'Committed' CO2 emissions jeopardize international climate goals, study finds

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The nations that have signed agreements to stabilize the global mean temperature by 2050 will fail to meet their goals unless existing fossil fuel-burning infrastructure around the world is retired early, according to a study—published today in Nature - by researchers at the University of California, Irvine and other institutions.

"We need to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by midcentury to achieve stabilization of global temperatures as called for in international agreements such as the Paris accords," said lead author Dan Tong, a UCI postdoctoral scholar in Earth system science. "But that won't happen unless we get rid of the long-lasting power plants, boilers, furnaces and vehicles before the end of their useful life and replace them with non-emitting energy technologies."

The number of fossil fuel-burning power plants and vehicles in the world has increased dramatically in the past decade, spurred by rapid economic and industrial development in places such as China and India. Meanwhile, the average age of infrastructure in developed countries has decreased. For example, old coal power plants in the U.S. have been supplanted by new natural gas ones.

According to the study, emissions from existing energy infrastructure take up the entire carbon budget to limit mean warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and close to two-thirds of the budget to keep warming to under 2 C over the next three decades.

Although the pace of growth has slowed in recent years, a significant amount of new electricity-generating capacity has been proposed globally; some of it is already under construction. If this prospective infrastructure is built, total future emissions take up three-quarters of the budget to constrain warming to below 2 C.

Tong and her colleagues used detailed data sets of existing fossil fuel-burning infrastructure in 2018 to estimate "committed" carbon dioxide emissions. They assumed that power plants and industrial boilers will operate for about 40 years and that light-duty vehicles will be on the road for 15 years, with some in fuel economy and annual miles traveled.

The researchers also tested different lifetime assumptions in order to see how early CO2-emitting infrastructure might need to be retired in order to meet international climate goals. For example, a 1.5 C boost in might still be avoided if current power plants were shuttered after 25, rather than 40 years of operation.

If existing infrastructure operates as usual, though, it will emit about 658 gigatons of CO2 during its operational lifetime, the scientists found. More than half of these emissions are projected to come from the electricity sector, with China producing the largest share, 41 percent, the U.S. producing 9 percent and the European Union 7 percent. If built, power plants being planned, permitted or under construction would emit an additional 188 gigatons of CO2, approximately, according to the study.

"Our results show that there's basically no room for new CO2-emitting under the international climate goals," said co-author Steven Davis, a UCI associate professor of Earth system science. "Rather, existing fossil fuel-burning and industrial equipment will need to be retired early unless they can be feasibly retrofitted with carbon capture and storage technologies or their emissions are offset by negative emissions. Without such radical changes, we fear the aspirations of the Paris agreement are already at risk."


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Avoiding fossil fuel 'lock-in' could limit global temperature rise

More information: Committed emissions from existing energy infrastructure jeopardize 1.5 °C climate target, Nature (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1364-3 , https://nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1364-3
Journal information: Nature

Citation: 'Committed' CO2 emissions jeopardize international climate goals, study finds (2019, July 1) retrieved 17 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-07-committed-co2-emissions-jeopardize-international.html
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Jul 01, 2019
CO2 is a fake danger anyway. Earth is greener at 420 ppm than 350 ppm. Submarines allow a 2000 ppm CO2 atmosphere.

It was 7 degrees C warmer in the Jurassic, and 15 degrees C warmer in the Triassic.

tpb
Jul 01, 2019
If these people truly believed in catastrophic global warming, they would be demanding that coal and natural gas power plants be replaced with Nuclear power plants and that the US and Europe assist China and India to stop building thousands of new coal plants and build Nuclear plants instead.
There are approximately one billion cars in the world. anyone who says they can be replaced with battery operated cars in a couple of decades is lying. Although we can build that many cars, we can't build the batteries or the windmills and solar panels to replace the coal plants. We also can't possibly build enough batteries for the electric grid to allow us to replace base load plants with wind and solar. There simply isn't enough lithium, concrete, refined silicon, steel etc. produced. The environmental costs in land use, water use, mining, energy use to make all this new infrastructure would dwarf any consequence of CO2.

Jul 01, 2019
tpb
we can't build the batteries or the windmills and solar panels to replace the coal plants
A bold claim - without any support. What basis do you have for asserting that we could transition our energy system to nukes, faster than we could to wind and solar. I would think it would be the opposite. Nukes generally take 5 - 10 years to construct. Wind and solar have much shorter time frames.

tpb
Jul 02, 2019
greenonions1

The world uses 26,000,000 GWh's of electricity alone.
The transportation sector uses about 25% of all energy used or 39,000,000 GWh's. (Total energy used is 157,000,000 GWh's).

A large solar plant in a desert has a utilization capacity of 30% (300MW plant is really 100MW) or 876 GWh's.
An average size nuclear power plant is about 2,500 GW's, or 21,900 GWH's.
So the Nuclear plant has 25 times the power generation and uses less than 1/2 the land area.

To replace coal and gas and nuclear plants with solar, for just electricity alone, it would take about 26,000,000 GHW's / 876GWh's * 50 or 1,484,018 times the land for solar.
There is about 12 million sq. km. needed if built in deserts.
With the low utilization rate for wind or solar, we need to build some form of energy storage that can hold 2/3 of the energy produced or 16,000 TWh's at a cost of $100 per KWh or $1,600 trillion dollars. I won't get into materials shortages and infrastructure costs. The number are amazing.


tpb
Jul 02, 2019
greenonions1

The $100 per KWh came from Tesla.
If we standardized and mass produced the nuclear plants, we could easily exceed solar or wind power generation in 1/10 the time.

Jul 02, 2019
Thorium Molten Salt Fission Reactors are the best choice. Proven at Oak Ridge. SAFE. Because Thorium is converted to Uranium 233 (not 235) and used as fuel by bombardment and stops when the bombardment stops. So no dangerous weapons grade waste leftover. They just have to develop the reactor technology which is very complex and expensive currently.

Jul 02, 2019
tpb
The world uses 26,000,000 GWh's of electricity alone...
And the challenge is - to decarbonize our energy system. And what you have not done - is supported your assertion that
we can't build the batteries or the windmills and solar panels to replace the coal plants
Yes - the numbers are huge. And they are just as huge - if you decide to go with nukes, or with wind and solar - or with a combination (that is the option I support). It can be done with renewables (wind, solar, hydro, tidal, wave, geothermal etc.) There are a lot of studies out there that verify this truth. Which ever route you go - you will need storage (ie batteries for cars). Storage does not have to be batteries. My point is that wind and solar can be put up - faster than nukes. Please stop spreading FUD.

tpb
Jul 02, 2019
Greenonion1

It's obvious from the math that solar and wind can't be put up as fast because you need 50 times as many plants plus some form of power storage that doesn't exist. Batteries are too expensive, and there isn't anything else thats better.

The only FUD being spread is by you who refutes the facts with nothing.

Jul 02, 2019
It's obvious from the math that solar and wind can't be put up as fast because you need 50 times as many plants
Said - once again without any support. Where does your figure of "50 times as many plants" come from?
who refutes the facts with nothing
Well - you made an assertion - without any support. I simply asked you to provide support - which you failed to do. Here is just one example of the studies that have shown we can do 100% renewables - https://newatlas....d/54674/
If we decarbonize the grid - we are going to have to scale up massively. You fail to provide any support for your suggesting that nukes can be scaled up faster than renewables. You also fail to acknowledge the cost factor.
...studies from New York and California show that it is cheaper to invest in renewables, energy efficiency and energy storage in order to replace aging nuclear plants than it is to keep the existing plants running[/q

tpb
Jul 02, 2019
Greenonion1

Sorry, it's 25 times, the 50 times is the land area used.
You keep ignoring that we have no means of large energy storage. The article also ignores this. In fact all the articles that say we can go 100% renewables assume we will comes up with some magical form of energy storage. The article talks about countries that are already nearly 100% renewables, but doesn't mention that they are using hydro-power, not solar or wind.
You can't scale up massively a technology that doesn't exist.
Since we would need 1/25 the number of nuclear plants and no non-existent power storage. If nuclear plants took 2.5 times as long to build, they would still be done ten times faster.
You haven't mentioned vehicles. The Tesla giga battery factory can supply 1.5 million cars a year.
To replace a billion cars will take over 600 years.
Try reading a more scientific article.
http://www.world-...wer.aspx

Jul 02, 2019
You keep ignoring that we have no means of large energy storage.
Yes we do. https://solarmaga...nsition/
https://cleantech...r-hours/
https://www.solar...age-csp/
https://www.green...s.n1ghr1

But the storage issue is a distraction. Here is what you said
we can't build the batteries or the windmills and solar panels to replace the coal plants
And that is not true - and you provide no support for you FUD. There are many questions - yes. How fast do we want to do this transition. Under Trump - the answer is never - bring on the coal. So much is about the political will. But it is technically possible. cont.

Jul 02, 2019
To replace a billion cars will take over 600 years
If Tesla is the only company doing it - and they don't build more factories. But you are not following developments are you? https://www.green...-germany
That is just one example. But - that issue is again - a distraction. Whether we go the route of nukes, or renewables - the car situation remains the same.
On the issue of space. Did you consider roof tops/parking lots/commercial buildings/brown fields/off shore wind farms/dual use situations - where fields are used for agriculture and wind farms? There is plenty of space for renewables.

You still did not support your now adjusted number of 25 times as many plants. Where is the source for your magic numbers?

tpb
Jul 02, 2019
See my third comment for source of 25 times.
All of the energy storage methods you pointed to are about 40% efficient except the water pumping. That means you need to generate 2.5 times the energy, just to store it and get it back.
Notice that very little was mentioned about the need for even more renewable plants just to overcome the losses in energy storage. At least the batteries are about 95 efficient.
I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of spaces for renewables, but the more it is spread out the less efficient the power production is and the more it costs.
Pumped water power is pretty efficient except for evaporative losses. However there have been many papers showing how few places are available. To be practical you need either a very large area which means a lot of evaporation, or you must pump the water very high.
The places you use must have a lot of water available because it evaporates. It's a real problem in places that have cold winters because the water freezes.

tpb
Jul 02, 2019
My biggest complaint is no one seems to be willing to honestly compare the actual advantages and disadvantages of the different possible solutions.
The links you pointed to are from companies that want to manufacture their ideas, not exactly unbiased.
What are the actual costs in materials, can we even mine or produce the needed materials?
How long do the systems last before they need to be replaced? What are the maintenance costs? Renewables need storage, how much and what is the cost? Are there enough rare earths and lithium to produce 10s to 100s of millions electric vehicles?
Every place that switches to large amounts of solar and wind have much higher utility rates.
That doesn't even include the subsidies.
Money spent on energy can't be spent elsewhere.

Jul 02, 2019
The links you pointed to are from companies that want to manufacture their ideas, not exactly unbiased
And the link you used was from the "World Nuclear Association." Yep - totally unbiased. If you are going to demand a standard - keep it yourself!
no one seems to be willing to honestly compare the actual advantages and disadvantages of the different possible solutions
Plenty of people do very thorough analysis. The biggest problem I see is so many people with a vested interest - such as the World Nuclear Association. If we are going to decarbonize as quickly as the crisis demands - we are going to need to throw everything at it we can. Renewables are a very viable energy source - as demonstrated by the facts on the ground. You are the one with the bias as big as Texas - making totally unsubstantiated claims
we can't build the batteries or the windmills and solar panels to replace the coal plants
and never supporting your rubbish.

Jul 02, 2019
tpb
See my third comment for source of 25 times
Your third comment contained no references.

Jul 03, 2019
What is really interesting - is that if you look around the world - a transition is happening. Many countries - UK, Denmark, Portugal etc. etc. are showing a very clear path to a renewable energy grid. It is happening as we speak. Too slowly for my liking - but perhaps the economics, and the climate crisis will converge - and things will accelerate. So a nuclear transition is not happening. Wonder why? Maybe cuz it is too expensive! https://climatene...ewables/
Yet there is this anti renewables cult out there - that constantly demands oxygen - who cannot see the reality that is happening on the ground. So the internet becomes flooded with FUD. Oklahoma (my state) gets 1/3 of it's electricity from wind. We have not even started to tap solar. We have some of the cheapest power on the planet.

Jul 07, 2019
tpb
we can't build the batteries or the windmills and solar panels to replace the coal plants
A bold claim - without any support. What basis do you have for asserting that we could transition our energy system to nukes, faster than we could to wind and solar. I would think it would be the opposite. Nukes generally take 5 - 10 years to construct. Wind and solar have much shorter time frames.


Sweden and France already did do this. That's the proof of concept for nuclear. The proof of concept for wind and solar, doesn't exist; because wind and solar are natural gas plants. Not just combined cycle either; a lot of single cycle too.

You seem to have some hangup on the time it takes to build an individual plant. That's not relevant at all. If you want to replace one ordinary sized reactor at ~1.2 GWe nameplate, or about ~1 GWe average output; you need ~5 GWe nameplate solar, or ~3 GWe nameplate wind. All the storage you suggested was 40% efficient. Harder than fusion.

Jul 07, 2019
What is really interesting - is that if you look around the world - a transition is happening...


And it's been a massive failure that causes endless natural gas lock-in as we speak.

Interesting that you chose to cut out Germany, who has been the leader of this movement and spent more than anyone trying to ram it through with subsidies. Over a trillion euros committed, 400 billion payed out so far and the others are expected in feed-in-tariffs.

Those coal plants Germany is building? Still going to be there in 40 years. They'll still be sucking furious amounts of gas from Putin's pipe in 40 years to.

The grid is not a battery. It feels like it for end users; but for grid operators it is an intricated dance of gas turbines spinning up and down, spinning reserve being plugged out and in and a whole lot of planing. Beyond a small amount, wind and solar doesn't make sense if the energy is free. Amory Lovins and other fossil fuels salesmen know this, that's why they push them.

Jul 07, 2019
Notice that electricity are rapidly rising in exactly those countries that are building a lot renewables? What's that going to do? It signals to consumers to keep their diesel cars, gas stoves, gas heating and not try so hard to electrify.

Jul 07, 2019
What basis do you have for asserting that we could transition our energy system to nukes, faster than we could to wind and solar.


Already happened in 80s France.

https://upload.wi....svg.png

Jul 08, 2019
Already happened in 80s France
Which says nothing about the relative speed of transitioning to renewables, compared to transitioning to nukes. Kind of simple bit of logic there shotman.

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