James Hansen, the Cliffside power plant and global warming

James Hansen gave an interesting talk on the physics of climate change, the magnitude of current anthropogenic emissions versus historical CO2 regimes, and the need for immediate action at the NCWarn forum on the Cliffside power plant issue.

In a CBS 60 Minutes profile in March 2006, Hansen said, “The speed of the natural changes is now dwarfed by the changes humans are making to the atmosphere and the surface.” Carolinas Clean Air and NC WARN are part of a statewide effort by public interest groups to block the new Cliffside plant and help the state reduce greenhouse gases by aggressively ramping up energy efficiency, cogeneration and renewables. That effort has already stopped one of two plants Duke sought to build at Cliffside – by proving it wasn’t needed. The second unit has suffered multiple delays and cost overruns and is the subject of ongoing legal battles over air pollution and water permits.


Some background: Duke Energy, the North Carolina utility wants to spend a heap of public money building a new coal fired power plant in Cliffside, NC. The problem? They will not sequester or otherwise capture the massive CO2 emissions out of the plant, which is inexcusable given what we know about climate change now.

Following an excellent talk by Mike Nicklas of Innovative Design, a Raleigh based green architectural firm which focused on reducing demand by increasing efficiency, James Hansen’s talk was an excellent primer on climate change, its history, its easy and basic correlation with atmospheric CO2 concentrations, our current state of affairs, and what we need to do in the next 10 years.

Their presentations can be found here (Nicklas), and here (Hansen). Go see it. Hansen talked a lot about the interaction of scientists, policy makers and the media in framing the “debate” and contrasted the quick march to consensus on the ozone hole with the the sometimes deliberate fact muddying of the climate debate.

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