Nuclear power and geoengineering are needed for climate solution

The UN has said the world needs to cut as much as 70% of greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-century to have any chance of avoiding 2 ˚C of warming.

More than half of the carbon dioxide emissions currently in the atmosphere will still be there 1,000 years from now—and roughly one-third will still be there in 20,000 years.

Emissions are still increasing and adding 20% with each doubling of world GDP

Based on the last ten years (which included a large world recession with slower growth) the world is still on track to double its purchasing power GDP every 14 years and increase emissions by 20%.

India had 1.7 tons per capita CO2 emissions or 2.1 billion tons total in 2010. India’s emissions are going to keep rising as the standard of living of Indians rises. India’s emission per capita are at about 1.95 to 2.0 tons per capita now.

The per capita emissions of India related to energy consumption in 2010 was 1.26 tons of CO2 and could grow to between 3.3 tons and 5.1 tons by the year 2047. There is still the non-energy consumption emissions which adds another 40-50% to the emissions level. India’s population is now 1.36 billion and could be 1.6 billion to 1.7 billion in 2047. India’s population will increase 18 to 25%. India’s emissions are projected to rise by 3 to 4 times.

Nuclear energy was faster and cheaper for France and Ontario than solar and wind is for Germany and California

France completed construction on 76% of its current 58 reactors at an inflation-adjusted cost of $330 billion (€290 billion). The complete buildout of the 58 reactors was less €400 billion. Germany would need 50% more nuclear energy than France to completely replace all other power generation. This would cost €600 billion if Germany could match France’s build from the 1980s. Costs and safety regulations have increased even though France’s nuclear power has operated without incident for over 30 years. 80 nuclear reactors would now cost €1600 billion euros for Germany. This would still be cheaper than the estimated costs for the solar and wind buildout that is underway.

France builts its nuclear power in less than 15 years.

A BDI study (by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the consultancy Prognos) says that cutting emissions by 80 percent by 2050 (the lower end of Germany’s climate targets) – would require cumulative total investment of 1.5 trillion euros. Reducing emissions by 95 percent (the high end of Germany’s 2050 climate targets) would require total investment of about 2.3 trillion euros. This will take over 3 decades.

Geoengineering will be needed

Atmospheric Environment – Quantifying the impact of sulfate geoengineering on mortality from air quality and UV-B exposure

Highlights

• Direct, non-climate effects of sulfate injection produce net health risk reduction.
• Surface sulfur emission incurs 25 times the exposure from stratospheric injection.
• Disbeneficial climate change-driven health effects dominate impacts of injection.
• Net impacts of injection harmful despite beneficial photochemical response.
• Injection health impacts small relative to risks associated with climate change.

Abstract

Sulfate geoengineering is a proposed method to partially counteract the global radiative forcing from accumulated greenhouse gases, potentially mitigating some impacts of climate change. While likely to be effective in slowing increases in average temperatures and extreme precipitation, there are known side-effects and potential unintended consequences which have not been quantified. One such consequence is the direct human health impact. Given the significant uncertainties, we take a sensitivity approach to explore the mechanisms and range of potential impacts. Using a chemistry-transport model, we quantify the steady-state response of three public health risks to 1 °C global mean surface cooling. We separate impacts into those which are “radiative forcing-driven”, associated with climate change “reversal” through modification of global radiative forcing, and those “direct impacts” associated uniquely with using sulfate geoengineering to achieve this. We find that the direct (non-radiative forcing driven) impact is a decrease in global mortality of ∼13,000 annually. Here the benefits of reduced ozone exposure exceed increases in mortality due to UV and particulate matter, as each unit of injected sulfur incurs 1/25th the particulate matter exposure of a unit of sulfur emitted from surface sources. This reduction is exceeded by radiative forcing-driven health impacts resulting from using sulfate geoengineering to offset 1 °C of surface temperature rise. Increased particulate matter formation at these lower temperatures results in ∼39,000 mortalities which would have been avoided at higher temperatures. As such we estimate that sulfate geoengineering in 2040 would cause ∼26,000 (95% interval: −30,000 to +79,000) early deaths annually relative to the same year without geoengineering, largely due to the loss of health benefits associated with CO2-induced warming. These results account only for impacts due to changes in air quality and UV-B flux. They do not account for non-mortality impacts or changes in atmospheric dynamics, and must be considered in the wider context of other climate change impacts such as heatwave frequency and sea level rise.

Ocean seaweed and iron seeding will be needed

Seaweed production can be ramped up to offset all CO2 production.

Macro-algae forests covering 9% of the world’s ocean surface, which could produce sufficient biomethane to replace all of today’s needs in fossil fuel energy, while removing 53 billion tons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere, restoring pre-industrial levels. This amount of biomass could also increase sustainable fish production to potentially provide 200 kg/yr/person for 10 billion people. Additional benefits are reduction in ocean acidification and increased ocean primary productivity and biodiversity.

Iron can be placed into the ocean to restore iron levels to what they were centuries ago. Every 100 tons of iron placed into the ocean can be used to trigger algae blooms which would die in a few weeks.

Treating 20 million square miles of ocean each year would sink 3.5 billion tons of CO2 every year. In 2009, researchers, aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Endurance, have found that melting icebergs off the coast of Antarctica are releasing millions of tiny particles of iron into the southern Ocean, helping to create huge ‘blooms’ of algae that absorb carbon emissions. The algae then sinks to the icy depths, effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

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