The Supply-Side of Climate Mitigation is Toothless

To eliminate global greenhouse gas emissions requires a two-pronged policy approach. Much is made of reducing demand for greenhouse gases through the switch to renewables, regulations and carbon taxes. But, with respect to fossil fuels, the supply needs to be reduced and eventually ceased. Climate activists like valve-turner Micheal Foster recognize that to achieve the climate mitigation targets much of the potential supply of fossil fuels must be left in the ground. With respect to the valve-turners actions of October 16th 2016, whilst it is possible to look at the minuscule impact that on global oil supply and proven reserves of oil, it is more difficult to estimate the marginal impact on the overall greenhouse gas emissions of their broader objective of permanently shutting down Canadian oil production. That requires estimates of CO2 emissions per unit of oil, coal and gas. In searching for figures to make my own estimates I came across a letter to Nature. McGlade and Ekins 2015 (The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C) estimate that the proven global reserves of oil, gas and coal would produce about 2900 GtCO2e. They further estimate that the “non-reserve resources” of fossil fuels represent a further 8000 GtCO2e of emissions.

There is no breakdown by country, so I input their values of CO2 per unit into the BP’s estimates of global reserves of oil, gas and coal, coming up with a similar 2800 GtCO2e. These represent roughly 50 years of oil and gas supply and 120 years of coal supply at current usage rates. This should be put into the context of the policy objectives. From the abstract.

It has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2).

This is similar to the IPCC’s central estimate of 1000 Gt CO2e from 2012 onwards. With just over 50 GtCO2e of GHG emissions per annum, from the beginning of 2018, the figure is around 700-800 GtCO2e. Taking into account other GHG emissions, to achieve the emissions target around 75% of proven reserves and 100% of any non-reserve sources or future discoveries must be left in the ground. I have produced a chart of the countries where these proven reserves lie, measured in terms of CO2 produced from burning.

These are very rough estimates, based upon the assuming that the emissions per unit of each fossil fuel are the same as the McGlade and Ekins averages. This is clearly not the case. A better estimate for oil, for instance, would likely have higher potential emissions from Venezuela and Canada, and lower potential emissions from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia. However, it is clear that if global emissions constraints are to be achieved, the UN must get binding agreements from USA, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, India, Qatar – plus many other countries – to abandon these vital resources within a few years. This would need to be done fairly and equitably in the eyes of all parties. But in such matters, there are widely different perspectives on what is fair, with a lack of ability by the UN to impose a settlement. There are also considerable economic costs to those nations whose economies rely on the producing fossil fuels, with the compensation the that they might demand unimaginably high. Further, like any cartel, there are considerable economic advantages in reneging on such deals, whilst ensuring that rival countries are held to their part of the agreement.

The problem is even greater. McGlade and Ekins 2015 is likely to have underestimated the unproven reserves of fossil fuels, even though the 8000 GtCO2e is truly staggering. The short 2013 GWPF paper THE ABUNDANCE OF FOSSIL FUELS by Phillip Mueller estimates that unproven, but potential recoverable reserves of tar sands in Canada and Green River Basin Wyoming, heavy oil in Venezuela and shale oil in Saudi Arabia could each be similar to or exceed, the global proven reserves of oil. Combined these could produce the around the same CO2 emissions of all the proven reserves of oil, gas and coal combined.

Then there are methane hydrates, which could contain 500 to 5000+ GtCO2e of emissions if burnt. The very nature of the hydrates could mean that large amounts of methane being released directly into the atmosphere.  This US Geological survey graphic (from a 2014 BBC article) shows the very wide distribution of the hydrates, meaning many countries could have large deposits within their territorial waters. This is especially significant for African nations, most of whom have very low, or nil, proven fossil fuel resources.

Mueller does not explore the potential reserves of coal. Under the North Sea alone there are estimates of 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of the stuff. (Searches reveal a number of other sources.) This compares to the BP estimate of 800 million tonnes of global proven reserves. 3 to 23 trillion tonnes of hard coal if burnt would represent 7000 to 55000 GtCO2e of emissions, compared to less than 1000 GtCO2e the IPCC claims sufficient to reach the 2C warming limit.

How many other vast fossil fuel reserves are out there? It may be just economic factors that stop fossil fuels reserves being proven and then exploited. What is clear is that whilst activists might be able to curtail or stop production of fossil fuels in Western countries, they are powerless to stop vast reserves being exploited in much of the rest of the World. The only significant consequence is to harm the economic futures of any country in which they gain successes and inadvertently work to benefit some pretty intolerant and oppressive regimes.

However, this does not leave climate activists impotent. They can work on better identifying when and where the catastrophic impacts of climate change will occur. But that would mean recognizing that previous prophesies of impending doom have been either totally false or massively exaggerated.

Kevin Marshall

The Closest yet to my perspective on Climate Change

 Michael S. Bernstam of the Hoover Institution has produced a short post Inconvenient Math. (hattip The GWPF). The opening paragraphs are:-

Climate change faces a neglected actuarial problem. Too many conditions must be met to warrant a policy action on climate change. The following four stipulations must each be highly probable:

1. Global warming will accumulate at 0.12 degrees Celsius or higher per decade.

2. It is anthropogenic, due largely to carbon dioxide emissions.

3. The net effect is harmful to human well-being in the long run.

4. Preventive measures are efficient, that is, feasible at the costs not exceed-ing the benefits.

But even if the probability of each of these stipulations is as high as 85 percent, their compound probability is as low as 50 percent. This makes a decision to act or not to act on climate change equivalent to flipping a coin.

Bernstam later states

In the case of climate change, the conditions are four. They are not random, nor are they arbitrary. To see this, one can run a thought experiment and drop or ignore any of the above foursome. At once, the entire call for action on climate change becomes pointless. If global warming is not ongoing, there is no need to stop it. If it is not anthropogenic, there is no need to curb carbon dioxide emissions. If it is not harmful, there is no need to worry. If preventive measures are inefficient, they would not help and there is no use applying them. It follows that all four conditions are necessary. If just one of them does not hold, action is unnecessary or useless.

That is, for action on climate change to be justified (in terms of having a reasonable expectation that by acting to combat climate change a better future will be created than by not acting) there must be human-caused warming of sufficient magnitude to produce harmful consequences, AND measures that cost less than the expected future costs that they offset.

These sentiments are a simplified version of a series of posts I made in October 2013, where I very crudely deriving two cost curves (costs of climate change and climate mitigation). This aimed to replicate a takeaway quote from the Stern Review.

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

I looked at the idea of multiplying the various probabilities together, at least for the costs of climate change.  But instead of the boundary it is a continuous function of an infinite number of possible scenarios. In general I believe the more extreme the costs of warming, the less likely it is to happen. The reason is that we derive the non-visible part of the cost curve can only be objectively derived from the revealed warming from the recent past. Separation of the costs of warming-induced climate change are extremely difficult from the costs of random extreme weather events. Even worse, the costs of extreme natural weather events (especially in terms of death toll) has been falling over time, as Indur Goklany has documented. The fall-back for global-warming theory is to use the late Milton Friedman’s Methodology of Positive Economics. That is to evaluate theory credibility on its predictive ability. If in the short-run climate scientists (or anyone who believes in climate alarmism like Al Gore) are able to make predictions about the signals of impending climate apocalypse, then this should give some credibility for claims of substantially worse to come. The problem is there are a huge number of failed predictions of climate worsening, but not a single one that has come true. This would signify that the true risk (as opposed to the perceived risk from the climate community) of climate change is approximately zero. The divergence of belief from the evidence is likely from the collective navel-gazing of post normal science.

The policy aspect that Bernstam fails to explore is the re-distributional aspects of policy. The theory is that global warming is caused by global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore climate mitigation must comprise of reducing those global emissions. However, as the COP21 Paris showed most of the worlds population live in countries where there are no GHG emissions reduction policies even proposed. But actually reducing emissions means increasing energy costs, and hampering businesses with onerous regulations. Policy countries are given a comparative disadvantage to non-policy countries, as I tried to show here. The implication is that if developed countries strongly pursue high cost mitigation policies, the marginal cost of non-policy emerging economies switching to emissions reduction policies increases. Thus, whilst Donald Trump’s famous tweet that Global Warming is a Chinese hoax to make US manufacturing non-competitive is false, the impact of climate mitigation policies as currently pursued are the same as if it were true.

There is also a paradox with the costs of climate change. The costs of climate change are largely related to the unexpected nature of the costly events. For instance, ceteris paribus. a category 1 hurricane could be more costly in a non-hurricane area than a stronger hurricane in say Florida. The reason is that in the non-hurricane area buildings will not be as resistant to storms, nor will there be early warning procedures in place as in Florida. The paradox is that more successful climate scientists are in forecasting the risks of climate change, the more people can adapt to climate change, reducing the costs. The current focus on climate consensus, rather than focusing on increasing competency and developing real expertise in the field is actually harmful to future generations if climate change is a actually a serious emerging problem. But the challenge for the climate alarmists is that in developing the real expertise may result in their beliefs about the world are false.

Finally, Bernstam fails to acknowledge an immutable law of public policy. Large complex public policy projects with vague aims; poorly defined plans and lack of measurable costs tend to overshoot on costs and under-perform of benefits. Climate mitigation is an extreme example of complexity, lack of clear objects and lack object measurement of costs per unit of emissions saved.

Kevin Marshall

£319 billion on Climate Change for approximately nothing

The major reason for abandoning the Climate Change Act 2008 is not due to the massive financial burden imposed on families, but because it will do approximately nothing to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. Massive costs are being imposed for near zero prospective benefit.

At the weekend the GWPF published a paper by Peter Lilley MP on the costs of The Climate Change Act 2008. From 2014 to 2030 he estimates a total cost of £319 billion to ensure that in 2030 British greenhouse gas emissions are 57% below their 1990 levels.
Putting this into context, listen to then Environment Minister David Miliband introducing the Climate Change Bill in 2007.

The 2008 Act increased the 2050 target from 60% to 80%. Miliband recognizes that what the UK does is not sufficient to stop a global problem. That requires a global solution. Rather, the aim is for Britain to lead the way, with other industrialized countries encouraged to follow. The developing countries are given a free choice of “a low carbon path of development rather than to repeat the mistakes of the industrialized countries.

Over eight years after the little video was made and seven years after the Climate Change Act was passed (with an increased 2050 emissions reduction target of 80% reduction on 1990 levels) was the COP21 in Paris. The responses from other countries to Britain’s lead were in the INDC submission, which the UNFCCC summarized in a graph, and I have annotated.

The UNFCCC have four bands. First, in orange, is the Pre-INDC scenarios. Then in yellow is the projected global impact if all the vague policy proposals are full enacted. In blue is the least cost 2◦C pathway for global emissions reductions, whilst in green is the least cost 1.5◦C pathway.

I have superimposed lilac arrows showing the UK Climate Act proportionate emissions pathway achieving a 57% emissions reduction by 2030 and an 80% emissions reduction by 2050 compared to the baseline 1990 emissions. That is, if all countries were to follow Britain’s lead, then the 2◦C warming limit would not be breached.

What this clearly shows is that collectively countries have not followed Britain’s lead. Even if the policy proposals were fully enacted (an unlikely scenario) the yellow arrow quite clearly shows that global emissions will still be rising in 2030.

This needs to be put into context of costs and benefits. The year before David Miliband launched the Climate Bill the Stern Review was published. The Summary of Conclusions gave the justification for reducing greenhouse emissions.

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

Britain is spending the money to avert catastrophic global warming, but future generations will still be subjected to costs of climate catastrophe. It not much worse in terms of wasting money if the Stern Review grossly exaggerated the likely costs of warming and massively understated the policy costs, as Peter Lilley and Richard Tol laid out in their recent paper “The Stern Review : Ten Years On“.

However, if the British Government had conducted some proper assessment of the effectiveness of policy (or the Opposition has done their job in holding the Government to account) then it would have been clear that sufficient countries would never follow Britain’s lead. Last year Robin Guenier published some notes on Supreme Court Justice Phillip Sands lecture CLIMATE CHANGE and THE RULE OF LAW. Guenier stated of the Rio Declaration of 1992

There’s little, if any, evidence that the undoubted disagreements about the science – the focus of Professor Sands’ concern in his lecture – are the reason it’s proving so difficult to come to an effective agreement to restrict GHG emissions. In contrast however, the Annex I / non-Annex I distinction has had huge consequences. These arise in particular from Article 4.7:

“The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention … will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.” [My emphasis]

When the Convention was enacted (1992) the effective exemption of developing countries from environmental constraint made some sense. But over the years Non-Annex I countries, which include major economies such as China, India, South Korea, Brazil, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Iran, have become increasingly powerful: in 2012 responsible for 67% of global CO2 emissions.

Robin Guenier uses estimates for CO2 emissions not (the admittedly harder to estimate) GHG emissions, of which CO2 comprises about two-thirds. But estimates are available from from the European Commission’s “Emissions Database for Global and Atmospheric Research” (EDGAR) for the period 1990 to 2012. I divided up the emissions between the Annex countries and the Non-Annex countries. 

The developing countries accounted for 64% of global GHG emissions in 2012, up from 47% in 1990 and 57% in 2005 when the Stern Review was being written. From 1990 to 2012 global emissions increased by 41% or 15,700 MtCO2e, whilst those of the Non-Annex countries increased by 90% or 16,400 MtCO2e  to 34,600 MtCO2e. The emissions in the United Kingdom decreased in the period (mostly for reasons other than mitigation policies) by 25% to 586 MtCO2e or 1.1% of the estimated global total.

It would have been abundantly clear to anyone who actually looked at the GHG emissions figures by country that the Rio Declaration 1992 was going to prevent any attempt to significantly reduce global GHG emissions. Since 1992 the phenomenal economic growth of countries like China and India, driven by the low energy costs of fossil fuels, have made the impossibility of reducing global emissions even starker. Yet still the IPCC, UNFCCC, many Governments and a large Academic consensus have failed to acknowledge, let alone understand, the real world data. Still they talk about reducing global emissions by over 80% in a couple of generations. In terms of the United Kingdom, the INDC submissions produced last year should have been further confirmation that the Government has no rational justification for imposing the massive costs on families, increasing inequalities and destroying jobs in the process.

Kevin Marshall

 

How Skeptical Science maintains the 97% Consensus fallacy

Richard Tol has at last published a rebuttal of the Cook et al 97% consensus paper. So naturally Skeptical Science, run by John Cook publishes a rebuttal by Dana Nuccitelli. It is cross-posted at the Guardian Climate Consensus – the 97%, that is authored by Dana Nuccitelli. I strongly believe in comparing and contrasting different points of view, and winning an argument on its merits. Here are some techniques that Dana1981 employ that go counter to my view. That is discouraging the reader from looking at the other side by failing to link to opposing views, denigrating the opponents, and distorting the arguments.

Refusing to acknowledge the opponents credentials

Dana says

…… economist and Global Warming Policy Foundation advisor Richard Tol

These are extracts from Tol’s own biography, with my underlines

Richard S.J. Tol is a Professor at the Department of Economics, University of Sussex and the Professor of the Economics of Climate Change…. Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. Formerly, he was a Research Professor (in), Dublin, the Michael Otto Professor of Sustainability and Global Change at Hamburg University …..He has had visiting appointments at ……. University of Victoria, British Colombia (&)University College London, and at the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Department of Economics…….. He is ranked among the top 100 economists in the world, and has over 200 publications in learned journals (with 100+ co-authors), 3 books, 5 major reports, 37 book chapters, and many minor publications. He specialises in the economics of energy, environment, and climate, and is interested in integrated assessment modelling. He is an editor for Energy Economics, and an associate editor of economics the e-journal. He is advisor and referee of national and international policy and research. He is an author (contributing, lead, principal and convening) of Working Groups I, II and III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…..

Dana and Cook can’t even get close – so they hide it.

Refusing to link the Global Warming Policy Foundation

There is a link to the words. It goes to a desmogblog article which begins with the words

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) is a United Kingdom think tank founded by climate change denialist Nigel Lawson.

The description is the GWPF’s website is

We are an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity which, while open-minded on the contested science of global warming, is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated.

Failing to allow reader to understand the alternative view for themselves

The Guardian does not link to Tol’s article. The SkS article links to the peer-reviewed paper, which costs $19.95. Bishop Hill blog also links you to Tol’s own blog, where he discusses in layman’s terms the article. There is also a 3 minute presentation video, created by the paper’s publishers, where Tol explains the findings.

Distorted evidence on data access

Dana says

The crux of Tol’s paper is that he would have conducted a survey of the climate literature in a slightly different way than our approach. He’s certainly welcome to do just that – as soon as we published our paper, we also launched a webpage to make it as easy as possible for anyone to read the same scientific abstracts that we looked at and test the consensus for themselves.

Tol says

So I asked for the data to run some tests myself. I got a fraction, and over the course of the next four months I got a bit more – but still less than half of all data are available for inspection. Now Cook’s university is sending legal threats to a researcher who found yet another chunk of data.

The Mystery, threatened, researcher

The researcher is Brandon Shollenberger.

Dana says

In addition to making several basic errors, Tol cited numerous denialist and GWPF blog posts, including several about material stolen from our team’s private discussion forum during a hacking.

Brandon gives a description of how obtained the data at “wanna be hackers?“. It was not hacking, in the sense of by-passing passwords and other security, but following the links left around on unprotected sites. What is more, he used similar methods to those used before to get access to a “secret” discussion forum. This forum included some disturbing Photoshop images, including this one of John Cook, complete with insignia of the Sks website.

A glowing endorsement of counter critiques

Dana says

An anonymous individual has also published an elegant analysis
showing that Tol’s method will decrease the consensus no matter what data are put into it. In other words, his 91% consensus result is an artifact of his flawed methodology.

So it must be right then, and also the last word?

Failing to look at the counter-counter critique

Dana, like other fellow believers, does not look at the rebuttal.

Bishop Hill says

This has prompted a remarkable rapid response from an anonymous author here, which says that Tol has it all wrong. If I understand it correctly, Tol has corrected Cook’s results. The critic claims to have worked back from Tol’s results to what should have been Cook’s original results and got a nonsense result, thus demonstrating that Tol’s method is nonsense.

Tol’s reply today equally quickfire and says that his critic, who he has dubbed “Junior” has not used the correct data at all.

Junior did not reconstruct the [matrix] T that I used. This is unfortunate as my T is online…

Junior thus made an error and blamed it on me.

Demonstration of climate science as a belief system

This is my personal view, not of Tol’s, nor of Sks.

Tol in his short presentation, includes this slide as a better categorization of the reviewed papers.

My take on these figures is that 8% give an explicit endorsement, and two-thirds take no position. Taking out the 7970 with no position gives 98.0%. Looking at just those 1010 that take an explicit position gives a “97.6% consensus”.

I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, but I would declare as bunkum any similar survey that scanned New Testament theology peer-reviewed journals to demonstrate the divinity of Christ from the position taken by the authors. People study theology because they are fellow Christians. Atheists or agnostics reject it out of hand. Many scholars are employed by theological colleges, that exit to train people for ministry. Theological journals would be unlikely to accept articles that openly questioned the central tenets of Christianity. If they did many seminaries (but not many Universities) would not subscribe to the publication. In the case of climatology, publishing a paper openly critical of climatology gets a similar reaction to publishing views that some gay people might be so out of choice, rather than discovering their true nature, or that Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea is not dissimilar to Hitler’s annexation of Sudetenland in 1938.

The lack of disagreement and the reactions to objections, I would interpret as “climate science” being an alternative belief system. People with a superior understanding of their subject area have nothing to fear from allowing comparison with alternative and inferior views.

 Kevin Marshall