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THE EVIL TWINS

by Ronald R. Cooke

 

Introduction

Global warming advocates have made a number of false assumptions in their zeal to do something – anything – about global warming. This has encouraged multiple pop-culture proposals that sound wonderful, but are – in fact – actually increasing the damage we humans are doing to our EcoSystem. Media discussion of global warming seldom makes any connection between the ecology of temperature change and pending fuel shortages. Our political leaders appear to be intellectually incapable of discussing fossil fuel depletion and global warming in the same conversation. Although both Hillary Clinton (a Democrat) and Mitt Romney (a Republican) both know about the consequences of fossil fuel depletion, critical questions about depletion are – for the most part – taboo in this election cycle.

All this denial raises a critical question. How can we expect our political establishment to make intelligent decisions about the price, availability and use of our energy resources if they refuse to acknowledge half the data?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if our candidates
could have at least one really meaningful discussion about energy?

For me, global warming and fossil fuel depletion are the evil twins. We must deal with both of them at the same time. Else we will (continue to) make tragically stupid policy mistakes.

 

Is Global Warming Real?

Absolutely. There is plenty of real data and empirical evidence to support the contention our planet is going through one of its natural, normal, climate cycles. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), over the last 420,000 years temperatures on our planet have ranged from plus 4 degrees C (five periods of very warm weather) to minus 10 degrees (four periods of very cold weather) versus a nominal baseline. If we go back 600 million years, temperature variations are even larger. In fact, average temperatures have been significantly higher (over 18 degrees C) than today (about 14 degrees C) for much of the earth’s history. We can associate warm periods with lush plant life, dinosaurs, swamps, deserts, and overflowing oceans. Our treasure trove of coal, oil and natural gas (all are forms of carbon) was created during these warm cycles. Low temperature cycles have been associated with expanding glaciers, ice ages, struggling animal populations, and limited vegetation.

 

Is Fossil Fuel Resource Depletion Real?

Absolutely. The depletion of our oil, natural gas and coal resources is not a phenomenon that will happen sometime in the distant future. It is happening now. It has already raised the price of energy, altered the objectives and alliances of international diplomacy, empowered the political aspirations of producer nations, restructured how world energy markets work, and changed the economics of fossil fuel exploration and production.

Make a chart of world population growth. Add the data for fossil fuel consumption on an appropriate comparative scale. Population growth has obviously driven the consumption of energy. The more people on this planet, the more energy we consume. Within first world OECD nations, fossil fuel energy has provided the foundation for our economic wealth and population growth. But this begs a question. If we no longer have enough cheap and readily available energy to support our lifestyle, what happens next?

 

False Assumptions

Public policy has thus failed to make a meaningful connection between fossil fuel resource depletion and global warming. This has led to the implementation of politically expedient pop-culture energy solutions of dubious (and often negative) value. The underlying fossil fuel energy assumptions are frequently false:

So. What does this all mean? It means that if we want to make good public policy decisions about global warming, we must include the effect of fossil fuel depletion in our calculations. These are the evil twins – global warming and fossil fuel depletion. We can not deal with them one at a time. Public policy must include both of them in the legislative deliberations that lie ahead.

 

The Worst Assumption Of All

Of the published, Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES), none are valid. Not B1, A1T, B2, A1B, A2, nor A1F1. They all ignore fossil fuel energy resource depletion. All of the SRES scenarios assume there are no resource constraints on the consumption of coal, oil and natural gas.

That – is a really bad error.

If, as the IPCC claims, human fossil fuel consumption drives global warming, then the depletion of oil, natural gas and coal resources will automatically force a decrease in the production of CO2 and other Green House Gases. Current projections indicate total fossil fuel consumption will peak around 2045. Maybe sooner. After that, we humans will have less to burn each year. By 2100 GHG production will be down to 2000 levels because we will have less fossil fuels to burn.

The only SRES storyline that could simulate the effect of fossil fuel depletion is B1. To quote the NPCC report:

«Best estimates and likely ranges for globally average surface air warming for six SRES emissions marker scenarios are given in this assessment … For example, the best estimate for the low scenario (B1) is 1.8°C (with a likely range of 1.1°C to 2.9°C) …»

However, like the rest of the SRES emissions marker scenarios, the parameters of the B1 storyline are incredibly vague. «The B1 storyline and scenario family describes a convergent world with the same global population, that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid change in economic structures toward a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.»

There is NO mention of fossil fuel depletion.

Let me put it to you this way:
If you were doing a high school science project,
and you deliberately left out half the data,
what would your teacher say?

Fossil fuel resource depletion and global warming are joined at the hip. Evil twins that threaten our human existence. Failure to consider them together could lead to even greater global warming over the next 50 years because coal will become the fuel of choice for populations trying to stay warm. An even greater increase will come from untreated combustion occurring within nations located on the western shores of the Pacific basin, most notably China and India. Satellite photos have already documented the thick black/brown cloud formations in this area. This ugly pollution is spreading across the northern hemisphere.

We need to consider global warming within the context of fossil fuel depletion. And vice versa. Otherwise our calculations of global warming are – by characterization – deficient.

 

NASA To The Rescue?

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies have in fact made an attempt to include a consideration of fossil fuel depletion in a set of CO2 production scenarios. You can find the PDF of this work (which is still in preparation): Implications of “peak oil” for atmospheric CO2 and climate, on the Internet < http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov >.

From the abstract:
«Peaking of global oil production may have a large effect on future atmospheric CO2 level and climate change, depending upon choices made for subsequent energy sources. We suggest that, if estimates of oil and gas reserves by the Energy Information Administration are realistic, it is feasible to keep atmospheric CO2 from exceeding approximately 450 ppm, provided that carbon capture and sequestration is implemented for coal and unconventional fossil fuels…»

From the text:
«Peaking of global oil production may have a large effect on future atmospheric CO2 level and climate change, depending upon choices made for subsequent energy sources. … We suggest that it is also important to “stretch” conventional oil reserves via energy efficiency, thus avoiding the need to extract liquid fuels from coal or unconventional fossil fuels. …»

Of the five scenarios graphed below, it would appear the Peak Oil Plateau (e) best describes the CO2 emissions of oil depletion. Total CO2 emissions peak in 2025 and fall below 2000 levels by 2050. Unfortunately, this scenario optimistically assumes the sequestration of coal Green House Gas on a worldwide basis. That’s a good idea that may never come to pass.

five graphed scenarios

I have asked the IPCC and NASA to run this simulation using the energy resource data (oil, natural gas, coal, and alternative energy) I developed for Detensive Nation. Thus far, neither organization seems to be interested in doing so.

Too bad. My guess is that combined fossil fuel consumption will push CO2 emissions to a maximum of 10 to 12 Gt C/yr about 2050, and then rapidly decline.

 

Conclusion

The availability, security and cost of energy, along with the impact of energy consumption on our EcoSystem, are subjects of the highest priority for our political establishment. They belong – together – center stage in this year’s election cycle. We should demand our candidates engage in a frank and intellectually honest discussion of energy. How we chose to utilize, stretch out, and allocate our remaining resources is a critical element of America’s future – and the welfare of all nations.

 

Ronald R. Cooke
Author: Detensive Nation

 


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