R-Squared Energy Blog

Pure Energy

A Massive Decline in Carbon Emissions?

A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay that ultimately turned out to be very controversial:

Why We Will Never Address Global Warming

That same essay published at The Oil Drum received 560 comments, and was until recently the most-commented upon post in The Oil Drum’s history. Global Warming/Climate Change is a topic that people get very emotional about, and the idea that I claimed that we would never address it didn’t sit well with a lot of people.

Now I know that I have some global warming skeptics here. And I have said many times that I am fine with that, but I don’t want to engage in that debate for multiple reasons. And in the hopes that I can focusing this essay, let me say what I really mean: We won’t stop rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. If you want to argue that increasing carbon dioxide is not resulting in climate change, fine. But I think we can all agree that carbon dioxide concentrations are steadily increasing in the atmosphere. In fact, one of the key monitoring stations is here in Hawaii at Mauna Loa, which I can see clearly from my house.

The reason I don’t believe we will stop accumulating carbon emissions is that this is a global issue, and people around the world are going to generally gravitate to the cheapest source of fuel they can find. So, many of the world’s countries can sign a well-intentioned protocol in Kyoto, but then China plans 562 new coal-fired power plants. Carbon emissions continue unabated, despite Kyoto.

This week I saw a new article by Lester Brown – author of the “Plan B” series, the most recently published version of which is Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. In his article, Brown observed that the U.S. has had major reductions in carbon emissions:

U.S. headed for massive decline in carbon emissions

For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not. During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

The U.S. has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era, one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.

For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.

All of that may very well be correct. But China and India continued to build new coal plants. Demand for oil around the world remained high. And the result so far is that the monitoring station on Mauna Loa shows absolutely no sign that global carbon emissions have been impacted by this sharp drop in U.S. emissions. In fact, the most recent measurements show the highest atmospheric concentrations that the observatory has ever measured:

This is one of the reasons I have never focused my time on carbon emissions. I just can’t see that anything the U.S. does or that I can advocate is going to really impact global emissions. Sure, we may reduce our carbon emissions in the U.S. But there is a long line of countries waiting to use that fossil energy that we don’t use. So I think the best we could hope for is to slow the accumulation rate. But I think the atmospheric concentration will continue to rise until fossil fuels start to run out. That’s the only thing I think will permanently rein in carbon emissions.

Let me be clear that this has nothing to do with what I would like to see happen. The reason the essay was so controversial at The Oil Drum was because some people perceived my attitude as “I don’t care about climate change.” That’s not it. This is just the way I see things playing out.

I have instead chosen to focus my efforts on changing the forms of energy we use. There is of course some synergy with those who are working to reduce carbon emissions. We both would like to see expanded use of alternative energy. For me, this is about energy security. Increasing the locally produced energy should help insulate against future energy shocks. This would also reduce localized carbon emissions.

But I don’t expect this to impact the global carbon emissions picture. If that was my goal, I think I would be very frustrated by that Mauna Loa graph. I see no reason to believe that picture will change in the next few years. But I am optimistic that we can continue to develop some alternative energy options that enhance energy security for specific locations that have limited fossil fuel resources. I think those countries with ample fossil fuel resources will continue to burn them, though, which is why I think the focus on carbon emissions is ultimately futile.

Advertisements

October 16, 2009 - Posted by | carbon sequestration, climate change, global warming, greenhouse gases

49 Comments

  1. From Aug, 1997 to Aug, 1998 CO2 increased by by 3.90 ppm.From Jun, 92 to Jun 93 CO2 increased 0.24 ppm.Why the discrepancy? 97 – 98 was a Super El Nino (re: HOT) Year. 92 – 93 was following Mt Pinautabo blowing mega-tons of SO2 into the air (Cold Years.)In the cold late fifties, and sixties there were several 12 month periods when CO2 Decreased in the atmosphere. There was one 18 month period when CO2 Decreased.CO2 follows Temperature. Warm Oceans "Outgass." Cold Oceans "Take In."

    Comment by rufus | October 16, 2009

  2. Yes — for goodness sake, let's not allow science & facts to get in the way of the relition of alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming.So staying away from that embarrassing (to some) topic, the US estimated (repeat, estimated) production of plant-feeding, life-giving CO2 is down.The US in the Age of Obama also has 20 Million (!) unemployed & underemployed citizens, and is running a trade deficit which is larger than the GDPs of many countries — in fact, that trade deficit is a vital component in the GDPs of a number of countries. Do you think there might be a relationship buried in there?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 16, 2009

  3. Oh, remember how Aug 97 to 98 was 3.90? Well, Feb 99 to Feb 2000 was 0.54 (it was a Cold La Nina period.) The Economy was, basically, the same in both periods.Mauna Loa – Raw Data

    Comment by rufus | October 16, 2009

  4. Just watched a special on the Dutch flower growers. They are importing CO2 through a 30 km pipeline from Rotterdam to the "greenhouse district" to promote growth for their famous flower and plant green-houses.Amazing difference in plant size and vitality with introduced CO2. A spokesman for one of the largest greenhouse owners said of the new pipeline: "It's cheaper than making the CO2 ourselves"John

    Comment by Anonymous | October 16, 2009

  5. A more accurate picture of ethanols contribution to "total products supplied". http://tinyurl.com/yjr85pj

    Comment by Maury | October 17, 2009

  6. A more accurate picture of ethanols contribution to "total products supplied".Given that this is the same data I used, how exactly is this a "more accurate picture?"RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 17, 2009

  7. there is a way to limit the affect of humanity's consumption of the earth's commodities. but, that's another topic of endless debate not likely to end inany productive outcome.fran

    Comment by Anonymous | October 17, 2009

  8. Allow me to quote you here Robert. "What to conclude from this exercise? The easiest conclusion is that the claims of petroleum import displacement have been at a minimum grossly exaggerated. It may even be that ethanol hasn't backed any petroleum imports out, or that the impact is so small as to be unnoticeable."Mind you,this was your post that focused on 2007 and 2008. The first thing I noticed from the table I referred to was that ethanol production increased 350,000 bpd 2006 to 2008. How is that "so small as to be unnoticeable"?

    Comment by Maury | October 17, 2009

  9. Of course,you may not have noticed the impact,since storage was being drawn down 148,000 bpd in '07,and 201,000 bpd were being added in '08,for a difference of 349,000 bpd. That's why I said demand and imports don't give the total picture.

    Comment by Maury | October 17, 2009

  10. ethanol production increased 350,000 bpd 2006 to 2008. How is that "so small as to be unnoticeable"?Maury, that all depends on what you compare it to. If the 350,000 bpd is a very small percentage of today production, it can in fact be too small to be noticeable.storage was being drawn down 148,000 bpd in '07,and 201,000 bpd were being added in '08,for a difference of 349,000 bpd.If you draw down one year and add the next, the difference is not the sum of the two. Over the long haul, these changes in inventory won't impact the big picture much. That's one reason for looking at the longer period.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 17, 2009

  11. I bet you'd start noticing if that $25,000,000 came out of your bank account every day Robert. Granted,5% of production isn't earth shattering….but it's still early in the game.

    Comment by Maury | October 17, 2009

  12. This is another thoughtful RR essay, and I must agree with RR. We can huff and puff about CO2, but people around the world want to have a shot at pleasant lives. They will burn fossil fuels.I am agnostic on global warming, though I am aware some previous epochs, and not long ago, were warmer, such as 1000 years ago and 5000 years ago. Additionally, Ice Ages have been a recurring problem.I contend if global warming is a problem, and manmade, there are cheaper ways of cooling the planet down, such as sunscreening, through atmospheric dust (think Krakatoa).It should also be noted that CO2 is a benefit for crop production, and forest growth. In fact, as noted here by John, it is piped into greenhouses. I also note that when man came to North America about 14,000 years ago, the sea levels were 60 meters lower than today. Now, we get frightened when some predict oceans will rise by two feet. Indeed, California's Death Valley was filled by Lake Manley only 10,000 years ago–incredible to consider for any who visit there, and a reminder that weather changes, and quickly, without man's influence. I favor migrating away from ICE's for other reasons of national security, trade balances, and smog. It sure would be nice to walk in a major city and breathe fresh air. I contend that some cities would be within their rights to ban ICEs, or seriously tax gasoline as a means to obtain that end. In Los Angeles, many activities were banned — burning garbage, driving without smog devices– with considerable success. I see no right to pollute the air other people breathe–and I see the right to breathe clean air.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | October 17, 2009

  13. I bet you'd start noticing if that $25,000,000 came out of your bank account every day Robert.Not to put too fine a point on it, but would you notice if 25 cents came out? Whether you would notice $25 million depends on whether you have $25 billion in your various accounts, and money is going in and out all the time. Again, it isn't the magnitude, it is how large relative to the whole. If it is small relative to the whole, the signal may be lost in the noise. That is an indication that the signal is too small.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 17, 2009

  14. “replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar, and geothermal energy.”Lester Brown is an idiot: “Electricity use is falling partly because of gains in efficiency.” It's the economy stupid! RR. wrote “In the global picture, I can't see that anything the U.S. does or that I can advocate is going to really impact things.”Let me help you RR. I agree that debating AGW is a waste of time but debating solutions is not a waste of time. Helping China build nuke plants is a good place to start.A second place is biomass renewable energy especially places with small grids. Notice what is not on Lester Brown list.

    Comment by Kit P | October 17, 2009

  15. Agreed Robert & Benny,Probably 99% of the banter, both pro and con AGW, is not much more than idle chatter by idiots.Most of the proposed 'savior' technologies have their own pitfalls – many not yet noticed. The politically 'in' idea of the day is normally the wrong way to go – whatever that happens to be at the moment.The poor countries will use whatever it takes to progress – pollution be damned. We have seen it and will continue to see it. In the poor countries even when there are pollution restrictions, a few bucks in the local currency often makes the inspector look away. The world needs to become a lot more clean on many activities. The constant concentration and release of contaminants without a solution is not a smart thing.

    Comment by russ | October 17, 2009

  16. Kit P is also correct in his pursuit of nuclear – it has to be a very large portion of the mix we use for energy supply in the next century.

    Comment by russ | October 17, 2009

  17. After nukes and biomass, there is an important category of ghg reduction called methane capture. Landfill gas, coal bed methane, and biogas from anaerobic digesters of animal manure are examples. Like CO2, CH4 concentration has been increasing in the atmosphere although it appears methane has stopped increasing. The cost benefit of ratio of methane capture is huge but unfortunately it is not very picturesque. None of things I have discussed is new or requires technology that does not already exist. Any climate change program that does not include the basics things that have proven to be effective, will be ineffective.

    Comment by Kit P | October 17, 2009

  18. There are 250,000,000 Tons of Ocean Water for every person on Earth.

    Comment by rufus | October 17, 2009

  19. Maybe, 50 Trillion Tons for every SUV. Yeah, Bubba.

    Comment by rufus | October 17, 2009

  20. Either Rufus has lost his mind or he is trying to explain that ppm changes in a trace gas in the atmosphere, is not very significant compared to water vapor that is measured in in % relative humidity.

    Comment by Kit P | October 17, 2009

  21. :)Or both.

    Comment by rufus | October 17, 2009

  22. A biofuels supporter, and AGW "Denier." You think I'm not getting used to being the "skunk at the garden party?" 🙂

    Comment by rufus | October 17, 2009

  23. I don't know, RR… predicting that humanity won't get a handle on global warming is like shooting fish in a barrel. Where's the challenge in that?By the way, we have good friends in Maui who just told us via email all about their new solar power retrofit. Seems like a no-brainer there. The house was once used by cane workers and has no need for insulation, central heat, or cooling at all.The probability that we can fix what we broke is low, to put it mildly, but not zero. Call it hubris, or megalomania, but I would like to help find elegant solutions that will by necessity, kill several birds with one stone. Maybe you are saying that is too big of a challenge, best to bite off something more manageable."..For me, this is about energy security. Increasing the locally produced energy should help insulate against future energy shocks. This would also reduce localized carbon emissions…"The comment above lacks your usual robustness.Unless you are referring specifically to Hawaii, energy independence is easy. Gasify coal and Fischer–Tropsch it into a fuel compatible with our existing cars and distribution. The infrastructure savings alone would probably make it cost competitive with alcohol fuels.Without the new constraint imposed by global warming, it would be a no-brainer, since the government does not seem to care what corn ethanol costs either. And I know we already wasted 20 billion on that idea after the first oil shocks.Respectfully, the term "local carbon emissions" is an oxymoron. Global warming is global.E.O. Wilson tried for many years to wake us up with a series of books and ideas. Looks to me like he has given up in his old age, passed the reigns off, and returned to what brings him the most pleasure–ants. I recently read "Super Organism." Wow. Who would have guessed the study of ants was so advanced. Our childhood experiences never leave us.And as this article in Nature points out, GHG isn't even our biggest problem, not by a long shot.There would not be tree left standing were it not for the invention of plywood and particleboard. Where would the world be without contraception technology? The third world has skipped phone lines. They don't have a trillion dollars of McMansions that can't be retrofitted into zero energy homes, or an entire economy based on interstate transport. They have a blank slate. We could help them do a better job.I was a global warming agnostic. Only a fool would accept such a concept first time they heard about it. But at some point, agnostics have to make a decision (get off the pot). Is there or is there not an omnipotent deity randomly intervening on my behalf as a result of my ingratiating myself to it?It is possible that global warming agnostics don't fully understand the ramifications, in large part because they don't want to. Rising water is usually mentioned, but it is a very trivial thing in comparison to changing weather pattens and what will happen once we cross a non-linear tipping point, which we "probably" will.But I suppose, at least, when I say bye to my kids on my deathbed, I will also be able to say I tried. Of course, most Americans don't think they are going to die, just move to a better place.I think we are seeing rationalization going on.Some are sticking their heads in the sand. People are picking less worrisome realities. It's human nature. Human beings have evolved tremendous capacity to self-deceive, honed by millennia of escalating evolutionary warfare between liars and lie detectors, and the need to escape chronic anxiety when in a hopeless, or near hopeless reality (the persistence of religion).Whenever I see comment pundits calling the likes of Lester Brown and Jim Hansen idiots, I just gotta laugh.

    Comment by Russ Finley | October 17, 2009

  24. Respectfully, the term "local carbon emissions" is an oxymoron. Global warming is global.That was my point. We could in theory transition to lower carbon fuels, which would have specific benefits. The carbon emissions from that area will go down, but it won't mean squat to the whole. So trying to attack carbon emissions without having the entire world signed up is futile. My concern is that we are going to see some very misguided efforts aimed at reducing emissions, which hamper us and don't impact the whole. Insofar as those efforts are around the idea of a transition away from fossil fuels, I have no problem with it – but emission reduction isn't my goal there.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 17, 2009

  25. As engineers looking at problems (OK, let's call them challenges), we repeatedly learn that the hard part is asking the right question. Once we have the problem/challenge framed correctly, the rest is just normal hard work.Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is a religion — based on improbable assumptions, untestable hypotheses, implausible computer models, and appeals to authority. (Though it has to be admitted that appealing to the authority of God is a little bit more defensible than appealing to the authority of Al Gore). Nevertheless, because Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is a religion, it becomes very difficult for cult members to ask the right question.For example, can Peak Oil and Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming BOTH be problems, at the same time?Our host has recently shown beyond shadow of a doubt that the biggest & best biofuel (heavily subsidized)does not amount to a hill of beans. BP has recently shown that the only thing wind factories do is pump taxes from the pockets of ordinary people into the pockets of the rich and well-connected — BP is emphasizing wind factories in the US, because the subsidies are bigger there than in Europe.Any realistic look at global needs shows that most "alternatives" simply cannot provide power on the scale that the human race requires — even if they were economic, which mostly they are not. Those who think the answer to that is many fewer humans each using much less energy are welcome to lead by example.And yet there is today an "alternative" power source which fills the emotional needs of cult members who want to cut carbon use, as well as addressing the more pressing need to provide power on an utterly enormous scale to replace finite fossil fuels.That alternative is, of course, nuclear fission. We have the technology today. We have known resources that could provide the entire human race with the necessary much expanded global power supply for between one & two millenia.The supposed problems are not show stoppers. Nuclear "waste" is unburned fuel. Weapons proliferation using commercial grade nuclear fuels is very impractical, and with a bit of engineering can be made impossible. Anyway, if you want to worry about nuclear weapons proliferation, ask President Obama for his plans to deal with Iran & North Korea.Using nuclear power for transportation energy is a challenge, but there are several pathways. There is every reason to expect that human ingenuity (untrammeled by political correctness) will come up with cost-effective solutions.If we humans chose, we could have a relatively painless transition to a post-fossil world. But it seems that too many of us would rather fiddle while the world burns.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 17, 2009

  26. Did anyone see the Deutsche Bank report on peak oil demand? The End of the Oil Age is Near They predict that underinvestment by the national oil companies will lead to peak pricing by 2016 which will be the nail in the coffin for oil, as hybrids and electrics take over market share. DB predicts the US gasoline market shrinks to 8 million gallons/day. I just finished reading the entire 100+ page report this last week. DB believes that China skips a step in development and goes straight to electrics/hybrids. Combined with efficiencies in appliances, lighting, home HVAC, and other savings, we may be seeing peak CO2 without having to do that much. If carbon fuel usage and atmospheric CO2 are truly related we should be seeing CO2 concentrations falling because of falling economies.

    Comment by KingofKaty | October 17, 2009

  27. From the Deutsche Bank article: "Just as the explosion of digital cameras made the cost of film irrelevant, the growth of electric cars will make the price of oil (and gasoline) all but irrelevant for transportation."Good old Europeans — can always trust them to look through the wrong end of the telescope.The electronic camera is a classic example of a technological advance — one that truly was Better Faster Cheaper. The better technology replaced the poorer one, just as steam replaced sail and CDs replaced vinyl.Will an electric car truly be Better Faster Cheaper? Or will people find that having their cell phone battery run out is annoying, while having their car battery run down is unacceptable?If the electric car really is better faster cheaper, it will win in the market-place without subsidies. If it is not, the US will subsidize it (campaign contributions permitting, of course); the Euros will talk about how they are going to be world leaders in electric cars, but will carry on importing oil on a huge scale anyway (see Kyoto); and the Chinese will use the most economic available technology.The Deutsche Bank study should probably be taken with a large grain of salt, given its provenance. Still, they do point to a real challenge for the alternate energy crowd. Can we come up with a transportation technology that is so much better cheaper faster than fossil fuels that it sweeps the market-place the way that digital photography did? If not, why not?

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 18, 2009

  28. Luckily the future can't be predicted with certainty, RR. Technological change is also nonlinear at this point in time.Kinuachdrach,You may be interested in the discussion on fission that just wrapped up here.The graph in RR's post above was generated by scientists, not televangelists. I don't see the logic of calling the results of scientific research a religion. On the other hand, if you want proof of the ability of human beings to deny reality in the face of science, the vast majority of Americans don't buy the theory of evolution.I know of no issue that does not have two opposing sides.

    Comment by Russ Finley | October 18, 2009

  29. Luckily the future can't be predicted with certainty, RR.I actually made that same comment in an essay that will be published later tonight. A high school student had a number of questions and observations on peak oil, and that was one of the things I said.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 18, 2009

  30. Nice one Russ. You clain that the AGW cult is not a religion and in the same post you provide a link for the Book of Lovins in the Grist Testament of the Eco bible. Or is it Amory's 2nd letter to the Gristians in the Warming Testament?If you are going to claim that something is not a religion, then don't link to the ramblings of one of the disciples.By the way, here is one of the followers arguing that it is a religion.

    Comment by Dennis Moore | October 18, 2009

  31. King-You read the whole 100-page report?I hereby hand over my nerd title to you. I was reading some regional Fed reports, and feeling pretty nerdy, but they are mostly graphs. I don't know if oil will ever get that high–but if it does, and if it stays there, we can expect China and India to simply leapfrog ICEs and go straight to PHEVs. Meanwhile, Europe and USA, where oil demand is already falling, will continue on their downpath.I suspect it will be a better and richer world. The problem is, there is still gobs and gobs of oil out there, in thug states. If they de-thugify, we have gushers of the stuff for another century or two.

    Comment by Benny "Boom, No Doom" Cole | October 18, 2009

  32. Lets see, the hottest year was what, 1998? 11 years, ago? And, CO2 has been rising every year since?But, "The Great Global Warming" is going to be in a rocketship behind "The Next" Comet, right?Yep.

    Comment by rufus | October 18, 2009

  33. Getting way off topic here:http://www.harunyahya.com/books/darwinism/religion/religion1.phphttp://www.thereligionofdarwinism.com/http://www.religionofdarwinism.com/origins.htmlOriginality is a rare thing.On the topic of Lovins and nuclear power.I am an agnostic on nuclear power. I don't think waste is a serious issue, or safety. Cost of construction and fuel are the last two points I am still wondering about. Fuel issues may be resolved if someone builds a cost effective breeder reactor.My first comment on that thread is here:http://www.grist.org/article/2009-10-13-stewart-brands-nuclear-enthusiasm-falls-short-on-facts-and-logic/flat/#c240262I later went round and round with Kirsch about the existence of breeder reactors. We finally settled on two operational test reactors and one commercial one that is being used as a model for two new ones in Russia. I'm still not convinced the technology is ready for commercialization. Utilities didn't have to operate in the black in the Soviet Union.

    Comment by Russ Finley | October 18, 2009

  34. "Our host has recently shown beyond shadow of a doubt that the biggest & best biofuel (heavily subsidized)does not amount to a hill of beans."Define hill of beans. Did our host bother to point out that oil imports have fallen for three straight years? It's been 25 years since that happened. And yes,imports fell more than the "total petroleum products supplied",which indicates that U.S. production is increasing,instead of the other way around. Thanks to ethanol,we're beating Hubbert's Peak. Not by a whole lot,but certainly enough to qualify as a hill of beans.

    Comment by Maury | October 18, 2009

  35. Did our host bother to point out that oil imports have fallen for three straight years?Your host pointed out all the relevant data. You can thank price more than anything for imports falling. Again, ethanol is undetectable noise in the petroleum picture per EIA data.RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 18, 2009

  36. I only mentioned imports,because energy independence is the stated goal of the biofuel program Robert. U.S. petroleum production has grown for 3 straight years. It happened even with declining crude production. Not because of price or recession,but because of ethanol. We're beating Hubbert's Peak. That's not supposed to happen. It's something to write home about any way you cut it.

    Comment by Maury | October 18, 2009

  37. Robert,I agree with your general argument. However the mauna loa chart measures atmospheric CO2 concentrations not emissions. If we take a pessimistic stance on the global economy (including China) We may have reached peak CO2emissions. Global emissions are projected to fall 3% this year.http://www.financialexpress.com/news/global-co2-emissions-could-fall-by-3-in-2009-iea/525762/

    Comment by Simon Tegg | October 18, 2009

  38. Imports supplied 60.3% of our fuel needs in 2005,and 56.8% of our needs in 2008. That's only a difference of 3.5%,but keep in mind that traditional domestic production declined during that time. One man's undetectable noise is another's glass half full.

    Comment by Maury | October 18, 2009

  39. However the mauna loa chart measures atmospheric CO2 concentrations not emissions.Right, but that should be a pretty good indicator of global emissions. There may be a lag, but I don't know how much. If I look at historical recessions, it doesn't look like there is much of a lag. RR

    Comment by Robert Rapier | October 18, 2009

  40. Actually there is a considerable lag. Even if emissions decline rapidly if they are in excess of what the biosphere can absorb then concentrations will still increase. Eventually concentrations stabilise though this will take many decades. This point is not generally very well understood. See Fig. 6a in Hansens paper (pdf)http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1126.pdf

    Comment by Simon Tegg | October 18, 2009

  41. Right, but that should be a pretty good indicator of global emissions. There may be a lag, but I don't know how much. If I look at historical recessions, it doesn't look like there is much of a lag.There is very little lag between CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentration. If you look at the graph you can see a regular variation due to the natural summer/winter growth cycle.Where there is a significant lag is between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature.

    Comment by bc | October 18, 2009

  42. "Where there is a significant lag is between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature."Indeed. And interestingly, the geological record shows that the lag is often negative — CO2 follows temperature, instead of leading it.Alleged Anthropogenic Global Warming is not a religion? It certainly is not based on the facts as we know them today.

    Comment by Kinuachdrach | October 18, 2009

  43. To underscore Mr. Rapier's point that Lester Brown's optimism over U.S. reduction in carbon emissions overlooks the global situation, here's a release from Worldwath Institute (founded by the same Lester Brown):"Fossil Fuel Production Up Despite Recession"http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6284I agree with Brown's larger point that reduction isn't impossible. But unless the objective is simply being able to say "It's not my fault" when temperatures skyrocket, the focus really needs to be on helping the developing world follow a less carbon-intensive path.

    Comment by 6p00e54ed55ec68833 | October 18, 2009

  44. When the ID brouhaha lighted off I was not qualified to debate with the biologists promoting it. I didn't know the science well enough. I was comfortable letting the likes of Dawkins do that.I accept that evolution is a fact even though my knowledge of genetics, the mechanism that allows it to happen, is marginal.I don't expend much time engaging in debate on the evidence for or against global warming for similar reasons and I accept it as a reality for similar reasons.It humors me no end to watch laypersons of all stripes discussing the nuances of climate science. RRs position is a rational one. There is a low probability that we can do anything about it one way or the other so why waste time debating it?I agree that debating it has little value, but one can't very well ignore it because the GHG emissions of all fuels are now under scrutiny. It is illegal for the federal government to buy Canadian oil made from tar sand because of its GHG emissions.It will be harder to market a fuel that produces more GHG than oil, although, admittedly, corn ethanol, and Canadian tar sand oil seem to be doing pretty well ; )There are two main reasons we don't convert our coal reserves into liquid fuels to achieve energy independence. One is that it costs more (but so do biofuels). South Africa has been doing it for decades so the cost impact is not likely to be overriding. The other is global warming. Future liquid fuels will be constrained by impacts to GHG emissions, and who knows, possibly by nitrogen runoff and biodiversity loss, which ironically, would actually push us towards fossil fuels.Creating a cheaper fuel than oil that also emits less GHG, that also does not exacerbate biodiversity loss and the nitrogen cycle will be a neat trick, as my previous link attests (Transgressing identified and quantified planetary boundaries).Although, if I were a betting man, I would pick RR as my best bet to pull that off.This is why my emphasis as an engineer has been on efficiency as opposed to finding alternative liquid fuels.

    Comment by Russ Finley | October 18, 2009

  45. bc,the variation the mauna loa chart is due to seasonal rates of CO2 uptake by the biosphere not anthropogenic emissions per se. To elaborate on your point, most of the landmass/biomass is in the northern hemisphere. As the Northern hemisphere enters spring/summer plants grow and take up CO2, releasing it again in the autumn/winter.However, the discussion is about the lag between fossil fuel derived emission rates and atmospheric concentrations. Which still has a considerable lag.You rightly point out that there is also a lag between concentrations and temperature.

    Comment by Simon Tegg | October 18, 2009

  46. Think what you want of that Mauna Loa graph, but if they started with zero for the vertical axis, it would look far less dramatic.They have distorted the way they present data on that graph.

    Comment by Wendell Mercantile | October 18, 2009

  47. Benny – a lot of the DB report was graphs. So it wasn't that nerdy. The DB report addressed a lot of things I see discussed here including hybrids, electrics, electric bicycles, refining capacity, resource nationalization, and peak demand. Their main point is that resource nationalism leads to underinvestment in crude oil E&P. That leads to the last major price shock in 2016. By which time hybrids and electrics become mature technologies and begin gaining market share. They make a pretty compelling argument. The 2nd half of the report concerns which oil and gas stocks are set up to do well under the peak demand model.

    Comment by KingofKaty | October 18, 2009

  48. I posted the raw data, above. When it gets cold (as in the late fifties, and sixties) CO2 Concentration Decreases.And, there's Very Little "lag time."Just look at the DATA.

    Comment by rufus | October 19, 2009

  49. King-I salute you, not the King of Katy, but the new King of the Nerds. I have been dethroned.

    Comment by Benny BND Cole | October 19, 2009


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: