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Big Carbon Cuts Coming

Some simple analysis of the Carbon Dioxide emissions in the UK leads to several pertinent conclusions :-

UK Carbon Dioxide Emissions (Megatonnes) Projection to 2020

This is a simple Excel spreadsheet chart based on data from these sources :-

“Energy trends : March 2009 : URN 09/79a ISSN number: 0308-1222”

In the section starting on Page 19 “Carbon dioxide emissions and
energy consumption in the UK”, another document was linked :-

The last points on the right-hand side of the chart are 34% less than the 1990 figure on the left-hand side. I have assumed that 34% cuts will be required in each sector, evenhandedly.

This is what is recommended by the Climate Change Committee in their December 2008 report :-

“The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) today urged the Government to commit unilaterally to reducing emissions of all greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the UK by at least 34% in 2020 relative to 1990 levels (21% relative to 2005). This should be increased to 42% relative to 1990 (31% relative to 2005) once a global deal to reduce emissions is achieved. The CCC says meeting these targets is necessary to contain the threat of climate change.”

Some thoughts on the meaning of this chart :-

1. In the Power Generation sector, the reduction by 34% looks doable, since between 1996 and 2000, the figure nearly dipped to what the 2020 target shows. I have asked the Department of Energy and Climate Change for reasons for the changes in the Carbon Dioxide emissions over several periods covered by this chart for the power sector. I already know part of the answer : the “dash to gas”, where power generation moved to Natural Gas thermal plant. Also, the Nuclear Power contribution to electricity supply was higher during the period 1996 to 2000 than now. New Nuclear won’t be able to contribute in 2020 (if it ever gets built) because it won’t be ready.

2. The Transport sector cuts look hard : this probably necessitates a real drop in the amount of private and retail road miles. Of note : aviation and shipping emissions are not included in the figures. This means that transport as a whole is very problematic. Don’t expect massive roll out of electric vehicles by 2020 : particularly since there probably won’t be the extra electricity supplies to power them. And if there were extra electricity supplies provided by then, they would need to be Zero Carbon, or the Power sector Carbon Budget will be blown.

3. The Domestic energy sector looks problematic, as home emissions have not really changed much since 1990, and people have not changed their attitudes much about Energy Conservation since then.

4. It is probably not possible to ask other sectors to take up the slack for the Transport and Domestic sectors – in other words, real cuts will be necessary in Transport and Domest (home) energy – of the order of 35% for home energy (since it hasn’t altered much) but closer to 40% for Transport.

5. There is no way by 2020 that Carbon Capture and Storage facilities could be available in sufficient quantity to contribute to emissions cuts from the Power sector. The Carbon Cuts in the Power sector probably have to be done through demand destruction.

6. The emissions cuts in Transport and the Domestic arena imply problems with the “economic growth paradigm”, and imply a much lower Carbon life than imagined so far.

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