Capability Brown’s oblique approach to climate policy

‘Remember, then, that scientific thought is the guide to action; that the truth at which it arrives is not that which we can ideally contemplate without error, but that which we can act upon without fear; and you cannot fail to see that scientific thought is not an accompaniment or condition of human progress, but human progress itself.’ William Kingdon Clifford, The Common Sense of the Exact Sciences (1885)

Damned lies and statisticians, politicians, lawyers, scientifically illiterate talking heads and philosophers. Human emitted greenhouse gases bias a chaotic system to a warmer state. There is implicit in chaos the risk of dramatic and rapid change in the Earth system – atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere and hydrosphere. That much should be accepted as truth in line with Isaac Newton’s 4th rule of natural philosophy. There are of course those who don’t. And if you think contrarians aren’t arseholes about it I guess it is all rainbows, Leonard Cohen and unicorns for you. The best one can expect is to be told that ‘believing’ in general relativity is a religious cult.

The other side is equally obtuse. The range of models in the latest IPCC opportunistic ensemble is shown in blue and yellow. Above and below the mean of means. Some models are run in centres with large computing facilities. Models can be run many times with slightly different initial conditions and wildly divergent solution trajectories. Some have more modest origins.

Each of these models in the CMIP 6 opportunistic ensemble have an ‘irreducible imprecision’ or ‘evolving uncertainty’ – however one wants to put it. Below is an example of a single model run 1000’s of times. The rest is a work in progress. Yet they somehow continue to insist on the verisimilitude of models.

Source: Rowland et al 2012

Climate models have done one great thing – they introduced the world in the 1960’s to the third great idea of twentieth century physics – an idea that may still bring balance to the force.

Source: Sabine Hossenfelder & Timothy Palmer – Rethinking Superdeterminism

Climate science has been assigned a central role in a culture war that has been going on for a very long time between those who want a social and economic reset and those who instinctively resist change. Both sides feel empowered to tell themselves and others tales superficially in the dispassionate idiom of science. Both sides marshalling arguments that support the cause – certain of their moral and intellectual superiority and in arrogance, ignorance and conceit condemning the enemy in bitter animosity. It is socially corrosive and perhaps more worryingly undermines foundations of the scientific enlightenment. Moreover – the stalemate has stalled sensible progress.

‘If one seeks long-lasting impact, the best line of approach may not be head on. “Lose the object and draw nigh obliquely” is a dictum attributed to the famous eighteenth century English landscape gardener Lancelot “Capability” Brown.12 Brown’s designs framed the stately home at the entrance, but only briefly. After allowing the visitor a glimpse of his destination, the driveway would veer away to pass circuitously and delightfully through woodland vistas, through broad meadows with carefully staged aperçus of waterfalls and temples, across imposing bridges spanning dammed streams and lakes, before delivering the visitor in a relaxed and amused frame of mind, unexpectedly, right in front of the house.

That displays a subtle skill which has manifest political value: the capacity to deliver an ambitious objective harmoniously. “Capability” Brown might be a useful tutor for designers of climate policies.13 His advice would be to approach the object of emissions reduction via other goals, riding with other constituencies and gathering other benefits.’ The Hartwell Paper, 2010

‘The Paper therefore proposes that the organising principle of our effort should be the raising up of human dignity via three overarching objectives: ensuring energy access for all; ensuring that we develop in a manner that does not undermine the essential functioning of the Earth system; ensuring that our societies are adequately equipped to withstand the risks and dangers that come from all the vagaries of climate, whatever their cause may be.’  op. cit.

I’m sure it will pass. Infrastructure security is best left to technically conservative engineers. I saw a snippet of video yesterday that showed a prospective urban development disappearing under water with sea rise of 1.8m – used as justification for the great reset. It is simply not true. Infrastructure is designed for extreme conditions in which sea level rise is included. There are some things that can’t be guarded against – sea level rise isn’t one of those. One cannot protect everything – for those events there are escape routes and protection of critical emergency services planned for.

My cultural bias is freely admitted. The rule of law (property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness), government size (government spending, tax burden, fiscal health), regulatory efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom), open markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). The rights bestowed on humanity by God. In concert they provide guidelines for human progress.

I have great hopes for the 21st century. What is central to renewal is an affirmation of the age old knowledge from the dawn of humanity. The collective, the tribe, the clan, the farmers cooperative is where the power for global ecological renewal is found. It is the space between governments and markets where landscapes flourish or decline. It is a profound reality that balancing the human ecology on a global scale can only be realised by working together on the ground we walk on. It succeeds with prosperous and resilient communities in vibrant landscapes. Technology we are good at. Technical innovation is the great strength of the technological monkey. It is puzzling that some seek to curtail energy technology at the level of the steam engine.

It needs only our passion for the great task of building the shining city in an Earthly garden. The blue, green, red and orange of Maree Faulkner’s Solar City signposts endless new possibilities for the human ecology. Great and shining cities rising in a song of renewal. A great, global spanning civilisation forged this century and nested in a profusion of nature. Populations replanting and replenishing in a triumph of human ecology in the Earthly garden – a sound foundation for our next steps to the stars. Great art and great music flourishing – song and poetry inspiring and amusing. Technologies proliferate and will be directed to the tasks of bringing our lives into balance with the world. The great task of renewing our world and empowering its peoples will bring a resolution that releases immense energies. What seem like dire and insoluble problems of the moment will fade like midnight forebodings in the morning light. Take heart and celebrate the advent of the shining city with laughter, songs and dance.

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Thresholds and epochs in the Grand Climate System

The map – a thermally enhanced satellite photo – below shows September 2015 sea surface temperature anomalies – that is the difference from average temperatures over a period. During the most resent El Niño.  The oceans have a sun warmed surface layer overlaying the cold depths. Wind and planetary spin keep oceans and atmosphere constantly in motion. In places surface water sinks – driving deep ocean currents – and in others it upwells. Energy moves from the Sun to oceans and land from tropics to poles, to the atmosphere and out to space. It is technically a coupled, nonlinear system far from thermodynamic equilibrium.  A characteristic behavior of the Grand Climate System is relatively stable states punctuated by abrupt shifts that owe more to internal dynamics of the system as a whole than external factors such as greenhouse gases.  Traditionally called oscillations – they are more correctly in modern terms quasi standing waves in spatio-temporal chaos.   They are shifts in patterns of ocean circulation triggered by small changes in the Earth system.  Such as orbits, solar activity and greenhouse gases.

Grand climate
Source: NOAA NESDIS

‘We are living in a world driven out of equilibrium. Energy is constantly delivered from the sun to the earth. Some of the energy is converted chemically, while most of it is radiated back into space, or drives complex dissipative structures, with our weather being the best known example. We also find regular structures on much smaller scales, like the ripples in the windblown sand, the intricate structure of animal coats, the beautiful pattern of mollusks or even in the propagation of electrical signals in the heart muscle.”  Max Planck Institute

“You can see spatio-temporal chaos if you look at a fast mountain river. There will be vortexes of different sizes at different places at different times. But if you observe patiently, you will notice that there are places where there almost always are vortexes and they almost always have similar sizes – these are the quasi standing waves of the spatio-temporal chaos governing the river. If you perturb the flow, many quasi standing waves may disappear. Or very few. It depends.’  Tomas Milanivic

Polar annular modes are immense cyclones spun up over the poles by planetary rotation.  Imagine seesawing masses of frigid air spinning off high latitudes.  Where it meets warmer moist air it rains.  Coriolis force spins up wind driven currents into gyres in all the world’s oceans.  The physical mechanisms were described by great men of the Norwegian school of oceanography in the first half of the 20th century.   

This newish temperature index of Pacific Ocean states shows the warm ‘V’ and cool surrounds of a warm state.  Over the Pacific hot spot cloud is drying and dissipating adding gargantuan energies to the system.   These temperature patterns  shift between warmer and cooler irregularly.   The developers of the index call it epochs.  Based on multiple equilibrium states and sudden shifts – more likely evolving patterns in spatio-temporal chaos.  This pattern has profound effects on global weather and climate and it shifts at multidecadal to millennial scales.

Source: TPI (IPO( Tripole Index for the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation

There are epochs triggered by changes to Earth system boundary conditions.  As far as I can tell the limits to climate change are some -10 and +12 degrees C.  In as little as a decade in some places.  Low summer Northern Hemisphere insolation and a cooler north Atlantic with glacial ice sheet growth.   Or cloud evaporating away.  The answer to this problem in fluid dynamics is literally incalculable.  

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Using all of the heavy elements in nuclear waste to provide energy

A silly thing about light water nuclear reactors is that only half a percent of the energy in nuclear fuel is used.  The rest goes to waste as heavy elements that decay to safe levels of radioactivity over hundreds  of thousands of years.  What if we could use all of the heavy elements and have a waste that contains only lightweight fission products that decay to background levels of radioactivity in 300 years?  This is one example of an advanced reactor design that could use all the energy in nuclear fuel.  Remove short lived, light fission products  as waste with AIROX dry separation and recycle heavier elements in a closed nuclear fuel cycle.

This is General Atomics proposed EM2 advanced nuclear reactor.  They have built helium cooled reactors.  It is not new technology but uses 21st century methods and materials.  It will use silicon carbide fuel cladding rather than the aluminium alloy cladding used at Chernobyl and Fukushima – where the cladding melted generating hydrogen that then exploded dispersing radioactivity over large areas.  The silicon carbide cladding can’t melt down at any feasible temperature.  I note that they have recently announced a joint venture with a subsidiary of Électricité de France to develop a 50MW version aiming for commercial deployment is 2035.  A 50MW fast modular reactor (FMR) would be ideal for plug and play use with many applications.

em2-summary

Factory built – runs for 30 years without refueling.  Return the entire unit to the factory – no need to open the fuel core on site at all.

GA em2

Recycle fuel and remove fission products.

Many times using conventional nuclear waste as a source of 100’s of years of safe reliable energy.

Creating much less waste – that has much lower activity.

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Are we to let people starve while the powerful grow bioenergy and restore forests for their tranquility?

The bottom line here is that misguided climate policy can and has increased poverty and hunger.  There are better ways forward on liberal principles evolved since the Scottish Enlightenment – on which the US for one was founded.  The rule of law (property rights, government integrity, judicial effectiveness), government size (government spending, tax burden, fiscal health), regulatory efficiency (business freedom, labor freedom, monetary freedom), open markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom).  In concert they provide guidelines for human progress that form the basis for progressive liberal democratic governance the world over. 

“All the models apply a uniform carbon price, with the agricultural sector included
in the carbon-pricing scheme. Except for IMAGE, all the models assume land-use competition among food, bioenergy crops and afforestation.”  Fujimori et al 2019: A multi-model assessment of food security implications of climate change mitigation

The most effective climate response does not require such an invidious compromise.  The graphic below is sourced from the Heritage Foundation – a Washington think tank.  Criteria important in social progress and economic growth are scored in countries around the world and the results rankled.  It shows a tremendous decline in poverty over the last few decades.  Something ardently to be desired.  

Source”  Heritage Foundation

‘Today, we live in the most prosperous time in human history. Poverty, sicknesses, and ignorance are receding throughout the world, due in large part to the advance of economic freedom. In 2021, the principles of economic freedom that have fueled this monumental progress are once again measured in the Index of Economic Freedom.

“To build a better world, we must have the courage to make a new start. We must clear away the obstacles with which human folly has recently encumbered our path and release the creative energy of individuals. We must create conditions favourable to progress rather than “planning progress.”… The guiding principle in any attempt to create a world of free men must be this: a policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.”

— Friedrich A. Hayek

The reality of the Paris climate accord is a 3 billion metric ton increase in electricity and heat greenhouse gas emissions per year by 2030.  A sector responsible for just 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  Energy choices for much of the world are those that provide the most productive path to development.  At this time the choice is natural gas or high efficiency low emission coal technology  The former emit some 50% and the latter some 10% less carbon dioxide than the coal plants formerly deployed – and negligible amount of sulfur, nitrous oxides, mercury or sulphur and black carbon particulates.  There are many HELE plants being built or planned across Asia and Africa. 

hele

Source: ASEAN Energy Equation

The bulk of greenhouse gas emissions come from land use changes and farming or in the form of nitrous oxides from internal combustion engines and nitrogen fertilizers and methane from many sources.  As well there is the inexplicably neglected strong warming from black carbon.  Or now unnecessary CFC use.  These are controlled with existing technology available to technologically advanced economies.  With immense health and environmental benefits.

Deserts are being reclaimed. Forests, grasslands, wetlands and coastlines conserved and restored.  The key is water.  The African NGO Excellent Development has a goal of a million sand dams for half a billion people by 2040.  A cost effective way to transform a continent.  And sequester immense amounts of carbon dioxide.  

Food security requires doubling of food production – and much more meat – by 2050.  It can only be done by building living, more fertile soils – returning lost carbon in the process.  This soil carbon store can be renewed by restoring land. Holding back water in sand dams, terraces and swales, replanting, changing grazing management, encouraging perennial vegetation cover, precise applications of chemicals and adoption of other management practices that create positive carbon and nutrient budgets and optimal soil temperature and moisture. Atmospheric carbon is transferred from the atmosphere to soil carbon stores through plant photosynthesis and subsequent formation of secondary carbonates.  It is based on sound soil science and modern farming practices.  

Carbon sequestration in soils has major benefits in addition to offsetting anthropogenic emissions from fossil fuel combustion, land use conversion, soil cultivation, continuous grazing and cement and steel manufacturing.    Restoring soil carbon stores increases agronomic productivity and enhances global food security.  Increasing the soil organic content enhances water holding capacity and creates a more drought tolerant agriculture – with less downstream flooding.  There is a critical level of soil carbon that is essential to maximising the effectiveness of water and nutrient inputs.  Global food security, especially for countries with fragile soils and harsh climate such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, cannot be achieved without improving soil quality through an increase in soil organic content.   Wildlife flourishes on restored grazing land helping to halt biodiversity loss.  Reversing soil carbon loss is a new green revolution where conventional agriculture is hitting a productivity barrier with exhausted soils and increasingly expensive inputs.

Increased agricultural productivity, increased downstream processing and access to markets build local economies and global wealth.  Economic growth provides resources for solving problems – conserving and restoring ecosystems, better sanitation and safer water, better health and education, updating the diesel fleet and other productive assets to emit less black carbon and reduce the health and environmental impacts, developing better and cheaper ways of producing electricity, replacing cooking with wood and dung with better ways of preparing food thus avoiding respiratory disease and again reducing black carbon emissions.  A global program of agricultural soils restoration is a foundation for balancing the human ecology.

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Economics, Environment and Energy

The increase in the retail price of electricity as a result of 80% renewables penetration (in the US) by 2050 is estimated at some $30/MWh.  The current average retail price is some $13/MWh.  Such high penetration depends in large part on technologies that don’t yet exist.  The Australian Greens ‘plan’ is for 100% renewables by 2030.  What’s a more practical alternative?

Black carbon, sulfate, nitrous oxides, methane and chlorofluorocarbons are all pollutants caused by human activities – from burning fossil fuels but also from cooking fires and burning forests and grasslands.  Methane comes from mining and pipelines, sewage treatment, piggeries, cattle feedlots and landfill.  They are enormously harmful to human health and global ecosystems.  Chlorofluorocarbons are a legacy gas used as a propellant in spray cans and in refrigeration.  They destroy radiation shielding ozone in the stratosphere.  There were ready replacements and they were banned in 1996 – but still are 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions.  

Black carbon has a climate forcing of some 1.1 Watt per square meter (Bond et al 2013) – more than carbon dioxide from electricity production.  Sulfate is nominally cooling – although this is confounded with the lensing effect in mixed black carbon, sulfate and primary organic aerosols present in all anthropogenic (human origin) emissions (Gustafsson and Ramanathan 2016). This amplifies black carbon warming 2.4 times.  

“Time-course evolution of BC aerosol composition, light absorption (where EMAC-BC is the enhancement because of coatings), and associated climate effects (as DRF).”

Source:  Gustafsson and Ramanathan 2016

For the future the imperative is to invest in energy research and development – not least because without the innovation windfall future economies are at risk. I’m not adverse to even wind and solar. It adds some 10% to my bill for some 7% of electricity generation. Although for some time hugely skeptical – I would count the experiment a success. Levelized costs of wind an solar are now lower than alternative sources of electrons – and solar is now on the verge of another technology revolution. But despite the heroic modelling of the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) we are now at physical and technology limits.

The graphics below show the energy mix and the increased cost for 80% renewables by 2050.  The current average retail price of electricity in the US is $13/MWh.


Source: NREL Renewable Energy Futures Study

At this right price – the principle of economic substitution kicks in.  With the right technology – and there are dozens in development – Schumpeter’s principle of creative destruction of capitalism will revolutionize energy systems.  

Emissions of black carbon, sulfate and nitrous oxides are neither necessary or desirable from power plants or transport.  Modern power plants emit virtually no (0.01%) pollutants – and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10%.  They are very much at the forefront of current ASEAN development and energy planning.  All consistent the Paris emissions accord.  Greenhouse gas emissions from power plants are some 25% of total greenhouse gas emission, transport 14%.

Source: ASEAN’s Energy Equation

Technology for reducing black carbon emission is very advanced in modern vehicles.

Source:  Bond et al 2013

Some nitrous oxides come from vehicles – and about half of volatile organic compounds. These complex in sunlight to form damaging photochemical smog. They are amended in modern vehicles with catalytic converters and complex engine management systems that burn air and fuel at a near perfect stoichiometric ratio.  Most anthropogenic nitrous oxides come from applications of nitrogen fertiliser.  Precision agriculture overcomes by applying nitrogen where, when and and in the quantity needed.  It lowers cost, increases productivity and safeguards downstream environments.  Nitrous oxides are about 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Methane is not damaging in itself – unless it blows up. Methane is derived from anoxic digestion of organic material. Fugitive emissions from mines and pipelines is an economic cost. Other sources include sewage treatment, landfill, piggeries and cattle feedlots. Anoxic digestion of organic matter creates creates methane and soluble and mobile forms of nitrogen. When accumulated in groundwater used in baby formula nitrates inhibit oxygen assimilation. In streams and oceans they result in eutrophication. Methane from responsible waste management provides cost competitive energy sources. Methane is about 14% of total emissions.

Progress has been made – as you can see in the regional pattern of black carbon emissions.  Wealthy countries are doing better than less developed.

Source:  Bond et al 2013

Further progress can be made with continuing economic growth. Including on emissions from farming and forestry – some 24% of the total. This can be radically turned around with existing technology and management systems to double food production by 2050, enhance flood and drought resilience and to stop soil washing away losing fertility in farmland and degrading downstream environments.

Source:  Heritage Foundation 2019 Index of Economic Freedom

Increased agricultural productivity, increased downstream processing and access to markets build local economies and global wealth.  Economic growth provides resources for solving problems – conserving and restoring ecosystems, better sanitation and safer water, better health and education, updating the diesel fleet and other productive assets to emit less black carbon and reduce the health and environmental impacts, developing better and cheaper ways of producing electricity, replacing cooking with wood and dung with better ways of preparing food thus avoiding respiratory disease and again reducing black carbon emissions.

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100% renewables by 2030 and no Adani mine – let’s save the world from climate activists

Australia committed in Paris in 2015 to a 26% reduction on 2005 in CO2 equivalent emissions by 2030.  On a per capita basis that is a 60% reduction.  The Australian Liberal Party has a holistic policy including a safeguard mechanism as plan B.  The Labor Party seems to have only a very costly plan B.  In the order of a $12B slug to Australia’s biggest businesses – probably not terminal.  But whoever wins 100% renewables by 2030 is not on the agenda.  Politicians in general are not all that bright.  We get the ones we deserve.  But the Labor Party, greens and striking school girls are plumbing new depths of idiocy.  Only the girls have an excuse.

EmissionsReduction01

There is $4.55B committed to the emissions reduction fund – the green bits in the graphic.  Reductions of 193 million tonnes have been contracted with funds committed for another 100 million tonnes by 2030.  We have as well 130 million tonnes of greenhouse gas in the back pocket from overachieving on the Kyoto commitment – quite within the rules but somehow off limits apparently.

“In 2014 the Government allocated $2.55 billion to provide for purchasing in the Emissions Reduction Fund. Activities supported through the Emissions Reduction Fund provide important environmental, economic, social and cultural benefits for farmers, businesses, landholders, Indigenous Australians and others.

On 25 February 2019 the Australian Government announced the Climate Solutions Fund, providing an additional $2 billion to continue the momentum towards reaching Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target. This will bring the total investment in the Emissions Reduction Fund to $4.55 billion and deliver around another 100 million tonnes of emissions reductions by 2030.”  https://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/government/emissions-reduction-fund/about

There have been 8 abatement auctions for 193 million tonnes reduction at a cost of $12/tonne.  This is a very low cost with economic, farming and environmental benefits.

The graphic below shows that we are well on the way to a 26% reduction from 2005 levels – even with both a growing economy and population.  We are halfway there – and still with a handy little reserve from being a lot better than everyone else.  It is quarterly emissions so multiply by 4 to get annual emissions.  I include it because it shows how dumb the 100% renewables idea is.  Even if all emissions from electricity generation were eliminated – an impossible fantasy – it is less that one third of total emissions.

emissions by sector

Per capita abatement and efficiency improvement is even more impressive.

per caita emission change

Internationally our commitment is comparable.   You may note that China – along with other developing economies – commit to increasing emissions.

2030

Globally – most growth in emissions is coming from developing nations.  Something that is fundamental to economic and social development and environmental conservation.

Most of that will come from high efficiency low emission coal fired plants.  Australia should build 1 or 2 more.

Including in India – the market for coal from the Adani mine.  India – and other nations in the region – have the right under their Paris commitments – and the absolute moral imperative – to develop whatever resources are needed to pull billions out of abject need.

The sight of affluent Australians attempting to subvert international rules is morally repugnant.  The Labor Party and greens are both dumb and immoral.

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Small modular nuclear reactor promise? SMR prospects are good!

Factory made, dropped into a bunker or a mine, run uninterrupted for 20 or 30 years using leftover ‘nuclear waste’ – of which there is enough for hundreds of years of energy supply.   And then recycle the fuel core to burn more of the energy in fissionable material.  Producing far more power from the same ore with with far less waste and far shorter lived – 300 as opposed to 30,000 years – fission products.  Replacing aluminium fuel cladding with silicon-carbide.  Melting aluminium in superheated steam produces hydrogen which then explodes.  In the history of bad ideas – this one gave us Chernobyl and Fukushima.  General Atomics is supplying silicon-carbide coated fuel piles in different control rod shapes.  21st century materials and fuel pile design are critical to small modular reactors – quite literally.  These can’t melt down and explode whatever happens.  The nuclear pile can not get hot enough – physics says – to melt silicon-carbide fuel cladding.

The are dozens of versions of small modular reactors starting to come online around the world.  The General Atomics version is the Energy Multiplier Module – EM2.   Helium cooling instead of water means the module can be placed nearly anywhere Powering powering society for 100’s of years converting 1000’s of tonnes of existing nuclear waste into energy. 

The fuel pile can burn undisturbed for 20 or 30 years – and then be taken away and recycled – adding additional fertile material –  and removing a few percent of light fission product in an AIROX process.

EM2 fuel cycle

The left bar is the creation of an intractable problem with long lived radioactive isotopes – and a huge waste of a resource.  What remains with EM2 are fission products – the rest of the mass is converted to energy – E-MC2 – that decay and lose heat in 100’s of years rather than 10’s of 1000’s.

em2-waste-reduction

The fourth objective – after safety, waste and proliferation is cost.  If it doesn’t work commercially it doesn’t work period.  Below is estimated costs of 8 advanced reactors in the US.  On average a sizable cost reduction for these simpler, smaller, safer products.

Click to access Advanced-Nuclear-Reactors-Cost-Study.pdf

General Atomics isn’t one of the 8 – but give their break even point with natural gas as $6-7/MMBtu.  The US natural gas price is $2.95/MMBtu – with a domestic glut and export control.  Australia has an expensive regional gas price – it is tied to the price of our gas in Japan.  That’s a greenie over supply problem.  We could be frakking the hell out of things.  So for most of the world – these are looking cost competitive.  And more so as energy demand multiplies in the next few decades and supply tightens.

These SMR’s have the reverse problem of wind and solar – wind and solar don’t have enough power most of the time.  SMR have too much power most of the time as demand rises and falls.  SMR provide opportunities for other uses of heat and power.  Catalyzing production of hydrogen and oxygen from superheated steam.  Making liquid fuels from hydrogen and CO2.  CO2 from air, electricity plants or cement and steel makers? Fossil fuels do have an innate supply and demand constraint.  Fossil fuel prices get higher over time as demand increases and finite stocks are utilized.  If there is something else far safer and easier at lower cost?  There is no question.

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Tremendous energy cascading through powerful Earth sub-systems

To understand the multiply coupled Earth system requires tracing the flow of energy through the relevant physical mechanisms.  Over decadal to millennial scales much climate variability emerges from polar regions in changing patterns of meridional (north/south) and zonal (east/west) wind fields that are related to polar surface pressure.  Process level models suggest that it is the result in part of solar UV/ozone chemistry in the upper atmosphere translating through atmospheric pathways into surface pressure changes at the poles (Ineson et al 2015).  Observations suggest that more meridional patterns are associated with low solar activity (Lockwood et al 2010).  There is a further more speculative suggestion that the 20 to 30 year periodicity of the Earth system is caused by the ~22 year Hale cycle of solar magnetic reversal.  The next climate shift is due in the next decade if it is not happening now.   With a dimming sun – it may be to a yet cooler state in both hemispheres.

Continue reading

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Stocks and flows in the Earth system

Stocks and flows exist at the cellular to planetary scales.  Stocks are an accumulation of some sort.  It may be water, heat or biomass.  Water, heat and populations ebb and flow.   Mass and energy are conserved.  Water and heat can thus be treated as elemental calculus entities.  Populations may need equation free prediction

dS/dt = inflows – outflows  –  where S is stock in storage. Continue reading

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Space and ocean climate monitoring in the 21 st century

Where the atmosphere meets space – all energy is electromagnetic.  Incoming from the Sun and outgoing from reflected light and emitted heat.  At most times incoming and outgoing energy at the top of atmosphere (TOA) are not equal and Earth warms or cools – mostly in the oceans that are by far the largest planetary heat store.  Conservation of energy gives the first differential global energy equation.

The equation can be written as the change in heat in oceans is approximately equal to energy in less energy out at TOA.

Δ(ocean heat) ≈ Ein – Eout

Ocean heat is measured by the Argo project – accessed via the ‘Global Marine Argo Atlas‘.  Radiant flux – a power term – is measured by the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) project – accessed via the CERES data products page.  Keeping things in original units – a cumulative space based power flux imbalance is compared to ocean temperature.  They should of course co-vary – providing a cross validation of data sets.

ceres v argo  Figure 1 – CERES in red and Argo in blue

The calculation uses raw data rather than anomalies – it includes a large annual cycle due to current orbital eccentricity.   This has in fact implications for ocean thermal inertia and ‘heat in the pipeline’.  Argo measures heat – a measure of ocean energy content.   CERES measures  incoming solar power flux – and outgoing reflected light – shortwave (SW) – and emitted infrared (IR).  So – take incoming solar and subtract from it both the SW and IR to get an average monthly power flux.  The energy in the month is the power flux over time.  If the power flux is positive it means more energy for the month in the ocean heat store.  Cumulative imbalances show the world warming over the record.  The start point is near a local transition between negative and positive imbalances.

excel

Figure 2:  Excel Excerpt

The average imbalance is 0.8 W/m2 – consistent with ocean heat changes.   The trend is to increasing imbalances over the record.  Although the record is still far too short for such to mean much.

power-flux1.jpg (768×469)

Figure 3:  Average monthly power flux imbalance at TOA

Looking at fields from which the seasonal changes are removed reveals the radiative pattern of low level cloud.  Decreased albedo (less SW reflected) and increased IR emissions with albedo changes net dominant.  This is a pattern consistent with that expected from low level cloud changes.  These are changes of the same order of magnitude as the rate of ocean heat increase.

a)CERES_EBAF-TOA_Ed4.0_anom_TOA_Shortwave_Flux-All-Sky_March-2000toMarch-2018

b)CERES_EBAF-TOA_Ed4.0_anom_TOA_Longwave_Flux-All-Sky_March-2000toMarch-2018

Figure 4:  (a) SW and (b) IR anomalies

The changes are attributable to ENSO and the Pacific state more generally.  The eastern Pacific is where sea surface temperature changes most dramatically driving cloud cover change.  “Marine stratocumulus cloud decks forming over dark, subtropical oceans are regarded as the reflectors of the atmosphere.1 The decks of low clouds 1000s of km in scale reflect back to space a significant portion of the direct solar radiation and therefore dramatically increase the local albedo of areas otherwise characterized by dark oceans below.2,3 This cloud system has been shown to have two stable states: open and closed cells. Closed cell cloud systems have high cloud fraction and are usually shallower, while open cells have low cloud fraction and form thicker clouds mostly over the convective cell walls and therefore have a smaller domain average albedo.4–6 Closed cells tend to be associated with the eastern part of the subtropical oceans, forming over cold water (upwelling areas) and within a low, stable atmospheric marine boundary layer (MBL), while open cells tend to form over warmer water with a deeper MBL. Nevertheless, both states can coexist for a wide range of environmental conditions.5,7” (Koren et al, 2017)

a) 

b) 

Figure 5:  Closed open open cloud cells over the Pacific.

There may indeed be greenhouse gas warming – albeit with little extra warming in the tank.  But this 21st century data again shows something else happening with cloud that is driving ocean temperature.

 

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