Tag Archives: climate change

Climate Change and Nuclear Power

In September 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report entitled, “Climate Change and Nuclear Power 2016.” As described by the IAEA:

“This publication provides a comprehensive review of the potential role of nuclear power in mitigating global climate change and its contribution to other economic, environmental and social sustainability challenges.”

An important result documented in this report is a comparative analysis of the life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 10 electric power generating technologies. The IAEA authors note that:

“By comparing the GHG emissions of all existing and future energy technologies, this section (of the report) demonstrates that nuclear power provides energy services with very few GHG emissions and is justifiably considered a low carbon technology.

In order to make an adequate comparison, it is crucial to estimate and aggregate GHG emissions from all phases of the life cycle of each energy technology. Properly implemented life cycle assessments include upstream processes (extraction of construction materials, processing, manufacturing and power plant construction), operational processes (power plant operation and maintenance, fuel extraction, processing and transportation, and waste management), and downstream processes (dismantling structures, recycling reusable materials and waste disposal).”

The results of this comparative life cycle GHG analysis appear in Figure 5 of this report, which is reproduced below (click on the graphic to enlarge):

IAEA Climate Change & Nuclear Power

You can see that nuclear power has lower life cycle GHG emissions that all other generating technologies except hydro. It also is interesting to note how effective carbon dioxide capture and storage could be in reducing GHG emissions from fossil power plants.

You can download a pdf copy of this report for free on the IAEA website at the following link:


For a link to a similar 2015 report by The Brattle Group, see my post dated 8 July 2015, “New Report Quantifies the Value of Nuclear Power Plants to the U.S. Economy and Their Contribution to Limiting Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.”

It is noteworthy that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was issued in 2015, fails to give appropriate credit to nuclear power as a clean power source. For more information on this matter see my post dated 2 July 2015,” EPA Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule Does Not Adequately Recognize the Role of Nuclear Power in Greenhouse Gas Reduction.”

In contrast to the EPA’s CPP, New York state has implemented a rational Clean Energy Standard (CES) that awards zero-emissions credits (ZEC) that favor all technologies that can meet specified emission standards. These credits are instrumental in restoring merchant nuclear power plants in New York to profitable operation and thereby minimizing the likelihood that the operating utilities will retire these nuclear plants early for financial reasons. For more on this subject, see my post dated 28 July 2016, “The Nuclear Renaissance is Over in the U.S.”  In that post, I noted that significant growth in the use of nuclear power will occur in Asia, with use in North America and Europe steady or declining as older nuclear power plants retire and fewer new nuclear plants are built to take their place.

An updated projection of worldwide use of nuclear power is available in the 2016 edition of the IAEA report, “Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050.” You can download a pdf copy of this report for free on the IAEA website at the following link:


Combining the information in the two IAEA reports described above, you can get a sense for what parts of the world will be making greater use of nuclear power as part of their strategies for reducing GHG emissions. It won’t be North America or Europe.

U.S. Global (Climate) Change Research Program Plan Update

It used to be called “global warming”, then came “global climate change.” Now it seems that the simpler, but less informative term “global change” has become the politically-correct variant. National Academies Press (NAP) has just published the final document, “Review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Update to the Strategic Plan Document.”

image  Source: NAP

The NAP abstract states:

“The Update to the Strategic Plan (USP) is a supplement to the Ten-Year Strategic Plan of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) completed in 2012. The Strategic Plan sets out a research program guiding thirteen federal agencies in accord with the Global Change Research Act of 1990. This report reviews whether USGCRP’s efforts to achieve its goals and objectives, as documented in the USP, are adequate and responsive to the Nation’s needs, whether the priorities for continued or increased emphasis are appropriate, and if the written document communicates effectively, all within a context of the history and trajectory of the Program.”

You might find this interesting reading. If you have a MyNAP account, you can download a PDFs copy of this report for free at the following link:


You can download the 2011 report, “Review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Strategic Plan,” at the following link:


Draw your own conclusions on how this updated plan implements science and politics.

Science is not Driving the Climate Change Debate

Thanks to Paul Fleming for sending me a thought provoking, well-documented paper entitled, “Global Warming and the Irrelevance of Science,” which was posted online on 17 February 2016 by Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences (Emeritus) Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This paper is the text of a lecture delivered on 20 August 2015 to the 48th Session: Erice International Seminars on Planetary Emergencies.

The basic premise of this paper is that, in many fields such as climate research, governments have a monopoly on the support of scientific research, and, through government-funded research contracts, influence the outcome of the very research being funded.

Lindzen starts his paper by observing that,

“Unfortunately, as anticipated by Eisenhower in his farewell speech from January 17, 1961 (the one that also warned of the military-industrial complex), ‘Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.’

Rather, the powers that be invent the narrative independently of the views of even cooperating scientists. It is, in this sense, that the science becomes irrelevant.”

Lindzen uses the term “iron triangle” to describe this closed-loop vicious cycle:

  • Vertex 1: Scientists perform research and make meaningless or ambiguous statements about the research (IPCC WG1)
  • Vertex 2: Advocates and media ‘translate’ these statements into alarmist declarations [IPCC WG2 (impacts) & WG3 (mitigation), some politicians]
  • Vertex 3: Politicians respond to alarm by feeding more money to the scientists in the first vertex

The net result is poor environmental decision-making that is not supportable by credible climate science. On this matter, Lindzen notes:

“The situation may have been best summarized by Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia (a center of concern for global warming): “To state that climate change will be ‘catastrophic’ hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions, which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science.”

Lindzen characterized the following three different narratives related to the global warming debate:

  • Narrative 1 – IPCC WG1:
    • Broadly supportive of the proposition that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are a serious concern
    • Relatively open about the uncertainties and even contradictions associated with this position
    • Public pronouncements tend to be vague with ample room for denial, carefully avoiding catastrophist hyperbole while also avoiding outright rejection of such hyperbole
  • Narrative 2 – Skeptics:
    • Regard the fact that virtually all models ‘run hot’ (i.e., their projections for the most part greatly exceed observed warming) as strongly supporting the case for low climate sensitivity
    • Generally believe in testing the physics underlying the positive feedbacks in sensitive models rather than averaging models
    • Much more open to the numerous known causes of climate change (including long period ocean circulations, solar variability, impacts of ice, etc.), and do not regard CO2 as the climate’s ultimate ‘control knob’
    • Openly oppose catastrophism
  • Narrative 3 – Political promoters of climate alarm (including IPCC WG2 & WG3, many environmental NGOs and mass media)
    • Emphasize alleged consequences of the worst case scenarios presented by WG1
    • Claim virtually unanimous support
    • It is this narrative for which the science is largely irrelevant.

Lindzen notes that, “Unfortunately, for most people, the third narrative is all they will see.“

You can read Richard S. Lindzen’s complete paper at the following link:


Thanks also to Mike Spaeth for sending me the following link to an informative document entitled, “A Primer on Carbon Dioxide and Climate,” prepared by a recently formed organization known as the CO2 Coalition.


The CO2 Coalition, formed in 2015, represents itself as, “a new and independent, non-profit organization that seeks to engage thought leaders, policy makers, and the public in an informed, dispassionate discussion of how our planet will be affected by CO2 released from the combustion of fossil fuel.” Hopefully, they can help make some headway with the mass media, general public, and politicians that currently are entrenched in Narrative 3. Even cartoonists know that this will be an uphill battle.

Research & critical thinking

Source: http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2016/02/16

New From The National Academies Press

My 14 March 2015 post provided an introduction to The National Academies Press (NAP), which is a very good source for reports and other documents on the following topics:

  • Agriculture
  • Behavioral & social sciences
  • Biographies & autobiographies
  • Biology & life sciences
  • Computers & information technology
  • Conflict & security issues
  • Earth sciences
  • Education
  • Energy & energy conservation
  • Engineering & technology
  • Environment & environmental studies
  • Food & nutrition
  • Health & medicine
  • Industry & labor
  • Mathematics, chemistry & physics
  • Policy for science & technology
  • Space & aeronautics
  • Transportation

Most of the NAP reports can be downloaded for free as pdf files if you establish a MyNAP account. If you haven’t set up such an account, you can do so at the following link:


With this account, you also can get e-mail notifications of new NAP reports.

For those of you who have not set up a MyNAP account, here are several new NAP reports that I found to be interesting.

Infusing Ethics into the Development of Engineers (2016)

Ethical practice in engineering is critical for ensuring public trust in the field and in its practitioners, especially as engineers increasingly tackle international and socially complex problems that combine technical and ethical challenges. This report aims to raise awareness of the variety of exceptional programs and strategies for improving engineers’ understanding of ethical and social issues and provides a resource for those who seek to improve ethical development of engineers at their own institutions.

NAP-infuse engineers  Source: NAP

Reducing the Use of Highly Enriched Uranium in Civilian Research Reactors (2016)

Today, 74 civilian research reactors around the world, including 8 in the U.S., use or are planning to use HEU fuel. In the past decades, many civilian reactors around the world have been either shut down or converted from HEU to low enriched uranium fuel. Despite this progress, the large number of remaining HEU-fueled reactors demonstrates that further progress is needed on a worldwide scale.

Print  Source: NAP

Enhancing Participation in the U.S. Global Change Research Program (2016)

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) is a collection of 13 Federal entities charged by law to assist the U.S. and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change. As the understanding of global change has evolved over the past decades and as demand for scientific information on global change has increased, the USGCRP has increasingly focused on research that can inform decisions to cope with current climate variability and change, to reduce the magnitude of future changes, and to prepare for changes projected over the coming decades.

NAP-global change  Source: NAP

Frontiers of Engineering – Reports on Leading-Edge Engineering from the 2015 Symposium (2016)

This volume presents papers on the following topics covered at the National Academy of Engineering’s 2015 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium:

  • Cyber security and privacy
  • Engineering the search for Earth-like exoplanets
  • Optical and mechanical metamaterials
  • Forecasting natural disasters

NAP-frontiers of engg 2015  Source: NAP

There are many other annual reports in the NAP “Frontiers of Engineering” series, dating back to at least 1997, and covering many other engineering topics.

I hope you’ll take some time and browse the NAP library for documents that are of interest to you. You can start your browsing, without a MyNAP account, at the following link:


Another Record-setting Year for Global Temperature

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) released the results of an analysis by NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that showed that globally-averaged temperature in 2015 was the highest since modern record keeping began in 1880. You can read the NOAA / NASA press release at the following link:


You can download a copy of the more detailed NOAA / NASA briefing at the following link:


The analysis shows that globally-averaged temperature in 2015 exceeded the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 degrees Celsius) and continued a warming trend, as shown in the following graph.

gistemp_graph_2015Source: NASA Goddard

In this graph, the zero on the y-axis is the average temperature for a 30-year period from 1951 to 1980. The trend lines show results for El Niño years (orange), La Niña years (blue), and all years (dashed line). The 2015 globally-averaged temperature was:

  • 57° F (0.87° C) above the 1951 to 1980 30-year (baseline) average, and
  • 62° F (0.90° C) above the 1901 to 2000 100-year (20th century) average

The distribution of global temperatures relative to the 1951 – 80 baseline is shown in the following charts.

NOAA:NASA briefing_1_Jan2016

NOAA:NASA briefing_2_Jan2016Source, both graphics: NOAA / NASA Annual Global Analysis for 2015

The NOAA / NASA press release cited above includes an animation that helps visualize Earth’s long-term warming trend based on data from 1880 to 2015. NOAA / NASA note that phenomena such as El Niño or La Niña, which warm or cool the tropical Pacific Ocean, can contribute to short-term variations in global average temperature. A warming El Niño was in effect for most of 2015

The full 2015 surface temperature data set and the complete methodology used by NOAA / NASA in their analysis are available to the public on the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) webpage at the following link:


The availability of the data and the analytical methodology allows the NOAA / NASA results to be subject to independent scrutiny. I commend NOAA and NASA for their openness in this matter, which will aid in reaching scientific consensus on the NOAA / NASA results.

This behavior by NOAA / NASA is a stark contrast to the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has failed to provide full public access to their underlying data and analytical methodologies and has been criticized for failing to rigorously apply the scientific method in their work. To help understand why the IPCC claim of “scientific consensus” is without merit, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) published the book, “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming,” on 30 November 2015. You can download this document for free at the following link:


To help put this in perspective, I thank cartoonist Wiley Miller for the following timely and insightful cartoon published on 20 January 2016. I challenge you to apply this cartoon to your understanding of the climate change debate.

Cartoon Science_Jan2016Source: San Diego Union Tribune