Saturday, November 11, 2017

Seven megatrends for global warming ‘hope’ – five of which are bunk

At The Guardian on 8 November, Damien Carrington wrote “The seven megatrends that could beat global warming: ‘There is reason for hope’

1. Methane: getting to the meat
2. Renewable energy: time to shine
3. King coal: dead or dying
4. Electric cars: in the fast lane
5. Batteries: lots in store
6. Efficiency: negawatts over megawatts
7. Forests: seeing the wood

#1: Methane not only has >20 times the greenhouse effect of CO₂, it persists in the atmosphere only ~10 years, whereas CO₂ persists for hundreds, ie, the emissions from coal burning in the 19th century are still out there and those from coal and oil in the 20th century and today will not diminish for hundreds of years.

Alas, besides #1, and except for #6 (using less energy), the other points are bunk.

#2: Intermittent and variable renewable energy (wind and solar) do not significantly reduce emissions, because backup sources are required. And such diffuse energy sources require massive amounts of land and materials to collect any meaningful amount: real adverse effects being the cost of theoretical-only benefits.

#3: Coal use is not diminishing, only slowing in growth. Where it has decreased, it is being replaced by cheap natural gas (half the CO₂ emissions but lots of methane leakage at the wells; also most practical backup for wind, except that forces the generators to operate at about half the efficiency they are otherwise capable of).

#4: Electric cars are only as "green" as the grid they get their power from (and see #5).

#5: Batteries reduce efficiency (see #6). For example, an internal combustion engine is a lot more efficient that burning fuel to make electricity (with two-thirds of the energy lost as heat) to charge batteries to then move a car. And like electric cars, they are an environmental disaster on a large scale.

#6: There is a shortcoming here, though, in that demand for energy continues to grow with increasing population and wider technological prosperity (i.e., more of the world living like the richest), offsetting increased conservation and efficiency.

#7: The article calls for rather than cites ending deforestation. It does not mention that much of it is driven by animal agriculture (another, besides #1, of its contributions to climate change). It mentions palm oil plantations, but doesn't mention that those are for "green" biofuel. It doesn't mention the cutting driven by demand for wood as a "green" source of electricity and heat.

Cf:Wind and Solar Power Advance, but Carbon Refuses to Retreat” By Eduardo Porter, New York Times, Nov. 7, 2017