The Weekend Wonk: Kevin Trenberth, and Deep Doo Doo – at the Seattle Science Fest

October 26, 2014

Decent, relatively short video summary of the problem, from somebody who knows.

Short synopsis of “the pause” at 6;30 is notable..

And, he shares a global warming limerick, attributed to one Lynne Page.

There’s a clearer analysis forming
Of the increase in powerful storming;
But it’s not just hot air
About which we should care
For the Cold ocean depths have been warming


8 Responses to “The Weekend Wonk: Kevin Trenberth, and Deep Doo Doo – at the Seattle Science Fest”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    At 20:40 , he says about the high cost of Superstorm Sandy ” Maybe $50 billion was because of climate change. I can’t prove that but I bet you can’t prove that it isn’t the case either.”

    How does he expect anyone to prove that? Is that even possible?

  2. It was a good talk, though I feel it was slightly undermined at the end (21.58 min) where Kevin’s slide identified one of the problems as “Explicit and implicit subsidies for fossil fuels do not make the playing field level for renewable energy.”

    There are a couple of things wrong with that statement, a big one being that renewables have indeed benefited from considerable subsidies. Some states and nations even have laws forcing utilities to buy solar/wind power at high prices, even when there isn’t demand for it. The idea that we use fossil fuels rather than renewables because of “unfair subsidies” is a bit of a stretch, in my opinion.

    Not that subsidies for fossil fuels don’t exist. Just that this is a small factor. I didn’t buy a gasoline powered motorcycle (as opposed to an EV) because our local oil company gets subsidies. In fact, I live in Taiwan, and the government here not only doesn’t subsidize oil companies or motorbike manufacturers, but actually gives a subsidy (10% of purchase price) if you buy an electric motor scooter. The reason I bought a gasoline powered motorcycle is because I live in a rural area and the range of the electric scooters on the market is only around 50 km (when the batteries are new). I’ll gladly consider getting an electric powered motorbike when the range gets up to around 300 km.

    The point being, I use fossil fuels mainly because it’s what works best for my purpose at a price I can afford. I don’t necessarily like that fact, but that’s the way it is. And that’s true for all of you reading this. Peter recently went to Greenland on a fossil fuel powered airplane and flew around on a fossil fuel powered helicopter. He theoretically could have gone to Greenland by sailing ship and traveled across the glaciers by dog sled, but I assume it wasn’t practical. He did, however, charge up his electronic devices from a solar panel.

    So we use what works. Subsidies are a pretty small part of the picture. If wind and solar are really going to take over the world, they are going to have to work a great deal more efficiently than they do now. No amount of government handouts is going to influence the path we take for very long.

  3. lesliegraham1 Says:

    “…Not that subsidies for fossil fuels don’t exist. Just that this is a small factor…”

    According to the International Energy Agency, in 2012 global fossil fuel subsidies totalled $544bn, while those for renewables totalled $101bn.
    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) puts the total for hydrocarbons nearer $2 trillion.

    Yeah – what’s a couple of trillion bucks these days?

    • in 2012 global fossil fuel subsidies totalled $544bn, while those for renewables totalled $101bn.

      But renewables account for only a small fraction of global energy consumption.  How much do these subsidies come to per GJ(th) or MWH(e)?  Do the figures change as the fraction of penetration increases?

      If we can’t afford to push our carbon-free energy fraction to at least 80% on a given plan, it’s not a plan that can succeed in saving ourselves from our own effects on the climate.  So far, Denmark has achieved 45% renewability on the electric front (assuming its wood chips are harvested by hand and transported by sailing ship).  That’s still nowhere close to a solution.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      The most important “subsidies” are not necessarily the ones that can be dug out of the economic statistics and quantified. It’s the external costs that are the real subsidies and they are hard to measure. There’s no doubt in my mind that the actual and external cost subsidies for fossil fuels since we first started using them in quantity has been many time greater than what we have been able to add up, and far exceeds what we have devoted to renewables.

  4. rayduray Says:

    Our local PBS affiliate just aired this documentary:

    Taking Earth’s Temperature: Delving into Climate’s Past

    If y’all get a chance, I think it’s worth checking this out.

    • redskylite Says:

      Looks like an interesting and worthwhile series from Northern Arizona University filmmakers, thanks for sharing, will look out for it.

  5. redskylite Says:

    As the post has been turned to energy, which of course is tightly coupled to preventing dangerous climate change (+2°C global average from pre-industrial levels), after recently taking 3 on-line university courses (Chicago, Penn State and Germany), I learnt that we will have to invent something far higher scale than we already have in existence, (we simply do not have time to build enough non CO2 emitting sources of existing technology to maintain our present levels of existence, solar panels on the moon and tapping into the jet stream were suggestions. I remember someone suggested exporting power from the Sahara on this very blog.

    Sounded fantastic at the time (and I did not comment), but it seems it could become a reality. I’m very optimistic we can do it if we can blow away the cobwebs of denial that are holding us back.

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