Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The numbers are staggering

Over the years, I have gotten to know a man who spent part of his life managing the big Minnesota refinery that supplies most of the liquid fuels sold in the state.  He is a quiet and very sensible man who now grows flowers in his retirement.  He is just the sort of person you would want to ensure the smooth day-to-day operations of something so large and intrinsically dangerous.  In spite of his calm demeanor, however, he can get very animated on subjects related to energy.  And the subject that really lights him up is huge size of the job to make sure that there is fuel to pump in the morning when the corner gas station opens.  "People don't seem to understand just how much oil we refine and burn in this country," he says sadly.  But he tries to explain.  "At 20 million barrels per day, we consume roughly 585,000 gallons per minute, or enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool or nearly 65 tanker trucks."

Every minute—24 / 7 / 365.

According to the article below, China now has the capacity to generate 378 Gigawatts of renewable energy.  Sound like a lot and it is twice as much as USA and four times as much as Germany.  Unfortunately, 80% of her electricity still comes from burning coal.  Needless to say, these numbers are simply staggering and proof positive that reducing CO2 is NOT going to be easy.

China's renewables surge

Frank Sieren / jp  20.09.2014

In terms of clean energy, China is a world leader. But the progress the country has made on the renewable energy front could be reversed all too easily, says DW columnist Frank Sieren

China's demand for energy is unparalleled. The demand is met primarily with traditional raw materials such as oil, gas and above all, coal - the basis for 80 percent of China's energy supply.

The trouble is, the process of generating electricity through coal releases large quantities of CO2. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver gas and oil to the many trouble spots around the world.

While the Ukraine crisis has turned out well for China - because its fears that it would soon be unable to deal with the West has prompted Russia to begin selling gas to China at bargain prices - the Iraq crisis is different. Now that the terror group IS has seized control of large swathes of the country, the region is increasingly destabilized. With China currently the biggest buyer of oil from the Middle East, it has reason to worry about its supply.

Beijing will be relieved that at least one of its projects is progressing well. Years ago, the Chinese government decided to boost the renewables industry. Now, two years earlier than planned, China is drawing 30 percent of its energy needs from hydropower, solar and wind power. Clean energy makes up the same percentage of the German energy market. And it seems likely that China will overtake it as the world's green energy champion this year.

Green energy

The statistics speak for themselves. China can now produce 378 gigawatts of clean energy - twice as much as the US, which produces 172 gigawatts, and four times as much as Germany, which produces 82 gigawatts. The industry is flourishing, and Beijing has adjusted its targets upwards for 2017. It is now aiming to bolster its renewable energy capacity to 550 gigawatts.

But Beijing should not start congratulating itself too soon. There are still a number of lingering problems, such as the fact that hydropower still makes up nearly two-thirds of China's clean energy supply.

Moreover, capacities are not yet exhausted. This year, construction will be completed on the 300-meter high (984-foot) Jinping 1 dam, the tallest in the world, and capable of producing 3,600 megawatts of electricity.

It's a controversial project, because most of the water used for energy generation is drawn from rivers whose source is in the Himalayas. Rising temperatures in the mountains and the melt of glaciers will lead to falling river levels downstream and a drop in reservoir water levels. China's neighbors, which are also dependent on river flow from the Himalayas, are already complaining.

A challenge for Germany

The result could be a serious political bone of contention. Beijing is under pressure to take its focus off hydropower and boost solar and wind energy instead. Ultimately, there is little point in reducing reliance on the Middle East only to fan the flames of a crisis on the doorstep.

But the West shouldn't rest on its laurels. Germany's shift to renewables might be on a par with China's for the time being, but it needs to remain on its toes if it doesn't want to be left standing at the post by China in the clean technology race.

Slowly but surely, the realization is dawning on Beijing that, were the clean energy revolution to fail, China's economic development would be undone in one fell swoop. After all, China is not only a world leader in clean energy but also in environmental damage and pollution. This is a reputation that Beijing would like to shed. But that will take time. Growth comes at a price. more
Not surprisingly, CO2 emissions continue to set records.  Actually reducing these numbers will require the moral, scientific, and technological equivalent of an all out war.  Unfortunately, public policy is still at the most infantile level of talk-talk.

Record CO2 emissions 'committing world to dangerous climate change'

Global greenhouse gas emissions on course to reach record high of over 40bn tonnes in 2014, study in Nature Geoscience says

Fiona Harvey  theguardian.com, 21 September 2014

Children born today will see the world committed to dangerous and irreversible levels of climate change by their young adulthood at current rates, as the world poured a record amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere this year.

Annual carbon dioxide emissions showed a strong rise of 2.5% on 2013 levels, putting the total emitted this year on track for 40bn tonnes. That means the global ‘carbon budget’, calculated as the total governments can afford to emit without pushing temperatures higher than 2C above pre-industrial levels, is likely to be used up within just one generation, or in thirty years from now.

Scientists think climate change is likely to have catastrophic and irreversible effects, including rising sea levels, polar melting, droughts, floods and increasingly extreme weather, if temperatures rise more than 2C. They have calculated that this threshold is likely to be breached if global emissions top 1,200 billion tonnes, giving a “carbon budget” to stick to in order to avoid dangerous warming.

Dave Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said: “If this were a bank statement it would say our credit is running out. We’ve already burned through two-thirds of our global carbon allowance and avoiding dangerous climate change now requires some very difficult choices. Not least of these is how a shrinking global carbon allowance can be shared equitably between more than 7bn people and where the differences between rich and poor are so immense.”
The study, by the Global Carbon Project, also found that China’s per capita emissions had surpassed those of Europe for the first time, between 2013 and 2014.

It comes ahead of a climate summit on Tuesday in New York, at which the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will bring together heads of state and government from more than 120 countries to discuss climate change, and encourage them to make commitments on emissions reductions in the run-up to a crunch meeting in Paris late next year, at which a new global agreement on emissions is expected to be signed.

Emissions for 2014, according to the research, are set to rise to 40bn tonnes. That compares with emissions of 32bn tonnes in 2010, showing how fast the output is rising.

The rising trend has continued despite increasingly alarming warnings from scientists over the future of the climate, and commitments by developed countries to cut their carbon and from major developing economies to curb their emissions growth. There was a brief blip in global emissions growth at the time of the banking crisis, but this “breathing space” was quickly overtaken by an expansion in fossil fuel demand.

The growth in emissions also comes despite the much-vaunted contribution of shale gas to the world’s energy mix. Some supporters of the technology claim it will bring down emissions, because gas produces less carbon than coal when burned. But studies have shown that although this may dent the rate at which emissions rise, it is unlikely by itself to produce an absolute fall in carbon output levels. US emissions rose by nearly 3% in 2013, after falling in the previous five years, despite its shale gas boom.

As much as half of the world’s proven reserves of all fossil fuels will need to be left in the ground if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the research suggested.

The study, published as a paper in the peer-review journal Nature Geoscience, called “Persistent growth of CO2 emissions and implications for reaching climate targets”, is a collaboration of research groups around the world.

The overtaking of Europe by China in terms of emissions per person - about 7.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year, the study found, compared with Europe’s 6.8 tonnes per person - is politically significant.

China has long argued that it should take on far less of the burden of emissions cuts than developed nations, because it bore less responsibility for the stock of carbon poured into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution, and because its emissions per person were lower. China’s president, Xi Jinping, has indicated he will not attend Ban Ki-moon’s meeting next week, as has Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister.

The change in the make-up of emissions contributions will be a difficult topic at next year’s Paris conference on the climate.

China and India were the only two nations to hold out almost to the last minute in the talks in 2011 at which governments set the deadline of the Paris talks for the sign-off of a new pact on the climate, to replace current national emissions targets that expire in 2020. India’s per capita emissions are still low, at 1.9 tonnes, but the country’s total emissions are likely to overtake those of the EU by 2019. more

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