by Dave Rutledge
Now that Working Group 3 has put its chapters on line, all six thousand pages of the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report have arrived. Coal is the specter that looms.
In the IPCC’s business-as-usual scenario, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5, coal accounts for half of future carbon-dioxide emissions through 2100, and two-thirds of the emissions through 2500. The IPCC’s coal burn is enormous, twice the world reserves by 2100, and seven times reserves by 2500. Coal so dominates that it is not an exaggeration to say that the IPCC and climate-change research programs depend on this massive coal burn for their existence. Without the threat of coal, the IPCC could close up shop and the research program funding would drop to a small fraction of what is spent on research in weather forecasting.
Coal is the oldest of our fossil fuels, and we know a lot about how coal mining grows and how it dies. We also know a lot about coal reserves. The UK produced the first detailed reserves study in a Royal Commission on Coal Supplies in 1871. Dever Ashmead of the US Bureau of Mines compiled a thorough reserves analysis of the Pennsylvania anthracite fields in 1926. The first comprehensive survey at the world level was The Coal Resources of the World, produced in 1913 for the 12th World Geological Congress. After the First World War, the surveys were continued by the World Power Conference. This group, now called the World Energy Council, published its latest survey, the 23rd, in 2013. The Council’s surveys are the primary source for coal reserves.
One thing that distinguishes coal reserves from oil and gas reserves is that historically they have had the goal of serving as an estimate of total national future production. This is explicit in the 1871 Royal Commission charter, and the Commission’s reserves criteria were adopted in the later World Power Council surveys. This is reasonable because coal fields are relatively easy to find and map. This is in contrast to oil and gas, where discovery has been difficult. This can make oil and gas reserves behave like warehouse inventories that are an index of the time that it takes to develop new fields rather than total future production. US oil reserves have been typically been close to the production in the following ten years.
On the other hand, for coal the pattern has been that countries produce only a small fraction of their early reserves, and then late in the production cycle the reserves drop to match the coal at the last working mines. This pattern is seen in the UK (cumulative production of 19% of early reserves), Pennsylvania anthracite (42%), the Ruhr Valley (14%), France and Belgium (23%), and Japan and South Korea (21%). This means that the reserves criteria have been too optimistic, but it also means that world coal reserves are a good upper bound on future production. An IPCC scenario that burns two times or seven times the reserves is utterly at odds with the historical experience.
Peer-reviewed estimates of future world coal production have been available. One example is my 2011 paper in the Journal of Coal Geology, “Estimating Long-Term World Coal Production with Logit and Probit Transforms“. This paper includes references to other peer-reviewed studies led by Tad Patzek, Chair of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department at the University of Texas at Austin, and Steve Mohr, at the Sydney University of Technology. All three papers use production histories to make an independent estimate of future production that is less than reserves, but consistent with the historical experience of mining coal.
I searched the 5th Assessment Report for references to coal reserves and I found one quantitative sentence in Working Group 3, Chapter 7, page 15.
“For both reserves and resources, the quantity of hard (black) coal significantly outnumbers the quantity of lignite (brown coal), and despite resources being far greater than reserves, the possibility for resources to cross over to reserves is expected to be limited since coal reserves are likely to last around 100 years at current rates of production (Rogner et al., 2012).” [The Rogner et al. reference is to a chapter in the book Global Energy Assessment by the think-tank IIASA.]
It is true that the R/P (reserves to production) ratio is 109 years. However, the R/P ratio has been dropping rapidly. Ten years ago it was 204 years. It is also true that conversion of resources to reserves is expected to be limited, but for a different reason. Countries end up producing less than their reserves. Most importantly, the statement does not address the problem, which is the large multiple of the coal reserves that is assumed to be produced in the business-as-usual scenario, RCP8.5. There is no precedent for this, and RCP8.5 should not be used for any purpose whatsoever.
The IPCC is actually rather coy about revealing exactly how much coal is burned in RCP8.5. If one goes to the RCP data base, one can find the emissions in 2500 for the insulation chemical HFC245fa, which has a current production of 500t. However, there is nothing for coal, which has a current production of 8Gt. The 2011 paper in Climatic Change by Keywan Riahi et al. that defines the RCP8.5, “RCP 8.5—A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions.”, gives a graph (Figure 5), presumably indicative, that shows coal production increasing to 2100, but with no discussion of the fact that it exceeds reserves. For the numbers given here, I digitized this figure and extended the calculation to 2500.
Some thoughts on more realistic projections for future fossil-fuel production were given in an earlier Climate Etc. post, and in a recent invited talk for the Geological Society of America, “Projections for Ultimate Coal Production from Production Histories Through 2012,” I argue that future fossil-fuel CO2 emissions without any climate policy at all are likely to fall between those of the policy scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP4.5.
Biography for David Rutledge
Professor Rutledge is the Tomiyasu Professor of Engineering at Caltech, and a former Chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science there. He is a Fellow of the IEEE and a winner of the Teaching Award of the Associated Students at Caltech. He served as the editor for the Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, and is a founder of the Wavestream Corporation, a manufacturer of high-power millimeter-wave transmitters for satellite uplinks.
JC note: David Rutledge has posted previously at CE Energy supplies and climate policy . Since this is a guest post, please keep your comments relevant and civil.
Wow. That’s some oversight by the IPCC, if true. Burning more than the world’s reserves of coal in so short a time seems something patently within the sort of bounds checking and estimation practice a review committee would practice.
Did you trace the origins of the errors?
I mean, on its face, it appears to be merely ceteris paribus (the default assumption of scientific literature), not an actual forecast, that is going on here.
So maybe develop a little more how this assumption leads to wrong results, exactly?
They figure out, using their models, how much coal they need to burn to cause a problem. The fact that there is not that much coal to burn, does not matter to them. That is not their problem. Their problem is that they must burn enough coal in their models to cause a problem, and it does not matter if that is impossible.
Economically Constrained Coal Resources
Economically available Coal resources may be far below the IPCC’s “projections”. See:
Höök, M., Zittel, W., Schindler, J. & Aleklett, K. ”Global coal production outlooks based on a logistic model” Fuel, 2010, Vol. 89, Issue 11:3546-3558 URL: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1016/j.fuel.2010.06.013
Patzek & Croft quantitatively model production rates of resource constrained coal – in contrast to the IPCC’s wildly alarmist demand driven future projections. See:
A global coal production forecast with multi-Hubbert cycle analysis Patzek & Croft, Energy, 35 (2010) 3109-3122
The Key Coal Producers – ONLINE SUPPORTING MATERIALS to A Global Coal Production Forecast with Multi-Hubbert Cycle Analysis Patzek & Croft, 2011
In “The constructal law origin of the logistics S curve”, Bejan and Lorente (2011) provide physical understanding on the geological constraints in extracting coal and oil.
Gail Tverberg explains: Why world coal consumption keeps rising; What economists missed
PS previous post was from David L. Hagen
Link: The constructal law origin of the logistics S curve, A. Bejan, S. Lorente,
J. Appl. Phys. 110, 024901 (2011); http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.3606555
Hook & Xu review:
Depletion of fossil fuels and anthropogenic climate change – a review, Mikael Höök, Tang Xu, Energy Policy Volume 52, January 2013, Pages 797–809 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2012.10.046
See Charles Hall, Energy and the Wealth of Nations 2013
Peak Oil, Declining EROI and the New Energy-Economic Reality with Dr. Charles A.S. Hall
Energy return on investment – which fuels win?
Peaking of conventional oil will increase demand for coal though converting coal to liquids. China is now converting coal to methanol.
Patzak and Croft (2009) raise some of the challenges involved:
Potential for Coal-to-Liquids Conversion in the United States—Fischer–Tropsch Synthesis, Natural Resources Research, Vol. 18, No. 3, September 2009 DOI: 10.1007/s11053-009-9098-9
Bart: “Ceteris paribus” just means “all other things being equal.” I don’t follow how that’s “the default assumption of scientific literature,” or why what was written here about coal led you to that thought.
bentabou | April 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm |
Ceteris paribus is a simplifying assumption, like the assumption of equipartition, or other tool used in modeling more complex systems or situations to focus on one single phenomenon.
Clearly, in the case of this particular coal burning curve (not the only one), beyond around 2070, it’s a pretty weak assumption. The IPCC is not immune to such weaknesses and blunders, though let’s face it, the IPCC rate of blunders is a bit lower than the rate of Climate Etc. blunders where assumptions are involved.
Professor Rutledge has challenged the assumption, which is also the standard role of interlocutors in science. It means we get overall better assumptions: as simple as we know how yet, without being too simple, in the long run. It’s a shame better exposition of this problem was not made. Perhaps it is elsewhere in the six thousand pages, though I expect Dr. Rutledge is a careful analyst and would not raise this issue were there a satisfactory level of description in that text. Something to look forward to in AR6, perhaps.
And if Dr. Rutledge’s challenge is the only, or the most serious, WG3 faces, I’d be surprised, and I’m sure its authors would be delighted, as a slight issue with a top end assumption on a single aspect of a single curve after the next half century has passed, does not much inflict a wound on the IPCC case.
More to the point, if we really are facing the end of coal in less than a century (after expecting it to last out the bulk of the millennium), we have a whole new set of problems that will kick us in the teeth just about at the same time sea level rise is most likely to enter that steep part of the S-curve due to everything we’ve done and are on course to continue to do.
And really, at the point we have no coal reserves, the very frivolous “new ice age” argument that some make, a mere five to fifteen thousand years prematurely, will be very serious indeed, as it takes carbon reserves to put GHE’s into the atmosphere at high enough levels to abate glaciation when the tilt of the Earth moves the world into its fifty thousand year cold phase.. and by then, CO2 will have dropped back out of the atmosphere to pre-Industrial levels, and we won’t have any coal to burn to prop us up. Well, our descendents, as I’m sure most of you don’t plan to be around then.
That’s what people mean when they talk about existential threat on the millennial timescale.
Personally, I’m not overly concerned about all that. I expect I’ll have other worries by then.
No oversight, no blunder. Just deliberate.
Worth checking where this appeared in the scheme of things, just like how Chapter 8, WG1, in the 1995 IPCC report was altered.
Adam Gallon | April 23, 2014 at 3:50 am |
You ascribe near superhuman levels of coordination and foresight to the IPCC, for them to have pulled off such a complex scam deliberately and with malice that would gain them nothing, as the net result of the change you think you see is.. virtually zero over a different set of assumptions more easily demonstrated and more nearly true.
It’s far likelier to be incompetence than malice.
Unless you have wiretaps and secret notes and photographs of the alleged co-conspirators actually concocting the plan to glean what is, after all, less money than the cheerleading squad at Professor Curry’s school spends on pom poms and spandex.
Re: “it’s a pretty weak assumption.”
Far from “weak” – it is contrary to most thorough reviews of available coal resources per Rutledge, Hook, Patzek etc. See above references on limited economic availability of coal.
The IPCC selected climate sensitivity far above 30 or 60 year constraining temperature evidence. Then it imposed demand driven consumption to match “with no discussion of the fact that it exceeds (coal) reserves”!
That’s without integrity and contrary to the scientific method! – especially when such evidence is published by multiple authors.
Contrast the ex NASA engineers/scientsits at The Right Climate Stuff who explicitly incorporated reserves and economic constraints – to find an unremarkable 1.2 deg C maximum global temperature rise! Try supporting the scientific method.
Rutledge was invited to give a 2013 presentation on coal production and reserves. He concluded in slide 28 and 30:
Given the stovepiping of IPCC procedures, I would come down on the side of BartR’s interpretation of this situation.
I’d agree with Tom Fuller and BartR on this too. It’s well known, if you’re not sure it it was a conspiracy or as stuff up, go for the stuff up every time.
However, now we need to see how quickly they admit and ammend. Will it be dealt with like GlacierGate when the IPCC President refused to admit the error and tried to deflect it by saying the skeptics were doing voodoo science.
Are there parts of the world that have not yet been carefully surveyed for their coal reserves that would not be included in the current world reserve figures?
–Are there parts of the world that have not yet been carefully surveyed for their coal reserves that would not be included in the current world reserve figures?–
Coal has problem related to transportation and costs.
And we mine oil 1 km under the surface, it very costly to do such depths
“Nation’s Deepest Coal Mine Now Ranks Among Deadliest
By DAVID FIRESTONE
Published: September 26, 2001
BROOKWOOD, Ala., Sept. 25— The low-sulfur coal coveted by power plants exists in abundance beneath the green ridges near this central Alabama town, but to get it, miners must take the longest elevator ride in the country to a dark and risky office: 175 stories straight down, past cracks and crevices packed with highly volatile methane gas. ”
175 stories is not very deep. And not very profitable.
“Which is the deepest coal mine in the world?
The deepest coal mine in Europe is Jindřich II Mine in the Rosice-Oslavany coal basin, Czech Republic. The shaft of the mine reached 1550 m while the deepest level coal was mined at was at 1428.4 m. The mine was closed in 1991. It is probably the deepest coal mine in the world.”
That’s pretty deep. But it’s also closed down,
Say there was huge and rich coal field 500 feet under the ocean, It probably would not be minable. Maybe one research and develop a way to do it economical, but why would you when methane Hydrate mining in ocean would be more profitable if you researched and develop a way to cheaply mine it. And there endless supply of such methane Hydrate deposits in ocean.
Mining coal is about the same a mining dirt, with exception that coal has more demand and a higher price than dirt.
Or the oil sands in Canada only work economical because oil sands are near the surface, if there were 1 km under surface that method of mining would be too expensive- though one could probably drill such oil deposit if 1 km under the surface- and drilling it, would be cheaper than what they are currently doing.
“Say there was huge and rich coal field 500 feet under the ocean, It probably would not be minable. ”
Coal has been mined under the North Sea for a long time.
Of course, it costs money to ship coal and to mine it deeply and of course future mining technology might affect costs. We do mine coal, we do ship it distances now (even exporting it from the U.S.), and we do already dig deep mines.
But I was asking a simpler question: Are there possibly large “conventional” coal deposits in countries that haven’t been surveyed carefully, or are we sure that all accessible parts of the earth’s surface have been checked?
“Say there was huge and rich coal field 500 feet under the ocean, It probably would not be minable. ”
Coal has been mined under the North Sea for a long time.
Where is ref? That ref is plan to exploit a coal deposit under the ocean-
It’s about oil mining from a coal deposit, rather than extracting coal to use the coal.
Deep coal mines on the coast of NE England are not a new concept.
Some ran out long distances under the sea.
–stevepostrel | April 23, 2014 at 7:02 pm |
Of course, it costs money to ship coal and to mine it deeply and of course future mining technology might affect costs. We do mine coal, we do ship it distances now (even exporting it from the U.S.), and we do already dig deep mines.–
Well, shipping via a train in US is cheap, and shipping across an ocean is cheap. And mined coal is cheap in US.
But this doesn’t really help in terms of coal use in China. As there is only a relatively small amount of coal which is exported globally. China uses 4 billion tonnes of coal a year, and for number of reasons, China can’t import 4 billion tonnes of coal. 1 billion tonnes, maybe.
I am pretty sure US could export as much as say 1/2 billion tonnes and with significant investment in infrastructure might manage 1 billion tonnes, but this does not mean China could receive 1 billion tonnes per year from the US. I would say it’s cheaper for US to get to point of exporting a billion tonnes of coal than it is for China to receive 1 billion tonnes of coal.
Next we get to political and economical part, I don’t think politically China can import more than 1 billion tonnes.
It’s just much cheaper to ship via pipes than it is by rail. The problem of pipes is infrastructural cost of making the pipeline- compared to using an existing train line. But train lines if they are only going to ship coal have higher infrastructure cost than pipes.
So if increase volume of shipped coal beyond the capability of the train, instead of more rail, one should think of using pipe.
rail advantage is you ship more of different things- you can’t ship steel structures via pipes.
So if you serious about shipping coal in large amounts, shipping via pipe could be a solution-I have heard it mentioned before [[liquifying coal, not sure of any or specific problems with it].
Next related problem is low energy density- per ton you get more energy and more value from oil than coal. Per billion ton oil is cheaper to ship and has more uses than coal.
One could say if want to import 1 billion tonnes of coal or oil- oil is better to import. Economically one can add value to crude oil, as nation it makes more sense to focus importation of crude oil.
So US’s massive importation of crude oil makes much more sense than compared to idea of massive importation of coal- plus no doubt some have of convinced US policy maker of such idea is a good policy- and no one has done this in regard to coal importing. One I think it’s one thing to supplement coal by importation, and another to import 1/2 or more of the amount one consumes.
–But I was asking a simpler question: Are there possibly large “conventional” coal deposits in countries that haven’t been surveyed carefully, or are we sure that all accessible parts of the earth’s surface have been checked?–
I think as rule, coal is best used locally. This could change a bit with robotic
mining, which currently being done in regards to coal. I will grant this could change the paradigm, and difficult to predict consequences from the increasing use of robot mining. It’s actually teleoperating mining and seems it will lower costs and in particular in remote locations. But one still needs to built the infrastructure. If combine liquify coal to lower shipping cost and have remote mining, it could be game changer.
“Coal use in particular increases almost 10 fold by 2100”
BP Energy Outlook 2035
“After oil, coal is expected to be the slowest growing major fuel, with demand rising on average 1.1% a year to 2035. Over the period, growth flattens to just 0.6% a year after 2020. Nearly all (87%) of the net growth in demand to 2035 is expected to come from just China and India, whose combined share of global coal consumption will rise from 58% in 2012 to 64% in 2035.”
BP 2013 Statistical Review
“Global coal production grew by 2%. Global production increased 2.0% (86.2mtoe), significantly lower than the 4.8% ten-year average as demand weakened”
Okay. Maybe I missed a few points here.
We go from ~600 years of coal reserves at the last level of coal use I read the literature (a decade out of date now), to ~60 years, and my big concern is over whether committee estimation protocols had lapsed.
So many things to be skeptical about here: is the projection of ~60 years before the collapse of coal right?
If so, it’d be pretty pointless to plan a new coal burning plant today, given it would run out of fuel before its end of life.
And are the IPCC figures not including CO2E coming out of soil, subsoil, permafrost and the oceans as they warm?
That might extend the lifespan of coal reserves to ~120 years or more, give or take ~50 years, depending on how rapidly CO2 emerges from solution with heat and how fast clathrates decompose with warmth.
Is it possible this analysis may exaggerate the problem, overlook key components of the calculation, or otherwise bear more skeptical examination, before we ring the claxon of alarm?
Though, a topic well worth pursuing, and I thank Professor Rutledge for it.
“If so, it’d be pretty pointless to plan a new coal burning plant today, given it would run out of fuel before its end of life.”
These facilities are not initially designed to last for 60 years.
The use of coal will make sense as long as alternates are more expensive. Over the long term there are several potential technologies that will replace the use of fossil fuels.
More humans would seem to inevitably mean more CO2 in the atmosphere. Reasonable steps to slow the growth rate seem sensible. Pretending that the growth curve can be avoided over the long term only will lead to waste of resources and frustration.
“If so, it’d be pretty pointless to plan a new coal burning plant today, given it would run out of fuel before its end of life.”
In the United States, more coal-fired power plant capacity is expected to be shut down in the next two decades than what is expected to be built.
This is not necessarily related to “running out of fuel”…but it is related to inexpensive alternative sources of electricity (such as natural gas), little or no growth in electrical consumption, and more stringent control requirements for emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and hazardous air pollutants (e.g., mercury).
So they are increasing the growth rate ten fold, and expanding the reserves several times over?
forget the science. The math does not add up. Especially since Obama has decided to bankrupt anyone using coal.
Apparently the UK has huge reserves of coal under the North SEA which appear suitable for gasification.
In your opinion can coal ever be used in a manner that will satisfy those who are concerned about co2 emissions?
Especially bearing in mind the looming energy problems in Britain and the wider concerns about Russian security of supply, perhaps our concerns over co2 from coal related sources need to be looked at in a different light.
The UK has huge reserves of nice clean shale gas that environmentalists want to stop.
I just posted the same link further upthread tony, before I read your comment.
“Oversight by the IPCC?”
If you view the IPCC, at its top levels, as essentially political in nature — and Pauchari is still head ot the IPCC, after his “voodoo science” denigration of accurate science that the Himalayan glaciers weren’t going to melt by 2035 — then it might be useful to think that perhaps this isn’t an IPCC “oversight.” Maybe it is more like all the recent less alarmist findings that had to be dug out by Judith and others, like lower climate sensitivity and all that.
So perhaps it isn’t economically possible to put up that much CO2 with the amount of coal reserves that exist?
And if that is the case, then the higher levels of CO2 are pretty unlikely?
Obviously, I haven’t crunched the numbers. But suppose, just suppose, that 50 years from now the two fuels used at the margin are natural gas (from methane hydrates, a huge potential resource) and solar (once it becomes economic, and can be put on the sides, roofs, and eventually windows of all buildings). There would be far less CO2 if the energy were generated from solar and gas instead of coal. Crisis severely reduced, just by more reasonable assumptions?
I have a very narrow scope question on projected CO2 emission level scenarios. In the IPCC’s A1FI Scenario, levels reach ~1,000 ppm by 2100. Is my layman’s understanding correct that this represents what CO2 levels will be if the World keeps on (basically) doing what we’re currently doing? Are there other peer reviewed CO2 emission scenarios (of doing what we’re currently doing) that us laymen should be looking at besides the IPCC projections? (Note: Please don’t bash me that there is no proven correlation between CO2 levels and temperatures — this is not my question).
Stephen Secrest: Is my layman’s understanding correct that this represents what CO2 levels will be if the World keeps on (basically) doing what we’re currently doing?
the current rate of growth of atmospheric CO2 concentration is about 0.5%-1% per year (I don’t have the references to hand, but the 1% produces doubling in 700 years, so it has been used in several widely quoted estimates of transient sensitivity to a doubling of CO2.) Assuming that the fraction of that due to humans stays constant, then humans might be responsible for the CO2 concentration rising from ~400ppm now to about 600-1000 ppm by end of century. The graph that you linked showed such a range depending on the various scenarios.
oops 1% per year produces doubling in 70 years, not 700 years.
Not really. A1F1 (like the latest RCP8.5) is a “high coal, high oil and gas” scenario, which ignores current ongoing efforts, mostly in the industrially developed nations, to improve energy efficiency and losses plus move away from fossil fuels. So it is not really “business as usual”.
But where did the ~1,000 ppmv come from?
IPCC’s worst case “high-coal and high-oil-and-gas” scenario A1F1 assumed that 2,538 Gt carbon would be emitted by humans from 1990 to 2100.
This equals 9,306 GtCO2. A bit less than 50% of the emitted CO2 “remains” in the atmosphere, so this means an added 4,653 GtCO2.
This calculates out to an added 597 ppmv above 1990 concentration.
There was 353 ppmv CO2 in 1990, so this equals a CO2 concentration of 950 ppmv by 2100.
That’s how they got there.
Now let’s do a quick “sanity check” on that number.
For this scenario IPCC had ASS-U-Med that human carbon emissions would reach 30GtC per year by 2100.
That equals 110 GtCO2/a.
World population is expected to reach around 10.2 billion by 2100 (UN estimate), so this equals a per capita CO2 generation of 10.8 tons CO2.
In 2012 worldwide CO2 emissions were 31.6 Gt and world population was 7.1 billion, so average per capita CO2 generation was 4.45 tons, up by around 10% since 1970, when it was around 4.0 tons.
The per capita CO2 generation of the “industrially developed” nations (N. America, W. Europe, Japan, Australia/New Zealand) was 10.4 tons in 2012, down from 12.4 tons in 1980.
Over the same time period the per capita CO2 emission of the rest of the world increased from 2.3 to 3.8 tons.
But, for the IPCC case A1F1 emission level to become a reality, every man, woman, and child on this planet would have to be emitting more CO2 per capita than the inhabitants of the “industrially developed” nations do today.
This does not pass my “sanity check”.
There is a second constraint, which makes the A1F1 case implausible.
There are other (mostly lower) estimates out there, but WEC 2010 estimated that in 2008 “total remaining inferred recoverable fossil fuel resources” on our planet represented 85% of all the fossil fuels that were ever on our planet.
The first 15% got us from a pre-industrial CO2 level of 280 ppmv to a 2008 level of 385 ppmv.
So the remaining 85% could get us to:
385 + 0.85 * (385 – 280) / 0.15 = 980 ppmv, when they are all gone.
So, in effect, IPCC A1F1 ASS-U-MEs that essentially all the fossil fuel resources left on our planet will be used up by 2100 to reach the projected CO2 level.
Again, this does not pass my “sanity check”.
manacker: But where did the ~1,000 ppmv come from?
It is in the graph that he linked to.
Matthew R Marler
The current exponential rate of growth (compounded annual growth rate) since 2001 is 0.5%/year:
(395.0 / 370.4)^1/13 = 1.00496
At this rate it would double in 140 years
(1.0096)^140 = 2.0
Doubling in 70 years is a bit exaggerated, Matthew – unless one ASS-U-MEs that the exponential growth rate will double on average over the next 70 years (not likely, is it?).
Matthew R Marler
“At this rate it would double in 140 years
1.00961.00496)^140 = 2.0″
Sorry ’bout that
manacker: Doubling in 70 years is a bit exaggerated, Matthew
I agree, but the figure has been used in published analyses. As you point out, at half the rate the time to double is doubled.
The range of results that I quoted, 600 to 1000 ppm by the end of the 21st century approximately matched the range of results in the graph at the link provided by Stephen Segrest.
But, for the IPCC case A1F1 emission level to become a reality, every man, woman, and child on this planet would have to be emitting more CO2 per capita than the inhabitants of the “industrially developed” nations do today.
This does not pass my “sanity check”.
That merely means that it does not agree with your expectation. That doesn’t imply that it won’t happen. What happened in the last 86 years would not pass anybody’s sanity check either, had it been conjectured. As everyone has known all along, there simply has not been enough petroleum or natural gas. We have been reminded of the supply limits endlessly.
Max and Matthew — thanks. Couple of follow ups. (1) What is a CO2 base case (i.e., today’s fossil fuel use with reasonable future efficiency gains) trajectory scenario that you feel most Scientists could agree to? (2) at what ppm level do IPCC Scientists become very apprehensive as to possible CAGW? A threshold level? When IPCC Scientists apply GH (Arrhenius and others) theory into projections — where is their starting point (ppm) as to doubling? Tx.
Stephen Segrest: (2) at what ppm level do IPCC Scientists become very apprehensive as to possible CAGW?
I think some of them are apprehensive now about any levels above 350ppm. It’s the “warming in the pipeline.” Recall that AR5 has been criticized for not being alarmist enough. There is diversity in their ranks.
You write, “In the IPCC’s A1FI Scenario, levels reach ~1,000 ppm by 2100. It’s my layman’s understanding correct that this represents what CO2 levels will be if the World keeps on (basically) doing what we’re currently doing?”
The A1FI scenario (which is very close to the RCP 8.5 scenario, in terms of CO2 increase to the year 2100) is unlikely to be obtained. So we can’t “keep on doing what we’re doing,” just like Usain Bolt can’t run 1000 meters at the same rate he can run 100 meters.
Let’s look at coal use in the RCP 8.5 scenario. It has world coal use increasing throughout the 21st century, such that world coal use in 2100 is about 44 billion short tons, or 8.6 times as large as in 2000). Here are production values for the year 2000, in thousands of short tons:
United States 1,073,612
South Africa 248,935
Rest of world 742,401
Total world 5,127,166
Suppose all countries increased by a factor of 8.6. Then China would need to be producing about 13 billion tons per year in 2100, and the U.S. would need to be producing about 9.2 billion tons per year in 2100. But U.S. production has actually *decreased* slightly since 2000, so it’s very unlikely U.S. production will suddenly start increasing dramatically throughout the rest of the century. And China’s government predicts that China’s consumption will peak in 2020 at 4.7 billion metric tonnes (5.2 billion short tons).
So history and expected coal production simply don’t support the idea that world coal consumption will increase throughout the 21st century, reaching 44 billion short tons in the year 2100. Try for yourself to get to 44 billion tons, assuming the U.S. is only producing about our current level of 1 billion tons per year, and China is consuming less than 5 billion tons per year in 2100. That means you need to come up with 39 billion tons per year from the rest of the world. (Also keep in mind that countries like Germany and Poland will likely have *declines* in production, rather than increases by a factor of 8.6 or more.
More information from the World Coal Association …
And still more from BP Statistical Review
of World Energy June 2013.
By using newly developed in-situ extraction technology on previously unreachable seams, coal reserves now appear to be considerably greater than previously estimated, perhaps by an order of magnitude or more.
Tynemouth to be one of first locations for £1bn scheme to access deep sea deposits which could power Britain for centuries
A billion-pound plan to reach untapped coal reserves under the North Sea will be under way by the end of the year, as the vast scale of the energy source beneath the North Sea is made clear.
Scientific data of the true extent of the coal deposits on the sea bed reveals that even a tiny percentage of them would be enough to power Britain for centuries to come, says a local expert.
Dermot Roddy, chief technical officer of energy company Five Quarter which will be leading the much-anticipated extraction work, said there are trillions of tonnes of deeply-buried coal stretching from the North East coast far out to sea: an amount thousands of times greater than all oil and gas extracted so far.
And now technology is advanced enough to be able to reach it.
The technology involves using modern drilling techniques, injecting high pressure steam and oxygen to partially burn some of the coal in the seam and extracting the resulting gas, predominantly carbon monoxide and hydrogen AKA syngas.
Which just happens to be the preferred feedstock for the good old Fischer-Tropsch process.
LONG LIVE KING COAL!
Ok but you are not extracting coal. As a guess it seems this process *could* be done in way that end results is you have low CO2 emission from entire process. And mostly say this because you working in an environment of high pressure, instead using energy needed to create such a high high environment. Or one could say in a sense one is assisting nature in making oil.
It’s Game Over!
Bart R wrote, ” … it’d be pretty pointless to plan a new coal burning plant today, given it would run out of fuel before its end of life.”
MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. — A private development company plans a $615 million natural gas-fired power plant in Marshall County. Moundsville Power announced plans for the project at Tuesday’s Marshall County Commission meeting.
Kenya Pipeline Company has signed a deal with State-owned Qatargas for the supply of one million tonnes of natural gas annually to power the planned 700-megawatt gas-fired plant in Dongo Kundu, Mombasa.
Company plans to burn natural gas for electricity at $800 million plant in Carroll County [Ohio] … The announcement about the new plant came on the same day that Akron-based utility FirstEnergy Corp. announced it would be deactivating two of its coal-fired plants in Pennsylvania — a 1,170-megawatt plant and a 370-megawatt plant.
Yeah.. y’know, I’m all for people jumping off the coal bandwagon, what with it being so much more expensive than natural gas at the moment.. but natural gas is the most price volatile commodity in history.
Why are people not remembering that natural gas prices pogo up and down like a rollercoaster on a trampoline, just because the price is low at the moment?
Speed, there are two reasons for this. First, a new CCGT is 61% new efficient. The best new supercritical coal is only about 42%. That’s an enormous difference. Second, nat gas in the US delivered costs less than coal after washing and flue gas scrubbing of fly ash and residual sulfer, with some local exceptions, even at the same efficiencies. The combination is unbeatable–except for amortizing sunk costs in existing plants. So the oldest and least efficient coal and resid plants are being shut for economic reasons, replaced by CCGT, which as a result of efficiency and fuel chemistry only produce about 35% the CO2 per MWH of coal. Works great if you have enough natural gas. US is fortunate.
Bart R: While the daily natural gas prices are quite volatile — over 200% in 1996 — average annual prices are not.
This winter the choice had to be made between gas for heat and gas for electricity production in the US northeast during the coldest parts of January. Nat gas delivered prices reached 90 dollars in the northeast because of pipeline constraints. The inability to store fuel on site is a significant complicating factor in the planned switch to nat gas electricity generation.
Speed | April 22, 2014 at 6:19 pm |
What an excellent resource.
Thanks, but it’s actually the one I started with.. seven years ago, and part of why I cast a wary eye from time to time at http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/uncertainty/ and http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/steo/report/natgas.cfm and the like.
Which furnishes evidence that what I point out about the price volatility of natgas remains true, despite the biggest decade of technology change in fossil extraction ever.
We cannot expect technology change or shifting tastes toward natgas to reduce this price volatility. It’s a big drawback for natgas, especially as price levels amplify the perception of volatility and its market impact. And if the wrong tinfoil hat wearing NIMBY organization gets a runaway public relations success, choking off fracking in even a moderate way, that price amplification will be all the higher.
Large users of natural gas (and other commodities) use financial hedges to protect themselves (and their customers) from volatility and possibly rising prices. I’m sure that a company investing the better part of a billion dollars in a natural gas fired generator has locked in a supply of gas and a narrow range of prices.
I wonder if there are wind and sun puts.
If the US would push for more fracking we are looking at adding 400B to the economy and roughly 3 million jobs.
Plus we help the environment.
only obama stands in the way
I think the issue is not recoverable coal reserves – they will increase as we burn everything else and prices increase.
The question is will we really burn coal to meet future electrical needs irrespective of its cost, or will alternatives become prevalent? Thorium anybody?
In addition, how much electricity will we need as world population stabilizes and ages and technology advances. Laptops replacing desktops, LED bulbs replacing incandescent.
One of my major energy expenditures is laundry. On weeks I work from home, it is small compared to weeks I go to work every day..
One proposal I am working assumes the software development teams work from home. We provide a hoteling office space that could accommodate the entire team if we get cozy.
“The business-as-usual scenario RCP 8.5”
Except that it isn’t business as usual. RCP 8.5 relies heavily on the assumptions of the worst case scenario SRES A2: Strong population growth little innovation and small weath increase. In short, the spectre of an overpopulated impoverished world.
Business as usual OTOH is growing wealth, growing innovation and reducing growth in population.
Talk about framing…..
As coal power becomes too expensive in the West due to “market forces” which are as free as Mother Russia people will burn coal somewhere else. Or they will burn something else. Because you can make no Priuses or solar panels or whirlygigs without incinerating stuff – unless you operate out by the Three Gorges or Golfech nukes, you lucky thing.
Didn’t you notice all those piles of stuff you like to buy and own? Or are you among the Great Exempt whose trips to the mall are somehow sanctified by higher ideals and better intentions? Or you find Drill-Baby-Drill less squeamish-making than Dig-Baby-Dig?
Guys, when these shrieking Savanorolas have put the lid on coal, do you really think they won’t come after the gas and oil? Never mind the carbon, feel the serfdom.
The real cost of coal and of coal fired electricity has been declining for 250 years. What makes anyone think the downward trend in the price is going to change any time soon?
Terrestrial coal deposits are reasonably well mapped globally. There are massive deep seabed coal resources off UK (mentioned above since got recent press) and Norway (Haltenbanken). But despite the MSM drivel about in situ syngasification, the present technically recoverable reserves are exactly zero. The reason is that coal seams usually have bedding planes and faults thru which such gas can escape. It is those same features that enable production of coal bed methane. They prevent reasonable recovery of speculative in situ gasification of terrestrial coal–let alone coal lying thousand of meters under a seabed that is itself a thousand meters deep (Haltenbanken).
The issue is similar but not the same as oil. With the best known tertiary recovery techniques, on average only about 25% of the petroleum resource in place (35% for giants and supergiants) is technically recoverable at any price. Lots of oil left, but no geophysical way to get at it no matter the cost. Leads to lots of confusion, including within the IPCC.
What Prof Rutledge is pointing out is that as coal extraction proceeds, the resource that can ever become a technically recoverable reserve declines as geological reality eventually sets in. Both AR4 (SRES A2) and AR5 (RCP 8.5) presume no physical constraints on fossil fuel availability or its annual extraction rates in this century. Both assumptions are false. See two previous posts here last year on oil. Rutledge (and Patzek and Alaklett) are world eperts on coal. Their methods based on historical production and reserves data are solid, and the conclusion posted here is IMO factually correct. His Caltech website contains much useful supporting detail.
And since only 6 countries account for about 85% of all coal production, fairly easy to do bottoms up corroborations on a country by country basis. It is estimated, for example, that China will actually hit peak coal production (not exhaustion) around 2020. Check Dr. Li’s analysis from University of Utah. That is one reason China has started building gen 3 nucs on a massive scale.
Yes, pretty much
In-situ seam gasification requires quite constrained geological parameters, not at all easy to meet
The only comment I would add here, and clearly you know this but most commenters do not, is that Resource and Reserve are *not* synonomous. Reserve is a sub-set of Resource, the essential criterion being that of economic extraction. Geological measurement of Resource and Reserve is subject to quite strict, accountable rules – deliberately breaking them courts a possible goal sentence.. AGW advocates are remarkably free of such accountability
This point is very commonly not differentiated in the general public sphere, nor can I discern any will to learn the differences. I despaired of this wilful ignorance many, many moons ago
If CO2 is actually a problem — the real issue — are global warming alarmists agreed upon becoming more like France were most of electricity is from nuclear? Otherwise, why even talk about alternative fuels like… coal.
Some CAGW folks apparently would rather live without reliable electricity.
Dave Rutledge wrote:
Without the threat of coal, the IPCC could close up shop and the research program funding would drop to a small fraction of what is spent on research in weather forecasting.
To first-order, yes.
Perhaps you’re starting to understand after all….
“Humanity Unbound: How Fossil Fuels Saved Humanity from Nature and Nature from Humanity”
Humanity needs cheap energy and will always seek the cheapest energy that meets requirements (secure, reliable etc) is fit for purpose. No amount of Greenie belief is going to change that.
Pingback: Coal and the IPCC | Energy Matters
The crude oil age is over. Another fact that the deniers deny.
You haven’t heard that the new Tesla is mostly coal-fired?
AH! Now I understand Whut’s comment! He is invested in the Stanley Steamer! ;-)
How will we heat our homes, fertilize our crops, cook our food?
I bought fuel which was refined from crude oil just today.
Paul Ehrlich wants his erroneous prediction generator back.
In case you haven’t noticed, the crude oil age is over.
What has taken its place is scraping the bottom of the barrel for whatever low-grade fossil fuels are left — such as lignite coal, tar sands, hydrofractured shale, and unwieldy natural gas.
“Tar sands” and “hydrofractured” are still crude. It is merely a different method of obtaining them. It is not like the “oil shale” of the American midwest where the rocks have to be cooked and processed to become useful.
Then why are 99% of all cars still using it?
Web404: “scraping the bottom of the barrel for whatever low-grade fossil fuels are left”
Oil from the Bakken is so light and sweet it explodes like gasoline. Its great stuff. And there is 1,000,000 barrels a day of it.
Web404: “unwieldy natural gas”
1,000 years worth at least. The age of cheap plentiful clean fuel.
A golden age!
Reality 101: The more expensive oil gets the more plentiful it will be.
Wagathon proves the point.
Why does oil get more expensive?
Because demand is exceeding supply worldwide.
Separate the “have” countries from the “have not” countries. The problem is multiplied for the have nots.
Look at the flavors of liquid fuels — and note how conventional crude oil is declining as a fraction of the total.
The age of conventional crude oil is over.
You keep moving the goal posts. first it was the age of fossil fuels. Then it was the age of crude oil. now it is the age of “conventional” crude oil.
it seems not even you believe your own rhetoric.
The age is far from over. It has been around for little more than 100 years. It will be around for at least that much longer. At that time, it MAY be over. We shall see.
Hmmmmm..”The crude oil age is over.”
I heard that one 50 years ago. And I heard it 40 years ago. And 30 years ago. I guess its like Ol’ Man River…he jes keeps rollin’ along.
Crisco Kid, peak oil hits in every country at different dates, and many countries have no oil to speak of.
Why do you hate geology so much?
PhilJordan, you are kidding, right?
You do not realize that tar sands needs prodigious amounts of natural gas to aid the extraction process?
And you do not realize that Bakken oil might not even be profitable, based on the amount of material that they need to pump in to the ground for meager returns? Check out the type of sand required for propping open the pores. Mainly from Minnesota and Wisconsin, nearly spherical silica beads trucked in special.
The hoops that the economy will jump through to continue BAU is indeed impressive. And that is just stating the facts.
@Whut – No kidding. The cost of extraction of both Bakken and the sands is high. That is why they were not exploited before. But that is simply the cost of extraction. Once extracted, it is crude oil just like the stuff that gushed up from old Jed’s farm.
With the price of a barrel hovering around $100, a lot of extraction methods that were not economical in the past became so. Hence why the lions share of the increase in US production has come from EXISTING wells instead of new leases.
And unlike Shale oil, it is real crude. Not a “premie” version that has to be converted into useable crude.
It has nothing to do with hoops, and everything to do with simple economics. The cost of extracting crude, even at $100/barrel, is less than the cost of alternate energy sources. “Big Oil” is not “protecting” their investment. They are deep into green energy, and as soon as it becomes economical, will be the “BMOCs” in that field as well.
The increase in Oil production is simply economics. Even at the higher prices it still is cheaper than the alternatives for the purpose intended.
Webby, I bet you could make a fortune providing advice to the fossil fuel industry. If they shut down now, they can avoid trillions in losses. Can I be your agent?
Didn’t I just say that BAU will continue?
You should know that lots of money is made via the art of the deal rather than by the eventual outcome.
In this case eventual profit does not matter in comparison to the vital need for continued availability of crude oil. Someone is sucking up the margin, like they always do.
Let’s not all be so cloyingly naive about the situation, eh?
Seriously webby, wtf does this mean:
“In this case eventual profit does not matter in comparison to the vital need for continued availability of crude oil. Someone is sucking up the margin, like they always do.”
Nearly half of the increase in atmospheric CO2 since ’98 could have been caused by wild peat fires in Indonesia…
“It is estimated that in 1997, peat and forest fires in Indonesia released between 0.81 and 2.57 Gt of carbon; equivalent to 13–40 percent of the amount released by global fossil fuel burning, and greater than the carbon uptake of the world’s biosphere. These fires may be responsible for the acceleration in the increase in carbon dioxide levels since 1998. More than 100 peat fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra have continued to burn since 1997. Each year, the peat fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra ignite new forest fires above the ground.” (wiki)
Beyond the coal needed for steel making, the bulk of coal burned to produce electricity can be trvially replaced with nuclear power.
Thanks for the details on what is actually possible as far as coal supply over the next 85 years.
I take it that the year “2500” is a typo and should be 2050.
Forget coal and the IPCC. The NY Times’ resident Nobel winning economist has declared that solar energy is now so cheap, we can decartbonize without pain, right away.
“… the price of solar panels has fallen more than 75 percent just since 2008.
The point .. is that drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are now within fairly easy reach.”
OK, everybody line up to get your solar cars and plug your appliances into the outlets feeding you electricity from all those solar power plants.
I swear, as I have said before, this generation is producing some of the stupidest smart people in world history.
Gary M: OK, everybody line up to get your solar cars and plug your appliances into the outlets feeding you electricity from all those solar power plants.
I like solar for niche uses and where fossil fuel deliveries are unreliable, like most of Africa and large parts of S. Asia. That “drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are now within fairly easy reach” is comical. Perhaps soon solar panels will supply the power for making solar panels, lithium batteries, and aluminum pack frames.
It’s 4 am and still dark here in UK.
I just tried plugging my coffee maker into my solar panel, but not much is happening.
How long before this limitation is overcome? I need coffee NOW!.
Didn’t the US cut back its CO2 emissions because it started burning fracked gas instead of coal. Solar had nothing to do with it.
Diesel automobile engines are becoming increasingly popular in the US but we could pass a law requiring all new diesels to come equipped with a solar car battery.
Thank you for this interesting post. Putting on my “skeptics” hat, I wonder by how much the reserves might be understated if we allow that in the future there may be economically viable technologies for converting coal to oil and gas and extracting it from poor quality coal seams that at present are not included in reserves.
I assume you mean injecting oxygen to make a carbon monoxide syngas? It’s viable but quite tricky. It should be on the list with geothermal energy and gas from geo pressured reservoirs. I bet by the time we get to need it we will have developed artificial photosynthesis to make straight ethanol.
Why do people persist in thinking that all CO2 is the same when it is not? Carbon is a very isotopic element. That is, Carbon in CO2 has varying numbers of neutrons which means that its mass varies. As its mass varies, its vibration frequencies vary and so its capacity to absorb radiation varies. So the absorption (and emission) properties of CO2 depend on where the coal was mined. Yet this factor seems to be ignored by the IPCC in calculating how much heat will be absorbed by burning future reserves of coal!. According to text books, the specific heat of CO2 is about 36 whereas N2 (nitrogen, 70%of atmosphere) is about 29. Not much different. Yet this discrepancy has dogged the discussion since the early days of climate change with no resolution by the IPCC. Why are scientists not alarmed by the failure of the IPCC tp resolve this problem?
@AB: Carbon in CO2 has varying numbers of neutrons which means that its mass varies.
True. This is also true of the oxygen in CO2.
The table at
shows ten isotopologues of CO2. The one for C-12 O-16 has abundance 98.42%, that for C-13 O-16 1.1%, that for C-12 O-18 0.3947%, and the remaining seven are down in the noise.
The bottom line is that the varying numbers of neutrons in the carbon and oxygen in CO2 have no significant effect, since C-12 O-16 dominates all the others by two orders of magnitude.
The only possible argument against this would have to be based on Arrhenius’s logarithmic law. If you could show that one of the nine minor isotopologues of CO2 was doubling faster than the dominant one in recent decades, you could show that that isotopologue was having a disproportionate effect on global warming, despite being only 0.1% or less of the total atmospheric CO2.
I’d be thrilled to learn of such a thing. I’ve never seen any mention of it in the climate literature.
Vaughan Pratt | April 22, 2014 at 10:33 pm |
You are a very kind man, to have found so little wrong with the absurdities in the comment, and to have addressed even that with such tact and soberness.
Perhaps a learning opportunity on the bandwidth broadening power of CO2 absorbtion as temperature and concentration increase, as mean solar tide height increases, if you’d be kind enough to discuss those, now that there’s an opening?
Vaughan Pratt: Thanks for your informative reply.I don’t see the proportion of a particular isotope in CO2 being uniformly distributed in the troposphere, partly because of the origin of the fuel from which the CO2 resulted and partly because the CO2 from vehicles and power stations would tend to rise in the troposphere as plumes, rather like hot air balloons. So much higher concentrations of a particular isotope may exist than the global average would suggest. The temperature of the troposphere may also favour a particular isotope.So C-12 O-16 may not always dominate
The singularity of temperature in 1940 requires explanation and the only one I find satisfying is the sudden step down at at absorption and emission IR at just below 15 microns If this is correct then continuous dynamic models have no hope of success. Is that why all IPCC sponsored models exaggerate future temperature?
@AB: So much higher concentrations of a particular isotope may exist than the global average would suggest.
I eagerly await your concrete numbers about the other isotopologues.
Where do they find these people?
My theory is that kranks tend to rise to the top on sites such as this, kind of like hot-air balloons.
Isn’t that right?
I have noticed something. As the standard model struggles a bit with the pause,skeptics –who were once mere doubters– start to float out more and more krank theories..
“As the standard model struggles a bit with the pause…”
“As Warmers struggle a bit with reality…”
The central issue is that the skeptics will never be able to rally around a single theory to counter the prevailing AGW model. They are too bifurcated for that, seeming to possess a mantra of- “I’ m against it”, no matter what the idea.
Watts is looking for a new name for an organization. I suggest calling it Horse Feathers. They will have a theme song for free.
“The central issue is that the skeptics will never be able to rally around a single theory to counter the prevailing AGW model. They are too bifurcated for that, seeming to possess a mantra of- “I’ m against it”, no matter what the idea.”
I find that interesting. It seems a reasonable theory to me to say: “climate varies on different timescales, we don’t understand the processes that cause this very well.” It also seems reasonable to say there are now serious questions about the theory that human emissions will cause a steady, predicable rise in temperatures to a well known (catastrophic) point.
What, out of curiosity, do you think “I’m against…” ?
As for “kranks”, there’s no shortage of them out there- peak oilers, genetically modified food fighters, vaccine haters, the anti-fracking clowns, anti-nukers, Keystone slayers, the folks who swear we can power the U.S. economy with solar panels right now (at virtually no cost!) etc etc.
If you want to settle this by a “krank count,” I’m game.
Webby, why would you think that skeptics need to rally round a single theory? Do you think the skeptics are losing the argument? I am talking about the argument over costly and drastic mitigation. The fact is that substantive mitigation has not occurred and is very likely never to occur, as long as the pause continues to kill the cause.
Your side shows no signs of being capable of winning the argument. Look here, for example:
That clown dana has his home team of SkS sycophant goons to harass the few skeptics who drop by to lampoon his silly propaganda, and his moderators cut out half of the dissenting comments, but 97% dana et al still can’t win an argument.
Since this debacle, your Team has studiously avoided any debate, because you don’t have the solid evidence to make your case for CAGW:
End of story.
My side of the story is that I am skeptical as the rest. Yet I look at the consensus science, both from the perspective of AGW and of fossil fuel limitations — and I find nothing to dispute.
Moreover, I can add to the consensus science by simplifying the models and adding new interpretations.
That’s the way that prevailing science works. Like it or not, it is much easier and more productive to build on the foundation than to sing Groucho Marx like that you’re just against it.
Poor grouchy Don saying “end of story”
Funny and telling
You are looking at 2 distinct and decidedly different things. You can look at the science of AGW and believe. But the limitations on fossil fuel really have nothing to do with the science. That is an economic issue.
At some point in time, unless a method is devised to turn CO2 into oil, the amount of oil will cause the price to spike much higher than the alternatives. At that time, the market will bring forth more economical alternatives (they may be Solar or Wind) to replace them. Not because of any AGW science, but due to economics.
neither the UN nor any other organization on this planet is going to legislate oil into oblivion. Getting that kind of consensus is worse than herding cats (just look at the Iraq cheating that went on in the 90s, primarily by the UN itself!). But economics will make it uneconomical.
“I am skeptical… and I find nothing to dispute.”
“I’m not skeptical.”
— JeffN | April 23, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
“The central issue is that the skeptics will never be able to rally around a single theory to counter the prevailing AGW model. They are too bifurcated for that, seeming to possess a mantra of- “I’ m against it”, no matter what the idea.”
I find that interesting. It seems a reasonable theory to me to say: “climate varies on different timescales, we don’t understand the processes that cause this very well.” It also seems reasonable to say there are now serious questions about the theory that human emissions will cause a steady, predicable rise in temperatures to a well known (catastrophic) point.–
We don’t [no one does] understand processes that cause this very well.
But this isn’t a theory. It’s a fact.
And to think we going to get some kind uncontrollable warming, when we in period for last 2-3 million years of coolest in last 100 million years is merely lacking information or just insane/hopelessly irrational- or merely consumed or obessed with some dumb ideology or theory.
I would say to get to point of imagining we are danger of Earth becoming like Venus, could involve rally around such concept as the Greenhouse Effect theory.
People who rational and scientific in nature don’t rally around theories, but rather they used them as they are regarded as useful.
So the idea of rallying ideas is a religious activity, rather than activity done in the field of science.
So a person who rallies people would be political persons and religious persons and then you have the ones who follow- the followers.
The followers can be there for some job- selling candy to the faithful or perhaps its at a desk work in a bureaucracy. And one the followers which practitioners of the faith which involves various rituals.
Whereas someone interested in matters of science, has to find time which
is not consumed by these kinds of political or religious activity- as it’s a distraction rather then a needed part of the scientific process.
–What, out of curiosity, do you think “I’m against…” ?–
No idea. But I could be against many things. But I think best to focus on a few.
I am against slavery.
And part of any slavery, is the inability to get away from the plantation.
So I am against any country that has laws which require people to stay in that country. So the Soviet Union was such country, and so I think generally it’s unwise to be in favor of any reformation of the Soviet Empire.
But there are also other existing countries that stop their people from leaving the country. So we have Cuba and North Korea as current examples of this.
Of course there are other ways to keep people on a plantation and other aspects of related to slavery, but stopping any countries from having such laws would a first and obvious step in opposing slavery.
Other than trying to keep people within a border, there are other methods to enforce slavery. One way is to make the slaves happy so they don’t want to leave the system which is enslaving them or making it so it dangerous
to leave the system. So stopping to people leaving the plantation, can include hunting down those which have escaped.
Which gets to country of Iran which has famously issued the fatwa against
“On 14 February 1989, Valentine’s Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been ’sentenced to death’ by the Ayatollah Khomeini. ”
Now there is a lot not to like about nation of Iran, but we could start with the simple stuff first.
Thanks everyone for the comments. This post is cross-posted with hyperlinks at
Euan Mearns’ Energy Matters blog
“I take it that the year “2500″ is a typo and should be 2050”
The RCP database does go to 2500.
“Except that it isn’t business as usual. RCP 8.5”
I may not be using the correct language. RCP8.5 is the only scenario that does not have explicit policy setting a particular forcing level. The other RCPs (2.6, 4..5, and 6) are policy scenarios where one imagines that the greenhouse gas forcing levels are simply ordered up. These are not of interest to someone working in energy supplies.
“Did you trace the origins of the errors?”
I would not use the word error. There has been a lot of criticism of the IPCC treatment of fossil fuels over the years, and the authors are aware of the criticism. The earlier SRES scenarios pumped up coal burns by using the non-proved categories of the World Energy Council reserves surveys. However, over the years, countries have tightened up their reserves criteria and the non-proved parts in the surveys have dropped until finally the WEC eliminated these categories in the last report. The IPCC responded not by reducing the coal burns to match the WEC reserves, but by using a sympathetic agency, the German BGR, that was increasing its coal numbers.
“The real cost of coal and of coal fired electricity has been declining for 250 years.”
You wouldn’t say that if you were importing coal. The Japanese paid $134/t last year for steam coal, $47 inflation-adjusted ten years earlier.
With electricity, it harder to make definitive statements, because one would presumably want to adjust for taxes and subsidies. However, the IEAs electricity price index for the EU is up 30% in the last ten years.
Thank you for reply regarding real price of coal. I was referring to the long term trend, rather then short term trends. Here is one example: 1800 to 2009;
Zellou and Cuddington, 2012 ‘Trends and super cycles in crude oil and coal prices’
“Figure 1: Nominal and real prices of coal (top panel) and oil (bottom panel) using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) (base year 2005) as price deflators. The coal price series spans the period 1800-2009 and is in U.S. dollars per short ton of anthracite”
In keeping the cost of coal low it is important not to allow lawmakers to ride roughshod over coal companies. As described at
Duke Energy saved $10 billion by depositing its coal ash in unlined dumps near its power plants. This is the amount Duke estimates it would cost to meet the lawmakers’ cleanup demands.
Were those lawmakers to have their way the cost of coal would skyrocket.
Excellent post and comments
Thanks for trying to put some sanity into all this nonsense.
Several months ago I discussed here IPCC methodology to arrive at their four RCPs … I pointed out the IPCC had chosen the forcings in watts per meter squared, for four scenarios. The scenarios were developed so as to achieve the target forcings. To reach the forcings they had to make choices, several assumptions and quite a few leaps of faith. The coal reserve isn’t the only problem with rcp8.5, it also has a very optimistic oil production profile, which can’t be achieved. But what you really need to watch out for is the way the propaganda machine labels rcp8.5 “business as usual”. Not even the IPCC in their gaudiest propaganda uses the term. They provide the foundation then the noise machines take over. And I notice researchers use this case without even blinking an eye. It’s a glaring gap in everybody’s thinking model about this problem. It needs to be questioned, and it shouldn’t be allowed as a representation of a sound or potential outcome.
In the IPCC’s 5th Ass-essment Report, Ol’ King Coal is the spectre
that looms and dominates. It is no exaggeration ter say, and
Professor Rutledge does,’that the IPCC climate-change research
programs depend on this massive coal burn for their existence.’
Ter put it most charitably, the IPCC ass-essment is a product of
con-firmation bi-ass. Serfs, dependent as we are on cheap and
efficient energy production fer food and the ragged clothes upon
our backs, are pleased ter learn that other estimates of coal
production , even peer reviewed estimates, as cited above, are
out there on the littoral, ter be compared with the.ass-essment
by the IPCC.
Fernando Leanme writes, “But what you really need to watch out for is the way the propaganda machine labels rcp8.5 “business as usual”. Not even the IPCC in their gaudiest propaganda uses the term. They provide the foundation then the noise machines take over.”
Bingo! The IPCC is diabolically brilliant in that regard. They don’t say that RCP 8.5 is “business as usual.” They just don’t correct the record when *other* people say that RCP 8.5 is “business as usual.”
They also words to the effect that emissions since 2000 have been increasing faster than RCP 8.5…letting lay people (and even scientists) just assume that emissions will likely increase as fast or faster than the RCP 8.5 scenario throughout the 21st century. It’s diabolically brilliant.
Although casting pearls before swine comes to mind, your comments on little dana’s 97% BS Guardian slog are always irritating to the faithful. I hope you keep the pressure on them, but find more time to comment here.
Yes the giveaway is in the name. Under RCP8.5 CO2 levels reach 900 ppm by 2100 but that only results in a forcing of 6 watts/m2. So the other 2.5 watts/m2 are presumably due to other greenhouse gases (NO2,methane,SO2). However right now this extra forcing is almost perfectly balanced by aerosol cooling in GCM models. That is how the models succeeded to hindcast past temperatures. There is no reason to suppose that this would change in the future if we continued burning mostly coal.
In reality the IPCC don’t “know” what the forcing would be under RCP 8.5. They have used an earth-system model to tune an emission scenario which produces the required forcing, but the model could well be completely wrong. For example the high CO2 levels are due to the assumption that natural sinks will saturate and that more of anthropogenic emissions will remain in the atmosphere. There is no evidence that this is happening and only half of anthropogenic emissions remain in the atmosphere while the other half are absorbed by the Oceans.
As others have pointed out humans are not stupid and it is far more likely that the price of fossil fuel will drive innovation into new nuclear well before the end of this century. RCP 8.5 is pure propaganda designed to alarm us into changing our wicked ways to avoid the fires of Hell. The IPCC are not going to solve anything nor can any single government. It will be engineers and physicists that will eventually move us off fossil fuels mainly for economic reasons rather than dogma. It is highly unlikely that RCP 8.5 could possibly occur. Even coal gets too expensive to mine as the UK discovered.
David Rutledge, thank you for an interesting post and for the replies to other comments.
Yes, it does seem implausible. However, one thing we know is that over time the economics of resources change. I can’t help but think that there probably are sufficient coal resources available if people are prepared to pay absolutely anything for power. However, long before that time, other sources of energy would become economically viable.
I suppose in defence of the IPCC scenario it is just that, a scenario. Not one to be taken seriously and certainly not one to be used to develop policy around.
The problem arises when “just a scenario” has such outlandish parameters because it has been designed to match the target forcing, 8.5 watts per meter squared. My conclusion is that such a forcing will be impossible to achieve (as has been discussed above, as the fossil fuels are depleted their price increases and therefore other forms of energy become a better option). The key issue is that so many papers and so much propaganda articles are written describing the RCP8.5 with the tag “business as usual”. This creates a whole ensemple of model results and work products which will need to be tossed into the garbage. As far as I´m concerned there´s a need for a much better scenario, and I suspect it will be closer to a 6 watts per meter squared forcing case.
You write, “I suppose in defence of the IPCC scenario it is just that, a scenario. Not one to be taken seriously and certainly not one to be used to develop policy around.”
I think you’re far to tolerant of deliberate deceit by the scientists who write the IPCC’s assessment. They are obligated by their profession to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the true.” If a scenario is unlikely to actually occur, they are obligated by professional ethics to make that clear. They certainly haven’t done that.
He says this as a bottom line.
“I argue that future fossil-fuel CO2 emissions without any climate policy at all are likely to fall between those of the policy scenarios RCP2.6 and RCP4.5.”
This corresponds to 450-650 ppm. I think with no policy these are very unlikely and 450 ppm would be a commendable but difficult achievement with policies. As a guideline 500 ppm is what we get if we phase out all CO2 emission linearly by 2100, 600 ppm is what we get if we maintain today’s burning rate flat through 2100, and 700 ppm is what we get if we linearly double emissions by 2100. The last seems the more realistic, still maybe conservative, business-as-usual scenario, and the others, keeping below 600 ppm, require major effort and policies.
We only need one policy. It’s a policy to remove the unnecessary and anti-competitive imposts that have been put on nuclear power. If we remove the impediments that are preventing the world from having cheap nuclear power then we’d need no other interventionist policy. If we remove the impediments so nuclear nuclear power prices can decline at say 10% per doubling of capacity – a moderate learning rate – the cost of nuclear generated electricity could be half the cost of fossil fuel generated electricity by about 2050, even in Australia where coal is cheap (assuming no change in the real cost of fossil fuel generated electricity).
Just remove the irrational blocks and you’ll get what you want.
650 ppmv is a good estimate of probable CO2 concentration by 2100 if GDP growth continues and human per capita CO2 emissions continue to increase accordingly with no specific mitigation initiatives, at the anticipated population growth rates of the UN. This means an added 250 ppmv CO2 from today to 2100
You state that 700 ppmv is a realistic “business as usual” scenario. This means 300 ppmv CO2 added to 2100 (20% more), and I would say is on the high side but not unrealistic.
Anything above 700 ppmv is either silly dream-scheming or outright fear mongering.
IPCC’s AR5 “worst case” RCP8.5 scenario (CO2 well over 1,000 ppmv or 600+ ppmv above today), or its earlier AR4 “worst case” A1F1 scenario (CO2 at essentially 1,000 ppmv) are totally absurd, as Dave Rutledge correctly observes.
I am not so sure about that. If you allow realistic estimates for lower bound, bottom decile, bottom quartile, etc. then you should also allow realistic estimates upper bound, top decile top quartile, etc. too. Given the carbon resources are much higher than reserves and we will continue to find better and cheaper ways to exploit them if that provides the cheapest source of energy, then I’d suggest reserves can continue to expand as oil reserves have continued to expand.
As I’ve pointed out previously the world’s emissions growth rate is dependent on global GDP growth rate and emissions intensity of the global economy. GDP growth rate increases whether population grows or not. GDP growth rate surges when we have breakthroughs in technologies giving us higher productivity, So your ‘reality check’ is using the wrong parameter IMO and, therefore, is tending to underestimate emissions.
I my previous comment was responding to this statement in your comment:
My gut feeling is the likely range is 500 to 800 ppmv in 2100. 800 ppmv if those who likje to call themselves ‘Progressives’ continue to be successful and retarding progress and 500 ppmv (perhaps less) if the ‘Progressives’ would become progressive and facilitate genuine progress instead of continually blocking it.
manacker, anything above 600 ppm means we are still burning at rates near or above today’s in 2100, part of a long slow upward path in CO2 and warming, and just representing an abject failure in terms of climate stabilization. The 2100 CO2 ppm value is not magical in any way, and what is more important about 2100 is the burn-rate in GtCO2/year at that time, which should be at least approaching zero under any successful climate control policy.
Following our earlier lengthy exchange on this subject, I have taken your advice and included GDP projections along with population projections in estimating a CO2 concentration for 2100.
I arrive at a likely range of 660 to 730 ppmv by 2100 on the following basis:
Using an accelerated GDP growth rate scenario (Garnaut)
Per Capita GDP would increase to 11.5 times the 2001 value by 2100 (= 8.5 times the 2012 value) to $70,000 per year (1990$). Using the UN population projection (10.6 billion by 2100), this calculates to a global GDP of $742 trillion by 2100 (1990 $). The exponential or compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of the per capita GDP = 2.44% per year
A second case is based on a continuation of the same per capita GDP growth rate as seen since 1970 (Humphrys).
This was a CAGR of 1.91% per year.
A third case is based on a slower per capita GDP growth rate of 80% of that seen in the period 1970-2010 or 1.53% CAGR.
Since 1970 total CO2 emissions from fossil fuels have increased at a CAGR of 1.87% per year, while global GDP has increased by 3.44%. So the ratio of CO2 growth to GDP growth is 0.544. I have used this same ratio (or energy component) for the future. And I have assumed that the added CO2 per year emitted from deforestation would remain constant at 5.2 GtCO2/a.
On this basis, I arrive at 659 ppmv for the slow growth case, 733 ppmv for the fast growth case and 690 ppmv for the intermediate case.
Year 2100 total CO2 emission is 120, 93 and 78 GtCO2/a, respectively and cumulative CO2 generated since today is 6,300, 5,400, and 4,900 GtCO2.
In the accelerated case, every man, woman and child on Earth will be generating more CO2 per capita than the inhabitants of the “industrially developed” nations do today (N. America, W. Europe, Japan, Australia/New Zealand). Seems unlikely to me.
But this is a range that I could consider as “reasonable”, using your suggestion of tying in GDP growth, while IPCC scenario RCP8.5 (or old scenario A1F1), with CO2 at 1,000+ ppmv, are not (I agree with Dave Rutledge on that) .
This is simply for your info on how I arrived at what I consider to be a “reasonable” range, tying in the per capita GDP growth (as you had suggested) and UN population growth projection.
Looks like a reasonable estimation, Max. However, there will be other factors that need to be considered. It is my very humble opinion that sometime in the next few decades, it will dawn on humanity that nuclear power has to provide a greatly increasing percentage of our energy.
Excellent. Thank you for your thorough and clear explanation. I now see you are using GDP growth rate and using a range of input values. I agree that Garnaut’s GDP growth rate is likely to be an upper bound. Humphry’s looks reasonable and roughly comparable to what I’ve seen the economists using (from memory).
is centred on Nordhaus (2008) of 686 ppmv. I notice that Nordhaus DICE-2013 has increased the projection to 797 ppm in 2100 for the ‘Base case’ (i.e. the ‘No Controls’ policy) (see link below).
I agree it seems unlikely. But my reason for saying it is unlikely is because I expect we will get technology changes despite the unwitting efforts of the ‘Progressives’ to prevent progress. If progress is blocked or severely retarded, I don’t believe it is unreasonable to expect global average emissions will be higher than they are in the industrial developed nations of today. In fact I think it is likely the average standard of living of the whole world will be higher than it is in industrial nations of today. For perspective on this consider how far Japan has advanced in 60 years, South Korea in 50 years, China in 40 years. Without checking, I suspect Japan’s and South Korea’s per capita GDP and standard of living are higher than USA’s was 50 years ago. So how far will the global average per capita GDP and standard of living increase in 90 years? Much more than J, SK and C have advanced in 60, 50 and 40 years, I’d say.
The key variable we could have some influence on is the rate of decarbonisation of the global economy. Roger Pielke Jr. shows that it has declined from 2% p.a. in 1991 to 0.7% p.a. in 2009 http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com.au/2010/07/decelerating-decarbonization-of-global.html. (As an aside, this period of slowing rate of decarbonisation coincides with the period the UN has been trying to intervene to direct how countries should decarbonise their economies). I suggest, we could ramp up the rate again if the ‘Progressives’ would butt out and stop blocking progress.
I agree. Our thinking is aligned on this now. However it would be informative to understand why Nordhaus is now projecting a higher ppm in 2100 for the ‘Base’ case. Below I extract some numbers from Nordhaus’s slides from a 2012 presentation:
Global CO2 emissions / GDP trend = -1.2% p.a. (1960-2010)
1950-2010 Growth rate (% p.a.):
GDP/pop = 2.2
CO2/GDP = -0.9
Total CO2 emissions = 2.9
Total resources or use (GtC) = 6000
It’s also interesting to look at a simple version of DICE 2013 in Excel. From the ‘Base” (base case), I extract these figures for 2010 and 2100:
Industrial CO2/GDP (MtCO2/$1000 2000 US$);0.489;0.206
CO2 emissions from land use change (GTCO2 per year);1.540;0.028
Atmospheric concentration of carbon (ppm);384.5;797.1
Atmospheric temperature (degrees Celsius above preindustrial);0.830;3.838
[semi-colon separated columns]
Excellent. Thanks. I understand and agree with your methodology. I now want to try to understand why Nordhaus’ projection of concentration in 2100 has increased from 686 ppm to 797 ppm for the ‘Base’ case.
Thanks for your response. Yes. Curious that Nordhaus has increased the added CO2 estimate by 38% (from adding 291 ppmv above today to reach 686 ppmv to adding 402 ppmv to reach 797 ppmv by 2100)
But let me just run some numbers past you.
According to CDIAC humans have emitted a total of 1,327 GtCO2 from fossil fuels over the period 1850 to 2010.
Currently this is around 32 GtCO2/a, growing at an exponential rate since 1980 of 1.73% CAGR.
Over this same time period, cumulative human emissions from net deforestation are estimated to be 598 GtCO2. Currently this is at around 5 GtCO2/a, down from a high of around 6 GtCO2/a in the 1980s.
So the total cumulative human CO2 emission since 1850 is 1,925 GtCO2.
Over this period, atmospheric CO2 has increased from an ice core estimate of 287 ppmv in 1850 to a measured 389 ppmv in 2010 (an increase of 102 ppmv).
Let’s ASS-U-ME that the long-term residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere system is several hundred years, so this can be ignored.
The mass of the atmosphere is 5,140,000 Gt.
The added 102 ppmv equal 155 ppm(mass) (CO2 is heavier than air), so the added mass of CO2 in the atmosphere over this 160 year period was 155*5.14 = 797 GtCO2.
So 797 / 1,925 = 41% of the CO2 emitted “remains” in the atmosphere.
Let’s ASS-U-ME that the 41% stays the same in the future (it has actually decreased slightly since Mauna Loa measurements started in 1959).
Humans are estimated to emit between 4,800 and 6,300 GtCO2 from fossil fuels over the period from today to 2100, with extreme projections going as high as 8,000 Gt (let’s ignore these for now as unrealistic).
If CO2 from deforestation remains at 5 GtCO2/a, this would add another 400 GtCO2, so the likely range is 5,200 to 6,700 from all human sources.
The 41% “remaining” in the atmosphere would be:
2,132 to 2,747 GtCO2 by 2100.
At 5,140,000 Gt atmospheric mass this equals an added
415 to 534 ppm(mass) or
273 to 352 ppmv in the atmosphere.
Added to today’s 395 ppmv this equals
668 to 747 ppmv CO2 concentration by 2100.
That appears to be the likely range if no concerted actions are taken to reduce CO2 emissions and no new technologies are developed over the rest of this century to partially replace fossil fuels.
If “no regrets” actions are taken now (principally switching essentially all new coal-fired plants to nuclear plus some other smaller actions in the automotive plus energy savings sectors), this range could arguably be reduced by around 150 ppmv.
If completely new, economically competitive and environmentally acceptable non-fossil fuel technology is developed over the course of this century, this would further reduce the estimate.
Just more “grist for the mill”.
Let me know your thoughts. Thanks.
Interesting discussion. Thank you.
First, let me say I agree that the world almost certainly will get past the blockages to progress the ‘Progressives’ keep unwittingly throwing up to delay progress on global decarbonisation. So, I agree, the figures and assumptions we are discussing are for the high end assuming that the ‘Progressives’ do continue to block progress – so we will continue to rely on fossil fuels for the same proportion of our energy that the now provide.
Second, I am looking at DICE-2007, RICE-2013 and DICE-2013 to try to understand why the large increase in the projected concentrations in 2100 from DICE-2007 to DICE-2013. It’s not easy to make the comparisons for a number of reasons ]e.g. data presented for different years, different units (C, CO2, per year, per decade, per 5-years), not all inputs are easily accessible for DICE-2007].
Third, looking at your figures and assumptions, I’d make these comments (so far) [It may be easier to follow my comments if you download DICE-2013 Excel ‘simpler version’ here:
Is this correct? My recollection (perhaps wrong) is that currently the amount remaining in the atmosphere around 50% or a bit higher and it is increasing. I understand the explanation is that the sinks (e.g. the oceans) are becoming less effective as sinks. Could you post an authoritative source for the % of emissions remaining in the atmosphere?
From DICE-2103, sheet ‘Base’:
Emissions in 2010:
Industrial emissions (GTCO2 per year) : 29.9
Carbon emissions from land use change (GTCO2 per year) : 1.540
Total carbon emissions (GTCO2 per year) 31.4
Emissions in 2100:
Industrial emissions (GTCO2 per year) : 91.1
Carbon emissions from land use change (GTCO2 per year) : 0.028
Total carbon emissions (GTCO2 per year) 91.1
Emissions total 2010-2100:
Industrial emissions (GTCO2) : 6,084
Carbon emissions from land use change (GTCO2) : 38
Total carbon emissions (GTCO2) : 6,122
Total carbon emissions of 6,122 GtCO2 per year is a bit above the middle of your range of “ is 5,200 to 6,700 from all human sources so your total cumulative emissions agrees with Nordhaus.
I don’t know why yours and his estimates of the concentrations in 2100 are different. This is not an area I’ve looked into because it requires assumptions about the carbon cycle. Perhaps you could look at DICE-2013 and see if you can work out why the discrepancy. DICE-2013, sheet ‘Parameters’ gives the starting concentration as:
Initial atmospheric concentration of CO2 (ppm, end 2007) : 384.50
Initial atmospheric concentration of CO2 (ppm, end 2012) : 394.20
Initial atmospheric concentration of CO2 (GTC, end 2007) : 818.985
Initial atmospheric concentration of CO2 (GTC, end 2012) : 839.646
The sheet ‘Base’ gives the calculations of the concentrations at 5 year intervals to the year 2305; see rows 58 to 71.
DICE-2013 says “Carbon emissions from land use change (GtCO2 per year)”
2010 = 1.54
2100 = 0.028
These figures are well below your figure of 5 GtCO2/a for deforestation. (I wondered if he’d labelled it as CO2 but the figures are for C. But I’ve checked the formulae and it does seem to be for CO2. )
(Refer to DICE-2013, Sheet ‘Base’, row 44. )
I’ll keep working on this. But I’ll focus on the estimates of emissions. Hopefully you may look into why the apparent large difference in the estimates of concentrations the conversions to concentrations.
DICE-2013 projects the CO2 concentration in 2100 will be 797 ppmv for the ‘Base’ case (i.e. ‘No Controls’).
To get that figure from the estimated total emissions for the period 2010-2100, the retention in the atmosphere = 52.5%
Total emissions, Gt 6,122
Emissions remaining in atmosphere 3,220
Proportion of CO2 emitted remaining in atmosphere 52.6%
added concentration, ppmm 627
added concentration, ppmv 412
Concentration in 2010, ppmv 384.5
Concentration in 2100, ppmv 797
Perhaps you can have a look at DICE-2013 and see if you can work out why? I think the places to look to understand it are:
Sheet ‘Parameters rows 16, and 49 to73, and 89
Sheet ‘Base rows 58 to 71
No I’ve noticed that the atmospheric concentrations in GtC are 819 at end of 2007 and 840 at end of 2012. These convert to GtCO2 of 3003 in 2007 and 3079 in 2012, say 3050 in 2010. In that case the proportion assumed to be remaining in the atmosphere must be 49.8%. But that gives a concentration in 2100 of 775 ppmv, not 797 ppmv.
I can only guess that the projections must be more nuanced than our simple reality checks.
It’s time to hand this over to a chemical engineer. :)
Small error in third last a paragraph; it should read:
These convert to GtCO2 of 3003 in 2007 and 3079 in 2012, say 3040 in 2010. In that case the proportion assumed to be remaining in the atmosphere must be 49.65%. But that gives a concentration in 2100 of 774 ppmv, not 797 ppmv.
Thanks for response. There appears to be one significant discrepancy in the bases used.
The data I have cited all come from CDIAC (references cited).
These list historic estimates of human CO2 from fossil fuels in one table and CO2 from deforestation in another.
So that tells me how much CO2 humans have emitted over the past (from 1850 to 2010). The cumulative totals since 1850 are:
1,327 GtCO2 from fossil fuels
598 GtCO2 from net deforestation
1,925 GtCO2 total from humans
[DICE has a much lower CO2 from deforestation than CDIAC reports, so this appears to be the major discrepancy.]
I have the ice core estimate of CO2 concentration in 1850 (Siegenthaler et al. 1988) = 297 ppmv.
I have the Mauna Loa measurement of CO2 in 2010 = 389 ppmv.
The mass of the atmosphere is 5,140,000 Gt and CO2 is supposed to be “well mixed”.
From these data I can easily calculate how much CO2 actually “remained” in the atmosphere (see earlier comment). If the CDIAC data and atmospheric CO2 data are correct, this was 41% over the past (assuming that the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is several hundred years, as IPCC does).
This surprised me, as well, because I had previously calculated this to be around 50% (as you write). But my previous calculation was based on human CO2 from fossil fuels alone, excluding the net CO2 from deforestation.
So this is the answer to your question.
I did a quick calculation on this percentage since 1959, when Mauna Loa started, and found that the percentage is actually decreasing slightly (by around 1% per decade), rather than increasing as DICE apparently estimates.
The oceans may be absorbing less CO2 as they become marginally warmer (at least theoretically), but the biosphere (plants, etc.) are most likely consuming more CO2 as concentrations grow and growth rates increase.
CO2 from deforestation was around 5 GtCO2 for the last year reported by CDIAC, down from around 6 GtCO2/year in the 1980s. This is much higher than the DICE estimate you cited (same units?). For the future, I have simply ASS-U-Med that it would stay constant at 5 GtCO2/year. DICE apparently ASS-U-MEs it will be much lower, but I do not know the source of this data.
And, using the same 5,140,000 Gt mass of the atmosphere and the same 41%, it is easy to convert future CO2 emissions to atmospheric concentration, as I did in the earlier comment.
As you write, DICE appears to end up with a similar total human CO2 emission from today to 2100 as I do, but a higher concentrations in ppmv (which makes sense if they are using lower past estimates of human CO2 from deforestation than CDIAC reports and, hence, estimate 52% “remaining” in atmosphere). This could explain your question of why DICE gets a higher ppmv in 2100 at around the same cumulative GtCO2 to 2100.
I simply used the actual past %-age remaining in the atmosphere based on the past CDIAC and CO2 Mauna Loa and ice core data. I do not know where DICE got the 52%, but I ASS-U-ME it must come from a lower past estimate of human CO2 from deforestation than CDIAC reports.
Hope this helps clear up the discrepancy.
PS I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the year-by-year CDIAC data on historical human CO2 emissions, from either fossil fuel use or deforestation, nor have I seen any other source of data on this. Nordhaus has apparently used a different source of data, especially for deforestation, but I have not been able to find his source. Have you?
PS Peter Lang
The CDIAC estimate (I used) for human CO2 from “fossil fuels” includes “cement production”. DICE estimate is a bit lower, so maybe DICE has not included cement [another minor discrepancy between the estimates?]
PPS This “comical engineer” is having a hard time sorting out what the DICE assumptions were. HELP!
Yes, there are some significant discrepancies in the input values between what you and DICE are using. I am wondering if you are using all GHGs (CO2-eq) and all the six major categories. Following is the breakdown of emissions by category for Australia, 2012 (in Mt).
National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Total 555
Industrial Processes 31
Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry KP 11
The table shows that LULUCF is a small component and if we drill down to Forestry it is just one component of LULUCF.
The UNFCCC’s emissions by category can be accessed here:
I’d be pretty confident Nordhaus is using the best and most authoritative sources for these basic inputs. This explains most of the data sources for DICE-2007:
See page 27 for the inputs for the Kaya Identity (for calculating emissions) for the year 2005, the start year for DICE-2007. These will have been updated since and the sources are available here (but I haven’t investigated): http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/Web-DICE-2013-April.htm
Regarding the emissions remaining in the atmosphere, this says 45% (and decreasing as you said not increasing as I’d thought).
CO2 removals by natural sinks
Of the total emissions from human activities during the period 2003-2012, about 45% accumulated in the atmosphere, 27% in the ocean and 27% on land. During this period, the size of the natural sinks has grown in response to the increasing emissions, although year-to-year variability of that growth is large. Read more …
45% is about half way between your estimate and what I calculated from DICE-2013 for the period 2010-2100.
I guess there are a few unknowns and uncertainties still remaining in climate science. Perhaps ‘the science’ isn’t quite settled yet after all.
P.S. The ‘Global Carbon Project’ web site is useful, and easy to use. I like the Carbon Atlas. For example, if we select ‘per capita emissions’ by ‘Consumption’ instead of production (‘called ‘Territorial’), Australia ranks 13th of the OECD countries. It is nowhere near the dirty world citizen Greenpeace, WWF and our ‘Progressives’ keep telling us. The Swiss are worse than us – Switzerland is 12th. Finland 11th, Canada 10th, USA, 7th, Belgium 3rd. Australia looks pretty good on this basis.
I posted a reply to your comment about 6 hours ago but it is held in moderation (it has four links). The most significant point is that Global Carbon Atlas says:
This is half way between your estimate of 41% and the 49.8% I calculated from DICE-2013 figures.
I’ve done some more investigation on DICE-2013. It does seem the proportion retained in the atmosphere is too high. I calculate the average retained in the atmosphere from 2010 to 2100 is 54.2%.
Change in atmospheric concentration of carbon (GtCO2) = 19.375
Total carbon emissions (GtCO2 per year) = 31.400
% Emissions retained in atmosphere = 61.8%
Change in atmospheric concentration of carbon (GtCO2) = 43.080
Total carbon emissions (GtCO2 per year) = 89.409
% Emissions retained in atmosphere = 47.3%
From totals for 2010-2100:
Change in atmospheric concentration of carbon (GtCO2) = 3,319
Total carbon emissions (GtCO2 per year) = 6,122
% Emissions retained in atmosphere = 54.2%
This figure is 20% higher than the 45% stated in the GlobalCarbonProject. The 45% is for now and the trend is decreasing as the planet warms. Dice also decreases from 2010 to 2100 but starts at 6.8% in 2010. This is much higher than the 45% which is the current value.
I think you may have highlighted an error. But I am not confident I am correct. I’d like someone else to check my figures. The figures I’ve used are from Sheet ‘Base’, Rows 87 and 112. (For row 87 convert GTC to GtCO2, calculate change over 5 years and convert to per year). http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/Web-DICE-2013-April.htm
Question: Can all the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere be attributed to man’s activities?
In my comment that is still in moderation I should have addressed this better:
Deforestaton is largely offset by afforestation http://unfccc.int/di/DetailedByCategory/Event.do?event=go. So it is the net emissions from all components of LULUCF that are needed. I suspect DICE has the starting values in 2010 for all emissions correct. It is the rates of change to 2100 and the % remaining in the atmosphere that are the issues.
There are other issues too. It seems the projected global GDP in 2100 has increased from $137 trillion in DICE-2007 to $511 trillion in DICE-2013. I may have this wrong and am still looking into it. But if it’s correct, it’s nearly a 4x increase from DICE-2007 to DICE-2013. That would mean emissions projection would also be 4x higher in 2100 in DICE-2013 compared with DICE-2017 all else equal.
I also need to compare the projected emissions intensities (tCO2/$GDP).
Once we understand the parameters discussed above we’ll understand why the emissions projection for 2100 have gone up from 686 ppmv in DICE-2007 to 797 ppmv in DICE-2013.
Which assumptions? I am not sure how best to answer this. Here are some suggestions:
1. I think it would be well worth while reading Nordhaus “A Question of Balance”. I have the hard copy and I refer to the online version to search, get figures, and cite for others to look at. It is here: http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/Balance_2nd_proofs.pdf
2. The basis of estimates for the inputs and the calibration checks he did on DICE-2007 are here. This is a good source and interesting: http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/Accom_Notes_100507.pdf
3. The input parameters used in DICE-2013 are on the ‘Parameter’s tab on the Excel-2013. You didn’t mention if you’ve looked at it.
4. This presentation he gave is also useful to understand the assumptions and the what DICE, RICE and other IAMs do and some of their limitations: http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/documents/Prague_June2012_v4_color.pdf
Thanks for your comments and all your efforts to explain all this.
I did compare the DICE-2007 and DICE-2013R bases. It appears that the 2100 CO2 level has increased from 686 ppmv (DICE-2007) to 797 ppmv (DICE-2013) to 860 ppmv (DICE-2013R), getting pretty close to IPCC RCP8.5 “never-never land” of around 1,000 ppmv.
This allegedly results in temperatures (above 1900) of 2.7ºC (DICE-2007), 3.7ºC (DICE-2013) and 4.0ºC (DICE-2013R). This would be around 1.9ºC, 2.9ºC and 3.2ºC above today’s temperature, respectively
With all these continuous changes, all in the same direction, I’m beginning to lose faith in the latest DICE stuff. I suspect GIGO. Possibly influence by IPCC. Who knows?
Now to past CO2 estimates:
The CDIAC CO2 from deforestation estimates I cited are supposed to be net values (the table shows both reforestation and deforestation by region).
The CDIAC CO2 from fossil fuels supposedly also includes cement production.
I cannot vouch for either long-term data set as there is nothing to check it against.
On a short term basis, there have been some recent independent estimates of net CO2 from deforestation, which check fairly well with those of CDIAC – currently around 13% of the total (5 GtCO2 out of 37), down from 20% in the late 1980s (6 GtCO2 out of 28).
And, yes, no matter what estimate one uses for the net deforestation value, the percentage CO2 which “remains” in the atmosphere is decreasing slightly over time (so assuming a constant %-age for the future probably gives an exaggerated estimate of future concentration).
With all the many changes to DICE estimates and bases over the past 6 years (without any real new input data out there to drive these changes as far as I can see), I think it is fruitless for me to try to understand what has happened.
So, using the CO2 tied to GDP and population, we’re left with a “business as usual” total annual human CO2 emission of 80 to 125 GtCO2/year by 2100, arriving at a concentration of 650 to 750 ppmv CO2 by 2100 resulting in warming (at “equilibrium”) from today of 2.2 to 2.8ºC.
This is in the range of the earlier DICE-2007 and DICE-2013 estimates (but lower than DICE-2013R).
These estimates could possibly be reduced by 80 to 120 ppmv, by implementing “no regrets” initiatives (primarily nuclear replacement of coal), with reduced warming of 0.6 to 0.8ºC.
That’s how I see it, anyway, for what it’s worth.
Thank you for this excellent, succinct summary. Much appreciated. And thank you for doing the careful comparison of the various DICE versions.
I agree with most of what you say, but not yet convinced that allowing nuclear to be a low cost energy source would have as little effect as you say. I suggest nuclear could replace 75% (perhaps more) of emissions from fossil fuels by 2100 which, in effect, is nearly 75% of all human emissions because non-fossil fuel emissions are a smaller proportion of projected emissions in 2100. I need to work through what effect that would have on total emissions, concentrations and temperature by 2100, but haven’t done so yet. If you are able to do that calculation easily and poast it here so I can see the effect of such a scenario, at least I’d then know what my best case scenario is. It gives me a bound.
The whole point of moving to RCPs was to hide these sort
Of mistakes. The prior approach of an sres made them too easy to find.
Here is how you manufacture fear and alarm.
Focus on the tail of sensitivity
Focus on the tail of emmissions projections
Focus on the tail of population growth
Ignore technological advancement.
Tell it to the jury.
Precisely right, Steven. Regarding your last point (tech improvement), to repeat (slightly) an earlier post, tech advancement will within 2 decades bring us cost effective solar, which will can be used on every tall building’s E, S, and W facing walls, and roofs, and which will create energy farms out of deserts everywhere (western China and India for starters), over a period of half a century or so. And technological improvement will allow us to get huge amounts of natural gas from the vast supplies of seabed methane hydrates, sometime this next half century. And if solar and natural gas become the marginal fuels added when more power is needed, and with time replace older coal plants as they age, CO2 problem largely solved.
Physician, heal thyself.
You got that right!
Ouch Mosher, you just got your Bell Rung by the Viscount at WUWT
Anybody who knows the difference between math and science can see how idiotic the “viscount”‘s response is. A more correct response might have referenced the original meaning of the word “proof” (=”test”), along with the fact that scientific “proofs” are just tests showing a sufficiently high probability (according to some pre-defined paradigm) that the hypothesis is correct.
Thus, “proof” exists in both math and science, but the word has a different meaning. Making it a semantic issue, a common problem with scientific “paradigms”.
Ignore technological advancement.
Actually, Rutledge’s analysis ignores technological advancement in fossil fuel use/extraction. The write-up for scenario RCP8.5 explicitly states that it assumes wide adoption of unconventional fossil fuel sources (i.e. resources which are currently not graded as “proven reserves”), which appears to be entirely plausible given recent developments, whereas Rutledge’s analysis implicitly ignores such things by considering only how coal has been used historically. In short, this analysis alone is insufficient for assessing the plausibility of the scenario.
Thanks for the Zellou and Cuddington link. I had not seen it. Please let’s keep the discussion on anthracite. The anthracite price series is extremely interesting for a discussion like this.
By any reasonable definition, we Americans are out of anthracite. The Pennsylvania anthracite miners produced a much higher fraction of the reserves than any of the other mature regions that I mentioned in the post. Current production is running 2% of the peak in 1917. And it’s not coming back. It would simply be impossible to rebuild the physical and social infrastructure that would be required, at any price.
However, I cannot see anything in the price history that gives a clue about this dramatic rise and fall of production. It is not even clear that the authors know about it. The message I get from the paper is that prices may not tell us as much as we would like about supply.
Thank you for your reply. I have to admit I am way out of my depth on the details of coal resources and costs. I wasn’t really trying to pick specifically on any one type of coal, or one coal mining area or country.
I understand the cost of energy has declined in real terms over the long term and has declined even faster compared with the amount of work (man-hours) needed to produce a given amount of energy. Primitive man spent his entire day collecting sufficient food to survive, i.e. about 8 MJ/d. Now technological man consumes up to 1000 MJ/d (in all the products and services he uses).
The GDP per unit energy increases as we increase productivity. It makes big leaps when we change to higher energy density fuels. There were leaps in productivity when man began using wood then charcoal to smelt metals; then when he up graded the energy density from wood to coal, to oil, to gas. The next big leap in productivity (and human well being) will come when we move to widespread use of nuclear fission (thermal reactors and later breeder reactors), then fusion then ??? (black holes?). The real cost of energy comes down and productivity leaps up as we make these transitions from less energy dense to more energy dense fuels.
My initial comment was in response to Mosomosos’ comment in which he said: “As coal power becomes too expensive in the West due to “market forces” which are as free as Mother Russia people will burn coal somewhere else. ” I agree with his pont about the interventionist West but suggest the long term trend suggests that the average price for the world will not increase but will continue to decline; however, new competitors (e.g. nuclear generated electricity and liquid fuels produced using cheap electricity) will decline faster and replace fossil fuels over time. So the new fuels will replace fossil fuels over the long term with a continuing trend of decreasing cost of energy. I recognise of course there will be volatility along the way.
Your question is really about economics. It would be great to have Faustino’s comments here as he is a retired economists and very senior level policy adviser to UK and Australian governments.
I suspect that the price of US anthracite may not have changed much over time because as it became more scarce other alternatives replaced it.
Here are US average prices by year for anthracite, bituminous, sub-bituminous and lignite (see “7.9 coal prices 1949 to 2011):
Here is the:
Anthracite deposits are not a large fraction of coal resources. As the anthracite deposits became exhausted, forcing the production price of the remaining resource up, alternatives became attractive to the purchasers
Anthracite is also at the tail end of the tectonic cycle for coal, so geological conditions for economic extraction are likely to be more difficult (folding, faulting, oxidisation etc)
I have not looked at this since the peak oil fears cratered in 2010, but here are some chapters in the slow recognition that those almost unlimited coal reserves might be overstated. A major theme is that looking at tonnes of coal ignores the quality; much of it might have the BTUs of Kitty Litter.
The first major study questioning the actual extent of coal reserves: “The Peak in U.S. Coal Production“, Gregson Vaux (works at the NREL), 27 May 2004
“COAL OF THE FUTURE (SUPPLY PROSPECTS FOR THERMAL COAL BY 2030-2050)“, Energy Edge Limited, Prepared for the European Commission – DG Joint Research Centre Institute for Energy (JRC IFE), February 2007
“Coal: Resources and Future Production“, Energy Watch Group, March 2007 (47 pages,)
The major study showing reserves are overstated: “Coal: Research and Development to Support National Energy Policy“, National Academies, June 2007 — Key paragraph:
“How Much Coal Remains?“, Richard A. Kerr, Science, 13 March 2009 — “The planet’s vast store of coal could fuel the world economy for centuries–and fiercely stoke global warming — but a few analysts are raising the prospect of an imminent shortfall.”
Peak oil fears may have cratered in your community, but i happen to consult in the oil industry, and we see a oil shortages looming within the next two decades. What the shale gas industry did was deliver gas condensates and some oil to plug an imminent gap. This was achieved because oil prices rose and the technology leads to very fast depletion of the shale reservoir reserves (in other words, shale reservoirs produce with hyperbolic declines rather than the usual exponential decline factors, which means that one has to drill wells like crazy to keep up the production rate).
Shale production is commercial but the resource isn´t endless at current prices. Thus prices will increase as spot shortages take place, and the price eventually rises to such a point that substitution takes place.
We are already seeing the trend. For example, privately held oil companies can´t replace the oil they are producing. Because they want to keep their stock prices as high as possible they mask the reduced reserve positions by using “barrels of oil equivalents” in their published documents and press releases. This trick converts gas reserves into “pseudo oil”, but the real figures have to be delivered to the SEC, and the picture is really grim as far as OIL is concerned.
And if you want to check the way this works, check the worldwide refinery runs. One thing we know for sure is that oil has to be refined. But refinery runs are running flat, and have been running fairly flat for many years. This means we are in a plateau with minor wiggles, and soon we will reach peak oil (if we didn´t reach it already).
You are correct; I wrote in haste.
In 2005-2009 I was writing rebuttals to the belief, popular at the time, that petroleum production had ALREADY peaked and that certain doom would soon follow.
The longer-term problem remains, and we appear to be doing too little to prepare. That’s especially odd as preparing for peak oil overlaps with reducing CO2 emissions, and so should be an obvious public policy focus.
Atomkraft, ja danke.
Hyperbolic decline of fracked wells is equivalent to diffusive decline, which occurs whenever a small effective volume of material spreads to the extraction sites.
This leads to the effect that Frederick alluded to, which is known as the Red Queen effect in the oil patch — more and more wells have to be drilled in succession to keep up with the rapid decline of individual wells.
The frenzy will lead to another spectacular crash in the Bakken with historical similarities to all the gold rushes of the past.
This is systems science. AGW and fossil fuel limits are equal players.
Actually, most of the current “boom” in the oil supply (produced) is from OLD wells where it is now more economical to extract more oil from the same fields that were declared ‘dry” before.
So no, more wells do not have to be drilled. The Technology is taking care of the means of pumping more oil out of existing sites.
Off topic, but I was wondering what our resident Kochaphobes think about think about billionaire progressive Tom Steyer buying a two year delay in the Keystone Pipeline for $100,000,000 in donations to the Democrats for their 2014 midterm elections?
Even billionaires can have more money than sense.
You mean Baron Steyer of Thermal Coal?
This is true.
One theory that I have read is that warning the public about shortages of future fossil fuel supply is more dangerous — in terms of social unrest — than in warning people about AGW.
The thinking is that the latter has more of an optimistic and positive outcome, in that doing something about excess CO2 is good for the environment and something that people can rally around. Whereas, depleting our fossil fuel supplies can put us in a panic situation — that’s the theory at least.
Don’t shoot the messenger on this idea, the CalTech professors Dave Rutledge, and David Goodstein (who concentrates on oil) have been telling us about this issue for years.
Goodstein´s chat is fine, but he forgot to mention Venezuela. Most of their oil reserves are heavy crudes identical to the Alberta crudes. At least 70 % of their extra heavy crudes (or possibly more like 75 %) will require steam and similar methods, identical to the methods used in Alberta. Therefore the “country with the largest reserves” (Venezuela) really doesn´t have the muscle or the type of crude to fill the looming gap).
The point is that Professors Rutledge and Goodstein will not have made a “scientific blunder” with their calls of limits to fossil fuel reserves.
This is a call that skeptics can not attack because it is based on logic and common sense.
The move to alternative fuels will continue regardless of the outcome of AGW.
Childish denialist cognition by Vaughan Pratt, sobering lessons-from-history by FOMD.
It’s a lot cheaper not to pollute in the first place, than to clean-up afterwards, eh Vaughan Pratt?
TEPCO/Fukushima/Big Nuclear and Duke Energy/Dan River/Big Carbon both responded (utterly disastrously) to short-term profit-maximizing market-incentives, with utter disregard for (utterly catastrophic) long-term cleanup-costs.
Horrendously for the public, very many short-sighted politicians have been utterly derelict in duty, being seduced by the toxic TEPCO/Duke Energy policies of juvenile faux-libertarian selfish short-term profits without regard for long-term costs.
Needless to say, multiple criminal grand juries already are impaneled … because its plainly evident that Big Nuclear and Big Carbon are comparably corrupt, and comparably denialist, and comparably sociopathic in their policies, to Big Tobacco.
That’s common sense, and the plain lesson of history *AND* science, eh Climate Etc readers?
Don’t look now but “green” billionaire democratic donor Tom Steyer has been unmasked as an asian/3rd world coal baron.
Lends new meaning to the term ‘buying indulgences’. Well, not new meaning, but new scope, unparalleled, unprecedented magnitude.
Ahso! Always follow the money! If the American supply is reduced, his worth increases dramatically!
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The WEC 2013 Coal Resources report includes this statement in the introduction:
‘Unlike conventional oil and gas reserves, estimates of coal reserves can often be underestimated. Rather than a lack of coal resources, there is lack of incentive to prove up reserves. Exploration activity is typically carried out by mining companies with short planning horizons rather than state-funded geological surveys and there is no economic need for companies to prove long-term reserves. Coal resources are often estimated to be as much as 4-5 times greater than estimated reserves. This provides potential to increase coal reserves into the future. Furthermore reserve figures do not consider alternative ways of accessing energy from the coal resource, such as underground coal gasification.’
‘In the last few years there has been significant renewed interest in UCG as the technology has moved forward considerably. China has about 30 projects using underground coal gasification in different phases of preparation. India plans to use underground gasification to access an estimated 350 billion tonnes of coal.‘
350 billion tonnes is nearly six times India’s “proved recoverable reserves” according to this report.
The picture they paint seems somewhat different from that presented in your article. Could you outline where you disagree with them?
A much larger point is the possibility of exploiting the vast amount of oil shale (not shale oil) in the Green River deposits.
The kerogen in oil shale would produce an equivalent amount of co2 that has been released so far.
That is the fundamental question of slowing down AGW — at what low grade of fossil fuels do we draw the line and keep the carbon buried?
Continue with peat moss and methane clathrates and the emissions will continue to increase. Where do we stop?
It’s a question worth pondering no matter how much it pains the skeptics.
When the cost of processing it exceeds the cost of the alternatives.
That’s now. The oil age is over. Time for a new approach.
Look at them squirm.
Thank you for your comments. I had gone straight to the numbers in that report and had tuned out the motherhood statements. Coal gasification is an old technology. I am not aware of any significant success in this area, so I will limit my comments to reserves.
“Unlike conventional oil and gas reserves, estimates of coal reserves can often be underestimated. Rather than a lack of coal resources, there is lack of incentive to prove up reserves. Exploration activity is typically carried out by mining companies with short planning horizons rather than state-funded geological surveys and there is no economic need for companies to prove long-term reserves.”
I think this is what the individual mine owners see. They might characterize the coal in the leasing area as reserves, resources, and potential. In the normal course of running the mine, there would be new surveys done to characterize the resources, and this coal would be re-classified as reserves in the company’s annual reports.
However, at the national level, the experience has worked out the other way. The US is a spectacular example. The US reported reserves of 4Tt for the 1913 conference, based on work by the USGS. However, over time, as surveys improved, three things happened, all of which reduced the reserves substantially. First, many of the western coal basins turned out to be much deeper than expected, out of the reach of the miners. Next, some of the coal fields had been identified only at outcrops, and people had assumed they were continuous. However, later surveys showed that large parts of the fields had been eroded away, and the area was much smaller than initially assumed. Finally, after some criticism from mining engineers, the USGS realized that its reserves criteria were too optimistic, and they tightened them up, requiring thicker seams, a shallower depth cut-off and a closer observation point. So now the reserves are 240Gt. This number is presumably more accurate than the early one, but it is 13 times smaller.
Great post! Thanks you.
Does the cost of coal recovery have some sort of step function that works against recoverable reserves increasing as the price increases?
Has anybody done an analysis of the cost of all that coal. Assuming a reasonable increase rate of coal prices in response to this significant demand – what percent of GDP will be spent on coal to achieve those consumption levels and how does it compare to the amount spent today?
As you know (or should know), prices make reserves.
We all know what coal prices have done over the last decade.
China consumes most coal. Australia thermal coal gives some idea:
[Chart for last 10 years.]
One could look at US coal:
There chart starting 2007 to 2112
And coke coal [steel making] has been raising
coal used for electrical power is fairly flat
We all and nominal prices since 1949 to 2012:
And “real” prices:
Both show strong rise in last 10 years, but only nominal has recovered from higher prices of 1980’s. Or inflation has largely caused US prices to
As for China:
“The Newcastle weekly spot index fell to $77.73 a tonne from $80.01 on Feb. 7.
The index, tracking prices from the world’s top thermal coal exporting terminal, has been in steady decline over the past seven weeks, dropping by 10 percent since Dec. 20.” And:
The average price of steam coal in China ended at 571 yuan ($94.17) per tonne this week.
“China Coal Energy Co. (1898), the nation’s second-biggest coal producer by market value, expects 2013 profit to slump as much as 65 percent because of falling coal prices and the government’s effort to reduce reliance on the commodity.
The company, which posted 8.84 billion yuan ($1.46 billion) of profit in 2012, expects net income for the year ended Dec. 31, 2013 to decrease by 55 to 65 percent under Chinese accounting rules, according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing today. It cited the “continuing downturn” of the coal market, a “constant decline” in the commodity’s price, an economic slowdown and change in the national energy strategy as reasons for the profit slump.
Coal prices fell 16 percent last year, according to data tracked by Bloomberg. ”
I know China [and other countries] are paying a high price for coal and generally I expect China to pay even higher prices- not because I can predict what Chinese policy will be, but because there is billions of dollars worth of coal power plants and China will eventually run out of coal- and quicker than most people imagine.
Meanwhile in US, steam coal is largely related to availability of natural gas,
so wouldn’t expect coal prices to increase much. If had to guess I suppose coal price in Europe will decline. I would say this because Germany is adding coal plants and so I expect they have some clue of future prices.
And any talk by politicians about reducing CO2 can be safely ignored.
Robert in AZ
“Does the cost of coal recovery have some sort of step function that works against recoverable reserves increasing as the price increases?”
I think so. Here is the sequence I see near the end of the production cycle for underground mines.
The shaft provides access to the seams for the equipment and the miners and a way to get the coal out. The first step is that people recognize that the prospects are not good enough to justify investing the hundreds of millions of dollars that are needed for a new shaft. This happened in the UK about 50 years ago. At the time there were 800 longwalls operating, but if there are no new shafts, the death clock starts, because only coal within 10km of an existing shaft can be mined.
The miners work the coal in rectangular blocks with an area of several square kilometers. Each block must be set up with access roadways. The roadways cost 50 million dollars. They take a year to build, so they have to be started while the previous block is being worked. The engineers plan a sequence of blocks to be worked, starting with the most attractive blocks. At some point the mine will not be able to finance the next set of roadways. The end is now near, because when the current block is done, the mine will shut down. Just yesterday, miners in two of the last three underground mines in the UK agreed to shut down them over the next year and a half. The remaining mine is now employee owned, and I do not know if they will be able to come up with enough money to finance their roadways.
The final step is the closing of the mines. The shafts are filled in. The ceilings in the existing roadways begins sag and the floors rise. This effectively sterilizes the remaining coal seams, so we are done, finished.
“At some point the mine will not be able to finance the next set of roadways”
There are only two basic reasons for this:
1) increasingly difficult geological conditions (including exhaustion of the remaining economic coal). As subset, some mines have been forced to close by increasingly impossible industrial conditions – although this is generally resolved through a change of management and workforce composition
2) competition from other mines (off-shore mines obviously included) to the point where prices are too low for the mine to survive on its’ current operating costs. Sometimes new management can resolve this, sometimes not
The most benign way of viewing the Obama administration and EPA’s aversion to coal may be that by removing coal as an sustaining energy option, this will force innovation and development of new and better sources of energy within the next 100 years.
Then, my great grand children will be so pleased: warm weather and abundant energy. Win-win. I will leave my Big Oil and Black Coal receipts as their inheritance to pay their energy bills. Win-win.
I don’t have time to read all of professor Rutledge’s post and the comments, but I’ve been commenting lately (actually, for more than a decade) about the IPCC’s ridiculous high-fossil-fuel-use-scenarios (currently RCP 8.5…formerly A1FI).
http://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/discounting-the-future/ –>See Mark Bahner April 17, 10:13 PM.
Much of my recent commentary has referred to professor Rutledge’s excellent work. I’ll probably be posting on my blog sometime in the next couple weeks on the issue of fossil fuel use projections made by the rest of the world (e.g. Dave Rutledge, Steve Mohr, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, BP, etc.) versus the IPCC’s RCP 8.5. The blog post will be along the lines of, “Is the IPCC’s RCP 8.5 realistic?” (Spoiler alert: The answer will be “no.”)
Oops. I forgot to include my blog address:
“So if we citizens of 2100 spent 20% of our income (i.e., $124 trillion per year) on ambient air CO2 removal and sequestration, we could remove about 16 ppm per year. Let’s say were adding 2 ppm a year at the time; therefore, we could only lower CO2 by 14 ppm per year. So how many years would it take us to get from 700 ppm down to the pre-industrial concentration of 280 ppm? It would take us (700 – 280)/14 = 30 years.”
Ok but lowering it to 280 ppm reduce crop production by around 50%, so it seems farmers would have valid right to damages. In addition farmers, people who fish could claim losses in fish productivity. And environmentalist
could claim it would de-green the planet.
So that could be very costly to deal these damages related to reducing global CO2 from 700 to 280 ppm.
Now, if you simply wanted to remove the added 5 C of increased global temperature, there much cheaper ways of doing than 100 trillion dollars a year. But then again one has same problem- a lot people would be benefiting from warming world. It seems if cooled world by 5 C, one would piss off everyone, but one could easily show that people who moved northward would having their property ruined by decreasing the global temperature.
So reducing global temperature is cheap to do from Space. Put a bunch of dust at Earth/Sun L-1, and you are done.
But one can also regionally cool areas from Space [or warm areas], so with world 5 C warmer and better solution is to just cool areas where the people actual want it to be cooler.
I think if the price to cool a region is X per 1 C, and price to warm region was 2 times X, more people in the world which is 5 C warmer than present, would pay to increase average temperature higher, even though it’s twice the price. And/or few people would want it cooler.
This thread is about coal. But WHT brought up ‘oil shale’, which really isn’t, it’s kerogen shale. The Green River formation at the intersection of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming contains 65% of the world’s deposits, in theory more ‘oil’ than all else combined. There are a number of issues covered in my book Gaias Limits.
But the big one is water. There are two production methods, ex situ (underground mining, surface retorting) and in situ (underground retorting). The first requires about 5 barrels of water per barrel of oil, the second about 3. This is an arid headwaters area of the Colorado River watershed, where ALL the water is already bespoke and southern California is running dry. The problem isn’t kerogen, or the cost of production (double oil prices to $200/bbl and maybe good to go). There is no water!
Piping half the Mississipi River 1500 miles up to near the continental divide ( a mile higher) ain’t gonna happen any time soon, or at $200/bbl. Or ever.
Water scarcity is the reason Reagan stopped government research decades ago. Been looked at several times since. Still insoluble.
“Water scarcity is the reason Reagan stopped government research decades ago. Been looked at several times since. Still insoluble.”
All one needs is cheap way to transport water. Water currently is cheapest thing to transport.
So average household uses:
“Average household water use annually (including outdoor) is 92,693 gallons for domestic use. –
See more at: http://www.drinktap.org/home/water-information/conservation/water-use-statistics.aspx#sthash.flBQfvi6.dpuf
92,693 gallons is about 350 cubic meters [tonnes]
“Agriculture (mostly irrigation) = 69 %
– Industry = 23 %
– Domestic use (household water = drinking water, sanitation) = 8 %”
Read more: http://www.lenntech.com/specific-questions-water-quantities.htm#ixzz2zkhqHfzl
And cost of water is:
The costs of a cubic meter of water are known to differ between countries. “In this chart, the costs of one cubic meter of water are shown, for 14 different countries.”
Which range with Germany as highest cost at $1.80 per cubic meter with Canada being cheapest at $.40 per cubic meter. And US at about 50 cents
per cubic meter.
Of course this residential and one talking water for industrial use, but anyhow getting anything delivered to your house with shipping cost less than 40 cents a ton is cheap. And farming or industry generally is far cheaper. And what is needed is somewhere around 1 cent per ton per 1000 km or less. Which could be done.
We can pipe oil all over the country but not water? IIRC, most fiber is run in deactivated oil pipelines.
Water is piped from the western slope to the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains for mundane things like golf courses.
Do you happen to know of any references for the cost of piping and pumping water long distances? E.g. cost per ML.km and preferably split into capital, finance charges fixed O&M and variable O&M costs.
@Rud Istvan – Yea, the myopia of Jimmah Cawtaw. And you are correct that the problem is cost (something I have been trying to tell WHT). By the time Oil gets to $200/bbl, I suspect that many other technologies are going to be much more competitive than the kerogen Shale. But if not, then, as you note, mankind has longer to find them as the cost will go up, but so will the viability.
I took some time to review the documents the IPCC relied on for RCP8.5, going back to 2007.
And the documents the IPCC put out that themselves rely on RCP8.5.
While there are problems with RCP8.5 (and not limited only to coal reserves running out by 2070 unless technology and economics surmount the considerable obstacles to making current resources into future reserves on a scale like natural gas fracking achieved), so far as I can tell all of the uses of RCP8.5 up to 2070 remain valid at the level of agreement and confidence expressed about them, and while resolving the academic disagreements about coal reserves would be nice to have, still do not change the confidence or agreement level for any particular uses in WGIII.
So while I agree the safer way would be to either resolve the academic disputes, I have to suggest that where presenting an upper bounds, the principle of conservatism suggests choosing the upper bound that is the higher of two disputed limits until such time as the academic dispute is resolved.
Is.. this issue’s importance exaggerated?
I wouldn’t say that any discussion of the end of coal within a single human lifespan is unimportant.
It’s impact on the net conclusions of the IPCC with regards to the next half century, however, remains zero.
And the chaos that will ensue in a world without coal that also faces AGW’s most interesting effects at the same time?
That’d be important to consider, too.
Like Somoza in Nicaragua and a natural disaster there leading to the rise of the Sandinistas (See, RT@KeithKloor twitter jump-to article), the Democrat party certainly jumped at the opportunity to politicize Katrina to demonize Bush. That is what global warming is all about: 100% politics; 0% science.
How much recoverable coal is out there?
As you point out, this is a key constraint on how much CO2 humans will be able to emit over the rest of this century and beyond.
There are many estimates of global coal reserves and resources, most of which concentrate on “proven reserves”. These vary from 900 Gt (BGR 2005) to 826 Gt (BP 2008). At the current consumption rate of around 6.8 Gt/a, the latter number represents a reserve to production ratio (R/P) of 122 years.
The more interesting estimate for us is the amount of “inferred total recoverable coal resource” still left on our planet.
Again, there are different (but fewer) estimates.
Ronald Cooke in a recent article “PeakCoal” dated 4/15/14 estimates (as a “WAG”) as of today:
3,400 Gt total global coal resource of which
1,300 Gt coal are recoverable (38%)
The BGR estimate an inferred total resource in 2005 of 4,700Gt, but do not give an estimate of how much would be recoverable. Using the same 38% estimate of Ronald Cooke, this would put the “inferred total recoverable coal resource” in 2005 at around 1,780 Gt.
A WEC 2010 report estimates this to be 1,900 Gt in 2008. This is the highest estimate I have seen and represents around 2.3 times the proven reserves estimate of BP cited above for the same year.
If this is anywhere near correct, and adding in WEC 2010 estimates for “total inferred recoverable oil and natural gas resources”, IPCC’s so-called “business as usual” worst case scenario RCP8.5 (or the earlier slightly lower “worst case” scenario A1F1) are impossible.
What is recoverable with current technologies is unlikely to be a good guide to what is recoverable in the future. Just as the technologies for increasing the recoverable amounts of oil and gas are always improving and increasing the reserves, a similar situation is likely with coal. Already countries including Australia have been developing underground coal gasification (e.g. Queensland Government web site: http://mines.industry.qld.gov.au/mining/underground-coal-gasification.htm ).
For about three decades Canad has been looking at extraction of deep tar sands using steam – possible from nuclear power plants – to extract the synfuel. Uranium is now being extracted by in situ leaching. Australia has been doing it commercially for more than a decade )e.g. South Austraslia Government web sites: http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/131115/App_J_ISR_Best_Practice_Guide.pdf
Given the rate of mining technology advances in the past, it is likely similar will happen to increase the reserves of coal into the future. We should expect advances such as nano technologies extracting the resources from underground with minimal disturbance minimal impacts and low costs in the future – IF fossil fuels remain the cheapest source of energy!!
Good point about new technology – especially when it comes to oil and natural gas extraction and maybe a bit less to coal extraction.
And even more so when it comes to new non-fossil fuel sources.
So it is highly likely that fossil fuels will not remain the cheapest source of energy.
That’s why RCP8.5 is so absurd.
“Coal is the oldest of our fossil fuels, ”
Peat? Wood? Bits of grass?
a@ Dave Rutledge
Thanks for this thread – some realism
I’ve leave well enough alone now, I think, most points have been well-enough covered. As you may have inferred, I have a good deal of detailed, practical and theoretical knowledge here and IMO you have dealt with the basics adequately
Heavens, you had Bart R’s eyes hanging out on their stalks as he slowly realised the extent of his ignorance :)
ianl8888 | April 24, 2014 at 1:00 am |
Enh. I won’t be all that ignorant until 2070.
Until then, nothing in this thread will have come to make any difference at all on IPCC WG3 or RCP8.5.
Thank you for your comments.
Would you have any comments on this of mine:
Having watched coal for a number of years my crystal ball has global coal production at or near peak now.
Nuclear is relatively cost competitive with coal at about $4/MMBtu. Most of the world is paying $5 to $6/MMBtu for coal(china included).
Peabody Coal stock is selling at less then 1/3 of it’s peak value. On time scales of 50 years coal is finished. Everyone but the IPCC knows it.
65N summer insolation is at levels at which glacials are initiated.
Might it not be a little optimistic to expect that a Watt or 2 per square metre (at 65N) serves to delay the next glacial by 10’s of thousands of years? Although insolation sets the scene – low solar activity pushes polar fronts south and warm and open Arctic water slow the northward drift of warm water feeding into runaway ice radiative effects that dwarf the largest greenhouse gas forcing imaginable. What are the odds of Wally Broecker’s favourite scenario of extreme change in as little as a decade? Damn good obviously – which decade is the question de jour. The theory is that climate is chaotic (in the sense of complexity theory) and that the latest climate shift resulted in a shift in cloud cover that is resulting in planetary non-warming – at least – for decades. Beyond that – prediction appears to be problematic. It is not so much skeptical as mainstream freakin’ climate science.
The situation with coal is hardly surprising – although I assumed the point was the IPCC being at odds with reality – again no surprise there. Any engineer worth their salt would have made a back of the envelope calculation of reserves and utilization and come up with a figure of about 100 years. This has never seemed a problem of any significance. In the normal scheme of things a scarce commodity increases in price which encourages substitution as a matter of course. Technically known as the principle of economic substitution. We can see this happening with oil already and the same will happen with coal over a slightly longer period.
Indeed there would seem to be many better ways to keep warm than burning coal. One of these is closed fuel cycle, efficient, small, modular, cheap, helium cooled atomic engines. These will be commercially available within a decade or 2 and are essential for liquid fuel synthesis, airborne space launch platforms, floating cities, defending the planet against the ice giant army, etc.
They will probably also come in handy for NASA’s latest ‘get your ass to Mars’ initiative which is essentially not keeping all our eggs in one basket if we are to avoid one more – and terminal – egregious blunder.
Back on planet Earth – or at least a different one to the run of the mill progressive – a multi-gas strategy involving effective development and population policies, restoration of agricultural soils and ecological conservation would seem better options in the short to medium term than a ludicrously ineffectual ‘keep it in the ground’ chant from pissant progressives.
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