Warming is real and anthropogenic – CO2 is key
Rahmstorf, November 12 [Stefan Rahmstorf is a German oceanographer and climatologist. Since 2000, he has been a Professor of Physics of the Oceans at Potsdam University. He received his Ph.D. in oceanography from Victoria University of Wellington.Comparing climate projections to observations up to 2011, Stefan Rahmstorf et al 2012 Environ Res. Lett. 7 044035 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/044035 © 2012 IOP Publishing Ltd Received 19 July 2012, accepted for publication 9 November 2012 Published 27 November 2012. http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/7/4/044035/article]
Climate projections like those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2001, 2007) are increasingly used in decision-making. It is important to keep track of how well past projections match the accumulating observational data. Five years ago, it was found that CO2 concentration and global temperature closely followed the central prediction of the third IPCC assessment report during 1990–2006, whilst sea level was tracking along the upper limit of the uncertainty range (Rahmstorf et al 2007). Here we present an update with five additional years of data and using advances in removing short-term noise from global temperature data. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration continues to match the prediction: the mean value reached in 2011 was 390.5 ppm (NOAA 2012), only about 1.5 ppm higher than the central IPCC projections published in 2001. For historical perspective, in his article 'Are we on the brink of a pronounced global warming?', Broecker (1975) predicted an increase from 322 ppm observed in 1970 to 403 ppm in 2010. A more detailed analysis of anthropogenic climate forcing, which also includes other greenhouse gases, aerosols and surface albedo changes, is beyond the scope of this letter. Here we focus on two prime indicators of climate change: the evolution of global-mean temperature and sea level. 2. Global temperature evolution To compare global temperature data to projections, we need to consider that IPCC projections do not attempt to predict the effect of solar variability, or specific sequences of either volcanic eruptions or El Niño events. Solar and volcanic forcing are routinely included only in 'historic' simulations for the past climate evolution but not for the future, while El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is included as a stochastic process where the timing of specific warm or cool phases is random and averages out over the ensemble of projection models. Therefore, model-data comparisons either need to account for the short-term variability due to these natural factors as an added quasi-random uncertainty, or the specific short-term variability needs to be removed from the observational data before comparison. Since the latter approach allows a more stringent comparison it is adopted here. Global temperature data can be adjusted for solar variations, volcanic aerosols and ENSO using multivariate correlation analysis (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011, Lean and Rind 2008, 2009, Schönwiese et al 2010), since independent data series for these factors exist. We here use the data adjusted with the method exactly as described in Foster and Rahmstorf, but using data until the end of 2011. The contributions of all three factors to global temperature were estimated by linear correlation with the multivariate El Niño index for ENSO, aerosol optical thickness data for volcanic activity and total solar irradiance data for solar variability (optical thickness data for the year 2011 were not yet available, but since no major volcanic eruption occurred in 2011 we assumed zero volcanic forcing). These contributions were computed separately for each of the five available global (land and ocean) temperature data series (including both satellite and surface measurements) and subtracted. The five thus adjusted data sets were averaged in order to avoid any discussion of what is 'the best' data set; in any case the differences between the individual series are small (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011). We show this average as a 12-months running mean in figure 1, together with the unadjusted data (likewise as average over the five available data series). Comparing adjusted with unadjusted data shows how the adjustment largely removes e.g. the cold phase in 1992/1993 following the Pinatubo eruption, the exceptionally high 1998 temperature maximum related to the preceding extreme El Niño event, and La Niña-related cold in 2008 and 2011. Figure 1. Observed annual global temperature, unadjusted (pink) and adjusted for short-term variations due to solar variability, volcanoes and ENSO (red) as in Foster and Rahmstorf (2011). 12-months running averages are shown as well as linear trend lines, and compared to the scenarios of the IPCC (blue range and lines from the third assessment, green from the fourth assessment report). Projections are aligned in the graph so that they start (in 1990 and 2000, respectively) on the linear trend line of the (adjusted) observational data. Export PowerPoint slide Download figure (96 KB) Note that recently a new version of one of those time series has become available: version of 4 the HadCRUT data (Morice et al 2012). Since the differences are small and affect only one of five series, the effect of this update on the average shown in figure 1 is negligible. We chose to include version 3 of the data in this graph since these data are available up to the end of 2011, while version 4 so far is available only up to the end of 2010. The removal of the known short-term variability components reduces the variance of the data without noticeably altering the overall warming trend: it is 0.15 °C/decade in the unadjusted and 0.16 °C/decade in the adjusted data. From 1990–2011 the trends are 0.16 and 0.18 °C/decade and for 1990–2006 they are 0.22 and 0.20 °C/decade respectively. The relatively high trends for the latter period are thus simply due to short-term variability, as discussed in our previous publication (Rahmstorf et al 2007). During the last ten years, warming in the unadjusted data is less, due to recent La Niña conditions (ENSO causes a linear cooling trend of −0.09 °C over the past ten years in the surface data) and the transition from solar maximum to the recent prolonged solar minimum (responsible for a −0.05 °C cooling trend) (Foster and Rahmstorf 2011). Nevertheless, unadjusted observations lie within the spread of individual model projections, which is a different way of showing the consistency of data and projections (Schmidt 2012). Figure 1 shows that the adjusted observed global temperature evolution closely follows the central IPCC projections, while this is harder to judge for the unadjusted data due to their greater short-term variability. The IPCC temperature projections shown as solid lines here are produced using the six standard, illustrative SRES emissions scenarios discussed in the third and fourth IPCC reports, and do not use any observed forcing. The temperature evolution for each, including the uncertainty range, is computed with a simple emulation model, hence the temperature curves are smooth. The temperature ranges for these scenarios are provided in the summary for policy makers of each report, in figure 5 in case of the third assessment and in table SPM.3 in case of the fourth assessment (where the full time evolution is shown in figure 10.26 of the report; Meehl et al 2007). For historic perspective, Broecker in 1975 predicted a global warming from 1980–2010 by 0.68 °C, as compared to 0.48 °C according to the linear trend shown in figure 1, an overestimate mostly due to his neglect of ocean thermal inertia (Rahmstorf 2010). A few years later, Hansen et al (1981) analysed and included the effect of ocean thermal inertia, resulting in lower projections ranging between 0.28 and 0.45 °C warming from 1980–2010. Their upper limit thus corresponds to the observed warming trend. They further correctly predicted that the global warming signal would emerge from the noise of natural variability before the end of the 20th century. 3. Global sea-level rise Turning to sea level, the quasi linear trend measured by satellite altimeters since 1993 has continued essentially unchanged when extending the time series by five additional years. It continues to run near the upper limit of the projected uncertainty range given in the third and fourth IPCC assessment reports (figure 2). Here, the sea-level projections provided in figure 5 of the summary for policy makers of the third assessment and in table SPM.3 of the fourth assessment are shown. The satellite-based linear trend 1993–2011 is 3.2 ± 0.5 mm yr−1, which is 60% faster than the best IPCC estimate of 2.0 mm yr−1 for the same interval (blue lines). The two temporary sea-level minima in 2007/2008 and 2010/2011 may be linked to strong La Niña events (Llovel et al 2011). The tide gauges show much greater variability, most likely since their number is too limited to properly sample the global average (Rahmstorf et al 2012). For sea level the fourth IPCC report did not publish the model-based time series (green lines), but these were made available online in 2012 (CSIRO 2012). They do not differ significantly from the projections of the third IPCC report and thus continue to underestimate the observed upward trend. Figure 2. Sea level measured by satellite altimeter (red with linear trend line; AVISO data from (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales) and reconstructed from tide gauges (orange, monthly data from Church and White (2011)). Tide gauge data were aligned to give the same mean during 1993–2010 as the altimeter data. The scenarios of the IPCC are again shown in blue (third assessment) and green (fourth assessment); the former have been published starting in the year 1990 and the latter from 2000. Export PowerPoint slide Download figure (91 KB) Could this underestimation appear because the high observed rates since 1993 are due to internal multi-decadal variability, perhaps a temporary episode of ice discharge from one of the ice sheets, rather than a systematic effect of global warming? Two pieces of evidence make this very unlikely. First, the IPCC fourth assessment report (IPCC 2007) found a similar underestimation also for the time period 1961–2003: the models on average give a rise of 1.2 mm yr−1, while the best data-based estimate is 50% larger at 1.8 mm yr−1 (table 9.2 of the report; Hegerl et al 2007). This is despite using an observed value for ice sheet mass loss (0.19 mm yr−1) in the 'modelled' number in this comparison. Second, the observed rate of sea-level rise on multi-decadal timescales over the past 130 years shows a highly significant correlation with global temperature (Vermeer and Rahmstorf 2009) by which the increase in rate over the past three decades is linked to the warming since 1980, which is very unlikely to be a chance coincidence. Another issue is whether non-climatic components of sea-level rise, not considered in the IPCC model projections, should be accounted for before making a comparison to data, namely water storage in artificial reservoirs on land (Chao et al 2008) and the extraction of fossil groundwater for irrigation purposes (Konikow 2011). During the last two decades, both contributions approximately cancel (at −0.3 and +0.3 mm yr−1) so would not change our comparison in figure 2, see figure 11 of Rahmstorf et al (2012) based on the data of Chao et al (2008) and Konikow (2011). This is consistent with the lack of recent trend in net land-water storage according to the GRACE satellite data (Lettenmaier and Milly 2009). For the period 1961–2003, however, the effect of dam building (which peaked in the 1970s at around −0.9 mm yr−1) very likely outstripped groundwater extraction, thus widening the gap between modelled and observed climatically-forced sea-level rise. It is instructive to analyse how the rate of sea-level rise changes over longer time periods (figure 3). The tide gauge data (though noisy, see above) show that the rate of sea-level rise was around 1 mm yr−1 in the early 20th century, around 1.5–2 mm yr−1 in mid-20th-century and increased to around 3 mm yr−1 since 1980 (orange curve). The satellite series is too short to meaningfully compute higher order terms beyond the linear trend, which is shown in red (including uncertainty range). Finally, the AR4 projections are shown in three bundles of six emissions scenarios: the 'mid' estimates in green, the 'low' estimates (5-percentile) in cyan and the 'high' estimates (95-percentile) in blue. These are the scenarios that comprise the often-cited AR4-range from 18 to 59 cm sea-level rise for the period 2090–99 relative to 1980–99 (IPCC 2007). For the period 2000–2100, this corresponds to a range of 17–60 cm sea-level rise. Figure 3. Rate of sea-level rise in past and future. Orange line, based on monthly tide gauge data from Church and White (2011). The red symbol with error bars shows the satellite altimeter trend of 3.2 ± 0.5 mm yr−1 during 1993–2011; this period is too short to determine meaningful changes in the rate of rise. Blue/green line groups show the low, mid and high projections of the IPCC fourth assessment report, each for six emissions scenarios. Curves are smoothed with a singular spectrum filter (ssatrend; Moore et al 2005) of 10 years half-width. Export PowerPoint slide Download figure (94 KB) Figure 3 shows that in all 'low' estimates, the rate of rise stays well below 3 mm yr−1 until the second half of the 21st century, in four of the six even throughout the 21st century. The six 'mid' estimates on average give a rise of 34 cm, very close to what would occur if the satellite-observed trend of the last two decades continued unchanged for the whole century. However, figure 3 shows that the reason for this relatively small projected rise is not an absence of acceleration. Rather, all these scenarios show an acceleration of sea-level rise in the 21st century, but from an initial value that is much lower than the observed recent rise. Figure 3 further shows that only the 'high' models represented in the range of AR4 models validate when compared to the observational data and can in this regard be considered valid projection models for the future. These 'high' model scenarios represent a range of 21st century rise of 37–60 cm. Nevertheless, this range cannot be assumed to represent the full range of uncertainty of future sea-level rise, since the 95-percentile can only represent a very small number of models, given that 23 climate models were used in the AR4. The model(s) defining the upper 95-percentile might not get the right answer for the right reasons, but possibly by overestimating past temperature rise. Note that the IPCC pointed out that its projections exclude 'future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow'. The projections now published online (CSIRO 2012) include an alternative version that includes 'scaled-up ice sheet discharge'. These projections validate equally well (or poorly) with the observed data, since they only differ substantially in the future, not in the past, from the standard projections. The sea-level rise over 2000–2100 of the 'high' bundle of these scenarios is 46–78 cm. Alternative scalings of sea-level rise have been developed, which in essence postulate that the rate of sea-level rise increases in proportion to global warming (e.g. Grinsted et al 2009, Rahmstorf 2007). This approach can be calibrated with past sea-level data (Kemp et al 2011, Vermeer and Rahmstorf 2009) and leads to higher projections of future sea-level rise as compared to those of the IPCC. The latter is immediately plausible: if we consider the recently observed 3 mm yr−1 rise to be a result of 0.8 °C global warming since preindustrial times (Rahmstorf et al 2012), then a linear continuation of the observed warming of the past three decades (leading to a 21st century warming by 1.6 °C, or 2.4 °C relative to preindustrial times) would linearly raise the rate of sea-level rise to 9 mm yr−1, as in the highest scenario in figure 3—but already for a rather moderate warming scenario, not the 'worst case' emissions scenario. 4. Conclusions In conclusion, the rise in CO2 concentration and global temperature has continued to closely match the projections over the past five years, while sea level continues to rise faster than anticipated. The latter suggests that the 21st Century sea-level projections of the last two IPCC reports may be systematically biased low. Further support for this concern is provided by the fact that the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are increasingly losing mass (Rignot et al 2011, Van den Broeke et al 2011), while those IPCC projections assumed that Antarctica will gain enough mass in future to largely compensate mass losses from Greenland (see figure 10.33 in Meehl et al (2007)). For this reason, an additional contribution ('scaled-up ice sheet discharge') was suggested in the IPCC fourth assessment. Our results highlight the need to thoroughly validate models with data of past climate changes before applying them to projections.
And, it causes extinction – but US leadership can reverse it
Ferris, 1/17/13 [The Big Thaw, Elizabeth Ferris Co-Director, Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement, http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/01/the-big-thaw
Global warming is occurring at a faster pace than predicted by scientists. Temperatures are rising, icecaps and glaciers are melting, and extreme weather events are becoming both more frequent and more intense. Last fall, the National Snow and Ice Data Center documented a record low of the level of Arctic sea ice – a figure 49 percent lower than the 1979-2000 average. If these trends continue, the results will be far-reaching for life on this planet. But if the warming accelerates dramatically and if polar ice melts even faster, the results could be catastrophic. This could occur if the Greenland ice sheet or the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) collapses, triggering a significant rise in sea levels throughout the world with particularly devastating impacts on populations living in low-lying coastal areas. Although the effects of climate change are likely to be long-term and the worst effects will probably neither be experienced in your presidency nor even in your lifetime, the future is inherently unpredictable. Climate change is already affecting communities around the world. It is likely to produce devastating consequences whether in the near or distant future. Taking bold steps now to address climate change offers an opportunity for you not only to leave a legacy that will impact future generations but also an opportunity to address current problems resulting from the effects of climate change. Recommendations: • Raise the priority of climate change on your foreign policy agenda, in particular by re-vitalizing negotiations over a post-Kyoto treaty. The Doha round of negotiations, which ended last month, was disappointing. Countries are further away today than they were a year ago on reducing emissions. U.S. leadership can reverse current trends of inadequate global commitment to reduce greenhouse gases. • Support measures that will enable communities and countries to adapt to the most egregious effects of climate change. On the international level this means supporting and leading the difficult discussions around climate finance and using U.S. aid to support government planning to respond to the effects of climate change, including financial assistance to encourage communities to stay where they are as well as to plan for the relocation of communities whose homes will no longer be habitable. • Support effective multilateral action to increase both mitigation and adaptation measures. Use your influence with the multilateral development banks to encourage more attention to disaster riskreduction measures in development planning. Work with international agencies and legal experts to devise an international legal regime for dealing with the expected increase in trans-border migration. It is easier to put a system in place before a crisis is at hand. • Strengthen domestic efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing carbon emissions and enhancing domestic capacity to prepare for, respond, and recover from sudden-onset natural disasters. Background: Since the first report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1990, the projections about the impact of global warming have become direr. From projecting the widespread consequences of a global rise in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, current projections are that the rise in temperature will double to 4 degrees Celsius. The seas are rising 60 percent faster than predicted by the IPCC. The Greenland ice sheet is shrinking twice as fast as estimated by the IPCC and is losing mass at about five times the rate it was in the early 1990s. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt completely, global sea rise could reach seven meters. And the consequences of global warming go far beyond sea-level rise. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that the conditions that led to the 2011 Texas drought are 20 times more likely to occur now than in the 1960s as a result of increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. Although climate change will have many negative effects in different parts of the world, including prolonged droughts, reduction in arable land, declining agricultural productivity, and increased flooding due to more extreme weather events, the impact of sea level rise perhaps best illustrates the potential dangers. Throughout the world, more people are living in coastal areas as the result of population growth, urbanization and government policies. Presently 10 percent of the world’s population — 600 million people — live in low-elevation coastal zones and the percentage is growing. Sixty-five percent of the world’s megacities (those over 5 million) are located in these coastal areas. A rise in sea level of even a meter would have major implications for coastal populations; if sea levels were to rise by several meters, the consequences would be catastrophic. Most obviously, sea level rise will submerge land, causing countries to lose physical territory. The areas expected to experience the largest land loss by 2030 are the Arctic Ocean coasts of Canada, Alaska, Siberia and Greenland as well as coastal areas of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, southeast Indonesia, and eastern Africa. In the United States, particularly vulnerable areas include the coastal areas of the east and west coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. Rising sea levels will affect economics, politics, community life and security. For example, the mega-deltas of Asia are the food baskets of the region, and the impact of a sea level rise on food security will be considerable. But perhaps the most significant impact of climate change in general and rising sea levels in particular will be the displacement of people. Migration is a complex process driven by a range of economic, social and political factors but it is becoming clear that environmental factors will increasingly influence migration. In Bangladesh, for example, moving to cities has become a common coping strategy in the face of flooding. One of the IPCC background studies posits that a 40-centimeter rise in sea levels will affect 100 million people. As hundreds of millions of people in Africa and Asia are at risk of flooding by 2060, it is likely that many will move to cities such as Dhaka and Lagos that are located in coastal flood plain areas. In other words, the trend is for people to migrate to areas of greater — not lesser — environmental vulnerability. At the same time, as the UK’s authoritative Foresight study concludes, those who are able to migrate may well be the lucky ones; those who are unable to move may be the most vulnerable. Large-scale migration has many consequences. If sea level rise renders small island states uninhabitable (which is likely to occur long before the islands are actually submerged by the seas), issues of sovereignty, legal status, and responsibility will present the world with huge challenges. Most climate change-induced or displacement will be internal, placing strain on infrastructure and pressure on governments to deliver services. Political instability, conflict poor governance exacerbate these problems. Climate change is a threat multiplier, often affecting those countries least able to respond appropriately. How will governments cope with the movement of large numbers of people from coasts toward inland areas? There is also a possibility that some, perhaps many, will seek to move to other countries because of the effects of climate change. The international legal system is unprepared to deal with trans-border movements triggered by environmental factors or disasters, since the displaced do not fall under the 1951 Refugee Convention (unless they leave because of political turmoil exacerbated by climate change.) Projecting possible massive displacement from climate change is complicated by the difficulty of comprehending the interrelationships between the different effects of climate change, for example, changes in fish stocks and coral reefs brought about by the acidification of the world’s oceans; changing patterns of disease; changing habitats for animals and plants; the intersection of deforestation and increasingly arid climates in some parts of the world. Delicate ecological balances are changing in ways that are as yet poorly understood. Similarly, there is much we do not know about the dynamic nature of the effects of climate change. For example, some scientists are reporting that the melting of Arctic ice itself is releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, increasing global warming which will in turn increase the rate of Arctic ice melt. Most scientists have observed that the climate is becoming warmer and that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent. While it is impossible to attribute any single weather event, such as Hurricane Sandy, to climate change, the global trends clearly demonstrate an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. These trends are likely to intensify. The interaction between increasing extreme weather events and other effects of climate change – such as increased erosion, acidification of the seas, desertification, sea-level rise – is also likely to lead to large-scale movement of people. Conclusion: There are certainly obstacles and pitfalls to making climate change a centerpiece of your foreign policy. Perhaps the projections of scientists are too pessimistic and the effects of global warming will not be as serious as now thought. Perhaps you will be unable to marshal the necessary political support to enact necessary legislation. Perhaps other governments will fail to rally to your leadership and perhaps the negotiations over climate change mitigation and adaptation will widen, not narrow the North- South divide. It is certainly understandable that you would want to put aside these longer-term challenges and focus on more immediate economic issues. But a climate catastrophe could be lurking around the corner. Unless urgent action is taken now, the effects of climate change on life on this planet and on life in the United States will increase. Climate change is a domestic, foreign policy, security, development, human rights, and intergenerational justice issue. Preparing better for climate change disasters at home and abroad is a good short-term prophylactic. But making serious and sustained efforts to reduce global warming can solidify America’s present leadership in the world. It can lay the foundation for the country’s sustainable future development. It can address the causes of future humanitarian crises and alleviate future human suffering. It can be a legacy issue for the Obama administration that will impact the world for generations.
Causes extinction – oceans
Sify 2010 – Sydney newspaper citing Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, professor at University of Queensland and Director of the Global Change Institute, and John Bruno, associate professor of Marine Science at UNC (Sify News, “Could unbridled climate changes lead to human extinction?”, http://www.sify.com/news/could-unbridled-climate-changes-lead-to-human-extinction-news-international-kgtrOhdaahc.html, WEA)
The findings of the comprehensive report: 'The impact of climate change on the world's marine ecosystems' emerged from a synthesis of recent research on the world's oceans, carried out by two of the world's leading marine scientists. One of the authors of the report is Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, professor at The University of Queensland and the director of its Global Change Institute (GCI). 'We may see sudden, unexpected changes that have serious ramifications for the overall well-being of humans, including the capacity of the planet to support people. This is further evidence that we are well on the way to the next great extinction event,' says Hoegh-Guldberg. 'The findings have enormous implications for mankind, particularly if the trend continues. The earth's ocean, which produces half of the oxygen we breathe and absorbs 30 per cent of human-generated carbon dioxide, is equivalent to its heart and lungs. This study shows worrying signs of ill-health. It's as if the earth has been smoking two packs of cigarettes a day!,' he added. 'We are entering a period in which the ocean services upon which humanity depends are undergoing massive change and in some cases beginning to fail', he added. The 'fundamental and comprehensive' changes to marine life identified in the report include rapidly warming and acidifying oceans, changes in water circulation and expansion of dead zones within the ocean depths. These are driving major changes in marine ecosystems: less abundant coral reefs, sea grasses and mangroves (important fish nurseries); fewer, smaller fish; a breakdown in food chains; changes in the distribution of marine life; and more frequent diseases and pests among marine organisms. Study co-author John F Bruno, associate professor in marine science at The University of North Carolina, says greenhouse gas emissions are modifying many physical and geochemical aspects of the planet's oceans, in ways 'unprecedented in nearly a million years'. 'This is causing fundamental and comprehensive changes to the way marine ecosystems function,' Bruno warned, according to a GCI release. These findings were published in Science
The IFR is the only way to reduce coal emissions sufficiently to avert the worst climate disasters
Kirsch 9 (Steve Kirsch, Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, American serial entrepreneur who has started six companies: Mouse Systems, Frame Technology, Infoseek, Propel, Abaca, and OneID, "Why We Should Build an Integral Fast Reactor Now," 11/25/9) http://skirsch.wordpress.com/2009/11/25/ifr/
To prevent a climate disaster, we must eliminate virtually all coal plant emissions worldwide in 25 years. The best way and, for all practical purposes, the only way to get all countries off of coal is not with coercion; it is to make them want to replace their coal burners by giving them a plug-compatible technology that is less expensive. The IFR can do this. It is plug-compatible with the burners in a coal plant (see Nuclear Power: Going Fast). No other technology can upgrade a coal plant so it is greenhouse gas free while reducing operating costs at the same time. In fact, no other technology can achieve either of these goals. The IFR can achieve both.¶ The bottom line is that without the IFR (or a yet-to-be-invented technology with similar ability to replace the coal burner with a cheaper alternative), it is unlikely that we’ll be able to keep CO2 under 450 ppm.¶ Today, the IFR is the only technology with the potential to displace the coal burner. That is why restarting the IFR is so critical and why Jim Hansen has listed it as one of the top five things we must do to avert a climate disaster.¶ Without eliminating virtually all coal emissions by 2030, the sum total of all of our other climate mitigation efforts will be inconsequential. Hansen often refers to the near complete phase-out of carbon emissions from coal plants worldwide by 2030 as the sine qua non for climate stabilization (see for example, the top of page 6 in his August 4, 2008 trip report).¶ To stay under 450ppm, we would have to install about 13,000 GWe of new carbon-free power over the next 25 years. That number was calculated by Nathan Lewis of Caltech for the Atlantic, but others such as Saul Griffith have independently derived a very similar number and White House Science Advisor John Holdren used 5,600 GWe to 7,200 GWe in his presentation to the Energy Bar Association Annual Meeting on April 23, 2009. That means that if we want to save the planet, we must install more than 1 GWe per day of clean power every single day for the next 25 years. That is a very, very tough goal. It is equivalent to building one large nuclear reactor per day, or 1,500 huge wind turbines per day, or 80,000 37 foot diameter solar dishes covering 100 square miles every day, or some linear combination of these or other carbon free power generation technologies. Note that the required rate is actually higher than this because Hansen and Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the IPCC, now both agree that 350ppm is a more realistic “not to exceed” number (and we’ve already exceeded it).¶ Today, we are nowhere close to that installation rate with renewables alone. For example, in 2008, the average power delivered by solar worldwide was only 2 GWe (which is to be distinguished from the peak solar capacity of 13.4GWe). That is why every renewable expert at the 2009 Aspen Institute Environment Forum agreed that nuclear must be part of the solution. Al Gore also acknowledges that nuclear must play an important role.¶ Nuclear has always been the world’s largest source of carbon free power. In the US, for example, even though we haven’t built a new nuclear plant in the US for 30 years, nuclear still supplies 70% of our clean power!¶ Nuclear can be installed very rapidly; much more rapidly than renewables. For example, about two thirds of the currently operating 440 reactors around the world came online during a 10 year period between 1980 and 1990. So our best chance of meeting the required installation of new power goal and saving the planet is with an aggressive nuclear program.¶ Unlike renewables, nuclear generates base load power, reliably, regardless of weather. Nuclear also uses very little land area. It does not require the installation of new power lines since it can be installed where the power is needed. However, even with a very aggressive plan involving nuclear, it will still be extremely difficult to install clean power fast enough.¶ Unfortunately, even in the US, we have no plan to install the clean power we need fast enough to save the planet. Even if every country were to agree tomorrow to completely eliminate their coal plant emissions by 2030, how do we think they are actually going to achieve that? There is no White House plan that explains this. There is no DOE plan. There is no plan or strategy. The deadlines will come and go and most countries will profusely apologize for not meeting their goals, just like we have with most of the signers of the Kyoto Protocol today. Apologies are nice, but they will not restore the environment.¶ We need a strategy that is believable, practical, and affordable for countries to adopt. The IFR offers our best hope of being a centerpiece in such a strategy because it the only technology we know of that can provide an economically compelling reason to change.¶ At a speech at MIT on October 23, 2009, President Obama said “And that’s why the world is now engaged in a peaceful competition to determine the technologies that will power the 21st century. … The nation that wins this competition will be the nation that leads the global economy. I am convinced of that. And I want America to be that nation, it’s that simple.”¶ Nuclear is our best clean power technology and the IFR is our best nuclear technology. The Gen IV International Forum (GIF) did a study in 2001-2002 of 19 different reactor designs on 15 different criteria and 24 metrics. The IFR ranked #1 overall. Over 242 experts from around the world participated in the study. It was the most comprehensive evaluation of competitive nuclear designs ever done. Top DOE nuclear management ignored the study because it didn’t endorse the design the Bush administration wanted.¶ The IFR has been sitting on the shelf for 15 years and the DOE currently has no plans to change that.¶ How does the US expect to be a leader in clean energy by ignoring our best nuclear technology? Nobody I’ve talked to has been able to answer that question.¶ We have the technology (it was running for 30 years before we were ordered to tear it down). And we have the money: The Recovery Act has $80 billion dollars. Why aren’t we building a demo plant?¶ IFRs are better than conventional nuclear in every dimension. Here are a few:¶ Efficiency: IFRs are over 100 times more efficient than conventional nuclear. It extracts nearly 100% of the energy from nuclear material. Today’s nuclear reactors extract less than 1%. So you need only 1 ton of actinides each year to feed an IFR (we can use existing nuclear waste for this), whereas you need 100 tons of freshly mined uranium each year to extract enough material to feed a conventional nuclear plant.¶ Unlimited power forever: IFRs can use virtually any actinide for fuel. Fast reactors with reprocessing are so efficient that even if we restrict ourselves to just our existing uranium resources, we can power the entire planet forever (the Sun will consume the Earth before we run out of material to fuel fast reactors). If we limited ourselves to using just our DU “waste” currently in storage, then using the IFR we can power the US for over 1,500 years without doing any new mining of uranium.¶ Exploits our largest energy resource: In the US, there is 10 times as much energy in the depleted uranium (DU) that is just sitting there as there is coal in the ground. This DU waste is our largest natural energy resource…but only if we have fast reactors. Otherwise, it is just waste. With fast reactors, virtually all our nuclear waste (from nuclear power plants, leftover from enrichment, and from decommissioned nuclear weapons) becomes an energy asset worth about $30 trillion dollars…that’s not a typo…$30 trillion, not billion. An 11 year old child was able to determine this from publicly available information in 2004.
Inventing something cheaper is key – alternative methods can’t solve warming
Kirsch 9 (Steve Kirsch, Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, American serial entrepreneur who has started six companies: Mouse Systems, Frame Technology, Infoseek, Propel, Abaca, and OneID, "How Does Obama Expect to Solve the Climate Crisis Without a Plan?" 7/16/9) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-kirsch/how-does-obama-expect-to_b_236588.html-http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-kirsch/how-does-obama-expect-to_b_236588.html
The ship is sinking slowly and we are quickly running out of time to develop and implement any such plan if we are to have any hope of saving the planet. What we need is a plan we can all believe in. A plan where our country's smartest people all nod their heads in agreement and say, "Yes, this is a solid, viable plan for keeping CO2 levels from touching 425ppm and averting a global climate catastrophe."¶ ¶ At his Senate testimony a few days ago, noted climate scientist James Hansen made it crystal clear once again that the only way to avert an irreversible climate meltdown and save the planet is to phase out virtually all coal plants worldwide over a 20 year period from 2010 to 2030. Indeed, if we don't virtually eliminate the use of coal worldwide, everything else we do will be as effective as re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.¶ ¶ Plans that won't work¶ ¶ Unfortunately, nobody has proposed a realistic and practical plan to eliminate coal use worldwide or anywhere close to that. There is no White House URL with such a plan. No environmental group has a workable plan either.¶ ¶ Hoping that everyone will abandon their coal plants and replace them with a renewable power mix isn't a viable strategy -- we've proven that in the U.S. Heck, even if the Waxman-Markey bill passes Congress (a big "if"), it is so weak that it won't do much at all to eliminate coal plants. So even though we have Democrats controlling all three branches of government, it is almost impossible to get even a weak climate bill passed.¶ ¶ If we can't pass strong climate legislation in the U.S. with all the stars aligned, how can we expect anyone else to do it? So expecting all countries to pass a 100% renewable portfolio standard (which is far far beyond that contemplated in the current energy bill) just isn't possible. Secondly, even if you could mandate it politically in every country, from a practical standpoint, you'd never be able to implement it in time. And there are lots of experts in this country, including Secretary Chu, who say it's impossible without nuclear (a point which I am strongly in agreement with).¶ ¶ Hoping that everyone will spontaneously adopt carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is also a non-starter solution. First of all, CCS doesn't exist at commercial scale. Secondly, even if we could make it work at scale, and even it could be magically retrofitted on every coal plant (which we don't know how to do), it would require all countries to agree to add about 30% in extra cost for no perceivable benefit. At the recent G8 conference, India and China have made it clear yet again that they aren't going to agree to emission goals.¶ ¶ Saying that we'll invent some magical new technology that will rescue us at the last minute is a bad solution. That's at best a poor contingency plan.¶ ¶ The point is this: It should be apparent to us that we aren't going to be able to solve the climate crisis by either "force" (economic coercion or legislation) or by international agreement. And relying on technologies like CCS that may never work is a really bad idea.¶ ¶ The only remaining way to solve the crisis is to make it economically irresistible for countries to "do the right thing." The best way to do that is to give the world a way to generate electric power that is economically more attractive than coal with the same benefits as coal (compact power plants, 24x7 generation, can be sited almost anywhere, etc). Even better is if the new technology can simply replace the existing burner in a coal plant. That way, they'll want to switch. No coercion is required.