The gulf between the Paris Climate Agreement and energy projections

According to the Paris Climate Agreement a rapid decrease in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels is now mandatory if the Earth is to be saved from climate disaster. Projections of future energy use, however, are unanimous in predicting an increase in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels in coming decades. Either the energy consumption projections are wrong or the Paris goal is unachievable. This post reviews the basic provisions of the Paris Agreement, compares them with six independent estimates of future energy consumption and concludes that while the energy consumption estimates are subject to uncertainty the goals of the Paris Agreement are indeed unachievable.

The Paris Climate Agreement

The magnitude of the task facing the Paris signatories is illustrated in Figure 1. A “no action scenario” supposedly leads to a disastrous 4.5C of warming by 2100 (there is no compelling scentific evidence that it will, but the Paris signatories have decreed that it will). A scenario under which all of the countries that have filed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions meet their targets (which is unlikely) leads to 3.5C of warming. The 2C pathway considered necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change is nowhere near being met. (The 2C “safe” threshold has no scientific basis either, as discussed in this post, but we will pass that over too):

The 2C pathway is, however, a proxy for fossil fuel emissions, which according to Paris will now have to start decreasing within the next few years, fall by about 25% by 2040-50 and thereafter to near-zero in 2100. Can this be done? The fact that global emissions have increased by almost 50% since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted twenty years ago is not encouraging, and according to the energy consumption projections discussed below is isn’t going to happen:

Energy Consumption Projections

Six recent projections of future world energy consumption are summarized – two from oil companies (BP and Exxon), two from government or government-sponsored entities (EIA and IEA), one from academia (MIT) and one from a “think tank” (IEEJ). All are presented in the same graphical format with the data taken from spreadsheets or tables or scaled off graphs. We begin with the oil companies:

The BP Energy Outlook 2016

Figure 1 shows BP’s projections of world primary energy consumption through 2035. BP projects a 32% increase in total energy consumption and a 23% increase in fossil fuel consumption between 2015 and 2035. Renewables (which here include hydro, wind, solar, biofuels, biomass and all other renewable sources) continue to grow but supply only 16% of the world’s energy in 2035. Only a modest increase in nuclear is foreseen.

Figure 1: BP world primary energy consumption projections to 2035

The Exxon 2017 Outlook for Energy

Figure 2 shows Exxon’s projections of world energy consumption through 2040. Exxon projects a 24% increase in total consumption and a 19% increase in fossil fuel consumption. Renewables continue to grow but again supply only 15% of the world’s energy in 2040. Again only a modest increase in nuclear is foreseen.

Figure 2: Exxon world primary energy consumption projections to 2040

It can of course be argued that neither BP nor Exxon are likely to develop energy projections that show their core businesses disappearing, but projections by non-industry groups are substantially the same. First government or government-sponsored agencies:

The EIA International Energy Outlook 2016

Figure 3 shows the US Energy Information Administration’s projections of world energy consumption through 2040. EIA projects a 40% increase in total world energy consumption and a 33% increase in fossil fuel consumption between 2015 and 2040, significantly more than Exxon and BP. Despite strong growth renewables still supply only 16% of world energy consumption in 2040. Nuclear expands only marginally:

Figure 3: EIA world primary energy consumption projections to 2040

The IEA 2016 World Energy Outlook

The International Energy Agency demands payment before releasing its report, but there is sufficient information in the Executive Summary to construct Figure 4. It projects a 32% increase in total world energy consumption and a 21% increase in fossil fuel consumption between 2013 and 2040. Once more there is strong growth in renewables, but in 2040 they still supply only 18% of world energy demand. Once again nuclear expands only marginally:

Figure 3: IEA world primary energy consumption projections, 2013 and 2040

Now a projection from academia:

The MIT 2015 Energy and Climate Outlook

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology projects a 51% increase in total energy consumption and a 31% increase in fossil fuel consumption between 2015 and 2050, more than anyone else. MIT also projects growth in renewables but only enough to supply 15% of the world’s energy needs in 2050. Nuclear growth in this case is, however, higher than in most other cases, with nuclear supplying 9% of world consumption in 2050.

Figure 5: MIT world primary energy consumption projections to 2050

And finally one from a “think tank”:

The IEEJ Asia/World Energy Outlook 2015

The Institute of Energy Economic Japan (rated The Best Think Tank In The World in the 2015 University of Pennsylvania Think Tank Index) projects a 36% increase in total world energy consumption and a 31% increase in fossil fuel consumption between 2015 and 2050. Again renewables are projected to fill only 15% of world energy demand in 2040. IEEJ projects the largest role for nuclear, which is projected to fill 10% of world energy demand by 2040.

Figure 6: IEEJ world primary energy consumption projections to 2040

The results of the six energy projections are summarized on the Table below. Low carbon sources are the sum of renewables and nuclear:

The obvious question that arises here is whether these projections take into account the potential impacts of the Paris Agreement and other emissions regulations or whether they are business-as-usual scenarios. The following report excerpts confirm or imply that they take Paris impacts into account:

BP: The Energy Outlook considers a base case, outlining the ‘most likely’ path for energy demand by fuel based on assumptions and judgements about future changes in policy, technology and the economy

Exxon: The Outlook for Energy is ExxonMobil’s global view of energy demand and supply through 2040. We use the data and findings in the book to help guide our long-term investments. It also highlights the dual challenge of ensuring the world has access to affordable and reliable energy supplies while reducing emissions to address the risk of climate change.

EIA: The International Energy Outlook 2016 (IEO2016) presents an assessment by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the outlook for international energy markets through 2040. IEO2016 reflects the effects of current policies—often stated through regulations—within the projections.

IEA: All the Paris climate pledges, covering some 190 countries, have been examined in detail and incorporated into our main scenario.

MIT: … on the assumption that the Paris pledges made at COP21 are met and retained in the post-2030 period, future emissions growth will come from the Other G20 and developing countries. Growth in global emissions results in 64 gigatons (Gt) CO2-eq emissions in 2050, rising to 78 Gt by 2100 (a 63% increase in emissions relative to 2010).

IEEJ: At present, fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) account for 81% of primary energhy consumption. The situtation will not change greatly as they cover 70% of new future energy demand. While hopes are placed on non-fossil fuels, even their combination is likely to fall short of rivalling any of the three fossil fuels.

In short, what we have are the best estimates of actual future energy use from six presumably competent entities, all of which show more or less the same results. Global fossil fuel consumption is going to increase by 20-30% over coming decades despite Paris and emissions will rise with it. This increase will be driven by increased fossil fuel consumption in the developing countries (Figure 7), wh0 are going to follow in the footsteps of China (and the developed countries before them) and choose the quickest and cheapest electrification route. This is why coal consumption shows modest growth in five of the six projections. (The average of all six projections shows increases of 23% in world oil consumption over the period of estimation, 53% in gas and 10% in coal.)

Figure 7: BP world primary energy consumption projections to 2035, OECD and non-OECD countries

So where do we go from here? First the Paris conferees should recognize:

  • That according to the projections of people who may be accounted among the world’s energy experts their emissions-reductions goals will fall far short of being met,
  • that efforts to meet them could do significant economic damage,
  • that according to recent estimates of climate sensitivity climate models overstate temperature increases in the 21st century,
  • that the 2C “safe” threshold has no scientific basis, and
  • that like it or not the only proven large-scale technology that offers potential for significant emissions reductions is nuclear.

To which the appropriate responses would be:

  • Review climate model projections and the validity of the 2C threshold to obtain a better idea of the true magnitude of the climate change “threat”.
  • Reset emissions reduction goals to a) what can reasonably be achieved and b) with the emphasis on nuclear.
  • Place more emphasis on mitigation measures (sea walls, flood protection, improved agricultural practices etc.)

I am, however, under no illusions as to whether any of these responses will be implemented at any time in the foreseeable future.

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72 Responses to The gulf between the Paris Climate Agreement and energy projections

  1. gweberbv says:

    I am surprised. Is there enough oil extractable at acceptable price levels to not only maintain current production over the next decades but to increase it by 20%?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Gunther, I too look at these charts and wonder where the resources are going to come from. But then I look back at what happened the last decade.

      This live chart allows you to read data from the underlying data base. In the period 2004 and 2012 the underlying crude oil part of the production stack barely grew and peak oilers got very excited. But then high price worked its magic and production eventually responded. So on the one hand I am sympathetic to the notions of resource scarcity but am acutely aware that lessons must also be learned from the recent past.

      A growing mountain of live charts at Global Energy Graphed

      • pyrrhus says:

        Crude oil that once cost $.10/bbl to produce now costs $30-50. Hence the societal Value of the oil produced has dropped precipitously. When that number increases by another order of magnitude, oil will disappear as a fuel.

        • And when might that be?

        • donb says:

          As the cost of fossil fuel rises, strong incentive is given to increase energy use efficiency to use less of it. Of course, this has limitations. Also, it is not clear what new extraction techniques may be developed or whether countries besides the US will embrace fracking for natural gas. One should not extrapolate today’s way of doing things too far into the future.

          Roger, you did not mention it, but land use practices produce a significant fraction of greenhouse gases, especially in the developing world.

  2. nice summary and all projections made by economist are essentially all identical
    economic growth forever is not negotiable ..
    and resources are forever as well.

    for the conclusions

    you missed the question if the oil resources are sufficient to continue the 1%/year growth until 2050.
    (and similar for the others ..)

    as you doubt the accuracy of the co2 average atmosphere content and the modelled warming
    effect ..

    why not putting everything into the co2 atmospheric content
    e.g. during last 4-5 years (on average 2.5 ppm co2 growth per year roughly)
    today we are at 404 ppm .. the Paris target corresponds to no more than 450 ppm co2
    by the year 2100 ( is a trick.. they never argued what happens in between
    and in some figures they invent negative co2 emissions magic after the year 2050 ..
    so easy to get whatever one likes with magic .. why climate scientists accepted this is another miracle!)

    you might argue the mean values but what about the given uncertainties of the 450 ppm = + 2 degree +1.5 – 0.5 C?
    Why not accepting a risk statement .. e.g.
    +6 degree warming would be a general catastrophic outcome
    and with the current modelling (consistent with the past 30 years warming trend ..not a proof!!)
    we have a risk of 5% global catastrophe?

    anyway at current path of growth 450 ppm will be reached around 2030-2035
    (fortunately most of the oil outside of the middle east and outside the unconventional oil sands will be gone by then) all this will not work out ..

    and what I always mention in this respect is the 1938 Munich agreement
    with Chamberlain celebrating in this original BBC recording..
    listen yourself (on the right side linked

    which obviously did result in the start of WW2 disaster

    Paris COP 21 for me is similar!

    and crowds are celebrating
    regards Michael
    ps.. historians might want to add something on the broken treatise
    between native american indians and the USA government over the last few hundreds of years..

    the USA achieved what they wanted .. and treaties are just a paper.. who cares anyway
    (the problem is that people believe what is written or said like by Chamberlain..)

    • Thinkstoomuch says:

      Michael for the PS. The Paris COP 21 is worth even less. Not even a treaty. Which is why it was never presented to the US Senate.

      As for running out how do we have oil. President Carter told us we were going to run out close to 20 years ago.


      • 1saveenergy says:

        He was taking about peanut oil

      • agreed the COP 21 is not even a treaty.. sorry for the wrong wording

        for the running out .. this is more wording details
        some say that when starting to use a finite resource one is running out
        by definition and I agree with that even if it is kind of meaningless.

        But, lets perhaps agree that the oil flow from internal source in Western Europe is running indeed low .. the flow is roughly half of what is was 10 years ago. My model prediction is that in Western Europe it will be
        roughly half of what it is today in 10 years from now again and so on..

        and for what it matters .. about 50% of the oil I use comes from
        Russia and the other FSU exporters .. and once Western Russia goes
        down so will consumption in Western Europe go down..

  3. brianrlcatt says:

    They certainly are if they persist in promoting weak, intermittent, overpriced “renewable” energy. Not enough, not when needed, too expensive, a massive land and materials resource hog that trashes the environement, compared to what works best. The most adequate, sustainable, cheapest, greenest and safest of all solutions is won by simply swapping from coal to gas and from both to nuclear, all that can deliver developed economy levels of electrical energy at the tripled level the end of fossil use requires after fossil, 24/7. Plus available deep Valley hard rock based geology hydro. Just the hard facts of generation on a grid in most countries, France and Sweden already did it.

    Still no one in the self serving Climate bubble joins the dots of the only practically deliverable and affordable solution to their supposed problem of CO2 reduction AND sustainable energy supply, on the physic facts. Why doesn’t the real science of the solution evr get discussed n by these delusionals – maybe because they don’t like their solutions on religious grounds, but can’t deny their proven science and costs? Where are the debates on the hard science of the solutions? I’ll do a lecture on this to anyone, anywhere, rammed with facts anyone with High School maths and physics can check for themselves.

  4. The whole Paris Climate thing is little more than a massive and hideously expensive exercise in virtue signalling by politicians and environmentalists. I really don’t know how or if this will ever end.

    • Sam says:

      I look at it more as a global redistribution exercise at the expense of the West for the purpose of One Worlders, e. g., commies.

  5. 1saveenergy says:

    CLIMATE-CHANGE-FIGHT COST: $100,000,000,000,000
    ‘To reduce temperature by a grand total of 3/10 of 1 degree’

  6. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, Paul Homewood has also done extensive work on the “CO2 Reduction promises” that were made by each Country at Paris.
    It actually adds up to a substantial increase in Energy Use and CO2 output, so there is a TOTAL disconnect between what the Paris Agreement people said and what Forecast by the energy experts say.
    In other words they just lied, maybe even to themselves, as they do about everything to do with Climate and RE.

  7. robertok06 says:


    “So where do we go from here? First the Paris conferees should recognize: …”

    There’s no way that the COP21 gang admit their shortcomings and lies, Euan!

    No later that today at lunch, watching Frrrrench TV I’ve seen Mme Segolene Royal, one of the COP21 gang, claiming that the “wonderful” intermittent renewables wind and PV were “equivalent” to 8 nuclear reactors!…

    Here is a press excerpt about it:

    “« Les énergies renouvelables, l’éolien et le solaire, vont produire l’équivalent de huit réacteurs nucléaires, huit gigawatts », a notamment expliqué la ministre…”

    Poor Segolene is a lawyer, not an engineer or scientist… and it shows: a quick look at the online live data shows that at the 7 pm demand peak PV was producing (obviously) ZERO watts… while wind was at 4.2 GW… so the two combined were light years away, during the 24 h of the day, from being “equivalent” to 8 nuclear GWs.

    Since Mme Royal can’t get this simple FACT, how could anybody imagine that she and/or her acolytes could ever acknowledge their lies and mistakes?

    No way. Ideology first, known physical laws later.


    • Roberto: I think the question here is, who is feeding her this garbage?

      • robertok06 says:

        Who”‘s feeding her, Roger?

        It is her “experts”. One of them was standing at her left during the press conference, nodding at every sentence Segolene was spewing out, in approval. The expert is this one:

        … as you can see from her very prominent CV, she is French “minister for housing and sustainable environment”… loosely translated… she’s, of course, from the EELV party, which stands for Europe Ecologie Les Verts (one of the frrrrrench versions of the green party).

        Her very appropriate background for energy policy issues is:

        – Chargée d’enseignement en droits et libertés fondamentales à la
        faculté de droit de Paris XII-Val de Marne

        – Collaboratrice du magazine Têtu

        – Chroniqueuse puis rédactrice en chef du mensuel Regards

        -Diplôme d’études approfondies de droit public économique, en 1997

        …. she has been teaching law and ‘fundamental liberties’ at the law school of the Paris XII university… she’s been collaborator of a weekly publication “Tetu”… which has been for some time a gay paper magazine which went bankrupt and has been resuscitated (probably with public funds) on the internet… a sample cover is shown here…

        … you can see the depth and breadth of the thoughts, right? 🙂

        The other magazine, “Regards”, where she’s been a regular writer first, and chief later, is a bi-annual publication dealing with social issues.

        Voila’… as they say around here… that’s the kind of “experts” Segolene listens to.

        ’nuff said… I must go puke. 🙁


      • Flocard says:

        Mme Royal does not need anybody to feed her stupid statements (although there is no lack of people able to do so in her near vicinity).
        As one person said about her :
        “The problem with Mme Royal is not that she says what she thinks; it is not that she says what she does not think; it is that she says and does not think”
        From one day to the next she can change statement (not opinion since she has none) 180°. The only thing that counts for her is to be in the headlines.
        As a matter of fact, as many of our politicians, the only question is : “what leads to policical survival ?”.
        In that respect, it is not clear that being inconsistent and saying foolish things is a handicap.
        She might have been our president in 2007.

    • jfon says:

      Segolene Royale and the rest of the Parti Socialiste look like they will be destroyed in the upcoming election. Every other contender ( barring the greens of course ) is pro nuclear.

  8. Phil Chapman says:

    Roger, as your Fig 7 indicates, all the projected energy growth (and therefore the increase in CO2 emissions) is in non-OECD countries. In other words, the advanced nations are not responsible for the alleged warming.

    The real purposes of the Paris Agreement, like all the other alarms about global warming, are (1) to strengthen the case for what Jacques Chirac once called “an authentic global governance,” and (2) to scare the wealthy nations into transferring funds to the LDCs that control the UN General Assembly. None of this will have any effect on the climate, but it will fatten the Swiss bank accounts of Third World leaders while perpetuating the poverty of their people by raising the price of energy,

    Fortunately, it appears that a new Grand Solar Minimum has begun, which means that global cooling will be undeniable within a decade, so that the whole global warming scam will become untenable.

    • to scare the wealthy nations into transferring funds to the LDCs that control the UN General Assembly

      I’ve heard the Green Climate Fund described as “a transfer of wealth from the poor people in the rich countries to the rich people in the poor countries.” Based on what usually happens when money is given to poor countries I would say that’s a pretty accurate description.

      • climanrecon says:

        The Green Climate Fund actually appears to be doing something useful, money spent on adaptation in areas prone to bad weather, but of course a lot of the money will get skimmed off for salaries, expenses, back-handers etc.

        But, if all the money gets spent well that will just speed the development of the recipient countries, which can only lead to more fossil fuels getting burnt, a fundamental contradiction in the modern religion of “sustainability”.

    • 1saveenergy says:

      Yes Phil, but a decade is still plenty of time to make some cash, ask Gore.

    • David B. Benson says:

      No matter what the sun does it is the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere which controls global temperature.

      Do try to learn some physics.

      • Phil Chapman says:

        David, do try to accept the fact that complex, coupled, non-linear dynamical phenomena are fundamental to the climate system, leading to abrupt changes, multiple equilibria, autonomous limit cycles (especially relaxation phenomena) and chaotic behavior (i.e., large, unpredictable responses to minute inputs). The CO2 greenhouse is just one of many factors affecting the global temperature. The idea that the climate is a linear system with the temperature determined solely by the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is a ridiculous, childish delusion. Nobody but the abysmally ignorant believe such nonsense. Do try to learn something more than kindergarten physics.

        • David B. Benson says:

          Does the name Robert P. Sharp ring a bell? He started me on geology, although it was a bit past kindergarten.

          More seriously, get back to me after you have done the exercises in Chapter 6 of Ray Pierrehumbert’s “Principles of Planetary Climate”. In the nonce, consider why David Archer in “The Long Thaw” figures that it will be about 100,000 years before the next descent into a stade.

          A few parts in around 1365 for solar isolation makes little difference.

          • Phil Chapman says:

            I have in fact read some of Pierrehumbert’s opus, and skimmed the rest. I find it hard to believe that anybody has actually waded through the whole interminable thing. In my opinion, the greatest merit of the book is that it is an excellent cure for insomnia: reading a page or two of his tedious self-indulgent blather is sure to send you to sleep.

            The fundamental flaws are the same ones that invalidate the IPCC reports (and also David Archer’s book):
            (1) The idea that a linearized model of the climate is an adequate description, so that the response to several simultaneous forcings equals the sum of the responses to each of them individually. Without that incorrect assumption, the whole concept of radiative forcing collapses.
            (2) The bland assumption, unsupported by any evidence, that changes in the total solar irradiance are the only solar phenomena that can affect the climate.
            (3) The insistence that nothing but Milankovitch forcing determines ice-age transitions.

            Perhaps there are some nuggets hidden under the layers of garbage in this book, but I have been unable to find them. I would be grateful if you could give me page numbers where I might find discussions of Navier-Stokes equations; autonomous relaxation oscillations; chaos theory; elementary statistical analysis; the bipolar seesaw; the possible effects of cosmic rays; changes in the solar spectrum with solar activity; the effects of positive cloud-formation feedback; the effects of geomagnetic reversals and excursions; geomagnetic jerks; changes in the equator-to-pole temperature gradient; the Medieval, Roman and Minoan Climatic Optima; the 8.2 kyr Event; etc.

            If you think the drivel in this book is an adequate description of current climatology, you have a lot of catching up to do. Get back to me after you have learned something about the subject.

          • robertok06 says:

            @phil chapman

            … on the shortcomings of today’s climatology “accurate” models…

            If “the hottest year, evah!” (TP Gavin Schmidt, mathematician, head of NASA GISS) causes this kind of things… bring ’em on!… more hot years, please.



      • Euan Mearns says:

        Dear David,

        Phil Chapman was an Apollo astronaut and was mission scientist on Apollo 14. You should be more careful in choosing your words.

        It is convection and water vapour that are the main controls on global average temperature. These in turn are controlled by the mode of atmospheric circulation. CO2 is a small bit player. The evidence from ice cores shows quite clearly that CO2 follows temperature and does not force it during glaciations.


        • A C Osborn says:

          Euan & Phil, did David leave off the Sarc tags?
          Because you could read it that way.

        • David B. Benson says:

          Sorry, but you are wrong on that. Water vapor precipitates out in under 2 weeks while the evaporation is dependent on the ocean surface temperatures.

          As for the start of the current interglacial, misnamed the Holocene, carbon dioxide emissions didn’t start it but amplified the minor warming at the beginning. In any case, read Richard Alley or watch his video. To be serious, you need to study Ray Pierrehumbert’s book.

      • robertok06 says:

        “No matter what the sun does it is the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere which controls global temperature.”

        Says who?

    • jfon says:

      ‘…the advanced nations are not responsable for the alleged warming.’ The world climate is trying to catch up with the carbon dioxide which the richer countries have already put in the air over the last two centuries – to which they owe their wealth. Our continued emissions at current levels will be perfectly adequate to push temperatures up 2 C, the industrialisation of the non-OECD countries ( assuming they do it with coal and oil ) will just speed things up.
      Relying on a solar minimum to save our bacon is a fool’s strategy. The Little Ice Age had been in progress for over a century before the Maunder Minimum began. A more plausible reason for that cooling was the destruction of the civilisations of central and south America by European colonisation and diseases. Forest recolonised millions of hectares of farmland, and drew down CO2 levels.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Jeez, have you read any of the past posts on this Forum.
        Please don’t come on here peddling CO2 Control Knobs without some really uncontestable Data to back it up.

      • Phil Chapman says:

        No doubt responding to these ignorant trolls is a waste of effort, but charity suggests I should try to be of some help to these unfortunate blind creatures.

        There have been 7 Grand Solar Minima in the last 1000 years, of varying depth and duration. They are called the Oort (1025 – 1065), Wolf (1280 – 1350), Spörer (1390 – 1540), Maunder (1645 – 1715), Dalton (1790 – 1835), Gleissberg (1885 – 1935) and now the Eddy (2001 – ?) Minima. Contemporary accounts and proxy records demonstrate that an unusually cold climate was associated with each of them.

        According to a recent comprehensive review by solar physicist Mike Lockwood (at ), the Grand Solar Maximum during the last few decade of the 20th Century was the strongest in the last 9,300 years, and the subsequent decline into the Eddy Minimum was the fastest in all that time. On what basis can we exclude any possible connection with the warming from 1970 to the 1990s and what the IPCC AR5 calls “the warming hiatus since 1998” (in the Technical Summary to the WG1 volume)?

        I could explain why solar activity affects the climate, but I doubt that it would penetrate the immaculate wall of petrified prejudice these morons hide behind. To paraphrase a famous comment by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, jfon and his ilk are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Phil, sorry about the Green Trolls. It never ceases to amaze me how totally devoid these people are of any sense of common decency. They have been dealt with.

          Google “CO2 Vostok ice core” and an article I once wrote is there on the first page. Go to images, and one of my charts is in position 2 and several others follow.

          Starting with methane we see that it is perfectly alined with temperature. So what does that tell us? That methane controls temperature / climate or vice versa?

          Moving on to CO2 (middle) a casual observer may think it shows the same as methane but if you look carefully, at each inception you can see a significant time lag. Temperature falls and CO2 follows at each inception. Looking at the post-Eemian inception (bottom) we see that full glacial conditions were in place before CO2 began to fall. This tells us that CO2 has nothing to do with the process of starting glaciations. The time lag is 8000 years.

          Simply ignoring this detail, and many others like it, has led to Green Thinking. Could there be a problem with the gas ages? Well, no there can’t be. If there was that would show up in the methane. If it wasn’t for the methane, I’m quite sure that these data would have been adjusted to bring CO2 in line with temperature and in so doing prove the theory.

          The ice core records are among the finest geological / geochemical records ever collected. Its a pity they haven’t been put to better use.

          As for the Little Ice Age, I have probably recommended Alistair Dawson’s book before “So Foul and Fair a Day”. Alistair is very much in the natural cycle camp, but also recognises that volcanic eruptions in Iceland played a significant role in the LIA in Europe. This brings me to Italy, a worrying frequency of Earthquakes, and of course a tragic avalanche. But have you seen how much snow has fallen in the Apennines. We visited that beautiful area a few years ago and I was surprised to find ice fields there – relics from the LIA or from the last glaciation?

          I for one would like to hear you views on the role of the Sun and climate change. I have some opinions but do not pretend to know all.

          Best, Euan

          • jfon says:

            That’s a beautiful graph, Euan, and I try to be as open minded as the next troll. ( Troll, noun. 3 – someone on line I don’t agree with yet.)
            As you know, the major drivers on those glacial/ interglacial cycles are the Milankovitch wobbles, which haven’t changed from within the range of the last half million years, and should still have us in a cooling phase. Phil Chapman claims the solar minimum we’re heading into is the steepest in nine thousand years, but is the magnitude outside the range of the last 400,000 ?
            Eyeballing your graph, the downturns of CO2 are indeed following temperatures, but the upturns are both more closely linked to temperature, and much steeper. Now try superimposing the current industrial era figures onto the end of your final blue line. The slope is vertical, and it will go up off the chart and into the bottom of the graph above it. Simply ignoring this tiny detail, and a few others …

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Can you perhaps remind me about the impact and periodicity of Milankovitch which evidently have such huge impact on climate. I’m rather out of touch. E

          • David B. Benson says:

            I recommend not over – interpreting the graphs. For the temperature proxy is for the Southern Ocean, while the carbon dioxide concentration is global as carbon dioxide is well mixed in the atmosphere with a mixing time of just over 2 years.

            So it may well be that Southern Ocean temperatures plunged well in advance of the global temperature. You could look at the NGRIP ice core, which extends back to the Eemian interglacial. Another choice is the deep ocean coring stacks.

            But from what you have nicely presented, the global temperature is well approximated by the logarithm of the carbon dioxide concentration divided by a base concentration and then multiplied by a scaling factor.

  9. Very nice piece: excellent summary of the physical disconnect between the political posturing of Paris and the real world continued growth of total energy consumption (comfortably outpacing growth in low(-ish) carbon energy sources). A genuine and very useful “reality check”.

    So why mar such a good factual piece with gratuitous, facile, climate science contrarianism? It certainly makes an excellent honeypot for trolls, but is that really the objective?

    • A C Osborn says:

      Do you make it a habit of totally insulting the owners of Forums and their contributors?
      climate science contrarianism

      I see from you own blog where you are coming from.

  10. Wookey says:

    As you say, current forecasts are for increasing energy use, and increasing, or at best, not decreasing, emissions, despite the Paris agreement. Sensible climate scientists and modellers agree with you that we are nowhere near on track, and that ‘2C’ is primarily political rather than scientific. I have found Kevin Anderson to give very good summaries of the current situation:
    2C is now only possible with ‘Marshall Plan’ grade action in OECD countries, and that’s clearly not happening.

    However, whilst we agree what the problem is, I disagree that the correct response is to revise the target upwards, and just accept whatever level of emissions, and corresponding ecosystem effects, comes with the current feeble level of mitigation measures. Physics is more important than economics, ultimately, but currently most of the people in charge are more worried about economic indicators than climate and ecosystem indicators. That is likely to start looking very shortsighted at some point (hard to say exactly when).

    Does anyone serious think that adaption is cheaper than mitigation in the long term?

    • Thinkstoomuch says:

      “Does anyone serious think that adaption is cheaper than mitigation in the long term?”

      IF(!) CO2 is the problem, yes adaption is better. For one I am not convinced that CO2 is the long pole in the tent.

      2. Most of the ways that people like those in CA or Germany are trying to reduce the CO2 emissions _seem_ to be ineffective (perhaps counter productive) despite spending vast amounts of wealth. (I was just looking at CASIO data this morning. Last year they reduced the annual electricity generated by thermal sources got back to 2011 levels, almost!)

      3. The human race has demonstrated since prehistory that we are quite adaptive and getting much better at it. Also that the costs reduced through each generation of problems when compared to the benefits. Part of the reason that there are now 7 billion folks around.

      Do I really understand how we will get there? Not a clue. But then again in 1789 nobody would have figured out a way to live comfortably in a swamp that Washington DC is built on, Florida or for that matter a desert like much of the US Southwest.

      So do we play Chicken Little or wait some and apply the right amount of leverage at the actual problem. I know which way I would prefer to go about it.

      For what little this ignorant opinion is worth,

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Does anyone serious think that adaption is cheaper than mitigation in the long term?

      Adaptation is possible and only has to happen if needs occur. Mitigation is probably impossible and will crash the global economy trying, and it may turn out to be unnecessary.

    • gweberbv says:


      the real problem appears when extraction of fossil fuels cannot keep up with rising demand. Adaption will ot be fun.

  11. If you break the renewable column down into its constituents, you would find in most cases that nuclear is projected to be the single largest source of low carbon energy. Lumping wind, biomass, solar, hydro etc into one category is common, but misleading when it comes to nuclear’s contribution. Nuclear is expected by most to exceed the individual contributions of wind and solar, which compete with each other just as they do with nuclear. I avoid lumping them when I can so the true contribution of nuclear can be seen.

  12. 1saveenergy says:

    Standing in a normal room 2°C is the temperature difference between your feet & your chest.

    • Wookey says:

      It’s also the difference between a human being being fine and having dangerous hyperthermia. Your comment is true but presumably also a rather silly attempt to suggest that raising the planet’s average temp by 2C is not serious. It is.

  13. Alex says:

    Excellent article. The other course of action is to try and make sure that BP, Exxon and the IEA turn out wrong.

    And there there might be cause for optimism, because if low carbon alternatives can work out cheaper than fossil fuels, they will be used. If they don’t, then move to higher ground. If politicians want to tilt the market, the Rex Tillerson has the right idea with a carbon tax.

    We are seeing some encouraging signs in solar power and nuclear power*, both thanks to China. Solar is and will be severely handicapped at high latitudes, and nuclear is handicapped by politicians. Right now, both look expensive (solar does, when coupled with storage), but there are promising improvements in the pipeline. Whether they’re fast enough, is another question.

    *And maybe wind power if Euan can sort out Kitegen.

  14. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, slightly off topic.
    We had a lady poster on here who had a very rose tinted view Electric Vehicles.
    Well this article about an ARD report might open her eyes a bit.

    It looks like another case of playing lip service to CO2 issues.

  15. David B. Benson says:

    This seems to explain the carbon dioxide anamoly:
    It is due to air diffusion in the firn.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      David, if you don’t already realise it, you are a Green Thinker. That is you have reached your conclusion in advance and that is CO2 causes climate change. And from there on you will wilfully ignore or change all and any evidence to the contrary. You will adapt all observations to fit your pre-conecievd conclusion. Unfortunately for Mankind, Green Thinkers have now permeated all levels of academia, media and government. The abandonment of sound logical and scientific deduction is one of the greatest threats to Mankind today.

      You come on this forum with a link to Scientific American where the title tag line says “Its all about the way bubbles move in the ice”. Bubbles do not move in the ice, air diffuses in the firn that is the precursor to ice forming. But this sort of shit pseudo-science has served its purpose in influencing the likes of you (I’m now forcing myself to be polite).

      Presenting air diffusion in firn as something new is a sign of pure and absolute ignorance. From day zero, those working on ice cores have struggled to calibrate the age of the air to the age of the ice. There is the “ice age” that carries the d18O, dD temperature signals and the dust signal and there is the gas age that carries the CO2 and CH4 signals. The ice age to gas age calibration is a long running issue.

      In Vostok lags between temperature and CO2 occur at two levels. Level one is where CO2 lags temperature by a few hundred years throughout the whole section. CO2 and CH4 are aligned but lag temperature. Now this could be down to an ice age – gas age calibration issue. But changing the calibration simply because the hypothesis demands it is not science. It is scientific fraud.

      The second level of lag occurs at every inception where CO2 lags temperature by up to 8000 years. But CH4 does not. And so in the imaginary world of David Benson, CH4 and CO2 have very similar diffusion behaviour in firm most of the time but at the inception of glaciations the behaviour of these two molecules in firn suddenly becomes totally different. You can go spend most of your sunday looking for shit science explanations for this.

      Or you can ask questions about what real world physical process may cause this. At the terminations CO2 and CH4 rise together but at the inceptions CH4 falls with temperature but CO2 does not. The explanation lies in gas liquid partition between the oceans and atmosphere with dT, what is going on with CH4 and CO2 in permafrost, and the die back of Boreal forests etc.

      Get this into your head. It is a fact that CO2 lags temperature by up to 8000 years at glacial inceptions. Full glacial conditions come into being with high levels of CO2. Therefore dCO2 has little/nothing to with controlling temperature. The fact that the whole of the climate science community has ignored this does not make the fact go away.

      • gweberbv says:


        let’s stick for the moment with the hypothesis that changing CO2 levels in the past did give rise to following temperature changes. Is there any explanation what natural process – assuming a stable temperature level at the beginning – suddenly starts to release or absorb huge amounts of CO2? If it is not the temperature what else could trigger significant and fast changes of global CO2 levels? I did not spend too much time for looking into this, but I am really curious what else than burning fossil fuel (which probably was not a major driving force in a few 10000 years ago) could have such an effect.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Gunther, all the sceptics on this forum believe that changes in temperature cause changes in CO2 – you got it 🙂

          There are three primary mechanisms by which this can work: 1) warm oceans can hold less CO2 / HCO3 in solution, so as oceans warm they exhale, 2) melting permafrost around the rim of the ice sheets will release CO2 and CH4 and 3) changes in forest cover and vegetation in general. But you got it. It is changing temperature that controls CO2 and not the other way around. You just need to look at my charts to understand this. And then think about it. Its warm, and we have CO2 peaks. What happens next – we get plunged into glaciation. This could never happen if CO2 was in control. And in the depths of the glaciation when CO2 has been pumped down to critical low levels, and life is struggling everywhere. What happens next? It gets warm again.

          • Wookey says:

            Yes changing temp, changes CO2. And changing CO2 also changes temp. Surely this is well-understood by now? I find it hard to credit that apparently sensible people here are still arguing that the primary current forcing is not anthropogenic CO2 (and other gases). Can you point me to some paper or past discussion here that explains what the forcing is instead, and a compatible one on how CO2 doesn’t cause warming. I really did think we were past this nonsense and arguing about the effects and how to deal with them.

    • 1saveenergy says:

      Amazing to think any one would use Scientific American as a reference work,
      1. Its not American, it was sold to the Holtzbrinck group ( a ‘green’ company) of Germany in 1986. Holtzbrinck also own DIGITAL SCIENCE & RESEARCH, MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS, NATURE SPRINGER Full list –

      2. Its not Scientific, the quality of most of the output would send most 1st yr students back to remedial classes.

      3 Its not accurate (see 2 )

  16. jfon says:

    The variations within the Milankovitch cycles seem fairly subtle, but living in Scotland you’ll know from the landscape that the results are anything but. At the moment we’re at the median of the ~ 2 degrees variation in axial tilt. The extreme would be like putting Aberdeen up about John o’Groats in winter and down around Newcastle in summer. ( I did a brief spell on an exploration rig there years ago. ) The other two main variants are likewise undramatic – a few percent stronger sunshine when we’re closer to the sun on the 100,000 year orbital eccentricity cycle, but for a shorter period, as the Earth speeds up, or a few days maximum difference in season length. Yet the variations tie in neatly with having habitable land or mile-high ice.
    The current glacial/interglacial sequence switched about a million years ago from 40,000 year cycles to 100,000 year cycles. Similar Milankovitch periodicity shows up during previous ice ages, with millions of years of hotter climates in between. Clearly the orbital shenanigans are an initiating signal, but need amplification to bring on a full-blown ice age. As David Benson wrote further up the thread,Dr Richard Alley makes a persuasive case that, over the Earth’s whole history, carbon dioxide has been the most consistent amplifier.
    In any case, the cycles are so slow that we shouldn’t have to worry too much about them. Professor William Ruddiman proposed that, but for human production of methane and carbon dioxide since we started farming, we’d already be dipping into the start of another glacial period, but more recent studies contend that even without our greenhouse gases we’d have another 50,000 years grace.
    On another note, New Zealand just recorded its hottest ever year, but by God we’re having a shitty summer.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      jfon, here’s my interpretation of Milankovitch that was published in The Alpine Journal a few months ago.

      Click on the chart to get a very large version you can pin to your wall. I shouldn’t have been sarcastic with you. One thing you fail to grasp is that we have expansive and high level understanding of the climate system on this forum and learn nothing from folks like you who come on here spouting uncritically from the Green bible.

      The glacial cycles aline with the 41,000 y obliquity cycle. One thing we found is that they also aline with multiples of this number – 82,000 and 120,000 y. The 100,000 y cycle to which you refer does not appear to exist. I am singularly unimpressed by the powers of observation displayed by the so called experts you cite. Another thing we see is that glactiations are sometimes in phase and sometimes out of phase with Milankovitch which is very difficult to understand. So I don’t understand what is going on but understand enough to know that the Green orthodoxy of your comment is most likely wrong.

      with millions of years of hotter climates in between.

      Interglacials last no more than a few thousand years.

      On another note, New Zealand just recorded its hottest ever year, but by God we’re having a shitty summer.

      That is because there is the real world and there is the reconstructed world of temperature records. Green thinking – rising CO2 must cause temperatures to rise. Therefore evidence to support the theory is simply manufactured. If you are having a shit summer I’d cautiously suggest this is down to the La Nina that is building in the Pacific.

      • jfon says:

        ‘ .. with millions of years of hotter climates in between..’
        I was actually referring to previous glacial/interglacial cycles during the Carboniferous. ‘ Align ‘ spells better. John ONeill

  17. Let me add my ten cent’s worth to the Ice Age discussion. Some years ago I ran a correlation between CO2 and Vostok ice core temperatures and came up with R squared = 0.8, which all other things being equal indicates either that CO2 caused 80% of the temperature fluctuations or that temperature caused 80% of the CO2 fluctuations. The first interpretation is untenable – there is no way that ~100ppm changes in atmospheric CO2 could have overwhelmed the impact of the temperature changes caused by other factors, such as sea level rise and fall, changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns and changing albedo with the advance and retreat of ice sheets. The second interpretation must therefore be accepted as by far the more likely.

    Note also that the 190-290 ppm CO2 changes associated with 10C temperature changes shown by the Vostok record translate into a climate sensitivity of 16C at the poles. For the Earth as a whole it’s maybe only half this, but 8C is still well in excess of the IPCC’s high estimate of 4.5C.

  18. I am lost in your discussion.

    so if co2 is not a problem why do you want nuclear power to reduce co2 outputs.

    and the other thing ..

    uncertainties with co2 and warming exist .. co2 levels of 450 ppm are estimated
    to increase temperature by +2 degree C by some models
    but what matters are the uncertainties .. +2 C +1.5 or -1 ..
    thus anything between +1 C to +3.5 C is a equilibrium temperature.

    what alternative scientific models are there to explain the temperature rise observed?
    what alternatives can explain the sea ice level reduction observed?
    (and the UN political correct models do not explain this very fast melting!)

    ok .. average temperature data presented are wrong?
    but by how much
    may be .but why are all the little ice age data etc believable?

    Don’t you ever ask such questions?
    (and well I wrote it already .. not enough hydrocarbons exist to follow the IEA/EIA etc
    models for the never ending growth.. any critical questions from anywhere please?)


    • Euan Mearns says:

      Michael, I’m not sure who this response is directed at, but when you say you are lost, I agree 😉

      so if co2 is not a problem why do you want nuclear power to reduce co2 outputs.

      For my part the UK has an energy security problem. Declining indigenous oil and gas and coal production (some of it self inflicted) needs to be replaced with something else since we do not have the industrial might of S Korea, Japan and Germany to afford importing energy. Fracking is one option, nuclear another. I prefer nuclear since I understand the concerns of rural folks living in Lanarkshire about an industrial scale fracking industry. CO2 doesn’t enter the equation.

      what alternative scientific models are there to explain the temperature rise observed?

      When you say this, it betrays an opinion that temperatures should always stay the same, when in reality they have always changed with time. And so I don’t really feel as though I need a scientific model to explain it. But if you press hard my answer will be that it lies in the pattern of atmospheric and ocean circulation that goes through well established cycles. Convection is the dominant mechanism for removing heat from the surface not irradiation. its elementary planetary physics. A change is circulation leads to a change in convection rate and that leads to a minute change in surface temperature. But CO2 is bound to also play a minor role.

      Why are the little ice age data believable

      Because they are written in the petrographic record of the sediments in the N Atlantic and in the cosmogenic isotope records of ice cores. This is hard, un-doctored evidence.

      • good reply

        besides for the “petrographic records”
        how accurate and what I saw was that “the little ice age” data
        show different timescales in different areas of the planet.

        and for the global temperature change ..

        I think it is so fast (during the past 30 years) globally that
        no other similar global records are documents
        with similar modern precision.

        That the rapid sea ice melting (not anymore only in the arctic)
        since precise observations are made is also shocking
        adding the glacier disappearance and the missing snow
        in my cross country skiing area of the French Suisse Jura
        is another troubling thing.


    • ok .. average temperature data presented are wrong?
      but by how much
      Don’t you ever ask such questions?

      If you search the blog for “temperature” you will get 17 posts that deal with this subject, and there are more under different keywords. I suggest you read some of them.

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