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Recent trends in CO2 emissions

Filed under: — group @ 14 June 2010

Guest commentary by Corinne Le Quéré, Michael R. Raupach, and Joseph G. Canadell

There is a letter in Nature Geoscience this month by Manning et al (sub. reqd.) “Misrepresentation of the IPCC CO2 emission scenarios” discussing some recent statements about the growth rates of CO2 emissions compared to the IPCC scenarios that informed the climate modeling in the last IPCC report. In it they refer to results published by us and colleagues in a couple of recent papers (Raupach et al. 2007; Le Quéré et al. 2009), and to statements made by others on the basis of our results (Ganguly et al. 2009; Anderson et al. 2008; Reichstein 2010). Specifically, Manning et al object to the claim that “current CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning were higher than the values used in climate projections by the IPCC”.

We agree with the Manning et al’s main point, and appreciate the chance to provide some clarification on the graph in question and subsequent use of our result. To be specific, recent emissions were not higher than each and every one of the climate projections by the IPCC, as has been claimed by some other studies citing our work, although they were near the top end of the range.

So what is the claim of ‘misrepresentation’ based on?

The IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) published in 2000, provided forty scenarios representing plausible futures depicted by common storylines. The IPCC selected six of the forty original SRES scenarios as “illustrative” of the storylines to be used for projections of climate change. In our papers however, we compared recent CO2 emissions with the averages across models depicting common storylines.

Some other studies cited our results assuming that we compared recent CO2 emissions with the illustrative SRES scenarios (unfortunately our figures were not sufficiently clear). The real emissions were above all the scenario averages, while the emissions in one of the six illustrative scenarios was higher than observed. The misinterpretation of our results contributed to claims that IPCC’s global warming projections might be underestimated (Ganguly et al. 2009). Our results do not support such claims.

Why chose scenario averages instead of the illustrative scenarios?

Over the 2000-2010 time period, the trends in CO2 emissions in the illustrative scenarios are dominated by individual model biases. Model averaging is a common way to minimise biases found in individual models and to extract the more robust tendencies and common expectations from a group of equally valid model results. For instance, the A1 storyline depicts a common future based on fossil intensive (A1FI), non-fossil energy sources (A1T), or a balance across all sources (A1B). Logically, one would expect that the fossil intensive scenario A1FI would emit more CO2 than the non-fossil scenario A1T, with the balanced scenario A1B in the middle. This is what comes out of the model averages. In the illustrative scenarios however, the balanced scenario A1B has more CO2 emissions than the other illustrative scenarios during 2000-2010, which reflects more an individual model bias over this time period than a common tendency.

Manning et al. point out that model averages have problems of self-consistency and should not be used. Whereas there are indeed problems with model averages, they have to be weighted against problems of individual model biases and the choice of comparison depends on the issue addressed. As we understand, the problems of self-consistency in this context refer to two things. First, that gases from different models should not be mixed because modelling groups make different choices, for example regarding the future use of land for agriculture. Those choices lead to specific combinations of gases which are lost in the averaging. Second that if models are averaged, it is more difficult to relate back the tendencies to the underlying drivers of the emissions. Both these issues are problematic when the SRES scenarios are used for climate projections, and thus the IPCC rightly selected illustrative scenarios for this purpose. However the issues of self-consistency were less important for our analysis which focused on CO2 only and used other available data to interpret the observed trends. We felt that on balance, the issue of self-consistency seemed less important than issues of biases in individual models in the context of our analysis.

How did CO2 emissions changed in the recent past?

The figure below shows how the CO2 emissions in 2008 (the last year when emissions are available) compared to the 40 original SRES emission scenarios, including both the scenario averages which we used, and the illustrative Scenarios used by the modeling groups to project climate change as reported in the IPCC report. It is clear from this comparison that recent emissions were near the top end of the SRES emission scenarios, whether the comparison is made with the original forty scenarios, with the six illustrative scenarios, or with scenario averages.


CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning for 2008 in PgC/y. Data are from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. Emissions for each of the 40 emission scenarios published by IPCC’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios are shown. The Scenario names (A1B, A1FI, A1T, A2, B1, B2) correspond to common storylines. The observed emissions are shown in black (uncertainty of about ±6%). Red bars are averages by families of Scenarios. Dark gray bars are the illustrative scenarios used by the IPCC to project climate. See here for a comparison to 2009 projections as in Le Quéré et al. (2009), using the Gross Domestic Product updated by the International Monetary Fund in 04/2010.

The picture is the same if we analyse how fast emissions grew in the past decade. The recent growth in CO2 emissions was 3% per year on average during 2000-2009. This rate includes projected emissions during the 2009 financial crisis, and exceeds the growth estimated by 35 of the 40 SRES scenarios (34 if the trend is computed with end points instead of a linear fit).

Manning and colleagues rightly highlight that the emission scenarios were designed to cover long term trends rather than short term fluctuations. As the CO2 emission scenarios are the primary drivers of climate change in model projections, it is important to monitor deviations from the observed trends, and in particular to identify if the underlying drivers of the deviations have any foreseeable long-term implications. In Raupach et al. (2007) we identified, based on 2000-2005 data, that the recent trends were largely caused by increased use of coal in China and other developing economies, uncompensated by additional improvements in energy efficiency elsewhere. This situation persisted at least until 2008 (Le Quéré et al. 2009). An expansion of the world’s coal-based industry locks energy production in CO2-intensive infrastructure for decades, and thus it has long-term implications for future global CO2 emissions and climate, and in particular for prospects of reaching the most ambitious climate targets.


159 Responses to “Recent trends in CO2 emissions”

  1. 101
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “tell me CFU, if more water evaporates, it also means that more water condensates and falls on the ground, since this is a closed cycle.”

    But if this sums to zero, then there is no increase in relative humidity.

    You’re managing what an 11-year-old is told to avoid when being told of the third law of motion:

    Action and reaction are opposite and equal.

    BEWARE: This doesn’t mean you can’t move things because pushing a block forward doesn’t cause a push back that makes it retreat just as fast as you’re trying to move it forward.

    Did you pass 1st-grade physics?

  2. 102
    MartinJB says:

    AC, what exactly is your point? Sounds like you’re saying that in a BAU scenario we’ll be extracting and burning a hell of a lot of fossil fuels. It all goes to suggest that those saying that even without a price on carbon we won’t be burning enough fossil fuels to bring about the worst impacts of global warming are off-base.

  3. 103
    Jim Eager says:

    “For instance, the feedback from water vapour could only increase by 10-20 % the forcing…”

    With that Gilles has let slip that he lives in a fantasy world.

  4. 104
    John E. Pearson says:

    56: eric said “What you may be referring to is that we tend to be dismissive of poorly thought out quicky technical fixes,”

    I do too and I object to Dyson’s “Party on dudes” “what me worry?” attitude, but still the notion that there are many things we can do is worth keeping in mind. I keep reading stuff in which people imply that a particular strategy is a slam dunk and I don’t believe there are any slam dunks and it behooves us not to be slamming doors shut. We’re moving into unknown territory no matter what we do.

  5. 105
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “99
    Ray Ladbury says:
    18 June 2010 at 7:55 AM

    Gilles, I’ve said repeatedly that if you assume only known reserved + petroleum, you keep CO2 below 550 ppmv. I don’t know how to state it more clearly.”

    I think the only clear answer Gullible wants to hear is “You’re right and there’s no problem with global warming and we have to burn fossil fuels”.

    Any answer that doesn’t manage that is unclear to Gullible.

    He’s like the naughty boy who doesn’t hear “Don’t touch that apple pie” but hears “Feel free to eat that apple pie”.

  6. 106
    Gilles says:

    a comment on the scenarios : already in 2000 , the scenarios differed vastly from each other. For the liquids only , the “predictions” ranged from 120 (B1 minicam) to 177 EJ/year (A1 ASF) .Almost 50 % difference ! Following EIA, the actual consumption was 77 Mbl/d, that is, adopting 6.2 GJ/bl, around the upper limit 175 EJ/yr. So most scenarios were already wrong in 2000.

    It’s interesting to remark that scenarios that were disproved more than 10 years ago still continue to be used. This illustrates what a “scenario ” is : nothing like a prediction, nothing to be compared with reality. In any field of science, such a large discrepancy would have led to the conclusion that the models were unrealistic and should be given up. People having elaborated these scenarios hadn’t simply the tools necessary to make predictions. It’s only “oh it could be like that, or like that, or like that”.

    The interesting point is that the gap between reality and unrealistic models seems to be used as a piece of useful information .. something like “oh, if there is a discrepancy, it proves somehow that the discrepancy will become higher and higher”. So actually, reality is compared with “models” or call it as you like (let’s them call “things”) , that have never been validated by anything, that were already wrong just after their publication, as if it was meaningful. For instance , I can predict with my fancy astrological predictions, that the planet Pluto will get closer and closer to the Earth and eventually collide with it in 50 years, but that the relative velocity is currently very small. And then, comparing with observations , I could observe that the actual velocity is in fact much larger than what my model predicted, and that the situation is much worse than what I thought initially ! of course it would be risible.

    So what’s the real significance of comparing data with virtual “things” that we know for sure that they have been wrong for more than ten years, and that they haven’t been the subject of any validation (since they claim themselves NOT being predictive ) ? apart from “they were wrong” ?

    [Response: Scenarios are not models, so the variations in one have very little to do with the correctness of the other. As far as inputs to the GCMs (basically the concentrations of various gases and aerosols), the scenarios have bounded the real world - some have faster growth, some slower. Thus they continue to be used. Hardly a surprise. To the extent that the concentrations have been reasonable in comparison to the observations, the projections made with those scenarios can still be usefully compared to the climate measurements. Until the GCM inputs from the scenarios significantly diverge from reality this will continue to be the case. - gavin]

  7. 107

    #56 John E. Pearson

    re. Eric’s response

    Heck Eric, I thought you would get behind the giant umbrella in space idea. It can’t be that hard to make an umbrella. We just need to employ lots of cheap labor in third world countries (may be China, they makes lots of umbrellas already, so they have the experience), and then build a giant elevator into space that uses the centrifugal force of the rotation of earth to hold it in place.

    Star Trek indeed ;)


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  8. 108
    gavin says:

    To all commenters: There has been a tendency for all of our comment threads to dissolve into pointless, finickity and repetitive arguments by the same few commenters who seem to enjoy arguing for its own sake. However much fun this might be for these individuals, the net effect is to drive away other commenters and to never actually resolve anything (even what it is that is being argued about). This is tedious to read and tedious to moderate.

    So, I’m going to impose a moratorium on a number of people (you know who you are) and ask that you restrict your comments to one a day in the hope that we can get away from endless tit-for-tat contradictions. Please respect this and try and move your comments to be more substantive, and less dominating of the conversation. If you can’t do that, I will just not allow any of your comments at all.

    Sorry to have to step in, but I (and others) really appreciate the comment threads where people can respectfully engage and discuss real things. That is not happening enough, and this is an attempt to correct that.

  9. 109
    Septic Matthew says:

    9, Walt Bennett: Of course, the lower CO2 output for the last several years will rebound as soon as the economy does, as we all know.

    Maybe not. The non-fossil-fuel-based energy industry is growing faster than GDP generally, so the point depends heavily on the relative growths of GDP and alternative energy industries over the next few years. For this reason, I think that increased subsidies to alternative energies will reduce long-term growth of CO2 even absent “cap and trade”, carbon taxes, and such.

    I hope that the US Congress will pass new support for alternative energies without waiting for agreement on “cap and trade”, “cap and dividend”, Carbon tax, or other CO2-based policy.

    An interesting precedent has been set in the BP/Gulf of Mexico oil spill: BP has agreed to forego shareholder dividends and put $20 Billion into an insurance/indemnity fund. If adopted (voluntarily or by law) by other fossil fuel companies (BP will now energetically support such adoption by its competitors), this will go a long way toward internalizing the fossil fuel external costs, a desired outcome for many reasons. This will increase the cost of fossil fuels without a “tax” increase, and speed up investment in alternatives to fossil fuel. It is a step in the right direction.

  10. 110
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Swerving back to emissions trends, Andy Revkin at DotEarth today posts a sobering look at where coal is going to fit into emissions scenarios (short summary: it will not fit, as in it’s already too big, it’s growing and we’re not going to make a serious effort to shrink it). Read it and weep:

    The Coal Age Continues

    The title is understated. If the economic portents alluded to in Revkin’s piece are accounted for in the upcoming regenerated synthesis, I’ve a horrible feeling the -next- IPCC projections will look entirely worse. I read the Peabody investor plug and accompanying commentary by Richard Morse in Revkin and can only shake my head.

    Our geopolitical skills are decades behind where they need to be; we’re being defaulted into the “adaptation” aka “we screwed up” scenario because our organizational capacity is woefully inadequate and so we can’t install accounting systems for C02 emissions.

  11. 111
    David B. Benson says:

    Doug Bostrom (110) — Yup.

    Back to the Miocene?

  12. 112
    Brian Dodge says:

    “…if more water evaporates, it also means that more water condensates and falls on the ground, since this is a closed cycle. How can you do that without more clouds ?” Gilles — 18 June 2010 @ 1:53 AM

    Higher rates of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, with the amount of cloud held constant, will transport more water through the system. This will have the side effect of producing more flooding.
    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/06/2010612135023885917.html “…water levels in some areas have reached their highest in more than a decade.” “…water levels in lakes along the Yangtze river are higher than in 1998, when flooding killed about 4,000 people.”
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/european_flooding.html “Over the past month, heavy rainfall from different storms across parts of Europe has caused massive amounts of flooding…” in Poland, France, and Spain.
    plus locales in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Nebraska in the US, just from a google search for “flooding” in the last month – 41 million hits

    If clouds grow by deepening rather than spreading, it will have considerably less effect on albedo. A 20% increase of the volume of a cloud that grows equally in all directions results in only a 6% increase in the area of incoming solar radiation scattering.

  13. 113
    ccpo says:

    We don’t know how to grow the topsoil at .01 inches a year on a global scale.

    While I agree about Dyson and cornucopians/techocopians, the above is flat wrong. I just built minimum of half an inch of humus in my yard in the space of a few days (well, that was the work period, the conversion will take a year or two) and perhaps more. (I’m assuming a lot of eventual compression.)

    Those who speak of soil in terms of Big Ag practices are speaking of coal extraction in terms of picks and shovels or oil extraction in terms of hand tools. It is EASY to build a LOT of topsoil in a short period of time. I don’t know that I have permission to take this tangent here, so won’t unless asked to do so. Otherwise, contact me for an off-thread discussion. I will say this: building top soil *is* one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Building soil also helps take care of the water problems we have: soil with 1% organic content holds multiple times less water than soil with 5% organic material. This can be accomplished in a few years’ time with simple practices.

    Forward to the past, folks.

    Cheers

  14. 114
    ccpo says:

    Gilles said, “1. PO is now, climate change is FAR in the future.

    For most of the consequences that are supposed to hit hard the mankind (crops, economic crashes, wars), consequences of the PO will happen much sooner and will impact more directly the life of billions of people. I share the idea that PO has played a key role in the current economic doom

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6542

    whereas I haven’t yet seen any proposal that it could be caused by the melting of northern sea ice (because only northern would matter, but not southern, of course).

    You appear to have zero grasp of how dynamic, complex systems act. Because your bias is to interpret in favor of the constructs you frame your world view through, you ignore reality. It’s OK, we know the research tells us this is to be expected. However, you can’t just make things up.

    AGW is already affecting crops, and far more than PO is. We have had severe droughts and floods affecting food production already. PO has only affected *prices* thus far.

    Economic crash: The costs of climate change are already in the billions of dollars. You have to keep in mind the changes have been coming for over a hundred years. There are many affects people are afraid of attributing because people like you call them names for doing so. Well, the effects of PO can no more be said to be definitely reflected in current problems than AGW’s can. Most economists completely dismiss the role of PO in the economic crash.

    Darfur? Climate. Can’t pick and choose your wars, either.

    You can’t pick and choose your disasters because of your agenda and expect to be taken seriously. Anyone that thinks they can pick and choose between PO and climate change is in for a very rude awakening.

    There are plenty of doubts and uncertainties expressed all along IPCC report.

    No, there aren’t. None that matter at the political level. None. If you’re going to lie about the state of things, I’m going to slap you upside the head for doing so. Don’t lie. Won’t be tolerated.

    The assessment of “likelihoods” that GW would be caused by that or that is not intrinsically a scientific assessment since nobody has ever demonstrated that there is a reliable method to compute this kind a “likelihood… ’ – that is just the result of political discussions.

    See above. The truth is, it is your position that is nothing but politics. There is zero scientific support for your stance. Thus, you are either not being honest or have no idea what you are talking about. I’m not interested in discussing whether 2 + 2 = 4 or not. It does.

    “3. He has accepted the findings, starting with Rutledge, perhaps, that there simply aren’t enough fossil fuels to do what we all fear via AGW.

    First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”

    IPCC scenarios are flawed by the assumption of continuous economic growth, as if the depletion of resources (not only oil, but almost all commodities in the XXIth century) wouldn’t have any impact on it – that a very strange idea that the only thing that threatens the society is the average temperature of the globe !!

    he IPCC does not offer one scenario, it offers a wide range of scenarios, so your criticism is bull poo. Pretending there is not a very wide range of outcomes is silly. Second, IPCC IV was based on pre-2005 science. To keep screaming “IPCC said..! IPCC said…. !!!!” while knowing how far our knowledge has advanced, how many more effects have been verified since then, etc., is dishonest.

    What would be the economic consequences of trying to keep below 450 ppm , compared with the consequences to exceed it ? who has a scientific estimate of the marginal cost of each attitude ?

    Wow. Do you know nothing of risk assessment? Is life defined by economics, particularly since economics isn’t even a legitimate science in its present form? The risk of climate change is possible extinction. The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850′s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.

    Gilles, you have a very weak understanding of the issues, or are not honestly addressing them. Tighten that up if you expect to be taken seriously.

    Cheers

  15. 115
    ccpo says:

    Soil building: http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/files/Rodale_Research_Paper-07_30_08.pdf

    Read just the first two pages, and that will be enough. .01/year? Try 1% increase in organic matter *per year.*

    Cheers

  16. 116

    CCPO @ 112:

    While I agree about Dyson and cornucopians/techocopians, the above is flat wrong. I just built minimum of half an inch of humus in my yard in the space of a few days (well, that was the work period, the conversion will take a year or two) and perhaps more. (I’m assuming a lot of eventual compression.)

    There’s a major difference between building topsoil in ones own domain, and building it on a =global= basis.

    That said, we need to make it a matter of policy that carbon that’s been extracted from the atmosphere by vegetation doesn’t get a second chance at getting back into the atmosphere. If that means massive biochar programs, then that’s what we need to do. But looking at the annual fluctuation in CO2 levels, our only hope for reversing — not just slowing — the growth in CO2 concentrations is harvesting plants and sequestering their carbon.

  17. 117
    flxible says:

    ccpo – While as a Master Composter I really agree with your ideas, I have to point out it’s not quite as simple as you make it out to be to change soil organic content over a wide area, especially the carbon fraction, and I suspect rather than actual humus you mean you added a half inch of organic material, either “fresh” or partially decomposed, as in new compost. I do know that the US in particular wastes a huge amount of readily compostable material in the form of food waste and bio-solids which could be helping to build healthy soil.

  18. 118
    Ray Ladbury says:

    ccpo: ” I just built minimum of half an inch of humus in my yard in the space of a few days (well, that was the work period, the conversion will take a year or two) and perhaps more.”

    Great! Now try it in the Sahara.

  19. 119
    ccpo says:

    There’s a major difference between building topsoil in ones own domain, and building it on a =global= basis.

    How? I see absolutely no difference. You are assuming we need gov’t programs to do this. If so, we’re already dead. We can, and perhaps should, all be gardeners. We have no choice but to localize, so let’s do it already.

    It is not, I repeat, not, rocket science. Plant some food. Do it organically and sustainably. Problem reduced by 40%. Wih no other changes to life style.

    Excuses not accepted. As Larry Santoya has been quoted to say, “It is time to do epic [poo-poo.]“

  20. 120

    ccpo @ 114:

    AGW is already affecting crops, and far more than PO is. We have had severe droughts and floods affecting food production already. PO has only affected *prices* thus far.

    That’s false. The run-up in oil prices in 2007 that was the precursor to the mortg-age crisis happened, in large part, because of Peak Oil. Likewise, food shortages related to food-to-fuel programs (corn-to-ethanol, etc) are related to Peak Oil.

    I realize there is a desire to defend “Climate Change” as a cause of problems so it can receive the attention it deserves, but ignoring Peak Oil isn’t the way to do it. The solution to “Peak Oil” is “switch to renewables”, just as the solution to “Climate Change”.

    In a way, Peak Oil presents a second, unrelated argument for the same course of action. Air quality is another — even if “Peak Oil” were false, and even if “Climate Change” were false, one only look back to the Beijing Olympics to see what too much fossil fuel consumption can do to the atmosphere.

  21. 121
    Ray Ladbury says:

    ccpo, First, I 100% agree that individual acts are important and help buy time. However, let us imagine that we are extremely successful and persuade 100 million people over the face of the globe to participate in our topsoil regeneration project. To generate the equivalent of 0.01 inches over the land surface of the globe would require each person to generate 378 cubic meters of topsoil. Even if everybody on the globe participates, that’s 5.4 cubic meters per person. In effect, you are asking every man, woman and child on Earth to generate about 100 times their weight in new topsoil every year. As someone who composts quite religiously, I realize that is not a trivial task. Now maybe if we could figure out how to use the thistles I pull out of my damned garden…

  22. 122
    flxible says:

    “As someone who composts quite religiously, I realize that is not a trivial task.”
    Particularly considering that 5.4 cu m out of the compost pile requires at least 3 times that much in.

    Ray, if you pull the thistles, cows will eat them, from the bottom up, some goats do to.

    2CeePO – While “no till” is an excellent organic technique, permaculture is a difficult gig in urban environs, or even in many suburban situations, especially with the propensity of developments in the US to have “homeowner associations” that frown on anything other than manicured lawns. City dwellers are in for a rough ride, especially the poorer ones.

  23. 123
  24. 124
    Gilles says:

    ccpo :”Gilles, you have a very weak understanding of the issues, or are not honestly addressing them. Tighten that up if you expect to be taken seriously.”

    So I’ll try to do my best to tighten up seriously these issues. Your claim is that “The costs of climate change are already in the billions of dollars.” The global GDP is around 60000 billions of dollars per year. I don’t know if your estimate holds for a cost per year or an integrated cost (over 30 years?) since I don’t even know where it comes from. But in the worst case (per year), it is something like 0.01 % of GDP for an increase of 100 ppm (30 times less if the cost is integrated so we could start using “ppm GDP”).

    Now your other claim is that “First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”
    …The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850’s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.”

    Putting all this together, am i right in understanding that even at 450 ppm, the consequences of GW could be much worse than a return to 1850 life style? But 1850 life style must be something like 90 % decrease of GDP, whereas the famous IPCC scenarios invariably predict a 2% growth. So until the end of the century, you’re saying that even 450 ppm could make the world pass from an increase of a factor 10 to a decrease of a factor 10 , so a factor around 100 , and that for a mere increase of 70 ppm. Well, the order of magnitude is now that a 100 ppm increase imply a decrease of a factor 100, instead of 0.01 %, so .. a factor of one million (10^6) in sensitivity. There must be then a extremely extremely sharp threshold increasing the sensitivity of GDP to temperature by a factor 10^6 somewhere between 400 and 450 ppm …. Whoow. I’m really impressed. It must be explained somewhere in the IPCC report, where ?

  25. 125
    Richard C says:

    Carbon sequestration appears to me to be the only geo-engineering solution that treats the disease and not the symptoms and therefore treats all of the symptoms. And by sequestration I mean biochar not the Clean Coal Scam (CCS).
    ccpo’s approach requires ongoing maintenance because the carbon remains in the biosphere, all that has been created is a buffer, let that fall into neglect and the carbon will leach out the same way we expect from melting permafrost soils. Biochar removes the carbon from the biosphere and doesn’t need further maintenance.

    However, doesn’t it strike anybody as inherently crazy to go to the effort, time and expense, of setting aside land, growing, harvesting, pyrolysising and then burying carbon rich compounds, just so we can continue to dig up carbon rich compounds?

  26. 126
    ccpo says:

    ccpo – While as a Master Composter I really agree with your ideas, I have to point out it’s not quite as simple as you make it out to be to change soil organic content over a wide area, especially the carbon fraction, and I suspect rather than actual humus you mean you added a half inch of organic material, either “fresh” or partially decomposed, as in new compost.

    Actually, about 6 inches, maybe more allowing for compression during the process. That is going to be a fair amount of humus > soil. And that’s just one part of one season.

    There is an issue of “wider” area, but we do not need to reclaim the deserts to do this, for example. Better not to: Deserts have a higher albedo than vegetation.

    I do know that the US in particular wastes a huge amount of readily compostable material in the form of food waste and bio-solids which could be helping to build healthy soil.

    Absolutely. More and more municipalities are figuring this out. A few other metrics: every home and/or neighborhood should be composting all of their organics, including humanures. The problem there, as you well know, is the fear factor.

    Keep me honest and accurate. Appreciated. Also, would love to have an off-thread conversation with you, possibly invite you to participate in some of what we do.

    Ray Ladbury: Don’t be cheeky, ’cause you know I like a good head slap!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

    http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC14/Fukuoka.htm

    :)

    FurryCatHerder, you seem to think I am in denial of PO, which is silly if you’ve read my posts over time, which you may no have. The problem with most folks, as I see it, is that they see one or the other as dominant, which is also silly. Too many POilers think there is no immediacy to AGW, and that is dangerously naive. That is the point I was making. And, I stand by what I said: PO has had an affect on prices/distribution. but has had much less affect on production. AGW, by contrast, is having a greater affect on production.

    In other words, we agree.

    Ray, you said, “To generate the equivalent of 0.01 inches over the land surface of the globe,” to which I say, why in heck would you do that? We need a pretty small portion of the globe involved, and certainly where people are, their homes, neighborhoods, towns and cities and immediately surrounding areas rather than every inch of the planet. We can grow as much as 6,000 lbs of food on an 8th to a 10th of an acre with good soil and season extension! If memory serves, the average American eats something like 160 lbs. of veggies a year.

    You’re creating a crazy, unnecessarily high barrier. Did you read the Rodale report I posted? And remember, we are not talking, necessarily, of personal production, though we could if we used compost toilets. (Nothing goes to waste; everything should have two or more functions.) Then we have all the yard clippings, etc. Imagine if literally no organic wastes or water left your property…

    flxible, there’s a reason we are teaching permaculture in the city. Forget the HOA’s and city ordinances. This is a time to do epic [poo-poo.] And there has never been a better time for small-scale and large scale civil disobedience aimed at educating our “leaders.” You have two choices: begin teaching people what needs to be known, or bend over and kiss your rear end goodbye.

    David B., indeed. But did we really need to know more than 95% drops in major fish stocks to know how serious the problem is? Time to do epic…. stuff.

    Cheers

  27. 127
    Jim Eager says:

    Gilles chooses to ignore the fact that hydoelectric, geothermal, nuclear, solar voltaic, solar thermal, wave, tidal and wind turbine generation of electrical energy did not exist in 1850.

    He also chooses to ignore the fact that the Antarctic ice sheet began to form when atmospheric CO2 dropped to 450 ppmv, which means the Greenland ice sheet also did not yet exist.

    In other words, he chooses to ignore physical reality as he babbles on and on about GDP.

    And the reason anyone engages him is?

  28. 128
    ccpo says:

    ccpo :”Gilles, you have a very weak understanding of the issues, or are not honestly addressing them. Tighten that up if you expect to be taken seriously.”

    So I’ll try to do my best to tighten up seriously these issues.

    Hallelujah!

    Your claim is that “The costs of climate change are already in the billions of dollars.”

    The global GDP is around 60000 billions of dollars per year.

    Lower, actually, if memory serves. (It sometimes does not.)

    I don’t know if your estimate holds for a cost per year or an integrated cost (over 30 years?)

    How about 10k years, since the signal has been detected that far back, eh?

    since I don’t even know where it comes from.

    My rear end. I’m rounding, and being quite conservative. Look at the damage to the planet in pursuit of fossil fuels, the wars, extinctions, etc. Wake up, G.

    But in the worst case (per year), it is something like 0.01 % of GDP for an increase of 100 ppm

    In your dreams, G. First of all, economics as currently practiced is voodoo with lots of math. Read up on the history of this “science.” Real GDP would be measured by accounting for all TRUE costs, personal, environmental, etc., etc. Ecological economics is a step in the right direction.

    Now your other claim is that “First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”
    …The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850’s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.”

    Putting all this together, am i right in understanding that even at 450 ppm, the consequences of GW could be much worse than a return to 1850 life style?

    Yup. Likely will be for some, maybe most, possibly all. In fact, the consequences of AGW could be extinction or near-extinction.

    But 1850 life style must be something like 90 % decrease of GDP, whereas the famous IPCC scenarios invariably predict a 2% growth.

    Incorrect. An 1850′s lifestyle coupled with the technology of today, but fully integrated so that they are mutually supportive as opposed to the current paradigm of the latter being massively destructive to the other, would actually be an increase of GDP by a wide margin once GDP is usefully defined.

    So until the end of the century, you’re saying that even 450 ppm could make the world pass from an increase of a factor 10 to a decrease of a factor 10 , so a factor around 100 , and that for a mere increase of 70 ppm. Well, the order of magnitude is now that a 100 ppm increase imply a decrease of a factor 100, instead of 0.01 %, so .. a factor of one million (10^6) in sensitivity. There must be then a extremely extremely sharp threshold increasing the sensitivity of GDP to temperature by a factor 10^6 somewhere between 400 and 450 ppm …. Whoow. I’m really impressed.

    You should be! Glad I could help! But, really, you’ve got it all wrong, and, it would seem, intentionally so. (Why do they allow you to propagandize here?) Not only is the above so much gobbledygook, you know that, like Kjell should, you cannot count only directly human-caused emissions. You also cannot ignore what has been learned since 2005. To review: GDP is a joke metric. AGW has been happening for thousands of years, not 150. You cannot ignore natural emissions that are forced by human actions. True GDP has a value far, far greater than the highest number you’ve ever imagined for GDP. What value a human life? Oil is about $75 a barrel. A human life is, what? a hundred times that? A thousand? A million? What of whole species? A trillion each?

    [edit]

    Cheers

  29. 129
    ccpo says:

    ccpo’s approach requires ongoing maintenance because the carbon remains in the biosphere, all that has been created is a buffer, let that fall into neglect and the carbon will leach out the same way we expect from melting permafrost soils.

    Are you planning to stop eating sometime soon? Principle: everything has more than one function. Principle: Every function has multiple inputs. Principle: least change for max effect.

    No need to fight over farming vs. biochar. Use each where it fits best, particularly if that means together.

    Cheers

  30. 130
    Gilles says:

    Jim, may I make you notice that it’s ccpo, not me, who said “The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850’s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.


    so I just elaborated from this estimate on – if you have another one, we could examine it. (Although I’m precisely living in a place where hydropower is supposed to have been used to power paper factories for the first time in the world, in the 1870′s – so I think that if it were so easy to power the whole grid only with that, even in France, we should have done it for a long time).

    Then I think that my “babbles” about GDP are just an tentative measurement of the “risk assessment” that ccpo talked about – if you can propose another way to quantify the risk, we could also examine it together.

    And finally, what is the point about 450 ppm and Antarctic cap ? in the case of a retroaction loop between A and B, you cannot compare directly the ratio of A to B if the primary driver is A , or if it is B. Again if you aren’t convinced, we can examine that together .

    But if you also believe that a critical threshold that should plunge the civilization into chaos should exist between 400 and 450 ppm, as , following ccpo, there is “no [uncertainty] that matters at the political level.” in the IPCC report, then I can’t imagine that such an important fact is not described in detail inside it. But I think I missed it – do you know where it is explained ?

  31. 131
    flxible says:

    ccpo: “(…) there has never been a better time for small-scale and large scale civil disobedience aimed at educating our “leaders.” ”

    Actually I’ve been involved in educating my local “leaders” for decades – here we refer to it as guerrilla gardening. As a result of the pocket of aware individuals that’s collected here over time, this community has long been big on organic ag and on the leading edge of recycling of all materials, and has had a bio-solids composting facility long enough to have an accepted program of sale of the finished product to the public [a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-vessel_composting">pics in this article mine from our plant]. General yard waste collection is established in conjunction, and currently a food waste collection program is being implemented, to include everything from apartment building kitchens to restaurants. Local wood waste [yard, land development, construction, etc] is chipped to use as bulking in the composting.

    While all that will go some ways to helping the planet, the percentage of the population even here that actually puts some effort into it likely isn’t large, and ultimately what was needed was the local govt mandating it all and implementing it with public money and infrastructure. Our master composter/sustainable garden education group put some effort into setting up neighborhood composting sites – doesn’t work, at least without paid supervisors.

    Also, your spreading 6″ of organic material on the ground can easily generate more CO2 than it sequesters – uncontrolled composting [particularly with anaerobic areas] generates a lot of CO2 in the process of sequestering the primary nutrients and leaches much N. Neither waste organic material nor Compost are Humus, which in turn isn’t “soil”.

    You might track down an email for me from the composting pages I’ve got up for our local education. ;)

  32. 132
    Gilles says:

    ccpo, actually I’m completely confused with your discussion about GDP. I have no idea which “metrics” you’re using – of course GDP is ONLY measuring the amount of goods and services we produce, and not a “value” of universe, life, and so on. And I totally agree that PO is ONLY a problem for the “conventional” GDP. If you choose other metrics, adapted for instance for the life of lapoons or indians of Amazonia, PO is probably not a problem.

    But you said that everything that was useful for policymakers was inside the IPCC reports, and that there wasn’t any uncertainty about that. So if the question of real metrics is that important for you, I assume there is no uncertainty in IPCC reports about the “metrics” they used? I shall have missed it, can you explain me better which “metrics” is used by IPCC and where it is exposed ? (including for SRES scenarios?)

  33. 133
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Richard (#125),
    You comment would have been appropriate 20 years ago. Considering current emissions trends, that temperatures would likely keep rising or even rise faster if emissions were cut down drastically by 2020 and the uncertainties about feedbacks such as methane which might offset emissions cuts further down the road, geoengineering is no longer an alternative to emissions cuts but a prudent measure on top of emissions cuts. Because of the feedbacks, rising temperatures are not only a symptom but also the cause of further disruption. Ideological misgivings notwithstanding, we can not say today which measures to keep them in check will be justified in the future.
    And note that, while coal will never be clean, even inefficient CCS would be carbon negative if used when burning biomass or biogas. Ideological attacks on technical solutions are unwarranted.

  34. 134
    ccpo says:

    here we refer to it as guerrilla gardening.

    Among other things.

    As a result of the pocket of aware individuals that’s collected here over time, this community has… big on organic ag… recycling… bio-solids composting facility… yard waste collection… …ultimately what was needed was the local govt mandating it all and implementing it with public money and infrastructure.

    Looks like grass roots to me.

    Our master composter/sustainable garden education group put some effort into setting up neighborhood composting sites – doesn’t work, at least without paid supervisors.

    So pay them.

    Also, your spreading 6″ of organic material on the ground can easily generate more CO2 than it sequesters – uncontrolled composting [particularly with anaerobic areas] generates a lot of CO2 in the process of sequestering the primary nutrients and leaches much N.

    We are talking net gains, no?

    Neither waste organic material nor Compost are Humus, which in turn isn’t “soil”.

    Can’t quite understand what your beef with building soil is. You obviously know how it’s done, but keep posting as if I’ve written something that makes no sense. Those amendments are sequestering carbon, are building soil. I have not mentioned time lines.

    Unless you are claiming that amendments do not become part of the soil over time, I fail to see the point of your posts. Again, read the Rodale report. As opposed to giving the readers here the impression composting does not do what it absolutely does do: build soil and sequester carbon. You can’t be building organic matter in your soil without increasing carbon sequestered.

    You might track down an email for me from the composting pages I’ve got up for ourlocal education. ;)

    Or not. Seriously, we need solutions, not a bunch of comments about how we can’t do what we hope we can do. There are many ways to compost, build lasagna beds, etc., that do, in fact, keep organic material, thus carbon, in the soil. Period. If you disagree, explain why. Failing that, please be more clear for the non-gardeners out there that we can sequester a lot of carbon by building soil.

    And nobody said it would happen tomorrow. While this thread is somewhat out of context, the fuller context is significant changes in lifestyle, paradigms, etc. But that’s a given, no?

    Cheers

  35. 135
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gilles and ccpo,
    I think both of you are failing to consider that we have built up human population far past sustainable levels by, in effect, learning to convert petroleum into soy beans and corn. This is not sustainable even if supplies of petroleum were unlimited, because of the damage to soils and aquifers caused by intensive agriculture. At the same time, there is no way we can maintain a population anything like our current population with sustainable agriculture. It would be difficult to sustain a population of 10 billion people even making the most optimistic of assumptions. With climate change making weather more unpredictable and less suited to productive agriculture, I don’t see how we avoid a collapse of population, and I don’t expect it to occur in an orderly fashion.

  36. 136
    flxible says:

    ccpo –
    “Actually, about 6 inches, maybe more allowing for compression during the process. That is going to be a fair amount of humus > soil.”
    Repeat: Humus is not soil. Compression of decaying organic material creates anaerobic conditions resulting in undesireable chemistry and biology, unless that organic material is entirely or primarily carbon to begin with. Lasagna gardening is useful, not iconic. The creation of humic material requires complex, poorly understood, processes and large timescales.

    Soil science is immensely more complicated then spreading unspecified organic material on the surface to “create” humus, thereby sequestering carbon. The pole plant here is doing that by grinding the bark off the trees destined to string wires around your cities and piling it up to leach into the water table.
    Soil, and it’s organic fraction, is a very complex and varied thing, with biologic and chemical constituents, especially native mycorrhiza [not imported] with respect to fertility, and cation exchange capacities are most relevent to productivity.

    I grew up with Howard and Rodale, I’ve long been aware of the superiority of organic agriculture from every standpoint – I also know what works in the eastern US with 30 years of effort, won’t work everywhere, especially in the time available before past practices become non-viable due to changing climatic conditions.

    “Keep me honest and accurate. Appreciated. Also, would love to have an off-thread conversation with you, possibly invite you to participate in some of what we do.”
    You might track down an email for me (…)
    “Or not.”
    :shrug:

    “We can grow as much as 6,000 lbs of food on an 8th to a 10th of an acre with good soil and season extension!
    Surely. Just as surely, that intensity is not likely to happen on many acres most places where there is a population large enough to dedicate themselves to producing it and using it. Certainly the grass roots need to get with the program, but considering the amount of scum on the pond, legislation is the needed stick – again like our local communities legislating against the sale/use of cosmetic chemicals on lawns [which themselves should be outlawed]. And that was instigated by a local doctors group, not exactly grass roots.

    For the “non-gardeners out there”, yes, composting done well and “best” organic practices can sequester carbon, and more importantly, improve the health of the soil by feeding the micro-herd, but it’s not a solution to CO2 problem or more importantly, the single critical problem facing the planet: overpopulation. The “fuller context is significant changes in lifestyle, paradigms, etc”. As Ray sez, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

  37. 137
    Gilles says:

    [edit - one a day for the time being, thanks]

  38. 138
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Some food for thought and actual dollar numbers concerning public policy response, fears about the costs of mitigation may be found here:

    The Price to You for Modest Climate Action

    The article briefly describes the results of EPA’s best effort to put a price on mitigation efforts resulting in significant changes to risk probabilities arising from increased C02 in the atmosphere.

    The nut of the article:

    In the absence of new policies, the EPA estimates that we have a 1 percent chance of keeping global warming below the 2 degrees Celsius goal set by the international community, by the year 2100. The probability that temperatures would rise by then above pre-industrial levels by as much as 4 degrees Celsius is 32 percent.

    With the passage of the American Power Act — in conjunction with assumed policies adopted by other G8 countries — the probability of staying below the 2-degree threshold increases to 75 percent.

    In exchange for this, the EPA predicts a “relatively modest impact on U.S. consumers.” The $79 to $146 figure, the annual average across the lifetime of a phased-in energy program through 2050, is modeled on a number of factors: the increased cost of energy with a price on carbon; the increased efficiency of items that consume energy; the behavioral decisions people will make as a result of both of these factors; as well as the impacts on wages and the revenue from emissions allowances that will be returned to households.

    For purposes of comparison, for privately purchased insurance of various forms we currently spend a little over $550 USD annually for every person on the planet.

    The EPA report may be viewed here:

    EPA Analysis of the American Power Act in the 111th Congress (pdf)

  39. 139
    ccpo says:

    I think both of you are failing to consider that we have built up human population far past sustainable levels by, in effect, learning to convert petroleum into soy beans and corn. This is not sustainable even if supplies of petroleum were unlimited, because of the damage to soils and aquifers caused by intensive agriculture. At the same time, there is no way we can maintain a population anything like our current population with sustainable agriculture.

    Ray, I realize you probably don’t read all my posts, and certainly not what I post elsewhere on the internet, but rest assured I understand (as well as I can, and so far as the evidence of past prognostications shows, perhaps better than some) PO, AGW, collapse scenarios, etc.

    What you are missing is, while solutions will be difficult, even unlikely, as of now there still appears to be an opportunity to correct imbalances enough to avoid full collapse, and perhaps any true collapse. By that last, I mean to say an orderly slow down vs. a crash is possible.

    We can quite definitely feed 10 billion, though I hope we don’t try to. 6k lbs. per 1/8 or 1/10 acre? With greening even deserts possible? Not only do we have enough land now, we can actually expand land under cultivation.

    The two simplest things we can do – particularly Americans – is to reduce consumption greatly and become, as Sharon Astyk, et al., say, “A Nation of Farmers.”

    Systemic, regenerative design is the key.

    Cheers

  40. 140
    ccpo says:

    flxible, my frustration with you is that you have given up. Despite being in my mid-forties, I don’t have that luxury: I have a 2 year-old.

    ccpo –
    “Actually, about 6 inches, maybe more allowing for compression during the process. That is going to be a fair amount of humus > soil.”
    Repeat: Humus is not soil.

    Didn’t say it was. Note the arrow.

    Compression of decaying organic material creates anaerobic conditions resulting in undesireable chemistry…

    Poor choice of word. “Settling” would be more accurate. But, really, doesn’t make much sense I’d be all about organic, sustainable agriculture then walk on my beds, eh?

    and biology, unless that organic material is entirely or primarily carbon to begin with. Lasagna gardening is useful, not iconic.

    How does mentioning one possible technique imply it to be iconic?

    The creation of humic material requires complex, poorly understood, processes and large timescales.
    If you mean scientifically poorly understood, then perhaps. Otherwise, on a practical level it’s understood more than sufficiently to effectively farm while also reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

    Soil science is immensely more complicated then spreading unspecified organic material on the surface to “create” humus, thereby sequestering carbon.

    No, it isn’t. Lots of ways to do so. We don’t need to understand the exact biochemistry involved to know a technique works. You are demonstrating Ivory Tower reasoning where Farmer Joe reasoning is sufficient.

    Soil, and it’s organic fraction, is a very complex and varied thing, with biologic and chemical constituents, especially native mycorrhiza [not imported] with respect to fertility, and cation exchange capacities are most relevent to productivity.

    Then why are you doing such a magnificent job of discouraging some of the things virtually every human being can do if you understand so much? Is this a Trojan Horse play, or have you become that cynical?

    I grew up with Howard and Rodale, I’ve long been aware of the superiority of organic agriculture from every standpoint – I also know what works in the eastern US with 30 years of effort, won’t work everywhere

    Why would that matter? I’d assumed you knew something of permaculture ethics and principles. Apparently, that is not the case. We are, however, in full agreement: I would never encourage anyone to apply dryland methods in humid areas – except where appropriate, but the overall strategies will be somewhat different.

    especially in the time available before past practices become non-viable due to changing climatic conditions.

    Agree time is an issue, but if we move, as Cuba did, into massively distributed small scale agriculture, we can actually begin leveling off then reducing carbon emissions. A good Food Forest can be gotten going in 5 years. There’s time, not to avoid some chaos, but to have a chance at avoiding the worst of it.

    “Keep me honest and accurate. Appreciated. Also, would love to have an off-thread conversation with you, possibly invite you to participate in some of what we do.”
    You might track down an email for me (…)
    “Or not.”
    :shrug:

    You’re more than a tad jaded, based on these exchanges. I’ve got enough downers around, including myself. If you’d like to discuss solutions, well….

    “We can grow as much as 6,000 lbs of food on an 8th to a 10th of an acre with good soil and season extension!“
    Surely. Just as surely, that intensity is not likely to happen on many acres most places where there is a population large enough to dedicate themselves to producing it and using it.

    We all know what is likely. I am addressing the possible.

    For the “non-gardeners out there”, yes, composting done well and “best” organic practices can sequester carbon, and more importantly, improve the health of the soil by feeding the micro-herd, but it’s not a solution to CO2 problem

    Yes, it is. If it sequesters carbon – and please read the link I provided – then it is “a” solution. There is no “the” solution, more of a quiver of solutions. First is reduced consumption, the second is farming and growing forests to sequester carbon. There are many more arrows in the quiver.

    or more importantly, the single critical problem facing the planet: overpopulation.

    Agreed. That is the deal-breaker. That is why I work for a different paradigm, generally regenerative, non-growth.

    The “fuller context is significant changes in lifestyle, paradigms, etc”. As Ray sez, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

    Comment by flxible — 21 June 2010 @ 10:11 AM

    Just as well. We need a good slap upside the head.

    Cheers

  41. 141
    flxible says:

    ccpo – Just a little further – 1st, I’m 20 years ahead of you, and betting by the time yer tot is 25 you’ll understand where I’m at, not jaded but maybe ‘cynical’ in the original Greek sense. Being beyond ready for retirement, I accept that a majority of the population is not just uneducated, but ineducable with respect to the natural world, and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that the unsustainable human population is in an end stage prime for some succession, but I still personally live the philosophy. I have read the Rodale work, [and various Permaculture works, and The One-Straw Revolution, and Gardening Without Work, and etc etc etc], and have found what works for me in this locale, as well as passing on lots of information on a range of sustainable ag techniques to a lot of locals. Just this morning someone questioned how my greenhouse did so well on a packed gravel base and I gave her an hour explaning comnpost and soil fertility and helping her see the possibilities in her own situation. Any Trojan activities from me have always been aimed at the “conventional” sphere.

    The poor understanding of humic substances and soil nutrient cycles is actually the major problem with the idea that it’s simple for Farmer Joe and the urban/suburban hordes to sequester carbon – poor SOM management and composting can very easily produce more CO2 than it captures, not to mention methane, as well as reducing soil fertility. I’d much rather see dedicated facilities processing waste organics properly and passing on the finished product. That happens pretty well in my community, but down the road in the BC capital, they’ve been fighting for years to get even secondary sewage treatment in place and stop dumping it in the ocean. Meanwhile they brag about the electricity they produce from the landfill they bury the solids in.

    Permaculture may be a great way to initiate a sustainable ecological community, but it has little to comfort the very large populations crammed into apartments and slums in our major cities – Cuba is simply an example of what it takes to force a population to get a grip on supporting itself, and it barely does so, maybe the survivors of climate change induced chaos will have learned those lessons. I’m sure there’s room for some permaculture in derelict Detroit [where I was born, by the way], and it could certainly improve the lives of some there, but as a carbon sequestering solution, it’s an untipped arrow in your quiver. Massive population reduction is the slap upside the head that’s needed.

  42. 142
    Gilles says:

    “[edit - one a day for the time being, thanks]”

    I’m sorry, it’s not easy to know when a new day starts for you, because of the time lag. BTW, can I tell you that your attitude against me is rather strange ? I don’t think I’m posting an excessive number of contributions compared to other people. I don’t think the average scientific quality is much below them, and that they’re less argumented; if they’re wrong, I’ll post them anyway a day after and they will be answered anyway (and it is very instructive for the general audience to respond correctly to wrong statements, isn’t it ?). And if they’re right, why censor them ?

    Ray #139 : I don’t see why you think I overlooked the problem you’re mentioning – did you really understand my posts ? I basically agree that most of the population increase is a consequence of abundant and cheap energy – actually mankind didn’t react very differently from yeast put in a glucose solution – it just multiplied by “eating” the source of free enthalpy brought by an abundant organic material. Thermodynamically, the essentials are here. Although I don’t think that fossil depletion will provoke a quick crash of population. The example of poor countries shows that even a very modest amount of FF is enough to insure a demographic growth. This is quite understandable since the availability of FF has multiplied our consumption per capita per several dozens, whereas a mere multiplication only by two or three would have already raise our standard of living above the most productive periods of the Middle age !! So we are so high that we can afford a large decrease of standard of living without dying in mass.

    So let me be clear : for me the ONLY impact of PO is on the very high standard of living , not on the existence of mankind. What is threatened is only the economic growth and the welfare of billions of people, mostly not their existence. I simply think that these consequences will be much more prominent and visible than that of global warming, because the exhaustion of resources will happen soon enough to keep consequences of GW within a minor range compared to those of this exhaustion. But I’m not a taliban of any theory. These are the present conclusions I have , when I summarize all the knowledge I have gathered on the subject. As anyone, I may be wrong, or right. But I’d like to know something, if anyone thinks I’m wrong : for me, being wrong should be expressed by something like : “I definitely think that a fact you would predict with your theory won’t happen and I’m ready to take a bet against you that it won’t happen”. (Actually taking or not the bet is not the problem : this is just an interesting way of casting a discussion into a scientific problem by defining exactly what is the point of divergence) .

    On my side, I can formulate a number of issues in this way : I can express my doubts into a definite set of predictions that I don’t think they will occur , here are some examples :

    * I don’t think that the oil production will ever exceed 95 Mbl/d, (contrary to ALL SRES scenarios)
    * I don’t think that the economic growth will be 2% /yr during the XXIth century (also contrary to ALL SRES scenarios)
    * I don’t think that the world population will crash, but I do think that the world economy will crash by a number of crisis like the current one (also contrary to ALL SRES scenarios)
    * I don’t think that the FF production will exceed 7 to 800 GtC before 2100 (we won’t exhaust everything so there will be some hundreds of GtC left for the next century), that the CO2 level will exceed 550 ppm, and that the consequences will be sensitive compared to that of depletion.

    etc…

    As I said, the question here is not if I’m right or wrong (well this IS an issue of course but it is not the point I’m raising). The point I’m raising is the following : can you cast your own belief in such a way that you are ready to bet on something that you think I don’t believe, but that YOU think will happen ?

  43. 143
    Ray Ladbury says:

    ccpo, About 8 years ago, my wife and I moved onto a 3 acre lot–part of an old farm that was subdivided. The soil was in terrible shape. We’ve slowly been building it up, planting trees and restoring some of it to meadow. We have a huge garden and manage to grow a good portion of our vegetables for the year on our land. Of the 8 houses in our little neighborhood, we’re the only one using native plants for landscaping–although we have managed to get some of our neighbors to plant a garden. And that’s pretty much the problem–probably 90% of people have zero awareness of the natural world. To them: Food comes from a store. Nature is an inconvenience to be avoided. And soil is what they wash off of their shoes. Worse yet, they like it that way. They are content with their Wonderbread and circuses. So, those of us who do care better be generating 50 cubic meters of soil to make up for the 9 in 10 who don’t even know what soil is and don’t care.

  44. 144
    ccpo says:

    Ray and flxible,

    Neither of you has anything on me in the cynic dept. and we all three seem to be trying to do our part. The only difference I see is that I am actively involved in educating others about systemic, sustainable human action. I would likely be in a cabin somewhere stockpiling food and raw materials and developing my little doomstead did I not have a 2 year-old. But I do, so I’m not.

    Our little doomstead, then, is in Detroit in the form a lawn-turned garden and trying to build awareness.

    As for composting, while I suppose you can release more methane by composting than not, I have a hard time seeing that as the more likely result, so I think I’ll keep doing it.

    My URL is available and provides a way to contact me, flxible, that doesn’t require searching about for it. I’d be happy to hear from you.

    Cheers

  45. 145
    Ray Ladbury says:

    ccpo,
    My wife and I leave fortune no hostages. My interest in human survival is simply because I think Earth is potentially a more interesting place with us than without. My wife and I tried to engage several years ago by joining a conservation organization that caters to “outdoorsmen”. That just about convinced me that the species was hopeless. Humans are an interesting species with many weaknesses. For awhile I had some hope that because we had developed antidotes to all those weaknesses, we might be worth saving. That was before seeing how hard people fight to preserve their right to stay stupid, greedy and mean.

  46. 146
    Brian Dodge says:

    “That was before seeing how hard people fight to preserve their right to stay stupid, greedy and mean.” Ray Ladbury 23 June 2010 at 7:46 PM

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
    John Kenneth Galbraith

    Large environmental stresses drive evolution and speciation – for every extinction, there is (eventually) a new species or two that evolve to occupy the modified niche. The PETM was bad for benthic foraminifera, but good for small mammal diversity. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some unknown unknown bit civilization in the buttocks – the known unknown of Arctic sea ice/East Siberian Shelf clathrate interaction raises the specter of a PETM like event, but a Younger Dryas like event wouldn’t be fun for most of us dependent on modern civilization (and that’s most of us) either.
    Our social & political institutions have developed in a period of remarkable climate stability, and I think are likely to amplify bad environmental stressors, especially as they become perceived threats.

  47. 147
    Patrick 027 says:

    … as long as mitigation has come up, quick question:

    how long do inverters last?

    Perusing the web, it seems at least a few have a warranty of ten years. But solar PV modules’ warranties (20+ years, less for some) are only a fraction of the actual expected useful lifetime (60 or more).

  48. 148
    flxible says:

    Patrick – PV panels might have a long useful life, but not necessarily at full original efficiency. For inverters see here – inverter life depends on quality and operating conditions, treat a good one well and it may outlast you, but also may not last as long as PV panels.

  49. 149
    Patrick 027 says:

    “PV panels might have a long useful life, but not necessarily at full original efficiency”

    Yes, I’ve read of a 0.5 % degradation rate for mature technology. By itself that would imply 200 years at rated capacity – of course, at some point, the power supply wouldn’t be enough to justify the area and panel-proportional balance-of-system components devoted to it, so replacement would put a lower lifetime energy output. Also, some panels would probably suffer storm/etc. damage. Grid-wide, does a 1 %/year replacement rate of PV modules sound like a reasonable expectation?

    Thank you for that link!

  50. 150
    Andrew Hobbs says:

    #143 Ray.

    I am curious. Do you talk much to those other 8 in your neighbourhood, and if so why did they buy into such large lots of land. Even gardens of old fashioned trees, flowers and lawn need good soil care etc. Do they pay someone else to care for it or are their lots overgrown with weeds or act as used car lots? Why pay for land one is not going to use?

    Cheers

    Andrew


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