Climatologist Myles Allen Says We’re ‘Doomed’ If We Keep Burning Carbon, Then Embraces Dubious Silver Bullet

Why carbon capture and storage isn’t “the solution” to our climate problems

If you want to learn about climate science, look to climate scientists, I always say. But if you want to learn about climate policy and energy technology, well, you might try looking elsewhere.

A case in point is British climate scientist, Myles Allen. He noted in the Daily Mail On Sunday (MoS) that “we’re doomed to disastrous warming” if we keep burning carbon — even if a recent paper he coauthored about a low climate sensitivity turns out to be true. But then he went on to argue that the only solution — and he does mean only solution — is to mandate that companies capture and store the carbon they release.

Actual caption in MoS: “Futile: Subsidising windfarms, like Whitelee on the outskirts of Glasgow, is a pointless policy, argues Professor Allen.”

Allen’s policy discussion is precisely the kind of nonsense you’d expect in the Mail, whose climate coverage is so atavastic, it makes the Wall Street Journal editorial page look like Climate Central. It is simply head-exploding that any serious climate scientist would publish a piece in publication discredited by so many climate scientists.

Back in 2010, two top climate scientists and the National Snow and Ice Data Center accused the Daily Mail of misquoting and misrepresenting them or their work. Last year, the UK’s Met Office, part of its Defence Ministry, took the unusual step of releasing a statement utterly debunking David Rose’s assertions in the paper as “entirely misleading” — and pointing out that they spoke to Rose before the piece came out but he chose to ignore what they had to say.

And so we’re subjected to this cranium-destroying headline and sub-head:

Why I think we’re wasting billions on global warming, by top British climate scientist

The MoS has campaigned tirelessly against the folly of Britain’s eco-obsessed energy policy. Now comes a game-changing intervention…. from an expert respected by the green fanatics themselves

Ahh, those green fanatics. How much wiser our climate policy would be if not for their obsession with clean energy policy!! Seriously.

Unsurprisingly Allen gets the science right:

Do I think we’re doomed to disastrous warming? Absolutely not. But do I think we are doomed if we persist in our current approach to climate policy?

I’m afraid the answer is yes. Subsidising wind turbines and cutting down on your own carbon footprint might mean we burn through the vast quantity of carbon contained in the planet’s fossil fuels a little slower. But it won’t make any difference if we burn it in the end.

Inarguably, if we burn the carbon, we are doomed. [Yes, it’s kind of surprising the Mail would concede that point, but they are so desperate to bash greens, they seem to have bought into the notion that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.]

But how does that scientific conclusion translate into negating the need for bringing wind power down the learning curve as rapidly as possible or the need for most individuals to —  ultimately — reduce their own carbon footprint? It doesn’t.

Allen is just dead wrong. Many of his statements are the exact reverse of the truth.

He has fallen victim to the silver bullet fallacy — the notion that his technology solution and his alone is the only thing that can save us and others are therefore “pointless.” Worse than that, he has fallen victim to the fallacy that his as-yet uncommercial solution — large-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) — will somehow manifest several major advances in cost, safety, and viability while other low-carbon technologies won’t, even those already in the marketplace!

The fact is that CCS remains stuck in the pre-demonstration phase, after most of the world’s large-scale demonstration projects died or were killed in the last few years, while the “futile” and “pointless” investments in wind power have already succeeded in bringing down the cost of that commercial technology steadily:

Allen utterly dismisses all other solutions out of hand:

And to those on the other side who think that solar and nuclear will someday become so cheap we will choose to leave that coal alone, I’m afraid you have some basic physics working against you…

The only thing that actually matters for climate policy is whether, before we release too much, we get to the point of burying carbon at the same rate that we dig it up.

Nothing else matters – not for climate, anyway. Not efficiency targets, nor even population growth, provided we meet this goal. Unfortunately, turbines, fancy taxes and carbon trading schemes aren’t going to help us do so….

Fortunately, there is a solution. It is perfectly possible to burn fossil carbon and not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: you have to filter it out of the flue gases, pressurise it, and re-inject, or ‘sequester’, it back underground.

Memo to Allen: No one on the “other side” (whatever that is) thinks nuclear is going to be supercheap — since its cost has been headed in the wrong direction for decades (see “Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve?“).

Allen never actually discusses any of the physics that says solar power won’t be cheaper than coal with CCS or capturing CO2 from the air. But then Allen doesn’t seem to realize that:

  1. Carbon capture can’t possibly be the primary (let alone exclusive) strategy in the next two decades, if ever
  2. The issue isn’t whether, say, solar is going to be cheaper than existing coal plants, the issue is what is the cheapest way to deal with carbon — capture it after the fact or don’t emit it in the first place?

I have written at length for The Economist in an online debate on point #1 — why CCS can’t possibly be a stand-alone solution:

Let’s start with “the daunting scale of the challenge,” as Vaclav Smil — who is not exactly a “green fanatic” — explained in “Energy at the Crossroads“:

Sequestering a mere 1/10 of today’s global CO2 emissions (less than 3 Gt CO2) would thus call for putting in place an industry that would have to force underground every year the volume of compressed gas larger than or (with higher compression) equal to the volume of crude oil extracted globally by [the] petroleum industry whose infrastructures and capacities have been put in place over a century of development. Needless to say, such a technical feat could not be accomplished within a single generation.”

No doubt that’s why the pro-CCS debater, Barry Jones, who knows a heck of a lot more about CCS than Allen, wrote “The international community aims to deliver 20 demonstration projects by 2020, applying CCS to various kinds of industrial sectors. The idea is that CCS then becomes a commercial reality and begins to make deep cuts in emissions during the 2030s.”

Oops, too late. Climate destroyed.

So, sure, pursue R&D and demonstration of CCS, and hope it can be, say, 10% of the solution by 2050. But to repeat the key International Energy Agency finding from its “World Energy Outlook“:

“On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change … Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

Allen has it exactly backwards. Yes, if we keep burning the carbon, we’re “doomed,” but if we don’t start replacing planned carbon-burning infrastructure — and existing infrastructure — ASAP, we’re equally doomed.

Carbon capture is no silver bullet — no one technology is — and CCS isn’t even yet proven to be practical, affordable, scalable, and ready to be ramped up rapidly now.

In 2009, Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs published a major study, “Realistic Costs of Carbon Capture“. The paper concludes that first-of-a-kind (FOAK) CCS plants will have a costs of carbon abatement of some “$150/tCO2 avoided (with a range $120-180/tCO2avoided), excluding transport and storage costs.”

This yields a “levelised cost of electricity on a 2008 basis [that] is approximately 10 cents/kWh higher with capture than for conventional plants”. So pick your favourite price for new coal plants—Moody’s had a 2008 price of about 11 cents/kWh—and add 10 cents and you get over 20 cents/kWh.

Yes, one can imagine CCS at existing coal plants—extracted from the flue gas post-combustion—but that technology is even further from commercialisation at scale and necessarily involves capturing CO2 that is far more dilute. As the US Department of Energy reported:

“Existing CO2 capture technologies are not cost-effective when considered in the context of large power plants. Economic studies indicate that carbon capture will add over 30% to the cost of electricity for new integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) units and over 80% to the cost of electricity if retrofitted to existing pulverised coal (PC) units. In addition, the net electricity produced from existing plants would be significantly reduced—often referred to as parasitic loss—since 20-30% of the power generated by the plant would have to be used to capture and compress the CO2.”

Obviously there are a great many carbon-free power sources today that are already far cheaper and most are coming down in cost as their deployment grows.

Solar power, which Allen inexplicably dismisses entirely, has been making incredible strides. Solar panel prices have fallen 80% in the last 5 years alone:

Normally I’d say it’s inconceivable that CCS could become even a modest contributor to the climate problem without a high and rising price for carbon. But that isn’t true anymore — Allen has “conceived” of it:

A carbon tax will not stop fossil fuel carbon being burnt. While a modest tax would be good for turbine-builders and the Treasury, in the short-term it will not promote the technology we need to solve the problem….

For every 10 billion tonnes we emit without increasing this sequestered fraction by one per cent, we will just have to bury more later in order to catch up.

If this is what needs to be done, why not just make it a condition of licensing to extract or import fossil fuels? In forestry, if you fell trees, the law obliges you to replant.

We must use the same principle: a law to compel a slowly rising percentage of carbon dioxide emissions to be sequestered and stored.

Fossil fuel industrialists will need a few years to gear up, but they won’t need taxpayer-funded subsidies.

They’ll simply need to do this to stay in business. All past evidence suggests that when industry is faced with technical challenges it needs to overcome, it’s ingenious at finding ways of doing so.

We don’t need no stinkin’ carbon tax or trading or subsidies for renewable energy or efficiency targets. We’ll just pass a law mandating CCS and practical, affordable, and scalable CCS technology will appear in “a few years.” Problem solved. So we can safely go back to spreading our ethos of conspicuous consumption across the globe.

No, seriously, that’s his answer. It reminds one of a certain cartoon….

Such is the state of technology and policy analysis one gets from a climate scientist who hasn’t even done his basic homework.

Allen even contradicts his entire argument, but neither he nor the Mail seems to care:

If you’re using fossil carbon to drive a car or fly a plane, you just have to pay someone else to bury CO2 for you….

Frankly, I’d rather pay an engineer in Poland to actually dispose of carbon dioxide than some Brussels eco-yuppie to trade it around….

So there you have it: one policy, that everyone can agree on, which would actually solve the problem without Brussels bureaucrats dictating what kind of light-bulbs we can buy. Sound good to you?

Actually I doubt anyone would agree on it (other than Allen).

How exactly does Allen think we could pay that engineer in Poland if we weren’t doing carbon trading? Do the Poles have the staggering amount of money needed to demonstrate CCS and then deploy it on a massive scale? No.

And what exactly does Allen think paying someone else to bury CO2 for you is?

Memo to Allen: It’s called CO2 trading. [Oh, and the term “yuppie” went out of fashion a long time ago. I think you mean “Brussels eco-hipster.”]

But here’s the point Allen misses: What happens if, as seems all but certain for the next 25+ years, it is a lot cheaper to build a renewable power plant or retrofit your buildings with energy efficiency than it is to capture and bury the CO2 in a new plant (or an existing one). In that case, all Allen’s mandate would do would be to force companies to pursue  one of the most expensive CO2-reducing option imaginable. Remember, those companies can’t do any CO2 trading that might result in their simply agreeing to shut their coal plant down entirely. Can’t let those Brussels eco-yuppies try to minimize costs. Allen knows the one and only answer.

Further, I seriously doubt that everyone can agree we should just starting paying an engineer in Poland — or Russia or China or the U.S. — “to actually dispose of carbon dioxide.”

As I wrote in the Economist, if the Russian government said it was sequestering 100 million tons of CO2 in the ground permanently, and wanted other countries to pay it billions of dollars to do so, would anyone trust it? No. The potential for fraud and bribery are simply too enormous. But would anyone trust China? Would anyone trust an American utility, for that matter? We need to set up some sort of international regime for certifying, monitoring, verifying and inspecting geologic repositories of carbon—like the UN weapons inspections systems. The problem is, America has not been able to certify a single storage facility for high-level radioactive waste after two decades of trying and nobody knows how to monitor and verify underground CO2 storage. It could take a decade [or more] just to set up this system. We haven’t even started.

And yes, that means those eco-hipsters in Brussels will be nosing around every CCS site in the world. If Allen doesn’t like the “windfarms in Scotland, carbon taxes and Byzantine carbon trading systems,” he’s going to love it when the first we-paid-the-Russians-to-vent-CO2-from-their-coal-plants scandal happens.

Then we have the leakage issue. Even a very small leakage rate of well under 1% a year would render the storage system all but useless as a “permanent repository”.

Equally worrisome, a Duke University study found: “Leaks from carbon dioxide injected deep underground to help fight climate change could bubble up into drinking water aquifers near the surface, driving up levels of contaminants in the water tenfold or more in some places.” What kind of contaminants could bubble up into drinking water aquifers? The study noted: “Potentially dangerous uranium and barium increased throughout the entire experiment in some samples.”

This problem may not turn out to be fatal to CCS, but it might well limit the places where sequestration is practical—either because the geology is problematic or because the site is simply too close to the water supply of a large population.

Public acceptance (aka NIMBY) has already been a huge problem for CCS. Public concern about CO2 leaks—small and large—has impeded a number of CCS projects around the world. The concerns should be taken seriously, as BusinessWeek reported in 2008:

“One large, coal-fired plant generates the equivalent of 3 billion barrels of CO2over a 60-year lifetime. That would require a space the size of a major oil field to contain. The pressure could cause leaks or earthquakes, says Curt M. White, who ran the US Energy Department’s carbon sequestration group until 2005 and served as an adviser until earlier this year. ‘Red flags should be going up everywhere when you talk about this amount of liquid being put underground.’ ”

I wonder who will be insuring those repositories against accidents? Probably the same folks who ensure nuclear plants against accidents….

And concerns about earthquakes should be taken seriously, as an article published by Stanford University researched concluded in 2012:

We argue here that there is a high probability that earthquakes will be triggered by injection of large volumes of CO2 into the brittle rocks commonly found in continental interiors. Because even small- to moderate-sized earthquakes threaten the seal integrity of CO2 repositories, in this context, large-scale CCS is a risky, and likely unsuccessful, strategy for significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

D’oh! Yes, pass a law forcing every fossil fuel company in the world to bury their CO2 starting now so they can solve all these trivial problems “in a few years.”

This notion of solving environmental problems through the mandated use of specific technologies is one that, understandably, has lost favor in recent decades. But the mandated large-scale use of technologies whose affordability and practicality haven’t even been demonstrated, well, that’s not on any government — or businesses — list of sound climate policies.

The bottom line is there are simply too many unanswered questions for anyone to say today that we could rely on large-scale deployment of CCS in the 2030s representing even 10% of the answer to the carbon problem by 2050.

45 Responses to Climatologist Myles Allen Says We’re ‘Doomed’ If We Keep Burning Carbon, Then Embraces Dubious Silver Bullet

  1. Another great article Joe. Thanks.

    As for Allen, he seems to be forgetting that CCS doesn’t work for fugative emissions from coal mining, fracking and methane transport.

    However, I have to say we would solve much of the climate crisis very quickly if all coal and methane burning power plants had to have CCS!

    They would all be shut down lickity split by the bean counters and replaced by something far cheaper. Hmmm, what would that cheaper source of electricity be?? Data I’ve seen says it would be things like wind and solar.

    Allen’s plan is also radical in that it requires all fossil fuel burning to be done at a place that can CCS. That follows from his statement that we can’t just burn stuff slower…we have to exactly match fossil out with CCS. Such a world would have no more fossil gasoline or diesel vehicles…no more fossil natural gas heating for buildings. Etc.

  2. catman306 says:

    The widespread use of bamboo bio-char to sequester atmospheric CO2 might be an answer that works. It’s low tech, can be done in the field anywhere and actually improves the yield of agricultural soils. Why not require the fossil fuel burners to support small bamboo bio-char farms and plantations on poor agricultural lands? Next week.

  3. Timothy Hughbanks says:

    The really silly thing about Allen’s ideas is the fact that – at some point – the fossil fuels would actually be used up anyway. At which time, we would still have to turn to renewable energy. But as you said, I find it hard to believe anyone thinks it would be more economical to bury CO₂ than to use wind or solar power. At the rate of 2011 German solar output (40 kWh/m²), Riverside county could supply enough electricity to power every residential vehicle in the U.S. – if they were electric. And that is obviously a conservative estimate. How can a guy trained as a physicist not know that?

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    Yes, we could have a law mandating that if you put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, you have to take it out. That’s not the problem.

    Carbon dioxide is a gas, and so it’s fundamentally unstable in any pressurized underground storage area. If you want the carbon to stay underground for (the best estimate that I’ve heard for effective sequestration) a half life of 2500 years, you need to turn the carbon dioxide into either hydrocarbons or biochar. This will usually mean photosynthesis, probably with algae in somewhat climate controlled tanks. If you have a non-photosynthesis chemical way of turning carbon dioxide into a stable compound, please put it out before us so that we can compare it to our alternatives.

    We’re a roboticized society, good at producing algae tanks by the billions if we put a WWII-style effort into the project. We can probably use arid lands for the job. Yes you may note that we’re going to have a whole lot more arid land available soon enough.

    I give Mr. Allen a slight amount of credit for starting to think through climate change from scratch. He’s pulling up a bunch of howlers that the rest of us have already put behind us, but in starting from scratch he’s running across our basic climate change engineering constraints and looking for solutions. Remember how there’s no such thing as a dumb question?

  5. prokaryotes says:

    There are so many unanswered question’s with CCS, like will it really stay where it is planned to be stored, how much energy does it really cost to pump it down, transport of the Co2 to the location, do we have enough places for it or where are even the success stories?

    Biochar for instance is one form which could be used to draw down emissions, but that is not the exact technology people have in mind when talking about CCS, unless they call it BECCS.

  6. Andy Skuce says:

    Excellent job, Joe. At best, CCS is a small part of the solution. Allen’s proposal is basically a cap-and-trade policy that dare not speak its name.

    There is no guarantee that technological developments or economies of scale will decrease unit costs for CCS. Studies in Alberta have shown costs per tonne rising as volumes increase, because the easiest capture sources and storage locations get used up quickly.

    The current big CCS projects in Norway and Algeria both get their CO2 from gas plants, so their capture cost is zero since it had to be done anyway. The transportation costs are near zero and the storage costs are relatively low because the reservoirs are located near the plant, below areas where nobody lives.

    Other operational CCS projects are EOR operations using gas-plant CO2, where the sequestration pays for itself. We will run out of such sites in a hurry once (if ever) CCS gets scaled up to climate-relevant scales.

    CCS will have even worse water-table contamination and earthquake problems than gas fracking, because the high induced pressures will persist long after the CO2 injection has finished, and the typical target storage reservoirs are relatively shallow. I would expect that this would, in practice, limit most CO2 storage to uninhabited and offshore areas, with attendant extra costs and reduced opportunities.

  7. addicted says:

    Hold on…he is against government intervention, which is why he is against a MARKET BASED cap and trade system.

    His alternative to government intervention is to have the government MANDATE the exact technology coal plants must use?


  8. Omega Centauri says:

    I think we are being a bit too negative on Allen. True CCS as standalone solution is worse than a bad joke. But his concern that we might respond to renewables and efficiency, not by leaving the carbon in the ground, but simply by slowing down the rate of extraction. All that does is delay climate change. So the key is to somehow get the world to leave it in the ground -or put it back (capture and storage). Now capture and storage doesn’t have to be in the form of CO2, it could potentially be in the form on carbonates. His big error, is touting one solution, which at best is a modest BB as a silver bullet. And he didn’t want to admit that renewables and efficiency take a bite out of the scale of the problem. And if we are ever to do CCS at scale, we will need to reduce the scale (and buy time to get CCS tech ready).

    I can imagine a world with 95-98% renewables, that still retains some fossil fuel burning, to cover shortfalls, when renewables plus storage plus demand response are not enough. Having some form of CCS, would be important in this scenario.

  9. question says:

    Allen has things backwards, but actually if “Allen’s Law” were passed it might well be very useful. Just not the way he’s thinking of.

    Imagine you are an executive in a CO2 intensive industry. Allen’s Law has been passed and is being phased in over the course of a decade starting in five years. Each year after the five years grace you have to sequester another 10% of your annual output of CO2 or face a fine of $50/ton (or whatever). Note this is a fine, not a tax… so taxes aren’t going up….so the “no new taxes” pledge is irrelevant…:-)

    What do you do? Well you know that CSS is unlikely to be practical or economical on a large scale anytime soon (like the next century?), so you start by pushing all the efficiency you can to reduce your exposure. Next you start looking around for energy sources that can provide your needs that don’t involve carbon. You have 5 years to reduce exposure and then a tremendous incentive to reduce carbon emission further. If you have a certain irreducible emission level at the end you’ll either have to eat the fine or push to make CSS work. And if the fine increases with time then the companies that can’t get their emissions down will either go out of business (good!) or make CSS work (also good, if unlikely). What’s not to like?

    The point is, by asking the impossible Allen’s law would basically insist on those renewables that he doesn’t seem to believe in. It really doesn’t matter if *he* doesn’t believe they are up to the task. What matters is that capital will flow into renewables and efficiency just like with a tax. In fact, I’m not sure I can tell what the difference is… emit carbon dioxide and get fined, or emit carbon dioxide and get taxed…Companies won’t give a fig if the law says sequestrate or not. All they will care about will be to reduce their net emissions. The most likely way will be through efficiency and renewables.

    As for domestic/individual consumption, I suspect the law would have to be written to require the retailer to assume the burden of the carbon emissions. Either they could eat the fine and up the price or sequester and up the price… anyone want to bet they would pay the fine? Regardless it would drive us towards less carbon polluting solutions.

  10. Your analysis makes sense to me– the result will be the same as the policies he claims to oppose. It’s just a silly way to go about it. There are a lot of smart people who are ignorant about energy issues who feel the need to make broad sweeping judgments about this particular area. Not sure why this is, but it’s frustrating.

  11. Carbon capture has been around for years and the reason it never works is that if you capture carbon from a coal fired power station and try to store it coal becomes an extremely expensive fuel. End of story. Coal is only cheap if you vent the pollution free to the atmosphere.

  12. Merrelyn Emery says:

    This is a prime example of the fact that as our communities continue to fragment and our people dissociate, those who have achieved some excellence and status in a specialization increasingly assume they have a right to pontificate on everything. Could you get a better sign that we need to urgently redesign our organizational structures towards equality and shared goals and away from all the maladaptions that flow from ranking people by organizational status? ME

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    CCS has always been a fraud, a diversion to keep fossil fuels going, keep the multi-trillion industry, the very foundation of capitalism, solvent, and forestall a catastrophic economic collapse. It simply does not work, and will not for decades, if ever. Even then it will be hideously expensive and prone to escapes from sequestration with either acute catastrophic effects, like at Lake Nyos, or merely climatically catastrophic effects. And the denial of the feasibility of solar and wind is, in my opinion, simply mendacity, humbug or idiocy, or all three together. But as I often observe, the Right’s denial has never changed in its basic nature and can never change, so therefore will never change. If we are to save humanity it can only come in the face of unrelenting opposition from the Right.

  14. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It has to be Rightwing ideology (hence ‘Green extremists’)or personal advantage.

  15. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Such logical inconsistencies are well above the capacity of ‘Daily Mail’ readers to recognise. If pointed out to them, they will commence sweating, shuddering violently, turn a puce colour and begin screeching ‘Green extremists’.

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Actually in our societies people are ranked according to ideology, in other words according to psychology. How else do people like Ray Hadley, Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt become hugely influential? Needless to say such a society has ‘the sickness unto death’.

  17. fj says:

    Definitely seems like case closed on CCS and the future of fossil fuels.

  18. Spike says:

    I think of Myles as the UK’s Professor Frink. Very clever but a bit other worldly.

    I gather he is taken very seriously by the UK government.

  19. Spike says:

    Myles had coffee with David Rose but was not happy with the subsequent Mail coverage.

    “Who loses from this kind of thing? Well, there is no denying it makes me look a bit of an idiot. As one of my colleagues (who had best remain nameless) put it, “serves you right for talking to these ****s.” But if climate scientists refuse to talk to Mail on Sunday correspondents, then their only information sources left are bloggers and David Whitehouse.”

  20. Endofmore says:

    as I understand it, systems of carbon capture use more energy than is produced in burning the original hydrocarbon fuel it is derived from

  21. Raul M. says:

    Speaking of ignorant- what does a ship look like that can float over gas plumes from the continental shelf? Would it have an umbrella anchored with weights and a tilt so the gas plumes up from behind? Would the umbrella be towed by the ship so that the plume would be continually deflected? Would the umbrella need to be such and such larger than the ship? Such ignorance over such a simple feat?

  22. Raul M. says:

    Would it only work in calm seas?

  23. Omega Centauri says:

    Its not that bad. But I’ve heard figures of 30%. The economics of CCS are somewhat improved with natural gas instead of coal as a fuel (more energy per unit of carbon).
    There are also novel methods, like chemically reacting the coal, that may eliminate the need for the concentration step -but they are just lab experiments at this point.

  24. Superman1 says:

    One minor point you overlooked. Every time you or I step on a plane for a nice relaxing vacation overseas, or expend fossil fuels in myriad other non-critically essential ways, we are ‘voting with our feet’ to keep the present climate-destructive energy distribution system going. And seven billion votes across this planet sends a strong message, even more profound than the polls we often see quoted.

  25. Superman1 says:

    “before we run out of livable climate”. When does that (has that) occur? I rarely see this point discussed here. We have an interim temperature ceiling constraint in any transition scenario, and the value of this ceiling would impact greatly the range of options (if any) we have remaining. Why don’t we have some articles by Anderson-types to address this critical issue?

  26. Allen has that tone of self-satisfied, arrogant, contemptuous superiority typical of the type. It amazes me that people don’t reject that kind of self-important BS just because the tone is so egocentric and insulting, let alone the bogus content.

  27. Superman1 says:

    Throughout history, technologies and their attendant resource exploitation have been underpriced due to insufficient accounting for proper waste disposal, allowing for far greater diffusion and utilization of technologies than closed-system economics would dictate. We have used the atmosphere, oceans, and landfills for ‘free’ dumping grounds, and now we will bear the consequences.

  28. EDpeak says:

    D’oh indeed..and the Daily Mail link at bottom of article, of a “quiz” with “answers” including: it has warmed “zero” degrees since 1997 (fineprint, “to nearest 0.25 degrees C) nd other deceptions

    I suggest POLITE (seriously, and respectful, even if you’re all as frustrated a I am) to him…

    Is this him? eciDOToxDOTacDOTuk/people/allenmyles.php ?If so then it’s myles [period] allen [at]ouce[dot]ox[dot]ac[dot]uk

    ask him why he would want to encourage a rag that pretends there is no global warming at all, then admits it (kinda) but angry not at the coal profitteers but at “greenies” and so on…express your real feelings but politely (otherwise it’s not effective..then go bang head against wall (or pillow) at home)

  29. I grew up in different times than these. When I was very young, I listened to Studs Terkel play the music of Mahalia Jackson and Woody Guthrie. Hoyt Akton sang proudly that he “Don’t give a damn about a greenback dollar.” I learned from T. S. Eliot that one could be shown “fear in a handful of dust.”

    I wonder where are today’s troubadours, those who sing not of what we want to hear, but what we need to hear. I had hope that it would come from Green Day, but sadly not yet, though American Idiot comes close.

    Don’t want to be an American idiot.
    One nation controlled by the media.

  30. SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “Every time you or I step on a plane for a nice relaxing vacation overseas …”

    I have flown on a plane exactly five times in six decades, the last time over 13 years ago. How about you?

    Superman1 wrote: “… or expend fossil fuels in myriad other non-critically essential ways …”

    Like burning coal to generate electricity to power your computer so you can post endless, repetitive, defeatist propaganda on this blog?

    If you were anything other than a hypocritical phony, you would turn off your computer right now. And your TV, radio, refrigerator and light bulbs.

    Once you’ve done that, maybe someone will take your vapid blather about “draconian measures” seriously.

  31. Superman1 says:

    “I have flown on a plane exactly five times in six decades, the last time over 13 years ago. How about you?” Completely unverifiable, like everything else you post!

  32. Superman1 says:

    And, I should add, completely irrelevant, like everything else you post. Unverifiable and irrelevant; that’s you, in a nutshell!

  33. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Mulga, they are actually ranked by status, told what to do and generally treated badly, very badly when you consider they are purposeful. The levels of frustration, anger and other negative affects in our workplaces are high. The Bolts of this world are an opportunity to express and chanel those affects, ME

  34. Dan Miller says:

    While I don’t disagree with Joe’s overall take, as an investor in an innovate carbon capture company, I can say that much lower cost and scalable CO2 capture systems are on the horizon. It will still be cheaper to not emit the CO2 in the first place, but when people finally get sufficiently worried about climate disruption, I think CCS should be one of the options available.

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    There’s a lot of self-loathing about, and those who suffer from it ‘respect’ those with sufficient self-belief, however unmerited, as to be insufferably arrogant. The self-loathers also like to hear the big egos tearing other ‘little people’ to pieces (after cutting them off, of course).

  36. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Six of one, a half dozen of the other, perhaps. The result is indubitably poisonous. Imagine a world where talk-back radio was not dominated by brutish Rightwing hate-mongers. Did you know that the first talk-back radio presenter in the country was Barry O. Jones, the last decent politician to grace the so-called ‘Labor’ Party?

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Sounds like he says what they want to hear.

  38. Dave S. Nottear says:

    Classic example of Kübler-Ross:

    “Bargaining Stage.”

    How pathetic.

  39. Merrelyn Emery says:

    You are creating your own personal mythology Mulga. Barry played, and plays, the political game like everybody else does. The viciousness we see in the public domain has several systemic causes but the PM and the ALP are more victims than villains, as much a product of the culture as anybody else, ME

  40. Jake says:

    Tell you what. You find an energy efficient way to convert C02 to O2 and graphite with no other byproducts, we’ll start burying it.

  41. Greg says:

    This article has some fair points, but somewhat optimistic of human behavior.

    The reason I started working and researching in CCS, is that next to no action was being taken by my country by renewable energy.

    Additionally, in developing countries and even parts of South Africa, their no.1 objective is to lift people out of poverty. Coal is cheap and accessible. I have little faith that they will ever uptake renewables so long as coal remains a far cheaper option for them.

    I will continue to support renewable energy as best I can, but the world needs far greater innovation for energy tech to reach the 15TW of renewables by 2035. I think CCS needs to be developed even if it is a fall back option.

    Seriously though, in my country it is expected, through policy and funding that Coal Power with CCS will produce approximately 1/3 of power by 2050. CCS needs investment and R&D. For anybody calling CCS a joke, you really need to look at the bigger picture. Nobody in my industry is seriously thinking it will be 100% of the power, we are scientists we all know the consequences of climate change.

  42. Greg says:

    I work in R&D for CCS. It is not a fraud. People in my industry are really concerned about the environment, but most of us have a pessimistic view of humanity. My colleague is convinced humans will burn coal right until there is 1kg left in a museum somewhere. It is an incredibly complicated political picture, with poor countries desperately trying to bring their countries up to western standard, and coal is often the only cheap fuel source.

    The tech behind CCS, yes is very complicated, very site specific and contains many uncertainties. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t invest some time in it. As long as there are fat cats in power who don’t want to change the status quo, it has to be considered an option.
    I hate coal but I fear we are stuck with it.

    But as I often observe, the Right’s denial has never changed in its basic nature and can never change, so therefore will never change. If we are to save humanity it can only come in the face of unrelenting opposition from the Right.

  43. Greg says:

    Oops, I left your copy/paste comment in at the last paragraph