Report: The Interplay between Climate Change and Peak Oil

Changes in the oil market and climate change are generally seen as separate phenomena. Although it is common knowledge that fossil fuels are the predominant source of CO2 emissions, the interplay between these emissions and fossil fuel scarcity is a topic that has scarcely been researched.

A new report from ASPO Netherlands provides a focused view of the interplay between these two themes. The report indicates that while the peaking of oil production would by itself have a favorable impact on carbon dioxide emission, this beneficial effect may be mostly offset by increased emissions from unconventional oil production. The report can be downloaded here (PDF, 2.4 MB, 56 pp) and a summary can be found below the fold.

Summary of oil production scenarios and their effect on CO2 emissions

To estimate the differences in CO2 emissions associated with conventional and unconventional oil, we prepared six different scenarios, based on three future forecasts of conventional oil production and two of development of unconventional oil resources. By combining the two, this gives six scenarios in all.The differences in the conventional oil production scenarios are due mainly to two factors: the interpretation of current reserve figure and the extent to which technological developments are expected to boost recoverable reserves from existing fields. This leads to the following three scenarios for the production of conventional oil:

1) In the Technology scenario, the worldwide decline in production from existing fields is assumed to stabilise within 15 years at 2.5% per year instead of the current 4.5% per year. The estimate of 4.5% is derived from a number of studies by Goldman Sachs, Cambridge Energy Research Associates and the International Energy Agency. The depletion rate of 2.5% per year means that 908 billion barrels can be produced from existing fields. The current production base will decrease from 81.8 million barrels per day to 38.2 million barrels per day in 2030. This declining production from existing fields will be augmented by new production from oil fields presently under development with a total reserve of 206 billion barrels. In this scenario current reserves (proven + probable) thus total 1,114 billion barrels. For yet to be found discoveries, an amount of 181 billion barrels is assumed, implying a total of 1,317 billion barrels of conventional oil yet to be produced. Production of conventional oil in this scenario will peak around 2016 at a level of 92 million barrels per day. In 2030 production will have declined to a level of 62 million barrels per day.

2) In the Business as usual scenario, the current rate of depletion of existing fields is assumed to remain at 4.5% per year. This means 632 billion barrels will be produced from current reserves and the current production base will decrease from 81.8 million barrels per day in 2006 to 27.1 million barrels per day in 2030. In addition to this declining production base for existing fuels, new production will come on stream from reserves currently under development, adding 206 billion barrels of new reserves. Current reserves (proven + probable) in this scenario are thus 838 billion barrels. This scenario also assumes discovery of 181 billion barrels of oil, increasing total recoverable reserves of conventional oil to 1,021 billion barrels. Production of conventional oil in this scenario will peak around 2015 at a production level of 89 million barrels per day. In 2030 production will have declined to 51 million barrels per day.

3) In the Rapid depletion scenario it is assumed that the current depletion rate of 4.5% per year will accelerate as OPEC reserves are less than previously thought. From current reserves 462 billion barrels of oil will be produced. The current production base will decrease from 81.8 million barrels per day in 2006 to 18.2 million barrels per day in 2030. In addition to this, production amounting to 206 billion barrels of oil from fields currently under development will come on stream. In this scenario current reserves (proven + probable) thus total 668 billion barrels. It is also assumed that 181 billion barrels are yet to be discovered, increasing total recoverable reserved to 860 billion barrels in this scenario. Production of conventional oil will then peak around 2010 at about 87 million barrels per day. In 2030 this will have decreased to 42 million barrels per day.

In addition to these scenarios for conventional oil, two scenarios for unconventional oil were added: Steady growth and Accelerated growth.

a) In Steady growth, the production growth in unconventional oil witnessed in recent years is assumed to continue. Production of tar sands, extra heavy oil, coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids is thus taken to increase from the current figure of 2.42 million barrels per day to 5.3 million in 2020 and 10.5 million in 2030. This scenario is based on current trends and industry plans. It assumes there will be no development of oil shale in the US because of environmental concerns and technological barriers. In addition, very little increase in production of coal-to-liquids is assumed relative to the potential available in the world’s major coal reserves, because of environmental concerns and the likelihood of large additional CO2 emissions

b) In the Accelerated growth scenario, production of unconventional oil rises to 11 million barrels per day in 2020 and 22 million barrels per day in 2030. In this scenario it is assumed that less attention is given to environmental concerns, because the need for access to liquid fuels is assumed to overrule these concerns. This means CTL production will be 3 times as large in 2030 as in the Steady growth scenario. Commercial oil shale production is also assumed to increase, reaching an output of 2 million barrels in 2030. Production of extra heavy oil will also grow more than in the Steady growth scenario.

Combining the three scenarios for conventional oil and two for unconventional oil yields the following peak production values:

Figure 1 - Combined conventional and unconventional oil production scenarios to 2030, Source: ASPO Netherlands.

1a) Technology + Steady growth: peak production in 2012 at a level of 96 million barrels
per day and a production decline of 2% to 3% per year to 72 million barrels per day in 2030.

2a) Business as usual + Steady growth: peak production in 2015 at a level of 90 million barrels
per day and a rapid production decline of 3% to 4% per year to 61 million barrels per day in 2030.

3a) Rapid depletion + Steady growth: peak production in 2010 at a level of 101 million barrels
per day and a rapid production decline of 4% to 5.5 % per year to 52 million barrels per day in 2030.

1b) Technology + Accelerated growth: peak production in 2018 at a level of 101 million barrels
per day and a slow production decline of 1% to 2% per year to 84 million barrels per day in 2030.

2b) Business as usual + Accelerated growth: peak production in 2018 at a level of 96 million barrels
per day and a normal production decline of 2% to 3% per year to 73 million barrels per day in 2030.

3b) Rapid decline + Accelerated growth: peak production in 2015 at a level of 92 million barrels
per day and a rapid production decline of 3% to 4% per year to 64 million barrels per day in 2030.

The scenarios show that despite the rapid development of unconventional oil, total oil production will still reach its peak during the coming decade. This is because there will not be enough new production capacity from either conventional or unconventional oil to compensate the depletion of current oil fields. The 208 billion barrels of reserves in fields which the industry is planning to develop during the next 10 years are not sufficient to compensate for the depletion of existing fields. Nor are the projected 181 billion barrels of newly discovered oil, which should lead to 16 million barrels per day in new production around 2020, sufficient. Even a lower depletion rate than the current average of 4.5% per year in fields that have not yet peaked will hardly postpone the peak, though the production level at which the peak is reached will be much higher.

Because of continuing depletion of conventional oil resources and the relatively slow rate at which unconventional oil can fill the gap by increased production, the production peak in world oil production will occur some time during the coming decade. The decline in production will be dampened by a marked increase in unconventional oil production, however. In the combinations of the conventional production scenarios and the Accelerated growth scenario for unconventional oil, production declines more slowly than in the combination with the Steady growth scenario.

The impact of the various scenarios on CO2 emissions was calculated using the carbon emission factors reported in table 1 below.

Table 1 - Carbon emission factors for the production and combustion of various types of liquids, Source: Farrel & Brandt (Paper link), (Excel file).

In the Rapid depletion + Steady growth scenario, emissions peak in 2010 at a level of 5.4 gigatonnes of carbon, decreasing to 3.3 gigatonnes around 2030. In the Technology + Accelerated growth scenario, in contrast, emissions peak in 2018 at a level of 6 gigatonnes of carbon, decreasing slightly to 5.4 gigatonnes in 2030. The difference in cumulative carbon emissions between these two extreme scenarios will amount to 25 gigatonnes less CO2 in the period 2007 to 2030.

Figure 2 - Emissions resulting from the conventional and unconventional oil production scenarios to 2030 in gigatonnes of carbon, Source: ASPO Netherlands.

Considering these data, an energy path that is increasingly reliant on unconventional oil is not a desirable one if one assumes that climate change is mainly driven by CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. This because there will be no decline in CO2 emissions in an Accelerated growth scenario versus current CO2 emission levels. Even in the Rapid depletion + Accelerated growth scenario, CO2 emissions from oil usage will be similar in 2030 to emissions in 2004, despite a decline in total world oil production from 84 million barrels per day now to 64 million in 2030. This kind of growth in unconventional oil seems inevitable, though, unless robust policies are implemented to substitute other energy sources for oil and for transportation fuels and, in the longer term, for chemical feedstocks, too. As conventional oil becomes scarcer and oil prices rise ever further, there will be growing pressure to produce these unconventional types of oil. It is therefore important that governments plan for a production peak and encourage alternatives that can offset the depletion of conventional oil in time.

Overall Report Conclusions

As more data become available, it is becoming increasingly clear that conventional oil production will peak some time during the coming decade. Peak production will impact significantly on CO2 emissions. Geological and technological barriers as well as constraints relating to the water and energy requirements of unconventional oil production will mean these other types of oil cannot take over conventional oil’s key role in the coming decades. All the scenarios we ran for the purpose of this study, including the Accelerated growth scenario in which unconventional oil production rises to 22 million barrels per day in 2030, point to a peak in oil production during the next decade.

One might expect that the peak in oil production would cause CO2 emissions from oil to decline, but the scenarios analysed in this report suggest this is not likely to be the case, even though total oil production is expected to be much lower.

In the most favourable case this development of unconventional oil after the peak will lead to oil-related CO2 emissions declining only slightly and possibly even increasing somewhat. This is because the production of unconventional oil and refining it to a high-grade end product are associated with far higher CO2 emissions than in the case of conventional oil. Measured over the entire cycle from production to combustion, coal-to-liquids, oil shales and extra heavy oil score worst in this respect. In numerical terms the scenarios produce the following results: In 2007 production of unconventional oil was 2.4 million barrels per day. With steady growth of unconventional oil to 11 million barrels per day in 2030 and a peak in conventional oil between 2010 and 2017, CO2 emissions will decrease from 4.9 gigatonnes in 2006 to between 3.3 and 4.4 gigatonnes in 2030. The latter range depends on the exact timing and the steepness of the decline in conventional oil production. With accelerated growth of unconventional oil production to 22 million barrels per day in 2030, combined with the same production decline in conventional oil, CO2 emissions will hardly decline and will total 4.3 to 5.4 gigatonnes in 2030.

The energy path to unconventional oil is thus undesirable, as there will be no decline in CO2 emissions if there is vigorous growth of unconventional oil. Unless there is large-scale substitution of oil by other energy sources and energy carriers for transport and, in the longer term, for petrochemicals, such growth will be inevitable, however. As less and less conventional oil appears on the market, pressure to produce unconventional oil will grow. This will raise the price of a barrel of oil, making unconventional oil production ever more attractive in commercial terms. Governments have a major role to play in facilitating the transition away from unconventional oil, as present-day market structures are inherently skewed towards the use of oil, whether conventional or unconventional.

Governments that fail to plan for the decline in global oil production problem will be confronted with a major dilemma. On one hand, they can abandon climate policy to reduce CO2 emissions, so more oil can be made available to limit economic and social problems. Alternatively, such policy can be maintained, or even invigorated, with CO2 limits being applied to conventional and unconventional oil, leading to less oil becoming available on the market. It is therefore essential that governments anticipate the peak in conventional oil production. Alternatives need to be encouraged to compensate for production declines in conventional oil in both a timely and adequate manner.

The dynamics of this dilemma are not reflected in the IPCC scenarios, which make no fundamental distinction between readily exploitable conventional oil and harder to recover unconventional oil. IPCC production modelling assumes that decreases in the quality and energy content of reserves over time will not affect production. Technological barriers as well as external constraints on water and energy availability are not taken into account, even though these impose real limits on production. Actual CO2 emissions from oil production will therefore differ significantly from the projections of these scenarios. We also consider the underlying data in the production models, including those for coal, too optimistic. This is because these data assume a continuous productivity rise of 1% per year until 2100, with the whole of this productivity rise being allocated to the model’s starting point. In other words, the model implicitly assumes a 100% productivity rise in 2000, after which productivity remains constant. Apart from the fact that this immediate rise of 100% is unrealistic, it is also doubtful whether the historical productivity data on which this figure of 1% per year is based is a good model of the future, as the concentration and quality of reserves will decrease significantly over time. This will mean rising energy inputs for the same output, pushing costs up and implying that productivity improvements will not be realised.

From paragraph 1 of your summary.

The depletion rate of 2.5% per year means that 908 billion barrels per day can be produced from existing fields.

908 billion barrels per day! We are saved. ;-)

Woops, thx I have edited the mistake!


To summarize : bad news and a rough time ahead. Of course this is a supply-side only study, which does not take into account the effect of the (peak-oil induced ?) recession upon oil demand but that was not the point anyway.

It definitely looks like we will face both peak oil and rampant global warming. The only way out would to follow the way down, accept the decline and adapt to it, but I frankly doubt we, as a society, will follow that road, the memes of happy motoring and happy consumering are too entrenched.

Wouldn't a third scenario for unconventional oil be good?

Nature just published a few papers basically saying that we can only use about a quarter of our fossil fuel reserves (or half a trillion tons of carbon). More than that will make a temperature increase of more than 2°C very likely (

California has started to limit use of fuels with a high carbon intensity, and other states and countries will follow. Thus, unconventional oil may just run into much greater barriers than technical issues. A useful scenario would keep production levels level.


A scenario in which there is virtually no production of unconventional oil? That is possible but it does not convey much more facts (except that the decline will be even steeper which is logical).


I think it would convey a useful message as it comes closer to a scenario that includes desired (necessary from the climate change perspective) future policies.

Not including scenarios based on an appropriate policy response to climate change sort of suggests that it is not realistic to expect such a response. And if that's the prevailing thinking, we will never have this necessary response, which means that we're pretty soon locked in on a disastrous 6°C increase.

I don't want to contemplate that scenario, and in a way that means I don't want to contemplate the typical business-as-usual scenarios, because those are the ones that implicitly say: we can continue our comfortable life now without worrying about the future, because we (or our children) won't have a future.

I think that BAU will in fact continue.

People mostly do not care enough to know ... or know enough to care.

People in power act much as if they create their own reality because there are no immediate feed-backs that contradict them in terms of personal comforts.

We have a combination of intentional ignorance with the seduction of a material lifestyle with no limits and a lack of immediate pain linked to it.

Stone age emotion and instinct rules. Various primitive rationalizations -- religious, ideological, and nationalistic -- dress up our behaviours so that we become noble and victims of someone else's wrongdoing. We attack the scapegoat -- economically or militarily -- and steal their good sh*t. Rinse and repeat, except with increasingly Godlike technologies and global environmental blow-back that we could care less about as long as we are comfortable.

More tar sands. Bigger air conditioners. "Clean coal." More nukes.

I will ask my kids again what the shopping mall of the future will be. Last time I asked directly the response was "...more stuff and cooler stuff and way bigger malls with cooler rides and stuff...."

Business As Usual.

We talk about the environment in my family. We bike and I also have a small electric utility vehicle. My kids have learned much since I asked them point-blank about the shopping mall of the future. However, all of the leadership in the USA -- corporatist CEO's, politicians, and their minions -- tell us "more bigger better" and we will return to that as soon as this pesky little glitch in the economy is fixed.


Beggar, (et al.,)

What you say is just right on the money--which is frequently the case here--but
you just put it with particular lucidity.

I'm gladdened to hear some kids (yours) at least are getting another side of the story.

BTW: Long time lurker, first time poster.

BAU will continue, but the lies told as cover for increased brutality will need to get bigger.

We humans have a need for patterns, meaning, and purpose. We want to be a part of a story that is bigger than we are. The meta-narratives of religion, ideology, and nationalism will meld into one overarching story.

The propaganda will increase to drown out the truth about the human predicament and especially about the need for horrific violence.

I suppose that something like a miracle could help us mitigate the consequences of peak oil, climate change, habitat destruction, and increasing human violence.

Meanwhile, I'll stick with Vonnegut's "purpose for life" -- we are here to help each other through whatever this is.

There's a third group: those that know that BAU is unsustainable and don't care. They game the system for personal benefit and hope (or believe) they won't get caught.

I think that the group you speak of is very large, and actually includes everyone of us in some way or another -- various ways at various times.

We are very good at denial.

The problem of human evil is that it is diffuse and shared, and we cannot isolate some scapegoat to rid the world of "evildoers."

"The Devil knows the Bible like the back of his hand."

Want to rob a bank? Sit on the board of directors, or better yet, become one of the top management. Steal with impunity.

"Some men rob the passers by for a little cash to spend. Some men rob whole countries dry and still get called their friend."

talk about greater purpose
bring up good and evil and and it is instantly implied
we are quite the study aren't we

Hi Rembrandt.

First of all let me thank you (and all editors at TOD) for your posts: They force us thinking about our future, and it is a great value for us.

I disagree with an implicit assumpion of your think stream: we will purchase the oil at every price; so you do not take into account the VALUE of the drum, or in other words the impact of oil's price on the production. No barrel will be produced without a customer willing/capable to pay for that barrel.

In short: I think that all the heavy polluting & greenhouse oil of you post will unlikely be produced (at far as civilian/economic usage is implied :)!
I'm quite sure that we cannot pay the 90-120 $/b required for unconventional oil to be viable. We did it just for a bounch of months and in doing that we crashed our economies.

best regards

@ceox and Matt

I do not think the current cost price (90 dollars per barrel) will be a long term price level. 90 dollars per barrel is caused by external shocks in the business cycle (shortage of personnel, people etc.).


$90 a barrel oil doesn't mean antyhing other than what it cost at the time based on what other things cost at the time. It is arbitrary in the sense that what was $90 yesterday may not be that tomorrow. Look at all the "half-million dollar homes" in the US now going for less than half that.

All that matters is EROEI. If it is positive, the field will be developed, though that is not to say that it won't be post-peak/post-collapse.

>All that matters is EROEI. If it is positive, the field will be developed, though that is not to say that it won't be post-peak/post-collapse.<

It would be logical if there is a correlation between long term prices and EROEI. I am going to research this in one of my thesis works in the next months.

As conventional oil becomes scarcer and oil prices rise ever further, there will be growing pressure to produce these unconventional types of oil

The world has just finished a live experiment with high oil prices and the result is plain to see. Syncrude from tar sands (not oil sands, hydrogen needed to form liquid hydro-carbon chains) requires around US$ 90 a barrel (new projects). So there are definitely both cost and resource limitations.

Peak oil (2005-2008) is behind us and the real problem we are facing now is that by the time the world wakes up that it must replace all its coal fired power plants - which means massive projects whatever the technology - that at that critical moment we get diesel shortages and all these projects get stuck.

We are now gobbling up the last x billion barrels of comparatively easy oil for convenience purposes instead of governments passing legislation to set aside that oil as energy input into all these vital projects to de-carbonize our economy.

The turning point might be this:

Dr. Maslowski estimates that the Arctic summer sea ice will disappear by 2013 and some graphs

from show indeed how rapidly the multi year ice has shrunk between 2007 and 2009.

It could be that at the same time OPEC's paper barrels vaporize, confidence in oil reserves vanishes and oil markets freeze up. There is also the likelihood of another oil or oil proxy war in the Middle East.

The worst case scenario which can happen is that we either don't have the money or the oil to get rid of our coal fired power plants. NASA climatologist James Hansen says by 2030 they must all have gone otherwise we are getting a different planet Earth.

The interdependencies between peak oil and global warming must be modeled along the lines of system dynamics as used in "Limits to Growth". But no-one is doing it.

Matt -- I think your point ("we either don't have the money or the oil to get rid of our coal fired power plants.") is key to the future. And not likely a very healthy one. Some folks see PO as a good development for the planet's health. For sometime I've viewed it as just the opposite. For all the well intended positive messages about alternatives, I see no chance of escaping the greater dependency upon coal as the effects of PO become more pronounced. Thus, IMO, the advance PO will not only lead to increased political strife, if not out right war, between the haves and have-nots, but the countries, such as China who continue to proliferate coal-fired plants, will be confronted on some level by those who suffer the worst effects of global warming. Thus those who see PO as an opportunity for an improved environment will likely be very disappointed when the reality sets in.

While we may use an increased proportion of coal, I suspect the total amount of fossil fuel use will be down significantly, because oil is used in current mining and transport of coal. While theoretically coal based methods of mining and transport could be developed, my guess is that these will lag behind, so a drop in oil production may also inhibit coal production.

One might think of current situation as having oil-driven coal. If we lose the oil, it will be hard to do much ramping up of the coal, and its production may actually decline. I think it will be the nation's forests that lose out worst. People will cut down trees to get firewood.

What about this scenario Gail: less oil = greater dependency upon coal = coal's value increases = coal mining can out bid other potential oil buyers due to its increased value = sufficient oil for coal production at the expense of less profitable users.

I suppose the probability of this scenario playing out will depend upon the economy's primary need. For instance, motor fuel costs would have to increase to a level where it could out bid coal for crude oil. Same for all other oil users. Be interesting to see who can bid higher: coal-derived electricity (and our love of the creature comforts) or the drivers and the love of their cars. I could bet either way right now.

There is a lot of coal out there, and it is pretty widespread. It is probably easier to ramp up electricity than to ramp up coal to liquid, because of the amount of processing required for coal to liquid. There is also the possibility of burning coal directly, as was done in years past.

It is probably easier to ramp up electricity than to ramp up coal to liquid

Absolutely. If we assume $100K per barrel per day, that's about $3k per vehicle, just for capital costs.

Ramping up coal production would be very easy, because coal plants are only 73% utilized. The spare capacity is at night, which would fit nicely with vehicle charging.

Wind, on the other hand, would have capital costs, but they're only $2k per vehicle. It has essentially no operating costs; no emissions; and much, much smaller lead times and project cancellation risks.

Heck, we've seen how much trouble coal plants have getting approved. That would be a walk in the park compared to getting a CTL plant through the regulatory process.


Wasn't the first use of oil to power machinery in coal mines? I suspect that this will also be its last use, unfortunately.

That was the first use of coal in a heat engine (Newcomen).

The first major use for oil was home lighting, with kerosene. That was replaced by electricity (with a large contribution from coal).

Much underground coal mining is now electrified.

Read which plans and phantasies exist:

Coal-to-liquids demonstration plant opens

The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP, has launched the world's first coal-to-liquids demonstration plant to use Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) technology.

Linc Energy's demonstration plant near Chinchilla in Queensland is producing clean synthetic diesel and jet fuel from gas sourced from deep underground coal reserves. First production was achieved on 14 October 2008.|

Minister Ferguson said: " Australia is coal and gas rich, with hundreds of years of reserves. Technologies that convert coal and gas to ultra-clean diesel and jet fuel have the potential to replace Australia's declining oil reserves and make us self-sufficient in liquid transport fuels once again.

"A domestic synthetic fuels industry would reduce - and maybe even one day remove - our growing trade deficit in petroleum products which last year grew to almost $15 billion."

Minister Ferguson said: "This technology unlocks energy from Australia's significant stranded and uneconomic coal reserves and has the potential to dramatically reduce Australia's dependence upon imported oil and refined products."

I would like to know how much diesel was actually produced and of which quality it was.

The coal industry will use this diesel to run their coal trains. But if we get food shortages in the cities priorities might be different. When the going gets tough this will all have to be decided on a case by case basis.

Here is a link on the UCG technology:
There are plenty of problems: ensuring a continuous process producing the right mixture of CO, CH4 and H; toxic condensates; water table etc.

It will compete with using coal seam gas as transport fuel (compressed natural gas)

We also have to distinguish between coking and thermal coal.

COKING coal prices have been slashed by 58 per cent in contract talks with Japanese steel mills.

The move is expected to slice $15 billion of revenue from the nation's biggest export earner.

BHP Billiton has reportedly settled with Nippon Steel at $US115-$US125 a tonne, down from about $US300 last year.

The huge drop in a price at the lower end of analysts' forecasts comes as steel mills in Japan and Europe slash production in response to the global economic slowdown.

Coking coal demand has suffered more than that for iron ore because China is not a big coking coal importer and the drop in steel production has not been as sharp.

Most of the world's coking coal is exported from Queensland. BHP is by far the world's biggest exporter, producing 60 million tonnes a year, more than double its nearest rival.,,25217435-5017996,...

While we may use an increased proportion of coal, I suspect the total amount of fossil fuel use will be down significantly, because oil is used in current mining and transport of coal. While theoretically coal based methods of mining and transport could be developed, my guess is that these will lag behind, so a drop in oil production may also inhibit coal production.

A pretty odd set of statements, I think, given that a) we've been there and done that (remember steam locomotives?) b) many countries already possess modern, proven coal based transport (in the form of electric locomotives driven by coal-powered plants) and c) the amount of oil used to mine and transport coal today is a small percentage of total use, probably an amount that can continue to be supplied to the industry for several decades, by gov't fiat if necessary. Unless demand or political/global warming issues say otherwise, I don't see such big obstacles for coal, unfortunately.

I would also note that it's possible for coal production to grow even while fossil fuel use does "go down significantly", if coal production grows slower than oil production decreases. I don't see this as an implausible scenario for the next three or four decades.

I think it will be the nation's forests that lose out worst. People will cut down trees to get firewood.

Well, gosh, I hope not. That would be even worse than burning more coal. But there's reason to hope on that score, since the EROEI for mining and transporting coal is clearly much better than for chopping and carrying wood. (If it weren't, it would seem the industrial revolution would never have happened in the first place).

PS: This might be another case where Dmitry Orlov could go one about the former USSR being better prepared for collapse. In much of Eastern Europe people still heat buildings with coal, so they are much less likely to end up chopping down trees while they wait for a coal distribution system to be built.

Regarding coal, I was only referring to the issue of built infrastructure. Once the fuel for that infrastructure changes, one has to deal with the obstacles of getting to a new (but perhaps very old) infrastructure. Such a change likely takes time, capital, and raw materials. Maybe the government will make oil available to the coal industry, but I wouldn't count on it.

If there are a lot of poor people in this country, nearby woods will look like essentially free resources to them, except for the labor involved in harvesting the trees. I don't think they will count EROI the same way you do.

I just think you're more skeptical of coal than is warranted (and thus from a global warming point of view, not worried enough). I think this could go either way and it may come down to the politicians/dictators. Surely you are right that some will turn to the nearby woods, but there are many who will have no nearby woods to speak of.

And to repeat, since it's CO2 emissions that are at issue here, you have to think globally. That means considering places like China and the former Soviet Bloc that are using more coal infrastructure than the "West", and building more. (We are on TOD:Europe right now, BTW.)

Hi Gail

You wrote. "I think it will be the nation's forests that lose out worst. People will cut down trees to get firewood."

I think it is a good idea to lift the eyes and see the masses of poor outside the 'developed' countries. Around 40% of the world's population lives in India, China, S.E Asia and Indonesia. What is going to happen when they decide to cut down whatever remaining forests that remain? Deforestation has already been catastrophic in these areas. Look at Easter Island for the net result.

Coal shipments continue plunge

May 6, 2009

COAL shipments from the country's biggest port continued to plunge last month, and the fall would have been sharper if not for Chinese demand.

The amount of coal exported from Newcastle fell 15 per cent in the year to April to an annualised 76 million tonnes, figures from the Port Waratah Coal Service show.

An analyst at Patersons Securities, Andrew Harrington, said he thought Chinese demand for thermal coal used in power stations would remain strong because exporters such as Australia were offering lower prices than domestic producers.

But demand from Japan was likely to continue falling because its economy had shrunk sharply in recent quarters, he said.

"Japan has been the largest consumer for a long time and softness there probably won't be made up for by strength in China," Mr Harrington said.

I suspect the total amount of fossil fuel use will be down significantly, because oil is used in current mining and transport of coal.

Oil prices will make almost no difference for coal production any time soon, simply because they're such a trivial part of electricity prices.

As we saw before, the minemouth cost of coal in the US is only 5% of the retail price of electricity. Oil costs can only represent a small fraction of the minemouth cost (since wages/machinery/financing/profit/etc. all have to come out of that $10 as well), meaning that a doubling of oil prices isn't going to make more than a percent or two difference in the price of electricity.

Accordingly, coal mining will be able to absorb much larger increases in the price of oil than many other industries (e.g., airlines) before it becomes a serious issue, meaning that oil will be available for coal production even if supply falls a great deal.

One might think of current situation as having oil-driven coal. If we lose the oil

That has nothing to do with any of the presented scenarios, though, as all of them have tens of millions of barrels per day of oil in 2030.

Indeed, it's not even a credible scenario, given that oil can be made from coal. This is especially true for North America, since domestic production will be millions of barrels per day for decades to come (US stripper wells + Canadian oil sands are not declining quickly).

"If we lose oil" is not a plausible near-future scenario unless it happens as a result of massive societal disruption, in which case the direct effect on coal production would enormously outweigh the indirect effect via oil, so if that's what you want to talk about, talk about it directly. It doesn't relate to this article, though, so it's not clear what the benefit is from introducing unrelated topics.

While theoretically coal based methods of mining and transport could be developed, my guess is that these will lag behind, so a drop in oil production may also inhibit coal production.

This seems unlikely to me. Anyone have any idea how much oil is used by the coal industry? I can't see it being that high a percent... but I don't know. Anyone got a figure?

Also, the most likely place for oil demand destruction is in consumer uses as people cut back and/or lose jobs and can no longer afford their cars.


I certainly share your concerns. I see a best case scenario in which renewables (wind fist, then solar) compete with coal well enough to mitigate ecological destruction. But I'm barely optimistic that this can happen. If that project is not successful, then politicians will go to the easy substitute for oil, which is coal. And that could eventually make the current living places of most of the globe's human population uninhabitable.

I agree coal will be burned in mass. The infrastructure is there and in place. But don't be too pessemistic. Political and social will have seen a drive towards solar and especially wind and against coal. Coal will be burned, and if the overnight charging EVs come to the grid anytie soon it will probably go up in use, but I suspect that after that, as a percentage of total generation, it will trend down.

Some of us are, or would like to. Delores Garcia did a guest post on her efforts updating World3 some time ago.

Abstract: An updated systems model of global climate, resources, and energy extending the original World3 (“Limits to Growth”) model by inclusion of climate change and it's interaction with resources and energy. Outcomes are derived for total energy resources, human population, nutrition, consumption, economic activity and other parameters. Long-term outcomes are derived for a 1900 C.E. to 2100 C.E. time sequence, with human population decline.

I'm a little more ambitious simply because I think we have no choice but to be very assertive and forward thinking to deal with the issues facing us.

Your statement above caused me to revise and expand on my ideas a little. I have posted this update to my blog.

The Perfect Storm World Simulation: Peak Oil, Climate Change, Economic Collapse


If you want to see how out of date the 2005 Hirsch report is, see what he says about electric vehicles possible contribution to reducing gasoline consumption. With technology, 4 yeas can be a very long time.

"Investments for renewable energies will almost certainly be reduced by the economic crash. "

New wind in US is still being added at record rates( 2,800MW first 3 months of 2009) perhaps the recession is over!

As I pointed out to Dennis:

Your data point only demonstrates what has happened in the past.

To see into the future, you must look at different data.

Renewable-energy investments drop globally

Clean-Tech Venture Financing Plunges


As usual, your article is full of facts and thorough in its coverage. One question I did have concerns the total amount of coal available for CTL; how much did you assume? Was this resource constrained or emissions constrained?

@Will Stewart,

We did not look into the availability of coal up to 2030 as we do not think it will be a problem up to that timeframe. It could become a problem in the timeframe up to 2050 though.

The expansion of CTL is neither resource nor emission constrained but infrastructure constrained. The high acceleration scenario is very unlikely and would assume a) a quick technological improvement b) Policies oriented towards expanding CTL at a very rapid rate.


Rembrandt wrote:

The expansion of CTL is neither resource nor emission constrained but infrastructure constrained.

Can you tell us the infrastructure assumptions you made and any algorithms to come up with the figures you arrived at (and could you provide the figures as well)? I'm just trying to get a sense of the basis behind the charts.

@Will Stewart

It is a policy report not a scientific one, we just showed that if unconventional oil production could double and from which sources what would happen to CO2 emissions. Based on theoretical reasoning, a) what are the current plans for unconventional fuels and b) how quickly could current efforts be doubled or tripled. You are looking for a forecast, which this is not. It is a simple scenario analysis.


It is a policy report not a scientific one

Ok, I understand now, thanks.

I wish you could have provided numbers in terms of cumulative Gtc. Coincidentally, there are 2 new papers in Nature about target emissions:

Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne

Global efforts to mitigate climate change are guided by projections of future temperatures1. But the eventual equilibrium global mean temperature associated with a given stabilization level of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations remains uncertain1, 2, 3, complicating the setting of stabilization targets to avoid potentially dangerous levels of global warming4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Similar problems apply to the carbon cycle: observations currently provide only a weak constraint on the response to future emissions9, 10, 11. Here we use ensemble simulations of simple climate-carbon-cycle models constrained by observations and projections from more comprehensive models to simulate the temperature response to a broad range of carbon dioxide emission pathways. We find that the peak warming caused by a given cumulative carbon dioxide emission is better constrained than the warming response to a stabilization scenario. Furthermore, the relationship between cumulative emissions and peak warming is remarkably insensitive to the emission pathway (timing of emissions or peak emission rate). Hence policy targets based on limiting cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide are likely to be more robust to scientific uncertainty than emission-rate or concentration targets. Total anthropogenic emissions of one trillion tonnes of carbon (3.67 trillion tonnes of CO2), about half of which has already been emitted since industrialization began, results in a most likely peak carbon-dioxide-induced warming of 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures, with a 5–95% confidence interval of 1.3–3.9 °C.

Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C

More than 100 countries have adopted a global warming limit of 2 °C or below (relative to pre-industrial levels) as a guiding principle for mitigation efforts to reduce climate change risks, impacts and damages1, 2. However, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions corresponding to a specified maximum warming are poorly known owing to uncertainties in the carbon cycle and the climate response. Here we provide a comprehensive probabilistic analysis aimed at quantifying GHG emission budgets for the 2000–50 period that would limit warming throughout the twenty-first century to below 2 °C, based on a combination of published distributions of climate system properties and observational constraints. We show that, for the chosen class of emission scenarios, both cumulative emissions up to 2050 and emission levels in 2050 are robust indicators of the probability that twenty-first century warming will not exceed 2 °C relative to pre-industrial temperatures. Limiting cumulative CO2 emissions over 2000–50 to 1,000 Gt CO2 yields a 25% probability of warming exceeding 2 °C—and a limit of 1,440 Gt CO2 yields a 50% probability—given a representative estimate of the distribution of climate system properties. As known 2000–06 CO2 emissions3 were approx234 Gt CO2, less than half the proven economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves4, 5, 6 can still be emitted up to 2050 to achieve such a goal. Recent G8 Communiqués7 envisage halved global GHG emissions by 2050, for which we estimate a 12–45% probability of exceeding 2 °C—assuming 1990 as emission base year and a range of published climate sensitivity distributions. Emissions levels in 2020 are a less robust indicator, but for the scenarios considered, the probability of exceeding 2 °C rises to 53–87% if global GHG emissions are still more than 25% above 2000 levels in 2020.

Eyeballing the last chart, they assumed a total cumulative emission from oil around 500 GtC between 2000 and 2049. Looking at your last chart in your post, the worst case scenario seems to be 5 GtC/year for 50 years or about 250 GtC. I think it would be great if TOD could determine a realistic likelihood function for total cumulative emissions from the various fossil fuel sources.

I think it would be great if TOD could determine a realistic likelihood function for total cumulative emissions from the various fossil fuel sources.

Khebab, hasn't Kjell Aleklett already done that? He's got estimates for oil (slide 82), gas (slide 84) and coal (slide 87):

He has turned them into 'primary energy produced' but the data likely started as Gt/year.

I did the following estimate back in 2005. Papers since then suggest that the coal estimate I used was considerably overstated. The ASPO Europe scenarios come up with more carbon from oil, but also seem pretty optimistic, especially for those of us who believe that conventional oil has probably already peaked. I would be happy if anyone would check my arithmetic. See fig. 2
Stabilization at 450 ppm calls for peak emissions of about 11 Gt/yr in 2004.
Stabilization at 500 ppm calls for peak emissions of about 12.5 Gt/yr in 2005.
We are now in 2005, with expected emissions near 7.2 Gt/yr.

For purposes of analysis we can take:
10 Gt coal = 6.0-6.5 Gt C at world use mix. I will use 6.3
10 Gb light crude = 1 Gt C
100 Tcf NG = 1.4-1.5 Gt C. I will use 1.5
These numbers are mix dependent and other sources may give slightly different values. For instance for coal, lignite is 35% C (with very high water content), bituminous is 65% C and anthracite is 95% C. Similarly middle east NG differs somewhat from North American NG, and heavy crude differs from light crude.

Conversion factors
1 b oil has same heating value as 5000-6000 cf of NG, or 0.27 metric tones (270 kg) coal.
1 quad (quadrillion Btu, 1x10e15 Btu} = 1.055 exajoules (1x10e18 joules) = 293x10e9 kWh
1kWh = 3.6 MJ (3.6x10e6 joules)
1 tonne LNG = 53.5 kcf NG = 10-11 b Arabian light crude = 52x10e6 Btu
1 kcf NG = 1.02 Mbtu (1.02 x10e6 Btu) = 1.08 GJ (1.08x10e9 Joules )
In the USA, given the present mix:
1 Gb petroleum = 6.3 quads = 6.3 Tcf NG = 270 Mt coal
1Gt coal = 23.5 quads = 23.5 Tcf NG = 3.7 Gb petroleum

World consumption 2005: coal – 4.3 Gt, NG – 99 Tcf, petroleum – 31 Gb.

Known reserves:
Coal 1999 - 985 Gt, NG 2003 – 6800 Tcf with maybe 2000 Tcf yet to find, Petroleum (excluding tarsands and Orinoco bitumen) 2004 - 1000 Gb with 300 Gb yet to find or available from tertiary recovery. There is probably some coal yet to find. Since there is no authoritative number we can use a guess of 20% of known reserves. Yet to find and available from tertiary recovery will not delay the peak, but will slightly slow the decline.

From known reserves we have potential C of: Coal – 620 Gt, NG 102 Gt, petroleum – 100 Gt, total 822 Gt.

We have used about 25 % of original recoverable coal, 32% of NG and 50% of petroleum. Original reserve amounts then contained C as – coal 830 Gt, NG 150 Gt, and petroleum 200 Gt. To these figures we can add the yet to find and tertiary recovery, and get a total potential carbon emissions of Coal 990 Gt, NG 180 Gt and petroleum 230 Gt for a grand total from conventional fuels of 1400 Gt. To this number we must add something for bitumen and tarsands, but the recovery from these 2 sources is so slow that they will have little impact on the calculation of maximum atmospheric concentration of C. We might get to 500 Gb light crude equivalent from these sources by 2100, adding another 50 Gt for a maximum number of 1450 C.

In the real world if we follow an irresponsible “business as usual” scenario we will have petroleum peaking about 2006 at consumption of less than 32 Gb/yr, and declining at an average rate of 4%/yr, (this rate is after production from tarsands and bitumen), NG peaking by 2025 at a consumption of 145 Tcf/yr and declining at an average annual rate of at least 2.5%/yr, and coal peaking in 2050 at an average annual consumption of 8.3 Gt/yr, and declining at an average annual rate of at least 2%. Fuel emissions will then peak at about 7.5 Gt/yr in 2030, decline to 6.9 Gt/yr in 2050, 3.5 Gt/yr in 2080 and 2 Gt/yr in 2100.
Total cum. fossil fuel emissions from 2000 = 350 Gt by 2050, 490 by 2080 and 530 by 2100. With about 290 Gt C already emitted by 2000, we will have emitted 60% of reasonably available fossil fuel C by 2100. The world should be near zero emissions by 2150, with another 50 Gt total emitted for near 63% of available. With a half life of 10-12 years in the decades 2000-2050, going to 20 years in the decade 2080 and 30 years by 2100, and assuming land use continues to add 15%/yr to fuel emissions, atmospheric concentration reaches 520 ppm by 2100 and peaks at less than 550 ppm in 2150.

There are many variables that can affect the actual result, and numerous scenarios could be provided. The above is considered a pretty pessimistic relatively low probability scenario. Factors that can cause a more optimistic outcome include diminishing supplies of petroleum worldwide, and NG in North America, and use of coal to generate liquid fuel and syngas driving up the cost of fuel and forcing significant efficiencies; global warming concerns finally being recognized and forcing a degree of energy conservation; accelerated growth of nuclear and renewable alternatives to fossil fuels; and consumer demand for clean coal technology; plus a significant fraction of the CO2 being sequestered economically by tertiary oil recovery. All of these are high probability. It is also likely that, with petroleum and NG in decline early in this century, population will peak and decline earlier than projected by the UN, which in turn will have a favorable impact on the land use emissions increment. Thus the most probable result will be significantly better than the one quantified above.

On the pessimistic side export of NG as LNG and GTL could hasten the depletion of NG, with a somewhat higher and earlier peak. This could cause an acceleration of growth in coal consumption, leading to peak coal use of near 3x present annual consumption with a peak near 2040 at a maximum of 10 Gt total carbon emitted from fossil fuels. We would consume about 67% of available fuel by 2100 and 70% by 2150. Coal would then be depleted sooner, and peak ppm could be little higher, perhaps 570 ppm. However such a scenario would be even more likely to trigger the ameliorating effects noted above.

570 ppm is just about double preindustrial concentration, and would not last long. With only CO2 forcing, that would give a max temperature rise of 1.2 degrees C. Higher temperature projections come only from climate models, and depend on positive feedbacks that have never been demonstrated. Murray

Is there anyway to demonstrate these feedbacks before they occur? Or maybe a couple of canaries out there to give us an early indication of them...I am assuming you are talking about positive feedbacks in the carbon cycle due to warming.

Let's not feign ignorance about feedbacks. Some are straightforward, the chief of which is of course water vapor. I would hope we all have at least a rudimentary the relationship between heating and evaporation. If the greenhouse effect itself is not at issue, what's to be demonstrated?
Quantifying the exact amount of expected warming is considerably less straightforward and that's where models come in but there's no reason to assume sensitivity is 1.2C. There's also no reason to pretend sensitivity stands solely on models and even less sense in disparaging models gratuitously.

Luke, a popular way to estimate the feedbacks ahead of time is to study ancient climate change such as prehistoric (de)glaciations.

in response to Luke's edit: Murray is not talking about carbon cycle feedbacks (you do not get 1.2C by assuming no carbon cycle feedbacks).

H, I actually edited my response down and added the carbon feedback part to try and get a clarification. Murray and I recently had an exchange on arctic ice, and that ice is one of the canaries (as in the canary in a coal mine whose death was an early indication of the presence of toxic gas) I insinuated may exist. Murray's position here explains his optimistic view that arctic ice is recovering rapidly, in spite of the three fold increase in the percentage of two year old and younger ice in the last decade. I only hope he is right. All those reassessments of the date expected for an ice free summer arctic indicate some are indeed finding evidence of positive temperature feedback.

My experience with what big open water does to the weather certainly makes me hesitant to predict rapid ice recovery even though the last couple of winters pushed the ice maximum over half way back to its pre 2000 average. If somehow all those folks have miscalculated and the ice comes back strong, Murray will be my most favored prophet.

Weather over the arctic summer seas is extremely unpredictable, and the dearth of weather stations in the region doesn't help our predictive capabilities. Last summer the coordinator of Shell's arctic offshore seismic survey told me that he could not get any decent 3-5 day forecasts. Since it took a couple of days for the boats to get their miles of survey gear out of the water the lack of forecasts made the entire operation very dicey.

We will know soon enough if events like the arctic ice eating winds of the summer of 2007 were weather anomalies or the new weather norm.

But this is all straying a little from Rembrandt's excellent post. Extremely concise but covering a broad set of scenarios, thanks for the handy comparisons.

I wasn't feigning ignorance about anything. It is very probable that cloud feedback, which is negative, is much stronger than any water vapor GH feedback, but neither is measured or well known. What we can be sure of is that earth climate is self regulating, with no evidence over many millions of years of positive feedback. (Positive feedback causes runaway conditions). There have been many periods in earth's past with CO2 concentrations much higher than the present, without remarkably elevated temperatures, as well as warmer periods without elevated CO2. Climate models which give such dramatic predictions depend on unexplained assumptions (eg aerosols) to backcast, and unsupported assumptions (eg positive feedbacks) to provide "catastrophic" forecasts. I like the evidence much better than the models. Also life has thrived on earth when temperatures were apparently more than 10 degrees C above the present. In fact cold periods (we are in an "interglacial") are more the exception than the rule in earth's history. Four degrees C warmer would probably be a boon.
However all of this is off topic. The point of my message was to try to quantify a probable max. CO2 concentration from our best assumptions of total fossil fuel availability and production rates. There simply isn't enough to support most of the IPCC SRES, so we can reject their most dire projections. Murray

I'll try my best to be polite. I find it difficult to believe you are being honest. Clouds are complicated but water vapor is straightforward. It can be, has been and is measured (though not in as much detail as one would like). For those who don't trust radiosondes, satellites or surface measurements, the relationship between vapor pressure and temperature can also be tested in any kitchen.

Yes this is off-topic. It is important however and I was concerned someone might take you seriously. Hopefully this last post of yours will dissuade anyone from doing so.

Back on topic: I agree with your assessment of the SRES. I appreciate that Rembrandt and others are questioning the scenarios while respecting the science.

570 ppm is just about double preindustrial concentration, and would not last long. With only CO2 forcing, that would give a max temperature rise of 1.2 degrees C. Higher temperature projections come only from climate models, and depend on positive feedbacks that have never been demonstrated. Murray

You said at the beginning of your post that you did this estimate back in 2005. Still, don't you think a forcing of 1.2C is frighteningly low? The most optimistic models don't use a sensitivity that low. In fact, it is estimated that the carbon currently in the atmosphere - with no more added - will take us to, or even past, 2C. What's frightening about that is it's not close to a doubling, it's only a rise in CO2 of 35-37%.

The simple math goes thus: 35-37% rise in CO2 = 1.7C rise. That indicates a climate sensitivity of at at least 4.8C per doubling.

These are rough, back-of-the-envelope figures, but demonstrate the absurdity of assuming a 1.7C climate sensitivity per doubling.


The simple math goes thus: 35-37% rise in CO2 = 1.7C rise. That indicates a climate sensitivity of at at least 4.8C per doubling.

The temperature effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide is logarithmic (that means there is a diminishing response as you keep adding more). Of course this only refers to the absorbtion of heat due to CO2 and not the multitude of feedback mechamisms that may amplify or reduce the sensitivity..

The math is not that simple.

The temperature effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide is logarithmic (that means there is a diminishing response as you keep adding more).

And you are repeating that here because...?

The math is not that simple.

Calculating a sensitivity as a fraction of the warming seen so far with the rise so far, and leaving out what the message I was responding to left out seems pretty straight forward to me.

I don't know if you are just reinforcing my point or making a different one.


Not only is the math not simple, it is nearly impossible. Modeling a single feedback can be difficult. Modeling multiple feedbacks that all feedback on each other at rates that can not be clearly determined and that may be affected by other known and unknown factors is frighteningly complex.

These are not comforting uncertainties.

Just to be specific, some of the positive feedbacks we are dealing with include:

Tundra melt releasing CO2 and methane (now well underway)
CO2 release from other soils as they heat and dry out (underway)
Ocean saturation (stops absorbing CO2 at rates it has been--up to half of all CO2 emitted so far)
Burning forests and other biomass as GW destroys them (ongoing)
Release of methane clathrates from seabeds (probably underway)

Just the last of these alone could more than double the atmospheric CO2 equivalent concentration in short order. And there are a number of others that are either underway or likely to start soon some of which directly affect carbon, others (albedo) that don't. Feel free to add your own.

The main negative feedback is aging rock--a very, very slow feedback compared to these.

In case anyone is confused: these feedbacks have no bearing on sensitivity.

What was discussed above was temperature as a function of CO2 concentration (or sensitivity).

I'm scratching my head as to why they're tossing in stuff that was not what was being addressed. You said it much more clearly.


Exactly. Leave out the hypothetical feedbacks, and the IPCC AR4 agrees that CO2 sensivity is a logarithmic function, with a temp. increase of 1.2 degrees C for a doubling of CO2 from preindustrial level. That is all I stated. Feedbacks are a whole other issue that might be addressed on another thread if TOD editors wish to permit a discussion not related to peak FF. Murray.

Murray -
Thankyou, that was exaclty my point.

"IPCC AR4 agrees that CO2 sensivity is a logarithmic function, with a temp. increase of 1.2 degrees C for a doubling of CO2"

And I am telling you 1.2C per doubling is a ridiculously low number. will also point out that IPCC IV is based on data from pre-2005. There has been important work on sensitivity since 2005. I already showed you the math.

If CO2 doubling is 1.2C, then the max increase in temps we could possibly have at this time is 0.66. However, we are at .8 already realized and a minimum of .5 more in the pipeline from existing levels of CO2. That's 1.16C for an increase of only 35 - 37% increase.

While Rembrandt is necessarily constrained by his desire to present a "professional" or "academically acceptable" paper, reality is not. When the models based on these lower sensitivities are proving inadequate, there can be only one conclusion: they are wrong.

Try not to hide behind old work to make a point when the evidence is solidly against doing so.

Do the math.


One of the things you don't seem to understand is that there are different classes of feedback. Feedbacks that increase CO2 have no bearing on sensitivity. Feedbacks that increase temperature directly do.

The key feedbacks are not hypothetical. Don't hide behind TOD's editors to spread misinformation.

I don't think the public will accept a conspicuous buildup of CTL facilities. It will touch a raw nerve. They may be hard to hide as I understand they consume 4 barrels of water (600L) for every barrel of oil plus CO2, sulphur and tars. If I recall GTL via the Fischer Tropsch process wastes 30-40% of the energy so compressed gas may be preferred despite the need for heavy tanks. Note that South Africa's Sasol prefers using Mozambique gas to local coal.

Tankers (ships or trucks) could visit stranded gas wells with compressor stations which are technically simpler than FT plant. Therefore liquid fuels may never recover from the recent peak. It also means that the economic wheels will slow and derived demand for coal will also slow, not increase. The causal link is less liquid fuel-->less transport-->less goods delivered-->less production-->less coal. Bring it on I say.

I agree with Pickens that compressed natural gas is the heavy vehicle fuel of the future. To free up supplies we need to reduce its use in electrical generation.

Incidentally the Chairman of Shell Australia has criticised the postponement of Australia's cap and trade scheme. Political uncertainty is worse than higher costs evidently.

CTL is expensive, too. $1B for each 10,000 barrel per day plant. Anyone who thinks CTL can come to the rescue hasn't dug into the economics of it, in my view.

From the FAQ:
"How long would it take to construct a CTL plant? What is the cost?

CTL plants are costly to construct, about $1 billion dollars for a 10,000 barrel/day facility, and up to $6.5 billion or more for a world-scale 80,000 barrel/day plant with a five-seven year lead time."


thanks for your report "Less Oil, more CO2". I have just gone quickly through your PDF file.

The Hansen/Karecha study quoted in your report is now outdated, with its 450 ppm limit and a coal phase out by 2050 (scenario d, less oil reserves). Hansen's revised limit is now 350 ppm at most requiring a coal phase out by 2030. Details are here:

It is not certain whether carbon capture and storage will ever work commercially or can be scaled up in time for the huge quantities of CO2 involved. I have calculated that a 1,000 MW coal fired power plant would require the continuous geo-sequestration of 150 kb/d of liquid CO2. In the Australian State of NSW, for example, there are 12,000 MW installed, which would produce 1.8 mb/d CO2. That is 3.5 times the oil handling capacity of the whole Australian oil industry. 1,000 of kms of new pipelines to be laid to safe storage sites.

Since peak oil is the end of our car culture my idea is to re-tool most of the car industry to mass-produce generators for windfarms, components for solar thermal plants and solar panels.

An excellent report which shows the current very poor prospects for unconventional oil.
Unfortunately the fact is we will need even unconventional oil.
GTL is a good method for shipping stranded gas like Qatar or Australia's Gorgon with sequestering most of the plant CO2 as gas is extracted. It might be more cost effective than LNG.

CTL is a terrible idea. You only get 2 barrels of gasoline per ton of coal and release 3.6 times as the CO2 of conventional oil.

If we had the hydrogen fuel cell cars it would make more sense to just sequester all the CO2. 6 tons of coal to make 1 ton of compressed hydrogen gas equal to 23.5 barrels of gasoline in energy. Of course we can make hydrogen also from renewables.

A best idea is to use the coal to distill bio-ethanol and bury the plant CO2.
One ton of coal provides enough heat to distill+6 barrels of oil equivalent. Then convert all cars to E85.

Unfortunately bio-ethanol will remain somewhat limited by worldwide land use, though much bigger than currently.

Tar sands will get developed. If it takes 1000 scf of natural gas to chemically make a barrel of oil out of bitumen that's only a 25% increase in GHG over oil, not counting additional thermal energy.
Still the amount of mineable tar sands is only 40 Gb beyond which you have to rely on insitu methods.

The oil crunch is so serious that I think nuclear reactors( which I oppose for electricity) should be used to provide direct thermal energy(steam, hot gas) for insitu recovery of oil from tar sands and oil shale with minimal CO2 release.

I would make more sense to do this than use nukes to power electric cars; 1 kwh electricity = 3 kwh thermal, the thermal efficiency of in-situ oil is 2-3 so 1 kwh of electricity = 6-9 kwh of oil or .16 to .25 gallons of gasoline.

A 40 mpg car will go 6-10 miles on that much gasoline.

An electric car (with a 60 mile range) will go 4 miles on 1 kwh of nuclear(carbon-free) electricity.

I would make more sense to do this than use nukes to power electric cars; 1 kwh electricity = 3 kwh thermal, the thermal efficiency of in-situ oil is 2-3 so 1 kwh of electricity = 6-9 kwh of oil or .16 to .25 gallons of gasoline. A 40 mpg car will go 6-10 miles on that much gasoline. An electric car (with a 60 mile range) will go 4 miles on 1 kwh of nuclear(carbon-free) electricity.

That would be badly sub-optimal. There's a great deal more to extracting oil from tar-sands than the heat input. To convert 1 KWH into .2 gallons of gas would be extremely costly, and emit a lot of CO2.

To convert 1 KWH into .2 gallons of gas would be extremely costly, and emit a lot of CO2.

Wouldn't you like to get .2(average)gallons of gas, 22400 Btus of energy from 1 kwh worth of electricity, 3412 Btus? Plus 4 pounds of CO2.

If we consider a years worth of gasoline in a 40 mpg car(300 gallons) that's 3 tons of CO2 plus another 1 ton for tar sands
syncrude upgrading=4 tons CO2 per year and 1200 kwh per year for nuke electricity($120 per year). If syncrude costs $1.5 per gallon to make that's a total of $450 per year plus $120 for electricity or $570 per year plus a carbon tax on 1 ton of CO2 in excess of drilled oil or $100=$670 per year or $2.23 per gallon plus releasing 25% more CO2.

In my view this is not excessive compared to depleting, imported crude. Of course moving to 40 mpg vehicles will reduce CO2 emissions the most.

As I said the increase in emissions from using natural gas to upgrade bitumen to syncrude is 25%. The post gives a tar sands procress--- 5.6/(20.1+5.6)=21.7% increase for low emit or an average increase of (12.5/(12.5+20.1)=38% over regular petroleum.
OTH, an electric car going 12000 miles per year will use
3000 kwh per year releasing 2.2 tons of CO2 versus 3 with a regular gas fueled car and 4 with a syncrude fueled car.
If the car was powered by coal electricity (the most probable result of a big increase in electric cars) would get 3.2 tons of CO2 per year, worse than a regular car.

My point is that direct use of the nuclear electricity in a PHEV/EV would be far preferable.

It's conceivable that both uses might make sense in parallel to deal with PO, but if we have limited capital and therefore have to make choices, money, engineering talent and public policy energy ("political capital") should be directed towards PHEV/EVs, not tar-sands-based unconventional oil.

Similarly, it's possible that it makes sense to build both wind, solar and nuclear, but if we have to make choices, wind is the clear priority.

As far as I can see a mass deployment of plug-in cars simply won't happen and so wishing for nuke electricity(no place to put waste, IAEA says peaking soon, etc.) and plug-in cars(lithium, nickle limitation) is a complete pipedream.

Ethanol is the most obvious solution as it reduces GHG and it is basically renewable if you have a heat source.

We have a large amount of unconventional oil but we have to use it very efficiently to minimize emissions but there WILL be emissions(offset them with credits for forestation, etc.).

Electricity from any fuel is inefficient and wasteful but using 'thermal energy to cook rocks at an EROEI of 2-3 increases energy.

Nuclear energy is an ideal source of massive steady heating.
Combine it with say oil shale which represents 400 Gb of shale oil and 200 Gboe of natural gas and this is a couple of Saudi Arabias( but not infinite).

For example, an acre of oil shale 400' thick would yield about 300000 barrels of shale oil. Shell's Mahogany project could be reproduced using supercritical CO2 as heat trasfer medium. A 12 mini-nuclear CO2 cooled reactor would inject superhot gas--800 degree(why you have a gas reactor) into the formation thru a series of tunnels and 12" boreholes for 3 years. At the end of that time you pump out the 300000 barrels of oil from that acre leaving the CO2 behind. A square mile would be 200 million barrels of oil. The waste heat boilers( from the nuclear furnace) could distill corn/cellulose into ethanol with minimal emissions. 25 square miles per year of western Colorado would equal the entire current US importation of oil.
Of course, burning any fossil fuel causes CO2 but doubling fuel economy to 40 mpg( converting a car to hybrid technology basically doubles fuel economy)will reduce our emissions the most.

But we can't get off oil so easily. We need to keep producing it but in ways that reduce emissions as much as posssible.

I'm not clear on your position relative to nuclear. At one point you seem to say that expansion of nuclear is unrealistic ("wishing for nuke electricity(no place to put waste, IAEA says peaking soon, etc.)... is a complete pipedream. "), and yet later you seem to support it as a realistic solution for unconventional oil ("Nuclear energy is an ideal source of massive steady heating.").

It's hard for me to imagine nuclear for tar-sands - it's been publicly suggested, but there's no sign of anybody really seriously proposing it. It looks to me like the likely prospect is that they'll just burn bitumen. Dirty, nasty, low E-ROI...but as you note, there's a whole lot of it.

plug-in cars(lithium, nickle limitation) is a complete pipedream.

The likely chemistry is lithium. Lithium is reasonably abundant, and reasonably widely distributed: it's mostly produced now in S. America, but China is expanding production, and there are substantial sources elsewhere. It can be recycled efficiently.

It's rather like uranium: in the short run there could be boom-bust cycles of supply expansion and shortfalls, but in the medium-term there aren't really resource limits.

There was a widely read analysis a couple of years ago that raised questions, but those questions have been answered pretty thoroughly. The amount used by each battery isn't that great:
One estimate is that most lithium chemistries require around 3+lb/kWh of lithium carbonate, so for a 16KWH Volt type battery we would need about 50 lbs of lithium carbonate. At $2.75/lb, that's only $137.50, or 3.4% of the likely Volt battery cost of $4k (wholesale in 2-4 years). A doubling in the price of lithium would only increase the cost of a $30K vehicle (after $7,500 credit) by $137.50. GM is assembling their battery from cells made by LG Chem, the largest li-ion cell producer in the world - I suspect LG is pretty good at getting long-term contracts for their supplies.

If you want a more detailed general discussion this is good, and for some debate go here.

The likely chemistry is lithium.

More likely IMHO is titanium, as in TiO2 insulation in ultracaps. I know, they're still being secretive, but if they dont figure it out someone else will.

If any additional nuclear power plants are built nature will force us to use them to REPLACE coal fired power plants. With every year of emitting CO2 global warming becomes worse and there will be a point when we really get very nasty climate change events. And these may happen when the Arctic summer sea ice is going in the next 5 years or so. Our job will then be to extract CO2 from the atmosphere. If we are lucky, we can come back to the existing climate.

You also forget that hydrogen is the limiting factor (now from natural gas, but short in supply, too). The purpose of using nuclear power in syn crude production is to split water into oxygen and hydrogen.

All in all, tar sands + nuclear is a very dirty way of producing energy for the transport sector.

"there will be a point when we really get very nasty climate change events"

How many nasty events do we need?

Katrina apparently wasn't nasty enough.
The killer heat wave of '03 that killed some 50 thousand Europeans was not nasty enough.
The chaos in Australia and drought in the American West are not enough.
The nearly annual "500 and 1000 year" floods that now hit many locations in the American Midwest are not enough.

And these were "very nasty climate change events" in fully developed, powerful nations. No number of catastrophes in developing countries is likely to move any of the major powers. And of course no single event can be unambiguously be pinned on GW. I don't think we can depend on some nasty climate change event to move us. We are like the pharaoh in Exodus, always harding our hearts to every new catastrophe that hits us.

I think 'really nasty' was meant to be a bit of an understatement here, but you are right the first world will have to be impacted heavily and steadily to bring on any significant behavior movement.


I am aware of Hansen his new finding that 350 ppm would be required in his perception. However, this has not been published in any peer-reviewed paper in the context of a climate + peak oil type of analysis so we chose not to incorporate it. Also there is no concensus (yet) that 350 ppm is a goal. I prefer to take the IPCC concensus given the uncertainties in climate science and my lack of knowledge on the topic.


Hello Rembrandt- Yet another fine work !
Have you compared with the IEA prognoses ?
See here:
Page 7 top the IEA (Birol) gives depletion rates- world of 6.7% and for NoPec of >14% pa. And page 9 -bottom IEA gives the necessary development in energy sources- and energy efficiency to reach the 550 and 450 ppm target 2030 ( +3 and +2 oC) global temperature increase.

Do the IEA match with your numbers?

kind regards/And1


There has been a great deal of confusion over the decline rate figures from the IEA. The 6.7% decline rate applies to fields which have already peaked (post-peak) and is not the average for the world, the world average the IEA uses is around 4.5%. >14% pa is again post-peak for a specific type of fields in Non-OPEC. We looked at world averages.

We did not look at ppm targets in our report, just showing what happens with CO2 levels from liquids if unconventional oil gets ramped up at current rates and at double current rates.

The maximum CO2 concentration during interglacial periods in the last 500 K years was around 300 ppm. That's where we have to get back to before we cross some unknown tipping point beyond which there is no way back for 100s of thousands of years. Fossil fuels should now mainly be used to build up a carbon free energy system. If we don't do this very fast, we'll get punished.

Right. You don't need the now hopelessly outdated (it was so already when it came out) IPCC report to figure this out.


How is the climate sensitivity constrained by any issue relating to PO? the two issues are completely independent. The issues related to PO tell us only possible emissions rates, but nothing about sensitivity.

Also there is no concensus (yet) that 350 ppm is a goal.

I fail to see how that could possibly be true. We do have a problem with regard to official pronouncements vs. actual opinions as expressed privately and/or anonymously, but that wall is cracking. I re-post two links here that demonstrate what climate scientists say when they can speak anonymously.

From the article:

Asked what temperature rise was most likely, 84 of the 182 specialists (46%) who answered the question said it would reach 3-4C by the end of the century; 47 (26%) suggested a rise of 2-3C, while a handful said 6C or more. While 24 experts predicted a catastrophic rise of 4-5C, just 18 thought it would stay at 2C or under.

According to the numbers above, greater than 90% said temps would rise more than 2C. Their reasons are not elucidated, but that finding can't exist without greater sensitivity than that used in the IPCC IV.

Is 90% not a consensus?

#3 says:

We should also be mindful that temperature sensitivity of the planet... has been grossly underestimated... We are in extremely dangerous territory.

While neither proves sensitivity is as Hansen, et al., found, can the two quotes taken together really indicate anything else? As always, we should not be afraid to simply pay attention to what our lyin' eyes tell us: Natural observations are well outside IPCC projections. Obviously, they got it right, but were far short of reality. This can only mean all models are seriously flawed or that sensitivity is significantly higher than that used by the models collectively.

My lyin' eyes tell me we've been badly underestimating sensitivity.



>How is the climate sensitivity constrained by any issue relating to PO? the two issues are completely independent. The issues related to PO tell us only possible emissions rates, but nothing about sensitivity.<

Climate sensitivity is not influenced by the availability of fossil fuels. Did I state this somewhere?

>Is 90% not a consensus?<

To improve the credibility of our report we have to base ourselves on IPCC reports as 1) We do not have any expertise in climate science 2) This is the latest scientific standard with a with ranging consensus. It has more credibility than a sample of 182 scientists which might be/or might not be representative of the entire population. Although your sample certainly appears to be convincing.

>My lyin' eyes tell me we've been badly underestimating sensitivity.<

That could very well be true, but we have made a choice in the past and will stick to it. We may reconsider in a future report (I.E. add a paragraph including that the current consensus seems to steer to 350 PPM).



Thanks for the reply. You asked:

Climate sensitivity is not influenced by the availability of fossil fuels. Did I state this somewhere?

Your rationale here indicated because the two issues had not been addressed in the context of peak oil, you shouldn't.

However, this has not been published in any peer-reviewed paper in the context of a climate + peak oil type of analysis so we chose not to incorporate it.

However, I see nothing in the context that would suggest you need to avoid this. This paper is the fourth now talking about FFs and climate while using obviously incorrect climate sensitivity. This is a serious problem. It is no different than writing a paper on decline and ignoring the IEA's paper from last November.

I am repeating my call for any and all TOD-produced papers that address climate and FFs to at least include a section stating outcomes using higher sensitivities.

Try it. Your conclusions will go from the relatively sedate one in this paper to, "Uh-oh."

A last point on consensus. I ask, where is there NOT indications of consensus for higher sensitivity? There will not be another full IPCC for a number of years yet. Are we to wait to then to deal with reality? What I don't see evidence of is much support for low sensitivities. The meeting in Copenhagen was pretty clear, if on;y be implication, that we are in deep poo-poo. Can't be the case w/o higher sensitivities.

So, I repeat: even if you can't make categorical statements about higher sensitivity, you **can** address it as an addendum, worst case scenario, etc.

Thanks for your work and responses,


The Guardian poll is not about sensitivity. You do not know what emissions scenarios they were using. With no cooling from aerosols or some such, 450ppm would yield more than 2C warming with a 3C sensitivity. The consensual upper bound for sensitivity is of course a good bit higher so I fail to see how you have a consensus for revising the IPCC. Even a 4C warming would be compatible with the IPCC numbers given large enough emissions.
It also bears repeating that the usual definition (Charney) of sensitivity excludes some temperature feedbacks so actual warming is expected to be higher than implied by sensitivity alone.

You're being too quick in discarding the actual consensus. I remember you also disparaged the IPCC after Copenhagen over SLR numbers for which you misread the small print.

The Guardian poll is not about sensitivity.

I obviously did not say it was. I quite clearly said greater sensitivity was implied, not determined.

You do not know what emissions scenarios they were using.

None, so far as I know. The question wasn't that specific, afaik.

With no cooling from aerosols or some such, 450ppm would yield more than 2C warming with a 3C sensitivity.

And many other possible combos. But is that really what we're playing at in this thread? Besides, feedbacks are part of sensitivity.

The consensual upper bound for sensitivity is of course a good bit higher

Upper bound is not what people think of, and more importantly use, when they reference IPCC IV. This is the fourth paper from TOD staff to choose a set sensitivity while specifically citing IPCC IV.

It has been I, in fact, who has suggested they include the full range. Instead, impressions are being given that the situation is not so very dire because a low (imo) sensitivity has been used. Perhaps you haven't read all my posts in this thread?

so I fail to see how you have a consensus for revising the IPCC.

I don't know how to explain it any better than to provide what evidence there is. 1. Observations, 2. comments by scientists - almost always anonymous. We don't have the luxury of waiting for IPCC V.

Even a 4C warming would be compatible with the IPCC numbers given large enough emissions.

You are missing the point. Of course you can get any warming you want if you just add enough carbon. The point is, with the amounts being discussed, the important variable then becomes the sensitivity. That should be carefully chosen (or, better, use a range of scenarios).

It also bears repeating that the usual definition (Charney) of sensitivity excludes some temperature feedbacks so actual warming is expected to be higher than implied by sensitivity alone.

Isn't this my point?

Can you explain why you are treating sensitivity and feedbacks as separate things? To wit (from Wiki):

Therefore the 2007 AR4 renamed the alternative climate sensitivity to climate sensitivity parameter adding a new definition of effective climate sensitivity which is "a measure of the strengths of the climate feedbacks at a particular time and may vary with forcing history and climate state".

You're being too quick in discarding the actual consensus.

No, I'm not. I think it (the mean?) is too low. And, for the purposes of the comments here at TOD wrt TOD-generated posts, it is definitely too low as applied by the writers. Context is everything.

Your mileage may vary.

I remember you also disparaged the IPCC after Copenhagen over SLR numbers for which you misread the small print.

I have never disparaged the IPCC, so I don't know what you are referring to. Perhaps you mean the *observation* that some aspects of it were out of date at the time of publishing? Given this is a fact, I don't know how to resolve this for you.

Do you have some point you are trying to make?


The Wikipedia article is evidently confusing. Effective sensitivity is something else. This is explained properly in AR4.
Wikipedia links to an RC post you might find useful regarding what feedbacks are taken into account when quantifying sensitivity. The details do matter.

Old IPCC reports should ideally not be proven wrong as new ones come out. There are caveats in there to guard against that. They indicate poorly understood aspects of the system and are meaningful. Numbers which do not come with the same caveats shouldn't be compared with the old ones.

You have not produced evidence that the old sensitivity values are not consensual anymore.
If you wish to argue that vague statements to the Guardian are evidence, then be prepared to have your implicit assumptions challenged.

I think TOD should leave the science alone and focus on emissions scenarios (as Rembrandt did).
There are enough uncertainties that even peak everything by 2020 does not guarantee <2C of warming from now, much less from preindustrial. Revising sensitivity values that have stood the test of time is unnecessary.
What do you think would happen if a new IPCC report came out tomorrow claiming a 4-8C sensitivity? Piling doom upon gloom hasn't motivated much in the way of meaningful change so far.


I would have included sensitivity if we would be talking about temperature scenarios. I did some work a while back on this (an adjustment to the DICE model) but I have never published it. Maybe I will re-look at it in the summer.

Hm. Won't decline of oil, conventional and otherwise, lead to increased direct use of (unconverted) coal? I've always assumed that would be the biggest problem on the down slope.

One problem I have with most Global Warming scenarios is the basic assumption that we are somehow still in control of the situation. I'm firmly convinced that CO2 source from fossil fuels played the role of a forcing agent on the climate to higher temperatures. Simple and compelling science points this out. We have hints that man has affected the climate from the time he learned to wield fire.

However we have little evidence and in fact none that we have not goosed the natural feedback pathways to the point that they are now self sustaining. Plenty of natural source for continued CO2 and more worrisome methane emissions exist. Its not clear what the sink capacity of the ocean is for CO2 but everything I read points to the oceans having used up a substantial amount of their capacity to absorb C02.

The biggest question that has to be answered is has the climate been forced to the point that it will naturally undergo a warming cycle ? I'd argue as far as I can tell the answer is yes.

Also our huge coals reserves are in my opinion simply to tempting to be left alone. Economically we have yet to really feel the effects of peak oil I suspect once the real economic problems kick in that attempts to limit CO2 emissions will be brushed aside. Given this the chance of a effective global response is low.

And last but not least you have a certain fact about large populations of humans we manage to solve the problem well after its too late. The saying close the barn doors after the horses have escaped is especially true for climate change. We see this phenomena for peak oil with little being done while solutions are viable. I am very confident that if we are just now addressing climate change that our opportunity to do anything about it is well in the past. Collectively humans have a perfect score card in our ability to destroy I don't see use breaking our winning streak any time soon.

And last but not least a real solution is to dramatically change the way we live both on the emission side but I suspect today if the global warming is now driven by natural processes on the carbon sink side. This would require a massive pullback in our use of land and sea resources to allow the biosystem to rebound. Not only do we have to cut back on our own emissions dramatically but I think if we wish to limit the extreme of the warming trend we have to allow the worlds biosystems to return to pre-human levels. In particular allowing trees to return to the flood plains to recreate the climate cycles and rain forest effects. As far as I can tell the only thing that will really keep our planet out of a extreme cycle if we have done what I think we have and triggered a major warming event is to leave.

I suspect Gia will come to the same conclusion.

The only thing we control is our own behaviour. Even that is quite suspect much of the time. Our warlike reptilian brains make many decisions we do not know about, and many that we rationalize later with the rest of our brains.

We contributed to climate change by mistake. "Father (Mother) forgive them for they know not what they do".....until recently, and then they mostly don't care.

We can no more manage the planet than algae can manage a pond.

So what do we do -- give up and enjoy the ride? Fight like cats in a sack for whatever goodies are left? Mostly, yes.

Also discuss politely many lies and much wishful thinking. This passes for public discourse and wisdom. We feel good. Except for those who do not.

The possibilities are infinite. The probabilities are frightening. What we do is what we control -- sort of a way ....I think ...maybe......never mind.

Recent bushfires in our state that claimed almost 200 human lives (and a million animals?) apparently released as much CO2 as Australian industry did all of last year. And how much methane came from cattle? Not to mention every government's ongoing desire to "grow" their country.

Powering down - even drastically - seems a little pointless.

The only way to save ourselves (and the planet) is to stop having babies for a while, but of course, buckley's chance on that (nookies is still a fun thing to do, right! :)). Perhaps these past ten thousand years (since we learned how to grow food, instead of just taking what we need) is merely a brief downturn on the evolution roller coaster.

Perhaps Gaia is our only hope? Afterall, we are its enemy... Aren't we?

Regards, Matt B

Giving ourselves a lot of credit with such a grand title...'enemy of Gaia' We filled a niche and when we are gone others will fill ours--very possibly after having encouraged our exit, anyway that is what I gathered from Darwin's explanation. But we are hard wired for that greater purpose thing, or so it seems once 'contaminated' by it...

Certainty is always difficult, especially about the future.

Luke, yours is a statement of faith not of science. It might be true, but we can not know.

Some evidence suggests otherwise.

Already in the eighties before much of the impact of GW had manifested itself, most biologists considered the earth to be in a major extinction event, human driven, one happening much faster than most others and possibly more deadly. GW represents another extinction level event on top of the one already underway.

We cannot know what the result of such a double calamity might be. And of course a "natural" extinction event may well come along some time in the next few million years, further weakening the ability of complex life to recover before the sun gets too hot for life to be sustained on earth.

We can't know that life will recover from our depredations. But if the thought comforts you, hold on to it.

You missed my point, sorry I can be vague at times. Humans are a natural event, unless you want to bring the faith thing back in. Species come and go...'contaminated' by that greater purpose thing allows so much latitude in its interpretation.

A foggy realm this.


"We can no more manage the planet than algae can manage a pond."

Nice quote.

Why does the Global Warming nuts refuse to debate. Is there any, whatsoever, any quantitative or statistically significant evidence linking CO2 and temperatures?

Yes there is.

It has been 150 years since Tyndall discovered the radiative forcing effects of CO2 and other gases, and plenty of research has been done in that time.

I suggest you read the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4):

There are other interesting documents on too.

Oh please, don't be dishonest. There are a thousand blogs you can go visit to debate this stuff. Try for starters.

Rembrandt, shouldn't your paper be talking about "all liquids". The numbers given are far too high for conventional petroleum. Murray


We have decided to stick with the term unconventional oil because we think it is better known in policy circles. All Liquids is a more specialist term. The definition of what falls under unconventional oil is stated on page 25 of the report for clarification.

Your Fig 1 gives total "oil" in 2008 as about 85 mb/d, which is correct for "all liquids". the oils is nearly all "conventional oil" in 2008, and if memory serves, was less than 75 mb/d. It seems to me to be highly misleading to represent that oil production can reach well above 90 mb/d. People who don't know better will add other liquids to that number and come up with projections above 105 mb/d which are just not going to happen. IMHO it would be better to clearly define conventional oil, unconventional oil and other liquids to prevent confusion and/or misuse of your report. Murr


The figure states conventional oil + unconventional oil, and this is defined in the report on page 25. I do not see why this will be misleading. We clearly defined conventional oil and unconventional oil on page 25!

Most people will look at graphs before reading the fine print on page 25. Fig 1 doesn't distinguish. I haven't gone to page 25. Does non-conventional oil include refinery gains, NG liquids and biofuels? It's only a suggestion to improve clarity and forestall misunderstanding, but I think you should make the distinctions with the Figures if you want to try to ensure accurate communication. Putting figures on page 2 (or whereever) and definitions on page 25 may provide all of the information, but won't ensure accurate communication, and for those less well informed will almost guarantee miscommunication. However it's your report. Murray

Hi Rembrandt, I have now taken time to read the whole report. Overall a great job. Congratulations. Personally I am less optimistic than your most pessimistic scenario, and would prefer a set of scenarios that centered at a less optimistic level, but this report is a pretty good starting point and covers ground that needs to be addressed. A- overall. I still think peak "conventional" oil needs clarification which would get an A from me. Murray

Note that a couple of months back the US Air Force cancelled their proposed CTL plant in Montana
Had it gone ahead it would have paved the way for civilian projects.

Have you hugged your can of fuel today?

Don’t worry so much people, as the arctic ice melts we will be able to send oil rigs right up to the north pole, where we will find several giant fields that dwarf Ghawar. This will enable us to party on for at least another century, by which time we will have developed controlled fusion, space solar, zero point energy, etc. and have space colonies throughout the solar system. You see friends, God really is looking out for us, and global warming is all part of His plan. See you on Pluto!

'beam me up Scotty' ;-)

well I better go outside and dig out a culvert before I get any more caught up in Professor Pangloss's 'best of all possible worlds'

For some time now it has looked like we are moving to an all electric world for everything except long range aviation. We'll have all electric industrial production for the most part already. Electric cars and short haul trucks will be more and more common as the decades pass. Short haul airline travel will be replaced with electric high speed rail. All HVAC systems will use a significant amount of electricity as a supplement to solar heating with every appliance and gadgets of every purpose will run on electricity. And we will continue to burn cheap coal as long as possible to generate that electricity. Burning coal to generate electricity to charge vehicle batteries is a well proven technology and is more efficient than CTL by a long shot. The continued growth in the burning of coal will be the biggest impact of peak oil on climate change. All new renewable and nuclear power will only supplement coal instead of replacing it. But then a deadly virus could quickly change everything and save the planet from our foolishness.

All new renewable and nuclear power will only supplement coal instead of replacing it.

Very possible. OTOH, it's a choice, and maybe we'll do better than that - in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn't be very expensive.

Thanks for this posting.
Right now I am wondering about this question the other way round:
How will climate change affect oil production?
This might be subject for an extra posting but I'd like to hear some comments on some new information I found now.

One frequently adressed idea is that the receding arcic ice will open the access to "huge" oil resources up there.
However according to the findings from USGS etc. these arctic resources are rather extensions of the existing onshore and offshore oil production sites near the polar sea shore (plus some very remote places like Ellesmere island, which are improbable to be developed soon).
As far as I see these resources will rather be tapped by pipelines (e.g. in Siberia and Alaska), so the accessibility by ship is not so important.
In fact another factor of global warming may make oil and gas production in the arctic more difficult:
In these regions the foundation of the existing infrastructure (pipelines, oil idustry facilities, houses, roads etc) is built on permafrost soil. As soon as this soil starts to thaw this infrastructure is loosing its stable ground. Without investments in deeper foundations or even new infrastructure the existing supply may suffer disruptions.

Another effect I am not sure about is if longer thawing periods might shorten the drilling periods on permafrost soil. The Baker Hughes rig counts show strong seasonal fluctuations, with a maximum in winter and a minimum in spring. Is this due to the thawing period?.

Winter is the drilling season on Alaska's North Slope. The active layer of tundra above the permafrost thaws from few to several feet every summer and operators are not permitted to tear it up.

Warmer weather does affect things but the operator's systems have been constantly evolving to cope with the conditions. They used to build ice roads to gravel drill pads, then ice roads to ice pads and now often the ice roads go to insulated ice pads. The insulated ice pads have lengthened the drilling season without negatively impacting the tundra. This link gives a little more detail. There are also some low impact vehicle options being assessed if it becomes impracticle to build ice roads but I am not too up to date on that. The tundra will be freezing every winter for the foreseable future, the length of the freeze of course may vary.

There is concern about what wholesale thawing will do to any of Alaska's infrastructure that is built on permafrost. The transAlaska pipeline is elevated above permafrost and its vertical support members are cooled by passive heat exchangers that use ammonia as a working fluid to keep the supports columns from thawing the permafrost they are set into. These passive systems actually keep the pipeline supports colder than the permnafrost so they would delay thawing somewhat in the area immediately adjacent to the pipeline. Refrigeration plants keep any ditch where the pipeline must be buried in permafrost frozen.

I guess it just depends on how fast it gets warm, but so far I've not heard that the pipeline has been adversely affected by warming. Decreasing oil supply has been a much bigger issue to date.