Sun down?

Don’t bother read this post. Watch the video “Earth facing mini-ice age!!” say the media. Now for the science… instead. Or read the RC post.

I ignored this when it first came out, and am only posting now because the Economyth has picked it up. They lose points for not putting a question mark in their headline, but gain points from the byline “Several lines of evidence suggest that the sun is about to go quiet”, i.e. not talking rubbish about a new ice age. And similarly, for spending much of the article on what it is actually about, viz solar activity. They lose somewhat for not putting in the proper caveats of “but we don’t actually know this is true”. But then they blow it right at the end with And it is interesting news for those who worry about global warming. If the Maunder and Dalton minima actually did affect the climate, then a new one might counteract the effects of the extra greenhouse gases people are now pumping into the atmosphere–at least, until the solar cycle returns which appears to be entirely made up. As far as I can see from the graph at RC, the suggestion that the solar-relative-cooling would counterbalance GHG warming is wrong.

[ht to Eduardo the neck-biter for the Economist link, and for the lulz of his not being able to say Rahmstorf’s name -W]

Deaths per unit of electricity generated

In the comments to Romm Echoes Groundless Cell Phone/Cancer Fears? we’ve degenerated into an argument about the safety of nuclear versus solar power (“which do you think has killed more people: radiation from Fukushima, or solar-voltaic installers falling from ladders?” was my question. It is a trick question, of course, because no-one has died from Fukushima as far as I know. But the correct question, of course, is deaths per unit of ‘lectric generated). MV, beng something of a spoilsport (just joking, don’t worry) pops the bubble by pointing to someone who has actually worked some numbers out. so I’m going to steal them.

First a warning: I haven’t verified these numbers. They fit my prejudices, so I’m going with them for the moment. But if you feel like attacking them for obvious flaws, please do.

Energy Source Death Rate (deaths per TWh)
Coal – world average 161 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal – China 278
Coal – USA 15
Oil 36 (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas 4 (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass 12
Peat 12
Solar (rooftop) 0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind 0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro 0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro – ()world inc Banqiao)   1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear 0.04 (5.9% of world energy)


[Credit: Brian Wang at NextBigFuture]

So by those numbers, nuclear is our safest power source. Solar and wind and hydro are also pretty safe, oil is dangerous, but everything else is completely dwarfed by coal. Coal is also by far the major emitter of radiation {{cn}}.


* Evidence Meltdown – Monbiot, April.

More trash from the Indians

The Indian government seems to be making a minor speciality in boosting voodoo science, presumably caring less for their reputations and more for fighting off any restrictions on coal burning. Or it may be all a matter of tedious internal politics and corruption, who knows.

Continue reading “More trash from the Indians”

Solar power across the Sahara

If you read SEWOTHA (which I highly recommend you to do; and read the book, not just the blog, which has gone a bit quiet recently) you’ll discover the idea that the only really viable way of getting *all* our energy needs in a sustainable way is from solar power plants in the hot deserts – in the case of Yorp, North Africa / Sahara; in the case of the Americas, the hot dry bit in the middle whatever it is called (they are due to the Hadley circulation, so pretty well everyone has one not too far away).

Anyway, someone else has now noticed the idea and Science has a piece on it, mostly paywalled. Sounds good to me – what is the point in putting solar cells in wet cloudy northern latitudes when the same cells will work so much better further south? Oh, the transport and political problems. Well, we’ll get round them somehow. Or maybe we’ll just move there. Who wants to live in Cambridge anyway?

Desertec, one of the world’s most ambitious multinational efforts to scale up renewable energy, aims to build solar and other renewable power projects across North Africa and the Middle East capable of producing 500 gigawatts of electricity and so meet 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. Planners predict it will cost {euro}400 billion or more to cover tens of thousands of square kilometers of desert with solar collectors and wind turbines, connected by thousands of kilometers of power cables. The project–which backers compare to the Apollo space program–has yet to generate a single kilowatt. But it has attracted an impressive roster of political and industrial supporters in Europe and North Africa. Still, analysts say Desertec faces an array of daunting challenges, from finding ready cash to overcoming thorny political and security issues.

Desertec have a website, of course, and a Q+A section that (naturally) I haven’t read.


* Sustainable Energy – without the hot air?