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GeoffBeacon

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Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« on: October 26, 2015, 03:19:18 PM »
I did some rough and ready calculations using production estimates (GDP and GWP) and rates of reducing for the carbon intensity of production. These crudely model carbon emissions in a way that economists do using the Kaya identity.

I also (optimistically) assumed that there will be carbon extraction from the atmosphere (using BECCS?) by mid century as the IPCC postulate.

The simplistic question is: Can the IPCC's remaining budget be eked out by reducing the carbon intensity of production until the negative emissions of geo-engineering save us? Or must global production (and consumption) fall?

Following Carbon Brief, I calculated the remaining carbon budget as 115 tonnes CO2e per person in the world. I believe building a UK bricks and mortar is about 100 tonnes CO2e and running the average car is about 4 tonnes per year.

Kevin Anderson's stuff is a good start but I think a wide discussion of how we live our lives is necessary.
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Theta

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2015, 03:28:12 PM »
If we look at the social changes that are occuring because of Climate Change, for example Climate Change played a part in the Arab Spring, then we can see that regardless of whether or not de-growth is necessary, it will occur regardless because the pressures that these problems exert on the global interconnected economy will result in similar uprising in first world areas, and this will cascade to many other areas as global trade breaks down, this is especially the case in Worst-Case scenarios involving Climate Change.

When talking about being able to go down, that depends on a number of criteria, population size, available land, the culture of the area, and how the climate plays out for the future in that localised area. If an area has a low population that is unified in terms of culture and the climate is relatively stable, even with severe climate change, then de-growth should be a walk in the park (overstatement of the year). Otherwise, some areas may have great problems trying to shake themselves off the concept of growth as some areas could become uninhabitable, or there is a great amount of suffering during the inevitable die-off (although the result of that die-off could be positive for the survivors, especially if they spent time developing skills for the post-industrial world).
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AbruptSLR

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2015, 08:42:08 PM »
"What is necessary?" and "What is possible?", are both relative questions.  No one needs to do anything, and discussing what is practicable is much more interesting than discussing what is theoretically possible.  In this regard, the real issues are that:

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." Frederick Douglass

and also that:

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton

Currently, the cost of the dis-benefits of anthropogenic radiative forcing is not included in the price of the products/activities that modern society produces; so both our economic systems and our power bases are based on corrupt behavior which will not concede power without a struggle. 

Per the linked article people in the developed world receive substantial financial subsidies (i.e. bribes supported by legalized theft) to look the other way when their socio-economic systems are producing GHG emissions that are most significantly damaging the developing world; which is the biggest sticking point in making progress towards CoP21.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28135-everyone-in-the-us-and-australia-owes-12000-in-co2-emissions/

Extract: "If you live in the US or Australia, then between 1990 and 2013 you accumulated a debt of more than US$12,000. People in the UK are doing a bit better, racking up about US$4000 in debt over that time.

This isn’t about overspending on credit cards, but about damage done to our atmosphere. If we think of the atmosphere as a limited resource to be shared equally by all, then those who pollute more than their fair share – that is, more than the global average – can be said to be in “emissions debt”. Conversely, those who pollute less are in “emissions credit”."

Until people around the world are prepared to pay a carbon fee equal to the damage that they are doing, then as Theta points out, the de-growth will occur naturally anyway, but in a very unpleasant manner.  Once people are willing to pay an appropriate carbon fee, the "invisible hand" of the market place may, or may not, impose de-growth depending on how wise the players in the global market place behave.  Therefore, I ask, what is the probability of imposing global carbon fee & dividend plans worldwide in the next decade?
« Last Edit: October 26, 2015, 08:49:46 PM by AbruptSLR »
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P-maker

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2015, 08:59:44 PM »
Quote
” Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?”
Geoff, why the ?-marks?

De-growth will be necessary and not only possible, but also “very likely” within this decade.

De-growth will be a defining paradigm for our survival. Come climate change: heat waves, droughts, floods, wind storms, surges, snow armageddons and the like, we will as individuals, communities, municipalities, regions, nations and species all have to face the hard realities together: No adaptation should take place without mitigation, meaning that we will - at the end of the day - only be able to afford adaptation measures, which also will help mitigate further climate change.

Allowing traditional A/C, water pumping, water pumping, chain saws, dikes and snow casters en masse will only be a thing of the past. Future de-growth will include less energy used due to more energy efficient solutions every time we make a decision and more use of free energy every time we decide to get rid of a fossil fuel power plant in order to replace it with a renewable energy source.

In Northern Europe, electricity prices have been falling for nearly a decade as renewables and EE have been taking over our energy supply. All over the World, energy efficient appliances are taking over the markets, as people start thinking. Next big move will be resilience through clever and risk averse energy investments. It can only lead to de-growth, no matter how the “Green Growth” propaganda carries on.

Theta

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2015, 09:01:45 PM »
"What is necessary?" and "What is possible?", are both relative questions.  No one needs to do anything, and discussing what is practicable is much more interesting than discussing what is theoretically possible.  In this regard, the real issues are that:

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." Frederick Douglass

and also that:

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton

Currently, the cost of the dis-benefits of anthropogenic radiative forcing is not included in the price of the products/activities that modern society produces; so both our economic systems and our power bases are based on corrupt behavior which will not concede power without a struggle. 

Per the linked article people in the developed world receive substantial financial subsidies (i.e. bribes supported by legalized theft) to look the other way when their socio-economic systems are producing GHG emissions that are most significantly damaging the developing world; which is the biggest sticking point in making progress towards CoP21.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28135-everyone-in-the-us-and-australia-owes-12000-in-co2-emissions/

Extract: "If you live in the US or Australia, then between 1990 and 2013 you accumulated a debt of more than US$12,000. People in the UK are doing a bit better, racking up about US$4000 in debt over that time.

This isn’t about overspending on credit cards, but about damage done to our atmosphere. If we think of the atmosphere as a limited resource to be shared equally by all, then those who pollute more than their fair share – that is, more than the global average – can be said to be in “emissions debt”. Conversely, those who pollute less are in “emissions credit”."

Until people around the world are prepared to pay a carbon fee equal to the damage that they are doing, then as Theta points out, the de-growth will occur naturally anyway, but in a very unpleasant manner.  Once people are willing to pay an appropriate carbon fee, the "invisible hand" of the market place may, or may not, impose de-growth depending on how wise the players in the global market place behave.  Therefore, I ask, what is the probability of imposing global carbon fee & dividend plans worldwide in the next decade?

That would depend on our economy's capacity to impose a system that is carbon free. The only problem with this is that the very strength of our system depends on growth, without it, the system fails and you get an unpleasant dieoff, Gail Tverberg shows this and especially notes that "renewable" energies are dependant on fossil fuels, you need fossil fuels to produce wind farms and solar panels along with many other forms of renewable energy.

The best thing that can be done is to perhaps collapse our current economy and to try to live completely off the land without technology because we currently have no other solution.

Also P-Maker, electricity prices have probably fallen due to demand destruction, not renewable energies. The general population cannot afford high priced electricity, so it is forced to fall, otherwise you get an economic crash.
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Lennart van der Linde

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2015, 09:24:19 PM »
the very strength of our system depends on growth, without it, the system fails and you get an unpleasant dieoff

Tim Jackson wrote the book Prosperity without Growth, based on this 2009 report with the same title, and on earlier work by Herman Daly and others:
http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/data/files/publications/prosperity_without_growth_report.pdf

He refers to quite recent work by Peter Victor which suggests that prosperity without growth is possible with the right policies.

In a very recent paper with Victor they conclude:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800915003766

"Contrary to claims in the literature, we find that neither credit creation nor the charging of interest on debt creates a ‘growth imperative’ in and of themselves. This finding remains true even when capital adequacy and liquidity requirements are imposed on banks. We test the robustness of our results in the face of random variations and one-off shocks. We show further that it is possible to move from a growth path towards a stationary state without either crashing the economy or dismantling the system. Nonetheless, there remain several good reasons to support the reform of the monetary system. Our model also supports critiques of austerity and underlines the value of countercyclical spending by government."

GeoffBeacon

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2015, 10:45:36 AM »
ASLR

Quote
"If you live in the US or Australia, then between 1990 and 2013 you accumulated a debt of more than US$12,000. People in the UK are doing a bit better, racking up about US$4000 in debt over that time.“
The New Scientist article also says

Quote
And according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, each tonne of carbon dioxide produced today has a social cost of about $40, so the overall debt per person is US$12,000.
I believe James Hansen has mentioned $1000 per tonne. Even that may be too low.

P-maker

Quote
Future de-growth will include less energy used due to more energy efficient solutions every time we make a decision and more use of free energy every time we decide to get rid of a fossil fuel power plant in order to replace it with a renewable energy source.
My crude calculations suggested this process will not give reductions fast enough. This means we must count the carbon in our lifestyles and drastically reduce the use of cars, planes, steel, concrete and give up beef and lamb consumption – and more.

Theta

Quote
Gail Tverberg shows this and especially notes that "renewable" energies are dependant on fossil fuels, you need fossil fuels to produce wind farms and solar panels along with many other forms of renewable energy.
It is true we can point to a future where we have technologies that don't emit greenhouse gasses but have ignored the tansition emissions – e.g. the emissions required to build Elon Musk's giga factory. We may find it difficult within the remaining carbon budget to make the transition.

LvdL

Does Jackson and Victor's result hold for de-growth as well as no growth? The de-growth must be substantial.
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SteveMDFP

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #7 on: October 27, 2015, 04:19:24 PM »

Theta

Quote
Gail Tverberg shows this and especially notes that "renewable" energies are dependant on fossil fuels, you need fossil fuels to produce wind farms and solar panels along with many other forms of renewable energy.
It is true we can point to a future where we have technologies that don't emit greenhouse gasses but have ignored the tansition emissions – e.g. the emissions required to build Elon Musk's giga factory. We may find it difficult within the remaining carbon budget to make the transition.


Quite the opposite, in truth.  Looking up Energy-Return-On-Energy-Investment (EROEI), both solar panels and wind turbines reach break-even within roughly a year or so: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

Unless you're anticipating global collapse in a shorter time-frame than a year, then a tight global carbon budget argues for more intense transition efforts, not less intense.  I don't think anyone of importance is ignoring the EROEI.

AbruptSLR

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2015, 06:18:42 PM »
ASLR

Quote
"If you live in the US or Australia, then between 1990 and 2013 you accumulated a debt of more than US$12,000. People in the UK are doing a bit better, racking up about US$4000 in debt over that time.“
The New Scientist article also says

Quote
And according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, each tonne of carbon dioxide produced today has a social cost of about $40, so the overall debt per person is US$12,000.
I believe James Hansen has mentioned $1000 per tonne. Even that may be too low.

A $1000 per tonne carbon dividend (phased in) could be a very powerful economic tool for building both a more sustainable and more just global economic system; provided that world leaders would show some leadership.  Unfortunately, leadership is in very short supply these days in a world driven to the lowest common denominator.
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Lennart van der Linde

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2015, 06:45:32 PM »
Does Jackson and Victor's result hold for de-growth as well as no growth? The de-growth must be substantial.

Good question. I guess they would have to do some more analysis to answer it. I do see this 2011-paper by Victor that includes a degrowth scenario for Canada, so they could build on that.

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2015, 07:37:47 PM »
Another approach in this discussion is this 2012-comparison of a degrowth with an agrowth strategy by Van den Bergh & Kallis:
http://www.energia.usp.br/sites/default/files/Van%20de%20Bergh_Growth_a-growth%20or%20degrowth.pdf

A more recent paper on agrowth is Van den Bergh 2014:
http://www.foreurope.eu/fileadmin/documents/pdf/PolicyPapers/WWWforEurope_Policy_Paper_019.pdf

Personally I think degrowth is the only honest and sensible option, assuming we're currently substantially in overshoot, but I will have to follow Van den Bergh's argument more closely to see if his criticism of degrowth has any merit, other than saying it's politically harder to sell than a growth or agrowth strategy.

Theta

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2015, 10:30:23 PM »

Theta

Quote
Gail Tverberg shows this and especially notes that "renewable" energies are dependant on fossil fuels, you need fossil fuels to produce wind farms and solar panels along with many other forms of renewable energy.
It is true we can point to a future where we have technologies that don't emit greenhouse gasses but have ignored the tansition emissions – e.g. the emissions required to build Elon Musk's giga factory. We may find it difficult within the remaining carbon budget to make the transition.


Quite the opposite, in truth.  Looking up Energy-Return-On-Energy-Investment (EROEI), both solar panels and wind turbines reach break-even within roughly a year or so: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

Unless you're anticipating global collapse in a shorter time-frame than a year, then a tight global carbon budget argues for more intense transition efforts, not less intense.  I don't think anyone of importance is ignoring the EROEI.

They argue more intense efforts for degrowth, but with less carbon budget, the degrowth will be less based on developing renewable energies, and more towards people trying to survive when the economy and subsequent society collapses.

On that note, I thought I would put out a question that is relevant to this thread in that is there a point to degrowth at all. For example, if we look at Guy McPherson, we see that there is no point to degrowth because it is simply too late to do so and by 2030, humans will be extinct anyway, but that is mainly an incentive thing which doesn't matter anyway because at the moment we are going to be forced to degrow as the cost of carbon overwhelms the economy. On that note, there is the question of the impact of degrowth and whether it is feasible. According to Guy McPherson, it works for other species if human society collapses, but for humans, no dice, we're hosed.
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GeoffBeacon

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2015, 09:21:06 PM »
I'm just back from a trip to London where I attended a joint seminar between LSE and UCL "UK Low-Carbon Energy Policy - Filling the Policy Holes"

When I broached de-growth I was pointed to the work of Sjak Smulders, who may have shown that growth is still possible within climate limits if certain conditions hold. I've seen some slides with equations on that hasn't given me enough to understand exactly what he means.

Is anyone here familiar with his work?

I'm going to try and follow this up but any help would be appreciated. My guess so far is that his conditions are rather unlikely so it migh be that "Green Growth" is theoretically possible but perhaps not in the real world.
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anotheramethyst

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2015, 05:00:03 AM »

Theta

Quote
Gail Tverberg shows this and especially notes that "renewable" energies are dependant on fossil fuels, you need fossil fuels to produce wind farms and solar panels along with many other forms of renewable energy.
It is true we can point to a future where we have technologies that don't emit greenhouse gasses but have ignored the tansition emissions – e.g. the emissions required to build Elon Musk's giga factory. We may find it difficult within the remaining carbon budget to make the transition.


Quite the opposite, in truth.  Looking up Energy-Return-On-Energy-Investment (EROEI), both solar panels and wind turbines reach break-even within roughly a year or so: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

Unless you're anticipating global collapse in a shorter time-frame than a year, then a tight global carbon budget argues for more intense transition efforts, not less intense.  I don't think anyone of importance is ignoring the EROEI.

yes, gail tvalberg does talk at length about EROEI and energy density (and how energy density affects economic growth).  however, this passage refers to her discussions on the source of energy that creates renewables.  for example, large solar panel factories in china are powered by coal.  so is buying a solar panel built on coal energy carbon neutral?  other people make similar claims for nuclear, pointing out that mining uranium and other heavy metals and the enrichment process are energy intensive and currently rely on fossil fuels.  she argues that it's too late to not collapse so it's pointless to use the coal to make solar panels... but i suppose any of her statements can be debated.  check out her blog for a look into her mind.  you may find much better arguments against her, or you might find you unexpectedly agree with her.  you don't have to read them all, her articles get repetitive.

http://ourfiniteworld.com/

she's more of a peak oil type than a climate change type.
 

SteveMDFP

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2015, 12:03:58 PM »

Theta

Quote
Gail Tverberg shows this and especially notes that "renewable" energies are dependant on fossil fuels, you need fossil fuels to produce wind farms and solar panels along with many other forms of renewable energy.
It is true we can point to a future where we have technologies that don't emit greenhouse gasses but have ignored the tansition emissions – e.g. the emissions required to build Elon Musk's giga factory. We may find it difficult within the remaining carbon budget to make the transition.


Quite the opposite, in truth.  Looking up Energy-Return-On-Energy-Investment (EROEI), both solar panels and wind turbines reach break-even within roughly a year or so: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

Unless you're anticipating global collapse in a shorter time-frame than a year, then a tight global carbon budget argues for more intense transition efforts, not less intense.  I don't think anyone of importance is ignoring the EROEI.

yes, gail tvalberg does talk at length about EROEI and energy density (and how energy density affects economic growth).  however, this passage refers to her discussions on the source of energy that creates renewables.  for example, large solar panel factories in china are powered by coal.  so is buying a solar panel built on coal energy carbon neutral?   
Is it carbon neutral?  It's intensely carbon negative.  This is one of many ridiculous assertions she makes.  She makes them after crunching lots and lots of interesting data, so they seem insightful.  They're not.  Solar panels and wind turbines only have a positive carbon footprint until they reach break-even point, roughly a year, after which their net effect on the economy is progressively more carbon negative.  It's a conceptually simple fact that utterly eludes her.

There's lots more absurdity she asserts.  Like predicting economic collapse because petroleum prices might fall below costs of production.  Hello, energy prices are volatile.  Lots of things periodically get a price below production costs.  Production then falls until prices rise.  Suppy, demand, and prices have well-understood relationships that are covered in the first week of Econ 101.  She doesn't understand basic Econ, despite spending all her time crunching and presenting economic data.

Another example is how she looks at debt in the national and global economy, considers the increasing cost of developing ever-more remote petroleum deposits, and declares the debt is because of those costs.  If the global debt trajectory is unsustainable, then oil development must be unsustainable and the global economy must face inevitable collapse.  Ridiculous.  Total debt in the economy is a consequence of fiscal and monetary policies, not the expense of drilling deep sea wells.  The scale of the respective numbers she considers is many orders of magnitude out of proportion. 

She's not worth paying any attention to at all.

GeoffBeacon

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #15 on: November 01, 2015, 11:27:57 PM »
SteveMDFP

I am wary of Gail Tverberg. However, I am still to be convinced that we can move to a low carbon economy unless we change our lifstyles, consume less and "drastically reduce the use of cars, planes, steel, concrete and give up beef and lamb consumption – and more."

If we cannot de-carbonise production fast enough then de-growth is essential.  However, if we  cut production and if there is the same number of workers, wages will fall. To me that means We must Stop growth, redistribute wealth to try to save the planet. The key point is redistribute, taking from the rich (who consume and pollute far too much) and give to the less polluting poor. An alternative may be to let the poor live on starvation wages - or less.

The payback times you have for solar may be optimistic. In a study published by the US Department of Energy, the payback time for  PV panels was estimated to be 3.5 years under Californian sunshine conditions - but they could be wrong.

I give a rough estimate of the embodied carbon getting to a “modern standard of living” in The carbon cost of achieving low carbon lifestyles


Quote
The items above PassivHaus (20 tonnes CO2e), site-works and wastage (45 tonnes), electric cars (25 tonnes), Solar Panels (12 tonnes). For (more efficient) household appliances and other considerations like shops, offices and schools add 30% (30 tonnes). This gives over 120 tonnes CO2e for the average sized household or 50 tonnes CO2e per person.

We should begin to engineer and plan different styles of living to find those that work. I outlined some ideas in "Another approach: Green pioneer settlements" in The Green settlement handbook (part 1).

Sounds improbable but as Sherlock Holmes said "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,however improbable, must be the truth?"

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SteveMDFP

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2015, 04:32:35 AM »
SteveMDFP

I am wary of Gail Tverberg. However, I am still to be convinced that we can move to a low carbon economy unless we change our lifstyles, consume less and "drastically reduce the use of cars, planes, steel, concrete and give up beef and lamb consumption – and more."

If we cannot de-carbonise production fast enough then de-growth is essential.  However, if we  cut production and if there is the same number of workers, wages will fall. To me that means We must Stop growth, redistribute wealth to try to save the planet. The key point is redistribute, taking from the rich (who consume and pollute far too much) and give to the less polluting poor. An alternative may be to let the poor live on starvation wages - or less.

The payback times you have for solar may be optimistic. In a study published by the US Department of Energy, the payback time for  PV panels was estimated to be 3.5 years under Californian sunshine conditions - but they could be wrong.

I give a rough estimate of the embodied carbon getting to a “modern standard of living” in The carbon cost of achieving low carbon lifestyles


Quote
The items above PassivHaus (20 tonnes CO2e), site-works and wastage (45 tonnes), electric cars (25 tonnes), Solar Panels (12 tonnes). For (more efficient) household appliances and other considerations like shops, offices and schools add 30% (30 tonnes). This gives over 120 tonnes CO2e for the average sized household or 50 tonnes CO2e per person.

We should begin to engineer and plan different styles of living to find those that work. I outlined some ideas in "Another approach: Green pioneer settlements" in The Green settlement handbook (part 1).

Sounds improbable but as Sherlock Holmes said "How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,however improbable, must be the truth?"

I agree with the overall gist of your post.  You're right that one year understates the payback time for solar panels, but the time might be as short as 1.2 years:
http://rameznaam.com/2015/06/04/whats-the-eroi-of-solar/

Note that your source is dated 2004, mine is from June.  Readers here should know that there's been a dramatic fall in prices for solar year-by-year.  It seems clear that much of this fall in prices derives from ever-reducing inputs of energy and materials in solar panel manufacturing; it should come as no surprise that EROEI has been improving.

I completely agree that better distribution of wealth and income is essential, particularly with reduced economic growth.  The alternative is unrelenting abject poverty and misery for most of the world's population. 

I'll read your other references about low-carbon lifestyles. 

Steve


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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2015, 10:44:28 AM »
Interesting discussion.

The figures below show some recent numbers for PV  EPBT form a presentation of the Fraunhofer ISE based in Germany.

Depending on the available Solar Irridiance they estimate current EBT for multi- and mono-si systems to be between +1 and +3 years.


Is it carbon neutral?  It's intensely carbon negative.  This is one of many ridiculous assertions she makes.  She makes them after crunching lots and lots of interesting data, so they seem insightful.  They're not.  Solar panels and wind turbines only have a positive carbon footprint until they reach break-even point, roughly a year, after which their net effect on the economy is progressively more carbon negative.  It's a conceptually simple fact that utterly eludes her.


Hmm .... This ist some extraordinary claim. Do you have some papers to back this up?
Most LCAs I have seen estimate the CO2 emissions of Solar PV in the range of 20 - 60 g/kWh CO2 eq over the hole lifecycle (20-30 years)

See for instance IPCC WG3, p. 1335 (or table below)

Perhaps there is a misunderstanding that EPBT equates CO2 payback time, which is not the case. See an explanation from here (It is old but the basics haven't changed):
Quote
An approach similar to EPBT can be used to determine CO2 pay back times as a measure for the climate change mitigation potential associated with PV power systems. .... For a large part the CO2 emissions originate from the use of fossil energy carriers in the life cycle of the PV power systems. In addition to these energy-related emissions, however, other CO2 emissions occur. Examples are the CO2 emissions caused by the silica reduction process and the CO2 emissions from the consumption of carbon electrodes in aluminum production.

Greenhouse gas emissions other than CO2 should also be considered since some of them have a large Global Warming Potential relative to CO2, which make that small emissions of those gases can have a significant contribution to the total Global Warming Equivalent as expressed in equivalent CO2 emission. Examples of such substances are SF6 or CF4, gases which may be used in plasma etching processes or in the cleaning of reactor chambers. Release to the atmosphere of 1 kg of these gases will cause a greenhouse effect equivalent to 24,000 respectively 6,500 kg of CO2 [IPCC, 1996]. Alternative cleaning methods and other techniques under development within the semiconductor industry will help to avoid these emissions.

Don't get me wrong: PV is at least an order of magnitude better than coal in this regard. But as far as I can see, it is not CO2 neutral or even negative (it will improve in the future of course).

GeoffBeacon

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #18 on: November 02, 2015, 11:25:23 AM »
SteveMDFP

Thanks. That looks an excellent paper. I've added a postscript to The carbon cost of achieving low carbon lifestyles and I am suggesting to CAT they update their references.

S.Pansa

Thanks too. I'll will follow that up. Does it change my postscript?

Quote
On Neven's Arctic Forum, SteveMDFP has pointed to recently published What’s the EROI of Solar? This shows that solar panels are now considerably more efficient than quoted in CAT's  What is the energy and carbon payback time for PV panels in the UK? This relies on a study published by the US Department of Energy in 2004.

The embodied CO2e for that solar panel scenario will now be less than 12 tonnes for each person.


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S.Pansa

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2015, 01:14:41 PM »
Hi Geoff,

I am in a hurry so I just had a quick look at the Ramez Naam reference. To me the numbers look more or less the same as those of the ISE quoted above.

Perhaps Steve has a better source that can show that lifetime carbon emissions of pv are already cero. Of course efficiency is improving, but I doubt it improved enough to have significantly changed the estimates quoted above.

Big caveat though: I am by no means an expert so please take everything I say with a pinch of salt.

All I can give you is another reference from November 2012. The NREL has made a big effort to harmonize more then 400 studies about the LCA emissions from PV systems. You can find the report here. They found:

Quote
... The median as-published life cycle GHG emissions estimate for c-Si PV is 57 g CO2eqkWh; the harmonized median is 45 g CO2eq/kWh. Harmonization reduced the IQR from 44-73 g CO2eq/kWh to 39-49 g CO2eq/kWh, a reduction of 62%. ....

Thin-film systems are better but they still have less than 10% market share.

They used the following Harmonization Parameters for Module efficiency :
- Mono-crystalline  14.0%
- Multi-crystalline  13.2%

Recent high efficiency modules definitely work more efficient (up to 20%), but in the end it is all about Performance Ratio (efficiency of the hole system). They use 0.75 which might be a little conservative. So overall CO2 eq. emissions per kWh may be a bit better now, at least for their values of Solar Irradiation (1,700/2,400  kWh/m-2 /yr). In Germany for instance SI is much lower (in the mean about 1,000 kWh/m-2 /yr) and that would yield CO2 emissions.

Late Edit: Here is a more recent report from the IEA.
« Last Edit: November 02, 2015, 02:14:13 PM by S.Pansa »

SteveMDFP

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2015, 10:38:23 PM »
...
Perhaps Steve has a better source that can show that lifetime carbon emissions of pv are already cero. Of course efficiency is improving, but I doubt it improved enough to have significantly changed the estimates quoted above.
...

The original question was whether there's any point making the carbon investment to install renewables if collapse of civilization is not too far away.
The installation of renewable electrical generation is done to displace fossil fuel generation.  Either to accelerate the shutting down of these dinosaurs or to accelerate their decommission.

In this context, if fossil fuel-fired power plants generate roughly 700 CO2e/kWh and solar generates 40 (and falling) then the effect  of generating a kWh of solar power is a negative 660 grams of CO2e per kWh.  In this context, solar is intensely carbon negative, my original assertion.

Note, that the argument is even stronger than what I've presented.  All these carbon inputs that underly these calculations of are based on a carbon-intensive grid.  As renewables displace fossil fuel generation, the carbon footprint of all activities (manufacturing, transport, installation, maintenance) continue to fall.  With a totally green grid and green transportation, the total carbon investment from installing solar is essentially zero, as are most industrial activities (other than making cement).

So, do we improve things by installing solar?  Is it worth the investment?  You betcha.

Theta

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #21 on: November 02, 2015, 11:12:14 PM »
...
Perhaps Steve has a better source that can show that lifetime carbon emissions of pv are already cero. Of course efficiency is improving, but I doubt it improved enough to have significantly changed the estimates quoted above.
...

The original question was whether there's any point making the carbon investment to install renewables if collapse of civilization is not too far away.
The installation of renewable electrical generation is done to displace fossil fuel generation.  Either to accelerate the shutting down of these dinosaurs or to accelerate their decommission.

In this context, if fossil fuel-fired power plants generate roughly 700 CO2e/kWh and solar generates 40 (and falling) then the effect  of generating a kWh of solar power is a negative 660 grams of CO2e per kWh.  In this context, solar is intensely carbon negative, my original assertion.

Note, that the argument is even stronger than what I've presented.  All these carbon inputs that underly these calculations of are based on a carbon-intensive grid.  As renewables displace fossil fuel generation, the carbon footprint of all activities (manufacturing, transport, installation, maintenance) continue to fall.  With a totally green grid and green transportation, the total carbon investment from installing solar is essentially zero, as are most industrial activities (other than making cement).

So, do we improve things by installing solar?  Is it worth the investment?  You betcha.

But what about the oil used for maintaining and making the solar panels, once the material deteriorates, oil is needed to make more solar panels, so it is possible that solar energy is not carbon negative at all or is not negative to a large extent.
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SteveMDFP

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2015, 01:05:49 AM »


But what about the oil used for maintaining and making the solar panels, once the material deteriorates, oil is needed to make more solar panels, so it is possible that solar energy is not carbon negative at all or is not negative to a large extent.

This is what I'm getting at.  Yes, right now there's a fossil fuel footprint to solar panels.  Since this particular carbon investment displaces fossil fuel generation, the net effect over a life cycle is net negative carbon, intensely negative. 

These panels have a long useful life.  Many have been going for 20 years.  We can hope that when it comes time to replace them, the energy used to make the replacements and transport them will be from renewables, and their carbon footprint will be essentially zero.  From this perspective, if humanity manages to survive long term, these initial carbon inputs to make the transition to permanent renewable energy production are genuinely negligible.

wili

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2015, 02:46:20 AM »
Steve, perhaps I'm missing something, but you don't seem to understand the terms you're using.

If it took ff to produce something, that product can never be net carbon negative unless its function is to actually take at least that amount of carbon back out of the atmosphere.

I do agree, though, that the whole argument is rather stupid--of course, most (but not all) solar panels are made with ffs; pretty much everything right now is made from ff.

It's kind of like saying the emancipation proclamation was worthless because the pen it was signed with was made with slave labor.

As a larger and larger portion of electric generation goes renewable, so will the sources of renewable productions itself. More reason to get there quick!

But it does further emphasize Kevin Anderson's point that the very fastest way to slash emissions is to use a heck of a lot less electricity and all the other things that ff's are currently used for.

And we do, sadly, have very, very little time...errrr...like...no time. :-[
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

GeoffBeacon

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2015, 07:38:56 AM »
Wili

I'm going to "Urban grit or suburban comfort: where do people prefer to live?" organised by the Centre for Cities today. Your commented

Quote
But it does further emphasize Kevin Anderson's point that the very fastest way to slash emissions is to use a heck of a lot less electricity and all the other things that ff's are currently used for.
Exactly.

I would like some recognition by city planners that "all the other things that ff's are currently used for." includes much of the infrastructure of cities. The carbon cost of new build is rarely mentioned.  e.g. Does Global warming means no high buildings ?

It's good to occasionally see Embodied carbon recognised at last but I know when I mention these things today, it will yet again be like I am invisible and voiceless. The topic is mentioned so infrequently it is not in the minds of planners, developers and city lovers so they can't yet hear hear the message.

What can be done?

P.S. I too love cities but we can't go on like this.
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Bruce Steele

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2015, 08:41:04 AM »
Wili and Geoff, If I can add any support here I would like to add mine. Thank you both even though I may be a flatlander from the get go. We are not voiceless.
 I do believe how we use our remaining energy is important and extra conservative food energy expenses are an important goal.  How we house ourselves and maintain city infrastructure  should take second seat to how we feed ourselves.
 You have both influenced my diet choices and although I am not totally onboard with a meatless  diet you have changed my perspective. Conservation of energy is critical in the context of housing and diet. How we achieve our food energy goals is still a bit of an open question IMO. High rise buildings seem to be an energy drain and separating food and housing by distance separates humans from their environment.
 We need a better recognition of embodied carbon expenses for both food and housing. Auditors with some accreditation would seem a reasonable first step. Transport is just an energy drain created by the separation of housing and food. Sorry if this seems simplistic but watching the energy expenses of my farm repeatedly direct me to that conclusion.           

GeoffBeacon

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #26 on: November 03, 2015, 11:05:04 AM »
Bruce

Exactly.

Perhaps the time will come when thes pennies drop. I'm sure we're not the only ones saying things like this.  Pity too many of the others are outside the pale of professional thinking. It's the professionals that call the tunes. Personally I think amateurs - like Seebohm Rowntree - have a better attitude. But I expect we will still be ignored. 

I can't say I've had much reaction over the years - but I'm still up for the struggle....

It’s the poor that starve. (2012)
Food: Scientists vs amateurs. (2011)
Designing for local food distribution and production.(1999)
Research into housing and housing service systems. (1973)

Perhaps today will be better.
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SteveMDFP

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #27 on: November 03, 2015, 12:05:55 PM »
Steve, perhaps I'm missing something, but you don't seem to understand the terms you're using.

If it took ff to produce something, that product can never be net carbon negative unless its function is to actually take at least that amount of carbon back out of the atmosphere.
. . .

No, I think my terminology is correct.  I'm talking about the net effect of putting renewable energy sources into service.    It's not terribly different, in net effect, from planting a forest.  Let's say I invest carbon-utilizing resources to put a gigawatt of solar panels into service.  You put the same amount of carbon resources to plant forests -- that effort uses embedded carbon resources, too.   Your effort begins to put some carbon into the soil.  My effort takes some fossil fuel generation offline.  Both efforts start off putting more CO2 into the air, both produce a net benefit only with the passage of time.   Over 20 years, our efforts might have exactly the same impact--the same reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere than if we hadn't made that initial investment.

You might counter that your investment yields permanent benefits, but so do mine.  As the grid and transportation systems move toward zero carbon marginal output of carbon, most activities of civilization approach zero carbon footprint.  Replacing those panels will have far less embedded carbon emissions than if the (massively scaled up) transition to renewable generation hadn't been made.

As long as renewable energy sources act to displace fossil fuel sources, they really are carbon-negative, for practical purposes.

wili

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #28 on: November 03, 2015, 12:26:58 PM »
"My effort takes some fossil fuel generation offline."

I see. There are problems with assuming that such a thing happens automatically.

But even if it does, that still doesn't take any carbon out of the atmosphere, just (perhaps) prevents more from going into it.

"As long as renewable energy sources act to displace fossil fuel sources"

That's the rub. But I still don't see how you get negative (or even really neutral) emissions here, without some of your solar energy going into some kind of carbon recapture scheme.

"...your investment..." ??? Where have I proposed investing in anything?
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

SteveMDFP

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #29 on: November 03, 2015, 01:33:05 PM »
"My effort takes some fossil fuel generation offline."

I see. There are problems with assuming that such a thing happens automatically.
 
But it does happen automatically, other things being equal.  The impact is immediate.  If a gigawatt of green power goes into a given grid, the utilities have to throttle back the fossil fuel plants or the grid is damaged.  The utility may have to shut down a plant.  If the green energy input continues, the plant becomes completely useless.  A gigawatt of solar, or of wind, really does displace a gigawatt of coal.
Quote
But even if it does, that still doesn't take any carbon out of the atmosphere, just (perhaps) prevents more from going into it.

What's the environmental difference between taking a ton of carbon out of the air, and preventing a ton of carbon from going into it?
Quote

"As long as renewable energy sources act to displace fossil fuel sources"

That's the rub. But I still don't see how you get negative (or even really neutral) emissions here, without some of your solar energy going into some kind of carbon recapture scheme.

"...your investment..." ??? Where have I proposed investing in anything?

Forgive me.  Mea culpa.  Where, in that last post, I posited "you,"  I should have said "Peter."  Peter plants the forest.  James put up the solar panels.  I really wasn't meaning to put any words in your mouth at all.  Peter and James end up with equivalent results, not you and me.

wili

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Re: Is de-growth necessary? Is it possible?
« Reply #30 on: November 03, 2015, 08:29:35 PM »
For the first point, you have the argument that non-use of a product leads to that product becoming cheaper, so other people have an incentive to use more of it. Basically, it means that we need policies that tax and/or limit carbon use if we are going to get past ff burning in a timely fashion (and a 'timely fashion' is definitely required).

"What's the environmental difference between taking a ton of carbon out of the air, and preventing a ton of carbon from going into it?"

If you don't see the answer to this, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to tell you.

What's the difference between trying to such the venom out of a fresh poisonous snake bite and not injecting more venom into the bite?
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."