What if the world can’t cut its carbon emissions?

Many people, including more than a few prominent politicians, accept that global warming must be limited to no more than two degrees C above the pre-industrial mean, or a little more than one degree C above where we are now, to avoid dangerous interference with the Earth’s climate. Let’s assume these people are right, that the 2C threshold really does represent the climatic equivalent of a cliff and that bad things will happen if we drive off it.

So how do we apply the brakes?

According to the IPCC by limiting cumulative future global carbon emissions to no more than 500 gigatons, and even then we would have only a two-thirds chance of success:

To have a better than two-thirds chance of limiting warming to less than 2°C from pre-industrial levels the total cumulative carbon dioxide emission from all human sources since the start of the industrial era would need to be limited to about 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon. About half of this amount had already been emitted by 2011.

Here we will ignore the one-third chance of failure and use 500 gigatons as the “safe” emissions limit. Can we stay below it? Figure 1 summarizes the current position. The black line (data from EDGAR) shows progress, or lack thereof, in cutting global emissions since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) started the ball rolling in 1992. The red line is a projection of the black line. The blue line, which intersects zero in 2117, amounts to 500 Gt of future carbon emissions. I assumed a linear decrease for simplicity but other pathways are of course possible:

Figure 1:  Current position on cutting global emissions to “safe” levels

Obviously the world is going to have to reverse course in a hurry if it is to have any chance of keeping warming below the 2C danger threshold. What are the chances that it can? Let’s look at which countries the emissions are coming from and see what the prospects are.

The world’s emitters are commonly divided into two categories – the “developed” countries, such as the US, UK, Germany and Japan, and the “developing” countries, such as Egypt, India, Malawi and Paraguay. We will look first at the developed countries, which presently emit a third of the world’s carbon. Developed country emissions for 1970 through 2012 are summarized in Figure 2:

Figure 2: Developed country emissions from fossil fuel burning, 1970-2012

The United States accounts for 16% of global emissions (the percentages given here are from 2012 EDGAR data). US emissions have been trending down since 2005 partly because of the shale gas boom and partly because of the 2008 recession. The Obama administration recently adopted rules designed to cut US emissions further but whether they will survive is uncertain, and even if they do the chances that Congress as presently constituted will agree to emissions cuts unless the developing countries follow suit are effectively zero. The 1997 US Senate rejected US participation in the Kyoto Protocol for this reason, and given the opportunity the present Senate would do the same.

The European Union accounts for 11% of global emissions. For some years the EU has been setting an example to the world by unilaterally pursuing ambitious emissions targets, although so far with little to show for it (the downtrend in EU emissions since 2006 is largely a result of the 2008 recession and the EU’s slow recovery). The realization that the EU can’t save the planet all by itself is, however, finally beginning to sink in, and as a result the EU has hardened its negotiating position, stating at the Lima climate talks that mandatory emissions targets must now be set for all countries, not just the developed ones.

Australia, Canada and Japan collectively emit 7% of the world’s carbon. All three are presently somewhat less than enthusiastic about emissions cuts and are unlikely to become greatly more enthusiastic in the foreseeable future. They won’t move unless everyone else does.

Now on to the developing countries, which emit two-thirds of the world’s carbon and are responsible for all of the growth in global emissions since the world embarked on its quest to cut them in 1992.  Developing country emissions are summarized in Figure 3:

Figure 3: Developing country emissions from fossil fuel burning, 1970-2012

China, which now accounts for 29% of global emissions (according to EDGAR; other sources put the figure at 25-26%) is the key player. The UNFCCC exempts China and the other developing countries from emissions caps – in fact it encourages them to build more power plants in order to eradicate poverty – and China wants to keep it that way. China pays lip service to the need to combat climate change but considers economic development far more important, as illustrated in Figure 4. The total disregard for the “Spirit of Kyoto” is almost comical:

Figure 4:  China’s emissions before and after ratifying the Kyoto Protocol

(The lip service consists of a) China’s 2005 commitment to reduce its carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emitted per unit of GDP – by 40-45% by 2020 and b) its recent commitment to make its best efforts to peak its emissions by 2030. Figure 4 shows what happened to China’s emissions after its 2005 commitment. Its latest commitment pretty much guarantees that its emissions will continue to rise for at least the next 15 years.)

India, with 6% of global emissions, makes no bones about where it stands: “The world must accept that India’s per capita carbon emissions will need to rise rapidly if it is to eliminate poverty, the environment minister said on Friday, as delegates meet in Lima for key UN climate change talks.” Economic development takes priority over the need to combat climate change in India too, as illustrated in Figure 5:

Figure 5: India’s emissions before and after ratifying the Kyoto Protocol

The position of Russia, which accounts for 5% of global emissions, is predictable. Under Kyoto Russia committed to keep its emissions below 1990 levels and its emissions are still well below 1990 levels (Figure 3). Putin has other things to worry about anyway.

The other developing countries, which collectively contribute 26% of global emissions, include some in a reasonably advanced state of economic development, such as South Korea and Chile, but otherwise are mostly poor.  The poor countries are more than willing to limit their emissions provided the developed countries pay all the costs, and in 2011 the Green Climate Fund was set up to get the ball rolling. So far, however, contributions amount to only $10 billion – a negligible sum relative to the scale of the undertaking. We can safely assume that funds on the scale necessary to reverse the 3% historic annual growth rate in other developing country emissions will not be made available, or at least not quickly enough to do any good.

The bottom line is that the developed countries won’t commit to emissions cuts of the magnitude necessary to stay below the 2C threshold unless the developing countries shoulder at least some of the burden, but the developing countries aren’t going to sacrifice economic development on the altar of climate change, threshold or no threshold. The most they are likely to agree to is token measures that get good publicity but which don’t cut emissions, as China has already done. As a result the developed countries will again be left to go it alone, which as shown in Figure 6 is an exercise in futility:

Figure 6: Developed and developing country carbon emissions, 1970-2012

The conclusion is inescapable. However desirable it may be to protect the Earth from the dire consequences of a runaway climate the chances that the world will agree to cut its emissions quickly enough to stay below the 2C threshold are somewhere between zip, zilch and zero. (There’s also the question of whether cuts of the magnitude necessary would be politically, economically and technologically achievable if the world does agree, but we’ll leave it aside here.)

Now imagine that you are one of the prominent politicians – Obama, Kerry, Merkel, Ban Ki-moon, Hollande, Cameron, Davey, whoever – who have publicly and repeatedly stated that climate change is the greatest threat facing the world, that the world is in serious trouble if nothing is done to stop it but that a solution is still within our reach. What do you tell people when next year’s make-or-break Paris climate talks show that it isn’t?

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219 Responses to What if the world can’t cut its carbon emissions?

  1. Vijay Bhopal says:

    Hi Roger, Euan. Great to see this article on the blog. Climate change is often the elephant in the room in the energy debate, whereas a large group of us believe that it must be the bounding box of the debate.

    I think this article is heavily scewed I’m favour of the developed nations. We all know that the EU/US figures would be inescapably poor if outsourced emmissions were included, in turn China’s performance would improve markedly.

    I cannot see how a balanced article of this nature can ignore outsourced emissions and climate justice (and the concepts of climate creditors and debtors). These are the inconvenient truths for the west and I’m sure they will rear their ugly heads again in Paris. Thoughts?

    • Euan Mearns says:


      Climate change is often the elephant in the room in the energy debate, whereas a large group of us believe that it must be the bounding box of the debate.

      I presume you know that I quite strongly disagree with this whilst accepting that there is a large group of you who agree with it – that I’m afraid I see as a major part of our current problem. But there are many contradictions and no easy answers.

      You need to start with the fact that CC is the bounding box of the energy debate in the UK (the 2008 climate change act). But all this has achieved so far is landscape and habitat destruction, more expensive and less reliable electricity and any contribution to “saving the climate” amounts effectively to zero. Only total fools would continue on this totally futile and divisive path.

      I’m with you 100% on the need to factor in emissions embedded in imported goods, that is if we are going to have emissions controls at all, which as already indicated I believe is a bad idea. Doing so makes the quest of the OECD even more impossible and daft.

      I believe that energy policy in the UK should be centred around the provision of affordable, secure and reliable energy. But I don’t believe we should have a license to wreck nature in the process. All energy delivery systems should be subject to reasonable environmental and safety controls. The devil here is defining what is reasonable. Getting to the bottom of health and safety standards in coal and nuclear plant and the costs incurred is no simple task. But it seems to me that the cost of the latter is being unreasonably hiked on the back of over zealous safety standards. This creates costs for society.

      Having said all this I remain cautious on emissions. We have those who are hysterical about all the climate change we have already caused. If it is the case that going from 260 to 400 ppm CO2 is causing extensive climate change today then we really are in trouble. And the hysterical commenters seem to believe this to be the case. I look hard and find it hard to find any evidence that Man has changed the climate at all thus far – at least the emissions part of our activities. In the UK we have perhaps added 0.5˚C warming thus far that remains invisible amongst the natural noise. If anyone can present case studies of climate change definitely caused by Man with no chance of it being natural then I’m all ears.

      As far as I can tell climate sensitivity to CO2 is below 1.5˚C. I challenge anyone to produce physical evidence to the contrary. At that level we can probably burn all the conventional FF with impunity, perhaps even with some benefits through CO2 fertilisation and expansion of high latitude agriculture. So why are we trying to limit our access to conventional FF? Where I believe it may be prudent to draw a line is on the unconventional resources, though it seems that market forces may draw that line for us.

      There are good arguments to be made around limiting our access to conventional FF for the sake of extending their life. But market forces again have probably done as much there as any legislation, i.e. through higher prices. To be clear, I’m 100% behind initiatives to reduce waste – better insulation, more efficient power generation, more fuel efficient cars. Those initiatives should be pursued in the name of improving the comfort and well being of individuals. Grants to install double glazing to keep old folks warm and wealthier instead of all the crap about reducing CO2 emissions and saving the planet.

      • Willem Post says:

        China’s CO2 emissions increased shortly after it joined the WTO.
        Would world trade be the culprit?

      • Vijay Bhopal says:

        Hi Euan. You’ve taken the debate back to the core of whether anthropogenic climate change is a real threat. Noemi Klein’s new book covers this brilliantly and I’m taken by the tens of thousands of papers that exist on this subject. Many referenced organisations in Klein’s book
        think we’re headed for 6-8 degrees of warming on a BAU scenario. That’s terrifying when you consider that we’d be plunged into a deep ice age of it went the other way. These organisations include some of the preemminent oil and gas companies, who of course are promoting conventional FFs!! Yet I know you disagree!

        This is very different to the points raised in the post about how to reduce emissions (on which I disagree with some of the points raised). Somebody raised an interesting point about population growth. It is always to easy for developed nations to point at increasing total emissions of developing nations, whilst developing nations points to per capita emissions of developed nations. Perhaps an element of population growth should be used to act as a leveler between these other metrics.

        On your point about the purpose of energy policy in the UK, I agree with the general aims, though I still see that electricity in the UK is considered by most consumers as cheap enough to waste in abundance. Pursuing a long term ambition of a locally powered clean supply is hardly foolish until the product is considered to be expensive beyond reach (bear in mind here that I work on a day to day basis with the ‘fuel poor’ and many who live within this group are experts in wastage).

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Vijay, if I believed we were heading for 6 to 8 degrees warming I’d be jumping up and down demanding that we do something about it. If politicians believe that and don’t act they would be guilty of crimes against humanity 😉 But they are stuck in a paradox where the only course of action available to them would also result in crime against humanity.

          In fact I don’t believe that politicians believe we are headed for such an extreme outcome, and that explains why they do not take decisive action. But even then, there is no decisive action that OECD politicians can take.

          I did a post called

          The temperature forecasting record of the IPCC

          The IPCC reports and their work are riddled with amateur fumbling of data and obfuscation.

          The chart is from the First Assessment Report (FAR) which was probably their best – before they became corrupted. The low estimate is for Climate Sensitivity of 1.5˚C. We probably run out of conventional carbon to burn on this trajectory long before 2100 – but that is something I need to check.

          Whilst I have nothing against localised power generation, I don’t buy into the argument that everyone must use it. I’m quite happy with large nuclear in Scotland. Would be even more happy if the industry was allowed and enabled to solve waste problems, improve safety through design and to get costs down.

          Aberdeen has some interesting localised Gas fired CHP schemes that I need to go look at some time soon.

          • Paul says:

            I’m not convinced your graph is meaningful. The part of the graph from FAR is that in black. You have overlaid HADCRUT4 by shifting it up arbitrarily by 0.5. What is the statistical basis of this procedure?

            The HADCRUT4 baseline is 1961-90 – i.e. the average values over those dates is set to 0. The FAR curves on the other hand have no baseline in the same sense. It would be better to re-basline the FAR curves so that for each, the average over the 1961-90 period is set to zero. By doing that you would eliminate the obvious error – the temperature over the HADCRUT4 baseline period did not in fact have three different values.

        • roberto says:

          “… the core of whether anthropogenic climate change is a real threat.
          Noemi Klein’s new book covers this brilliantly”

          Sorry, everybody’s entitled to have an opinion on anything… but how can someone with a CV like this…

          “Klein’s writing career started with contributions to The Varsity, a student newspaper, where she served as editor-in-chief. After her third year at the University of Toronto, she dropped out of university to take a job at the Toronto Globe and Mail, followed by an editorship at This Magazine. In 1995, she returned to the University of Toronto with the intention of finishing her degree[6] but left academia for a journalism internship before acquiring the final credits required to complete her degree.[11]”

          … possibily be deemed knowledgeable on climate and/or energy issues?

          It’s mind boggling, to say the least, how quickly patently incompetent people can be picked up by the warmists’ movemet just because “they write so well”…


          • Hickory says:

            Interesting to me how desperate many of you appear as you search for needles in the haystack in your effort to find a truth that is convenient to you.
            I’ve got big news for you- The world isn’t flat, and there is a strong probability that humans have achieved the level of disruptiveness to the environment to be altering the climate.
            That is clear. What isn’t clear is what to do about it.

          • Paul says:

            Climate science skepticism is built on the idea that you don’t need to be a climate scientist to “audit” the science. How many posters here or at WUWT, Bishop Hill or Climate Audit or any of the others have more than a superficial knowledge of climate science or energy? I haven’t read Klein and I have no reason to think her understanding of the issues is particularly strong. But if we are talking of boggling minds, I’d say the phenomenon of vocal climate science skepticism amongst patently unqualified people takes the biscuit.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Paul you seem to consider yourself well qualified to give both myself and Roger advice on how to analyse data and to comment on the qualifications required to analyse the social and scientific debate on climate change. Whilst I haven’t checked, but may well do some time soon, it strikes me your comments are totally vacuous, devoid of useful information. If you want to persuade myself and Roger of the merits of the argument you are trying to make (I’m not sure what they are) then you have been afforded the privilege of posting here where you could have posted lots of information and links to data. Instead you choose to post what I would characterise as white noise.

            I have two specific questions for you:

            1) what are your exact scientific qualifications which elevates you to the position to judge over us?
            2) what qualifications do you require to become a climate scientist?

            I have a BSc in geology. Upper second class honours, I was told I just missed a First, at a time when less than 10% UK population went to university and there was a single First class degree awarded in my year. At university I also read physics and statistics. Quite a lot of physics is required in climate science, some of it beyond me. I have therefore collaborated with Clive Best who has a PhD in physics and has worked at CERN and on the JET fusion project amongst other things.

            I went on to complete a PhD in isotope geochemistry. Worked as post Doc for 6 years at the University of Oslo and spent two years working at the Institute for Energy Technology just outside of Oslo.

            Who are you?

          • A C Osborn says:

            As you appear to know so much about the subject can you please explain to all of us poor uneducated sceptics what a “Climate Scientist” should study to adequately understand Climate Science?
            Can also name any that studied all of those said subjects?

          • Paul says:

            Sorry, it wasn’t aimed at you. roberto suggested that Klein was unqualified to comment. I was just trying to suggest that if she is excluded, many others should be too. That includes me.

            I meant no harm in asking just above about the statistical basis of that annotated graph. Adding values as you did may be sound practice, but that isn’t obvious to me. I’m sorry if asking about that upset you or appeared to be ‘noise’. I am nonetheless interested in a reply.

            1. what are your exact scientific qualifications which elevates you to the position to judge over us? I am nobody, your qualifications far exceed mine. I don’t judge you either, but I find what you write often to be presented in a rather subjective manner. When I see this, I feel I should say so. Maybe I could do so more sensitive manner.

            2. what qualifications do you require to become a climate scientist? Me or someone? Assuming you mean the latter, by qualifications I guess you mean beyond a relevant science degree? That is just a starter obviously that would be followed by original research and also obtaining a detailed familiarity with the field. I’d expect that one have would read (and understood) all the important historic papers published in and related to the field and read new works, know the merits of each, the strengths and weaknesses etc. That after all is the basis of all the references in papers – to show that one is familiar enough with the existing literature to be able to add something new.

            As you point out, you are highly qualified and experienced in geology and isotope chemistry. I would expect anything you say about those fields to be correct (within the limits of a blog post) and when I see you discussing them, I will be sure to read, learn and keep quiet. On other subjects, I hope people will judge what I say on its merits and if what I say is wrong or void of content, they will ignore it, as they do other valueless comments.

            Note that I have not been rude to anyone, although I have been accused of not understanding the greenhouse effect (you, unsubstantiated), making bizarre comments (Roger, unsubstantiated) and of being deluded (A.C.OSborn, inaccurately).

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Paul, you and others are now in moderation. I suspect this will be your last comment here. Sorry I don’t have time to say more. You don’t really seem interested in learning but to simply undermine those presenting data (i.e. facts) that are not aligned with your own belief system.

            Best Euan

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Roberto, thanks for this comment. It has information that I did not have before.

            And so by way of guidance to commenters.

            1) I know Vijay who started the comment thread and will be asking him to defend his recommendation of this book that I have not read. But Vijay is also a businessman with contacts to government. I consider him a friend. And so I have to hope that Noemi Klein has a PhD in physics and is a Professor at MIT, or some such.

            2) Roberto. I do not know if what you say is true or not. It is the job of other commenters to uncover the true credentials of Noemi Klein. And then to decide if she actually understands what she is writing about or not.

            Interesting to me how desperate many of you appear as you search for needles in the haystack in your effort to find a truth that is convenient to you.

            This kind of bilge will no longer appear on Energy Matters.


          • A C Osborn says:

            Well I don’t hold out much hope for Vijay as Roberto is correct.
            For a start it is Naomi Klien (Noemi Klien is a jewellery Designer).
            According to Wiki
            Naomi is a Climate Activist and She sits on the board of directors of the Climate campaign group 350.org.
            She does not have a PhD in Physics or anything else as she did not graduate from the University of Toronto.
            She is a an Author of the alarmist persuasion that specializes in Anti-globalization, Anti-war, Anti-capitalism and Environmentalism, especially anti fracking.
            Her book ” This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” has has been shredded by quite a few Sceptical forums, but you will have to 20 pages on Wiki to find the first negative comment. Just about every Green group applauds the book.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Actually it was not shredded by Sceptic forums, most of them just ignored, except for the Heartland Institute who did criticise it.

          • Here’s a demolition of Klein’s book from the Breakthrough Institute:


            The Breakthrough Institute is probably about as middle-of-the–road as it’s possible to get these days. They research some interesting topics:


    • Vijay:

      The article isn’t heavily skewed in favor of either side. It simply tells it like it is.

      Outsourced emissions are clearly occurring (“carbon leakage” is a growing concern in the EU) but they are nowhere near large enough to explain the growth in developing country emissions in recent years.

      By “climate justice” I assume you mean the UNFCCC “common but divided responsibilities” principle, which effectively states that the developed nations caused global warming and should therefore pay for fixing it. A little-known fact is that after spending several years looking into the question the UNFCCC concluded that the developed countries actually caused only 40% of the warming up to 2000. Here’s the relevant quote from the 2008 UNFCCC MATCH group report (OECD90 = developed countries).

      For the default calculations, the average calculated contributions to the global mean surface temperature increase in 2000 are about 40% from OECD90, 14% from Eastern Europe and Former Soviet Union, 24% from Asia and 22% from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

      I suspect that if the study were updated to 2014 the developed country contribution to global warming would decrease to maybe as little as 35%, or at least it would if there had been any global warming since 2000.

  2. Willem Post says:


    “Whoever” also chimed in: The Pope.

    Global warming has been going on since the late 1700s. The world came out of the 400-yr long Little Ice Age, actually a glaciation period, and is STILL coming out of it. Without mankind, methane release due to warming would happen anyway.

    Mankind increased its GWP by a factor of 400 since 1800 with massive deforestation, and industrial agriculture, and urbanization, and air pollution, and CO2 emissions due to fossil energy.

    As an aside: Napoleon went into Russia to prevent Britain from getting wood from Baltic countries
    (Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were all controlled by/incorporated into the Russian Empire) to build ships and make iron, as France had become nearly deforested by 1812. Britain used its fleets to prevent French ships from trading on the oceans and the Baltic Sea.

    The focus on CO2 is entirely backwards; a self-serving preservation of BAU conditions.

    It is the GWP growth, and going from 1 billion people in 1800 to 7.3 billion in 2013, and each person using 4 times the energy and many more times the other resources that is doing it, destroying, in the process, the viability of the other flora and fauna.

    • Fred says:


      Sensible people know this. The question that Euan poses is laced with considerable rhetoric.

    • Hans Erren says:

      Wrt “Destroying flora and fauna”: Please note that coal mining caused reforestation of western europe, and that the discovery of petroleum in the usa prevented the extinction of whales.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        This is one of the best comments we ever had 🙂

      • Willem Post says:


        The reforestation of Europe was only a pale copy of what was there pre Middle Ages.

        The whale population recovery was only a pale copy of what was there pre-Middle Ages.

        Wildlife counts have been reduced worldwide by more than 50% since 1900.

        When I was a child in the Netherlands in the 1940s, we used to have black skies of birds migrating south. What migrates south now is only a pale copy of before. This change happened since I was a child.

        The sooner we reduce the population to 1 billion the better.

        The sooner we reduce energy consumption per capita by at least a factor of 4 of the better, and OTHER resources by a much larger factor the better.

        It may do nothing, or very little, regarding climate change, as we are still coming out of the LIA, but the world would be a much better place for the remaining people and will likely allow a resurgence of the OTHER flora and fauna to THEIR rightful place.

        • roberto says:

          “The sooner we reduce the population to 1 billion the better.”


          1) War
          2) Forced sterilization
          3) Bioweapons causing mass extinction of the human specie

          Make your choice, ‘ll be happy to pass.


      • Ed says:

        Hans. When coal all gets burnt, deforestation will resume. When petroleum all gets burnt, whales will be hunted to the point of extinction again.

        The only way we can prevent this from happening is by reducing our world population.

        The choice is either 7 billion people going to 12 billion, and energy scarcity, deforestation etc. or 7 billion people going to 0.5 billion and eking out our fossil fuel reserves, going back to a sustainable wood society and keeping our biodiversity.

        It is pointless talking about controlling global warming without also talking about controlling population.

        • Willem Post says:

          Wales were on the way to extinction in 1800, mainly due to Europe’s overpopulation and lack of knowledge AT THAT TIME.

          Today, with my proposed 1 billion, this would not need to happen as biofuel-crops can be grown.

      • Sam Taylor says:

        On the other hand, petroleum has enabled industrial scale fishing on a scale never before seen, to the point of entire oceanic ecosystems undergoing shifts to completely new states and petroleum powered chainsaws have helped fell 50% of the world’s forests since preindustrial times.

        Call it a draw?

  3. Hickory says:

    Good points Euan.
    One way to approach this problem would be to forget about trying to make policy to limit CO2 production, but rather work on a much more comprehensive solution to a much bigger problem.
    By that I am referring to the big grandfather of all problems- population overshoot.
    Reducing global population to be inline with sustainable resource capacity would go along way towards tackling the possible global warming issue, and many more distinct and pressing issues.

  4. Vijay Bhopal says:

    Great to see this article on the blog. Too often climate is the elephant in the room in the energy debate rather than the bounding box it needs to be.

    However, this article is unsurprising in its heavily scewed view in favour of the developed nations. We all know that if outsourced emissions were included then the Chinese picture would look far rosier and the EU/US picture would look far worse. Only by coupling outsourced emissions with the concepts of climate creditors and debtors will a fair picture of who is doing their bit emerge.

    Until then these graphs are merely a representation of free-market economics having its cake and eating it. To blame the developing countries is at best weak a weak get out, and at worst a malicious get out. Developing nations allow us to sit pretty in our service economies on a moral high horse preaching about emissions reduction.

    Roger, your thoughts solicited.

  5. Graeme No.3 says:

    I don’t believe that business as usual will lead to a 2℃ rise in temperature, rather that a cooling sun will make the whole CO2 scare disappear from public life.

    @Hickory: Compare the absence of population growth in developed economies with the poorer countries. The best way to reduce population growth is to improve the living standards in developing countries. That means lots of reliable electricity for a start.
    The alternative is mass murder; which approach do you favour?

    • Sam Taylor says:


      If you go and read the following paper (http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/28365/1/286_Lockwood_SurvGeophys2012.pdf) by Mike Lockwood his conclusions specifically state the following:

      “Lockwood(2010) and Barnard et al. (2011) have deduced that there is an 8% chance that the Sun will return to Maunder Minimum conditions within 50 years. The recent evolution of solar cycle 24 indicates that the Sun may well be following such a trajectory (Owens et al. 2011). Feulner and Rahmstorf (2010) and Jones et al. (2012) have used GCMs and EBMs to predict that this will offset anthropogenically rising global temperatures by no more than about 0.2°C in the year 2100, relative to what would happen if the solar output remained constant”

      I think Lockwood has recently upped the 8% to maybe 20-30%, but otherwise the conclusions are unchanged. It’s insufficient to make much of a difference if we take a high emissions path.

      As much as anything, if we do enter a solar low period then it should help put to bed arguments about how much of an effect the sun’s behaviour has on warming, since it’ll be moving in a different direction.

      • Graeme No.3 says:

        You are assuming that CO2 causes a lot of warming despite the lack of evidence that it does.
        You are also assuming that the current crop of climatologists are correct about the effect of the sun on the climate. They arbitrarily announced that solar variations would have little effect, therefore solar variations would have little effect. That is not the most convincing argument I have ever heard.

        Astronomers have known for years that the sun is a variable star, of a type which can vary up to 4% in output, and that would make a real difference. We don’t know what the current output is, with a range given of 1360-1365. Even half a percent drop is 7 watts per sq.m. – shove that figure into their calculations and see what the prediction is.

        As for a new Maunder minimum, I do not foresee that yet. The last one was preceded by several cycles, from around 1280. I think more likely a repeat of the Dalton minimum, at least I hope so.

        In any case, a cooling world will result in a large scale reduction in population. The Middle East is very dependent on imported wheat for the bread which makes a large part of the diet there. Too cold an Earth and Canada stops growing wheat, the USA would have to displace its growing zone southwards, replacing the corn belt. The Ukraine would be much less the breadbasket of Russia, and wheat growing in Europe will be much less productive. There will be shortages and price rises will mean problems (like starvation) for the poorer inhabitants.

        • Sam Taylor says:

          I’m not assuming anything, I’m linking you to scientific papers discussing the issue at hand, specifically one by a professor of space environment physics (who one would assume is aware that the Sun is a variable star), who puts the odds of us entering a maunder minimum at 30% and then calculates the effect on temperature forcing that such an event would have.

    • Willem Post says:

      “The best way to reduce population growth is to improve the living standards in developing countries. That means lots of reliable electricity for a start.”

      You have it backwards.

      The best way is to promote population REDUCTION in DEVELOPING AND UNDERDEVELOPED countries, PLUS reduce energy and resource consumption in DEVELOPED countries.

      • Willem Post says:

        Should read… PLUS reduce population and reduce energy and resource consumption in DEVELOPED countries.

  6. edhoskins says:

    Question: What if the world can’t cut its carbon emissions?

    Answer 1: according to IPCC documentation +2degC can never be achieved / attained by mankind burning fossil fuels. The impact of CO2 diminishes logarithmically as concentrations increase and now at 400ppmv only 13% of its effectiveness as a Greenhouse Gas remains:

    Answer 2: according to Richard Tol the cumulative economic effect of +2degC is all positive for the world: see


    Not only would increased temperature be a benefit but also the added fertilization by CO2 would make the world more fruitful.

    A minus 2degC loss of temperature will be the true global disaster.

    Look at the history: the last millennium 1000 – 2000 AD was the coldest of the whole of our currently benign Holocene epoch almost 3degC colder that the “Holocene climatic optimum”.
    See: https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/2014/09/12/the-temperature-context/

    According to ice core records, the Holocene “optimum” about 10000 years ago was about 3degC colder than the previous Eemian interglacial epoch, which peaked at a much higher temperature than has ever occurred in our current Holocene. Hippopotami thrived in the Rhine Delta. And the world survived these overheating disasters.

    The world should fear the impending end of the Holocene Epoch. The Holocene warm period since 8000BC has been the cradle of all Man-kinds civilization and advance. At about 10,000 years long, the Holocene must be coming towards its end. Cold will kill the planet and Man-kind’s civilisation, not a small amount of extra warming.

    As the Holocene fades, there will be an inevitable slide into the next real ice age, whether this century, this millennium or the next. That event really will bring an inevitably solution to the population problem.

    The fear of returning a comparatively miniscule amount of sequestered plant food back to the atmosphere will change nothing and that fear should not adversely determine the development of Man-kind whether in developed or developing nations.
    For further supporting data see:

  7. MatthewN says:

    Is the “absence of population growth in developed economies” adequate or is the issue the absence of population decline? Reductions in population growth in developing countries more a matter of contraception availability and womens’ equality – which approach are you against?

    “Development is the best contraceptive” hit the headlines at the 1974 World Population Conference in Bucharest, coutesy of Dr Karan Singh, the head of the Indian delegation. Twenty years later he would write “my position now is that ‘contraception is the best development’.”!

    Hard to see any approach to world problems having much chance of success unless it takes into account the population angle.

  8. MatthewN says:

    Hickory/Graeme: Plenty of poor countries have got their fertility rates down to replacement – contraception availability and womens’ equality drive it – which approach are you against? The bigger population angle for carbon emissions is surely how to get population reduction in the richer countries (teenage pregnancy and benefit systems issues?).

    “Development is the best contraceptive” came from Dr Karan Singh, head of the Indian delegation to the World Population Conference at Bucharest in 1974. Twenty years later he wrote “my position now is that ‘contracetion is the best development’.”!

    Hard to see any hope on carbon emissions without taking into account the growing number emitting.

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      Better electricity supply means better access to information via computer/mobile phones etc. Also TV. This brings in different attitudes – women’s equality if you like. It will make life easier for teachers and boost eduction. And for public health messages to be disseminated. It also means that hospitals and doctors can store vaccines and other medicines in refrigerators until needed. Public health systems will improve, and simple (to us) things like hygiene will too.

      This means people will live longer and reduces the infant mortality rate, and as a consequence having lots of children as a form of social security becomes much less a necessity. Also electric lights and TV will give people something else to do when the sun goes down; at least until people decide “there’s nothing worth watching”.

      As for problems of benefit systems in developed countries I don’t see politicians wanting to do anything for fear of revolt. They will just keep going until their country becomes bankrupt and their “welfare states” collapse. Then there will be revolutions, but they won’t be able to restore the handouts.

  9. Strummer says:

    I know that it’s practically impossible to calculate, but someday I’d love to see what percentage of China’s emissions are from manufacturing for internal consumption and how much of it is for exports (i.e. emissions effectively outsourced from the US and EU to China).

    • Willem Post says:


      China and India use their energy about 25 – 50 percent less efficiently than Europe.

      Reducing their populations by a factor of about 10, PLUS reduce energy per capita by a factor of 4, and their other resources by a much grater factor, would go a long way to put the world back in order again, i.e., cause extensive reforestation, less industrial agriculture, less urbanization, and a resurgence of the OTHER fauna and flora.

      • Willem Post says:

        Add…. Thus anything made by China for export has about 2 times the energy content and emissions versus Europe.

        Take exports as a fraction of its GDP and double the energy intensity of Europe for industrial goods to get some idea of what Europe (and the U.S.) is avoiding.

        Much of the declining CO2 of Europe and the U.S. is due to such shifting.

  10. Ed says:

    The UK’s population is increasing by 400,000 per year. That means more schools, more roads, more hospitals. more houses. In short more energy and resources; more CO2 emissions.

    At the same time no discussion, no tax incentives to promote smaller families, little controls on immigration, no awareness (apart from the closet racist angle peddled by right wing parties and main stream media). Why ?

    Ans. Population growth = GDP growth = Good

    I don’t want to get into the growth is bad/good debate. The point I want to make here is: when Net energy production available to society becomes the limiting factor then GDP growth will become uncoupled from population growth. In fact this may already be happening in the UK. If you look at GDP per capita in the UK, you will see that it is still below 2006 levels and a long way still from its peak in 2008. ie our GDP growth has not kept up with our population growth.

    • JerryC says:

      The elite’s continuing enthusiasm for Third World to First World immigration is one of the tip-offs that they don’t really believe in CAGW.

  11. Euan Mearns says:

    Roger, here is one way of getting to the promised land.

    The chart was produced together with Luis de Sousa many years ago incorporating peak oil, coal and gas scenarios. The coal and oil scenarios have since proven to be inaccurate. Its a subject I need to return to some time.

    Olduvai revisited 2008

    I want to stress that this scenario is not correct. But an important question right now is will something like this ever be correct? Does the advent of shale oil disprove peak oil? I remain convinced that something like this will eventually come to pass if you look at conventional oil, gas and coal and conventional extraction methods. But what shale has demonstrated is our insatiable hunger for C-H bonds. If we drill and burn the shit out of the sub-surface that could be a different emissions ball game.

    • Euan: Even if correct I’m not sure that scenario keeps us from driving off the 2C cliff. Coal consumption is the problem.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Roger, I’ve been meaning to suggest for a while that we look at FF production scenarios – atmospheric CO2 scenarios – combined with warming scenarios. Most of the IPCC scenarios simply see CO2 emissions rising forever. A few recognise FF resource constraints.

        The Olduvai scenario will probably keep us below 2˚C with CS less than 1.5˚C. Thus far we are only 54% on way to first doubling. Eyeballing the above, there is not enough conventional FF for 2 doublings.

        We need Dave Rutledge’s input for coal. Lot of confusion there between resources and reserves.

        • Ed says:

          I haven’t read the IPCC report but didn’t one of the scenarios state that if peak oil was correct then we may avoid catastrophic climate change ? A lose-lose situation you could say and not very popular with climate change activists who want, by very nature, to be pro-active and not leave it to chance.

        • The RCP scenarios used in the IPCC AR5 don’t seem to give any consideration to peak fossil fuels:

          Maybe we can make a case that peak FFs will ultimately take care of the world’s carbon emissions problem without the need for any more climate conferences. 😉

        • Skeboo says:

          I am aware of this document published by D rutledge here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166516210002144 (see abstract)
          680Gt of future and past production vs 3500Gt max in (probably the worst case i guess) IPCC scenario. Are you aware of any other studies which have looked into this? I would be curious to compare…

          Also, Kjell Aleklett has looked into this too here: http://www.aspo2012.at/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Aleklett_aspo2012.pdf (see from page 44)
          Note that he still uses the old SRES scenario for the sake of comparison. I am not sure if he accounted for shale oil and if he still stands by his ‘predictions’.

          The conclusions in terms of warming of the fossil fuel extraction limits from various studies have been summarized by M Hook here: http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:561259/FULLTEXT06.pdf (see from page 19)
          The expected warmig is still substantial.


          • Thanks for the links. I agree with what the Hook paper says:

            This far, peak oil and related limits to future fossil energy extraction are nearly absent in the climate change debate. It is certainly about time to change this and stop seeing anthropogenic release of CO2 as something detached from future energy supply questions. Energy cannot be seen as a limitless input to economic/climate models and remain disconnected from the physical and logistical realities of supply … The current set of scenarios, SRES (2000), is perforated by optimistic expectations on future fossil fuel production that are improbable and some of the scenarios can even be ruled out as clearly unrealistic

    • Sam Taylor says:


      I’m unsure what you mean by “disprove” in this context? Oil is still a finite resource, even if we drill source rocks. Shale oil has probably delayed peak oil, but disproven? It’s still a finite resource, ultimately.

      In my mind I picture shale oil as a separate resource from conventional oil, which will undergo it’s own process of discovery, exploitation and decline. So in effect it’s another hubbert curve, and total oil production will give you a superposition of the two curves. If conventional peaks and shale takes over, then everyone’s happy, but conventional still peaked.

      I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Geoffrey West, but he’s a physicist who looks at cities, and specifically how they change as they grow (he’s a good talk here if you have 90 minutes free https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etfRE5-YlXs). Anyway, one of the things he noticed is that as cities get bigger, their energy consumption increases as a power law with an exponent greater than 1, and the time between interactions decreases at a similar rate. He notes that in order to avoid collapse, innovation has to happen (examples of innovation being discovery of fire, the steam engine, the green revolution, the internet etc), but as we get bigger and faster, the time you have between innovations is always decreasing, eventually leading to a finite time singularity, where you have 0 time to innovate and thus must collapse.

      I think there are probably parallels to be drawn with the global economy and the oil industry, in terms of exploration cycles and technological innovation. Recent discoveries and fracking might have staved things off for a while, but they probably haven’t staved them off for as long as the north sea and Alaska did thanks to our ever-growing energy consumption, and we’re going to need to find a new super-giant or figure out another trick that’s as good or better than fracking pretty damn quick.

  12. Trees, whales and population growth are excellent subjects for discussion, but the topic of this post is what happens when the world finally discovers – most likely at the Paris Climate talks next year – that it can’t cut emissions quickly enough to avoid driving off the 2C “climate cliff”. I foresee the following possibilities:

    * Fudge the numbers so it looks as if the problem is under control.

    * Come up with yet another face-saving agreement and agree to reconvene in 2016

    * Admit that the 2C threshold really isn’t a climate cliff after all and that we’ve all been worrying unnecessarily.

    Any other predictions?

    • Ed says:

      I think you’re right Roger apart from the third of your points. No one really believes 2C is a threshold of any kind. It was just a number to rally the troops around; a number which fitted in with our sound bite generation.

      I think it was counter productive in the end because one number cannot convey the complexity of the climate change argument while simultaneously giving climate change deniers a way to attack and discredit you.

      • Ed: Except for the lunatic fringe I don’t think anyone with any knowledge of climate science believes that the 2C threshold means anything. It’s a political target adopted by the politicians. The problem is that the politicians have convinced themselves that it’s the climatic equivalent of an approaching asteroid, a belief which their scientific advisors have done nothing to dispel.

        • Ed says:

          Exactly. Does climate change activists no good. You can’t convey the potential coming catastrophe in one number.

    • A C Osborn says:

      For me this is the most likely scenario
      “Come up with yet another face-saving agreement and agree to reconvene in 2016”
      Plus the continuation of falsifying the global temperature data to hide the declining temperatures shown by the Raw Data.
      Plus the Governments and MSM continuing with the stupid this is the Unprecedented/Hottest/Windiest/Wettist/Most Violent weather ever experienced meme to keep the populations fooled in to agreeing to the stupid energy policy that they continue with against all logic and common sense.
      It really is very much like “1984”.

      You will also have the “brainwashed” showing up on here quoting Agenda 21 phylosophies as if it was the real world.

      • Ed says:

        Ha ha. Those dastardly scientists, hey. Can’t be trusted. Burn all scientific books, that what I say.

        Thank you for your line on Agenda 21 philosophies. I looked it up. Very interesting.

        So you are also against sustainable communities, A C Osborn . Wow. That really is something.

        • A C Osborn says:

          I am against anyone who sets themselves up to impose their will or ideology on others, be it ethnic, religous or population control.
          The world is doing just fine as it is and I do not consider 8 Billion anywhere near too many for it to support.

          If you think you can trust Scientists, who happen to be human like the rest of us, then I feel sorry for you, they have been proved wrong too many times in the past.
          If you want to know how the temperature data is manipulated I can point you to a few sites that explain it.
          Having downloaded the Raw and “Final” data for myself I can confirm that it gets drastically changed to support the idea of the “Hockey Stick”.
          When so called scientists replace actual raw data with “estimated” data it is not Science, it is called corruption of data.
          When they add unecessary “adjustments” to Sea level data it is corruption.
          When they lie about the Polar Ice it is Corruption.

          What do you call it?

          • Hickory says:

            To AC Obsborn-
            “I am against anyone who sets themselves up to impose their will or ideology on others, be it ethnic, religous or population control.
            The world is doing just fine as it is and I do not consider 8 Billion anywhere near too many for it to support.”

            I certainly agree with your first notion.
            Regarding the world doing just fine, well you are either joking, a fool, or an ostrich. You seem to know how to type, so I’ll look on the bright side and assume you are just making a joke.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Hickory says: December 29, 2014 at 7:31 pm

            May I just point you this


            SAFER,RICHER, HEALTHIER and longer living than anytime in our history.

            Why don’t you pessimists give it a rest.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          I was going to say that I’d guess AC would be quite amenable to sustainable communities for those who want to participate in them. But dead against being ordered to live in one be Greens.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Euan, you are correct, if people want to go and live in caves, live on berries and nuts and where fur lion cloths I have nothing against it. Just don’t try and force the rest of us to join them, I really enjoy the fruits that civilisation has brought us.

            You do not see nay of the famous advocates of “Green” doing one iota to cut rheir “CO2 Footprints”, in fact it exactly the opposite.
            A classic case of do as we say, not do as we do.

    • Sam Taylor says:


      I vote B. These talks are always held in rather nice places, in very posh resorts. Why on earth would you ever want to stop?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Roger, since you seem to be looking for an answer, here’s what I think will happen:

      1) It will slowly dawn on OECD politicians that there is no way to reduce emissions
      2) It will also slowly dawn on them that the IPCC range of possibilities for climate sensitivity is 1.5 to 4.5 ˚C and that it seems we are in the bottom end of that range
      3) There will be a juggling of political scientific appointments to promote the line that CC is not as bad as the media has mislead us to believe and that the science has always pointed to a mild and tolerable warming.
      4) Paris is too soon for all this to happen so there will be a delaying, fudging postponement.
      5) We need to hope that we are correct in our evaluation of the climate data.

      Given time there will be events that will mould the future course of action. For example, total grid failure in Germany, extreme cold winter in Europe or a great chunk of Greenland Ice slides into the sea.

  13. I would say: “Sorry people, we are fuc*ed. We alway were.”



    • Ed says:

      Yep, Alex. Got it in one. We live at a point in history where we have never had so much deposable energy. I for one have never witnessed war in my lifetime. Enjoy it while it lasts and don’t take it for granted.

      People deal with it in many different ways. Some will deny peak oil, deny that the ice packs are melting, deny that oceans acidifying, that the population is out of control, that we decimating our biodiversity etc. Other people just don’t care about future generations. Most people just don’t think of it at all. Each to their own.

      As I say, just enjoy life to the full today and be thankful.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Ed, do you actually believe that the Polar Ice Packs are melting or just the Glaciers from the last Ice Age?
        Do you also believe that the Oceans are acidifying?

        • Ed says:

          Yes, because I believe in the majority verdict of scientists and that they are not part of some of conspiracy theory to control us. Look, A C, I don’t like being controlled, much as you don’t so I’m open to arguments and here on Euan’s blog you can have a go at convincing me.

          Before you start though, lets start with a starting point. Polar ice packs are melting and the oceans are acidifying, right? Your point of view is that they not man made. Is that right? I’ll be honest with you that climate change doesn’t interest me very much (energy and economics are more to my liking) but I’ll try respond to you as best as I can.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Polar ice packs are melting and the oceans are acidifying, right?

            I don’t even know what you mean by a polar ice pack. Land ice in Antarctica stretches up to 800,000 years old and sea ice at the N pole is rarely more than a couple of years old.

            99.99% of the oceans below 100 m depth have lower pH due to natural decay of plankton than the surface waters. I don’t think you have the remotest idea of what you are talking about. You’re simply repeating parrot fashion any alarmist propaganda you’ve heard.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Other people just don’t care about future generations.

        As far as I can tell, you and other Greens quite simply don’t want future generations to exist.

  14. Hickory says:

    I don’t know if we are about to get a lot warmer (from CO2), or on the verge of a big cool down as the Holocene pleasant period comes to an end. Anyone who says they do either is just trying their best to make a prediction (guess), or has some big agenda.
    Either way, I see one possible big positive aspect of attempts at CO2 control. All successful attempts will have the effect of putting the brakes on economic growth-specifically industrial output. And that will help put the brakes on population growth. Any thing we can do to put the brakes on population growth will make the eventual die-off a little less massive. Any mechanism to roll back population gradually and gracefully is a very good thing- whether its contraception, education of women, elective euthanasia, or CO2 economic penalties.

    I have climbed up a short ladder and looked out over the ocean of human heads, and this ocean of humanity stretches out beyond as far as you can see in every direction. And so, I have deliberately (and successfully) avoided having children. Not to say that I haven’t gone through the practice motions with some ladies many hundreds of times……

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Either way, I see one possible big positive aspect of attempts at CO2 control. All successful attempts will have the effect of putting the brakes on economic growth-specifically industrial output.

      So here we have the Green manifesto in a nut shell.

      1) less healthcare
      2) less well fare
      3) increased infant mortality (good cos it controls population)
      4) reduced life expectancy (good cos it controls consumption of resources)
      5) reduced or no pensions at all
      6) spreading poverty through the developing nations sending birth rates sky high (oops unintended consequence)
      7) return of small pox and a host of infectious diseases (intended consequence to get rid of the unwanted 6 billion)
      8) collapse of agricultural productivity (another intended consequence to help get rid of that bothersome 6 billion)


      PS – I’m considering closing down this comments thread, so be careful how you respond. Happy to have you address why any of my points 1 to 8 may be invalid with reduced economic growth that stands currently close to zero.

      • Hickory says:

        Big thumbs down to you Euan. Very poor at listening to other viewpoints. To dismiss my notions as merely ‘green’ is pretty childish, and so far off the mark as to earn an F grade.
        I guess you just want to preach your little song to your choir.

    • Willem Post says:

      If at first you don’t succeed, try again, and again,….

  15. Pingback: What If The World Can’t Cut Its Carbon Emissions? | gold is money

  16. Skeboo says:


    Thanks for this post.

    It seems that the first graph (global emissions) is using the gt carbon unit, whereas the following regional ones are in gt carbon dioxide, or am i wrong? If you sum the figures for one given year of the various regional ones, you get a much higher number than the figure on the total emission graph.

    Also, i cannot reconcile this: “500 gigatons as the “safe” emissions limit” with what the IPCC stated here: http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg3/ipcc_wg3_ar5_summary-for-policymakers.pdf (Table 6.3, p.13). The safe limit is between 630-1180 GT CO2. Again, i think there was a unit problem here maybe.
    The first linked document in the post (http://www.europeanclimate.org/documents/IPCCWebGuide.pdf) from which this 500 gigaton number is taken is not from the IPCC itself but from the Cambridge University.

    K Anderson summarized this question also here: http://kevinanderson.info/blog/letter-to-the-pm-outlining-how-2c-demands-an-80-cut-in-eu-emissions-by-2030/


    • “It seems that the first graph (global emissions) is using the gt carbon unit, whereas the following regional ones are in gt carbon dioxide, or am i wrong?”

      No, you are right. Thanks for picking it up. I’ll fix the Figures as time permits.

      I don’t think the IPCC has ever defined a “safe” warming limit. The 2C threshold is a target adopted by the politicians, who were demanding a hard number to shoot at. It has no scientific backup worthy of the name that I can find. I discuss its origins here:


    • Ed says:

      It seems to me, from reading your links Skeboo, that there is zero chance of implementing the 80% cut in EU emissions by 2030 and hence (because all regions of the World are in the same situation) avoiding a 2C increase of global temperatures. Is that your interpretation, Skeboo ?

      • Skeboo says:

        Well, you must be referring to the K Anderson link, it seems like the required effort will be huge for a full implementation, and postponing makes it ever more intense.


  17. Hugh Spencer says:

    I guess I’m rather gob-smacked by this discussion .. I am seeing lots of responses that effectively say, “it’s a great party we are having, and I don’t want it to stop”. I wonder how many respondents live outside cities – and see the impacts that we are having on the natural world – that supports us – the catch cry “no ecology .. no economy” rather understates this. I am a ‘on-the-ground’ conservation biologist who spends a lot of time trying to clean up the messes that we create .. and become very aware of the impact of our increasing population density, the impact of having (apparently) unlimited slave power in the form of fossil fuels, and the distribution of our living and non-living detritus on the planet. We also seem to forget, that 2 degrees warming, is a global AVERAGE – so some areas will really get hotter, a few colder, and some stay the same .. which area do you live in? You haven’t a clue.. so would you take the chance?? The data that Euan presents on carbon emission growth is very chilling and revealing (and thank you for posting it) – but I find the overall tone of this blog to be schizophrenic.. Yes we MUST do something, NO I don’t want to stop the party…

    • Willem Post says:


      I have consistently said population must be reduced to 1 billion, consumption of energy per capita must be reduced by a factor of 4, consumption of other resources per capita must by reduced by a much larger factor than 4. These were the values existing in 1800, before fossils, and people were not living in caves.

      Remember, today we are about 14 times more energy efficient than in 1800. So the living in caves argument is illogical.

      The remaining people can build comfortable houses with solar panels and batteries to make them energy surplus houses.

      In 1800, wood-using Europe was so densely populated, it had become deforested. Britain was getting its wood to build ships from the U.S., and from lands on the east Baltic Sea.

      France did not have those options, hence it invaded Russia, which controlled the lands on the east Baltic Sea, to force Russia to cease trading with Britain.

      To think RE will replace fossil fuels with BAU conditions and BAU trends is completely bonkers.

      We would not even come close, and that includes rich Germany, which is using legacy fossil-based systems and the wealth generated by its exports to build out RE.

      That mode will become exponentially more difficult/unsustainable, even for Germany, a poor wind and solar country, as its RE increases.

      • Ed says:

        I agree with you here. I view RE and nuclear as just FF extenders.

        Each of us currently use about 200 kWh/day of energy in the UK. How much energy we will be using in 60 years time will depend on:

        how much FF we have left (not much probably),

        how many legacy RE and Nukes we have (not as many as we could have had, had we planned ahead)

        and the size of our population (9 to 10 billion, barring catastrophe probably)

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Hugh, while the conversation may appear to be schizophrenic, I hope the blog is not. In commenting on environmental degradation you need to be careful to distinguish between CO2 induced climate change and other pressures such as industrialised agriculture, urban sprawl and pollution. The conversation here is about energy supplies and energy policy. Can you provide any evidence for human caused climate change and its adverse effects that you seem to have first hand of from your comment. If you are in the UK I’d be surprised if you did since there hasn’t really been much measurable climate change here for decades.



      You don’t solve problems of industrialised agriculture and nitrate runoff by erecting hundreds of windmills on Scottish moors.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Euan, if you follow Hugh’s link you will find he is in Australia and involved in the Australian Tropical Research Foundation (AUSTROP Foundation).
        If you google Willem Post that is also very interesting, assuming that he is that Willem Post.

  18. Tom Irwin says:

    Interesting debate. I kind of always considered myself a green albeit a pragmatic one. Near as I can tell and have read we are in a mass extinction event. I have seen figures of a 50% loss of species planet wide since 1970. I wonder what the cause could be if not human. Seven going to eight billion humans wedges a lot of other species out of the way. Energy cliff seems like a good thing if it gets folks to breed less. France does not seem to be growing many indigenous French. The Soviet Union after collapse bred quite a few less folks. Even the U.S. might be ZPG were it not for immigration from the South. All this talk about 2 degrees C. of temperature increase has not happened yet. Only about .8 or .9 C. so far. Yet we have a northwest passage, dramatic decreases in icefields on land worldwide, and no snow on Kilimanjaro. Cause and effect?! What is the cause if not humans?

    • Leo Smith says:

      What is the cause if not humans?

      IIRC 99% of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. And were long before homo sapiens appeared.

      IIRC the Earth’s climate has wobbled erratically between snowball earth and desert earth over millennia, all without human intervention.

      The species or group of species that has had more effect on Earth’s climate is in fact photosynthesising plant life. They totally stripped all the CO2 out of the earth’s atmosphere and filled it with oxygen. Man is merely trying to partially restore the balance.

      What is the cause if not humans?

      A chaotic system of non linear feedback is perfectly able to produce fluctuations like that all by itself.

      There are two sorts of climate scientist. Those that understand chaos mathematics and those that believe in AGW.

      Climate changes, it always has and it always will until the heat death of the universe. Species flourish and become extinct. They always have and they always will. There is no ‘normal’ climate. Man is as natural as a polar bear,..

      Change happens. get over it.

      • Tom Irwin says:

        IIIRC 99% of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. And were long before homo sapiens appeared.

        I don’t think that is a real answer Leo. As near as people can tell there have been 5 previous mass extinctions some eliminating 95% of all species. You’re saying that 7 to 8 billion people on this planet using finite energy supplies is not causing the extinction we are currently in? Doesn’t seem like we are having no impact to me.

        IIRC the Earth’s climate has wobbled erratically between snowball earth and desert earth over millennia, all without human intervention.

        To my limited knowledge, there has never been a snowball nor a desert Earth. Equatorial areas have never been affected that way.

        The species or group of species that has had more effect on Earth’s climate is in fact photosynthesising plant life. They totally stripped all the CO2 out of the earth’s atmosphere and filled it with oxygen. Man is merely trying to partially restore the balance.

        Be logical here, this has never occurred. Bacteria, even anaerobic ones are constantly chugging CO2 into the atmosphere. Man restoring balance to anything is a joke.

        A chaotic system of non linear feedback is perfectly able to produce fluctuations like that all by itself.

        and the model for this is where, exactly. There may be a few of us who might believe your side with you know a little data.

        There are two sorts of climate scientist. Those that understand chaos mathematics and those that believe in AGW.

        Kind of a limited view of climate scientists, only two types. You may as well not put any arguments up at all. After all there will only be those who agree with you and those who do not.

        Yet we have a northwest passage, dramatic decreases in icefields on land worldwide, and no snow on Kilimanjaro. I put it again because you have not addressed it.

        • A C Osborn says:

          “Yet we have a northwest passage, dramatic decreases in icefields on land worldwide, and no snow on Kilimanjaro. I put it again because you have not addressed it.”

          And what does that have to do with Man exactly.
          Most of North America was under hundreds of feet of ice a little while ago (by geologic standards) during the last Ice Age and the Glaciers worldwide have been reducing ever since, thank goodness.

          The north west passage is not open unless you are accompanied by an Ice breaker and has in any case been open a few times in the not too distant past, how the hell do you think it got it’s name in the 18th Century?

          • Graeme No.3 says:

            There is snow on Kilimanjaro; it decreased considerably in extent from the 1880’s to 1920’s, and somewhat from 1980 to recently. It has increased slightly in the last few years. The changes have been ascribed to loss of vegetation hence less precipitation.

            Species are becoming extinct as they do all the time, but no-one seems to have a list, and ones thought extinct reappear. The idea that 50% of species have become extinct since 1970 is utter garbage.

            There may well have been a snowball earth several times, but all pre-Cambrian and hardly relevant. You are correct in saying that there has always been CO2 but in the Carboniferous era the level of oxygen seems to have reached 35% due to plants with a considerable reduction in CO2. Again hardly relevant.

          • Tom Irwin says:

            What does this have to do with man? Let’s see. You think that what we are seeing is just normal temperature fluctuations. That permafrost is melting that hasn’t melted in a 2000 years. That methane hydrates on the ocean floor are being released that have been frozen for longer than that. Does it really matter if man had anything to do with it or not, it is still happening. The climate is changing and we are running out of energy. Population is in overshoot. Being right as to the cause of our current dilemmas will not solve them. We need to have some new energy sources quickly or face die off. Not that it really matters but there has not been a northwest passage in recent history. It got its name in the 18th century because they were searching for a passage and never found it.

        • Although 875 extinctions occurring between 1500 and 2009 have been documented by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources the vast majority are undocumented. According to the species-area theory and based on upper-bound estimating, the present rate of extinction may be up to 140,000 species per year. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_extinction

          A 140,000 species per year extinction rate is indeed frightening when you consider that there are only about 1.8 million identified species. It is, however, a little difficult to accept this 1995 estimate because if it’s correct life on Earth disappeared six years ago.

          • Paul says:

            The 1.8m is the named species. There are though to be many more unnamed species. The 140k is an estimate and might be wildly wrong. People who study such things however are sure that a large number of species are becoming extinct. Other people who don’t study the subject disagree. Who do you think I, a layman, should give the benefit of the doubt?

  19. Peter Griffith says:

    Although I agree climate change is a major concern, I believe the greater threat of CO2 emissions is in how it is increasing the acidity of the oceans, which is vastly impacting the micro-organisms at the bottom of the food chain not to mention killing the coral reefs. We get 70% of our oxygen supply from the oceans and will need to rely on them more and more as a source of food supply as the world’s population approaches 10 billion. However, I hear so few people, scientists nor politicians talking about this! We’d better wake up!

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  23. B says:

    The problem is that even with a great deal of adjustments, estimates, infilling, gridding, and other mathematical tricks of analysis to massage all the warming possible out of the temperature record we are still below Hansen’s drastic CO2 cuts by the year 2000 scenario C while the world has essentially followed the business as usual scenario A as far as CO2 emissions go.

    Simply put, the theory is wrong.

  24. RA moderator note: Polite comments from people of different persuasions are welcome on this blog, but commenters are reminded that the topic of this post is whether global emissions can be cut quickly enough to keep temperatures below the UNFCCC’s 2C warming threshold. Please try to keep your comments relevant to this topic, or at least relevant enough that I don’t feel the need to start “snipping”. Thank you.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Roger, it appears that The Green element here recognises probably quite rightly that the only way to reduce emissions is to also quite drastically reduce global population in their version of the final solution.

      What is totally missing is how this is to be achieved. I’m quite sure that the majority of The Greens commenting here are perfectly decent people but owing to some form of cognitive dissonance are unable to relate to the enormity of what they quite happily propose. And the added irony is that it is you and I that are accused of being deniers 😉

      Global human population has been growing relentlessly for centuries. Global catastrophies such as bubonic plague epidemics WW1 and the Spanish Flue barely made a dent. Chinese efforts to control their population growth have managed to slow it down but its still going up. And so the Greens are advocating a solution that has zero chance of being implimented anywhere – at least I hope that is the case.

      Those who have bothered to look at the data will see that the rate of global population growth is slowing and likely following a logistic, in part likely constrained by availability of resources.

      • Ed says:

        Hi Euan.

        One way forward would be to introduce tax incentives to encourage smaller families. The Greens could get into an alliance with UKIP in the next general election. Long term reduction plan for UK’s population in exchange for immigration controls.

        Oh my god, what have I done now? I’m going to be attacked on both sides now !!

        ps I disagree that world population is more likely to follow a logistic curve. I would put my money on Gaussian (bell curve). Exponential curves very rarely plateau out.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Ed we live in a well fare, healthcare and pensions Ponzi scheme whether we like it or not. Getting out of it is not easy. No one ever explains that with our ageing population we need immigration of young east Europeans or to increase not decrease our own birth rates. So there we have a genuine dilemma.

          Any action taken to relieve perceived over crowding in the UK will be as effective in solving global population and emissions as it is taking unilateral action on energy policy.

          PS: The logistic curve is a bell curve.

          • Ed says:

            You are wrong about the logistic curve, Euan. It is not a bell curve.


            I think that we can agree that it’s a Ponzi scheme. I’m pretty fatalistic about it. The Limits to Growth is going to be played out. 15 more years of climbing and biking will do me. I’ll be happy with that. Just for the record, I have no children.

      • Willem Post says:


        “What is totally missing is how this is to be achieved.”

        And, pray, tell, how would RE with existing BAU conditions and existing BAU trends achieve it?

        Ask what happened regarding population, and energy and source consumption since 1800?

        The remedies become obvious, very likely not politically correct, but obvious,

        • A C Osborn says:

          Sorry, but to us un-educated ones they are not “obvious”, perhaps you could enlighten us with a direct description of the “remedies” that you have in mind?

          • Ed says:

            I’ve given you one on numerous occasions, A C. Start by acknowledging the problem, then see if tax incentives can be put in place to encourage smaller families. Please note A C that there is NO mention of compulsion in my comment. Just make it advantageous for people to have less children.

            Had we done this in 1970’s the UK’s population could have been under 50 million instead of the current 64 million and our government liabilities would have been that much smaller. However in the 70’s similar people to yourself refused to recognise or deal with the problem so now it has become an even bigger problem.

          • Willem Post says:

            See my 3:48 comment

          • A C Osborn says:

            Ed, what you and Willem fail to understand is that the UK in particular, but also most of western society need the population growth.
            As there have been no more World Wars to reduce our population there are already large numbers of old people in the UK, there are over 10 MILLION, with another 5.5M in 20 years and that includes me and the wife.
            Unless you are going to either introduce Euthanasia of the old or forced labour of the old you need a workforce of young vibrant people to support the old.
            There are large numbers of people in the UK on State Pensions only. If you have reduced the population available to work as you suggest in the 1970s there would be less taxes to fund those pensions than we have now and will have in the future. The UK’s state pension is already one of the lowest in Europe.
            What you suggest would be a disaster.

          • Willem Post says:


            From this article:

            It is not just the world population increase that is doing it to the world, it is the GWP/capita, AND the increased energy consumption/capita, AND the increase in the efficient use of that energy.

            In 1800, the Gross World Product, GWP, was $175.24 billion; population 1.0 billion.
            In 2012, the GWP was $71,830 billion, 407 times greater; population 7.0 billion.

            GWP/capita in 2012 = 407/7 = 58 times greater than in 1800

            In 1800, world per capita energy consumption was 20 GJ. In 2010, 80 GJ

            With 4 times the energy use per capita, 58 times the GWP/capita is achieved, i.e., energy/capita is used about 14.5 times* more effectively than in 1800.

            GWP multiplier from 1800 to 2010 = 4 x 7 x 14.5 = 407; an indication of environmental impact.

            NOTE: The wildlife animal population decreased 50% from 1970 to 2014, while the human population and GDP/capita, and CO2/capita increased!!

            NOTE: Steam engines were 3% efficient, modern CCGTs are 60% efficient; Dutch wind mills were 2-4% efficient, modern wind turbines are at about half of the theoretical maximum of Betz’s Law of 59%; wood/peat OPEN fireplaces of 1800 had negative efficiency. Lay people usually do not get that point, as they know little about the efficiency of engineered systems.

            Because of the present effective use of energy, much more goods and services can be produced for consumption and more damage is done to the environment that debilitates the fauna and flora.

            It is a fantasy to think RE build-outs by mostly developed nations will reverse this situation, because underdeveloped nations continue to increase their use of fossil fuels, i.e., GW is a given for as long as fossil fuels are available.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Willem, I notice you did not answer my point of Age Demographics.

          • Willem Post says:


            Regarding age demographics, I agree that is a problem with people growing older thanks to modern medicine.

            For sure, I would have died at 18 from acute appendicitis, but here I am at 77, soon 78.

            One answer, as a transition, is to make it attractive, including financial, for people to take in and care for elderly people, their own parents or those of others.

            Cutting the defense budget to pay for it would be a good start.

            Here in Vermont that is already happening through various volunteer organizations.

            Volunteerism is well developed in the US, unlike in Europe.

            With regard to population management, the state should provide free education, all levels, including university, up to the age of 28 (if one does not have a PhD by then, I suggest doing something else), for one child, boy or girl, 50% for the second, 0% for the third. People would quickly get the message. Population would shrink, absent immigration.

            Getting to 1 billion people would take about 100 years.

      • Tom Irwin says:

        Hi Euan,

        Tapping into fossil fuels for energy is what gave us the ability to grow such enormous populations. As fossil fuels decline so must the populations. I suppose we could maintain the world’s population with nuclear but that infrastructure is not in place and not currently growing. Although we can probably come up with enough nitrate fertilizers we are running into phosphorus limitations. With enough nuclear energy we might be able to get that back from the oceans. I cannot see a nuclear build out happening in time. Dieback can occur fast or at a normal pace. That is the political football. I’ve got kids so the idea of collapse is not a pleasant one but I think I can prepare for that more easily than say a nuclear war.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Tom, in my book there is a huge difference between resource constraints (which do exist but I’m unsure where the boundaries run) bringing about a gradual peak and decline of human population AND the planned decline of human population in order to reduce CO2 emissions. How about you?

          • Tom Irwin says:

            One of the boundaries of all life is phosphorus limitation. Industrial ag wastes too much of it. Nature conserves it down to the microbial recycling of it back to plants in soil. Run off to the oceans is a killer. The ancient South Americans held onto floodwaters and recycled nutrients with vast systems of canals. It was also their means of transport. Here is just one example. If they could do that with stone age tech we can do something similar.

            We seem to now exist between droughts and floods from whatever cause. We need to save the floods for the nutrients and for times of drought. I am looking at wood fired sterling engines for electricity. I don’t know how reliable or lasting they will be. But I really cannot see a better place to sink money than into renewable energy systems. Wish we could get to Thorium reactors but I think its too late. I can only hope that the idiots in the West leave Russia alone. MAD needs to be brought back into the spotlight again.

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  26. Revert2Mean says:

    People are keeping tabs on your denialism, Mearns. There will come a time of consequences, and there will be those who seek out the paid deniers for retribution. I’m too old to be the avenging hand, but there will be many young and angry men who will seek to exact revenge on those who have destroyed their futures. You, Mearns, an oil industry shill, will be on the list they carry. Of that I am sure. Remember, nothing is lost on the internet. This site is being logged and archived at other sites. Your words will pursue you and yours forever. Take heed!

    • Ed says:

      Your comment is totally unacceptable here. Stick to the topic. Stick to the arguments. Stick to the facts with references if possible. No personal attacks. No labelling. Respect for other people’s point of view.

      Go to zerohedge or elsewhere please.

  27. Leo Smith says:

    There is no way short of committing billions to an early and messy death that emissions will be reduced before the world runs out of cheap fossil energy.

    Fortunately its doesn’t matter a damn as there is no proven or even likely linkage between carbon dioxide and catastrophic global warming, and even if there was, a couple of degrees would make the world a better place for humans.

    Ultimately it will be nuclear or nothing, and we have a few decades to decide which it will be.

  28. Euan Mearns says:

    At risk of getting a slap on the wrist from Roger, this comment is directed at all those who see a return to 19th Century way of life as a good thing. “The Tree of Wooden Clogs” is an Italian movie set in Italy at end of 19th Century. It is reportedly Al Pacino’s favourite movie. It is a fantastic movie, really capturing what life was like back then, but be warned contains live scenes of animal slaughter.


    • Willem Post says:


      A photo, but not valid, as we are about 14 times more energy efficient since 1800, and know so much more regarding the efficient use of OTHER resources.

      During the time of Moses, the Golden Calf was worshipped.
      During present times, it is the World Gross Product.

    • Ted says:

      My grandfather was born in a black house in Lewis where the cow was kept at one end and the family lived at the other end. The heating and cooking was one peat fire. There is a family story of a relative who died in his bed of appendicitis in the early 20th century. Chunks of his teeth were supposedly found in his bed as he had been grinding them so hard with the pain.

      Those of us lucky enough to have been born in the wealthy energy rich, era of modern medicine and comforts sometimes forget how lucky we are in the developed world right now. Anyone who idealises pre- late 20th century life needs a reality check.

      • Willem Post says:


        Idealizing the past is not needed.

        As I mentioned, we are about 14 times more energy efficient than in 1800 and we know so much more regarding the efficient use of OTHER resources.

        Armed with that knowledge, life would be very good for the 1 billion people who are left over, and for all the fauna and flora that would recover and thrive again.

        I know it takes a little while to sink in for most people, and many vested interests, including the Catholic Church, are against it, but if you give it some deep thought, for many hours, you will conclude as I do.

        May peace be with you.

    • Willem Post says:


      With modern, solar-powered, sewing machines, these women would be very productive.

  29. Sam Taylor says:


    Those of us who understand at least a little of complex nonlinear systems are also aware of the fact that these systems also tend to exhibit ‘tipping points’ where strongly nonlinear behaviour can occur when the system state is pushed beyond a critical boundary. While you’re right that left to it’s own devices the global climate is perfectly capably of producing such effects, I would argue that by applying a constant forcing in one direction we make it more likely that we might encounter such a tipping point, the location of which we’re not exactly able to predict all that accurately. Just like how algal blooms happened before humans came along, but they seem to happen a hell of a lot more now that we’re filling the ocean with nitrogen runoff.

    And secondly, there’s plenty of evidence that the rate of species extinction is much higher than background rates. Is it really that big a leap to think that as a species with such a profound global footprint, we might be crowding out large numbers of other animals? We’ve already managed to fundamentally alter oceanic ecosystems.

    • If everyone else can go off topic I can too:

      there’s plenty of evidence that the rate of species extinction is much higher than background rates

      Can you name one of these extinct species?

      • A C Osborn says:

        This should be interesting as we have already been there LOL.
        As a counter balance see this one

      • Sam Taylor says:


        That was supposed to be a reply to another off topic comment further up the thread. WordPress working it’s usual magic.

        I’d reccomend the following papers to you:

        Re-assessing current extinction rates by Stork, 2009, J Cons Biol which covers why your question isn’t perhaps a particularly useful one to ask. And

        Estimating the Normal Background Rate of Species Extinction by De Vos et al, 2014, J Cons Biol for an up to date look at some recent numbers.

        If AC is going to quote the mail, of all the rags to choose, he might enjoy the following:


        • Sam: I took your advice and read “Re-assessing current extinction rates, Stork, 2009.” Here are the first two sentences of the conclusions:

          So what can we conclude about extinction rates? First, less than 1% of all organisms are recorded to have become extinct in the last few centuries and there are almost no empirical data to support estimates of current extinctions of 100 or even one species a day.

          Was that what you were trying to get across, or am I missing something?

          • Sam Taylor says:

            Well firstly you missed the second paper, whose abstract states:

            “current extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than natural background rates of extinction and future rates are likely to be 10,000 times higher.”

            Which is what I asserted (I did not state what absolute extinction rate per day this might represent).

            The first paper contains some interesting observations such as “It is also important to recognise that the most recent 2009 IUCN list of extinct species is in large part a list for 1959 since a species has traditionally only been recognised as ‘extinct’ when no living individual has been seen for 50 years.”

            Given the recent acceleration in human impact on the biosphere, it might not be unreasonable to think that in 50 years time the rate might be somewhat higher. Also highlighted is the conservation of species in zoos, so that there are the categories of “extinct in the wild” and “ecologically extinct”, which muddy the waters somewhat.

            Issues of local and regional extinction are also important, due to the concept of trophic cascades.

          • I looked at the second paper. Just one quote:

            The uncertainty in the species-per-day estimates also posed problems when dealing with critics of environmental concerns who demanded the scientific names of recently extinct species.

            These guys demand evidence? They clearly don’t understand the problem.

          • Sam Taylor says:

            Yes, a difficult to use metric which they discarded in favour of a proportional measure. Do you actually read these things, or just skim them until you can cherry pick a quote which you think backs you up?

          • To convict someone of murder you need a dead body. If you can’t produce one you don’t have a case.

  30. The true ‘elephant in the room’ is human overpopulation. As your article suggests, the tipping point is in our rearview mirror.

  31. Ed says:

    A little off topic but something people here may find interesting. Solar trap as a new way of harvesting solar energy.


    • Tom Irwin says:

      Hi Ed, not too many details in that article. Thermoelectrics are expensive and don’t generate a lot of energy. Reusing the waste energy would mean a lot as you generally have to cool one side of the TEG. A year down the road is a long time to wait.

  32. A C Osborn says:

    Ed says:
    December 29, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    “Yes, because I believe in the majority verdict of scientists and that they are not part of some of conspiracy theory to control us.
    Look, A C, I don’t like being controlled, much as you don’t so I’m open to arguments and here on Euan’s blog you can have a go at convincing me.
    Before you start though, lets start with a starting point. Polar ice packs are melting and the oceans are acidifying, right?
    Your point of view is that they not man made. Is that right?”

    Ed, you are only partly correct.
    First of all I do not believe in Man Made Global Warming, so as you say it can’t be causing either Polar ice to be melting or the Oceans to be “acidifying”.
    Do you understand that Global Polar Sea Ice has been breaking or nearly breaking records since measurements began every day this year?
    Antarctic Ice is at record levels and Arctic Ice is virtually back to the “normal” chosen by the so called Climate Scientists when Ice was at it’s maximum during the last century.

    Eveb the Scientists are starting to agree

    As to Ocean Acidification, that is very much doubt. Perhaps you would care to read this.
    and the Post that underlies it.

    It has also been stated that the “North West Passage” is open, which is patently rubbish unless they meant with an Ice Breaker present to ensure that you do not get stuck.
    The North West Passage has been open in the past, which is how it got it’s name, so the claim would be meaningless anyway.

  33. Euan Mearns says:

    I know Roger is a bit concerned about keeping the thread on topic which is specifically about cutting C emissions, how to achieve this and what will happen should we fail which looks highly likely, i.e. almost certain, to me. The population debate is always contentious but I’m happy to let that go at a level where certain groups and individuals see that as the core issue to emissions control. But please try to not let that drag the conversation off in too many different directions.

    • A C Osborn says:

      Euan, sorry for the diversion, but to me the cutting of CO2 to combat a “possible”, but to me impossible 2 degree rise in temperature is a non question. With all the studying I have been doing for the last 10 years CO2 increases are a benefit to the world and should in no way be limited at all.
      It takes all this time NASA to suddenly tell the world something that has been known for years.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        AC your views are at one end of the spectrum. In the series of posts we had on C cycle, we ended up concluding that 50% of emissions ended up in terrestrial bio mass. To begin with I thought your views on Greening the planet were “bonkers” but now less so. But how long can forests go on expanding? These are temporary sinks.

        I have another friend, PhD in astrophysics, who has been telling me that CO2 may actually cool the planet. I didn’t believe that either but in digging I find a set of circumstances where that may actually be so.

        Link in next Blowout.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Euan, I can provide confirmation that PhD in astrophysics friend’s opinion, the AGU meeting last year had a NASA scientist that gave a presentation and CO2 in the Thermosphere Cools the atmosphere and the cooling has been increasing.
          See the Video on this WUWT Thread
          I think his presentation starts at about 14 minutes, but the whole thing is interesting.

        • Paul says:

          He’s talking about cooling the thermosphere. It seems unlikely that this has any influence on planetary temperature. The thermosphere is where low earth orbit satellites fly, there’s hardly anything there.

          • A C Osborn says:

            It is the final interface with space and they are seeing an increase on CO2 and an increase in outgoing Radiation, how can that NOT cool the atmosphere when the incoming radiation is getting lower due to the quiet sun?
            Or aren’t you aware of how low Cycle 24 is?
            He actually shows “cooling”.

          • Paul says:

            There’s barely any gas in the thermosphere – that’s why satellites can fly there. It might be “hot” (~2000K) because the few atoms there are moving fast, but as Wiki says, if you put a thermometer there it wouldn’t register a high temperature. So if not much hot stuff cools slightly the change in energy content is going to be small relative to the atmosphere in total. Wiki says, “no significant energetic feedback from the thermosphere to the lower atmospheric regions can be expected” and while Wiki is not infallible, I’d take it as a reasonable starting point.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        At any point in time I have about 5 posts in preparation. Some extremely complex. I think using the term thermosphere is a mistake. It is in fact the vertical movement of the central 15µm emission band of CO2 that is of greatest interest. That occurs at the troposphere – stratosphere boundary. The chart explains an awful lot that will take some time to explain.

        Paul, from your comments I’m unsure you understand the greenhouse effect at all. Don’t take that as an insult, because I think its fair to say that 99.99% of those commenting on it don’t understand it (that includes most climate scientists). If you have time to check back through 12 months of my comments on this topic you’ll find that I have repeatedly said that I don’t understand it. And I have therefore spent considerable time trying to.

        The curves on the chart are Planck response curves. The 15 µm CO2 band is emitting to space at -57˚C, the approximate height of the tropopause. Go figure.

        Hopefully a post on this some time in January.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          I forgot to say that depending upon the thermal structure of the atmosphere CO2 can act as either an insulator or a conductor of heat. In any circumstance where temperature increases upwards from the tropopause, I believe it acts as a conductor.

          Roger – sorry way of topic 😉

        • Paul says:

          The thermosphere and the greenhouse effect are unconnected.

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  35. Another attempt to get back on topic.

    The last line in the post asks the question: “Now imagine that you are one of the prominent politicians – Obama, Kerry, Merkel, Ban Ki-moon, Hollande, Cameron, Davey, whoever – who have publicly and repeatedly stated that climate change is the greatest threat facing the world, that the world is in serious trouble if nothing is done to stop it but that a solution is still within our reach. What do you tell people when next year’s make-or-break Paris climate talks show that it isn’t?”

    No one has yet taken a shot at this, so let’s use US Secretary of State John Kerry as an example. In his speech at the recent climate talks in Lima he said:

    “We can significantly cut emissions and prevent the worst consequences of climate change from happening. And anyone who tells you otherwise is just plain wrong, period.”

    What does Kerry say after the Paris climate talks show that anyone who told us otherwise was just plain right?

    Any takers?

    • A C Osborn says:

      They will continue with the same lies for as long as they can get away with it.
      He and Obama flat out lie to their public and get away with it due to the MSM not calling them out and instead repeating it as front page news.
      I keep making the point that this has nothing to do with “saving the world” from Man Made Global Warming.
      Do you really think any country is going to break from the party line and tell the truth, just look at the pressure put on Australia for not giving to the “Fund”.

    • Tom Irwin says:

      I think, aside from Ban Ki-Moon, they are all playing lip service without the slightest intention of doing anything other than get reelected. If I am Obama with two years left I have the military build Thorium reactors to prove the technology and supply the military with base energy. As commander in chief he can do it by executive order. That jump starts the moribund industry and establishes places to get rid of high level nuclear waste. Merkel can add more money to their renewable projects to stimulate German industry. Kerry can bring the troops home in ships. Cameron will do whatever he’s told. Hollande can try to mend fences with Russia after Kerry pulls the troops. Never gonna happen but one can dream.

  36. Ed says:

    Hope I’m on-topic here. All those politicians that you mentioned are only paying lip service. Any action on reducing CO2 will result in a reduction in GDPs. Any reduction in GDP causes all sorts of problems. The hole that we have created will swallow us up. They will do NOTHING.

    As to what does Kerry say after the Paris climate talks. Easy: its someone else’s fault, we thought the scientists were exaggerating. Any number of excuses. Then promise to do something and guess what … do nothing again. They can’t do ANYTHING for fear of crashing the world economy.

    What will the climate scientists do when we crash through the 2C line in the sand? Invent another line in the sand, perhaps 3C, so that climate sceptics can laugh at it.

    • Ed. Yes thank you, you are on topic 🙂

      I don’t think all the politicians are paying lip service. John Kerry is one of the original US climate crusaders, having been deep into it with Gore, Wirth, Hansen & Co. back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I think he really believes that climate change is going to fry the planet if something isn’t done. It will be interesting to see what he does say.

      The politicians drew the 2C “line in the sand”, not the scientists. Maybe the politicians should ask the scientists for a second opinion.

      • Ed says:

        Politicians have a difficult job. They have to judge what is more important to their electorate; either the economy or climate change. The former affects people right away with a 100% chance of having nasty repercussions , the latter affects people sometime in the future with a probability of between 0 and 100% (depending on your point of view) of having nasty repercussions. No contest.

        That is why politicians will do nothing on climate change even though they may be climate crusaders like Kerry

        Interestingly, it puts parties like the Green party in very difficult position. I guess they play a waiting game. The economy will crash anyway as it meets the reality of a finite planet. Their time will come.

        Am I still on-topic ?

  37. Max Beran says:

    I would rely on the shortness of memory of the assembly about all my previous protestations and cry out loud and clear, “Nil Desperandum”. I would explain that for more than a century the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere had been in lockstep with the global population – an extra 20 ppm for every new billion of us. Our best estimates of population based on current fertility trends are that we will add another 3 billion during this coming half century and flattening off all the while. So we should plan on the concentration rising to about 460 ppm.

    I’d then ask them to think about that remarkable history of lockstep, in particular how come the more recent billions are not accompanied by extra CO2 burden despite the concurrent increase in affluence and technology.And do the answers to that question offer lessons for future policy?

    It turns out that the startling linearity between CO2 burden and population is down to the close matching of per capita GDP (rising at c. 1.8%/year) and the same drop in carbon intensity (more GDP bangs for the carbon emissions buck). So GDP/P = -C/GDP.

    What then for policies? First no return to dark ages where family sizes grow. Next no return to dark ages where kids are put off inventing and applying science and technology by scare stories about impending doom and mankind as blot on an otherwise Eden. Next don’t spend the kid’s inheritance on pretending to solve a problem that might or might not happen, much better spend it on maintaining their (and our) well-being so they have the wherewithal to solve actual problems when they become actuality. And as a nod in the direction of the greens, not to let the airborne fraction float up with implications for land and continental shelf use.

    • Ed says:

      Yep, good reasoning here. My only concern is whether there is a delayed effect. ie is 400ppm already too late to stop us increasing global temperatures to dangerous levels but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

      You upper limit to global population of about 10 billion would be my guess also. Peak FF will probably stop it rising any further. Then a decline to below 2 billion over the next century after peak FF.

      • Max Beran says:

        But you don’t mention my policy prescriptions that I put into the mouths of Roger’s “prominent politicians”. They are supposed to follow from the need to remain on the population logistic and to keep the balance between affluence and technology that I refer to.

        The airborne fraction is an elephant in the room though. It has dropped from the mid 50 percents to the mid 40 percents over the last couple of decades for unknown reasons but (a) point up the depth of ignorance about the way the Earth System works, and (b) might mean that C/GDP (carbon intensity of production) has not remained on the desired downward trajectory.

        • Ed says:

          I haven’t got a depth of knowledge on climate as you seem to have. I’ve got to admit that I don’t know what the airborne fraction is but I’ll look it up. Would declining ERoEI of fossil fuel production have an effect on C/GDP ? And if so, would the effect be to increase it ?

          • Max Beran says:

            1. The airborne fraction is the ratio of carbon dioxide remaining in the atmosphere to the amount emitted over a given time period. For unknown reasons it has been in decline so that less remains “airborne” (contributing to the Mauna Loa graph) and presumably more gets taken up by land and sea than hitherto.

            Just as airborne fraction is now suppressed, Earth System processes could well have accounted for an uptick during the 1980s giving a false impression of the sensitivity of temperature to CO2 built into the models.

            2. Any reduction in efficiency of conversion at any point along the chain, including at the point of “creating” energy in a useful form, would impact on C/GDP, The way it is commonly expressed via the so-called Kaya Identity is C=P*(GDP/P)*(C/GDP) with P = population. The last terms is often expanded to (C/E)*(E/GDP) where E is energy and C/E would link directly to ERoEI.

  38. (climate change) affects people sometime in the future with a probability of between 0 and 100%.

    It’s hard to disagree with that statement.

    That is why politicians will do nothing on climate change even though they may be climate crusaders like Kerry.

    But not with that statement. Politicians have already spent, or caused to be spent, trillions of dollars in attempts to cut CO2 emissions. Given the opportunity they will continue to spend as much as it takes to meet their emissions targets provided they don’t crash the economy first.

  39. Hugh Spencer says:

    I was hoping to post under Euan’s response to me .. but for some reason it won’t work.. (glacially slow internet here).

    I think the AGW is a no-brainer. (and yes – we are having rather unusual and hotter and much drier weather … sure it could be simply ‘weather’ – but we are seeing significant changes to fruiting patterns of some rainforest trees, shifts in birthing patterns for flying foxes, etc.

    Why is it a no-brainer?

    1) The atmosphere is VERY thin – Al Gore famously described it as being as thin as the varnish on a globe of the world… and he’s right. Say, for practical purposes that the vast amount of atmospheric mass resides in the first 20Km (Everest is a bit over 8Km). Now – get a globe of the world – and with a pair of VERY fine dividers, try and accurately measure a distance of 20Km on the earth’s surface, Now swing that measurement (if you can) perpendicular to the surface.. that’s how high the atmosphere is.. Not much volume at all !!

    2) (crib) Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) was a Swedish scientist that was the first to claim in 1896 that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming. He proposed a relation between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature. He found that the average surface temperature of the earth is about 15oC because of the infrared absorption capacity of water vapor and carbon dioxide. This is called the natural greenhouse effect. Arrhenius suggested a doubling of the CO2 concentration would lead to a 5oC temperature rise. He and Thomas Chamberlin calculated that human activities could warm the earth by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

    Read more: http://www.lenntech.com/greenhouse-effect/global-warming-history.htm#ixzz3NQYaD6uK

    3) Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution we’ve been dumping a vast amount of sequestered carbon (coal, oil, gas, biomass) into the atmosphere mostly as CO2, and the rate of dumping is increasing as your graphs so eloquently point out.
    We have also being adding other GHG’s – methane, fluorocarbons, and additional CO2 from massive scale land clearing, burning and soil degradation. ( CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6) So much so, that atmospheric CO2 concentration has now reached 400 ppm. NOT including the contribution from these other potent GHG’s. There should be no surprise that the global AVERAGE temperature is rising (UK might not be rising as fast.. other areas are) At the turn of last century CO2 concentration was a little over 280 ppm.

    see.. http://www.planetforlife.com/co2history/ look at the graph.. NOAA ice core + Keeling Mauna Loa curve.

    4) The ocean has a massive moderating effect – absorbing about half the CO2 emitted. The ice sheets are even more of a thermal moderator, as it takes 80x more heat to melt ice than to raise the temperature 1 degree C. Once the ice is gone .. up she goes.. fast! And you can’t deny ice is melting.. fast.. (so where is that heat coming from if not from an enhanced greenhouse effect??)

    5) to get back on the track… will Pope Francis succeed where all else has seemingly failed??
    (fergit population for the moment… but let’s get at least one thing going, shall we??)

    I see in these discussions – a situation well described in a short ditty

    “The Centipede’s Dilemma”

    A centipede, was happy, quite
    Until a toad in fun
    Said: “Pray which leg moves after which?”
    Which raised its doubts to such a pitch
    It fell exhausted in the ditch
    Not knowing how to run…

    attributed to Katherine Craster (1841–1874


    A centipede was happy – quite!
    Until a toad in fun
    Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
    Which threw her mind in such a pitch,
    She laid bewildered in the ditch
    Considering how to run.

    maybe we are all suffering from hyper-reflection or Humphrey’s law!

    so how many molecules of CO2 dance on the head of a pin in the tropopause??

  40. Pingback: Comparing US to Chinese Emissions Pledges | TaleSlinger

  41. Euan Mearns says:


    You have an opportunity here to provide us with convincing data that CO2 is causing climate change in Queensland:

    but we are seeing significant changes to fruiting patterns of some rainforest trees, shifts in birthing patterns for flying foxes, etc.

    This I’m afraid is not going to convince either myself or Roger. You could start with temperature, sunshine and rainfall records. And then perhaps pollen records from lakes.

    Svante Arrhenius (1859-1927) was a Swedish scientist that was the first to claim in 1896 that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming.

    And the way Arrhenius originally conceived the idea has proven to be wrong since the main IR absorption bands for CO2 are all saturated.

    UK might not be rising as fast.. other areas are

    Where + supporting data please. We’re all aware of the situation in SW California. With readers here form all over the world, someone must surely be able to provide convincing evidence of significant climate change where they live.

    Once the ice is gone .. up she goes.. fast! And you can’t deny ice is melting.. fast.. (so where is that heat coming from if not from an enhanced greenhouse effect??)

    Mountain glaciers advanced significantly during the Little Ice Age and since the end of it have been retreating. And all this happened before significant human emissions. We are in an inter-glacial. What do you expect to happen to ice volumes during inter-glacials? Glacier wastage is usually linked to summer melt exceeding winter snow fall and does not require higher temperatures.

    Global sea ice anomaly is currently +1 million sq kms.


    The ocean has a massive moderating effect – absorbing about half the CO2 emitted.

    In fact it is far more likely that about 50% of the emissions are absorbed by the terrestrial biosphere.


    • Paul says:

      It is replies like that one that make me think we will not act to cut emissions. I think we should and I think we probably could if we put our minds to it (although it might be like adopting a war footing). But I think we will not act until the point where answers like yours above are no longer superficially plausible, when the effects of climate change are really in people’s faces. At that point we probably will have to act in a hurry to save what is left but it will be too late to prevent significant environmental and economic damage. My guess is that we will then have to implement some sort of geo-engineering to prevent the worst consequences. I hope I’m wrong.

      Plausible? To me, no. To ecologists or climate scientists, no. To people like Soon, author recommended elsewhere here, maybe ($1m from FF interests has got to buy some loyalty). To the general population, yes, your arguments probably appear plausible, as most people have at most an insignificant understanding of climate science. I can see many people being persuaded that although things are not as they remember from their childhood, there are reasons other than CO2. Proving a CO2 link is probably impossible and it is comforting to think that the Baltic Sea doesn’t freeze any more or the skiing in the Alps is no longer so reliable or that your German village doesn’t get snowed in any more or that the trees in London have new leaves in December all for natural reasons, not because of our emissions. People want to believe your version, after all. Very few people are ecologists and most people can’t even distinguish between bees and wasps, oaks and beech, let alone notice range changes. AR5 has studies of it all in its references of course but people don’t read AR5. You can also be sure that despite not understanding the greenhouse effect (as you stated above), neither does anybody else, so you can tell people that “the main IR absorption bands for CO2 are all saturated” and sound as if you do (SKS myth 73). And the Little Ice Age is chronicled history, which lends some credibility to the idea that glaciers are just retreating from that period. With sea ice above average maybe talk of a melting Arctic really is balanced by a freezing Antarctic sea. Most people will have trouble saying whether the Arctic is at the north or south pole, which pole is surrounded by sea and which by land, which is a continent and whether all that makes a difference anyway. And they certainly wont know that gravity detecting satellites really have measured significant drops in land-ice mass. So you are on safe ice there too.

      Only when a majority of people are no longer prepared to give such comments the benefit of the doubt because they have seen changes that can’t be explained away will significant action become possible. And even then I don’t underestimate the attraction of a comforting explanation. It’s going to take something big…

      As far as reducing world population, that sounds like crazy talk to me. The only ways that happens are things that nobody sensible wants to envisage: war, pestilence, alien invasion, meteor strike…. Or massive climate disturbance.

      • Hickory says:

        Hi Paul,
        Since I think I might have been the one to bring up population control , I think I’ll try to clarify my statement a bit here. First off, I do believe that human induced climate is likely a real and profound phenomena, just barely starting to be noticeable. However, the effect is far from predictable, or guaranteed to swamp other climate variables (but I’m guessing it likely is). By the time we will have “proof” of this effect, it will be far to late to avert the big manifestations.

        Regarding population control, I fear that if we humans do not undertake such an effort, that the natural world will undertake it for us. Of course I would prefer a gradual readjustment of the population to levels that are sustainable, but if we don’t attempt to get there gradually, it will probably happen suddenly (like a brick to the head). That will be the biggest shock of human history, and I don’t want to be a witness to it. There a quite a few triggers that could prompt such a catastrophe, with human induced climate change certainly on that list. Unfortunately, I have close to zero confidence that humanity will have the wisdom, will, or way to craft a gentle path to stability.

        Sorry to be deviating the intended content of this thread to a tangential issue.
        Paul does bring up a great topic of discussion- geoengineering. Ouch.

      • A C Osborn says:

        Oh look Paul is a denizen of SkS ( they added the k as it looks bad otherwise), playing the Fossil Fuel Interests card plus appeals to authority.
        Let’s take a look at what the “Authority” have been saying and what actually has been happening.

        Well I was going to add a 20+ point answer, but I just can’t be bothered.
        It won’t change these “believer’s” minds one iota.

        • Paul says:

          A 20 point answer? I didn’t know there is a way of giving points to answers. It might be thought a bit presumptive to assume you’d get 20 points? You certainly get points for persistence – I count 25 comments on this thread.

          SKS has a useful list of invalid arguments. I find it helpful when I have doubts about what someone has written. Perhaps you should try reading it.

          Payments from FF or other interests are not necessarily bad but they should be clear and open. If they are not, then authors give the impression of conflicts of interest. Applies to everyone.

          As for appeals to authority, I didn’t realise I had. But clearly in a discussion between an expert and a lay person, right doesn’t automatically lie with the expert. But probability and common sense do favour the expert for subjects where her expertise is relevant. So if you think you’ve discovered something the experts have missed, while you might be right, the odds are against it.

          • A C Osborn says:

            OK, for you Paul I will sum it up with just one question.
            As the Scientists and their models have been completely wrong for the last 20 odd years WHEN WILL “the effects of climate change are really in people’s faces” actually happen?

          • Paul says:

            The question is based on an incorrect basic premise (that scientists and models have been completely wrong).

          • A C Osborn says:

            So you believe the Models reflect reality?
            I am sorry you are completely deluded, as I said there is no point in even trying to talk to you, your mind is closed.

          • Hickory says:

            AC- you strike me as probably the most closed minded person to comment here.

          • A C Osborn says:

            OK Hickory, do you believe the Models reflect reality?
            Please answer Yes or No.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Everyone please note paul did NOT answer the simple question, which has nothing to do with the Scientists being right or wrong.
            I will ask you again
            When will Climate Change get in our faces?

  42. Willem Post says:


    Here is an article showing the LOWEST glacier shortening RATE was in the late 1700s – early 1800s (the coldest period of the Little Ice Age), and the shortening RATE has been steadily INCREASING since then, eventhough WORLD coal was barely used until the LATE 1800s, and WORLD oil was barely used until about 1940, and WORLD gas was barely used until about 1950.

    See Figures 2 and 3 of this URL

    Figure 3 shows temperature correlates with the sun, not CO2.

    This article is well worth some study. It should be widely distributed before the Paris meetings.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Willem, you have me a little confused now. You always struck me as firmly climate concerned.

      Its been a long time since I last saw this paper, and it contains many interesting graphics. Personally I’d want to get hold of the raw data to satisfy myself of the veracity. Especially the solar irradiance data – seems too good to be true.

      But the charts on hurricanes, tornadoes, sea level and glacier length are all worth viewing, and if true convey a very clear message. And it leaves me confused as to how anyone can truck out data on sea level and glaciers melting as evidence for AGW?

      Anyone for hockey?

      • A C Osborn says:

        I am really glad to find that someone else is privy to the same sort of data output as me. There is a great deal of it on the Internet and if anyone wants to see more just let me know.
        Willem just comes at modern life from a different angle to me for whatever reason, but at least we appear to agree on one thing LOL.

        Ed & Hugh please take note.

        • Willem Post says:


          You did not respond to my 10:49 comment regarding ways to implement the transition to 1 billion.

          With some imagination, more ways will be found.

          The last thing we need is war and disease for population management.

          What is apparent in this string of comments it the total non-consideration of the OTHER fauna and flora.

          We all know how THEY have managed to NOT cope with our presence.

          We are systematically, wantonly, greedily, destroying THEIR eco-systems, and they do not have our healthcare systems to fall back on.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Sorry, I haven’t been able to find your 10:49 post.

            Unfortunately I am one of those people that puts the health and welfare of humans before the rest of the world, but with respect to the rest of the world.

            That is not say that a great deal could be done to improve the way current “business” is carried out.
            The Bio Fuels fiasco is a classic example of how not to do “green”.
            As is burning US “wood” in place of Coal in the UK.

          • Willem Post says:


            Here is the top of my 10:49 response:

            Willem Post says:
            December 30, 2014 at 10:49 pm

            Regarding age demographics, I agree that is a problem with people growing older thanks to modern medicine.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Sorry Willem, but your maths are a bit out there.
            Even allowing for no improvements in Medicine extending old age further than now, with the current annual death rate of just over 57M and absolutley no births you are talking 122 years to reduce the world population by 6 Billion.
            But I do like your incentives, unfortunately they are aimed at the wrong areas, the G8 countries already have falling populations amongst their indigenous peoples. The higher birth rates are amongst immigrants and also the immigrants themselves are swelling the populations by quite a bit.
            But the really high birth rates are still in the 3rd world and developing countries.
            Until they have higher standards of living nothing much is going to change that.

        • Ed says:

          Take note of what exactly?

          As I have said in past comments, all the fossil fuels that we have in the ground, that are financially viable, will be burnt eventually. ALL They will not be left unburnt. Our growth imperative will see to that.

          Therefore whether climate change is happening or whether it is man made or not will not alter the outcome in any way. We will have to wait and see who is correct.

          I am no expert on climate and frankly I’m more interested in energy, economics and the big picture. My point all along has been that the majority of scientists believe the climate is warming up and that it is man made. Therefore, that is good enough for me because I believe in science and scientists. It is evidence based and peer reviewed.

          You keep believing that you are correct A C. It won’t make a blind bit if difference in the long term outcome.

          • A C Osborn says:

            I quote
            “Ed says:
            December 29, 2014 at 8:37 pm

            Yes, because I believe in the majority verdict of scientists and that they are not part of some of conspiracy theory to control us. Look, A C, I don’t like being controlled, much as you don’t so I’m open to arguments and here on Euan’s blog you can have a go at convincing me. ”

            You are obviously not open to arguments, so I will no longer bother to try and convince you.

      • Willem Post says:


        I have always maintained current GW started in the late 1700s. See my articles on The Energy Collective.

        This article just confirms it, plus it pulls together a number of other issues mentioned by the “CO2 is at fault” folks.

        Once, I talked to a woman from La Rochelle, France, who told me, in winter, there was 3 km of ice on the bay in the late 1700s. People rode with wagons and on horseback on the ice. To-day, there never is ice.

        1789 French Revolution.
        1776 American Revolution.

        These events probably had in common hungry people, due to a lack of crops due to short growing seasons.

        In good times, people ignore a lot, such as higher taxes, certain forms of oppression and corruption, in bad times, they do not.

    • Tom Irwin says:

      You are aware that this paper has NOT gone through peer review.?

      • A C Osborn says:

        Don’t you mean “Pal” review?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Peer review would not make it correct and the lack of peer review does not invalidate it. The form on this blog is to provide our own analysis of data. In my comment above I mention the need for caution before swallowing this hook, line and sinker.

        The kind of comments that are most valued here are ones that either constructively refute evidence – is the data shown simply made up? Or points us at the source data so that we can go check the reliability ourselves.

        • Hickory says:

          How many of you commentators/readers can honestly look in the mirror and consider yourselves an unbiased analyzer of this topic. Probably close to none of us, if we are being honest. We all specialize in cherry picking, and all have deep preconceived notions before we even see any data or read someone else s analysis. I think its important to acknowledge that.
          Also lets remember that all predictions of future climate are highly inaccurate, since know one knows much of the past, or has a decent model, or understands the relative magnitude of the huge forces that coalesce to form the “climate”.
          With that in mind, perhaps it is futile to form a carbon policy, and perhaps that is the authors original hidden message in this post.
          If we don’t have a carbon policy,we certainly need an energy policy. Here in the USA our democracy has failed to produce one. We’ve just been stumbling about.
          There is one element to an energy policy that I believe would make sense to many- that is having a goal to replacing as much coal with other sources of energy as is economically feasible. We all know that coal is extremely dirty in so many ways- land, air, water, radiation.
          One thing I am sure of- people who don’t have other sources of energy will burn coal. As liquid fuels become more scarce and expensive over the next decades, billions and billions of us will be burning coal. This coal burning will be at rates not seen in the past history, since there is now so many of us and we have such big shovels.
          Anything we can do from an energy policy standpoint to deploy alternatives to coal will do us all good. That should be our focus, rather than CO2 (in my “green” opinion).

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Hickory, I’m glad you came back (I think). My comment a couple of days ago seemed to hit a raw nerve and may have been out of order. I apologise for that. I really do want to encourage a broad debate. The population issue is a contentious one and I think that both Roger and I were taken by surprise when this thread went off in the direction of “global population control”. We may have a thread in january looking specifically at population issues.

            I’d like to add that the site is growing rapidly and I’m finding it difficult to keep tabs on all commenter’s ethos.

            If we don’t have a carbon policy,we certainly need an energy policy. Here in the USA our democracy has failed to produce one. We’ve just been stumbling about.

            I happen to agree with this 100%. It is the whole point of this site. And the energy policy should include environmental impact. Personally I place affordability, security, scalability and reliability first. But most folks don’t want their energy system to harm them either although there is a balance to be struck between inevitable harm and the benefits of having affordable energy.

            On coal I don’t know. What I do know is I’d be cautious on in situ coal combustion. Similarly on in situ tar sand combustion. The way forward with coal is CCS EOR (carbon capture and enhanced oil recovery). If that works economically then MAYBE the next step is pure CCS – which incidentally I have been set dead against for years. This debate comes down to how much coal can be mined by conventional techniques.

            I wish all readers a “prosperous” New Year. We are eating haggis neaps and tatties tonight washed down with water from the local burn 😉

          • A C Osborn says:

            On this note
            “I’d like to add that the site is growing rapidly and I’m finding it difficult to keep tabs on all commenter’s ethos.”

            Can I thank you and Roger for all your hard work and wish you and all the other posters a Happy, Prosperous, Healthy and worry free New year.

          • With that in mind, perhaps it is futile to form a carbon policy, and perhaps that is the authors original hidden message in this post.

            Was the message that deeply concealed? 😉

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Was the message that deeply concealed?

            As Roger will testify I referred to this as “the futility” post. But Roger you are one of the smartest folks I’ve come across and I think the point of your post may have flown under the radar of many. Incidentally it was cross posted to The Automatic Earth and then on to Zero Hedge, will have been read by many tens of thousands. And then it got picked up by Green Peace – I’m not sure what that means 🙁

            Well here’s hoping I survive to midnight 🙂 We have guests just arrived, so cio.

          • Why thank you Euan. You’re not so bad yourself.

            This seems like as good a time as any to wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

        • Tom Irwin says:

          In this particular case, Euan, conclusions are there, graphs are there, suppositions are there but the data is not. If we are to peer review it then we need to see the data. That is why it is invalid.

  43. Ed says:

    A C. You miss my point entirely. It doesn’t matter who is correct. We are destined to burn all our fossil fuels come what may because of economic and systemic reasons. If you are right, then we’ll remember you as the person who called it correctly; if you are wrong then we will face huge challenges in the future. Don’t give up putting across your arguments; I want you to be correct. It would better for the World if you were correct.

    • A C Osborn says:

      Unfortunately I definitely won’t be around to find out one way or the other, I am 68 in January, so unless there is some dramatic advances in medicine I won’t be here to see the end of Fossil fuels.
      Although I am coming around to the persuasion that what we are and will burn are not all “Fossil” based.
      I have been trying to persuade Euan and Roger that the next big thing in fuel is Methane Hydrates, but neither of them go along with it.
      Japan is certainly looking at it very hard, if it happens you can kiss goodbye to Peak Fuel.
      See this http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001814727

      • Ed says:

        At the moment, it takes more energy to extract Methane Hydrates than they give you. ie. the ERoEI is below 1. However, we may find a way, but I doubt it. If anyone can do it, Japan will. After all they have import most of their FFs. I have half joked in the past, tongue in cheek, that when we get desperate enough we will resort to detonating nukes under the sea bed to get at the Methane Hydrates.

        The next FF recovery technique is underground coal gasification. For those readers who don’t know what this is, oxygen is pumped into coal seams and then ignited to produce coal gas. They want to do this under the North Sea.

        The World has truly got itself into a mess !!! You can’t unwind from a Ponzi scheme without pain. Everyone wants to delay/avoid the pain for the next generation.

        Euan, Roger. UCG. A future topic for an article or have you already done one that I missed ?

        ps I mean it when I say, keep up arguing your case. I may disagree with your views vehemently sometimes but I try not to attack you personally.

  44. Hugh Spencer says:

    Euan Mearns says:
    December 31, 2014 at 12:15 pm
    Hugh, this also caught my eye:


    With an unbroken history of over 100 million years, the

    No Euan, I’d be very surprised if these forests were here in the Cretaceous.. Unfortunately this was put in the website in the early days – cribbed directly from the Wet Tropics Management Authority material. While there are plant species (virtually unchanged) flourishing in the area which were also flourishing in Victoria 140 MYA (Idiospermum for example) and a large collection of primitive angiosperms (particularly F Lauraceae and Anonaceae), when and how these ended up here we’ll probably not know. However the coastal mountains here provide refugia for plant species .. and Australia was once covered with rainforest (or at least wetter forests).

    (Unfortunately, we have the slowest internet on the planet, our website is hopelessly out of date – and unless some nice person wants a free holiday to completely re-do it (and get it out of Drupal !) – it’s going to stay that way.. Sorry.. I don’t have the time or expertise. Plus getting onto this discussion is very problematic as a result..)

  45. Brian says:

    Hi Euan,

    I much appreciate your work but I’m surprised to hear that you cannot find evidence of man’s impact on climate change. Most of the evidence is to be found in the paleo-climatic research which when combined with recent measurements clearly shows the linkage. As the relatively new field of climate science gathers pace, tools and knowledge more information becomes available daily. If you really are ‘all ears’ to know more I suggest you start here: http://guymcpherson.com/2013/01/climate-change-summary-and-update/ which includes both comments by Prof McPherson and links to peer reviewed papers on all things referred to. Not for the faint-hearted.

    Kind regards

  46. Euan Mearns says:

    A new commenting standard will be introduced to Energy Matters within days. Of the 200+ comments on this thread, I’m guessing maybe 10 might make the new standard.

    If I have any readers who are interested in reading mindless opinion like this:

    AC- you strike me as probably the most closed minded person to comment here.

    Then I suggest you go find another blog to read.

    • A C Osborn says:

      Euan, it is your blog and your rules, but please do not do so on my behalf.
      I have been insulted much worse by bigger & nastier bloggers than Hickory in the game of trying to understand where they are coming from and I am still looking for that bit of proof that they can offer which might “open” my mind a little.
      Although I do apologise for “taking over” that part of the off topic discussion.

      • A C Osborn says:

        PS, as you may have guessed being wicked I really enjoy the discourse LOL

      • Euan Mearns says:

        AC – I picked that comment at random. We have had a fresh infestation of Green Trolls (note the past tense). There is an infinite supply out there. I just don’t have time to deal with it. Being polite and on topic will no longer qualify. Comments will also have to have a component that advances the communal knowledge of the blog backed by supporting “evidence”.

        I will consult with Roger how best to proceed. The chit chat is nice enough to have, but I cannot continue with the Grimmer Worm Tongues dripping their poison continuously into the discussion.

  47. Andy Oz says:

    Hi Roger,

    I have a question about the Y axis scale on the Global Emissions (chart 1) vs the other charts (esp. Chart 4).
    The units on Global emissions appear to show a current global peak of 9.5 GTpa while Chart 4, Developing vs Developed – show 22GT pa plus 10.5 GTpa (total = 32.5 GTpa)

    Why the difference?


    • Max Beran says:

      One is the weight of CO2, the other the weight of the C content of CO2. The ratio is the ratios of the molecular weights – 12+2*18 to 12 or 44 to 12. I guess the 9.5 includes something for land use change including deforestation. This is a highly contentious element as the new land use is or will probably “grow” carbon so it is a net figure that is required.

  48. I’m posting this link here so it doesn’t get lost. Greenpeace doesn’t publish my graphs every day. 😉


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