his earlier statement that “neither presidential candidate ‘gets it’, based on their enthusiasm for ‘clean coal’ and ‘carbon cap and trade.’ No Naderite he, says, the NASA scientist: “The vice presidential choices should jolt even the most jaded and somnolent into getting their fannies to the polls, if they retain any concern about life and the planet left for our children.”

Back to the draft press release, which warns:

Humanity must find a path to reduced atmospheric carbon dioxide, to less than the amount in the air today, if climate disasters are to be averted, according to a study to be published in Open Atmospheric Science Journal by a group of ten scientists from the United States, the United Kingdom and France. They argue that such a path is feasible, but requires a prompt moratorium on new coal use that does not capture CO2 and phase-out of existing coal emissions by 2030….

… if coal emissions were thus phased out between 2010 and 2030, and if emissions from unconventional fossil fuels such as tar shale were minimized, atmospheric CO2 would peak at 400-425 ppm and then slowly decline.

The authors conclude that “humanity today, collectively, must face the uncomfortable fact that industrial civilization itself has become the principal driver of global climate…. [T]he most difficult task, phase-out over the next 20-25 years of coal use that does not capture CO2, is Herculean, yet feasible when compared with the efforts that went into World War II. The stakes, for all life on the planet, surpass those of any previous crisis. The greatest danger is continued ignorance and denial, which could make tragic consequences unavoidable.”

I reiterate that if you agree with Hansen’s analysis of climate science and its implications for concentrations and emissions, then a CO2 price — whether imposed by a tax as Hansen recommends or achieved through a cap-and-trade — is simply beside the point.

It is politically implausible that the nation and the world could adopt a high enough carbon price that gets us off of coal fast enough: Hansen says the rich countries need to be coal-emission-free by 2020 (!), which is long before coal with carbon capture and storage (aka clean coal) will be practical and scalable (see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?” That means shutting down every coal plant in the industrialized world in a decade. It must simply be labeled “impossible” that even a politically implausible price for carbon would get you the carbon-free electricity and grid infrastructure needed to replace all those coal plants in a decade.

In short, if you believe Hansen is right, then don’t waste time with a carbon price. We need to go straight to the government-led WWII-style effort for the whole planet that is sustained for decades, as I discuss in the Conclusion to my book (online here, reg. req’d). This is obviously no more politically plausible today than a price for carbon of several hundred dollars. But unlike the carbon price approach, at least the WWII-style approach would work.

Here are more excerpts from the draft PR:

“There is a bright side to this conclusion” according to James Hansen, the lead author on the study, “by following a path that leads to a lower CO2 amount we can alleviate a number of problems that had begun to seem inevitable, such as increased storm intensities, expanded desertification, loss of coral reefs, and loss of mountain glaciers that supply fresh water to hundreds of millions of people.”

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is already 385 parts per million (ppm) and it is increasing by about 2 ppm each year as a result of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), with a smaller contribution from burning of forests. The authors use evidence of how the Earth responded to past changes of CO2 and on-going climate changes to show that atmospheric CO2 has already entered the dangerous zone.

The authors suggest that global policies should have an initial target for atmospheric CO2 of 350 ppm. They note that the optimum CO2 level for maintaining a planet similar to that on which civilization developed is likely to be less than 350 ppm, but a 350 ppm target already reveals that dramatic policy changes are needed urgently. By the time such fundamental changes are achieved, knowledge will exist to help fine-tune the target CO2….

The authors discredit the notion of ‘geo-engineering’ solutions, noting that with present cost estimates the price of artificially removing 50 ppm of CO2 from the air would be about $20 trillion. They suggest instead that “improved agricultural and forestry practices offer a more natural way to draw down CO2.” They suggest that reforestation of degraded land and improved agricultural practices that retain soil carbon could draw down atmospheric CO2 by as much as 50 ppm. Additional significant CO2 reduction could be achieved by using carbon-negative biofuels to replace liquid fossil fuels and phasing out emissions from natural gas-fired power plants, according to the authors. They find that a combination of these approaches could bring CO2 back to 350 ppm well before the end of the century.

The conclusion that humanity must aim for a CO2 amount less than the current amount is a dramatic change from most previous studies, which suggested that the dangerous level of CO2 was likely to be 450 ppm or higher. The change is caused by realization that ‘slow’ feedback processes, such as ice melt and release of greenhouse gases by the soil and ocean in a warming climate, can occur on the time scale of decades and centuries. This realization stems from both improving data on the Earth’s climate history and ongoing observations of change, especially in the polar regions.

Strong stuff. I will post a link to the study and the PR when they are final.

I would also recommend reading the draft FAQ, which covers topics such as:

  • Less than 350 ppm
  • China and India
  • Coal and R&D program for nuclear power
  • Greenwash
  • Inter-generational inequity and injustice
  • Protests against government inactions
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33 Responses to Hansen et al: We must phase-out coal emissions by 2030 and stabilize at or below 350 ppm

  1. Jared says:

    Joe:

    I’d love to see some information from you on a couple of things Hansen raises.
    First, what would it take to actually implement the ag and forestry practices that could lower atmospheric Co2 by 50PPM?
    Second, when Hansen talks about geo-engineering that would cost 20 trillion to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, are these proven technologies? Do these technologies demand us sequestering CO2 through pumping it into the ground in some way? Does his 20T figure include cost savings that would develop as we got better at doing whatever these technologies are?

    Twenty Trillion doesn’t sound insane or insurmountable to me. Consider that the US should be on the hook for about 25% of that figure, that’s 5 Trillion. That’s maybe only twice the cost of the war in Iraq, and at least we’d have something to show for it.

    Thanks

  2. MikeB says:

    Honestly, I think you (Joe) and Hansen are both right. We desperately need to get to 350ppm, but we really don’t have the political will to do so. It seems to be a fundamental component of human nature that we ignore a pending problem at a time when the solution is cheap, and instead wait until it’s become a disaster with enormous costs.

    I’m working hard to reduce my personal carbon footprint, to show others what I’m doing, and to elect a government that will take appropriate action. But in the end, it seems inevitable that our efforts will not be enough, and deliberate geo-engineering will be required. Fortunately, I think our current slow pace of action may give us enough time to plan out our deliberate geo-engineering future in order to reverse the effect of our accidental geo-engineering past.

  3. Dill Weed says:

    Sheesh

    I can’t see any of the things Hansen has suggested as happening. They just ain’t gonna happen. The more strident he becomes the more readily he will be ignored. The louder he becomes and the more ‘demands’ he makes (rightly so or not) the more he will be marginalized and ignored.

    This could end up being the world’s biggest “I told ya so.”

    Word.

    Dill Weed

  4. Jim Bullis says:

    I would agree with the intent of the Hansen goal, but would it not be just as good if we reduced CO2 by using a lot less energy. To propose mandating a solution without much thought about the technical possibilities is not a good way to look out for the future generations.

    For example, if we cut the energy needed for personal transportation by 80% to 90% and produced three times as much electricity per btu of heat from fuel, wouldn’t we get just as good a result?

    These solutions also require public adjustments, but they could come at a low, if not negative, net cost to the public. The Hansen et al. approach would have a price tag in the trillions. Boone Pickens would like to pick up some of the change in this deal! And yes, his credibility as a spreader of truth is highly suspect.

    I submit that it would be easier to get the public to pay for the efficiency based solution.

  5. Jim Bullis says:

    MikeB,

    High efficiency cars and cogeneration of electricity can get the job done without the need for speculating on a geo-engineering future.

    When simple and real solutions are at hand, why chase a science fiction solution?

  6. hapa says:

    the FAQ says one and only one reader thought the “gets it” was a declaration of equivalence. was that you, joe? or is there actually another person out there who can’t see that obama’s got some scary political commitments on energy.

  7. If anyone wants to help spread the word, please come help us at 350.org. I’m not arguing it’s going to be any easier than Joe implies, but at the very least the world deserves to know exactly what the red lines are. We’ve got paid and volunteer organizers on the ground in 6 continents, and will be fighting hard in the run-up to Copenhagen to get the word out that the steps our leaders are currently contemplating are akin to assembling a chair-rearranging subcommittee in the cocktail lounge of the Titanic. What we lack is political will, and political will comes from movements. Please join in.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Jared — One choice is to put biochar into the ground. If used as a soil conditioner, about half of the carbon re-enters the active carbon cycle within a few decades; the remainder seems to persist for centuries to millennia.

    However, deep burial produces an artifical coal seam. As such it should persist for tens of millions of years; effectively ‘forever’.

    I’ve costed out the latter assuming the biomass is free. One has to cut and collect it for pyrolysis. The resulting biochar (charcoal if wood is used) has to be transported to the burial site and then buried. If done in developed countries, all this runs about $140 per tonne of carbon.

    Now 50 ppm requires burial of 250 GtC. Assuming my costing is correct, that requires $35 trillion.

    Another choice is removing CO2 via mineralization of olivene. While the initial costs might be equally high, the price could well drop to half that figure.

    Neither technique invovles any changes to agriculture or forestry practices except that invovled in growing enough biomass to make biochar. The advantage of biochar as a soil amendment is that farmers are likely to want to take up this practice for the advantages it brings. Nobody yet knows, but it probably would help forests as well. For both, it should not be necessary to pay the farmers and foresters to add biochar to topsoil; they’ll do it out of economic gain. But since about half escapes, twice as much would be required for the 50 ppm desired.

  9. Replace all coal by 2030?

    Eminently doable with thorium and liquid-fluoride reactor technology.

  10. alex says:

    Hansen is right, even if his solution is politically implausible. I prefer that to pretending we can solve the problem by switching to EVs and so on.

    Joe – you should add “climate bluffer” to your list (denier, delayer, inactivist). A “bluffer” is one who offers solutions which aren’t really solutions but makes everyone feel secure in the knowledge that climate change is being “tackled” and that they are “doing their bit for the planet”.

  11. David B. Benson says:

    Kirk Sorensen — Go for it!

  12. Peter Wood says:

    Joe,

    I find it difficult to understand why you describe carbon pricing and a WW2 style effort as alternative policies. A combination of both is much more likely to be effective at reducing emissions than one of them alone would be. They are not mutually exclusive.

    One reason that carbon pricing is necessary is that it facilitates decision making. Why would I invest in technology R&D, explore for geothermal energy resources, or invest in a company trying to do these things if there is no price incentive to do so? It will be very difficult for firms to raise the capital required to reduce our emissions without the certainty that is provided by a carbon price.

    Both approaches will require strong reporting and verification requirements for greenhouse gas emissions. This should be one of the first tasks of the next US government. Once reporting and verification of emissions has been introduced, it will be relatively simple to introduce carbon pricing. Carbon pricing would make a WW2 style effort much more efficient, and a WW2 style effort could address market failures and make carbon pricing more efficient at reducing emissions.

    Some proponents of carbon pricing state that it will make other climate change mitigation policies redundant because carbon pricing will minimize the cost of reducing emissions. I don’t buy into these arguments — these arguments are based on a lack of understanding about the scale of the market failures involved. When it comes to climate change mitigation, market failures are not the exception, they are the norm.

    On a slightly different matter, Hansen’s comments on Australia are very interesting. It will be interesting to see what sort of reaction there will be.

  13. Ronald says:

    It does make it easier on the mind to just say get rid of coal.

    I do think that it’s easy to make that recommendation in his paper because that’s the only option he shows in his graph. Add into the graph the costs of the coal mitigation and compare that to the costs of making the energy/carbon/money savings with oil and natural gas.

    Isn’t the middle or the last million tons of coal that isn’t going to be burned for energy going to cost a lot more to find energy substitutes for than the substitutes for the first million tons of oil and natural gas? You’re leaving alot of cost savings and energy efficiency savings on the table if you only go after coal.

    Geo-engineering.
    The United States GDP is about 14 trillion and the world GDP is about 60 trillion. If we assumed we didn’t have any economic growth (hey, might happen the way things are going,) 20 years by 60 trillion is 1200 trillion dollars GDP over the next 20 years. 20 trillion for geo-engineering of 1200 trillion is about 1.6 percent of world GDP. That’s about the same as some estimates of carbon mitigation anyway. Half carbon mitigation and half geo-engineering?

  14. paulm says:

    Things are looking bleak! 2008 is the tipping year! When will the panic start?

  15. alex says:

    You don’t cure a heroin addict by adding 5% tax to his fix. Coal burning will only stop as a result of some really drastic action i.e. banning coal.

    The problem with just tilting the playing field slightly towards renewables is that it won’t reduce fossil fuel consumption – it will just increase renewables! If the world still ends up working through the entire global reserve of coal, oil and gas anyway then we have achieved nothing (at least from a climate change perspective).

    Ronald – I only half believe GDP-based arguments. Absent fossil fuels I am not sure whether there would be a GDP at all. Money seems to be a financial incarnation of energy.

  16. TomG says:

    To me, the tipping point was when the methane release began in Siberia.
    When will the panic start?
    I don’t think there will be a panic in the historical sense of the word.
    This is not a barbarians at the gate sort of thing.
    This is a slow disaster.
    Slow, but relentless.
    I suppose a collapse of the Ross Ice Shelf will cause a panic but it won’t be in the general public.

  17. David B. Benson says:

    While I would rather not burn coal at all (dirty stuff), still we might choose to do so, but remove (permanently) the fossil carbon burned.

    Assume that mineralization of carbon dioxide via olivine can be done for $70 per tonne of carbon on New Calidonia or India or Brazil. Bituminous coal from Central Appalachia is about 60% carbon and currently costs $130–140 per short ton at the ‘minehead’; I’ll assume that transportation is free. :-)

    So that is 1.1×140/.6 = $257 per tonne of fossil carbon burned. Taxing an additional $70 per tonne brings the price to $277 per tonne of carbon, a 7.8% increase in the minehead cost.

  18. john says:

    Couple of points:

    1) Even if geo-engineering were cheap, it would still be stupid. For any of the ideas involving “shades or screens” to lower solar incidence, you still get a grossly acidified ocean, which would end life as we know it. For other techniques — such as bioabsorption on a planetary scale, we will have to dea with the law of unintended consequences — We simply don’t know what will happen or how bad it would be.

    2) We need to impose limits, not prices. There isn’t a politician alive who would vote for a carbon price steep enough to make a difference, and even then, some idiots would still burn coal if they were allowed to. It must be banned, with a schedule to get it out of the market by 2025. Period.

    3) We’re toast. None of this will happen.

  19. Ronald says:

    The politics gets so much easier if we just go after reducing the burning of coal. If we want to reduce the use of natural gas, oil and coal we would have the entire fossil fuel industry trying to stop any efforts at stopping greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

    If we only go after stopping coal energy, we can tell those in the natural gas and oil industries, here’s the deal, help us or don’t stop us from stopping the burning of coal and natural gas and oil will get a pass. Otherwise, whatever political power there is to reduce greenhouse gase will have to continue to go after reducing all fossil fuel use, whatever it is.

    Sometimes we just have to compromise.

    An example was the compromises made in 1988 and 1990 concerning wood stoves. Some people wanted very high (and thus very low particle emissions) from woodstoves, but it would have taken a long time to get it implemented. Others suggested that we could put into higher allowable emissions, but if we passed the laws right away it would stop the very worse of the woodstoves.

    Eventually woodstoves got better, some much better that the minimum requirements. But it was getting rid of the worst polluting wood stoves that cleaned up the most.

    Maybe we can’t get rid of natural gas, oil and coal because there is to much political power in all three. But if we concentrate on the worst of them, it might just have a chance of working.

  20. David B. Benson says:

    john & Ronald — Ok, put a 30% fossil carbon tax on coal, ’cause it is so very dirty. Put smaller amounts on fossil oil and natural gas. Anyway, put enough so that about $70–140 is collected per tonne of fossil carbon. Somewhere around that figure is enough for the completely safe removel of carbon dioxide via olivine mineralization.

  21. Peter Wood says:

    When there is no carbon price, emissions-intensive industries essentially receive a huge subsidy because they do not have to pay for the damage that they are doing to the environment and to future generations. They essentially get free garbage disposal. If you were to undertake a WW2-style effort to reduce greenhouse emissions, it would be insane to continue to subsidize emissions-intensive industries at the same time. A CO2 price is not beside the point at all. Emissions pricing may not be a panacea, but it should be a no-brainer.

    High emissions prices (e.g. over $100/t) may be politically difficult now (as is a WW2-style effort), but would not be so difficult over the medium term, if a significant portion is returned to households.

  22. Ronald says:

    This is all about the politics.

    It’s not about what makes the most sense.
    It’s not about what makes the most economic sense.
    It’s not about what makes the most engineering sense.
    It’s not about what makes the most greenhouse gas and global warming sense.

    It’s about what can be done. Politics is the art of the possible.

    People have made great compromises before. An example is the start of the United States. We had people arguing for freedom from England at the same time they owned slaves. We had arguments for the right to vote at the same time women didn’t have that right. The Electoral College is a compromise of those who wanted the popular vote to elect a President and the states to elect a President. None of those compromises were what we would call good, but they had to move on and do what they could. We also have to do what we can.

    I am all for a Cap and Tax trade. I think we could elimimate Property taxes (2.6 percent of GNP) and Sales taxes (3.2 percent of GNP) and have a carbon tax from that (2.6 and 3.2 for a 5.8 total) I think there should be an agreement around the world of all governments that if a country has taxes at all, the first taxes are not property or sales taxes, but consumption greenhouse gas taxes and that those taxes are substitute for other consumption taxes. But is that going to happen.

    This website has argued that you would need a very high dollars/ ton of carbon to put on a 2.50 dollar tax on a gallon of gasoline. But if we had a 2.50 tax on gasoline, that would bring in as much money as all property taxes does now in the United States. (14 trillion dollar economy, 142 billion gallons of gasoling sold a year, Property taxes 2.6 percent of GNP) We pay 2.00 for gasoline now in this state for gasoline. Ask people if they would be willing to pay 4.50 a gallon for gasoline intrade for evergybodies; theirs, their neighbors, their employer and for every store and restaurant they buy stuff from would pay no property taxes at all. At least one would have to hesitate and think about it.

    Carbon taxes may make sense. But we need political compromise.

  23. john says:

    David:

    I’m a geologist by training — although it’s been many decades since I actually practiced in geology. So help me understand — what exactly is olivine mineralization and how could it be practiced on a scale capable of handling a by-product (presumably olivine) of hundreds of giga-tons per year, and are there any ecological consequences?

    Peter:

    You’re right — externalities should be priced. Having said that, it’s a slow process and the market has to learn — or internalize — the new signals before it translates to action. So you have the political battle to price carbon at an appropriate level to stimulate that learning, then you have the time it takes for the market to internalize the signal — I would wager that’s at least several decades. There is this false presumption that price signals operate like an on-off switch. They don’t.

    A ban, on the other hand, is a ban. It starts when it starts.

    You’re arguing “oughts” and “shoulds” — here’s the deal — once you have a ban, you don’t need the price signals. They become redundant. If you want to charge them anyway, go ahead. But by themselves, they won’t get the job done.

    If you are enamored with free-market solutions, pricing carbon — either through a cap and trade or a tax — is an elegant solution. But not a fast one, nor an ironclad one. Some people and corporations will be idiots (Hummers are still selling, after all) and some people will figure out how to game the system (see offsets, for example).

    Besides, we foreclosed on the free-market option by delaying action. Remember, market solutions are a means to and end, not an end. They are designed to get us to tenable carbon emissions in time to avoid catastrophic warming. But they cannot achieve that end any more. it’s too late.

    the more we delay, the more draconian any action — or any consequence of inaction — will be.

  24. I basically agree with you that a cap and trade system for the US does not make much sense at this point as we are in 2008 and the earliest start would be in 2010. A rocket starting cap and trade system is likely to find little acceptability and be to weak to lobbying efforts from emitters.

    A carbon price over $70 does not make a lot of sense for the power sector as it removes the economic viability of coal power plants and should effectively phase them out and have them replaced by other technologies. However, there would still be companies trying to plan new coal power plants under the assumption that they will be able to stop cap and trade efforts through lobbying. I have observed this in Germany where companies assume no or little climate regime past 2020 for their planning !!!

    I truly think here that we have to proceed like Joe said with a strong regulatory approach. I propose therefore:

    – to ban the construction of new coal power plants.
    – to cap the quantity of coal, coke and petcoke produced and imported in developed countries. Ultimately, this cap should fall to 10% the present value by 2020 (2030 for developing countries)
    – to impose a similar cap to fossil fuel oil with 5% the present amount by 2025 (2035 for developing countries).

    Basically a shortage in the supply should have the same effect with the exception that it is easier to monitor and verify.

    What is extremely important is to show to the business world what the path is going to be and be strong enough to make them understand that resisting is useless.

    Perhaps resisting climate efforts should be highly penalized (criminalized?) for large companies and groups of interest, just like plots of assassinations. Otherwise, you will never get rid of this morbid planning.

    Off course I understand the economic implications such a course of actions would have. In turn, it could only be implemented under specific curcumstances which fall under the case of an “extreme hardship” under the WTO rules.

    I would by the way really like to read about the conclusion for China and India as I am very interested about what will happen with the massive build up in their heavy industry production capacity (steel, cement, glass, etc.).
    I want btw to mention that we do not have yet any magic solution to produce low CO2 primary steel or cement. We need therefore some CCS for these industries, otherwise we might find little public acceptance as infrastructures made from these materials basically fuel the economic growth of most developing countries.

    I also firmly believe in very strong energy efficiency standards which will be very cost effective under a strong carbon constraint.

    I basically also agree about your visions about the NACR (Net Atmospheric Carbon Removal). Forestry is a great way, however there CCS+biomass can also be used as a sub-optimal solution for the transition.

  25. Jim Bullis says:

    Perhaps as John above said, “(3) we’re toast.”

    When the cost of banning coal world wide sinks in, public patience will end. The search for solutions needs to recognize that as reality.

    I tend to think that people talking about geo-engineering also do not have an intuitive sense of how big the world is.

    Imagine also the public disillusionment when the truth about electric cars becomes apparent, especially those who spent a lot of money thinking they were making a big impact. I am referring to the fact that making a car “electric” or “plug-in” while failing to seriously reduce the energy demand of that car, will not do much for global warming. It will help to reduce use of oil, and that gain will be wildly cheered, with many people thinking it also means reduction of CO2.

    Joe’s emphasis on energy efficiency should be pressed hard. He also is enthusiastic about cogeneration of electricity. These measures seem more palatable to the general public since there are ways to do such things without significant impact on people’s life style. We do not need to chase science fiction solutions. There is plenty of room for creativity in more mundane kinds of engineering.

  26. I wouldn’t pick 350 ppm [CO2] because we had an abrupt climate change back when it was 342 ppm in 1983. Global drought land percent went from the 1950-1982 baseline of 14% up to fluctuating around 24%. This was likely triggered by the big 1982 El Nino. After the 1997-8 big El Nino, the drought percent popped up to about 34% before coming back down into the high 20s in 2005. [See Das, Trenberth et al update in 2006 NCAR report.]

    I think our goal has to be 280 ppm, that anything over that is excess CO2 to be removed by new carbon sinks.

  27. David B. Benson says:

    john — Olivine weathers by encorporating carbon dioxide:

    ftp://ftp.geog.uu.nl/pub/posters/2008/Let_the_earth_help_us_to_save_the_earth-Schuiling_June2008.pdf
    http://www.ecn.nl/docs/library/report/2003/c03016.pdf

    I don’t see any adverse effects (other than mining gigatonnes of olivine). The goal is to speed up a natural process.

  28. vakibs says:

    Joe

    There is a mighty difference between the carbon trading approach that you favor, and the coal moratorium + carbon tax approach that Dr Hansen favors. The latter works, and the former is a joke.

    [JR: You don’t actually read this blog, do you? I don’t “favor” a carbon trading approach.]

    What we need is spirited investment in energy technologies that are completely devoid of fossil fuel emissions. (not technologies that “reduce” them per se). We should lay the framework for a global conversion to these new energy technologies.

    The approach of Dr Hansen precipitates in such a revolution. Your ideas will not.

    These new energy technologies will definitely have to include 4th generation nuclear power – a highly advanced technology that results in reactors with simplified designs and passive safety features, which are 100 times more fuel efficient than the current ones. We can provide reliable energy to all the planet for several hundred years without having to do any further Uranium mining, or without having to worry about nuclear waste (the new reactors will produce no long-term waste).

    4th generation nuclear power also happens to be the cheapest, with the best hopes of replacing coal plants. It is by far the power choice with the least environmental impact – due to its minimal land, water and mineral use.

    It is no wonder that Dr Hansen considers 4th generation nuclear power in exceedingly good terms, along with solar, wind technologies and energy efficiency measures.

    If you get to be the part of DOE in a future Obama administration, please speak for the sake of sanity, and please listen to the voice of scientists – either in nuclear power or in climate change. The book of Tom Blees will make a very good recommendation, please read it.

  29. vakibs says:

    I have seen you several times speaking for Cap & Trade, which in my opinion, is the same as carbon-trading.

    No developing country will impose a voluntary cap. Neither would the oil-rich middle-east, Russia or Venezuela agree to a voluntary moratorium on the use of their oil & gas reserves. Cap & Trade, in the words of Dr. Hansen, is a “a very costly delusion”.

    If you agree with him, please take Mr. Obama to task for not looking beyond Cap & Trade as the answer to global warming woes. The word I would like to hear is “moratorium on coal”.

  30. Vakibs:

    Now you start mentioning an alternative power plant technology we can finally make the discussion complete.

    We don’t need nuclear power.
    We need to apply fusion energy, from the fusion reactor 8 light minutes away.
    Solar power, especially Concentrating Solar Power (CSP), is already mature.
    420 MW of CSP plants are already producing electricity in the USA.
    Many gigawatts of CSP plants are under construction or in the planning in the USA, Spain, and a few other countries.
    Investment costs, now still at the 3-4 $/W level, will reduce fast according to the learning curve effect, as happened with wind energy, see: Report to Congress on Assessment of Potential Impact of Concentrating Solar Power for Electricity
    Generation, 2007, see: http://www.nrel.gov/csp/troughnet/pdfs/41233.pdf

    We need a WW2 approach: car factories, plane factories, ship yards, etc. should be forced by law to produce solar mirrors, support structures, tanks for thermal energy storage using liquid K/NaNO3, steam turbines, electric generators, High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transforming stations, HVDC cables and lines, and of course also: wind turbines, PV solar panels, Solar boilers, etc.
    Such production should be ordered by the government, as weapons in the war against climate change. This would boost the declining economy, it is the New Green Deal.

    If the USA starts doing this, Europe will follow soon (with most investments in North Africa as Europe has not sufficient space on its own deserts, and finally also China, India, Brazil.

    Al Gore made a call for massive CSP investments in the USA. He also made a call for massive CSP investments in North Africa to supply Europe.

  31. Schuiling, Olaf says:

    Well, I am pleased that olivine mining, milling and spreading starts to get attention, less than two years after I first published it. It is the natural way in which nature has always balanced input and output of CO2. Now we are putting it to a severe test, by blowing ten times more CO2 in the air than nature does, so we must create more favorable conditions for olivine weathering to reach a new balance. This can be done by mining large volumes of olivine (which is available in huge amounts, as it is the most abundant silicate), grinding the stuff to 100 micron, and spread the powder in a thin layer over large areas in tro;ical countries, where weathering is fastest. These areas can continue to fulfill their natural purposes, maybe even slightly better. My estimeated costs for compensating the anthropogenic input of CO2 is around 200 billion US$ annually, far less than Hansen’s estimate. We don’t need expensive and energy intensive new technologies, we must just help nature a bit to help us.

  32. For the olivine: The interesting thing about grinding is that it can be achieved directly by a grinder using a fluctuating energy source just as wind… without any grid or expensive electronic for the synchronization to the grid.
    The result is a fluctuating buffer of the ground olivine through the year (which does not hurt at all).

    Now regarding investing now in nuclear, I demand a new thread !!!

    Especially a differenciation between countries with respect to the available potential for low CO2 energy other than nuclear is necessary. But basically, if we talk about nuclear now and look at the learning curve of CSP and PV the conclusion is pretty clear.

  33. David B. Benson says:

    Schuiling, Olaf — Thank you for your comment. I am rather puzzeled regarding what is being accomplished for $200 billion per year; removing all the CO2 added to the atmosphere yearly? If so, that is only $20 per tonne of carbon removed, which seems much too little to me.