Sun Mar 4th, 2007 at 02:43:47 PM EST
I trash renewable energy not because I want it banned - believe me I will take any greenhouse gas free energy there is - but because it is my strong opinion that renewable energy will not be enough in the lifetime of anyone now living. My often harsh words aside, I actually favor wind, solar, geothermal, etc, because whatever they do is something, rather than nothing.
The effect of climate change in economic terms is the subject of much discussion and many efforts have been made to quantify it. Most typically the numbers I use in insisting that we need for environmental reasons to vastly expand nuclear capacity are the numbers from the European Union's Report on the External Cost of Energy.
It may seem strange that someone who relies on a set of numbers as much as I do would get involved in questioning them, but I am reality based, and very attached to the idea of challenging assumptions.
Yes, it's true. Mean old pro-nuclear NNadir regards the renewable energy industry as an ally in the desperate fight against climate change. I often 'fess up and offer my express wish that solar energy would finally live up to its promise and displace dangerous fossil fuels, in particular natural gas but also diesel fuel, in meeting peak load demands on hot sunny days. Thus far the solar industry has been next to useless in eliminating natural gas, but one can always hope. I also have affection for wind power and I would be thrilled if it continues to grow at the rate it has enjoyed in recent years.
Getting back to external costs. While I rely on the Externe figures, I have often suspected that they vastly understate the costs connected with carbon dioxide. What really is the economic cost of submerging Amsterdam, parts of New York, including the financial district, vast droughts, the destruction of New Orleans (which has already happened), the salination of the Bengali rice fields (which is now underway) in the Ganges Delta, the destruction of European Rivers when the glaciers are gone, etc, etc, etc? Is it really as the Externe report suggests, just 19 euros per ton?
Here is a report from my friends in the renewable energy industry in Germany (where they are now engaged in a dunderhead scheme to replace nuclear with coal) about the valuation of the external cost of carbon dioxide: External costs of electricity generation from renewable energies compared to electricity generation from fossil fuel energy.
Climate change: the impacts of global climate change are diverse and possibly immense. The interactions between the global climate system, the ecosystem and the socio-economic system are very complex. Intensive research over the past years has increased our understanding of the various areas and led to continual improvement in the corresponding models. A recent report by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) concludes that the costs of climate change damages are very likely higher than 15 /tCO2. The report's model calculations, based on the Integrated Assessment Model FUND and using plausible estimates of input parameters, indicate damage costs of up to 300 /tCO2.Following an evaluation of the available literature and taking particular account of the findings of the Defra report, damage costs from CO2 emissions of 70 /tCO2 are recommended as a "best guess" for calculating external costs (lower limit value: 15 /t CO2; high estimate: 280 /tCO2). This estimate of climate change damage costs corresponds well to the marginal avoidance costs for stabilising global CO2 concentrations below 450 ppm as calculated in various scenarios by the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU).<
(The bold is mine.)
They recommend 70 Euros/per ton. I'm going to guess they are wrong and that the high estimates are actually more accurate.
The fact is that the last word on this matter has not been written.