Colin Campbell's Response to the Guardian IEA Reporting

Last week saw the release of the IEAs 2009 World Economic Outlook on which we will be providing some analysis in the coming weeks. The night before its release, the Guardian ran an interview with a 'whistleblower' claiming that key oil figures were distorted by US pressure so as to avoid 'panic buying', claims the IEA subsequently denied. Today, we see the fourth Guardian article in a week on the urgency of Peak Oil.

Colin Campbell, one of the worlds preeminent depletion analysts, and co-author of the 1998 Scientific American article, "The End of Cheap Oil", drafted a reply to the Guardian on these issues. Below the fold is Dr. Campbell's letter, which gives some relevant history as to how the oil depletion debate has unfolded over time in the worlds energy agencies.

Colin Campbell
Co Cork,

Comment Editor
The Guardian

Dear Sir,

I was most impressed that you should give such prominence in your issue of 10th November to the role of the International Energy Agency in assessing the status of oil depletion. It is one of the most important issues facing the modern world, given the current dependence on cheap oil-based energy.

I can provide you with some more information on the topic, touching on my own experience. I first became aware of the issue in 1969 in Chicago when I was part of a team making a world evaluation for Amoco (now part of BP). Later when I was managing Fina in Norway, I had the company sponsor a research project on the subject with the Norwegian authorities. We used public reserve data, as I had not then appreciated how unreliable they were.

The results were published as The Golden Century of Oil 1950-2050 (Kluwer Academic). This attracted the interest of Petroconsultants, a company based in Geneva that was used by the international oil companies to assemble a valid database on oil activities around the world including the size of discoveries and drilling statistics. They invited me to redo the study but this time using their comprehensive database of virtually all the world’s fields. I was joined in this project by Jean Laherrère, formerly Exploration Manager of the French oil company TOTAL, who had developed various analytical techniques. The resulting study was published at $50 000 a copy, but was later suppressed under pressure from a major US oil company, which had better remain nameless. However, Petroconsultants co-published a book, The Coming Oil Crisis (Multi-Science), which I wrote summarising the results, and also agreed that Laherrère and I should accept an invitation to write an article for the Scientific American : The End of Cheap Oil (March 1998).

The IEA purchased this book and contacted me, sending an analyst to spend a week going through the data. It was evident that the team within the IEA working on the subject was fully convinced and saw its importance. They then produced a report for the G8 Ministers, meeting in Moscow (International Energy Agency, 1998, World Energy Prospects to 2020; Report to G8 Energy Ministers, March 31 The text was bland enough but it contained a critical table showing that oil demand would outpace supply by 2010, save for the entry of an item called Unidentified Unconventional, whose supply was shown to meet as much as 20% of the world’s needs by 2020. Having managed to get it past the G8 Ministers, the IEA team was able to include it in the World Energy Outlook for 1998.

In effect, the Unidentified Unconventional was a coded message for shortage. I explained this to a journalist who contacted the element within the IEA which was pleased that this important hidden message should get out. But when it was published (Fleming D., 1999, The next oil shock? Prospect April), the IEA evidently got into serious trouble with its masters in the OECD governments, and in the next issue of the World Energy Outlook, the Unidentified Unconventional became Conventional Non-OPEC, without comment or explanation.

The primary function of the IEA was to supervise OECD strategic stocks, which in turn were perceived to be a certain defence against any excessive demands by OPEC. So the IEA came to see its role as protecting consumers’ interests, and it therefore had every reason to downplay any notion of depletion and finite limits imposed by Nature, because indirectly such would strengthen the hand of OPEC.

Petroconsultants was subsequently acquired by IHS in the United States, and the special relationship with the international oil companies was lost, affecting the quality of the data. It may also have found itself under pressure from commercial interests and the principal OPEC countries.
It is worth commenting briefly on the reporting of reserves. There is no particular technical difficulty in assessing the size of an oilfield early in its life, although naturally there is a certain range in the estimates. The reporting of the reserves has however been subject to two main distortions.

First, the oil companies were subject to strict US Stock Exchange rules designed to prevent fraudulent exaggeration. It made sense therefore for them to report the minimum needed for financial purposes, and then revise the estimates upwards over time, giving a comforting, if misleading, image of steady growth.

Second, the OPEC countries found themselves competing for quotas in the 1980s when prices were low. Quota was based on reported reserves, which prompted Kuwait to add 50% overnight in 1985 although nothing particular had changed in the oilfields. It may in fact have started reporting total found, not remaining reserves. The other OPEC countries later reacted with invalid increases to protect their quota (see table). To imagine that new discovery should exactly match production in Abu Dhabi to leave unchanged reserves is clearly absurd.

Despite these difficulties, it is possible to make a reasonable assessment of the situation starting with the sound historical data from Petroconsultants. The following graph shows my current assessment.

Briefly, Regular Conventional Oil peaked in 2005. The shortfall was made good by expensive oil mainly from deepwater fields and Canadian tarsands, which led to rising prices. This trend was spotted by shrewd traders who started buying contracts on the Futures Market, while the industry maintained high levels of storage, watching it appreciate in value at no cost or effort. The rising prices also delivered a flood of petrodollars to the Middle East where it still costs on average about $10 to produce a barrel. The surplus was in turn partly returned to Western financial institutions, contributing to their instability. The surge in price reached extreme levels in mid 2008, approaching $150 a barrel, which prompted the shrewd traders to start selling short on the Futures Market and for the industry to start draining their tanks before they lost value. The high prices in parallel triggered an economic recession which dampened demand causing prices to fall back to 2005 levels before edging up to around $75 today.

It is more difficult to evaluate the Non-Conventional oils, comprising tarsands and heavy oils, deepwater oil, Polar oil and Natural Gas Liquids, but the above graph suggests that the peak of all categories was passed in 2008. A debate rages as to the precise date of overall peak but rather misses the point when what matters is the vision of long decline on the other side of it.

Given the central role of oil in the modern economy, the peak of production promises to be a turning point of historical magnitude. It seems that banks have been lending more than they had on deposit, confident that Tomorrow’s Economic Growth was collateral for Today’s Debt, without recognising that the expansion was fuelled by cheap oil-based energy. The Governments are now printing yet more money under Keynesian principles in the hope of restoring past prosperity, which may meet with a brief success. But if it does, it would stimulate the demand for oil that would again soon breach the supply limits, leading to another price shock and an even worse consequent economic depression. In fact, today 28 billion barrels a year support a world population on 6.7 billion people, but by 2050 the supply will have fallen to a level able to support less than half that number in their present way of life.

There is a great deal that can be done to reduce waste and bring in renewable energies. Coal and nuclear power can also ease the transition although they are themselves also subject to depletion. The challenges are however great, and it is clear that governments must move urgently to prepare for what unfolds. In parallel come the challenges of climate change that are to a degree related to oil supply.

There may well now be a certain awakening, and the OECD governments may begin to seek an umbrella under which to introduce new national policies. This may in turn allow the IEA to come forward with more realistic assessments of the true situation. The media too has an important role to alert people at large of what unfolds. It underlines the value of the article you have published for which you deserve every credit.

Even said!

Yours sincerely,


It's interesting that Colin refers to 'printing more money under Keynsian principles'. I am not aware that Keynes, or any of his economist contemporaries, understood the concept of resource limits. As the UK economy at that time was almost totally dependent on coal, and coal production had been in decline since 1913, it is not surprising that they were unable to stimulate the economy into growth. Growth only resumed when, under the stimulus of WWII, oil consumption began its climb. I would be pleased if anyone can point me to Keynes or others commenting on resource limits.

I think he refers to the Keynesian principle of raising gov's spending to stimulate the economy, not the relation between our monetary system and availability of resources

Wow, based on the time stamps on above messages, PaulusP anticipated Roger's question by a full minute! With precognitive abilities like this, clearly this is a guy we should be looking to for answers...

Hey vermont, watch your words or we'll have you eliminated from The Matrix for noticing too much.

Oh man! I never thought this forum could be so much fun! I'm laughing my lungs out!

That's easy: PaulusP is just travelling somewhere in the 0uterSpace faster than Light. So time is going backwards for him.

I don't think there are answers really.

It is not just a question of economists understanding resource limits, they do not accept that there are any. The principle that the price mechanism will always deliver, either the commodity in question, or a suitable substitute, is deeply ingrained in the economists DNA and most cannot shake it off. It is one of the first principles of neo-classical economics. Of course the notion is absurd and illustrates neatly that the laws of thermodynamics need to be integrated into economic training and analysis. This is where the new sub discipline of biophysical economics has its starting point. That said, most economists, certainly all those in the corridors of corporate and government power remain stuck in the old mindset. They remain stuck in a circular support system where they provide the economic rationale for policies implemented by politicians and business leaders who promote the policies to stay in power. Breaking the mold will not be easy; and it will occur only under extreme duress.

It would even help to make economists understand that money DOES matter: In their marketing-driven systems Consumers have unlimited purchase power - all what counts is to know how to milk the cash cows.

It is not just a question of economists understanding resource limits, they do not accept that there are any.

I'm not sure that is true. I have recently spoken to several economists who do understand resource limitations, they just define their relatisionships to the resources differntly from you and I. From their perspective, it doesn't matter how much or how little of a resource you have, what matters is how you allocate it, to get the most benefit. It doesn't matter to the economist wether the supply of a resource is growing or shrinking, it will still be how you allocate the amount available on any given day. When one resource runs out, it will be substituted by something else, but that doesn't necessarily mean theat the repalcement is necessarily superior to the original. Slavery might well have a future yet and when it revives, ther will no doubt be economists to explain the vagaries and interaction of the slave trade on GDP.

Wonder what kind of derivative market the slave market will spawn, other than biological I mean

I don't know what Keynes thought about resource depletion, but as far as I understand, he thought that _demand_ would peak. He thought that eventually, we would pretty much have all the material things we wanted, and would maybe divert our attention to things like art and music.

In that context, it would not be strange if he didn't worry very much about resource depletion.

Dr. Campbell offers some great insights again (growth as collateral for debt, coal/nukes subject to depletion). I thank him for his clear warning signals. However, if you read this, Dr., you may want to check last Saturdays' campfire post; stark warnings(ie. facts) to policy makers may not do the trick.

There we have it! World oil production peaked in Spring 2008. The production curve will NOT be symmetrical about the axis of the peak, it will be skewed to the past. Every literate, concerned reader here, studying Campbell's letter should summarize this critical information in their own letter to the editor of their local newspaper so to begin spreading the word. Call your local television station, radio station. Please! No more commiserating over a bleak future. Do something now!

What about the reports that Campbell has been predicting peak oil every year for the past 20 years?

Sept 15th ~ This update of Colin Campbell's Depletion Model tracks two decades of revisions. Its forecasts of Peak Year have ranged from 1989 to 2012. In fact, December marks the 20th anniversary of Campbell's initial All Liquids declaration that oil had Peaked. His Peak Rate spans the virgin call of a 66-mbd sub-peak (to 1979) to last year's 97-mbd. The underlying All Liquids URR estimates range from 1575-Gb in 1989 to 2900-Gb.

The pope of peak oil, Colin Campbell, is legendary for a long string of incorrect predictions of the peak oil date. For example, as we saw in #53, his 1991 prediction called for oil to peak in the early 90s at a level of 60mbd, and decline to about 50mbd by 2005, and then to about 40mbd by 2010. In fact, we are currently producing about 84mbd in 2005. If you want all the evidence on Campbell's piss-poor track record, see CRYING WOLF: Warnings about oil supply, by Michael Lynch.

"What about the reports that Campbell has been predicting peak oil every year for the past 20 years?"

I went to the links you provided and found nothing to support the above statement. Indeed, an update to one of them backtracked on similar statements.

What about the reports that Campbell has been predicting peak oil every year for the past 20 years?

Campbell explains that with saying that in the past he had incomplete data. In this post he mentions this also. Besides, with almost all countries past peak or (almost) at peak production, the prediction becomes more accurate.

I don't see how we could possibly be at peak oil if OPEC has had to cut production to try and boost prices. They obviously have some spare capacity there. Add to that the new discoveries that haven't come online yet. Total production could go higher, IMO.

Urg do you not have anything more credible than the terminally dumb PeakOilDebunked?

If you run into him in your conservaworld, send Mr. Lynch my way. Apparently he has never heard of the statistical rules of Mr. Bayes. You can never run away from Mr. Bayes, as he will always catch up to you.

Don't forget that worldproduction declines about 3 mbd per year. So new projects first have to compensate for this loss.

Yes, it is possible that we could go higher.

But being off by even five years when discussing a planetary system just isn't that important.

These are the biggest trends there are out there (unless you leave the planet and start examining the solar system and beyond) and even though there will be much noise when one zooms in closely that doesn't mean the trends aren't occurring.

conserva, No it's not obvious that KSA have spare capacity. They "cut their production" or alternatively had to drop it to a less damaging rate. Due to their secretiveness we can't be sure. What we do know is that one or two mbpd here or there is not going to be enough to offset so many countries falling from rising production to falling production.
As for M Lynch's reasonings, the expo-growth of oil hit a ceiling back in 2004 since when it has been level for five years despite greatly rising prices. If you know of any compelling reason why the supply can be expected to start rising again anytime soon, we'll be most interested to hear it from you.

According to EIA data total liquids is up 10% since 2000 and crude plus consensate is up 8%. Since 2004 they are up 3% and 2% resp.

What is it that has been level since 2004?

Since total liquids is not crude oil, ignore that meaningless statistic that adds together different things and double counts energy.

As for the 2% increase in c+c since 2004 check the data again keeping in mind that it is accurate to about 1 Mb/d. The data is revised frequently and usually downward. I do not see a 2% increase in chart 3 of the Oilwatch Monthly for October 2009. Cherry picking points could produce a 2% increase.

If you know of any compelling reason why the supply can be expected to start rising again anytime soon, we'll be most interested to hear it from you.

I don't think supply will start rising in the near term, there's no demand for it right now. The question is spare capacity. Most experts agree that there's at least 1 trillion barrels in proven reserves. When demand calls for it, more than 85 mbd can be produced.

Good try, but not too long ago $75/barrel was considered a price that would break the back of the world economy it was so high.

You are probably the only person aside from OPEC that thinks "the market is well supplied."

This price should be pulling in lots of extra production. Now, if you were to say that the price is volatile and that's a good reason why more oil isn't coming to market, you would have a point. Oil companies need some certainty they will get their return before investing.

But you are not saying that.

Thank you so much for posting this.

I know Mr. Campbell won't get a lot of new friends with his continued argument about growth not being sustainable through monetary driven means, but it does deserve more analysis.

Anybody in contact with Robert Ayres?

It'd be interesting to get his updated view on the subject, now post-2008 bubble bursting and based on the economic data since (cf. his models).

I've been scouring SSRN for articles searching on this issue, but all I can find are demand/supply price-curve models.

Then again, maybe it makes no difference. All truthful analysts have always thought that things will change once they just get their data published: "Then people will understand!".

No such thing yet. Ask Meadows and Forrester.

People generally understand when they run out of stuff and have nothing else to substitute with. How's that for a fitness function :D

I have corresponded with him, but not recently. I should check with him again. My post that is up today pulls together some of the financial things in one place, and it might be interesting to hear his comments.

It's good we read from 1st hand accounts about the meetings Colin had with the IEA before they published the WEO 1998 and also about the term "hidden message". We always find hidden warnings in reports which have been politically spin doctored.

However, the then editor of the IEA Oil Market Report, Klaus Rehaag gave a very clear warning in 2004 in a slide show entitled "Is the world facing a 3rd oil shock?"

and the above link was provided in one of ASPO's newsletters.

I have now put my short report on the history of WEOs into a download PDF file, available at the end of this link:

My latest crude oil graphs are here:

The subsystem excluding Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Angola (which joined OPEC in December 2006) has peaked in 2005/06. And looking at the subsystem excluding Angola we see that Saudi Arabia was not able to lift production to 2005 levels.

Coal and nuclear power can also ease the transition ...

Like many old school commentators, Campbell seems to be unaware of just how dangerous coal is because of its CO2-spewing properties. Coal is not the solution, it's merely an even worse problem than peak oil.

Im pretty sure he's aware of it. Many old school, as well as new school, commentators are unaware of lots the wider boundaries of analysis encompassing human/energy transition. And each story is more complicated than at first blush. Still, it can all be boiled down to some pretty simple points. On average there is going to be less consumption going forward - how this breaks down and whether it is voluntary or forced (by govts or by thermodynamics) are some of the main open questions.

There are also distributional issues. Who does less consuming, who continues as they are?

Those issues are the ones that cause real strife.

Im pretty sure he's aware of it.

I'm certain he is. This is from the letter above:

In parallel come the challenges of climate change that are to a degree related to oil supply.


I'm sure he's aware of it. It's just not relevant to peak oil or a discussion of how to flatten the decline slope. His message concerns peak oil and the resulting decline of industrial civilization, not climate change.

Although I have been deliberately holding my tongue on this issue for several months now for fear of the response, I feel I have to say (with respect to those who disagree) that I believe Peak Oil to be a much more serious issue than Climate Change. But perhaps Dr. Campbell's oil depletion graph will help to highlight why this is so.

Like the many years of IEA/EIA reporting of continuous (out to infinity) growth in oil production ("BAU"), the IPCC assumptions of BAU growth in carbon emissions out to 2100 (1-2 % increase per year and >150 million barrels of oil per day by 2100) are not at all realistic. Not even within a factor of 3. Look at Dr. Campbell's graph for oil production in 2040. Oil production is down by greater than a factor of 2 from 2010 (below 15 billion barrels per year, not up by a factor of 50%) and declines steadily after that. Coal production in the US and Europe has already peaked or will peak very soon. TOD readers and posters are well aware of this. There is just not enough economic coal (or gas) production to make up for the decline in oil production. Total carbon emissions will almost certainly decline by 2100 and not increase. IPCC scenarios for perpetual increases in carbon emissions based upon "BAU" are directly contradictory to Dr. Campbell's predictions and everything that TOD posts on.

I just cannot understand how the vast majority of readers and posters on TOD can be so knowledgeable about the fallacy of perpetual increases in oil production but (for some on TOD) that carbon emissions are still expected to increase for the foreseeable future and cause catastrophic warming. Those warnings are dependent on the dubious assumption of continual (exponential) increases in carbon emissions which are just so contradictory to the TOD message (i.e. depletion). I just don't understand the apparent equating of the two (actually quite different or even opposite problems). Is it just the assumption that one disaster (Peak Oil) is expected to be the same as the other disaster (Climate Change)?? Or perhaps because both include the use of FF?? I don't understand the equating of the two.

Hoping for non ad-homonim comments.


I agree that fossil CO2 will begin to decrease eventually, but....

Peak Coal and Peak Oil mean, amongst other things, that the Energy Returned for Greenhouse Gas Emitted will go down. Already peak energy return for coal has been passed in the US so that more coal has to be transported and burned less efficiently to get the same heat.

More importantly, it appears that CO2 is already past reasonable limits and it is just the slow geological response that has allowed us to go this far. The catastrophic warming has already been caused.

In my opinion Peak oil is primarily a first world problem. Much of the third world already lives simply or not so far removed from what life will be like without oil. That's not to say there won't be lots of problems, but they are used to living with lots of problems.

Climate change affects everyone, every species, every living thing. It is already happening. It might take longer to fully appreciate it's affects, but it is already a whopper.

Hi Eric,


re: "In my opinion Peak oil is primarily a first world problem. Much of the third world already lives simply or not so far removed from what life will be like without oil. That's not to say there won't be lots of problems, but they are used to living with lots of problems."

Yes, the "third world" lives simply, in a sense. However, the non-industrialized or less-industrialized "third" is also very highly dependent on oil. Let me put it this way: the level of use is not necessarily a measure of the degree of dependence.

There may be relatively isolated tribal peoples somewhere - ? - who live without the FF dependence, in relatively sustainable relationship to a relatively pristine eco-system. I'm not the expert.

However, the overwhelming majority of the world's population (everywhere) are highly dependent on fossil fuels.

There is a difference between a "problem" and a fatal problem. This difference is most often directly linked to the ability to receive FF energy inputs.

(When I get a chance, I'll hunt up links.)

I became aware of the disconnect between resource depletion and IPCC models for economic growth in ca 2002 after reading both The Party's Over by Heinberg and the Third Assessment Report in the same year.

The IPCC relies on the SRES reports for economic and emissions forecasts but these are based on rather faulty neoclassical economic models that have no solid biophysical basis in reality.

However, this has not given me much relief from climate change angst once I started studying how risk assessment is underplayed by the IPCC and new data on potential non-linear responses and the whole ocean acidification topic has evolved.

Some senior climate change scientists I have spoken too are somewhat aware of this subject, but too focused and busy with their immediate tasks to do much about it. I have suggested that constraining emissions to some reasonable range would help since the SRES range is huge and leads to all sorts of logistical problems when running climate models, which take a month per run.

Hi Jason,

i have noted the same thing here in Europe.

the downplay of the risk (somehow all data coming up arctic ice coverage etc) show a much stronger warming
than the IPCC report indicates. Confronted with it the "climate scientists do not deny but claim to be too busy.
Likewise they claim to be too busy to study peak oil and its consequences

well the normal story

When climate change can happen this fast;

...its worrying, but we have no idea when such a tipping point will occur.

On the otherhand we can be much more accurate with a predicton for peak oil.

If yeast are anything to go by then either environmental degradatation or resource depletion will be equaly as devastating as the other for humanity.

Thanks for the link. I haven't heard that we have anything like an Lake Agassiz waiting in the wings right now. All sudden change events I am aware of (asteroid, Yellowstone volcano, Lake Agassiz, etc.) brought on a very sudden cooling, I haven't heard of other cataclysms bringing on as sudden a warming. Small but some comfort...

I haven't heard of other cataclysms bringing on as sudden a warming.

We have the PETM roughly 55 million years ago, although a warming that took maybe 10,000 years perhaps doesn't qualify as fast enough. The Permian Triassic extinction (the greatest extinction event in the fossil record) looks to be a warming (as well as chemical changes) event. It is asociated with the Siberian traps (huge million square kilometers lave flows). A recent paper proposes that in places these erupted through coal fields, yiedling to massive coal fires which in a short period of time liberated more carbon than humans are likely to. So catastrophic warming, as well as cooling has happened.

No sense in even sweating an event like Permian, what would be the use. Not likely that event left anything approaching the sediment record Patterson has just decoded. It shows a sudden cooling comparable to Britain becoming arctic like in just a few months. That is just the sort of sudden change many of the climate change skeptics are looking for--kinda makes them hard to convince in a single lifetime. More recent quick warmings are still believed to have taken a thousand years, better than a dozen human lifespans on end, time enough for a Maunder minimum or two to slip in. A complete disappearance of the polar ice cap might not be enough to convince some that things seem to be getting a bit warm. Plenty of the loudest have grabbed onto the slow reversal from the current solar minimum with both hands.

First, forget about IPCC IV. It's based on science that is pre-2004/5. There has been a veritable biblical flood of new information since then. A majority of climate scientists, at least as polled, now believe 2C is inevitable and up to 4C likely. There was a recent paper indicating 6C is well within the reach by century's end.

We are talking catastrophic change.

If you think Peak Oil is more important, I urge you to consider this:

The worst that can happen with PO is a general collapse of civilization. It is in no way an existential threat to humanity.

The worst that can happen with Climate Change is the extinction or near-extinction of humanity due to a complete disruption of the ecosystem.

This is not hyperbole. This is a very real possibility that becomes more likely every year due to the increasing GHGs in the atmosphere and oceans.

As someone else said above, we don't know where or what the triggers are to rapid change. Ignoring that to focus on PO is nothing short of playing Russian Roulette. Those tipping point are out there. How far do you want to push your luck?

As for those fast changes? There have been changes of up to 7C in a decade or less. Try running that through your understanding of how fast humanity can adapt. When such a change is from, say, the cold bottom of the Younger Dryas to current conditions, that's good. When that change is from the (essentially) thermally stable past 10k years, a period which allowed civilization to develop and without which we'd likely still be chasing the mammoth, to one 6 or 7C warmer, you've got problems.

Do I even need to point out that when these cycles occurred in the early days of modern humans, say the past 200k years, roughly, populations were small, nomadic, non-specialized, and likely all members of the tribe had roughly the same survival skills.

How do you see Mexico City or Seoul or NYC adapting to rapid climate change?

This dichotomy between PO and Climate Change is an unfortunate, and ultimately suicidal, one. After all, fossil fuels are the cause of the rapid pace of Climate Change, yet we need energy to adapt. We cannot separate the two. And, as someone pointed out above, we are already guaranteed a minimum of 2C if all emissions stopped today. Given they aren't stopping, we are obviously guaranteed more. Further, at least one paper has already shown that the warming already built into the system will continue for 1k years or more. Wow. Talk about playing Russian Roulette!

Those solutions that address both PO and Climate Change are those we must pursue. Coal, for example, does help if we are headed for an immediate rapid fall in oil production. So does NG. But both are suicidal solutions in terms of Climate Change. Solar panels and wind mills are great responses to Peak Oil, but in themselves are virtually certain to be too little too late, AND resources other than petroleum are coming into play. Rare earths, for example.

No, you can't separate the two. Do so, you may as well go slit the collective wrist of humanity here and now. I think that is obvious, so I won't belabor the point by continuing. This issue would make a nice key post, tho.


Your group needs to come up with a new sales pitch, because no one believes you anymore. One of the latest polls out shows that 2/3 of Amercians DO NOT believe in AGW. "Climate Change" legislation is not a priority for the US, and you won't get a bill passed this year. Copenhagen is a total failure, as no agreement will be made this year. And that's with the looney left in charge of the House, Senate and the White House! Next year, the whole House is up for election. Do you think the looney left will maintain control with double digit unemployment, and multi-trillion dollar deficits?

"looney left"

Calling people crazy is OK, but pointing out obvious and intentional mischaracterizations is not? Explain.

2/3 don't believe is yet another falsehood.

I wasn't calling another forum member crazy, that is unless you're a US Rep. Senator, or the President. Perhaps you consider yourself "looney left"? lol

And here's the poll (again):

64% DON'T believe in AGW.

Apocalypse fatigue: Losing the public on climate change

The Chicago Tribune should be sued for this kind of blasphemy, don't you think?,0,3012...

Yeah, that piece on The Chicago Tribune blog might be the target of abuse from the scientific community if scientists played the game the same way the denialist camp does. As it is, the "NIPCC" report is full of errors in science, yet it is portrayed as if this piece of disinformation is a complete rebuttal of the IPCC's efforts to report the latest findings. One should recall that the IPCC reports are always a bit behind the science, because there's a cutoff date for new information and time required after that to actually complete the editing for publication. The latest changes in Arctic sea-ice were not expected and other indicators suggest warming is also happening sooner than the model projections.

The "NIPCC" report is just one more blast of the anti-science efforts of the denialist. The fact that people are beginning to think Climate Change is not happening just proves how effective the denialist propaganda efforts have become. Since most scientists don't involve themselves in political fights, the denialist are winning by default. The general public isn't going to read the scientific literature but gets information from various media sources, such as FOX news. I've watched the situation for about 15 years, repeatedly attempting to confront the lies, with little success. Given that the future health of the Earth could be at stake, the situation is truly sad.

E. Swanson

You weren't calling me looney?

Your group

Yet another falsehood.

I'll give you a little leeway on the poll since you did find a poll that supports the crap you spew. However, Pew is a conservative organization.

But, what about this?

As the United States Senate ramps up its efforts on climate-change legislation this week, a bipartisan poll released Monday suggests that a strong majority of voters believe global warming is a real and needs to be remedied.

Some 56 percent of likely general-election voters say global warming is happening now, and a further 21 percent say it will happen in the future, according to a survey by Democratic Pollster Mark Mellman and Republican pollster Bill McInturff. By contrast, some 16 percent said global warming will not happen.

The study was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts Global Warming Campaign.

When asked whether they favored having the United States take steps to reduce the emission of gases like carbon dioxide that cause global warming, 77 percent of respondents favored action, 18 percent opposed action, and 5 percent were undecided.

Note the date is after the one you posted.

You like making statements backed up only by your ignorance. Here you have stated as fact a finding of one poll. If you said something like, "a recent poll found..." but you don't. You constantly and consistently mislead.

Tell us, why would I care what ignorant public people think? Are they scientists? That they don't think AGW is happening simply tells me they are severely lacking in discernment, scientific literacy and are led by their biases, not their intellects.

But what I find most unpalatable, besides the fact you are untrustworthy, is that you offer nothing but your biased opinion. Tell me, where is your science?

Put up or shut up.

New tools will pinpoint the warmings at the end of the Younger Dryas more accurately, the event I am refering to is also Younger Dryas and Patterson's new research (see the link I first responded to a couple posts up) gives some very detailed data on the speed of the cooling (likely caused by the sudden draining of Lake Agassiz). The fast warming at the end of the Younger Dryas was preceded by an almost instantaneous cooling at the beginning of it (how widespread either of these fast events were is still the subject of much research), all the ramifications of North Atlantic Current shutdowns are not even close to being understood just yet. I actually have fair idea of what could happen if we get fast warming and posited such a scenario much farther down in these comments before you arrived.


Even if we stopped burning all fossil fuels today, CO2 would continue to rise due to the lag time for carbon sinks, e.g. the ocean, to absorb it all.

RealClimate gives comprehensive explanations of this :-

"In response to the question whether the natural sinks of carbon might compensate for the CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere, the answer is yes, but not very quickly. In the short term, the ocean cannot simply, magically, absorb all the excess CO2. If you try to pack all this excess CO2 in the surface ocean, it will come right back out. Again, that is what chemical equilibrium demands — there is no way around this. In the long term, the deep ocean will (probably) absorb much more of the CO2 we have put into the atmosphere, but this is the long term. If humans stopped producing CO2 today, it would take around 700 years to come back down to the original value. This is essentially because the timescale of ocean circulation is of order 1000 years. "

Spring tides- I am not a scientist but I have a hard time seeing how CO2 levels would continue to rise if there were a stop to input. Not decrease quickly I can understand but keep rising? Wish to explain? Personally, while I believe the effects of CO2 and methane emissions are serious and of legitimate concern, I still think we are not knowledgeable enough to know how fast things would change if we instituted significant reductions in emissions. For instance, I was amazed at the rapid change in the amounts of atmospheric water vapor when 9/11 took the planes out of the skies.
If I remember correctly water vapor is a significant source of the greenhouse effect.

I'd have a hard time doing the explanation justice, but, basically, there are a number of places where carbon is stored :-


Carbon dioxide cycles through oceans, plants and soils, by dissolving in water, and by plants respiring. Those cycles are dependent on CO2 concentration and ambient temperature (among other things).

Not only are we burning fossil fuels to release stored carbon, but we are losing topsoil and decimating forests, thereby reducing the means by which atmospheric carbon can be taken back up (sequestered).

The rise in temperature causes feedback loops, which, in turn, release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It's a vicious cycle. example : a warming ocean is less able to store dissolved gases.

You might know this if you've ever had a fish tank that got too warm - the fish rise to the surface to try and get oxygen at the air-water boundary because the water stores less oxygen.

So, along with reducing fossil fuel use, we have to be reforesting and rehabilitating soils.

I agree, though, that one of the feedback loops the increased temperature will affect is increased methane, due to melting permafrost. Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, but I haven't done much reading on that.

The peak oil issue is going to be difficult to solve since it is likely that people will want to be chopping down more trees for heating and cooking, thus reducing forest cover that we urgently need as a carbon sink (store).

I thought water vapor (clouds) counteract GW because clouds reflect the sunlight back into space.

I saw a documentary once on "global dimming" and they discussed the impact of jet contrails on dimming the sun (and the impact you are talking about after 9/11 when the jets stopped flying for a few days). The conclusion there was that the jet contrails actually reduce sunlight getting to the earth and have a cooling effect.

It doesn't counteract it, because water vapor ALSO works as a reflector and insulator towards earth's surface. It's the heat that has gotten in that can't get back out fast enough that we're in trouble with.

Clouds can either warm or cool depending.... In general clouds are opaque to infrared, so they trap heat, as well as reflect shortwave (sunlight). The planet Venus, despite being closer to the sun than the earth absorbs less solar radiation than the earth, but its surface temperature is something like 800-900F. On earth generally:
Low clouds cool, as the reflect sunlight. A simple mental model is that with clouds the layer radiating heat into space is the height of the cloud tops. Since the higher up you go (in the troposphere the colder it gets), low clouds radiate to space almost as much heat as no clouds would, but high clouds will radiate much less (at jet liner altitues it is 40 to 50 below zero). So as a general rule of thumb low clouds cool, and high clouds heat. Those jet contrails are a warming influence. The increased atmospheric moisture is a function of the earths temperature (the amount of vapour air can hold increases roughly exponentially with temperature). This translates into more water vapour, but not more clouds, as you need more vapour to be able to get condensation. But even without condensing water is a greenhouse gas (although it stops more infrared in condensed form than as vapour).

"Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas, but I haven't done much reading on that."

While water has a potent warming effect, it also has an extremely short lifetime in the atmosphere compared to CO2. It rains back down, plain and simple. This is why it is modelled as a feedback, not a forcing, in climate models: It does not drive temperature change, it amplifies it. If the earth warms a little due to CO2, the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere quickly reaches a new, higher equilibrium. A lot of the resultant warming will technically be due to water vapour, but CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) is the driving force.


Glad to see your post. You probably will get some ad-homonim attacks. But when you said:

"I just cannot understand how the vast majority of readers and posters on TOD can be so knowledgeable about the fallacy of perpetual increases in oil production but (for some on TOD) that carbon emissions are still expected to increase for the foreseeable future and cause catastrophic warming."

You expressed my thoughts exactly. Ever since examining "in detail" the assumptions of continued high consumptions of fossil fuels in the IPCC report I have been baffled about how many TOD readers have not seen the disconnect. I am not a denier of the "science" of global warming. I understand the way greenhouse gases absorb energy. But the underlying premise of the IPCC report (continued high level economic growth for the next 90 years) is simply wrong if you understand the implications of oil peaking. Hand waving arguments about positive feedback or other effects are simply misdirection from the fact that the IPCC report is seriously and fundamentally flawed in its basic assumptions about the future. Until those basic assumptions are addressed it will continued to be viewed (by me) as an intellectually dishonest report. I for one would like to see a modeling approach that takes into account more realistic fossil fuel consumption futures so we can decide if global warming is really as serious a threat as resource depletion. Does anyone on TOD have any access to the IPCC models?

... the IPCC report is seriously and fundamentally flawed in its basic assumptions about the future.

Indeed, the IPCC report is flawed. But you cannot say that it -- I take it you are talking about scenarios A1B or A2, the most commonly quoted scenarios -- you cannot say that these scenarios overestimate emissions because oil production has peaked, or will soon peak. The nearest available large-scale substitute for oil is coal-to-liquids. Adopting that fuel source would dramatically increase CO2 emissions.

The "more realistic fossil fuel consumption futures" that you want in these scenarios would show a major increase in coal consumption, compensating for oil decline. This will make emissions greater, not smaller.

The standard scenarios in the IPCC report are more likely to be underestimating CO2 emissions than overestimating them, for this reason and for some other reasons.

Edit: Coincidentally, I saw this immediately after replying to you. It's not the first, and won't be the last:

Ordos is the new face of coal in China. It is home to the world's biggest coal company and an industrial-scale experiment to turn coal into diesel that could create a major new source of greenhouse gases. At the same time, it hosts the planet's most efficient mine and one of China's biggest carbon capture and storage projects, which buries the gases blamed for global warming.

And yes, this plant buries the CO2 produced in the conversion, but CTL plants can't do anything about CO2 produced when the coal is mined and transported -- not all of these plants are next door to a mine -- or when the diesel is burnt in vehicles.

If the IPCC is right about anything, it's that fossil fuel use will continue well into the future. Fortunately, it's wrong about the effect CO2 has on temperature. This has been the case for global warming alarmists from the get go. In 1988 James Hansen was predicting a 1 degree increase in 20 years. You can see by this graph of actual temperatures (in red) how far off his predictions have been. Why people continue to believe these doomsayers (Campbell included) is baffling.

A neat trick was played at the hearing:

It is unfortunate that the organizers played that game with the air conditioning. There is no integrity in that.

Now back to the science. Because people like you are waiting to pounce on an erroneous prediction, it's no wonder scientists preface their comments with warnings that their data is preliminary, that the details are still be worked out and the conclusion could change, and so on. Often the pre-amble can get frustrating enough to non-scientists that it will seem like prevaricating and they will demand a bottom line from the scientist, even when the science can't give one.

Politicians get a bad wrap but are in the same situation. I've watched the public interact with some politicians I respect and the public can be, well, vicious. Speaking to that kind of audience, it's no wonder they don't want to be precise. There is always some group who is scanning every word uttered to use against the person. It's not often looked at this way, but we (the public) actually train our politicians to be the way they are, no differently than parents train their children.

Back to your points.

So what did Hansen say while making his case? The context of his comments really does matter. I wouldn't be surprised if he said, "This is the best we know right now and we'll keep working on it."

Of course when looking to score points, those important statements often get left out by the person reporting.

Your willingness to misrepresent what others say and do and your utter ignorance of the science is... typical. I'd love to see Hansen, et al., take just one of you to court for your libels and slanders. That would slow the torrent considerably, I'd wager, and get the science front and center.

To correct your misrepersentations, Hansen never predicted anything. He did some modeling which created scenarios with various probabilities based on the limited information then available. In fact, his scenarios then still are accurate. The temps currently being measured fall at or within the outer ranges of the scenarios generated. Again, given the vast improvement in the quality and quantity of information now over twenty years ago, he was remarkably accurate.

First, Hansen didn't make a prediction, he generated scenarios, which is what all climate models do. When you use "prediction" when discussion projections you are either showing your lack of education or you are intending to mislead.

In the first graph in the link above we find your second misrepresentation: Only Scenario A meets your standard of 1 degree in 20 years. That is, only a very small range of the total range of the scenarios generated suggested a 1 degree rise. If the other 99% of his scenario ranges suggest other than 1 degree, are you not intentionally misrepresenting? You cannot knowingly misrepresent such clearly presented science and expect to be considered an honest person.

In the second graph in the link above we find your third misrepresentation: Current temps are clearly at or within the ranges of scenarios generated by the model. It's right there for you to see with your own eyes. Please note the article linked above is from 2007 and the graph appears to go only to 2005. Given the downward slope of Scenario C, temps are almost certainly even further inside the bounds of the scenarios.

Stop misrepresenting the truth and the facts.

Please tell us how you logically conclude that a 20 year-old scenario based on 20+ year old science that is still accurate in any way detracts from Hansen's credibility or the state of climate science today?

Does the fact I managed to get through high school without taking a single typing class mean I still can't type now? Or, since I was a deist 20 years ago, obviously I can't possibly claim not to be now, right?

I understand why Leanan and the rest of the staff allow open debate. As it should be. Why they tolerate liars is beyond me. It does nothing for the quality of debate here to allow outright lies to be posted day after day, month after month, year after year. These are not disagreements or differing opinions, these are outright attempts to discredit scientists good names and to misrepresent facts and data.

No forum has any obligation to accept such behavior.


The question is, why do they tolerate forum members calling other forum members liars just because they have a different opinion.

And with regards to Hansen's "predictions". Yes when somebody says something is going to happen in the future, you call that a "prediction". Of course, people who make predictions that are subsequently proved wrong often backtrack and say they didn't make any "predictions". lol

And ccpo, for someone that preaches from the "Church of Al Gore" as much as you do, you don't seem to know your history very much. Scenario "A" was for a continued increase in CO2 levels. Scenario "B" was for temperature levels if CO2 levels remained the same. Scenario "C" was for temperature levels if CO2 levels were reduced. It's right there in his notes READ THEM. Obviously CO2 levels have steadily increased since 1988, yet we have not seen anywhere near a 1 degree increase in average temperatures. So the predictions are disproved with actual measurements. The same thing has already happened with IPCC preditions - disproved. This proves that the underlying models they were using are wrong, because the climate sensitivity numbers are way off. The whole theory is bogus.

Another one of Hansen's absurd predictions is a sea level rise of 80' by the end of this century. Actual measured sea level rise currently is +- 1 mm. That's 3 inches in 90 years, not 80 feet.

When one obviously lies, it is not impolite nor incorrect to state the obvious.

Yes when somebody says something is going to happen in the future, you call that a "prediction".

Yes, but that is not what Hansen did. He presented a range of scenarios produced via a climate model.

Main Entry: sce·nar·io
Pronunciation: \sə-ˈner-ē-ˌō, US also and especially British -ˈnär-\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural sce·nar·i·os
Etymology: Italian, from Latin scaenarium place for erecting stages, from scaena stage
Date: 1875

3 : a sequence of events especially when imagined; especially : an account or synopsis of a possible course of action or events


Main Entry: pre·dic·tion
Pronunciation: \pri-ˈdik-shən\
Function: noun
Date: 1561

1 : an act of predicting
2 : something that is predicted : forecast

You either do not understand or are intentionally stating this false characterization.


And ccpo, for someone that preaches from the "Church of Al Gore"

Ad hom talking point. Stay on point.

Scenario "A" was for a continued increase in CO2 levels. Scenario "B" was for temperature levels if CO2 levels remained the same. Scenario "C" was for temperature levels if CO2 levels were reduced. It's right there in his notes READ THEM.

And? What about 20 years of advancing science and quality of climate models are you ignoring? This point was already covered. Respond to it or stop posting, as is ethically required in any honest debate.

The same thing has already happened with IPCC preditions - disproved.

Given there is not




that supports your position, I call bullpoop. Support this.

Another one of Hansen's absurd predictions is a sea level rise of 80' by the end of this century.

Bull. Support this. He doesn't do predictions.

Actual measured sea level rise currently is +- 1 mm. That's 3 inches in 90 years, not 80 feet.

1. Your 1mm/yr is bull. 2. What do you not understand about non-linear systems?

You are not posting truthful, scientifically supported information. You know this. You go so far as to call scenario generation prediction when this is demonstrably false. What, then, should we call you? Honest Abe?

Hi ccpo,

I admire your patience in dealing with denial agendas - I guess someone like you needs to address this stuff as leaving it uncontested might give an impression of agreement. Sorry state of affairs however.

I thought the book "Six Degrees - Our Future on a Hotter Planet" was an easy read for the average person to get a handle on this issue.

A few things I took away from the book:

- 2C of warming is nearly certain and it will have some unpleasant consequences - however, if we could hold it there, we can probably deal with the issue.

- Between 2C and 4C of warming is the real battle ground. PO itself does not seem to be enough to prevent this from happening - we can burn oil(it is not gone), coal, gas, wood, peat, whatever (including all the livestock issues) and get to that point if we don't address the problem seriously.

- After 4C we are in uncharted waters and the potenial for the nasty feedback loops rises significantly - the "tipping point" idea. Not only would 4C have huge impacts on humans and the rest of the planet but, in addition, there is every possiblity we could not stop the rise to 6C

- The author does not dwell much on 6C as most humans would not survive this.

The final take away is: why do we want to take this enormous gamble on PO, GW, habitat destruction, etc., just to live in a consumption culture (car culture) crowded with 7B+ humans that has dubious value in terms of human happiness?

Yes, I've pushed the risk assessment angle too, but these people are, in my opinion, either bought and paid for (Literally. It's a documented tactic of the Right and the anti-smoking lobby to infiltrate with paid lackeys. Remember the letter-writing scandal where they had a room of people writing false letters? Just another example.) or ideologically lobotomized.

Personally - and I've yet to be wrong on climate - the fact there is melting in Antarctica, of seabed clathrates and tundra permafrost tells us we are past tipping points.

There is two times the amount of carbon in the permafrost as in the atmosphere currently. Even a ten percent release of this puts us over 500 ppm. And it's melting.

Climate sensitivity is far above 3C when you think of it in terms of all feedbacks. Far above. You can pretty safely assume the numbers you posted are optimistic, imo.


You can pretty safely assume the numbers you posted are optimistic, imo.

The Six Degrees author may well agree with you as he was pretty tentative about the exactly where a tipping point might occur. I think the real value of the book is the analysis of what each degree of rising temp might actually translate to in terms of environmental and human impact. His analysis is probably not perfect but it certainly gave me a better framework for thinking about this issue.

Climate sensitivity is far above 3C when you think of it in terms of all feedbacks. Far above.

I had a little trouble understanding your intent with this statement - I know you feel that we have already arrived at a tipping point - but you kind of lost me here.

I'm being intentionally sloppy with the language. Climate scientists calculate base sensitivity, then they add on feedbacks. I find this unnecessary and confusing for laypeople. If 3C, for example, gets you what they thought it would get you ten years ago, then fine. But since 3C is getting us all that plus all the things that aren't supposed to be happening at 3C, then obviously something is wacky. So, any change that actually happens *due to* reaching any given temp rise I lump in as climate sensitivity. After all, how in hell can we afford to wait seven years for IPCC V before talking what sensitivity truly is?

Or something like that. There are a number of posters here who know the numbers far, far better than I, so I'll leave it to them to chime in if they so wish.

At this time, 3C is the generally accepted rise per doubling of CO2. Hansen, et al., have posited it may be as high as 6C. I think that is very close to correct since we are blowing right through what we should be seeing at 3C and right into the worst expected.

3C my fat, white butt.


And? What about 20 years of advancing science and quality of climate models are you ignoring? This point was already covered. Respond to it or stop posting, as is ethically required in any honest debate.

So you agree that those models were not accurate. Don't worry, 20 years from now the "current" models will also be disproved.

"Another one of Hansen's absurd predictions is a sea level rise of 80' by the end of this century."

Bull. Support this. He doesn't do predictions.

Scientist PREDICTS disastrous sea level rise

Other climate experts, including NASA's James Hansen, PREDICT sea level rise that can be measured by feet more than inches.

A little known 20 year old climate change PREDICTION by Dr. James Hansen – that failed badly

So why the radical discrepancies between Prof. Hansen's PREDICTIONS and those of the IPCC?

A 1981 Science publication by Hansen and a team of scientists at Goddard concluded that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to warming sooner than previously PREDICTED.

NASA Climatologist PREDICTS Disastrous Sea Level Rise

New Study PREDICTS Greater Sea-Level Rise

James Hansen, a prominent NASA climatologist, PREDICTED the likelihood that the earth will reach a point of rising sea levels of up to a meter every 20 years.

Ordinary Eyeball: How did Hansen’s PREDICTIONS Do?

It’s quite clear Scenario A has been over predicting warming for several years. No one disputes this anymore. Moreover, the 1990 IPCC projection of 3.0 C/century which may have been influenced by papers written circa 1988 has been largely abandoned.

Other climate experts, including NASA's James Hansen, PREDICT sea level rise that can be measured by feet more than inches.

There's 10 articles that say Hansen made predictions. There were 68,690 other ones in the google search. I guess they're all lying too eh?

They're all as scientifically illiterate as you are, or as deliberately loose with the facts.

You obviously googled Hanson and prediction, or something close, copied and pasted the titles and URLs and left it at that, thinking you'd proven something. You did: you are content to lie and mislead.

While you didn't read any of the links your google search gave you, I did. Some interesting points:

1. All of them refer to a paper he did in 2007. ALL of them.

2. All of the instances of the use of prediction are by the writers, not James Hansen.

3. All of the instances I read misused prediction where scenarios and probabilities and possibilities were what were actually put forth.

Find me one quote from Hansen in any of those articles or the papers he's produced that show him making a prediction.

You're beneath contempt. Not because of your position. Euan Mearns, for example, would agree with you about climate change, but I would never call him contemptible. He's not lying when he posts. He argues the facts. Poorly, but he does so.

You, however, have posted a large number of false and/or misleading statements. As with the above, these have been easy to prove, so we aren't talking about opinion here. We are talking about you knowingly posting things you know are false, or are too ignorant to recognize as false. Since I have pointed out your misuse of "prediction" and you continue to use it, you are proving beyond doubt your posts are intentionally false.

You're proving that you don't understand the English language (among other things). Get back to me when you finish high school.

There is a lot more coal to mine in the #1 polluter on the earth - China. I would imagine that they could be double the amount of #2 CO2 producer (the US) fairly easily as their GDP increases and their per capita gets closer and closer to Europe's. With the US potentially showing further declines in CO2 in the coming years due to economic, conservation, or technology change it gets even easier. For the US the liquid fuels in transportation are the crux of further decreases: mandated, non-availability, or non-affordability issues can drive that. The liquid fuels appear to be out of our hands plus/minus invasion/manipulation/conspiracy real or imagined. Electric power generation does appear to be in our hand, burning coal, or building nukes, burning NG, solar (in all forms) are all options, but there are some imponderables (is shale NG really going to produce for us, right now it
almost feels like the magic bullet for electric power, and with CNG for some regions [Utah comes to mind]).

I suspect that the American culture being what it is and has taught for a generation (instant gratification, no preparation for anything, someone else is going to take care
of this and/or be blamed), that depletion is going to be the "snowblower effect".

as told to me by friends in the hardware business 90% of all snowblowers are sold during snow storms, 9% 24 hours before they come when the weatherman starts talking about the storm

Koyoto was a joke in not including China/India et al, and if you think you are going to stop China's growth of CO2 with anything less than space based kinetic energy weapons
targetted on power and liquification plants think again. Your best hope is that they run out of water, but as they acquire agricultural land elsewhere in the world through sovereign agreements aligned with the acquisitions, they just might be able to do what Australia is doing for the last 10 years: converting agricultural water to people/industrial use while feeding the people and growing GDP.

Carbon emissions are not going to perpetually increase, but the carbon already emitted over the past century or so means that a substantial rise in global temps - probably in the range of at least 2-4 C, and maybe more - is "baked into the cake, short of an immediate stop to the burning of ALL FFs. That simply is not going to happen, and in fact I am doubtful that we are going to do anything other than burn whatever is left, as quickly as we can extract it. Thus, I am afraid that GCC is pretty much a done deal, and at this point the only question remaining is whether we are going to be proactive in anticipating the things we are going to have to do to adjust to it (moving people away from low-lying coastal areas, for example), or just passively wait for the natural disasters to hit and force the adjustments upon us. The smart money will be on the latter.

This is worth a read:

"On the determination of Climate Feedbacks from ERBE Data"

Richard S. Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi

Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI reprint series) July 27 2009

Prof. Lindzen is a climatologist at MIT

From Sourcewatch :-

"Dr. Richard S. Lindzen ( b. February 8, 1940) is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[1]
He is one of the leading global warming skeptics and is a member of the Science, Health, and Economic Advisory Council, of the Annapolis Center[1], a Maryland-based think tank which has been funded by corporations including ExxonMobil.[2] Writing in the Washington Post, Joel Achenbach wrote that "of all the skeptics, MIT's Richard Lindzen probably has the most credibility among mainstream scientists, who acknowledge that he's doing serious research on the subject."[3]

Lindzen has been a keynote speaker at media events and conferences of a range of think tanks disputing climate change including the Heartland Institute[4] and the Cooler Heads Coalition.[5][6][7]

I can't help but add that Alfred P. Sloan is the founder of General Motors.

Durant founded GM.

That one is old news.

What's a layman to do who shall I believe?

following links are from a comment responding to a so called skeptic...
The link to Chris Colose's post is very clear, even for a layman I consider it a "GOOD READ" as well!

First, it is rare that you wind up with an outright refutation of a published paper in the scientific literature. Rather, what usually happens is that questions are raised about the data or methodology of the paper. Such is the case with Lindzen’s use of ERBE data. The published work is an improvement [edit] It is still not clear if he is using the most correct version of the ERBE data, particularly since things look very different from Wong et al.
Gavin and James Annan have raised questions about why Lindzen is comparing to AMIP rather than CMIP simulations, which would be the more appropriate comparison. No response from Lindzen. See:

And Chris Colose has done an excellent post that bears on why Lindzen is certainly wrong:

Finally, you asked for confidence levels. I commend to you:

This details most of the independent lines of evidence–all of which favor a climate sensitivity of 3 degrees per doubling–and none of which support a sensitivity as low as 2 degrees per doubling with any confidence.

That Lindzen is the best the sceptics have is a sad statement for them, indeed. Lindzen is as close as you get to a real sceptic, someone who might truly believe the science is off based on his reading of the science, as opposed to a denialist whose paycheck and/or ideology and/or ego (or whatever) leads them to deny the science before their eyes.

As I have said many a time, and please listen Mr Mearns, there is no published, peer-reviewed, then publicly reviewed paper that supports a primarily non-anthropogenic cause of warming since 1850.






Even if the climate sensitivity is "3 degrees per doubling", there is not enough economically recoverable carbon (including coal) as has been shown on this site (ad nauseum) to double the carbon concentration in the atmosphere.

Also, a 3 degree temperature rise would have many benefits. The commonly discussed "disastrous climate change" implies a melting of the Greenland (and some of the Antarctic) icecap. Given the uncertainties in our modeling, surely a look at the climate record is in order! The climate record is clear, the Eemian Interglacial was MUCH warmer (as much as 5 degrees C) than it is today AND a redwood forest grew on the southern part of Greenland BUT even after many thousands of years, the Greenland icecap was not fully melted!!

So there are many people who are worried about Greenland melting quickly, but the actual time to do that (even if the temperature spiked immediately) would be thousands of years. Another real example (not a model) is the Antarctic Peninsula. The Antarctic peninsula has been melting slowly for 10,000 years (since the last glacial period) but it is STILL not in equilibrium because it take SO LONG for that to happen.

Another fact is that the deep oceans take about 800-1000 years to warm up and cool down (>100,000 times the heat capacity of the atmosphere). It is very difficult to imagine a huge climate change in the atmosphere while the oceans haven't had time to respond. Surely, most people not doubt that the oceans with their enormous heat capacity would take a long time to respond to climate changes??

The geologic time frames for world-wide events is just not comprehensible to most people.


Small changes in the environment can affect populations at the edge (many say we are beyond-but as we are still here I will leave it 'at') of an ecosystem's carrying capacity in very big ways.

Even if the climate sensitivity is "3 degrees per doubling", there is not enough economically recoverable carbon (including coal) as has been shown on this site (ad nauseum) to double the carbon concentration in the atmosphere.

I tire of people speaking out of ignorance. How many people in this thread have pointed out the feedback loops. What do you not understand about them that you could state the above without qualification? By the way, I guarantee you now sensitivity is higher than 3C.

Also, a 3 degree temperature rise would have many benefits.

That's like saying an obese man should be happy he lost his leg because it reduced his weight. There might be positives, but there is nothing in the literature I know of to indicate benefits at 3C+ would outweigh the negative impacts.

The climate record is clear, the Eemian Interglacial was MUCH warmer (as much as 5 degrees C) than it is today

This statement appears to be false in stating the record is clear. Every reference I found discussed a mix of warmer and cooler areas than today. None of them mentioned an estimate of global temps, though all offered proxy examples. Got a link? I'm genuinely interested. (Not that it matters. There was no human civilization 130,00 years ago. Also, the issue with climate change today is speed more so than the temps themselves. If, for example, there was a 6C rise over ten thousand years, I dare say we could adapt rather easily, but we are talking about these changes within human lifetimes or a generation or two.)

You are also making the mistake of comparing the maximum conditions of the Eemian with the pre-maximum conditions of today. This is an egregiously misleading error.

So there are many people who are worried about Greenland melting quickly, but the actual time to do that (even if the temperature spiked immediately) would be thousands of years.

This is definitely false. We now know major melting can happen within periods at least as short as hundreds of years. Also, your assertion is based on the complete melting of the ice caps, but this is not and never has been the issue. The issue is whatever degree of sea level rise affects human civilization. The rise already measured is impacting human lives now. A meter? Affects most seaside cities. Two meters? Affects every seaside city. Period. That's a very small percentage of the total ice in the ice sheets. A meter a decade has been demonstrated as having occurred in the past, if memory serves.

The geologic time frames for world-wide events is just not comprehensible to most people.

Yourself included, apparently. You make a number of incorrect assumptions about time lines. It's as if you last read climate science prior to 1993 or so when we learned temp rises of 7C can happen in a decade.

You are wrong about the speed of temp changes, the speed at which ice caps can melt, etc.


WNC Observer
I am curious about the source of the "baked into the cake" number of a 2-4C temperature rise. I have the IPPC Report (4th Assessment)in front of me right now and in their summary table they show for the worst case scenario (the A1F1 - very rapid economic growth and fossil fuel intensive) that the projected temperature rise by 2100 is 4C with a sea level rise of 260-590 mm). For their best case B1 scenario (rapid economic growth but converging to a service and information economy?) a temperature rise of 1.8C and sea level rise of 180-380 millimeters.

They also present a number of 0.6C temperature rise by 2100 if we could maintain year 2000 CO2 concentration. And they say the sea level rise for that case is unavailable.

Their table is on page 45 and the graph is on page 46.

I can't see any 2-4C baked into the cake with those numbers.

With their complete range of possibilities sea level rise considerably less than 1 meter I do not see the need to move populations away from low lying coastal areas.

As I said in an earlier post I am not questioning the science of global warming - but the only definitive report I have is the IPPC report. Am I misreading it?

Thank-you Texas Engineer,

It is my understanding as well that the IPCC projections include continuing increases in FF emissions and that even under those worst-case assumptions, the temperature rise could very well be moderately beneficial (many people/crops like/need warmer weather even in Canada, northern Europe and Siberia). Many people have not done the calculations on how much heat and TIME would be required to melt the Greenland icecap (never mind Antarctica). For a useful comparison it is worthwhile mentioning that during the LAST interglacial period (the Eemian) the global temperature was likely in the range of 5.0 degrees C warmer than today. This was accompanied by the growth of Redwood forests on the southern portions of Greenland. HOWEVER, the northern portions of the island STILL maintained their icecap for the 10,000 years or so of the Eemian. That is why the icecores from the northern half of Greenland go back more than 1.0 million years. Also, the Polar Bears seem to have survived that period rather well, and at +5.0 Deg. C, the Arctic sea ice would certainly have disappeared in the summer. However, there were few if any "tipping points" evident in the paleo-climate record. If our climate was as sensitive to such tipping points as many people worry, then why has the climate not gone through them before when the CO2 level was as much as 5 times higher (over 2000 ppm) during the Cenozoic era. Variations in the Earth's climate over time without human influence have dwarfed anything that we have ever contemplated from Global Warming. Some of those transitions have occurred in decades (at least the ice-age transitions and those caused by volcanic eruptions).

I certainly have no problem with many of the points that have been made above, but I think that the relative mass of the oceans compared to the atmosphere is so large (>25,000 times larger) that many people underestimate the ability of the oceans to absorb the extra CO2 (not immediately of course). The Gulf Stream alone (responding to the comment from Real Climate) drags many gigatonnes a year down into the deep parts of the Ocean. It is not just the surface of the Ocean that absorbs CO2. The whole ocean conveyor belt does as well. Given that the average heat capacity of a gram of the ocean is 4 times higher than a gram of the atmosphere, and given the mass of the oceans (>100,000 times more heat capacity in the oceans than the atmosphere), there is more heat and heat capacity in the just the upper few metres of the ocean (which can slowly exchange with the deeper parts of the oceans and quickly where the currents dive down deep like in the GIUK gap) than there is in the whole atmosphere.

Finally, the surface and atmospheric temperature of the Earth has not increased significantly in the last 10 years. Some would argue that it has dropped but certainly it has not increased a significantly.

Since Colin Campbell says that there will be only 50% or less of the current supply of oil available in less than 30 years, I am much more worried about that than a small increase in temperature. From my perspective, I would much rather that the climate be a little warmer (if that is going to happen), so that when my heat and electricity are shut off for lack of supply from Peak Oil, my family will not freeze as quickly.



"From my perspective, I would much rather that the climate be a little warmer (if that is going to happen), so that when my heat and electricity are shut off for lack of supply from Peak Oil, my family will not freeze as quickly."

You might not be so happy about it if the corn, wheat, soybeans and other staple crops failed.

"•Many crops show positive responses to elevated carbon dioxide and lower levels of warming, but higher levels of warming often negatively affect growth and yields.
•Extreme events such as heavy downpours and droughts are likely to reduce crop yields because excesses or deficits of water have negative impacts on plant growth.
•Forage quality in pastures and rangelands generally declines with increasing carbon dioxide concentration because of the effects on plant nitrogen and protein content, reducing the land’s ability to supply adequate livestock feed.
•Increased heat, disease, and weather extremes are likely to reduce livestock productivity"

Also at the same link :-

"Fruits that require long winter chilling periods will experience declines. Many varieties of fruits (such as popular varieties of apples and berries) require between 400 and 1,800 cumulative hours below 45°F each winter to produce abundant yields the following summer and fall. "

In other words, cheeseburgers, followed by apple pie & cream, chased down by a cold beer are likely to be a distant memory.

Wylie --I share a similar view but perhaps from a different perspective. I'm sure there will be millions negatively effected by global warming. I actually see a potential shift in weather patterns causing more harm (and, as you point out, some benefit for others)then a sea level rise. I grew up in a land (S. La.) of rising sea levels (actually subsidence but same effect). I see the same effect on the shores of SE Texas where some black top roads now end in the Gulf waters. Someones beach front lot might be under water in 50 years...they won't care...they'll be dead. Their great grandkids won't care because they never saw the lot in the first place. New York City may well have to build levees around some of their low lying areas. But they've got 50+ years to do it. A shame they have to spend those resources but no one in NYC will drown as a result of global warming. In fact, if my expectation of the world switching more and more to coal as oil resources diminish then they better start budgeting for those projects now. Bottom line: folks who live on the coast plains won't see their lands submerged...they won't be around. Their grandkids will grow up on the same shores. And if sea levels continue to rise they won't see their former homes flooded...they'll be long dead by that time. Maybe it's just being a geologist I'm not as sensitive to such changes as the PC police would require. In my mind I see whole mountains eroded to non-existance. So what if they strip a top off for coal. Mother doesn't care...she'll do the same thing given time. Some folks think it's an ugly sight. Me...I think oragantangs are each his own. I see in my mind's eye continents covered in 1000's of feet of water. Does it make a difference if such changes were cause by Mother or man? Not to me. But that's just me I suppose.

I'm sure there will be millions negatively effected by global warming.

Let me help you here: millions = billions

Some of the comments above show a profound ignorance of what is really happening.

Homework for the armchair experts:

(Forgive the repeated posting of the links, Nate and Co. It seems very few are listening).

Rocks general thesis is correct. SLR while the most dramatic consequence is not going to cause the moist harm to humans. That is not to say it won't cost many their homes. But migration of climate zones will do the real damage. The claim is the jet stream (which controls the north south) winter storm tracks is migrating 12.5miles north per decade. Here in norther cali, where most winter storms hit to our north, a few tens of miles of stormtrack migration could cut our annual precipitation by a huge amount. So in general the movement of climate zones faster than we can move our infrastructure will cause the real damage.

sad to say Schoff's (he tried to sanitize the weaponry--not likely if push comes to shove) comments above might pose the biggest threat to a given single generation. A couple years back I was reading some guy (I think it was in NY Times comments) wailing on all the refugees Cuba was sending our way and proposing turning the island into glass. He got enough 'here, here' from the crowd. I merely added that if in 30 years things are warming faster rather than slower with the ice sheets sliding off Greenland and Antarctica like snow off a tin roof during a thaw (that visual is probably lost on Texan, but as geologist/engineer imagine a sudden slippage facilitated by the exponential increase in the hydro-lubrication of glacial bottoms, large portions of which are already below sea level; sudden ice slippage in geologic terms can still lift seas in a heck of a human hurry), all the while India and China dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at an ever increasing clip, it is not hard to imagine that the clamour to save us all by turning those regions into glass might gain a whole lot more traction than any would like to comtemplate.

That is if the instability Asia suffers when some of its biggest river lose their ice source doesn't turn those places to glass first. When you have seven and a half billion living on the edge things can tip awfully fast. It might not take that big of a climate change to get it all started.

Both you and Wylie are utterly incorrect. Given your background, the ignorance presented here is truly astounding. There have been numerous changes of climate in the recorded history. Where do the two of you get your information? Huge changes have occurred over both long and short time frames. It's not even worth addressing, so conclusive is the evidence from both proxy data and direct measurement of ice cores and such.

What do you think the Younger Dryas was? A cool afternoon?

What you both, incredibly, miss is that the nature of civilization during previous fast changes was vastly different. In fact, it was non-existent in comparison to what we have now. It was all hunter-gatherer. Nomadic. Easily adapting to changes. Even large changers over ten years would be within the ability to adapt of a small band of people on foot. Hell, I've walked 20+ miles in a day with 30 -40 lb backpack more than once.

While walls can be built, will they? If the economic downturn is permanent due to declining net energy combined with disruptions to food and social systems due to dwindling food/other supplies and damage from climate change - or even resource wars - then where's the money for the hundreds of protect walls around hundreds of cities and agriculturally productive land?

Yeah, you're old. Great reason to flip off the rest of humanity and its decendants. My son is 21 months old. He could see the end of this century, and, if healthy, will come damned close. His kids, again, if healthy, certainly will.

Thanks a lot.

Texas_Engineer, one of the things in the IPCC report that nearly everyone overlooks is their caveat on the predicted sea level rise.

They specifically did not include any contributions from the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets as they did not have any adequate models for the rate of ice melt for those areas. The predicted sea level rise was pricipally a combination of thermal expansion and other glacial melts.

So, what happens if we include just the Greenland ice? Something on the order of 7 or more meters of sea level rise. Much more of a rise if we add in the Antarctic, on the order of tens of more meters. From what I have read, most of those inadequate models for Greenland are being outstripped by the observed melting rates.

The feedback cycles for melting would certainly exacerbate the initial melts. Therefore, long-term melting could certainly get progressively worse as the albedo effects begin to add to the expected feedback.

Want to buy some nice coastal property?

Thanks Wondering

You are absolutely correct - I did not see that paragraph on the potential contribution from the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets. I will give that some more thought.

By the way I avoid coasts so no thanks. Been through too many hurricanes.

I will have to say though that with the very modest temperature rise I keep reading into the IPCC report the hypothesis of massive melting of the ice sheets seems to be still a hypothesis - and maybe that is why the scientists of the IPCC did not feel comfortable forecasting any more sea level rises.

I might be more concerned if I really believed some of the other posters that the worlds reaction to declining oil will be a massive switch to coal. But that just does not compute for me because I foresee the economic impact of peak oil to be so devastating to the world economy (including China) that there will be "peak investment capital". Even if we were willing to invest in a massive switch to coal there will not be enough wealth left to do it. And from my recent readings not enough decent coal to support it.

I need to stop - I am starting to sound like a doomer - and I don't think I am :-)

I know the feeling, I think I'm generally optimistic. However, these days I feel the need to eat lots of anti-acids. There just are not very many ways to make the situation look better. Each scenario I come up with makes me depressed as I follow it to its conclusion.

I completely agree that the potential effects on the world economy could be too devastating for a quick switch to slow the effects. I sure hope not.

In the meantime, I am thinking of collecting some old human-powered technology examples.

Why do people use IPCC IV as their standard? Late to the discussion? That document, as important as it was, was out of date before it was published. The science takes time to decipher and analyze. Then there's coming to concensus. I.e., the science is all pre-2004 or 5. Since that time, a massive flow of new science has shown just how far behind the IPCC IV was.

Now, that does not discredit the IPCC, it merely shows that climate is changing faster than the science can keep up with. Let me repeat that, for it should scare the hell out of you:


This has consistently been the case, and continues to be. The science is *just* catching up, as reflected in the past year by the findings on methane releases in the Arctic and the latest projections that we're probably looking at closer to two meters by the end of this century. (And, please, you engineers, do keep in mind that an average sea level rise of 2 meters equals exponentially higher flood tides and storm surges, right? And, that water is not equally distributed: some areas will see much higher rises, some lower. Eastern US? Higher. NY, Miami, Charleston, et al., ahd better build themselves some high walls.)

BTW, by paying attention to the science, I said **three years** ago we'd have at least 1 meter, probably 3 meters and possibly 5 meters by 2100. Hmmm... How did I do that?

I looked at the science, not my biases. I applied logic and just a tiny bit of knowledge of complex, non-linear and chaotic systems.

However, the basic understanding that land-based changes are the more dangerous in terms of directly costing lives is accurate. That is, after all, where we get our food and most of our water. It's where our homes are.

Mind you: food production will be massively affected. One storm can wipe out production in an entire area or region. As supplies get stretched by population rises and production short falls, you're looking at some serious poop hitting the proverbial fan.

I have suggested we move to massively distributed systems for energy and food for the broad reasons only light;y addressed in this thread.

Please, all of you, read the science. The up-to-date science. Do so with an eye to learning and objective inquiry. The reality will scare the hell out of you, unless you're completely comfortable with survival of the fittest/luckiest/wealthiest as Rock seems to be.

It's a legit stance, but given my 2 yr-old son, I'm all for cooperative groups working toward solutions/adaptations.


Good point on science always moving forward. Same goes with depletion analysis, as we will always find new ways of looking at the data. Also I always find some synergy in the ways that different environmental problems play out.

Written by wondering:
They specifically did not include any contributions from the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets as they did not have any adequate models for the rate of ice melt for those areas.

As I recall their projections for sea level rise included thermal expansion and melting at current rates from all sources. The IPCC omitted dynamical ice motion, that is, ice sliding off of the ground in Greenland and Antarctica into the ocean because the theories were too preliminary.

"They specifically did not include any contributions from the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets as they did not have any adequate models for the rate of ice melt for those areas. The predicted sea level rise was pricipally a combination of thermal expansion and other glacial melts."

This highlights one of the really scary things about the IPCC assessments. They are not alarmists, in fact, they are so afraid of being seen as alarmist that when faced with too much uncertainty about how much melting Greenland/Antarctic icecaps will contribute to sea level rise, they just let it be, and don't include it in their estimates. This is like, if you can't figure out whether a project will cost you $1000 or $100000, you just assume it won't cost anthing at all. It's crazy.

But that's what the denialists have bought for their efforts.

I am curious about the source of the "baked into the cake" number of a 2-4C temperature rise.

That sounds quite a bit high to me. I am assuming that (1) baked into the cake means we immediately stop emissions. (2) Positive carbon feedbacks don't overwhelm the equilibration of the system (Co2 in the atmosphere and ocean will tend towards an equilibrium, with CO2 going from the atmosphere into the ocean. Current CO2 forcing is 1.6 to 1.7 watts per square meter, we have about that much other greenhouse forcings due to secondary greenhouse gases -methane, nitrus oxides, scores of industrial chemicals, ozone.. but about as much "cooling" due to aerosols. So if we stopped polluting we would see roughly doubling of the current forcing -with CO2e (equilavent) a bit less than a doubling. So maybe 2C (givem 3C for a doubling). We have already experienced part of that 2C, so the additional might not be more than another 1C. This is consitent with the statements that we barely have enough time left to avoid >2C warming.
Sea level rise has serious ice loss issues. Recent GRACE observations show greenland ice loss has increased to 250 KM**3 per year (about .75mm per year of SLR). It is not clear what will happen to west antarctic icesheet, but if we assume it is comparable to greenland (comparable amounts of ice), that means 1.5mm/year from ice melt (at current global temp). So maybe that would double again -because we still have mpore warming coming. That might give us 3mm per year from ice, and roughly the same from the expansion of arming seawater. But thats only about 2feet in a century. Exoensive of infrastructure, but not a reason to immediately head for the hills. Of course with anything like BAU, that rate will probably increase several fold. Still a house that will be destroyed by a meter of sea level rise, will probably fall down due to decay before it is flooded.

My impression is that based on what we have learned since the IPCC report was released, it is increasingly becoming likely that the IPCC worst case scenario might actually be closer to being a best case scenario. We now know that climate can change far faster than anyone anticipated just a few years ago. We now know that the tundra is melting and releasing methane right now, not maybe 50-100 years in the future. We now know that the arctic pack ice and the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets are melting far faster and far sooner than anyone anticipated. The IPCC report was pretty much obsolete the moment it came out, and is totally obsolete now.

As for populations needing to relocate away from low-lying coastal areas, the real killer is not the rise in the average mean sea level, but the storm surge inland. Since you are apparently from Texas, your friends in Galveston should be able to tell you a thing or two about storm surges and what they can do to a settled population along the coast.

Yes, and there is 2x the amount of carbon currently locked in the permafrost than is currently in the atmosphere. Even 10% of that would equal 20% of current levels, thus taking us to a minimum of 487. Given we are expecting levels to hit @ 450 even with a good result at Copenhagen, that gets us to 550.

I hope everyone understands the import of this very simple, yet accurate, math. It's even worse when you realize the clathrates are not included in this, and that Antarctic melting and clathrate/permafrost melting were considered a hundred years away, at least. Pre-2005, so was Arctic melting. All are happening now.

You think we haven't hit some tipping points already?

Wake up, people.

It's not my usual practice to argue ad homonim. I leave that to the Rightists, who do it not only because they're usually short of logical arguments, but also because it often provokes people with whom they disagree to unconsciously accept some of the values of the Right (i.e. once you accept the politics of hatred, greed & fear by using those emotions to guide your reactions, the policy positions & strategies of the Right make a lot more sense).

Anyway, IWylie is correct in saying that the BAU projections of the IPCC for 2100 cannot come to pass, because there aren't enough available fossil fuels to allow that to occur. The problem is that, as some commentators have pointed out, catastrophic climate change is likely with fossil fuel usage levels far below BAU.

The politicians of the world are trying to get a global agreement (they've given up hope on Copenhagen, but want to try again next year) on a scenario where greenhouse gases peak at 450 ppm of CO2 equivalent. The present concentration, I've heard, is 378 ppm. Unfortunately, the observed phenomena (e.g. weather, melting of ice sheets,etc) in recent years have been beyond even the worst-case scenarios of the IPCC. and there are strong arguments* for saying that the necessary ceiling is 350 ppm. That's right - we're' already past it, and have to begin turning around immediately. As the sports commentators say here in Australia, it's a big ask.

Peak Oil will have two other impacts which affect global warming, however - and these work in opposite directions. First of all, the increased price of energy will drive greater efficiencies. This will be seen not only in the obvious ways of cars that are more fuel-efficient, or a switch to motor bikes amongst a certain segment of the population, but also in urban design. It will be easier for lobby groups advocating public transport to get a hearing and be taken seriously, and many more people will want to live within a manageable distance from their place of employment. To see what is possible, compare in the first place the cities of the United States with those of Europe, which has had (comparatively) expensive petrol for generations - and remember that even Europe can go a long way further in improving efficiency of energy use. While the effects I've mentioned won't reduce oil consumption below that imposed by depletion, they will make it a lot easier to live with a degree of comfort at much lower energy expenditure levels, and produce a political constituency which can deal with global warming more rationally.

The second effect, however, works in the opposite direction. The rising price of oil has already generated the insane spectacle of the Canadian tar sands being mined for their contained oil, using "stranded" natural gas (If they can build a pipeline to take the oil to market, surely they can do it for the gas!). Building on this, the prospect of coal substituting for oil (either as a direct fuel or through CTL projects), produces a future of even more greenhouse-intensive energy sources than at present. We even have the government of Victoria (a State in Australia) planning to expand the use of brown coal. They should be hauled before the International Criminal Court for even thinking about this ("You are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime against humanity - how do you plead?"), but I don't think the ICC's definitions are sufficiently broad to accommodate that.

Will Peak Coal save us from that prospect? Unfortunately, no. For that to happen, it would have to occur in the next few years at the latest. Even taking the 450 ppm limit as an appropriate target, we're likely to have more than enough coal to get us past that point if the world continues on a BAU basis:

Up until recently, I was optimistic about the prospects of avoiding dangerous climate change, but I've now become convinced that the politicians can't get us there. If we're going to save the world (or even enough of it to prevent the doomers' "die-off" scenario) we need action at the grassroots - in our homes, in our communities, in grassroots political campaigns. I won't boast about what I'm doing, partly because I don't think I'm doing enough yet. But at least I'm doing something.

* I'm not as much on top of the science as I'd like to be, but I'm afraid the 350 ppm advocates might be right.

The real issue is what happens with nonoil fossil fuels. Coal is often discussed. How much there is depends upon how far down the quality curve the extraction goes. Then we could mine the peat. If I understand correctly much of the forested permafrost regions, like central Alaska, and much of Canada/Siberia contain an immense amount of carbon in the still frozen soils. Essentially forest debris is buried and frozen, and builds up as frozen peat tens of feet thick. This stuff could be mined and burned in a manner analogous to coal. Then we have the methane hydrates, some under the tundra, and more under the seabed. We are not at all sure how successful attempts to access this resource will be, but several nations have active research programs. So it looks like if we get desperate enough to continue burning fossilied carbon, that we will be able to dig up enough to do real damage.

Peat is not from forested debris. It is from peat moss, mostly in bogs. The anaerobic, acidic environment of a peat bog limits decomposition, and layers of peat moss can form underneath the living surface of the bog. Sometimes metres deep, developing over millennia. Huge carbon sinks, that can and have been used for fuels in the past (e.g. Scotland). As you indicate, this is not to be confused with methane released from melting permafrost soils (even though both are part of the boreal/arctic system).

Thanks for bringing up comment. Whole heartly agree with you BAU carbon emmisions/green House warming as preposed bt IPCC based on IEA / EIA are sheer fallicy.
I am not a green house warming denialist. I just think the bigger issue is Peak FF it is going to dwarf the warming issue. Carbon emmissions will take care of them selves when we run out of FF. We may still have warming issues due to the present high levels of CO2 but the damage is done there already.(Historic emmisions)
Colin Campbell work first opened my eyes to scale of the issue. Anybody who reads his oil discovery graphs can not deny we are going to see major drops in production in the near future. Campbell may have been out by +/- 5 years but so what.
Does any one know of any Green house warming modeling that has been done using Campbell /Rembrant et all oil depletion and coal depletions projections.

I am not a green house warming denialist. I just think the bigger issue is Peak FF it is going to dwarf the warming issue. Carbon emmissions will take care of them selves when we run out of FF. We may still have warming issues due to the present high levels of CO2 but the damage is done there already.(Historic emmisions)

This is a profound misreading of the science, unless you think a huge die-off is OK. Emissions will likely hit 400 before 2012 or 2015. Emissions will continue to rise to 2050 or so, most likely.

And, you, along with almost everyone else, are missing *the* key feedback: methane from clathrates and permafrost, which are already underway. The number of thermokarst lakes has tripled since they started counting them in the last ten years. Less than ten years ago, if I recall correctly.

We are beyond just counting fossil fuel burning.

I dont think a huge die OFF is OK but I fully accept it has to happen as horrible as it will be. We are in total over shoot with out foslil fuels to feed the population.
Unfortunatly the Indian sub continent and Africa will probally bear the brunt as they have had uncontrolled population expansion dropping farm yields off marginal lands even before Global Warming double strike hits them.
It fills me with Horror when I look at the population demographics for India. Approx 40% of population are under 25. Population growth of 1.58%( doubling in 44 years).
I am sorry but a lot of people ar going to die that were needlessly born. I cant fix the world problems but i have changed my life style, every one else has to do their bit as well.
At least China recognised the problem 20 years ago and tried to control thir population. But as with Jeverons Paradox they have blown their savings on trying to emulate the westen living standards.

"I just cannot understand how the vast majority of readers and posters on TOD can be so knowledgeable about the fallacy of perpetual increases in oil production but (for some on TOD) that carbon emissions are still expected to increase for the foreseeable future"

Sadly, there are more forms of fossil carbon than conventional oil, and there are many ways for shortages in oil supply to be made up with with them. Coal to oil conversion, shale, tar sands... and in existing and new conventional fields, the energy cost (and therefor emissions) associated with extraction are growing continuously.

Another concern is that liquid fuels is only a part of the carbon emissions picture. As China grows, demand for coal-fired electricity grows with it. Even if coal will peak (which I'm not convinced it will anytime soon), it would probably face the same desperation curve of increasing energy costs / pollution associated with extraction that liquid fuel does.

There's enough coal out there to seriously fry this planet.

Well, isn't the problem more that NOTHING can "ease the transition..." to an abrupt end to growth for a perpetual growth system?

For an economy suddenly confronting an end to the ever multiplying resources it was designed to need for stability, ...nothing will "ease the transition" other than figuring out what would relieve that need. Keynes figured it out, but the 'economists' who cherry picked his ideas for what fit their endless growth plans called it "the fallacy". If we're thinking straight we'll figure it out too.

The problems compound. There's no way the US or China is going to let up on burning coal if burning coal is necessary to stave off economic collapse, even if burning the coal results in drastic climate change. Climate change is a longer term problem that riots because people are cold and hungry. China might be able to suppress much of its population, as it always has. But in the US many of the rioters will be well armed.

So we need every sort of clean energy development - yesterday. The cost of putting windmills on every ridge, and solar on every roof - no matter how high it is, or what the local damage to the ecologies of the ridge lines - is a bargain compared to waiting. Yet here I sit in Vermont, where despite local peak-oil-aware organizations, the Democrats are trying to shut down the nuke plant, and the Republicans are doing all they can to block windmills.

Is there a suicide pact between them?

The cost of putting windmills on every ridge, and solar on every roof - no matter how high it is, or what the local damage to the ecologies of the ridge lines - is a bargain compared to waiting.

The Chinese government can follow that logic, and because they are not constrained by free market ideology can impose those sorts of changes. The evidence is that they are: doubling wind generation every year for at least the next decade, becoming the world leader in solat etc. I keep hearing, we shouldn't do anything but BAU because Chindia (China India) will burn coal. But those countries are already far more responsive to the need for massive investment in renewable energy than ourselves.

I'm so glad to see concern for the numbers becoming a issue.

However this is just the tip of the iceberg IEA reporting distortions are applied on top of distortions made but the reporting producers. So the real numbers may be substantially different from what you get simply removing the last layer of spin.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that oil production and reserve data has been altered at all levels of the reporting chain for political reason resulting in a final result that has only the loosest correlation with reality.

Think of the simple game where one person repeats a whispered phrase to his neighbor and the usually hilarious resulting phrase at the end.

However in this case its not very funny.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that oil production and reserve data has been altered at all levels of the reporting chain for political reason resulting in a final result that has only the loosest correlation with reality.

Memm, as an observer here and around, on the contrary I get the strong impression that there are some quite close correlations with reality (in respect of production data, though not so much of reserves, which are less critical anyway). I'd like to see some evidence to back up your confident counter-assertion there. Or some evidence to undermine it?

though not so much of reserves, which are less critical anyway.

Robin, you want to say that a few hundred Gb more or less doesn't change much in the timing of PO ?

han -- I'll answer if I may. I see the arguments over remaining reserve volumes as perhaps one of the biggest road blocks to the public accepting PO. An easy example is the Canadian tars sands. There may be 100's of billions of bbls of oil technically recoverable from those deposits. Let's even ignore the high cost and environmental damage. Can we ramp that production up to 15 or 20 million bopd? I don't think I've seen the most optimistic estimate exceed a few million bbl/day. There might be enough volume of oil in the tar sands to give us 50 years of all our demand. But if it takes 400 years to get that volume out it doesn't solve the PO problem. When I review a specific drilling project my first question isn't about the total potential oil/NG volume that might be recovered. The first question is the potential flow rate. It doesn't' matter to me if there's a 100 million bbls potential if the flow rate is so low that it might take 5 years to recover my investment. For the same reason I don't spend much time considering all the proposed volumes of oil/NG yet to be discovered. First, those numbers seldom include the price assumptions and are thus totally meaningless IMHO. Secondly, I could care less how much oil is yet to be discovered. What drives the global economy is not how much oil/NG are sitting in the ground. Those reserves are of no benefit buried under thousabds of feet of rock. It's how much is flowing. And more specifically, is the flow rate sufficient to meet demand? I see this as one of the current problems with the debate. With the reduced demand due to the recession we can't see the impact of PO. Even if we are at PO today and that flow rate is declining daily, the public sees its demand being met since demand is below the current PO rate. For Joe6Pack that means PO isn't real: we've got all the oil we need coming out of the ground. And he's correct...for right now.

That's true. There are hundreds of billions of barrels of oil in the oil sands (technically speaking, bituminous sands) but it's unlikely production will exceed 5 million barrels per day in the foreseeable future.

Beyond that, environmental considerations will begin to outweigh income considerations and government authorities will probably put a cap on production. They'll already be making more money than they can reasonably spend, given the fact that Canada has fewer people than California, and having too much money has always been considered somewhat un-Canadian.

It's true that will stretch production out over the next 400 years, but that won't be viewed as a negative factor from the Canadian perspective. From the standpoint of the millions of Americans who want to continue to drive to work, it will be a problem, though.

Show me the VLCC unloading data for the US.

I mean the raw data ships name port of origin cargo transferred.

Find the real data and I'll believe it.

A simple example

Is actually a VLOC now.

How man VLCC single hulled tankers are now converted to ore carriers or floating storage ?

Next you have slow steaming.

Its a fairly safe assumption that given the chance unloaded VLCC's running empty will probably practice slow steaming.

There are a large number of factors at play here the effects of slow steaming coupled with the removal of single hull tankers from many routes are difficult to assess.

And of course you have good old removal of supply ...

Given conversions and double hull requirements scrappage rates are not all that useful for determining the tanker fleet size. However what we do see now is a serious oversupply of tankers and high oil prices. This suggests the amount of oil exported via oil tanker is significantly less this year and regardless of the effects of the move to double hull tankers and slow steaming we simply have a large oversupply of tankers.

You can of course believe the production numbers but there are plenty of evidence that the absolute volume of oil being exported via tanker has declined substantially.

My point is if you dig into the issue and in particular looking back 2005-2008 as oil prices rose and tanker rates rose you don't actually get a very clear picture of what was happening i.e its not at clear in the least that tanker rates where rising simply because more oil was being shipped. Now of course its fairly obvious that the market has collapsed but before this you do get the impression that a number of factors outside of simple demand for tankers to export crude where at play.

And of course if you wish to dive into this you have Saudi Arabia right in the middle of the tanker market.


Not to mention Kuwait owned tankers and other tankers directly or indirectly controlled by national oil companies.

Can tanker rates be influenced upwards if desired ?

Certainly depending on scheduling and chartering plenty of companies are in a position to push tanker rates up without requiring any significant changes in the overall volume of oil being shipped. If someone with deep pockets is willing to lay up or slow or alter there fleet sailings then its very doable.

Only when the absolute volume of oil being exported falls to the point that the excess of ships is large enough does it become effectively practically impossible to influence shipping rates.

Just to repeat..

Vela owns and operates a modern fleet of 19 Very Large Crude Oil Carriers (VLCC) trading primarily between the Middle East, Europe and the United States Gulf Coast. Vela also owns and operates five product tankers performing coastal trade in the Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf. At any time, Vela will also have approximately 40 VLCCs and product tankers on spot or long term time charter.

Vela alone has significant clout in the tanker market. But can I prove or disprove anything from the tanker data thats available the answer is simply no. Anything is readily possible up to a point plenty of room exists to move the tanker market in certain directions without extensive changes in the crude supply.

All you do know is that if Tanker rates are up and crude prices are falling then crude exports are up and if tanker rates are falling and crude prices are rising then crude exports are falling.

Rising tanker rates and rising crude prices don't mean more crude is being exported.

One more link.

Time-Charter Market
The volume of crude TC fixtures concluded remained relatively low in Q1-08 despite a downwards adjustment in TC rates on the back of a weaker spot market in Jan / Feb’08. The exception was Taiwanese owner TMT who in chartered 11 x VLCC’s and 3 x Suezmaxes for periods ranging from 60 days to 3 years.

Fewer clean TC fixtures were concluded in Q1-08 than the previous quarter with activity dominated by oil traders in the MR / Handysize sectors. Clean TC rates eased during the quarter due to weak spot rates.

This is a good article and it comes to similar conclusions that I do that through 2008 a steady increase in oil exports does not seem certain from the tanker markets. There are hints of some interesting deals happening during this time period however.

And even now with TMT

Regardless at least when I dig what should be obvious becomes opaque and claims of increased oil production are difficult to justify using all the information I can find from the tanker market.

Do a spot read through Teekay's financial reports if you wish.

Overall I'd argue you can take the tanker data to mean almost anything at least up till this year when its fairly obvious that the tanker market is moribund. And in my opinion this is one of the best area one could look for secondary confirmation of oil production claims.

One more article and all of these are good.

And of course earlier in the article it mentions peak oil.

Tanker rates end November and through December 2007 once again reached record heights. But the cause was not some profound change in fundamentals. It was quite simply that the combination of very low availability of VLCCs in the Middle East and a great deal of oil trading due to oil price discounting by Saudi Arabia took the market by surprise.

You may be confident I'm simply not no obvious facts supporting increased oil production and lots of interesting events.

There are many reports that single hull tankers are being scraped at a rapid rate, even before their useful life has ended.

Oil Daily
October 29, 2009

In a sign that refineries are still producing more refined products than consumers are buying, preliminary data shows that global stocks of products in "floating storage" soared by some 20 million barrels in October. Half of that growth occurred in Asia.

The world now has an estimated 97 million bbl of refined products stored at sea in tankers, while the volume of crude oil stored at sea remains steady at 55 million bbl, according to data from London-based ship consultancy SSY and market talk.

More than half of the products are stored in waters off Northwest Europe or in the Mediterranean, while the bulk of the crude stocks are divided more or less equally between the US Gulf of Mexico and Northwest Europe.

Many tankers are just covering their bunker costs these days and the owners are having to pay for crews and insurance, one market source argues. However, prices have not yet sunk so low that owners are mothballing ships in large numbers.

One broker said that some single-hull tankers continue to be sold for scrap because owners do not expect the market for these vessels to pick up ahead of a ban on single-hull tankers in the world's key markets next year.

Think of the simple game where one person repeats a whispered phrase to his neighbor and the usually hilarious resulting phrase at the end.

If memory serves, that's called Chinese whispers.

Campbell finishes his submission:

"The media too has an important role to alert people at large of what unfolds. It underlines the value of the article you have published for which you deserve every credit."

As a newbie to this site and a simple guy I have little hope that it is possible to educate or "report" our collective way into a correction (new direction). I have been trying to get educated, intelligent friends to realize our dire situation with energy and overall resource depletion/environmental degredation for years. The result has been a wall of denial, alienation, and the loss of some "friends". People just won't see the forest because they're too busy cutting down the trees, especially in the U.S. They won't get it until the last tree hits them in the head. Most of our leaders don't have the courage to give the "masses" the really bad news because they fear the consequences.

I agree with the last paragraph of J.H. Kunstler's "Dreams Die Hard" essay:

"Both factions of American political life indulge in the fiction of control. History is reality's big brother. It is taking us someplace that we don't want to go, so it will probably have to drag us there kicking and screaming. For starters, both reality and history will probably take us out to some woodshed of the national soul and beat the crap out of us. That could be a salutary thing, since the crap consists of all the lies we tell ourselves. Once we're rid of all that, we may rediscover a few things left inside our collective identity that are worth regarding with real self-respect."

Any speculation as to which "major" US oil company that "suppressed" the report "had better remain nameless"?

Take your pick karlof...they're all working from the same game book IMHO.

Given their extensive ad spend on denying peak oil, Exxon Mobil is the most likely suspect.

Yeah, it seemed to me that Standard Oil of New Jersey's new moniker might be the culprit, which UK libel laws prevent Colin from naming.

But the algae come in such beautiful colours!

Oh, I'm sure most of us can probably guess.

Colin, thank you for this most eloquent submission, with fascinating insight to the backdrop to your work with Jean at Petroconsulatnts and subsequent history.

I've reached the conclusion that all reported reserves figures are meaningless. The OECD is as guilty as OPEC, following SEC guidelines that are much too conservative, leading to continuous reserve growth, a situation which of course must end one day.

Since 1980, OECD has produced a volume of oil double that ever recorded as reserves

I agree with your position that OPEC, back in the 1980s, gave an estimate of URR, and hence they are entitled to not decline this for annual production. The problem is that they are employing a totally different reporting standard to the OECD but no effort is made among national governments or agencies to distinguish between these very different standards.

Flat line OPEC reserves reporting

OPEC reserves and production

OPEC reserves production adjusted since 1980

It's great that you're bringing attention to the error of basing world economic plans on the assumption that we'd always find better substitutes for any resource we used up... That's the bit of "magical thinking" that this grand error really comes from. There are more errors of similar magnitude from the same source, though. They're not getting the attention they deserve. If we don't address them we waste precious time understanding the whole problem.

Most people and government sustainability agendas call for reducing our resource uses and environmental impacts with efficiency improvements, neglecting the usual reverse effect. How we got to multiply our impacts was with inventing all kinds of efficiency improvements.

You might say it's been hidden from us by our "work ethic", telling us to always work harder to be ever more efficient, especially when you feel threatened. We seem to only have looked at the first part of "using less to do more" though. The true effect on the economies of ever more efficient work has always been the opposite. Increasing our impacts is nearly the whole purpose of learning to use less to do more!

I gave a talk on the subject to the BioPhysical Economics meeting last month, Why Efficiency Multiplies Impacts and have done some good research on both that and some of the other (yes, there are more) grand conceptual errors in our unrealistic thinking about how to take over a planet )...

Mr Henshaw,

With the teams of economists that OECD governments have at their disposal do you think they know of or understand this problem with efficiency?

There is this big push throughout society, backed by governments, to reduce carbon emissions by cutting back on energy use. Jevons paradox tells us that this is not going to happen and that the surplus energy will only be diffused throughout the economy increasing growth.

In a capitalist society economic growth is looked for to keep the corporate system strong. Is it then possible the OECD governments realize this and the whole reduction of carbon emissions push is just a scam to free up more energy? or am I starting to sound like a conspiracy nut?

I don't post much anymore, compared to a few years ago, because, unfortnately, I don't see the point. I feel like a first-class passenger on the the Titanic and I've just realised we are goting to hit that frickin' iceberg up ahead and it's too late to change course in time to avoid the coming collision. So I'm inclined to reach out for another bottle of chilled Krug and hope that I'm too drunk to feel the pain when the icy waters start to lap around my patent leather pumps.

This sounds terribly fatalistic, but, realistically, bar the miracle of a mass peoples' democratic revolution, that'll sweep away most of the old aristocratic elite, and establish a just and democratic society, I simply don't believe we'll change our ways quickly enough to avoid disaster on a truly global scale.

I don't believe we have to 'worry' about the direct effects of peak oil slapping our comfortable 'western' lifestyles too much, well, at least not 'directly'. Way before that happens, critical shortages, etc. the political/economic repercusions will begin to manifest themselves as the rival western-style powers begin to jostle with each other for control and access to what's left of the world's energy resources. This is already happening as the United States' imperial legions spread out across the globe to gain control of the world's energy reserves, blatant imperialism disguised behind the ridiculous charade of the war on terror.

Soon the imperial legions will be heading for Iran and Venezuela, if they can't be brought under the imperial heel by 'peaceful' means. Then there will only be one real obstacle to virtual total control of the major sources of oil, the energy reserves of Russia. 'Regime change' in these three areas is vital if the west is to maintain its global dominance and grossly unjust consumption of the world's resources, not just in relation to energy. We are going to witness a mad, and very bloody, battle for what's left of the world's stratgic resources. This is tragic because one could transform the world by diverting this crass military expenditure towards peaceful goals, which could benefit the mass of humanity, but this isn't going to happen because the people who rule over us and control the world, don't want it to happen, they like power relationships the way they are, as they favour them so fantastically disproportionally, with grotesque disparities of wealth that go with them.

We are rapidly leaving the era of 'democracy' for something else entirely. The hard state dedicated to protecting the lifestyle of the elite, who almost seem to live in parallel universe compared to the great mass of humanity. The economy/state has become their property, as the great WallStreet wealth transfer, so clearly illustrates. Rob the poor and give to the rich. Robin Hood in reverse!

In short, it's the politics of peak oil and the wars and conflicts of peak oil that are going to manifest themselves first for most of us, only probably most of us won't even realise that is what's really happening, we'll be told the lie that were fighting for 'freedom' when we'll really be fighting for oil and the lavish lifestyles of the aristocracy in our new, post-democratic, new-fuedaul, world. So, peak oil, and the post peak decline, will go hand in hand with - peak democracy.

What is interesting about the "freedom" spin is that it appears that a steadily decreasing % of the public is actually buying into this. Those who stated publicly that the first foray into Iraq was about oil were shouted down-now everyone mostly shrugs their shoulders about motivations for Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran.

Good to hear from you Writerman.

More and more I see previously enlightened people surrendering themselves to becoming what amounts to playing court jester to TPTB.

For my part...I say no thanks.

We either live together or we die together.

Thats the message that needs to be broadcast far and wide.

...oh!...wait a minute... someone is knocking on my door....AAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

A superb commentary by Colin Campbell which the G if it was a decent honest journal would rush to publish. But it isn't. Over the years I have had 20 letters published in the Guardian, and quite a number of others not published. So unlike the vast majority I know what doesn't get published. They conspicuously failed to publish any of my best letters, the ones that would have made the readers go "WOW!, I never knew /thought of that!". And published routine drivel in their place, until a decade ago I decided not to submit further hostages for this abusive process. (For more on media trickery see my book

In recent years the standard of articles has become consistently trashy, such as any university first-year fool could write themselves, with vanishingly few exceptions.

From this experience I can confidently say that Colin's commentary has less chance of appearing in the Guardian than the camel getting through the needle (metaphor allegedly copyright circa 0030 J Christ).

There are different types of people -
1) those who have been converted (40%)
2) those who can not be converted (40%)
3) those who will listen & be convinced by Reality (20%)

Of course, I could be over-estimating on 3 & under-estimating on 1 & 2?

Read Kuhn "On Scientific Revolution". Few make it through the paradigm shift.

Perceptions, On the contrary there are two types of people-
Those who have a clue about how to persuade others;
Those who haven't.

Most people go through life not needing to study the art/science of persuasion. They consider difficult discussions something to be avoided rather than to be embraced. Then one day they find they don't have the skills they require for that task they are now confronted by. They may start giving their colleagues lectures, revelations from on high. Or they may reckon to just "lead by example" as if that could be substitute for demonstrated reasoning. Either way they come over as opinionated would-be superiors. The correct way to persuade is to start with the persuadee's perspective and ask them leading questions.
But even then, as schoff rightly says, few make it through a paradigm shift, and this is the biggest, most wrenching, para-shift of them all. In my reckoning, those who already have a developed viewpoint of the matter (e.g. economists, or recycling/renewables environmentalists) tend to be those with least prospect of shifting.

You guys have left out the most important group-powerful persons who are well aware of what is happening and spend their efforts in keeping others (outsiders to the tribe) unaware so that they can be exploited.

I'm starting to think it depends on the level of education of the converts.

For years I set myself a fairly low target. I only had to convince my immediate family that peak oil was a reality. Here are the results;

1st Sister, some education, does not accept peak oil as a possibility.

2nd Sister, qualified accountant, accepts peak oil and climate change, has joined the British Green party and is looking at political solutions.

Mother, no education, asked me to stop writing depressing crap to my blog.

Father, Uni education, accepts peak oil as a reality and told me to spend less time on the net and more time in the garden. Also said buy a gun.

At least in this small sample there is a clear difference between those educated and those not.

Your old man sounds pretty solid, and both your parents are looking out for you, consider yourself lucky.

Noam Chomsky captured this very eloquently in Manufacturing Consent. He said there are three types of people in western society:

- The few in power using various means to maintain control. This group has lots of resources at their disposal, and likely are very aware of the predicaments facing humanity.

- The masses under the influence of propaganda, unaware, kept happy with meaningless diversions. Blissfully ignorant (but perhaps dangerous if awakened with the cold light of reality).

- The few not in power who educate themselves and seek to learn about the what is actually happening. Many institutions evolve to limit the effectiveness of these people awakening the masses (e.g. think about the linguistic link between "indoctrination" and "doctorate"...). Sometimes a few, like Noam Chomsky and Colin Campbell, break ranks and speak the truth, and often suffer the backlash (ironically, often harshest from some of the masses who apparently don't want their sleep walking to be disturbed).

I came to similar conclusions as Campbell: Is the IEA World Energy Outlook Politically Distorted?. The whole climate change angle is just a stalking horse.

Excellent article, thanks a lot to Colin!

I am especially impressed about IEA's 1998 presentation in Moscow (the link above is dead, but it can still be found as a part of this presentation:

It is surprisingly, how clear the entire issue was for the IEA 12 years ago - even now the Moscow paper could serve as an excellent peak oil primer.
So something terribly wrong must have happened afterwards!

Obviously meanwhile the IEA has learned to make every reader "happy" - providing double messages in many of their works.
Take just the most recent example - Birol's Q&A session in the FT, where he manages to gives (at least) two different replies to two almost identical questions:

Q. If oil production is lower in 2015 than today, does this not mean that global Peak Oil could be imminent (before 2015)?

A. In fact, we do not project oil production globally to peak before 2015 in either of our scenarios. What we do say is that, if there are no new discoveries of oil, global conventional oil production would peak around 2020, but only if demand grows as sharply as we project in our Reference Scenario.


Q. Qs to Mr Birol: When will global oil production peak? How grave will be the impact upon different societies in the world? How should we prepare?

A. As I have already said, we do not project total oil production (including crude oil, natural gas liquids and unconventional oil) globally to peak before 2030 in either of our scenarios – provided that adequate investments are made in exploration and development...

To me increasingly this sort of statements sounds like the technique of the classical Greek Oracle.

So something terribly wrong must have happened afterwards!

Namely they were told by their political superiors to go away and arrive at the (cough) correct answers before presenting any further reports.

Yes, those Q & A's are more typical -


Hi Drillo,
thanks for the IEA 1998 Moscow link - fascinating. Check out this 1998 quote, everyone:

"The extent of the rise in the world oil price is in some doubt. To produce large and increasing volumes of oil from non-conventional sources will require many major multi-billion dollar projects. Some unevenness in supply availability is possible because of the long lead times required for these big projects and the difficulties in matching supply to demand in what promises to be a highly competitive market. It is necessary to distinguish fluctuations in the world oil price from its longer term average level. Some short-term price movements could well arise from supply-demand mismatches, as non-conventional oil sources take over the marginal supplier role. But opinion on the effect of this changeover on the longer-run oil price is mixed. Some observers expect long run supply costs from major non-conventional oil production projects to be higher than current long run supply costs from non-OPEC sources, lifting the world oil price to a new long-run level of $25-$30 per barrel. Others suggest there will be no upward pressure on the world oil price. An upward ramp from $17/bbl to $25/bbl has been assumed from 2010 to 2015 as a response to the transition to non-conventional oil, with the oil price remaining at $25/bbl after 2015. All prices are quoted in the money values of 1990."

Can anyone convert these hilarious sounding 1990 dollars into current ones? That would shed an interesting light on how useful these long term projections are. In pure, straight numbers, it's just too weird.


Can anyone convert these hilarious sounding 1990 dollars into current ones?

These were not much more than current dollars. Like most other forecasters do the IEA mainly exrapolated the current trends, and they didn't dare to leave the current price levels: They expected that already these "high" price levels would curb world economy, so they couldn't rise higher.

Look at the dollar index.
The high cost of oil now ( much of it anyway) is because the dollar has depreciated against other currencies.
I have always looked at oil as kind of the "global currency".

Colin, I do think your claim that the current financial meltdown is caused by peakoil pressure reduces the potential size of your audience. Few if any economists believe it. Mainly because the bubble would have soon popped anyway, so at best in their eys PO may have advanced the trigger, but they don't see it as a fundamental cause. I mostly think they are right. Although I do point out that one source of the pressure to blow up the bubbles was that GDP growth was falling short, in part due to resource constraints. I think any stronger claims of oil as the genesis of the crash, just hurts your credibilty with this influential batch of people.

Hi enemy,

you're probably right about the audience count. And about your assessment of economists BELIEFS. However, what exactly do they KNOW? Oil went from $14 in 1999 to $147 by 2008. That's 1000% increase in 9 years. I find the economists assertion bizarre that that (inflation) did not effect people's purchasing power, especially the ones already stretched to the credit max. Cause of the bubble? No. Trigger for foreclosures? Looks like a pretty good one to me. Plus the fact that 4 out of 5 recessions were preceded by an oil shock. Economists also don't seem to believe that oil production flat-lined since 2004/05. Economists also seem to still take "fuzzy numbers", GDP, CPI, inflation etc at face value.

Checked the Crash Course lately? highly recommended, if you haven't seen it, especially for enemies of states ;-)

Economists may be influential. But why? Question is, should they be? Paul Krugman, Nobel economist, doesn't seem to think so, points out that the whole field of economics is in state of upheaval, unbeknownst to John Q Public. Also, the very economists, who said "no one could have predicted THIS (although some did) are still in charge of fixing THIS". Should they be, unless they repent? Seems to me THAT needs to be emphasized.

"How did economists get it so wrong?" Paul Krugman

"Mistakes economists make", Dave Cohen, ASPO

A local PhD economist ("I've been teaching this stuff for 30 years") who thinks "PO no problem before 2020", dismissed both ASPO and Jeff Rubin, CIBC, ("Why Your World is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller", 2009), with a wave of the hand: "well, all their stuff is based on Colin Campbell." He never answered my question, "if Colin Campbell is so useless, then how come Jeff Rubin, using CC's material came up with those eery price predictions in 2000: to $50 by 2005; in 2005: past $100 in five years"? Chief economist at CIBC for 19 years, in 2008 he wrote "Why your world..." CIBC board didn't like manuscript, he quit and published. "Why..." is an economist's explanation of why we shouldn't trust economists on questions of energy economics.

So, who should Colin Campbell support, audiences who suck up to crazy economists, or those interested in what's true? I'm with the Campbell/Rubin track record.

If the IEA is right and we do need an energy revolution - I think so - maybe we need more than that - in economics maybe?

So, who should Colin Campbell support, audiences who suck up to crazy economists, or those interested in what's true?

I think thats a bit of a false dichotomy. I introduce the possibility that resource issues might not be totally innocent by weasel words such as "some people are making the case that ....". That way if they don't buy it, they will probably still read on, as you haven't asserted that they must believe it. And you have at least placed the idea in front of them. The art of persuasion usually involves slowly building on what the individual already knows and believes, and then leading them a little bit further -but not too rapidly out of their comfort zone.

Thanks, enemy,
I see your point. I was thinking not so much in terms of dichotomy, rather ends of a range. I find that the persuasion thing is tricky in many ways and has many individual, context, and timeframe variables. aangel recently shared - I took his PostPeakLiving course - he no longer talks to anyone about PO who doesn't commit at least one hour. I couldn't agree more. I see too many interactions derail from the get-go, when they turn into exchanges of sound-bites. When that happens, I immediately back off. On the other hand, I recently "converted" a total PO newbie, self-proclaimed conservative in less than one hour. Before I realized he "got it", he said, "oh shit, I am going to have to change my whole investment and money management plans!" He didn't even want to hear my apology for screwing up his life. He thanked me for doing so. BUT, although a brand new acquaintance, we had spent some time earlier building phenomenal rapport on unrelated common interests (not conservatism;-). One key ingredient, he had a very strong physics background which confirms my general experience, mentioned on this thread by others, that education and science background play important roles.

Bob Hirsch had a presentation at ASPO/Denver on "Training the Trainers". He made the basic Toastmasters point of aiming for the "median comprehension level of the audience". Sounds good, but can be tough to gauge in practice. You can access his Power Point at: For Peak Oil Trainers.pptx , some good ideas, some so-so. I don't think there is a one-fits-all recipe. AND writing, live presentation, and conversation all present very different opportunities and challenges. Oh, well.

Back to Colin Campbell. While I see your point in a general sense, I still see the value of CC speaking his unadulterated truth, there is power in that, too. Especially, in a one-shot deal like the one at hand. Anyway, I think the chances of "persuading" very many economists is pretty slim, any way you slice it. So, in a letter to the editor, I think he did OK for "median of the audience". We'll see what the editor thinks.

Why do people ignore the obvious? Look at any graph of oil prices and recessions together and see if you still think the same way. Oil prices always lead. Cause or correlation? Both, I'd say, particularly this time. There are many converging factors that make this the mother of all crises, and it's going to be a decades-long crisis.

Oil prices and production were an important factor in this recession, tho not the only ones.

But, seriously, the price rises from 2003 to 2008 sucked at least 1 TRILLION out of other parts of the economy over that time, and almost certainly 1.5T or more - especially as you look at follow-on costs into the economy for all the products that require oil for their production, transport or use by the end user.

Oh, and that's just for the US, not the global economy.

You think oil prices had no effect?


Given that oil supplies have peaked, and given that coal, if used increasingly as a substitute will only last about thirty years - and ditto with uranium - it seems we are stuffed. We have gone from one to nearly seven billion people on the back of easy coal and oil: lucky us!
It would help if now politicians would cease encouraging child production with their subsidising of births to every woman who fancies a baby to distract her from life's realities. Abolishing child benefit would be a beginning, and refusing all benefits to future unmarried mothers would be a useful act as well. Such legislation would cut child production in Britain over night. And before anybody says this is mean; it's a great deal meaner to encourage the birth of children who cannot possibly have a decent future. And for those who say it wouldn't be a vote winner, I reckon it just might, but in any case, I doubt there will be many more elections because at some point democratic institutions will fail - even more than they are already beginning to do.
We need to allocate resources to the care of the elderly, if indeed we consider this worth while, and to fund the shift to a smaller scale economy. Oh, and we will need an enhanced police force too.
We are now facing the hardest challenge humanity has ever had to deal with; meanwhile our politicians have never been more self-serving and inadequate.