Existing power plants will spew 300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide during use

Aug 26, 2014
A coal-burning power plant at the Turceni Power Station in Romania. Credit: Robert and Mihaela Vicol

Existing power plants around the world will pump out more than 300 billion tons of carbon dioxide over their expected lifetimes, significantly adding to atmospheric levels of the climate-warming gas, according to UC Irvine and Princeton University scientists.

Their findings, which appear Aug. 26 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, are the first to quantify how quickly these "committed" emissions are growing – by about 4 percent per year – as more fossil fuel-burning power plants are built.

Assuming these stations will operate for 40 years, the power plants constructed globally in 2012 alone will produce about 19 billion tons of CO2 during their existence, the researchers project.

"Bringing down carbon emissions means retiring more fossil fuel-burning facilities than we build," said Steven Davis, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and the study's lead author. "But worldwide, we've built more coal-burning power plants in the past decade than in any previous decade, and closures of old plants aren't keeping pace with this expansion."

"Far from solving the climate change problem, we're investing heavily in technologies that make the problem worse," he added.

According to the study, the CO2 emissions that will come from existing power plants represent a substantial portion of the emissions budget that would keep global temperatures from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius relative to the preindustrial era – the current international target.

Power plants now operating in the U.S. and Europe account for about 11 percent and 9 percent of committed emissions, respectively, but these commitments have been steady or declining in recent years. Increasing worldwide commitments, therefore, reflect the rapid growth of China's power sector since 1995, as well as new facilities in such developing countries as India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Plants in China and India represent 42 percent and 8 percent of committed future emissions, respectively.

About two-thirds of these emissions from the power sector are due to coal-burning stations. The share of commitments related to natural gas-fired generators – which emit less CO2 per unit of energy than coal – has escalated from about 15 percent in 1980 to 27 percent in 2012, as more such plants are being put into use. Davis and co-author Robert Socolow of Princeton suggest the findings could be used by policymakers to evaluate the long-term climate impacts of current investments in infrastructure.

"We've been hiding what's going on from ourselves: A high-carbon future is being locked in by the world's capital investments," said Socolow, professor emeritus of mechanical & aerospace engineering. "Current conventions for reporting data and presenting scenarios for future action need to give greater prominence to these investments. Such a rebalancing of attention will reveal the relentlessness of coal-based industrialization, long underway and showing no sign of abating."

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User comments : 15

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Rustybolts
2 / 5 (4) Aug 26, 2014
Well until someone comes up with a better plan than Nuclear were stuck. We paid the ultimate price listening to business men telling us nuclear was safe.
Eikka
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 26, 2014
We paid the ultimate price listening to business men telling us nuclear was safe.


So, how much has it been?
holoman
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 26, 2014
Carbon Dioxide needed for cheap hydrogen production.

http://www.altene...en/33897

maybe get millions of pounds of hydrogen as a byproduct.
supamark23
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 26, 2014
Well until someone comes up with a better plan than Nuclear were stuck. We paid the ultimate price listening to business men telling us nuclear was safe.


Nuclear power generation, when done properly (i.e., no corners cut), is quite safe.
RealityCheck
3 / 5 (10) Aug 26, 2014
Nuclear power generation, when done properly (i.e., no corners cut), is quite safe.

Accidents are part of life.

Nuclear Materials proliferation is never a good way to go.

When a nuclear-power/weapon owning county/regime 'collapses', the terrorists/aggressors obtain nuclear material/weapons too.

Then there is the nuclear-waste storage facilities which outlast nations/govts abilities to 'guarantee' continuing safeguarding for millennia.

Not to mention all the hidden/aftermarket economic/health/environmental etc costs and risks all these things inherently present us all with globally.

So let's be sensible, and let's think twice before giving up on clean solar, wind, geothermal etc, hey?...unless of course one is politically/ideologically/mercinarily/militarily motivated to 'go nuclear option' for reasons other than long term sustainable economics and safety of 'choices made'.

Good luck to us all. :)
supamark23
3.7 / 5 (6) Aug 26, 2014
Possibly the stupidest refutation of nuclear power I've ever read, uh, good job r-check?
Whydening Gyre
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 26, 2014
Well until someone comes up with a better plan than Nuclear were stuck. We paid the ultimate price listening to business men telling us nuclear was safe.

I, too, would like to know what your version of "ultimate" is...

and

RC. Although I might not completely agree with your stance on nuclear, your total response was well reasoned and backed up. A comment worthy of inclusion and consideration in a discussion (FINALLY..:-) Quite surprised me, actually..
Keep doing that and you might find a more reasonable climate for any other adequately reasoned comments. (that means no MOD/troll conspiracy bullshit).
DON'T do that and well, you've already seen what that got you...
RealityCheck
1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 26, 2014
RC. Although I might not completely agree with your stance on nuclear, your total response was well reasoned and backed up. A comment worthy of inclusion and consideration in a discussion (FINALLY..:-) Quite surprised me, actually..
Keep doing that and you might find a more reasonable climate for any other adequately reasoned comments. (that means no MOD/troll conspiracy bullshit).
DON'T do that and well, you've already seen what that got you...

It would help greatly if you got those who still pursue/promulgate mod-troll lies/agendas to STOP conspiring/colluding (as proven and exposed via experiment many times already).

It's not paranoia if they ARE 'out to get you', as I proved and they cannot deny any more, yes?

If those crazy mod-trolls had not been engaging in their BS tactics and abuses of position/rules for personal prejudice agendas, then science and humanity discourse would not have necessitated any of this, would it? :)

Thanks for your fairmindedness though mate!:)
Whydening Gyre
4.3 / 5 (6) Aug 26, 2014
(Sigh)
RC,
That's the crap I'm talking about...
Don't..
RealityCheck
2 / 5 (8) Aug 26, 2014
(Sigh)
RC,
That's the crap I'm talking about...
Don't..

You first, Whyde. :-)
Whydening Gyre
4.4 / 5 (7) Aug 26, 2014
(Sigh)
RC,
That's the crap I'm talking about...
Don't..

You first, Whyde. :-)

Hunh????
RealityCheck
2.6 / 5 (5) Aug 26, 2014
Where'd your sense of humor go, mate? Stay loose! :)

Anyhow, thanks again for your sincere efforts to calm things down, Whyde.

Much appreciated I assure you. Cheers! :)
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (4) Aug 26, 2014
"300 billion more tons of carbon dioxide"

-That sounds like a lot doesnt it? Thats exactly the amount of ice sheet which is melting every year.

"Massive ice sheets melting 'at rate of 300bn tonnes a year', climate satellite shows"

-Maybe this will work out:

"converting H2O to hydrino... tenfold reduction in capital costs... extraordinary energy release of 50 megajoules/mole H2O, about 200 times the energy of the combustion reaction of conventional fuel cells."
http://www.blackl...314S.PDF

-And the only byproduct is dark matter. What could be bad about that?
Porgie
1 / 5 (5) Aug 26, 2014
300 billion tons. That is almost as much as California puts in the atmosphere in a year with their forest fires. If only they managed their wild lands. There wouldn't be any global warming. They scream the loudest about others, its not growth and jobs its California causing global warming. IF anyone is serious about doing something about it why are they not looking at the real cause?
phprof
1 / 5 (3) Aug 27, 2014
Still not as much in the atmosphere as in the past. Next climate panic attack, please. Keep them coming.