Monday, May 07, 2007

Brief Analysis of Climate Change Report

Here’s my brief analysis of and comments on the recent IPCC working group report on Mitigation of Climate Change released from Bangkok, Thailand as it relates to alternative energy.

Energy Efficient & Net Zero Energy Buildings

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are rightly held to be a key ways to reduce carbon emissions. Buildings, both residential and commercial, are a significant emitter of greenhouse gasses.

Solar hot water heating can be used to provide up to 70% of annual hot water needs for homes, it can also be used in commercial buildings that require significant hot water such as gyms and nursing homes.

Geothermal (ground source heat pumps) is a lesser known source of alternative energy which can be used to both heat and cool buildings in a highly efficient way and is suited both to residential and commercial buildings. It can also be used to provide hot water. As bore holes and/or trenches need to be dug for geothermal to be installed, it is particularly suited to new builds.

Electricity can be provided from renewable sources via the grid (e.g. wind power) or off-grid it can be generated using for example solar photovoltaic panels (PV).

The use of insulation, natural light & shade, low energy lighting, motion detection lighting etc. can further reduce energy usage.

As noted in the report appropriate building codes can minimise carbon emissions from buildings.

Alternative Energy = Energy Security

The report notes that nations seeking energy security (security of supply) can help achieve it using alternative energy. Nations lacking their own fossil fuels resources should be concerned with the negative impact reliance on fossil fuels can have on their economies. By increasing utilisation of alternative energy resources, nations can increase their energy security.

Transport Policy & Fossil Fuels Subsidies

I was disappointed by the report’s lack of vision on transport. It correctly notes that past increases in efficiency in internal combustion engine (ICE) design have been used to increase power rather than fuel efficiency meaning vehicle carbon emissions have continued to climb. This trend has even continued into hybrid vehicles with performance being favoured over fuel economy (e.g. Lexus hybrid cars). Mention was made of making increased use of biofuels, which can actually significantly increase carbon emissions (see this post on Palm Oil Biodiesel). The glaring emission, is the need for a fundamental shift from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles. I got the impression the report in trying to build consensus was avoiding treading on any toes. Perhaps that’s why it recommended only reducing rather than eliminating the subsidisation of fossil fuels.

Research and Development + Technology Transfer

India and China will soon be at the top of the list of carbon emitting nations. The report wrongly suggests that because many new power stations are being built in developing nations, they will be using new energy efficient designs and technologies. While new power stations may be more efficient than those built decades ago, for cost reasons less efficient technology is usually used (for more details see this post on Clean Coal). The report notes there have been low levels of investment in research and development. Investment is needed now and much more should be done to aid the transfer of the most energy efficient technologies between nations.

IPCC working group report on Mitigation of Climate Change (pdf link)

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Blogger Tom Gray said...

You're right about the report not "treading on toes." This is a consensus document, and so it is unlikely to really push the envelope unless global warming becomes really scary.

Plug-in hybrids look like an attractive option to me. Readers can support this concept through Plug-In Partners.

Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association

5:22 am, May 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all great information. We will clearly see rapid improvements in the technology for generating alternative energy. Meanwhile, there is a lot of waste in existing buildings. The folks at Texas A&M and others have regulary documented how 20% of energy usage in a typical building is due to misconfigured control systems. So while we focus on more green solutions we need to also address the immediate solutiosn identified already.

4:57 pm, May 07, 2007  
Blogger ron freshman said...

I agree with the "need for a fundamental shift from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles" but I also understand that there is an urgency to move from a fossil fuel economy altogether. On my blog I outline a plan to focus on Renewable Energy with a BIG SOLAR Project. See (

There is much to do to buid a sustainable society we must find ways to support efforts that will have a significant impact to avoid the iceberg.

9:23 pm, May 08, 2007  
Blogger Derek said...

A lot of the transfer of goods used to be done by rail, which is much more efficient, and easy to switch to electric. Plug-in hybrid, or full electric trucks could be used for local delivery, and leave the long distances to trains.

6:06 pm, May 09, 2007  
Blogger Energy Boomer said...

You are on target about many government based programs getting it wrong. The push to use ethanol is one example in the USA.

Newer technologies will win the day when governments get out of the way and let the free market system work.

The best bet I've seen so far is using butanol as a direct substitute for gasoline. It can be made from waste material that companies are now paying to get rid of.

Birney Summers

7:52 am, May 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


the world is (and will be) energy-hungry, but the price of oil, methane and energy RISES every day!!!

a possible way to have MORE energy at LOWER prices is to OPTIMIZE the RENEVABLE sources, like the WIND

the "Wind Energy Skyscrapers" could REDUCE the infrastructures and areas costs and INCREASE the energy produced

full story here:


6:25 am, May 17, 2007  
Blogger Ronnie said...

Great blog here's another thought

My Web Page

11:26 am, May 21, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a recent article in Government Computing News: GSA paves way for IT-based buildings that explains how the state of Missouri is achieving upwards to $30M in savings using some IT/Energy solution, on existing infrastructure, from some firm named Gridlogix.

The state seems to have a pretty novel approach to achieve a large near term savings. While the Ice Caps melt, maybe its time to look for better technology oriented solutions.

3:29 pm, June 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I definitely think the faster we develop sustainable technologies "in house" coupled with reduced reliance on the middle east...the better off we will be. I have started to see more and more homes explore solar, geothermal, radiant heating solutions to combat the ever growing energy problem.

2:09 pm, June 19, 2007  
Blogger Neil said...

Was there no discussion about curbing population growth? I just read an article in the Economist where Kenya's population has doubled every 20 years from 4M after WWII to 35M today. Families routinely have 6 or 7 kids. There are two parts of the equation for CO2 per capita; the amount per person and of course the number of people.

4:25 pm, June 20, 2007  
Blogger STReeTJeSUS said...

There is so much that can be done to help the evironment and our energy problems. It is unfortunate that big business moves so slow toward change. It is also unfortunate that mankind has yet to evolve past combustion and steam generation as a means of generating electricity.

On a bright note, there is much that the average consumer can do to reduce demand on current energy resources. In fact by merely making slight adjustments to your lifestyle you can contribute to the cause.

I offer some reading on the topic of how to reduce energy consumption on a consumer level on my blog site. Drop on by sometime.

6:04 pm, July 30, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

A major addition to reducing the transport sector's need for "non renewables" while also reducing Greenhouse Gas production involves
Bio diesel produced from algae.

Since this can be most efficiently done in tropical countries- and does not use "food grains" as the feed stock, nor does it require potable water, this activity can also increase incomes in such countries [which are often poorer].

An additonal benefit is the very real potential to use the bi-products as animal feed.

The technology has been proven... what is required now is for the commercialization efforts to be accelerated!!

Dr. Mark Doctoroff
R and D Assciates

9:31 am, September 02, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We installed 8 (water) solar panels....192 sq ft. on our roof (Southeastern PA)30 years ago in an atempt to be "green." Considering the installation and removal costs (just removed)I must admit that the overall saving in heating and water heating costs were minimal....aproximately 185 gallons of heating oil per year for a 2200 sq ft. time geothermal and passive solar!

5:26 am, October 22, 2007  
Blogger John E. Kennedy said...

welcome the environment oriented and goodbye customer oriented.

I believed, we just needed 5 years to educate all people and companies to join in environment oriented, because they must, and we must.

1:55 am, November 05, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agricultural development will serve as the main energy source or alternative to energy production, considering its potentials in terms of its contribution to economic development in developing countries, and the facts that its a component of the renewable cycle (i.e. ethanol/bio diesel). Nuclear energy to a good extent serve as a good alternative, but it has its own limitations, considering nuclear energy in developing countries and its process of distribution, which will serve has a limitation to efficient nuclear energy use in developing countries
Agricultural source of energy enhances greatly energy dependence of most nations, particularly developing regions of the world ans also has less infrastructural investment apart from the initial capital investment. The role of Agriculture as a main energy sector will also boost the economic potentials of rural areas, and actually reduce urban sprawl, and migration of workforce to urban centers in most African countries that leads to high crime rate. And also this concept will lead to industrial decentralization in most regions of the world.

In summary Agricultural sector is a sector to look forward to and improve on, as the perfect replacement to dangerous co2 producing energy.

2:18 am, November 14, 2007  
Blogger Lou Gold said...

Technology and economy have always driven the relationship between humans and nature. But now, with so many people, the relationship between technology and economy also holds the future of the human race and the planet. There can be much much good — what we view as progress. And there can be problems — terrible ones. Much depends on the positive feedback loops. Warming means there will be more food grown in Canada and thawing permafrost will release even more greenhouse gases.

The question is not really about having technology or profits or progress (or not), but whether a particular techno-economic approach gives us new and larger problems or new and larger solutions? A positive feedback loop for solutions? Hmmmm, I hope that got your attention. Is such a thing possible? I believe the answer is YES and it takes the form of an ancient-future soil technology called Terra Preta do Indio (Portuguese for Indian Black Earth).

Recent research emerging from the Amazon basin is locating large deposits of an extremely fertile and resilent soil called terra preta. It appears to be human-made, ancient indians adding charcoal to the soil to produce the result — carbon dating says much of it is 2500 to 4000 years old. Terra preta soil is so productive — up to 800% increased plant growth — that it could have easily supported an agriculture capable of feeding millions of people living in great cities in the central Amazon basin. Hmmmm (again). This is the legend of El Dorado.

But do we have to embrace a mythic vision, a conquistador’s dream of gold? Is there some solid science involved? Might there actually be a modern soil technolgy whereby faster growing plants would draw more CO2 out of the atmosphere and the unused plant waste turned into charcoal to be returned to the soil — resulting in increased crop yields, more carbon capture and long term sequestration, more food and fuel for increasing populations, and a new era of abundance. In other words, might there be a positive feedback loop for healing ourselves and the earth? A technologically and economically supported relationship for bringing human beings and nature into a mutually supportive marriage? A sustainable relationship of abundance?

The data are not in but the soil research is being conducted and the hopes are great. But we will need more than new agricultural technology. Right now the overwhelming economic opportunities are located in creating fuel. What can incentivize devoting a portion of the charcoal that can be produced from agricultural waste to amendments for renewing the soil?


Those who have no choice about polluting ways can fund those who have a choice but incur lost opportunities for short-term profits if they do the right thing. We can leave the blame-game and help each other. What a concept!

Please check out the following links to discover more about this exciting possibility.

The ABC 11 minute video about the the modern version of terra preta called “Agrichar”.

Kelpie Wilson’s lay person’s introduction to terra preta.

Research confirms that char added to soil boosts crop productivity.

The BBC documentary, “The Secret of El Dorado”.

Ken Salazar has introduced a bill in the US Senate that would fund research on agrichar.

I report the story unfolding from Brazil here.

Lou Gold
An American in Brazil

6:37 am, November 22, 2007  
Blogger C. Siegel said...

"I was disappointed by the report’s lack of vision on transport. ... The glaring emission, is the need for a fundamental shift from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles."

That may be the "glaring emission," but the glaring omission is refusing to think about the fact that we can drive less.

The average American drives twice as much today as in the 1960s. Are we really better off because we spend that extra time on the freeways?

You show a true lack of vision by failing to think about how to reduce the distance we drive.

1:24 pm, November 30, 2007  
Blogger Mark Antony said...

Thanks for also spreading the word about climate change. The popular will of the people will count for more than the political will to do anything constructive about it.

7:04 am, January 25, 2008  
Blogger joaquin said...

There are plenty of architects building green, there should be more incentives for them.

5:31 pm, January 31, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have seen a massive increase in the recruitment for alternative energies, but a larger increase in fossil based sectors - steve -

4:54 am, March 25, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey there,

really nice post. Solar power becomes more and more popular these days, hopefully new solutions will appear to solve existing energy problems.

Keep it up!

10:55 am, May 21, 2008  
Blogger Dahun said...

The UN IPCC report is based on (now seven) computer models that have not been accurate for the last twenty years. The IPCC stated that barring a volcanic eruption it would be warmer for 100 years:
La Niña cooling in the second half of 2007 (Figure 2) is about as intense as the regional cooling associated with any La Niña of the past half century, as shown by comparison to Plate 9 in Hansen et al. (Hansen et al. 1999) and updates to Plate 9 on the GISS web site. Effect of the current La Niña on global surface temperature is likely to continue for at least the first several months of 2008. Based on sequences of Pacific Ocean surface temperature patterns in Plate 9, a next El Niño in 2009 or 2010 is perhaps the most likely timing. But whatever year it occurs, it is a pretty safe bet that the next El Niño will help carry global temperature to a significantly higher level.
Competing with the short-term solar and La Niña cooling effects is the long-term global warming effect of human-made GHGs. The latter includes the trend toward less Arctic sea ice that markedly increases high latitude Northern Hemisphere temperatures. Although sea ice cover fluctuates from year to year, the large recent loss of thick multi-year ice implies that this warming effect at high latitudes should persist.
Based on these considerations, it is unlikely that 2008 will be a year with truly exceptional global mean temperature. These considerations also suggest that, barring the unlikely event of a large volcanic eruption, a record global temperature clearly exceeding that of 2005 can be expected within the next 2-3 years.

We have had the greatest drop in temperature ever recorded for one year, verified by all four of the world's most respected sources.

UK’s Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature anomaly (HadCRUT) Dr. Phil Jones
The NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies(GISS) Dr. James Hansen
University of Alabama, Huntsville (UAH) Dr. John Christy
Remote Sensing Systems of Santa Rosa, CA (RSS)

Source: Global ∆T °C
HadCRUT - 0.595
GISS - 0.750
UAH - 0.588
RSS - 0.629
Average: - 0.6405°C

There is no calculation, test, historic or common sense reason to believe in human caused warming. It is a theory that has been proven wrong time and time again.

6:48 pm, July 01, 2008  

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