High emission scenarios

I thought I might briefly reflect, again, on the whole RCP8.5 discussion. In case anyone missed it, there has been a lengthy online discussion about RCP8.5, which is a concentration/forcing pathway that leads to a change in forcing of 8.5 W m-2 by 2100 and is associated with high emission pathways. The criticism is that this pathway is seen as unrealistic by energy modellers. For example, here is a paper that suggests that a vast expansion in 21st century coal use is implausible. Here is another paper that suggests that re-carbonisation is unlikely.

So, why do we continue to see the use of RCP8.5 in climate modelling and climate impact studies? One reason, as this Carbon Brief explainer highlights, may be that the concentration pathways used as inputs to climate models were finalised before the associated socio-economic pathways had been fully developed. There may also have been a communication breakdown between those who develop these socio-economic models and those who run climate models and do impact studies.

Ultimately, it’s great that energy modellers seem to be in agreement that the socio-economic pathways underpinning the high emission pathways are unrealistic. I think this is a positive outcome. However, I do think that one should be careful of then concluding that the more extreme climate outcomes are no longer possible. Ultimately, there are a lot of steps between what we do as a society and the resulting climate impacts.

Even if it seems unlikely that we will suddenly start to re-carbonise, can we actually rule out that someone won’t develop a clever way of extracting fossil fuels that we had thought were not recoverable? Can we be sure that some future event won’t lead us to decide to increase our fossil fuels use? In addition to that, there isn’t a simple relationship between emissions and atmospheric concentrations. The latter is really what determines how much our climate is going to change. Given uncertainties in how the natural sinks will respond, and the possibility of some sinks becoming carbon sources, we can’t rule out that even if we follow a lower emission pathway, we won’t end up on a higher concentration pathway.

Finally, what we’d really like to understand is the impact of climate change. If climate sensitivity turns out to be on the high side, then the impacts could be severe even if do follow a lower emission pathway. Similarly, some of the impacts could be more severe than we expect even if climate sensitivity doesn’t turn out to be on the high side; Great Barrier Reef, Arctic sea ice, Greenland, West Antarctic ice shelf. So, even if the emission pathways associated with RCP8.5 are very unlikely, we still can’t rule out that we won’t experience some of the impacts typically associated with this high concentration pathway.

I guess my point is that even though energy modellers seem to think the energy pathways associated with RCP8.5 are unrealistic doesn’t mean that we should then conclude that the more severe impacts of climate are also unrealistic. There are many uncertainties in the chain that takes us from what we do as a society to the resulting climate impacts. In some respects this doesn’t substantially change what we would should probably do – reduce emissions. We should, in my view, simply be careful of becoming complacent because energy modellers regards the socio-economic pathways associated with RCP8.5 as being unrealistic.

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131 Responses to High emission scenarios

  1. John Hartz says:

    What does the RCP 8.5 scenario assume about the existence of the Amazon rainforest?

  2. mrkenfabian says:

    I think there are plenty of powerful and influential leaders who consider advancing the activities that could lead to RCP 8.5 type outcomes to be an inalienable right, who continue to seek to undermine international climate agreements and reject emissions considerations; if solar and wind are disrupting that potential to exploit and burn all available fossil fuels without constraint it is certainly not due to any overarching commitment to emissions reductions on their part. Too often these look like the same people who claimed (and still do) that 8.5 could not happen because global warming is not and has never been true – and will not hesitate to claim removing it as a potential scenario proves the experts agree with them.

    It is our one piece of great and widely unexpected good fortune that such technologies have improved enough to be able to compete on costs (on an externalities exempted basis – all the greater achievement) – but that still remains the bottom line; we will fall short of 8.5 only so long as reducing emissions is cheaper than not reducing emissions, based on patently false and misleading accounting of costs that greatly favour not reducing emissions. As ATTP notes, clever low cost ways to exploit more fossil fuels or changed global circumstances could undo the gains that Renewable Energy have made possible.

    I would note that for governments of fossil fuel rich nations like Australian ones – national as well as state governments – it is not even as simple as which delivers energy cleaner or cheaper or more reliably: mining provides a strong, reliable revenue stream from Mining Royalties on what gets dug up – a windfall that only requires them to give permissions for the mining to get. It is easy revenue that they do not want to lose. This adds an additional strong incentive to continue promoting the growth of fossil fuel use.

  3. I actually think most criticism of RCP 8.5 (including much of my own) stems not from the possibility of a high emissions scenario, but from its use and overuse with the label as the outcome of ‘business as usual,’ instead of an outlier created before (as you hinted at) the socio-ecoonomic analysis that accompanied it.

    But again, as you point out, what we care about is high concentrations, and that’s why emissions pathways can be speculative. There may be other ways that we reach 8.5 watts per square meter at the top of the atmosphere and I have no doubt that climate scientists are searching to find them and warn us about them.

    The fact that I don’t think we’ll get there is not at all important. What is fairly important is that the consensus quit mis-describing RCP 8.5 as business as usual. If it comes in at 6.25 and half the world has dismissed 8.5 as hysteria and the other half has defaulted to 4.5 as the most likely outcome, we might be in for a nasty shock.

  4. Tom, I don’t understand what you’re suggesting at the end of your comment. Are you suggesting that describing it as BAU (which I’m happy to agree is not the right term) could lead to more severe climate impacts?

  5. Willard says:

  6. Steven Mosher says:

    “However, I do think that one should be careful of then concluding that the more extreme climate outcomes are no longer possible. ”

    True. Like Tom I think the main concern some of have expressed ( shared by the carbon brief folks) is that 8.5 has been represented as BAU.

    In simple terms it is presented in some cases as “this will happen unless we do something drastic”
    Now you wont find these words exactly, but that is the concern. The concern is that the papers addressing 8.5 have not been explicit in noting that it is a merely a scenario and that no probability can be assigned to it, and that it represents one of the worst case scenarios.

    subtle nitpicking

  7. ecoquant says:

    The other piece that’s really missing are detailed climate impact studies as cited, and associated uncertainties. In particular, it is difficult to predict what the impact of extended heat waves, storms, or food shortages might be upon political and social cohesion. When do people give up on the current political structure and authority because things are too expensive, or just too bad?

    What do they put in its place? And how do they deal with the inevitable conflict?

    Is it post-apartheid South Africa? Or the French Revolution of 1789?

  8. Steven,

    True. Like Tom I think the main concern some of have expressed ( shared by the carbon brief folks) is that 8.5 has been represented as BAU.

    I think there is now increasing agreement that RCP8.5 isn’t a BAU pathway, but why is this a concern? Most people don’t even know what RCP8.5 is, or that it’s regarded as a BAU pathway. What concerns you about it having been represented as a BAU pathway?

  9. dikranmarsupial says:

    “If climate sensitivity turns out to be on the high side, then the impacts could be severe even if do follow a lower emission pathway.”

    If climate sensitivity turns out to be on the high side, and carbon cycle feed-backs (Artic permafrost, drying of the Amazon, methane calthrates) are sensitive as well, then we could be on a lower emissions pathway, but a high concentration pathway, so you might get a “double whammy” from high climate sensitivity?

  10. Stephan Harrison says:

    My view has always been that while we may never see the radiative forcing associated with RCP8.5 the possibility (or even more) that ECS is high means that the temperature response ‘looks’ like RCP8.5. In addition, the sensitivity of earth surface systems to climate change (including geomorphological sensitivity) might also be higher then previously supposed. Both of these mean that RCP8.5 continues to be a useful guide to the future IMO.

  11. The two sources cited in the first paragraph (Energy Economics 65 (2017) 16–31; Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 2) are from the same author pair (Ritchie and Dowlatabadi) and both deal with emissions from combustion and do not address (or even mention) the leakage issue. It might be instructive to see where the 100% gas line falls in their phase space when reasonable levels of leakage are included. It would not have to shift very far right to change the conclusions about “recarbonization.” Even that will ignore the results of accidental methane release, let alone the uncertainty in these. The recent optimistic view expressed by Tanaka et al (2019) allows only a 2% leakage with the efficient plants in China if you use GTP20. It might be wise to think about committed impacts including feedback in the carbon cycle before we dismiss that (admittedly short-term) alternative. I have no problem avoiding the BAU label but have more trouble responsibly dismissing RCP8.5 as a useful worst case, at least until CMIP6 can inform us better.

  12. Dave_Geologist says:

    The cynic in me thinks that some actors are downplaying RCP8.5 because they don’t want people writing about scary stuff. If no-one writes about scary stuff, voters will say “what’s all the fuss about, why do we have to change our lifestyles?”.

    Don’t discount the mindset of those who think Y2K was a hoax or a nothingburger because nothing catastrophic happened, as opposed to because hundreds of thousands of people spent a couple of years fixing things so nothing catastrophic happened. Ditto the ozone hole. Google ozone hole hoax before you say no-one could be that stupid.

  13. Chubbs says:

    Here is another way of looking at it. We have readily available alternatives to fossil fuels. Once we get serious about climate change its going to take 30-40 years to get emissions down to zero, so perhaps 0.5 to 1C additional warming after strong action is taken. When are we going to get serious? Concern is already increasing at 1C. Its very unlikely that we are going to want to burn more fossil fuels after 3C of warming, More likely that 1.5 to 2C will be the trigger for strong action.

  14. Willard says:

    > but why is this a concern?

    Anything to peddle #ButCAGW.

  15. Rachael,

    I have no problem avoiding the BAU label but have more trouble responsibly dismissing RCP8.5 as a useful worst case, at least until CMIP6 can inform us better.

    Yes, I agree with this. One thing I found unfortunate about the discussion about RCP8.5 scenario was that some seemed to think that because the energy scenario was unrealistic that that meant that an RCP8.5 concentration pathway was unrealistic. This, in my view, doesn’t follow. As you suggest, there are others ways in which we could follow a high concentration pathway even if the direct emissions from energy generation are lower than would typically be associated with this concentration pathway.

  16. Stephan,

    My view has always been that while we may never see the radiative forcing associated with RCP8.5 the possibility (or even more) that ECS is high means that the temperature response ‘looks’ like RCP8.5.

    In a sense, yes. However, one might argue that we could then use a high climate sensitivity model with a lower concentration pathway. One issue with this, though, is that this then limits the number of models that you can use to investigate these more extreme impacts. So, one could then choose to use a lower sensitivity model with a higher concentration pathway to – in a sense – mimic what would happen if we follow a lower concentration pathway but climate sensitivity turns out to be high. Modellers should, of course, be clear about this.

  17. angech says:

    “Finally, what we’d really like to understand is the impact of climate change. If climate sensitivity turns out to be on the high side, then the impacts could be severe even if do follow a lower emission pathway.”
    The corollary sounds good.
    The question still seems to be why is the global temperature staying below, and possibly well below where the CO2 is predicted to push it.
    If sensitivity is high then the other factors in Natural Variability must both be bigger and last longer than what people have given them credit for.
    The CO2 goes up like clockwork, unnaturally regular, We have had recessions, turndowns in coal production and usage and yet I do not see the link between either production and CO2 level nor the semblance of a trend in temperature that follows the CO2 trend at any point.
    Other than an overall upward trend.
    More investigation and science is needed.

  18. Chubbs says:

    One can criticize the other RCPs as well. Nuclear and BECCS look less attractive now and none of the other scenarios are matching recent forcing growth (see below). The bottom-line is we are rapidly leaving our historical climate and fossil fuels are losing their competitive advantage. I’m guessing that our ability to predict the future is rather limited.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/GHGs/Fig.08_20190421.png.

  19. angech,

    The question still seems to be why is the global temperature staying below, and possibly well below where the CO2 is predicted to push it.

    This is simply not true. How much we’ve warmed is essentially consistent with what would have been expected. The change in forcing is something 2.5W/m^2. We’ve warmed by about 1K. The transient response is probably between 1K and 2.5K. This is how much we would warm at the time the change in forcing is 3.7W/m^2. So, how much would we then expect if the change in forcing was 2.5W/m^2. Well, it would be somewhere between 1 x 2.5/3.7 = 0.7K and 2.5 x 2.5/3.7 = 1.7K. So, it’s nearer the lower end of the range, than the higher, but it’s consistent with what is expected.

  20. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech wrote “The CO2 goes up like clockwork, unnaturally regular, We have had recessions, turndowns in coal production and usage and yet I do not see the link between either production and CO2 level nor the semblance of a trend in temperature that follows the CO2 trend at any point.
    Other than an overall upward trend.”

    Please show me the data you looked at.

  21. Willard says:

    An auditor reports an email from DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change, United Kingdom):

    1. Am I correct in thinking that some of these feedbacks were not used in the models that calculated the “remaining carbon budgets” – as used in the IPCC AR5?

    That’s correct, the models used vary in what they include, and some feedbacks are absent as the understanding and modelling of these is not yet advanced enough to include. From those you raise, this applies to melting permafrost emissions, forest fires and wetlands decomposition.

    2. Are there other missing feedbacks that should be considered?

    The feedbacks you mention are certainly important, although there are several other feedbacks that could be included, but are currently too difficult to model. As knowledge and understanding advances, they will be added to the climate models.

    http://www.brusselsblog.co.uk/carbon-budgets-a-straightforward-answer-from-decc/

    Weird that our contrarian fellowship never raises these concerns.

  22. Joshua says:

    angech –

    > More investigation and science is needed.

    What are the criteria by which determine when more investigation and science aren’t needed?

  23. bostonblorp says:

    I haven’t seen much mention of carbon sink performance in the whole RCP 8.5 discussion. It’s very unlikely that it will stay even approximately static over the next few decades. Given that roughly 60% is absorbed this could be the tail that wags the dog as to which pathway we track closest.

    For fun and to invite derision I mulled some amateur numbers.. 1 PPM of CO2 is 2.13 PgC. Mauna Loa has averaged around 2.6PPM annual increase over the last five years. If 60% is indeed being absorbed (of course the timeline here is important but I’ll conveniently ignore that for now) that suggests 13.75GtC/yr emissions which, if I’m not mistaken, is a touch *ahead* of RCP 8.5.

  24. ecoquant says:

    @Williard,

    It is indeed an odd habit of accounting practice to exclude things which are considered too uncertain to price or substantiate. To a statistician, I think, this is quite frustrating, because statistical practice says make an estimate, even if poor, and drop an uncertainty about it, using the mean to stand in.

    Alas it seems IPCC practice follows accounting, e.g., with respect to ice sheet SLR contributions earlier in the decade.

    And that in itself says something.

  25. Willard says:

    > Alas it seems IPCC practice follows accounting, e.g., with respect to ice sheet SLR contributions earlier in the decade.

    Where are the auditors when we need them? Junior is currently whining, Richie was whining yesterday, but got back to his minimizing, Matt King Coal is hippie punching, and the Auditor is taking a break from his Mueller ideations to be concerned by teh Amazon.

  26. ecoquant,
    Indeed. It seemed odd that gave the impression that because we can’t easily quantify the magnitude of possible carbon cycle feedbacks that we should ignore them. However, as far as I’m aware, they’re not expected to be zero, they’re not expected to be negative, and could be in the ~100GtC range, or higher, for this century. So, if energy modellers think the emission pathways associated with the new RCP7 concentration pathway are about the highest plausible, and if carbon cycle feedbacks could add ~100GtC to this, then a higher concentration pathway is at least plausible, if not actually likely.

  27. Willard says:

    > higher concentration pathway is at least plausible, if not actually likely.

    Perhaps I missed it, but I haven’t seen any cite to justify the incredulity of MichealL and his fellows.

    In other news:

  28. Willard,
    There was a tweet where ML said something about being the first person to support physical science research but that this shouldn’t be included until it had been done (which, to a certain extent, it has).

    I also noticed that exchange yesterday evening. Apparently we should just accept that ML is engaging in good faith. My preference is that people engage in ways that make this obvious, rather than telling people that should just accept this. Each to their own, of course.

  29. Willard says:

    I found a dramatization of the ML and Peter encounter of the unkind:

  30. At one point I was looking at the (quite large) number of papers and media articles that were using RCP 8.5 as the basis or one of the bases for their work. It was dispiriting.

  31. Dave_Geologist says:

    Her’s a thought experiment.

    If you wanted people to be safe(r) and put on their car seatbelts, would you

    (a) tell them that if they wear the belt, in a minor crash they’ll get some bruising, and in a major one a broken rib or two;

    (b) tell them that if they don’t wear the belt, in a minor crash they’ll put their head through the windscreen, and in a major one be impaled on the steering wheel.

    Consider not only which is more persuasive, but which is fairer on the driver in terms of putting relevant information at their disposal.

    Also consider: (c) both. Tom and I played this months ago with Google Scholar, using Boolean operators. OK it was probably just me that actually did the searches.

  32. “The question still seems to be why is the global temperature staying below, and possibly well below where the CO2 is predicted to push it.”

    “So, it’s nearer the lower end of the range, than the higher, but it’s consistent with what is expected.”

    Both statements reflect the wide range of what’s “expected”.

    The range of sensitivities hasn’t changed much through the IPCC reports, from about 1.5C to about 4.5C. That’s a broad range.

    However, if these ranges reflect expectation, then not only are observations (1.8C) nearer the lower end(1.5C) than they are to the higher end(4.5C), they are also nearer the lower end than they are to the middle range(3C).

    The plot of NOAA temp anomalies versus GHG anomalies updated through 2018:

  33. Willard says:

    > OK it was probably just me that actually did the searches.

    Bill’s search is quite definitive:

    Junior changed his tune afterwards. It was more cricket-like.

  34. Mitch says:

    We should always be aware RCP 8.5 and the others were set up to provide a set of standard inputs for modelers, not as predictions. They specified time series of emissions and aerosols, following a scenario. One of the major objectives was to observe the differences in model responses under different conditions, comparing apples to apples so to speak.

    So far, the actual global response follows RCP 8.5 best. The largest variable in our understanding of climate change is the human response.

  35. TE,
    We’ve probably had this discussion many times before, but there are lots of reasons to think the observationally-based estimates of climate sensitivity (in particular, equilibrium climate sensitivity) are probably biased low (it’s probably not less than 2C, for example).

  36. “there are lots of reasons to think the observationally-based estimates of climate sensitivity (in particular, equilibrium climate sensitivity) are probably biased low (it’s probably not less than 2C, for example).”

    What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
    — Hitchens’s Razor

  37. TE,
    You could try reading some of these, and links therein.

  38. ecoquant says:

    @TE or anyone,

    Maybe someone can answer this for me. Given ECS densities like:

    why do planners use overall \text{ECS}_{2X} rather than \text{ECS}_{2X}(\cdot|\text{land})?

  39. Willard says:

    > What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

    Good. Let’s start with this:

    The issue is that the public perception of ‘most likely’ includes RCP8.5 scenarios and climate model simulations with unrealistically high CO2 sensitivity and impacts that are poorly justified. What is presented as driving emissions and adaptation policy is in the borderline implausible category. Extreme tail values have driven calculations of the social cost of carbon. Adaptation to sea level rise in some locations is using 10 feet by 2100; planning for managed retreat (e.g. Pacifica, California)

    https://judithcurry.com/2019/08/22/climate-change-whats-the-worst-case/#comment-898729

    Best of luck!

  40. ecoquant,
    I’ve only had a chance to glance at the paper, but I think those are what you get if you use land-only, ocean-only, and land & ocean. I don’t think it’s suggesting that the land-only is what we’d expect for land. In a sense, the warming over land may be more representative of the ECS, but I think you have to be careful as to how you interpret that.

  41. JCH says:

    What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.
    — Hitchens’s Razor

    Not even the Stadium Wave saved you. Came and went, and did almost nothing.

    La Niña!!!!!! Negative phase of the AMO!!!!

  42. ecoquant says:

    @ATTP,

    I did not mean to imply this was anything peculiar with Schmittner, et al. Presumably any ECS2X conditioned on locale will show different densities for land v oceans simply because of the character of the two surfaces. It is also reasonable to expect land, on average will be hotter and that the globe’s average will be weighted to follow oceans because there’s so much ocean surface.

    But accordingly, I still ask, if this is true, isn’t the \text{ECS}_{2X}(\cdot|\text{land}) what we really care about? And if so aren’t these arguments about the ECS range having a Highest Density Probability Interval on (1.5C,4.5C) off the mark?

  43. I have no problem avoiding the BAU label but have more trouble responsibly dismissing RCP8.5 as a useful worst case, at least until CMIP6 can inform us better.

    Scenarios do not have likelihoods. I could just as well call the lowest scenario unlikely.

    RCP8.5 is the world the climate “sceptics” are fighting to make happen, so we need to know the consequences, especially now in times where authoritarian regimes spread around the world.

    Who has a nice alternative name? Trump scenario is too much honor.

  44. ecoquant: “When do people give up on the current political structure and authority because things are too expensive, or just too bad?

    I do not think we know that, it may even be unknowable. Personally I would prefer to stay away from that limit far enough that we do not have to know, but it seems that 10 to 30 percent of the population thinks this is an interesting experiment.

  45. ecoquant,
    Is that difference between the land ECS and ocean ECS what we expect? I know the land warms faster than the ocean, but does that continue once we approach equilibrium, or do they ultimately equilibrate (which is what I had thought)?

  46. AndyM says:

    Which scenario most accurately models the increase in methane emissions due to fracking?

  47. Is that difference between the land ECS and ocean ECS what we expect? I know the land warms faster than the ocean, but does that continue once we approach equilibrium, or do they ultimately equilibrate (which is what I had thought)?

    The land warm about two times as fast as the ocean. Half of this is the thermal inertia of the ocean and thus transient, half is permanent and also seen in equilibrium: that more of the additional energy available at the surface goes into evaporation and less into heating the air.

  48. Victor,
    Thanks, I hadn’t appreciated that half of the difference would be permanent and also seen in equilibrium.

  49. Willard says:

    About ocean heat content:

    Speaking of which:

    This weblog presents a global warming litmus test which can be used over the next several years to compare with the IPCC projections; the question is

    What is the magnitude ocean heat storage changes each year?

    For global warming to occur, the heat, as measured in Joules, needs to increase each year.

    […]

    Will the IPCC and others in the climate community, and those who are using climate trends to promote energy policy adopt and advocate for this diagnostic of global warming? If they are honest climate scientists they would (see also).

    Not sure if Senior followed his own advice and reported ocean heat content each year.

  50. Joshua says:

    That’s quite a “pause in global warming” there, Willard.

    Anyone who uses the term “pause in global warming” (as opposed to something like a *relatively short-term slow down in a longer-term rise of SAT’s only”) to describe trends in SAT’s absent data in OHC, forfeits scientific legitimacy when talking about the importance of uncertainty.

    What would be galling would be if some advocates, who dismiss uncertainty in trend identification by omitting OHC as a measure of global warming, were to pejoratively label other scientists as advocates and dismiss their scientific integrity based on an argument that those other scientists underestimate uncertainty.

    Good thing I’ve never seen anyone do that.

  51. JCH says:

    The almost DaPaws in global warming is visible in some ocean data. Fo instance, the rate of sea level rise took a dip, so to speak.

  52. JCH says:

    So, when the side of the stadium wave the wavers never talk about, the part where the wave stands up and cheers hotly, what warms more, land or ocean? They’re always talking about mountains of heat coming out of the oceans.

  53. ecoquant says:

    “Mountains of heat”
    .Well, thermal capacity of oceans does matter, it matters a lot and in many ways.

    One of the most notable, for planning, and from my perspective, is that post-zero emissions, the world does not cool quickly, even if CO2 decays to half its concentration after a few centuries. Accordingly, for any timescale likelly to be pertinent, this means we must zero but the payoff is things stop getting worse, they don’t get much better.

  54. Dave_Geologist says:

    Which scenario most accurately models the increase in methane emissions due to fracking?

    None AndyM, because they’re agnostic as to source.

    To what I presume was the question behind the question: other things being equal (per bcf produced and burned), fraccing should be slightly better than conventional gas, at least conventional tight gas, because the subsurface laterals and fracs make them worth several conventional wells. It’s done to save money of course, but fewer wells, fewer wellheads, fewer infield flowlines, fewer manifolds, fewer inspection ports, fewer meters, fewer pumps all adds up to fewer potential leakage points. And the relative newness of the wells, their concentration into pads where leaks will be more obvious and cheaper to fix than with lone wells on 100-acre spacing, and the intense NGO focus on fraccing should mean less leakage per well than in decades-old mom-and-pop wells on their fourth owner who contracts out all his maintenance. Despite its laxer regulation than in the UK, I’d still trust US reporting ahead of Russian and Saudi reporting. And of course bringing gas 5,000 or 10,000 miles, by pipeline or LNG, has an energy waste overhead in the tens of percent. Obviously if it defers peak oil or peak gas that’s another matter, but I’m not too worried about that because I’m confident we’ll get to the point where we have to leave stuff in the ground long before it runs out, so we should use the least bad wells we can. Others, I know, differ.

    There’s little if any evidence of fracced reservoir gas getting to surface outside the wellbore (you can tell the difference from chemistry), and to the extent that it does that will also be mitigated by fewer wellbores. And physics is against it getting out through the induced fractures (they’re not big enough). And of course quite apart from microseismic monitoring which shows what is fracturing where and when, a fracture big enough to penetrate through seals to shallow depth would be big enough to cause a large, felt earthquake. There is a very tight relationship between the slip area of a fracture and the energy released, and slip of (say) a 500m or a 1000m radius plane would be recorded by seismometers across the USA and probably around the world as a magnitude 2 or 3. One that broke to surface would be a 4 or 5.

    There is a fair bit of gas coming up outside wellbores in the USA and Canada, which is why the UK has applied the more stringent offshore rules to onshore wells (the USA is laxer onshore). In the sense that you can see it bubbling if you put water on it, not that you can hear the roar or see the flare from millions of cubic feet per day. AFAIK it’s invariably been tagged as biogenic or biogenically modified shallow gas (except for blowouts of course). The Alberta regulator did a big survey of active and abandoned wells with essentially the same casing and cement rules as the USA and not one was leaking reservoir gas. There is an ongoing debate whether that biogenic gas is added leakage (or rather accelerated leakage which would have come out anyway years later), or just focusing of natural leakage drawn from elsewhere (the stick-into-stagnant-pond analogue). Probably a bit of both, but I’d be more worried about the tundra.

  55. ecoquant says:

    @Dave_Geologist,

    Just to put my personal stance out there in a community I respect, besides including it in correspondence to political administrators and similar testimony, I accept the use of natural gas as a bridge, displacing fossil fuels which are worse, and especially as a means of leveling generation while an appropriate power grid can be built. I wish it were available for aviation.

    My only concern is that new infrastructure and assets put in in this era of daunting realization of how quickly we need to transition should be priced in a manner which assumes they will be retired early, rather than played out their full lives. I very much don’t like the latter because, at least in the USA, I can see court cases where orders to shut down or seizing of assets end up with the citizenry having to compensate owners for such. I’d rather the users of these bridge assets pay for that now, as they go.

  56. Willard says:

    > Good thing I’ve never seen anyone do that.

    Me neither. I saw “but regional models,” however:

    Who would have thunk there would be a new litmus test?

  57. Joshua says:

    > Fo instance, the rate of sea level rise took a dip, so to speak.

    It would seem to me, that even more so than with SATs, (given the inertia of the ocean), there is a need to have at least a minimum time period before determining a change in trend (i.e., “pause”) in OHC. One person’s “dip” is another persons “meh?”

    But what do I know?

  58. JCH says:

    Ages ago somebody asked that very “how long” question at RC, and Gavin responded with set of criteria that if met would indicate there is something wrong with the theory. Basically, a powerful EL Niño saved the day. Was that a complete understanding of the physical system or luck?

  59. Dave_Geologist says:

    ecoquant, the long-lived infrastructure (pipelines, processing plants) is already there. They do need more and better-sited waste-water disposal wells, or plant to clean up to safe disposal levels (40ppm hydrocarbons) as is done offshore. As I’ve pointed out before, that wastewater is mostly saline aquifer, about 95% in all but one play where it’s 85%, not returned frac fluids. It’s produced because tight reservoirs have a high water saturation and high relative permeability to water, and will be there anyway, frac or no frac.

    Since it’s natural gas liquids which are fairly small volume and clean (clear to at darkest pale yellow fluid, not black oil with lots of nasty aromatics), you might allow a tonnage per year limit with suitable dispersion. The UK used to allow that offshore for NGLs, but changed to 40 ppm after most of the big operators changed voluntarily to comply with their own company-wide standards.

    The wells have very rapid initial decline rates, so you will see a sharp drop in production shortly after stopping drilling, certainly within a decade which is faster than we’ll build out alternative power infrastructure. (That was known about and is not why the assets drilled in the boom are underwater – they’re underwater because they assumed double or triple the current gas price. Wells with this sort of production profile are meant to pay back in under five years, and the industry standard for a workover such as a re-frac is payback in 18 months.) The individual wells will be marginally profitable in twenty years; the big assets whose owners will want to sweat them for decades are in transportation and processing. The Kochs are heavily into that, which may explain their political stance – although I suspect that like the de Vos’s, who have no dog in the energy fight, it’s mostly ideological.

  60. There’s a post yesterday at DD called “U.S. set to drown the world in oil”, with the tag line “The sheer scale of this new production dwarfs that of every other country in the world”

    The growth looks impressive:

    But …. what they are actually showing is NEW oil and gas fields in the next 10 years across the USA. This growth does dwarf the rest of the world, but they are forgetting one thing — the Red Queen effect. The new oil fields are just the replacement fields for the fast depleting fracked sources of oil.

    No one understands this aspect of fracking for oil, that depletion is so rapid that new fields have to be deployed just to run in place. This is part of the RCP8.5 discussion in that this pace particularly for crude oil) is unlikely to continue, let alone to accelerate.

  61. Willard says:

    > This is part of the RCP8.5 discussion in that this pace particularly for crude oil) is unlikely to continue, let alone to accelerate.

    And this is when we forget that coal is also part of ButRCPs exchanges.

  62. anoilman says:

    Paul: Who’s gonna drill that? I have heard that the US was trying to push for more fracking in other parts of the world (like Argentina).

    Halliburton is getting out of fracking because they can’t make money at it. They plan to focus on conventional oil.
    https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Halliburton-cuts-8-percent-of-North-American-14114085.php

    All I hear from the US is that there isn’t a lot of money in unconventional oil. The CEO of Schlumberger is saying that most new wells are child wells, meaning they can’t make money drilling new rock, and they are extracting everything they can from known good rock.
    https://www.spe.org/en/jpt/jpt-article-detail/?art=4734

    To my eyes, the only way things get better for the oil industry is if oil prices go up, but that will also aid renewables.

  63. anoilman says:

    Joshua: Regarding Satellites, I did ask Anders to do a post on Satellite measurement error.

    I found this paper really interesting;
    https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00767.1

    Diurnal error refers to the fact that satellites don’t go over the same spot at the same time every day. Over years the time drift is hours.

    The effect that has on temperatures varies with were you measure, near oceans, not too much error is introduced, but on land the error is huge;

    Most satellite temperature retrieval algorithms use GCM models to calculate diurnal drift temperature compensation, and this paper proposes a novel method to calculate the diurnal drift.

    It does reference UAH Spencer and Christy’s ‘solutions’ to all the various sources of error. They try to only use low drift data sequences from satellites, but clearly that means their land temperatures have heavy error.

  64. AoM,
    Sorry, I did see that and then things got in the way. I think there has been quite a lot of coverage about that already.

  65. anoilman says:
    “To my eyes, the only way things get better for the oil industry is if oil prices go up, but that will also aid renewables.”

    Paraphrasing something I just read that exactly echoes your statement — It boils down to extraction prices rising faster than market prices. In one sense, scarcity and costly extraction will bring about higher prices promoting more investment in oil. Yet it also promotes adjustments in ones living style so as to depend less on oil. When investors realize that the second response delivers a higher return than the first, oil is cooked.

  66. Coal projections in the USA seem to go the wrong way

    That’s a few years old so here is the recent data point

    which lies below the x-axis in the first chart for 2018

    If coal does make a comeback in the USA, perhaps after NG starts declining, it will be of a different character

  67. ecoquant says:

    @anoilman,

    Thank you so much for the reference to the Po-Chedley, et al (2015) paper. Look forward to reading it.

    There are Bayesian fusion methods which can help with this kind of thing. I don’t know if they’ve been tried on the Po-Chedley, et al task, however. Here are two:

    T. J. Hoar, R. F. Milliff, D. Nychka, C. K Wikle, L. M. Berliner, “Winds from a Bayesian hierarchical model: Computation for atmosphere-ocean research”, Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics, 2003, 12:4, 781-807, DOI: 10.1198/1061860032616
    Jenný Brynjarsdóttir, L. M. Berliner, “Bayesian hierarchical modeling for temperature reconstruction from geothermal data”, The Annals of Applied Statistics, 2011, 5(2B), 1328-1359, DOI: 10.1214/10-AOAS452

    Not clear if geophysicists read this far afield.

  68. Willard says:

    > Coal projections in the USA seem to go the wrong way.

    One reason being that the USA is set to drown the world in oil. If there’s no oil left, energy demand increases and isn’t met with renewables or nukes, then coal will return. Which goes on to show that sometimes logic beats systems of equations.

  69. Joshua says:

    AOM –

    Why less error near oceans?

    Do you mean to tell me satellite measures use modulz? Say it ain’t so!!! 1!!11!!

  70. Why less error near oceans?

    This measurement error comes from the spatial drift of the satellites. These polar orbiting satllites have an orbit where they would pass the equator each time at the same solar time (if they would not drift). As a consequence of this drift they see the Earth at changing solar times and thus at different temperatures due to the daily cycle. Over the oceans the daily cycle in the temperature is much smaller than that over land, especially the daily cycle of the surface itself.

    Do you mean to tell me satellite measures use modulz? Say it ain’t so!!! 1!!11!!

    Always. Even if it is not a numerical model, you at least always use a conceptual model (a simplification of reality) to make any computation. One simplification UAH used to make was that the satellites do not drift.

  71. Joshua says:

    Thx.

  72. ecoquant says:

    @VariabilityBlog, @Josuha,

    “Do you mean to tell me satellite measures use modulz? Say it ain’t so!!! 1!!11!!”

    Always. Even if it is not a numerical model, you at least always use a conceptual model (a simplification of reality) to make any computation. One simplification UAH used to make was that the satellites do not drift.

    To underscore:

    P. McCullagh, “What is a statistical model?“, The Annals of Statistics, 2002, 30(5), 1225-1310.
    L. M. Berliner, “Physical-statistical modeling in geophysics“, JGR-Atmospheres, 2003, 108(D24), 8776

  73. anoilman says:

    Joshua asked “Why less error near oceans?”

    Oceans do moderate surface temperatures. Temperatures just don’t change much from one hour to the next, but further on land temperatures changes a lot from one hour to the next.

    Another thing that strikes me pretty hard (because I’m an engineer) is that the satellites have a lot of thermometers on them to you know… calibrate the sensors. Its cold in the dark, and hot in the sun. Those thermometers will be about as accurate as, well, a thermometer. So.. tell me again why can’t use thermometers to measure temperature?

  74. Dave_Geologist says:

    Paul, that thing no-one understands? Everyone understands. At least, all the professionals understand: petroleum geologists, petroleum engineers, reservoir engineers, frac designers. They understood it before the first new-generation fracced well was drilled. Partly because of physics, partly because of 50 years of experience with fracced wells in tight, conventional reservoirs, which behave exactly the same. The general public, naive investors, managers who don’t listen to their professionals, not so much. Hence my clarification for ecoquant.

    People think of an oil or gas field like they think of a coal mine or a power station. A big upfront investment and a steady, little-changed revenue stream for decades. The investment is amortised against that revenue stream over the asset’s life. So early abandonment does indeed leave the company or its financial backers underwater. Hence the concern over sunk costs leading us to keep fields running to 2050 and beyond to amortise capital investment, leading us to blow through RCP6 to RCP8.5.

    Most O+G fields aren’t like that. The shale gas fields will only stay on plateau as long as drillers keep drilling. Even conventional fields naturally decline at about 10% p.a. Offshore fields tend to have a three to six year plateau as the wells are drilled out, then decline. Waterflooded fields maintain a constant production rate of oil + water. Water breakthrough typically occurs within a couple of years, starting at 20-30% and rising to 97% or whatever the commercial cutoff is late in field life. So the oil production declines in them too. Some gas fields are different because they’re tied to long-term contracts. There’s huge under-investment in wells early on so you can drill more later. But a corollary of that is that the facilities are undersized relative to the field’s flat-out potential, so again that CAPEX is recovered early in the project. Most companies won’t look at projects with more than five or six years to payback. Partly because that’s how the physics works, and partly because of their track record of operating in places where you can’t guarantee that there won’t be a political change that sees your contract get torn up. So in practice, production will wind down as soon as companies stop investing in existing fields, never mind new fields. So fast that if they all stopped dead tomorrow, we wouldn’t be able to build wind farms or nukes fast enough to fill the gap.

    My 1980s petroleum economics textbook said you should think of it as being like the music or movie business. Exploration is making the movies. Some will be hits, some will be flops, but you don’t know which is which. You get your money back within the first year and the vast bulk of your profit in the first two. Then there’s a slow trickle of revenue from DVD rentals, cover versions, radio royalties etc., which is nice to have but in some years barely covers the cost of collection. Just double or triple the timeframe and you have the O+G industry. To extend it to shale gas, call that the Marvel franchise, where you have a steady income over decades but only if you spend half a billion every year on a new movie. Disney won’t go bust if they shut down the franchise, because they’ll also stop spending half a billion a year.

    Fraccing gas or oil shales has always been less economic than fraccing tight sandstones, which have always been less economic than permeable sandstones which don’t need to be fracced. Other things being equal. Everyone in the industry knew that too. Of course other things (tax, royalties, corruption, rebels trying to kill your staff, distance to market, water depth, ice, desert, jungle, costs, infrastructure) are never equal. If the product’s sale price drops by two-thirds after you’ve made your investment, you’ll be underwater whether you’re a fraccer or an aircraft manufacturer.

  75. Dave said:

    “.. you should think of it as being like the music or movie business.”

    Let’s give a listen to logical people such as Raymond Pierrehumbert and what he said in 2013:

    ” Oil production technology is giving us ever more expensive oil with ever diminishing returns for the ever increasing effort that needs to be invested. According to the statistics presented by J. David Hughes at the AGU session, we are now drilling 25,000 wells per year just to bring production back to the levels of the year 2000, when we were drilling only 5,000 wells per year. Worse, the days are long gone when you could stick a pitchfork in the ground and get a gusher that would produce for years. The new wells are expensive (on the order of $10 million each in the Bakken) but give out rapidly, as shown in the following figure from Hughes’ talk illustrating the typical production curve.

    Tight oil is headed for a Red Queen’s race, where you have to keep drilling and drilling and drilling just to keep your production in the same place. At several million dollars a pop, that adds up to a big annual investment, and eventually you run out of places to put new wells. The following figure, also from Hughes’ talk, shows that if you try to increase production by drilling wells faster, you just wind up running out of oil sooner.”

  76. ecoquant says:

    @Dave_Geologist,

    Thanks for this additional clarification!

    A couple of more questions: Are pipelines and refineries done the same way?

  77. RCP 8.5 is a possible outcome. It is one we should work very hard to avoid, but it’s there on the horizon if we don’t work hard enough or if we are unlucky with impact of the unknowns. Given that, should we stop looking at RCP 8.5? I think not.

  78. ecoquant says:

    @smallbluemike and others,

    On the point of RCP 8.5, a paper as recent as https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-11755-z relies upon an RCP 8.5 context for some meaningful coastal forecasts.

  79. Ben McMillan says:

    Given there isn’t much fracking in the UK yet, and tight regulations, is it surprising there was a magnitude 2.9 quake recently? Is that enough (in principle) to allow contamination of aquifers?

  80. Dave_Geologist says:

    No they’re not ecoquant. The key difference between upstream O&G and downstream is that the first is not just Paul’s Red Queen on a field-by-field basis, but on an individual field and individual well basis. You have to spend money to get the oil, and each barrel or bcf costs more to get than the previous barrel or bcf. Not just on new wells and workovers, but in operating what is now an oversized and overspecced facility.

    Most gas fields and some oil fields run on depletion – the gas is driven out by its natural pressure, and in a simplistic world the pressure declines exponentially and so does the rate. In practice it’s more complicated because it’s never a single tank, and you can drill new wells or perforate new zones that are less depleted or undepleted, but it’s usually close to exponential decline. For simple wells in large fields which are not unitised, each well doing its own thing, the SEC will accept decline curves as the basis for official reserves figures. Shale oil and shale gas have that in spades because they’re a dual-porosity, dual-permeability system. A small pore volume closely connected to the well which drains very quickly, and a large pore volume which drains very poorly and most of which is a long way from the well. The small volume quickly equilibrates with the well pressure, then you have to wait while its pressure drop slowly draws oil or gas out of the large volume. That’s why you get a steep drop in the first year, than a slow exponential decline.

    Some fields have an active aquifer which is effectively infinite. That keeps the pressure up but only by compressing the gas and encroaching on the wells. So you lose wells or have to shorten them (close off deeper zones) and lose productivity that way. You typically get less reserves that way, because the wells die when they can no longer lift the water, and pumping a gas-water mix is expensive and problematic.

    Secondary-recovery oilfields (usually salt-water injection) generally drop the pressure to an optimal level than pump in water to maintain the pressure. The water inevitably is drawn towards the producing wells which have a steadily increasing water-oil ratio. Depending on operating costs you may reach a steady state, just as stripper wells can go on nearly forever at a very low rate. One of the oldest North Sea fields, Thistle, was described as a giant washing machine trying to make the reservoir sands whiter than white.

    Downstream and midstream facilities OTOH have an effectively constant supply of feedstock (as long as the other Red Queens can keep up). So they’re financed on the assumption that their operating costs will stay the same in real terms for decades, and their throughput will stay the same for decades. Pipelines only hit that escalating unit cost when the basin is running out of feedstock, as has happened in the North Sea. In the case of basins they’re usually pretty good at predicting when that is and planning accordingly. The steel only has a 30-50 year life anyway. In the case of regional pipelines not dedicated to a particular basin, or coastal refineries relying on imports, they may assume that the status quo will last forever.

  81. Dave_Geologist says:

    Paul, we debated that Pierrehumbert article months ago. He got some things right, and some badly wrong. The things he got badly wrong are why there is more technical and commercially recoverable oil out there than he thinks. Of course it depends on how elastic demand is to price increases. But look at the late 2000’s, the era that drove those shale oil investors to over-commit. The price was two or three times today’s real-terms price and rising, and there was no sign of demand slowing until the Financial Crash.

    As I’ve also said before, if I’m right we need to actively start prioritising what reserves will be left in the ground, either explicitly or through the market impact of carbon taxes etc. If you’re right Peak Oil will solve the problem for us. Maybe the idea of Peak Oil will encourage people to decarbonise. I suspect most will wait and see. After all, every single past prediction of Peak Oil (globally, not in a restricted field or play where it falls into the “everybody knows that” category) has got it wrong. I’d hate to see what a wait-and-see world looks like if I’m right. Perhaps RCP8.5.

  82. ecoquant says:

    @Dave_Geologist, @WHUT (Paul),

    Yes, I find there’s little appreciation for the significance of price elasticity with respect to fossil fuels. This comes up most of the time in discussions of Carbon fees or emissions fees. Not only is the “true cost” of emissions up there towards US$1000/tonne CO2, but if the point is to change behavior, it needs to be even higher than that.

    That the administration of President Obama only managed to negotiate a Social Cost of Carbon down the 4-5 dozen dollars per tonne CO2 range is pathetically low. I can only speculate why it may have been so.

    CO2 emissions surely are entrenched in society. Once of my favorite figures for this is:

    where (I believe) the left shows the time trace of CO2 emissions for two cities in Texas and the right shows for two cities in California. Note the fine structure on the Monday-Friday, and note how different weekends are. Also note how the fine structure on Monday-Friday is superficially similar between Texas and California. The top red is urban, and the low green is rural.

    I love this figure, and use the associated data to illustrate matching of human behavior across days. (I recently gave a presentation on this fun.)

    But it shows that CO2 emissions are so entrenched in human society they can serve as a pretty good proxy for human activity. For instance, if you compare Department of Labor standard time-use curves for various professions, you’ll get shapes that look at lot like these.

  83. This is why there should be truth in the production levels — otherwise you get Trump telling lies at the G7 and all anybody can respond with is “… but climate change !”

    Odds are that ANWR is a bust, and Trump spreading the myth of Saudi America is just that.

  84. Keith McClary says:

    @Dave_Geologist
    My understanding is that you can squeeze more oil out of “conventional” oilfields by water (and CO2) flushing, but at some point it becomes uneconomical so production goes into steep decline. And a lot of the worlds production comes from decades-old fields which are nearing that point.

    That’s what I hear from the “peak-oilers” – is that right?

  85. Dave_Geologist says:

    ecoquant, you only need to consider how much higher the pump price is in Europe vs. the USA or OPEC countries to see how elastic demand is to price hikes. Very. I agree $1000/tonne won’t cut it. To the extent that US consumption is high because of thirsty V8s as opposed to being a more spread-out country, you’d need to double the pump price just to drive US usage down to European usage. And in most of the OPEC world, petrol and gas at below the cost of production is regarded as a human right, alongside cheap bread. Part of the social contract with governments that spend the oil revenues on stuff that doesn’t benefit the masses. An extra $2.50 per gallon, assuming no losses along the way, translates to $77.50 per barrel. Add that to the crude price and we’re back to where we were in the late 2000s, when there was no sign of price slowing demand. I think we’d need at least double, to a commodity price of $300 per barrel, to make a difference in usage areas where it’s just too damn convenient. Maybe $500 plus to really make a difference. That would have knock-on consequences, which is why I would favour a “sin tax” where I take the hit but the hospital ambulances get fuel tax free, and grants to electrify the fleet. I appreciate that is a hard sell in some parts of the world…

    Probably the only area where it’s inelastic is static power generation, where there are competing, currently more expensive technologies. And even there you have the sunk costs of committed plant to work though. Everywhere else it’s just too damn convenient. And the alternatives are just too damn inconvenient.

  86. Dave_Geologist says:

    Keith, virtually all conventional oilfields use secondary recovery in the form of waterflooding. Primary recovery is driven purely by expansion and gas exsolution and will typically deliver no more than 5-10% of the oil in place. You can get a bit more by pumping (fields of nodding donkeys) but that isn’t strictly primary. Water injection will typically deliver 40-60% recovery, depending on the oil and reservoir characteristics. That’s a petrophysical limit, not an economic limit. There’s an irreducible oil saturation which would apply even if you took a one-inch cube of reservoir and flushed water through it in the lab. Which is how that property is in fact measured. Waterflooding is more than squeezing, it often delivers ten times the primary recovery. Tertiary recovery involving CO2 or additives (including huff-and-puff gas injection) changes the miscibility, viscosity or surface tension, to move that petrophysical limit or to get more oil per pump kWh. There it merges into economics and secondary/tertiary grey areas like BP’s proprietary LoSal injection, which is as yet unproven other than in small-scale trials. Ideally that’s applied from day one, because the seawater may have already done damage that the low salinity water can’t entirely undo. Although IIRC I think they’re also applying it to a mature field in a mix of new reservoir zones and existing waterflooded zones, so in principle will get information on whether it’s a viable tertiary recovery tool or just a better secondary recovery method. Or indeed that it doesn’t work at scale for operational or unexpected petrophysical reasons. Of course how much of that remains a trade secret and how much is published remains to be seen.

    A good rule of thumb would be that the first 10% of reserves comes from primary recovery, the next 80% from secondary, and the final 10% from tertiary, if applied. At least offshore, the secondary recovery is cheaper per barrel, because seawater is free and the incremental cost of the injection plant and wells is small compared to that of the full platform. There’s usually an initial period of primary recovery, but that’s to get the reservoir operating pressure to the optimum level and to gather information about the reservoir before injection makes tests much more difficult to interpret.

    Production decline is steep (almost instantaneous) when a field becomes economic. But that’s because you’ve passed a threshold or tipping point, not because incremental barrels have become more expensive to invest in. It’s operating costs that kill fields, not CAPEX. For most of field life, production decline is (negative) exponential, so the rate of decline gets less over time in barrel or bcf per year terms. In waterflooded fields it may be rapid at first as more wells cut water, than essentially flat where the well stock is producing at a stable water-oil ratio. Interventions like workovers and re-fracs usually deliver cheap oil, because most companies require rapid payback. However that restricts their contribution to only a few percent in most fields. The economics are driven by constant and, in late life, rising operating costs against a declining revenue stream.

    The peak-oilers over-simplify.

  87. Dave said:

    “The peak-oilers over-simplify.”

    And that’s why they get it right in the long run. All the details don’t matter.

  88. There are other terms than long term:

  89. “And that’s why they get it right in the long run. All the details don’t matter.”

    The details – like a time frame – are pretty much the only thing that matter if you expect anyone to make policy (or any other type of) decisions based on what you’re saying.

    The trouble with peak oilers is they’re like a doctor who keeps predicting you have 3-6 months left to live, and 40 years later tells you they were right, they just missed the details a bit and, in the long run, everyone dies.

  90. ecoquant says:

    @jeffnsails850, @WHUT, (implicitly @Dave_Geologist),

    I can’t speak for Paul, but AFAIC, I admit to having a certain impatience with all of the present courses of action, including big time investment, Carbon Fees and Dividends, working energy policy, as well as the fantasy that marching in the millions in the streets with torches and pitchforks will produce a Magicke Resolution.

    Talking about it from an optimization perspective, there are clear attributes and constraints on the place we want to be. All these present courses of action claim to appreciate the danger of failing to get into those states soon enough. But nearly all “piddle, twiddle, and resolve” about aspects of the path taken to achieve that state. It’s not clear to me — nor, from what I can tell by the proposals of these various interest groups — that paths achieving these states constrained by the aspects they seek even exist, let alone have corresponding global policies which will initiate them. I think any set of paths which get there are to be seriously considered.

    Worse, by piddling and twiddling, Thomas Stocker’s closing door gets closer and closer to being shut, meaning the economic harm from transition is growing or, equivalently, the gradient of the landscape of the hill we need to climb to get to a satisfactory state is increasing in its positive magnitude.

    I agree with both Stewart Brand and Johan Rockström the idea of doing away with corporate culture and the present economy in order to fix those problems along with assuring a livable climate is pretty silly. “We don’t have time for a revolution”, as David Wallace-Wells says. But, on the other hand, I really don’t see the level of ambition from big capitalists I think I’d expect if they want to avoid a global version of the Reign of Terror.

  91. Steven Mosher says:

    “There are other terms than long term:

    I told you guys to buy up coal assets, protect the workers and keep the coal in the ground.

    but noooooo…

    now the vultures come. well duh.

  92. John Hartz says:

    ecoquant:

    In his most recent article for New York magazine, David Wallace-Wells addresses the need to eliminate “national sovereignty”as part of the global political solution — extremely thought-provoking to say the least..

    The Glimmer of a Climate New World Order by David Wallace-Wells, Intelligencer, New York Magazine, Aug 26, 2019

    http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/08/climate-at-the-g-7-glimmers-of-a-new-world-order.html

  93. angech says:

    DM
    angech wrote “The CO2 goes up like clockwork, unnaturally regular, We have had recessions, turndowns in coal production and usage and yet I do not see the link between either 2. production and CO2 level nor the semblance of 3. a trend in temperature that follows the 1. CO2 trend at any point.Other than an overall upward trend.”
    Please show me the data you looked at.

    The same data everyone here uses. The data that you use.

    1. U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration NOAA Research GGRN Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network
    RSS Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
    2. CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) from 1960
    Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, United States. from 1960
    3. GLOBAL LAND-OCEAN TEMPERATURE INDEX
    Data source: NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). Credit: NASA/GISS from 1880.

  94. ecoquant
    “But nearly all “piddle, twiddle, and resolve” about aspects of the path taken to achieve that state. It’s not clear to me — nor, from what I can tell by the proposals of these various interest groups — that paths achieving these states constrained by the aspects they seek even exist, let alone have corresponding global policies which will initiate them.”

    I think AGW is a technological problem without an agreed upon (or fully functional) set of technological solutions and this fact is ignored in order to falsely argue that issue is political.
    Or to simplify
    One group says “do A” and claims everyone ignores them for political reasons
    One group the same for “do B”
    One group wants to just take the opportunity for total economic and political transformation.
    All three say they’re obviously correct, the other two are clearly wrong, and that the failure of politicians to agree with them is a global scandal. In reality we aren’t sure if A or B are right or which combination of the two.

    In addition, another group doesn’t want to do a whole lot of anything or nothing- often because they see energy transition as an inevitability for market reasons. For example they think electric cars are going to be widespread and it will happen as soon as they’re ready for market because there is a huge opportunity for them. That fact won’t change regardless of which RCP is correct or what international agreement is reached in some exotic port and it’s timeframe won’t be altered by the number of sailboat rides Greta takes. You might be able to speed it up a bit with battery R&D spending and you can slow it down a lot by picking the wrong grid to charge the batteries with or by eliminating your economy, but the opportunity is so massive that the things are coming about as fast as they can come.

  95. jj says :

    “One group says “do A” and claims everyone ignores them for political reasons
    One group the same for “do B”
    One group wants to just take the opportunity for total economic and political transformation.
    All three say they’re obviously correct, the other two are clearly wrong, and that the failure of politicians to agree with them is a global scandal. In reality we aren’t sure if A or B are right or which combination of the two. “

    These binary choices are so old hat. Today the rationale is a No Regrets strategy which involves “A or B or C or D” then do X. In the No Regrets policy that people like Frank Luntz are proposing, X is the same whether A=Climate Change, B= Peak Oil, C=Air Pollution, etc.

  96. Willard says:

    > order to falsely argue that issue is political.

    That you argue another way than by assertion would be a nice change, JeffN. Drive-by done.

  97. ecoquant says:

    @WHUT and all,

    There’s a discussion swirling around comments about Greta Thunberg’s and Team Malizia‘s arrival in New York. There’s the usual raft of insulting jerks, but, then, there’s Christopher Caldwell in the New York Times claiming Thunberg’s proposals are anti-democratic.

    And, indeed, the may be. I have spoken and written publicly on this, and presented the idea to friends, that, for example, the United States Constitution may not be capable of inhibiting climate disruption. That does not mean it should be overthrown or anything. That would be a waste of good time in any case. It does mean it is irrelevant to solving this existential problem.

    This is the question: If a system like representative democracy, or democratic individualism, which is what we seem to have today, is incapable of arresting the onslaught of a problem which will destroy it eventually, should ideological purity be pursued and supporters go down with the ship, or should something else happen. I suspect I know what President Abraham Lincoln might say.

    More broadly, if staving off climate disruption necessarily means a weakening of national sovereignty thing which @John Hartz mentioned above was proposed in The Atlantic by Franklin Foer, and David Wallace-Wells acknowledges, then, for good or ill, the worries of some about a “globalist plan” to frustrate local determination may well be self-fulfilling because people have fought the measures needed to contain forcing.

    And in that case could a future system sanction nation-states which harm the collective by failing to act individually? Sounds like a recipe for a climate world war …

  98. ecoquant, even–or especially–if you happen to be on to something about the fate of national sovereignty, do not ever say or write it again. I happen to think we can get by without sacrificing it. But hey, I thought Clinton would wallop Trump, so I recognize my own failibility.

    But in the interests of not feeding the right wing media machine, never let those words escape your lips or flow off your keyboard ever again.Because I might be wrong and you might be on to something.

  99. Willard says:

    > if you happen to be on to something about the fate of national sovereignty, do not ever say or write it again

    Thank you for your concerns about the importance of being economical with the truth.

  100. ecoquant says:

    @thomaswfuller2, @Willard,

    It’s not like I’m proposing starting a national movement or anything … My “tea leaves” scenario says we, in the U.S., and some other countries with similar interests (Australia, Poland) do little or nothing over the next decade or so. Nate Silver at 538‘s Politics Podcast said he’d miss Gov Jay Inslee as a presidential candidate because he at least had something substantial to talk about. (The other recent dropouts were just crappy candidates per NS.) When asked why he thought Inslee ended up dropping out, Silver said (something like) “Because Democrats don’t care about climate change, or at least it’s only their 4th or 5th issue.” I agree. So don’t think there’ll be salvation if Dems win.

    As a result, mostly because of the lack of interest in the issue, we’ll spent less effort and money preparing, and we’ll get increasingly clobbered by the increasing effects of climate, effects which everyone is powerless to stop getting worse, at least for a couple of decades, possibly more. We’ll get poorer and poorer. We’ll turn inwards. The international power vacuum will be filled, possibly by the EU, possibly by China, possibly by an alliance of the two, maybe with Japan in the mix.

    I think everything is set up for a drain of our best and brightest kids to other countries. People seem to think that changing the political system is kids’ only choice. Emigration, not immigration, is another option.

    And it’s looking pretty sorry for the USA in another half century. There’ll be pockets of goodness. Hey, maybe some northern states and California will want to secede.

  101. izen says:

    It is free market and largely unregulated capitalism that is incompatible with mitigation inhibiting climate disruption.
    National sovereignty and democratic individualism are the political systems that exist to legitimise and enable that form of enterprise, that does what is profitable, not what is needed.

    Every Nation surrenders parts of its sovereignty the moment it uses radio, TV and mobile phones. An international, global authority ordains which frequency bands can be use for what purpose.
    There are global, supra-national governance of various dangerous chemicals, Lead and CFCs being the obvious example.
    National sovereignty is strongly defended where it is of benefit to private enterprise and trade, but abrogated willingly when it would impede global trade.
    The same pattern can be seen with democratic individualism.

    The ‘contrarians’ are invariably wrong about the science, but that may be because they are right about the politics.
    Solving the damage caused by cumulative CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use will require the loss of the current economic-political system in which Nation States exist with ‘democratic legitimacy’ as vehicles within which private enterprise can generate profit.
    It will require global regulation, with penalties, that will constrain ‘free’ trade and the loss of those aspects of National sovereignty and democratic control of choices that enable continued exploitation of fossil fuels for private/political gain.
    Solving the problem of cumulative climate disruption really is the worst political nightmare of those that are beneficiaries of the current system.
    And of all those that HOPE to be greater beneficiaries of neoliberal capitalism in the future.

  102. jacksmith4tx says:

    I know this is way off the topic of emissions but since it has the potential to alter human perceptions of reality I could see this as an effective use of technology to achieve global behavioral changes (diets, addictions, racism?).
    We are almost there. The final hack… creating completely synthetic memories. Free will was an illusion anyway.
    “The animals recalled the artificial memory, responding to an odor they had never encountered by avoiding a shock they had never received.”
    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-successful-artificial-memory-has-been-created/

    Deep down everybody knows humans lack the self control to deal with generational problems like environmental disruption or species extinctions.

  103. angech says:

    Sorry to lecture or hector, not intended. The trouble is that the good intentions above can have unexpected consequences possibly worse for humanity than the severe problems of climate you anticipate. Human behaviour is much more unpredictable than climate as we all have witnessed

  104. Willard says:

    A word from our sponsor:

  105. mrkenfabian says:

    I don’t see that it is surrendering of sovereignty for nations to enter into international agreements for mutual benefit – more like the opposite, that nations having sovereignty make such international agreements possible.

    I don’t see any fundamental incompatibility with (responsible for it’s own actions) free enterprise, democracy and the rule of independent law – the problem is in failures of our civil institutions and office holders to act independently and ethically or act to uphold responsibility and accountability for businesses on (arguably) the greatest threat to future prosperity and security. Throwing that choice – to enforce climate accountability or not – back to a poorly informed public that, naturally, does not want to be held accountable either – is abrogation of responsibility, not “the will of the people”.

    “Deep down everybody knows humans lack the self control to deal with generational problems like environmental disruption or species extinctions.” Which is why we have institutions, like courts and the rule of law – to moderate our less ennobling instincts, not enable them.

    I don’t see the essential problem of addressing the climate problem as a battle between capitalism and socialism, but a problem of corruption, that if unchecked, institutionalises responsibility avoidance. In this case it is on an unheard of scale. I am sceptical of activism that seeks to make it about Right vs Left (from either direction) and not about Right vs Wrong. Or about countering what others propose rather than proposing responses to the (consistent, top level) expert advice.

    My own inclination is to seek to shore up and if possible, reform institutions like independent courts than overthrow them – in order to use them to bind those in positions of trust and responsibility to act responsibly and bind the media industry (with it’s core business being the utterly amoral persuading of people to part with money and part with votes) to greater levels of honesty. I think US style “freedom of the press”, that enshrines the right of media owners to pursue political agendas without regard to truth or accuracy undermines any ennobling notions of being the great informers and “forth estate” that defends democracy and the rule of law against abuses of power by estates one, two and three.

    Revolutions seem far more likely to make things worse – potentially much worse should the most heavily armed opponents of climate responsibility end up the “winners” – and those who gain authority by force rarely consent to oversight by independent courts (only tolerating them when they are NOT independent) and will put loyalty ahead of competence in their appointments.

    I think it is because the solutions are compatible with free enterprise, democracy and the rule of law that opponents of climate responsibility so assiduously promulgate the view that they are not. And because those who lean right have refused to participate constructively – and the climate “movement” includes a lot who lean left and promote those views prominently – it creates the appearance a movement that is innately leftish. I think that whilst that is partly illusory it seems as much the desire of opponents as participants to have the whole movement appear much more Left and much more extremist than is actually the case.

  106. ecoquant says:

    Now this is interesting … Work partly from WHOI:

    Klein, Grozeva, Seewald, “Abiotic methane synthesis and serpentinization in olivine-hosted fluid inclusions“, PNAS, 2019.

  107. ecoquant says:

    @mrkenfabian,

    (1) We already have Individual Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) from countries along the lines you espouse, per the UNFCCC, and they are, by all concrete accounts, an abysmal failure. Few countries are holding up being on track to meet their self-imposed obligations. And let alone that if all the INDCs are implemented perfectly, we end up in a +4C warmer world above natural baseline.

    (2) Representative democracy is an experiment and a system, and it’s really not that old. Moreover, it has lots of flavors: Consider the craziness of the American Constitution as implemented, and the “constitution” of the UK, on display in all its glorious internal self-inconsistency at present. It’s not too hard to imagine that these have systemic limitations on what they can solve. I’m not proposing dictatorship, or monarchy, or oligarchy, or authoritarianism … All I know is that the present model seems worn out. Maybe it’s because the Founders of the U.S. model didn’t read Professor Charles Beard, and that the U.S. Constitution really is inseparable from the Alexander Hamilton economy that it swims in.

    (3) Your proposal sounds to me like you’re hoping for more perfect people. Every successful engineering system embodying human behavior operates correctly despite the imperfections of human beings. This is why, for example, the air transportation system has such a vastly lower mortality rate per transaction than does the medical system, at least in the United States. To be mitigated, climate change needs to be done in a way which is independent of personal aspirations and desires. It’s doomed to failure if it is a religious enterprise.

    (4) The trouble with reactionary politics isn’t whether it’s a good idea or not, or whether liberté, égalité, fraternité is a noble goal or not, it’s that it takes time, and we don’t have that.

    (5) Lack of time is going to be the defining and constraining characteristic of our “negotiation” with Nature over the next several decades. These are big systems, and they have a mind of their own (Wally Broecker’s “angry beast”). Like it or not we’re going to see if collectively we are as tough and smart as we think we are. I am sympathetic with Taleb’s notions of antifragility (see also the analysis in Antifragile) and I think our society in the OECD especially has big cross sections which make it especially vulnerable to natural harm. (See Daniel, et al for further definition, or perhaps supply chain risk, which is the principal problem.) We seem to be able to pull through a reasonably localized problem, if it’s a storm, but don’t know what we can do about regional storms, like ETS Sandy. And there are some problems, like extended heat waves we don’t seem to be able to handle well at all, whether the City of Chicago case in the 1990s, or 70,000 dead more recently in France.

  108. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech wrote “Human behaviour is much more unpredictable than climate as we all have witnessed”

    One bit of human nature that doesn’t change is the unwillingness to substantiate the (bogus) claims made in “lectures” or admit that the lecture was not supported by the facts.

    angech wrote “angech wrote “The CO2 goes up like clockwork, unnaturally regular, We have had recessions, turndowns in coal production and usage and yet I do not see the link between either production and CO2 level nor the semblance of a trend in temperature that follows the CO2 trend at any point.
    Other than an overall upward trend.”

    I asked “Please show me the data you looked at.”

    angech did not reply. That is because the data do not support angech’s lecture.

  109. angech says:

    “angech dother than id not reply. That is because the data do not support angech’s lecture.“
    My comment was actually a follow up to a list of 3 data sets posted only minutes before.
    If it is still available could the moderator please retrieve and publish it.
    If it is lost in transit I am happy to look up the details again and send them.
    Of note,
    If one can say “ the data do not support angech’s lecture” then one must already have the data.
    All three statements are factually true.
    Data exists which strongly support all three statements and are freely available and discussed here a lot of the time
    The CO2 data measurements reference is Mauna Loa since 1960s.
    1. CO2 goes up like clockwork.
    2. Human CO2 production varies depending on economic circumstances and varies considerably from year to year unlike CO2 levels .
    3. The trend in temperature has varied immensely over the last 30 years in contradistinction to the inexorable CO2 rise and at odds with the actual trends in human CO2 production.

    I am not stating that CO2 increase does not cause a temperature rise. Of course it does. What I am saying is that the rise that has occurred, apart from currently being smaller than theory, does not show up in any way as correlating with the steady CO2 rise nor with the variable CO2 production changes. Yet it should be there and should have some visibility

  110. angech,

    What I am saying is that the rise that has occurred, apart from currently being smaller than theory, does not show up in any way as correlating with the steady CO2 rise nor with the variable CO2 production changes. Yet it should be there and should have some visibility

    This is just nonsense; the rise is not smaller than theory, and there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and increasing temperatures.

  111. izen says:

    @-mrkenfabian
    “I don’t see that it is surrendering of sovereignty for nations to enter into international agreements for mutual benefit – more like the opposite, that nations having sovereignty make such international agreements possible.”

    Or the ‘You can’t build a Gate, until you build a Wall’ argument.
    And Gates are so useful! They enable trade, and the taxing of it, along with control of who can pass through the gate…

    @-“I don’t see the essential problem of addressing the climate problem as a battle between capitalism and socialism, but a problem of corruption, that if unchecked, institutionalises responsibility avoidance.”

    The various legal definitions of a company, corporation, private business explicitly validate the avoidance of responsibility. Primarily they limit financial responsibility for any debts the company may incur, so a Casino owning business can go bankrupt, but the owner/stockholder avoids any personal loss.
    This lack of responsibility, the legal fiction of ‘A Company’ that disconnects the owners from the fiscal, and social consequences of their actions is not a flaw of capitalism, it is an intentional inbuilt feature.

    @-“My own inclination is to seek to shore up and if possible, reform institutions like independent courts than overthrow them – in order to use them to bind those in positions of trust and responsibility to act responsibly and bind the media industry to greater levels of honesty.”

    The core business of all enterprises, including the media, is to make a profit. Hoping that independent courts can apply rules and regulations in a way that minimises the damage is unrealistic.
    It is the ‘liberal’ approach. That when faced with a society that appears to run like an ice hockey game, decries the glorification of inter-personal violence, but is sure that with just a little reform of the rules and enlightened INDEPENDENT referees ice hockey could be turned into as gentlemanly and non-contact sport as basketball.

    @-“I think it is because the solutions are compatible with free enterprise, democracy and the rule of law that opponents of climate responsibility so assiduously promulgate the view that they are not.”

    I think that claim would need a lot of exceptional evidence to justify its exceptional, and paradoxical nature.
    If there is a way for the current dominant economic system to enact solutions to the climate issue they are certainly not a matter of wide knowledge, agreement and planned implementation. There is a strong view that radical change will be required to the current economic system to constrain CO2 emissions, as well as deal with the increasingly toxic disproportionate distribution of the wealth created to a smaller fraction of the total population. It is not a specifically Left versus Right issue, except so far as the ‘right’ is generally for preserving their grandparents’ status quo; and socialism has been the main alternative economic system with a developed history and theory.

  112. Joshua says:

    In combination with recent analyses that show potentially higher rates of leaking from fracking than previously thought and the potential for natgas to be an increasingly prevalent energy resource ,… this speaks the plausibility of concentration pathways.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/08/29/trump-administration-reverse-limits-methane-powerful-greenhouse-gas/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_methane-755am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory-ans

  113. jacksmith4tx says:

    Joshua said “this speaks the plausibility of concentration pathways.”
    Indeed! Did you notice the government opened the entire gulf basin to deep water drilling, put all the off shore Atlantic wind projects on hold, rolled back transportation MPG targets? With Trump and his swamp critters RCP8.5 is a target to beat.

  114. “Global fossil fuel and US gas production and forecasts”
    http://patzek-lifeitself.blogspot.com/2019/08/global-fossil-fuel-production-and.html

    Patzek was a former Shell researcher and Prof in Petroleum Eng at UCal and UTexas

  115. ecoquant says:

    @angech,

    What I am saying is that the rise that has occurred, apart from currently being smaller than theory, does not show up in any way as correlating with the steady CO2 rise nor with the variable CO2 production changes. Yet it should be there and should have some visibility.

    There are three refutations of this, one of which @ATTP has already mentioned, via

    This is just nonsense; the rise is not smaller than theory, and there is a correlation between increasing CO2 and increasing temperatures.

    A second is simply the physics of radiative forcing. If, hypothetically, there were no forcing from CO2 then there’s a problem with physics. Either Conservation of Energy is being violated, or something is eating the forcing. Well, nothing’s eating the forcing and as is well known Conservation of Energy works excellently well (else our engineering of things wouldn’t).

    The other one is this:

    Now, doing a proper job with this, in the manner of Tamino is more involved, but this is grabbing the temperature change series from FAO and from GLB, and then the MLO CO2 concentration changes, all for 1976-2018, and plotting temperature change against CO2 change. I also fit a line to the GLB temperature change versus CO2. This took 40 minutes of work. The fit has an R2 of 0.78.

    So can you please stop bothering us with things that can be refuted in 40 minutes tops?

  116. izen says:

    Russia is a fossil fuel based economy, China has a high demand future, the US has –

  117. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech wrote “The CO2 data measurements reference is Mauna Loa since 1960s.
    1. CO2 goes up like clockwork.”

    Yes, because in the tropics there is a very large seasonal signal (caused by growth and dieback of terrestrial vegetation) that swamps the variation in anthropogenic emissions, so it doesn’t support your “lecture”.

    “2. Human CO2 production varies depending on economic circumstances and varies considerably from year to year unlike CO2 levels .”

    It has actually been going up more or less exponentially over the course of the Mauna Loa record, just like the Mauna Loa record does if you remove the seasonal an natural variability. Things like ENSO cause large perturbations in the annual growth rate that are much larger than the variability in anthropogenic emission.

    “3. The trend in temperature has varied immensely over the last 30 years in contradistinction to the inexorable CO2 rise and at odds with the actual trends in human CO2 production.”

    Yes, that is because (i) CO2 is not the only cause of warming and (ii) there is also internal climate variability, e.g. ENSO, so we wouldn’t expect them to be very closely aligned. The tren in human CO2 production has been essentially exponentially upwards, just like temperatures (once internal variability has been removed).

    So you are wrong on all three points, largely because you have just looked at graphs rather than trying to understand why they look the way they do. Perhaps you should ask questions rather than lecturing [deja-vu all over again]

  118. dikranmarsupial says:

    “What I am saying is that the rise that has occurred, apart from currently being smaller than theory,”

    It isn’t smaller than predicted by theory.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/climate-model-projections-compared-to-observations/

    If you disagree with Gavin Schmidt et al on this one, please provide your evidence.

  119. JCH says:

    Because a child opens a window in their bedroom during a frigid nighttime blizzard does not mean there is not a correlation between the control knob, the earth’s CO2 thermostat, and the house’s heating system. It is just amazing what people think chaos can do that it can’t.

  120. dikranmarsupial says:

    “does not show up in any way as correlating with the steady CO2 rise nor with the variable CO2 production changes.”

    This is more BS. Look at the diagram below, that I generated for the thread on Harde’s theory. See the green crosses? That is CO2 (Law dome and Mauna Loa) plotted as a function of GMSTs (HadCrut4). They look pretty correlated to me.

  121. ecoquant says:

    By the way, I know that, technically speaking, I should have fit:

    \Delta{}T(t) = k_{(T/\text{CO}_{2})} \left(\Delta[\text{CO}_{2}](t - \tau)\right) + \Delta{}T_{0}

    where \tau > 0 is suitably chosen from geophysical considerations, or at least some careful time series analysis.

    I did not because @angech objected with

    What I am saying is that the rise that has occurred, apart from currently being smaller than theory, does not show up in any way as correlating with the steady CO2 rise nor with the variable CO2 production changes. Yet it should be there and should have some visibility.

    which is what I answered.

    It would show up, too, if I did include a \tau shift.

  122. paulski0 says:

    angech,

    2. Human CO2 production varies depending on economic circumstances and varies considerably from year to year unlike CO2 levels .

    That is completely wrong. The standard deviation of annual CO2 growth measured at Mauna Loa is about 4GtCO2. The standard deviation of annual human fossil fuel CO2 production is about 0.4GtCO2.

    Growth in CO2 levels is an order of magnitude more variable than human CO2 production.

  123. ecoquant says:

    @paulski0, @angech, @ATTP,

    Yes, on s.d. for various CO2s … But, while MLO CO2 might be variable, to better compare, estimates from all the stations would need to be compared. CO2 might be “well mixed”, but that does not mean it doesn’t have spatial variation. As it does, buried someplace there’s probably a (kriging) semi-variogram built on CO2 concentrations around an observing station.

    And, yes, unfortunately, predictions of human CO2 growth are thus far and unfortunately rock solid predictable. About the only greenhouse gases that have surprises in variability are CH4 and some of the chlorofluorocarbons. It’s now believed the variability in CH4 may be due directly to a “natural” source, but it could be caused by wildfires. I think that’s still a subject of research. It’s certainly not tundra. Indeed, tundra is more of a concern in the CO2 channel because of reawakened microbial decomposition than CH4.

  124. dikranmarsupial says:

    BTW if you want a clearer view of atmospheric CO2, try the measuring stations in the Antarctic

    where the seasonal cycle in tropical vegitation is much smaller (note also that most of the vegitation is in the Northern hemisphere, rather than the south).

  125. dikranmarsupial says:

    It occurs to me that angech may be making an even more basic error, which is to compare the steady rise in atmospheric concentration with the variability in annual anthropogenic emissions. For a fair comparison you would need to compare annual anthropogenic emissions (blue), which are steadily increasing, with the annual atmospheric growth rate (red), which is anything but steady!

    Or compare cumulative anthropogenic emissions (blue) with atmospheric concentration (red/magenta), to get a like-for-like comparison. In that case, the two plots match very nicely, with the increase in atmospheric concentration being roughly a constant fraction of cumulative anthropogenic emissions – a fact so well known it even has a name: the “airborne fraction”.

    It will be interesting to see if angech is able to explicitly agree that the points he raised are all factually incorrect and refuted by less cursory analysis of the very data sources he cites.

  126. mrkenfabian says:

    Izen – that it takes sovereign nations to enter into international agreements may be a tautology. Whether international agreements are a loss of sovereignty may be semantics – I don’t see how agreements that nations can withdraw from as well as enter into are truly loss of sovereignty.

    Whilst there are many “get out of responsibility” loopholes built into laws around companies Common Law and other civil law actions can still be applied; shareholders usually bear no responsibility (but may lose financially through reduced company share value) but directors often do. In any case I don’t see much desire to sue for retrospective accountability, rather, calls for due diligence that, at the least, makes commercial risks from climate change more explicit.

    There is nothing innately impossible about governments applying rules and regulation – the extraordinary lengths organised climate responsibility avoiders goes to to prevent them being applied says to me that businesses that do bear a large potential legal responsibility consider them to be well within what most governments with sufficient will to act can impose. I don’t see that turning to our existing institutions is a “liberal” approach – more like the kind of approach that conservatives who take the climate problem seriously can support.

    Ecoquant – of course agreed targets to date are weak and inadequate; as long as major players like the USA – and lesser ones like Australia – engage in negotiations with the aim of doing the least that can be gotten away with that will continue. But I don’t see the essential framework as unworkable – or beyond improvement either – should a willingness to act (whether through populist demand or fear of legal liability) grows sufficiently.

    I see no appetite for revolution – but applying some of our broadly accepted legal principles more effectively may indeed be revolutionary. If we ever achieve the populist power to make change I expect it will not be the power to remake the fundamentals of our systems of governance and rule of law, but will be the power that gives leaders and governments the mandate to use what we already have to much greater effect. The fear of extremism has been a potent one in the mess of obstructionist politicking on climate change; advocating radical change is, I think, doomed because it gives fodder to that well stoked alarmist fear.

    Am I hoping for perfect people? I didn’t think I was saying that; I am saying that our institutions of law and governance are so important precisely because people are not perfect – that, whilst individuals and companies will routinely seek to avoid responsibility and accountability our legal systems exist to require it of them.

    For all their shortcomings I still think our (flawed democratic/rule of law) institutions are still more than capable of accommodating what we need to do – so long as the will to act is there. They can prove quite flexible when that will is there. Whether that will to act manifests as a populist movement demanding it in “will of the people” style or as corporate responses to fear of litigation or other ways, I think it is not as incompatible with existing systems as you think. The ability of powerful interests to undercut that will to act does remain – and may still prevent that populism from fully developing, but if lying and cheating and appeals to greed continue to win out then I see no chance for the kinds of fundamental change to our institutions you see as needful.

  127. ecoquant says:

    @mrkenfabian,

    The danger which political systems and representative democracies like the U.S. Constitution face, as I mentioned elsewhere, is not that they’ll be replaced by some “better” or “more liked” political system but, rather, than they become increasingly irrelevant as a means of solving the problems which the natural world and artificial worlds pose. To the degree these problems are important, they’ll be solved, but they’ll be solved in a manner which leaves the political institutions out of the picture.

    In particular, I think technological advancement and its effects and implications is underestimated as a means by which governments can be and are circumvented in their expression and exertion of control. I don’t mean to imply that climate disruption will be solved technologically. It won’t. (Period. It’s too hard and too expensive to fix that way.) I do mean it offers actors with capital and interests aligned with fixing these problems means of cooperating and moving towards solutions, with the support of some like-minded countries perhaps, but advancing solutions nonetheless, and just making the recalcitrants non-profiting bystanders.

    I don’t want to get too side-tracked, but I feel I need to offer an example. The problem of digital crime, for example, is something which most governments are pretty powerless to do anything about, despite wanting to try to do something, and despite trying to get, say, companies together at doing something in common about it. Governments really don’t understand this problem, and companies have interests in this space which are too much at odds with what other companies might want to do or countries might want to do. The only way governments have gotten involved here is to become, effectively, sanctioned criminals or digital privateers in this space. It’s not at all clear that this contribution has a net benefit. In fact, the only overt means governments appear to use is if they can identify a physical location for digital criminals, they’ll use kinetic means to neutralize them. Governments cannot seem to even keep their own secrets safe from digital criminals, quite apart from people explicitly leaking things.

    Meanwhile, companies deal with these problems by subcontracting among themselves, which is by far the most common approach.

  128. angech says:

    Ecoquant and DM thanks for your interesting graphs and discussions.
    They outline your points of view and reasoning succinctly.
    I will try, over time, to be more clear in my arguments On the question that the total CO2 atmospheric rise over time is not reflected in the corresponding temperature changes that are recorded.
    Paulskio has an important point on order of magnitude but may or may not be missing the point of the anthropogenic argument.
    I do not wish to tangle with DM unless my counter arguments have some grist to them and will work on doing that for him.

  129. John Hartz says:

    An informative and well written opinion piece about the relationship between national sovereignty principles and environmental protection from an international legal framework…

    All the reasons that support the project of humanitarian intervention apply with equal, if not greater force, in the case of the environment.

    Do the Brazil Amazon fires justify environmental interventionism?, Opinion by Lawrence Douglas*, Comment is Free, Guardian, Aug 31, 2019

    *Lawrence Douglas is the James J Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, at Amherst College, Massachusetts. He is presently writing a book on the legal and constitutional consequences of a possible refusal by President Trump to acknowledge defeat in the next election, to be published by Hachette in 2020. He is also a contributing opinion writer for the Guardian US

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