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ASPO International Chairman publishes Op-ed in Sweden's leading paper

by Starvid Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 11:42:30 AM EST

"The UN's future scenarios for climate are pure fantasy"

In the year 2000, the UN's International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published 40 different future scenarios in which emissions from oil, natural gas and coal were specified. In the past 9 years these scenarios have been the guiding star for the world's climate researchers. The IPCC has described why these researchers should follow them. The scenarios "are built as descriptions of possible, rather than preferred, developments. They represent pertinent, plausible, alternative futures". Despite the fact that emissions from fossil fuels vary widely between the scenarios, the IPCC regarded all the scenarios as equally likely.

Among these scenarios exist the future horror stories that people such as Al Gore has warned us about. These go by the name of "Business As Usual". Climate calculations that are based on these emission levels give an average temperature increase of 3.5 °C above 1990 levels by 2100. Some of these scenarios exceed +6 °C.

More follows below. The text is taken from his blog, so copyright even of the entire text is no problem.

Globally, human activity generates greenhouse gasses and emissions increase at the same rate as the population increases. Today, 57% of greenhouse gasses come from fossil fuel. The big issue in Copenhagen is future emissions from these fossil fuels. I have a different view of the situation than the IPCC and my view is based on scientific publications from the Global Energy Systems research group at Uppsala University, Sweden. We can now show that almost all of the IPCC emissions scenarios are improbable and that those scenarios described as "Business as Usual" as completely unrealistic. (Ten publications relevant to this article can be accessed from the home page of Global Energy Systems, www.fysast.uu.se/ges)

In May 2007 the Debate column of Dagens Nyheter [Sweden's most widely read broadsheet newspaper] published my article on climate titled, "Severe climate change unlikely before we run out of fossil fuel". An article with the title, "The Peak of the Oil Age" has recently been published in the scientific journal Energy Policy. From the research reported in that paper we can now state that there will be insufficient oil in future since production will decline. Therefore, emissions from use of oil will decline by at least 10% by 2030. This reduction will be even greater if the global economy is negatively affected.

The climate change negotiators main question should therefore be, "How will we use coal in the future?".

Today's coal production - hard coal and brown coal - is approximately 3000 million "tonne of oil equivalent" (toe). For the "Business as Usual" scenarios coal production must increase seven-fold by 2100. That is an increase of 600%. In the last 20 years, global coal reserves have been revised downwards by 25%. The most recent case was India that halved its declared reserves. The USA is the "Saudi Arabia of coal" with 29% of global reserves. The former Soviet Union has 27%, China 14%, Australia 9%, India 7% and South Africa 4% of global reserves. That means that 90% of the fossil coal reserves exist in these six nations. We can also assert that the same six nations today produce 86% of the world's coal.

If emissions of coal are to increase by 600 percent this cannot occur without the USA - that has the worlds largest coal finds - increasing its coal production by the same amount. In an article published in May 2009 in the International Journal of Coal Geology we have studied the historical trends and future possible production of coal in the USA. The production of high-grade anthracite is decreasing while the production of brown coal in Wyoming is increasing. Future coal production is completely dependent on new coal mining in the state of Montana. According to the constitution of the USA, federal authorities cannot force Montana to produce coal. In Montana they do not want to produce coal since the mining will destroy the environment and large areas of agricultural land. If the constitution is changed and mining of coal in Montana does occur it is possible for the USA to increase its coal production by 40% but not by 100%. An increase of 600% is pure fantasy.

Today, the world's largest coal producer is China. Its reserves of coal are half the size of the USA's and China has no possibility of increasing its coal production by 100%. A 600% increase there is also pure fantasy. Russia, with the world's second largest coal reserves, can increase its production significantly but the untouched Russian coal reserves lie in central Siberia in an area without infrastructure. Russia is not dependent on this coal for its own energy needs but if mining did begin there some time after 2050 it could only ever be equivalent to a small fraction of today's global production. Therefore, it is impossible for global coal production to increase by 100% and 600% is, once again, pure fantasy.

In the spring of 2008 I discussed the climate question with the USA's then ambassador to Sweden Michael Wood who was interested in our research. My suggestion for a partial solution was that the presidents of the USA and Russia should sign a bilateral treaty in which they guarantee that half of the remaining reserves of coal in each nation would remain unused. The people in Montana would celebrate and Russia's future would not be affected. The agreement would mean that 25% of possible future emissions of carbon dioxide from coal would disappear.

Our conclusion is that the assumptions of coal use that the IPCC recommended that climate researchers refer to in calculating their future horror scenarios are completely unrealistic. The question is why at all these gigantic volumes of carbon dioxide emission are to be found among the possible scenarios. The IPCC bears a great responsibility for the fact that thousands of climate researchers around the world have dedicated years of research to calculating temperature increases for scenarios that are completely unrealistic. The consequence is that very large research resources have been wasted to little benefit for us all.

That fossil fuel reserves are insufficient to support the IPCC's horror scenarios may alleviate somewhat our concerns about future climate. On the other hand, we must be even more concerned about future resource shortages. The shortage of oil can, for example, place even greater pressure on the rainforests through increased production of biodiesel from palm oil. The fact that the fossil fuel energy required until 2100 for the "Business as Usual" scenarios does not exist means that the world's growing population needs a global crisis package to create new energy solutions. We must now - and with immediate effect - change the global energy system.

Kjell Aleklett
Professor of Physics, Global Energy Systems at Uppsala University

I can't really say anything other than that I agree wholeheartedly with Professor Aleklett.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 11:49:47 AM EST
Regardless of whether the key driver is climate change or peak Oil and coal, the bottom line is that we need sustainable energy sources to replace lost carbon sources, and we need to put the infrastructure for this in place before Oil/coal becomes prohibitively scarce/expensive.  

So who cares if some of the climate scenarios are based on unrealistic assumptions?  If they succeed in mobilising political forces to support sustainable energy production what is the problem?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 12:06:05 PM EST
There are plenty of things which are relevant from a climate perspective, but which hurts us energetically speaking, making the entire situation even worse. For example CCS. And there are several energy projects which help us but are bad from a climate perspective. Like CNG, tarsands, liquefied coal and ultradeep offshore oil.

Furthermore, as the op-ed illustrates, the IPCC has fooled the public on a massive scale, which hardly helps its credibility when it comes to dealing with other pressing issues like Peak Oil, and also wasted huge amounts of reseach efforts and money, which could have been used in a far better way in eg developing alternative energy.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 01:23:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can you validate the "wasted lots of research time" assertion?  As I understand it there is a huge amount of work in developing a computerised climate model, but once built you can plug in all sorts of scenarios, likely or unlikely to see what impact they would have on climate variables.  Indeed sensitivity  analysis to various factors is just that - plugging in a huge number of values for any given variable to see if you can identify tipping points or other multiplier effects.

I would expect research institutes to be doing this on an ongoing basis - adjusting their models when - e.g. India - adjusts its estimates for coal deposits - and I would expect the outputs/predictions to change over time.  This does not invalidate the science - this is how the science is done.

AS I understand it earlier estimates have proved unduly optimistic and later predictions are more alarming in terms of the pace of climate change.  If anything the predictions are more alarming as the data and the models improve.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Dec 7th, 2009 at 03:07:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is nonsense, Starvid. The IPCC has not fooled the public simply because it is not proccupied with the notion of peak hydrocarbons. They model BAU development scenarios which the VAST MAJORITY of the world accepts. I happen to agree with you that the majority is incorrect, luckily for us.

But to accuse them, and Climate Science, of engaging in some kind of deception, as you appear to be doing, is just plain wrong.

As for "wasted huge amounts of research effort and money"....oh, please. On the scale of redeveloping entire economies, the amount spent on climate science and modelling, does not even register.

Then, too, fossil fuels account for 57% of GHG, sez the article. That other 43% is enough to cook our goose, just a little more slowly. Especially as its absolute magnitude is likely to increase.

Peak Oil is important. It is not the only important thing.

by PIGL (stevec@boreal.gmail@com) on Tue Dec 8th, 2009 at 06:53:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
to this is that, when talking about CO2 (not to be confused with anything else), thinking in reservoir boxes is useful to keep in the back of head. Coal is a reservoir box. So are humans. So are the oceans.

Stacking the amount of boxes properly is tricky - at best. Good for Aleklett to poke at the sore spots.

As humans also are CO2 reservoirs, perhaps we should stop burying or burning our dead, and dump them (ceremoniously for those who'd want that) into the ocean's subduction trenches... I can't recall I've ever seen our death included in our personal global footprint.

And while I'm on the morbid soapbox, one Dutch writer has already suggested that dead bodies should be chopped to pieces and used for fertilising our gardens. Growing up beside a cemetery, he knew from his youth that the best fruit grew in the trees on the cemetery...

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Tue Dec 8th, 2009 at 04:46:32 AM EST
If only because most people are too polite and/or squicked to pick them...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 8th, 2009 at 08:35:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We burn our dead in crematoriums linked to the district heating systems.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Dec 8th, 2009 at 11:43:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
When was the last IEA supply "forecast" based on what-me-worry BAU scenarios for hydrocarbons? Two years ago? Certainly less than three.

I think the IPCC can be forgiven for missing the memo that the IEA has (almost) come to their senses. Particularly when most of the Serious press (and recall that on reserve projections, the IPCC are just interested laypeople) are still using "forecasts" made with [Powered-By-Pony Technology(TM)].

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Dec 8th, 2009 at 08:51:45 AM EST
ASPO has been sending peer-reviewed articles IPCC's way for years and years (the latest coal article was mentioned in Science). If they'd denounce and try to debunk the articles, that would be fine by me. Debate is always good. But they haven't even responded. Zero interest. In spite of all their models being completely impossible. 600% increase in coal production? Hello? Are they going to mine Titan?

So why are they ignoring that research? Que Upton Sinclair...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Dec 8th, 2009 at 11:47:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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