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Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Climate Change and Energy in the 21st Century

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One of the most important issues facing humanity today is the prospect of global climate change, brought about primarily by our prolific energy use and heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Continuing on our present course using the present mix of fuels as the world economy and population grow will lead to very serious consequences about which there are many claims and counterclaims. This has generated a fog of truths, half truths, and exaggerations, and many people are understandably confused about these issues. The aim of this book is to help dispel the fog, and allow citizens to come to their own conclusions concerning the best options to avert dangerous climate change by switching to a more sustainable energy supply.

Beyond smoke and Mirrors provides an accessible and concise overview of climate change science and current energy demand and supply patterns. It presents a balanced view of how our heavy reliance on fossil fuels can be changed over time so that we have a much more sustainable energy system going forward into the 21st century and beyond. The book is written in a non-technical style, accessible to a wide range of readers without scientific backgrounds: students, policymakers, and concerned citizens.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Review of previous edition: '… a wonderfully balanced overview. It opens with a fine summary of the science linking carbon to climate … provides a concise primer on the economics of long-term climate policy, and concludes with a short, sensible, and well-argued set of opinions and policy recommendations.' Physics Today
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521747813
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2010
  • Pages: 242
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Burton Richter is the Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences, Stanford University and Director Emeritus at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. He is a Nobel Prize-winning physicist for his pioneering work in the discovery of a heavy elementary particle.
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Table of Contents

Preface ix

List of units xi

List of conversion factors xiii

List of abbreviations xv

1 Introduction 1

Part I Climate 7

2 Greenhouse Earth 9

Technical Note 2.1 The science of the greenhouse effect 13

3 Climate modeling 16

3.1 Introduction 16

3.2 The first climate models 16

3.3 Climate change goes big time 18

3.4 The big problem: lifecycle of greenhouse gases 20

3.5 The global carbon cycle 21

Technical Note 3.1 Other greenhouse gases 24

Technical Note 3.2 Geoengineering 25

4 The past as proxy for the future 27

4.1 A short tour through 4.5 billion years 27

4.2 The past 400 000 years 28

4.3 The recent past 30

5 Predicting the future 34

5.1 Who does it? 34

5.2 How is it done? 36

5.3 Results 40

5.4 Where are we? 44

Part II Energy 47

6 Talking up arms against this sea of troubles 49

6.1 Introduction 49

6.2 Energy now and in the future 50

Market exchange and PPP 54

6.3 Emission targets 55

Technical Note 6.1 Carbon dioxide equivalents 58

7 How fast to move: a physicist's look at the economists 60

8 Energy, emissions, and action 65

8.1 Setting the stage 65

8.2 Sources of emissions 66

Energy and greenhouse emission from fossil fuels 68

8.3 Reducing emissions 69

8.4 No silver bullets 71

8.5 Winners and losers 73

9 Fossil fuels - how much is there? 75

9.1 World oil reserves 76

9.2 World gas reserves 79

9.3 World coal 81

9.4 Conclusion 81

10 Electricity, emissions, and pricing carbon 83

10.1 The electricity sector 83

10.2 Pricing carbon emissions: carbon capture and storage 88

10.3 Does what goes into storage stay there? 90

10.4 Summary and conclusion 92

11 Efficiency: the first priority 94

11.1 Introduction 94

Primary and end-use energy efficiency 98

11.2 Transportation 98

11.3 Buildings 110

11.4 Conclusion 118

Technical Note 11.1 CAFE standards 120

12 Nuclear energy 122

12.1 Introduction 122

12.2 Radiation 125

12.3 Safety 127

12.4 Spent fuel: love it or hate it, we have it 129

12.5 Economics 133

12.6 Proliferation of nuclear weapons 135

12.7 Nuclear power as part of the solution 139

Technical Note 12.1 Nuclear power primer 140

Technical Note 12.2 France's long-range nuclear development plan 142

Technical Note 12.3 Producing material for weapons 145

Technical Note 12.4 Extract from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 147

Technical Note 12.5 Issues in internationalizing the fuel cycle 148

13 Renewables 150

13.1 Introduction 150

13.2 Wind 151

13.3 Solar energy 156

13.4 Geothermal 162

13.5 Hydropower 167

13.6 Ocean energy 169

13.7 The electric power distribution grid 169

Technical Note 13.1 Photovoltaic cells 171

14 Biofuels: is there anything there? 173

14.1 Introduction 173

14.2 Phase-1: ethanol from starch and sugar 175

14.3 Phase-2: cellulosic ethanol 180

14.4 Phase-3: other processes 181

14.5 Summary 182

15 An energy summary 184

Part III Policy 193

16 US policy - new things, bad things, good things 195

16.1 Introduction 195

16.2 Reducing emissions on a national scale 196

16.3 Bad things 200

16.4 Good things 204

17 World policy actions 207

17.1 Introduction 207

17.2 Kyoto-1: the Protocol of 1997 208

17.3 Kyoto-2 211

18 Coda 217

References 219

Index 222

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  • Posted January 29, 2012

    Professor Richter Built Good Case for the Science!

    Professor Richter built a good case for the climate science, probably reflecting since own journey of understanding the range of scientific evidence when he first participated in a National Academy of Sciences / National Reseearch Council review of the 2001 report "Climate Change and Its Impacts on the United States." He described the many lines of evidence that give the compelling conclusion that warming of the Earth's climate system is certain. His analysis of the policy options are insightful, though those of us engaged in the climate policy debates for as long or perhaps longer than he has can probably advise him of improvements in his arguments. While cap-and-trade is out of favor with many people, the idea of a carbon tax could be a good idea but "the devil is always int the details" of any policy option. Taxes too are very well known to have exemptions and can be gamed easily. Professor Richter has talked to me and numerous colleagues in the business world as well and understands this. His book is a fine contribution to the high-level of vigorous discourse in this arena. I recommend it strongly.

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    Posted January 1, 2012

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