The Doomsday Contagion

If you’re not preparing for the end of the world, don’t worry, some of your neighbors are.

And teenagers today, well, they’re all over it.

So are millions of  Christians, who don’t want to be Left Behind, when armageddon comes.

Those who see eco-decay and social mayhem resulting from unchecked capitalism are similarly fatalistic:

The race of doom is now between environmental collapse and global economic collapse. Which will get us first? Or will they get us at the same time?

A motley bunch of survivalist/conspiracy types are not waiting to find out, and they are now joining hands across the fringe.  Some climate catastrophists are also getting into the end times spirit.

Have I mentioned the Mayan calendar yet?

Yes, if you look around, dystopia and doomsday have combined to become a veritable cottage industry. In my new post at the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, I survey the apocalypse contagion that new movies and books are spreading across our doomed world.

UPDATE:  Of course, it makes perfect sense that “doomsday dating” sites are proliferating in those bunkers.

64 Responses to “The Doomsday Contagion”

  1. harrywr2 says: the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.

    Not much has changed in the last 1,000 years.

  2. Bobito says:

    The old tricks are the best tricks, ‘eh Harry?There are certainly different levels of craziness here.  The case for doomsday preparation can be logical or silly based on the reason for the preparation.  (note:  Logical doesn’t mean they aren’t crazy.  Logic is relative…)For example:The odds of winning the PowerBall jackpot is 1 in 175,223,510. The odds or a gamma ray burst hitting Earth is 1 in 14,000,000.So, if one buys a ticket to powerball hoping to win, they should (mathematically speaking) also be thinking that it’s 10 times more likely that life on earth will end before they win.

  3. Tom Fuller says:

    Bring back Velikovsky! Chariots of the Gods!Like this is new?

  4. Menth says:

    @1 +1Nowadays, in our modern world that has so flourished by virtue of scientific rationalism it’s easy to forget that the superstitious, emotional, moralistic tendencies that have always been with us, remain. They have contorted, evolved and disguised their way into the 21st century and won’t disappear overnight, their most effective element is the ability to persuade their host that they don’t exist. 

  5. Keith Kloor says:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that the latest crop of dystopian/doomsday offerings is a new phenomena. The traumatized boy in me still remembers seeing Soylent Green at the movies, the shocking ending to Planet of the Apes, etc.

    I’ve also explored some of the underlying religious linkages here.

    That said, the current wave of armageddon fantasy/paranoia washing over us seems to be gaining strength from all our multiple media outlets.

  6. Jarmo says:

    This sounds interesting:As temperatures continue to rise huge parts of the globe will become uninhabitable. The continued release of large quantities of methane, some scientists have warned, could actually asphyxiate the human species. And accompanying the assault on the ecosystem that sustains human life is the cruelty and stupidity of unchecked corporate capitalism that is creating a global economy of masters and serfs and a world where millions will be unable to survive.Which movie is this?

  7. BBD says:

    Ahem. US-specific cultural phenomenon alert! There’s not much serious End-of -Days spirit in the UK. More a whimper than a bang 🙂

  8. BBD says:

    No, no, no! It’s not methane, it’s hydrogen sulfide. Can’t these people at least get the doom right!. Just for fun, google ‘Canfield ocean’.

  9. Bobito says:

    @Keith – “gaining strength from all our multiple media outlets”Is this because something has changed with people?  Or that media outlets just figured out that the subject gets good ratings?  Are “doomsdayers” just the next freak show?

  10. KingOchaos says:

    March 29th, 2012 at 2:41 pm Are you implying that a tectonic rift the size of siberia, spewing Sulfa and co2 into the atmosphere for 100s o thousands o years is not identical to todays situation! Surly you jest. I love a good doomsday/apocalypse movie. But im more partial to the zombie apocalypse(not those boring slow zombies, the quick ones like on i am legend). And have a fairly substantial  arsenal in the case of that eventuality.         It is hard to take doomsdayers seriously, whether they are on a street corner, or in a climate blog, they usually fall into the fruit loop basket in my book. Its a fairly good sign, they are a weee bit detached from reality. And got their own funky, exciting reality going on in their heads. Fear is easy to sell, because its exciting. And makes a break from our normal mundane lives. And some people certainly buy it. 

  11. JohnB says:

    I think it’s always been with us. We had doomsday cults all through history and we had them through the 20th Century. We were worried about nuclear armageddon for decades. Remember the “Planetary Alignment” scares that were off and on?The only difference is that with the internet it is far easier to spread the story and get converts now than it ever was. Although in the more competitive marketplace the dasasters have to be more inventive.And yes, I’m one who sees many in the CAGW crowd as religious doomsday cultists. It has everything such cults historically had and more.1. A reasonably charismatic public face of a “Leader” in Al Gore. While not specifically a leader both sides tend to point to him and many put his movie as a “conversion” point for them.2. Prophecies of doom from the oracles of climate models. And we know the oracles are right because they agree with each other and besides the priests who attend them say they are right even if the laity cannot understand the intricate workings.3. World covering doom. The disaster is quite large enough to encompass the world which means that if you’re part of “Doing something about it” then you can feel really imortant in your private warm, fuzzy place.4. Far enough in the future that it can’t be checked for 100 years or so.5. Ongoing disaster. So that not only the guilty ones shall be punished, but the sons even unto the seventh generation will be punished for the sins of the fathers.6. Secularism. With the rise of secularism the CAGW cult allows atheists to have their very own Doomsady cult without it being religious.7. Secularism II. Throughout history mankind has hated the idea that we are victims of the whims of nature, so we invented “Gods” to let us control nature. If we prayed hard enough or in the “right” way then the Gods would listen to our pleas and we could control nature. No longer victims of powerful, random chance, we became the masters. With the rise of secularism we became once again victims of the whims of chance and powerless.With CAGW the natural forcings were made small and human forcings large and once again we were in power. We control the weather and our future and are not at the mercy of random natural forces. Again we are replacing the old “Weather Gods” with a purely secular religion.”Global warming” became “climate change” which became “climate disruption”. Since these aren’t currently scary enough we can add in “ocean acidification” and “biodiversity loss”, the list of doomsday scenarios is endless and there will always be plenty of fodder to believe in them.

  12. JohnB says:

    What happened to the paragraph spacings?

  13. Keith Kloor says:


    The web guys are still trying to figure out the bugs in the comment system. I personally don’t have a problem with spacing. Right now I’m using Safari (though I’m partial to Firefox) and don’t have a problem with formatting.

    But it seems this new upgraded comment system is not compatible with all web browsers. Thanks for your patience while it gets sorted out.

  14. Hannah says:

    I just love “doomsday dating”  I guess from a feministic point of view this
    is actually great news……in a world where women are so often valued mainly on
    their looks suddenly other traits and skills are appreciated such as wearing a
    backpack and being able to make
    “humanure.” Excellent. Favourite quote: “I’ve come across a lot of
    freaks who live in a hole in the ground, who message me and say, ‘Run, run to
    me — I’m a mile underground in the middle of Nebraska”. You guys need to
    get your healthcare sorted so that these people can get some help :o)

  15. BBD says:

    KingOChaos: Are you implying that a tectonic rift the size of siberia, spewing Sulfa
    and co2 into the atmosphere for 100s o thousands o years is not
    identical to todays situation!
    I’m not seriously suggesting we are on course for a Canfield ocean, no. Although it’s worth remembering that the end-Permian and end-Cretaceous volcanism – though massive – added CO2 to the atmosphere at far lower rates than current human activity is doing. Which is why it took tens of thousands of years for a volcanic greenhouse to develop. But I have to differ with you sharply about the more serious issue of zombies. First, I Am Legend is a *vampire* movie. And vampires do not exist. Second, the idea of a reanimated corpse running about is absurd. They will shamble, obviously. To argue otherwise is unphysical nonsense 😉 😉 Third, the very thing that makes the classic zombie so disturbing is that though mindless and slow it is relentless, ubiquitous and ultimately inescapable. Like the IRS or consumer capitalism. Or death. Which is why, in these matters, I am a purist 🙂

  16. BBD says:

    Hannah: I have an uncomfortable suspicion that in a post-apocalyptic world women would be brutally commodified for their ability to make babies. Not exactly a realisation of any feminist ideals Mrs BBD would be familiar with…

  17. Hannah says:

    BBD: I think that you may very well be right…….. “I want someone who looks wholesome” probably pretty much translate into “give me a woman with childbearing hips” :o)

  18. Jarmo says:

    #14, 16An apocalyptic event in the sense of order collapsing … that happened in Berlin in May 1945 as the Russians took over. Not nice for women.  First gang-rapes, then, as food was scarce, voluntary prostitution for food and cigarettes (the currency back then).Or think about Somalia today…. power grows from the muzzle of an AK-47. Very few feminists there.

  19. Matt B says:

    @11 JohnB – excellent post……

  20. hunter says:

    Keith,Doomsday belief is one of the oldest social movements in history. It is universal, appearing worldwide, and from the ancient Noah-style stories has existed throughout history. Envirocrats cling to climate doom as a logical part of their belief system.

  21. BBD says:

    hunter: Envirocrats cling to climate doom as a logical part of their belief system. The projections of future warming are scientific, and derive from a synthesis of empirical (paleoclimate), modelled and statistical analyses of the climate system. These provide multiple and converging estimates of climate sensitivity to 2xCO2 of ~3C at equilibrium. I think it is you who is relying on an unsupported ‘belief system’, no?

  22. Jarmo says:

    #21,The IPCC scenarios of future damage and doom usually describe a situation with no adaptation. Which is totally unrealistic.It would be a dumb farmer that would not change farming methods and crop varieties as temperatures change. Dumb people would not move away when ocean level rises next to their doorstep.The warming world also creates possibilities. I grew up on a farm where you could not grow wheat because the growing season was too short. Even barley failed about every third year because of frosts.  

  23. harrywr2 says:

    #21The projections of future warming are scientific‘Business As Usual’ in economics is defines that when the price of a ‘substitute good’ is less then the original good the substitute good will be adopted over time.Coal mine productivity fell in the last 10 years in the US by 30%. Except for Australia US mine productivity is the highest in the worldBusiness as usual would dictate that a ‘substitute’ good will be substituted. How does that square with the emissions estimates of the IPCC? What ‘science’ were the emissions estimates based on?To get to the IPCC emissions scenario you have to hold extraction and trans-portion costs of  coal constant. I.E. Use zero feedback model.In the ‘real world’ we extract the easiest to extract coal closest to market first. The distance coal needs to be transported rises. The extraction costs will rise. Normal ‘innovation’ will drive down the cost of the ‘substitute good’.Read carefully what the IPCC emissions scenario’s said…the worst case was a world that remained ‘technically separated’. The best case was a world that was more ‘technically integrated’.I.E. We get to the worst case if the only energy technology made available to ‘developing countries’ was coal burning. I.E. ‘Substitute technology’ was denied to the developing world.It seems to me China has become the ‘early adopter’ for almost all energy technology. So ‘technical integration’ is a train that has already left the station.

  24. BBD says:

    harrywr2: Perhaps I misunderstand you. Are you suggesting that the industrialisation of the BRIC will not be powered by fossil fuels? If so, could you go into a little detail as to how this is supposed to work?

  25. BBD says:

    Jarmo @ 22: I do agree with you that adaptation cannot be ignored, but I am reasonably certain that you are glossing over the probable net consequences of population increase to ~9 billion *and* the effects of AGW by mid-century.

  26. Mary says:

    I’ll admit I got sucked into the doom when I first heard about peak oil + climate + crazy warmongers + …  But it didn’t take long to figure out they were imagining the future as if it was a 2-hour dystopian film and video-game shootout. I even had one argument about the historical basis of The Gangs of New York (for which I brought evidence, the other discussant had only fantasy). On the other hand, some emergency preparedness has been handy for me. Twice we had sudden water contamination issues from my metro water supply, and my water filter paid off. And I really do love cooking with cast iron now, I’ll never buy another teflon-flaking frying pan. Watering the garden with the rain barrels makes sense from other perspectives besides imminent doom too. So if you can cut through the crap there are some useful nuggets of sustainability in there.

  27. Fred says:

    Actually, things are starting to look up. And I don’t mean just that even Peggy Noonan has finally caught on to what Barack Obama is really like. Not long ago, a thread appeared here that since only old white Republicans were “climate deniers” all the warmists had to do was wait it out until they died. Now it looks like the upcoming generation is less likely to show a willingness to forgo economic development for economic concerns. I would put up the link, but that probably hasn’t been fixed.Another counter to the doomsday crap of the environmentalist crazies is the information that due to technological advances, the USA can become self-sufficient in oil within the not-too-distant future. Another link I won’t bother to try yo put up.  

  28. steven mosher says:

     as always Queen is the final word on all matters 

  29. harrywr2 says:

    #24 Perhaps I misunderstand you. Are you suggesting that the industrialisation of the BRIC will not be powered by fossil fuels? There will be some growth in fossil fuels simply due to time lags in transferring technology and know how.China has already indicated it will begin ‘cutting’ the amount of fossil fuel used to generate electricity by 2015. They simply don’t have the economically extractable coal to continue. The question mark in China at the moment is how much more cement they will need to complete urbanization. Urbanization reduces energy consumption.China’s younger then 60 year old population is set to peak by 2015.China is a couple of years away from breaking ground the the (C)AP1400. Which will be based on the AP1000 but won’t be subject to ‘royalties’. It will almost certainly be their ‘standard’ build.Nothing new about a country importing someone else’s  ‘state of the art’ technology to accelerate their learning curve then ‘domesticating it’ prior to full scale rollout.India has already had to cancel construction of some new coal fired plants due to ‘lack of coal’. They thought there were going to ‘cart away’ all of  Indonesia’s coal ‘on the cheap’ but Indonesia canceled all long term contracts and now demands all coal exports to be sold at ‘benchmark rates’. The nuclear suppliers group had India blacklisted until 2008 so nuclear power wasn’t even a serious option for India to consider until recently.Brazil is hydro-rich. Their fertility rate dropped below replacement in 2005. Population changes lag fertility rate changes by 20-30 years.Russia’s population peaked in 1992 and given a continued fertility rate of 1.5 appears to be headed toward self extinction.If you read the IPCC report carefully it had an assumption that global coal supplies were ‘evenly distributed’. 45% of the worlds economically extractable coal resides in the US and Russia. The US and Russia account for 6% of global population.Even in the US all the ‘cheap coal’ is in Wyoming and Montana…not many people live in Wyoming and Montana…one you pay ‘shipping and handling’ it’s not so cheap anymore. So the idea that the rest of the world is going to base their future economies on importing coal from Russia and the US when the bulk of US and Russian’s reserves are a long way from the nearest boat is kind of far-fetched unless they have no other choice. Overland transport of coal costs about 3 cents/mile.

  30. BBD says:

    harrywr2: Thank you for the analysis. As you know, I can’t see a way around using nuclear as a low-carbon baseload technology and what you suggest is superficially appealing. But… 🙂 You mention time lags in transferring technology but that begs the question of what must happen in the meantime to increase capacity to meet the growth in global demand. A global build-out of coal and gas fired plant seems unavoidable despite the elongating supply chain for coal and its cost. Demographics and Brazil’s hydropower capacity notwithstanding. I only say this as no analysis I’m aware of projects a reduction in global energy demand over the coming decades. They all point to an increase. And corollary analysis of projected emissions reflects this. If you are arguing that there will not be an increase in FF use sufficient to push CO2 to ~560ppmv during the latter half of the century, you are isolated. So I have to question your assumptions.

  31. Tom Fuller says:

    Well, I almost don’t know where to start. First, China’s probably going to be using more energy than most people think. The DOE/EIA projects growth for China going forward at 2.4 %. They expect China’s GDP to continue growing robustly, but they expect their energy use to slow down dramatically. I estimate that their energy growth will not slow down.China currently uses coal for about 69% of their energy needs. That is projected to fall–to 65% of a much larger energy total. Indeed domestic coal may run a little short. But Mongolia and Australia and other countries are happy to pick up the slack.China is trying extremely hard to get greener. Eventually they almost certainly will. But not soon enough for practical purposes. They plan to build 150 nuclear reactors at a rate of 4 a year. There’s a really good chance that China will become the number one market for domestic solar this year, passing Germany. They’re putting up wind turbines so fast that they can’t even hook them all up to the grid. And despite all that, they will still get 65% of their energy from coal in 2030.

  32. kdk33 says:

    China.  One child policy.  Age demographics.**-**Just sayin’.

  33. Marlowe Johnson says:

     ” I estimate that their energ”y growth will not slow down.China currently uses coal for about 69% of their energy needs. “show me your code dude. my friends at the EIA and the IEA are curious. 

  34. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Input your comments here…interested readers might want to check out the material from these guys for material on future emission projections. just a thought. p.s. **public service announcement** the mcdonald’s @ Darrian, GA off the I95 is possibly the most disgustinging, ineptly managed food service establishment I have ever visited (that’s saying a lot trust me). I’m not currently running a fever, but it’s still early days. Considered yourselves warned.  

  35. hunter says:

    @22 BBd,My friend, the doomsday cults are always based on the latest scientific revelations of the day. They are typically embraced by the intelligentsia and elites of the time the current iteration emerges. Think of the Miller’s Tale by Chaucer.I don’t want to get back into the dreary questions. Frankly, after Gleick and the elections in Queensland the writing is on the wall. I am not posting so much lately because there is not much left to the AGW movement. The envirocrats may still prevail, but it will not have anything to do with actually being correct about the climate. It is now all show and posture over power. And that is leaching away steadily.There is no cliamte catastrophe, and there never was going to be one.

  36. Marlowe Johnson says:

    @35we tend to prefer enviro-pinko-kleptocrats.  just so you know. i’ve been sadly disappointed by the lack of tinfoil outlet stores on my travels up and down the u.s. east coast. any suggestions?

  37. hunter says:

    @36 Marlowe,If you have to ask where the tinfoil hats are being sold, you are clearly in the employ of big fossil fuel interests and are not to be trusted. I think “envirocrats” is the proper term, by the way: those who believe their environmental opinions out weigh the civil rights of the rest of society.

  38. Roddy Campbell says:

    Here in the UK we’re more worried about sales tax on pasties than Armageddon.

  39. Tom Fuller says:

    #33, click on my name. I show my work.

  40. BBD says:

    kdk33 @ 32: China’s population is projected to peak at ~1.4 billion then fall to about a billion by century’s end (IIRC). The problem you have missed is that the the high energy consumption consumer class is booming and the low energy consumption rural agrarian majority is shrinking. Chinese energy use is projected to rise in line with urbanisation, increasing wages and increasing consumption. Arguing this purely from population size is to miss the essential point.

  41. harrywr2 says:

    Tom Fuller Says:

    March 30th, 2012 at 5:45 pm
    Well, I almost don’t know where to start. First, China’s
    probably going to be using more energy than most people think. <b>The
    DOE/EIA projects<./b> growth for China going forward at 2.4 %..The latest news -<i>The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration projects that
    coal consumption in the electric power sector for 2012 is expected to
    fall to less than 900 million tons</i>Here is a 1999 EIA Projection for Coal Production/Consumption in the US.
    Coal consumption in the US just goes up and up and up…
    Okay…that’s not fair…seeing 12 years into the future is really hard.How about seeing 3or 4 years into the future – the 2009 EIA report<i>In the AEO2009 reference case, increasing coal use for electricity generation at both new and existing plants and the startup of several CTL plants lead to modest growth in coal production, averaging 0.6 percent per year from 2007 to 2030</i>That’s not fair either…How about 2 years into the future<i>In the AEO2010 Reference case, increasing coal usefor electricity generation, along with the startup ofseveral CTL plants, leads to growth in coal productionaveraging 0.2 percent per year from 2008 to 2035.</i>It would appear that EIA is missing an important variable…as they’ve not even managed to get the sign right for projections on coal consumption more then 1 year into the future.Why would that be?Ohh…I know…if  EIA projects high and we end up with a few coal mines that aren’t needed for decades or a few power plants that aren’t needed for decades no one gets fired.If they project low and we end up not having enough coal to power our power plants or not enough generating capacity that results in ‘rolling blackouts’ a lynch mob forms.

  42. kdk33 says:

    i’ve been sadly disappointed by the lack of tinfoil outlet stores on my travels up and down the u.s. east coast. any suggestions?***-***California.

  43. kdk33 says:

    BBD,  You seem to have mastered the art of reading into my @32, things I never said.  But carry on.

  44. BBD says:

    kdk33: Really? So what are we to infer from this: China.  One child policy.  Age demographics.**-**Just sayin’. Hmm?

  45. harrywr2 says:

    #41China’s population is projected to peak at ~1.4 billion then fall to
    about a billion by century’s end (IIRC). The problem you have missed is
    that the the high energy consumption consumer class is booming and the
    low energy consumption rural agrarian majority is shrinking.
    Actually…rural residential energy use is higher then urban…rural energy use involves burning whatever forests China has left so it doesn’t get ‘counted’. big driver of energy demand is  floor space. There is lots of disagreement as to where ‘satiation’ levels will end up being in China.Some ‘anecdotal’ evidence that ‘satiation’ is happening sooner rather then later in some Chinese cities the <b>vacancy rate</b> is estimated to be </b>40 per cent</b> in many citiesA 2008 report on per capatia residential floor space in Urban China the per capita floor space for residents in cities and towns
    reached 28 square meters, <b>growing</b> at an average rate of </b>one square meter
    a year</b> since the early 1980
    Japanese per capita residential floor space is about 35 m2. US per capita floor space is about 80 m2. Europe is in the middle. China’s per capita urban residential floor space was 28 sq meters in 2008…growing at a rate of 1 meter per year…which would mean it would reach parity with Japan around 2015.I don’t know if the average Chinese person will be ‘content’ living in the same size apartment as their Japanese counterpart. All the ‘quality’ reports are hopelessly outdated.Here is a report done in 2009 citing a 2003 study that projected per capita residential floor space would approach 30 m2 in China by 2020 and 35 m2 by 2030.

  46. BBD says:

    harrywr2: Actually”¦rural residential energy use is higher then urban”¦rural energy
    use involves burning whatever forests China has left so it doesn’t get
    First, wood isn’t a fossil fuel. Second, your claim that China’s rural population uses more energy than its FF-fired urban population and industry isn’t exactly convincing.

  47. harrywr2 says:

    #47Second, your claim that China’s rural population uses more energy than
    its FF-fired urban population and industry isn’t exactly convincing.Figure 1, document page 4 to quote from page 4High final energy demand in rural buildings results from rural China’s very intensive use of traditional biomass. Traditional biomass is highly inefficient: conversion efficiencies in developing countries range only between 5% and 20%Then there is a chart on page 5 that compares energy consumption  based on  square meters.A Btu is a Btu…a Btu of biomass burned in a power plant is a lot more efficiency then a Btu of biomass burned in a fire place.

  48. BBD says:

    harrywr2: You are stubbornly missing the point. I repeat: wood is not a fossil fuel. Nor do I for a moment believe your apparent assertion that the urbanisation and industrialisation of China is not going to contribute – significantly – to global emissions over the next several decades. On this you are a lone voice. Every credible analysis points to significant increases in emissions as the developing economies (eg BRIC; Mexico) industrialise and urbanise. Are we to believe that they are *all wrong*?

  49. Steven Sullivan says:

    Fred @27:”And I don’t mean just that even Peggy Noonan has finally caught on to what Barack Obama is really like. “OMG really??? Even that famous Obama fangirl Peggy Noonan?  What next?  Noonan no longer sure AGW is real? Say it ain’t so, Fred!!!

  50. Hannah says:

    @39, very funny, hoewever my last beer is for obvious reasons likely to be a Tuborg. Re: the Danish “Klima aftale”, where to start? here is Lomborg on the subject: and watch
    next instalment of “Borgen” I guess…..:o)

  51. kdk33 says:

    BBD, what you are to take from my “one child policy” comment is about the demographics, not total population growth.  China will soon have lots of old and retired (however that happens in china) and few young to support them.  This change in demographics will affect economic growth.</p>I didn’t draw any conclusions, I just put that factor–demographics, not population count–on the table.  I was just sayin’.

  52. harrywr2 says:

    #49,Every credible analysis pointsI would be so grateful if you would point me to an emissions study that has coal priced above $5/MMBtu.China was exporting steam coal at $22/Mt 10 years ago.The latest news on Chinese Coal prices’s benchmark spot coal prices with a heating value of
    5,500 kcal/kg have declined to the current 765 yuan per tonne
    That works out to $121/Metric Tonne.5500 kcal/kg works out to be about 22 MMBtu/Mt.

    $121/22 =  $5.50/MMBtuHere are the US EIA ‘levelized’ costs of new generating capacity…the price of coal used was $2.27/MMBtu in the assumptions. $1/MMBtu adds $10/MWh to operating costs.Since the Chinese are paying $3/MMBtu more for coal then the US average I need to add $30/MWh to coals operating costs.That puts the levelized cost of electricity in a ‘new’ coal fired plant  $124/MWh.Nuclear,Hydro,Wind, Geothermal and Biomass all end up cheaper then burning coal.Please point me to an emissions scenario that assumed coal would be more expensive then Nuclear,Hydro,Wind,Geothermal and Biomass.

  53. BBD says:

    kdk33 @ 52. You were just sayin’ something misleading. See #41.

  54. BBD says:

    harrywr2 @ 53If China could magic away its entire coal-fired fleet and magic up a mixed bag of nuclear, gas and renewables in its place – right now – then you might have a point. It cannot, and you do not. There is considerable latency in play – during which time emissions just continue to increase – which is what everybody else except you seems to grasp.

  55. harrywr2 says:

    #55If China could magic away its entire coal-fired fleet and magic up a
    mixed bag of nuclear, gas and renewables in its place ““ right now ““ then
    you might have a point. It cannot, and you do not.
    Did I say China’s emissions are going to go down tomorrow morning at nine?But my main point is that there isn’t a single emissions scenario done by a ‘credible’ source that has coal above $100/tonne. Not one.Prior to 2005 anyone who would even hint the global benchmark price for steam coal would be above $100/tonne in 2010 would have been labeled a crackpot.Then in 2008 when it happened we all told ourselves that it was a ‘blip’ and wouldn’t last and for about a year ‘we’ were right.Well it’s 2012 and the price of steam coal on international markets is still over $100 tonne.Here is the Newcastle Benchmark 30 year price trend. downward price trend from $57/ton in 1982 to $24 in 2003  supporting the idea that a ‘price on carbon’ would be needed to curtail coal consumption.Then a spike above $50 a ton in 2004 and then a downward price trend again..then a spike to $180 in 2008 then down to $68 in 2009…then back up above 100 for the last two years.Yeah…there is considerable latency….How much hydro is already under
    construction in China? Wind couples nicely with hydro…so how much ‘windpower’ development is being held back by the latency in hydro. How much wind is planned? How close are the
    Chinese to completing the design of the (C)AP1400?The Chinese have a potential burnable biomass of 800 million tonnes/year…pretty easy to convert a coal plant to a biomass plant.

  56. BBD says:

    How much hydro is already under construction in China? Wind couples nicely with hydro”¦so how much “˜windpower’ development is being held back by the latency in hydro. How much wind is planned? How close are the Chinese to completing the design of the (C)AP1400?The Chinese have a potential burnable biomass of 800 million tonnes/year”¦pretty easy to
    convert a coal plant to a biomass plant.

    How much hydro? Not nearly enough. Wind – forget it. Nuclear – latency (see above). Coal plant build-out will continue, and new plant will be used – latency (see above). Biomass is a joke, harry. It’s not energy dense enough to make sense as fuel for baseload generation – you must know this.

    Chinese emissions are and will be a massive problem. Coal price notwithstanding. As we see right here, right now. End of story. Nobody agrees with your peculiarly convenient hypothesis that there’s no problem here. End of increasingly vague and absurd denials. End of conversation. The shark has been jumped once too often.

  57. kdk33 says:

    You were just sayin’ something misleading.

    No, just accurate. Thats probably what confused you.

  58. harrywr2 says:

    #57Wind ““ forget itSorry…but wind coupled with hydro does work. The Chinese had 210 GW of hydro in 2011. That will be around 342GW by 2015 and 420 GW by 2020.

    The Chinese themselves have stated they expect coal consumption related to electricity production to begin declining in 2015. there is this in the coal-fired power sector stood at 105.4
    billion yuan in 2011, compared with 94 billion yuan in hydropower, 74
    billion yuan in nuclear power, and 82.9 billion yuan in wind power
    .There are lags in the electric power sector of 5-10 years between a ‘price signal’ and a shift in investment. Investment in coal fired electricity plants in China is now 28% of total investment and shrinking.That leaves the question of coal consumption related to cement and steel production which is a function of the current ‘building boom’.Unlike the US and Europe where 90+% of coal consumption is for electricity production in China electricity production accounts for 30-40% coal of  consumption. All building booms eventually end.

  59. BBD says:


    One last time: China’s reliance on coal is big, real and will not be rapidly reduced. Just review the figures for Chinese energy consumption: coal ~70%; hydro ~6%; nuclear ~1%; other renewables 0.2%. Can we stop this absurdity now please?

    You are seriously overcooking your argument. From the xinhua piece you linked (emphasis added):

    China’s coal-fired power producers have long been complaining that surging coal costs and artificially low electricity prices have hurt their profit margins.


    The speedy contraction [in investment in coal-fired capacity] could result in an inadequate coal-fired power generation capacity and worsen the power crunch that many parts of China have suffered during the peak seasons, Xue Jing said.

    Coal-fired power is the biggest source of electricity in China, with generation capacity reaching 765 million kilowatts, or 72.5 percent of the total, by the end of 2011.

    Beijing is propagandising continuously about cleaning up its act while continuing to build coal-fired plant. I though only lefties were taken in by that nonsense. The recent slowdown is temporary and driven by global economic conditions. 

    What you are arguing for isn’t going to happen. The Chinese will build more coal-fired capacity, it will be in service for ~50 years, and China will remain at the top of the global league table for CO2 emissions for the foreseeable future. Obfuscation aside, this is the central issue – which presumably is why you are trying to deny it.

  60. harrywr2 says:

    BBD,coal ~70%; hydro ~6%; nuclear ~1%; other renewables 0.2%. Can we stop this absurdity now please? Coal was 80+% no more then 3 years ago.Can you stop ignoring the fact that China is shifting as fast as humanly possible. Almost 3/4ths of it’s investment is now in ‘non-fossil’ generating capacity. How long the useful life of a coal plant being used as ‘baseload’  is  irrelevant. The type of service it is being used for is. The largest ‘wear’ on any thermal plant comes from cycling. In the US almost 1/2 of our generating capacity is used less then 20% of the time.  In Western Europe and the USA we would use natural gas fired units as ‘peakers’ and end up replacing them at about 30 years. China doesn’t have much in the way of natural gas. So they will have to use coal plants as’peakers’. The lifespans on their coal plants will be lower and so will the utilization rates.In most countries 60% of name plate generating capacity is used for peaking. The projected coal portion of China’s total generating capacity in 2020 is 60%. They don’t have much in the way of natural gas so their coal units will be gradually relegated to peaking and backup duty…..that’s how come the Chinese Electricity Authorities can point to an expected decrease in Coal Consumption at the same time they are still building more coal plants. Their expectation is that the ‘non-fossil’ generating capacity in the pipeline will lower the utilization rates of their coal fired plants. The absurdity in this discussion is assuming the role of coal plants in the Chinese electricity mix won’t change as the massive amount of ‘non-fossil’ generating resources ‘in the pipeline’ are brought online.

  61. BBD says:

    The absurdity in this discussion arises from the dismissal of the latency in any shift away from coal. It just isn’t going to go as fast or as far as you claim. Mainly because there isn’t any obvious alternative baseload technology available except nuclear, and I can’t recall *anyone* arguing for a 70% nuclear China by mid-century. I repeat, you are seriously over-cooking your argument and it simply isn’t convincing.

  62. harrywr2 says:

    #62,I am not dismissing latency. China would have recognized it had overstepped it’s mining capacity by 2006. I’m not arguing for 70% nuclear. Frances nuclear ‘nameplate’ capacity is only 50%. Getting above 40% without working out either storage or load shifting isn’t economical at this time. 40% of generating capacity generally delivers in the neighborhood of 70% of total actual generation. I also didn’t say it would be ‘all nuclear’. With 450 GW of hydro that makes for a lot of resource to be coupled with wind.  Having watched wind performance in the US PNW 1 part wind and 3 part hydro works reasonably well.  The Chinese are a little more confident and are building 1 part wind to 2.5 parts hydro(Unlike the crazy Europeans that are trying to have a 1 to 1 ratio between hydro and wind). Prior to Fukishima the Chinese were putting shovel in ground for 8 reactors a year. The shortage of nuclear pressure vessel forging capability has been resolved so the Chinese will be in a position to double that rate in three or four years but those plants won’t be ‘online’ until post 2020. A build rate of sixteen 1.4 GW reactors per year is 220 GW per decade. At some point the Chinese will shift to either thorium reactors or IFR reactors  or some other technology. IMHO Coal for electricity generation peaks in 2015 in China and declines thereafter…how fast I don’t know.

  63. BBD says:


    Obviously I would like you to be right about this. Obviously. But I have huge reservations (sorry; awful pun) about the achievable vs projected 450GW hydro. Is hydro contributing 6% or 8% these days btw? You will have the figures, I’m sure. Same applies to the achievable rate of nuclear build-out. And in the mean time, more coal-fired plant is brought on-line, and emissions continue to rise.

    Unlike the crazy Europeans that are trying to have a 1 to 1 ratio between hydro and wind

    Ahem. Quite.

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