RealClimate logo

Unforced variations: Dec 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 December 2012

A new meteorological season, perhaps some new science topics to discuss…

369 Responses to “Unforced variations: Dec 2012”

  1. 151
    Tom Adams says:

    “The main barrier among the citizens of the developed nations is addiction to a high intensive energy use lifestyle enabled by the availability today of ‘cheap’ fossil fuel, and the main barrier among the citizens of the major developing nations is their aspiration to achieve the same level of fossil fuel addiction as the citizens of the developed nations.’

    The coal industry should probably put you on their payroll to post this stuff to keep everyone believing the problem is harder to solve than it really is.

    No a single addict need change. 4000 plants like this (at the 1M tonne capacity) would stablise the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere:

    In order to keep more people clueless and avoid footing part of the bill for these 4000 plants, the coal companies should be paying you as their propagandist.

    I might just extend this post into a proposal to the coal industry PR machine. I could be making good money.

  2. 152
    Donna says:
    Why internet arguments never end……
    For some unknown reason I thought this might apply here at times : )

  3. 153
    Rita Umile says:

    @ #151, Tom Adams…

    Thank you for the link…as a neophyte on this subject I found the technology fascinating…and the below statement made an impact upon my thinking:

    “So far it has typically been possible to emit carbon dioxide at no cost. The exceptions include the few countries that have implemented a carbon tax, which however to date has not been used to finance negative emissions. We need a change in this respect, so that the costs for the implementation of negative emissions, through carbon clean-up and permanent storage, are covered. What we see today is that the present – and still rising – level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing climate change and ocean acidification. When we have reduced our fossil emissions as much as possible, we can actually remove the carbon dioxide already emitted through negative emissions. In fact these processes need to be parallel and start immediately. In the end, it is the combination of reduced and negative emissions that will create the prerequisites for avoiding global warming and ocean acidification. In 2007 Biorecro committed to implementing facilities that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store the gas permanently. We have now reached that goal and the first facility is in operation.”

    I will share your link…and if you have more information available, I would love to read it:… However, as every solution has its own unique set of problems, what are some of the potential difficulties of this particular solution? (To the site administrator: this may be a duplicate submission on my part, and for that I do apologize, best Rita)

  4. 154
    Tom Adams says:

    Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
    Benjamin: Yes, sir.
    Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
    Benjamin: Yes, I am.
    Mr. McGuire: Carbonates.
    Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?

  5. 155
    Tom Adams says:

    A few numbers:

    Cost estimates of carbon sequestration. I’ve seen $50 to $100 per ton. I think that works out to a few percent of GDP. Viewed as competitive with renewables, or at least IEA estimates 20% renewables and 20% sequestraton, and they tend to be market realists.

    (BTW, $100 per ton is about what you see these days if you go to a website that measures your carbon footprint and offers to offset it for a fee.)

    It’s viewed as having a capacity limit equivalent to 150 PPM of atmospheric CO2. Not sure why this limit.

    Perhaps AR5 will have a good update on sequestration.


    (1) Pollution. We keep burning coal and putting mercury in the biosphere, etc.

    (2) The price of dealing with 2 PPM of CO2 per year is not all that bad if we spread it around, we absorb economic shocks of that size quite often. But the developing world wants the developed world to (in effect) cover the cost of all our carbon since the industrial revolution. This is fair but not practical. How do we get past this to just solving the problem? I really think this is the biggest issue.

  6. 156
    Dan H. says:

    Nice link Donna,

    Many are applicable. I especially like the look it up yourself argument.

  7. 157
    Superman1 says:

    Tom Adams #151,

    “The coal industry should probably put you on their payroll to post this stuff to keep everyone believing the problem is harder to solve than it really is.
    Not a single addict need change. 4000 plants like this (at the 1M tonne capacity) would stablise the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere:
    In order to keep more people clueless and avoid footing part of the bill for these 4000 plants, the coal companies should be paying you as their propagandist.
    I might just extend this post into a proposal to the coal industry PR machine. I could be making good money.”

    My recommendation about your proposal; keep your day job. I have a pathological obsession about seeing information presented in context. In post #133, I stated:

    “Mother Nature is telling us, to paraphrase Bush the Elder:

    “Read my lips; no more fossil fuels”.

    She is not saying: 1) no more fossil fuels, except to help transition to a renewables economy; 2) no more fossil fuels, except to assist in reforestation; 3) no more fossil fuels, except for life-threatening emergencies; 4) no more fossil fuels, except to prevent the world economy from going under. She is saying the atmosphere presently contains all the CO2 necessary to drive us from ‘Dangerous’ climate conditions to ‘Extremely Dangerous’, in Anderson’s terminology. Any further additions for any purpose have the potential to drive us over the climate cliff.

    Now, a caveat. What Mother Nature is really saying is ‘no more net additions of CO2/GHG’ to the atmosphere. If we could generate some magical technology that might use one unit of CO2 to extract e.g. three units of CO2 from the atmosphere, this could be allowable. In fact, if we could replace fossil fuel with a magical fuel that removed more CO2 from the atmosphere than any greenhouse gases it might generate, and perhaps generated sulphates/aerosols as well to increase the albedo, then we might have a chance.”

    To quote from your link relative to the Illinois BECCS plant:

    “Carbon dioxide emerges as a byproduct in ethanol production. It previously been released into the atmosphere as part of the renewable carbon cycle. With BECCS, the carbon dioxide is instead captured and led into large compressors. These convert the carbon dioxide from a gas to a kind of liquid (so-called supercritical phase). Then, the carbon dioxide is led through pipeline into a well that has been drilled down to more than 2000 meters of depth.”

    It appears to me that CO2 is being captured not from ‘the atmosphere’, but from the reaction product exhaust stream, compressed into supercritical phase, and then sequestered. I would assume this is a much higher CO2 concentration than would be found in ‘the atmosphere’, which impacts the energetics for extraction. Second, there is no description of the CO2 that is generated in order for the compressors et al to work. Today, the energy needed to drive this process will come from fossil fuels, and CO2 will need to be generated. So, your link presents no evidence of being able to satisfy the conditions I outlined above.

    There are other schemes possible for removing CO2; consider ‘artificial trees’. Klaus Lackner, director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy at Columbia University, has designed an artificial tree that absorbs CO2 from the air using “leaves” that are 1,000 times more efficient than the real thing — but at the same time does not require exposure to sunlight.

    The leaves look like sheets of papery plastic and are coated in a resin that contains sodium carbonate, which pulls carbon dioxide out of the air and stores it as a bicarbonate (baking soda) on the leaf. To remove the carbon dioxide, the leaves are rinsed in water vapour and can dry naturally in the wind, soaking up more carbon dioxide.

    Lackner calculates that his tree can remove one tonne of carbon dioxide a day. Ten million of these trees could remove 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – equivalent to about 10% of our global annual carbon dioxide emissions. “Our total emissions could be removed with 100 million trees,” he says, “whereas we would need 1,000 times that in real trees to have the same effect.”

    As for what should be done with the resulting stores of CO2, Lackner suggests that it be converted into liquid fuels to power vehicles. And indeed, carbon dioxide produces carbon monoxide and hydrogen when it reacts with water — a solution known as syngas on account of its ability to be converted into hydrocarbon fuels like methanol or diesel.

    We have the technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the air – and keep it out – but whether it is economically viable is a different question. Lackner says his trees would do the job for around $200 per tonne of removed carbon dioxide, dropping to $30 a tonne as the project is scaled up. At that price – which has been criticised as wildly optimistic (the American Physical Society’s most optimistic calculations for direct air capture are $600 per tonne of carbon dioxide removed, although the UK’s Met Office is more favourable) – it starts to make economic sense for oil companies who would pay in the region of $100 per tonne to use the gas in enhanced oil recovery.

    Lackner’s plan is indeed very expensive. In terms of the costs, that will have to be offset against the prospect of doing nothing.

  8. 158
    Rita Umile says:

    “Even if there were no greenhouse effect, all of the fossil fuels will be depleted within a few hundred years. If humankind is going to have a future on this planet, at least a high-technology future, with a significant population of several billions of humans continuing to inhabit the Earth, it is absolutely inevitable that we’ll have to find another energy source.”

  9. 159
    Rita Umile says:

    I am certain that everyone here already is aware of the attached petition (imbedded link in the article)…thank you for humoring me….

  10. 160
    Tom Adams says:

    Superman1, In my view, your post (#154) can be paraphrased as “Maybe you’re right, Tom”. At $30 per tonne I am right, at $600 per tonne not so much. If I did the math right $30 per ton works out to about 1% of GDP. The other 20% of GDP.

  11. 161
    Hank Roberts says:

    > carbon dioxide produces carbon monoxide and hydrogen
    > when it reacts with water

    CO2 + H20 = ???

    I think you need to be more explicit about this process.

    Are you getting that from the story at WTF quoting the Independent?
    Note the energy required is much more than is obtained.
    And the Independent story notes “… to extract carbon dioxide from the air, this part of the process is still too inefficient to allow ….”

    A better citation would be helpful.

  12. 162
    Doug says:

    I have a question for any of the scientists who run realclimate, or for any other informed commenter who might have some insight regarding my question. My wife and I are planning on relocating from the Midwest to either Albuquerque or San Diego. Real Climate ran a post regarding heat waves last March and the upshot I got from it, was that extreme heat waves are made much more likely by an increase in the temperature coupled with dry soils and lack of precipitation.

    A commenter named “Larryl” asked if the type of temperature anomaly seen that March of 30 degrees above the average, in the central and northern U.S. and southern Canada, was possible in the Summertime as well. Jim responded that was an extremely important question.

    That leads me to my question. My wife and I are planning on working another twenty years or so, and then retiring in the same city which we will be moving to shortly, (either Albuquerque or San Diego). We are looking at a timespan then of roughly 30 or 40 years in which we would be living in one of these two cities. If an extreme temperature anomaly of say 30 degrees above the mean is possible in the Summertime, which of these two cities would be more likely to have this? Albuquerque of course is farther inland and closer to the center of the continent. San Diego also is a desert like area, and does not receive much rain like Albuquerque, but is a preferred place to live because it rarely gets extremely hot or extremely cold. This is because of some effect called the “marine layer” I believe. Albuquerque is at some elevation, and the average July high temperature is something like 92 degrees which is higher than San Diegos, which I believe is in the upper 70’s.

    So, it seems logical to me that Albuquerque is more likely to have one of these extreme temperature anomalies in the Summer (being closer to the center of the continent) than San Diego, and the consequences would be more severe because the average high temperatures in the Summer are presently higher than San Diego. Would the Climate Scientists (and informed commenters) here agree with this assessment? Secondly, would you consider it somewhat likely that a Summertime temperature anomaly over the next 30 or 40 years in one or both of these cities, could be so extreme as to risk the life of many of the inhabitants of those cities?

  13. 163
    Rita Umile says:

    co2+h2o=carbonic acid, right?…. Wouldn’t this acidity be a negative, even pipelined underground more than 2000 meters? Please someone kindly correct me if I am wrong. (thanks)

  14. 164
    prokaryotes says:

    Can someone point me to where i can access the monthly “IASI CH4, low troposphere, mean below 600 hPa” composition’s? And why are a few marked with a strikethrough line? Thanks.

    See here:

  15. 165
    Superman1 says:

    Tom Adams #160,

    “Superman1, In my view, your post (#154) can be paraphrased as “Maybe you’re right, Tom”.”

    It would take an Alchemist to paraphrase my post #154 as ‘Maybe you’re right, Tom’

  16. 166
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts @161 — Start with
    and work backwards. Only a little more advanced than high school chemistry.

  17. 167
    Superman1 says:

    Doug #162,

    “Secondly, would you consider it somewhat likely that a Summertime temperature anomaly over the next 30 or 40 years in one or both of these cities, could be so extreme as to risk the life of many of the inhabitants of those cities?”

    The predictive models are limited; most don’t incorporate the effects of major (mainly positive) feedbacks. They should be viewed as lower-bound optimistic projections; according to climate scientist Guy McPherson, VERY optimistic projections. Some of the more credible projections come from Kevin Anderson, who combines the latest climate science results with required policy. A recent paper ( doesn’t give projections for the two cities you mention, but provides estimates for New York City based on global mean temperature increase of 4 C (which some recent studies conclude could occur by mid-century): “during New York’s summer heat waves the warmest days would be around 10-12°C hotter.”

    [Response: Things are bad enough even as projected without making up stuff. There are no ‘recent studies’ that suggest a 4 deg C warming by mid-century – regardless of who Anderson misquotes. – gavin]

  18. 168
    Tom Adams says:

    Superman1 gave us $30 per tonne as a plausible figure for CCS from an expert.

    CO2 is rising about 2 ppm/year

    There are about 2 billion tons of CO2 in 1 ppm.

    So we are putting in 4 billion tons net.

    It would plausibly cost 120 billion to stablize CO2 concentrations.

    The US alone wastes about 165 billon on food that goes in the trash:

  19. 169
    Superman1 says:

    Gavin #167,

    Anderson’s misquote was unfortunate. The Oxford University study reported in March concluded ‘Global temperatures could rise by 1.4-3.0C (2.5-5.4F) above levels for late last century by 2050, a computer simulation has suggested.’ Do you think 3 C or 4 C are really all that different 38 years from now?

    [Response: yes. It would be a 50% higher warming rate from now on. Why exaggerate? It just reduces credibility. – Gavin]

  20. 170
    Superman1 says:

    Tom Adams #168,

    “Superman1 gave us $30 per tonne as a plausible figure for CCS from an expert.”

    I didn’t give you any such thing. It was the developer’s optimistic projection of what could happen; why didn’t you quote the APS number of $600/tonne? Plus, I never said that it met my posted conditions. The CO2 emissions that would result from the energy required to manufacture and operate those millions of artificial ‘trees’ were nowhere stated. The more I see people grasping at straws on this site, the more I am starting to believe McPherson might have it right.

  21. 171
    Hank Roberts says:

    David, I know “hydrogen was combined with the carbon dioxide over a cobalt-based catalyst, the reaction produced mostly methane” — but I don’t see where CO2 + H2O produces hydrogen in a useful way. Thanks, I’ll dig through the link.

  22. 172
    David B. Benson says:

    Extreme Climate Predicted in Eastern U.S.: Storms, Heat Waves With Global Warming
    which differs from earlier projections regarding precipitation in the southeast.

  23. 173
    Hank Roberts says:

    Anderson shows up in the Guardian attributing that number to something by a Richard Betts: “… A rise of 4C could be seen as soon as 2060 in a worst case scenario, according to research … led by the Met Office’s Richard Betts and first revealed in the Guardian last year. Betts accepts the scenario is extreme but argues it is also plausible given the rapidly rising trend in emissions.”

  24. 174
    Hank Roberts says:

    Note the drift — “extremely unlikely by 2060” becomes “could be seen as soon” in the Guardian. Is that the same source as the Oxford cite in superman’s “… by 2050” or a different one?

    Citations, as always, ….

  25. 175
    sidd says:

    is someone seriously proposing

    CO2+2H20 to CH4+2O2

    nice, if you can make it go
    i think it wants to go the other way tho…


  26. 176
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hey, what if we make the electric grid smarter and more stable, and develop lots of local renewables everywhere including within direct extension cord range of all the nuclear power plants and fuel storage ponds, and surround those plants with all kinds of heat capture steam engine stuff even if it’s not as efficient as the grid when everything’s going right?

    What if it turns out we don’t need all that electrical efficiency?

    Looks like all that would still be a really, really good idea:
    Super Flares from the Sun — paleo evidence now.

  27. 177
    Doug says:

    I want to thank Superman1 for responding to my question regarding heat waves, also to David Benson whose link at #172 couldn’t have been better timed, as that article was written today. It only dealt with projections for heat waves for the Eastern U.S. though, whereas I am interested in projections for the West-particularily the Albuquerque and San Diego areas. Having read this blog for about four years now, I’ll take Gavin’s word on the warming rate. I’d like to know though Gavin, (and the other climate scientists opinions are welcome too) would you live in Albuquerque or San Diego if you’re concern was heat waves and you had a thirty to forty year time horizon? Thanks, and really love this site, and want to thank you for continuing to operate it.

  28. 178
    Lennart van der Linde says:

    According to this study there seems to be a 5% (?) chance of 4 degrees warming before 2058 in a high emission scenario:

    Anderson’s IEA-reference I will check.

  29. 179
    perwis says:

    The study by Betts et al (2011) (link in #177) finds that +4 degrees of warming is possible during the “early 2060s”. Notably, this result is compatible with IPCC AR4 “when uncertainties in climate–carbon-cycle feedbacks from C4MIP are included” (see Figure 7 in Betts et al (2011), which I believe corresponds to Figure 10.26 in AR4 WGI: )

    Also, the recently published report by the World Bank / PIK suggests that global warming could reach +4 degrees compared to pre-industrial “by the 2060s” (p. 24), which seems to be based on Meinshausen et al (2011).

    So, the literature supports at least a low-probability risk of +4 degrees during the 2060s. Of course, this is based on assumptions of relatively high climate sensitivity and carbon-cycle feedbacks.

    However, I am interested in hearing if anyone knows of any studies modelling the impacts of reduced emissions of sulphuric oxide from coal and heavy fuel oils. I have heard somewhere that this could give a substantial kick upwards in temperatures, and that it could happen quite fast.

    Meinshausen, M., Smith, S. J., Calvin, K., Daniel, J. S., Kainuma, M. L. T., Lamarque, J.-F., Matsumoto, K., et al. (2011). The RCP greenhouse gas concentrations and their extensions from 1765 to 2300. Climatic Change, 109(1–2), 213–241. Retrieved from http://

    World Bank 2012 Turn Down The Heat,

  30. 180
    Tom Adams says:

    Superman1 #170

    “Long-term analyses by use of integrated assessment models, although using a simplified carbon cycle (Read and Lermit, 2005; Smith, 2006b), indicated that a combination of bioenergy technologies together with CCS could decrease costs and increase attainability of low stabilization levels (below 450 ppmv).”

    In general AR4 seems circumspect about the prospects for CCS.

  31. 181
    Superman1 says:

    Maybe my initial estimate on possible temperature increases was not too bad after all. A recent short article in Nature (Uncertainty: Climate models at their limit?, Mark Maslin, Patrick Austin, Nature, 486; 183–184, 14 June 2012) offers the following:

    “Yet embracing more-complex processes means adding in ‘known unknowns’, such as the rate at which ice falls through clouds, or the rate at which different types of land cover and the oceans absorb carbon dioxide. Preliminary analyses show that the new models produce a larger spread for the predicted average rise in global temperature. Additional uncertainty may come to light as these models continue to be put through their paces. Dan Rowlands of the University of Oxford, UK, and his colleagues have run one complex model through thousands of simulations, rather than the handful of runs that can usually be managed with available computing time. Although their average results matched well with IPCC projections, more extreme results, including warming of up to 4°C by 2050, seemed just as likely. As computing power becomes more accessible, that ‘hidden’ uncertainty will become even more obvious.”

    The 4 C estimate differs from the 3 C estimate I quoted before, but I think the previous quote was from the Guardian. I’ll go with the estimate in a peer-reviewed Nature article, although what we’re really talking about is the difference between having to jump from the 100th floor in a burning building vs having to jump from the 80th floor. The result is the same!

    An alternative and more dire estimate to the above can be obtained from the document “A Farewell to Arms”, presented online at the Web site of Dr. Guy McPherson, a Professor, University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, and author of ten books on ecology.

    “I no longer think we’ll save the remaining shards of the living planet beyond another human generation. We’ll destroy every — or nearly every – species on Earth when the positive feedbacks associated with climate change come seriously into play (and I’ve not previously considered the increasingly dire prospects of methane release from Antarctica or the wildfire-induced release of carbon from Siberian peat bogs). Due to numerous positive feedbacks, climate change has become irreversible over temporal spans relevant to humans. Such is the nature of reaching the acceleration phase of the nonlinear system that is climate catastrophe.”

  32. 182
    Superman1 says:

    Doug #177,

    Here’s a San Diego projection out to 2050, published a couple of weeks ago. There are concerns about heat waves, wildfires, drought, and water shortages, among others. The number they use for temperature increase to 2050 is about 8 F (

    I have a problem with all these projections. In the intel world, when evaluating a potential ‘threat’, at least two key metrics are considered: capability and intent. Thus, when we consider e.g. nuclear weapons threats, we view e.g. Israel and Iran differently from the perspective of ‘intent’, even if they were to have the same capability.
    It’s really no different for climate (or other similarly uncertain) projections. One needs to evaluate both the capability/skills of the projection source, as well as the intent/personal agenda. When you examine the postings on this blog, for example, you will see a wide spectrum of projections. Much of this comes from the arbitrary selection of data sources combined with the interpretation of those data. So, in the referenced URL, I have no idea of the personal agenda of the author. However, from other data I have seen, I think the concerns listed above at the beginning are real and potentially serious.

  33. 183
    Rita says:

    #181 Superman1 (and actually all of you)

    Thanks for letting me participate here, even though I’m obviously not a climate scientist…. FYI–As just a regular “average person” what I’m reading here is extremely alarming to me….

    BTW–perhaps my participation may seem out-of-place to some of you…however, please consider that I can at least bring parts of your discussion out into mainstream life…and maybe this won’t make any difference…but consider that maybe it will…

    The statement taken from McPherson’s “A Farewell to Arms” is depressing as basically it reads that any attempt to resolve this issue will ultimately be futile….I hope he is being an extremist…but my instinct tells me he’s more likely correct than not….

    Have any of you discussed your findings with the government’s Climate Change Adaption Task Force? Does this information fall on completely deaf ears? What is the opinion of the ASA Advisory Committee on Climate Change Policy?

    Again, thanks for humoring my ignorance, and I apologize if I’m actually writing to members of the above committees….and your efforts are being dismissed at the government level….

    Also, what can the “average person” do to help this issue?

    Rita Umile

  34. 184
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hi Rita,
    Gavin and the other climate scientists have gone above and beyond to make readers/commenters here feel welcome and keep us informed. It is to them you owe your thanks. A few commenters here are climate scientists as well. Some of us are scientists (I am a physicist). Most are lay people as you are.

    I agree that much of what we read on climate science can be disheartening. The effort being directed at a solution is nowhere near commensurate with the problem. Much of the public and their elected representatives dismiss the science without understanding it. And denialists continue to resurrect stupid, zombie arguments incessantly.

    However, in my opinion it is simply silly to dismiss efforts to make progress as futile. As Yogi Berra said, “Prediction is hard, especially about the future.” Who is to say we will not develop a technical solution that allows us to avoid the worst effects of our folly? And even if we do not avoid the consequences of our folly, continuing business as usual will undoubtedly make things worse.

    So what we can do is in part what you are doing now–getting informed. We can also try as much as possible to conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint–this buys us time, and that is our most precious commodity in this effort. Also, we need to get involved and start electing responsible representatives and holding them responsible when they fail to face reality.

    Finally, don’t get discouraged. Keep pushing in the right direction. I find Albert Camus’s The Plague to be illuminating when it comes to our current predicament.

  35. 185
    prokaryotes says:

    Re CCS #180 Tom Adams, what do you think about this:

    According to a peer-reviewed study published in the journal of Society of Petroleum Engineers, titled “Sequestering Carbon Dioxide in a Close Underground Volume” the authors argue that past calculations of CCS were widely off, rendering the technology impractical. Writing for Casper, Wyoming’s Star-Tribune, report author Prof. Michael Economides explains,
    Earlier published reports on the potential for sequestration fail to address the necessity of storing CO2 in a closed system. Our calculations suggest that the volume of liquid or supercritical CO2 to be disposed cannot exceed more than about 1 percent of pore space.

    This will require from 5 to 20 times more underground reservoir volume than has been envisioned by many, including federal government laboratories, and it renders geologic sequestration of CO2 a profoundly non-feasible option for the management of CO2 emissions. Injection rates, based on displacement mechanisms from enhanced oil recovery experiences, assuming open aquifer conditions, are totally erroneous because they fail to reconcile the fundamental difference between steady state, where the injection rate is constant, and pseudo-steady state, where the injection rate will undergo exponential decline if the injection pressure exceeds an allowable value.

    The implications of our work are profound. They show that models that assume a constant pressure outer boundary for reservoirs intended for CO2 sequestration are missing the critical point that the reservoir pressure will build up under injection at constant rate. Instead of the 1-4 percent of bulk volume storability factor indicated prominently in the literature, which is based on erroneous steady-state modeling, our finding is that CO2 can occupy no more than 1 percent of the pore volume and likely as much as 100 times less.

    We related the volume of the reservoir that would be adequate to store CO2 with the need to sustain injectivity. The two are intimately connected. The United States has installed over 800 gigawatts (GW) of CO2 emitting coal and natural gas power plants. In applying this to a commercial power plant of just 500 MW, which by the way produces about 3 million tons per year relentlessly, the findings suggest that for a small number of wells the areal extent of the reservoir would be enormous, the size of a small U.S. state. Conversely, for more moderate size reservoirs, still the size of the U.S.’s largest, Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay reservoir, and with moderate permeability there would be a need for hundreds of wells. Neither of these bode well for geological CO2 sequestration and the work clearly suggests that it is not a practical means to provide any substantive reduction in CO2 emissions.

  36. 186

    #183–Rita, many if not most of the posters here are also examples of the genus “average person”–or at least, are not climate scientists. (My training, for instance, is in music, but they kindly let me yap away, too.)

  37. 187

    Speaking of technological issues in energy–as Prokaryotes was in #183–did this already get posted?

    “Renewable energy could fully power a large electric grid 99.9 percent of the time by 2030 at costs comparable to today’s electricity expenses, according to new research by the University of Delaware and Delaware Technical Community College… “The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage — which we did by an exhaustive search — and to calculate costs correctly.””

    Please note that I am not advocating any source of energy, nor criticizing any other source, simply reporting a new finding about renewables!

  38. 188
    Rita says:

    @183 Ray Ladbury

    I extend my thanks to Gavin and anyone else I might have missed!

    Completely AGREE with your statement: “Who is to say we will not develop a technical solution that allows us to avoid the worst effects of our folly? And even if we do not avoid the consequences of our folly, continuing business as usual will undoubtedly make things worse.”

    I plan to continue reading posts and comments here….

    And, although I may only be a party of one, know that (at least) I am grateful for your efforts….maybe I can encourage others to become interested in this issue as well.

    Rita Umile

  39. 189
    Ambulator says:

    Wow, that is depressing news from the Society of Petroleum Engineers. Anyone see any critical problems with this proposal, aside from $15/ton of carbon dioxide being speculative? olivineagainstclimatechange23.pdf

  40. 190
    Tom Adams says:

    “The proposition by Economides and Ehlig–Economides (E&E) in 2009 and 2010 that geological storage of CO2 is ‘not feasible at any cost’ deserves to be examined closely, as this is counter to the view expressed in the overwhelming majority of geological and engineering publications ( and ). The E&E papers misrepresent this work and suggest that: (1) CO2 cannot be stored in reservoirs that have a surface outcrop; (2) CO2 storage capacity in reservoirs without outcrops has been over-estimated and (3) the potential for CO2 storage in the deep subsurface is miniscule. We take issue with each of these, discussed in turn below. We also (4) review the evidence to date, which contradicts the Economides’ analysis, and (5) describe common pressure management strategies that demonstrate a more realistic and rational assessment of the experience of CO2 injection to date. We conclude that large-scale geological CO2 storage is feasible.”

    I guess the proof will be in whether projects miss their goals due to back pressure. I does not seem that the theory of back pressure will stop the effort.

  41. 191
    MARodger says:

    perwis @179.
    Can we be a little more exact here with this predicting of 4ºC temperature rises.
    It should be made clear that Betts et al 2012 are studying potential temperature rise for the A1FI emissions scenario (ie high emissions), something they consider “plauible” and that “cannot be ruled out.”
    They conclude that under A1FI a best guess for the 4ºC rise as the 2070s although strong carbon-cycle feedbacks would bring it more quickly, in early 2060s. They calculate a date for a 10% chance of the 4ºC arrival without strong feedbacks as 2058 but also say this is not a robust finding. “The natural next step that needs to be undertaken is to quantify the uncertainty and express climate projections in terms of PDFs.

    The World Bank report is definitely based on Meinshausen et al 2011 who plot a number of RCPs. The possibility of 4ºC rise by the 2060s finding results from RPC8.5 which is like A1FI a high emissions ‘projection,’ hitting something like 650ppm CO2 by 2050.

    So the literature does support a possible 4ºC rise (rather than 4ºC+) by the 2060s but this is only due to high emissions. Is this such a surprise?

    We have before had discussion on this subject of likely future temperature rises but they have broken down due to my absences. You may be interested enough here to comment on why the RCP with lesser emissions (eg RCP2.6 aka RCP3-PD) fails to yield much more than a low chance of a 2.5ºC temperature rise even when they involve continued emissions (CO2 peaking at 440ppm in 2050).

  42. 192
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rita, I’m another ordinary reader here; from your profile, you’re at an academic institution so may well have better access to many journal articles in full text than most of us. And, probably, of a reference librarian who help you find stuff ordinary readers can’t get. So don’t spare asking them.

    The ‘Internet Librarian’ search will take you right back here:
    but to other sources as well.

    Gavin asked recently for folks to include the DOI cite/link when they mention sources — that’s always a big help finding things.

  43. 193
    perwis says:

    MARodger @191

    Yes, of course, they are not “predictions”, but rather “projections”.

    However, given that emissions currently track the highest emission scenarios, and that a peak in global emissions right now seems far away, these “high-end” studies could be of some relevance.

    In particular, given that there is typically not much difference in warming between different emission scenarios in a 20-year time-frame, this means that we only have to continue on track for the A1FI/RCP8.5 emissions scenario until 2030, in order to effectively put the emission scenarios for these high-end studies into play. This, it seems to me now, is not entirely unlikely, given the lack of international agreements and political will.

    I hope this will not be the case, and that we will be on the lucky side of the uncertainty envelopes…

  44. 194
    Superman1 says:

    Rita #183,

    Ray Ladbury has provided some good advice in #184. McPherson’s comments are depressing, but they reflect one opinion among many. He gives more weight to Malcolm Light’s predictions of methane release than I would. David Archer’s methane predictions are more muted; Peter Wadhams’ are somewhat in between.

    Now, none of the recent studies are particularly buoyant or uplifting, including IEA, World Bank, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, etc. But, they don’t have the near-term Armageddon flavor of McPherson’s. My own take, for what it’s worth, is the truth lies somewhere between Kevin Anderson and Guy McPherson. Anderson doesn’t include the positive feedback mechanisms in the computations that he uses, and McPherson tends to give high weighting to the positive feedback mechanisms.

    I think it may be possibly technically to avoid some, not all, of the damage from climate change, but only if three conditions are met: hard drawdown on fossil fuel use; rapid reforestation; some geoengineering to quench the positive feedback mechanisms, especially in the Arctic. One energy source that could be used in part for the latter is the nuclear fleet, mainly USA and Russian. We have aircraft carriers, subs, and cruisers that are nuclear powered, and the Russians have a number of nuclear powered ships as well. As far as I know, none of these nuclear powered ships are doing anything useful to help ameliorate climate change. Their power production is limited, and I don’t know how it would compare to the power requirements of desired geoengineering schemes, such as marine cloud-brightening from spraying sea water into the atmosphere to increase albedo. But, if we start doing some out-of-the-box thinking, and everybody pitches in and really tightens the fossil fuel belt, there may be some possibilities.

  45. 195
    Rita says:

    @194 Superman1:

    Appreciate your response…and it appears I have some reading to do!


  46. 196
    Superman1 says:

    More on the 2050 temperature increase issue; the plot thickens. In the Rowlands paper Abstract, it is stated: “We find that model versions that reproduce observed surface temperature changes over the past 50 years show global-mean temperature increases of 1.4–3 K by 2050, relative to 1961–1990, under a mid-range forcing scenario.”
    In the body of the paper, it is stated further: “At about 3 K, the upper end of our uncertainty range for 2050 warming is consistent with both the highest responses in the QUMP ensemble and the IPCC upper estimate of the CMIP-3 ensemble-mean plus 60%, but substantially higher than the highest responses of the CMIP-3 ensemble members that are generally used for impact assessment (one model did give a higher response, but was omitted in headline uncertainty ranges because of concerns about its stability). Thus uncertainty estimates based solely on ensembles-of-opportunity or small perturbed-physics ensembles are underestimated compared with independent studies. We are reluctant to quote a more precise upper bound because of the small number of model versions in this region and the fact that goodness-of-fit does not deteriorate as rapidly as it does at the lower bound, possibly because of the inclusion of natural forcing uncertainty: we can, however, conclude that warming substantially greater than 3 K by 2050 is unlikely unless forcing is substantially higher than the SRES A1B scenario27. The higher upper bound compared to CMIP-3 is mostly due to our inclusion of a wider range of climate sensitivities but also partly to our wider range of natural forcing scenarios. Towards the end of the century, we observe a similar relationship with the IPCC expert estimate, although by that time the uncertainty could be larger if carbon-cycle feedbacks were included in our ensemble.”

    Nowhere do they state 4 C, so the Guardian summary was literally correct. But, the Nature article summary of #181 includes the statement: ” Although their average results matched well with IPCC projections, more extreme results, including warming of up to 4°C by 2050, seemed just as likely.”

    This raises the Talmudic question: why is there a 1 C difference between these two sources referring to the same study? Now, as I’ve stated previously, I don’t think this difference is all that relevant; both temperatures reflect a horrific prediction. But, one would expect the same number.

    Now, it could be an error or a typo. The Nature article is Editorial Material. While these types of articles are usually invited, they tend to be peer-reviewed as well. I’ve done a few of these, and in all cases, there were at least two peer-reviewers. While the certainty of publication is higher than a submitted unsolicited article, the Editors still want the quality to be high. What are the odds that the two authors, both accomplished researchers, the Editor of Nature, and the peer-reviewers would overlook an error in such a sensitive number on such a sensitive and high visibility topic?

    My guess is that the authors of the Nature article have either seen other runs from the research group that were not published, or they compensated for the lack of inclusion of the stated “carbon-cycle feedbacks”. But, it would be interesting if the authors of the Nature article revealed the reason for the discrepancy.

  47. 197
    David B. Benson says:

    Doug @177 — Albuquerque is a write-off.

  48. 198
    MARodger says:

    perwis @193.

    Indeed A1FI does not diverge significantly from say A2 until 2030 but does so rapidly there after (as per fig 1 of Betts et al 2012.) With the low probability of a 4ºC temperature rise under A1FI estimated as occurring ~2060 and likely occurring a decade plus later, you are happy to ignore the extra ~70GtC emitted under A1FI in the 20 years following 2030? And would the second extra ~70 GtC emitted 2050-60 make not a jot of difference? I would consider them rather large quantities to dismiss as irrelevant.

    RCP8.5 is an entirely different beast. It diverges quickly from the other RCP in fig 2a of Meinshausen et al 2011 (hopefully the link will work this time) so even a delay in difference up to 2030 is missing.

    I would suggest that outside A1FI or RCP8.5 the 4ºC temperature rise well before 2100 is over-egging the mix. So this leaves A1FI or RCP8.5.

    The likes of A1FI & RCP8.5 are not implausible or they would not be included in these analyses. (Indeed you say they “could be of some relevance.“) I would myself be cautious in describing them as “not entirely unlikely” as this I would see as painting them as to be in some degree or other ‘likely’. Is this how you intended to describe them?
    Or is there a missing ‘if’. If we continue with BAU….

  49. 199
    SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “One energy source that could be used in part for the latter is the nuclear fleet, mainly USA and Russian.”

    Wow. You really have to work VERY hard to avoid the facts that (1) we have far more energy readily available from solar and wind than human civilization uses, and (2) we are already mass-producing and rapidly deploying the mature and powerful technologies to harvest that energy.

  50. 200
    Doug says:

    David B. Benson @197. “Albuquerque is a write-off”

    A write off doesn’t sound very good… Perhaps you can elaborate, if you see this, but I’ll tell you why we are considering it as a place to live for the next 30 to 40 years. I know all about the projections for drought in the Southwest, but I have spoken to a well known hydrologist and some other experts, and nobody has said yet, that they think Albuquerque will “run out of water” over this time span. Also Albuquerque is at I think 5000 feet, so it doesn’t get near as hot as some other Southwestern cities, and the average high in the warmest month of the year is only 92 degrees or so. I have read that by mid century, forest fires may be up to four times more frequent than today in parts of the West, so that is something to keep an eye on. But I am concerned with a monster heat wave at some point during this time frame, and don’t know how justified my concern is. (One that would take many lives) If you care to elaborate David I would love to hear it. Climate is only one consideration in our decision to move to either San Diego or Albuquerque, but an important one. We want to make this our last move, and don’t really want to have to pick up stakes again. Thanks.