Saturday, May 05, 2007

IPCC releases the summary of the Climate Change Mitigation report

As with the previous IPCC climate change working group reports, I was once again eagerly awaiting the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Working Group III Report "Mitigation of Climate Change", Summary for Policymakers, but was sorely disappointed that only a "Summary for Policymakers" was issued, not the actual report. The outline for the actual report is also available, but there is no sign of the actual, detailed report. I presume that the full, detailed report will be issued after the final section is completed in November, but it disturbs me greatly that a "summary for policymakers" would be negotiated and issued long before the full report is finalized.

I haven't yet read the report line by line, but a lot of the language, including the footnotes, leads me to conclude that all of this a really a work in progress and all the talk about how "the science is settled" and "there is no debate" is so much nonsense. Anyone, especially any "policymakers", or presidential candidates (or former presidential candidates), who believes that we now have even a rough roadmap for "fixing" global warming and climate change is seriously mistaken.

I am relieved to note that the idea of dumping large amounts of powdered iron into the ocean and otherwise trying to grow vast amounts of algae in the ocean as a way to absorb carbon dioxide is discounted as a viable mitigation technique:

17. Geo-engineering options, such as ocean fertilization to remove CO2 directly from the atmosphere, or blocking sunlight by bringing material into the upper atmosphere, remain largely speculative and unproven, and with the risk of unknown side-effects. Reliable cost estimates for these options have not been published (medium agreement, limited evidence) [11.2].

Unknown risks indeed. The real risk with such techniques is that they actually work better than expected and we overshoot and cause global cooling.

I was curious to see how nuclear energy would fare as a mitigation measure, especially given the diehard opposition of environmentalists:

Given costs relative to other supply options, nuclear power, which accounted for 16% of the electricity supply in 2005, can have an 18% share of the total electricity supply in 2030 at carbon prices up to 50 US$/tCO2-eq, but safety, weapons proliferation and waste remain as constraints [4.2, 4.3, 4.4]27.

...

For lower stabilization levels, scenarios put more emphasis on the use of low-carbon energy sources, such as renewable energy and nuclear power, and the use of CO2 capture and storage (CCS). In these scenarios improvements of carbon intensity of energy supply and the whole economy need to be much faster than in the past.

So, nukes survived the cut and environmentalists were unable to make them go away. About all the environmentalists were able to do way insert the modest caveat "but safety, weapons proliferation and waste remain as constraints" and downplay any significant expansion of market share by nukes. One way that the environmentalists seem to have lost is that the more aggressive we want to be about tackling global warming, the report suggests that we need to be more aggressive with both renewable and nuclear energy.

-- Jack Krupansky

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