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posted by janrinok on Thursday July 10 2014, @10:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the science-or-science-fiction? dept.

Ars Technica brings us another report on Climate change.

Given what we know about the sensitivity of the climate to added greenhouse gases, it's possible to calculate how much more carbon dioxide we can admit while still having a reasonable chance of staying within the two degree Celsius envelope. What's striking about these calculations is how many large changes we'll have to make in order to get there. According to Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute, the per-capita emissions would have to drop from five tons annually (where they are now) to 1.6 tons by 2050.

To accomplish this, Sachs says that all nations will have to undergo a process he calls "deep decarbonization," which is part of the title of a report he's helped organize and deliver to the UN today. Pathways to Deep Decarbonization, prepared by researchers in 15 different countries, looks into what's needed to achieve sufficient cuts in our carbon emissions. The report finds that current government pledges aren't sufficient, and the technology we need to succeed may exist, but most of it hasn't been proven to scale sufficiently.

Achieving this, the report's authors argue, will have to come with a normal pace of economic growth: "There is no prospect of winning the fight against climate change if countries fail on poverty eradication or if countries do not succeed in raising the living standards of their people." Although this may add to the challenge of lowering carbon emissions, the report concludes that "Robust economic growth and rising prosperity are consistent with the objective of deep decarbonization."

The report identifies what Sachs called "three pillars" of emissions reductions: low-carbon electricity, massive efficiency gains, and a greater electrification of transit and infrastructure. (Sachs also added that land use changes could also have a major impact.)

Ok, folks you can't just put your head in the sand and pass this off as Science fiction. Do you honestly believe that the governments around the world will actually do something about this, or shall we just hope for a nice asteroid so we don't have to deal with long term planning?

Related Stories

Wildfires Play Bigger Role in Climate Change than Previously Thought 9 comments

It has long been known that biomass burning -- burning forests to create agricultural lands, burning savannah as a ritual , slash-and-burn agriculture and wildfires -- figures into both climate change and public health.

But until the release of a new study by Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, the degree of that contribution had never been comprehensively quantified.

Jacobson's research, detailed in a paper published July 30 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, is based on a three-dimensional computer model simulation of the impacts of biomass burning. His findings indicate that burning biomass is playing a much bigger role in climate change and human health issues than previously thought.

"We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning," Jacobson said. "That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year."

Carbon, of course, is associated with global warming. Most carbon emissions linked to human activity are in the form of carbon dioxide gas (CO2), but other forms of carbon include the methane gas (CH4) and the particles generated by such fires -- the tiny bits of soot, called black carbon, and motes of associated substances known as brown carbon.

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  • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10 2014, @10:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10 2014, @10:23PM (#67325)

    Someone REALLY wants you to 'buy' into carbon futures.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10 2014, @10:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 10 2014, @10:50PM (#67335)

      Nothing like a good dose of make everything expensive to make sure everyone is poor and cares.... Because uneducated poor people make seriously rational decisions!

      http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/chap05p1.html [steshaw.org]
      http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/chap11p1.html [steshaw.org]
      http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/chap17p1.html [steshaw.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @01:24AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @01:24AM (#67375)

      > Someone REALLY wants you to 'buy' into carbon futures.

      WTF is a "carbon future?" The US doesn't even have a cap-and-trade system for carbon, so how can there be a carbon futures market?

      I think "follow the money" is the right advice, just misdirected by 180 degrees here.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @01:34AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @01:34AM (#67379)
      • (Score: 2) by frojack on Friday July 11 2014, @04:15AM

        by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 11 2014, @04:15AM (#67429) Journal

        Looks like there is a functioning carbon market [bloomberg.com] in some parts of the US since 2010. At least for power plants.

        --
        No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @04:36AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @04:36AM (#67436)

          > Looks like there is a functioning carbon market in some parts of the US since 2010. At least for power plants.

          One more hop in:
          Chicago Climate Futures Exchange (CCFE) announced plans to wind down operations in August of 2011. Effective as of February 28, 2012 there is no remaining open interest in contracts at CCFE and all contracts have been delisted.

          Some small number were set to trade OTC, but OTC is mostly a toy of scammers. Hard to say what has happened since.

  • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Thursday July 10 2014, @10:37PM

    by RamiK (1813) on Thursday July 10 2014, @10:37PM (#67330)

    Off-topic, speaking hypothetically of-course, let's just humor the notion this report being mostly ignored... Perish the thought... But, just saying... Where would one buy some nice cheap soon-to-be beach-side property?

    Thanks,
    lex@luthercorp.com

    --
    compiling...
    • (Score: 2) by BsAtHome on Thursday July 10 2014, @11:09PM

      by BsAtHome (889) on Thursday July 10 2014, @11:09PM (#67339)

      Well, I can suggest some of the lots in my neighbourhood. The first row properties should be under water in under 50 years or so, making the 100m inland property beachfront. You may offer me a lot of money now because if all things work out properly, and a 3.5m rise is accomplished, then my home will be beachfront property. That situation should last at least two generations, so you may put on a smile and ignore the inevitable for quite some time to come.

  • (Score: 2) by edIII on Thursday July 10 2014, @11:21PM

    by edIII (791) on Thursday July 10 2014, @11:21PM (#67343)

    Do you honestly believe that the governments around the world will actually do something about this, or shall we just hope for a nice asteroid so we don't have to deal with long term planning?

    I'm going to go with asteroid myself. There's a pretty noticeable increased chance of last-minute-before-death nooky. Asteroid is my informed decision.

    --
    Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
    • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Friday July 11 2014, @01:12AM

      by Dunbal (3515) on Friday July 11 2014, @01:12AM (#67372)

      Plus a 5km high megatsunami is something I wouldn't mind seeing right before I die.

    • (Score: 2) by Nerdfest on Friday July 11 2014, @03:00AM

      by Nerdfest (80) on Friday July 11 2014, @03:00AM (#67407)

      I was going to go with asteroid as well. The human race is too stupid on average to continue. Time for a reset.

      • (Score: 2) by AnonTechie on Friday July 11 2014, @08:12PM

        by AnonTechie (2275) on Friday July 11 2014, @08:12PM (#67803) Journal

        The human race is too stupid on average to continue.

        This paper seems to agrees with you :

        In 1999 a pair of researchers published a paper called "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (PDF)." David Dunning and Justin Kruger (both at Cornell University's Department of Psychology at the time) conducted a series of four studies showing that, in certain cases, people who are very bad at something think they are actually pretty good. They showed that to assess your own expertise at something, you need to have a certain amount of expertise already.
        http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.64.2655&rep=rep1&type=pdf [psu.edu] [PDF]

        The Human Race Will Come To An End. What's Next?
        Given evolution's trajectory, we will almost certainly transform into augmented versions of our current selves. The big question now is, can we survive long enough to become the next humans?
        http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-01/the-human-race-will-come-to-an-end [popsci.com]

        --
        Albert Einstein - "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by kaszz on Thursday July 10 2014, @11:28PM

    by kaszz (4211) on Thursday July 10 2014, @11:28PM (#67345) Journal

    Looking back it seems only crisis makes enough dent to make enough people change. Kind of like when the stock market crash of 1929 made politicians and business change their ways until 1999. Some time later at 2001 "oops". World War II also has changed many policies. Flying into WTC got various organizations a carte blanch lawmaking. 1973 oil price hike got people to reconsider that gasoline perhaps weren't that reliable. Etc.

    It kind of suck that so much has to be destroyed before enough people in a decision position take the hint.

    In this specific area a lot of people earning a living from oil pumping will spend money to thwart any change to other means of energy supply.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Friday July 11 2014, @12:48AM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 11 2014, @12:48AM (#67365) Journal

      Far bigger changes happened in history with no significant event at all.
      The plow replaced a stick and a shovel.
      Horses were supplanted by motor vehicles.
      Steam replaced animal power.
      Some things just happen when the time and technology allow.

      How much solar power was there when you were a kid?

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Friday July 11 2014, @01:10AM

        by Dunbal (3515) on Friday July 11 2014, @01:10AM (#67371)

        Ahh but that's change that goes with the flow, enabling basically lazy humans to have even more free time or to do more with the time they have. But change that tries to go in the opposite direction, making things more expensive in terms of time or money, making life in general more complicated, for little immediate gain? Yeah, good luck with that.

        • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday July 11 2014, @01:20AM

          by kaszz (4211) on Friday July 11 2014, @01:20AM (#67374) Journal

          So there needs to either be a technological advance or enforcement. Guess the lack of research will put us on the latter. And of course VIP will get a get-free-card as usual.

          • (Score: 2) by Dunbal on Friday July 11 2014, @01:32AM

            by Dunbal (3515) on Friday July 11 2014, @01:32AM (#67378)

            Oh I'm not worried about this, the world is going to have so many other problems to deal with in 20 years or so when its population doubles AGAIN... this will be lost in the noise.

            • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday July 11 2014, @02:45AM

              by kaszz (4211) on Friday July 11 2014, @02:45AM (#67401) Journal

              It's likely to happen and also a very reckless move by the civilization at large to double its size when resources are scarce as is.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @07:04AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @07:04AM (#67471)

                The UN disagrees. According to their reports in 2050 there will be around 9 or 10 billion people. Which of course still is way too many.

                However population is kinda a red herring. Sure, people have basic needs to must be fulfilled but those are really minimal. It's our sick western consumer life style that is the actual problem: Everything is disposable and products are not engineered to last but to fail. Food is wasted in massive amounts. And we jet around basically just for fun all the time.

                • (Score: 2) by khallow on Friday July 11 2014, @01:59PM

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 11 2014, @01:59PM (#67575) Journal

                  Sure, people have basic needs to must be fulfilled but those are really minimal. It's our sick western consumer life style that is the actual problem

                  Sick compared to what? The rest of the world is in even worse shape. And all that population growth isn't coming from the "sick western consumer life style" whose participants have a rather low fertility rate, often below replacement.

          • (Score: 2) by khallow on Friday July 11 2014, @02:11PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 11 2014, @02:11PM (#67584) Journal

            Guess the lack of research will put us on the latter.

            What "lack" of research? We're currently spending billions of dollars in public funding a year to find a slightly more efficient will turbine or photovoltaic coating and an order of magnitude more to subsidize existing renewable energy infrastructure. There seems to be this wholly uncritical view that more scientific spending automatically means more scientific progress.

            • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday July 11 2014, @08:31PM

              by kaszz (4211) on Friday July 11 2014, @08:31PM (#67817) Journal

              There's a lot of research that goes missing because funding is usually limited to established parties. Inventors also tend to have a uphill battle to get any funding. Moonshoot funding is lacking. There's a lot of research done. But even more that is not visable.

              • (Score: 2) by khallow on Saturday July 12 2014, @02:35PM

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 12 2014, @02:35PM (#68113) Journal

                Moonshoot funding is lacking.

                My view on that is that moonshot funding should stay lacking. Consider the epitome of moonshot programs, the Apollo program. Aside from the lunar science and a bit of land-side infrastructure, no legacy of Apollo survives. That's pretty much what a moonshot is. It's expensive with little, if any, long term benefit to it.

                My view is that current funding of renewable energy research is more than adequate. If it's being spent poorly (as you imply above), then that's a solid indication that more spending would also be spent poorly.

                • (Score: 3, Interesting) by kaszz on Saturday July 12 2014, @05:04PM

                  by kaszz (4211) on Saturday July 12 2014, @05:04PM (#68158) Journal

                  The lack of space legacy from the moon landings is because the government decided to shelve the project(s). We should already have presence on Mars and the Moon. Mining to cover raw material supply, solar satellites etc by now if priorities had been different.

                  Moonshoot financing is to take on low cost projects and do that many times. It should then pay return on investment. It may also be tried for hugely disruptive technology where the benefit for the whole civilization is just to great to pass by not trying.

                  • (Score: 2) by khallow on Sunday July 13 2014, @02:36AM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday July 13 2014, @02:36AM (#68329) Journal

                    Moonshoot financing is to take on low cost projects and do that many times. It should then pay return on investment. It may also be tried for hugely disruptive technology where the benefit for the whole civilization is just to great to pass by not trying.

                    Well, I get now your original comment. My view is that in that light there's too much rather than too little research out there. It just happens to be of poor quality.

                    When public funds are involved, there is little political incentive to invest in moonshots (or other potentially high value projects). They don't generate enough status for the decision makers unless they turn out really successful (and that may be years after the decision maker leaves office). OTOH, big projects generate status and hype even before they break ground. And in a conflict for resources, particularly manpower, between a big sexy project and small unsexy moonshots, the former will get the best people and best equipment. There's also political incentive to kill off funding for any small projects that threaten a big project. Similarly, incentives in the private world are weakened to invest in moonshots when there is all this competition from big projects.

      • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Saturday July 12 2014, @11:32AM

        by FatPhil (863) <reversethis-{if.fdsa} {ta} {tnelyos-cp}> on Saturday July 12 2014, @11:32AM (#68058) Homepage
        I knew more people who used solar power (1, for their hot water only) when I was a kid, than I do now (0, obviously).

        Are you expecting me to extrapolate this 100% reduction in solar power use over the last 3 decades into the future?
        --
        Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 2) by khallow on Friday July 11 2014, @02:06PM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 11 2014, @02:06PM (#67579) Journal

      There has to be at least the appearance of a crisis in order to stoke that hysteria. Climate change just doesn't cut it currently for most of the world.

      • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Friday July 11 2014, @08:34PM

        by kaszz (4211) on Friday July 11 2014, @08:34PM (#67821) Journal

        It will catch the attention all the way across all levels of the power pyramid. The catch is that by then the toes may already be getting wet..

        • (Score: 2) by khallow on Friday July 11 2014, @09:02PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 11 2014, @09:02PM (#67836) Journal

          You have a reason you feel that way? I think instead this is an attempt at manufacturing a false crisis. For example, why cap global warming at only 2C? Or I should say, go through the motions of backing such a cap given the widespread disinterest (by many parties capable of easily thwarting such efforts) in such a goal? No one has made a case for why we should be engaging in heroic efforts to stave off mild climate change. It's all vague talk of "toes getting wet".

          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by kaszz on Friday July 11 2014, @09:27PM

            by kaszz (4211) on Friday July 11 2014, @09:27PM (#67846) Journal

            Because along that temperature increase other accelerating processes kick in. Which will make life on this planet very tough.

            • (Score: 2) by khallow on Saturday July 12 2014, @02:23PM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday July 12 2014, @02:23PM (#68109) Journal

              Because along that temperature increase other accelerating processes kick in. Which will make life on this planet very tough.

              Not if those processes don't happen. Shouldn't we have the existence of these "accelerating processes" confirmed first before we worry about them? And there's also the massive decelerating process of radiative cooling.

              • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Saturday July 12 2014, @05:14PM

                by kaszz (4211) on Saturday July 12 2014, @05:14PM (#68164) Journal

                There's a lot of research showing this asfaik.

  • (Score: 1) by takyon on Friday July 11 2014, @01:38AM

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Friday July 11 2014, @01:38AM (#67380) Journal

    World energy consumption [wikipedia.org]
    Flexible thin-film modules [wikipedia.org]
    PV $/Watt [altenergystocks.com]

    The developing world's energy use is going to skyrocket over the next 50 years. There is no political or ecological solution. The solutions must be economic and technological. We need to get really cheap flexible solar all over the place. If we're lucky, something like aneutronic fusion [focusfusion.org] might work out, but don't count on it.

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
  • (Score: 1) by jimbrooking on Friday July 11 2014, @02:02AM

    by jimbrooking (3465) Subscriber Badge on Friday July 11 2014, @02:02AM (#67387)

    Attributed to Winston Churchill, it goes like "You can always trust the Americans to do the right thing, after they've exhausted all other alternatives."

    The US Government, however, is so dysfunctional it can't even do the WRONG thing, so will never get around to doing the right thing!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @07:04AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @07:04AM (#67473)

    So, we will have +10C warming, minimum.

    +2C limit is unachievable. +5 will not happen either, because everyone needs to burn coal anyway. Just look at recent history. Year 2000 - 60,000,000 barrels of oil go up in smoke a day. Today, not even 15 years later, knowing full well that we are fucking up the climate for centuries, we are burning 95,000,000 barrels of oil a day and the rate is going up, not down.. World coal consumption doubled in this time. Gas, probably even larger increase thanks to "clean fuel" and fracking.

    In the same amount of time, nuclear power is no longer looked at favorably. And solar's and wind's growth has been far surpassed by fossil fuels in every single year in absolute terms.

    +10C, here we come.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @11:00AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 11 2014, @11:00AM (#67529)

    How much we can "admit"? And the story about the virus detectors has the word "payed" in the summary? Does the Slashdot editing come bundled free with the slash code?

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Aiwendil on Friday July 11 2014, @11:44AM

    by Aiwendil (531) on Friday July 11 2014, @11:44AM (#67539) Journal

    Just a few random thoughts here.. feel free to respond to any/either/all.

    * How much CO2 will be released when the siberian tundra thaws?

    * What is the current cost of feeding a fisher-tropsch plant (or newer version thereof) with biological feedstock? (a couple of years ago SASOL reported a cost of about 45USD/barrel when fed with mined coal)

    * Is it possible to use the ash and/or gases from a biofuel and/or fossilfuel plant in a synfuel plant?

    * Why not just add a brutal 10% tax on any non-CCS coal-emitting fuel-burning plant and use this fund as subsidies to retrofit CCS? (also, ban any new builds of coal-emitting fuel-buning plants without CCS)

    * Assuming we would somehow manage to convert all our current coal/gas/oil-plants into fossil-fuel-plants with CCS how long will it take before we hit dangerously low levels of CO2?
    ** And how long before this becomes and issue on biofuel-plants with CCS?

    * Why are we not investing _heavily_ in nuclear (CANDU for instance can be built in pretty much any shipyard that was considered modern in the mid 1950's, and heavy water manufacturing plants can be built with roughly the same level of technology, and CANDU skips the steps of enrichment (it runs of natural uranium, and can be modified to run on thorium/uranium mixes, and also can use spent fuel from light water reactors with minimal (ie, cut it to shape) reprocessing) - so there really isn't any limit (of concern) on how many of these we can build).

    * Why are not waste-to-energy plants more common? (most dumps will end up spewing out methane anyway, so burning it (preferably in a CCS-plant) would allow for more centralized handling of greenhouse gases and also reduce the need for landfills, and the waste could be made into secondary sources of many resources)

    Musings for rich countries:
    * Why not just do what france once did and standardize a few types of nuclear reactors and focus heavily on these (france does in effect only use four different types of nuclear reactors (only three of the newest type), this is why nuclear became so very cheap there)?
    ** Same for biofuel and/or CCS-plants

    * Why does not the governments build nuclear power plants and then operate them until they can be sold at a small (5-10%) profit (to possibly multiple companies [shared ownership])? (this will remove many of the risks caused by it being major projects and also will allow for standardization of nuclear power plants [just order many at the same time, for instance just imagine the effect if usa ordered one plant of two reactors for each state, 100 reactors would be one heck of a standardization - also in places like alaska and hawaii electricity would probably become cheap (btw, what is hawaii's current demand?)])
    ** Same for biofuel and/or CCS-plants

    • (Score: 1) by CyberB0B39 on Friday July 11 2014, @02:36PM

      by CyberB0B39 (492) on Friday July 11 2014, @02:36PM (#67593)

      The bottom line to many of your musings is cost.

      There is a cost to perform CCS - the CO2 has to be scrubbed from the flue gas and compressed. It then has to be sent offsite in a pipeline and put underground. Do you want to pay more in electric bills (and associated product costs) for this?

      Waste to energy plants / landfills should be the last resort to our waste. Why throw away / burn something? Why not recycle / compost / re-use it? Again, in order to any of these costs $ in tipping fees. . .

      Nuclear power comes at a cost and cheaper energy will displace nuclear. Do you want the government to command the electricity market? I don't

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Aiwendil on Friday July 11 2014, @08:05PM

        by Aiwendil (531) on Friday July 11 2014, @08:05PM (#67793) Journal

        Depends.. How much more? currently I'm paying about 15cent/kWh (after taxes), and I would consider up to about 25-30cent/kWh to be fair.. however I would be quite miffed at whoever didn't channel the extra taxes into a hefty nuclear buildout (5cent (pre-taxes) and up per kWh depending on how sanely it is built).

        I agree that waste-to-energy should be used after recycling, however pretty much any country that has a landfills should invest in waste-to-energy since they obviously don't recycle anyways.

        Just what technology will replace nuclear? If it is built in a sane manner (that is - not doing everything as a one-of-a-kind build) it can quite easily get down to about 5-10cent/kWh (pre-taxes), if it is built with cash up front the cost can be cut with another 20-40%..
        Also, just what would be bad with having the government command the electricity market? Electricity was cheaper here before it was left to the open market.
        But having the governtment build with BOO, BOOT, BOT or BLT (with the intent of selling the plant as soon as possible) will allow for the government to set a ceiling on electricity, also probably would increase the joint ownership of plants.

        However, are people really _that_ hard on saving every penny? I mean, if one would impose a 0.1us cent tax on every kWh produced by nuclear in usa and invest it only in new nuclear build one could order a new barakah-style (5.6GWe (4 APR-1400)) nuclear power plant roughly every second year, and that is before economy of scale kicks in (if set at 0.2us cent it would only take 25years until doubling is reached, this is assuming economy of scale doesn't occur but that streamlining of bureacracy does. if set at a full us cent and assuming the capacity to build nuclear power plants is increased accordingly we are suddenly talking about having the electricity in mainland usa fossil-free in less than 50 years)