• By Robinson Meyer

    Who is to blame for climate change?

    Of course, we all are. If you’ve lived on Earth for even a couple of years, then greenhouse gases—emitted by you or for your benefit—have in some small […]

    • I was a little surprised by the claim that 2,500 miles of highway driving = 1 ton of carbon so I decided to run the numbers. I’ll be charitable and assume they meant carbon dioxide rather than just carbon.

      Let’s assume a modern petrol car mpg of 40 miles per UK gallon. 2,500 miles = 62.5 gallons. The specific gravity of petrol is about 0.75 so that’s 62.5 x 7.5 = 468.75 lbs of petrol. Approximately 85% of petrol by mass is carbon so that’s 398.4 lbs of carbon. The atomic mass of carbon is 12 and that of oxygen 16 so the atomic mass of CO2 is 44.

      If all the carbon burns to form carbon dioxide we get a total mass of 398.4 x 44/12 = 1461 lbs of CO2. A long way short of a ton. In fact we need to assume a mpg of only about 25 to get a ton of CO2 from 2,500 miles of driving. Maybe realistic for a mix of cars and trucks I suppose. However for a modern diesel car doing 60 mpg it’s more like 6,000 miles per ton of CO2.

    • It seems that US motor transport is rather less fuel efficient than the better UK vehicles!

      I guess that’s because in the US we define as ‘Light Duty’ even cars and especially pickup trucks with monstrous (from an European viewpoint) naturally aspirated V8 engines often exceeding 5000 cc…

    • You’ve also got to remember that a US gallon is smaller than an imperial one. Multiply US mpg by 1.2 to get UK mpg. So the fuel efficiency for cars in that table in recent years is pretty decent – low to mid 40s UK mpg.

    • Paris climate deal enters force as focus shifts to action
      Governments have agreed to keep the global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – and preferably 1.5 degrees……….Paris is the first agreement tying rich and poor nations in a common endeavour to protect the climate.

      What if governments cannot keep global temperature rise to exactly two degrees Celsius and “preferably” limit the rise to 1.5 degrees? What if it goes slightly over the “limit” and settles at 2.5 degrees? It’s all speculation. It’s all prevarication.

      However, the national targets for cutting carbon emissions are voluntary. The UN tried a mandatory approach but countries that were failing to meet their targets simply quit.
      The process of the Paris deal is binding, including a commitment for governments to keep returning to the issue to ratchet up the clean energy targets that they all agree are inadequate.

      This statement doesn’t make sense. “The UN tried a mandatory approach” is an oxymoron. The UN has virtually no power over the policies, practices or “offenses” of sovereign nations. “Mandatory” implies effective enforcement and punishment of violators that corrects actions out of compliance with objectives. “Mandatory” also implies that parties to the agreement cannot renounce contractual obligations but that is what actually happened without consequences -a confusing contradiction. “Voluntary” implies that a party may drop out of the agreement at will. Asserting that “the process of the Paris deal is binding” is another confusing contradiction. It seems to be saying that an ephemeral good-will sentiment hovers over the process that “obligates” all parties to keep talking, and talking and talking while nothing gets done.

      Governments that rushed to enshrine Paris in law have had one eye on the US elections. Hilary Clinton has pledged to take President Obama’s emissions cuts further. Donald Trump wants to tear up the agreement.

      Why? Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president of the United States and she will uphold the agreement. Not to worry? – Not so fast. The United States will remain the number two CO2 emitter in the world for years to come long after Clinton has left office. How will developing poor nations react when the U.S., China, and the European Union start chiding them for failing to reach their puny cutback targets as they achieve rapid economic growth – increases in production, consumption and fossil fuel use gradually overcoming wretched standards of living? Even if crazed U.S. leadership were to drop out for the sake of argument, wouldn’t the reduction of global greenhouse gases remain the same life-or-death priority for the rest of the world?

    • Melvin

      How will developing poor nations react when the U.S., China, and the European Union start chiding them for failing to reach their puny cutback targets as they achieve rapid economic growth –

      I think that you will see the big three offering help as much as any admonition. China, at least, will be in there fixing things. The poor nations would kick up a stink if the big three were not making relative improvements. The deltas involved are what sensible judgments of others will entail.

      The thing is complicated with lots of unknowns. Making the undertaking one of “best endeavours” and “see how we go” is entirely what this huge undertaking of mutual help needs to get it unstuck and moving. Success will breed success.

    • Alan4: New data released by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) shows that the five years from 2011 to 2015 were the warmest on record.
      The report, published at global climate talks in Morocco, strongly links human activities to rising temperatures.

      What do statistics show about enlightened European “human activity” in choosing to drive alternative fuel-powered vehicles over conventional fossil fuel-powered vehicles:

      1 Quarter 4 2015 Alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) registrations: +20.0% in 2015; +21.1% in Q4 In the fourth quarter of 2015, total alternative fuel vehicle registrations in the EU continued the positive momentum (+21.1%), totalling 164,718 units. Of these, electric vehicle (EV) registrations showed a substantial increase (+160.5%), more than doubling. EV registrations rose from 22,531 units in Q4 2014 to 58,689 units in Q4 2015. Demand for new hybrid vehicles (HEV) also grew significantly (+28.8%), reaching 60,911 units. On the other hand, new registrations of cars powered by propane or natural gas showed a double ‐ digit dip ( ‐ 31.8%) similarly to the previous quarter, totalling 45,118 – more than 20.000 units less than in Q4 2014. Among the EU’s major markets, the Netherlands saw the largest increase of AFVs registered over the last quarter (+258.1%), followed by France (+43.7%), Germany (+27.8%) and the UK (+17.4%). Growth in these countries was fully driven by electric and hybrid electric car markets, especially in the Netherlands where the largest number of new electric cars was totalled. Italy performed less well compared to Q4 2014 ( ‐ 23.6%), mainly due to the decline observed in the gas ‐ fuelled car registrations, which represent more than 80% of total AFVs. In 2015 , more than half a million AFVs were registered in the EU, up 20% compared to 2014. This represents 4.2% of total passenger car registrations. The uplift was fully sustained by the electric (+108.8%) and hybrid electric (+23.1%) markets, while the other alternative fuels declined ( ‐ 8.4%).

      Though deceptively encouraging, the statistics strongly suggest countervailing negative factors (bold type) eclipsing any realistic trend changing out fossil fuel for alternative fuel vehicles on an economy of scale. Annual rates of increase in AFV registration shows a huge increase (258.1%) in a single small European nation, the Netherlands. Rates of increase quickly taper off for the big three European economic powers: France 43.7%; Germany 27.8; and the UK with a pathetically puny 17.4%. If a trend toward AFVs were emerging one would expect western Europe’s super power, Germany, to be showing exponential rates of growth rather than an anemic middling number. Another fatal sign is that affluent Norway with the equivalent of an urban area population of 5.2 million people, accounts for 30% of all EVs driven in Europe. Growth rates for AFVs are calculated on tiny bases and appear impressive until compared against aggregate registrations. 4.2% of total passenger car registrations, new and old, show that 96% of Europeans are filling their conventional fossil fuel tanks with petrol or diesel whenever they drive. Environmentally conscious western European citizens are just not buying and driving hybrids, plug-in hybrids or EVs in sufficient numbers to phase out ICE motors.

    • Another fatal sign is that affluent Norway with the equivalent of an urban area population of 5.2 million people, accounts for 30% of all EVs driven in Europe. >

      It’s a pity I can’t post photographs here. When touring Oslo, I notice what looked like hundreds of parking meters all over the city. But they had cables attached to the cars. Hundreds of electric cars. I approached a local who explained, that if you have an electric car, you can drive it into the city and park all day for free and get the car charged at the same time for free. FREE. And the electricity for this is all from hydro carbon free sources.

      This is the template for the rest of the world. No wonder Norway has 30% of all EV vehicles in Europe. They have these vehicles because of informed and enlighten politicians who can see further over the horizon than the next share dividend cheque.

    • Alan4: In the mean time progress has been made increases in the efficiency of carbon fuelled vehicles to improve mpg. and reduce the pollution.…From the linked article.

      What makes these [mpg chart]comparisons tricky, however, is that the official targets don’t always do a good job telling us what sort of mileage cars are actually getting on the road. One large recent study, for instance, found that the average German passenger car is about 21 percent less fuel-efficient than the dealer’s brochure claims.

      This is a problem in the United States, as well. All the new cars and light trucks sold in 2025 won’t actually average 54.5 miles per gallon. They’ll almost certainly get far less than that. That’s because the tests used to measure official fuel economy standards—which basically involve running cars on a giant treadmill—don’t always do a great job of replicating real-world conditions. The Union of Concerned Scientists has a more detailed brief (pdf) on this, noting that the actual fuel economy for new U.S. vehicles in 2025 will probably be around 35.4 miles per gallon.

      So how will U.S. automakers meet these stricter standards, anyway? A recent report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted that car manufacturers will largely get there by ramping up the number of microhybrids, “which utilize start-stop technology to allow the battery to power accessories while the vehicle is stopped, enabling the engine to be automatically shut down.” Plug-in electric cars will also get more popular, but EIA doesn’t expect them to dominate. For the near term, microhybrids are the future.

      A perennial problem with judging EPA “official” fuel efficiency for a given vehicle is what amounts to officially sanctioned lying about how many miles to the gallon the buyer is actually going to get driving largely on her city roads. Excepting hybrids and teenie-weenie dwarf cars, I doubt if any new car gets 30 mpg here in the states including compacts. High diesel use in Europe greatly improves on this figure.

      David R Allen: No wonder Norway has 30% of all EV vehicles in Europe. They have these vehicles because of informed and enlighten politicians who can see further over the horizon than the next share dividend cheque.

      From the CIA World Factbook: The country is richly endowed with natural resources in addition to oil and gas, including hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals. The government manages the country’s petroleum resources through extensive regulation. The petroleum sector provides about 9% of jobs, 15% of GDP, and 39% of exports, according to official national estimates. Norway is one of the world’s leading petroleum exporters, though oil production in 2015 was close to 50% below its peak in 2000; annual gas production, conversely, more than doubled over the same time period.
      In anticipation of eventual declines in oil and gas production, Norway saves state revenue from petroleum sector activities in the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, valued at over $800 billion as of early 2016. The government allows itself to use up to 4% of the fund’s value, its annual expected real rate of return, to help balance the federal budget each year. After solid GDP growth in 2004-07, the economy slowed in 2008, and contracted in 2009, before returning to modest, positive growth from 2010 to 2015.

      Bankrolling the Norwegian affluent standard of living and green lifestyle are the proceeds from petroleum and natural gas exports. (Norway has good government because the country benefits from an homogeneous, highly educated population with almost zero growth and virtually no immigrant disruptions establishing peer-consensus solidarity with a social welfare contract. 5.2 million people constitute a tiny national administrative unit that facilitates efficient governance, enforcement of the laws, and the equitable distribution of wealth. Petroleum derived revenues guarantee generous secure pensions in old age.)