“Humanity’s final exam” : Professors Pierrehumbert and Moomaw

So, two uplifting videos for today. These are ones I watched some time ago, but I never made a semi-permanent place for them. They are important.

There most certainly is a climate emergency. But it really is not that hard to fix this:

  • End all subsidies for fossil fuels, financial, tax incentives, and structural. Structural incentives are things like free permissions to mine and drill on federal lands, and eminent domain for building pipelines. Note this is not the same as banning fossil fuels. It means reducing public support for them. Yes, gasoline and diesel prices will go up. Remove all tax subsidies from fossil fuel business and companies by making them a special case in tax codes.
  • Remove restrictions and local bylaws for building zero Carbon energy sources, including rooftop solar and land-based wind. Some people complain about utility scale solar felling forests, commanding swaths of agricultural lands, and their aesthetic impacts, claiming all the while they “support solar”, but not there, and should be put on rooftops and developed lands first. Well, there is substantial opposition to putting solar on residential and commercial properties, too, particularly ground mounted solar. The latter is generally more productive, and is needed for properties which have homes and buildings which are tree shaded, without having these felled.
  • Provide deep subsidies to build out EV charging networks, and provide utility scale battery storage, whether lithium batteries, or the recently developed iron batteries.
  • Demand that any new fossil fuel infrastructure or improvements to it use a rapid depreciation scheduled where zero value is 2040.
  • Institute national retraining programs for zero Carbon energy as part of revamped and expanded educational programs paid by the public. These will be some of the best investments conceivable. The monies saved from fossil fuel subsidies can readily be used to support these. Zero Carbon energy development will pay for itself. These educational programs will provide a workforce, one which is presently small and constraining solar, wind, and storage development. There is a severe shortage of electricians.

I have a quibble with Professor Moomaw’s talk … Yes, forests and soils — and oceans — take up 60% of CO2 emissions. But these sinks do not bind up these emissions permanently. Permanent sequestration takes a great deal longer. In the case of forests, sequestration is ultimately done in soils. Afforestation and proforestation can help and are necessary, but they are quite slow in their taking up of CO2. Young forests are volatile, meaning most young trees fall over and die, returning their Carbon to the climate system.

Finally, old forests consisting of big trees only are produced if wildfires are allowed to periodically burn through forests, eliminating the small stuff.

About ecoquant

See https://667-per-cm.net/about. Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
This entry was posted in being carbon dioxide, carbon dioxide, Carbon Worshipers, climate change, climate disruption, climate emergency, Cult of Carbon, ecocapitalism, ecomodernism, economic disruption, global warming, Ray Pierrehumbert, William Moomaw and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to “Humanity’s final exam” : Professors Pierrehumbert and Moomaw

  1. Pingback: These are not “climate activists” … | 667 per centimeter : climate science, quantitative biology, statistics, and energy policy

  2. OG says:

    Time not to completely ban fossil fuels but to ration their use. I remember the gas and tire coupons from WWII. Fossil fuel use should be limited and restricted. I don’t see that the technology for replacing fossil fuels by clean energy is here yet. It may of may not be worked out by future ducoveriez and inventions, but we cannot rely on technology that does not yet exist ,

    • ecoquant says:

      Rationing doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, the only thing which does solve the problem is eliminating all emissions, that is, reducing them to ZERO. That is the long term target, and intermediate steps to getting there are critical. The reason why ZERO is needed is apparently not widely appreciated — and your comment gives evidence for that. As I have explained in many blog posts, the trouble is that CO2 is a millennial scale greenhouse gas, meaning that, once emitted, it doesn’t get scrubbed for centuries to thousands of years. Specifically, about half of emissions will get removed to soils and oceans within centuries, but the other half will be around for several thousand years.

      Accordingly, warming will continue for as long as emissions are made, and about 10-20 years after they are stopped. Moreover, even if CO2 were removed from atmosphere, the warming effects would remain for a couple of centuries. This means not only do we need to zero, we need to zero fast because the warming effects won’t be better for a couple of centuries after we do, and whatever effects we have at the point of zeroing remain. Removing CO2 from atmosphere is hard and expensive. And N2O cannot be removed.

      Finally, it is simply incorrect that we do not have the engineering technology to go completely to zero. We lack the economic will and incentives. The means of doing so is in hand, and I have written many blog posts here explaining this. Here’s a list: post 1, post 2, post 3, and post 4.

      • OG says:

        Before clean energy is possible we have to learn to produce steel, cement, batteries and lubricants without fossil fuels. We are working on it but are not there yet Wind , solar and water making electricity is not possible at present without fossil fuels to produce and maintain the equipment.

        • ecoquant says:

          Yes, but this is a transition. Some will be done with fossil fuels, but, then, those assets will be replaced, and all will be good.

          What is the incentive for these sectors to reform and innovate themselves? Because if they don’t, as is the case for utility scale batteries based upon Lithium, there is an incentive, not necessarily all financial, to find a better kind of technology. In this case Iron.

          Basically, if Aluminum or Steel producers don’t invest in zero emission ways of producing their product, their inaction produces great incentives for competitors to develop zero emission ways of producing product that competes with them.

          Sure, we can do fossil fuels part of the time. But they have a deadline by which they need to die. As I emphasize, this is a transition, not a switch.

          • OG says:

            Interesting you should mention iron. At present iron ore can only be processed into pig iron -usable iron- by use of fossil fuels.
            Fossil furls definitely have a deadline, for one thing, we are going to run out of them soon. My point is we need to drastically reduce the amount we use until we find a replacement. Abd to consider that we may not find a replacementSd have yo. consider and plan for that possibility which to me us very real. It is nice to say we will transition to something else, but right niw, we do not have that something else, and there is no promise that we will find one. We need to consider all possibilities.

            • ecoquant says:

              H2 Green Steel in Sweden is expecting to produce 5 megatonnes of steel with a process that involves no emissions by 2030. Similar efforts have been profiled at The Economist, and they are serious enough that traditional steel manufacturers are concerned. The problem for them is that, once the capital costs for building the fab are embraced, the operational costs of manufacturing steel in this way are less, resulting in a less expensive product. There’s a lot being done to convert industry to zero emissions processes, as also has been profiled by The Economist, including cement. Professor Mark Jacobson talks a bit about this in his book.

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