Can progress on climate change keep up with its quickening pace? WP, By Tom Steyer August 26 Tom Steyer is founder of the advocacy group NextGen Climate. July was the hottest month in recorded history, by a lot, and August isn’t looking any better. So how do we interpret that? What does it mean?
…. global climate change… may be happening faster than scientists previously predicted. Monthly global average temperatures have set records in each of the past 15 months . The concomitant climate events have been extreme: from wildfires burning in California to floods in Baton Rouge after rainfall of historic proportions to neurotoxic algae bloomschoking Florida beaches. Even the beloved moose of New Hampshire have been decimated by ticks that thrive in a warmer world……
If the new analyses imply an unpredictable and riskier world, that will necessitate a more urgent, and more difficult, response. Based on initial data, it now appears possible that the climate will warm by 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels — an amount of warming that scientists consider the danger zone — not by 2050, as once predicted, but years earlier. If further analysis supports this conclusion, this would be an enormous, and scary, change…..
if scientists start to project a dramatically shorter timeline for the impacts of climate change, any comfortable replacement scenario becomes something much more daunting. If we don’t have the decades needed for the vast bulk of our productive capacity to be replaced in the normal course, we would need to replace assets that had not reached the end of their usable lives — and that would affect industries beyond purely oil and gas.
Regardless of the scientific projections, we cannot afford to repeat the painfully slow and politically motivated dance of the past 10 years. As new data and analysis become available over the next year or so, we must be prepared to act decisively even though the cautious critics will want to wait for more definitive information. We will never have 100 percent certainty, except in hindsight. …..
Even cautious scientists are debating whether the previously accepted climate timelines are overly conservative. Meanwhile, Mother Nature has a timeline of her own. And she calls the tune. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/can-progress-on-climate-change-keep-up-with-its-quickening-pace/2016/08/26/f5934118-68b8-11e6-8225-fbb8a6fc65bc_story.html?utm_term=.5d5c88ee5f7b
Indian Scientists Design Solar Tree to Save Space for Solar Power Generation VOA, 26 Aug 16 NEW DELHI — Indian scientists have designed a “solar tree” that they hope will help overcome one of the key challenges the country faces in the generation of solar power.
With photovoltaic panels placed at different levels on branches made of steel, “solar trees” could dramatically reduce the amount of land needed to develop solar parks.
“It takes about four-square meters of space to produce energy which otherwise would have required 400 square meters of space. So almost 100 times the space is saved, which as you know is very valuable,” said Daljit Singh Bedi, chief scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in New Delhi, whose laboratory in Kolkata developed the tree.
A scarce resource in India, acquisition of land to develop roads, factories and other infrastructure is a sensitive issue that has led to frequent and sometimes violent protests from displaced people.
Scientists estimate the energy generated by a solar tree would be sufficient to light up five homes. They say the space-saving tree would not only make it easier to increase solar power generation to light up homes and streets in cities, but also in rural areas where farmers are unwilling to give up large tracts of land for solar panel installations.
The solar tree will also harness more energy compared to rooftop panels. “This design, it facilitates placement of solar panels in a way that they are exposed more towards sun and that way they are able to harness 10 to 15 per cent more energy, which is more or less equivalent to one hour more than the conventional format,” said Bedi……http://www.voanews.com/a/indian-scientists-design-solar-tree-to-save-space-for-solar-power-generation/3481641.html
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601218/desk-size-turbine-could-power-a-town/ GE sees its new turbine as a strong rival to batteries for storing power from the grid. by David Talbot, April 11, 2016 GE Global Research is testing a desk-size turbine that could power a small town of about 10,000 homes. The unit is driven by “supercritical carbon dioxide,” which is in a state that at very high pressure and up to 700 °C exists as neither a liquid nor a gas. After the carbon dioxide passes through the turbine, it’s cooled and then repressurized before returning for another pass.
The unit’s compact size and ability to turn on and off rapidly could make it useful in grid storage. It’s about one-tenth the size of a steam turbine of comparable output, and has the potential to be 50 percent efficient at turning heat into electricity. Steam-based systems are typically in the mid-40 percent range; the improvement is achieved because of the better heat-transfer properties and reduced need for compression in a system that uses supercritical carbon dioxide compared to one that uses steam. The GE prototype is 10 megawatts, but the company hopes to scale it to 33 megawatts.
In addition to being more efficient, the technology could be more nimble—in a grid-storage scenario, heat from solar energy, nuclear power, or combustion could first be stored as molten salt and the heat later used to drive the process.
While such a heat reservoir could also be used to boil water to power a steam turbine, a steam system could take 30 minutes to get cranked up, while a carbon dioxide turbine might take only a minute or two—making it well-suited for on-the-spot power generation needed during peak demand periods.
GE’s system might also be better than huge arrays of batteries. Adding more hours of operation just means having a larger or hotter reservoir of the molten salt, rather than adding additional arrays of giant batteries. “The key thing will come down to economics,” says Doug Hofer, the GE engineer in charge of the project. While there’s work ahead, he says, “at this point we think our economic story is favorable compared to batteries.”
The Unlimited Power of Ocean Winds, NYT By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, AUG. 27, 2016 The first offshore wind farm in American waters, near Block Island, R.I., was completed this month. With just five turbines, the farm won’t make much of a dent in the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels, but it shows the promise this renewable energy source could have. When the turbines start spinning in November, they will power the island, which currently relies on diesel generators, and will also send electricity to the rest of Rhode Island.
Putting windmills offshore, where the wind is stronger and more reliable than on land, could theoretically provide about four times the amount of electricity as is generated on the American grid today from all sources. This resource could be readily accessible to areas on the coasts, where 53 percent of Americans live.This technology is already used extensively in Britain, Denmark, Germany and other European countries, which have in the last 15 years invested billions of dollars in offshore wind farms in the North, Baltic and Irish Seas. In 2013, offshore wind accounted for 1.5 percent of all electricity used in the European Union, with all wind sources contributing 9.9 percent of electricity. By contrast, wind power made up only 4.7 percent of electricity in the United States last year.
While electricity generated by offshore wind farms is more expensive than land-based turbines, costs have fallen with larger offshore turbines that can generate more electricity. Construction firms have also become more efficient in installing offshore farms……http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/28/opinion/the-unlimited-power-of-ocean-winds.html?ref=opinion&mtrref=www.nytimes.com&assetType=opinion&_r=0
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Fukushima 311 Watchdogs
Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 plant topped ¥4.2 trillion by the end of fiscal 2015, it was learned Sunday.
The cumulative total at the end of last March, including costs for radioactive decontamination, reactor decommissioning and compensation payments to affected people and organizations, translate into about ¥33,000 per capita.
The public financial burden is expected to increase, with Tepco seeking further government assistance.
Jiji Press scrutinized the government’s special-account budgets through fiscal 2015 for the reconstruction of areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It summed up the amounts of executed budgets related to the nuclear disaster and additional electricity rates consumers and businesses were charged by Tepco and seven other regional power utilities to help finance compensation payments, among other costs.
According to the study, a total of ¥2.34 trillion was disbursed for decontamination of affected areas, disposal of contaminated waste and an…
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Fukushima 311 Watchdogs
Five years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster many residents are still living in a radioactive nightmare.
Bubbling streams, lush forests, cherry blossoms in full bloom – Japan’s north is stunningly picturesque.
But nature’s beauty hides a lethal secret – dangerous levels of radiation contaminate this area, fall-out from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Five years after the twin catastrophes of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown, villages sit silent and empty.
Thousands of workers still toil to clean up the radioactive material but it could be decades before their work is finished.
As Japan continues to suffer the toxic aftermath of one of its worst ever disasters, 101 East reveals that the countryside may never again be safe.
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The real reason for Australia’s opposition to a ban treaty (that a ban will make it more difficult for Australia to continue its reliance on extended nuclear deterrence) was never mentioned. The transparent dishonesty in Australia’s rhetoric only increased scepticism of Australia’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
On Friday at the United Nations in Geneva, Australian diplomats called a vote they knew they would lose, split their already modest support base in half, and enraged more than 100 other countries that had been ready to agree to a painstakingly negotiated compromise. For its trouble, Australia gained precisely nothing, and seriously damaged its credibility and influence. If it sounds like a diplomatic train wreck, it was. What on earth was going on?
The drama unfolded on the final day of the UN Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. This group has met intermittently throughout 2016; the principal goal for Australia and around 28 other countries in nuclear alliances (also known as ‘umbrella states’ or, more colourfully, ‘nuclear weasel states’) was to ensure that the group did not recommend the negotiation of a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons (Tim Wright covered the ban treaty proposal and the associated dilemmas for Australia in The Interpreter in June).
Australia’s manoeuvres on Friday were merely the latest in a series of ill-conceived efforts to try to stop the ban treaty, but which have only fuelled support for it. Continue reading
Australia has steadily retreated from the push for universal nuclear disarmament that Bill Hayden, notably, inserted into policy when he was foreign minister in the Hawke government to provide moral balance to the alliance with the US.
As we’ve noticed before, the new Defence White Paper this year dropped all that. “Australia’s security is underpinned by the ANZUS Treaty, United States extended deterrence and access to advanced United States technology and information,” it stated. “Only the nuclear and conventional military capabilities of the United States can offer effective deterrence against the possibility of nuclear threats against Australia.”
Julie Bishop is all for nuclear weapons, gushing that “the horrendous humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons are precisely why deterrence has worked”. In Geneva, her diplomats have been hard at work trying to derail efforts for a United Nations ban on nuclear weapons.
…..much bad will towards Australia. But Bishop can be sure of brownie points in Washington, no doubt.
People’s tribunal finds Australia guilty over nuclear weapons, The Saturday Paper, HAMISH MCDONALD, AUG 27, 2016
Weasel words at UN working group Malcolm Turnbull is getting accused of many things as he heads towards the first anniversary of his snafu-prone prime ministership. But aiding and abetting the planning of genocide, ecocide and even omnicide (that is, the destruction of everyone and all living things)?
Well, yes. The University of Sydney was recently the venue for an international people’s tribunal, a kind of volunteer court, in which the leaders of the nine nuclear powers were on trial for planning the above crimes through their explicit threats to use their weapons. Turnbull, as our current leader, was up for facilitating the use of American weapons. The judges were New Zealand’s former disarmament minister Matthew Robson and Sydney politics academic Keith Suter, who duly found the accused guilty, in absentia of course.
They ruled that nuclear weapons violate the accepted principles of international humanitarian law in wartime because they cannot discriminate between military and civilian targets; go far beyond proportional response and military objectives; don’t protect non-combatants; cause unnecessary suffering by spreading poison, disease and genetic damage; cause massive environmental damage; threaten future generations; threaten death on a scale amounting to genocide; and involve massive collateral damage to neutral countries.
The United States, France, Russia, Pakistan and Britain refuse to rule out first use of their nuclear weapons, “but all indicted leaders have military plans and exercises that demonstrate that they are ready to use nuclear weapons if they deem it necessary”, the tribunal found. …….
The gesture comes as nuclear powers are expanding or modernising their arsenals. India and Pakistan are in a nuclear arms race: even use of 100 Hiroshima sized-bombs in that theatre would plunge the Earth into its coldest climate for a thousand years, University of Missouri expert Steven Starr told the tribunal. An exchange between the big powers would, aside from the immediate casualties, create a new Ice Age and result in most surviving humans and large animals dying of starvation……
studies have detected among area residents heightened levels of leukemia and cancer of the breast, colon, esophagus, liver, lung and thyroid. They have also revealed higher levels of cardiovascular and blood diseases, chromosomal aberrations and congenital anomalies.
Kazakhstan: Living with Semipalatinsk’s Nuclear Fallout, EurasiaNet August 26, 2016 – by Joanna Lillis In the village of Znamenka in northeastern Kazakhstan, adults have vivid memories of nuclear explosions rocking the steppe.
“We saw mushroom clouds — big and terrifying ones,” recalled Galina Tornoshenko, 67, shaking her head at the traumatic memory and gesturing upward at the clear blue sky. “I was small at the time, but I remember it well.”…….Over the next 40 years, 456 blasts were detonated there, releasing energy 2,500 times that of the first atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The tests turned swaths of Kazakhstan into a toxic wasteland and ravaged the health of locals, who were, in effect, human guinea pigs……..
The site was mothballed in 1991, the year of the Soviet Union’s collapse. But for the people still suffering from the fallout, the atomic legacy is living on. Now renamed Semey, Semipalatinsk lies 120 kilometers east of the former ground zero, which is marked by a poignant monument in a city park depicting a woman nursing a child under an exploding mushroom cloud.
In a small apartment on the outskirts of Semey, Mayra Zhumageldina is massaging her daughter’s twisted limbs. “If you don’t do massage, they freeze up,” Zhumageldina told EurasiaNet.org, smiling down fondly at her disabled daughter. “I took a special massage course to do this.”
Zhannur Zhumageldina, 25, was born in the village of Olzhabay, 200 kilometers from the polygon, the year after it closed and three years after it conducted its last explosion.
At 15 months old, she was diagnosed with microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which the head is abnormally small, impeding brain development, and scoliosis, curvature of the spine. Both conditions were caused by radiation exposure. Continue reading
This week, sadly, I, and many others have to report that Australia’s history of doublespeak on nuclear disarmament has now gone even further down the path of promoting nuclear weapons.
The Australian government did this by sabotaging the final day of the UN Open-ended Working Group on taking forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. It did this by attempted to derail a ban on nuclear weapons at a UN meeting on disarmament, by single-handedly forcing a vote on a report that had been expected to pass unanimously.
Australia’s contribution. More detail on this can be found in several recent articles quoted on this website
It is time to turn nuclear common sense into national policy. A declaration that the United States would never use nuclear weapons when conventional weapons could destroy the target could reduce the number of nuclear weapons we need for legitimate deterrence purposes.
The common-sense fix that American nuclear policy needs, WP, By Jeffrey G. Lewis and Scott D. Sagan August 24
Jeffrey G. Lewis is director of the East Asian Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Scott D. Sagan is the Caroline S.G. Munro professor of political science and senior fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. This op-ed was adapted from an article that will appear in the fall issue of Daedalus.
President Obama, in his final months in office, is considering major nuclear policy changes to move toward his oft-stated goal of a world without nuclear weapons. One option reportedly under consideration is a “no first use” pledge, a declaration that the United States would not be the first state to use nuclear weapons in any conflict. While we think that such a pledge would ultimately strengthen U.S. security, we believe it should be adopted only after detailed military planning and after close consultation with key allies, tasks that will fall to the next administration.
There is, however, a simpler change that Obama could make now that could have as important, or even greater, benefits for U.S. security. The president could declare, as a matter of law and policy, that the United States will not use nuclear weapons against any target that could be reliably destroyed by conventional means.
This might seem like common sense, but current U.S. doctrine allows the use of nuclear weapons against any “object” deemed to be a legitimate military target. Continue reading
Legal win for Tasmanian anti-mining groups fighting two Tarkine proposals, ABC News By Pablo Vinales , 27 Aug 16 Tasmanian conservationists have won the right to find out why previous state governments granted mining leases in the Tarkine region.
The Supreme Court in Hobart has dismissed an appeal by the State Government in an ongoing dispute with the Tarkine National Coalition.
Conservationists were seeking the reasoning behind decisions made by both Labor and Liberal governments which gave Venture Minerals Limited leases at Mount Lindsay and Livingstone in the Tasmania’s north-west.
Scott Jordan from Save the Tarkine said the decision was emphatic.
“This is a really clear judgement, it’s a strong judgement that the minister must provide statements of reasons for decisions he made around mining leases and that he can’t withhold that information and it should be available to the public,” Mr Scott said.
“The judgement was very clear to that there wasn’t any merits to the case that was brought, we’re very pleased with the judgement.”……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-26/legal-win-for-tarkine-group-opposing-mines/7789080
Hinkley Point C nuclear plant not essential – think tank, BBC News 26 Aug 16, The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is “not essential” for the UK to meet its energy and climate change targets, according to a think tank.
The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) also said opting for “established” approaches instead would save bill payers £1bn a year in total.
EDF Energy, which has agreed to back Hinkley, said the ECIU report did not offer “credible alternatives”.
The government is due to make a final decision on Hinkley in the autumn………
One of the report’s authors, former Npower chief executive, Paul Massara – who now runs North Star Solar – said: “You are looking at a deal which is two and half times the current price, it goes on for 35 years and effectively this report today shows we can transition to a low carbon, affordable secure option without Hinkley and that’s what we should be doing.”
Mr Massara said a more “flexible” cost saving approach was needed that “includes things like demand-side management, which means people can turn down their electricity demand and manage their demand, with smart meters and batteries which are going to come in the next five to six years”…….
In its report, the not-for-profit ECIU made the assumption that “the total annual cost of Hinkley will probably be about £2.5bn”.
It then calculated the cost of a basket of alternative measures to meet the country’s energy and climate change targets, and concluded that bill payers, both domestic and business, would end up paying a total of £1bn less per year for their energy if they were adopted than if Hinkley C were built.
The think tank’s alternative proposals include building more wind farms and gas-fired power stations than are currently planned and laying more cables connecting the UK grid with other countries.
“Our conclusion is that [Hinkley Point’s] not essential,” said ECIU director, Richard Black.
“Using tried and tested technologies, with nothing unproven or futuristic, Britain can meet all its targets and do so at lower cost,” he added……..http://www.bbc.com/news/business-37191222
Protests threaten China’s nuclear energy plans, Global Risk Insights, 26 Aug 16 NIMBYism is on the rise in China, and without better dialogue between stakeholders, threatens to undermine Beijing’s nuclear plans and efforts to meet its COP21 goals.
Over the past two weeks, thousands of residents of Lianyungang, a town in Jiangsu province, have gathered, halting preparations for a proposed nuclear waste reprocessing plant. Lianyungang is one of six sites under consideration for the project, but the two companies developing the plant, China National Nuclear Co. (CNNC) and France’s Areva, have not yet decided on a final location.
China’s ambitious nuclear plans The proposed fuel reprocessing center would recycle spent fuel to create new fissile material. This process also reduces the final volume of nuclear waste that needs to be stored. Currently, spent fuel is stored onsite at the power plant, usually first in cooling pools and then in dry casks. Long term storage facilities, such as the controversial Yucca mountain repository in Nevada, have been unsuccessful in gaining regulatory approval. However, on-site waste storage is not viable in the long term, and fuel reprocessing centers, like the proposed $15 billion CNNC-Areva project, will be critical to the viability of nuclear energy in China.………
Chinese state media has attributed the movement in Lianyungang to “nimbyism.” The NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) mentality has led to the suspension or cancellation of other industrial projects in China, such as praxylene or waste incinerator plants.
Lack of public input fuels opposition There is growing advocacy in China for an expanded role for public input in planning these projects – currently decisions at the planning stages are made with little input from residents: “for many local residents, there is no absolute guarantee that those projects, if built in their neighborhood, can be 100 percent safe. If there is some harm, they will bear the brunt of the costs and risks…..” http://globalriskinsights.com/2016/08/nimbyism-threatens-china-nuclear-plans/
The revival of concern about the humanitarian impacts of these weapons is shifting old assumptions.
Australia’s reliance on END keeps us on the wrong side of history. And it has led previous governments and the current government to actively oppose the growing calls for a ban on nuclear weapons.
Instead of blindly following US nuclear policies into whatever a future president might envisage, Australia should carefully consider its non-nuclear defence and challenge all claims, surrogate or otherwise, to nuclear weapons.
Australia’s stance on nuclear deterrence http://www.swinburne.edu.au/news/latest-news/2016/08/australias-stance-on-nuclear-deterrence-.php 26 August 2016
IN SUMMARY Analysis for The Conversation by Swinburne PhD candidate Dimity Hawkins and Swinburne senior lecturer Julie Kimber.CONTACT Lea Kivivali +61 3 9214 5428 email@example.com
For Australia, the US election should provide an opportunity to rethink defence relationships, especially as they relate to nuclear weapons.
There has been much hand-wringing at the thought of Donald Trump becoming US president. If, by some miracle, Trump succeeds in November, he will have his hand on the nuclear trigger.
But this concern, while great political fodder, is dangerously simplistic. It presupposes there are “safe hands” when it comes to nuclear weapons. There are not.
The US has around 7,000 nuclear weapons. Hundreds of these can be launched within minutes. While the global community has outlawed other indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons are yet to be banned.
The Cold War’s MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine has morphed over the years into a framework of nuclear deterrence. Many governments globally have played a double game: supporting nuclear disarmament on the one hand, while relying on a nuclear defence on the other.
One such government is Australia’s. Despite consecutive governments insisting they support nuclear disarmament, Australia’s reliance on Extended Nuclear Deterrence (END) means it is frustrating attempts at a total ban.