Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Climate Change Stats and Links

I've been on a climate change jag for a while now. I think it's permanent, meaning lots of information is coming in and it's hard to process it. That's what this blog is for, though, right? A place to put things I don't want to lose but don't know where to file.

One of the key things I'm always trying to figure out is how much CO2 and other greenhouse gases comes from what activity. These two diagrams provide some of the clearest information on that question.

The first represents world output of GHGs in 2000 (click for a readable version):

The second shows U.S. output in 2003:

The only thing wrong with these beautiful charts is that the information is 10 or 12 years old.

Part of the upshot of the first chart was summarized by Jonathan Foley, head of the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, like this on Twitter (@GlobalEcoGuy)

Half of all emissions = CO2 from energy use. Other half = CO2, CH4, N2O, black carbon, O3, etc., from agriculture, land, leaky gas, etc.

Agriculture and land use release more GHGs than any other human economic activity. >> transportation, electricity, industry, ...

Biggest sources: deforestation, methane from cattle and rice, nitrous oxide from overfertilized fields.
Other climate-related posts:
A recent Sunday Pioneer Press had a nice story on a local business installing a large solar array on its roof, and the systems needed to make that work with Xcel Energy's systems. This is the kind of detailed reporting we need if we're going to understand the complexities of system change, as illustrated in Maggie Koerth-Baker's book Before the Lights Go Out. Performance Office Papers, based in Lakeville, a southern suburb of Minneapolis, is a model for turning all of those big flat roofs we've got into something productive.
The [Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association] believes the potential for solar arrays just on public buildings like schools, city halls and public works garages is about 720 megawatts statewide, Lynn Hinkle, director of policy development at MnSEIA, said. That would be more than 55 times larger than the state's total current capacity of 13 megawatts.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado estimates that Minnesota has a maximum potential for about 6,548 megawatts of solar electricity from all of its commercial and industrial rooftops, or roughly half of the total potential solar for all of the state's rooftops. 
But get this on the relative scale of these solar installations compared to our state's coal consumption and the possibilities of wind:
Minnesota has a total solar capacity of a little more than 13 megawatts, an almost infinitesimally tiny fraction of a percent of the state's generating capacity.

Coal represented almost 2 million megawatts of generating capacity in 2010..., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Picture it another way: Earlier this month, a 2,000-kilowatt solar energy array covering an area the size of two football fields went live in southwestern Minnesota near Slayton. The utility-scale project became the state's largest solar photovoltaic array, taking the crown away from Bloomington's Ikea store. [So more than one third of Minnesota's solar capacity is accounted for by just the Ikea and Slayton installations.]

Yet one state-of-the-art wind turbine rated at 2.5 megawatts -- or 2,500 kilowatts -- could immediately eclipse it.
But as Maggie says, the sun doesn't always shine, especially at night, and the wind doesn't always blow. That's where the batteries, distributed hydropower, and thorium reactors come in. But the coal, and as soon as possible the natural gas, has to go.

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