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Earth Power Science

Carbon Emissions Reached Record High In 2010 520

Posted by Soulskill
from the posted-from-my-wood-burning-tablet dept.
iONiUM writes "Last year, greenhouse gas emissions rose to a record amount of 30.6 gigatons, according to estimates from the International Energy Agency. From an article at the Guardian: 'Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, the author of the influential Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006, warned that if the pattern continued, the results would be dire. "These figures indicate that [emissions] are now close to being back on a 'business as usual' path. According to the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] projections, such a path... would mean around a 50% chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100," he said.'" jamie points out a recent report that the cost of solar cells has dropped about 21 percent this year, leading to predictions that solar power may become cheaper than nuclear and fossil power within five years.
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Carbon Emissions Reached Record High In 2010

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  • You can NOT have a story about solar power without a prediction somewhere with the ole "in the next 5-10 years". It's amazing that 15 years of reading such articles, the solar power industry always seems to be 5-10 years away from a major boom.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Sort of like the Fusion is 20 years away and has been for the last 50 years.
      Or the car of the future. All someone really has to do is pick up Popular Science from 1973 to 1980 or so and you will see pages and pages about solar, wind turbines, alternative fuel cars, fuel cells, electric cars, gas electric cars, Stirling engine cars and so on.
      It is funny but progress always seems to be much slower or much faster than predicted. The early home computer crowd really missed out on the potential of the Internet.

      • by mspohr (589790)
        Which part of "the cost of solar cells has dropped 21 percent this year" didn't you understand?
    • by TapeCutter (624760) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:15AM (#36297266) Journal
      Not sure what your definition of a "major boom" is, but PV production has been doubling every two years for the last decade [wikipedia.org].
  • by yog (19073) * on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @10:19AM (#36296546) Homepage Journal
    There are lots of excellent alternatives to fossil fuels coming down the pike: solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, fuel cells. I like the idea of solar cells on every rooftop, with hydrogen fuel cells in the basement to capture the surplus daytime power and recharge the electric cars overnight. I also like the idea of a windmill at every major intersection, to power a square mile or so of residences and businesses.

    They're building a big solar thermal power plant [ca.gov] in the Mojave desert, to accompany several others [wikipedia.org] already up and running. Arizona's building a big one as well.

    Solar photovoltaic technology is advancing, both in efficiency and in cheaper manufacturing costs. I think ultimately solar will provide 20-25% of people's electric needs.

    And transportation is going to be electric, as batteries improve. Hybrid car sales are huge, and every manufacturer is getting into the act. They're somewhat expensive today, but economies of scale and improvements in the tech will only bring down costs and increase profits. Probably in 20 years every car on the road will be either a hybrid or fully electric.

    What'll be interesting will be to see just how much impact this eventual shift away from combustible carbon fuels has on the climate. The scientific community largely agrees that humans have caused global warming, but what happens if we stop being the cause and it still gets warmer? All that carbon we've already produced is to blame? Or is it a few major volcanoes in the past century? Or climate shifts that have little to do with human activities? Should be an interesting 88 years coming up; wish I could be around to see it happen. But my daughter will, I hope.
    • by bunratty (545641) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @10:23AM (#36296582)
      Even if we immediately stop burning any fossil fuels, it should still get warmer. It takes hundreds of years for the carbon cycle to take the excess out of the atmosphere. We're committed to continued warming right now. The only thing we can do is commit to less warming or more warming.
      • by yog (19073) *
        What about reforestation? That should help reduce atmospheric CO2.

        Also, maybe try to prevent/reduce pollution of the oceans, to restore algae. But that's a tall order, because everyone's fishing the hell out of it and basically destroying the food chain out there. I don't see any near term mitigation for that, unfortunately. If it were up to the Asians, they'd deplete much of the ocean's stocks to extinction. Maybe fish farms will help, eventually, except that they're not healthy for some reason.
        • by bunratty (545641)
          We're emitting 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Every person on the planet would have to plant tons of trees every year to keep the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere constant. We simply don't have enough land to hold that many trees. We've tried adding iron to the ocean to help algae production, but it didn't work out. You can read more about carbon sequestration [wikipedia.org].
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I like the idea of solar cells on every rooftop, with hydrogen fuel cells in the basement to capture the surplus daytime power and recharge the electric cars overnight. I also like the idea of a windmill at every major intersection, to power a square mile or so of residences and businesses.

      You like some really goofy stuff. First of all, only about 15% of roofs are suitable for solar. Second, only so much of the country is suitable for solar. Third, windmills make noise and small ones are basically worthless as the large ones produce in more conditions and more windmills means more points of failure. Fourth, hydrogen is an incredibly stupid way to store power, especially in your basement since it rises and will just come up into your house if there is a problem.

      I agree that solar should be on

    • by GooberToo (74388)

      There are lots of excellent alternatives to fossil fuels coming down the pike: solar, wind, nuclear, geothermal, fuel cells.

      Hmmmm....not so much.

      Solar thermal looks like the only viable option and that's still unproven. Solar voltaic has a long, long, long way to go yet. Wind is improving nicely, but is limited in many areas. Nuclear, by far, is still are best, strongest option. Geothermal is applicable to a tiny number of locations. Those that have tried it in other, non-classical geothermal areas tend to create earthquakes and general geological instabilities. Fuel cells are still extremely expensive and nowhere near cost effe

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Those that have tried it in other, non-classical geothermal areas tend to create earthquakes and general geological instabilities.

        Those that have tried it in classical geothermal areas tend to create earthquakes and general geological instabilities. Plus, they have to figure out a way to dispose of a bunch of toxics that are coming up out of the vent and collect on the turbine blades. Locally it's mostly Arsenic but there are plenty of other constituents.

        Wind and solar are basically the only viable technologies.

        In a nut shell, in order of promise, both immediate and the next two decades we have, nuclear, wind, solar-thermal, and maybe...possibly, iffy, solar-voltaic.

        PV solar has been a viable means of producing power since the 1970s, when PC PV modules could repay the energy cost of their

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Technology is controlled and driven by profit interests. There is no money in human survival. There just isn't.

  • Well, I would like to see it in details. First of all there were huge wild fires last year, and we got harsh winter too - so CO2 release can easily be attributed to this. Also winter made lot of not so smart people believe that global warming is a scam or not so serious as thought and released breaks.

    Anyway, we need long term technological solutions. People are working on it. So let's hope it will be good enough.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Dammit, you made me undo my moderations! Burning wood doesn't add to CO2; that carbon came from the air when the tree was growing. It will be absorbed by the tree that will grow to replace it. If you plant a tree for every one you burn, the carbon is neutral. Fossil fuels add to CO2 because you're releasing ancient carbon.

      Now, burning down forests on purpose to make more farmland does increase atmospheric CO2.

      Your buddy with a wood stove and acres of trees is carbon neutral, the other guy who heats his home

  • we're coming out of the great recession!
  • Its really simple. People are stupid in analyzing risk. They tend to underplay risk that is common or that they control and exagerrate risk that is out of their control or is unusual. If eating say garlic hamburgers gave you a 10% risk of death by heart attack, they wont bat an eye. But if there was a 1% chance of death from vampires, then they would gladly eat garlic hamburgers. Death by vampiric attack is more attention getting than heart attack. Is nuclear power risky? yes but the consequences are argu
    • People fear Nuclear power because the dangers are terrible. People don't fear coal power because of all the successful lobbying by the coal industry. That anyone can look you in the face and say the words "clean coal" is beyond astounding. The fact that coal is terrible, however, does not make nuclear great. The simple truth is that humans have demonstrated themselves to be generally incapable of safely operating nuclear plants under capitalism, which is how the entire world is run. (Ask China's leaders how

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        The simple truth is that humans have demonstrated themselves to be generally incapable of safely operating nuclear plants under capitalism, which is how the entire world is run.

        So EVIL CAPITALIST nuclear plants have killed far less people than hydro or coal while the Glorious People's Communist Nuclear Power Plant at Chernobly killed large numbers and spread radiation across Europe, and that means that capitalist reactors are bad?

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          If you really think that reactor belonged to the people, then you're a sucker of the worst kind.

          • by 0123456 (636235) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @11:22AM (#36297378)

            If you really think that reactor belonged to the people, then you're a sucker of the worst kind.

            Ah, so Chernobyl was an EVIL CAPITALIST reactor. Now it all makes sense.

            • by Duradin (1261418)

              Communist capitalists are the most evil of evil capitalists.

            • by iluvcapra (782887)

              Chernobyl was a Soviet reactor, which meant that not only was it run to the benefit of the nomenklatura and the military, but that it was run by people who lived in Moscow, hundreds of miles away, and could have cared less what happened to Ukranians.

              For evil capitalist reactors, see Fukushima dai ichi.

    • by mellon (7048)

      The main reason people fear nuclear power irrationally is that it's very difficult to model the risk of nuclear power, and proponents of nuclear power have gone out of their way to make it harder. And of course the risk of an abstract, ideal nuclear power plant is different than the risk of a nuclear power plant built by the lowest bidder, publicly rather than privately indemnified.

      So whine about it if you want, but the situation exists for a reason, and whining about it doesn't change that.

      • by mlts (1038732) *

        The fear outshines the facts. A picture of Godzilla will outweigh a hundred statistics saying how dangerous other methods of energy generation are.

        The only downside to nuclear power is the fact that contractors can get away with failing to do their part. If there are laws placed to hold people culpable (perhaps something that the company would be immediately nationalized if serious misconduct was found), this would be minimized.

        The reward is more than worth the risk. No CO2 emissions. No pollution to th

      • The main reason people fear nuclear power irrationally is that it's very difficult to model the risk of nuclear power,

        And modeling the risks of global warming is easier how? Seems to me it's a much, much tougher nut to crack.

        I see 2 main reasons people oppose nuclear power as a solution to carbon emissions. The biggest is that they just don't consider carbon emissions to be a serious problem. The next, and very close behind it, is how much easier it is to find problems than solutions. With electrics cars ar

        • by mellon (7048)

          It's really easy to blame people for being irrational in the abstract, but if you take into account real-world problems, it's not at all clear that people *are* being irrational. Just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't mean that person is irrational.

          If nuclear power were safe, it would be possible for utilities to build nuclear power plants without government indemnification. Insurance companies would weigh the risks, and write the policy, charging the appropriate market price. This cost w

          • If nuclear power were safe, it would be possible for utilities to build nuclear power plants without government indemnification.

            This statement is true if and only if government requirements are rationally based...
            As most people, I don't accept that basic premise, you probably shouldn't use it.

            The reason that doesn't happen is that if you factor in the cost of indemnification, it is *not* cheaper than the alternatives.

            Ah, but which comes first? The ridiculous costs employed against nuclear are BECAUSE of the

  • ob (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday May 31, 2011 @10:30AM (#36296656) Homepage Journal

    the cost of solar cells has dropped about 21 percent this year, leading to predictions that solar power may become cheaper than nuclear and fossil power within five years.

    Somebody had to. [xkcd.com]

  • jamie points out a recent report that the cost of solar cells has dropped about 21 percent this year, leading to predictions that solar power may become cheaper than nuclear and fossil power within five years.

    Which in turn says:

    If we can get solar at 15 cents a kilowatt-hour or lower, which Iâ(TM)m hopeful that we will do, youâ(TM)re going to have a lot of people that are going to want to have solar at home,

    Basically, they are hoping to be competitive with consumer rates and are decades away, at best, and if ever, from being competitive with base load rates. That's an idiotic statement of someone trying to drive stock prices which have absolute no connection with reality.

    For solar, it would literally be a major break through to provide peak load competitive prices and they are no where near being close to being competitive with base load generation. Even moreso, voltaic requires HALF the pri

    • It doesn't have to be half the price.

      The power factor is already rolled into the price per kWh

      Besides Solar isn't base load. Solar is peak power anywhere it is economical at all (in summer when it is most abundant).

      The real question is when does Solar (without subsidies) become peak price competitive. It apparently already is in Hawaii (we should end subsidies there immediately)

    • by rahvin112 (446269)

      For solar, it would literally be a major break through to provide peak load competitive prices and they are no where near being close to being competitive with base load generation. Even moreso, voltaic requires HALF the price of base load to be competitive with base load as it can only generate power half the time. Only solar-thermal looks to be able to ever be price competitive with base load pricing and even that is just now coming out of the gate.

      You should say that your statements are based entirely on

  • ... this continues to happen. Every year, even though standards continue to get stricter and stricter, this continues to happen.

    Why? Why bother, I mean? What, exactly, are we hoping to accomplish by trying to develop stricter emission standards year after year? We're obviously not really solving the problem... and although granted, we may be possibly slowing down the rate at which it would otherwise happen if we didn't do anything, it doesn't take a genus to realize that if the measures you are

    • In case you haven't noticed, fossil fuels are being depleted, and will all be gone pretty soon anyway. Oil will be gone in ~50 years. Coal will be gone in about ~100 years. So all these carbon emissions will eventually stop whether anybody wants to make a legislative effort or not.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        In case you haven't noticed, fossil fuels are being depleted, and will all be gone pretty soon anyway. Oil will be gone in ~50 years.

        That can't possibly be true. Back in the 70s the media was telling me that oil would be gone by the year 2000.

        • That can't possibly be true. Back in the 70s the media was telling me that oil would be gone by the year 2000.

          You're right, oil will never end! Never!

        • It is hard to predict when the oil is gone. As you neither know how much more oil is found nor how much the need is increasing.

          However there a simple ways to get an idea. When the oil industrie started, in the time where 1 barrel oil was used up they found 1000 more barrels.

          Right now we spend between 7 to 8 barrels in the time we find *one* new barrel. That includes oil sands and other dirty oil reserves.

  • I'm all for solar and wind evergy, but they cannot replace hydroelectric, fossil fuel, and nuclear generating facilities. They can only suplement them. The primary challenges, beyond cost, are as follows:

    1. Supply cannot be adjusted to demand. My understanding is that wind is especially bad for this, as it is windiest in the evenings, after major industrial energy consumers have closed down for the day. We currently have very few options for storing generated power for later use. Batteries and capacitors are nowhere near ready for this task. There are a few hydroelectric stations that pump water up in to large resevoirs during the night for use during the daytime surge in demand. The areas where wind and solar are most effective, there is often little in the way of hills and water, making resevoir-based energy storage impractical. Also, resevoir storage requires the costly construction of a resevoir, pumps, and an entire hydroelectic generating station.

    You might think that wind and solar could be used to provide baseline power, while "traditional" coal and nuclear adjust to peaks. Unfortunately, this is only partially true. Many PLWR and BLWR nuclear designs (almost all American designed plants are one of these two types) are not able to idle. This means that if the load on the plant falls beyond a certain level, the plant must perform a full shutdown or risk heat damage. This might not sound too badm but these same plants take at least a full week to restart, and require lots of electricity to do so.

    Hydro is able to adjust it's output very rapidly, however there are only so many locations where hydroelectric dams can be installed. People often cite massive untapped locations far away from existing populations. Excellent! Now all we need to do is build costly and inefficient long-distance transmission lines to carry that power to where it will be useful.

    Coal is also able to adjust output quickly, but, well... it's coal.

    2. The second problem is that of dealing with a phenomenon called "reactive power". This is when voltage and current on an A/C line are thrown out of phase. Ideally, as voltage reaches it's peak, so does current. If you're voltage and current get thrown more than a few degrees off, you're home outlet may still be delivering 100 volts and 15 amps, but not really either at the same time. First you get 110 volts, but low amps, followed quickly my undervoltage and full 15 amps. This means that the usefull power on the line is diminnished.

    Reactive power occurs as a result of inductive loads such as electric motors and transformers. As the coils in the motors rotate past the magnets, or the electric field rises and falls in a transformer, these devices become generators. This "reactive" generation is always slightly out of phase with the input power, and so the power that they feed back on to the grid causes voltage and current on the grid to skew slightly. Multiply this effect by the number of inductive loads on the grid (refridgerators, industrial equipment, televisions) and you can start to have a real problem.

    Electrical generation sources that employ large turbines are able to adjust the magnets inside their generators to help counteract reactive power by producing power that is out of phase, but in the opposite direction.

    Traditional wind turbines are unable to do this, though I believe some newer designes can, at least to some degree. Solid state inverters such as are used to interface solar cells to the grid are not able to to this at all, and so there is a very real limit to their usefulness on the current power grid.

    Anyhow, I'm all for wind and solar. I just don't think they are able to provide a complete solution. Nuclear seems to be the way to go, but it must be done right. The Canadian Advanced Candu Reactors look like a viable option. They are designed such that they cannot melt down, produce relatively safe waste, and are capable of idling quite safely. I don't know why everyone insists on using dangerous PHWR designs.

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