Report from 33d Intl. Geology Congress in Norway (By Charlie Hall)

Below is an email sent by Professor Charles Hall from SUNY-Syracuse detailing his recent trip to an international Geology conference in Norway. Though written for his friends and colleagues, I thought the details and insights he shared from his trip to Norway would be worth sharing with the TOD readership, particularly the comments on peak oil and climate change. Charlie also tells me he has a new paper published next week on EROI economics which I will format and post here.

Report from 33d International Geology Congress

(or far more than you want to know about geology meetings and Norway)

Charles A. S. Hall

I was invited to attend present at a plenary session of the above meeting in Oslo Norway and since they paid for my flight, a week's hotel in Oslo, the meeting registration and some incidentals I decided to go. My wife Myrna came with me and we have now been in Norway for about two weeks. If you are interested in the details of this huge meeting you can go to This report is one person's summary of a number of issues.

1) The meeting was huge (6,500 papers, usually a dozen congruent sessions at any one time). I was initially attracted to the idea of speaking before 6000 geologists from 170 countries) but in fact there were a dozen sessions even during most plenaries so there was in fact maybe 200 at my session, which was not bad by most de facto plenary standards.

2) The sessions were at Lillestrom, about 15 minutes by fast train from downtown Oslo. Given the size of the meeting the organization was superb, except that it was necessary to know in advance, which few people did, how to read the "roadmaps" to find the sessions either conceptually or physically. I found myself each evening reading all titles trying to find those that were interesting to me.

3) Most sessions were about the minutia of a very diverse and well established field. These were usually less interesting to me than the titles led me to believe, but a few were great. This is as usual with any meeting. I had lots of fun meeting people from all over he world with a common interesting science.

4) Each day had a plenary session of general interest: biodiversity, climate, mineral abundance, energy etc. I stayed all day in the climate and energy sessions (I gave a paper in the latter, and asked many questions, as usual), and much of the minerals.

5) It became clear that most geologists are not particularly interested professionally in oil or minerals except as they may provide funds for their own research. On the other hand a lot of geological research was very well funded compared to what I am used to seeing --- obviously society has a direct interest in funding geology, unlike lots of other sciences, because money can be made from its activity, due to direct or indirect application of the results.

6) I went to excellent (although perhaps predicable, although for this "new" audience that is fine) papers by Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere, and spent a lot of great time with them at the meetings and dinners. I was pleased to see how relaxed and funny Jean was, something I had not seen before. To my amazement here was Colin Campbell, maybe with one of the world's most important geological ideas, and only 30 people were at his session! Likewise Jean. The general community of geologists do not have a clue about peak oil. They may not have their head stuck in the sand, but they do appear to have their head stuck in the rocks!

7) The two best papers (in my opinion at least) I went to were each in the smaller sessions, not the plenary, which were often rather broad, not especially new to me and often extremely contentious. The ones I particularly liked were by Jim Harris who spoke about making a model of oil formation, or rather the formation of the potential for source rocks (vs the "trap rocks" that collect perhaps one percent of the oil that is formed and that serve as our oil sources. This model was a marvelous "systems" project and included continental drift, paleoclimate driven by the British Hadley climate model, paleo ocean currents and so on all of which would generate better or worse conditions for river runoff (with nutrients and sediments, in turn influencing phytoplankton production) , benthic oxygen levels and so on (I learned that absolute anoxia is not needed to form oil but low oxygen levels is), and temperatures (you need at least 15 C, thus Harris believes that much of the arctic -- where not continentally drifted -- will not produce too much oil). Then he ran a dynamic simulation from say 150 to 90 million years ago (when most oil was formed) with continents tooling around the world, climates warming and cooling, precipitating and not, rivers washing nutrients and sediments around and so on, phytoplankton blooming or not and settling into ocean basins etc. etc. The end result was the formation of the percent carbon in the sediments, and then these were oxidized or not, or washed away by ocean currents or not. All very complex but presented with beautiful dynamic software. He then predicted where the oil would be in e.g. Northern South America, and compared that with where in fact we have found it. Assuming he has not cheated (I am pretty sure he has not) it was a VERY impressive presentation with a wonderful "systems" view and wonderful 3 and 4D graphics. C. Fratelli and others in this session also gave very interesting presentations.

8) The second really impressive presentation for me was by Paul Nadeau. I was sitting next to Colin Campbell and Jean Laherrere and Colin said "Watch this, this will be great" and afterwards Jean said "That was truly wonderful (as did Charlie). His paper was about the "golden zone", a layer in the earth characterized by temperatures of from 60 to 120 degrees C within which 90+ percent of oil has been found and 80 plus percent of gas. But this layer is found at different depths, deeper (?4000 meters) in the North Sea and shallower at (1000 M ) off of, for example, Mumbai, India. Most of the exploration and test drilling near Mumbai (or Bombay) was at the wrong depth, too deep! (Although I don't know why they did not hit oil on the way down). This shows clearly that we have explored most of the "sweet spots" in the earth -- not by understanding the golden zone concept but empirically-- and is I think further evidence that we are unlikely to find too much additional oil by e.g. drilling deeper where we have already found oil. The paper was clear, critically important, extremely interesting and I though beautifully presented.

9) The plenaries, especially the climate session and somewhat the energy sessions, were designed for a more general scientific audience. They tended to be moderately interesting, optimistic about resources and technology and often extremely contentious. About two thirds of the presenters and question-askers were hostile to, even dismissive of, the IPCC (International panel on climate change) and the idea that the Earth's climate was responding to human influences. This was rather shocking to me who knows of several other such scientists but had no idea there were so many. They talked about Milankovich Cycles of course, but also sunspot cycles and other possible climate forcings. These were linked to some pretty bizarre (to me) ways of influencing the climate: e.g. making cloud condensation nuclei through ionizing radiation from sun spots or slowing or speeding the Earth's rate of spin in response to cosmic rays. These were apparently very serious scientists but presented far more correlation than clear and convincing mechanism, at least I thought. An atmospheric physicist sitting next to me said that there was no correlation between cosmic rays and clouds as he had made all the measurements. The IPCC folks were adamant that there model was built on first principles, could reproduce past changes in climate and was making proper predictions. The plenary had at the end a "debate" but it was really two ships passing in the might---each side presented its arguments –usually using different types of logic, often arrogantly, and said the other side could not possible be right. The moderators could have done us all a service by guiding the debate to specific issues "what do each of you think about sun spot correlations even when their effect appears trivial" but that did not happen.

10) I could not at first figure out why there was so much hostility between the two climate groups. At first I thought it empiricists vs modelers, although each group was somewhat mixed. Then I concluded that it is the geologists, used to studying constant climate change over very long time periods of Earth's history, who think that basically the climate of the earth is always changing due to various forcings, and what's the big deal now? The IPCCers respond that the Earth has never seen CO2 levels such as we are headed for and that the CO2 changes produce a strong enough signal to change the climate. And on and on. John Holdren has recently prepared a point by point response to the anti IPCCers which I will try to send out. Then we can expect a rebuttal to that and so on.

11) The mineral and energy plenaries were mostly about how although there were some serious supply issues that new technologies were finding marvelous new reserves of copper, oil (except there were no new fields named) and so on. Each presenter tended to argue that all we needed was more money for geological exploration, more or fewer free markets, even higher prices and so on. The only real antidote to this, other than good presentations such as by Jeremy Leggett on climate impacts and the need for solar, was Charlie's arguments that most of this new technology was extraordinarily energy intensive (arctic minerals for one example) so that it did not matter how much e.g. oil was left in the ground because we were relatively rapidly approaching the point where it took a barrel of oil to find and develop a barrel of oil. Similar arguments are applicable to finding the next ton of copper and so on. While no one countered these arguments and all agreed that the dollar cost of producing energy and other minerals was escalating rapidly it was clear that most were so brainwashed to think in terms of monetary costs few thought much about energy costs and few thought of them as having profound limiting consequences. I thought my own talk was pretty good but rushed as a half hour was not enough time (or I should have had fewer slides). The same talk, given a week later at the University of Bergen to a graduate student and professor audience at their institute of Systems Dynamics (a very cool place) went much better as I had time to develop the concepts better. But a fair number of people at the conference came up to me after words and thanked me for a needed, fresh or different approach different from most of the tenor of the meeting. I will mail out a paper related to this talk very soon as it has just been published.

Bergen, Norway


After the meeting my wife and I tool an extremely nice trip from Oslo to Myrdahl to Flam (one of the worlds incredible train journeys for sure to a place far into the fjord called Fjaerland (also known as Mundal and from which Vice President Mondale's ancestors once came). We took the glacier bus tour (my wife models glaciers and yes, Jostedalsbreen too, Europe's largest, is melting back in recent years and a whole lot since 1900). I then had a marvelous half day trout fishing with Ivar. Then the next day we climbed to the top (sort of) of a 1000 meter mountain and today I can hardly walk. We also visited the Viking ship and polar exploration museums in Oslo and the glacier museum in Fjaerland and all were amazing to see. Probably the glacier museum was the very best as you went form room to room representing different past epochs of the region.

In all of this travel I was very impressed with what a difference petroleum makes to Norway. In the fjords the grass -> sheep or grass-> cattle link was key to any productivity now or in the past (excluding the phytoplankton -> fish chains). The areas along the steep fjords where grass could be grown were usually very very limited, as were the grazing animals. I watched in Fjaerland as two farmers with two medium sized specialized tractors took previously-cut hay, rolled them up into big round bales, and then with a different tractor wrapped them in plastic with a touch of a button. I compared this with the procedures given in a book my wife was reading ("Out stealing horses") and the pictures in an exhibition of photographs from the turn of the last century by Knud Knudson where entire families were out piling hay on wooden racks to dry. I thought those two farmers in an hour probably put up more hay for the winter than a whole family would in a summer in 1900. We also had gone to the Viking ship exhibition in Oslo and I guess you could see why the became raiders because the land was so un productive. But a thousand years ago Vikings became Christians, stopped raiding and have been extremely peaceful since. I, who usually think that religion leads to wars, had to see this as an important counter example to my usual thoughts. Finally we went to Bergen which may be the most beautiful city we have seen. In contrast to Oslo which has ugly new buildings on the waterfront Bergen keeps its city core mostly the old Hanseatic buildings or 18th century lovely housing. The people at the Systems dynamics program of the University were very welcoming and seemed to respond well to the same lecture I gave at the geologists meeting. Both Myrna and I found Norway an extremely lovely, civilized and interesting place to visit, the only problem being that everything is two to three times the price of the equivalent in the U.S. BUT, although beers in a restaurant were eleven dollars the students in the Systems Dynamics program, whether from Norway, the developing world or even my own former students Billy and Bobby, pay NO tuition. Maybe that makes a lot of sense.


If a group of geologists don´t get peak oil what chance does the rest of the world have? Any chance that this is one of those instances where it is difficult to see the truth if you are being paid not to see it?

Geologists are just humans like you. The rational brain is but a veneer over the more simian.

We are, by training and temperament, inclined to look at the long view. Likewise, we geologists still regard catastrophism as suspect despite all the catastrophes revealed in the geologic record.'s the law.

At least for peak oil, shortages will be felt in the marketplace. The apparent ignorance of much of the geological community will change in the face of facts on the ground. As for the quack science, the more exposure these theories get the more effort is directed at proving them wrong - if they are. Even addressing climate change is not hopeless. Who would have believed 5 years ago that Americans would drive less in 2008.

The geologists without a clue are likely caught up in the minutia of their individual research and lives. Grants to apply for, papers to write, post docs to beat, seminars to fly to, deans to please, mates and family that need at least 5 minutes a day of attention... they are victims of their own little rat races.

They will become MUCH more interested in peak oil when the symptoms start affecting them personally like all the other stupid bipedal apes on the planet.

Geologists don't get a lot of things. Most of them still think that continents "tool around the earth". I guess they believe that the pangean earth, when viewed from space, was a big blue eyeball with a brown / green iris. I can't help but laugh every time I try to visualize it. It's so absurd the things that supposedly educated people believe.

Most geologists also maintain the obviously erroneous notion that the earth spins West to East. LOL!

Let me guess... you watched the video for 5 seconds and determined that because an animation of a globe was spinning in the "wrong" direction, it must mean that the whole thing is bogus. This is typical of the kind of nonsensical nitpicking attacks on Samuel Warren Carey's work. Talk about missing the point...

Never seen that before.

I understand that the theory of how it happened may not yet be fully worked out, but that is some pretty compelling video.

If I were coming at the problem with fresh eyes and compared the two theories, I would say the expanding earth theory wins round 1.


More here:

Please tell me you posted this link as a joke.

Well, I've spent a few hours that I don't have refreshing myself on basic geology and won't spend more time on it.

Reminded me of the process I went through learning about peak oil, but in this case I'm not so interested to follow it all the way through.

Normally I give these theories a fair hearing (like the free energy ones) because I don't think we're at the end of instances where we are collectively completely wrong about certain commonly held beliefs. (As people on this site can attest to.)

When someone says 'all of science needs to be overthrown if you accept my assertion,' that's usually a red flag for me that extra scrutiny is needed, though.

I've seen it before a hundred times. The knee jerk mentality portrayed above. "Surely you must be joking! Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. But I'm not going to take 30 minutes to actually examine the evidence in an intellectually honest manner."

It takes great confidence to put yourself out on a limb to say that a whole branch of science is wrong. But if people did not do this, then we would still be arguing about the earth being flat. The evidence for expansion tectonics, or torsional tectonics, is overwhelming. The fact that it is relegated into perpetual obscurity speaks volumes about the level of control and indoctrination in western culture.

There are so many arguments against the "expanding earth" hypothesis that it's hardly worth starting.

However, in case other readers are wondering about a simple counter-argument, the enormous variation in the age of the major parts of the continents (e.g. North American cratons, colour-coded below) is completely unexplained by an "expanding earth".

I found the videos fascinating if rather uninformative as they did not specify what the 'simple rules' were by which the fits were made.
Without that information it is impossible to determine how good the fit really is, or if liberties have been taken.

One thing which immediately occurs is that if the oceans are only 180 million or so years old, why did expansion only start then?

Interesting to hear of the scepticism regarding anthropogenic climate change at this conference, which reinforces points made in a Drumbeat comments thread a couple of weeks ago. A colleague just returned from the same conference (33d International Geology Congress) has told me that he has never seen such a high ratio of industry to academia, at any other meeting. He had also attended in response to an invitation and would not normally have been at this conference - he was bored stupid by the experience and reckons that from a research perspective it was a complete waste of his time.

For research-focussed general Earth Science conferences of similar scale (~10,000 presentations each) see EGU (Europe) or AGU (North America) both held annually. Abstracts are available on-line for both for as many years as you could care to read through and paint a very different picture in terms of attitudes towards anthropogenic climate change. Nothing at all on peak oil, mind.

high ratio of industry to academia

That was also my impression when I looked at the program and the abstracts. I think there are way too many "scientific conferences" and "technical journals", which in fact aren't really designed to bring science forward but rather serve to promote corporate PR, give a podium to certain speakers and to give an opportunity for business networking.
Otherwise I wouldn't understand presentations like that of Neil Williams, President of the Society of Economic Geologists, CEO Geoscience Australia, who seriously claims things like "The exhaustion of mineral resources is unlikely to be a major concern in the future; rather the concern will be the exhaustion of innovation."
From a PR point of view this statement is plain logic - he wants to get more funds for his "innovative" society members. If he'd talk about depletion he would (indirectly) say: Don't waste your money on us but spend it on renewables & conservation.

Don't you think you're pulling a fast one here ? Climate change denial = business ?

I mean do you read stuff like the BBC ? Business is VERY pro-AGW these days. I get a strong impression it is actually academia who are turning more and more anti-AGW.

And it is trivially true that this carbon trading scheme has put a LOT of money on the AGW bandwagon. A hell of a lot. Over 150 billion I believe.

Climate change denial is in fact a rather large industry -- something like $400 million per year in the United States alone.

Business is VERY pro-AGW these days.

Which is why there are proposals in your town Planning Board and Council to rip out developments? And why newspapers and TV are no longer pushing mortgages, new cars and whiter teeth. Business cares about selling more stuff. And lying to accomplish that is just fine.

Is this a real question ? What you're asking is "why haven't they halted the economy then".

You're basically asking "why haven't we killed all personal and business initiatives because of a potential future threat".

Does this question really need answering ? It is beyond obvious to me.

For starters, if "they" did that, "they" (and "we") would be dead. Suicide is not a reasonable response to the chance of a future accident or problem, no matter how large the chances.

Reminds me of an old physics joke.

The increase in the number of scientific journals means that the rate at which library shelf space is being taken up will soon exceed the speed of light. This doesn't violate the theory of relativity however as there is no information being transmitted.

But on a more serious note, back in the day I did some research and went to some conferences, and I found most of them to be rather tedious. You did have the opportunity to network with people, and this is valid in itself, I guess.

We used to have problems with government bureaucracy as well. For example, to measure your performance they would simply count up the number of papers you published, with no attempt being made to try and establish whether the papers were substantive in any way. Thus if we had just finished a set of measurements we would split things up and write several papers that essentially covered the same thing but with minor differences, and each paper might focus on a different aspect of the thing. I can't completely blame the government bean-counters for this though - the academics that we worked with had idiotic beancounters that were watching over their shoulders as well. After a while it sapped all of my energies...

Thank you very much Nate and Charles for this post.

More on the Golden Zone model mentioned in Charles's mail:

Golden Zone Theory simplifies oil and gas exploration

The Golden Zone is the name of a an underground zone where temperatures range between 60 and 120 C. The name refers to a new discovery that 90 per cent of the world's oil and gas reserves are to be found.

The theory has been developed over a period of ten years by the former senior researcher, now dean, Per Arne Bjørkum at the Faculty of Technology and Science at the University of Stavanger, and the researchers Paul Nadeau and Olav Walderhaug at Statoil.

Bjørkum thinks that the greatest challenge just now is to produce enough oil and gas for the next ten years.

Bjørkum thinks that the world may easily find itself in a situation of fighting wars over the access to oil and gas.

I've also run into the anti-AGW stance from a lot of geologists in Finland. It seems to be prevalent within the field. While some of the objections have imho seemed fair and reflecting the need for further study, others have just been silly rehashes of the old sun-spot garbage or other stuff that has been disproved several times over.

It'd be nice to get the Holdren point-by-point presentation, if it is public. I can only find a recent presentation from February '08 from Holdren, but no rebuttals in that.

Bjørkum's point about most needing oil over the next 10 years seems close to correct. But I'd push the start of the window of need out starting in about 5 years. We will have oil-caused recession before then. But the "how do we keep the wheels on" part of the drop probably won't start before 2012 and perhaps not until 2014.

Seems to me (and I'm interested in hearing comments from others on this) there's a bad period coming up where we've already cut back the easy stuff and then the oil decline starts eating into the muscle and reduces our ability to develop replacement sources.

Of course, some are more pessimistic and basically argue we will decline continually to the bottom and won't be able to develop much replacements at all. But I don't look at progress by companies such as First Solar and come away thinking that is the case.

I've also run into the anti-AGW stance from a lot of geologists in Finland. It seems to be prevalent within the field.

My dad had been an industrial chemist. I can still remember how adamant he was against any suggestion about chemical toxicity etc. I guess the geologist is being defensive about accusations about harm to the planet caused by his actions. That and the fact that many of these people work for extractive industry, and are exposed to anti-environmentalist rants nearly everyday.

For further review of the climate change discussion and geologists attitudes. From climatologist point of view:

Wow - I read through part of that comment list - I really think our 'belief systems' are a core part of the manifold problems we face - to read all the intelligent comments from high ranking and respected scientists who hold vastly different opinions shows that we, as a species, are likely incapable of mitigation and can only hope for adaptation once the cards are on the table - until then everyone with a voice will disagree which cards are going to be dealt and why.

Consider the benefits of differing beliefs...

If EVERYONE had the same oppinion there would be zero intillectual progress.
Two contradictory oppiinions can BOTH have a grain of truth; the grain of truth leads to a more profound insight.
If two people who disagree with eachother rationally consider the others is not only the 'wrong' person who benefits from the arguement. The 'correct' set of oppinions/facts will be clarified in defense of attack. Think of any oppinion you have; when someone disagrees you have motive of intillectual pride to back up your oppinion.

Differing oppinions make society interesting IMO.

Well now I agree with YOU..;-)

(I understand your point, but what happens is that we only change our beliefs by 10-15% around the fringes, and that takes a sledgehammer) Debate is good, but even solid truths sometimes take decades (centuries?) to become mainstream (e.g. evolution)

Having said that, I have learned a great deal from reading this site for 3 years +, and actually, after having shifted my views about a dozen times, I am back to the general view I started with, albeit I have deeper conviction and details around the individual points. Most don't have the luxury to go through seemingly academic arguments dozens of times in their heads however, as more mundane needs press.

It is true that most people will not change their oppinions regardless of the logical evidence...but RE Peak Oil it will be accepted under protest eventually because you cannot argue with Geological facts. The thing is most people are also followers; you only need a few leaders with good ideas and understanding...the followers let the leaders figure out the plan and facts. But we need better leaders IMO.

I agree that the Oildrum is cool and informative; I am mostly a lurker because IMO a redundant oppinion and off topic oppinions would simply be useless clutter on the Drumbeat. Most of the time I have nothing of value to add to the Drumbeat or other discussions here.

Back to lurking;)

Most of the time I have nothing of value to add to the Drumbeat
Note how many interesting side discussions your observation spawned.
Don't belittle your valuable contributions.

Most don't have the luxury to go through seemingly academic arguments dozens of times in their heads however, as more mundane needs press.

Sure. And that's why we have to take a lot of things on trust. Scientists do that all the time. While in principle everything they learn at university or read in a journal is testable and reproducible, in practice they simply don't have the time to test it all. So they take 99.9% of what they're told on trust, and then explore some little area of doubt in their own research.

However, when scientists get outside their own area of specialty, they often set aside their trust in the competence of their fellow scientists, and the "sceptics" come out. So we get biologists talking about abiotic oil, geologists who are Creationists or climate change deniers, and so on. A geologist who'd laugh at abiotic oil without looking at a single paper about it starts saying that the climate scientists obviously haven't properly considered sunspots. Trust in their own specialty, scepticism outside it.

For my part, I'm no kind of scientist, but I do understand the scientific method, both the official hypothesis-test-adjust hypothesis bit, and the unofficial publish-lots-of-papers-to-look-good-to-the-uni-admin and swipe-credit-from-your-students parts, the petty rivalries and feuds amidst academia and the pay-for-a-conclusion from industry and government. So I think it's fairest for me to trust the consensus of specialists in each area.

The consensus of biologists are that evolution is real, the consensus of geologists is that abiotic oil is not real, and the consensus of climate scientists is that human-caused climate change is real and happening today. I don't ask a used car salesman about house loans or a bank manager about good restaurants, I look to the specialists in each area.

One insight I read, I wish I could remember where, was that often people object to ideas like human-caused climate change not really because of the ideas themselves, but because they don't like the sort of world which would come from those ideas.

Resource depletion and human-caused climate change if properly responded to would give us a different world. It could take many forms, but things like a less consumerist culture, more localised production, more mass transit, less stuff being burned, these seem pretty certain. And some people don't like that picture, but it's hard to argue against, so they argue against the ideas causing that picture to be painted.

It's sort of like arguing against the equality of women not because you really believe they're not as capable as men, but because you don't like the idea of them sitting next to you on the judge's bench or in the walnut-panelled smoking club.

Totally agree with you here.

As a biologist (evolution and ecology specialty) I had to deal with the evolution "debates." I realized that the creationists were "against" evolution because they couldn't accept the implications, not because of any data that contradicted it.

Similarly, as I studied climate change I realized that the "skeptics" nearly always rejected the implications of climate change first. Typically they don't like government "interference." They also are conservative in the sense of "highly resistance to change." Of course strong policies on climate change require interventionist government and lifestyle changes.

On TOD I am sometimes amazed by the climate change denial and would like to point out exactly what you just did: climate change denier = abiotic oil theorist = creation science.

In my own field I can see right through the creationist BS, but I can also see it's cleverness. Funny how nowadays I am more likely to get a question about some climate denier or abiotic oil BS!

"often people object to ideas like human-caused climate change not really because of the ideas themselves, but because they don't like the sort of world which would come from those ideas."
"the 'skeptics' nearly always rejected the implications of climate change first"

Could we come to some consensus here?-)

My thoughts were on the lines of Jason's. I, for instance, don't like the GW-world because I don't want to be in the same boat with Al Gore (one group), whom I can't stand, and of leftist-socialist-agenda people, whose worldview is so foreign to mine and want to trust big government's decisions.

Back to Peak Oil:
Here it is often written that the world out there is anti-PO because they are in denial.

NO they're not. They just don't like your conclusions and your "obvious" consequences about it. Imagine me not accepting PO just because I don't like Kunstler's bent or style or the fact that he was W2K apocalyptic.

I ran across PO in 1998 and shook my head because of the image that was presented with it: military armagedon resulting from resource wars. Oh, how dramatic.

I think we need to remember that people don't usually argue on the hypothesis level, but on the consequence level. For instance:

I got rid of my car (with full support of my wife - very important!) and am PO-neutral/semi-doomer convinced. People who know me will probably put those two together in their heads. But why did I get rid of the car? Because we saw that it's doable and that we save a sh*tload of money - not because of PO.

Peak Oil is logical. But it's best to realize that your conclusions are not necessarily logical nor are those of your debate oponent.
< /preaching>

John Denver has made a life's calling out of debating against PO. NOT that PO is not going to happen. No, his real argument is that it's going to be a non-event. Meaning, he doesn't like the PO community's tenor. Well.. if it's worth it to write 300 blog entries because of that...

Cheers, Dom

I, for instance, don't like the GW-world because I don't want to be in the same boat with Al Gore (one group), whom I can't stand, and of leftist-socialist-agenda people, whose worldview is so foreign to mine and want to trust big government's decisions

The trick here is to realize that he's just the messenger, not the message. AGW, for all I can see is a very real issue. At least most of the arguments I've ever seen against tended to boil down to 'I don't like hippies', which is great but hardly a great reason to watch the planet fry.

However just because the hippies are right about AGW, doesn't mean that they are right about the solutions. IMHO Capitalism, with the right checks and balances is a far better solution than any 'socialist/communist' style solution. (Look at the mess every communist country has ever made of its environment).

A great book to read on this is Amory Lovin's "Natural Capitalism"

Basically what it boils down to is shifting tax away from income and towards pollution. Which sounds fair to me. I could use more money.

What would you say to this complaint "I don't like AGW, because, quite frankly, it means either killing or vastly lowering my living standard".

Our living standard is first and foremost dependant on exactly what will need to go down - road transport. I don't want to see supermarkets empty, and I certainly don't want to hasten emptying them (which is, let's be fair, exactly what "pollution" taxes (call them what you will) on oil will do).

The only thing I'd consider fair is to have oil-rich states pay the oil pollution taxes. They benefit, and they benefit too much. They are the ones that need taxin, they are the source.

The rest will naturally follow.


I tend to agree with your conclusions in general but I thought I would add the comparable thought that there is a clear trend for some people to agree with evolution because they don't like the implications of there being a loving God who cares about whether they are doing the right or the wrong thing and also many people don't like to do things that others might want them to do (even God).

I am a little bit of exception to the general rule however. I object to the theory of macro-evolution that suggests that all biological information arose out of pure chance and "natural selection". Of course, that makes me a "creationist" because I disagree with the theory of evolution. If so, so be it. I am just very skeptical that random chance could generate an Encyclopedia Britannica worth of information (or more) for every separate species on the planet. If so, I would love to see the experiment that would show that random mutation has that kind of creative power. The only creative power I have seen (in experiment and in the real world) that can generate that kind of information is an intelligent purposeful mind (or Mind). So you are right in saying that I am not a biologist and therefore I am out of my field, but it is not because I am aghast at the implications of the theory of evolution, but because I only know of one thing (intelligence) that can generate that kind of creative power. IMO (perhaps uninformed) random chance is just not good enough (even over geological time). Of course, the Universe itself and the incredibly well balanced physical laws which "seem designed to foster life" seem to show evidence of having been designed with us in mind. As Steven Hawking said:

“It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.” Stephen Hawking

Getting back to the Geologists denying Anthropogenic Global Warming, there DO have a lot of experience in seeing the dramatic consequences of natural cycles on the climate (both short and long term drastic changes are in evidence in the paleoclimate data). I think that they have a lot of extra experience to add to the debate. Climate scientists don't necessarily have a monopoly on wisdom. Oceanographers have a lot to add as well.

Thanks for listening.

Why would the concept of a "loving God" be in conflict with the findings of evolutionary biology? With the advent of genomics, evolution has been essentially proven beyond any reasonable doubt, but the results are also quite surprising -- standard neo-Darwinian evolution can't account for them.

See, for example, for interesting discussion.

(I personally hew to the Villarreal theory of virus-driven evolution -- "God" is a virus.)

If you believe and have faith in the sky fairy why would you expect an experiment to prove or deny what you like or don't?
By believing in your supernatural being or whatever, you automatically should forfeit the right of proof of anything.


Those sunspot theories are all bogus. Every one knows that.

The Maunder minimum cooling and the Dalton minimum cooling are just a bunch of made up stuff. Those solar guys are in the pay of the oil companies and just invented that stuff to keep the profits flowing while the earth burns.

And BTW the next solar cycle is late and the sun has no spots. Pay no attention to the falling sea temperatures. They mean nothing. It is just a temporary weather anomaly. And it will be predicted by the computer models as soon as we fix them.

And it will be predicted by the computer models as soon as we fix them.

Prediction is always so much more fun retrospectively! :-)

Ha Ha.

Dont knock the climate change Druids....(they get nasty now that they have a lucrative industry worth fighting for)

Most are only Geografy Graduates and Climate Science is the one and only chance they will ever have of creating a religion or getting a real job outside of teaching Geography to bored teenagers.

My Position:

Yes Global Warming can occur.

Yes Global Cooling can occur.

Yes Oscillations can occur over short time spans (see recorded history).

It has in the past and will do so again in the future

The single most important factor re climate on earth is the earth's spatial relationship great fiery orb in the blue yonder.

The second is the sun's output.

The third is continental drift, Mountain building , creation or destruction of Ithsmus - affecting oceanic currents and of course, size of continental masses and other geological phenomena such as carbonate deposition.

Sh!t happens.

And BTW the next solar cycle is late and the sun has no spots.

Don't let actual science confuse you.

The fact that the sun affects the Earth's climate is obvious and clear. The mangitude of that effect and how the Solar Cycle affects the climate is debatable. There is an interesting theory most recently propounded by a scientist by the name of Landscheidt that relates the timing and magnitude of the solar sun-spot cycle to the orbital movement of the Sun itself about the barycenter of the solar system and he has calculated it back to 3000 BC and forward to 3000 AD.

See the following link:

Many people may be surprised to learn that the Sun "wobbles" around in space quite a bit (this is the effect that allows most extra-solar planets to be detected, i.e. the movement of the star as affected by the larger planets in orbit about the star). The larger outer planets in our case (e.g. primarily Jupiter, Saturn) cause the sun to move around in space to generate a highly irregular "orbital path" of up to 2 solar diameters (3.0 million km). It is a verifiable and calculatable fact that the highly gaseous (plasma) surface of the Sun experiences significant changes in momentum (up to 40% from extremes of the Sun's orbit)depending upon whether the Sun is far from the Barycenter of the Solar System or close to it. This is the purported reason given by Landscheidt (and others) along with the interaction between the momentum of the surface of the Sun and the huge (and changing) magnetic field of the sun, for the effect on the Solar Cycle. e.g. high momentum provides a high magnetic field which causes a lot of solar activity and vice-versa.

All this explanation is to say that Landscheidt has used his momentum and solar position calculations to predict a Maunder type minimum in Solar activity in the next (or the one after that) solar cycle (we are currently at a minimum in the Solar cycle). The "delay" in the new cycle (although not yet large by historical variation standards) could be an indicator of this. In the past, weaker solar cycles (e.g. the beginning of the last century) have been associated with later solar cycles and (without proof yet)to a colder climate (e.g. the first 20 years of the 20th century). The purported climate connection is to Earth's cloud cover but this is still rather speculative. Note all of this is still very much in the individual scientist prediction stage. However, it would be an interesting coincidence if the 11-year solar cycle which is pretty close to the orbital period of the largest planet (Jupiter) has nothing to do with these orbital dynamics in the Sun's position (and surface momentum) in space as affected by Jupiter. Suggestive isn't it?? (at least to me)

So within the next 12-13 years we will see if Landscheidt is right and a Maunder-type minimum occurs in the Sun and the climate responds with a major cooling. Personally, I do fear that possibility and that Landscheidt is correct. If so, I actually hope that those who propound AGW are correct as well because CO2 MIGHT offset some of this (possible?) cooling. IMO, if we DO get another Little Ice Age (or worse a REAL ice-age), the effect on agriculture and the large human population would be very nasty indeed (probably much worse than a Global Warming). The last time around (in the 1600s) famines in Northern Europe were commonplace and the Thames, the Hudson and the Baltic Sea froze over during Winter (way too warm for that now), and storm activity in the Atlantic was much worse (greater temperature difference between the Equator and the Pole). E.g. several Spanish Armadas were wrecked by major storms in the English Channel during this period. If we get a Little Ice Age in 2015-2025, AND we have Peak Oil (or worse Peak Energy) at the same time, the Human Race will be in for a very rough time. We might look back on the Global Warming debate period as the "Good Old Days".

So I hope that all these predictions are incorrect. I fear that they are not. Thought I would send along this perspective which seems to be different from the other contributions here but don't want to be a fear monger.

The Landscheidt theory is amusingly dismantled here:

Fun with correlations!

I was amused to read this type of "correlation" (Republicans in the Senate correlated to Sunspots!!). We all need a good laugh in these trying times. However, the article says nothing about Landscheidt, solar dynamics or questions his correlation methodology. So, unfortunately, this does not provide any sort of help in understanding what is going on with respect to Solar cycles. I know that people have been using Sunspots to correlate with many things for hundreds of years and have come up with innumerable theories over that time, most of which have later been shown to be ridiculous. However, the motions of the Sun about the barycenter of the solar system is not a theory, it is very observable and the same effect has been repeatedly observed for 100s of other star systems when correlated to the motion of other stars' planets (extra-solar planet hunting). It is also true and measurable that the momentum of the solar surface (very low density) plasma of the Sun changes depending on the distance from the Barycenter. It would be very difficult for me to believe that this would have NO EFFECT on the energy imparted to the magnetic field of the Sun, which is after all, a product of the MOTION of that highly charged surface plasma. So there is a reasonable mechanism for the correlation of the Sun's motion to the solar cycle and it is strange that the length of the Sunspot cycle is within 5% the same as the orbital period of Jupiter (the largest planet). It would be strange if the Sunspot cycle length of ~11 years were NOT affected by the ~11 year orbital period of Jupiter.

I just hope that despite all this, Landscheidt is WRONG for the next 5-15 years and Peak Energy does not coincide with a Little Ice Age or a Real Ice Age and/or that AGW overwhelms the "signal" from the Milankovitch cycles as some AGW advocates suggest. I am just skeptical about the "strength" of CO2-induced warming to counter-act the Sun's influence (I believe that CO2's absorption is already saturated, i.e. all of the IR that could be absorbed at 8um is already being absorbed by the existing concentration of CO2, and for other reasons). I would MUCH rather have lots of readily accessible energy to get through any of these possible scenarios. However, that is what PO is most likely to curtail in the next 5-15 years. Very worrisome, but then I like to worry.

Landscheidt is mentioned in passing:

We therefore propose that the 'Ronald Reagan second term phase shift' combined with the change of sign of the Hale solar magnetic cycle in 1986, obviously changed the dynamics. This kind of phase shift is frequently seen in solar studies (cf. Landscheidt and many others), where it is rarely taken as a sign that two time series with decadal spectral power are in fact completely independent.

I´m skeptic too about the importance of CO2 for climate changing, if it exists. Many geologists would like to introduce some more factors in modellings (carbonate platforms, cloudiness, life absorption of CO2). There are many feed backs that are not considered. In some other threads of this site for example about single models of predator-prey, people introduce inmmediately a los of factors that change the model and turn it into a chaotic one. Probably earth climate is something like that. I could work in hydrogeology modelling and with much more single modells you could obtain almost anything changing parameters not well determined, so... "garbage in, garbage out". Apart of it, even the regular position of planets is probably determined by solar waves (sun sismology).

Climate science accounts for more feedbacks than you think. If you'd like to learn about climate science, I suggest the Start Here page at RealClimate:

When you do, I'm sure you'll have a new respect for climate science and climate scientists.

I'm sorry. I know Climate Modelling is a hard and good work and will not be prescindable and I have a really great respect to people who makes it. But we are probably at the beginnings of those techniques, and by the moment there is not a possibility for experiments and climate data are in big controversy. Probably geologists have good intuitions and have observed many changes, many feedbacks, many re-equilibriums in past history. And it's well known the difficulties for modelling very complex systems, we can just think about methabolysm or enzymes in a human body, for example. I don't think anybody would take a medicin that is only modelled on a "body model" and not properly tested. Anyway, and by the moment, I think it's more a discussion on beliefs.

And thanks by your suggestions.

To understand why solar forcing is ruled out, please see Changing Sun, Changing Climate?.

From your article (last para).

>>''17th-century Maunder Minimum, the effect would be offset by only two decades of accumulation of greenhouse gases. As one expert explained, the Little Ice Age "was a mere 'blip' compared with expected future climatic change."<<

So, 'man made' global warming is GOOD news. It stops us from freezing our bollix off in a return to the Ice Age and the subsequent mass faunal extinction.

I can see the headlines now:

Human Race saves planet from a new Ice Age!

We have only been collecting real data in the 20th Century, and we have already had:


- 1970's.

Then we got:


- 1990's.

You climate trolls have been at it for 50 years now. It is time you all settled down and stopped freakin everybody out with your scare stories.

You want a scare story?

6.5 billion people fighting over oil, water and arable land.

Not on some highly manipulated computer model, but in real time.

TOD used to be about Oil and Energy.

Climate Trolls make this site less useful by the day.

Your conclusion about human carbon emissions is essentially correct: the new anthropogenic forcing is averting the ice age that would have arrived (slowly) according to Milankovitch.

However, it's not correct to conclude that rapid warming has salutary effects; ecosystems are under enormous and increasing stress as the climate changes. The rates of change in atmospheric and ocean chemistry are perhaps greater than at any time in the planet's history, including catastrophic events like the Permian-Triassic extinction and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

It is not the case that '70s "climate trolls" predicted a new ice age. For discussion, see The global cooling mole. What happened is that in 1976, climate scientists (Hays, Imbrie, and Shackleton) were finally able to show that Milankovitch correctly accounted for the ice ages. The prediction was not of an imminent ice age, but without intervention, the Holocene interglacial would have ended naturally with an ice age.

Instead, human carbon emissions have overwhelmed the Milankovitch signal, so a hothouse climate looks to be the more likely scenario.

Here is a link to a history of the science of global warming. It is written by Spencer R. Weart. The first sentence of his bio. from the AIP web site:

Weart is Director of the Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) in College Park, Maryland, USA.

The history is written as hyperlinked text and is best read on-line. IMHO, anyone who hopes to make a contribution to issue of warming vs. cooling should be familiar with the bulk of the twists and turns of history as recorded in this document.

There is a great deal of information on the web site that supports the idea that this history is authoritative and should be given great weight if you are trying to understand the science of climate, and some of the history of the politics of science.


Links to supporting material:

Read it. It is fascinating.

Differing opinions make society interesting IMO.

There's the problem with "common sense".

Many propositions sound "fair" and democratic and yet they are idiotic when examined close up and with attention to additional factors.

Firstly, you should agree that the human brain has limited bandwidth. There is only so much information that you can process in a day.

Given that, if your brain is exposed to nonsense debates on a 24/7 basis, it will never make any forward progress despite the diversity of topics you allow it to be exposed to.

So, by way of example, if you allow your brain to be democratically swamped with diversity of opinions about:
1) How often Britney Spears flosses her teeth,
2) Which tastes better, Coke or Pepsi,
3) Which governs better, Democrat or Republican,
4) _______ (you get the picture)

When will you brain of finite and limited bandwidth get to deal with bigger issues like:
a) Peak Oil
b) Global warming
c) Over population
d) Black Swan thingy that we aren't even aware of but will overshadow all of the above?

Differing opinions are always good?
Sounds fair.
But can't be true.

"Differing opinions are always good?
Sounds fair.
But can't be true."

If you care about humanity you have a choice; do you despair at the mistakes, the wars, the false beleifs. Are you outraged at all illogical and self destructive behavior?

I prefer to laugh at human folly. Hope for good leaders ( I would be a bad leader because I am honest and easilly annoyed by stupidity ) I cherish differing oppinions because they can reinforce my correct oppinions if IMO my oppinions are better...but more important an oppinion that is BETTER and more truthfull than mine will change my worldview if I consider it with an open mind. I really try to be skeptical of all unfounded oppinions INCLUDING my own. I seek truth.

"The general community of geologists do not have a clue about peak oil."

Doesn't surprise me since much of what we can predict about peak oil comes about from pure statistical considerations, and since when would other geologists be impressed with someone who could dismiss all the arcane study that goes into pure geology, and subvert it with probability & statistics?


"Then I concluded that it is the geologists, used to studying constant climate change over very long time periods of Earth's history, who think that basically the climate of the earth is always changing due to various forcings, and what's the big deal now?"

Again, they have little clue about applied math and typical time scales on which processes happen. All they really have to do is sit back and think in terms of "long" on a human time scale versus long on a geological time scale. They have blinders on for something out of their narrow field of view.

In industry, geologists are so used to knee-jerk opposition to environmentalists, that politically motivated opposition to AGW is the norm. In my experience, few (mining)industry geologists have actually read a cross-section of the important papers AGW of the last 10-15 years. Instead they are getting their scientific opinions from their politics, or so it seems to me.

Doesn't surprise me since much of what we can predict about peak oil comes about from pure statistical considerations, and since when would other geologists be impressed with someone who could dismiss all the arcane study that goes into pure geology, and subvert it with probability & statistics?

I don't think that is necessarily true. In mineral exploration geology, we use a lot of statistics. We end up with huge data sets (r=10,000+) and multiple values for each r(60+ elements) as well as overlapping geophysical, geomorphology and surface geological data. I think it is more a case of using different parts of the brain.

In The Black Swan, Taleb describes statistics professors making freshman mistakes about statistic when the are outside of the classroom setting. Taleb suggests that they are not using the analytical parts of their brains.

I suspect that if you hired some of these dissenting industry geologists and requested that they research and report their findings about AGW, including a discussion of the major pertinent research, that you would see a significant fraction of them issue a balanced report, and some of them would adjust their considered opinions to be in favor of AGW. Most of the rest would at least acknowledge the legitimate scientific debate.

As far as Peak Oil goes, very few mining industry geologist doubt that the amount of oil available is finite, but most have not considered how much there really is and what the production profile might look like.

We have domain specific brains, as opposed to domain general. Taleb also gives the example of dozens of people standing on the escalators holding gym bags on their way to the health club, where most of them will get on stairmasters!

The brain sciences now have books on the bestseller list every month -its almost impossible to keep up - but there (in my opinion) is where the special sauce lies in addressing the problems relating to overshoot.

Yeah...I loved that example. I think you are right about the "special sauce". This whole issue(resource depletion/overshoot) looks more and more like a cognitive disorder in H. sapiens.

I remember talking to a colleague who is an ultra-marathoner and Death Valley finisher who never took the stairs if he had options. He said he would start to sweat to easily and didn't want to pick up body odors, so took the elevator whenever possible. Remember, health clubs are also pick-up joints. So much for that example of cognitive disorder from Taleb ....

I am not sure I understand your post WebHubbleTelescope.

Are you arguing that human brains are not domain-specific? Or are you saying that H. sapiens' inability to recognize and resolve overshoot is not a result of cognitive dissonance?

Taleb does not refer to cognitive disorder...that was me; Taleb talks about the human brain being demonstrable domain-specific.

I am not sure I understand your response. I just replied that very physically fit people will take the elevator for reasons that are not the most obvious. It is basically a small Black Swan moment turned back on Taleb himself! Gotcha on Taleb for not giving a very good example.

Did you, by any chance, read The Black Swan?

I blogged about it almost a year ago:

I'm still not sure why you jumped over my questioning of why health club members' might like to take the elevator. This was raised early in this message thread. Did you actually read the thread?

I find this "compartmentalization" all the time in discussions with people about peak oil, climate change and how we should invest the capital we have.

Someone can be absolutely fantastic about getting off of fossil fuels when you bring it up in the right context, e.g., a City's position and goals on co2 emissions.

Next item on the agenda, however, has them just as vehemently promoting the status quo of changing land use to cover up farm or wetland with roads, schools, houses, retail, etc.

Pointing out the cognitive dissonance can get you some chuckles with friends over beer, but doesn't tend to get one a lot of love in the moment.

We have domain specific brains, as opposed to domain general

That's an interesting observation, and a topic that I find fascinating.

Over on the Dot Earth blog the other day someone asked a couple questions that basically boiled down to "why are people so short sighted?" I answered with a few points that I've picked up in my readings on overshoot, and while it didn't occur to me at the time, I can see now that they were all more or less along the lines of "that's the way our brains work."

The thing I find most interesting is the fact that the non-linear behavior and feedback delays intrinsic to complex systems is often highly counter intuitive, thus rendering our usual problem solving talents ineffective, if not downright disastrous.

The brain sciences now have books on the bestseller list every month -its almost impossible to keep up - but there (in my opinion) is where the special sauce lies in addressing the problems relating to overshoot.

Can you recommend some titles with especially special sauce?


Hi Jerry,

Maybe Nate can recommend books on brain function.

I will recommend The Black Swan, by Nicholas Nasim Taleb. It is erudite, fascinating and funny; he touches on a number of brain function-related topics which help explain why we are the way we are. Mostly, though, it is a book about how we misunderstand rare events and how important those events are.

You are into an interesting area of psychology. I read a term '5 year old syndrome' years ago that described the phenomena of an expert in a field commenting on another area. Their comments were the equal of a 5 year old. Few people, even an expert in a particular field, can switch their mind to another area and apply their cognitive and analytic skills effectively.

This comes from the 'dual brain' thoery, from cognitive psychology, that we approach things 2 ways, thoughful, using logic and analysis (which basically has to trained, it is not very natural) or instinctively, where the decision is made and the, laggardly, frontal lobes catch up and rationalise the decision.

The 'zombie' theory goes further, in that all decisions and thought are made this way and there is only an illusion of analysis or even being. That probably goes too far and the 'dual brain' theory seems more .. well logical.

But this explains why so many experts in a field flounder in another. In their field they use Brain (1), and apply analysis, logic, etc. Faced with something out of that area they switch to the normal Brain (2), instinctive, then rationalise (ie tell a story) to justify their position. In that they are not better or worse than an average 'Joe Soap'.

Note also Geology does have a bit of a chequered history in not accepting new ideas .. how long did it take to them to accept plate tectonics (especially the US geologists)? Possibly the domination by industry?

I once worked with guy, Professor in Statistics no less, who was a complete moron outside his area, which wasn't even all of statistics, just a tiny little subset. Outside of that area his statistical knowledge was actually incredibly weak.

That's why unless you are a real genius, e.g. a Feynman, you need a team of different skills and a good skeptical approach.

>>''Note also Geology does have a bit of a chequered history in not accepting new ideas .. how long did it take to them to accept plate tectonics (especially the US geologists)? Possibly the domination by industry?''<<


Wegener proposed it. And a soon as an underlying mechanism was worked out and strong indicators discovered (fossil remains, paleomagnetic core samples etc), Contintal Drift morphed in to Plate Tectonics.

Learning curve: 1919 to 1965.

The difficult bit was visualising an underlying mechanism (convection cells) and then getting adequate amounts of circumstantial evidence such as fossil records, paleomagnetism and radioactive decay from granites split across continents.

It really doesnt surprise me that Geologists are regarded as heretical AGW 'Deniers'. We got billions of years of stuff to analyse.

Not some chicken-licken computer models.

You see, we Geologists know all about climate change. We just dont get the Man Made , self flagellation mantra.

Still: If you kill one god and a hellfire myth , I suppose you need another myth to enable flagellation.

I think it's even more complicated than that. I recommend
Naomi Oreskes' "The Rejection of Continental Drift - Theory and Method in American Earth Science", as Wegener's hypothesis was fairly firmly rejected in the US, but had more support In Europe.

I.e., this is a good example of a real, long-running scientific controversy (as opposed to a non-science controversy). Naomi is more well-known for her 2004 essay in Science about the consensus on AGW.

Funny, within climatology there are the computer modelers and the empiricists and the paleoclimatologists...etc. Each has a role. Geologists might find more kinship with the paleos and guess what! The paleoclimate interpretations are the scariest of all. That's how it is being inferred that the models are too conservative and that ice sheets disintegrate quickly (not a slow melt) and that the change happening is 100-1000 times faster than during typical ice age to interglacial transitions, etc.


I think your opposition to AGW would be more convincing if you would avoid hyperbole and ad hominem and just stick to scientific arguments and data.

For instance:

Not some chicken-licken computer models

I'm pretty sure no actual chicken licking is going on in the various climate models. So instead of impugning the climate model's nonexistent culinary preferences/sexual perversions, why don't you dissect functional problems. Surely you have specific concerns about the way the model(s) deal with various atmospheric factors.

There is more than just models at work here, there is also an expanding body of observational data; why don't you refute the actual data.

No one should attack your character and motives because you have an honest disagreement on a matter of science. Likewise, you should avoid this as well.

I think that the solution is for geologists to present peer-reviewed articles contesting the AGW hypothesis...that is how we do science. I mean, if I disagree with the structural interpretation of a particular sedimentary basin, I don't call the author of the paper with which I disagree a "troll". I do the field work, interpret the geophysics, log the drill holes and then I write the paper which validates my interpretation.

Don't just bitch about it; show me the science. Frankly, I am interested in reading that paper. Just write it up like a keypost on TOD. I am willing to bet many people, pro and con AGW would read it with interest.


"Chicken Licken" is AFAIK the british name for "Chicken Little", of "The sky is falling" fame. So I'd say that, at the worst, we are in presence of an "ad pullinem" rather than an "ad hominem".

But hey, as Oscar Wilde said, "America and England are two nations divided by a common language".


ad pullinem - LOL! When I am in the field, my brother has to take care of all the foul and he has developed an unhealthy antipathy towards chickens. I am going to "trot out" ad pullinem next time he declaims about the chickens.

Thank You.

Frankly, two thirds of the responses in this item are:

''Why dont the Geologists get AGW and PO'' and a smattering of cod-psychological analysis about the members of an entire scientific discipline, many of who do not accept AGW, but wholeheartedly subscribe to GW as a matter of fact.

Not all geologists are involved in the mineral /hydrocarbon extraction business. Many are involved in areas of research and work that take them no where near oil, peak oil, Hubbert or any other aspect of extraction and Hubbert curves. However, there is not a serious geologist on the planet who who does not accept the concept of finite resources. Just timing. And that will change as evidence comes in to support it.

What I find personally irritating is the general assumption that extractive industry geologists have stopped thinking the minute they work for money, Or, that PO denial is somehow written into their contracts of employment by evil oil companies.

Whoever makes that broad generalisation really should get out more.

The holier-than-though assumptions of the 'pure and enlightened of the one true faith' of AGW is increasingly sickening.

I saw a statement above:

AGW deniers = Abiotic oil advocates = creationists.

What a wholly stupid, crass, patently untrue statement from a person who considers him/herself a scientist.

But look at the key word in that wholly illogical statement:


Useful word that, Denier. It automatically labels an individual or group of individuals as psychologically suspect, deviant, criminal.

By using the word Denier, the AGW proponents wish to supress any contrary opinion, quickly, with ease.

This tactic has been exceptionally successful when used by the Left.

There is (for example) a great debate on immigration in the UK. However the debate was successfully shut down for about two decades by this simple equation:

Opposition to further immigration = Racism.

So, if you want to a) batter opposition into submission (or at least silence) and b) move on to funding and c) get the ear of governments, then if you can shut down your opponent with a label of deviancy then all is good in the world.

Nice and handy: Denial has negative overtones from the world of Shrinks and trick-cyclists...

So, carry on 'believing' that all extractive geologists are deviant.

Carry on 'believing' that all geologists who subscribe to AGW are on the side of light.

Just spare us the cod-psychology and generalisations about brain theory used to denigrate a whole discipline of scientists.

And as for the other crass, generalised assumption that Geologists cannot handle PO or AGW/GW because they are not mathematically inclined, you may want to check out the preferred entry level requirements for Earth Sciences in the Russell Group of Universities: A/B scores in at least two of Phys, Math, Chem. All three gets you in the game.

Carry on 'believing' - You never know, you might get to heaven.

Just spare us the cod-psychology and generalisations about brain theory used to denigrate a whole discipline of scientists.

Agreed, as long as you agree not to denigrate the whole discipline of climate scientists as "climate trolls."

Because you're mathematically inclined, I'll also recommend the excellent new book by Ray Pierrehumbert, Principles of Planetary Climate, which you can read in draft form online:

Principles of Planetary Climate (free!)

Once you've read this, I'm sure you'll have a much different opinion on the results of climate science.

When Climate Scientists ditch the hysterical emotionalists associated with the green movement and start to come up with some serious evidence (This is the third August in a row where I am sat typing in a sweater), then I may just take you up on it.

When your pal Pierrehumbert can charge for his work, I may be inlined to read it.

Any jerk can publish for free.

The book is under contract to be published by Cambridge University Press.

Will you at least read the first chapter? It's quite accessible and well written. You won't need thermo, multivariate calculus, or partial differential equations until the later chapters on radiation balance and radiative transfer. There's no "hysterical emotionalism," I promise. What's really neat is seeing the same physical principles work for exotic planets, like Venus and Titan, as well as for paleoclimate on Earth.

I think you'll have a much greater respect for climate science if you give it a chance: Principles of Planetary Climate.

As someone working in the general area of climate science I won't dispute that there is an element of "hysterical emotionalists associated with the green movement," but please don't assume that there are any more than a handful of scientists who have invited them along for the ride. The vast majority of us have our heads down, doing our best to produce good science and steering as clear of the public media as humanly possible.

Yes, there are plenty of loons in the environmental movement and yes they have latched onto some of the published outputs of climate science in the same way that the survivalist movement have latched onto peak oil as their next great excuse for arming themselves to the teeth and heading for the hills. I personally disagree with a great many of the core values apparently held by environmentalists and would also say a great many of them don't seem particularly smart. But what you appear to be saying is that because so many environmentalists seem to be fervently hoping that AGW is a reality, we should declare that all scientific endeavour that supports the notion of AGW is flawed.

Aside from the rather emotional "stupid greenies believe AGW is correct, therefore AGW is incorrect" argument, I'm having trouble understanding what your position on AGW is, given you clearly accept some considerable portion of published paleoclimate science. Are you saying that currently accepted CO2 forcing factors are grossly overstated and that an instantaneous doubling of atmospheric CO2 is therefore incapable of having any significant impact on global climate? Or are you saying that the earth's climate undergoes so much natural change that a few degrees average warming over a period of decades is not significant and will get lost in the noise? Or is there some other scientific objection that you are able to articulate in simple terms?

Echoing WebHubble, what a lot of earth scientists don't seem to appreciate is that human life and especially modern human life is very sensitive to climate change. Sure, they can appreciate that there have been past swings in climate to extremes much larger than even those predicted, but again, they fail to see that the present human condition is very fragile and dependent upon "just so" conditions. Add a growing population to this mix and I fail to see the wonder that the entire human-dominated ecosystem could rapidly collapse. What I'm picking up is the really bad stuff, if it occurs, will happen "over there", and not (we hope) over here.

My opninion is most scientists and educators, university administrators are at best "conflicted" on the topic of Peak Oil. I'm more vocal than most in my little corner of the world becase I teach about natural resources and my personality is such that I seek out controversy, or at least do not run from it. The majority of my colleagues seem to be in a state of official denial, including our school's dean, whom it is said understands the problem but is nevertheless going with the flow of events. To some extent we all are, but it seems proper to continue to inform as many as is possible within your personal time-employment constraints.

How about politicians? Barbara Boxer (Senator from California) is coming to my company and there will be a Q&A session. I'm thinking about asking her thoughts on Peak Oil theory. One of the Maine Senators recently spoke to Matt Simmons about Peak Oil, and then showed up at his house to continue the conversation, so I wonder if the word is spreading in Congress. You'd never know it from the current political campaign.

The Golden Zone sounds a lot like the "oil window" that petroleum geologists have known about for years.

The problem is that the "Silver Zone" is more expensive and when we get to the "Bronze Zone" there are a crapload more environmental externalities...;-)

Indeed, that's what the Golden Zone really represents.
On the possible shallow presence of hydrocarbons, Prof Charles Hall wondered why they "did not hit oil on the way down". This comments really shows that Prof Hall has little or no knowledge of petroleum geology. In my 30 years experience in this field I rarely saw a hydrocarbon trapping configuration (closed structure and seal/reservoir pairs) that existed at a depth of 4000m and at the same time in younger strata at a much shallower depth of, say, 1000m. It does occur at times when surface mapping (exploration in the old days) reveals a hydrocarbon traps at depth, however, it normally does not normally extend to very deep strata. Having said that, in very rich hydrocarbon provinces (like Oman) later deep drilling did find gas underlying shallow oil finds. However, the structural configuration of the deeper traps had no relationship to the geometry of the shallower structures. So if you find two stacked hydrocarbon accumulations at vastly different depths it is normally a matter of coincidence.

Geologists seem to have strong belief that depleting resources can always be replaced by either new discoveries, new extraction methods (example: chemical mining) or by substitution (example: aluminium for copper). Therefore there is no need for depletion protocols, strategic reserves or compulsory recycling. That optimism seems to have been justified in recent years. However I suggest what is really going on is a second pick of the low hanging fruit. Either there will not be enough left for future generations or the costs will be prohibitive.
Today's example: oil.
Tomorrow's example: lithium.

The other major blind spot seems to be the connection between metals or hard rock mining and fossil fuel. The mining industry needs huge amounts of diesel and explosive. Metal smelting needs cheap coke or cheap electricity. As hydro is maxed out and nuclear fails to grow it could be that metal production declines in lockstep with fossil fuel decline. This doesn't seem to be on the radar of the metals fraternity.

I'm not too sure that the lithium production will be inadequate, and by that I mean exactly that, that there are conflicting opinions:

One major point is that the lithium is not burnt and used as oil is, but is recyclable, so it acts as more of a transmission medium than an exhaustible resource, and even Tahil feels that zinc and other resources can be effective substitutes anyway.

Your other comment that nuclear is failing to grow is perhaps orientated to the US and Australia - it is growing substantially elsewhere, and in some places there are massive expansion plans.
You are wholly correct though that the future location of smelters is now being determined by which countries are being serious about using all their energy resources, including nuclear.

Here's an up-to-the-minute example of a smelter siting decision. Electrolytic zinc refiner Nyrstar is relocating operations from South Australia to Tasmania. The reason? I strongly suspect it is partly due to cheap coal fired electricity coming via an underwater HVDC cable. The cable was intended to export hydro power but since 2006 has been increasingly used to import cheap coal power.. out of sight out of mind as they say. People see the jobs and the industry and but don't care to ask hard questions about where the energy came from.

More lithium madness; there is only about 14 million tons of lithium.

Lithium ion batteries have an energy density of .54-.72 MJ per kilogram.

The total storage capacity of the whole world's supply of lithium is quite small.

Using .72 x 14 billion kg = 10 billion MJ or 2.7 billion kwh.
This is equal to 1.7 million barrels of oil or 400 thousand tons of bituminous coal.

The pumped storage capacity of the US (19.5 GW connected) is 6.5 billion kwh. It represents only 2.5% of US baseload electric capacity. For comparison, US wind capacity as of today is 17 GW.

There's a lot more nickle (for nickle hydride batteries)~150 million tons but the energy density is lower, around .22 MJ/kg.

Batteries cannot possibly 'save us' IMO.

I do pay a lot of attention to not having enough lead, nickel, lithium (which presently uses cobalt) etc, for transportation energy storage.
But we can also use sodium sulfur batteries for windmill and solar photovoltaic overnight storage, and we aren't short of sodium and sulfur, two of the most common and easily accessible elements on earth.

I dunno. Liquid Sodium-sulfur batteries need to be maintained at about 600 degrees to work.

(Your transport would be a hot-rod, correct?)

By 600 degrees, you must mean kelvin degrees :-), since it operates at around 350 centigrades. That is far from red hot.

There are other batteries out there as well. The think city electric car can optionally be delivered with lithium batteries or with a zebra battery, that is a molten salt battery based on sodium, zeolite and nickel, which also operates at 270-350 centigrades. While lithium is currently the most mature and convenient alternative, it is not the only one, and the molten salt technologies like zebra and sodium sulfur are not using any rare elements.

Sorry, 350 centrigrade=622 degrees Fahrenheit.
I think that is really hot!
Steel starts to weaken at 650 degrees F.
If my car engine had to continuously maintain 600 degrees in order to operate I'd be worried.

Besides it's 'Hot-rod', not 'Hot-rot'. ;-)

On the other hand, if you only knew about electric cars, and then someone told you about an engine that work by having small explosions inside it, you would probably think they were mad. Yet that is the present day technology.

The battery in question is delivered in a car (Think city) that is in sale commercially now. It is insulated and require a power supply, or drain the batteries with about 100W when not in use to maintain the temperature of the batteries. If the batteries fall down to ambient temperatures, it is not destroyed, but it obviously takes some time before you can start the car again. The Zebra battery is an option for those who use the car a lot or in a very cold environment. The car is Norwegian, and many places the temperature fall below -30 centigrades in the winter, which lithium batteries can't handle.

They would be hot to put your hand on, but just insulate them and keep them warm and they work just fine. Material science knows lots of things that can contain 600 degree liquids like that. Stainless steel for example...

There are a lot of battery alternatives out there - the zinc solution is rumoured to be what Toyota are working on to eventually replace lithium in the 2020 framework, and we aren't going to run out of lithium before then:
Zebra batteries also look pretty useful

TOD's very own Cowan has also written very interestingly on the use of boron:

It is also possible that aluminium could be used, although it's tendency to 'skin over' presents difficulties.

I still think boron is better but about 18 months ago I was asked to write a paper and the approach I chose was to show how, when you start by asking for strong ignition resistance, everything else follows. But that meant aluminum had to be discussed.

Its corundum skin is no match for 25-psi (1.7-bar) oxygen, just eight times more oxygen pressure than we need to breathe, so it can burn in a large excess of purified compressed oxygen, and heat to an adequately high temperature the oxygen it doesn't consume, just like boron.

But then you have loads of corundum dust. Space shuttle SRBs deal with that by being used only once (you may have heard they are reused, but I know of no evidence this was attempted for any shuttle flight except Challenger's last), a service lifetime of minutes.

It seemed to me corundum dust could be handled if it were suspended in liquid aluminum. The motor would haul in enough Al pellets to go on with, melt them, and inject compressed oxygen at some depth beneath the surface. It ends up being a little more complex than the similar use of boron -- you need a heat exchanger dunked in the Al(l), and the Al(l) has to go somewhere else if a prolonged shutdown is going to let it freeze, it can't stay around the HX -- but interesting. So both boron and Al options made it to the end of the paper. It was published July 11th, and I put it on my own web space, as I am allowed to do, on August 12th. Discuss it amongst yourselves and come to agreement on its ten worst flaws.

--- G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996

Lithium ion batteries may have an energy density of .54-.72 MJ per kilogram but are not pure lithium. You need to factor in the percentage of lithium in a lithium ion battery.

Fair enough.

ampere-hours x # of cells x .3= lithium content in grams

I found this formula for determining the amount of lithium in a lithium battery(this is necessary because lithium is considered a hazardous waste).

If I put all the lithium in the world into a 36 volt-10 cell battery
I would get 14 trillion grams /(10 cells x .3)=467 billion amp hours, multiply by 36 volts and get 16.8 trillion watt hours or 16.8 billion kilowatt hours( I calculated 2.7 billion before).

This is equal to energy in 10.5 million barrels of oil or 2.5 million tons of bituminous coal.

The pumped storage capacity of the US (19.5 GW connected) is 6.5 billion kwh. It represents only 2.5% of US baseload electric capacity.
Therefore this is equal to about 6.46% of US baseload capacity(16.8/6.5 x 2.5%). It's still just a tiny percentage of electricity storage.

In terms of transportation the US uses 18 quads of gasoline per year,which is equal to 14.8 billion kwh of energy(storage) per day.

Using Ulf Bossel's calculations, that 14.8 billion kwh of chemical storage for IC vehicles is equal to 5 billion kwh of battery storage(14.8 x 30/88) which represents ~30% of all the world's lithium USGS resource of 16.8 Twh--just to drive personal electric cars only in the US with a daily fill of grid electricity). A 50 kwh battery in a two seat Tesla will get you 225 miles a day. World lithium reserves could support a world of 336 million Tesla cars.,1,Slide 1

The amount of possible energy storage in Li-ion batteries (and really all batteries) appears to be quite small(16.8 Twh) compared to what is stored in fossil fuels or could be stored as hydrogen gas.

The price of lithium metal is high, about +$500,000 per ton so the prices of 14 million tons would be over 7 trillion dollars.

I'm not quite sure how you get from comments about lithium supplies to a generality that 'all batteries' have minor storage capacity compared to needs.

If you check out the links I have already supplied then it is clear that zinc could provide amply storage with very little of it's annual production.

A second level of confusion is that you compare fossil fuel burn which uses up the supply with the very different issue of providing a storage medium.

You are also here talking about the energy provided by petroleum for transport without taking any account of the fact that the energy is used far more efficiently in electric vehicles

Batteries cannot possibly 'save us' IMO.

For transportation however, there is no particular need for batteries. Most journeys are between well established locations.


Geologists seem to have strong belief that depleting resources can always be replaced by either new discoveries, new extraction methods (example: chemical mining) or by substitution (example: aluminium for copper).

Well, as a geologist exploring in a "maturing region" I think reality trumps "strong belief". When I started in gold exploration, mineable deposits had to be cyanide-leachable, i.e. oxide, and within 300 feet of the surface.

Now we look for anything, at whatever depth the drill rig can reach. It's not that we wouldn't want to find shallow oxide gold deposits, it just seems that they are very rare these days. This fact has not escaped my peers in the industry.

I think that geologists are not a uniform group, and many are aware of the fact that deposits are getting harder to find and lower grade. Whether most geologists understand the role energy plays in substituting for higher grades, well probably not too many, but then that's not really their job. Is it a blind spot particular to geologists or something pervasive in the culture at large?

Boy Boof...have you been hanging around with the wrong geologists. There are essentially two families of geologists out there: the resource development geologists and the academic geologists. And there is very little, if any, overlap between the two groups. And I’m not knocking the academic types. There are two big geo organizations in the US: the Am. Assoc. of Petroleum Geologist and the Geologic Society of America. I doubt more than a few percent of the geologists in this country belong to both groups. Very few universities emphasize petroleum/mining geology. As far as a “geologist not understanding resource depletion” you have definitely been listening to the wrong group. The oil patch has been keenly aware of PO long before the first public discussion of the subject. We never have nor ever will call it “PO”. For us it has always been the “reserve replacement problem.” I’ve been a petroleum geologist for 33 years and over the last 20 years most of my efforts have focused on dealing with the RR issue. Again, I don’t want this to sound like too much of a knock on academic geologists but the majority of them don’t understand much more about the oil patch then most regular folks. They work in a world with little contact with petroleum geology concepts. In my 6 years of college I took only 3 or 4 courses directly related to petroleum geology and this was at universities well connected to the oil patch.

It does seem that geologists are more accepting of the peak oil argument than the engineers, e.g., Deffeyes versus Ecnonomides, which is a little ironic since geologists tend to be more optimistic about specific fields than do engineers.

It's easy to explain WT. Exploration geologists are schizophrenic. On the one hand, they struggle to find a new prospect…an ever increasing difficult task. On the other hand, they then have to convince someone, utilizing a great deal of enthusiasm and optimism, that their prospect has great potential in order to get them to write the check to drill it. And then, if they are lucky and make a discovery, they’re off chasing the next prospect. At this point they leave it to the development geologists and reservoir engineers to drill up those reserves they think they’ve just found. Of course, often we development drilling types don’t find all those reserves because they never existed. But what the hell do the exploration guys care: they’ve already sucked up all the glory and have moved on. As a life long development geologist/reservoir engineer I hate exploration geologists. I’d shoot every one of them if I weren’t dependent upon them for my next project. (wink)

When I started in gold exploration, mineable deposits had to be cyanide-leachable, i.e. oxide, ...

Oxide? I had thought gold and oxygen did not combine in nature.

I could believe cyanide would leave gold telluride or selenide minerals alone, but the metal, it should take. Otherwise what good would it be.

--- G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996

I once did some reading on the history of economic thought but the way understand it is as follows....

Economics developed originally in the context of limits and economists understood that the classic factors of production (land, labor and capital) are finite.

But then the industrial revolution came about and coal and oil were there to power it. This led to such cheap "land" (i.e., natural capital) that it's contribution as an explanatory factor in the growth process was eventually overlooked. There is a philosophy in developing models that simpler is better, i.e., parsimony, so it made sense to ignore inexpensive, non-limiting factors.

I think at some point during the late 20th century politicians began to realize this was bogus, but there were many politically savvy ways to hide resource driven wars behind ideological rhetoric, and the now disconnected from reality academic economists just dismissed limits to growth arguments.

Mining doesn't use very much energy, even in Australia where mining is a big part of our industry it only accounts for 10% of industry CO2e, making steel is another 4% and refining non-ferrous ( mainly aluminium) is another 10% of industry use. Compare the several hundred million tonnes dug and transported by very efficient rail for export each YEAR with the >20Million tonnes of cars and light trucks driving around Australia's cities each DAY, using 7 liters petroleum /tonne/100Km.
To recover low grade ores such as copper, or nickel from laterite ores, the cost and availability of suphur for sulpuric acid is much more significant. The other factor for remote mining sites is the need for diesel and the cost of transporting from refineries, which is still more than the original cost.
The low hanging fruit is still those single passenger SUV's driving to pick up a bottle of milk or a newspaper.

No argument that rail is efficient. Near home they also pump magnetite slurry 85km by pipeline then pelletise it with clay. That iron ore and pellet is then shipped efficiently to Japan, South Korea, China, India and Europe where it joins up with coking coal from Newcastle, Australia. Aussie coal meets Aussie iron ore courtesy of the dating service supplied by international trade. As far as I'm concerned that makes Australia responsible for huge offshore CO2 emissions.

I suspect in the next 5 years both Australia and the US will 'help out' with Asia's looming coal shortage. So much for carbon cuts.

I suspect in the next 5 years both Australia and the US will 'help out' with Asia's looming coal shortage.

We may see some sort of abrupt climate change when the Arctic summer sea ice is gone by then.

Causes of Changes in Arctic Sea Ice; by Wieslaw Maslowski (Naval Postgraduate School)

That will physically force governments to take drastic action. These new coal terminals along the Australian East coast will become black elephants, total write-offs.

And this has hardly been discussed in TOD:

Analyst warns of looming global climate wars

The prospect of global wars driven by climate change is not something often discussed publicly by our political leaders.

But according to one of America's top military analysts, governments in the US and UK are already being briefed by their own military strategists about how to prepare for a world of mass famine, floods of refugees and even nuclear conflicts over resources.

Gwynne Dyer is a military analyst and author who served in three navies and has held academic posts at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and at Oxford.

Speaking about his latest book, Climate Wars, he says there is a sense of suppressed panic from the scientists and military leaders.

We may see some sort of abrupt climate change when the Arctic summer sea ice is gone by then.

I'd like to think you are right, but I have my doubts. Look at the 'conversation' about this year's arctic currently in progress on various blogs - there's a sizeable group of people who appear to have completely internalised last year's record breaking drop in ice coverage and seem to be arguing hard that a vanishing icecap is 'no big deal' because this summer's melt looks like it will (just) fall short of the 2007 record.

I wouldn't be at all surprised that, if the wild-eyed alarmists like Maslowski are correct and we get an ice free arctic in the summer of 2013, then by 2015 there will be people blithely arguing that the lack of arctic ice means nothing because it took a week longer to get to ice free status in 2014 than it did the year before.


refining non-ferrous ( mainly aluminium) is another 10% of industry use.

I'd be interested to see the source of your figures. About a month ago at the time when the talk of carbon emissions trading first came out, it was said that the two aluminium smelters in Victoria used 20-25% of the state's electricity. Even those in favour of the industry say so. And of course electricity generation is a large percentage of total emissions, so...

"Aluminium smelting is responsible for almost 6% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions partly because it is a reasonably significant industry, contributing 1.3% GDP from manufacturing, but mainly because it is greenhouse gas intensive." - The Aluminium Smelting Industry Structure, market power, subsidies and greenhouse gas emissions, Hal Turton - The Australia Institute Number 44 January 2002.

Most of the emissions are due to the large amount of heat required in the process, heat which is in Australia supplied by electricity from coal-fired generation; the Point Henry smelter has its own brown coal plant, supplying 150MW of the 360MW they use [source]. According to the paper I cited above, they get the remaining electricity very cheaply, about $13.50-$15.50 per MWh, compared to about $30/MWh for other large industrial concerns - still about one-fifth what residential consumers pay. This is an effective subsidy of about $40,000 per aluminium worker annually.

To my mind, if we're going to have reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it's good to think of them in terms like money - we have a certain amount to spend, and should get the best value for it. Thinking that way about carbon, and coupling that with the money spending, I think we can create a lot more jobs and a lot more productivity with that carbon and dollar spending than we're doing with these smelters.

Also, for $40,000 in subsidies per worker I would expect them not to bitch and moan so much when we want to regulate them.

The Garnaut Report pp206-207. Giving figures for CO2e not energy. Not clear how they account for electricity use by industry. The real point is that actually digging it out doesn't use much energy even in Australia, more is used in processing, and possibly more by miners and families roaring around in new 4 wheel drives/boats etc, but only guessing on that one.
Off-peak wholesale power is as low as $10 per MWh, and the average whole-sale price including much higher peak prices in is only $40 per MWh($60 retail) so not that much out of line. A CO2e tax of $20 per tonne CO2 will increase power costs using brown coal by >$20 per MWh, so these cheap off-peak prices have to rise a lot.
Since VIC has about 9GW capacity and 6.5 GW of this is from brown coal, 360MW would be only about 5% if VIC's electricity depending upon capacity use. Just the same it looks like aluminium prices are going to be going up to catch up with most other metals price rises.

According to this source about 9% of Australia's electrical output is embodied in aluminium exports. Now the Business Council of Australia has commissioned a report which says the industry will pull up stumps when Carbon Trading Extra-Mild arrives. Well they won't be going to China, India, Vietnam or Indonesia coz those folks don't have the spare power. Better make those soft drink cans worth 10c each.

Thanks for the link Boof,
9% of electric power embodied in Aluminium sounds correct, since this also includes power used for mining and refining Alumina as well as smelting to the metal. I agree the rising cost of energy is going to increase the cost of Aluminium everywhere,
A re-cycling deposit of 10c for aluminium cans would probably be a good idea to ensure at least none goes into landfills. When the cost goes up drink manufacturers can sell products in bigger cans or go to glass.

The link you referred to claims that Australia is actively pursuing using nuclear power generation. Could make a better case that Australia is actively pursuing solar, wind and geothermal low CO2e power but NOT pursuing nuclear, definitely will not be happening before 2020.

The only non-hydro application of renewables I've heard of for the mining and metals industry is the proposed gas assisted solar thermal in the Pilbara
That's due in 2020 i.e. so far it's all pie in the sky.

I used to work in the electricity industry assisting in the operation of the system. In normal operation, you have to have sufficient plant on standby to cover the loss of the largest single unit, which in NSW/Vic was 660MW. However, aluminium smelters were great for providing a fast reserve, as they could be switched off for a few minutes without permanent damage which gave you time to get slower plant (hydro) into service. That way we could run most of our generation at their most economical rate rather than have them on part load. In fact the smelters were setup so that their circuit breakers would trip if the frequency dropped to 49.7 Hz from the nominal 50Hz. A loss of frequency of 0.3Hz usually happened when a large generator suddenly went out of service on fault.
The benefits of aluminium smelters to the electricity were great in this respect and while they got low cost power they also saved the electricity a fortune avoiding partially loaded generators.
Each month we would have to add up the total no. of seconds that load shedding of the smelters occurred which was then added into the algorithm for the accounts which were top secret, only the top 3 people in the organisation were privy to the details.

When we get around to mineable phosphate depletion, it will be "game over" for lots of folks. It will be interesting to see what we run out of first, the phosphate resource itself, or the means to extract it via petroleum or other energy applied to mining, i.e., that net energy thingy that Charlie keeps talking about.

Yeah, I am a lot more concerned about phosphate depletion than lithium depletion.

Don't be TOO concerned about phosphate.
Unless somebody decides to use it for batteries, that is.

World reserves are 50 billion tons, world production is 150 million tons
--a 333 year supply. There are also deposits offshore in the ocean which
will probably be exploitable in a couple hundred years.

Hello Majorian,

Just like FFs: it is not the size of the remaining phosphate reserves, it is the phosphate flowrate that is crucial. Try to imagine world phosphate production flowrate strictly done by manual labor--which was exactly how this industry got started. Lowest fruit first: bird & bat guanos, Atacama Desert, then on to the subsurface rock deposits...

When the flowrate got too small for even the much, much smaller population back in the 1800s, then you had the Guano Wars and the War of the Pacific. History of phosphate rock mining in Florida:
Florida phosphate mining dates back to the first hard rock deposits found near Hawthorne in Alachua County in 1883. Early mining was with wheelbarrows, picks and shovels. Next came mule-drawn scrapers. Steam shovels and centrifugal pumps mounted on barges were also used to mine the river-pebble phosphate deposits in the Peace River. But, river-pebble mining ended in 1908. Draglines, the current mining tool, came into use with the dawn of electricity and diesel power in the 1920s and 1930s.

The dragline significantly changed the mining operation. In 1900 it took 3-4 years to mine 15 acres with picks and shovels. In the early days of the small draglines, about 5 acres were mined in a year. As draglines grew in size, companies were able to mine 500-600 acres a year, but today's draglines are able to mine 15 acres a month.

4yrs [48 months] then vs one month now--> flowrate increased by 48 times. I bet all the people in this picture still couldn't equal the output of one of these giant draglines:

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

A little more info:

My post above just addressed the mining energy issue, next consider the factory benefication process which requires much more energy, equipment, and sulfur, then the transport energy to globally distribute this to all the farmland acres everywhere [ships, trains, trucks, then finally tractors].

Maybe a simple example may help visualize this entire global I-NPK flowrate process: a tree.

Roots--> the P & K mines, sulfur extractors, and Haber-Bosch factories all over this planet. A giant collection web functioning to make the hundreds of different types of I-NPK products. Trinidad & Tobago natgas providing N meeting sulfur from Iraq meeting Morocco P meeting Saskatchewan K. Lots of other combos possible!

Trunk and Branches--> the transport and inventory storage function. Buildings, ships, trains, trucks, and farm tractors. What's involved to move a bag of potash from far inland Canada to far inland Nepal?

Leaves--> Imagine each leaf on this tree representing one acre of land until you can visualize every arable acre on this little blue marble... from the tip of South America, to inland Africa, to Central Iowa, to the Aussie Outback, to Inner Mongolia, to Madagascar, to the Philippines.

Any leaf not getting this I-NPK flowrate [with no O-NPK] dies a Liebig Minimum. Now you know why farmers are protesting, rioting, and committing suicide.

Depleting FFs--> I-NPK flowrate shrinks too. Picture the tree in winter--> leaves on the ground. That is why I push for Federal Reserve Banks of I-NPK and ramping O-NPK recycling.

I've heard that we are 'running out' of arable land. To the extent that this is true there is a limit on the number of acres onto which we need to spread phosphates, and the demand for phosphates will not grow in the same unlimited way as the demand for oil has grown. Maybe the Hubbert model won't apply strictly to phosphates. (And maybe this is a false hope)

Hello Geek7,

Thxs for responding. We are running out of arable land precisely because of insufficient I/O-NPK & water inputs plus poor land mgmt. practices [erosion, salinity, etc]. Lots of acres have never been soil sampled, never could afford sufficient I/O-NPK to maximally leverage photosynthesis productivity. If we had a Star Trek Transporter so I/O-NPK movement was cost-free: global demand could easily double or triple.

Some happy facts about desertification:

  • 1.9 billion hectares of arable land degraded.
  • 65% (500 million hectares) of African land degraded.
  • Arable land loss is 30-35 times the historical rate.
  • Loss is equal to 20 million tons of grain per year.
  • 70 percent of the 5.2 billion hectares of drylands used for agriculture are already degraded and threatened by desertification.

UNEP: Land Degradation

Thxs Barrett808!

Whoa whoa. There are many reasons why a particular piece of land can be non-productive. ONE reason is inadequate phosphate, which was the topic of the thread, I think. But since lack of phosphate has been easily remedied, it has not generally been included in the reasons for classifying a particular acre as not arable. If one were to include it in the criteria, I think very little of the corn belt in US would be classified as arable. IMO, such exclusion of Iowa farm land would be patent nonsense.

My comment was intended to apply to land which is arable in the sense of being appropriate for agriculture excepting only those inputs that are supplied by the farmer as part of normal farming activity, such as seed, water, herbicides, etc.

Using my definition of arable then, it is possible to conceive of a situation in which all arable has been brought into production and enough phosphate is supplied to fertilize all this land. Then, there would be no further increase in demand for phosphate fertilizer. World demand for phosphate would saturate.

This is different from the situation for world demand for oil, which is linked to world population and standard of living.

What you say about phosphate is applicable to many other resources: fish, for example. Even oil. But there comes a point where suddenly we are confronted with either depletion or an expense that becomes almost prohibitive.

Living through the fat catches when fish, for example, were plentiful...or living through abundance that seemed exhaustible -- oil, for example--, many people simply cannot understand how it could be otherwise.

Most of the young'ens here are living through the tail end of "fat" times. Others, like me--a mite older--lived through the time when the oceans, for example, seemed inexhaustible...and so they were celebrated to be. I saw real abundance, abundance that would stagger the mind with awe.

But we raked through that abundance at every increasing speed. And so the race prospered...and the good times promised a forever.

But logic is hard....that we could devour the hand that fed, housed, and warmed us seemed impossible. Hard logic says otherwise.

It is actually possible to view Charles Hall's speach here:

Thanks for the link.

Great presentation, worth the time watching.

Thanks for the link Olle. Unfortunately for us Linux users their player fails with an error - WM7 Activex control Not Found - suggesting that only a Windows machine can view the lecture. As Linux was invented in Finland, you'd think the IGC folks would pay more attention to a neighbors product.

Not just Linux users! Win XP with Firefox here.

We all bow to the mighty Gates... ;-)

Good link!

Here's a panel debate from the congress

I am fascinated by your observation that the attendees were unable to grasp the concept of EROEI. They are from our intellectual leadership, one doesn't expect them to miss a major concept like this. I have found this misunderstanding to be a sticking point with many people; for some reason they confuse money with the things it can buy, as if one were a substitute for the other. I think perhaps it is not ignorance of the resource base as much as a lack of economic knowledge that needs to be addressed. Midas, after all, starved to death surrounded by money.

This is the stuff Jay Hanson of used to make fun of--e.g., economists who burn the furniture to keep their house warm and call it "substitution."

The sources I've read say the North American US phosphate mines have about another 30 years left with a modest 2% growth in consumption. The world has about another 160 years left on land* with that 2% growth rate, assuming it will all be mined uniformly. As for those offshore deposits, they are there and in relatively shallow water, but will require much more energy to produce, being underwater. When we get to that point, many things may happen to reduce global demand, and we can always hope for a nuclear fusion or OTEC energy breakthrough. We'd better still keep in mind that this will be nature's last cupboard to raid WRT phosphate resources.

[edit]* I checked my source today and it's 60 to 120 years left on land depending upon 0 to 3% world growth rate. I believe it was a USGS study.

I am looking forward to reading the new paper.

EROEI is a very powerful force; perhaps more so even than oil depletion itself.

If you start with 1930 with a 100:1 ratio (cost = 1% of production) and double that cost every 20 years (3.5% increase in annual cost) then by 2060 you reach 100% cost or a 1:1 EROEI ratio. Of course it will not be that simplistic, and at some point as you approach 1:1 the whole system will collapse. There is also the possibility that the rate of growth is not a simple 3.5% per annum; if it is not then my bet is that it is actually increasing itself.

I am struck by the idea that as we move along the EROEI growth curve with the passage of time, that the absolute increases in cost become greater and greater even though the rate of growth remains somewhat constant. At the same time population is also following its own growth curve with absolute increases becoming greater and greater.

I am not a geologist, nor do I play one on TV.

The function
f(energy technology-energy depletion) that roughly approximates EROI has declined over time in a similar but inverse fashion to Al Bartletts exponential growth story. The problem is that they are working in tandem.

Henry -

I wrote a piece on just this topic. Submitted it to Nate as a guest post. Didn't make it - not sure if he ever read it. E-mail me adkdan at hotmail and I'll send it along if you like.

I better go back and check my inbox. Sorry Clif. Will email you if I can't find it.

Sent you an email requesting your presentation, so I look forward eagerly to getting it directly or seeing Nate post it. Having read your previous posts on this topic, I am sure it is well worth the read.

What can the geologists tell us about low-temperature geothermal power?
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that with emerging low-temperature technologies, at least 260,000 megawatts of U.S. geothermal resources could be developed.
From: “World Geothermal Power Generation Nearing Eruption”

I'm oil patch so I don't know the details of low T geothermal beyond seeing a few specific applications. The most interesting was a small site specific project in Georgia where 6 shallow (a couple of hundred feet) holes were drilled to assist the heating/cooling of a nursing home under construction. It was a closed loop system so there was no ground water depletion issue. Not sufficient for 100% of demand but as a supplement. They didn't offer hard numbers but hopefully the biz owners weren't suckered into a bad investment. If it did make economic sense on such a small scale the total energy output nationawide could be significant. The gain per individual system might be relatively small but might be applied a few hundred thousand times (millions??) across the country. If you're talking about the same systems I'm thinking of it's not really knew. The idea started with the development of heat pumps 30 years ago I think.

Please consult and review "earthship construction". Refered to as "Thermal mass", very cheap and only requires "digging in" as opposed to drilling and pumping, etc (costly in energy terms).

In addition, please keep "Zeroth Law" of thermodynamics in mind:

"When two systems are put in contact with each other, there will be a net exchange of energy between them unless or until they are in thermal equilibrium, that is, they contain the same amount of thermal energy for a given volume (say, 1 cubic centimeter, or 1 cubic inch.) The Zeroth Law asserts that thermal equilibrium, viewed as a binary relation, is an equivalence relation."

That's not the Wikipedia's take on the Zeorth law. How about a "Last Law": There's no such thing as a closed system.

There is a problem with this statement. Where are you quoting from? Clearly, two objects with different heat capacities may have the same temperature but different thermal energy per unit volume and also be in equilibrium with each other.


My apology. Due to over-hasty reading I took you to mean the two-systems exchange as the 0th law, now I see the part about equivalence relation.

The article talks about using low temperature working fluids so that part is new. The question is how hot does it get how deep in what places that were not practical formerly. What are you going to do with all those drilling rigs when it just isn't worthwhile to poke another hole in gas producing (not?)shale?

Last year the MIT issued a detailed report on Geothermal:

The US can be happy to have this huge resource underground, but of course this won't be tackled without sufficient investments. But so far the resources rather go to drilling for oil instead of drilling for earth heat. (Well, in fact there is even a project trying to get both).

Much thanks for the link. In one place the report says, "...drilling and reservoir technologies used to mine heat have many similarities to those used for extracting oil and gas." I was hoping that this connection might get TODers to have a slightly less negative attitude. My doomerism is based people's response to the problems: Either they don't exist or there's nothing that can be done.


I tried to send a post yesterday, but failed. Low enthalpy geothermal resources are being considered for freezing and heating. You can obtain around 4kwh from 1kwh spent by means of heat pumping. In fact you can use the land around your house as a heat accumulator (not only of geothermal energy but of summer heat too). I've heared than in Spain the time to recover costs is around 8-10 years, comparing with other heat/freeze sources. The question is that the systems are expensive and builders prefer to install a cheaper heating system, so the costs will not be included in the initial cost of the building.

Modern designs of air heat pumps are nearly as efficient as ground source and work at low temperatures.
They cost a fraction of the install cost of GSHP.


The plenary had at the end a "debate" but it was really two ships passing in the might---each side presented its arguments –usually using different types of logic, often arrogantly, and said the other side could not possible be right. The moderators could have done us all a service by guiding the debate to specific issues "what do each of you think about sun spot correlations even when their effect appears trivial" but that did not happen.

I think you addressed the main issue we have to deal with now:
A lot of knowledge and understanding has been gathered among the "peakists", which are eagerly communicating with each other, e.g. here in the oildrum - the peakists' world. But there is this other world outside of the oildrum, where the people simply don't "believe" in PO.
Some have heard of the "theory" of PO, but they also heard that others disagree. Nobody really knows who is right - so why bother?

No one of these ever talked with a peakist. To chat with the guys of one's own world is much more convenient whereas a fair and constructive debate with the other side on what is right or wrong would be much more demanding. This is why such bi-lateral discussions never happen.

I think that the paramount point on the agenda will be to make such discussions happen. As far as there is no public evidence of what or who is right or wrong the guys on the other side will continue to reiterate the good old myths. Maybe that's one reason why they don't strive for a direct confrontation.

To get this topic discussed won't be easy:
It is an utterly complex topic, which is already hard to discuss as such - and even harder to get understood by non-specialists.
The typical moderators of public discussions I know have a good ability to guide smoothy through the discussion and perhaps add some infotainment flavour to it. Some are journalists who know a bit more about the topic than average layman, but they don't have the detailed knowledge to know where all the (hidden) sticking points of this topic are. If someone says "Worldwide proven reserves have been rising, so don't worry" the moderator must know what question to ask next - instead of moving to the next point.

And we need opportunities where both sides are willing for a fair discussion.

But I think it isn't impossible: As soon as the opponents have agreed a problem-solving discussion professional moderators can use wonderful instruments that can help to entangle the most fussy discussion.

And we should also use all opportunities where there are a few from "the other side" (be it for example the Oil & Money conference, where in fact a few participants were quite blunt on RR).

And a last thought: A joint discussion training wouldn't be a bad idea. Who would like to take part?

Now I had time to watch the discussion video mentioned above. Normally websites that require the MSIE, ActiveX and the like are junk, but I think this time it was worth it (and the player has a "fast" mode ;-)).
The disussion had its good and bad points.

The list of questions wasn't very encouraging (or what controversy would you expect on "Can energy conservation measures reduce the gap?") and in the beginning it looked like just another of these just-watch-these-weird-parallell-world "discussions".
In part that was what happened, but when it was Jeremy Legget's turn some sort of discussion did pick up and bit by bit it became better.

One of the drawback was that only few of the panelists really knew about resource depletion, but were experts in completely different fields like e.g. CCS. So even when the right questions were adressed some of their statements sounded rather like gut feelings than like expert opinions.

Another problem was that for a (theoretical) in-depth discussion there were too many panelists involved. So something other than this serial speak-and-listen mode would have turned into chaos. This was a pity because there were quite a few missed opportunities to hook into.
(In fact a discussion of an even larger number of individuals can be managed, but this would look entirely different than a podium discussion.)

Interestingly also one from the auditory (called Charles) critizised that each panelist made his statement but the overall view of the whole issue was missing.

As for the content there were a few interesting points. For example Mr Gjerde (no idea who he is) mentioned the term of "politically acceptable risk", which he said may trigger the attention of politicians.

IMO it is to do with the attitudes which people must have to be functioning and effective.
This is not a matter of choice, as we are all participants in the drama, whether we like it or not.
The academically inclined may get fulfilment from the effort to be in some senses 'right' in their predictions, and so a degree of disassociation with our common predicament can lead to some satisfaction in the sense that 'I saw it all coming'.

However, for most people and particularly the movers and shakers a prediction is secondary, just a prelude to action.

Most people need a degree of optimism to power then on - if you have a sports team, even if you are overmatched feeling that you have some sort of chance usually increases them.

This can be fairly subtle, so traditionally apocalyptic sects may go to their death, but are told that some sort of positive result awaits them in the afterlife.

The nearest thing to anyone attempting to inspire the population with a grim prognosis would be Churchill, with 'Blood, sweat and tears'.

Cassandra deserved all she got - in the real world any tough diagnosis needs a plan of action of some sort.

Delusory or not, people need to feel that they can make some sort of difference to function at all.

Any program to connect insights like peak oil needs to be aware of the basic functions of human psychology.

A purely academic program does not do it - the pretence needed that we are impartial gods is not sustainable in the world of action and politics.


I agree with you that a pure "doom" outlook will rather paralize people and that some optimism is needed to activate them. This is perhaps why on the panel Jeremy Leggett also spoke about the big chances of renewables.
But on the other hand people won't be activated as long as they don't see a serious need to act: Jeremy's neighbour on the panel agreed that oil is finite and that *eventually* new solutions have to be sought - when peak oil comes in 10, 20 or 50 years... So as long as there is no (academic or whatever) agreement on the timing of PO and speed of decline people won't realize that action is needed NOW.

This awareness issue is probably a tough nut. Look for example at Katrina vs New Orleans: Scientists and engineers were well aware that there was a problem and that something should be done about the levees etc. And the issue wasn't even a secret but was published several times in local and national newspapers and magazines. I think I even read about it in a travel guide.
But on the political level these bad news didn't "sell" and only little money was assigned to the prevention measures. Obviously they were considered too expensive - not realizing that the damage would be even more expensive.

Maybe we have to think about how to pack and sell the bad news.

One striking feature is that some people don't object to what a pessimist says but complaint about his wording - as if these words weren't "politically correct" for them. For example one of the panel moderators said he didn't agree with Jeremy saying words like "catastrophic", "breakdown" (I don't remember the exact words). This reminds me of a political meeting in Germany where politicians complained about a newspaper announcing a "large scale demolition" of buildings, which were increasingly uninhabited due to short-sighted building politics (actually a small-scale variant of the US subprime crisis). They didn't object the demolition, but they disliked the wording!

Shall we invent "politically correct" words for the peak oil issue? So the other side of the peak might be called the "great carbon-free global readjustment opportunity"?

In this case a warning of hurricane Katrina to cause widespread devastation and many deaths would read as a "thrilling wind-powered action for fast-track urban downsizing and population control".

Welcome to the Brave New World!

I think what we need is the 'Churchillian compromise' - IOW statesmanship would tell people that the problems were vast, and that radical action was needed, but not predict effective defeat, even if that is the most probable outcome - Churchill went as far as to hypothesise the overrunning of the British Isles, but looked to retreating to the Dominians and continuing the struggle!
How realistic that was is another matter, but it was based on the insight that nothing endures forever, not even defeat.

Unfortunately what we actually have are a bunch of Mafiosi, whose interest is in sacking the system, not preparing for a grim fight to keep as many alive as possible.

The Greeks would have recognised hubris, in the assumption that debt can be ever increased, and in the attempt to install 'democracy' throughout the world by force.

We will pay for this, as will billions in the 3rd World.

However, it should perhaps be noted that Churchill was for years a voice crying in the wilderness, and people preferred the comfy option of assuming that war could be avoided, for as long as they could ignore this.

So perhaps one should not expect that the people will awake until the wheels fall off - this should happen by 2012 though, and at that stage some of the fakes and stooges who lead in the present situation will be exposed.

They only have power though because we have chosen collectively to delude ourselves.


I'll add one little correction to your statement about levee money but this point also emphasizes a potential problem with future actions especially from gov't sources. I grew up in New Orleans and know the levee funding history well. I was a bud with a number of Corp of Engineer geologists. The needed expansion of the levee system, as well as the design, was known for decades. And, despite the misconceptions of many, was well funded. The problem was the money was seldom spent of the levees directly. So many examples of dirty La. politics to offer but we'll go with a very visible one. Even if you can’t make it to N.O. check out the web....I'm sure you find lots of nice pictures of the N.O. convention center. I seem to recall it cost around $600 million and was built with levee money. Why levee money you might ask. The center was built on top the levee so why not. The COE geologist were far ever complaining about the funds being diverted for non-levee projects. Just typical politics in that part of the world.

And this is what worries me about future gov't (especially the Feds) actions to help with PO. On the one hand the gov't can move faster than free enterprise. But will they make the right moves. Needless to say, from my observations of La. politics as well as the Feds many flawed reactions to the oil price spike in the late 70's, my confidence level is not too great. I don't think I'm being too pessimistic to expect initial gov't actions to be more flash than substance. But, as I said earlier, being raised on La. politics does that to you.

The thankfully now-over predictive debate on global climate change was simply the best intelligence test yet devised. And particularly so for geologists. Examine this statement: The earth is going to warm up from the rapidly increasing greenhouse gases. Regardless of how much fact there is or is not behind this statement, it remains a prediction. A near certainty at one end of the spectrum, a future fantasy at the other, but a prediction nonetheless. The IPCC uses 20 models to predict the future, and with the repetitive discussion of the results we have witnessed a miracle of sorts, the ascendancy of the status of prediction to above that once reserved for fact. OK, so are there any facts out there? Come on geologists, these predictions are about the next several hundred years at best, we have 4.5 billion years of facts, and a dramatic amount in just the most recent Holocene, Pleistocene and Pliocene epochs. Try these on for size:

We live today in what we geologists have defined as the Holocene Epoch, the last 11,500 years since we melted our way out of the Wisconsin Ice Age. All of human civilization has occurred in this brief sliver of geologic time. Only cave paintings are found beyond 10,000 or so years before this most recent natural global warming (interglacial). The Holocene is the sixth interglacial that has occurred since the Mid Pleistocene Transition (MPT) some 800,000 years ago. In terms of real, abrupt global climate change, nothing is likely to trump an interglacial. Since the MPT we have had one at the end of each ~100,000 year long ice age, of which there have been seven. The deep freeze component tends to last, on average, about 90,000 - 95,000 years, with the interglacial periods averaging 5,000 - 10,000 years out of each couple. Which means this interglacial, the Holocene, is getting a bit long in the tooth.

So was it warm when Homo sapiens first walked the earth? Perhaps about 2C higher, not all that dramatically higher than today (Rohling, et al, 2008). Best evidence from the Ironshore Formation of Grand Cayman, which has undergone little vertical movement over the past 500,000 years, is that the last sea level highstand, during the Penultimate Deglaciation (121,500-123,000 years ago, also known as MIS-5e [or Marine oxygen Isotope Stage 5e]) sea levels were only between 12.5 to 16 meters (41 to 52.5 feet) higher than they are today (Vezina et al, 1999).

According to the most recent estimate of the IPCC (2007), the upper range of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) sea level rise will be approximately 0.26 to 0.59 meters (0.85 to 1.93 feet) by the year 2100 A.D. This is about half the minimum of the centennial range of very minimal sea level rise estimated by Rohling, et al (2008) for the Penultimate Deglaciation (the one which preceded this one) which falls in the range of 0.6 to 1.3 meters per century about 123,000 years ago, just prior to the abrupt global climate change (cooling) known as the Wisconsin ice age. Not surprisingly, the situation gets worse the further back we go, and the less number of hominids there likely were. If we go two interglacials back, we see sea levels that were probably 22.5 meters higher than today (73.8 feet), three interglacials back they were as much as 23 meters (75.5 feet) and four interglacials back they were 29 meters higher (95.14 feet) (Vezina et al, 1999).

So not only are the predictions of sea level rise dramatically lower than any previously known interglacial, the predicted rate of that rise is about half that which occurred in the most recent interglacial. Which means, of course, that our “signal” will be less than, and therefore impossible to distinguish from, the natural “noise”.

So if it takes an industrial revolution and 6-10 billion humans to cause a 2-foot (IPCC) or 20-foot (Al Gore) rise in sea level, what is it that keeps causing all of those 400 foot rises that are so regular we set our only geologic clock by them? And if for at least the past 4 periods of natural global warming (interglacials) sea levels have ended up between 41-95 feet higher than present, how will we even be able to tell our 2 or 20 foot “signal” from natural “noise” levels that are at least 2 to at worst 47 times higher?

With what you have just learned, you should now be able to compare and contrast fantasy and reality head-on. It is right here that we will first be able to understand the effectiveness of AB-32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. In order to provide the most fair assessment of how this act will work, we will use the extreme of future fantasy, Al Gore’s 20-foot rise by 2100, and the lowest known sea level highstand of the past 4 natural global warmings of 41 feet, which should assuage both ends of the range of denial. Assume for a moment that you are successful in combating anthropogenic global warming (AGW) via the global application of California’s landmark legislation, and prevent Al Gore’s 20-foot rise in sea level (the scientifically unsupported upper estimate of AGW sea level rise). Having congratulated ourselves on successfully implementing AB-32 on a global scale, we will then watch sea levels rise 41 feet above present anyway (the lowest known highstand over the past four). What is it, exactly, that we will have accomplished vis-à-vis “combating global warming”?

Let's examine a few more of those pesky things called facts. Remember the ice cores? You know GRIP, Vostok, Dome Concordia? Some rather exhaustive research on those ice cores has been performed with the result being that it has been confirmed beyond all reasonable doubt that atmospheric CO2 concentrations and temperature are indeed tied. It is therefore scientifically correct to consider this the truth. But as with many things, it is not the whole truth. The whole truth is that according to the most meticulous researchers studying the 420k year long Vostok core (and the 800k year long Dome C core) temperature goes up and the consensus seems to be that something like 1-3k years later, CO2 goes up. Temperatures go down, and something like 1.5k – 4k years later CO2 levels go down. An exhaustive study by Mudelsee (2001) puts it this way:

“On long timescales, variations in Vostok’s CO2 record lag behind those of its air-temperature record (dD) by 1.3±1.0 ka, and lead over global ice-volume variations (derived from Vostok’s d18Oair and marine d18Omar) by 2.7±1.3 ka.”

Caillon et al (2003) found that for ice age Termination 3 CO2 increases lagged temperature increases by 800 years ( 200 years). Spahni et al (2005) found similar GHG lags as related to temperature changes in the greater depths of the Dome Concordia ice core, and Fischer et al (1999) found Vostok data to show similar lags in CO2 with respect to temperature changes.

The entire debate will suddenly snap into focus when you think that as we move back in time through the past 4 interglacials, when there were ever lower numbers of less advanced hominids practicing less and less advanced forms of stone age technologies back to termination 4, how could they have generated enough CO2 to cause temperature increases to get sea levels up to 95 feet above present? What this really means is that CO2, just like the various iterations of the genus Homo, were spectators at these natural global climate change events, not agent provocateurs. Of course, this does not mean CO2 and Homo sapiens cannot be agent provocateurs.

On 27 March 2008, it was reported in Time magazine that Amazon deforestation was set to double this year in Brazil due to conversion of rainforest to ethanol production (corn for biofuels). In 2001 Klaus Toepfer of the UN said “Short of a miraculous transformation in the attitude of people and governments, the Earth’s remaining closed-canopy forests and associated biodiversity are destined to disappear in the coming decades”. In 2005 estimates of triple canopy rainforest cutting was estimated at 60 acres per minute, or about an area the size of the state of Mississippi per annum (50,000 square miles. Double that and an irreplaceable part of the lungs of spaceship earth will be gone before the end of the next decade.

So if CO2 has never caused a climate change event that we know of, but might double in concentration in 300 years, but we will have devasted the rainforests in the next blink of the geologic eye, which should you be more concerned with? This now thankfully over debate has been like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog they are riding on, and trying to stop something like climate change is like an ant crawling up an elephant's leg with rape on its mind. And if you really want to get into it, we could refocus this now over debate on resource use and population, something we geologists also know a lot about. But before you take the bait, make sure you have had no more than a single child, because in terms of resource depletion, you will have conflicted yourself right out of the argument.

Caillon, N., J. Severinghaus, J. Jouzel, JM Barnola, J. Kang and V. Lipenkov, 2003, Timing of Atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic Temperature Changes Across Termination III, Science, vol. 299, no. 5613, pp. 1728 – 1731

Fischer, H, M. Wahlen, J. Smith, D. Mastroianni and B. Derek, 1999, Ice Core Records of Atmospheric CO2 Around the Last Three Glacial Terminations, Science, vol. 283, no. 5408, pp. 1712-1714

Mudelsee, M., 2001, The phase relations among atmospheric CO2 content, temperature and global ice volume over the past 420 ka, Quaternary Science Reviews, 20, pp 583-589.

Rohling, E.J., K. Grant, CH Hemleben, M. Siddall, B.A.A. Hoogakker, M. Bolshaw and M. Kucera, 2008, High rates of sea-level rise during the last interglacial period, Nature Geoscience, Volume 1, January 2008,

Spahni, R., J. Chappellaz, T. Stocker, L. Loulergue, G. Hausammann, K. Kawamura, J. Flückiger, J. Schwander, D. Raynaud, V. Masson-Delmotte and J. Jouzel, 2005, Atmospheric Methane and Nitrous Oxide of the Late Pleistocene from Antarctic Ice Cores, Science, vol. 310, no. 5762, pp. 1317-1321.

Vezina, J., B. Jones and D. Ford., 1999, Sea-level highstands over the last 500,000 years; evidence from the Ironshore Formation on Grand Cayman, British West Indies, Journal of Sedimentary Research; March 1999; v. 69; no. 2; p. 317-327

Its 23:44 my time, and no rebuttal.

Looks like your concise analysis has shot the fox.

According to the most meticulous researchers studying the 420k year long Vostok core (and the 800k year long Dome C core) temperature goes up and the consensus seems to be that something like 1-3k years later, CO2 goes up. Temperatures go down, and something like 1.5k – 4k years later CO2 levels go down.

Indeed. The lag has been understood by climate science for quite awhile. It's explained nicely here: The lag between temperature and CO2. (Gore’s got it right.)

The greenhouse gases are best regarded as a biogeochemical feedback, initiated by the orbital variations, but then feeding back to amplify the warming once it is already underway. By the way, the lag of CO2 of about 1000 years corresponds rather closely to the expected time it takes to flush excess respiration-derived CO2 out of the deep ocean via natural ocean currents. So the lag is quite close to what would be expected, if CO2 were acting as a feedback.

As for the accelerating destruction of the biosphere, it seems to be a race among ocean acidification, strip-mining the oceans of biomass, and flipping the planet's climate to a hothouse state, with all happening on a geologically brief time scale.

If the lag is as explained by this single source, then we are in even more serious trouble than I realized. It means that there is indeed a source of CO2 that erupts on a 100,000 year cycle (and previously a 41,000 year cycle) that is so large it can cause a 400 foot rise in sea level, then cut off and plunge us into a 90-95,000 year ice age. Now since it is going to take 6-10 billion of us and an industrial revolution to cause a 2 or 20 foot rise, then we need to find this non-volcanic source (we do not find volcanic ash in the cores at the transitions....) so that we can turn it on to keep sea levels from falling 300 feet from present (you have to build miles thick ice sheets out of something, that would be water, right?).

So, at the end of a 100,000 year deep freeze, what CO2 emitting creature springs to life suddenly causing a global warming that is 20 to 200 times greater than the future fantasies we have been hearing for the past few years? Surely it wasn't the simultaneous discovery of beans and salsa during the last termination was it? Or paltry numbers of hominids cooking over their campfires suddenly the termination before that?

If the lag is as explained by this single source, then we are in even more serious trouble than I realized. It means that there is indeed a source of CO2 that erupts on a 100,000 year cycle (and previously a 41,000 year cycle) that is so large it can cause a 400 foot rise in sea level, then cut off and plunge us into a 90-95,000 year ice age.


we need to find this non-volcanic source

True. Saltzman and Verbitsky(1) proposed in 1994 that the CO2 outcrops from the ocean in two distinct modes: a warm interglacial mode, and a cold glacial mode. These modes differ in a few ways, most significantly in the strength of tropical upwelling of carbon-rich water.

I'd also add that very recent research(2) is showing that the soil carbon store in tundra is very much larger than previously thought, on the order of hundreds of gigatons. When tundra thaws, microbes go to work and the resulting decay releases CO2 and methane.

So there's plenty of carbon available for release when the planet warms, and at least two natural mechanisms to get it into the atmosphere.

(1) Late Pleistocene Climatic Trajectory in the Phase Space of Global Ice, Ocean State, and CO2: Observations and Theory, Barry Saltzman and Mikhail Verbitsky, Paleoceanography, VOL. 9, NO. 6, PAGES 767–779, 1994
(2) High stocks of soil organic carbon in the North American Arctic region, Chien-Lu Ping, Gary J. Michaelson, Mark T. Jorgenson, John M. Kimble, Howard Epstein, Vladimir E. Romanovsky & Donald A. Walker, Nature Geoscience, Published online: 24 August 2008 | doi:10.1038/ngeo284.