We now have two responses to the climate emergency battling it out among House Democrats, the “aggressive” 2030 target for net zero emissions folded into the Green New Deal and a more “moderate” 2050 target for the same, just announced by a group of mainstream legislators. How significant is this difference? Does where you stand on climate policy depend on whether your policy has a 2030 or 2050 checkpoint?
I say no. Neither target has any more than symbolic value, and what the government does or doesn’t do to prevent a klimapocalypse (can we use this interlingual word?) won’t depend on which one gets chosen.
Endpoint targets have no constraining power at all. A 2030 target won’t be met or unmet until 2030, and by then it will be too late. Same, and worse, for a 2050 target. Moreover, the whole target idea is based on a misconception of how carbon emissions work. The CO2 we pump into the atmosphere will remain for several human generations; it accumulates, and the sum of the carbon we emit this year plus next plus the one after and so on is what will determine how much climate change we and our descendants will have to endure. (The relationship between our emissions and the earth system’s response is complex and may embody tipping points due to feedback effects.) Every additional ton of carbon counts the same, whether it occurs today or just before some arbitrary target date.
What we need instead is a carbon budget, an announced total quantity of emissions we intend to hold ourselves to, starting right now and continuing through the end of the century. That way, whether we’re living up to our pledge or scrapping it is put to us each year based on how quickly we’re using up our quota. It sets the meter running now.
All carbon power must be replaced by nuclear. Don’t know how we are going to manage the economics and politics of it — but that’s the physics of it. (Add in thermonuclear when we get around to it.)
Renewables at the outside could at most provide 50% of today’s power needs — at the very outside. But 100 years from now we are going to need 10X as much power — as the whole world gets rich and more populous. That means we will have to do 95% nuclear/thermonuclear.
The book you want to read (I could only read about half — too technical in parts) is: The Future of Fusion Energy by Jason Parisi and Justine Ball.
For the histoy of steam taking 200 years to go from pumping water out of mines to riding the rails — among other power sources, check out: Energy: A Human History by Richard Rhodes (Pulitzer Prize winning author of Th Making of the Atomic Bomb).
typical of human beings is to let the present crisis make us forget what caused the last crisis.
nuclear is dangerous. we don’t need it.
the flaw in your argument is the idea we need to meet “today’s power needs “. This is about like saying we need to meet today’s cocaine needs.
We don/t. We need to get off the stuff. In the case of “energy” we don’t need to get off of it entirely. Only enough to balance the earth’s natural carbon budget… without introducing a new “radioactive” budget.
would like to say i agree with you entirely, but i have learned i never know what the other guy’s entirely means.
as for “klimapocalypse (can we use this interlingual word?)”
forget it. it’s not a question of interlingual. it’s a question of not trying too hard to be cute. it attracts attention to itself and spoils the writing.
The Japanese reactor disaster was easily avoided. They only had to to keep their backup power supply high up enough to not be swamped by a tsunami — which they were warned could happen. Nobody died on Three Mile Island. The Russian meltdown doesn’t count for us. Earth civilization is going to self-incinerate if we don’t go nuclear — totally.
Disposing of spent fuel: how many coal mines or salt mines, etc., have we dug while waiting to dig a few uranium sites? I think there is a hundred plus mile long salt mine, half mile down, somewhere along Kansas, Missouri.
it would be cheaper to just stop driving so much.
Perhaps the dangers of nuclear can be controlled, but there’s another problem that Dennis may not have foreseen. Water scarcity. In France, where I live nuclear reactors are cooled by water, mostly from rivers. During the recent heat wave, we were on the verge of shutting down one or more reactors because the water was getting too hot. This is not only an additional risk to the reactors, but also to the ecosystem—that is, amongst other risks, killing all the fish in the rivers.
Welcome to Angry Bear. First time comments always go to moderation to weed out spam, spammers, and advertising.
Edgar, France is 75% nuclear, isn’t it? I would suggest pressing all those future to be empty oil tankers into service to ferry H20 to reactors. 🙂 Seriously, there are designs that use alternate collants like salt maybe — don’t have this on fingertips yet.
fortunately you won’t be making the decisions. but as long as people like you cling to technological fantasies so you don’t have to give up your motorized lifestyle you will play into the hands of the petroleum and, god help us, nuclear barons.
say goodbye to life on earth as we knew it as long as i can drive my car.
i’d be willing to bet you don’t know much physics. but it wouldn’t be a safe bet because even real physicists are not necessarily too smart about things outside their own field.
above you said the japanese reactor fail could easily have been avoided.
but it wasn’t avoided.
Our entire Earth civilization is “melting down” — occasional glitches may be price we HAVE TO PAY.
I will come back to you and fix it. I am reading the “crap” right now.