Posted by: ericgrimsrud | February 16, 2019

An update on warming and negative emission technologies

Over the last 3 years, I have used my alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota, as example of the lack of understanding of climate change that still exists even within our colleges and universities. In those interactions, the stance of St.O has become increasingly clear. In the view of its main representative, President David Anderson, St.O is doing its part to combat climate change primarily via wind mills and solar panels which now provide all of the electrical needs of the St.O campus. Sure, St.O is also financially invested in fossil fuel industries and promotes some very high carbon footprint programs, such as their extensive studies abroad programs, but these environmentally detrimental activities are offset by their wind mills and solar panels – so President Anderson’s argument goes.

These interactions with President Anderson have caused me to question whether or not he understands how dire our real state of global warming actually is today.  Modest half-measures and gradual changes will no longer suffice. In addition, we must have all segments of society involved – especially our colleges and universities who have great influence on the younger portions of our society.

For these reasons, I will refer below a recent presentation by one of the world’s leading climate scientist, Kevin Anderson, without additional comment. Hopefully the great differences between the views and attitudes of these two Andersons, Dave and Kevin, will be made clear and show that St.O College has barely begun to do its part.

The Gordon Goodman Memorial Lecture 2017 – Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester and Deputy Director of the internationally Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. This talk provided the main event at this climate change conference in Sweden. It can be seen at

And be sure to rise as Her Royal Highness of Sweden enters the room!



  1. I wasn’t able to listen to the whole talk. So far, there was nothing new to me. But, I hope that he mentioned that Sweden’s plan to shut down nuclear reactors, in about a year I think, is not only counterproductive, but also immoral. Germany did the same and despite an impressive effort to build solar generation plants, their co2 emissions has not decreased. The idea (not his) that he described of carbon sequestration involving bioenergy is obviously idiotic. Still, growth of biomass will be and must be part of the solution. Prior to agriculture, it is estimated that the biosphere (above ground) contained 950 Gt of C. Today, it is about 500 Gt. There is thus a very significant potential. Two points: it can not be used as an excuse not to cut emissions aggressively. Also, it will only be possible by releasing large tracts of agricultural land. Fortunately, we are now able to do just that. About 60% of all ag land is used for meat production, which requires vast amounts of animal feed such as soy beans. But we can now produce single cell protein at nearly competitive prices. And those prices are dropping quickly. One plant in the US is being built for up to 120,000 tons proten feed per gear, and the energy, water and land requirements are a fraction of what conventional ag uses up. Similarly, US DARPA-E funded research, while in the short term deemed a failure, laid the foundation for algal production of biofuels. Those prices are also approaching those of fossil fuels. We still need a global mobilization (as in a war), but new technology is there to solve the problem. Of course, we also need to the “war” agaist the fossil fuel industry, their propaganda kampaigns and their detestable disregard for the futhre well-being of humankind.

    • I like to add that the most important development in Sweden is the building of a demonstration plant that uses hydrogen (solar generated, I hope) to reduce iron ore to produce steel. This technology alone can potentially save 7% of global co2 emissions. (And yes, even so flying must be restricted(

  2. Many thanks, Jan for your insightful comments.

    For those who don’t know, Jan Sunner and I were academic partners for many years at Montana State University. He has special insight in activities in Sweden because he was raised there and worked there at the beginning of his long and productive scientific career. Now Jan, you did rise, did you not when Her Royal Highness entered the room?

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