While existance of human-caused global warming is overwhelmingly accepted models of its economic consequences are poorly developed and need sharpening. These are very complex as there are so many moving parts and errors can be large but improvements can be very useful. A piece in Nature notes while the costs of carbon emissions are currently underestmated, they are still valuable for setting policy.
As legal, climate-science and economics experts, we believe that the current estimate for the social cost of carbon is useful for policy-making, notwithstanding the significant uncertainties. The leading economic models all point in the same direction: that climate change causes substantial economic harm, justifying immediate action to reduce emissions. In fact, because the models omit some major risks associated with climate change, such as social unrest and disruptions to economic growth, they are probably understating future harms. The alternative — assigning no value to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions — would lead to regulation of greenhouse gases that is even more lax.
Instead, climate-economic models need to be extended to include a wider range of social and economic impacts. Gaps need to be filled, such as the economic responses of developing countries and estimates of damages at extreme temperatures. Today, only a handful of researchers in the United States and Europe specialize in such modelling. A broader programme involving more people exploring more phenomena is needed to better estimate the social cost of carbon and to guide policy-makers. Otherwise policies will become untethered from economic realities.
Much of the electric infrastructure in the US is dated bordering on chewing gum and piano wire constuction relative to current needs. The superstorm Sandy has forced towns and institutions to rethink local infrastructure as waiting for utilities is no longer practical. Combined heat and power - CHP - projects are popping up throughout the Northeast.
Then there are the micro grids within the micro grid, known as "clusters," each connected to several types of electricity generators. These sources, say solar panels and a natural gas generator, are paired together to ensure there will always be electricity. So, when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing, another power source kicks in. The locations of each cluster will be determined by the power needs in that section of the grid. A cluster containing cogeneration, for instance, might be situated near an apartment building, where the inhabitants use energy day and night, whereas a cluster containing solar panels might be located near an office building, which uses electricity mostly from 9 A.M to 5 P.M.
Each local power source can switch from one grid to the other because it essentially has two sets of wires: one that connects it to PS&G's grid and one that connects it to the micro grid. A power source will never be connected to both grids simultaneously. In fact, the power source must first be disconnected from one grid before it can be connected to the other.
That's no accident. One of PS&G's concerns all along has been power coming into their lines unexpectedly. What if they had a power outage and shut down a section of their grid in order to work on it? If the two grids were connected, power from the micro grid could flow back into PSE&G's lines and blow a transformer—or worse, electrocute a worker. "Their lines will not be attached to our lines," says Ananda Kanapathy, director of electric and gas asset strategy at PSE&G. "Their grid will be separated and isolated from us."
At this time most are supplementary, but there is a chance this may disrupt utilties down the road.
The scientists emphasized that climate change is not just some problem of the distant future, but is happening now. For instance, in much of the American West, mountain snowpack is declining, threatening water supplies for the region, the scientists reported. And the snow that does fall is melting earlier in the year, which means there is less meltwater to ease the parched summers.In Alaska, the collapse of sea ice is allowing huge waves to strike the coast, causing erosion so rapid that it is already forcing entire communities to relocate.
“Now we are at the point where there is so much information, so much evidence, that we can no longer plead ignorance,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization.
I haven't read the final IPCC report yet. It is supposed to more directly communicate to the public than earlier reports. These reports represent a messy agreement.
In theory American carbon emissions have dropped as some aging coal power plants have been converted to natural gas. There are flies in the ointment - methane emissions from natural gas production and transport are not factored in and may be significant. Plus we're exporting a lot of coal - more than enough to erase carbon emission savings.
If we were serious about global warming we wouldn't export coal (many other things too, but this is a big one)
I finally got around to reading Raffi Khatchadourian's article on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in the March 3rd issue of The New Yorker. Recommended and outside the magazine's paywall.
A very accessible piece describing an astonishing difficult project that builds on work that has been going on since the 1950s, it also details equally astonishing mismanagement.