Wednesday, March 29, 2017
New study shows that the human contribution to CO2 in the atmosphere is trivial (4.3%) -- and it goes away after 4 years anyway
Scrutinizing the carbon cycle and CO2 residence time in the atmosphere
Climate scientists presume that the carbon cycle has come out of balance due to the increasing anthropogenic emissions from fossil fuel combustion and land use change. This is made responsible for the rapidly increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations over recent years, and it is estimated that the removal of the additional emissions from the atmosphere will take a few hundred thousand years. Since this goes along with an increasing greenhouse effect and a further global warming, a better understanding of the carbon cycle is of great importance for all future climate change predictions. We have critically scrutinized this cycle and present an alternative concept, for which the uptake of CO2 by natural sinks scales proportional with the CO2 concentration. In addition, we consider temperature dependent natural emission and absorption rates, by which the paleoclimatic CO2 variations and the actual CO2 growth rate can well be explained. The anthropogenic contribution to the actual CO2 concentration is found to be 4.3%, its fraction to the CO2 increase over the Industrial Era is 15% and the average residence time 4 years.
Global and Planetary Change Volume 152, May 2017, Pages 19–26
Trump takes aim at Obama climate efforts
President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday that will suspend, rescind or flag for review more than a half-dozen measures that were part of Barack Obama's sweeping plan to curb global warming.
It includes a review of the Clean Power Plan, which restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.
The president's order will also lift a 14-month-old moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands.
Trump, who has called global warming a "hoax" invented by the Chinese, has repeatedly criticised the power-plant rule and others as an attack on American workers and the struggling US coal industry.
The contents of the order were outlined to reporters in a sometimes tense briefing with a senior White House official, whom aides insisted speak without attribution, despite President Trump's criticism of the use of unnamed sources.
Trump accused his predecessor of waging a "war on coal" and boasted in a speech to Congress that he has made "a historic effort to massively reduce job-crushing regulations," including some that threaten "the future and livelihoods of our great coal miners".
The order will also chip away at other regulations, including scrapping language on the "social cost" of greenhouse gases.
The administration is still in discussion about whether it intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
But the moves to be announced Tuesday will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the US to achieve its goals.
The Northeast’s carbon trading system works quite well. It just doesn’t reduce much carbon
The danger of climate change has been understood for decades, but the US still has no coherent national climate policy. That has left climate-friendly states to fend for themselves amidst an inconsistent patchwork of federal subsidies and regulations. It’s a daunting task given the scope and complexity of the problem.
One of the oldest and most enduring state efforts is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI, pronounced “reggie”), a carbon cap-and-trade system operating in nine Northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. (New Jersey was also involved, but dropped out in 2011 at the insistence of Gov. Chris Christie.)
RGGI is currently undergoing a thorough review and evaluation, which will shape its course from 2020 forward, so it’s a good time for everyone interested in state carbon policy to get to know the program and its considerable virtues and limitations. (There will, ahem, be no federal carbon policy for a while.)
The bad news: RGGI isn’t reducing carbon emissions much, if at all
What RGGI does, it does well. But the sad truth is that it doesn’t do the main thing carbon policy is supposed to do. It raises money to fund good programs, but the relatively small carbon price it imposes on a relatively narrow slice of the economy does not, in and of itself, drive many (or possibly any) carbon reductions that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred.
As the MJB&A report notes, during the policy development process, a modeling exercise was run to assess the economic impacts of various design choices. It showed “generally within two-hundredths of 1 percent change in economic indicators.” It is not a knock on RGGI to say that a program with 0.02 percent impact on the economy is not going to spark a new industrial revolution.
The amount of carbon emissions covered by RGGI is relatively small. A 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service found that “the total CO2 emissions from the nine RGGI states account for approximately 7% of U.S. CO2 emissions” and “the CO2 emissions from covered entities in the RGGI states account for approximately 20% of all GHG emissions in the RGGI states.”
Twenty percent of 7 percent is 1.4 percent of US emissions — not nothing, but modest.
What’s more, while carbon emissions from the electricity sector in the Northeast have indeed been falling, there’s little evidence that RGGI had much to do with it. Instead, as happened across the country, coal was replaced by natural gas, while renewable energy and energy efficiency also grew. (Northeast states also got a big boost in hydro.)
When they first set the cap, regulators completely underestimated these trends. They capped emissions based on 2005 estimates of what 2009 emissions would be.
By the time 2009 rolled around, emissions were already well under the cap. They remained under the cap until 2014, when RGGI states agreed to reduce the cap by 45 percent, from 165 mtCO2 to 91 mtCO2, from whence it will decline by 2.5 percent each year between 2015 and 2020.
The cap itself didn’t force any emission reductions between 2009 and 2014. It was way above actual emissions! The auction reserve price — “originally set at $1.86 per allowance for the first RGGI auction in 2008, increasing 2.5 percent annually, standing at $2.10 in 2016,” according to MJB&A — acted as a small carbon tax, but not one large enough to shape broader market dynamics.
CRS’s somewhat dismal conclusion is that “from a practical standpoint, the RGGI program’s contribution to directly reducing the global accumulation of GHG emissions in the atmosphere is arguably negligible.”
The Warmist wet dream require huge disruptions
Back in 2015, the world’s governments met in Paris and agreed to keep global warming below 2°C, to avoid the worst risks of a hotter planet. See here for background on why, but that’s the goal. For context, the planet’s warmed ~1°C since the 19th century.
One problem with framing the goal this way, though, is that it’s maddeningly abstract. What does staying below 2°C entail? Papers on this topic usually drone on about a “carbon budget” — the total amount of CO2 humans can emit this century before we likely bust past 2°C — and then debate how to divvy up that budget among nations. There’s math involved. It’s eye-glazing, and hard to translate into actual policy. It’s also a long-term goal, easy for policymakers to shrug off.
So, not surprisingly, countries have thus far responded by putting forward a welter of vague pledges on curbing emissions that are hard to compare and definitely don’t add up to staying below 2°C. Everyone agrees more is needed, but there’s lots of uncertainty as to what “more” means. Few people grasp how radically — or how quickly — we’d have to revamp the global economy to meet the Paris climate goals.
Surely there’s a better, more concrete way to think about this. So, in a new paper for Science, a group of European researchers try to do just that — laying out in vivid detail what would have to happen in each of the next three decades if we want to stay well below 2°C. Fair warning: It’s unsettling.
They start with the big picture: To hit the Paris climate goals without geoengineering, the world has to do three broad (and incredibly ambitious) things:
1) Global CO2 emissions from energy and industry have to fall in half each decade. That is, in the 2020s, the world cuts emissions in half. Then we do it again in the 2030s. Then we do it again in the 2040s. They dub this a “carbon law.” Lead author Johan Rockström told me they were thinking of an analogy to Moore’s law for transistors; we’ll see why.
2) Net emissions from land use — i.e., from agriculture and deforestation — have to fall steadily to zero by 2050. This would need to happen even as the world population grows and we’re feeding ever more people.
3) Technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere have to start scaling up massively, until we’re artificially pulling 5 gigatons of CO2 per year out of the atmosphere by 2050 — nearly double what all the world’s trees and soils already do.
“It’s way more than adding solar or wind,” says Rockström. “It’s rapid decarbonization, plus a revolution in food production, plus a sustainability revolution, plus a massive engineering scale-up [for carbon removal].”
So, uh, how do we cut CO2 emissions in half, then half again, then half again? Here, the authors lay out a sample “roadmap” of what specific actions the world would have to take each decade, based on current research. This isn’t the only path for making big CO2 cuts, but it gives a sense of the sheer scale and speed required:
2020-2030: Now the hard stuff begins! In this decade, carbon pricing would expand to cover most aspects of the global economy, averaging around $50 per ton (far higher than seen almost anywhere today) and rising. Aggressive energy efficiency programs ramp up. Coal power is phased out in rich countries by the end of the decade and is declining sharply elsewhere. Leading cities like Copenhagen are going totally fossil fuel free. Wealthy countries no longer sell new combustion engine cars by 2030, and transportation gets widely electrified, with many short-haul flights replaced by rail.
In addition, spending on clean energy research increases by “an order of magnitude” this decade, with a sustained focus on developing new batteries, drastically reducing the cost of carbon capture and storage (CCS), and perfecting low-carbon processes for producing steel and concrete, plus improving smart grids, greener aircraft systems, and sustainable urbanization techniques.
Meanwhile, efforts to start pulling carbon dioxide out of the air start this decade. That means reforesting degraded land and deploying technologies such as direct-air capture or bioenergy with CCS to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. By 2030, we’d need to be removing 100 to 500 megatons of CO2 each year and have a sense of how to scale up.
Finally, by 2050, we’d need to be removing more than 5 gigatons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere. It’s possible this is simply impractical — if we tried to do that all by burning biomass for energy and sequestering the resulting carbon (a “negative emissions” process), we might well run into serious land constraints that hinder agriculture. If, in the 2020s, we realize this will be the case, then we’ll have to revamp the road map to cut CO2 emissions from energy and industry even faster.
This road map is staggering. That’s the point.
A Handy Primer for Deluded Warmists
We all have them, friends who believe the planet is on a CO2-fuelled collision course with a catastrophe that can only be averted by directing large sums to rent-seeking wind farmers and the like. If you know someone like that, here's a simple, handy guide to the climate scam
A school teacher I know tells his pupils that ‘Saying does not make it so’, that facts are the key to knowledge, not opinions. Nowhere is this truer today than in the so-called ‘climate debate’. Here, much fails the facts test. Topping the list are claims of unprecedented warming from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Resultant droughts, rising sea levels, more frequent and severe storms and other catastrophes are assumed. A switch from CO2-producing fossil fuels to renewable energy, especially wind and solar, is deemed essential.
Similar dire climate predictions have been around since the late 1970s. And in all that time, none has come true. None at all. Undeterred, the climate soothsayers ignore their failures and carry on as if nothing had happened. The fact that good science should produce good predictions, and this is not happening, is also largely ignored. Instead, impending climate doom, and what must be done to avoid it, is orthodox thought in much of government, academia and environmental groups everywhere. This thinking is much at odds with key facts.
A most important fact is that Earth’s four and a half billion year history tells us we are now cooler than average, not warmer. Indeed, for 80% of that history Earth had no ice caps and dinosaurs lived near the South Pole for millions of years. There were ice ages, too, with thick ice down to the Canadian border and across northern Eurasia. Indeed, this was the norm for the last 800 000 years, with ice ages, separated by warmer interglacial periods, coming and going each 100 000 years or so.
We are in the Holocene inter-glacial period now. It officially began 11 700 years ago, but not in a clear-cut way. Gradual warming followed the ice age peak about 25,000 years ago until a cold spell 14,000 years ago chilled things down again and temperatures swung wildly by 5C or so until the current warmer times began about 12,000 years ago.
During the last ice age, sea levels were some 130 metres lower than today, thanks to water locked-up in ice caps. With warmer times, some ice melted and seas rose to near current levels in just a few thousand years. Today, they are rising by only 16cm or so per century; a tiny change compared with the rapid changes in the early Holocene days and some contrary claims today. The lower sea levels exposed our continental shelf, joined Australia to Tasmania and PNG and left the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) high and dry for tens of thousands of years. Then, as the ice melted, Tasmania and PNG became islands and the GBR re-generated some 8,000 years ago in its previous position.
Similar things happened throughout the world. Rising Holocene waters separated England from Europe, formed the Dardanelles and the Black Sea and remade the world map. Humans flourished in the warmer climate, with 60% of the Holocene averaging 2C higher than today. The hottest time was some 7 000 years ago, with other peaks at 4000, 2000 and 1000 years back. Although there were no thermometer readings in these times, reliable proxies are available using lake sediments, pollen fossils and such, and evidence of what crops grew where and tree-lines on hills and in marginal areas. Indeed, the old joke that the Roman Empire went only as far north as wine grapes would grow has some truth to it. In fact, they grew grapes and citrus in parts of England that until recently would not support either crop. The Chinese too grew crops along the Yellow River in those times that won’t grow there today. And, for history buffs, Hadrian’s route across the Alps could not be used today as it is permanently closed with ice and snow.
Thus, we know that Holocene temperatures were often warmer than now and varied constantly – and wild temperature swings occurred just prior to the Holocene period. When we take this longer view, the recent temperature increase of about 0.8C since 1880 falls well within the limits of previous natural change, and is neither unprecedented nor dangerous.
We also know another vital fact: CO2 levels were steady during these wild swings and throughout the Holocene at roughly 280 parts per million (ppm) until 130 years ago when a stuttering increase to 400 ppm today began. In other words, Holocene temperature changes, and the wild variations that preceded them, were not linked to CO2 changes. This prompts the question: if CO2 changes did not drive these temperature shifts, why all the fuss about CO2 emissions?
The answer owes much to the complexity of the climate system and the wish for simple explanations to explain its variability and with which to make predictions. But climate is not simple. There are many interacting parts that make it a ‘coupled non-linear chaotic system’ in which small variations of any part can create big, unpredictable changes. In the search for something simple to blame, like increasing CO2 levels, this ‘coupled non-linear, chaotic’ nature of climate is often played-down, overlooked or ignored. Things like solar variations, ocean heat transfers, cloud cover and the like – things that may well be the main drivers of climate – seldom get the respect they deserve.
The effect of the sun, the sea and clouds on climate is known and accepted – the Gulf Stream being a well known example – but more precise knowledge suitable for computer models is a different thing altogether. But what can be said for sure, is that the sun, the sea and the clouds are all very important and CO2 is only one player in a big game, not the control knob on the Earth’s thermostat. It is true that CO2 contributes to the greenhouse effect, but its heating effect is small (when compared with water vapour, the main contributor) and drops off logarithmically as its concentration increases. The more there is, the less additional heating effect it has.
The generally warmer history of the Earth, the serious shortcomings of climate models and the minor role of CO2 in climate are not well known in the community and frequently ignored by climate alarmists in government, academia, the media and the wider public. As a result, many Australians still feel ‘something must be done’ to curb CO2 emissions, and believe that ‘something’ is renewable energy, mainly from solar and wind. These beliefs have caused much debate, for while we all know the sun doesn’t shine at night, or the wind blow on demand, just what that means for wind and solar energy is not agreed.
Reliable, on-demand power from intermittent wind and solar requires storage (usually batteries) or back up power – a fact all agree on. But here again, facts take second place to wild claims for future storage potential and denial of serious problems with back-up power. Batteries are now available for household solar systems (panels, inverters and batteries) costing twenty thousand-or-so dollars. But even if the cost is ignored – which it can’t be – batteries are still way, way short of providing the capacity needed to power a large town, let alone a city. Consequently, the biggest problem with wind and solar today is the need for back-up power, mostly from coal and gas. This greatly increases the number of power sources needed, and with it cost. The efficiency of back-up coal and gas plants designed to run full-time, but used only intermittently, is also seriously degraded.
In Germany, intermittent use made back-up power stations so unprofitable they are now subsidised along with renewables. South Australian may well be heading the same way. With the unprofitable local coal plant closed, the gas plant partly closed and the interstate power link unreliable, subsidised gas or coal is now the main option. And the problem would spread though out the eastern states if the very high state and federal renewables targets are applied. With all power generation subsidised, much increased power costs and lower reliability would inevitably result.
Also, integration of wind and solar into the grid is not simple. Phasing and voltages must be matched precisely and power surges can unbalance the grid. These are not minor problems and need considerable effort and expertise to manage.
But perhaps the most important fact – seldom admitted but very real – is that in total power system terms, few if any CO2 savings result. Energy is needed to make, transport and install windmills and solar systems and connect them to the existing grid, adding CO2 to the overall total. Intermittent running of fossil fuel back-up plants adds more CO2, and total savings over efficient, full-time, modern coal or gas plants are few if any – despite the much greater cost. These facts are almost never mentioned when ‘clean energy’ claims are made.
The developing world knows all this. Like my teacher friend they know that: ‘saying does not make it so’ and look at the facts. They know the influence of CO2 on climate has been greatly exaggerated and other possible contributors played down or dismissed. Not fearing their people will overheat, they happily look to cheap coal as their main power generator. India is buying into Australian coal mines to ensure supplies and China recently approved construction of up to 200 super-efficient coal plants. Vietnam and the Philippines too are turning to coal and a 2016 study by Calgary University showed Asian coal consumption now greatly exceeds that in the West and will keep increasing until mid-century.
The International Energy Agency 2015 report shows renewables – biofuels, solar and wind – supplied only 1.2% of world power in 2013. Fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas – produced 81.4%. This tells us that most of the world knows the facts, and is acting accordingly. It also tells us that our energy policies are not only mistaken, but futile. Nothing we do will change the climate. Increasing atmospheric CO2 is not a problem – and if it was, wind and solar would not fix it. It’s time we followed the Asian example and acted according to facts instead of fears and fantasies.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are here or main.html or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
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Posted by JR at 1:40 AM