How to cut emissions, and how not to

Guest post: Roger Andrews

The world’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions began with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, were formalized in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and have since mutated into the hundreds of “XX percent of renewables by 20YY” targets adopted by groups of countries, individual countries and regional jurisdictions. They have spawned, among other things, innumerable bureaucracies, countless climate conferences, forests of wind turbines, patchwork quilts of solar panels and a billion-dollar-a-day climate change industry.

And they haven’t worked worth a damn.

Figure 1: Global CO2 Emissions and Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations, 1965-2013

Clearly the world did something wrong. Here we will briefly examine what it was and where the world might now be if it had done things right.

As to what the world did wrong, the seeds of failure were planted right at the outset when the representatives of 154 nations convened in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 and adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the primary objective of which was to “achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”.

If one believed that man-made greenhouse gases were indeed dangerous, which the conferees evidently did, this objective made eminent sense. The problem was that the “relevant provisions”, which required that the world transition to a sustainable  economy and eradicate global poverty at the same time as it was fighting climate change, made it almost impossible to achieve. For example:

  • The burden of cutting emissions was to be shouldered entirely by the developed countries, which at the time accounted for only half of total global emissions (“the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof”)
  • At the same time the developing countries that accounted for the other half were encouraged to increase their emissions in order to eradicate global poverty (“social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.”)
  • The developed countries also had to reduce emissions in such a way as “to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner”. Since all the good hydroelectric dam sites were taken and nuclear wasn’t considered sustainable this effectively limited their options to wind, solar and biomass.

Any chance that these conflicting and restrictive directives might lead to emissions cuts vanished entirely when specific commitments were formalized in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Thirty-five developed countries committed to cut their combined emissions 5% below 1990 levels by 2008-12, but because their combined 1997 emissions were already 12% lower than their combined 1990 emissions they could meet this goal with room to spare without actually having to cut their emissions at all. And if they did succeed in achieving any real cuts some 150 developing countries stood poised to overwhelm their puny efforts by increasing their emissions in the name of poverty eradication, which they did, and very effectively too.

And that’s what the world did wrong. After deciding to cut emissions it came up with an agreement that not only made it impossible to cut emissions but which effectively guaranteed that they would continue to increase at a healthy rate.

Now let’s see what might have been done differently. We will start by reviewing the situation in 1992, the year in which the UNFCCC established stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at “safe” levels as its primary objective.

To achieve this objective in the face of increasing world energy demand the critical requirement is to “decarbonize” global energy generation by progressively replacing carbon-intensive energy sources with carbon-free ones, in which category I include nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, biomass and other renewables. (I use “carbon-free” as a term of convenience; none of these sources are entirely carbon-free). And the metric that gauges progress is the percentage of world energy supplied by carbon-free sources. As long as it keeps increasing the world is on track towards ultimate decarbonization regardless of how much energy it consumes.

Had the Earth Summit conferees reviewed the data in this light they would have found that the world had been making significant strides towards decarbonization before they even convened. Between 1973 and 1991 the percentage of world energy supplied by carbon-free sources had in fact more than doubled, and all because of growth in nuclear:

Figure 2: Percent of World Energy Generated by Carbon-Free Sources 1965-1991

The next step should have been a no-brainer. If the Earth was in danger of being fried by greenhouse gases there was an urgent need to cut carbon emissions by any means possible, and since nuclear was already doing such a good job the nuclear ball had to be kept rolling. But nuclear didn’t figure into the plans of the framers of the UNFCCC because it wasn’t “sustainable”, so they discarded it in favor of renewables (and did their best to ban it altogether at Kyoto by denying it carbon credits). The results were predictable. Nuclear began to lose market share and increased market penetration by renewables barely made up the difference, so after struggling upwards for a few more years the positive decarbonization trend of the 1970s and 1980s went flat and stayed flat:

Figure 3: Percent of World Energy Generated by Carbon-Free Sources 1965-2013

And if we count only dispatchable generation it went negative:

Figure 4: Percent of World Energy Generated by Dispatchable Carbon-Free Sources 1965-2013

But what would have happened if the nuclear ball had been kept rolling? A reasonable ball-park estimate of the amount of money spent on wind, solar and biomass since 1992 is $US2 trillion. If this money had been spent on nuclear instead we would now be looking at something like Figure 5. The world would be back on the decarbonization track, and because the added nuclear is dispatchable there would also be no danger of the lights going out anywhere except in those places where the lights routinely go out anyway:

Figure 5: Percent of World Energy Generated by Carbon-Free Sources 1965-2013, $2 Trillion Spent on Nuclear Instead of Renewables after 1992

(To construct this graph I prorated $2 trillion relative to annual wind + solar + biomass & other generation between 1992 and 2013, converted the annual dollar amounts into nuclear capacity at $5,000/KW and calculated nuclear generation assuming an 85% load factor)

And although $2 trillion sounds like a lot, when spread over 22 years it doesn’t represent a large commitment in the context of global expenditures on energy (approximately $400 billion was invested in the electricity sector alone in 2013). So let’s assume that the world had invested another $1 trillion over the same period to convert baseload coal plants to natural gas at an assumed cost of $1,000/installed KW. Gas emits about half as much CO2 as coal, which from a carbon accounting standpoint is the same as converting half the output of the coal plants to carbon-free generation. Calculating this carbon-free component at an assumed load factor of 70% and adding it to Figure yields the following results:

Figure 6: Percent of World Energy Generated by Carbon-Free Sources 1965-2013, $2 Trillion Spent on Nuclear rather than Renewables after 1992 plus $1 Trillion Spent Converting Baseload Coal to Gas

Progress remains visible even when the Y-scale is expanded to 100%:

Figure 7: Figure 6 Data With Expanded Y-Scale

(Progress will, however, cease at or around the 40% level because these decarbonization measures are applicable only to electricity generation, which presently supplies only about 40% of the world’s energy. Decarbonizing the other 60% is a much tougher proposition.)

These “what if” scenarios suggest that there is still hope for cutting global emissions and decarbonizing global electricity generation despite the world having wasted the last twenty or so years in the unproductive pursuit of renewable energy. Before this can happen, however, the UNFCCC will have to be replaced by an agreement that sets realistic goals based on the use of proven commercial-scale technologies and which defers the transition to sustainable energy and the eradication of global poverty until such time as they become feasible undertakings.

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44 Responses to How to cut emissions, and how not to

  1. Joe Public says:

    Interesting article, Roger.

    The sceptic in me wonders how much is BP’s take on things. They ain’t exactly neutral.

  2. Hi Roger,

    Thank you for the thoughtful post, particularly with your insights on the choice of the reference date for the Kyoto Treaty. It appears that it was chosen to make the EU look good and the US look bad. Bush understood this, and he was not forgiven for being right on it.

    In the long run countries may have to choose between wind/solar and nuclear. They do not seem to play nicely together, either politically or operationally.


    • Roger Andrews says:

      Hi Dave:

      As I understand it the 1990 baseline was originally chosen because it was the last year for which emissions data were available when the Rio Summit convened. But it turned out to be a good deal for the UK and Germany, two of the heavy hitters at Kyoto, because their emissions had both decreased between 1990 and 1997 – the UK because of North Sea gas and Germany because of all the East German coal plants that had been shut down since reunification. Germany and the UK were therefore keen to keep 1990 even though not everyone else was, and eventually they convinced (“bullied them into it” was the phrase I read somewhere) the other developed nations to accept it too.

      But there was still a problem. To be ratified Kyoto needed to have countries that contributed at least 50% of the world’s emissions sign up, and with the US out of the picture it didn’t have 50%. So Russia and the other former East Bloc countries were reclassified as “developed” nations and invited to join even though some of them had per-capita GDPs on a par with sub-Saharan Africa. What was in it for them? Because of the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s their emissions were so far below 1990 levels that some of them could double them and still come in under the 5% Kyoto target, and every ton under target earned a carbon credit (at one point Russia had accumulated $54 billion worth). What was in it for the other developed countries? Well, they were determined to keep Kyoto going, and they did, and if they couldn’t cut their emissions fast enough they could always meet their targets by buying carbon credits from the East Bloc countries. What was in it for everyone? As I mentioned in the post, the Kyoto target would still be met even if no one was able to cut their emissions at all.

      All pretty sordid.

      • Graham Palmer says:

        The choice of 1990 turned out to be optimal for Australia – Article 3.7 became known as the Australia Clause because it allowed Annex I parties to include greenhouse gas emissions from land use change in 1990-base year calculations. Since land clearing was rampant in 1990, it meant that simply reducing land clearing was counted as “reduced emissions”.

        • Roger Andrews says:

          The big concession Australia got at Kyoto was being allowed to increase its emissions by 8% relative to 1990 while most other participants had to reduce theirs by the same amount. But Australia still didn’t come close to meeting this target (its fossil fuel CO2 emissions in 2010 were 47% higher than in 1990). Claims to the effect that it did meet it are based entirely on creative carbon accounting.

  3. Very interesting analysis. In fact, long before 1970, scientists were recommending ways to combat carbon combustion. One recommendation made in a report to Congress was the planting of 1 trillion trees per year (US alone). And, steam engineers in the 1800s worried about the digging & burning of so much mined coal.

    And, we have JFK:

    In the 2nd video here, Nixon messes things up:

    And expecting a massive bureaucracy, like IPCC, filled with self-protective delegates and advocacy-shy scientists, to do anything useful & timely has been our shared naivete. These young people have tried to awaken our misfeasant organs… (1992) (Durban South Africa)

    The result is that we failed to eliminate combustion power by 2000, because of ineffective world policy efforts, industry lobbying and naive enviro-group opposition, including my own foolish Sierra Club, originally for nuclear because it prevents dams, but now ignorantly against it.

    As a result, we now have much greater, extinctive events barrelling down at us…

    Our descendants will rightly spit on our graves.

  4. Glen Mcmillian says:

    ”And they haven’t worked worth a damn”.

    Looking at this entire undertaking from anywhere close to it from an engineering point of view I absolutely agree because there has been no real impact on CO2 emissions.But insofar as the regulars here in this forum are concerned that is a matter of wasted effort and resources rather than an a failure to solve a critical problem.CO2 is nothing to worry about if one does not believe in forced climate change and it seems as if I am the only regular here who takes forced climate change seriously.

    But stepping farther back – way back – to the point of view of a student of history who has a good basic understanding of both human nature and the physical sciences- the effort and resources have not been wasted or even used in an unusually inefficient manner considering the average or typical behavior of tool using naked apes.

    It is true nevertheless that in this case as in any case when the government starts monkeying around with a problem it usually costs about three or four or five times as much to fix it as it would if fixed voluntarily by individuals and corporations of their own free will for purposes they wish to pursue- lowered costs or increased profits for instance.

    Unfortunately there are problems that can only be solved by governments such as the defense of the borders of a country and the protection of the environment.I personally know farmers who would be glad to kill every fish between their farm a mile from my own and the GULF of Mexico a thousand miles away if they could only use as much cheap poison as they please and incidentally kill every living thing except their crops that might crawl or fly or walk into their fields.

    Government is inherently a messy and inefficient business and it is only on rare occasions that I run across an example of government accomplishing anything efficiently.I used to be a teacher. I can say without a doubt that from the point of view of a teacher or a business manager way over half of everything we spend on education is wasted.

    A third of the cops in a lot of places never arrest the first criminal because they never set foot on the street or highway except commuting from home to office.

    There is little doubt in the minds of those who are not ardent conservatives or businessmen on the government tit that most of what we spend on military equipment and personnel is wasted.Concerts and poetry are nice enough and I read poetry and occasionally attend a concert. But I cannot see that given all our other pressing problems that the money spent on such things is not wasted if it is tax money.

    Now this is the reality of government management. Anybody with a brain who is honest must agree with me.
    The only way government can mandate even a minor rule – never mind a major change of direction- is by cutting deals between countless varied and sundry parties nearly all of whom are out to collect a salary or a profit or a grant or at least a favorable notice on the evening news.

    IF my local state level representative wants a highway four laned he must make promises actual and implied to just about every other representative in the state – and of both parties, not just his own.He has to pledge allegiance to his national party too and support its goals on a national level.

    But as inefficient as government is it is NECESSARY that government assume the management of a lot of problems that are simply insoluble at any other level.Nobody other than the federal government can stop my neighbors from poisoning the water that flows across their farms. Nobody other than the federal government can prevent chemical companies from selling them the poisons they would like to use.Nobody but government can force big business to treat poisonous waste water or atmospheric emissions or run a nuclear power plant safely.Management cannot even be trusted to design a safe plant. Witness Fukushima too close to the water. (Even with government oversight that plant got built in a place it was sure to eventually be flooded.)

    We have a nuclear triad and a formidable conventional military establishment in this country for two basic reasons. One is that enough of us believe we need it. The other is that those who believe we need it have cut deals day after day with those who do not believe but are willing to trade votes to get what they want which may range from a traffic light to a foot ball stadium to free school lunches for poor kids to nannies for professors of art and literature who hate the sight of a soldier or sailor.

    The deal cutting is so bad that the Pentagon itself ( the generals who work there actually) cannot get close unneeded bases or stop the purchase of weapons systems they don’t even want.

    I have a pressing errand to run and must finish this comment later by replying to myself.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Glen: It seems your pressing errand is taking longer than you thought, so I’ll add a comment in the meantime.

      You’re right that governments usually take longer to fix problems than they should, but usually when they find out they’re doing it wrong they make some effort to change direction and do it right, like Social Security and their non-operational brand new $300 million computer system. But here they’ve been doing it wrong for 20 years and they’re still applying the same old failed formula. One has to question what their goal really is.

      • Glen Mcmillian says:

        Hi Roger,

        You say in part:

        ”But here they’ve been doing it wrong for 20 years and they’re still applying the same old failed formula. One has to question what their goal really is.”

        I must say both yes and no and neither. Government and society are not creations of engineers with plans and goals in mind.They are THINGS- immaterial things- that EVOLVE in a manner somewhat analogous to Darwinian evolution with the caveat that government and society can also evolve in the manner referred to as Lamarckian evolution which means that acquired characteristics can be passed on to off spring.

        ( This doesn’t happen in strictly biological terms but it does in societies because once we learn something we can pass it along thru education and culture. Hence the use of a new tool or an idea can spread all over the world in a matter of a year or less if it is useful enough and cheap enough or just interesting enough.If the tool or idea had to spread thru inheritance it would take thousands of years to forever to spread all over the world even if the species that evolved it lived world wide as we do.)

        Natural evolution does not involve goals. Nature is utterly incapable of even considering such words as values morals progress etc. Mother Nature only keeps score in the sense that winning behaviors and combinations of behaviors and genes survive at higher rates than other combinations less suited to the time and place- the niche – under consideration.

        Government is not an ENTITY in the sense that General Motors is an entity or the ACLU or Green Peace is an entity.These organizations can and do have reasonably clear goals and reasonably rational plans geared toward achieving their goals.

        Government on the other hand is a sort of continuously evolving and shifting coalition of all the people and organizations in the country. For every body who is desirous of achieving a certain goal there are is as likely as not one or two or three people opposed. Let us examine the case for improved fuel efficiency of automobiles for instance as a proposed government mandate.Speaking for myself as a person who believes we are going to be very short of affordable oil in the not too distant future I think improved fuel efficiency is a great idea and even though I am basically in favor of free markets the markets are not going to respond today to an oil shortage five or ten years from now.So maybe we should mandate higher efficiency standards now because the cars sold today are still going to be on the road for twenty years in a lot of cases.

        But all the people depending on selling lots of cars and gasoline and paving jobs and fixing all those cars and renting hotel rooms to large cars full of travelers are not giving any thought to future oil supplies. They are focused on selling cars today.As many of all sizes and shapes as can be imagined.

        I was once an agriculture teacher and mandated to teach the basics of tobacco cultivation. Another teacher in my school was mandated to teach the dangers of smoking. I am sure you and others here get the picture I am trying to draw.

        You guys are engineers and expect rational action and results. I am some what of a backyard amateur engineer myself and understand where you are coming from since I have managed a business etc.

        Social policy battles are not fought on engineers or business managers time frames.

        For instance:

        Government and the medical establishment have been fighting the tobacco industry for half a century now and the fight is finally going the right way in the US and other ( supposedly) well educated western countries but the tobacco companies are running wild in poorer countries and governments in most such countries are not even fighting but cooperating in order to collect some tax money short term.

        I suppose most of the readers of this forum have heard of The Hundred Years Wars.

        Now it should begin to be a little bit more clear that one reason things are not going better in terms of deploying renewables is that there are very powerful forces within government and influencing government that are opposed- with very good reason of course from their own particular vantage point.If I owned a coal mine I wouldn’t want some greenie ( such as yours truly) cutting my financial throat by building wind and solar farms or nuclear power plants.

        Then there is the fact that up until recently the renewables industries have not been cost competitive and for the most part are still not quite there in even good spots. In places like Scotland solar power may NEVER be cost competitive.But these industries have been evolving pretty fast over the last thirty years and costs have fallen dramatically and will probably continue to fall.It is my belief that wind and solar power when built out today in truly good spots is either cost competitive or pretty close to being so and I believe that coal and natural gas are going to continue on average to become more expensive year after year world wide due to depletion, rising population, etc.

        So- has the effort of governments to increase the use of renewable energy been wasted? By an engineers strict accounting we must say yes just going by the numbers.

        BUT in the broader sense the effort is bearing considerable fruit in that wind and solar power today are far more advanced technically than they would be otherwise and the foundations of the industries are large enough to support truly substantial growth in the future. The base is now large enough that ten or fifteen percent growth annually represents a significant amount of power added from one year to the next.

        It is my impression that most people today do at least recognize that wind and solar do actually WORK although many people maybe most people believe rightly or wrongly that renewables are not economic.

        Whether one believes they are economic depends more on one’s political orientation and overall awareness of physical realities than anything else.

        My conservative republican friends are mostly opposed and convinced renewables are a horrible mistake.

        My more liberal democratic friends are at least open to the idea that renewables are good for the environment and will help keep fossil fuel prices – and ultimately the price of energy- down.

        In my mind the environmental degradation involved in burning coal and natural gas must be included in the price of them.I live on a mountain a very short distance from the Blue Ridge Parkway in the southwestern portion of the state of Virginia.

        When I was a kid I could see the farthest horizon almost every day. Thirty years ago seeing that horizon was a rarity due to the smoke in the air blowing into my area from Ohio and thereabouts. Twenty years or so back the situation started improving slowly with more clean air enforcement and now I can see the farthest horizon about half the time.We aren’t losing so many of our evergreen trees at higher elevations now as we were then either.My professional acquaintances in the forestry field – which is very closely related to my own- assure me that air pollution is responsible for most of these losses in our area.

        If you take pollution and depletion of finite resources seriously and have a nuanced understanding of the nature of governments and people you just might have to agree with me that while the fight for renewables has not been won neither has it been lost.

        The time frame for such fight as often as not spans multiple generations of people.

        For what it is worth my opinion is that we either win it in the long term or else we revert back to mediaeval society and economy within half a century to a century at most barring a humongous build out of nuclear power plants. I am incidentally in favor of building as many of a new generation of safer nukes as we can manage to get permitted and financed.

        Of course we may utterly wreck the natural ecosystems that keep us alive and prosperous well within that time frame. Agricultural guys (such as I ) are trained at least in the rudiments of chemistry and physics and ecology. I am not as well trained in these fields as a specialist but have a thorough generalist knowledge of them as they apply to biological systems and we are on some very thin ice already.I can say based on my professional background training that the risks involved are grave -existential in fact.

        Ocean acidification may well wipe out most seafood production within fifty years. You can’t build a skyscraper on a sand foundation and you can’t have a fishery without the little critters that have carbonate shells at the bottom layers of the food pyramid that supports ALL the larger fish.

        It isn’t just forced warming.

        The black box problem is actually a pretty simple one as physics problems go.

  5. Sam Taylor says:


    An interesting take on things, but even if we had taken your idealised route at the end, there’s still only a 10% difference between that and reality. Since global energy use has been increasing exponentially, surely this would be the dominant factor in emissions generation. I can’t imagine that we would have been more than a few years behind where we are now if we had taken that route. I would argue that if cutting emissions is deemed to be critically important (and I think that it is, from a risk management point of view as much as anything), then global energy use would have to either decrease or flatten at the same time as decarbonising. This would likely require western countries to accept a significant decrease in energy use, and likely at least some quality of life indicators. this also would be politically unteneable, as unpleasant realities often are.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Sam: “Only” 10% makes a big difference. If the world had 10% more carbon-free energy annual global CO2 emissions would now be about 3.5 billion tons lower than they are. To put this number in perspective, the UK has cut its annual CO2 emissions by only about 100 million tons and the entire EU15 by only about 300 million tons since 1992.

      “Global energy use has been increasing exponentially (and is) the dominant factor in emissions generation.” That’s why I plot the percentage of world energy generated by carbon-free sources, which is independent of world energy production. So long as it keeps going up we’re headed in the right direction.

      • Sam Taylor says:


        Going by Figure 1 in your chart, global CO2 emissions are currently somewhere around 35 billion tons/annum, give or take, so 10% reduction would put us at about 31. Assuming that we linearly extrapolate to this rate from 1970, we can then integrate under the line and get emissions and compare to where we actually are, and my numbers come out about 3 years behind. Not a staggering difference.

        However I keep getting answers of more than 1 trillion tons cumulative emissions, which is apparently more than we’ve ever produced, so I must be making a mistake somewhere.

        • Roger Andrews says:

          Sam: Not quite sure where you get the 3 years number from, but the difference between Figure 6 and Figure 3 represents a reduction of about 27 billion tons in cumulative CO2 emissions since 1992.

          Your 1 trillion tons number is right. Cumulative global CO2 emissions since 1970 slightly exceed a trillion tons. I don’t have the exact number to hand but as I recollect they amount to about 1.4 trillion tons since 1750.

          • Yes, 1.5 trillion is the Industrial Age emissions total. About 1/4 has already dissolved in seas, lowering pH from 8.2 average to 8.1 today. Below 8 and extinctions spread throughout the food chains, threatening much of the world’s supply of food protein.

            Global warming & sea rise are peanuts compared to acidification’s effects, which include extinction of the natural carbon-sequestration system as well as food chains. We’ve emitted ~1500 times the amount of CO2 that natural ocean processes can sequester to limestone each year. Oops.


            I thought I saw someone here suggest CO2 is good for us — comic relief!?

  6. Actually, Sam, had the JFK report been followed in later administrations, we’d have been done with combustion power by about 2000, making our present sad state far easier to correct. Doing so would habve meant deploying 1GWe of non-emitting power each week by 1980.

    Now, we need a terawatt 24/7 just to protect ocean chemistry. Oops.

  7. A C Osborn says:

    The only Emmissions that need controlling are the dangerous to human ones.
    CO2 does not fall in to that category, it is significantly benificial to the whole world, which compared too pre-history is at starvation levels of CO2.

    • Glen Mcmillian says:

      Your ignorance of the workings of ecological systems is appalling. Or perhaps you own coal stocks and are just trying to muddy the waters?

      IF you were to understand this sort of issue you would know that in just about every case too much is about as bad as too little and that changing the amount of any key nutrient or input into a biological system by a substantial amount is apt to bring about undesirable and possibly catastrophic changes.

      An ocean filled with jelly fish is not going to support very many humans.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Glen, please get real, CO2 has been at 7000ppm in the far past and 6000ppm only 400m years in the past without destroying the planet.
        Going from 400 to 800, which will take all the currently available Fossil Fuels will do nothing but Green the planet.
        Don’t forget historically CO2 Lags Temperature not drives it.
        I don’t know what university you went to, but it must have been run by Ecological Disaster promoters.
        Stop worrying about a non existent problem and start worrying about the real ones that need the money now like
        Old dying of Cold
        Ebola Outbreak in Africa
        Infant Mortality in undeveloped countries
        Birds & Bats killed by Wind Turbines & Solar Farms
        Natural Fires made much worse by Green changes in not keeping forest fuel down and not allowing burn backs
        Bio Fuels using Food instead of people eating it

        I may not be well educated but I do not suffer with Catastrophe Syndrom, but you obviously do, you come across as a brainwashed 20 something.

        • Glen Mcmillian says:

          I have worked professionally most of my life in dealing with the sort of things you mention as needing our attention. I am very well informed about such matters- far better than most since professional agriculture folks are trained in them starting their freshman year. It may sound strange to a layman but public health for human purposes is taught out of the same basic textbooks as for domestic livestock.

          You have a minor point about birds and bats and wind turbines but if you have ever seen the strip mines of West Virginia as I have you would realize that you are barking up the wrong tree in terms of preserving the environment.

          Professional foresters have known all my life about the problems associated with the suppression of natural wildfires but it is true that only recently enough of the old guard in government has retired and died for the policies associated with natural fires to be changed to reflect the real science.

          You have an excellent point about eating and biofuels.That is truly a very worrisome issue and already responsible for people at the margins actually starving to death.

          But you are still either totally brainwashed and ignorant as a fence post or else just trolling given your general remarks.

          People and the plants and animals living on this planet today are adapted to todays conditions.

          There have been times the planet has existed as an ice ball too with maybe a little open water in the tropics.Surprised you didn’t mention that.

          Tell you what. Go to someplace in the empty quarter of the Sahara or maybe tropical Central America at a spot with no consistent wind and temperatures near a hundred every day and humidity so bad you can hardly move more than a minute without gasping for air. Stay either place for a month.This will give you just a very faint taste of what conditions were like at different times in the deep past.

          And think about people and just how well we are adjusted to current conditions rather than conditions that prevailed during deep geological history.

          I will not respond to you again since it is like talking to a fundamentalist preacher that knows just enough to be a dangerous.

          I graduated from Virginia Tech which is a well respected large land grant university.They even wind a football game now and then which I guess in layman’s terms proves Tech is a real university. I have done grad work at the University of Virginia, at Virginia Commonwealth Uniiversity, and at James Madison U.I am not far from finishing up an associate degree in nursing at my local community college which I wanted as additional training in human health issues.

          I know what I am talking about.

        • This is a gem, ACO! So, when CO2 was thousands of ppm millions of years ago, what what would the place have been like? any idea?

          That’s why I said to visit the Devonian, for instance, when oceans were so hot you’d not be able to put your pinky toe in, without screaming to the heavens: “Get the CO2 down!”

          Or maybe a later epoch, like the Carboniferous, when so much plant growth (in cooler seas) and on land was pumping out so much oxygen that insects could be SUV sized — they don’t have lungs and diaphragms to force air in.

          We’d all love to see you riding around on an 18-fot centipede, ACO. Or, maybe you’d be inside?
          What’s that about “a little knowledge…”?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Strange, there was an explosion of fish life in the Devonian along with other vertebrates. Tone this down a lot or your details will be going into the sin bin.


        • Euan Mearns says:

          AC and Glen, you are both welcome to express your contrasting view points, especially where these are backed by links. But please keep comments unpersonal and preferably close to topic.

          There are some things that neither of you will ever agree on. Lowering the tone can spill over and lower the tone of the whole debate.

          • Apparently ACO thinks that CO2 air content is the only parameter of concern.

            By the way, Euan, can you please fix the site so that when a link is presented to us in an email, clicking it scrolls to the comment’s position, as other sites do? Thanks.

    • Take thee to the Devonian.

  8. Jacob says:

    Telling poor people to wait with their development until carbon-free energy sources are available is ridiculously impractical. There is no way to enforce such a policy. People won’t accept it and will ignore such decrees. Only repression on the scale of Stalin or Mao was able to keep people poor.
    It’s also immoral.

    So, there is actually no way emission can be reduced by the percentages required (50 or 80%)in the time frame of 20 to 40 years.
    It does not matter what the parties in 1992 or 1997 agreed to. What can’t be done practically can’t be done, no amount of wishful thinking and fancy agreements can change that.

    • Very true if work had continued along the JFK outline, combustion power could have been eliminated by about 2000. But US administrations are rarely wise. So, our problems are far larger, even necessitating ~2x the power we now produce, but without emissions, and about 1/2 directed solely to ocean-chemistry protection.

      As for the poorer nations, the Russians are now offering to build, staff, fuel, maintain & decommission new nuclear plants anywhere. All a nation need do is pay for the juice.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Yep, they are trying to achieve something that is totally impossible. Continuing along the current path is nothing short of stupid.

      What we do need to know much more precisely is the environmental consequence of the current path. On these counts the IPCC have failed humanity totally. Advocating a path of emissions reduction that seems to be impossible to achieve AND leaving the consequences of elevated CO2 levels all but totally unconstrained.

      Can we ask for our money back?

      • FYI, I had the opportunity to meet an IPCC scientist the other day and asked him why he’d not co-signed Hansen’s letter supporting nuclear deployments. He had already shown his bureaucratic leanings by repeatedly talking about 2100 temperatures rather than 2050 oceanic extinctions.

        His answer to not co-signing, despite having an office next to one of the co-signers, was: “I don’t feel it appropriate to advocate.”

        In other words, he likes his IPCC junkets, talks, papers, destinations… but doesn’t grasp the moral responsibility all scientists share. When a Senator has more gumption than a scientist on a topic, we have a problem…

  9. Which is the only major country that never ratified the Kyoto Protocol?

    The US, of course.

    Which country has reduced its annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions the most since Kyoto entered into force in 2005?

    The US, by a wide margin:

    1. US: down 0.75 gigatonnes
    2. Italy: down 0.09 gigatonnes
    3. Spain: down 0.07 gigatonnes
    4. UK: down 0.06 gigatonnes
    5. France: down 0.04 gigatonnes
    5. Germany: down 0.04 gigatonnes
    5. Iran: down 0.04 gigatonnes (sanctions seem to be working)
    8. S.Africa: down 0.03 gigatonnes
    9. Netherlands: down 0.02 gigatonnes
    9. Ukraine: down 0.02 gigatonnes
    11. Canada: down 0.01 gigatonnes
    12. Japan: no change

    And by considerably more than the European Union too:

    EU15: down 0.45 gigatonnes
    EU27: down 0.47 gigatonnes

    (data from KNMI 1970-2012).

    A lesson there, maybe.

    • A C Osborn says:

      “A lesson there, maybe.” It is called Shale Gas.

      What do those reductions look like as percentage of the original amounts?

      • The US comes third after Spain and Italy, but I suspect only because the recent global recession hit Spain and Italy particularly hard:

        Spain: down 19.4%
        Italy: down 18.7%
        US: down 12.6%
        Netherlands: down 11.1%
        UK: down 10.9%
        France: down 9.8%
        Germany: down 4.7%

        Someone really ought to send these numbers off to Angela Merkel. And to Ed Davey. And maybe Barack Obama too.

  10. Whoever manages this site, please fix the “duplicate comment” misjudgements by your software.

  11. Glen Mcmillian says:

    Any body here spend much time reading classical literature or modern psychology?The great writers of the past laid out the nuances of human behavior and thinking for us quite well going back so far as we have copies of their work. The modern psychologists have recently caught up with them and refer to our follies with such terms and cognitive dissonance and tribal or group loyalties or groupthink.

    Basically cognitive dissonance describes the situation when a person believes two mutually exclusive things silmantaneously.Tribalism or group think describes the extraordinarily powerful tendency of people to believe or disbelieve something because it is either consistent or inconsistent with their larger more universal values and beliefs.Just about everybody is subject to both these phenomenon to some extent.

    The regulars here are unable to even seriously think about the dangers associated with nuclear power. They are generally unable to recognize the basic truth that renewables such as solar and wind are still in short pants in terms of costs and efficiency and that the intermittency problem is capable of solution working from both ends of the problem and thru increased build out.

    Fossil fuel nuts are unable to recognize that depletion is a very very real and close looming problem with oil and that gas is already in such short supply as to be worth more than well trained and well equipped divisions in the field when it comes to power politics.They are utterly uninterested in thinking about growing population and third world development and thus the growth of demand contrasted against depleting supplies.

    Nuclear advocates are perfectly willing on the other hand to acknowledge fossil fuel depletion and international power politics in order to advance their agenda.

    I personally stand further back from the fight when it comes to energy and thus I am willing to admit the shortcomings of both nuclear and renewable energy and also to take seriously the real world consequences of building out both. I advocate a pedal to the metal ( American trucker colloquium for maximum effort) in both areas since I believe both gas and oil are approaching peak production. Maybe I am wrong about the gas but would a responsible engineer bet the future of his country and his children on gas that may never come to market?

    Of course I have by own blind spots and tribal loyalties too.

    But when it comes to energy I am a friend of everybody even including the coal companies for now because speaking as a realist we are going to be dependent on coal for a long time yet.

    Anybody who lives in the West and thinks it is all hunky dory for China and Russia to control the electricity supply more or less world wide via the construction and ownership of nuclear plants needs a vacation and a month to read up on military history.Anybody who thinks third world countries will run nukes responsibly is dreaming and begging for an eventual accident that will occur when the wind is WRONG.

    Nevertheless I am in favor of them getting built because the lack of them will result in even greater troubles.

    Renewables possess incredible advantages in poor countries especially very poor countries.A small solar farm can be built in a matter of months and needs no extensive grid to serve a local community.Appliances such as refrigerators can easily be built to work well with intermittent power simply by doubling or tripling the amount of insulation in them and in a pinch powering them up with diesel generators which is the usual situation NOW in many places except the usual is diesel every day.Poor countries can bootstrap themselves to some extent at least with renewables.

    And richer countries can can save a substantial portion of the purchase cost of coal and natural gas. The regulars here pooh pooh the savings but they have a way of adding up to truly substantial sums. Wind farms and solar farms last at the very least twenty years and run that entire time basically fuel free.

    The wind farms we have here in the US are going to save us the equivalent of an entire years consumption of coal and gas for electricity generation even if we never build another one.This savings is a world class bargain in terms of the subsidies we have put into them so far.

    And with some refurbishment wind and solar farms will last just about forever.The panels and turbines etc can be replaced piecemeal as needed or simply shut down with acceptable loss of output as each one fails and then a bunch all repaired or replaced at once.

    I can’t find any reason to believe that natural gas and coal prices are not going to continuously go up rather than wishful thinking that they won’t. Once renewables are built the savings are locked in and grow in proportion to the rising costs of fuel for conventional plants.

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