Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Does Africa Need Telephone Poles

Eli, being Eli, has been excessively annoyed by the trolls at the Breakdown Institute.  True, they are excellent trolls, whose mission in life is to demand the impossible and denigrate the possible, a tried and true tactic if your purpose is to block all progress and, indeed they do appear to be prospering.

But never mind.  If you really must, go read their twitter blather.  Eli enjoys trolling the trolls a bit, and you might too.

However, the real point of this post is to point out that thanks to modern progress there now are cell phones which have made it possible to erect a functioning telecommunications, entertainment, information and banking systems in very rural and very poor areas including the megaslums of third world cities.  Eli would venture so far as to say that we have tools to electrify about every hut on the planet, if, by that you mean a light or two, a cell phone, and smart cell phones are pretty much mainframe computers compared to mainframe computers in the 1970s (remember the 1401 JohnM, first computer Eli ever programmed).  As anybunny walking through the streets or fields knows there is all sorts of educational and entertaining stuff that can be seen through small screens and if you must have a computer there is always as Raspberry PI.

White LEDs and even compact fluorescents have brought down the amount of energy that has to be generated for lighting, and lighting is no small part of what makes life worth living (ask Abraham Lincoln) and of energy use.  That Nobel Prize was well deserved.  Maybe even some refrigeration.  Refrigerators, insulation and compressors have become more effective and there might even be nanohelp for thermoelectrics.  A small solar array, a small windmill, maybe a bigger village windmill and a couple of storage batteries is the way to the good, or at least much better, life.

Which brings Eli to the point, the point, or rather points that one can read in an IEA report on energy use and needs and Africa.  In dense urban areas and even between then telephone poles carrying power from a central distribution system can be the most economical.  However, Eli senses a certain optimism that in very poor areas those poles and the wires on them are going to stay up for long, a point that the report itself makes in describing oil harvesting in the Niger Delta.

Still, once you have to put up a long line to reach a small village, things change radically


and the graph on the left shows by how much.  The graph on the right has a more interesting point for the Lomborg's of the world, who are claiming that Africa needs coal (like a hole in the head, sub-Saharan Africa will be hit harder by climate change than any other area, and even Tol agrees on that, as does just about every other IAM purveyor).  The major cost per MWh of fossil fuel is the cost of the fuel.  The amount of capital needed to build the generator is less than 5% or so.  However, for solar PV, small hydro, and small wind capital costs are more than ~80% of the cost of power, operating costs are maybe the other 20%.  Even now solar and wind are less expensive than fossil fuel, and they will be much less so in the future.  They are orders of magnitude more deployable and not as subject to mayhem.  Moreover, efficient modern lighting, telecommunications, cooling, other conveniences and necessities don't have large power draws.

That means that if anyone, are you there Bjorn, how about you Michael Shellenberger, really wanted to help Africa electrify they would be pushing investment by the developed countries to provide cheap to operate solar PV, small hydro and small wind to African communities, not coal and fossil fuel burning plants with expensive and constant fuel costs and the need of a hard to maintain electrical grid.


81 comments:

David Appell said...

Good post. Another reason Africa will mostly skip fossil fuels for (instead) distributed power, is that fossil fuels require some hefty infrastructure -- pipelines, tanks, and strong roads that can handle wide, heavy trucks carrying in the coal and oil. That might work for some of the bigger cities, but seems unlikely to come about in rural areas. Getting solar panels to each household would immediately change their lives.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

I could see trolling the trolls, that could be informative and entertaining, but twittering a twit like Michael Shellenberger? That would be a colossal wasted effort.

The nano thermoelectrics appear to reaching the breakthrough levels, but I'm guessing the 'Breakthrough Institute' has nothing to do with physics.

Thomas said...

Is there any reason to expect that Africa won't follow the same route of more urbanization as it becomes more wealthy as the rest of the world?

JamieB said...

I've been banging on about this in the comments threads of articles that promote large scale grid deployment of the developing world for a while now. It would be immensely expensive, slow to develop and vulnerable to disruption. But of course it helps to sustain the centralised status quo. Never going to happen.

What are these nano thermoelectrics? Any link? Are they any more efficient than conventional thermoelectrics?

There are some exceptionally efficient DC refrigerators and freezers out there made by companies like Steca, Sunfrost and Sundanzer. They're currently expensive but the technology exists to have fully off grid refrigeration.

Fernando Leanme said...

Eli, the post is ok in general, but you make a mistake by lumping all of sub Saharan Africa. I traveled and worked widely in Africa, and this gave me the "opportunity" to visit both the large urban centers, small cities, villages, and the bush.

Let´s be clear about something: I´m in the energy business. I wasn´t in Africa to deliver medicines or take photographs (although I did both as a side hobby). We wrestled with was government corruption, inefficiency, tribal conflicts, as well as NGO, UN, and financial institution incompetence. I can´t share the material I had at hand, but I can link you to this to give you an insight about the problem sub Saharan Africa faces in general

http://www.worldbank.org/afr/wps/wp97.pdf

See Roman numeral II, page 4.

There you will see that by 2030 sub Saharan Africa´s URBAN population will be over 600 million. The trend is clear, the urban population is increasing, and it will need energy.

I am very familiar with the small hamlets and tiny villages in the middle of nowhere you are thinking about when you write about the two solar panels and the cell phones. That´s going to happen IF they stop corruption, government idiocy and tribal warfare. It´s a natural solution for remote areas. Which by the way can´t afford to refrigerate food. Based on what I saw, the key need is a fridge to store medicines and vaccines, and to run a quality short wave radio they can use to call in troops and medical help (cell phone towers can be knocked out by bad guys but a short wave antena located inside the village on top of the police hut is much easier to defend).

I realize many of you have this dreamy vision of little villages and farming yams in little plots. Those exist, but the population is gradually shifting to towns and cities. This is the ugly reality the tiny solar panels and the cell phone banking doesn´t deal with. Their economy needs industrial scale electricity. This means they will have to build hydroelectric power plants, high tension corridors to the cities, which will be defended by the army if needed, and because there´s insufficient hydropower they will demand something else.

And that something else won´t be wind turbines or solar power unless the costs come way down. They are either going to burn coal or their economy will be shot to hell, they´ll have wars, waves of refugees, ebola, you name it.

Or they´ll be getting subsidized nuclear power. Which means you will have to deal with the safety issues, incuding what to do when spent fuel rods disappear.

Nick Barnes said...

But Fernando, the costs of solar and wind *have* come way down. Didn't you notice? LCOE for sub-Saharan solar PV, hydro, and wind are now around $100/MWh, which is very similar to (subsidised) coal, (subsidised) nukes, and (subsidised) gas.

JamieB said...

Fernando, grids and centralised power certainly make sense for already large and growing cities because of the density of customers but Shellenberger's view is that universal grid electricity in Africa is possible:

https://twitter.com/MichaelBTI/status/522477257286111232

In 2011 in sub-saharan africa just over a third of the population was considered urban dwellers according to the UN. And the graph you link to shows that there will still be half of the population classified as rural so that's still a massive proportion who are difficult and expensive to reach by grid electricity.

Cities will grow and rural populations will decrease slowly but these countries need development and energy now and decentralised energy has the potential to reach those rural populations much more quickly and at lower cost.

But as Eli points out TBI just can't bring themselves to promote decentralised energy as a solution and insist that grid electricity is the way forwards for everyone.

BBD said...

Horses for courses.

Fernando Leanme said...

Jamie, it won´t be "universal grid" electricity. It will have to be tiny centers to generate very small amounts of electricity.

I suspect there´s a place for very small hydropower as well. My great grandparents did extremely well in Cuba when their grandson built a tiny dam and hooked up a generator to it (I think it was about 2kw). They used the electricity for the large refrigerator she put in her country store. She used ice to make ice cream, and later expanded to a pharmacy. Eventually they sent one of their grandchildren to study medicine, one to study nursing, and another to be a veterinarian.

thefordprefect said...

No one has mentioned water!

If you have thermal power stations you need cooling water, you need clean water for steam - some gets recycled but there is always loss. - certainly not convenient if you do not live near a constantly running river.

A 3MWh/year (in UK more in equatorial contries) off grid system costs about £8K
http://pureenergycentre.com/4kw-solar-pv-offgrid-kit/

This is more than I use for computer, TV, gadgets, cooking, kettle, and would therefore provide lighting / refrigeration / phone charging/ water boiling, for a number of houses.

Now just say who is going to give the POOR the money to purchase the lights/fridge/phone/kettle (and the books/food etc. that goes with this)?
The poor are really poor, which the likes of watts and co do not realise.

willard said...

A blast from the past:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/

Clean, clean coal.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

What are these nanothermoelectrics?

I could try to explain it to you but it would be a waste of my time (and heat) and so I will just refer to you my blog. The field is developing very rapidly, beyond just the nanostructuring paper that was published ten years ago now.

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on Big Wind?

http://ltwp.co.ke

300MW of grid-connected wind turbines beside Lake Turkana. A private consortium has been planning it for at least ten years. It was to have been finished by about now but approval for the 420km grid connector is still pending and work hasn't even started on the 200km strengthened road needed to transport the turbines etc. EU and US development bodies are backing it with hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, grants and guarantees but the World Bank pulled out in 2012 saying that the terms granted to the consortium by the Kenyan govt were too generous and would impose unreasonable costs on consumers (sounds familiar) and that the grid connection wouldn't be ready in time.

Or on Big Hydro?

The WB's long-term plan is apparently to get so much hydro built in Ethiopia and the DRC that they can electrify the whole region. Three months before it did its Turkana U-turn it announced backing for the construction of a transmission line connecting Kenya and Ethiopia. This was seen by some as indirect support for a controversial new hydro dam, Gibe III, that, among other things, might cut the volume of water held in Lake Turkana by as much as half, which would lower its level by 20m, thereby cutting it in two and making the detached southern half too saline to be drinkable (or so says one study). The WB withdrew direct support for Gibe III in 2008, which was when it started supporting the Turkana project. Perhaps it withdrew support from the latter because it thought of a way of resuming support for the former.

Or perhaps it just thought that the Turkana scheme is a bit nuts. It does have a touch of the Fitzcarraldo about it. One of the main investors (or 'founding fathers', as they call themselves) says that the project will 'fulfil his lifetime dream'. An ex-pat horticulturalist's dream of building a giant windfarm in a sand-blasted and sometimes violent region hundreds of miles from major populations might not be the best guide to expanding a nation's energy infrastructure.

Vinny Burgoo (who isn't big on ambition so might be the wrong person to judge such dreams)

Anonymous said...

Why don't you ugly americans leave is alone?

Fernando Leanme said...

What a coincidence! This morning I wrote a travel story for an English student to translate from Spanish to english. I picked lake Turkana and the Chalbi.

The lake has a gorgeous volcanic cone at the souther tip, and an island with a volcano in the middle, towards the southern part.

That area has suffered raids of armed gangs coming in from Sudan, the eastern Chalbi gets Somali raiders.

So what's their new plan? String power lines to Nairobi? And then? The wind power will suffer from intermittency. And they lack natural gas turbines to back up wind. See what I meant?

Anonymous said...

What Africa (or specific countries in Africa) needs most right now (as in immediately) is a major effort (doctors, nurses, medical resources) to stop the spread of Ebola and treat those who have already contracted it.

The US is treating it more as a security threat (sending troops) than as a major health problem.


- Jim

Anonymous said...

Bugger the Sudanese and Somalis. It's the Hamar from Omo I'd worry about. They have very unusual, er, manhood rituals.

Vinny Burgoo

Hank Roberts said...

Hey, remember, you need these long straight line rights of way established to profit from terminating the natural world.

All those ecosystem services are free -- and big business can't compete with free. They must be decimated before the remainder has any market value.

Ask any whale.

If it weren't for the railroad and telegraph lines, North America would still be covered with bison and tallgrass prairie and most of its fossil carbon and ores unextracted. And they'd have solar power, telecom, and be organized to defend themselves and their neighbors. They'd be rich, locally, in things money can't buy.

Just think of all the potential profit to be made by stripmining and clearcutting Africa.

But first you need to break up the ecosystems, make easy access that will let the market hunters in. Passenger pigeon, anyone? Yum!).

The vision of little self-sufficient areas full of people who get ecosystem services free and maintain them, and don't have to buy everything from big businesses makes the breakdown people cry.

Add in solar power and telecom and rapid responses from the larger services people can provide by organizing government democractically (education, medicine, police protection instead of population control) and you threaten not only the market money model but the whole plutocracy.

Whaddayou, some kind of people-firster?

Breaking up the forest with long straight line rights-of-way is how business wins.

Russell Seitz said...

The good news about African Poles-wise, is that palaeomagnetometrists have discovered another one.

hvw said...

The energy industry has just plagiarized from Breakthru, Jr & Co all heartbreaking Africa rhetoric and how only fossil fuels provide wealth, health, freedom and good sex. Well, ok, maybe they paid for it.

Fernando Leanme said...

I continue to see a tendency to see sub Saharan Africa as a single monolithic entity. Whenever you think about these places, try to consider the fine grained detail. Let me try a couple of reverse examples to show you how it works:


"Europeans don´t know how to cook, when I visited Arbedeen I found the local cuisine was tasteless".

"North Americans seem to be very fond of a violent sport called hockey, which I saw them play while visiting Edmonton, Alberta".

J Bowers said...

Speaking of Richard Tol.

IPCC corrects claim suggesting climate change would be good for the economy

"Controversial statement, that was based on faulty data taken from a report by economist Richard Tol, has been removed from the final version of the report"

As they say, science is self-correcting ;)

J Bowers said...

And the sweet Dr Tol decides to get down and dirty below the line to a not so gullible readership.

BBD said...

Bob Ward has done much he can be proud of recently. Forcing the GWPF to bifurcate into fake educational charity and not-even-bothering-to-hide-it misinformation machine was a coup too.

J Bowers said...

Hilarious how Tol calls Ward (reward) a liar, too.

BBD said...

Side-splitting.

:-)

Toll has burned through an awful lot of credibility in the last 12 months.

BBD said...

That should be 'Tol', of course.

I'm getting cross-talk from Donne:

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Listen up, RT.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

The Breakthrogh boys had an op-ed about LED lighting in the NYT the other day. The reactions were none to complementary.

Anonymous said...

Preliminary estimates of grid coverage versus household connections in five African countries:

http://www.cgdev.org/blog/shedding-new-light-grid-debate-power-africa-countries

'...if our rough estimates are even remotely accurate, then the much argued need for leapfrogging over traditional grid structures may reflect ideological ambitions more than real world opportunities for promoting access at a grand scale.'

Vinny Burgoo

Fernando Leanme said...

The revised Richard Tol paper confirms there´s a net economic benefit for a worldwide surface temperature increase of 1 degree C. It also show there´s no negative impact vis a vis pre industrial until temperature rises 1.2 degrees C.

If we were to plot the current status (about 0.8 degrees above pre industrial), then we would see the plot shows we can increase 0.2 degrees and gain a benefit. Given the current surface warming trend, which I expect to continue for another 15 to 20 years, we should be in plus territory at least until 2030 to 2035. After 2035 things get a bit iffier.

However, I also project by that time the lack of oil will have taken a large bite in CO2 emissions, due to increasing prices.

So I guess we´ll just bumble along, in a large scale version of what we have done bumbling along with the Ebola epidemic, the Middle East conflict, and so on.

turboblocke said...

FL: linky please.

EliRabett said...

Tol never really explains how he got that. Frank Ackerman pointed out rather convincingly that it comes from wild optimism about agricultural production.

Indeed, Ackerman's analysis shows that it is optimism but ignorance and hand waving on Tol's part.

Try again.

J Bowers said...

FL -- "However, I also project "

So you're modelling without showing your working out. Tut tut. Mental model, or a very mental model?

Marion Delgado said...

The Breakthrough Institute NEVER did ANYTHING for environmental health and safety, for conservation of any kind, or for any ecology, anywhere. They explicitly called for the death of environmentalism, and they've leveraged right-wing think tanks and pseudoscience to that end. If they're not the enemy, no one is. We might as well jump on Marc Morano's PR express to hell.

Marion Delgado said...

The Breakthrough Institute NEVER did ANYTHING for environmental health and safety, for conservation of any kind, or for any ecology, anywhere. They explicitly called for the death of environmentalism, and they've leveraged right-wing think tanks and pseudoscience to that end. If they're not the enemy, no one is. We might as well jump on Marc Morano's PR express to hell.

David B. Benson said...

No, Africa does not require telephone poles.

Russell Seitz said...

How soon does your station stop at the next PR express to hell?

Fernando Leanme said...

Turbo, check the relevant IPCC graphs being discussed. The revised version shows there´s a net benefit yet to be achieved (it shows a benefit up to 0.2 degrees C beyond today´s temperature).

Eli, Tol´s work for the IPCC was a metanalysis. Regarding the work different groups perform to understand climate change economic impacts, you would have to start by reading their papers.

I´ve gone a bit beyond that and read over their model manuals/descriptions, and it seems to me the whole issue is like shooting darts while wearing a blindfold. So all I can do is consider today´s status (at 0.8 degrees higher temperature), and compare it to what existed 1750 years ago.

A gross comparison of conditions in 1750 to today is pretty hard to do. But I can´t find any proof whatsoever that we are worse off.

Fernando Leanme said...

Tol´s 2009 essay

http://aida.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/documents/Tol_impacts_JEP_2009.pdf

Enjoy

Mitch said...

Even if there is an economic benefit for another 0.2 degrees of warming, we have roughly 15 years before the benefit dissipates. Is there any real data on agriculture in Africa that can see through political disruption? I would bet that this estimate is overoptimistic

BBD said...

FL

At it again:

A gross comparison of conditions in 1750 to today is pretty hard to do. But I can´t find any proof whatsoever that we are worse off.

Tol's error-riddled and rejected analyses incorrectly claimed to find a small net benefit for slight warming. This is now admitted to be a net economic deficit.

Not that a little bit one way or the other matters in the serious, non-troll version of this conversation, which focusses on the ever-increasing economic (and ecological) damages that accrue as warming approaches and then exceeds 2C.

There is no doubt whatsoever that economic and ecological damage will be massive if warming is permitted to continue unchecked, so we return to the necessity for emissions control policy.

turboblocke said...

So all I can do is consider today´s status (at 0.8 degrees higher temperature), and compare it to what existed 1750 years ago.

A gross comparison of conditions in 1750 to today is pretty hard to do. But I can´t find any proof whatsoever that we are worse off.


LOL where the heck are you coming from? That's one of the most inane statements I've ever seen.

I jumped off the 25th floor and haven't suffered any harm from falling 20 floors so I'm not worried about falling the next five...

Russell Seitz said...

Come to think of it , why would any PR express be boud for heaven ?

Anonymous said...

Anon(1)

@Fernando

Traditionally, urbanisation is the result of the desire to get work and the benefits of a centralised city.

This new technology can slow down the move to urbanisation.

Fernando Leanme said...

Turbo, the revised IPCC report does indicate there's a slight benefit at this time. You could try questioning the studies. Or you could point out the current temperature hasn't stabilized therefore we are on our way to a slight improvement and in 10 to 20 years we start heading downhill...but your comments resemble more a "cover the ears, close the eyes and sing la la la" posture.

Anonymous is right, anything which improves rural conditions slows down migration to the cities. But rural poverty isn't solved until their harvests receive better prices. This in turns requires increased costs for the urban population. Politically this doesn't seem to be viable.

The problem is compounded by "food aid" by NGOs and governments which dump food and cause economic hardship for farmers. The aid is misguided and causes migration to the cities. Which leads to cities needing large coal burning plants to generate electricity. See how screwed up it is?

BBD said...

Oh look. Fernando just skipped right over the comment that refutes his rubbish.

That's a big tell, Fernando.

Fernando Leanme said...

Bbd, I didn't skip over the comment. I happen to agree with a lot of it. I just introduced the idea that Africa's population is urbanizing. They expect industrial scale generation delivered at low cost for an additional 300 million urban dwellers.

You know I happen to participate here because I think you are people with good intentions who care. But I am beaten down by experience and have a lot of real life know how most of you lack. If I bring up painful visions it's only to make you more realistic. It will also give your arguments a strength they lack.

And so here we are, africans want cheap energy, and some of it can't be delivered by renewables. So do you propose to build nuclear plants in Somalia? How do you solve this riddle?

EliRabett said...

As Ackerman pointed out Tol's meta analysis was a meta analysis mostly of Tol and old Tol at that, with a bit of Nordhaus thrown in.

The single Tol outlier allowed Tol to wave his hands and claim that there is a useful non-linear fit to be had that banana's up from zero.

Nonsense, it does not even pass the giggle test.

Anonymous said...

Second try, a few days later:

Preliminary estimates of grid coverage versus household connections in five African countries:

http://www.cgdev.org/blog/shedding-new-light-grid-debate-power-africa-countries

'...if our rough estimates are even remotely accurate, then the much argued need for leapfrogging over traditional grid structures may reflect ideological ambitions more than real world opportunities for promoting access at a grand scale.'

Vinny Burgoo

BBD said...

Fernando

Bbd, I didn't skip over the comment.

Yes you did and you have just done it again. Where is you admission that Tol's stuff is crap and you were wrong to trumpet it upthread? Where is that? Nowhere.

You are a case study in bad faith.

But I am beaten down by experience and have a lot of real life know how most of you lack.

Stop the telepathy and self-aggrandising bullshit.

So do you propose to build nuclear plants in Somalia?

No. This is yet another in your shambling army of strawmen.

BBD said...

Vinny

My earliest comment on this thread was simply:

Horses for courses.

Connect homes to existing grids wherever possible. Increase hydro and natural gas powered generation capacity (recommended by your own source) but not coal. Provide rural SPV where the grid coverage is absent and extension isn't economical or technically feasible.

AND reduce emissions in developed economies as rapidly as possible at the same time. You want international fairness? - then get behind that to create some development space for Africa.

Fernando Leanme said...

Tol´s studies aren´t "crap". They were used by the IPCC. Furthermore, it seems experts in this field are quite rare, therefore it seems most scientists and economists have thrown up their hands and refuse to develop their careers in an area which seems to be such a mine field.

The use of natural gas to generate electricity in Africa would seem to be a no brainer. However, gas requires reservoirs, and those aren´t that common in continental Africa (it has the wrong geology). Natural gas pipelines cost a lot of money and the politics in Africa is usually really violent. Therefore the effort should be made to try to help individual countries one by one. Nigeria seems to be a prime target, but it´s incredibly corrupt, and it suffers from ethnic strife.

Somebody got their hair standing on end when I mentioned nuclear plants in Somalia. OK, so what do you think if the World Bank were to finance nuclear plants in Uganda? Congo? Kenya? Take your pick and tell us how you would build 6 nuclear power plants in these countries and what you think about the safety issues the plant operations may entail.

BBD said...

Tol´s studies aren´t "crap". They were used by the IPCC.

Ha ha. Keep up. Read this.

Stop pushing Tol. It makes you look stupid.

BBD said...

The use of natural gas to generate electricity in Africa would seem to be a no brainer. However, gas requires reservoirs, and those aren´t that common in continental Africa (it has the wrong geology).

So the >IEA is wrong is it? Or perhaps you are full of shit.

Somebody got their hair standing on end when I mentioned nuclear plants in Somalia. OK, so what do you think if the World Bank were to finance nuclear plants in Uganda? Congo? Kenya? Take your pick and tell us how you would build 6 nuclear power plants in these countries and what you think about the safety issues the plant operations may entail.

And once again, you skip right over my comment and continue to wave your strawman in my face.

It's fucking rude, Fernando.




Anonymous said...

BBD sure spends a lot of time replying fellow he considers to be a "waste of time"

Carry on.

BBD said...

Vinny

Thank you for drawing my attention to the Center for Global Development.

I noticed that it has produced a working paper entitled: Another Inconvenient Truth: A Carbon-Intensive South Faces Environmental Disaster, No Matter What the North Does - Working Paper 134

This is highly relevant to the thread and your position. From the summary:

As a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, developed countries (the North) have an indisputable responsibility to address global warming. But many developing countries (the South) and their advocates embrace an additional principle: As ostensibly blameless victims of climate change, poorer countries should be unfettered by emissions regulations and left alone to develop along a carbon-fueled path for decades into the future. In this CGD working paper, senior fellow David Wheeler and research assistant Kevin Ummel empirically test that assertion and come to a startling conclusion: The South would soon face a climate crisis even if the North and all its emissions had never existed.

With the best available data on historical carbon emissions in hand, Wheeler and Ummel use a carbon cycle model to translate cumulative emissions from the North and South into their respective concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Using scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to project Southern emissions into the future, they find that a carbon-intensive, isolated South would witness unequivocal global warming, widespread glacial and polar melting, and a rising sea level by 2040 at the latest. And by 2060, atmospheric carbon dioxide would pass critical thresholds that the IPCC associates with large, irreversible impacts on developing countries. Even in the world spared the historical and future emissions of the North, a carbon-intensive South would undermine its own development long before reaching prosperity.

Wheeler and Ummel conclude that the conventional wisdom is dangerously misguided. For its own sake, the South and its advocates must recognize this hard truth, accept the necessity of serious, immediate mitigation, and embark on a low-carbon development path with the assistance of the North.

Fernando Leanme said...

BBD, the Guardian´s comment is incorrect. The actual IPCC data confirms the following finding: it is likely we are enjoying a net benefit. The fact that the IPCC is editing out lines doesn´t mean they edit everything, the plots show my contention. What did happen does tell us the IPCC is controlled by individuals who fail to follow IPCC rules (such as keeping an open record of changes, errata, etc). This tells me the IPCC reports are unreliable and do have to be checked over carefully.

The point about the current condition being positive (meaning global warming has been a plus to date) is reasonable. Whether the studies themselves are sturdy and offer solid support can be questioned. I suggest you do stick to the material at hand (such as the Tol report I showed) rather than non peer reviewed Guardian articles written by rank greenhorns.

However, if you want a non peer reviewed article to read, I suggest the following:

http://21stcenturysocialcritic.blogspot.com.es/2014/10/nuclear-plants-construction-proposal.html

It is a rather sardonic comment on the Africa energy issue, and takes us back to Eli´s original post.

Lotharsson said...

No, Tol's studies aren't crap, just ... full of problems as pointed out here by Ward (which he specifically cited at that recent Guardian thread in response to Tol who claimed that Ward's only contribution was to correct a value of 4.9 to 4.8).

Touting Tol's work seems now to be quite a risky business. You wouldn't want to do something as foolish as bet your last ecosystem on it.

BBD said...

Fernando

Bob Ward's article in the Guardian is *not* incorrect.

Why are you doing this to yourself? You already look bad enough. You just cannot admit that your entire posi9tion is hopelessly confused and largely wrong, can you?

Which is why every time you are shown to be wrong you either deliberately and obviously ignore the correction or continue with further misrepresentations (I'm being charitable in my choice of word, here).

If this were a moderated comments section, you would be long gone by now. You need to understand that.

BBD said...

Lotharsson

No, Tol's studies aren't crap, just ... full of problems

Tol's work is full of gremlins.

BBD said...

Lotharsson

Whoops: missed the link.

Gremlins... :-)

Lotharsson said...

"The actual IPCC data confirms the following finding: it is likely we are enjoying a net benefit...the plots show my contention."

If you're talking about the figure that Tol touts (as he just did on that Guardian thread) then that's only "true" provided that you ignore the rather heavy caveats on the study - also by Tol - that was the basis for the single point on the plot that is above the line. (And to Tol's credit the underlying study points many of these out. But the limitations tend to get a lot less attention in the study that attempts to aggregate multiple studies which suits some parties - and which you have beautifully illustrated. Also, you'd be a fool to draw conclusions from the plot I saw which had no uncertainty intervals, but maybe the IPCC figure had them and Tol curiously didn't cite that version on that thread.)

And if a single heavily caveated study provides the only suggestion that we might be enjoying a "net benefit", then the plot isn't showing a net benefit per se, it's showing a positive value in a metric defined by totting up a few measures that we reckon we can measure and ignoring all of the others because we can't and dubbing it "net benefit".

In the real world, that's not the same thing at all.

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you can end up modelling everything as a nail. If you do that then a screw looks like a really poor nail even in cases where it is much better for the task at hand - or would be if only you knew about the thing called "a screwdriver".

BBD said...

Before we get trolled again, let's just remind ourselves what the non-troll version of this conversation looks like:

"Not that a little bit [of economic impact] one way or the other matters in the serious, non-troll version of this conversation, which focusses on the ever-increasing economic (and ecological) damages that accrue as warming approaches and then exceeds 2C.

There is no doubt whatsoever that economic and ecological damage will be massive if warming is permitted to continue unchecked, so we return to the necessity for emissions control policy."

BBD on 20/10/14 10:17 AM

That's what Fernando will not acknowledge or discuss.

EliRabett said...

IEHO just about all of Tol's work is freakonomics bullshit, about a swamp ocean deep with wide and wild claims that can be exposed if anybunny bothers to look.

Of course, Richard is truly excellent at the press release game.

John Mashey said...

WSJ OPEds: no.
WSJ reporting on energy, sometimes good.
Hacker, Terrorist Threats Spur Bases to Build Power Grids i.e., local grids, with as much renewable as they can get.

"Increasingly, the Pentagon wants power from its own sources. Solar panels, for example, have become almost as common on bases as flagpoles. Photovoltaic panels provide nearly a quarter of the electricity at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. The panels already save the base about $1 million a year, said Jeffrey Blazi, base energy manager, and a proposed expansion would double the output."

"Of particular concern, the report said, was the U.S. electrical system’s reliance on large transformers—usually housed at remote electrical substations—which send electricity across long distances. “Largely unprotected,” the report said, “they can be easily targeted and destroyed,” leading to blackouts that could last months or years."

That's in US. Of course, widespread grids in Africa would be a lot safer.
Maybe not. (SA)
Maybe not. (Nigeria)
Maybe not. (Kenya) ...
(Of course, US has some of this, too, so one doesn't have to await hackers or terrorists.)

Vinny Burgoo said...

BBD, my position is, on the face of it, the same as yours: horses for courses. The 2007 CGD paper you pointed at does nothing to undermine that. Where climate change is a trivial concern compared to other problems (e.g. in Nord-Kivu) and the extraction or use of fossil fuels could help tackle those other problems then fossil fuels make sense.

BBD said...

Vinny

Where climate change is a trivial concern compared to other problems (e.g. in Nord-Kivu) and the extraction or use of fossil fuels could help tackle those other problems then fossil fuels make sense.

Not according to your preferred source. It is very clear:

Wheeler and Ummel conclude that the conventional wisdom is dangerously misguided. For its own sake, the South and its advocates must recognize this hard truth, accept the necessity of serious, immediate mitigation, and embark on a low-carbon development path with the assistance of the North.

Your source, remember. No carbon infrastructure. Are you saying that you disagree with your own source?

Fernando Leanme said...

Maybe you should create a corporation to build wind turbine parks in Congo.

EliRabett said...

Much better to form an organization to build small turbines for small villages and houses in Africa.

Fernando you appear to miss the point. Large wind parks will not help rural settlements in poor countries.

Pekka Pirilä said...

I have also spent some time in Africa going around and discussing with both locals, representatives of World Bank and several countries providing development aid as well as people working in the energy projects. Most of my visits were before mobile phones had reached those areas, but on the latest visits I have seen, how radical their effect is. Now a peasant farmer can make many important contacts without the need of walking kilometers (or more) to the closest village. Led lights have an comparable effect. Solar panels and perhaps also small wind turbines provide the necessary power for that.

Another need that is common, is energy needed in economic activities like for power tools. In many cases the same generation technologies that suffice for led lights and charging the mobile phones are not good for that. We were looking at the possibilities of building mini-hydro, but the potential of that was found to be very limited.

Small Diesel powered generators remain often the only realistic alternative at locations far from the main grid in spite of the cost of their fuel and maintenance. Solar panels and batteries may become the choice when their cost has come down, but at the present the combined cost may still be too high.

Another problem that I met was the cost of capital for local investors. In the country I visited they have potential also for larger hydro plants, but funding them appeared to be a problem. There were plans to involve private investors from wealthier countries but the conditions for such participation were highly unfavorable to the African country in my judgment. My last visit took place five years ago, and I don't know, how the projects have gone forward since.

JamieB said...

David Roberts has two thoughtful pieces on this very subject up on Grist now:

http://grist.org/food/how-can-we-get-power-to-the-poor-without-frying-the-planet/
http://grist.org/climate-energy/how-can-we-get-power-to-the-worlds-poor-fastest

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Small Diesel powered generators remain often the only realistic alternative at locations far from the main grid in spite of the cost of their fuel and maintenance. Solar panels and batteries may become the choice when their cost has come down, but at the present the combined cost may still be too high.

From this statement alone I can determine that you have no skill and no experience in this area.

Anonymous said...

From this statement alone I can determine that you have no skill and no experience in this area.

And from your statement alone, Thomas, the rest of us can determine that you are an arrogant twit.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Right, but this arrogant twit has experience in both diesel generators and also wind and solar installed and operated in remote locations. Not just walking around asking questions of the locals and supporting my confirmation biases, but actually installing and operating the equipment.

The statement he made is ludicrous.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

And really, since when does an anonymous commenter speak for 'the rest of us'. Not that is laughable.

Your authoritarian tendencies are showing.

Anonymous said...

"Not that is laughable"

Now that is laughable.

BBD said...

Now, now.

Pekka describes the present. TLE is thinking about the immediate future.

They can both be correct if we assume that technological development didn't stop dead sometime earlier this year.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

Actually, solar and wind surpassed diesel in cost, environmental friendlyness and installational and operational efficiency and maintenence in remote locations decades ago. What Pikka has done essentially is based his opinion on a poll, rather than empirical evidence.

Not that is laughable.

Excuse me that Google Blogspot does not have an comment edit feature.

I have called your BS and raised you a Dunning Krugerrand.

BBD said...

TLE

Actually, solar and wind surpassed diesel in cost, environmental friendlyness and installational and operational efficiency and maintenence in remote locations decades ago.

Then ultimately they will displace diesel.

Thomas Lee Elifritz said...

The villagers are very slow to change their ways even in the face of overwhelming evidence, as Pikka has describe in his villager polls.

Pikka suffers from the same problem.

bilal sabir ali said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.