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  • Global Warming Roulette

    Spin the wheel and whatever number the ball lands on will be the new tipping point we must get below; if not, catastrophic global warming to cause 2012-style disasters on our planet. A few years ago the upper limit on carbon dioxide was 450 parts per million (ppm), which meant an 80 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Now it’s 350 ppm:

    In the past four years, climate scientists, led by NASA’s James Hansen, have dramatically altered the goal. To avoid the collapse of the continental ice-sheets and a dangerous rise in sea levels, many scientists are now saying we have to get down to 350 ppm, and quickly.

    This means what was already a heroic (and to many, impossible) target has become mind-boggling. Reaching 350 ppm would require a 97 percent reduction in emissions, entailing a complete conversion to renewable energy systems by mid-century, with the world economy virtually free of carbon emissions. Such a goal is far more demanding than any of the leading policy proposals under discussion.”

    Recently a group of scientists wrote an open letter to Congress stressing that cap and trade is a good first step, but Waxman-Markey should just be the beginning: “The Waxman-Markey bill now being considered by the Congress offers a powerful advance and must be enacted this year. But at its best it will be only a first step in the direction that scientists now recognize as necessary to protect local and regional climates.”

    What would be necessary to obtain these goals is an energy transition of unthinkable magnitude. Although authors of a report Economics for Equity and the Environment Network say stopping global warming is something we can afford and “remains fundamentally a problem of political will”, others suggest that’s not the case.

    Energy chemist Nate Lewis of the California Institute of Technology says just the opposite: “It’s not true that all the technologies are available and we just need the political will to deploy them.” Lewis shows just how much political will we’d need to even have a shot at this working:

    The world used 14 trillion watts (14 terawatts) of power in 2006. Assuming minimal population growth (to 9 billion people), slow economic growth (1.6 percent a year, practically recession level) and—this is key—unprecedented energy efficiency (improvements of 500 percent relative to current U.S. levels, worldwide), it will use 28 terawatts in 2050. (In a business-as-usual scenario, we would need 45 terawatts.) Simple physics shows that in order to keep CO2 to 450 ppm, 26.5 of those terawatts must be zero-carbon.

    That’s a lot of solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and nuclear, especially since renewables kicked in a measly 0.2 terawatts in 2006 and nuclear provided 0.9 terawatts. Are you a fan of nuclear? To get 10 terawatts, less than half of what we’ll need in 2050, Lewis calculates, we’d have to build 10,000 reactors, or one every other day starting now. Do you like wind? If you use every single breeze that blows on land, you’ll get 10 or 15 terawatts. Since it’s impossible to capture all the wind, a more realistic number is 3 terawatts, or 1 million state-of-the art turbines, and even that requires storing the energy—something we don’t know how to do—for when the wind doesn’t blow. Solar? To get 10 terawatts by 2050, Lewis calculates, we’d need to cover 1 million roofs with panels every day from now until then. “It would take an army,” he says.”

    And Marlo Lewis at the Competitive Enterprise Institute points out that “sacrifices required of developing countries would be immense, because 90% of the growth in global CO2 emissions is expected to occur in developing countries.”

    This is for 450ppm. They want 350ppm. To put this in some perspective, Sharon Begley notes in her Newsweek column that we are currently at 386 ppm; we were at 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution.

    We shouldn’t forget there was once a time when it was 550ppm. The much trumpeted Stern Review offers 550 parts per million of atmospheric CO2 as a magical threshold. Beyond 550 ppm, there is climate catastrophe.

    The shift from 550ppm to 450ppm to 350ppm demonstrates how arbitrary and inconclusive the science on global warming is. MIT’s Richard Lindzen Yong-Sang Choi recently published a study that says the impact of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels may affect the global temperature far less than originally thought. It also goes to show how capping carbon dioxide emissions could strangle the global economy and adaptation could be a much less costly but much more effective approach to dealing with climate change.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Global Warming Roulette

    1. G.R.L. Cowan, Ontari says:

      Fortunately there are minerals, innocuous to us and our works but not to CO2, that can be pulverized and strewn over large areas of land, and they will turn CO2 into rock, e.g. magnesite, that will lie as a similarly thin strewing. One year's worth of all the CO2 from the world's fossil fuel burners, about 30 billion tonnes, would amount to a 1-mm magnesite-fall if it fell only on North America. The cure is much, much less severe than the disease.

      A 50-GW(e) nuclear power plant might do the work of 50 gas-fired plants, if its entry into service caused them to be shut down and its electricity were used for the same purposes theirs had been. But government doesn't like it when natural gas is replaced by uranium; uranium is too inexpensive, brings in too little tax.

      There is a win-win solution, both for those to whom the tax man is a golden goose that must not be slain and for the rest of us: dedicate the giant nuke to pulverizing and strewing the curative minerals. Then the gas plants can continue to support their established retinue of civil servants, and the world's major cities won't drown. And maybe we can wean the world's governments off fossil fuel taxation revenue, but not as quickly as would be necessary if we said, they're the problem. Burn them like leeches with salt.

    2. John Roane Sarasota says:

      The USA needs to just bring the US dollar to zero and get it over with. Tell those we owe sorry (Obama should be good for that) and we should just start over with a new Congress that isn't suffering from cranial inversion of the external sphincter muscle.

    3. JD, alabama says:

      Al Gore himself recently stated the path to complaince is global government. Get ready, they're coming.

    4. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      How many times does James Hansen have to be proven wrong before anyone will stop quoting his

      delusional views on the lie that is man made global warming. This entire matter is a "power play" by the socialist to "transform" this country into their idea of what America should be,

      not what we know it to be.

    5. tony a media pa. says:

      things we cant control: forest fires,floods,earthquakes,tornados,snowstorms,hail,hurricans,elninos,erosion,sickness and dying but we can control global warming by cap and trade GIVE ME A BREAKgg

    6. Freedom of Speech TX says:

      Assuming all the ice is melting, just how are we going to get China, India, and Russia onboard? We cannot even get the UN to stop Iran. Does anyone believe the Russians, Chinese, and Indians are going to wreck their economies. But, we are willing to wreck ours, right?

      The climate has been changing for eons. It will continue to change long after we are gone. Meanwhile, where is the ice age that was predicted in the 1970s?

      This is just a way for powerful officials to have a "cause" to get elected and for powerful people to get filthy rich.

      Get rich with private investment NOT taxpayer dollars. There is already too much waste.

    7. Pingback: Global Warming Roulette » The Foundry- Global Warming Talk | Ways to Prevent Global Warming

    8. Ed in California says:

      If all the Ice Caps melt, that would take care of our water shortages and one other good thing will come out of that. We could farm the areas where the Ice Caps melted. Look at all the food we could raise and keep feeding those who only produce children to starve to death. Africa could use the extra water and we could use the new Continents for cities and farms. Let's get this Global Warming going and let us speed it up. Iceland would become a Tropical Paradise then.

    9. Pingback: Isn’t it strange that the U.N. is trying to hold Israel as a county and its leaders individually responsible for war crimes because they fought a war of self-defense against Hamas, a radical Islamist political organization, but the radical Islamist pirate

    10. redpens, PA says:

      Why hasn't anybody committed James Hansen to a mental

      institution yet? Capping CO2 would be like telling rain to stop

      falling. Global warming, climate change, or whatever the left

      is calling it this week, isn't caused by man's activities. Two words sums up climate change; MOTHER NATURE!!!

    11. Dan Pangburn says:

      It is easy to show that it doesn't matter what the CO2 level is. All of the global average temperatures for the entire 20th century and on into the 21st century are readily calculated with no consideration whatsoever needed of changes to the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gas. The method is a straight-forward application of the first law of thermodynamics and uses only the time-integral of sunspot count and 32-year long up trends and down trends that have an amplitude of 0.45 C and are probably related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Data sources, a graph that overlays the measured and calculated temperatures from 1880 to 2008 and a detailed description of the method are in a new paper at http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=145&… . The standard deviation of the difference between concurrent calculated and measured average global temperatures is 0.064 C. There is no Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) (and therefore no human caused climate change) from added atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    12. Dave, Bellingham, Wa says:


      Thanks for your work and thank you for the link. The graph and the described method are extremely persuasive. Is it possible that this relationship is what Steve McIntyre has alluded to recently?

    13. Milan says:


      As I pointed out here, your self-published article has as much credibility as a blog post. By contrast, the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC has been subjected to a massive amount of scientific scrutiny – including consideration of whether observed changes in temperature can be attributed to sunspots.

      When their climate models are run using only natural forcings (including solar factors), they fail to explain observed temperature changes in all continents and the global ocean. When anthropogenic forcings are incorporated, the model output is consistent with observations.

      This chart is from p. 6 of the Summary for Policymakers from the 4AR Synthesis Report (PDF).

    14. Dan Pangburn, AZ says:


      The method and data source (NOAA) are completely presented so that ANYONE can repeat the work. If they do, they will discover the same thing that I did. Climate Change is natural.

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