Germany, Switzerland suspend nuclear plans as U.S. right-wing calls for faster nuclear permit process!
The spent fuel scenario I raised last night (detailed below) appears to have begun. The NY Timesreports as of Tuesday 9:36 “… late Tuesday Japan’s nuclear watchdog said a pool storing spent fuel rods at that fourth reactor had overheated and reached boiling point and had become unapproachable by workers.” Here’s their front page:
An “explosive impact” occurred Tuesday morning at the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, a day after a hydrogen explosion rocked another reactor, the plant’s owner said….
Yukio Edano, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary, said he could not rule out the possibility of a meltdown at all three troubled reactors.…
The situation in Japan is unprecedented, as the CNN story from 7:32 pm EDT makes clear. I don’t believe there’s ever been more than one reactor with a malfunctioning cooling system seriously facing a possible meltdown at one time. Yesterday 2 were and now 3 are simultaneously.
Exclusive: NCAR’s Trenberth challenges the attribution analysis, “Many statements are not justified and are actually irresponsible.”
Simulated frequency of occurrence of western Russia temperature extremes for 30-year overlapping periods. Shown are time series for exceedance values of 3, 4, 5 and 6 C…. Insert shows the time series for the number of models in [%] that simulate at least a 10% probability of occurrence of a heat wave with specific temperature exceedance values.
Apologies for leading with a complicated chart, but the NOAA release and study on the Russian heat wave last week buried the lede. All the news was about whether or not global warming caused the monster heat wave, but, as NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth explained to me about the paper, “Many statements are not justified and are actually irresponsible.”
First, the real news. The Russian heat wave was, according to NOAA, roughly 5°C ( 9°F) above average for July. The figure above shows that, using an ensemble of climate models, July temperatures will match that by the 2060s once a decade — twice a decade by century’s end. Remember, this 9F heat wave was enough to end Russian grain exports for a year. Note that a 4C (7F) warmer-than-average July would occur once a decade by 2040.
Unfortunately, this got lost in all the noise about the main “finding” of the study itself. For some strange reason, the authors, Randall Dole et al., posed this titular question: “Was There a Basis for Anticipating the 2010 Russian Heat Wave?”
The third in a three-part interview with economist Nicholas Stern on climate policy. Read the first part, in which he argued that failure to address global warming could eventually lead to World War Three; and the second part, in which he discusses how action will lead to a new industrial revolution.
In 2009, Congressional Budget Office director Doug Elmendorf testified that “a relatively pessimistic estimate” for the economic impact of warming of 4°C by 2100 would be three percent of U.S. GDP. With even more radical warming of 6°C (11°F), the impact would be five percent, he said. In an exclusive interview with ThinkProgress, leading climate economist Nicholas Stern found Elmendorf’s testimony to be “ludicrous”:
I think that’s ludicrous. And it’s not clear what the real foundations of those kinds of estimates are. That would be saying that living in conditions which we haven’t seen for 30 million years on this planet would involve just minor adjustments.
Elmendorf based his testimony on a sectoral analysis of the impacts of climate change. Climate costs would primarily be felt, he argued, in fields like agriculture, power production, and infrastructure, which are a very small percent of US GDP. With future economic growth expected to be concentrated in areas like information technology and health care that are “relatively insulated from climate effects,” Elmendorf claimed that effects of climate change on the U.S. economy would be “small,” citing economists Dale W. Jorgenson, William D. Nordhaus, and Joseph Boyer. Stern described these arguments as “very narrow and misplaced view of the economics of climate change”:
I can understand the arguments. I’ve read them. But I don’t think they really stack up in relation to the huge changes that we’d be trying to deal with. You would likely have massive movements of population. You’d have potential sea level rises, although they come quite slowly of course, but they come inexorably, which would start to make many parts of the coast of the US untenable, just like other countries. You’d have potentially massive movements of population, in the case of the northern hemisphere, away from the equator and northwards, and potentially enormous world conflict.
And I simply don’t think that a sectoral analysis which extrapolates a little bit from the kind of temperature changes that we’ve seen gets to grips with the transformation of the world economy likely to come from 4, 5, 6 degrees C and the massive movements of people that are likely to be involved.
So running through the various sectors of the economy and knocking off a few percent here and there hardly gets to grips with the kind of transformation of the geography of the world. We have to see this as a whole-scale transformation of the relationship between human beings and the planet and the consequence of massive movements and potential conflict. We haven’t seen movements of the population of the kind we’re talking about here.
So, you know, a little bit of mucking about with a percentage here and there with this sector and that sector doesn’t really begin to come to grips with the magnitude of the kind of changes we’d be talking about. That seems to me to be a very narrow and misplaced view of the economics of climate change. It doesn’t get to grips with the magnitude of the risk. It doesn’t get to grips with the dynamic and unstable changes that would come as a result of all this. It’s a very narrow view of economics on the most optimistic of possible outcomes.
The failure of the economics profession to come to grip with the clear science of climate change is a scandal that far outstrips its cheerleading of the housing bubble and other financial disasters. As previously discussed in the Wonk Room, conventional economics not only fails to accurately assess the threat of global warming, but also totally misrepresents the economic impact of taking action. Economic textbooks promote utterly false myths about climate change.
Even climate economists like Lord Stern and Martin Weitzman, who together earned the Leontief economic prize last week from the Tufts University Global Development and Environment Institute for moving the profession away from utter denial, consistently underestimate the consequences of climate change that are already occurring.
Environmentalists and economists are fundamentally on the same side, supporting the use of data and the scientific method to reach reasonable, peer-reviewed conclusions and appropriate policy recommendations. Their differences are nothing in comparison to the gulf between those who prefer that peer-reviewed research inform a policy debate and those who’d rather cite email forwards. Until a way can be found to convince deniers to appreciate the reality of the situation, inter-disciplinary bickering is mostly a waste of time.
Last week the Heritage Foundation released a critique of a report by EPA assessing the benefits and costs of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments (click here for my summary). They should have done a little homework first, perhaps an intro class to research methods. Had they, they might not have set themselves up so badly. Double checking their numbers would have been a good idea too.
A few critical errors made by Heritage undermine its critique:
Higher oil prices are usually good news for clean energy because they make costly technologies like solar and wind less daunting to investors. But for one of the world’s most ambitious clean-energy projects, Desertec, the instability in North Africa behind the price increases signals a less certain outlook.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.