WTF Climate Change News

Innula Zenovka

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Innula Zenovka

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Bartholomew Gallacher

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Don't forget that what we have today is not what we will have next year or the year after or 10 years from now. Technology is now changing at lightning speed.
Yes, technology is progressing. That's one thing. The other thing is that it must be economically feasable, scalable and needs time for rollout. We'll be dependent for oil for still quite some time, the next decade for sure.
 

Aribeth Zelin

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Yes, technology is progressing. That's one thing. The other thing is that it must be economically feasable, scalable and needs time for rollout. We'll be dependent for oil for still quite some time, the next decade for sure.
But the peak has happened....
 
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Beebo Brink

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Don't forget that what we have today is not what we will have next year or the year after or 10 years from now.
I assumed you were talking about climate change when I read that first part of your post. Each year is going to bring new climate pressures to strain our society, infrastructure and financial institutions.

Technology is now changing at lightning speed.
Well, yes, technology in *general* is changing quickly, but much of that technology is what got us in this mess in the first place by increased energy demands and adult toys that deplete key resources, not to mention the medical innovations that are keeping more of us alive for longer.

Technology is not the solution that will stop climate change. Even if we could switch over to 100% green tech tomorrow, the gears of climate change have been set in motion and will continue for tens of thousands of years just based on the carbon currently in our atmosphere. And we're nowhere near making that kind of switch any time soon. Any progress we're making on a global scale is laudable and makes us feel better, but it's not happening with "lightning speed."

The belief that we will develop a Savior Technology at some vague point in the future has served as a great excuse since the 1970s for ignoring our growing population and the ravaging of the planet. Actual solutions are pretty simple -- they don't require high tech -- but they're horribly uncomfortable and disruptive to our current standards of living: Stop having babies and stop burning oil.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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But the peak has happened....
Just because for some companies the peak in production has happened does not mean that the peak in consumption has happened! This is yet to come somewhere later in this century.

Look, we do need energy for primarily three big sectors:

1. Transportation
2. Heating
3. Electrical power generation

Power generation is diversified, heating somewhat. But in transportation fossil fuels based on oil are still the backbone of it, and in heating oil is a major contributor as well.

Oil is dirt cheap solar energy from the past. We do love cheap energy, because it enables us to live the life the way we're used to. And if you want to switch the energy source for big sectors, then this means that you have to build lots of stuff like new power plants, energy reservoirs and such. Also that you've got to replace/re-outfit your existing infrastructure. All that takes years over years.

You've fallen for the old false promise named "soon we'll out-tech the problems our tech so far generated, so don't worry." This rarely happens, if at all.
 
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Aribeth Zelin

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Just because for some companies the peak in production has happened does not mean that the peak in consumption has happened! This is yet to come somewhere later in this century.

Look, we do need energy for primarily three big sectors:

1. Transportation
2. Heating
3. Electrical power generation

Power generation is diversified, heating somewhat. But in transportation fossil fuels based on oil are still the backbone of it, and in heating oil is a major contributor as well.

Oil is dirt cheap solar energy from the past. We do love cheap energy, because it enables us to live the life the way we're used to. And if you want to switch the energy source for big sectors, then this means that you have to build lots of stuff like new power plants, energy reservoirs and such. Also that you've got to replace/re-outfit your existing infrastructure. All that takes years over years.

You've fallen for the old false promise named "soon we'll out-tech the problems our tech so far generated, so don't worry." This rarely happens, if at all.
When it is combined with my own observations; when it is combined with articles about how car companies are already going towards full electric cars, when people like my 76 year old mother are saying 'My next car will be electric', when my husband works with software still closely linked to the oil industry [though he works with nuclear applications], and they are being hard hit because of this, when people who are even more progressive than I am are saying this is the case as well.

And maybe over there, here, most people heat with electricity, even mom converted from propane to electric years ago [and a wood stove - don't blame her].

Also, propane is a derivative of both crude oil and natural gas processing, so it doesn't need oil to be made.

Plastics are a more notable crude oil product, but.... they have been working on making bio-degradable plastics from plant by-products for a while now.

Also, its not like its just Shell saying this: Toyota EV plans, Audi E-Tron GT debut, battery supply woes, past peak oil: The Week in Reverse



Sure, its not fast enough, but I am inclined to believe Shell, since they ARE IN THE BUSINESS

Good grief, you are like talking to my mom - next you'll be relaying right back to me what I've told you, as if I wasn't the one who told you.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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Observations can be very misleading.

Do you know the joke where a monk trained a flea to spring when being ordered to? Then that monk pulled the flea's legs, gives the order again - nothing happens. What's the conclusion of the monk? "If you're pulling the flea's legs god punishes him with deafness." Case closed.

What you do consider as a hit on oil companies due to a miniscule amount of EVs on the streets is in reality the result of the pandemic crisis, which also has an economic crisis embedded. Once this over oil consumption will be rising again.

Also take into account that there are around 1.3 billion cars on the planet, only 4.79 million so far are purely battery powered right now. Even if all car companies by a miracle would produce over night at the same time only BEVs, the replacement of the whole fleet would take with the global production capacity of roughly 67 million cars a year about 20 years.

And yes, Shell says it's past peak oil. It's not the first time that happened, this was the fate of most American oil fields before fracking was rolled out as well. Other oil companies are not, because this depends on oil fields. Saudi Aramco probably still has some nice untouched capacities left. And every oil field has its own history. And when Shell says that they want to repurpose themselves towards renewables that might be a long term goal, at the moment they're still selling tons of oil.

Renewables are nice and cheap. Solar power is the cheapest form of energy ever being available to mankind. The main problem with renewables is that they still do lack a weather independent, realiable, cheap and scalable energy storage technology. As long as this is unresolved we'll still need backup power plants using mostly non renewable energy sources.

And even if there would be such a thing installed at large, the impact would be really meh. For example one appealing idea is to use leftover electrical power from renewables for power-to-gas plants. Sounds like a win-win-situation: you're suddenly able to use all of your generation capacity at all time, can store it and use it for later stuff.

Let's say you would use it to produce hydrogen, which then is used in fuel cell vehicles. Some scientists calculated if in Germany all leftover electricity would be put into this production, it could only roughly power around 5% of truck transportation. So if we want H2 we need to either find more energy efficient ways to produce it, or scale our renewable power plant generation multiple times.
 
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Cindy Claveau

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I assumed you were talking about climate change when I read that first part of your post. Each year is going to bring new climate pressures to strain our society, infrastructure and financial institutions.
Of course. But it's also a huge leap forward to not have an ignorant, denying President. I'm already seeing major shifts in social effort thanks to Biden's emphasis.

Well, yes, technology in *general* is changing quickly, but much of that technology is what got us in this mess in the first place by increased energy demands and adult toys that deplete key resources, not to mention the medical innovations that are keeping more of us alive for longer.
I'm not sure what measures you're using when you say "much". Maybe we read different publications. We've had huge advancements in wind and solar power, and even next-gen nuclear designs. Fossil fuel technology is yesterday's drug pusher, as prevalent as it is today. That's where regulation comes into play.

Technology is not the solution that will stop climate change.
It ultimately rests on humanity changing our behaviors. It's taken us over 50 years just to acknowledge climate change as an existential threat, let alone set about doing anything about it. However, I submit that we will also absolutely need new technologies to move forward. Producers/manufacturers require energy to remain in being and decisions on changes like that are always strictly financial. They'll switch over when it's economically beneficial and not before. Regulations, again, can impact that equation.

The belief that we will develop a Savior Technology at some vague point in the future has served as a great excuse since the 1970s for ignoring our growing population and the ravaging of the planet.
I personally don't believe there ever has been or will be one single "savior technology" to solve the problems but I, too, have witnessed the attitude you're talking about. I still see discussions on other platforms where climate change is a thing of mockery. (I figure they're mostly Trump voters). Anyone who dares jump into the fray to correct their delusions is going to be subject to mockery, ridicule and banning.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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I'm not sure what measures you're using when you say "much". Maybe we read different publications. We've had huge advancements in wind and solar power, and even next-gen nuclear designs. Fossil fuel technology is yesterday's drug pusher, as prevalent as it is today. That's where regulation comes into play.
The only countries which are going to maintain their nuclear power plants for a long time are the ones which either have nuclear arms or want access to such things.

Nuclear power is too expensive to be competetive nowadays against renewables. All so called next-gen nuclear designs are either still theoretical constructs with not even a prototype being build ever, like the traveling wave reactor, or if already under construction are suffering long delays and cost explosions en masse like the EPR IV in Finland. Hinkley Point in the UK is not better.

In the good old days it took around 5 years to build a nuclear power plant, nowadays the mean construction time for one new nuclear power plant is around 10 years. Even China needs for most of its new reactors 8-9 years. In contrast it only takes one week to install a new wind turbine.

 

Cindy Claveau

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The only countries which are going to maintain their nuclear power plants for a long time are the ones which either have nuclear arms or want access to such things.

Nuclear power is too expensive to be competetive nowadays against renewables. All so called next-gen nuclear designs are either still theoretical constructs with not even a prototype being build ever, like the traveling wave reactor, or if already under construction are suffering long delays and cost explosions en masse like the EPR IV in Finland. Hinkley Point in the UK is not better.
The new, safer nuclear reactors that might help stop climate change

Germany is scheduled to shut down all its nuclear plants by 2022; Italy voted by referendum to block any future projects back in 2011. And even if nuclear had broad public support (which it doesn’t), it’s expensive: several nuclear plants in the US closed recently because they can’t compete with cheap shale gas.

“If the current situation continues, more nuclear power plants will likely close and be replaced primarily by natural gas, causing emissions to rise,” argued the Union of Concerned Scientists—historically nuclear skeptics—in 2018. If all those plants shut down, estimates suggest, carbon emissions would increase by 6%.
One of the leading technologies is the small modular reactor, or SMR: a slimmed-down version of conventional fission systems that promises to be cheaper and safer. NuScale Power, based in Portland, Oregon, has a 60-megawatt design that’s close to being deployed. (A typical high-cost conventional fission plant might produce around 1,000 MW of power.)

NuScale has a deal to install 12 small reactors to supply energy to a coalition of 46 utilities across the western US, but the project can go ahead only if the group’s members agree to finance it by the end of this year. History suggests that won’t be easy. In 2011, Generation mPower, another SMR developer, had a deal to construct up to six reactors similar to NuScale’s. It had the backing of corporate owners Babcock & Wilcox, one of the world’s largest energy builders, but the pact was shelved after less than three years because no new customers had emerged. No orders meant prices wouldn’t come down, which made the deal unsustainable.
 

Beebo Brink

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Of course, but [much interesting stuff]
I'm not clear on what point you're trying to make about climate change vs. the rate technology innovation and the change in our behaviors.

My own take is that our attempts to grapple with the climate emergency are happening slowly, too slowly compared to the rate of change in our climate. Adopting green technology is a good change to make for the short-term improvements it offers, which is more than enough reason to continue with the effort and with all sense of urgency. But I don't believe what we're doing will make that much difference, if any, in the long-term consequences.

Nothing we do (or even plan to do) will take carbon out of the atmosphere in sufficient quantities to change the warming already in effect. Nothing will put the WAIS back together again or re-freeze the permafrost that is emitting methane as it melts. We're steadily on course for 2-3 degrees of warming, possibly more, and that will be catastrophic enough to disrupt civilization as we know it. That outcome is pretty much baked in already.

And we're completely emotionally unprepared for what is to come, as Texas so aptly demonstrated just this past week. Aside from making only anemic efforts to lower carbon emissions, we're making even weaker efforts to prepare for the challenges of the next centuries. Our way of life is slipping very rapidly (in historic & geological terms) out of our grasp.
 

Aribeth Zelin

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The only countries which are going to maintain their nuclear power plants for a long time are the ones which either have nuclear arms or want access to such things.

Nuclear power is too expensive to be competetive nowadays against renewables. All so called next-gen nuclear designs are either still theoretical constructs with not even a prototype being build ever, like the traveling wave reactor, or if already under construction are suffering long delays and cost explosions en masse like the EPR IV in Finland. Hinkley Point in the UK is not better.

In the good old days it took around 5 years to build a nuclear power plant, nowadays the mean construction time for one new nuclear power plant is around 10 years. Even China needs for most of its new reactors 8-9 years. In contrast it only takes one week to install a new wind turbine.

You are so wrong on this, again. But I've noticed you double down if anyone challenges what you think it true, rather than listening to anything that contradicts your opinions.

And gee, wonder why there are attempts at fusion plants, if its 'too expensive'.
 
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Spirits Rising

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Well with that outlook we may as well just unleash Nuclear Hell and obliterate everything right the fuck now to get it over with, huh?

Welcome to Humanity: The race that needs a fire and some kind of threat to enact major changes.

Fuck sake ... There are two outcomes: Humanity survives/Humanity does not survive. In either case, life will go on. And yes, it most certainly will go on in one form or another, more likely in a form we'd not recognize or accept.

Do what can be done, hope more is done faster and give the gloom a fucking rest already.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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You are so wrong on this, again. But I've noticed you double down if anyone challenges what you think it true, rather than listening to anything that contradicts your opinions.

And gee, wonder why there are attempts at fusion plants, if its 'too expensive'.
Of course we are not on the same page: your main argument and Cindy' as well is "oh, there are all these new shiny toys being available soon, so cool, hooray!" You are just believing the pro nuclear power propaganda which has been circulating around a lot since climate change has become a more pressing topic, without asking questions or looking back at the origins of these designs and experiences with former research reactors done in the past, if there are such things.

I on the other hand am arguing with an array of various facts:

1. nuclear energy todays is much more expensive than renewables, meaning it makes economically not much sense without tons of subsidies received by the state during its lifetime and afterwards.
2. construction time of nuclear reactors is 8 years mean time, even in countries like China.
3. All type of the new reactors, your little shiny new toys, either don't have even a working prototype yet or alternatively the research prototypes of the past have a troubled history, or if already available and under construction like the EPR IV, are building time and cost wise an utter catastrophe.

I could also continue with mentioning that Uranium is quite the limited ressource, which means if nuclear power gets scaled at large price might skyrocket. Peak Uranium is indeed a thing, which though is not so pressuring right now due to some technical advances. But it could become if more power plants at large are being constructed. If it becomes pressuring enough it either means that you have to recycle worn out nuclear fuel rods a lot, which is really expensive and a desaster for the environment, or use other elements as nuclear fuel like Thorium. This is the reason why the nuclear strategy of many countries originally contained as important pillar one nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, but not every country build one like La Hague in France or Sellafield in the UK. Which is why so many people are now pushing Thorium based reactor designs a lot, this does not come out of the blue, no, these are aware about Peak Uranium. Thorium is a much less rare element than Uranium, I guess it's around 3 times more on Earth than Uranium, so this makes absolutely sense.

Fusion power is a nice idea and it's good that this is being researched. This is what scientific research is here for. The question though is nobody knows at the moment if it ever will work the way we'd like to be, because there are still many problems which need to be resolved first. I do support this research, but do not expect to witness a working commercial power plant during my lifetime.

To cover this MIT article:
Nuscale wants to build small designs, similar to Akademik Lomonossow, which is a Russian build SMR on a ship. It took the Russians a decade to build that thing. Nuscale seems to be less complicated, we've got to see though when they start constructing stuff how long it will take.

Sodium-cooled reactors? Who cares, really not a new technology at all. France has build such a thing with 1.2 GW electrical power called Superphenix, this is so far the biggest sodium cooled reactor ever build. It was operational for around 11 years. Reliability was around 7%. Russia has two still operational. It's really a hard to handle technology, and there's a reason why only so few of the list of such reactors ever made it into criticality and were operated for more than a few months. Just because China builds it now will not make the fundamental problems change or magically go away.

Bill Gates traveling wave reactor, ah yes. Sounds good on paper and is another old concept from 1958, like so many of these "new designs". Problem is again sodium cooled and too pricy. Aside that according to Gates the wave would take around 60 years or so. Really something complicated again with doubtful outcome that this theoretical concept will ever work in reality.

And of course the poster boy of new nuclear reactor designs, the molten salt fluid reactor, which was a design originally conceived to safely power airplanes. The US airforce wanted to have big bombers which could travel the world for weeks, this was scrapped when ICBMs became a thing.

It sounds promising on paper, also quite safe as well. Have a leakage somewhere? Look, no problem, as soon as the molten salt reacts with fresh air it becomes solid, problem solved. And if the nuclear fuel gets too hot in the reactor we'll use gravity as fail safe device; there's a metal plomb at the bottom of the reactor which then will just melt, and big nice tanks below the reactor which are wide enough that criticality is destroyed. Problem solved.

This design was conceived at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories by Alvin Weinberg, the same guy who also designed the reactor type still being used in submarines and supercarriers. This design was Weinberg's favorite by a long shot. They had a prototype running at the JPL for over 6000+ hours. What the fanboys of this reactor design are not telling you is that the nuclear fuel of the decommissioned reactor was not safe in the tanks, but migrated through the system. The salt in the prototype was heated once a year. Also given the fact that it uses a molten salt for cooling instead of water this means that the wear and tear on the pipes is much bigger than with conventional reactor types, because salt is corrosive. In 1994 they discovered that the concentration of uranium created the potential for a spontaneous nuclear criticality accident - which contradicted the main promise of this design that it is fool proof designed to prevent this from ever happening - which means uncontrolled nuclear fission chain reaction, as well much fluorine. Getting the uranium out of the salt took six years. Just look at decomissioning in the Wikipedia article: Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment - Wikipedia

Moving on with pebble bed reactors. We've got one such thing in Germany, which worked also for quite some time. It turned out that the pebbles were not so safe as originally thought, and damaged, contaminating the whole building. The whole building is still contaminated, deconstruction will start around 2045 due to that. There's been also a company in South Africa, which really tried to renew research on that stuff after the 2000s. For some time it was considered as the new hot stuff. It never materialized.

So excuse me, but I've got more than good enough reason to believe that nuclear power is not our saviour as some conceive it to be. It's not even an important stepping stone into a better future, because we do need clean energy at massive scale right now and the enormous construction times of available nuclear reactor designs makes this impossible for nuclear power.
 
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Beebo Brink

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Well with that outlook we may as well just unleash Nuclear Hell and obliterate everything right the fuck now to get it over with, huh?
I've never understood the appeal of nihilism. Everyone dies eventually. If we're all going to die, might as well jump off a cliff now? Be my guest, but I'm doing my best to enjoy life, even if under trying personal circumstances. I'm invested in the journey, not the destination. And whether humanity is destroyed by climate change or by the inevitable death of sun, it's all equally irrelevant to me. All things will end; enjoy the moment.
Do what can be done, hope more is done faster and give the gloom a fucking rest already.
What you see as "gloom", I see as intellectual curiosity and practical self-interest. I like to have a good idea of what is actually happening around me, not sugar-coated fantasies. But you do you, and I'll continue reading about climate change. Because that's what I do. :p