Is the Rise in Global Temperatures Slowing Down?

An Economist article asks whether the flattening of the rise in world temperatures in the past decade, while carbon dioxide emissions were increasing, shows that the predicted rise of 4 to 6oC in this century is off base.

Response: No, unfortunately.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions do not heat the earth immediately. We are told that there is a 15-year time lag between their release and when temperatures begin to rise. So the leveling of world temperatures in the past decade makes perfect sense. In 1988 the economy contracted and for the next decade GDP was lower and so were CO2 emissions.

With CO2 emissions rising by 4 parts per million per year in the 2000s, it makes sense to expect a marked increase in  extreme weather by the mid 2020s and beyond.

Investors who wish to direct their energy portfolio into solar, wind, geothermal, grid, algae, batteries and other green technology, would be advised to lobby for a carbon tax to allow promising green upstarts to compete successfully against the aging fossil fuel industry.

http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators#globalTemp

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

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Free Investment Advice from an Expert

Jeremy Grantham, Chief Investment Strategist for GMO, an Management Firm that oversees more than $100 billion in investments, announced his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline in an interview with Charlie Rose Mar 11, 2013. Grantham is known for having predicted the last several financial crises.

Grantham says that climate change is a numbers issue; the rise of .8oC in temperature is obvious, we can see spring arriving earlier, and know that it took additional carbon in the air to make that happen. Grantham continues, explaining the problem with continuing to burn fossil fuels is that we can only emit 565 gigatons of carbon into the air before world temperatures reach “2oC which is considered the boundary, below which we might limp our way through.” But in fuel reserves there is five times that much, “enough to cook our goose and guarantee our grandchildren starve to death in floods and all.”

Every previous human civilization expanded, then met limits of available resources and collapsed. Grantham describes two gifts that our civilization has that give him hope. The first is our ability to limit birth rates, and the fact that when people get richer, they choose to have fewer children. A shrinking population puts less pressure on finite resources.

The second gift is alternative energy technology, solar, wind, geothermal, new grid, and batteries which give us the ability to “move fairly seamlessly” to using the renewable resource of energy from the sun which never runs out. “If you can capture the sun’s energy, you can keep civilization going.”

Then he added, “Science will not guarantee to save us it will only give us a possible out.”

Listen to the interview at :

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12812

Gasoline Costs

The average US household spent nearly $3,000 or 4% of yearly income on gasoline in 2012, according to a WSJ report on new government data.
Response:
Well worth it! We certainly wouldn’t want to mingle with people who ride trains and buses, or heaven forbid, bicycles.
It’s worth the time spent in exhaust-belching traffic jams and searching for pricey parking spaces, worth the money shelled out for car payments and maintenance and insurance.
It’s worth sending 20 more pounds of warming carbon dioxide into the air with each gallon of gasololine burned. Before too long, we will have Bahama-like weather in New York, be able to dive out of office windows directly into the ocean, and get no sand between our toes.
It’s worth spending up to 15 times more on transportation to have our own, personal, greenhouse gas dispenser.

Natural gas is not better for the climate than coal

Natural gas is not better for the climate than coal. The problem is, it leaks when they drill, and more so with horizontal drilling and fracking.  The drilling process has always included some venting at the beginning of drilling. In addition, processing and transporting gas involves leaks; most of the pipe system for natural gas is over 50 years old.

The reason why people why people have referred to natural gas as a clean fuel is that burning it emits half as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as coal, and also less soot and smog.

However, natural gas is nearly all methane, a much more potent warming gas than carbon dioxide. For the first twenty years after methane is released into air, it has a warming effect  110 times as strong as carbon dioxide, according to newer studies.  Then methane gradually breaks down, and its warming effect, measured over a 100 year period, is about 25 times as strong as that of carbon dioxide.

That is one reason why there are  burning flares on oil fields. Natural gas often comes out when they drill for oil, and they burn it. Then it releases carbon dioxide instead of the more potent gas, methane.

So how much methane escapes when they retrieve and process natural gas? Estimates of leakage and venting rates range from 1.5% to 8% of the gas retrieved. It is very difficult to measure this, and it has not been regularly done.

Counting only emissions from burning, not from leakage, natural gas releases 117 pounds of CO2 for each million BTU of energy output, diesel oil releases 161, and coal releases 210 pounds, according to the EIA.

If we assume a low leakage rate, say 3%, of the natural gas, and then take the lower warming multiple of natural gas/methane, of 25, and add that CO2 equivalent to the 117 pound of CO2 emitted by burning, we see that the total use of natural gas releases the equivalent of   205 pounds of carbon dioxide,  about the same as for coal. Assuming a higher leakage rate, like 5% and a higher warming multiple of  say 75, gives natural gas a CO2 equivalent warming rate of 556 pounds, or two and a half times worse than coal.

The US government has been encouraging more production of natural gas in the US, referring to it as a clean fuel, even though the Environmental Protection Agency admits that there has not been good data on the amount of leakage. Analysis of the leakage issue by scientists at Cornell University has pointed out that this poses a serious danger to the climate.

The response of the government, and some industry representatives and environmentalists, has been to call for regulations controlling leakage. It is hard to imagine that venting and leakage could be reduced much below 3%, especially since they have been a regular part of the retrieval process, and the cost of capturing those small amounts is greater than the gas is worth.  Even if some companies in the US were able to reduce leakage, that is not likely to be done in drilling in other countries.

Most of the natural gas in the US is used for heating buildings and for generating electricity. Geothermal technology is an excellent clean alternative for heating and cooling buildings.  Wind energy can provide electricity at rates that are competitive with electricity generated by natural gas. We have affordable and safe alternatives to natural gas.

A few years ago, decision makers made a serious mistake in promoting ethanol, although studies show that  its greenhouse gas emissions are as bad as oil.

The world is too close to catastrophic effects of global warming. New investment in electricity generation should only be in green technology now, replacing natural gas and coal generation facilities as they reach the end of their life spans.

Calculating the cost of carbon pollution

Can economists calculate the cost of carbon pollution?

Response:

The prices of gasoline and natural gas and coal set  do not include the costs of damages caused by emissions from burning those fossil fuels, such as polluted shorelines, flooded towns, ruined crops, burned homes, damages to health and livelihood. These damages cost the world more than $1.2 trillion a year now, reducing world income and production by 1.6% now, and by 3.2% by 2030, according to a report by the DARA group.

President Obama appointed  in 2010 a government  Working Group on the Social Cost of Carbon to estimate the social benefits and costs of marginal reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, including damages to property, agriculture, health, and ecosystem services. This study is an important step toward shifting costs of climate damages onto the industry responsible for them.

More governments are now taking action to shift those costs onto the fossil fuel industry.  China announced  a plan to set up a carbon trading system with the help of the European Union. Australia, New Zealand and South Korea are in the process of putting prices on carbon.

The Working Group study was done so that agencies can do cost-benefit analyses of regulatory actions that change CO2 emissions. The Group calculated the mid range value of carbon reductions at $21 per Ton, with a range of alternatives from $5 to $35. The figure of $21 is now being used to calculate greenhouse gas reduction benefits in regulatory impact analyses (RIAs).

A study by economists at Natural Resource Defense Council claims that the carbon value should be 2.6 to 12 times larger. They fault the Group for not giving added weight to higher damages suffered in low income communities, and for too high an expectation of economic growth.

The Group emphasized the many uncertainties involved in the calculation, their inability to calculate some factors like ocean acidification,  and the need for regular updating with new research.

Who Says Humans Caused Climate Change?

Nearly all climate scientists who have published in peer-reviewed  mainstream  science journals), and all national science academies of industrialized countries agree that the warming of the Earth over the last 50 years is mostly caused by emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, oil, coal and natural gas.

There are scientists in other fields like physics, geography, and meteorology, who have said they are skeptical. Richard A Muller, a physicist at Berkeley said, “It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical.”

Muller considered himself a skeptic and accepted funding from the Koch brothers, (who helped fund the Tea Party) and other sources, to work with a team of scientists  at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project on the evidence of human-caused climate change.

In an op-ed entitled The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic  Muller explains their  conclusion that the average temperature of the Earth has risen 1.5oF over the last 50 years and “it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

They examined issues raised by skeptics, such as heat from cities, selection of data, quality of measurements, human error, solar variability, volcanic eruptions, and El Nino and they found that none of these things correlated with the pattern of rising temperatures and must be eliminated as causes of the warming climate.

Looking to the future, the Muller team predicted that Earth’s temperature will continue to rise by 1.5oF over the next 50 or even 20 years, depending on how much fossil fuel is burned.

Why droughts will get worse

Variation in carbon dioxide concentration during the past 400,000 years (historical data from the Vostock ice core).

NASA  CO2 parts per million

A columnist says ‘evidence suggests that droughts will become more intense in many parts of the world if the planet keeps heating up.’

Response:

The planet is heating up, there is no uncertainty that it is happening or why, only how fast.

The basic facts of global warming are simple. In laboratories and videos we can see three processes:  when fossil fuels, namely oil, coal and natural gas, burn, they release carbon dioxide, a gas. Carbon dioxide holds heat in air, the more carbon dioxide in air, the warmer it gets. People have burned a LOT of fossil fuels since 1900. The level of carbon dioxide in air is higher than it has been in way over 650,000 years.

Temperatures are also increasing, as shown in this NASA graph.

Understanding of the basic process of global warming has been confirmed by study of its effects.  Melting ice, more evaporation causing more rain and snow in the wet season, and drier land in the dry season, causing forest fires removing cooling tree cover, leading to warmer air and so on in positive feedback loops.  The carbon dioxide  (carbonic acid in water) makes the oceans acid, dissolving shells and coral.

The columnist suggests that farmers can adapt by using organic techniques because they use water supplies more efficiently.  However, he also cites a 2011 paper by Michael Roberts and Wolfram Schenkler which estimated that average corn, soybean and cotton yields in existing U.S. farm regions are predicted to decline between 30 and 82 percent by the end of the century due to the warming.

The media needs to stop implying that climate change is uncertain, and help us stop it. We have options to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. We can pass a carbon tax, with rebates to the public. The government could specify that it will only purchase solar, wind, geothermal energy with an initial phase-in period. Citizens could vote against candidates who keep us under the domination of the fossil fuel interests. It is time to close ranks and get the climate stabilized.