Archive by category | Oliver Morton

The difficulties of going pro-nuclear

The difficulties of going pro-nuclear

Mark Lynas, whose Six Degrees (Amazon UK | US) has been a great success, had a piece in the New Statesman last week about nuclear power. It was a pretty standard, pretty well executed I’m-a-green-who’s-much-more-freaked-out-about-climate-than-about-nukes piece, much in the long travelled Lovelock vein, not that unlike some things George Monbiot has recently been writing. As such it obviously…

Damn, a trillion dollars would have come in handy

Commuting in this morning on the boat, I was struck by a Guardian article on a new McKinsey report (pdf) about carbon capture and storage:

The study shows that such plants could be economically viable by 2030 at the latest. But it would require substantial public subsidies to get 10-12 plants running by the EU target date of 2015…McKinsey said that, with coal still likely to make up 60% of EU power generation by 2030, CCS could be a vital solution to ensuring security of energy supply and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It could reduce emissions by 400m tonnes a year by 2030, or a fifth of planned European savings.

Get your terawatts here

Get your terawatts here

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend at this year’s SciFoo, and took in a number of sessions on climate and energy. There was a lot of sometimes quite heated debate, but what was struck me most forcefully was the common ground that the optimists and pessimists share — specifically, a belief that the challenge in front of us is utterly huge. I almost said mind-numbingly huge, but people like Dan Schrag and Saul Griffith and Chris Uhlik have minds too active and well-exercised to numb easily…

Biomass boosting

Biomass boosting

Cross-posted from The Great Beyond

Over at Canada’s Financial Post, Lawrence Solomon is excited about the increase in biomass over the past two decades.

Planet Earth is on a roll! GPP is way up. NPP is way up. To the surprise of those who have been bearish on the planet, the data shows global production has been steadily climbing to record levels, ones not seen since these measurements began.

This is neither new nor surprising.

The wrong trousers

The wrong trousers

There’s an interesting commenary in Nature this week by Steve Rayner of the James Martin Institute in Oxford and Gwyn Prins of the LSE, arguing that while emissions abatement is a global priority, the Kyoto Protocol is the wrong tool for the job — a one-size-fits-all approach that, among other failings, doesn’t actually look likely to deliver the reductions that it has promised. Unfortunately, as they argue, this sub-optimal approach has developed an iconic status of its own, so that in many minds to be against Kyoto is tantamount to being against any form of action on climate. They’re worried that this means people will uncritically attempt to follow up the Kyoto protocol (which expires in 2012) with a son-of-Kyoto that contains many or all of the same flaws, when they should be having a much more radical rethink.

Polar bears disappear

Polar bears disappear

On Friday, the US Geological Survey put out a press release about its new findings on polar bears and their future, and the press responded en masse: Google offers hundreds of stories filed over the weekend. The reports’ conclusion (AP | New York Times) is that diminishing sea ice is a serious problem for the bears, with two thirds of them at risk over the next fifty years

Predicting climate

Just when everyone was getting sick of explaining that climate models are producing projections not predictions per se, it seems that some of them are indeed producing predictions. There’s a paper (pdf) in Science from a team at the Hadley Center that shows how using real initial conditions improves the accuracy of ten year climate forecasts. They do a bit for hindcasting first, looking at historical data and comparing model runs with real initial conditions with run-of-the-mill runs. Then they do some prediction. This prediction is being treated as saying that we’re at the end of a little plateau, and that at the end of this decade things will warm up further, giving a run of years in the early 2010s where the chances for new global records are good.

Bad news for the trees?

Over at News@nature, Mike Hopkin reports from the Ecological Society of America’s meeting in San Jose on research into tropical forest growth rates. Looking at plots in Panama and Malaysia, the researchers found that increases in mean daily minimum temperature over a couple of decades correlated with decreases in growth rates. They associate this with lower net photosynthetic activity.

More on geoengineering

Further to the post and subsequent discussion on Sunshades, which grew out of this article on geoengineering, I thought I’d point to the new paper by Damon Matthews and Ken Caldeira in PNAS (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 10.1073/pnas.0700419104). It’s an interesting paper that has some fascinating insights into the links between climate and the carbon cycle, and I think contains some pretty bad news for would-be geoengineers.  Read more