COP21 Paris: “What was once unthinkable is now unstoppable.” #ClimateChange #ClimateAction — United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon
COP21 Paris: “195 nations have risen to the challenge of climate change.” — UNFCCC
The COP21 Paris 2015 deal attempts to limit global atmospheric temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and the measures adopted in the agreement included provisions for reviewing progress every five years, and for $100 billion dollars a year in climate finance for developing countries.
After difficult two week-long COP21 negotiations, representatives of 195 countries of the world reached a unanimous landmark climate change accord in Paris. The historical climate deal for the first time made all the nations of the world to commit to cut greenhouse gas emissions to help reduce disastrous global warming effects. The deal is partly legally… Continue reading COP21 Paris – un Succès!
Sincerest congratulations are due to COP21 (Conference of the Parties) for inking a remarkable agreement to limit global warming to 2 degrees by 2050/2100
It’s a global achievement, one that saw 200 countries come together in a unified purpose to protect our Commons
By agreeing to unprecedented GHG emission targets at COP21 in Paris, world leaders have shown the man-made problems that we alone have created are not above our ability to solve
Our leaders are bigger than our problems — and that is a very comforting sign indeed!
We’ve Got Our CO2 Targets. Now What?
As laudatory as all of that sounds, it begs the question, “Now that we’ve agreed on strict GHG limits, how do we actually set about achieving those limits?”
Listed in the order of maximum effect, irrespective of convenience or cost, the following proposal must rank among the least costly ways to achieve our COP21 targets within the timeframe specified.
ONE: Eliminating coal-fired primary power generation by 2020
By far, coal-fired power generation is the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and aside from the obvious heavy CO2 load, many toxic gases are produced due to the impurities found in raw coal.
Not only that, but billions of dollars of damage to exterior metal and concrete occurs every year due to the effects of coal-fired acid rain hitting everything from bridges to skyscrapers to outdoor art installations.
Almost worse, is the heavy water usage (to control coal dust migration and to lower the burn temperature at coal-fired power generation facilities) which average 1100 gallons per MegaWatt(MW) of electricity produced.
For the record, natural gas-fired power generation requires 300 gallons of water per MW, while nuclear power generation uses 800 gallons of water per MW and solar power and wind power generators use 0 gallons per MW.
Another serious problem in regards to coal burning is the disposal of millions of tons of toxic fly ash, which is the ashes left over from burning millions of tons of coal annually.
Each year, millions of tons of toxic fly ash must be cooled, transported tens or hundreds of miles away, and then buried deep underground far from aquifers.
TWO: That’s not to say that the coal industry should die. Far from it. Some of the purest liquid fuels on the planet are already made from coal by employing the Fischer-Tropsch (catalytic) process. Such fuels are known as CTL fuels (Coal-to-Liquid) fuels and are noted for their almost clinical purity
Some countries, notably South Africa, have been blending the very clean-burning CTL fuel (30%) with conventional petroleum-sourced gasoline (70%) since the 1950′s in order to create an exceptionally clean burning gasoline (petrol) for use in cars and trucks. That mixture lowers CO2 and other GHG emissions by more than half with the potential for 50/50 CTL and gasoline blends in the future!
In addition to that, the aviation fuel ‘coal oil’ that is produced from South African coal — is purer and therefore, cleaner-burning than conventional petroleum-sourced ‘kerosene’ aviation fuel.
Over 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions are produced by general aviation. By switching to coal oil blended with conventional kerosene, global aviation emissions would drop by half, or better.
We could decrease our automotive and aviation emissions by half thanks to coal! and instead of witnessing the death of the coal industry, we would witness a coal renaissance!
THREE: All coal-fired power generation over 1MW should be switched to natural gas which upgrade is known as Coal to Gas (CTG). It’s already a mature business model in the U.S. where many coal-fired power plants have been converted to natural gas in order to meet increasingly stringent air quality standards
The benefits of this are quite obvious. All of the infrastructure is already in place to deliver the electricity from the existing power plant to demand centres.
Natural gas-fired power generation (thermal) operates similarly and can use the same facilities as coal-fired power generation.
Natural gas burns up to 1,000,000 times cleaner than lignite coal (brown coal) and up to 10,000 times cleaner than the highest quality black coal (anthracite coal).
The news gets even better for aquatic life as natural gas uses only 300 gallons per MW — and there is no dirty, black, coal-dust-laden water pouring into ditches, streams and rivers downstream from coal mines, coal-fired power stations, and along the thousands of miles of railway tracks that transport coal.
The bigger the natural gas market, the lower the per unit price for natural gas. Until now, natural gas-fired power generation has been used to add expensive ‘peaking power’ to the grid as it can ramp up quickly to provide additional power during peak demand sessions, such as happens when many air conditioning units suddenly switch on in the afternoon.
However, as more coal power stations have converted to natural gas, the (Henry Hub) spot price for natural gas has lowered accordingly. We’re now seeing natural gas prices falling to historic lows (under $2.00) due to increased baseload demand.
FOUR: As great as it is to add biofuel to transportation fuels in order to help them become (much) more clean-burning, all ethanol that is obtained *from corn* must be stopped by 2020
By a significant margin, corn is the worst plant to grow in order to produce biofuel due to the obscene water and pesticide use required to grow corn.
Corn must be replaced with a less demanding crop such as sugarcane. In Brazil, sugarcane is grown for sugar (primarily) and biofuel (secondarily) and the technology has advanced to the point where even the leaves and roots of the plant (the ‘stover’) are used to produce biofuel via the cellulosic biofuel method.
In Brazil, by law, a minimum of 24% of each gallon of gasoline must be bio-ethanol sourced. Costa Rica and some other Latin countries have advanced bio-ethanol programmes and likewise show corresponding drops in vehicle emissions.
Other crops, such as sweet sorghum are even more promising than sugarcane and are only a few years away from making a massive impact as an ethanol feedstock.
By banning corn for biofuel use and replacing it with sugarcane or sweet sorghum, water usage levels would fall by billions of gallons per state, annually. Pesticide use, land management and other environmentally costly processes would be dramatically minimized.
Every gallon of gasoline that is sold in the world should have a 50% biofuel or CTL component and it should be noted that CTL fuels are just as clean-burning as ethanol derived from biofuel crops such as sugarcane or sweet sorghum.
FIVE: The shipping industry produces over 2% of the world’s emissions only because old ships burn incredibly toxic bunker fuel — while newer ships burn clean natural gas. Regulating global shipping to upgrade to natural gas can dramatically lower emission levels across the industry
If these bunker-fuel-burning ships (‘old clunkers’) are no longer allowed in the world’s ports, they will be useless to their owners and will be sold for their scrap metal value.
By recognizing that our use of coal must change by 2020 we can employ natural gas in place of coal for our primary power generation — while adding CTL fuels and 2nd-generation biofuels to our transportation fuel — for a ‘cleaner burn’ to meet our electricity and transportation energy needs while easily meeting our GHG emission reduction goals.
COP21: Examining the case for nations to meet reasonable CO2 emission targets by adopting a two-track plan to lower CO2 emission levels, while still adhering to the longer-term INDC model as suggested by United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and COP21.
Example: U.S.A. bans coal-burning by 2020
Conversion of all existing coal-fired power plants to natural gas (such conversions are now a mature industry)
CO2 emissions from those converted power stations would drop by half
Eliminating the non-CO2 pollutants and particulate emitted by coal burning — some of which are very toxic to humans, livestock, and agriculture, and damaging to exterior concrete and metal
A total solution to the fly ash disposal problem
Water usage falls from 1100 gallons per MW to 800 gallons per MW
As natural gas becomes a baseload energy, gas prices would stabilize
Healthcare costs would fall
Agriculture costs would fall
Infrastructure costs related to exterior concrete spalling and metal pitting would fall
More coal available for export
Significant progress towards tapering U.S. emission levels would occur by 2020 from a single (and simple) regulatory change.
All of the natural gas-fired power generation extant in America after 2020 would need to continue producing electricity (especially to provide power at night) as more solar and wind power capacity is added to the U.S. grid. Utility companies that invest in natural gas power plants prior to and even after 2020, could therefore be assured their investments would remain as an important partner in the primary energy generation mix.
In that way, the United States could facilitate relatively rapid progress on short term CO2 emission reduction targets/non-CO2 related externalities — and continue to work towards meeting the (long term and non-binding) DDPP targets that are fine-tunable over the coming decades.
Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates is set to unveil the world’s biggest fund to research and develop clean energy technologies at the Paris Climate Change Summit on Monday, the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing people with knowledge of the matter. The fund is said to include contributions from other philanthropists as well as commitments… Continue reading Bill Gates to Unveil World’s Largest Clean Energy Fund
The question, “Is there any doubt that global warming could threaten plant and animal life on the planet?” no longer seems relevant due to the astounding amount of quality research done in recent years which proves we do, in fact, have a problem.
One wonders about the other question, “Are our politicians up to the task at hand?”
Don’t lose hope yet! There are some inspiring examples of environmental stewardship in the world
100% Now: Albania, Bhutan, Belize, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iceland, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nepal, Norway, Paraguay, Tokelau, and Zambia, are countries that produce virtually 100% of their primary energy generation (electricity) via renewable energy, while Samoa will hit that standard by 2017. (All of these countries produce a minimum of 95% of their electricity via renewable energy, and all of them have plans to meet their 100% target within a few years. As always, easy access to low-interest financing is one way to enable those targets to be met by 2020)
100% by 2021:Costa Rica will hit its renewable energy target by the end of 2021. At present the Costa Rican electricity grid is powered by 94% renewable energy, but many days of the year renewable energy production exceeds 100 percent of demand allowing the country to export surplus electricity.
100% by 2030: Denmark and Scotland and are well on their way to hit 100% clean electricity generation by 2030 — while the Cook Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati in the South Pacific expect to become 100% clean energy powered by 2050 including all transportation.
90% Now: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Laos all produce more than 90% of their electricity via renewable energy and have ambitious plans to increase those targets. Limited funding is a factor.
80% Now: Canada produces over 80% of its primary generation from renewable energy (hydro-electric dams and nuclear power stations, with assorted minor solar power and wind power installations) but has, so far, has no plan to convert the remaining 20% of its electricity generation to clean energy.
80% by 2025:Nicaragua has an aggressive renewable energy program to replace its primarily fossil fueled primary energy (electricity) with renewable energy. The country is blessed with radiant sunshine, healthy wind resources and volcanoes (geothermal) all it lacks is the financing to accelerate its planned targets.
80% by 2050: Germany, an advanced country of 82 million people gets almost 40% of its annual electricity from wind, solar and biomass power and has an ambitious tw0-track programme underway called Energiewende that is simultaneously a) shutting down all of Germany’s nuclear power stations by 2022 (completely decommissioning them by 2045) and b) replacing that lost power generation with wind, solar, and biomass power.
By 2050 Germany expects to meet 80% of its electricity via renewable energy, and further plans to curtail energy use by 25% due to additional energy efficiency. The scale and speed of transition to clean energy in Germany is astonishing and enjoys broad support among the public.
20% by 2020: In the United States, primary energy (power plants that produce electricity or district heating, or both) are the single largest source of CO2 pollution.
And, although a slow starter, the United States has made rapid advances toward a cleaner energy grid. Early legislation such as the Clean Air Act (1970, amended 1990) has now been joined by the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
It’s notable that the U.S. now spends more than any country in the world on its transition to clean energy and is quickly switching out of coal (good) to natural gas (better) and renewable energy (best).
China has the second-highest spend on renewable energy globally and breaks global solar and wind power installation records every year. By a wide margin.
And yet, all of it together isn’t nearly enough to lower our present carbon emissions to a safe level
Not even close actually, as the carbon bender we’ve been on since 1988 is mind-numbing.
“By the end of this year, more than half of all industrial emissions of carbon dioxide since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution will have been released since 1988 — the year it became widely known that these emissions are warming the climate.”
“The Global Carbon Project (GCP) estimates that in 2014, we will release a record 37 gigatons (GT) of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere from burning coal, oil, and natural gas, and manufacturing cement. That’s a 2.5 percent increase over emissions in 2013, itself a record year.”
“This brings the total industrial carbon dioxide emissions since 1751 to an estimated 1480 Gt by the end of this year. And, remarkably, more than half of these emissions, 743 Gt, or 50.2 percent, have released just since 1988.” — Peter Frumhoff, Director of science & policy, Union of Concerned Scientists
Most people are. Some 80% of North Americans want stronger government and corporate action towards cleaner energy, more efficient buildings and electric vehicles. Which is great.
But in 2014, some $548 billion dollars of subsidies were paid or otherwise granted to the world’s fossil fuel corporations. And they’re in no mood to give it up.
Why would they?
Ever since large-scale coal, and oil and gas extraction began around 1920, fossil fuels have been getting massive subsidies relative to their imprint on the economy.
If the plan at COP 21 is to remove those subsidies from the fossil fuel companies, then there is no point in anybody showing up there. At all. Because as far as plans go, that must surely be voted; “Least likely to succeed since there were rocks.”
If the plan is to legislate ever stricter air quality standards (to the point where it has any real effect on total global emissions) get ready to pay even more subsidies — perhaps double. Yet, if that’s the plan, we might be wise to support it as we don’t have a second Earth to fall back on.
A more effective plan would be to leave fossil fuel subsidies at their present level and begin to match renewable energy subsidies to the fossil fuel subsidy rate, based on the barrel of oil equivalent (BOe) standard and let the market work on a level-playing-field basis
In that way ‘fossil fuel companies’ would morph into ‘energy companies’ — instead of remaining coal-only, oil-only, or natural gas-only companies.
Stand back and watch the CO2 emissions fall through the floor if that ever happens! Standardizing renewable energy subsidies to match coal, oil and natural gas subsidies, means that real and profound change would begin to take place throughout our energy sector.
It should be pointed out that a very good case could still be made for keeping natural gas alive and thriving (with the same subsidy regime) to fuel the transportation sector.
Because of the (over-hyped) variability of renewable energy (the Sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow) a massive shift towards natural gas (hundreds of times cleaner than coal, BTW) or battery storage will be needed to balance electrical demand. Perhaps both.
Natural gas (CNG) cars and trucks are affordable right now and can use the present distribution system as gasoline and diesel vehicles, while battery technology approaches the point of affordable battery systems for cars and trucks.
Although there is reason for hope at COP 21 in December 2015, the few examples above represent only a handful of nations acting on the scientific warnings about global warming
There are almost 200 other nations that must become convinced of the need to act on climate change this December, and many of them will be negatively affected by sea level rise, drought/heat waves, premature deaths caused by air and water pollution (China 410,000 per year, the U.S. over 200,000 per year, and Europe over 400,000 per year) and desertification.