First direct observation of carbon dioxide’s increasing greenhouse effect at Earth’s surface

Mar 13, 2015

Credit: Jonathan Gero

By Science Daily

Scientists have observed an increase in carbon dioxide’s greenhouse effect at Earth’s surface for the first time. The researchers, led by scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s increasing capacity to absorb thermal radiation emitted from Earth’s surface over an 11-year period at two locations in North America. They attributed this upward trend to rising CO2 levels from fossil fuel emissions.

The influence of atmospheric CO2 on the balance between incoming energy from the Sun and outgoing heat from Earth (also called the planet’s energy balance) is well established. But this effect has not been experimentally confirmed outside the laboratory until now. The research is reported Feb. 25 in the advance online publication of the journal Nature.

The results agree with theoretical predictions of the greenhouse effect due to human activity. The research also provides further confirmation that the calculations used in today’s climate models are on track when it comes to representing the impact of CO2.

The scientists measured atmospheric carbon dioxide’s contribution to radiative forcing at two sites, one in Oklahoma and one on the North Slope of Alaska, from 2000 to the end of 2010. Radiative forcing is a measure of how much the planet’s energy balance is perturbed by atmospheric changes. Positive radiative forcing occurs when Earth absorbs more energy from solar radiation than it emits as thermal radiation back to space. It can be measured at Earth’s surface or high in the atmosphere. In this research, the scientists focused on the surface.


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62 comments on “First direct observation of carbon dioxide’s increasing greenhouse effect at Earth’s surface

  • There is a little good news on the horizon, but this is a pause in the pace of INCREASES of atmospheric CO2, not a reduction!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31872460

    Global CO2 emissions ‘stalled’ in 2014
    .The growth in global carbon emissions stalled last year, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

    It marks the first time in 40 years that annual CO2 emissions growth has remained stable, in the absence of a major economic crisis, the agency said.

    Annual global emissions remained at 32 gigatonnes in 2014, unchanged from the previous year.

    The IEA said changing patterns of energy use in China and in OECD countries, including the shift towards more renewable energy, was having the desired effect of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse emissions.



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  • It’s like an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. The race between the forces for good trying to save the planet and the forces for money that believe that wealth is more important than life. Given the C02 lag in the atmosphere is around 100 years, will we make it safely home or will we tip over in the last few frames of the movie into extinction. I won’t be around to see how it ends but my grandchildren will be.

    To add to Alan’s optimism, this was aired on Australian TV last week on our premier science show. Sydney University which lays claim to some of the best cutting edge science on solar PV cells, announced they now have PV cell that runs at 40%, a truly amazing result. And in another development, an Australia pioneer solar engineer, has built a test power station that combines mirrors with PV cells, letting each cell feel the effects of 700 suns. I would be interested in your opinion Alan4D.

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/4194517.htm

    I think this video is not location limited so everyone in the world should be able to view it.



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  • David R Allen Mar 13, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Sydney University which lays claim to some of the best cutting edge science on solar PV cells, announced they now have PV cell that runs at 40%, a truly amazing result.
    And in another development, an Australia pioneer solar engineer, has built a test power station that combines mirrors with PV cells, letting each cell feel the effects of 700 suns. I would be interested in your opinion Alan4D.

    Conventional photovoltaic cells work most efficiently at low temperatures, so this system seems to be using a cooling system to prevent the heliostats from burning up the cells. It is combining power-tower solar thermal heliostat technology with photovoltaics.

    The whole system seems to depend on the efficiency of the cooling system. Lets hope they can make a success of it.
    Perhaps the waste heat can also be put to some use.

    @link – 60 degrees is the maximum operating temperature for these cells. Any higher and they become less efficient. Much like the UNSW prototype, John’s system uses mirrors to direct and focus sunlight onto a solar cell. They’re called ‘heliostats’ and they concentrate the sun up to 700 times, in other words, 700 suns. The cooling system must work extremely well. Back in the lab, John shows me just how good it is.



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  • That you Alan. I also like the new composite PV cells that run at 40%. Some technological use of mirrors to split the colours in the sun light and send them directly to two different substrates, each tuned to a different colour of light. I’d like to replace my 6% 20 sq metre array with some of those.



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  • Given the C02 lag in the atmosphere is around 100 years, will we make it safely home or will we tip over in the last few frames of the movie into extinction. I won’t be around to see how it ends but my grandchildren will be.

    Hi David R Allen,

    I think it might be worse than that I remember one paper I read (Alan4Discussion please correct me if I’m wrong here), explaining that C02 absorbed by the ocean surface (increasing acidity in the water) would then take something like 700 years to re-emerge after having travelled along the bottom of the ocean, where depending on the amount of C02 in the atmosphere release some of it back into the atmosphere. If I understood that correctly then even if we fix the problems know we are making problems for future generations hundreds of years from know (at least they have some warning). Of course all sorts of strange things may happen to the ocean currents due to our massive heating of the oceans which might upset this in the meantime. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t know how anyone could morally put forward a case to not act now but apparently I am in the minority.

    Still advances are happening quickly, I feel coal is dead anyway at this point we need to work harder to develop batteries of sufficient power and lightness to replace fuel. Lithium is great but it’s pretty rare and its probably going to bring its own environmental concerns if we try to replace cars with Lithium battery powered vehicles super caps hold some promise, let’s hope we hurry up and get there.



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  • I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t know how anyone could morally put forward a case to not act now

    I can’t understand this either. If you dissect the opposition to acting now it can be distilled down to I, or some vesting interest I support, may loose some money. It is going to cost people some money. It is their only argument. I expect it to cost us money. The price we will pay from the money were earned previously, when we should have been acting. There is a whole argument as to whether money is a moral or ethical decider of any issue, when in 2015, we should consider ourselves civilized enough to make decisions for higher reasons than just profit and loss.

    Ahh Free Enterprise. Rich today. Extinct tomorrow.



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  • 8
    brettcalgary says:

    We need to spend a lot of money, on environmental science education. IT SHOULD be an entire book in elementary schools, grade 5 mandatory education. OR MAYBE even lower? Feed back would be great.



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  • Hi David R Allen,

    Agreed, I do take some hope from the fact that among most of the people I work with who still do not wish to act that they have inextricably morphed from, It’s bullshit, to we need to be skeptical, to I agree climate change is real but we must be careful how we implement the transition….

    I’d have a lot more sympathy for the latter position if they’d been prepared to have that argument 30 years ago. I also predict as solar get better and cheaper as do the other alternatives that they’ll be begging for government hand outs to transition as their industries one by one go under. If I were working in the coal industry I’d be dusting off my regime or looking at re-training now.

    Ahh Free Enterprise. Rich today. Extinct tomorrow.

    And if we do pull a rabbit out of the hat and get away without the worst of consequences you can bet your bottom dollar that Free Enterprise will be taking credit for saving the planet too.



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  • There is a little good news on the horizon, but this is a pause in the pace of INCREASES of atmospheric CO2, not a reduction!

    This year’s announcement that carbon dioxide emissions held steady with 2013 levels despite economic growth of 3% is cause for cautious optimism but not celebration. Not yet. We must bight our nails for at least another 3 years or as many as 50 years to see if the downward trend continues at a steady or accelerating pace.

    Whatever the outcome, I believe that humankind will cope with the effects of global warming and bring greenhouse gas emissions under control one way or another, sooner or later, in the 21st century without threat of extinction. Unlike David R Allen’s prophecy, the menace while serious will probably not affect “our” children with anything like the calamity it will inflict on hapless segments of the poor and marginalized.

    If “human activity” causes global warming perhaps it would be helpful to reduce the number of humans participating in the activity. When the bath tub overflows the measure of intelligence is whether you turn the faucets off first or reach for the mop. Global Family Planning anyone?



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  • 11
    Lorenzo says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that papers like this should really be made openly accessible?
    I haven’t been able to locate an open, full version available so far. If someone has, please post!

    ~~~

    This is a very neat experimental confirmation, indeed.
    Of course, as Roedy already noted: it doesn’t come as a surprise -the behavior of CO2 was already well established and has been observed (elsewhere) many, many times. It was only logical to link the observed steep increase of temperatures to the observed steep increase on CO2 concentration, which has no explanation other than our abuse of fossil fuels. But it’s always very good to have observational confirmation of the necessary.



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  • Melvin Mar 14, 2015 at 2:43 am

    Unlike David R Allen’s prophecy, the menace while serious will probably not affect “our” children with anything like the calamity it will inflict on hapless segments of the poor and marginalized.

    If “human activity” causes global warming perhaps it would be helpful to reduce the number of humans participating in the activity. When the bath tub overflows the measure of intelligence is whether you turn the faucets off first or reach for the mop. Global Family Planning anyone?

    That is one of the motivational problems.

    The small minority of people, and minority of nations, which are causing the greater part of the CO2 out-puts, are not the poor nations most vulnerable to the effects of a changing climate.
    The CO2 outputs of those 3rd. world nations is minimal.



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  • Reckless Monkey Mar 14, 2015 at 12:06 am

    I think it might be worse than that I remember one paper I read (Alan4Discussion please correct me if I’m wrong here), explaining that C02 absorbed by the ocean surface (increasing acidity in the water)

    There is indeed a long cycle through the ocean.

    There is an interesting article with some details here:-

    http://science.nasa.gov/earth-science/oceanography/ocean-earth-system/ocean-carbon-cycle/

    The ocean plays a vital dominant role in the Earth’s carbon cycle. The total amount of carbon in the ocean is about 50 times greater than the amount in the atmosphere, and is exchanged with the atmosphere on a time-scale of several hundred years. At least 1/2 of the oxygen we breathe comes from the photosynthesis of marine plants. Currently, 48% of the carbon emitted to the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning is sequestered into the ocean. But the future fate of this important carbon sink is quite uncertain because of potential climate change impacts on ocean circulation, biogeochemical cycling, and ecosystem dynamics.



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  • Reckless Monkey Mar 14, 2015 at 12:06 am

    C02 absorbed by the ocean surface (increasing acidity in the water)

    Ocean acidification is also a serious environmental problem with potential feed-back effects inhibiting carbon sequestration as carbonates.

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/ocean-acidification/liittschwager-photography

    The carbon dioxide we pump into the air is seeping into the oceans and slowly acidifying them. One hundred years from now, will oysters, mussels, and coral reefs survive?

    The second and third pictures on the link are very telling.

    At Castello Aragonese, a volcanic island off Naples, Italy, healthy seafloor looks like this: a lumpy quilt of red sponges, white barnacles, lilac coralline algae, sea urchins, and (near the center of the photograph) one well-camouflaged fish. It’s a tompot blenny.

    A few hundred yards from the preceding scene, CO₂ bubbling from seafloor vents acidifies the water to levels that might one day prevail all over the oceans. Dull mats of algae replace the colorful diversity—”fair warning,” says biologist Jason Hall-Spencer.

    There is also a “Feature Article” on “Acid Seas”, on the link.



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  • Melvin,

    I believe that humankind will cope with the effects of global warming and bring greenhouse gas emissions under control one way or another, sooner or later, in the 21st century without threat of extinction.

    I believe you could well be right that we will get it under control but it is now highly unlikely that this will be without major impacts yes, on the third world disproportionately but also in the West. Well I’m from Australia so technically I’m more South.

    However a few years ago (2011) the small city in which I live Toowoomba was hit by a massive local flood which took some lives (one of my work mates and her husband just pushed their kids into the roof cavity of their house that was rapidly filling with water before they were swept away never to be seen again), down the range was hit by the same weather (but not run off from Toowoomba) that went down the Gowery Creek. Now flooding is hardly unusually but the sort of flood that hit us was freakish, to understand why you need to go to Google Earth where you will note it isn’t really downhill of anywhere we are on the top of a range so not much run off to accumulate. The water that ripped through the city was water that rained down directly on our city. It was a particularly big downpour on top of a couple of weeks of steady rain before that. Now there were also other factors in play, as I said we’d had a good amount of rain for a couple of weeks prior, this meant storm water drains were already full of water, the land was soaked, a fair bit of plant matter and garbage was already clogging up storm water and other flood mitigation. So when we got hit by the additional very heavy rain (it pounded down, we could barely hear each other speak in our house over the noise), quite a few lost their lives and it was just one of a number of related downpours in the state. We still haven’t finished the repair work on the roads ripped away during the flood, and it cost the state well over 20 billion in infrastructure state wide. Add to that the increase in insurance premiums the lost of all of the states crops (for example ethanol was not available as a fuel additive for about a year due to our entire sugar cane crop being destroyed). Now let me repeat, while I think it likely that AGW had some part in this I am not sure to what degree and I don’t think climate scientists can nail any one weather event on AGW it is measured generally in decades. Having said that, an increase in frequency of such events from say once in a century to 3 or 4 times in a century would have a very major impact indeed, especially if you consider the national impact, more and bigger cyclones, reaching further south. More, bigger and hotter bushfires, causing more loss of habitat and greater loss of life down further south. Some areas of Australia becoming frankly unliveable. All of this has a massive cost, it all comes out of our pockets one way or another.

    As for population control, sure this needs addressing as well, but short of Billy Connelly’s solution “If we could just convince everyone in the world to eat one other person we’d halve the problem overnight” (his maths is out but you get the idea) we are stuck with a long term decline. We only have a couple for decades to drastically cut emissions or we are going to be paying through the nose for the crap we are causing. Think about relocating in my country most of our agriculture, turning vast quantities into desert and shifting our grazing and cropping land to areas that will be yes humid and moist but that are already unbearably hot as far as I’m concerned and add to that the damage to even more frequent flooding and cyclone damage. We may not be extinct but we’ll certainly be coughing up blood. We need to fix this right now!



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  • Alan 4: Three countries, China, the United States and India account for 50% of annual global carbon dioxide emissions. China and India account for 70% of the emissions among these three countries; the U.S. for only 30%.

    Among the top 20 contributors, countries, including Russia, which lie outside the greater European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa (I threw South Africa dubiously into the “Western” mix because of its colonial history) account for 53%.

    The old First World – Third World dichotomy has lost statistical significance in current global rankings, a process taking place over the last 60 years. Emerging economic powerhouses in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and elsewhere have begun to overturn the rich country – poor country stereotypes held over from Euro-centric thinking in the last half of the 20th century. (You’re probably focusing tunnel vision on sub-Saharan Africa).

    Certainly, per capita consumption and emissions show significant gaps in general between “Western” and “Non-Western” countries, but looking to the future it is developing economies that will overtake then surpass the carbon emissions of Europe and America by orders of magnitude.



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  • Melvin Mar 14, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Certainly, per capita consumption and emissions show significant gaps in general between “Western” and “Non-Western” countries, but looking to the future it is developing economies that will overtake then surpass the carbon emissions of Europe and America by orders of magnitude.

    With new technologies decoupling industrial development from carbon emissions, there is no reason to assume that new developments will follow old obsolete patterns. – Especially as people are progressively hit, by the effects of consequential climate changes.



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  • With new technologies decoupling industrial development from carbon emissions, there is no reason to assume that new developments will follow old obsolete patterns.

    Unfortunately, the “assumption” follows from extrapolating data of dubious value for a single year into an unknown future. It is not clear that the flatlining of carbon emissions for 2014 from 2013 represents a decoupling from transient patterns of economic growth or a substantive shift to renewables. For example, China in fact reduced coal consumption while increasing its share of renewables -a very hopeful development. But China also cut back on the industrial intensity of its manufacturing sector in favor of moving gradually toward a more diversified economy. India, on the other hand, still relies on coal for about 60% of its electricity generation. While the “world” has aspired to moving away from coal-fired plants, it is not the case that coal production-consumption and trade is “dead.” Declining probably but far from dead.

    Speaking of changing out coal-fired plants with cleaner energy, the current enthusiasm lauds natural gas as the abundant cleaner substitute. Natural gas is also a fossil fuel which brings new demons like methane emissions from extraction and use.

    We’ll have to wait and see how rapidly and thoroughly renewable energy can be brought on line to replace fossil fuels in many different countries with many different priorities. I hope the wait will be over in less than five years as a discernible regular decline in global greenhouse gas emissions is measured on an annual basis. Still if the decline remains gradual relative to a huge base of co2 accumulation, it may take decades before we are out of the woods.



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  • You’re not the only one. Hopefully in the next few years some of the open journals will gain more prestige. A lot will depend on if they can effectively peer review and referee the papers. I’ve never been a research scientist but I’m frankly starting to think it is a bit ridiculous that universities fund studies which journals then charge them a fortune to read. Why the university sector has not established a system of their own peer review between uni’s and published between them for free is beyond me, it would certainly be far cheaper than paying for all the journals they need to subscribe to.



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  • 22
    Lorenzo says:

    Oh, good that I’m not alone.

    Hopefully in the next few years some of the open journals will gain more prestige. A lot will depend on if they can effectively peer review and referee the papers.

    Some are already not bad at all: the PLoS publications are usually quality material. Also, there ArXiv. The concept that if something comes free of charge is actually inferior to something that comes to a high cost is obsolete.
    Furthermore, many papers that appear referenced on this site are available on openly accessible platforms as well. So the two forms of publication aren’t mutually exclusive.



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  • 23
    Landcruiser says:

    Reckless Monkey

    Still advances are happening quickly, I feel coal is dead anyway at this point we need to work harder to develop batteries of sufficient power and lightness to replace fuel. Lithium is great but it’s pretty rare and its probably going to bring its own environmental concerns if we try to replace cars with Lithium battery powered vehicles super caps hold some promise, let’s hope we hurry up and get there.

    At the risk of sounding like a pedant, batteries are not going going to replace fuel, (that’s the way I’ve read your post) because batteries are only a method of storing energy. We still face the challenge of finding the energy to charge them. Battery powered vehicles will not help us in any way, (they have incredible amounts of embedded energy) and many are required to be hybrids to get any real distance. As a side note, Lithium isn’t that rare, well relatively speaking. There is 230 Billion tonnes of it in the oceans, (though I’m sure there’s quite an energy challenge to extract it) and on land the worlds biggest concentration is in Bolivia, (70% of the worlds reserves in the Salar de Uyuni) giving Bolivia the potential to become very wealthy indeed. It’s said that mining that lake would supply the worlds battery needs for 300 years. The problem of course is that the short sightedness of the world will mean that any transition will happen too late, (while it’s cheap enough to use our dwindling energy reserves to develop another system).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salar_de_Uyuni



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  • Hi there Landcruiser,

    Please pedant away 😉 if you’ve read any of my posts you’ll find I’m quite prone to that myself. I actually enjoy being challenged anyway if I’m wrong I learn something if I have to defend my position I get better at communication.

    I agree that batteries are not a fuel source, that will have to come from alternatives. Which are getting cheaper, and cheaper. So I’m quite confident that power will not ultimately be the problem particularly as it will take some time for electric cars to become affordable enough for all. This gives time for the grid to gear up with alternatives. Thanks for the information about Lithium as well. I’m hoping for a number of reasons that we can ultimately avoid exotic materials as we haven’t as a planet been very good at managing our resources well (not at least without a hell of a lot of collateral damage) Super caps are interesting because they use largely carbon, which is renewable. Good luck to Bolivia though I hope they are caring for their environment while the world beats a path to their door in the short to medium term.



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  • At the risk of sounding like a pedant, batteries are not going going to replace fuel, (that’s the way I’ve read your post) because batteries are only a method of storing energy. We still face the challenge of finding the energy to charge them.

    Both of these problems have already been solved. Lightweight graphene super capcitors that can be charged in 4 minutes and give you around 400kms cruising range have been developed. As for finding energy to charge them, renewables could replace fossil fuel today. Pull into the service station with a solar PV array and plug in your car. The only thing stopping it is political will and that a small number of important and powerful people may loose some money.

    I want shares in this product.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuHrUnCOWWo



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  • Ta Lorenzo,

    thanks for that. I’m quite biased about this stuff, I’ve been and open source fan boy for many years now and a Linux fan boy for more than 6 years now.

    I’m happy to pay for content however (I love my Kindle for example) but I get mighty pissed off that proprietary companies won’t play nice with the consumers, and yet bitch when people pirate their stuff. I can’t buy Sam Harris’s End of Faith on my Kindle for example (now I mean no offence to Sam) but I’m not buying a paper book I don’t use them anymore, and he has therefore lost one sale because his Australian publishers can’t be arsed to do a deal with Kindle. Then our government has the hide to stop parallel imports of books so I can legally buy it. If I wanted to buy it as a physical book, I’d have to buy it from Amazon through a proxy server or some such nonsense (I don’t want to read it that badly). I bet however, if I was so inclined I could find a suitable version for my kindle on a torrent (I’m not Sam I promise I await with baited breath your release on Kindle). It’s quite simple make the stuff available and at a fair price and people will just buy it from you. Screw people over and they will get it some other way or not at all. Same with the big journals. If Journals don’t do something soon they will simply be non-existent and just listen to them foul when they do.



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  • David R Allen Mar 16, 2015 at 3:34 am

    The University of Queensland are researching the powering of vehicles using supercapacitors.

    Combined with high efficiency photovoltaics or liquid salt solar-thermal systems, this could be a great step forward in Australia or other sunny climates.



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  • There are signs of leadership coming from educated informed opinion:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-31877595

    .The University of Oxford will decide whether to pull out of its investments in coal and oil sands later.

    Students have been campaigning on the issue for over a year because scientists say burning the world’s coal will result in reckless risks to the climate.

    It is part of a global movement for public organisations to divest from fossil fuels.

    Glasgow University has done so, along with other organisations worldwide.

    They include Stanford University, the British Medical Association, the World Council of Churches and the Rockefeller Brothers.

    This month, members of the London Assembly urged the Mayor Boris Johnson to withdraw investments in coal, oil and gas.

    It is said to be the fastest-growing divestment movement the world has seen as the public becomes increasingly aware that firms have discovered three times more fossil fuel than can be safely burned without excessive risk to the climate.

    Oxford is the second richest university in the UK after Cambridge. Its endowment was worth around £3.8bn.



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  • The man responsible for maintaining India’s power supply says he wants the country’s coal production to double within the next five years.

    Piyush Goyal, minister of state for power, coal, new and renewable energy, says India needs to dig twice as much coal as it does today if it is to meet its soaring energy demand. By 2019, it is expected to be consuming two trillion kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

    Describing coal as “an essential input for power”, Goyal said: “I see Coal India production doubling in the next five years. It makes about 500 million tonnes hopefully this year. We [will] do a billion tonnes in 2019.”

    He was speaking at the India Economic Summit, held in Delhi from 4 to 6 November and hosted by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry. (from November, 14, 2014).

    Alan, we probably agree there are a lot of contrasting, ambiguous scenarios out there in our diverse unwieldy world…developments moving toward clean[er] energy opposed by developments moving toward greater use of fossil fuels. Its the old, old story of the dog with the snarling head and the wagging tail We both hope that the numbers for 2014 herald a persisting pattern of annual decreases, reducing carbon by 40 to 70% by 2050 and 100% by 2100.



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  • Melvin Mar 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    The man responsible for maintaining India’s power supply says he wants the country’s coal production to double within the next five years.

    They’ll probably try him as a criminal at some time in the future, as the water supply from the Himalayan glaciers diminishes!

    http://na.unep.net/geas/getUNEPPageWithArticleIDScript.php?article_id=91

    Under climatic warming, increased melt can cause shrinkage in the overall glacier mass, providing short-term annual increases in meltwater contribution to downstream river flows. As the proportion of ice cover within a catchment decreases, the variability of river flows both between and within years will also increase, as catchment runoff is increasingly derived from contemporary precipitation (Rees and Collins 2006) and less from glacier meltwater stores.

    In total, 10 major river systems find their sources in the mountainous Hindu Kush–Himalaya (HKH) region http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1659/MRD-JOURNAL-D-12-00027.1

    While the local pictures are unclear, the contrast between drought and flood years looks to increase as warming continues.



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  • I take on board the informative articles cited on various topics pertinent to the complexities of global warming. I’m less sympathetic to reliance on conspiracy theory and scapegoating rhetoric:
    They’ll probably try him [Piyush Goyal, minister of state for power, coal, new and renewable energy] as a criminal at some time in the future, as the water supply from the Himalayan glaciers diminishes! The Indian minister is acting consistent with mainstream economic interests and energy policies mandated by hundreds of millions without access to electrical power. His decisions regarding rapid increases in coal production are arguably ill-considered but common, legal and legitimate in India and scores of developing nations. There is no jurisdiction on the face of the earth that has a statute that criminalizes his actions.

    Long-term trends in world energy production and consumption whether from renewables or fossil fuels are difficult if not impossible to predict. Data inputs are subject to error and revision, price fluctuations, business cycles especially those disrupted by severe recessions, supply and demand, government policies and subsidies, financial resources directed from the private and public sector…And the list goes on. The hapless layman must winnow out “best guesses” from what appears to be prominent factors in current developments.

    Many signs point to the possible exponential growth of renewables, notably wind and solar, providing a growing share of the world’s electricity generation, cutting annual co2 emissions by more than half by 2050.

    The trend observed from 2013 through 2014 suggests that emissions flatlined -held steady- over the two-year period. At least since 2012, some observers have discerned a decrease in the rate of acceleration for anthropogenic greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

    Now the “wish-fulfillment” hope is that the numbers suggest a decoupling of economic growth and the basic energy needs of households, industry and transportation from reliance on fossil fuels. Population growth, though posing an array of persisting problems, may no longer contribute to global warming. Over 90% of demand for energy may be met by Wind, Solar, Hydro, Battery storage and [Thorium ?] Nuclear power
    before the turn of the century.

    Like all foot races, the event takes place on a real track with real runners measured in real time by the audible clicks of the stop watch pressed “start” on January 1, 2015. The era of chasing paper is over. I have high hopes that the optimistic potential for renewables to usurp the reign of fossil fuels proceeds apace.



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  • The Indian minister is acting consistent with mainstream economic interests and energy policies mandated by hundreds of millions without access to electrical power.

    This is the erroneous decision taken by the Indian Minister and most of the rest of the world.

    You can no longer “Act Consistent” with mainstream economic interests. This must change. It is and continues to be “Mainstream Economic Interests” that are causing the problem. So stop making decisions that include any modern economic terms like “Mainstream” or cost benefit. Wipe the white board clean and invent a new language. The heading on the white board is the survival of planet earth for the next 1000 years. Everything you write below that must not contradict this heading. Get to it.

    And “Energy Policies mandated by hundreds of millions without access to electrical power.

    And potential extinction threatening mistake. Yes hundreds of millions deserve access to electricity, but why would you choose a technology invented in the 1800’s that may wipe out humanity. Where then you “Mainstream Economic Interests” If the worst case scenarios come true, your money will be worthless and the kings of the planet will be those who can still perform as hunters and gathers.

    Bang your head against a wall them ponder, if what you are doing is hurting you, why continue to do it.



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  • hundreds of millions deserve access to electricity, but why would you choose a technology invented in the 1800’s that may wipe out humanity…

    Nice post David. It’s interesting to see Denialism evolve, as it must. Delay seems the latest ploy, for those who seem to begrudgingly accept the science, and then only partially. Conservatives or the Religious Right, one by one, are acknowledging a problem exists. Now they’re worried they’ll have to pay for it, while distant brown folk over-breed in the dark for the lack of reactor-based grids. Swinging Deniers often argue for population control in my limited experience. Time frames or the urgency involved escape them so far.

    Just imagine if a powerhouse like the US suddenly got it. A Manhattan Project sized response would be the most “cost effective” solution, exactly like early cancer interventions.



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  • Len, you seem to believe that the 7+ billion people on the globe using fossil fuels to meet their energy needs for heating, lighting, cooking, transportation, and producing goods and services are dupes of corporate or government conspiracies to keep them mired in global warming. There is some truth to the observation that obstructionists impede progress but the greater narrative is far more complicated. Around 2010, huge investments in solar and wind had installed enough capacity to make a renewable energy infrastructure appear feasible on an economy of scale by mid-century. Although the odds appear favorable, changing out fossil fuels for renewables involves a process that will take decades at best. If a reasonable person tries to wade through the welter of statistics on projections, this conclusion seems inescapable. Why attribute malevolence to anyone who recognizes that “delays” are inevitable based on current evidence? Mitigation seems inadequate to the urgency of the problem, but the Nike ad slogan of “Just Do It!,” however reinforced by day dreams of really, really working harder is like wishing you were back in Kansas.

    Conservatives or the Religious Right, one by one, are acknowledging a problem exists. Now they’re worried they’ll have to pay for it, while distant brown folk over-breed in the dark for the lack of reactor-based grids. Swinging Deniers often argue for population control in my limited experience.

    This concocted nonsense contradicts the agenda of conservatives…[and especially].. the Religious Right in connection with family planning and population stabilization at home and abroad. Family planning offices and abortion clinics are prime targets for religious zealots to gather and shriek hate, commit arson and even murder in hopes of banning contraception and abortion.

    The factor of population growth in global warming is easy to calculate. Each baby born will contribute “X” tons of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere over his/her lifetime regardless of variables. World population growing from a base of 3 to 4 billion in the 1960s into the 1970s will double then triple net pollution after adjusting for per capita decrease or increase if projections materialize for world population to reach between 9 and 12 billion by 2100.. The anticipated process of “decoupling” co2 emissions from per capita use, hinges on the presumption that each person walking around on the planet by then will leave an invisible carbon footprint approaching zero emissions. That’s a bet we’d be foolish to take in the foreseeable future.



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  • Melvin Mar 18, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Len, you seem to believe that the 7+ billion people on the globe using fossil fuels to meet their energy needs for heating, lighting, cooking, transportation, and producing goods and services are dupes of corporate or government conspiracies to keep them mired in global warming.

    7 billion +, don’t use fossil fuels.
    Most of the poor ones use basic firewood, animal drawn carts, bicycles and foot-travel.

    It is important to see that such people make the transition directly to green energy systems, without being side-tracked by misleading advertising from fossil-fuel producers.

    Solar cookers, local photovoltaic electricity, and larger green energy systems, can, and must, replace this high-carbon foolish path of deception!
    They don’t need a wasteful consumer throw-away society either!



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  • Melvin wrote – “Why attribute malevolence to anyone who recognizes that “delays” are inevitable based on current evidence?”

    I didn’t. General ignorance as to the urgency of acting now is the main problem. We can afford to delay like a cancer patient can. Delay is costlier than you imagine Melvin. Wishing otherwise or imagining population controls can assist is obscurantism or sophisticated Denialism.

    “if projections materialize for world population to reach between 9
    and 12 billion by 2100”

    We don’t have until 2100 to address this problem. We’ve got the technology already.

    Population anxiety appears to be the latest delaying tactic of white conservatives who are prepared to bet the science is wrong.



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  • 7 billion +, don’t use fossil fuels.
    Most of the poor ones use basic firewood, animal drawn carts, bicycles and foot-travel.

    If the point is that the poor use less fossil fuels, depending on degree of poverty and individual circumstances then, you’re right. But it’s naive to believe that the vast majority don’t travel by train, bus or motor scooter or cobble together enough money for the occasional airline ticket. Poor families in India, for example, typically use a petroleum-based filthy black cooking oil high in pollutants.

    It is important to see that such people make the transition directly to green energy systems, without being side-tracked by misleading advertising from fossil-fuel producers.

    “Such people” cannot be isolated from “all people” whose standard of living lies on a continuum linked (generally) at every point to fossil fuel consumption. I would caution against argument from exceptions or extremes. Richer people are more likely than poorer people to have photo-voltaic panels on the roof or to drive all-electric vehicles yet as a class (we’ve noted) consume disproportionate amounts of fossil fuel. While a miniscule segment of the poor may benefit from subsidized solar panel installations, virtually all will transition into energy access through fossil fuels. The main obstacle arises from the scale of the problem -trying to finance complex innovative technology projects for hundreds of millions of people that must be built from the ground up. The projects are capital intensive, require lightly-leveraged-high-equity money up front and therefore rely on huge government subsidies drawn from small budgets in developing countries already strapped with debt and fiduciary obligations to provide for other costly public services. Foreign aid is too stingy to address the magnitude of demand; and private investors are wary of losing their shirts in economic downturns or debt crises. The fail-safe solution from the perspective of poor developing countries -hard to swallow for western environmentalists living in affluent cities and suburbs- is to build that coal-fired plant and run lines from that existing grid to those villages without electricity. Click! The lights come on. (I’m skeptical that “misleading advertising from fossil-fuel producers” plays a significant role.)

    Finally, though we find common ground for consensus, we both construct syllogisms based on bias, contrived imperatives and stipulations. We must do A -We have the means to do A – We can therefore [easily] do A. My pet imperative is non-coercive population control (through education, universal access to birth control and elective abortion). Others stress the urgency of switching off fossil fuel burning and switching on clean energy. Now. (Well, maybe we’ll allow ten or twenty years for the process to accelerate the rate of decline in emissions, achieving 80% around 2050 then falling to 90% or virtually zero shortly thereafter.). Fair enough.

    Our disagreements have everything to do with means and nothing to do with ends. The process, I believe, will take longer on the order of several decades from the base year of 2015. At the heart of the debate, that’s about it.

    My point of view in the larger scheme of things is far more tolerant of “the long term.” We must see ourselves as members of an animal species evolving over millions of years and specifically as homo Sapiens within the last 200,000 years. I see nothing unreasonable about taking actions now on problems that may take 100 years or even 200 years to mitigate, then largely resolve. I welcome discussions within and among the international community to address measures to curb the horrendous over-breeding of our species on the planet. Enthusiastic endorsement of such measures implemented as a matter of international consensus in policy and practice, will go a long way toward enriching the quality of life for all humankind – long after you and I are dead.



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  • Melvin Mar 19, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    7 billion +, don’t use fossil fuels. – Most of the poor ones use basic firewood, animal drawn carts, bicycles and foot-travel.

    If the point is that the poor use less fossil fuels, depending on degree of poverty and individual circumstances then, you’re right. But it’s naive to believe that the vast majority don’t travel by train, bus or motor scooter or cobble together enough money for the occasional airline ticket.

    Really?? People who can’t afford electricity use airlines???

    “Such people” cannot be isolated from “all people” whose standard of living lies on a continuum linked (generally) at every point to fossil fuel consumption.

    This is simply not so for many rural populations.

    Poor families in India, for example, typically use a petroleum-based filthy black cooking oil high in pollutants.

    http://ensia.com/features/solar-energy-solutions-for-the-developing-world/

    Mehndiratta is one of a billion people around the world who live where electrical grid service is unreliable. At least 1.3 billion more live completely out of range of the grid, and usually these people cannot afford solar setups like the one Mehndiratta had installed. Yet it is easy to see why people would want what solar promises. For starters, it offers an alternative to firewood and kerosene, both of which pollute indoor air. Harvesting firewood can cause deforestation, and kerosene is a leading cause of poisoning and burns in children—and an expensive, poor quality light source to boot. Meanwhile, solar water heaters quickly pay for themselves with the money saved by not having to heat water with electricity, people in remote locations could use solar power to charge cell phones and, well, who doesn’t want a color TV?

    Solarcookers.org http://solarcooking.org/plans/ list a range of solar cookers/water heaters costing from about $10, £7.

    I would caution against argument from exceptions or extremes. Richer people are more likely than poorer people to have photo-voltaic panels on the roof

    That is so in developed countries. In poor countries the “comparatively rich”, are poor by standards in industrial developed countries.

    The fail-safe solution from the perspective of poor developing countries -hard to swallow for western environmentalists living in affluent cities and suburbs- is to build that coal-fired plant and run lines from that existing grid to those villages without electricity. Click! The lights come on.

    Nope!
    That is the fail-hopeless solution, involving high costs of building power-stations, a grid infrastructure and heavy carbon fuel transport system, to feed coal to centralised power-stations!!
    The use of photovoltaics, solar thermal systems (such as those from solarcookers.org) http://www.aidforafrica.org/member-charities/solar-cookers-international/ and other green systems such as wind or the Gulf of Kutch tidal turbine farm are much better and cleaner options.

    (I’m skeptical that “misleading advertising from fossil-fuel producers” plays a significant role.)

    But you seem to have swallowed their misleading messages whole, and then repeated them here! ?



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  • Let’s look at China to get a sense of the ambiguous trends characterizing worldwide energy developments since 2010. On the one hand:

    **The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that China will surpass the United States as the largest net oil importer by 2014, in part due to China’s rising oil consumption. China’s oil consumption growth accounted for one-third of the world’s oil consumption growth in 2013, and EIA projects the same share in 2014.

    Natural gas use in China has also increased rapidly in recent years, and China has sought to raise natural gas imports via pipeline and liquefied natural gas (LNG). China is the world’s top coal producer, consumer, and importer and accounted for about half of global coal consumption, an important factor in world energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.**

    On the other hand: China also leads the world in installed solar power capacity, consumption, the production of solar-voltaic panels and panel exports.

    On the one hand: As a result of high coal consumption, China is also the world’s leading energy-related CO2 emitter, releasing 8,715 million metric tons of CO2 in 2011. China’s government plans to reduce carbon intensity (carbon emissions per unit of GDP) by 17% between 2010 and 2015 and energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) by 16% during the same period, according to the country’s 12th Five-Year Plan. China also intends to reduce its overall CO2 emissions by at least 40% between 2005 and 2020.

    On the other hand: EIA projects coal’s share of the total energy mix to fall to 63% by 2020 and 55% by 2040 as a result of projected higher energy efficiencies and China’s goal to increase its environmental sustainability. However, absolute coal consumption is expected to increase by over 50% during this forecast period, reflecting the large growth in total energy consumption.

    Clearly China is trying to cut back on coal consumption to reduce air pollution, curb carbon emissions, and diversify the economy away from over-dependence on manufacturing and exports moving toward a less volatile consumer economy. At the same time China has embarked on a realpolitik foreign policy to fight tooth and nail for access to world oil and natural gas markets to meet rising domestic demand for these energy sources.

    What trends can the layman reliably deduce from these statistics? Not much I’m afraid. Data inputs could be subject to significant revisions due to deficits in collection and human error. Wind and solar et. al. could start to puncture ballooning consumption of fossil fuels. But what is the timetable on a global scale? Five years, ten years, twenty years? Frankly claims on both sides of the controversy seem highly politicized and statistical models interact with so many variables that they generate, inconsistencies, contradictions and confusion.

    Several plausible conclusions emerge. 1) Currently nations are massing financial and political resources to exploit oil (offshore, shale, tar sands, etc.) and natural gas. The worldwide projects may well go forward for decades = Not Good News. 2) The rate of increase in CO2 emissions may be falling fast enough to break a benchmark into gradual steady decline year to year = Good news. 3) Any REAL global decline under 70% by mid century calculated on the base year of 2015 may well prove inadequate given the 30 year time frame for mitigating the worst consequences of global warming projected for the 21st century = Uncertainty.



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  • What a disgracefully partisan set of metrics you chose to select for us, Melvin.

    CO2 per capita:

    China 6.19t,
    UK 7.9t,
    USA 17.56t.

    Coal use per capita:

    China 1.04t,
    UK 1.12t,
    US 3.72t.

    Oil use per 1k capita:

    China 5.73bbl/day/k,
    UK 29.0 bbl/day/k,
    US 68.7 bbl/day/k.

    Gas use per capita:

    China 96m^3,
    UK 1,495m^3,
    US 2,177m^3.

    China may be investing in Canadian and its own shale gas sources, but the US is trail blazing this as they do in every other aspect of this catastrophe.

    Legislate against casino banking. Tax the profits from long term and very long term investments more and more lightly. Undo the disaster of Reaganomic legislations. (Yes, the US [abetted by the UK], disabled the capacity for capitalism to work over the time spans needed to fix this.)



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  • Hello, Phil and welcome back. I select China, the most populous country in the world, because its arc of development from 1976 to the present; from poverty to global economic supremacy, illuminates many crucial factors driving the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere since 1990. Other developing countries, notably India, have entered the same fast track overtaking OECD countries.

    The mix of ambiguous statistics measuring diverse developments in diverse nations can provide resources for both understanding and misinterpretation. The reference to “disgracefully partisan” juxtaposed with the statistical sins of the United States presumably picks out the real villain in global warming. I believe you are over-moralizing the structural mix of geographic and historic forces which have assigned nations to relatively “good” or “bad” rankings on the chart. For example, Canada and Australia are relatively “green” nations with per capita emissions equivalent to those of the U.S. Another situation might prompt a neutral observer to award China an “extra” 1.71 tons [7.9 t – 6.19 t = 1.71 t] of CO2 per capita in the name of fairness without realizing that bringing China up to parity with the UK would spew 2.4 billion additional tons into the atmosphere each year. [1.4 billion people X 1.71 t = 2.394 billion t].

    Legislate against casino banking. Tax the profits from long term and very long term investments more and more lightly. Undo the disaster of Reaganomic legislations. (Yes, the US [abetted by the UK], disabled the capacity for capitalism to work over the time spans needed to fix this.)

    The recommendation has a commendatory ring about it but fails to address the countervailing forces of real world investing. “Long term” and “short term” are relational to the kind of investment made, the amount of money invested, the risks, emerging trends, market disruptions, portfolio composition and so on. Not all investments earn profits. If a financial instrument loses value; if a company goes south, the issue of taxes-on-profits becomes irrelevant. There is no way to regulate when an investor should sell whether after six months or six years.

    Getting back to China, I doubt if American financial market “innovations” in the 80s and 90s shaped Chinese planning for industrial growth, manufacturing and global marketing. Again quoting EIA: “China is the world’s top coal producer, consumer, and importer and accounted for about half of global coal consumption, an important factor in world energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.” Simply put China looked around after Mao kicked the bucket and said, “hey, look we’re up to our keister in coal. If we build a coal-fired energy plant every two weeks (or so), we can sell the world enough stuff to become NUMBER ONE in thirty years. And so it came to pass….

    As you suggest “long-term vs short term” is running out of a viable time frame in which to play out the contest. Thirty to fifty years. That’s all folks.



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  • No, it is for the USA to continue to lead from the front, only this time out of their mode of selfish behaviours. They set a poor moral standard and block a better global consensus.

    “Long-term” investment has nothing to do with the immediacy of the boons it brings, but the timescale over which a return on investment is financially achieved. It is disingenuous to muddle these as you have.

    Capital is underused by at least 20%. Many methods exist that may bring more of it into play, they just need to be attractive enough. Infrastructure and cash stream businesses can secure the financial sector better than anything. Using tax deferals etc. to favour particular types of investment are just one amongst many of those levers that could be pulled.

    I never left, but I am cutting back and avoiding certain topics…



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  • Back in the fifties, my English literature teachers taught that the great writers dealt with the question of “Human Nature.” The term was soon replaced by the more accurate “Human Condition.” Over the decades I’ve come to observe what sort of conditions nurture “moral” behavior in our species both within and among societies fostering civilization; and what sort of conditions trigger “immoral” behavior fostering barbarism. Integrating the two descriptions, we cannot change human (evolved) nature focused on survival, self-interest and competition, but nonetheless we have learned how to use our large brains to fashion cooperative, just, prosperous and sustainable societies through Science, Technology and Reason.

    We evolved to become the supreme predator in the animal kingdom, venturing forth each morning to kill something for the “selfish” nourishment of ourselves and families. Concurrently we learned how to cooperate with others both inside and outside our reference groups, largely to pursue self-interest more effectively but also to express emotional needs for compassion and empathy through altruistic behavior.

    The trap we humans fall into is to over-moralize individual or collective human behavior, or more comprehensively, to over-moralize history. We are not intrinsically “moral” creatures, we are animals contingently affected by emotions we describe as “moral.” It’s self-serving and dangerously misleading to divide the world into good guys and bad guys tout court. No, it is for the USA to continue to lead from the front, only this time out of their mode of selfish behaviors. They set a poor moral standard and block a better global consensus.

    There is truth here, but it’s not helpful to point dead-end fingers rather than comprehend historical developments leading to the current crisis. Great Britain invented the industrial revolution exploiting huge reserves of coal and iron in the 19th century in order to enrich its citizens, raise standards of living above agrarian subsistence, and establish economic and colonial hegemony throughout the world. Other nations copied the technological fossil-fuel based model because as Pearl Bailey said, “rich is better than poor.” In the 20th century, Germany beat out Britain; and the United Sates beat out all of Europe combined. In the decades since WWII, the U.S became the third largest country in population spiked by natural increase and then by more immigration than the rest of the world combined. Situated on a huge geographic land mass, rich in resources beyond imagination, the U.S. became the most affluent and powerful nation in world history. Along with super -some would say shameful- consumerism, around 1990 global warming scientists decried the disproportionate per capita and aggregate carbon emissions entering the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels in that environmentally irresponsible country.

    Then a funny thing happened. The intractable poverty and economic marginalization of China, which had only begun to turn around in the 1980s, began to show exponential economic growth rates in the 1990s fueled by coal like their British, European and American predecessors to create incredible wealth. Around 2014, China surpassed the United Stated in CO2 emissions. The great Satan was usurped by an even greater Satan.

    But the march of events had nothing to do with Satan; they were driven by technology -specifically productive machinery powered by fossil fuels that raised societies from eons of agrarian poverty with halting progress into the modern era of heretofore inconceivable prosperity, health, and leisure. We’ve been compelled to deal with the unforeseen consequences of industrialization emerging from global warming only over the last 25 years. Innovative carbon neutral technologies already in the pipeline combined with evidence of rapidly growing demand constitute the best hope for eliminating 80% to 90% of annual emissions between the base year of 2015 and (I optimistically speculate) 2050 to 2070. It is not reasonable, whatever the intensity of our impatience, that we can uproot the fossil fuel infrastructure covering the planet for the last 300 years in a few years or in even a few decades.



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  • There is truth here, but it’s not helpful to point dead-end fingers

    Why do you think I should point fingers just for its own sake? What would my motive be? I have written here extensively about the the first national industrial revolutions being the worst. UK worst, US better, China better still in carbon use to raise GDP per capita by a given percentage.

    But look at the per capita numbers I posted. Now which individuals that I have any kind of access to here would it be most expedient to make feel guilty for their behaviours?

    rather than comprehend historical developments leading to the current crisis.

    Thanks.



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  • The intelligentsia are getting plans together to dump dangerous, polluting, and dead-end investments!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31872459

    .Climate scientists at leading universities are joining forces to discuss the basis of a set of principles governing investment in fossil fuels.

    They include academics at Oxford, Imperial College London and Harvard.

    .Prof Myles Allen, of Oxford University, said the move was similar to principles governing investment in South Africa under apartheid in the 1980s.

    “This is a challenging question being put to universities,” he told BBC News.

    “We have the opportunity here to think about the most constructive approach to the divestment issue.”

    Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that may be regarded by some as unethical.

    The academics are due to meet in May to begin a one-year consultation process.

    It might end in some form of agreement on a set of useful principles governing investment in fossil fuels in the future, said Prof Allen, professor of geosystem science at Oxford.

    He stressed that the consultation, supported by the Oxford Martin School, was entirely independent of university endowment boards’ decisions on investment being considered now.



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  • The intelligentsia are getting plans together to dump dangerous, polluting, and dead-end investments!

    Are these the same intelligentsia who have reaped obscene profits from making the same kind of investments?

    Prof Myles Allen, of Oxford University, said the move was similar to principles governing investment in South Africa under apartheid in the 1980s.

    The argument from analogy at its prickly worst! Ouch! Ending fossil fuel use should not be compared to ending Apartheid, launching the Normandy invasion or weening people from tobacco use.

    .Climate scientists at leading universities are joining forces to discuss the basis of a set of principles governing investment in fossil fuels. (What a dreadful sentence).

    Have they invited leaders from China who administered the burning of 3 billion tons of coal last year? [ In fairness, Chinese leaders and citizenry are seriously concerned about reducing coal consumption to mitigate choking air pollution and CO2 emissions. Coal consumption fell intentionally and/or coincidentally by about 2% in China last year. The trend will probably continue as China converts to more natural gas-fired power plants.]

    Granting important roles for other sources of clean energy along with fuel efficiency measures, building insulation, conservation and recycling, rising demand (and installation) coupled with falling prices for photovoltaic solar cells, predominately produced in China, hold out the single best hope for controlling carbon dioxide emissions by mid-century (EIA).

    All the hoopla about selecting bait-and-switch reduction targets from base years projected by slight-of-hand into an indefinite future -1990, 2000, 2005- and the flood of ambiguous convoluted statistics distributed to imply a charade of “progress” is over. Nothing has been accomplished. The base year is 2015; the base year is now. Will action replace rhetoric – discussions and conferences; proclamations and principles- or will we stay the course of business as usual? Press the “start” button on your stop watches now and don’t let anyone convince you to reset it to a new base year ever again. The gaming is over. Let the real games begin!



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  • The argument from analogy at its prickly worst! Ouch! Ending fossil fuel use should not be compared to ending Apartheid, launching the Normandy invasion or weening people from tobacco use.

    Your right Melvin. Burning fossil fuel is far more serious that all of those topics combined. It has the potential (note the word potential) to cause a mass extinction event (that includes us because we’re animals and we’re not exempted by god) if a tipping point is triggered.

    Melvin. You know Pascal’s wager. You may as well bet on god existing because if he does, your saved, and if he doesn’t, who cares. You still win. Burning fossil fuel and global warming are a Pascal’s wager situation. You may as well bet its true and act, because if you are right, you may have saved humanity from a mass extinction event (which includes my grand children) and you’ve sent the Middle East broke because no one wants oil anymore. If the science of global warming is wrong (probability is??) then you’ve still sent the Middle East broke and you’ve cleaned up atmospheric pollution and thousands of other benefits.

    Pascal’s wager is a no loose situation. Doing something about global warming has no downside, unless you want to include rich people getting poorer. Who cares.

    Because the risk of a tipping point is so serious, the urgency to act, in accordance with the Pascal principle is immediately.

    “I’m god. I’m the second coming. You’ve got ten years to get off fossil fuel because after that, I’m going to turn it all into sandstone. Now get on with it you stupid species.”



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  • Very well said David. Bravo mate!

    Melvin, enjoy your box seat view of the demise of American dominance. It’s a question of insight and while many Americans are sufficiently educated to appreciate the implications of climate science, most exhibit your paranoid position of determined delay/denial.

    …the same intelligentsia who have reaped obscene profits…

    Yes Melvin, you wily old fox you. You’ve seen straight through our devious ploy. Scientists have become obscenely wealthy thousandaires by colluding with Greenies to trick people and introduce a UN sanctioned worldwide Communist government.

    As you fearfully seek to scapegoat others China will adjust quickly and swamp you economically, because they value education over paranoid psychoticism, thereby enjoying superior insight. Your golden age will end rapidly it seems.



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  • Melvin Mar 22, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Prof Myles Allen, of Oxford University, said the move was similar to principles governing investment in South Africa under apartheid in the 1980s.

    The argument from analogy at its prickly worst! Ouch! Ending fossil fuel use should not be compared to ending Apartheid, launching the Normandy invasion or weening people from tobacco use.

    Applying the principles of ethical investment, as damaging commercial dishonesty and abuses are exposed, and as ethical issues become clear, is an analogy???????? (Next they’ll be applying that “prickly analogy” to child sweat-shop labour!!! – Horrors!! – OOoops!! some already do!)



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  • Melvin, enjoy your box seat view of the demise of American dominance. It’s a question of insight and while many Americans are sufficiently educated to appreciate the implications of climate science, most exhibit your paranoid position of determined delay/denial.

    I never intended the discussion to be about me or my “bad” attitude. Positive thinking will not overturn the fact that the world’s people use fossil fuels not only to get through the day and survive but to raise their standard of living by consuming more goods and services. When we say “immigrants come to America [Canada, England, France, Italy etc.] seeking a better life for themselves and their families” we’re saying the same thing disguised under a virtuous description. Immigrants come to access an energy-rich economy generated by fossil fuels, so that they can work in productive jobs providing discretionary income to be spent on consumer goods and services. That’s the pragmatic reality behind Phil’s chart showing differential per capita consumption of energy and CO2 emissions.

    Are we better people for wishing it were not so? Definitely. Are we better still for taking measures to reduce our carbon footprint? Definitely. Staring us in the face is the way people actually use energy and the emerging billions, most of them poor, about to join the billions already here. They -all of us- pursue the immediate priority of building a better life for ourselves and our families with concern for global warming buried in high-sounding rhetoric far down the list.

    So what’s to be done? Obviously, carbon emissions must be radically decoupled from economic and population growth on a per capita basis. I’ve proposed cutting world population in half over time from around 7 billion to 3.5 billion. If family planning is carried out worldwide in a concerted, non-coercive program, the cost would be minimal and global warming could be cut 50% on a per capita basis up front, (If we posit a projected population of around 10 billion after mid-century, the 3.5 billion stabilized population would cut per capita emissions by 65% making the job of decoupling much more manageable). Installing cheap photovoltaic solar cells on homes and buildings where geographically feasible would help along with huge Concentrated Solar Power arrays in deserts and wind turbine farms all generating clean electricity. Many other technologies discussed here could augment the share of renewable energy over 20 to 40 years.

    The dilemma in 2015 is the same old story: short term versus long term. If climate scientists are right the “long term” is no longer an option. Phil advocates revamping world economies to incentivize long term investments over short term investments but that recommendation clashes with the premise of urgency.

    For the immediate future national economies are going to be preoccupied with exploiting oil and natural gas reserves at remote sites using new extractive technology and long distance pipelines. However we feel about current realities and developments, we should prepare to undertake projects with expectations that mitigation will arrive over the long[er] term throughout the century.



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  • Melvin Mar 23, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Melvin, enjoy your box seat view of the demise of American dominance. It’s a question of insight and while many Americans are sufficiently educated to appreciate the implications of climate science, most exhibit your paranoid position of determined delay/denial.

    I never intended the discussion to be about me or my “bad” attitude. Positive thinking will not overturn the fact that the world’s people use fossil fuels not only to get through the day and survive but to raise their standard of living by consuming more goods and services.

    Really???
    You seem fixated on sticking with fossil fuels, despite major initiatives all over the world, and links on this site explaining the technologies and the options.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-20140313

    Official figures revealed that about 35% of Scotland’s electricity demand was met by green energy – beating the target of 31% set in 2007.

    “Last year, we published a Routemap for Renewable Energy for Scotland, outlining how we would meet the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

    “Today, we are publishing an update to that Routemap. It shows clearly the progress that has been made in the last year.

    “In the light of that progress, I can announce that we have set a new interim target – by 2015, the equivalent of 50% of Scotland’s electricity demand will be met by renewable sources.

    When we say “immigrants come to America [Canada, England, France, Italy etc.] seeking a better life for themselves and their families” we’re saying the same thing disguised under a virtuous description. Immigrants come to access an energy-rich economy generated by fossil fuels, so that they can work in productive jobs providing discretionary income to be spent on consumer goods and services.

    We are well aware of the hangover of obsolete industries, but you seem to be looking backwards rather than forwards.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-31927779

    Chancellor George Osborne has said negotiations are opening on a £1bn tidal lagoon scheme in Swansea, in his Budget speech in the House of Commons.

    The plan would see a giant man-made lagoon generating power to run 120,000 homes for 120 years.

    However, anticipating the calls for cheaper energy, with less taxpayer subsidy, the developers have said they estimate that bigger energy lagoons near Cardiff and Newport would need government support of around £90-£95 per megawatt hour of energy.



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  • Immigrants come to access an energy-rich economy generated by fossil fuels, so that they can work in productive jobs providing discretionary income to be spent on consumer goods and services.

    Those of a less selfish disposition may alternatively prefer Europe.

    Phil advocates revamping world economies to incentivize long term investments over short term investments but that recommendation clashes with the premise of urgency.

    Not according to my early posts on this which you appear to have forgotten. I claim this is a pullable lever if promoted, because it should appeal to those interested in returning to less maverick banking ways as instituted very successfully after the Wall Street Crash of eighty years ago and undone in the eighties. If this were offered as a policy I think it would find takers and I think its prospect would accelerate a flip in investment thinking.

    Nor is this my first thing to do. As far as developing energy efficient technology in the automotive, power distribution and lighting markets that accounts for the last twenty years of my life, I am happy my work and that of tens of thousands of others is good to go. I want faster take up to reach commercial criticality. Now what I promote technologically is sustainability quite beyond climate change, the circular economy. All these things are necessary in a joined up plan; efficiency to reduce energy demands, lesser fossil transition, then non fossil energy sources, smart energy distribution and storage, robust and redundant systems, new business and financial models to roll up capital costs to create stable and distributed wealth generation from power production and ancillary waste-using, heat-generating businesses and then finally close the loop on all consumables to reach sustainability.

    What cheeses me off more than having spent the better part of my life on the foregoing then facing your perpetual strawmanning that I promote just this or just that is….. that 25mpg sedan outside your house and your ever so anxious lassitude.



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  • What cheeses me off more than having spent the better part of my life on the foregoing then facing your perpetual strawmanning that I promote just this or just that is….. that 25mpg sedan outside your house and your ever so anxious lassitude.

    I hope that the discussion is not becoming personal in spite of (spite?) the occasional whimsical sarcasm. I certainly respect your distinguished career and your invaluable contributions to “energy efficient technology in the automotive, power distribution and lighting markets.” I also seriously appreciate Alan’s references to large scale hydro-power generating projects in Wales and statistics showing renewables providing a growing share of electricity in Scotland, Denmark, Germany and generally throughout western Europe.

    I’m trying to comprehend the consequences of rapid economic and population growth launched in the decade between 1950 and 1960 specifically connected to global warming. As late as 1960, the United States and Western Europe dominated the world economy. Today the tables have been turned big time. All population growth in the 21st century -4 to 5 billion people- will take place outside Europe (including Russia). Ethnic European populations will stagnate then decline both in Europe and the U.S. The United States will become a demographic anomaly because of high immigration rates, remaining the third most populous nation in the world but also becoming “minority-majority” by 2050.

    I take on board the criticism that the U.S. should cut per capita fossil fuel consumption and emissions significantly. Still It’s unreasonable to demand that Americans, Australians or Canadians bring their emissions into alignment with those in Sweden. Per capita statistics, though strongly correlated with national GDP, general wealth and standards of living, vary significantly among developed economies including European countries. The U.S. has made progress and will continue to do so. But factor in the offsetting forces of rapidly growing immigrant populations.

    The game is now played in the hinterland of Europe and North America – in China, India, Brazil and soon Africa. Developing countries with large growing populations and widespread poverty are less likely to afford capital intensive, heavily subsidized renewable energy projects on an economy of scale sufficient to stabilize global warming in the near to mid-term. The path that global warming takes from 2015 on will depend on the degree of dependence that developing economies and increasing poor[er] populations place on the burning of fossil fuels.



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  • Still It’s unreasonable to demand that Americans, Australians or Canadians bring their emissions into alignment with those in Sweden.

    Not only is it reasonable, it is urgent. There is no argument, scientific, financial, economic, cultural or religious that can trump the Pascal’s Wager urgency to act now and kill off fossil fuel. And to act with strong deep cuts across the world. Of course there will be consequences. To world needs to change. But we will deal with the consequences and change as they happen, but none of those consequences or changes are a reason not to act. To hell with consequences.



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  • I hope that the discussion is not becoming personal

    I don’t do smilies as I’m not sure what I’m doing with them….but imagine one in realtion to your car. It is a semi-whimsical metaphor…and yet it is also entirely the point.

    There is no peace for any of us to be left in.



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  • A word about my car, Phil. It is a 1999 Toyota Camry running on all four cylinders and putting out a whopping 135 horsepower. As engines age, grinding over roads for 16 years in this case, fuel efficiency is lost. New, my ’99 Camry probably got 28 to 30 MPG, relatively good numbers for the period My real savings on petrol derive from low driving mileage -around 6,000 miles per year on average. So you see my personal carbon footprint is very small and therefore not an issue.

    If I recall, your initial observations on fuel-efficient vehicles touted lightweight diesel-powered cars getting 50+ miles to the gallon. No argument there. Unfortunately diesel supplies a small market in the States and throughout the world and can emit toxic pollutants far worse than gasoline if not strictly “scrubbed.” (See India). Most drivers outside Europe pump gasoline into the tank.

    Demand, production and consumption of oil has skyrocketed year on year since 1950. Once more look to China for a paradigm. Streets once flooded with bicycles are now packed with cars, some of them gas guzzling Mercedes and SUVs driven by the nouveau riche flanked by compact cars driven by the rising middle class. Growing economies in developing countries generate more middle class car owners burning more petrol.

    Cutting to the chase we can and should do more to improve fuel efficiency in the transportation sector, but it’s unrealistic to believe that expensive alternative energy (electric, hydrogen, fuel cell) vehicles have or will become commercially viable in the near future. In the meantime, the craze for augmenting oil supplies will give a shot in the arm to ICE vehicle production and sales. The good news is that petrol powered cars and trucks will become more and more fuel efficient in miles to the liter. The bad news is there will be a lot more of them eating up oil reserves.

    Phil, I share qualified optimism for the possibility that there will be breakthroughs in technology, manufacturing, falling costs and prices churning out a worldwide fleet of carbon-neutral cars and trucks to change out ICE vehicles on the roads in coming decades. You are the go-to guy for supplying information on these developments. Best.



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  • I never intended the discussion to be about me or my “bad” attitude.
    Are we better people for wishing it were not so? Definitely.

    Wishing won’t help Melvin. Action is needed urgently, as David has already explained.

    I’ve proposed cutting world population in half over time… If family planning is carried out worldwide… The dilemma in 2015 is the same old story: short term versus long term.

    Delay is Denial. The matter is urgent and your plan would only work if billions were killed immediately.

    If climate scientists are right the “long term” is no longer an option.

    Only industrial grade ignorance would allow anyone to denounce the findings of climate science these days. Fear and jealousy that others will take advantage and dilute your wealth is inadmissible argument I reckon.



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  • phil rimmer Mar 23, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    As far as developing energy efficient technology in the automotive, power distribution and lighting markets that accounts for the last twenty years of my life, I am happy my work and that of tens of thousands of others is good to go. I want faster take up to reach commercial criticality. Now what I promote technologically is sustainability quite beyond climate change, the circular economy.

    Here is another step in the right direction.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32067675
    .Green power from Norway will be powering hundreds of thousands of UK homes from 2021, National Grid has said.

    Energy will travel via the world’s longest sub-sea electricity interconnector.

    The €2bn (£1.4bn) project has been rubber stamped between National Grid and its Norwegian equivalent Statnett.

    The UK aims to import enough hydro-power from Norway to provide 14% of yearly household electricity needs.

    Alan Foster, director of European business development for National Grid, said: “Access to low-carbon energy from Norway hydro-power stations will help us meet the challenge of greener, affordable energy.

    “It also adds to the diversity of energy sources for UK and potentially can reduce peak prices, with benefits for consumers and businesses.”

    Statnett chief executive Auke Lont said: “Not only is this a technically impressive project where we will set a new world record, it is also an important contribution to the increase of renewable energy production on both sides.”

    Longest sub-sea interconnector

    The North Sea Network (NSN) interconnector is due to be completed in 2021 and will have a capacity of 1.4 gigawatts (GW).

    The sub-sea electricity cable will connect the two countries’ electricity markets directly for the first time.

    This type of power interconnector, may well have applications for tidal turbine farms, and island wind farms.

    The sub-sea cable will connect to the UK network at Blyth in Northumberland.

    Crucially, the UK will be able to call on the power at short notice. The energy will be used to manage the growing levels of intermittent wind power on the network.

    It will also be a two-way link. Norway will be able to import power from the UK during dry periods when hydroelectric power is less widely available.

    According to the government, the link will help the UK benefit from Norway’s cheaper electricity prices. It estimates that the interconnector will deliver consumer benefits of up to £3.5bn through to 2040.



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  • My intended replacement vehicle claims 88 (imperial) mpg and a few days of driving one suggests I may get 70 to 75. Its cheaper than my current car, a compact, and petrol.

    The essential problem is this. If everyone stopped thinking the problem is not them, but accept that all can contribute say a 10% footprint reduction now, we would transform our prospects. At every turn it is for others to fix.

    We’ve had it good rifling our kids’ inheritance. We’re rich now so we can ease off the gas. Huge political unrest is being caused by economic migrants in Europe. Citizens who have invested heavily through taxes to create a fairer society now find themselves angry at the poor arriving on their doorstep and (they fear) dipping into their societal investments. It is understandable, but it is an ugly sight, bringing fears of slipping back into fascist ways. Global stability will be the other great boon if we allow others (other countries) the opportunity to achieve a good enough standard of living, learning that we have most of what we could reasonably need and not begrudging others their struggle to join us.

    That, that, that is entirely the essence of our problem.

    there will be breakthroughs in technology

    (Sigh.) What? I can’t buy my new car?



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  • Hi Phil. Fascinating stats. It’s been a while since I’ve visited friends in the UK (London, Leicester, Salisbury). I recall then that many passenger cars were indeed small estimating that they drove at around 33 MPG. I’ve searched in vain for stats on fleet-average MPG in the UK. Maybe you are savvy on the topic adjusting imperial gallon with the smaller U.S. gallon. Herein lies my perspective. Within any community and indeed worldwide there is a mix of vehicles reflecting the diverse budgets, needs, and interests of the motoring public.

    During the 90s SUVs and small trucks captured over 50% of the U.S. market in the U.S.. Curiously the gas guzzlers hit the sweet spot for a gender-split in demand, with women going for the SUV for safety/security value and younger men going for the pickups for macho image, hauling or work-related use. Because we Americans typically (I personally don’t) drive long distances on freeways and cross country at high speeds, we prefer the minimum safety of “mid-sized” cars in case of collision. ( I imagine that geographic vastness gives rise to the same pattern in Australia and Canada). Even our nominally “compact” cars are proportionately bigger than the tiny sub-compacts popular in Europe and developing countries.

    Fuel conservation trends since 2000 have seen the downsizing of larger vehicles combined with “eco-system” engines using less power and fuel. Frankly I don’t see much impact of these efforts on global oil demand. I cannot force thrift (or altruism) on people who can afford and demand larger vehicles. I cannot force the Chinese or Indian entrepreneur to keep driving the motor scooter from his impoverished youth instead of “trading up” to a Mercedes or SUV or a 28.5 MPG mid-sized Nissan.

    So when you say we can all do our part, I’m with you but “the mix” of vehicles (not to mention big-rig commercial trucking) trends with economic and population growth to increase the demand and consumption of oil. The dilemma necessitates a technological revolution in carbon-neutral fuels/power which can decouple transportation from dependence on oil. P.S.: I hope you can purchase your environment-friendly new car in the near future.



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