China's coal bubble...and how it will deflate U.S. efforts to develop "clean coal"

This is a guest post by Richard Heinberg. The post was originally published by the Post Carbon Institute.

The conventional wisdom in energy-and-environment circles is that China's economy, which is growing at a rate of eight percent or more per year, is mostly coal powered today and will continue to be so for decades to come. Coal is cheap and abundant, and China uses far more of it than any other nation. The country is trying to develop other energy sources fast—including nuclear, solar, and wind—but these won't be sufficient to reduce its reliance on coal. That's one of the reasons it is important for the U.S. to develop "clean coal" technology, which China can then begin to adopt so as to reduce the horrific climate impacts of its coal-heavy energy mix.

Most of this conventional wisdom is correct, but some of it is plain wrong—so wrong, in fact, that environment-, economic-, and energy-policy wonks are constructing scenarios for the future of U.S. and world energy, and for the global economy, that bear little or no resemblance to the reality that is unfolding.

Let's see if we can sort what's right from what's not, and see also if doing so can help us paint a more accurate picture of where China, and the rest of the world, are actually headed.

Runaway Train

It is true of course that China's coal consumption is enormous and growing, and that coal is the basis of the Chinese economy, fueling over 80 percent of electricity generation. China's coal output grew an astonishing 28.1 percent from first quarter 2009 to first quarter 2010, to over 750 million metric tons consumed in just the past three months. But this is a situation that is patently unsustainable—not just because of the carbon emissions it entails, but because China simply doesn't have enough coal to continue growing its consumption much longer.

Start with the stats and do some simple math. China is now mining and burning over three billion tons of coal per year. If the nation's coal consumption grows at, say, seven percent per year, that means consumption will double in ten years (its annual growth rate was actually over nine percent in one or two of the last several years, implying a doubling every eight years—but let's be conservative and assume seven percent growth). In that case, by 2020 China would be using about six billion tons per annum.

It takes some reflection to come to terms with the enormity of these figures. In 2000, China's coal consumption was only marginally higher than that of the U.S. Today, a decade later, it is three times U.S. consumption. (It is worth noting that the U.S. has double China's coal reserves.)

Combine unprecedented consumption levels with furious growth rates and you quickly arrive at absurdities and impossibilities. As in, it won't happen. The wheels will fall off the wagon first.

There Are Limits

It takes infrastructure to mine and use coal. Rails and rail wagons, plus trucks and roads, are needed to move coal from mines to power plants. Then there are the mines themselves, as well as the boilers and turbines that actually produce electricity. (In this essay we will not further consider the vital importance of coal to China's steel industry, and the necessity of steel for manufacturing and economic growth in general.)

China is building all of these at a frenetic pace—but the relentless math of exponential growth is starting to hit home. Doubling small levels of production and consumption is relatively easy in practical terms, but, as quantities expand, the task balloons. China accomplished an amazing feat by adding almost two billion tons per year of coal production and consumption capacity and transport infrastructure during the past decade. Adding another three billion tons per year of capacity during the next decade would be—well, nearly twice as big a feat. Imagine building mining and transport infrastructure three times the size of the entire U.S. coal and rail industries in just ten years. That's what it will take for China to maintain seven percent growth rates.

It takes other resources to consume coal; crucially, water is needed to run coal power plants. A typical 500-megawatt coal-fired power plant uses about 2.2 billion gallons of water each year to create steam for turning its turbines—enough water to support a city of 250,000 people. In recent months droughts have wracked huge sections of China, idling hydroelectric dams and stoking demand for coal. If the droughts recur and worsen (as climate-change scenarios suggest), at some point nuclear and coal power plants will be forced to shut down as well, leading to the kinds of electricity supply problems that are already plaguing Pakistan and dozens of other nations, where the lights are off for hours each day even in the largest cities.

And so, partly due to these factors, but primarily because most of the highways, shopping malls, and appliances that the Chinese people are likely to need for a while have by now already been built, China is entering a period characterized by what are called "saturation effects," which will result in significant slowdowns in key industrial energy consuming sectors of the economy. China's infrastructure boom that has driven so much of energy demand growth in the past decade has probably peaked, so that growth in cement and steel demand will soon taper off. While the nation's stimulus package, representing 40 percent of GDP, has extended the party, it will play out over the next year or so and probably can't be repeated.

But that still leaves a smoldering question: can China's coal industry continue to supply domestic demand with even modest rates of growth going forward, declining perhaps to something more on the order of two percent per year?

If It's Not There, You Can't Burn It

According to the World Coal Institute, China has reserves totaling a little over 110 billion tons. That's almost 37 years' worth of coal at current rates of consumption (i.e., three billion tons per year). But to assume that China won't have coal supply problems until 37 years have passed is also to assume two absurdities: that Chinese demand, production, and consumption of coal will remain constant; and that after maintaining this steady rate of extraction and consumption for 37 years, China will one day suddenly discover that its coal has run out.

In the real world, China's demand for coal is expected to grow. Adding ten percent annual consumption growth to the forecast would yield a reserves lifetime of only 16 years. While a sustained rate of growth this high is extremely unlikely, the principle is worth keeping in mind.

Also in the real world, production profiles plotted over time assume the shape of a distorted bell curve that starts at zero and ends at zero, with a peak somewhere in between. We know this is true for coal extraction because several regions in the world have already seen a peak and substantial decline of extraction rates, while no region has so far managed to maintain a high, steady rate of production (or a growing rate of production) until reserves suddenly reached exhaustion. This means that China's coal production will peak and begin to decline significantly sooner than reserves-to-production ratios (37 at steady rates, or 16 with ten percent annual growth) would suggest.

Could China increase its coal reserves? In principle, yes. Reserves are defined as the portion of the total coal resource base that geologists believe can be mined economically. New mining technology and higher coal prices could impact those estimates. However, the overwhelming trend globally is for reserves to be downgraded to mere resources as geologists take into account more restrictions on the amount of coal that is practically recoverable—restrictions like location, depth, seam thickness, and coal quality. It is this general trend that causes some analysts to doubt China's official reserves figure of 187 billion tons (which is notably higher than estimates published by World Energy Council, World Coal Institute, and others): the coal is certainly there, but—like the great majority of coal elsewhere in the world—most of it is probably destined to stay right where it is.

In my 2009 book Blackout: Coal, Climate and the Last Energy Crisis, I surveyed four studies forecasting the timing of the peak of China's coal production. At one extreme, a 2006 study by Energy Watch Group of Germany used a reserves figure of 62.2 billion tons to forecast a peak of production for 2015, with a rapid production decline commencing in 2020. At the other extreme was a 2007 study by Chinese academics Tao and Li published in Energy Policy, which used the Chinese government's official coal reserves figure of 187 billion tons to arrive at a peaking date between 2025 and 2032.

None of these forecasts envisioned the rapid growth in Chinese coal production that has actually occurred over the past few years. This predictive failure could be interpreted in one of two ways: it suggests either that China's coal reserves are larger than previously estimated, thus permitting a higher sustained rate of extraction; or that Chinese officials have forced extraction rates to the absolute maximum level sooner rather than later in order to support economic growth, thus hastening the production peak—which could therefore possibly occur even before the earliest forecast date (2015).

No Alternatives

Economic growth requires energy, and China needs economic growth to maintain domestic political stability and international competitiveness. If there's not enough coal to support the nation's energy growth, then other options must be considered.

China is developing alternative energy sources; can these be brought on line fast enough to make a difference? Let's do some numbers. China aims to have 100 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity by 2020, and the nation's leaders plan to expand installed solar capacity to 20 GW during the same period. These are truly astonishing goals, and, if China even comes close to accomplishing them, it will become the world's renewable energy leader. But there is a problem: total Chinese electricity generation capacity is 900 GW currently; with seven percent growth, that means the nation's electricity demand in 2020 will be something like 1800 GW. Wind and solar together would supply less than seven percent of that. The only thing likely to boost that percentage much would be a dramatic reduction in growth of energy demand to, say, two percent annually.

The situation with nuclear power is similar: China has 11 atomic power plants now and is in the process of building 20 more, with a target of 60 GW of generating capacity, or possibly more, by 2020. But this will supply only between three and five percent of total electricity demand, depending on energy demand growth rates.

The conclusion is unsettling but inescapable: China's reliance on coal cannot be significantly reduced as long as its demand for electrical power continues to grow at anything like current rates. And even if energy demand growth tapers off and alternative energy sources come on line quickly, the country's ability to supply enough coal domestically will still be challenged.

Imports Can't Make Up the Difference

China has been self-sufficient in coal until recently (importing some coal but exporting just as much or more), but supply problems over the last couple of years have led to burgeoning imports and shrinking exports. If Chinese coal mines can no longer cover the nation's demand, why not just expand imports still further to make up the difference?

China will import 150 million tons (Mt) of coal this year, twice what it imported last year. That's not much, if we think of it as a percentage of the nation's total coal consumption. But that 150 Mt represents over 60 percent of the total exports of Australia, the world's top coal exporter. This means if Chinese imports double again next year—not an unrealistic scenario—China will need to import more coal than Australia can currently provide. One more doubling of import demand and China will be wanting to import 600 million tons per year, about the total amount of coal exported by all exporting nations last year.

Can Australia expand its coal production? Yes, it can and no doubt will. Likewise Indonesia and South Africa. But will any or all of these countries be able to grow exports fast enough to keep up with Chinese demand? Again, expansion will be limited by infrastructure requirements—ships, ports, trains, and rails. It takes time to build all of these. By the latter decades of the 21st century, Australia could be the world's biggest coal producer, even though that nation's coal reserves are smaller than those of the U.S., China, or India. (How can this be? It would simply occur as a result of the latter high-consuming nations gobbling up their own reserves so quickly and so soon; Australia has been a fairly minor producer up to this point.) But that will do China little good over the next decade or so, if its domestic coal production peaks and goes into steep decline.

China's increasing reliance on coal imports is not good news for India, Europe, and other coal importers. India burns 500 Mt of coal per year and is facing growing problems with its domestic mining industry. The solution appears to be, unsurprisingly, to import more coal. India wants to grow its economy at seven percent annually, just as the Chinese are doing, and India's economy is just as coal-dependent as China's.

Until recently, coal has been a resource used mostly in the country of origin. Internationally traded coal was a fairly small percentage of the total amount consumed globally—a situation quite different from that with oil, over half of which is exported from the country of origin. However, there is an increasing trend toward the development of an integrated global coal market—and it appears that trend is about to go into overdrive.

This means that if Chinese and Indian demand for coal imports pushes up the price for export coal (as it almost certainly will, and probably quite dramatically), the result will be higher coal prices everywhere—even within nations that are self-sufficient in the resource. After all, if a coal mining company in the U.S. can get twice the price for its product by selling it abroad as opposed to selling it domestically, won't it opt to export? Unless governments implement export curbs or domestic price caps, the international export price of coal will end up being the domestic price for countries everywhere.

Yet if coal prices go too high, that will cause demand to fall, as potential coal buyers choose other energy sources or simply do without. The result will be the same kind of volatility in coal prices as we have seen in oil prices over the past few years. That price volatility will undermine energy markets in general, and poorer nations that use coal will consistently be outbid.

Implication for the U.S.: Forget "Clean Coal"

Now: what does any of this have to do with "clean coal" technology?

Also known as Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS), "clean coal" is touted as the solution to one of the biggest conundrums facing industrial civilization in the 21st century: how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus prevent catastrophic climate change, while maintaining growth in energy supplies and therefore in economic activity. Since nobody in a position of authority can seemingly figure out how to maintain economic growth while cutting coal out of the energy equation globally, and since nearly everyone assumes coal will remain cheap and abundant far into the foreseeable future, the obvious answer to the dilemma is to find a way to continue burning increasing amounts of coal while keeping the resulting CO2 from going into the atmosphere.

We know this can be done—on a small scale. All of the elements of the technology are already working in various pilot projects. Oil companies already inject carbon dioxide into oil wells to increase production. Pipelines, compressors, pumps—none of these requires quantum physics.

There are two hitches: the difficulty of scaling up such an enterprise, and its impact on electricity prices. As many analysts have pointed out, the sheer size of the proposed operation—if deployed nationally in the U.S. alone, let alone the entire world—will be mind-boggling. And the costs of all those pipelines, pumps, compressors, and new coal gasification power plants (these are needed because it's really difficult and expensive to add CCS onto existing pulverized coal burning power plants) add up quickly and steeply. Every energy analyst agrees that this will boost the cost of electricity.

Still, the scheme might just barely work—as long as coal prices remain constant.

However, add much higher coal prices to the equation and the result is electricity costs that will significantly dampen economic growth, make other energy sources comparatively more economically viable—or both. Conclusion: "clean coal" is an idea whose time will never come.

Now, there are other reasons for assuming that U.S. coal prices will be higher in a decade or so than they are now. Official estimates of U.S. coal reserves are probably inflated, and domestic supply problems could start to appear sooner than most energy analysts are willing to admit. Moreover, America's coal transport infrastructure could be hobbled by higher diesel prices if world oil production goes into decline soon (as increasing numbers of analysts foresee), since transport costs often account for the lion's share of the delivered price of coal. But even if we ignore those looming systemic limits and consider only the implications of China's growing demand for coal imports, it's clear that U.S. coal prices can go nowhere but up. The only thing likely to keep them from doing so would be a collapse of the Chinese—and the global—economy.

China: Leading the Global Economy…Into the Ditch

Some commentators are concerned about China's economy for reasons that have nothing to do with coal. The prime example: it would appear that Beijing has a problem with over-reliance on property development as an engine of domestic economic growth. One of those sounding the alarm on this score is hedge fund manager James Chanos, founder of Kynikos Associates Ltd.; he says China is "on a treadmill to hell," and that the nation is "Dubai times a thousand." He has also been quoted as saying, "They can't afford to get off this heroin of property development. It is the only thing keeping the economic . . . numbers growing."

A bursting of China's property bubble could collapse the nation's economy quickly and soon. But it is essentially a problem of money, and money is a creation of the human mind. Currencies can be reformed; banking systems can be reorganized. Such things are painful and take time, but they are certainly possible—and historic examples are numerous.

Energy is different. Without energy, nothing happens. Transport systems stall; building construction and manufacturing cease. The lights go out. You can't make energy out of nothing and you can't call it into existence with computer keystrokes, as bankers can do with money. Generating electrical power requires physical resources, infrastructure, and labor. And so there are natural limits to how much energy we can summon for our human purposes at any given time.

China has become a great manufacturing powerhouse largely because it was able to grow its energy supply quickly and cheaply. And so China's contribution to the world economy is to this extent a function of China's contribution to world energy. One significant gauge of this link is the fact that Chinese coal production represents more than double the amount of energy contributed to the world economy as compared to Saudi Arabia's oil production (1,100 million tons of oil equivalent vs. 540 Mtoe.)

If China faces hard energy limits, that means its economy is living on borrowed time. That also means the world as a whole confronts energy and economic constraints that are harsher, and closer, than we are being told.

Forever Blowing Bubbles?

High coal prices and "clean coal" don't mix. China's insatiable hunger for more coal will drive up coal prices everywhere. China can't keep up coal-powered industrial expansion for much longer, nor can the global economy accelerate without the engine of China. The evidence on these scores couldn't be clearer: the numbers we have discussed are fairly uncontroversial, and the math of compounded steady growth is easy. Still, none of these realities has entered our public discourse. This fact in itself is really peculiar and disturbing. We are participating in a slow-motion train wreck, yet all we can manage to discuss is the quality of the food in the dining car.

Maybe this is because acknowledging the train wreck would require us to confront a slew of contradictions at the core of the entire modern industrial project. Without clean coal, there is no solution to the climate crisis—unless we are willing to contemplate giving up economic growth. But further growth may be unattainable anyway, as the world approaches fundamental resource limits. Nobody wants to think about these things, much less talk about them. Not China's leaders, nor economists elsewhere, nor many environmentalists, nor politicians, nor journalists.

But we can't wish these limits away. Impossible things (like unending economic growth) won't happen just because people want them to. And awful things (like the wreck of the China train) won't be averted just because acknowledging them makes us uncomfortable.

There are of course steps that Chinese officials—everyone, in fact—could take to make the situation better. We should be developing and deploying renewable energy as fast as possible, with a wartime mentality in terms of priority and commitment. And we should be planning for the end of growth, indeed for economic contraction. These things will be difficult, there's no getting around it. Still, they are possible in principle. But we will fail for sure if we remain sunk in denial and do not even make the effort.

China's economic bubble in some ways represents a microcosm of the entire industrial period—itself a relatively brief era of urbanization, fossil-fueled expansion, technological innovation, and unprecedented explosion of consumption. China has taken only two or three decades to accomplish what some other nations did over the course of a couple of centuries. This suggests that, for that country, implosion may come just as quickly.

It is all a remarkable spectacle. Sit back, watch, and marvel if you wish. But know one thing: unless we collectively wake up, engage the brakes on this runaway train (and here I am speaking not just of China), and start discussing how we will adjust to the end of economic growth as we have known and defined it, none of this will end well.

Excellent article, Richard; thanks Gail for bringing this to us.

China is starting to discover the downfalls of heavy coal use; oppressive air pollution, increased drought and heat waves with consequential impacts to food production, logistical problems obtaining and transporting enough JIT coal, etc. The question is can they understand it to the point that they actually architect and implement a different energy demand and generation scheme? Right now, coal use is accelerating sharply;

May 7, 2010 (Bloomberg) -- China, the world’s biggest coal user, increased consumption of the fuel by 17 percent to 864 million metric tons in the first quarter

With the US and the EU burdening themselves with additional debt, Chinese industrial growth may be affected by reduced Western disposable income (then again, they may see an increase in people buying the cheapest possible products).

Any climate agreement will have to have trade teeth to ensure that those countries who have signed the treaty will only trade without restriction with those countries that have an accepted and verified agreement. So China will either have to focus on something other than coal, or expect a vastly reduced customer base for their products.

Fascinating article!

Left with a constantly growing impression that people can deny almost anything (perhaps even myself) if it seems uncomfortable to their personal prejudices, views and needs. So with a great deal of trepidation (due to concern about challenging other people's view's), I will raise the following:

However, there is another factor that seems to be obvious. That is that when China, and India and Australia (and all the previous peal coal countries like the US (soon), and Britain and Germany, etc. )have peaked, peak coal for the world will almost certainly be reached. It seems odds that if peak coal is reached (after peak oil) that there could be continuing exponential increases in CO2 emissions. None of the scenarios that I have seen for a doubling of CO2 by 2100 seem to take into this factor. They look like the IEA extrapolations for oil use a few years back, i.e. they increase exponentially forever. Is this realistic? Is The Oil Drum the kind of web-site that would advocate ignoring this mathematical impossibility?

Can we realistically expect to double CO2 in the atmosphere if world peak coal is less than 20 years away???

I believe that the immediate economic effects of "peak energy" are already being felt and will continue to worsen rapidly in the upcoming years. If a major recession/depression occurs as a result and the world economic system has a collapse, the usage rate of energy will drop and a doubling of CO2 will be even less likely. We have a very immediate problem to think about (how to feed our kids) and fortunately, plants grow better (and with less water and other nutrients) in a CO2 enriched atmosphere.

Good luck to us all, we will need it.


Can we realistically expect to double CO2 in the atmosphere if world peak coal is less than 20 years away???

Never bet against the human spirit to triumph despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles :)

CO2 emissions have increased (and concentrations have grown) over the past two years despite a stagnant global economy. In a collapse scenario, societies switch to ever-dirtier sources of energy as high-quality sources dry up. Examples would be using oil sands and heavy bitumin in place of oil, lignite and subbituminous coal in place of bituminous, and reverting back to using lots of wood for fuel. We see this happening already, and each of these energy switches are 'carbon-building' per unit of net energy provided.

I'll go along with you that we can't necessarily double CO2 concentrations, but we can take a pretty good hack at it. Since we are in the danger zone already, continued increases court disaster.

We are indeed deep into the danger zone. Even the ambitious and well publicized goal of 350 is probably at the extreme high side of a range of acceptable levels--levels never got above 300 during the entire period when human civilization developed.

Wylie's last bit about increased CO2 as encouraging plant growth marks him/her as either deeply ignorant on these matters or a knowing mis-informer about the effects of CO2, of which there seem to be many on the net these days.

Some plants--mostly things like poison ivy and giant ragweed--do show more robust growth in higher CO2 conditions. But for most plants, CO2 is not the limiting factor, so more won't help them grow.

The truly sad fact is that methane is now bubbling up not just out of the melting tundra, but also out of the East Siberian Arctic Continental Shelf. There is no known way to stop these releases, and they serve as a powerful feedback mechanism, since methane is over 100 times more powerful than CO2 as a GHG over its shorter lifespan in the atmosphere. A sudden massive release of many billions of tons is considered certain and imminent by researchers on the phenomenon. This will almost certainly push the earth into the zone where most of the now-thickly-inhabited parts of the earth (Eastern China, the Indian Sub-Continent, Eastern US) will be uninhabitable because wet bulb temperatures will become lethal to humans during summers.

We have already lost the fight to prevent massive and catastrophic global warming. My view is that this is not an excuse to just burn up the rest of the ffs and absolutely seal our fate, but a time to scale back, reflect on what we have done to the only home that can sustain us, and do as little as possible to further exacerbate an already catastrophic situation.

But perhaps that's just me.

Seems to me peakers routinely underestimate ultimate global coal production and its potential for CO2 impact because they don't grasp what the term reserves means in mining. For global miners the word has a very specific meaning along the lines given in the JORC code. It means ore (/coal) shown to be economically, practically and justifiably extractable at current prices using current methods. And if we're talking a proven reserve, it has to be demonstrated to exist with high probability - that is, drilled out at close spacing.

Now why would any miner drill the holes and do the studies to establish reserves beyond their economic planning horizon of, say 10 - 15 years? It cost money to do this stuff. For coal at least, it's often the case that there's vastly more present than will ever appear in a reserve statement.

One example. In the last decade miners have begun exploiting steaming coal from the upper part of the Great Artesian Basin in Australia. This is one of the largest J-K terrestrial sedimentary basins on earth. Sediments kilometres thick extend for thousands of kilometres across much of the eastern half of the continent, largely flat-lying and uniform. The same rock units that outcrop in Central Queensland form the reservoirs for oil and gas fields 1000 km away in South Australia. And the same coal measures being mined in Queensland extend all the way to South Australia too. How do we know? Because the coal seam gas industry is closely studying them for most of the way.

So what's the total amount of recoverable coal in the GAB? Who knows, but a fair rough estimate might be 1,000,000 km2 at a basin-wide average of 10 m thick. That would be ~15,000 Gt, in just one basin, in one country. Economically recoverable now? Of course not. Technically recoverable? You bet. Right now. With electric-powered plant and a decent EROI.

Do you happen to have any links about the coal from the upper part of the Great Artesian Basin in Australia?

There are currently two main areas of activity: on the Darling Downs (Surat Basin*) and in Central Queensland near Alpha (Galilee Basin*). There is also interest in western New South Wales.

The first area has a couple of existing mines and several proposed ones. See eg. Millmerran Power Station. [Interestingly, this 850 MW power station (& coal mine) uses dry cooling (very low total water demand), contradicting Heinberg's claim that restricted water supply will limit ultimate global coal-fired generating potential.]

The second area has a huge proposed mine plus rail and port infrastructure. See press article.

[* both are sub-basins of the GAB]

Exactly right. As I've said on here many times before, Canada's province of Alberta is also largely underlain by 5 separate coal seams, often of significant thickness and value, but too deep to stripmine. However, lest coal get much more pricey or scarce, and they'll be running in-ground gassifiers to bring the whole mess up cheaply as fuel gas. Hoping that coal shortage is going to save the climate is way off.

About half of Alberta is underlain by coal seams. If you drill an oil or gas well in Alberta, you might drill through a dozen or more major coal seams before you reach your target formation. The oil companies know that, but they don't care because they have no market for this coal.

Alberta is bigger than France and only slightly smaller than Texas, so it has a lot of coal. However, there is no market for it other than local power plants and steel mills in Asia, so there are no underground mines in operation any more. There are only surface mines.

Alberta is not unique in the size of its coal resources, so I'm not a big believer in the theory that the world is going to run out of coal any time soon.

While I agree with much of what you've said, methane is about 20 times more potent than CO2, although I'm not sure of the proportion.
I've seen estimates up to 80 times. The scientific description that we're in deep shit with GHGs.

I'm just wondering what's going to happen when the Economic train hits the Limitation Wall.
There's a story about fisher men blowing up coral reefs to feed their families, they were asked why they'd destroy their future - they said they needed to feed their families today! What are we going to 'blow up' just to maintain ourselves?!

The global warming potential for methane has recently been revised upwards. Over 100 year time spans, it was said to be about 21 times CO2's GW potential, but about 80 times over 20 year periods (since methane decays relatively rapidly in the atmosphere.)

But this article by Shindell increases those figures to 33 over 100 years, and over 100 over the shorter, 20 year time frame. I would argue that the relevant number for us is what it is doing now (with the next couple decades).

This is how a poster over at realclimate summarized the findings of the article:

"This paper argues that methane is more potent than previously realised due to the interaction with black carbon. The paper gives a revised Global Warming Potential for methane measured over 100 years as 33...Over 20 years, Shindel et al. calculate this GWP to be 105." (post # 220 on the recent methane thread by Geoff Bacon)

Right on dohboi - Already the effects of AGW are REDUCING the planets ability uptake CO2, dead and dying forests, acidic oceans, rapid expanding deserts, etc.

You are right, the IPCC projections don't take account of Peak oil or coal. James Hansen has co-authored a paper with more realistic projections. Implications of "peak oil" for atmospheric CO2 and climate

Before anyone leaps in, it's worth saying that there is still enough coal to cause levels of CO2 considered to be "dangerous", and several major positive feedbacks are not included in IPCC projections, because they are too uncertain to call yet.

And let's not forget that there are the forests of the world that could be harvested (at a greater rate) without a balancing restoration.

Don't you think that current CO2 levels are already dangerous. Look what is happening now with respect to climate change, sea level rise, drought, changing patterns of seasons, migration, infectious disease. These are all dangerous events and even if we didn't add any more CO2 to the atmosphere, there is a very long lag time before the effects of what is already there will diminish.
We are already past 'dangerous', and well into 'interesting', soon to be 'holy sh*t'.


That is a deeper and more complex question than it appears. It reminds me of the operators at Chernobyl: "hey, you shouldn't be smoking! You could get lung cancer".

Danger to humans: We already have several billions living in poverty, subject to drought and disease, even without AGW. Let's say AGW kills 500,000 per year (UN estimate). How does that compare to the millions already dying of other preventable causes, which we do nothing about?

Danger to environment: we are already destroying the environment, on a massive scale. We are causing the 6th great extinction. We co-opt more and more habitat for human use, and pollute both that and remaining wildlife preserves. Fishing stocks are down 90% since industrial civilisation.

AGW will undoubtedly increase the stress on the environment, but in context it doesn't appear to be the biggest problem. The biggest threat to the environment is people: wealth x number.

The planet can cope with mass extinctions, it has before. It might be regarded as morally wrong to knowingly cause a mass extinction, but in the long run we answer to natural selection, not God.

Our civilization may not survive AGW, some people might say in it's current form it does not deserve to. I don't know how long you expect civilization to last, but in the next few thousand years there are many threats far worse than AGW to contend with. It would be interesting to see how humans deal with it, but sadly I won't be around.

I agree with your statements up to the last three paragraphs--at that point you seriously go off the rails. Half a million a year now is peanuts (though not to the people dying, and their friend and relatives) to what will happen as we go further into the new hothouse world we have created.

Humans cannot survive if they cannot evaporation from their skin can't cool them down. This will be the state of most of the areas with densest populations if the (more and more likely looking) scenarios come to pass.

Don't be assuaged by the articles claim that this is a relatively low probability scenario. As you noted, the IPCC did not include a number of feedback mechanisms, and the mother of them all, the so called 'clathrate gun', seems now to be kicking in (or going off).

So yes, AGW is not the only gross insult we have inflicted on the planet and on ourselves. But no, it is not minor compared to the others, and it is turning out to be the ultimate game ender.

Can we realistically expect to double CO2 in the atmosphere if world peak coal is less than 20 years away?

I would say, yes! The rerason is we have already increased atmospheric concentration of CO2 roughly 40%, so an additional 60% (of original atmospheric plus near surface water Carbon inventory), is all it would take. Thats 1.5 times what we've burnt already, and we might expect to be at roughly half of cumulative consumption when we hit peak. So absent restraint we can at least double and possibly triple CO2.

Good points. Also, keep in mind that that the aerosols from China's dirty coal plants (and other sources) are masking the true extent of heating we would have from our current level of CO2, perhaps by two degrees. Add that to the multiple slow feedback loops, and we already have considerably more heating 'baked in" even without further additions to atmospheric CO2 and CH4 from human activity.

Can we realistically expect to double CO2 in the atmosphere if world peak coal is less than 20 years away???

Remember, it's not like pouring water out of a bucket. It's not that production suddenly stops at the "peak" date: it simply begins to decline. As the price rises, alternative abundant but costly sources of oil and coal become profitable to extract, so significant production could go on for *centuries* after the peak date.

Personally I think "peak coal" is pretty far in the future: US current reserves-to-production ratio (the amount of time our current reserves will last at current consumption rate if we don't find any more) is around 175 years.

What survey are you basing US coal reserves on?

Good question. As I understand it, reserve estimates are not audited and based on a fairly basic questionnaire system. Also, coal quality is important. A couple of years ago, I remember looking at US coal consumption and noted that the energy from coal had not matched the amount of coal mined. If this is still the case, it would imply that more coal is now needed for the same amount of energy. Lastly, quoting reserves to production ratios is not helpful. Read the Heinberg article above for details on why that is so.

The US should reckon on decades to peak, rather than the more wishful thinking century or two.

I find these comments on longevity of finite resources bizarre. We should not be consuming non-renewable resources except as a tactic to build a sustainable society, and we should not aim to consume renewable resources beyond their renewal rate and should do so with an eye on the environmental impact. Otherwise we will have learned nothing, and be set to continue or repeat the mistakes of the past. The unsustainable cannot be sustained.

Good point.

My main fear is that our carbon inputs will trigger natural positive feedbacks - a couple that seem to be in progress now are: loss of arctic sea ice causing less reflection, the increased release of methane from melting permafrost (both clathrates and the rapid decay of all the accumulated organic matter). There's also the ongoing death of the boreal forests from beetles now that winters aren't cold enough to keep them in check. Canada quietly stopped asking for it's forests to be counted as a carbon sink... because now they're a source.

If these get going, those sources will dwarf human inputs and catapult us up to around 1000ppm. That would pretty much put it out of reach.

Have we already got enough CO2 in the pipeline that we've crossed those thresholds? No one knows. 350ppm as a safe level is a only guess, and we keep getting surprised by things exceeding the worst case scenarios of a few years earlier. I'm panicky.

If these get going, those sources will dwarf human inputs and catapult us up to around 1000ppm. That would pretty much put it out of reach.

The climate scientists on RealClimate don't agree. They have a quantity (I can't remember what letter they used), that expressions excess carbon released per degree of warming. It is not all that well constrained, they are looking at paleoclimate history after all. But in any case it is roughly 20ppm of additional CO2 per degree of warming. This isn't enough to generate a runaway process. A runaway process would ensue if the increased CO2 from the warming were enough to generate enough CO2 to add at least as much warming as the initiali perturbation.

Of course, they measured this quantity for relatively slow climate natural changes. Perhaps the ecology had time to adjust -which largely won't the case with AGW, and that might mean the anthropogenic case behaves differently. Also warming generates methane generates more warming was not operable to the same extent (as a slow methane release doesn't build up because of the short lifetime of atmospheric methane. But I don't think this concerns are considered to be realistic.

Archer at realclimate portrayed Arctic methane hydrate release as pretty much a game end-er in his book. When it actually started happening, he down played it. Either he was misrepresenting the threat in the first or in the second case. Perhaps it was a bit of both, but a lot of his argumentation in the article on the subject there didn't quite add up and the whole thing sounded more like spin than anything I've seen on that site.

I think they don't want to be responsible for spreading panic, fear, despondency and worse.

I think they don't want to be responsible for spreading panic, fear, despondency and worse.

And, back of the envelope calculations imply that buried hydrates will only very slowly respond to surface warming. Those Siberian continental shelf emissions would have to increase at least a hundred times to have a major effect. I think the timescale for thawing such deposits is in the thousands of years (i.e. the methane will oxidize to CO2).

That would be true of deeper areas (which Archer seemed to focus on for his modeling in the realclimate article, even though they are largely irrelevant here), but much of the ESAS is only meters deep, and once it starts, massive and abrupt releases are possible.

You only have to melt parts of the cap at the top of an underwater slope for all the methane trapped in the whole slope to be released. And when that happens, it can cause underwater landslide that would further destabilize sea floor bed clathrates.

I don't think this threat can be dismissed as impossible or as only very low probability.

You only have to melt parts of the cap at the top of an underwater slope for all the methane trapped in the whole slope to be released. And when that happens, it can cause underwater landslide that would further destabilize sea floor bed clathrates.

I don't think this threat can be dismissed as impossible or as only very low probability.

Unfortunately, this is where AGW proponents are as bad the skeptics. By taking a handful of studies, and then taking the worst case and shortest timeframe, they totally distort the science and set it up for easy discrediting. You are not going to beat the skeptics by being more hysterical, the way is to have better science. Really you guys are your own worst enemy.

When the science has been reviewed and considered worthwhile, the IPCC will include it in their report. Until then, scare mongering about the "clathrate gun" will not help.

And, if abrupt methane release is possible (as at least one scientific study suggests it is), then scaremongering is the best course of action. Waiting another four or five years for some IPCC consensus document, may be too late.

You said that it's easy to discredit the worst case, so go ahead; discredit it. I really would like someone to.

Not sure if it's true, but I have read that methane from melting clathrates can dissolve in seawater on its way to the surface. Once in the seawater, it is oxidized to CO2, and thus never makes it to the atmosphere (as methane). On the other hand, people who are a lot more knowledgeable than me point to melting clathrates as a very real and dangerous feedback.

Some think "sudden" melting of clathrates was in part responsible for the Paleocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum. Apparently some fossil carbon got into the atmosphere at that time (this is known from stable isotope ratios). Clathrates are a suspect.

Yes, again, in deep water and with minor methane releases most of the methane does not make it to the surface, at least not as methane. But most of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf is quite shallow, and if/when you have sudden release of large quantities, it will almost all make it to the surface as methane.

And yea, various theories have fingered massive methane release from such deposits as the prime suspect or a significant contributor to various major extinction events, including the Permian/Triassic "Great Dying."

"Only one sufficiently powerful cause has been proposed...:the release of methane from methane clathrates"

Bobcousins - Take a revolver, put one shell in, spin the chamber, put it to your head and pull the trigger.

The odds are good you will live. There is no sense in worrying about the "worst case scenario" ... really ...go ahead.

One response to peak oil/coal could be the use of nukes to cook the oil out of shale. This was once suggested by Rickover back in the 1950s as a way of using nukes to fuel our cars, trucks, and aircraft.

Not just suggested... *tested*. Well, not quite shale cooking: they tried to fracture rock to promote natural gas recovery. It didn't work very well, and it made the natural gas unpleasantly radioactive.

By "nukes" I mean nuclear power plants. Nuke power plants have been talked about for use in the Alberta bitumen field. Shell is experimenting with electrical heaters in oil shale in Colorado.

Ah. Why do you need a nuclear power plant? If cooking shale has a positive energy return on energy investment, you can just bootstrap: use some of the oil you get from the shale to run the heaters to cook more shale. If the energy return on energy investment is negative, you're better off leaving the shale in the ground and using your nuke plant to power vehicles using batteries or synthesized liquid or gaseous fuels.

The EROEI of oil shale had at the time of the 1950s, When Admiral Rickover suggested this, was close zero by the technology of the time. Electric vehicle technology had not progressed much in the first half of the 20th century. Most battery electric vehicles were forklifts used indoors and covered maybe 10 miles per shift at less than 15 mph. Rickover was essentially the inventor of the nuclear powered navy and saw many ways of using reactors to power everything either directly or indirectly.

Well, as half of the anthropogenic levels of CO2 have been produced in the last 30 years and CO2 emissions being exponential (even slightly more then exponential), it won't surprise me that CO2 levels will be doubled in 20 years.

Thanks Richard and Gail for this very thought provoking article.

I wonder why many energy companies still want to build coal plants. With technical (and perhaps) economic lifetime expectations of about 40 years for such installations don't these companies risk being outcompeted by wind and solar way before that, thus risking losing their investment? Even more so with mandatory CCS?

I wonder why many energy companies still want to build coal plants.

It's not their business model, they primarily have to profitable until the next quarter (what will happen in 40 years is irrelevant) and they don't want to get rid of their monopolized energy business where they have price control. If they started to build small, renewable, decentralized power plants their very customers may do they same and compete.

Keep in mind: There's a reason why for instance European coal and nuclear power operators run costly PR-campaigns against renewable energies.


"We have a very immediate problem to think about (how to feed our kids) and fortunately, plants grow better (and with less water and other nutrients) in a CO2 enriched atmosphere."

It would be nice if this statement was true, but research indicates that it is a nice thought only.

see here for some details:

There is much other literature out there that explains many other reasons why this common climate change skeptic argument is not going to work out.


I don't usually agree with Heinberg on coal issues but I do agree that the Chinese and Indian Bubbles are quickly going to stall out on energy. The Chinese say that they will avoid this by improving energy efficiency but given the huge backlog of inefficient power stations that seems improbable. Also the Communist Party's political credibility is tied to raising 'lifestyle'. It's a Frankenstein monster. So their coal imports will continue to increase. However I don't think this will translate into much higher prices for US coal, because their pattern is to secure their energy supplies directly.

OTOH, given GW I expect US coal companies will lose out to new natural gas (and even wind) generation, keeping domestic prices low. A carbon tax will further depress demand for coal.

I hope the Chinese bite the bullet and do CCS but the USA still produces 60% more CO2 emissions than China.

One alternative for the coal companies is to convert coal to natural gas by methenation and burying CO2 instead of making electricity. This is already what they do with low grade lignite at Great Plains Gasification(GPG), the worlds largest CCS plant. The efficiency of this process is about 60%, however the efficiency of making electricity in CCGT plants is over 50% so the overall efficiency is about what it is with coal fired powerplants at 30%--also CCGT like IGCC uses about half the water that pulverized coal or nuclear plants do.
The disadvantage is that whereas switching from coal to natural gas reduces emissions by 50%, IGCC reduces emissions by 90%.

The US has ~270 billion tons of coal in reserves. If that were all converted to natural gas per GPG that would be 2175 Tcf of synthetic natural gas(assuming it all to be North Dakota lignite).

North American gas reserves(2009) are officially 283 Tcf despite the industry giddiness over shale gas. I find it odd that Heinberg who forecasts doom for NA coal says little about NA natural gas depletion.

I also don't like the argument that cost considerations makes CCS impossible.
It hasn't stopped Great Plains Gasification, which is currently paying off its debt to the US government despite Reagoon pulling out federal support in 1985.

It's not the Chinese who really need CCS, it's the USA.

It hasn't stopped Great Plains Gasification, which is currently paying off its debt to the US government despite Reagoon pulling out federal support in 1985.

GPG is highly exceptional, running off a lignite resource that has no other market so can be made available inexpensively. It's access to underground caverns (some of which are old oilfields IIRC) is also extraordinary. Some CCS might have similar ideal conditions and favorable economics, but on the scale that we would need CCS to make a dent in CO2 emissions, we would very quickly hit 'peak underground permanent storage capacity.'

I hope the Chinese bite the bullet and do CCS but the USA still produces 60% more CO2 emissions than China.

I have some bad news for you. China's CO2 emissions exceeded those of the U.S. in 2006, and at this point in time they are considerably higher. China's emissions in 2030 could be triple current U.S. emissions if they keep up their current growth rates.

You're correct.

I was looking at 'latest' data---fooled by Nationmaster, probably 2002.

In 2007 China edged out the US 6 billion tons with 6.3 billion tons.

But your prediction of triple US emissions(18 billion tons from China in 2030 doesn't jive with eia predictions showing emissions for the whole non-OECD going up by 6 billion tons. See figure 80.

Since most of China's emissions come from coal that would be another
3 billion tons of coal in production(double).
Assuming they level off coal production at 6 billion tons in 2030, their 120 billion ton reserve would be completely gone in 2035.

But your prediction of triple US emissions(18 billion tons from China in 2030 doesn't jive with eia predictions showing emissions for the whole non-OECD going up by 6 billion tons.

That just reinforces my general opinion of the EIA: "They've always been wrong before, why would you expect them to be right this time?"

Assuming they level off coal production at 6 billion tons in 2030, their 120 billion ton reserve would be completely gone in 2035.

Good point. I think I'll top up my pension plan with a few Australian and Canadian coal mining stocks. (No U.S. stocks, the country is too financially unstable.)

But, realistically, the Chinese are going to deal with the coal issue by producing nuclear reactors like they are fortune cookies, and they have a great deal of scope for increasing their energy efficiency. Most likely their CO2 emissions will no more than double by 2030.

Australian and Canadian uranium mining stocks might not be a bad investment, either. And maybe a nice waterfront property on the shores of the Arctic Ocean for when things really get hot.

I have some bad news for you. China's CO2 emissions exceeded those of the U.S. in 2006, and at this point in time they are considerably higher. China's emissions in 2030 could be triple current U.S. emissions if they keep up their current growth rates.

First, I'm not optimistic about humanity solving the problem of runaway climate change, it seems the cake is already well baked. We are pretty much F'ed!

Second, if we examine US and Chinese CO2 emissions on a per capita basis the US produces more CO2 by many orders of magnitude than China. I can find the link if needed. This of course doesn't in any way let the Chinese off the hook .

Third, there is no way that I can see how anyone can even think that China can continue its current growth rate of 10% a year till 2030.

Maybe we will get lucky and the Chinese and Indians will begin a massive sterilization campaign and will all go back to riding bicycles instead of wanting to drive cars.

Then again how many people in the US are willing to negotiate their life styles.

As I said, we are pretty much F'ed!

First, I'm not optimistic about humanity solving the problem of runaway climate change, it seems the cake is already well baked. We are pretty much F'ed!

Oh, I don't know. Good old homo sap. has been through a lot of episodes of rapid climate change in the past, and managed to get through. Homo neanderthalensis was the main casualty. And I don't think it was the heat that killed him.

Second, if we examine US and Chinese CO2 emissions on a per capita basis the US produces more CO2 by many orders of magnitude than China.

At this point in time the average Chinese produces a quarter to a third of the CO2 emissions of the average American. However, there are four times as many Chinese as Americans, so their total production is higher. This is the crux of the problem - it doesn't really matter how much the individual produces, what really matters is the total production. The individual production only matters if you are trying to make the individual feel guilty, which doesn't really work for the average American.

Third, there is no way that I can see how anyone can even think that China can continue its current growth rate of 10% a year till 2030.

I did some rough calculations, and I think they can keep it up until at least 2030. Past that point, I don't know. Probably their growth will level off, much as it did in Japan. They may end up with a standard of living roughly comparable to the US, but with four times as many people their resource consumption will be astronomical.

Maybe we will get lucky and the Chinese and Indians will begin a massive sterilization campaign and will all go back to riding bicycles instead of wanting to drive cars.

That brings up a couple of issues. 1) The Chinese birth rate is now lower than the US birth rate, below the replacement rate, and the US birth rate is now higher than theirs. Does this mean the US will introduce a mass sterilization program? What are the chances? Slim and none, and Slim just left town. 2) Notwithstanding the Chinese wanting to drive cars, are Americans willing to switch to bicycles so the Chinese can drive? Slim is still out of town, but the Chinese are buying up all the oil, so he may not be driving much farther.

I'm not sure I get the economic growth = stuff/energy argument.

We are constantly reminded that increased spending on services like education or the arts provides as much if not more economic growth than factories.

Its complex. To side track money is latent power, meaning to pay your power bills you give the power company money. For post industrial economys as long as we have cheap energy to import our goods we will be fine.

When hard goods become more expensive, (because energy is more expensive) then no amount of education can replace it. We can use the knowledge to adapt like Cuba.

We don't need active power systems to heat and cool our buildings. I can easily imagine a comfortable, wealthy society using passive heating and cooling.

I can also imagine a comfortable lifestyle that does not include more than small amount of hard physical goods. Hard goods don't inherently make us healthier, smarter, better feed.

Cuba is an example of a planned economy. Obviously not a viable solution.

"Obviously not a viable solution." Why?

"Obviously not a viable solution." Why?

No way to get rich.

I contend that wealth is only generated by converting natural resources into goods. The service economy is just a way of distributing the wealth generated by production of goods. Without natural resources the people working in the service economy would soon starve in cold, dark, dilapidating homes. Just like those hedge funds with trillions of dollars of wealth was an illusion so are education and the arts. It is not like education, arts, health care, and other services aren't necessary parts of the economy but they tend to concentrate the wealth generated in goods production in people who don't break a sweat earning their daily bread. The provision of services also need goods to to their jobs. Where would banking be without computers or even ledgers to keep records of transactions? Plumbers and carpenters need their tools and materials to provide their services. Recycling and increased efficiency can only go so far in providing the goods we all need. The lack of future resources like coal and oil means the end of economic growth in a world where population still hasn't peaked.

You suddenly transformed 'natural resources' into "coal and oil" in your last sentence, seemingly assuming there are no other natural resources or lifestyle changes that would avail in the wealth generation theory you mention above.

But it will not mean the end of economics itself. A post easy resource existence will happen.

How it will look is anyones guess

It would be the end of neo-cleasical economics. We desperately need a better economic model to model a declining resource base (including declining ability of the earth to absorb our insults).

That is partialy true. Those sectors can grow faster due to lower investment needs, and do add a lot into the economy.

What happens is... How much education and arts do you consume instead of getting something physical? Services grow as countries get rich because people want them after they satisfy their basic needs, so they still need to satisfy those needs.

Sure, but basic needs are not inherently energy intensive. The way we happen to shelter and transport ourselves right now happen to be, but that is just an accident of history, not a necessary part of a comfortable life. My co-workers envy me because I live within walking distance to work. My quality of live is higher, I don't consume an automobile nor a shed to park it in. I spend the money on restaurants, concerts, and films. The GDP can't tell the difference between me and my colleagues.

(1) It is possible that before China reaches peak coal nature will punish us with some nasty climate change event(s). One candidate is the disappearance of the Arctic summer sea ice. A February 2010 update of Dr. Maslowski's study contains a graph with average summer sea ice thickness down to just 60 cm by 2015.

When the Arctic summer sea ice goes low pressure cells over Iceland and high pressure cells over the Azores will change and with it the West winds going towards Europe. The whole weather will change with yet unknown consequences for agriculture.

Role of Arctic sea ice in global atmospheric circulation: A review

(2) Yes, Australia is ramping up coal production. Although the Rudd government came to power on a climate change ticket, reduction of CO2 is not on their mind. I had written this report:

Report card 2008: Has the Federal government prepared for oil decline and CO2 reduction?

But this is what Jim had to say:

NASA climatologist James Hansen at Sydney Uni: "Australia doesn't agree now that they got to stop their coal, but they are going to agree. I can guarantee you that within a decade or so because the climate change will become so strongly apparent that's going to become imperative"

He was presenting his book

James Hansen: Storms of My Grandchildren

Hansen has also calculated that - as we are coming out of a solar irradiance minimum - the additional climate forcing from the solar cycle going towards the next maximum is equivalent to 7 years of additional CO2 emissions

(3) Yes, the transport of Australian coal is oil dependent (diesel driven locos of coal trains) and Australian oil production is going to dive.

Western Australia's battle for offshore oil
Crude Oil dropped by 27% in 2009

Australian crude oil production to decline 85% over the next 10 years

(4) Australia's peak oil denial mode is, however, 100%

Report Card 2009 (part 3) Nation Building Program spends only 23% on rail, long list of motorways

(5) My scenario: By the time the world wakes up to what global warming really means, by - say - 2020, declining oil production will have damaged our economy and our financial system to such an extent that the weakened economy can no longer generate the surplus funds to finance the massive projects to replace our coal fired power plants and the equally massive rail projects to get away from oil. These projects may also get stuck in diesel shortages.

At the Community Cabinet Meeting

I handed over a paper on this to the Australian Prime Minister. For the record, I showed him the graph presented by ex-Saudi-Aramco Chief Sadad-al-Husseini at the Oil & Money conference in London in October 2007

in which Husseini crossd out 300 Gb of OPEC proven oil reserves and reclassified them into "resources". I told the PM that this time bomb will explode in the next years.

The paper ended up on a heap of other files carried by his secretary.

Days later we hear the PM saying that Australia's freight load will triple by 2050

(3) Yes, the transport of Australian coal is oil dependent (diesel driven locos of coal trains) and Australian oil production is going to dive.

At least in Queensland, electrification of coal lines is well under way: the Goonyella system is almost completely electrified, and the Blackwater system is largely electrified. I'm sure that increasing oil prices will lead to more electrification, especially if coal prices go up.

The lines serving Newcastle, the largest export terminal, are not electrified, but they are short, and could be electrified quickly when the economics make sense.

Most of the electricity used is, I imagine, coal generated, so the dependence on oil of the Australian coal industry is not great. Of course, the carbon dioxide problem remains . . .

Thanks for this information. I heard the Transport Minister proudly announcing this electrification but was not aware it was for coal trains. Show what priorities the Government has.

Matt, thanks for the great links. Do you have a favorite forum for discussing things Arctic?

Very interesting article!

I agree Chinese coal production won't expand indefinitely.

I wonder how much our expanding financial problems will affect world coal production. I am expecting that there is likely to be a fairly significant influence. If nothing else, funds for expanding production are likely not to be available. If the situation is worse, international trade may be affected.

These issues may cause all fossil fuels to decline essentially simultaneously, regardless of the world's wishes to the contrary. If this is the case, China will not really be able to import much more coal, and their economy will start dropping like the economies of the rest of the world.

The trend in the the this chart is pretty obvious, and based on the following WSJ article, it would appear that China definitely slipped into net coal importer status in 2009.

Net coal exports from China, on a BTU basis, through 2007 (EIA).
WSJ: China Ignites Global Coal Market
MAY 4, 2010

BEIJING—China's growing appetite for imported coal has ignited coal prices and fueled deal making on the belief that the country, once a major coal exporter, will be a long-term buyer of foreign coal. Last week, the benchmark price at Australia's Newcastle port for thermal coal—the type burned in power plants—hit $108 a metric ton, the highest since October 2008, according to globalCOAL, an international trading platform. . .

For decades, China was a net exporter of coal, selling some 83 million metric tons more than it bought internationally in 2003. By 2007, that had started to change, with China recording net imports in some months, a development that helped send global coal prices to record highs.
But last year trade swung dramatically, with China importing nearly 126 million metric tons and exporting just 22 million. China swallowed more than a fifth of the 600 million tons of total seaborne-coal trade last year, jolting the global coal business at a time when steel mills and power plants elsewhere were sidelined by recession.

The trend has continued this year, with coal imports in the first three months of 2010 jumping 226% from a year earlier to 44.4 million tons. That is still a fraction of China's overall consumption, which amounted to 1.4 billion tons of coal in 2008.

And net coal exports from the US (BTU basis, EIA):

Thanks for the stunning graphs. So do you have a whole Export Land Model for coal worked up yet? If so, when might we be expecting to see it? (Apologies if it was already presented and I missed it.)

The math appears to be pretty much the same for all forms of exported energy, to-wit, given a production decline, the net export decline rate tends to exceed the production decline rate, the net export decline rate tends to accelerate with time and the bulk of post-peak cumulative net exports are shipped early in the decline phase.

In some cases, e.g., China and the US, net energy exporters can become net importers, even as their production is still increasing (if their rate of increase in consumption is high enough).

Very well presented. 2020 is ten years, and clearly it would not be smooth sailing and then the hammer drops right at the end of it. Think about that time frame - what were you doing 5 or 6 years ago, and doesn't it seem like yesterday? I have clothes older than that. Heck, I've been reading here almost that long.

I do not believe that we will willing make any changes, and will simply ride that train until the tracks end.

Though my comments here have nothing to do with the subject of Chinese coal consumption, I think they are relevant because they raise questions regarding the efficacy of CO2 sequestration.

The whole premise behind CO2 sequestration is that there are readily available deep subsurface formations into which CO2 can be injected and which are capable of trapping said CO2 in perpetuity.

My first area of doubt stems from the fact that it is often difficult to tell whether a given deep formation is totally continuous and contained by a totally continuous impermeable layer. There are often faults and fissures which do not become apparent until something goes where it is not expected to go. How certain can we be that the injected CO2 will stay where it is intended?

Second, is it reasonable to expect that all coal-fired power plants in the US are sufficiently close to such a suitable subsurface formation of sufficient size so as to make CCS economically feasible? If we have to run huge CO2 pipelines for hundreds of miles, it can become impractical pretty fast. Remember that for every pound of carbon burned, we generate approximately 3.7 pounds of CO2, and we burn one helluva lot of carbon!

And last, I have concerns about what becomes of the displaced air or water in the pore space of a formation after CO2 is injected. If say we inject one billion cubic feet of CO2 into the pore space of a particular formation, then an equal volume of air and/or water that was residing in the formation has to go somewhere else. Where? As small amounts of methane and various sulfur gases are often found at depth, how much do we know about the composition of the gas/liquid that is being displaced? If it should contain appreciable amounts of such gases, and if those gases are displaced in a manner whereby they will eventually work their way up to the surface, will we be creating other problems in our attempt to solve the CO2 problem?

I strongly believe that CCS is a technological dead end and that it is being promoted as a false hope in an effort to make continued coal consumption appear more acceptable. Am I cynical about all this? You betcha!

As far as I know, prime candidates for injections would be areas that formerly had gas and oil sequestered into it. I'm not bullish on CO2 sequestration, but I do intend to make lemons out of lemonade by purchasing beach front property in Iceland.

I agree. We get the energy from FF by breaking the carbon bonds. To bind it back up again would require us to put at least the much energy back into it. This alternative idea is that we'll hide it underground, presumable permanently, so we don't have to put the energy back in. To be blunt, that just sounds like a dumb idea guaranteed to be fraught with unintended consequences and to fail. There are no free lunches.

I agree. We get the energy from FF by breaking the carbon bonds. To bind it back up again would require us to put at least the much energy back into it. This alternative idea is that we'll hide it underground, presumable permanently, so we don't have to put the energy back in. To be blunt, that just sounds like a dumb idea guaranteed to be fraught with unintended consequences and to fail. There are no free lunches.

But the chemistry of sequestration is not to reduce the CO2, but to store it either in solution or in the form of carbonates. Carbonate formation from CO2 is actually slightly exothermic. We cannot reject the notion of sequestration because of chemical energy contrainsts.

The thing that struck me as wrong about the article (the quoted conventional wisdom), that we need to develop CCS so we can get China to use it. China has far more and larger CCS projects ongoing than the US. If anyone is going to develop and export the technology, it is far more likely to be the Chinese than the US. But otherwise I agree that peak coal is coming and may make that point moot.

The whole premise behind CO2 sequestration is that there are readily available deep subsurface formations into which CO2 can be injected and which are capable of trapping said CO2 in perpetuity.

US natural gas storage is 4 Tcf at pressures
exceeding 1500 psi.
Natural gas leaks are FAR more dangerous than CO2 leaks. Why don't you protest them?

A 1000 MW plant might produce 7 million tons of CO2 per year or 700 million cubic feet of CO2. All US coal plants produce around 2 billion tons of CO2 or 200 billion cubic feet of CO2 storage per year.
The DOE estimates that there is 90 billion tons of CO2 storage in oil and gas fields alone--a 45 year capacity.

I also don't see why the seal has to last forever. If it leaked 1% over 100 years versus dumping 100% immediately into the atmosphere that would be a 99% reduction in emissions. It is the rate of carbon emissions which is causing rapid Climate Change.

You appear to be a knee-jerk naysayer unconcerned about reducing CO2 emissions
and in effect supporting inevitable BAU as
all mitigation efforts are 'doomed to fail'.

majorian -

Yes, I am indeed a nay-sayer. I say nay to CCS because I think it is a dumb idea that will prove to be totally unworkable in the vast majority of cases.

I am aware that there are lots of old oil and gas fields where CO2 could go, but the simple stubborn fact is that most coal-fired power plants in the US are not situated anywhere near any old oil and gas fields. Take a metropolitan region like the Philadelphia area for instance. It is served by a number of large power plants. Please tell me: exactly where would you propose to inject the billions of tons of CO2 generated over the course of their operating life? Does running a 300-mile long pipeline to some field in western PA strike you as a credible option? How about New York or Boston: a 700 mile CO2 pipeline?

Furthermore, it strikes me as highly simplistic to assume that all old oil and gas fields are geologically suitable for large-scale CO2 injection. It has to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

One other thing that I neglected to mention which I think is also very important: CCS by its very nature is extremely energy intensive. It takes a lot of oomph to compress a gas to 2,000+ psi, not to mention transporting it perhaps hundreds of miles via a pipeline. So, we will be running through our finite coal reserves even quicker in order to make the coal 'clean coal'.

Regarding your example of assuming an annual CO2 leakage rate of 1%, I'm not sure I see much benefit in spreading out the original amount of CO2 over 100 years if it's going to all get back into the atmosphere eventually. This strikes me as not much different than perpetually digging a hole and then filling it back up.And finally, let us not forget that CCS does not even pertain to that sizable fraction of CO2 emissions from the burning of natural gas and petroleum (as in cars).

In any event, I think this whole discussion will prove to be largely academic because when push comes to shove and utilities have to come up with the enormous amount of capital required, CCS ain't gonna happen (other than a handful of highly publicized government-funded demonstration projects).

Take a metropolitan region like the Philadelphia area for instance. It is served by a number of large power plants. Please tell me: exactly where would you propose to inject the billions of tons of CO2 generated over the course of their operating life?

According to DOE/netl, Pennsylvania emits 131 million tons of CO2 per year from stationary sources and has a storage capacity of between 8000(60 years) and 25000 million tons of CO2(190 years).

You're just throwing out excuses to reject CO2 capture.

The capital requirements aren't insurmountable. A DOE report says that IGCC-CCS costs $2.5 per W so for 335 GW your at about $837 brillion dollars to replace the current coal power plant fleet about the size of the TARP. Plant Cost Comparison

You prefer doing nothing instead of controlling CO2 emissions.

Are you nuts?

majorian -

Since you put it so nicely, yes, perhaps in your opinion I AM nuts. However, in my view, controlling CO2 emissions is hardly the limiting thing with regard to our collective survival. Getting off fossil fuels is.

We are far more likely to meet our collective demise as the result of wars (either planned or accidental) fought over the remaining scraps of reduced carbon. Having a small percentage of US coal-fired power plants pumping CO2 into the ground will be but a blip (albeit a very expensive one) on the radar screen.

By the way, you still haven't answered my question regarding where and how coal-fired power plants in the Philadelphia area are going to be able to inject their CO2 underground over the next 25, 50, or 100 years. Do you really think that hundreds of miles of CO2 pipelines are a technically, economically, and environmentally feasible option?

And I'M the one who is 'nuts'?

No joule, you are definitely the sane one here. Maj is showing his/herself to be a shill for the coal industry once again.

As you stated, this stupid technique is just a way for the inevitably dirty coal industry to present itself as being "increasingly clean." It is corporate greenwashing at its worst.

Maj's all-or-nothing logical fallacies ("if you disagree with me you must be nuts or have no solution or want the world to end..." and variations thereof) prove s/he is just grasping at straws and has no real argument.

Don't be too hard on the Maj. He's just trying to buy us a little more time so we can rollout the MrFussion and jet packs.

"I also don't see why the seal has to last forever. If it leaked 1% over 100 years versus dumping 100% immediately into the atmosphere that would be a 99% reduction in emissions. It is the rate of carbon emissions which is causing rapid Climate Change."

Then we wold be left with slow climate change? (Slow in finance time maybe, it isn't slow even on human time, never mind geological time.) But the magnitude stays unchanged...

Roughly half the CO2 we're currently emitting isn't accumulating in the atmosphere: it's dissolving into the ocean. As a general rule, if you're willing to wait a few centuries, over 90% of any excess CO2 in the atmosphere will eventually end up in the ocean.

So the rate of emission affects the peak atmospheric level: emit CO2 slowly, and the ocean can get rid of it as fast as it's released. But release a sudden CO2 pulse all at once, and it'll all linger for centuries until the ocean can get rid of it.

So in the long run, it all ends up in the ocean. But as Keynes once said, "in the long run, we're all dead."

So the rate of emission affects the peak atmospheric level: emit CO2 slowly, and the ocean can get rid of it as fast as it's released. But release a sudden CO2 pulse all at once, and it'll all linger for centuries until the ocean can get rid of it.

I don't think that is correct. If we assume a linear response function to a unit of CO2 input, you are right that about half will be taken up in a couple of years. But a significant amount will remain after thousands. This does not imply that the long time response to a (volume fixed) is affected by the rate of emission. Adding a delay only delays the effects. I would argue it is harmful, as a time lag allows us to ignore the issue a little longer, and then be powerless to stop the slow leaking. I don't think we need to consider release rates that are so fast that the shortterm absorption into surface waters doesn't come into play.

Of course I don't think a 1% leakrate is at all likely. So it is really an "academic" excercise we are having here. So I think policywise we are in agreement, CCS would be a good thing. If only we had the political/economic will to do it.

If we assume a linear response function to a unit of CO2 input, you are right that about half will be taken up in a couple of years. But a significant amount will remain after thousands. This does not imply that the long time response to a (volume fixed) is affected by the rate of emission.

It's not clear why you think the oceans are an infinite sink, and why you don't seem to realize that CO2 levels continue to rise.

Sorry, I was trying to keep things simple in my earlier post. Yes I realize that the oceans are not an infinite sink (on century timescales), and that significant amounts of CO2 remain in the atmosphere after centuries, and some will remain after millenia. And yes, changes in ocean pH will affect the uptake rate, and have important secondary consequences.

But the basic point still stands: the oceans will take up most (but not all) excess CO2 in the course of about a century. So I stand by my point that the peak atmospheric CO2 concentration reached depends very much on whether the fossil fuel age lasts 50 years or 500.

Handy graph:

But the basic point still stands: the oceans will take up most (but not all) excess CO2 in the course of about a century.

What do you base this belief on? What have been the historical trends of ocean CO2 uptake? How have they be changing lately? What is the source journal article of the image you provided?

Technical details on the figure, including references to relevant papers on CO2 exchange between atmosphere and ocean, are here.

A figure showing that a substantial chunk of 20th century CO2 emissions did not accumulate in the atmosphere is here. The majority of this "missing" CO2 is believed to have been taken up by the oceans.

Some general notes on the chemistry of CO2 and the processes that lead to its accumulation in the ocean are here.

The Archer reference in your first link states what I also have read in other journals;

Long-term modeling studies predict a reversal of present day
carbon uptake, resulting in net release of carbon by the
end of the century
[Cox et al., 2000]. The ultimate magnitude
of the release is difficult to predict, but seems unlikely
to exceed 1000 Gton C.

So in the long run, it all ends up in the ocean. But as Keynes once said, "in the long run, we're all dead."

It's not clear why you think the oceans are an infinite sink, and why you don't seem to realize that CO2 levels continue to rise. On top of that, the oceans are currently undergoing an acidification that will undoubtedly destroy food chains. Then to say "in the long run, we're all dead" ignores the very plight you resign our descendants to.

Well put.

And note that, as the oceans warm and acidify, they become less effective at dissolving CO2.

And note also that as oceans become more acid, they support fewer plankton, which are not only the base of the food chain (as you point out) but also are responsible for about half of the photosynthetic generation of oxygen on the planet. As they take in CO2 and breath out O2, the carbon build their tiny bodies that are either eaten, or fall to the bottom of the ocean, thus sequestering the carbon deep in the ocean.

So the more CO2 we put in the atmosphere, the less able the oceans are to absorb them, especially in ways that would naturally and deeply sequester the carbon in truly effective ways.

We seem to have a lot of people on here who are quite glib about throwing around rosy (and ignorant) scenarios for seemingly self-serving reasons.

I also don't see why the seal has to last forever. If it leaked 1% over 100 years versus dumping 100% immediately

I was completely with you until that one. Since atmospheric lifetimes of CO2 exceed 100years, that leak rate just won't do. I'd say a leak rate of .1% would be acceptable, but 1% most definately not. But the real leak issue is local fear uncertainty and doubt. What if it lekas out and we suffocate (lake Majnood(sp?)like? I think its really a case where local activists can drum up unreasonable fear (just like with Nuclear reactors and waste sites). But it might make it politically difficult to find storage sites.

Last week I saw talk by Jeff Kiehl (NCAR) that showed elevated CO2 levels go out thousands of years or more.

Yep, that's what we are looking at, especially as feedback loops start kicking in in earnest.

You are probably right but I think the more important constraints to CCS are that we do not have sufficient capital to retrofit the world and even if we did the cost of electricity would increase by at least 50% due to reduced efficiency. Therefore CCS will never happen.

That makes no sense.
Germans pay 3 times more for electricity than americans so a 50% increase is nothing.

The cost of IGCC-CCS is 29% more than conventional coal. The capital cost is 33% more. Conventional coal plants cost less than $1 per W.

There are 350 GW of coal power plants in the US. At $1.33 per watt it would cost about $500 billion dollars to rebuild them all as CCS.
The TARP was $700 billion dollars.

I could happen with enough political will.

That's what the cost numbers USED to be. If I recall the IGCC plants being built now are in excess of $3/watt

a 50% increase is nothing

It seems you forget the sense of entitlement of americans. If electricity cost went to $0.15, or gasoline to $5/gal., they'd all fight a civil war and implement a dictator who would borrow foreign money to subsidize it back down.

Californians rates average higher than what you mention with the top tier rate at 49 cents per kwh. They are not rioting, fighting a civil war, or implementing a dictator unless Arnie counts.

Maybe it's all the weed from Mendocino that is keeping the population mellow.

If they legalize weed in November, maybe they will be able to stand even higher rates.

California per capita power use is also less than the U.S., no doubt greatly because of our increased power costs, combined with mandated energy efficiency improvements that have been encouraged for several decades. Energy use by most U.S. households is grossly inefficient and probably could be cut in half without it actually having much impact on people's lifestyles. This fact is what people seem to miss when the assume there will be "riots" if prices go up. Low prices just encourage waste. When prices go up, consumption goes down, and we have a lot of low hanging fruit that can be plucked without anyone even noticing.

I'd also like to add that California has been in the press a lot lately in terms of how "poorly run" the state is, and how it's a basket case, whereas places like Texas don't have any problems. California definitely has its problems, but the fact is, we've also gotten a lot right. Other places may have better looking budgets but they have bigger problems.

Excellent post, Richard,

Three years ago I attended a high level conference at Jackson Hole WY that included the secretary general of the IPCC, a pack of industry lobbyists, and the governor of Wyoming, the state with the majority of US coal reserves.
Gov. Frudenthal called for an immediate 12 billion dollar per year federal program to develop CCS, funded with the urgency of the Appolo program. During the brief public question period that followed his keynote speech I asked him, "Governor, if your program were fully funded tomorrow, how long would it take before 50% of the US carbon emissions from coal will be captured and sequestered?" His answer--- "I have no idea."

Imagine that--- an honest politician!

France, a 55 million citizens country, ramped up 44 Nuclear Reactors in a span of 10 years (see the list here). 20 reactors for China is still just experimental scale, to test various designs. In the same way than France realized it was in an energetic/economic corner in the 70's, and decided to go all-in on a single design (not even a French one...) , China will be able to build its preferred design by hundreds. It is definitely within its means.

Where will the uranium come from? Australia's Olympic Dam expansion

will require the removal of overburden for an open pit mine over a period of 5 years, increasing diesel requirements by the factor of 16 (sixteen)

Where will this diesel come from as Australia will be facing an oil import crisis (see links in my earlier post)?

If the Chinese need the uranium, they will contrive to get the diesel fuel to the uranium mines, somehow.

Where will it come from? Well, you know all those diesel trucks in the U.S.? They won't be going anywhere because the Chinese are quietly locking up all the available oil in the world outside of the U.S. When the crunch hits, the Chinese will own all of it.

You have to keep your eye on the ball because otherwise you're going to get blindsided.

"When the crunch hits, the Chinese will own all of it."

Yes and the US will just throw up their hands and say "ok, you guys win. We'll just slink off into the corner, pout and die quietly."

"You have to keep your eye on the ball because otherwise you're going to get blindsided."

I don't know what ball game you are watching but I would have to say that you sir live in a fantasy world.

whoops... upside your head.

"Yes and the US will just throw up their hands and say "ok, you guys win. We'll just slink off into the corner, pout and die quietly."

Yes, the way things are going, that is a possibility, except for the "quietly" part. Americans never do anything quietly.

"I don't know what ball game you are watching but I would have to say that you sir live in a fantasy world."

Actually, I have some inside knowledge. One of my nephews is now working for a giant Chinese oil company (much to his surprise.) Another is evaluating the economics of selling uranium to them. I used to consult for Chinese-controlled oil companies, but not since I retired. (I sold them all your secrets, took their money, and ran).

But to get back to the "fantasy world" part - That seems to be what most Americans are living in. Don't you guys have any idea what's going on in the rest of the world? Apparently not.

Well we definitely won't be going to war over it, because China has nukes, and every country with nukes will use them if they're losing a conventional war, doesn't matter what they claim. That doesn't mean China just gets everything, but we'll have to work things out somehow that doesn't require a war. Nuclear weapons are a big reason why a "resource wars" scenario seems absurd to me. Maybe you'll have big countries going into small ones and having their way with their resources, but no big countries are going to end up fighting because it would just mean annihilation (although that would mean more energy to go around, provided the nuclear winter is survivable).


I am one hundred percent with you and Joule in respect to this issue.

The storage of co2 underground in my opinion will never be accomplished on a level adequate to substantially mitigate atmospheric levels due to the astronomical costs involved.

An old conservative such as yours truly who has lived in the real world for the past half century listening and reading will tell anybody with the sense to listen that whatever the starry eyed optimists cost projections might be, in reality it is a perfectly safe bet to double them at least.

Given the financial overshoot that exists, and the obligations that already exist that will at best be only partially paid in inflated money,such as social security and other pensions,there is essentially no chance whatsoever that the public will vote for politicians who ask them to pay fifty percent or more, additional, for electricity.And let us not forget that coal is also burned to manufacture steel,as well as a considerable range of other essential commodities.

There are tens of millions of people, lots of them with kids, who live from one week to the next with essentially no cash reserves.

The ones that don't vote will riot before another decade is out.Some will do both.

There is such a thing as a political backlash,and ccs may trigger a backlash of monumental proportions.Ten or twenty million middle of the road voters can totally change the balance of power in DC in a single election. Similarly in most states the balance of power, percentage wise , is not so lopsided that either the democrats or the republicans can afford to irritate a large block of voters.

A far , far better solution would be a carbon tax, with the money legally dedicated to conservation, efficiency , and mass transit, or even subsidized medical care.The public might be persauded to back a program along these lines.

Of course I realize money is fungible, and that carbon tax revenues might get spent on other things regardless of any legislative mandates, but the voter has never yet been able to understand fungibility, and I see no reason to think this would change in respect to CCS.

CCS is a creature in gestation concieved of an unholy alliance of well meaning environmentalists and opportunistic bau types intent on cashing in.

If anything anywhere is in need of abortion, it is CCS.

If the environmentalist were THE FARMER'S starry eyed and innocent teen age daughter, the the CCS guy trying to date her would be the smooth talking,good looking, ever so polite, immaculately and fashionably dressed preachers son with a string of broken hearts and single teenage moms in his wake.

Take it from an old farmer who has spent the last forty or fifty years reading and studying day to day life and politics every single evening rather than watching tv.


Every dollar spent on this abomination is a dollar that could be spent on efficiency and conservation, on renewables research and buildout, on birth control, on buying up environmentally critical lands and adding them to the parks systems,on education,on mass transit.

If -and this is a mighty big if-we manage to turn the corner of the coming ff crunch and emerge more or less whole,energy will be expensive enough in and of itself to drive most or all of the necessary long term changes in the economy and in personal lifestyles to take care of a lot of environmental issues.

We won't be able to burn a tank of gasoline every week commuting if it is simply not available.But if we are still living well, and feel safe , we will continue to see the birth rate fall, and the population problem , which is the CORE problem,will eventually solve itself.

Jevon's paradox will not, cannot, apply to energy that is simply not available.

Ten or twenty million middle of the road voters can totally change the balance of power in DC in a single election.

Problem is, their only choices are Democrat or Republican, which is like being forced to choose between two flavours of ice cream when you're starving for a steak.

I agree with you overall, though, esp. regarding carbon tax rather than stupid bankster's trading schemes.

I do have a hard time holding my nose and voting these days, the big question being which candidate /party is the lesser of two evils.

Others often remark that there are no socialists or leftists in the US.
They are fundamentally correct,if painting with a broad brush.

The right wing is in the pocket of big biz and the power base is so structured that scientific ignorance is an insurmountable problem;the conservative working class of this country is an utterly essential part of the coalition,and it has no conception of the scope or reality of the environmental and energy crisis.

The left wing is infatuated with many different issues, all of them requiring financing with Margaret thatcher's famous "other peoples money" which no longer exists.There ain't no Santa Claus, and everything is not going to get done.

Incidentally the working class part of the democratic coalition , when you get to know it PERSONALLY,is focused to the exclusion of everything else on one single issue,the transfer of money and power thru govt to thier side of the ledger.I don't blame them at all,life is a hardball game.

All the democrats I know who attend fundamentalist churches are blithely unaware , or pretend to be unaware,that thier party is aligned with the unholy scientific establishment determined to destroy the church by means of promoting such heresies as evolution.At least the right wing of the fundamentalist faction is intellectually honest enough with itself to understand that the chips are down,and that the very survival of thier belief system , thier culture , is at stake.

No one should assume that there are not many millions of conservative people with a sound understanding of the basic sciences;but they are politically hobbled by the reality of the existing coalition.

Some here will take issue with my seeming to support religion one day and condemn it the next;I simply try to understand, and promote an understanding, of religion.Religions are natural phenomena and aren't going to go away anytime soon , if ever.

oldfarmermac -

Man, you just about said it all!

Tis very tricky business determining what things are important and what things are not. Given our increasingly limited resources, it is just as vital to know what NOT to do as it is what TO do. And in my view CCS is one of those things NOT to do, for it will turn out to be an incredible waste that will provide little if any tangible benefits.

First things first! And in my view, that means working with our fellow Earth inhabitants rather than against each other. But things seem to be spinning away in just the opposite direction. So it will probably be more war and conflict and the wasted valuable resources to carry out such.

There's a hidden agenda at work in the promotion of CO2 sequestration. The oil companies want to use the CO2 to do CO2 miscible flood enhanced oil recovery projects.

The oil companies need a lot more concentrated CO2 than is available from natural sources. If someone is nice enough to collect it and deliver it to them (presumably free of charge), they'll be happy to put it into an old oil field.

The bottom line is that it increases oil recovery.

Of course, some of it will come back up with the oil, but they'll just separate it out and put it back down the injection wells to produce more oil.

Chinese are already testing fueling their Candu6 reactors with the "waste" fuel rods from their lightwater reactors. Gone so well, they've recommended building a bunch more Candu's.

Now that's what I call a "Can-du" attitude! ;-)

Of course, the Chinese will steal all of the technology, but hopefully we can make some money off them before they re-engineer them for the mass market and start selling cheap knock-offs at half the price. I can see it coming.

The thing is, the Japanese only took over control of the global automobile and electronics industries. The Chinese seem to be moving to take over control of every industry there is. Nuclear powerplants would be a natural once they get the technology figured out and beat the costs out of the designs.

I hope their cheap 1000 MW nuclear reactors are better than their cheap drywall.

joule said:

"The whole premise behind CO2 sequestration is that there are readily available deep subsurface formations into which CO2 can be injected and which are capable of trapping said CO2 in perpetuity."

I can't claim to know much about carbon sequestration, but my sense is that attempting to sequester it in gaseous form will prove to be a fiasco, if they can sequester it in solid form maybe it could work, but my sense is that we are a very long ways from knowing whether such a process might be viable.

If you want to build a stable molecule with the carbon bound in it, you'll have to put energy back into it again.

If you want to build a stable molecule with the carbon bound in it, you'll have to put energy back into it again.

Not quite: you can do what Ma Nature does with her excess CO2: react it with silicate rock to form carbonate rock and quartz. It's an energetically neutral reaction, it happens spontaneously at standard temp and pressure...

...and it's slooooooooooooooooow. I'm not suggesting this as a practical solution, I'm just hairsplitting.

OK, I'll admit I sucked at chem - since this reaction happens spontaneously at standard temp and pressure, is it happening naturally on a large scale, and if not what would it take to make it happen on a large scale (i.e. that combines carbon at a similar rate to what we produce by burning FF)?

It happens when carbon dioxide is mixed with water vapor in the air to produce carbonic acid. This acid rains down on silicate rock, preferably young recently uplifted rock because it's not yet overgrown so more of the silicate is exposed, the silicate is dissolved and flows downstream into the ocean where it is ultimately deposited on the ocean floor eventually becoming magma again and spewed out by volcano's after tectonic subduction. When it's resting on the ocean floor it's out of the short CO2 cycle (hundreds of years) and has become part of the very long CO2 cycle (millions of years).

The silicate rock weathering is called the biggest control knob. The link points to a very good video of a presentation by Richard Alley. Very recommended.

My intuition is that if it were possible to greatly speed this process up, then somehow it would take a large energy input to do it.

Hi Twilight,

Your intuition is on the money.

The rate of the reaction is limited by the amount of surface area of the rock exposed to the wind and rain.

There is no concievable way, to the best of my knowledge, to increase this area short of clearing the soil and vegetation off the stone, and /or grinding and crushing the stone to increase the exposed surface area which is where the reaction takes place.

The amount of capital in the form of machinery , manpower, and fuel that would be needed is simply out of the question, not to mention the environmental impact of such an undertaking.

I think the best form to store this carbon is in long chains. This creates a viscous black substance that can be easily poured down holes anywhere on earth (or just spilled across the oceans).

Now if we can only stop taking this stuff OUT of holes and burning it up, maybe we could get somewhere.

;-) 8<(

Will all those folks who are so against CCS kindly cut their grid electricity use by the percentage of power they get from coal?

For example, Kentucky gets about 90% of its power from coal, so OFM needs to cut his electricity use by 90%.

Well, not to worry.

El Rushbo tells us that GW is all just a crock, just like Peak Oil.
(God, I luv that man!)
Just shoot some greenies in the ass and everything will be A-Okay.

So anyone with concerns about anything they make any use of should just shut up?

By that logic:

no one could criticize, say, the food system unless they didn't eat any food;
no one criticizing the government should use any roads;
no one could have criticized slavery if they wore any cotton...

In fact, by that logic, you yourself can't criticize coal plants that don't have CCS unless you are already getting all your power from coal plants that already have it.

Really, can you try just a little harder to come up with arguments that don't insult our intelligence?

Does a larger then 50% NG grid generation coupled with a my near 100% electric household usage generation by photovoltaics give me the right to be against CCS? And would all those fols who are so agains solar or windpower kindly cut their grid electricity use by the percentage of power they get from coal, gas or nuclear?

Of course not.
The idea is to reduce CO2 emissions by society as a whole. Your solar cells don't do that.

Yes, higher surface area AND/OR higher temperatures (that's why it's called the 'control knob' afterall). Now, we're already arranging for the higher temperatures...

Although some people are proposing it as a practical contribution, including the Royal Society. The background rate is tiny, I can't see it being that practical.

you can do what Ma Nature does with her excess CO2: react it with silicate rock to form carbonate rock and quartz. It's an energetically neutral reaction, it happens spontaneously at standard temp and pressure...

...and it's slooooooooooooooooow. I'm not suggesting this as a practical solution, I'm just hairsplitting.

It actually is a serious geo-engineering proposal. Bust up a lot of near surface rock with explosives, then let nature do her thing. The problem is that in order to absorb several gigatons of CO2 per year, you gotta bust up several cubic kilometers of rock per year. Supposedly the energy cost is small. But finding enough silicate rock land that nobody cares about is probably gonna be the show stopper.

Hi Enemy,

The amount of enrergy required in the form of explosives might be manageable, but simply blasting the rick will not get the job would have to be spread out over a very large area, probably running into the thousands of square miles , in a part of the world with plenty of rain, in order for the reaction to proceed fast enough to matter.

It ain't gonna happen.

I think cracked rock would do the trick. The rainwater would sink into to ground through the cracks. But it does require rainwater, and most suitable uninhabited terrain is probably desert. Also I suspect that busting up rock like that on a large scale would greatly increase the leaching of all sorts of trace minerals -some of which are toxic. I.e. it is probably similar but more dilute to hardrock mine wastewater. I can imagine promoting it on a small scale. Why break up limestone for gravel fill, when silicate rocks will do -and will be CO2 negative. But on a scale to absorb the huge amounts we are currently emitting, no way.

Don;t know of anyone else has thought of this, but instead of blasting rock, why not find a place where it has already been done for you - like, say, an open pit coal mine.
They blast cubic kilometres of rock every year, though it is not necessarily all silicate. They, move it dump it, and after that you can play with it all you want. If the power plant was located near or at the coal mine you could have an almost closed loop.

That said, it still think CCS is a waste of money, but as an engineer I can;t help but try to solve the problem, economic or not!

They blast cubic kilometres of rock every year, though it is not necessarily all silicate.

Unfortunately, since coal is a sedimentary formation, the rocks the coal miners are blasting is almost *never* silicate.

Thought that might be the case - then we look to hard rock metal mining operations, there are plenty of those, though they may be a long way from the CO2 sources..

I don't really understand why people believe this is impossible. Where do you think the natural gas that you use to cook with and heat your water comes from. It doesn't just stay in the ground because of its weight. I'm not saying that sequestration is a great idea, but I don't see any reason to believe it is fundamentally impossible.

It is not impossible,from an engineering viewpoint,to actually do it;the problem is that it is NOT POSSIBLE to pay for doing it,in an increasingly energy and money constrained world.

The safety nuts and the nimby factions alone are enough to stall any real action for decades.

Fortunately the is no suitable reservoit ground in my neck of the woods, but I might go postal myself if someone wanted to bury co2 here.There are lots of cute little kids around here, and most of them live in the bottoms of ravines.

I can live with the idea of a few SOLID waste nuclear dumps, well located,even locally,and well sealed against intrusion.

It is absurd to assume that a ccs storage system spread out over hundreds or thousands of locations can be made fool proof in the face of cost constraints.

Thanks for this bubble news from China. This goes well in line with news about an emerging coal bubble in India:
India moves to protect coal reserves

Mining companies in India will be blocked from tapping up to a third of the country's biggest coal reserves after the Congress party-led government declared them "no-go" areas for mining due to their environmental sensitivity.

Net coal imports into India, BTU basis, (EIA, through 2007). Net Exports are positive. Net Imports are negative.

If the coal consumption in China and India is primarily consumer/working class demand-driven, then can it really be considered a "bubble"? Bubbles tend to be created and sustained primarily by feverish speculation, often brought on by easy credit & low interest rates (2000s housing bubble), borrowing on margin (1920s), and mass delusion (Tulipmania & South Seas Bubble).

I'm not saying that supply and consumption won't eventually crash --thanks to FF supply physical limits and EROEI-- but technically, it doesn't fit the classical definition of a speculative bubble.


If you want to get a handle on why we consider climate change undesirable
I found this article by Stuart Staniford

The light areas above 35C (wet bulb) are lethally hot.
That is an awful lot of real estate.

Only if CO2 reaches 950 ppm and a temperature increase of 12C, which is very unlikely.

Don't forget clathrates, et al....

Proven reserves of coal amount to about 900 gigatons, which if burned would raise atmospheric CO2 to about 800 ppm. (handy conversion factor: 2 gigatons carbon = 1 ppm CO2)

And that's just coal, and just the stuff we know about *now*. If we continue on a maximum-burn path, 950 ppm is not just possible, but in my opinion likely by 2200.

Hundreds of gigatons of carbon are going to be released from the East Siberian shelf alone. There are teratons of carbon waiting in the land permafrost. People really should not feel too smug about the IPCC over-estimates of fossil fuel carbon. There will be a massive die off long before global temperature increases by 12C.

If we continue on a maximum-burn path, 950 ppm is not just possible, but in my opinion likely by 2200.

I think you are right about the maximum burnpath. But the +12C -even for 1000ppm is way out on the tail of likihood. If the Charney sensitivity is really 3C (warming for a doubling), then 1120ppm would give us 6C (and you would need 4500ppm for 12C). So while 12C cannot be ruled out, it's probability is pretty low.

But as the article link above points out, not lower than say the probability of being killed in a car accident--and that's with models that don't fully integrate massive clathrate release.

We can't be sure that the worst case scenarios will come about, but so far we have been on or beyond the worst case scenario path, and we are seeing developments (Arctic ice collapse and methane release) that models did not anticipate happening for decades at least, if ever.

Hey, it was not my probability, it was the guys who drew the frickin graph! If you think they are wrong, tell them not me.

Cherry picking the data to suit the viewpoint is a tactic of the idiot deniers, let's not play that game.

ETA: There is more cherry picking here. When talking about oil, we regard the EIA/industry numbers as bunk. When it comes to coal, the EIA figures are treated like gospel truth.

Perhaps, but these things are seldom governed by just one parameter. The effects of burning coal should also include feedbacks like permafrost methane, boreal and tropical forest dieback and reduction of ocean CO2 fraction absorbsion.

The odds given were "about five percent".

Do you insure your house against fire, Bob? The odds of your house burning down are 1 in 183 - just over half a percent.

Not picking on you. Just pointing out that the people who say "it's too expensive to stop climate change" are hypocrites if they also have fire insurance, or medical insurance for that matter.

Not picking on you. Just pointing out that the people who say "it's too expensive to stop climate change" are hypocrites if they also have fire insurance, or medical insurance for that matter.

1. I have neither
2. I never mentioned anything about cost.

Technically further climate change could be stopped (we are already committed to some), and we could afford to pay for it. The question is "is there a will to do so?", and I don't think it is. The only thing likely to change that is if wind/solar become more cost effective options than coal and oil, which is likely to happen if coal and oil peak and become more expensive.

The odds given were "about five percent".

The "odds" given aren't odds. They don't even exist. There's just physics that will turn out however it turns out. No odds at all, just an unknowable outcome. That leaves no information about what price is worth paying to avoid the outcome. Oh, I know, moralizing fanatics will insist, pay all the way to infinity. Trouble is, infinity is not on the table.

Houses are more convenient in this respect. You get to observe an ensemble of millions of houses and see how many burn down. That allows you to establish odds, with only a modest amount of wiggle-room. That in turn allows you to decide whether the price of the fire insurance on offer is worth paying or not. If not, you might just decide to take your chances, some people do.

The price might be worthwhile for one form of insurance and not another. So you buy the one and not the other. No hypocrisy required.

Don't these "maximum burn" scenarios assume truth in advertising for fossil fuel reserves? Given that governments and corporations alike have a vested interest in over-inflating their estimated fossil fuel reserves, and that the majority of claimed reserves are possible and not proven, I find it plausible that there isn't enough fossil fuel in the ground to trigger climate change on this magnitude, particularly as the continued expansion of shale gas has tilted the economic climate against coal (as coal becomes more expensive to extract and transport, but gas becomes less expensive, you'll see more gas usage).

And the two are not compatible in terms of their infrastructure: coal needs waterways, rails, and roads to transport. Gas needs pipelines. This might be a bit of a stretch, but it seems to me that if society builds more pipelines to feed rising gas usage, and coal use declines, than the infrastructure required to transition BACK to coal will fall into disuse and disrepair, making such a retrograde transition even more costly in the future.

At least in the States, we're already starting to see gas supersede coal in economic viability, as East coast and southern plants have a harder time importing the coal they need from Western fields on our already clogged infrastructure. Meanwhile, the economy and versatility of natural gas triggers more investment in natural gas pipelines, while nobody's building more freight rails, at least not to coal fields. As coal becomes more difficult to transport, and natural gas easier, we'll see the cost of using natural gas decrease.

I think shale gas and the apparent scale of our gas reserves have really changed the market: coal is on a phaseout because its becoming uneconomical, particularly in areas far from coal fields and with water supply issues.

Having said that, I think the real wild-card for our climate's future are methane gas hydrates: at what temperature are they likely to bubble out of the northern permafrost? We have an inkling of how much there is, but how much is there really, and what happens if the trend away from coal accelerates? What happens if natural gas and renewables continues to get cheaper, but the carbon heavy fossil fuels continue to get more expensive?

I think the market is already pushing away from carbon heavy fuels, primarily because of a combination of lack of excess supply, or investment in new production (as in oil) or negligence of the infrastructure needed to bring the product to market, in favor of cheaper and versatile fuels (as in coal).

Just look at the generation numbers by primary fuel from last year: coal has been on the decline and I think its primarily for economic reasons.

Sorry, but I think your in error latching onto N Gas as being much more "climate-friendly" than coal. Question: When those turbine generator manufacturers quote a heat rate (efficiency figure) for their fancy new units, does that include the energy which went into transporting the N gas? Sweetening it at the collection point? Storing it underground near the market then re-compressing it into the pipes? What are standard leakage losses from wellhead to customer? Also interesting is that of the few actual statements of reality I've seen on what percentage of CO2 comes out of the gas wells along with the gas, a common thread was that a LOT of CO2 comes up with gas. The Japanese company who published the figures for their wells in Indonesia stated that the ratio was 5o units of CO2 for every 100 units of N Gas.

Just saying, those promoting N Gas as the "clean future" should be required to prove it before we buy in.

I don't know if this qualifies as a black swan, but it is definitely off the radar as far as anyone in the mainstream of policymaking and analysis is concerned:

The US is eventually going to be forced to export a lot of its coal, mostly to China. Count on it.

China is growing, needs more coal, and has tons of US dollars (or more accurately, equivalents) to pay for it. The US is declining, and will soon be unable to afford to borrow to pay for its consumption. We are going to have to pay for our imports by exports, or else no imports (especially oil); we WILL have to, regardless of whether the people in charge or the general public want this or not.

What are we going to export to pay for our imports? Look around, and it is a pretty short list. Coal is one of the few things that could potentially be on that list, and in quantity. Again, people may not want to export our coal, but there really won't be much choice about it.

The impact of all this on global climate change? Yeah, pretty bad. The planet is pretty much cooked, I'm afraid.

You're selling the US short, I think. We've got a ton of coal, but we've also got some pretty big metal ore bodies left, and more farmland than we know what to do with.

I agree with your conclusion that the US is destined to become an energy exporter, but I doubt it'll be the end-all and be-all of our economy. I'd say Australia, with its diversified agriculture and raw materials-based economy, is a good model for what the US will look like in 50 years. I don't think we'll become the Saudi Arabia of coal.

No, not the KSA of coal, and I doubt that on a BOE basis we'll return to being a net energy exporter. However, those who are assuming that every bit of coal still in the ground in the USA will be available for domestic use may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Hi, WNC,

Excellent observation on your part;eventually the Chinese simply must spend the bulk of the dollars they are holding.

I'm wondering whether they will actually have any huge dollar reservres in a couple of decades; as I see it, a casual examination of the business news indicates that they are stealing everything in sight that is not nailed down, given current prices of coal, oil, iron ore, steel scrap, and so forth,and paying with dollars.

Things that ARE "nailed down", or immovable, such as mines and farmland, are also being bought up at breath taking rates.Whether they can ownership when tshtf is an interesting question.

Maybe somebody here can put up some serious numbers as to just how fast they are unloading dollars, and also perhaps how long they can continue to do so without destroying the dollar and the value of thier own dollar reserves.

Personally I think it is rather likely that sooner or later they are going to find they are holding a gargangtuan pile of rubberchecks written by Uncle Sam, and that they are well aware of this possibility.This would go a very long way toward explaining thier buying binge.

An expectation on thier part of major natural resource price increases would seem to be enough to round out the explaination.

The real problem for the U.S. as a coal exporter is that most of the remaining coal is in places like Montana and Wyoming, which are about as far as you can get from the sea. Not near any navigable rivers, either, though it's conceivable the Corps of Engineers could extend the navigability of the Missouri a bit further west (currently Sioux City, Iowa) by building some locks.

What are we going ... to pay for our imports?

The miners at Upper Big Branch mine paid with their lives. The metallurgic coal from that mine was headed to China. When the UBB incident closed down the mine, Massey Energy scrambled to open other mines so it could meet its China contracts.

Since just about all the nearby steel mills in the Ohio River Valley (WV/OH/PA) have closed, the market for Appalachian metallurgic coal is now thousands of miles away in China.

China could very well crash and burn before that point. They have too many potential problems brewing. They are growing their economy fast, but they are doing it by cutting a lot of corners. The result is an environmental catastrophe, which will eventually take its toll on the health of its population. Their economy is also not very energy efficient. One way or another, if they remain on their current course they will eventually self destruct. That won't necessarily be the end of the story, they can change the way they do things, but their current path is not sustainable, and lacking coal reserves is just one example out of many.

"The result is an environmental catastrophe, which will eventually take its toll on the health of its population."

Good points, but they could export / are exporting a lot of that environmental catastrophe abroad (just as the US has done in myriad ways).

A really interesting, well-written and accessible post, and not only for the discussion specifically of the Chinese coal situation. I think it would be useful for someone who is just starting to find out about PO concepts or who hasn't read anything on it at all.

But there is one point about discussions of "clean coal" and CCS that I'd like to add and that nobody ever seems to mention. CCS only applies to the consumption of coal, not its production, i.e. mining. Even if CCS were fully developed and worked perfectly (however you want to define "perfect") and cost $0 additional dollars to implement, there would still remain the horrendous environmental damage of mining. Is it really worth sacrificing what's left of West Virginia and its entire downstream watershed for a possible reduction of CO2 emissions? And it wouldn't stop with WV. There's still plenty of coal to strip off under the cornfields of Iowa, the forests of Alaska, perhaps even the ice pack of Antarctica, and on and on.

For US coal, see:
2010-04-29 Trends in U.S. recoverable coal supply estimates and future production outlooks M. Höök, K. Aleklett

For liquid fuels from coal see:
A review on coal to liquid fuels and its coal consumption
Mikael Höök*, Kjell Aleklett*

Before we set up a "Chicken Little" farm, may I suggest that the jury's still out on IPCC's projections for large increases in temperature, with "not proven." Satellite data suggests the climate feedback may be negative not positive. See:
Spencer: strong negative feedback found in radiation budget Posted on May 7, 2010.

See Climate Change Reconsidered, the 2009 NIPCC report.

There's more where these came from etc.

Satellite data suggests the climate feedback may be negative not positive. See Spencer: strong negative feedback found in radiation budget Posted on May 7, 2010.

Assuming you're linking to this article, you're totally overhyping it. It is no surprise that the overall feedback in the Earth's energy balance is negative: if it were positive the planet's temperature would plunge to absolute zero or shoot up to infinity. The article's only significant claim is finding a negative feedback stronger than the IPCC reports.

However, the time span considered in the article too brief to capture all the feebacks in the climate system, and the important missing slow ones (ice-albedo feedback, co2 solubility feedback, etc) have a destabilizing effect.

Sorry for the confusion on citing the title on “feedback” while Spencer's graph was showing climate sensitivity.

IPCC describes positive and negative “radiative forcing” in AR4. It also claims strong positive water vapor feedback which is the major issue in global warming arguments.

Spencer described a "high net feedback factor of 5.8 watts per sq. meter" which gives a low warming of 0.6 deg. C. "This is well below the 3.0 deg. C best estimate of the IPCC". "These results suggest that the sensitivity of the real climate system is less than that exhibited by ANY of the IPCC climate models."
Spencer's results are three times outside the bounds of ALL IPCC models and thus are very significant.

I had mentioned overall feedback which the IPCC models as positive, while Lindzen and Spencer show it as negative. See Richard Lindzen’s 2009 presentation Global Warming – Sensibilities and Science, 3rd Intl. Conf. Climate Change. Note the equation and graphs of feedback factor versus climate sensitivity in slides 21 and 22.

Will Stewart below has a very weak case with little evidence to counter Spencer's results, as he resorts to using ad hominem attack with the pejorative "climate denialist". No scientist that I know of "denies" that the climate changes. Stewart tries to imply the pejorative of "Holocaust denier" to climate scientists skeptical of "catastrophic anthropogenic global warming". RealClimate that he advocates systemically deletes posts showing evidence differing from AGW. True science continually "kicks the tires" (tests) ALL models against evidence, rather than politically coercing differing views and evidence.

His motivation is most likely simply from long ago intellectually committing to the "low-climate-sensitivity" position. At close to 70 years old now he's just resolved not to change, despite all contrary evidence. It's not an uncommon problem in science - Thomas Kuhn noted Max Planck's commentary on this:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grow up that is familiar with it.

While Planck's comment is heavily exaggerated (most scientists are quite persuadable given good evidence) it is a very common problem among the "older set"

Everyone should read Is Richard S. Lindzen deliberately lying, or just deluded? - Not Spagetti - Arthur Smith, quoted in small part above.

To which I would just add "Are 97% of qualified climate scientists actually conspiring to mislead everyone? Do you really believe that?"

You committed the Straw man fallacy. I never claimed "97% of qualified climate scientists actually conspiring to mislead everyone".
Read the ClimateGate files to try to understand the collective self direction of global warming advocates, together with strong positive feedback of grant funding with similar thinking gatekeepers.

You will find an order of magnitude more scientists signing the Oregon petition against catastrophic global warming, that total IPCC authors.

Besides, the IPCC "requires" only peer reviewed articles - yet it gets an "F" for actual performance.

21 of 44 chapters in the United Nations’ Nobel-winning climate bible earned an F on a report card we are releasing today. Forty citizen auditors from 12 countries examined 18,531 sources cited in the report – finding 5,587 to be not peer-reviewed.

Suggest you open your eyes and ears, and review ALL the evidence, if you still can.

Dave wrote;

I never claimed "97% of qualified climate scientists actually conspiring to mislead everyone".

Well, do you? Or do you just think they are all confused/wrong/greedy? Tell us plainly.

And who was it that 'graded' the IPCC? How many peer-reviewed climate journal articles do they have amongst them?

The Oregon Petition Project? ROTFL!! This was a scam by Frederick Seitz, former president of the National Academy of Sciences who became a tobacco health denialist, then an AGW denialist. He shot out this questionnaire on fake lookalike Academy of Sciences letterhead from an unknown survivalist organization called "Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine" to who knows how many millions of people, only 19,000 of which responded in the affirmative.

Better yet, read

The Oregon Petition has been used by climate change deniers as proof that there is no scientific consensus, however they fail to note the controversy surrounding the petition itself.

The Oregon Petition was initiated by an individual named Art Robinson in April 1998 under the auspices of Robinson's so-called "Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine." [picture above] Along with the Exxon-backed George C. Marshall Institute, Robinson and his Institute published the infamous “Oregon Petition” claiming to have collected 17,000 signatories to a document arguing against the realities of global warming.

The petition and the documents included were all made to look like official papers from the prestigious National Academy of Science . They weren’t, and this attempt to mislead has been well-documented.

Along with the petition there was a cover letter from Dr. Fred Seitz a notorious climate change denier (and former tobacco company scientist), who over 30 years ago was the president of the National Academy of Science. Also attached to the petition was an apparent “research paper” titled: "Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide." The paper was made to mimic what a research paper would look like in the National Academy’s prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy journal.

The authors of the paper were Robinson, Sallie Baliunas, Willie Soon (both oil-backed scientists) and Robinson’s son Zachary. With the signature of a former NAS president and a research paper that appeared to be published in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world, many scientists were duped into signing a petition based on a false impression.

The petition was so misleading that the National Academy issued a news release stating that: "The petition project was a deliberate attempt to mislead scientists and to rally them in an attempt to undermine support for the Kyoto Protocol. The petition was not based on a review of the science of global climate change, nor were its signers experts in the field of climate science."

Great rebuttal. But as soon as I saw "Oregon petition" I just wrote him off and moved on.

Please don't turn this into yet another forum to trot out all your denialist crap.

Every established scientific body in the world that has considered the issue has determined that AGW is real and dangerous (except for that 'exception that proves the rule'). It is only because of a dis-information machine, largely funded by Exxon (the most profitable corporation in the history of money), that anyone has any doubt about it.

Take your own advise and DO look at ALL the evidence--be as skeptical of the so-called climate skeptics as your are about the well established science.

If you are truly open minded, spend some time at, especially with the side bars that cover the main denialist points.

RealClimate has developed quite a reputation for deleting "inconvenient" posts.
e.g., See: Where the !@#$% is Svalbard? Posted on May 12, 2010 by Willis Eschenbach

Realclimate does not seem to be much interested in the objective scientific method. See:
Poll on Real Climate Blog Effectiveness Jeff Id on May 2, 2010

Your responses exemplify why you are so enamored with it.
I prefer civil discourse where all the facts on both sides of the issue are addressed.

A poll on a skeptic's blog? Please, take off the blinders...

Lindzen's presentation is from the Heartland Institute's joke of a conference, so don't expect anyone here to be fooled for a second. Anyone can make a graph, so I don't automatically assume he's correct. Note that he starts off his presentation with political statements. Want to call this ad hominem? Please do.

Did you actually follow the slides 21 and 22? Can you explain them in your own words? What does the graph show and how were the values calculated? Can you list the values you calculated and the units they are in?

I wonder if he was paid for this presentation, like he has been paid for many other such presentations, especially those given to fossil fuel industry 'panels'. $2500 a pop many years ago, wonder what he gets now...

Want to really know what the scientific community thinks? Here's a recent sample of just US science organizations;

Want to know what skeptics think? See the Center for Sceptical Inquiry;

So you've seen what the scientists and skeptics say.

Only a denialist would be concerned that "just" 97% of climate scientists recognize AGW.

Did you actually follow the slides 21 and 22?

I did. This result is from Lindzen and Choi (2009), which is actually a very clever paper, which attempts to ground-truth model feedbacks against satellite data in a way which very few scientists bother to do. It's not to be blithely dismissed.

However, it turns out its results aren't robust: trivial changes in how you do the analysis can give you any answer you like.

For a detailed analysis, see

The points I'm making are:
A) The skeptic community does include real scientists doing serious, interesting studies, and Lindzen is the foremost of them all. He may have an agenda, but his work is worthy of attention on its own merit, and it's unfair to dismiss it on the grounds of "majority rules", or because the Heartland Institute invited him to give a talk.
B) This time, Lindzen happens to be wrong.

I agree that we should carefully sift through all the science and let the facts fall where they may. Lindzen's work would be more respected if he was not so agenda-driven and looking only at the negative. If he does present viable data correctly collected and a solid analysis carefully laid out, then it should merit examination and comment. I certainly don't automatically assume he is correct in any particular claim, however. Skeptics have performed a service at times in tweaking various aspects of models and the science itself, though too many journalists believe they have to "present both sides", thereby giving undue weight to a very tiny minority.

An interesting experiment.

Let's find a planet to try it on.

Your last two links are from denialist blogs; if you want a more balanced perspective, read ALL the literature, not just the people publishing whatever they think up that morning.

And read to bring a little more balance to your, um, sources.

Will Stewart.
See response above. Your pejorative ad hominem attack directly harms the foundations of science. I was particularly bringing balance by referring to evidence NOT included by IPCC etc. Your reference to RealClimate fails Tu Quoque - it biases science by deleting references to "inconvenient" evidence and hypotheses.

Oh, please let's DO refer to the scientific approach here, and comments on posted theories.

1. You throw around "Tu Quoque" without apparently understanding it. What I said is not a distraction or a diversion, I merely made direct statements. Do you deny that Spencer denies AGW? Did I use the word "Holocaust"? You are conflating remarks from others into my statements, a common but pointless debating ploy.

2. Where are the comments on Spencer's blog? Oh, he doesn't ALLOW them? Where's the openness to critique there? Sorry, just because someone posts an article on a blog does not make it science; it certainly does not make it peer-reviewed.

If you bring in worthless references, don't make a fuss when someone points this out to you.

Will Stewart
Spencer finds increasing evidence that natural causes dominate climate change, not anthropogenic causes.
You did not use "Holocaust", but that is your implication by using "climate denialist" rather than say "climate realist".
For practical administration, Spencer posts his articles at Watts Up With That for comment and peer review. He welcomes constructive comments.

Spencer posts peer reviewed articles on line. You are welcome to go and check out all the details.
As for "worthless references", please note:

as we show in our new paper (in press) in the Journal of Geophysical Research,

Spencer posted his news update Strong Negative Feedback from the Latest CERES Radiation Budget Measurements AFTER the paper was accepted at J. Geophysical Research, to keep readers up to date. You can go read all the technical peer reviewed details as soon as it is released.

Consider the consequences of your advocacy. Have you ever looked at the relative benefits/costs of caring for malnutrition in Africa compared to global warming mitigation? The Copenhagen Consensus 2008 ranks malnutrition top and global warming mitigation dead last. Your advocacy of trying to control climate is denying funds to where they are most needed!


Spencer finds increasing evidence that natural causes dominate climate change, not anthropogenic causes.

He may claim this, but predominantly the rest of the climate science community finds differently, so your point is in need of much more support for us to consider it.

You've posted a news release about a paper before the paper is even out, so yes, that is a worthless reference. You don't even know what detailed support Spencer is going to provide, so assuming the contents based on the conclusion does not demonstrate critical thinking skills.

And the 2008 Copenhagen Consensus was a denialist gathering at the behest of Bjørn Lomborg. Don't think people here are going to be fooled by him. And don't try to feint horror at the effects of malnutrition now; just think about what it will be like when agriculture around the world is disrupted by drought, heat waves, and expanded disease and insect vectors.

You sound exactly like you just came out of a AGW deniers prep course, ready to take on the world. Except we've heard and debunked all you are bringing to the table.

Well put. I plan to flag future posts of his as inappropriate, particularly if they continue to be as repetitive and inane as the previous ones.

Will Stewart et al.
How about civil discussion and debate rather than ad hominem attacks?
re "He may claim this"
Science progresses on evidence. It only takes one counter fact to disprove an hypothesis. Read the reviewed paper when issued. Look forward to your evidence to support/counter Spencer, not ad hominem denigration.

Truth trumps ad hominem attacks
Try reading what Bjorn Lomborg actually says at the
Copenhagen Consensus on Climate:

Global warming is real, it is caused by man-made CO2 emissions, and we need to do something about it. But we don't need action that makes us feel good. We need action that actually does good.

See Fix the Climate
How can we best reduce suffering from global warming?

See their results:

Evidence and qualifications trump ad hominem attacks
See the Copenhagen Consensus' objective:

Imagine you had $75bn to donate to worthwhile causes. What would you do, and where should we start?

An expert panel of 8 outstanding economists, as in 2004, delivered a ranked list of the most promising solutions to ten of the most pressing challenges facing the world today.

Around 55 of the world’s leading economists and specialists in the ten challenges was involved in the project. For each of the ten challenges a group of three people (The Challenge Paper Authors), and two commentators (The Perspective Paper Authors), compiled up-to-date analysis of the solutions. Altogether, the papers ensured the best possible foundation, including costs and benefits estimates, for the prioritization of the solutions.

The conclusions from the roundtable was meant to be an eye-opener for policy-makers all over the world, and to act as a vehicle for improving decision-making on spending on global issues.

Check out the qualifications of the Copenhagen Consensus' expert panel.

"Bhagwati has published more than three hundred articles and forty-five volumes. Regarded as one of the foremost international trade theorists of his generation, he has also made contributions to development theory and policy, public finance, immigration, and to the new theory of political economy. His scientific work has been recognized by many honorary degrees and six festschrifts in his honor."

"In 1999, Mundell received the Nobel Prize in Economics for "his analysis of monetary and fiscal policy under different exchange rate regimes and his analysis of optimum currency areas". (The Nobel e-museum)."
"Stokey is the Frederick Henry Prince Professor in Economics.

Stokey is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the Econometric Society. She has served as vice president of the American Economic Association and as co-editor of the Journal of Political Economy and of Econometrica. "

"Thomas Schelling . . .In 2005 he received, jointly with Robert Aumann, the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, “for having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis" (The Nobel e-museum). "

"In 1993, North shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with Professor Fogel for ”having renewed research in economic history by applying economic theory and quantitative methods in order to explain economic and institutional change” (The Nobel e-Museum)."

"In 2002, Smith shared the Nobel Memorial Price in Economics with Professor Daniel Kahneman. Smith was given this award "for having established laboratory experiments as a tool in empirical economic analysis, especially in the study of alternative market mechanisms." (The Nobel e-Museum)"

"Bourguignon is the former first vice-president and Chief economist of the World Bank."

"In 2004, Kydland shared the Nobel Memorial Price in Economics with Professor Edward C. Prescott. They were given this award “for their contributions to dynamic macroeconomics: the time consistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles". (The Nobel e-Museum) "

If you disagree with their evaluations, review the actual research.

Then provide your own weightings. There is a Nobel prize awaiting anyone who can clearly disprove the Consensus Nobel laureate experts.

Read, review, evaluate, consider, weigh, digest, then give some informed credible comments.

How about civil discussion and debate rather than ad hominem attacks?
re "He may claim this"
Science progresses on evidence. It only takes one counter fact to disprove an hypothesis. Read the reviewed paper when issued.

1. You have no idea what an ad hominem attack is. I said you do not know the details of the paper because it has not been published yet, so all we have right now is Spencer's claims about the full content.

2. Since it has not been published, there are no facts or evidence for you to point to. Spencer has made many sweeping statements without real support, so you will need to brush up on your critical thinking skills in preparation.

Re: the Copenhagen Consensus. Sure, you can find a few economics Nobel Laureates to state that people need to be fed now.

Of course, there are many other Nobel Laureates that disagree with their narrow focus and assumptions; for example, the "The St James’s Palace Memorandum" (May 2009) was signed by 20 Nobel Laureates, most of them actual scientists, along with other eminent scientists and economists;

The evidence is increasingly compelling for the range and scale of climate impacts that must be avoided, such as drought, sea level rise and flooding leading to mass migration and conflict. The robust scientific process by which this evidence has been gathered should be used as a clear mandate to accelerate the actions that need to be taken. Political leaders cannot possibly ask for a more robust, evidence-based call for action.

You want names and their contributions as well? Sure;

Dr Tariq Banuri
Tariq Banuri heads the United Nations Division for Sustainable Development. He was Coordinating Lead Author on Nobel Prize-winning Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change while heading the Future Sustainability Program, Stockholm Environment Institute. In Pakistan, he served as: founding Executive Director, Sustainable Development Policy Institute; member, Central Bank’s Board of Governors; member, Environmental Protection Council, member/secretary, Presidential Steering Committee on Higher Education. He also served as Research Fellow, World Institute for Development Economics Research; Chairperson, Board of Governors, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and founding member, the Great Transition Initiative. He received a PhD in Economics from Harvard University.
Director, Division for Sustainable Development, United Nations

Prof Nigel Brandon, FREng
Professor Nigel Brandon FREng is Director of the Energy Futures Lab at Imperial College London, Senior Research Fellow to the UK Research Council energy programme and UK Government Office of Science Focal Point in Energy with China. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, the Energy Institute, and of the City and Guilds of London. His research interests focus on energy systems, and in particular on fuel cell technology. He was awarded the 2007 Silver Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering for his contribution to engineering leading to commercial exploitation.
Director, Energy Futures Lab, Imperial College London

Dr Simon Buckle, CMG
Simon became Policy Director at the Grantham Institute in September 2007. This followed a career of some 20 years in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Bank of England. Immediately prior to his appointment, Simon was a senior British diplomat in Paris, responsible for a range of global policy issues, including climate change. This followed spells as Deputy Ambassador in Kabul and Political Counsellor in Iraq. Simon originally worked as a theoretical physicist. He was awarded a CMG in the 2007 New Year’s Honours and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics.
Director, Climate Policy, Grantham Institute, Imperial College London

Secretary Steven Chu
Dr Steven Chu, distinguished scientist and co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics (1997), was appointed by President Obama as the 12th Secretary of Energy and sworn into office on January 21, 2009. Dr Chu has devoted his recent scientific career to the search for new solutions to our energy challenges and stopping global climate change – a mission he continues with even greater urgency as Secretary of Energy. He is charged with helping implement President Obama’s ambitious agenda to invest in alternative and renewable energy, end our addiction to foreign oil, address the global climate crisis and create millions of new jobs. Prior to his appointment, Dr Chu was director of DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and professor of Physics and Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California. He successfully applied the techniques he developed in atomic physics to molecular biology, and since 2004, motivated by his deep interest in climate change, he has recently led the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in pursuit of new alternative and renewable energies. Previously, he held positions at Stanford University and ATandT Bell Laboratories. Professor Chu’s research in atomic physics, quantum electronics, polymer and biophysics includes tests of fundamental theories in physics, the development of methods to laser cool and trap atoms, atom interferometry, and the manipulation and study of polymers and biological systems at the single molecule level. While at Stanford, he helped start Bio-X, a multi-disciplinary initiative that brings together the physical and biological sciences with engineering and medicine. Secretary Chu is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Academica Sinica, the Korean Academy of Sciences and Technology and numerous other civic and professional organisations. He received an AB degree in mathematics, a BS degree in physics from the University of Rochester, a PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley as well as honorary degrees from 10 universities.
Secretary of Energy, US Department of Energy

Mrs Polly Courtice, LVO
Polly Courtice is Director of the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. She is also Co-Director and Chief Executive of both The Prince of Wales’s Business & the Environment Programme and The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change. Polly is a member of the University’s Council for Lifelong Learning and serves on the Board of the Institute for Continuing Education. She is Academic Director of Cambridge University’s Post-Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business. Polly is a Director of Jupiter Green Investment Trust and chairs Anglian Water’s Advisory Group on Climate Change and Economic Growth. In 2007 she was appointed by Al Gore to run his Climate Project in the UK, helping leaders deepen their understanding of climate change and explore appropriate action. In 2008 Polly was made a Lieutenant of the Victorian Order (LVO) announced in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Her first degree was from the University of Cape Town and she has an MA from the University of Cambridge.
Director, University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership

Prof Ottmar Edenhofer
Prof Ottmar Edenhofer is Professor of the Economics of Climate Change at the Technical University Berlin and Co-Chair of the Working Group III of the IPCC. He is Deputy Director and Chief Economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and is currently leading Research Domain III, which focuses on the research on the Economics of Atmospheric Stabilisation. Prof Edenhofer studied Economics and Philosophy at the University of Munich and holds a Diploma in Economics from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and a BA in Philosophy. He worked as research assistant at the Technical University Darmstadt and wrote his Ph.D. in Economics in 1999.
Co-Chair of Working Group III of the IPCC, Deputy Director and Chief Economist of PIK

Prof Richard Ernst
Richard R Ernst was educated as a physical chemist at ETH Zürich and finished his studies with a PhD in Chemistry in 1962. After five years at Varian Associates in Palo Alto, California, he started an academic career at ETH Zürich. He was retired in 1998. He spent his research activities in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) for which he received the 1991 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. At present he is concerned with the relation between science and society, emphasising the responsibility of academics for finding beneficial avenues for the global future. He is also involved in studies of central Asian art.
ETH Zürich

Dr Martin Frick
Martin Frick is Deputy CEO/Director of the Global Humanitarian Forum. A German diplomat prior to joining the Forum, Dr Frick served as the Deputy Ambassador in Albania, was the Cabinet Affairs Advisor to the German Foreign Minister and has been the German representative to a Committee of the UNGA and the NGO committee of the UNECOSOC. He also worked on human rights resolutions of the UN Security Council. In 2007, during the German EU presidency, Dr Frick was involved in the building of the UN Human Rights Council and in negotiating resolutions. In October 2007 Dr Frick joined the GHF.
Global Humanitarian Forum

Sir Richard Friend, FRS
Sir Richard Friend has been on the Faculty in the Department of Physics, University of Cambridge, since 1980, where he is the Cavendish Professor of Physics. He has pioneered the study of organic polymers as semiconductors, and his research group has demonstrated that these materials can be used in a wide range of semiconductor devices, including light-emitting diodes and transistors. He has been very active in the process of technology transfer of this research to development for products. He co-founded Cambridge Display Technology Ltd in 1994. Light-emitting polymer displays developed by Cambridge Display Technology are now being manufactured under licence and are now used in a number of consumer products. He co-founded Plastic Logic Ltd in 2000 to develop directly-printed polymer transistor circuits, and these are now being developed as flexible active-matrix backplanes for e-paper displays.
Cavendish Professor of Physics, University of Cambridge

Lord Anthony Giddens
Anthony Giddens is a member of the House of Lords, a Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge and Emeritus Professor at the London School of Economics. He was Director of the LSE from 1997–2003, and was made a peer in 2004. He was the BBC Reith Lecturer in 1999. According to Google Scholar, he is the most widely cited sociologist in the world. His many books include The Constitution of Society (1984); Beyond Left and Right (1994); The Third Way (1998) and Europe in the Global Age (2006). His most recent major work is The Politics of Climate Change (2009).
Member, House of Lords

Mr David Gordon-Macleod
David Gordon-Macleod has Degrees in Geography and Climatology and International Relations. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society since the mid 1970s. He has spent most of his career in the British Diplomatic Service, with postings in South America, Africa, Europe and Australasia. He has travelled extensively with destinations including the Amazon, New Guinea, West African rainforests, Antarctica, the north of Canada and Siberia. He has led three rainforest expeditions in Papua New Guinea between 2004 and 2007. He has a passionate long term interest in climatology and climate change, especially the contribution of deforestation of tropical rainforests to it. He is currently working with BBC Film Producer, Steve Greenwood on a rainforest project in Papua New Guinea.
Global Project Manager, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Prof David Gross
David Gross is the Director of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UCSB, and previously Thomas Jones Professor of Mathematical Physics at Princeton University. He has been a central figure in particle physics and string theory; including the discovery of asymptotic freedom and the consequent development of quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong nuclear force. He has also made seminal contributions to the theory of superstrings that brings gravity into the quantum framework. His awards include the Sakurai Prize, MacArthur Prize, Dirac Medal, Harvey Prize, the Grande Medaille d’Or and the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2004.
Director and Frederick Gluck Professor of Theoretical Physics

Michael Grubb
Michael Grubb is Chief Economist at the UK Carbon Trust, and Chairman of the international research organisation Climate Strategies. He is also a part-time Senior Research Associate at the Faculty of Economics at Cambridge University and a visiting Professor at Imperial College London. He was recently appointed to the UK Climate Change Committee, advising the government on future carbon budgets and reporting to Parliament on their implementation. Michael is author of seven books, fifty journal research articles and numerous other publications. He has held numerous advisory positions with governments, companies and international studies on climate change and energy policy, and has been a Lead Author for several reports of the IPCC on mitigation. He is editor-in-chief of the journal Climate Policy and is on the editorial board of Energy Policy.
Chief Economist, the Carbon Trust

Prof Mohamed Hassan
Mohamed H A Hassan is Executive Director of TWAS – the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World and President of the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). Born in Sudan in 1947, holds a PhD in Plasma Physics (University of Oxford, UK, 1974). Former dean, School of Mathematical Sciences, University of Khartoum, he received the order of scientific merit of Brazil. Fellow of TWAS, AAS, Islamic Academy of, he is member of the Academies in Colombia, Belgium and Pakistan. Hassan’s research areas include theoretical plasma physics, physics of wind erosion and sand transport.
Executive Director, Academy of Sciences for the Developing World and President, African Academy of Sciences

Prof Sir Brian Hoskins
Sir Brian Hoskins is a Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Reading. In January 2008 he became the first Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. He is currently a member of the UK Committee on Climate Change. He was knighted in 2007 for his services to the environment. He is a member of the scientific academies of the UK, USA and China, and has played significant roles in international weather and climate research and in the Nobel Prize winning international climate change assessments.
Director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change

Sir John Houghton
John Houghton is a former Professor of Atmospheric Physics, University of Oxford (1976–83), Director General, UK Meteorological Office (1983–91), Chair or Co-Chair, Scientific Assessment Working Group Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1988–2002), Chair UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1992–98). He is currently President of the John Ray Initiative (a charity concerned with environmental sustainability) and a Trustee of the Shell Foundation. His many awards include the Japan Prize (2006), International Meteorological Organization Prize (1998) and gold medals from the Royal Meteorological Society and the Royal Astronomical Society. His books include ‘Global Warming: the Complete Briefing’ (4th edition 2009).
President, John Ray Initiative

Tony Juniper
Tony Juniper is a well known environmental campaigner and commentator. He began his career as an ornithologist, working with Birdlife International. From 1990 he worked at Friends of the Earth and has was the organisation’s executive director from 2003–2008. He was also the Vice Chair of Friends of the Earth International from 2000–2008. Tony Juniper now works in a variety of roles. He is a Special Advisor to the Prince of Wales’s Rainforest Project and a Senior Associate with the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. He speaks and writes on environmental issues and sits on several advisory panels. Tony is the author of several books, including ‘How Many Light Bulbs Does It Take To Change A Planet?’.
Senior Associate, CPSL and Special Advisor, PRP

Lise Kingo
Lise Kingo joined Novo Nordisk’s Enzyme Promotion in 1988 and over the years worked to build up the company’s Triple Bottom Line approach. In 1999, Ms Kingo was appointed vice president, Stakeholder Relations. She was appointed executive vice president, Corporate Relations, in March 2002. Ms Kingo serves as chair of the board of Steno Diabetes Center A/S, Denmark. She is also professor at the Medical Faculty, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Ms Kingo has a BA in Religions and a BA in Ancient Greek Art from the University of Aarhus, Denmark, from 1986, a BComm in Marketing Economics from the Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, from 1991, and a MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice from the University of Bath, UK, from 2000. Ms Kingo is a Danish national, born on 3 August 1961.
Executive Vice President, Novo Nordisk AS

Dr Walter Kohn
Walter Kohn received his PhD in nuclear physics from Harvard University. He has been a faculty member at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of California at San Diego and at Santa Barbara. He was the founding director Institute of Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, California. In recent years he served as a member of the DOE's Advisory Committee on Basic Energy Sciences. His awards include the Niels Bohr/Unesco Gold Medal, the National Medal of Science and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1998. In 2005 he made a documentary on solar power entitled ‘The Power of the Sun’.
Research Professor of Physics and Chemistry

Dr Jules Kortenhorst
Dr Jules Kortenhorst is the CEO of the European Climate Foundation, the largest philanthropic organisation in Europe focused on influencing government policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Before joining the ECF, he served as a member of the Dutch parliament for the Christian Democratic Party. Earlier, Kortenhorst was the CEO for International Operations of ClientLogic Corporation, an outsourced Customer Relationship Management company. Earlier in his career, Kortenhorst worked for eight years for the Royal Dutch/Shell Group in several roles and countries. Kortenhorst holds masters degrees from Harvard Business School and in economics from Erasmus University.
Chief Executive Officer, European Climate Foundation
Dr Martin Kremer
Martin Kremer is a career diplomat with the German Foreign Ministry, having served, among other postings, in Geneva, New York and Moscow. Between 1998 and 2006 he worked on the ministry’s Planning Staff where he was involved in consideration of European, economic and environmental issues. Martin is currently posted to London. As head of Science and Political Counsellor his responsibilities include climate and energy security as well as counter terrorism. Martin is a lawyer by training and received a Master in Comperative Law from the University of Miami/Fl. His interests beyond work include politics, film and opera.
First Counsellor, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany
Sir Harold Kroto
1958–64 BSc and PhD, Sheffield University; 1967–2004 Sussex University; 2004– Professor of Chemistry at Florida State University; 1996 Knighthood; 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; President, Royal Society of Chemistry 2001–2003; Copley Medal and Faraday lecturer of The Royal Society; Chairman of the Vega Science Trust, producer of 200 TV and internet science programmes. Key activities: research in nanotechnology and science educational outreach.
Professor, Florida State University
Prof Klaus Lackner
Klaus S Lackner is Ewing-Worzel Professor of Geophysics in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, and Director of the Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. PhD: University of Heidelberg; postdoctoral positions: California Institute of Technology and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center; Lackner was at Los Alamos National Laboratory 1983–2001. Research topics focus on carbon management, specifically the capture of carbon dioxide. Lackner is a member of GRT, a company that hopes to develop a commercially viable device to capture CO2 from the air, with the intent of mitigating the effects of climate change.
Ewing-Worzel Professor of Geophysics, Earth Institute at Columbia University
Prof Yuan Tseh Lee
Born in Taiwan in 1936, Yuan T Lee received his early education in Taiwan and Doctorate from UC Berkeley. He went to Harvard as a post-doctoral fellow in 1967. He had faculty appointments at University of Chicago and UC Berkeley. He was University Professor and Principal Investigator at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, UC Berkeley, before he became President of Academia Sinica (1994–2006). He has received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Doctor Honoris Causa from 35 universities. In 2008 he was elected to be the next President of the International Council for Science (ICSU).
President Emeritus and Distinguished Research Fellow
Prof Wolfgang Lucht
Wolfgang Lucht is the Alexander von Humboldt Chair in Sustainability Science at Humboldt University Berlin and Chair of the Department of Climate Impacts and Vulnerability at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Trained as a physicist, he has been a researcher in earth observation, global biogeochemical biosphere and land use modelling, and in earth system analysis. His interests are in biosphere–anthroposphere interactions and sustainability. Keywords of his current research are global and regional impact model integration, material flows, socioeconomic metabolism, bioenergy scenarios, biome shifts, global land use patterns and societal self-engineering in the anthropocene.
Chair, PIK Research Domain II: Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Prof Wangari Maathai
Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya, in 1940, the daughter of farmers in the highlands of Mount Kenya. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctoral degree, she subsequently became an associate Professor in Veterinary Anatomy in 1977 at the University of Nairobi. In the same year, she founded the Green Belt Movement, a grassroots environmental organisation which has assisted women and their families in planting more than 40 million trees across Kenya to protect the environment and promote sustainable livelihoods. Since this time, Wangari Maathai has campaigned tirelessly for democracy, human rights and environmental conservation. She played a key role in the campaign to cancel debt in Africa and has fought for the protection of public forests. In 2004, Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, recognising that for peace there needs to be sustainable and equitable distribution of resources. She is the Goodwill Ambassador to the Congo Forest Basin and a member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
Founder, Green Belt Movement, Kenya Office
Prof David MacKay
David MacKay is a Professor in the Department of Physics at Cambridge University. He obtained his PhD in Computation and Neural Systems at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include reliable computation with unreliable hardware, and communication systems for the disabled. He’s written a textbook on ‘Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms’ (2003, Cambridge), and a free book on ‘Sustainable Energy - without the hot air’. (
Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Cambridge
Prof Yadvinder Malhi
Professor Yadvinder Malhi’s work focuses on how climate change affects tropical rainforests, and on how protection of tropical forests can assist in adaptation to climate change, and in mitigation of climate change. His recent publications have presented a systematic evaluation of the threat that climate change poses to the Amazon rainforest. He has worked for 15 years in many forests across Amazonia, and more recently in Africa and Asia. He is Director of the newly formed Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to investigate the key challenges to tropical forests in the 21st century.
Professor of Ecosystem Science, University of Oxford
Prof Eric Maskin
Eric Maskin is an economic theorist best known for his work on the theory of mechanism design. For laying the foundations of this field he shared the 2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. He has also made contributions to game theory, social choice theory, voting theory, monetary theory, contract theory, and the economics of intellectual property, among other areas. He is currently Albert O Hirschman Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Prof James McCarthy
Prof James J McCarthy is Chair of the American Association of the Advancement of Science and Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography at Harvard University. He teaches courses on ocean and climate science and oversees Harvard’s programme in Environmental Science and Public Policy. His research interests relate to marine plankton, biogeochemical cycles and climate. He has served on many national and international groups charged with planning and implementing studies of global change. He was co-chair of Working Group II for the Third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment (2001) and lead author of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (2004).
Professor, Harvard University
Dr Malte Meinhausen
Malte Meinshausen holds a PhD in Climate Science and Policy and a Diploma in Environmental Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Switzerland. In 2000, he got a MSc in Environmental Change and Management from the University of Oxford. Before joining the PIK in September 2006, he was a Post-Doc at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. He has been contributing author to various chapters in Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR4). Currently, he is leading the PRIMAP (Potsdam Real-time Integrated Model for probabilistic Assessment of emission Path) research group.
Senior Researcher, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Prof Dr Dirk Messner
Dirk Messner, Director of the German Development Institute in Bonn (; Prof for polictical sciences/ University of Duisburg-Essen, Vice-Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change; Member of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development. Areas of specialisation: globalisation and global governance; climate change, development and security; international development Popicy. Recent publications: (with Raphael Kaplinsky), ‘The Impact of Asian Drivers of Global Change Change on the Developing World, Special Issue, World Development’, Vol. 36, No. 2, 2008; (with John Schellnhuber et al.): ‘Climate Change as a Security Risk’, London 2008, Earthscan.
Director, German Development Institute
Dr Bert Metz
Dr Bert Metz led the Netherlands delegation to the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol. Thereafter he led the climate change and global sustainability group at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and was elected co-chairman of the Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for the Third Assessment Report. In 2002 he was re-elected in for the 4th Assessment Report cycle. He currently is a Fellow with the European Climate Foundation and a leading member of the ClimateWorks Foundation Catalyst project team, providing analysis and a discussion platform for the ongoing international climate change negotiations.
Fellow, European Climate Foundation
Prof Dr Meyer-Krahmer
20 December 1949: born in Heidelberg, married, 2 daughters; 1968–1975 Studies of Mathematics, Economics and Political Science in Heidelberg, Bonn, Frankfurt; 1978: Dr. rer. pol. at Frankfurt University; 1982: period of research at Yale University, USA; 1986–1990: Head of the Industry and Technology Department at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW); 1989: habilitation (professorial qualification) at Stuttgart University; 1990–2005: Head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI); since 1995: Professor of Economics with focus on Innovation Economics at Louis Pasteur University, Strasbourg, France; since February 2005: State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany
Prof James Mirrlees
Sir James Mirrlees born, 1936, and raised in Scotland, degrees in mathematics at Edinburgh University and Cambridge, PhD (Cambridge) in economics, on the theory of planning under uncertainty. 1963–68: Lecturer in Economics in Cambridge, and Fellow of Trinity College. 1968–95: Edgeworth Professor of Economics in Oxford, Fellow of Nuffield College. 1995–2003: Professor of Political Economy in Cambridge. Now Distinguished Professor-at-Large in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Nobel Prize in 1996, for work on incentives, particularly on income taxation. Foreign Member, US National Academy of Sciences; Fellow, Econometric Society; Fellow, British Academy; Fellow, Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Professor-at-Large, Chinese University of Hong Kong
Andrew Mitchell
Andrew W Mitchell is a leading authority on tropical forests and climate change. He has extensive field experience in Asia, Africa and Latin America, combined with a 35-year career spanning science, journalism, and climate policy. In 2001, he founded the Global Canopy Programme (GCP), an international network linking 38 leading scientific institutions in 19 countries, engaged in research investigating the impact of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem services from forest canopies. He is a Research Associate at the Zoology Department, University of Oxford, a Director of Canopy Capital and is a Special Advisor to the Prince’s Rainforests Project.
Founder & Director, Global Canopy Programme
Prof Mario Molina
Mario J Molina is a Professor at the University of California, San Diego, and President of the Mario Molina Center in Mexico. In the 1970’s he drew attention to the threat to the ozone layer from industrial chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) gases that were being used as propellants in spray cans, refrigerants, solvents, etc. More recently, he has been involved with the chemistry of air pollution, and with the science and policy of climate change. Professor Molina was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He has received numerous awards for his scientific work including the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
President, Mario Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment, Mexico City
Prof Dr Nebojsa Nakicenovic
Nebojsa Nakicenovic is Deputy Director at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Professor of Energy Economics at the Vienna University of Technology, Director of Global Energy Assessment (GEA), Advisor of the World Bank Development Report 2010: Climate Change, Member of the Advisory Council of the German Government on Global Change (WBGU), Chairman of the Advisory Board of ‘Future Energy Fund’ of OMV. He has been Coordinating and Convening Lead Author in a number of reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), World Energy Assessment (WEA), and principal investigator in various research projects.
Deputy Director, IIASA and University Professor of Energy Economics, TU Vienna
Prof Douglas Osheroff
Douglas Osheroff discovered superfluidity in liquid 3He while a graduate student at Cornell University in the fall of 1971. In 1996 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery with his professors David M Lee and Robert C Richardson. After spending fifteen years doing research at AT&T Bell laboratories, Osheroff moved to Stanford University, where he has twice been Chair of the Physics Department. Osheroff was one of the first twenty-one MacArthur Prize Fellows, and has won many other awards for his research work studying the properties of matter near absolute zero.
Professor of Physics, Stanford University
Dr Michael Otto
Michael Otto, born in 1943, was Chairman of the executive Board and CEO of the Otto Group between 1981 and 2007. The company is the largest mail order group in the world. Michael Otto is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of WWF Germany and of the Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection, Hamburg. He has received numerous awards including Manager of the Year 1986 and 2001, Environment Manager of the Year 1991, German Environment Award 1997, Business Ethics Award 2001, Sustainable Leadership Award 2002.
Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Otto Group, Hamburg
Dr Rajendra Pachauri
Dr Rajendra Kumar Pachauri is the Chair of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the scientific intergovernmental body that provides decision-makers and the public with an objective source of information about climate change. He is also Director General of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), an independent research organisation providing knowledge on energy, environment, forestry, biotechnology, and the conservation of natural resources. Dr Pachauri is a prominent researcher on environmental subjects, recognised internationally for his efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about manmade climate change and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change. He is active in several international forums dealing with the subject of climate change and its policy dimensions. He was recently awarded the second-highest civilian award in India, the ‘Padma Vibhushan’ and received the ‘Officier De La Légion D’Honneur’ from the Government of France in 2006.
Chairman, IPCC; Director-General, TERI
Dr Mike Peirce
Mike Peirce is Deputy Director at the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL). He is responsible for the direction of a number of CPSL’s programmes for senior leaders including the St. James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium and the World Bank Sustainable Development Leadership Programme. Prior to CPSL, Mike Peirce was the Chief Operating Officer at the not-for-profit, AccountAbility, where he led the development of the leading international framework for social accountability, AA1000.
Deputy Director, University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership; Project Director, St. James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium
Prof Edmund Phelps
Edmund Phelps was born in 1933 in Chicago and received his BA from Amherst in 1955 and his PhD from Yale in 1958. After appointments at Yale and Penn he joined Columbia in 1971. He founded the Center on Capitalism and Society in 2001. He won the 2006 Nobel Prize in Economics. This year he was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and received the Premio Pico della Mirandola and the Kiel Global Economy Prize. A Phelps Chair was made in his honor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. In 2001 he was honoured with a Festschrift conference and volume.
McVickar Professor of Political Economy, Columbia University
Prof John Polanyi, FRS
Professor the Hon. John Charles Polanyi, PC, FRS, was educated at Manchester University, England, and Princeton University, USA, and is presently a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto. His research is on molecular motions in chemical reactions. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. He has served on the Prime Minister of Canada's Advisory Board on Science and Technology, as Advisor to the Institute for Molecular Sciences, Japan, and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics, Germany. He was founding Chairman of the Canadian Pugwash Group and has written extensively on science policy, the control of armaments, and peacekeeping.
University of Toronto
Jonathon Porritt, CBE
Jonathon, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, is an eminent writer, broadcaster and commentator on sustainable development. Established in 1996, Forum for the Future is now the UK’s leading sustainable development charity, with 70 staff and over 100 partner organisations, including some of the world’s leading companies. Jonathon was appointed by the Prime Minister as Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission in July 2000. This is the Government’s principal source of independent advice across the whole sustainable development agenda. In addition, he has been a member of the Board of the South West Regional Development Agency since December 1999, and is Co-Director of The Prince of Wales’s Business and the Environment Programme. In 2005 he became a Non-Executive Director of Wessex Water and a Trustee of the Ashden Awards for Sustainable Energy. He was formerly Director of Friends of the Earth (1984–90); co-chair of the Green Party (1980–83) of which he is still a member; chairman of UNED-UK (1993–96); chairman of Sustainability South West, the South West Round Table for Sustainable Development (1999–2001); and a Trustee of WWF UK (1991–2005). His latest book, ‘Capitalism As If The World Matters’ (Earthscan), was published in November 2005. Jonathon received a CBE in January 2000 for services to environmental protection.
Chairman of UK Sustainable Development Commission
Prof Chris Rapley, CBE
Professor Chris Rapley CBE is Director of the Science Museum and Professor of Climate Science at University College London. He was previously Director of the British Antarctic Survey, and Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. He was one of the architects of the International Polar Year 2007–2008. He is a Fellow of St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, a Fellow of University College London, and an Honorary Professor at the University of East Anglia.
Director, Science Museum
Baron Rees of Ludlow, OM, PRS
Martin Rees is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics and Master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge. He holds the honorary title of Astronomer Royal and also Visiting Professor at Imperial College London and at Leicester University. After studying at the University of Cambridge, he held post-doctoral positions in the UK and the USA, before becoming a professor at Sussex University. In 1973, he became a Fellow of King’s College and Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge (continuing in the latter post until 1991) and served for 10 years as director of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy. From 1992 to 2003 he was a Royal Society Research Professor. He is a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy, and several other foreign academies. His awards include the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, the Balzan International Prize and the Einstein Award of the World Cultural Council. He was appointed to the House of Lords in 2005 and was elected to serve as President of the Royal Society from November 2005.
Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge
Prof Burton Richter
Paul Pigott Professor Emeritus in the Physical Sciences; former director, SLAC National Accelerator Center; member, National Academy of Sciences; Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences and American Association for the Advancement of Science; former President, American Physical Society; and Past-President, International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. Richter received the Nobel Prize in Physics and the E.O. Lawrence Medal (1976). Richter chairs the Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee subcommittee (U.S. DOE) and chaired the 2008 American Physical Society’s Energy Efficiency study. He is a member of Commissaire a l’Energie Atomique (CEA) Visiting Group and JASON Group; former board member, AREVA.
Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
Prof Johan Rockström
Johan Rockström, PhD, Professor in Natural Resources Management, is Executive Director of the Stockholm Environment and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. His key qualifications are integrated research on natural resource management, systems analysis on water-land-climate inter-relations, systems research on resilience and ecosystem services, sustainable livelihoods research in vulnerable developing countries, environmental management and environmental policy making. His research includes water resource management, global water resource analysis, hydrological modelling, farmer-driven research methodologies, watershed management, soil and water management, risk management, extension approaches to land management, and design of small-scale irrigation.
Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre
Prof F Sherwood Rowland
Professor F Sherwood Rowland is a Research Professor of Chemistry at the University of California Irvine. He was a co-recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (with Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina), “for their work on atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decompostion of ozone.” The official press release from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences states that, “the three researchers have contributed to our salvation from a global environmental problem that could have catastrophic consequences”. He has also received the Japan Prize in Environmental Science and Technology, the Tyler World Prize and numberious other prizes and awards.
Professor of Chemistry, University of California
Prof Carlo Rubbia
Carlo Rubbia graduated in Physics at Scuola Normale of Pisa and Columbia University (USA). Since 1961 he has been working at CERN. From 1977 he was Higgins Professor of Physics at Harvard University, until in 1989 he was appointed Director General of CERN. Rubbia shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Simon van der Meer in 1984 for the discovery of the field particles W and Z, communicators of weak interaction. Rubbia is presently working on novel methods and concepts for safe nuclear energy production using natural thorium and concentrating solar power at high temperatures, in collaboration with industry.
Senior Scientist and Special Advisor, CERN, European Center for Particle Physics
Prof Simon Schama
Simon Schama is University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University in New York and, since 1990, the writer and presenter of more than thirty documentaries on art and history for the BBC. Among these are the award-winning fifteen-part ‘A History of Britain’, ‘Rough Crossings’ and the Emmy-winning eight-part ‘Power of Art’, first broadcast in 2006. Other of his programmes include ‘Murder at Harvard’ based on his novella ‘Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculation’, a five part series based on ‘Landscape and Memory’, and a film on Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’.
Professor of History & Art History, Columbia University
Prof Tom Schelling
Thomas C Schelling, PhD Harvard, Economics, served in the Marshall Plan 1948–53 in Europe and Washington, was on the faculty at Yale 1953–58, Harvard 1958–90, and the University of Maryland 1990–2005. His interest in climate change began in 1980 when he chaired a committee of the National Academy of Sciences on it, continued as a member of the Carbon Dioxide Assessment Committee of that Academy in 1981–83. His presidential address to the American Economic Association in 1991 was on climate change. A few of his publications on that subject are in his latest (2006) book, ‘Strategies of Commitment’.
Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland, Department of Economics and School of Public Policy
Prof Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, CBE
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber has been Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research since 1992 and is Chair of the German Advisory Council on Global Change. He advises the President of the European Commission. He taught theoretical physics as a Professor at the Universities of Potsdam and East Anglia (UK) and was appointed Research Director of the Tyndall Centre. He is a member of the Max Planck Society, the German National Academy, the US National Academy of Sciences, and the International Research Society Sigma Xi and of the IPCC. He has authored or co-authored more than 200 articles and about forty books.
Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Prof Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka, born in 1934, is a Playwright, Poet, Novelist, and Essayist. Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, Wole Soyinka has authored more than thirty works in the medium of plays, novels, poetry and essays, many of which have received wide translation. He is active on both artistic and Human Rights organisations such as the International Theatre Institute, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors etc. A Yoruba born in Western Nigeria and educated in Ibadan, and Leeds, England, he continues to lecture extensively. He is currently Emeritus Fellow of the Black Mountain Institute, University of Nevada, Overseas Fellow of the Du Bois Institute, Harvard University, President’s Professor of Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and Professor Emeritus, Comparative Literature of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-ife, Nigeria.
Emeritus Fellow, Black Mountian Institute, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Prof Jack Steinberger
Born in Germany; emigrated to US at 13; BS in chemistry at University of Chicago, 1942; PhD in physics at University of Chicago with Fermi in 1948; Inst. for Adv. Study, Princeton, 1948–49; Assistant, University of California, Berkeley, 1949–50; Professor, Columbia University, 1950–68; Senior Scientist, CERN, 1968–88; Visiting Professor, Pisa, 1968– .
CERN, European Center for Particle Physics
Lord Nicholas Stern
Lord Stern is IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government at London School of Economics and Political Science, where he is also head of the India Observatory and Chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. He held previous posts at universities in the UK and abroad, as well as at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank. Lord Stern was Head of the UK Government Economic Service 2003–7, and produced the landmark Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. His most recent book is ‘A Blueprint for a Safer Planet’.
IG Patel Professor of Economics and Government, London School of Economics & Political Science
Dame Barbara Stocking
Barbara Stocking joined Oxfam GB as Chief Executive in May 2001. Since January 2008 she has been Chair of the Standing Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR), an alliance for voluntary action of nine major international humanitarian organisations. Barbara is a member of the UN Inter Agency Standing Committee for Humanitarian Action (IASC), and of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) High Level External Committee on Millennium Development Goals. Barbara is a member of the high-level Foundation Board of the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF), personally invited by its Founder and President Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General. Barbara takes over as Vice President of the Global Humanitarian Forum in 2010, and is a member of the Bureau of the Forum. In 2007, Barbara was a member of the BBC’s impartiality panel on business coverage, led by Sir Alan Budd. Previously a member of the top management team of the National Health Service, in her eight years with the NHS, Barbara worked as regional director and then as Director of the NHS Modernisation Agency. Barbara has a Masters degree in physiology, and has broad experience of healthcare systems, policy and practice, including periods at the National Academy of Sciences in the USA and with the World Health Organisation in West Africa. Barbara is married and has two sons. She was awarded a DBE in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
Prof Robert Watson, CMG
Professor Watson’s career has evolved from research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: California Institute of Technology, to a US Federal Government programme manager/director at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to a scientific/policy advisor in the US Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), White House, to a scientific advisor, manager and chief scientist at the World Bank, to a Chair of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, the Director for Strategic Direction for the Tyndall centre, and Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. In parallel to his formal positions he has chaired, co-chaired or directed international scientific, technical and economic assessments of stratospheric ozone depletion, biodiversity/ecosystems (the GBA and MA), climate change (IPCC) and agricultural science and technology (IAASTD). Professor Watson’s areas of expertise include managing and coordinating national and international environmental programmes, research programmes and assessments; establishing science and environmental policies – specifically advising governments and civil society on the policy implications of scientific information and policy options for action; and communicating scientific, technical and economic information to policymakers. During the last twenty years he has received numerous national and international awards recognising his contributions to science and the science-policy interface, including in 2003 – Honorary ‘Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George’ from the United Kingdom.
Chief Science Advisor, Defra

Will Stewart
"Your last two links are from denialist blogs"

If you had actually checked, Climate Change Reconsidered is an 880 page report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, not a "blog". It reviews scientific literature on climate change ignored by the IPCC in its AR4.

Oh please, you dispute the IPCC outcome by referencing to the NIPCC? There is nothing wrong being skeptical, but that shouldn't mean that you swallow everything that supports your skeptisism. The NIPCC is joke, nothing more. If you can't see that, then there's nothing to discuss I guess.

Styno "The NIPCC is a joke"
Apparently you have never read the NIPCC's 880 page 2009 technical report Climate Change Reconsidered. It cites IPCC by chapter and section and summarizes other peer reviewed scientific evidence. The joke's on you for declaiming what you have not read.

You might also check out how frequently the IPCC violated its own rules. See the Citizen Audit of the IPCC at

When so many errors are found by 40 citizens actually reviewing the references, when the NIPCC documents so much bias, and when Climategate exposed the inner "working" of the tree ring clique, how can we place much confidence in the IPCC's AR4?

More people are discovering that the Emperor has no clothes.

You might consider actually taking a look.

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know, it's what we know for sure that just ain't so.” —Mark Twain

As we speak the Chinese coal carrier that run aground on the Great Barrier Reef is being unloaded to facilitate repairs. China is clearly looking to Australia to source more coal, LNG and liquefied coal seam gas. This is being enthusiastically helped by the same Australian government that pledged to cut carbon emissions. Any backlash is not so much over CO2 but loss of farmland; for example Chinese coal companies have been given mining rights in prime farming areas such as the NSW Liverpool Plains.

Politicians and the media do sometimes wonder when or if the Chinese bubble will burst. I suggest that cheap Chinese labour needs to be supported not only by pollute-for-free coal but cheap oil, otherwise the advantage is lost. Shipping costs could negate the cheapness of manufacturing in China. Shipping costs will also hurt when an increasing amount of coal has to be imported. It seems hard to imagine that even 25% of China's 3 billion tonne coal habit could be imported. They'll need to dynamite channels through any pesky coral reefs that get in the way.

Therefore it seems likely that global peak oil and China peak coal will create a double whammy within a few years. Bring it on I say to force a serious rethink about fossil fuel dependence.

I am a bit skeptical how much shipping costs will be impacted by more expensive energy. The reason being, as far as transportation goes, shipping is very energy efficient. When you get right down to it, once you have the goods floating, you can get them to your destination using nothing but wind and sail (as was done in the past). Granted it may not be practical to move modern super freighters with sails. Still, even if the cost of fuel increases by several times, it may not be enough to make up for China's low wages. Compared to the much greater impact of more expensive energy on the cost of industrial production, the small added cost for shipping could be pretty negligible. That is not to say that China won't have serious problems if energy prices increase, I'm just not convinced that shipping will be the key.

"Granted it may not be practical to move modern super freighters with sails."
It's already being done, though as an assist, not as the sole source of power.

Moving high value added products by ship is still going to be economically feasible even if energy prices increase by a factor of five or even ten.The shippng is only a tiny fraction of the cost of a camera or a computer.

Moving basic materials such as iron ore and coal is a different matter altogether.

Jeff Rubin says that the Chinese have already lost thier advantage in manufacturing steel for export to the US because thier total shipping costs, of both the ores and the finished product,are now so high that domestic American producers are now in a very competitive position again, despite higher labor costs.

So far as I know , he is correct.

Can we realistically expect to double CO2 in the atmosphere if world peak coal is less than 20 years away

( ..and I would add peak oil too .... )

I think this something the greens don't like to talk about - perhaps it's even one of the reasons Peak Oil is still not a mainstream concern. We are talking about a VERY inconvient truth.

A few years ago the ABC released an excellent documentary called "Crude - the Incredible Journey of Oil"
They discuss the true nightmare effect of excessive atmospheric CO2 - a global oceanic anoxic event ( ). It talks about some interesting research, where they where able to calculate CO2 levels of the last anoxic event (paradoxically, the one that created most of our oil in the first place). By examining changes in plant leaves, the reseach concluded the event occurred at 400ppm atmospheric CO2. In other words, we actually do in fact know the approximate level of CO2 that is deadly to us. Not popular with the greenies I guess, as it's way below current levels - although they still have valid arguments about feedback loops, and lesser but still devastating possibilities such a melt-off and rising ocean levels.

Someone has already mentioned a figure of 900+ ppm CO2 if all already known reserved are burnt. So the nasty answer to this question looks to be that if we just keep on burning what we've got, we will be able to pump enough CO2 into the atmosphere to trigger an anoxic event, plus run ourselves out of oil and coal

We're conducting a needless and stupid experiment with the only spaceship we know of which can support our species, and all the other species on which we depend in thousands of ways. I'll grant there is some chance that what we're doing to earth may not be fatal for future generations, but we'll certainly deserve their total disrespect for having tried.

"the event occurred at 400ppm atmospheric CO2. In other words, we actually do in fact know the approximate level of CO2 that is deadly to us. Not popular with the greenies I guess, as it's way below current level"

Am I missing something, or did you state it badly or miss a zero?

You do know that we are currently very close to 400ppm, don't you? This is not hard to find out. A few seconds of googling will yield it for you.

And why your obsessive use of the term 'greenies'? Is this intended to be pejorative? Do you think that the viability of the planet is a stupid thing to worry about? If not, are you not a "greeny" yourself?

Why has no one mentioned CSG, coal seam gasification, except for Boof, and that in passing? (Big Gav - where are you?)

All those reserves that are being reclassified as resources: well, CSG has the potential to turn that right around so they are all reserves again. Plus a lot more, that was always thought to be too deep or in too thin layers to be considered reserves.

CSG is being done on an industrial scale right now in Australia. It has its own problems, particularly when tried with water-logged coal, but if the price of coal goes up enough, all that "sub-reserve" coal will be gasified.

So those who say the IPCC's scenarios are wrong, because there isn't enough coal, are themselves wrong. We can extract all the coal in the IPCC's A1FI scenario, and we probably will.

I have to point out that this doesn't really change Richard Heinberg's argument, except that it gives the world a few more years to grow the solar, wind, and nuclear infrastructure. It makes more of a race of it.


On the topic of the infrastructure needed for CCS, Vaclav Smil estimates the required infrastructure as roughly the same as we have now for oil. The oil infrastructure is replaced every thirty years, so we only (!) need to quadruple the amount of pipe, drilling and pump equipment, et cetera that is already being produced. The problem is getting the planning consents. If we started next year, we'd start to see results in twelve or fifteen years. Too late. CCS is a red herring.

I can't believe no one's mentiond the obvious solution to this problem (if indeed it actually is a problem).

Natural gas.

Imports of LNG into China in January were up a whopping 282% in January y-o-y (LINK, PDF). They were also up 86% in March.

It's relatively easy to convert a coal-fired power plant into a gas-fired one.

Plus, they're starting to explore for shale gas in China. According to one estimate, China may contain 100 trillion cubic meters of shale gas - that's 3.531 quadrillion cubic feet. Somewhere I read there is a black shale in western China that looks like The Mother of All Shales.

Given all that, plus their plan to Let a Thousand Reactors Bloom, plus the Three Gorges Dam (problems aside), I don't think we need to worry about the Chinese not being able to find enough juice to run their power plants.

Hmmm. That link says China imported 776 thousand tons of LNG in January. So China is importing at the rate of about 10 million tons per year.

10 million tons of LNG ... 1.4 billion tons of coal. Hmmm. If China can keeping growing imports at 300% per year for the next few years, it'd have something useful. But everyone else seems to have decided natural gas is useful too; and it's doubtful that extraction and liquefaction capacity can be ramped up quickly enough that China can grow its imports at that pace.

Again, "starting to explore" for shale gas means there won't be any meaningful contribution, at China's scale, for at least ten years. Likewise with the nuclear reactors, and with the wind and solar power that China is ramping up furiously.

One point, about your 100 tcm: resource quantities are pretty meaningless, as you'll learn by reading Rockman's comments. What matters is the rate of extraction, and, to a lesser degree, the recovery fraction. It's no use having a million in the bank if you can only withdraw one dollar per year, and it's not a lot better if 90 cents of every dollar withdrawn gets taken away in a transaction tax. Focus on the rate, not the size.

If China makes it through to 2025, it should be OK. It's the intervening time that is of interest.

Maybe this is because acknowledging the train wreck would require us to confront a slew of contradictions at the core of the entire modern industrial project.

The reason I chose that particular sentence, is because of the word contradictions. To be a true cornucopian as abundance is above, one must always find ways to believe there is a way around the contradictions. Just one more seam of coal, one more mega shale deposit, one more major deep water oil well find, to keep the runaway train moving on for just a little more BAU. The problem is these resources are finite, and no matter if you add or subtract a decade or two, it still ends the same way. In fact, the longer growth is allowed to continue the worse the sudden stop will be when the train hits the limits of the tracks we have so fervently laid down.

Coal combustion creates a huge CO2 persistent transient. If that sounds like an oxymoron, read this:

I have been convinced that the Chinese economy was a bubble for about 10 years now. I remember reading articles in a book that describe what sounded like a real-estate bubble in several cities.

I would have thought that it would have burst by now, but the constant flood of dollars pouring in seems to have fueled the flames.

If you have been convinced for 10 years, then at least in the beginning, you were probably wrong, b/c bubbles don't typically last that long. Taiwan and South Korea is at around $30,000/capita in PPP GDP. China is at $5,600. The difference is simply 40 years of capitalism. China will catch up - even if they bubble-and-burst a bit on the way there.

China is aggressively converting Coal to Methanol
See: China Takes Gold in Methanol Fuel, International Journal of Energy Security, Monday, 06 October 2008 19:00 Greg Dolan

The Development of Methanol Industry and Methanol Fuel in China Energy Sources, Part A: Recovery, Utilization, and Environmental Effects, Volume 31, Issue 18 January 2009 , pages 1673 - 1679

Extending the Supply of Alcohol Fuels for Energy Security and Carbon Reduction

China established a national standard for M85 fuel. It is also importing methanol from the MidEast. Rapid expansion of methanol for transport fuel from coal will further increase the rate of China's coal consumption.

Methanol can be made from renewable fuels:
Sustainable Organic Fuels for Transport (SOFT) – A Concept for Compatible Affordable Mobility Using Carbon-Neutral Liquid Fuels, R.J. Pearson1,et al. etc etc.

what do we think of the scale of Mongolian reserves, and how quickly can they come on stream. The BP world energy statistics don't even mention Mongolia having reserves, but from what I can find on the web production is about 6m tons per annum but reserves are estimated by some people as high as 1.5trn tons. If this is genuine, could this be mined in sufficient quantity? Secondly, China's Agricultural University has already warned that the pH of the soil in southern China has collapsed to around 3 - 4 due to coal based fertilizers and acid rain. Most plants need a pH of 6 to 8. pH of 5 is serious and under 4, not even trees can grow. Taiwan has apperntly told the public not to go out in the rain without a hat as the acidity will make their hair fall out. If China were to increase its coal consumption, then its ability to feed itself will collapse

Mongolia has probable coal reserves of around 100 billion tonnes, which would last about 20,000 years at current consumption rates of 5 million tonnes per year. One of their coal fields covers 90 square kilometres, is up to 1000 metres thick, and the coal is of very high quality. However, it is 400 kilometres from the nearest rail line so there's no way to get it to market.

Mongolia is next door to China, so if the Chinese run short of coal, what are they going to do? Most likely make the Mongolians an offer that they can't refuse for their coal, and build a rail line to access it.

And, of course, the BP energy statistics don't mention any of this, which indicates how useful they are.

400 km railway is not too much, better then importing

Current media info on China's coal use:

China's energy sector readies for change
"Alternative sources to benefit as nation aims to cut emissions"

Coal is the primary source of energy in China, and the nation is the second-largest energy consumer in the world, after the U.S. It consumed about 3.1 billion metric tons of standard coal in 2009, and it's expected to consume 3.3 billion in 2010, according to a recent report by the state-run Xinhua news agency.

By 2020, China may consume 4.8 billion metric tons of standard coal and discharge over 10 billion metric tons of carbon, the report said, citing comments from Dai Yande, vice director with the Energy Research Institute, a think tank with the National Development and Reform Commission.

Currently, coal provides 69% of China's primary energy and contributes 83% of its CO2 emission, analysts at Credit Suisse said.