Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.

Summary: During the past two weeks I’ve posted much good news to help you prepare for the New Year. Concluding the series is the best news of all: a solid leftist declares an end to the planetary climate emergency! Solar and wind are replacing fossil fuels at an astonishing pace, sooner even than optimists expected when James Hansen began the climate crusade in 1988.

Good news about the climate

Donald Trump’s “carbon bubble” economy is bound to pop
— the only question is how bad it will be

“Trump’s economic policies are built on many flawed assumptions,
especially a fossil-fuel boom that won’t end well.”
By Paul Rosenberg at Salon, 2 January 2017.

Let’s go directly to the money paragraphs that give us the good news.

“The carbon bubble does exactly the same thing. It’s not just fossil fuel reserves that are overvalued by the bubble, but everything associated with the sector — pipelines, power plants, refineries, etc. …

“The carbon bubble risk is only made worse by the fact that renewable energy costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, and become increasingly competitive. Thus, even if those reserves were not unburnable because of their potential impact on climate change, they will become so for economic reasons in the next few decades. For example, the World Economic Forum’s recently released “Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook: A Guide for Institutional Investors” reported:

‘[T]he unsubsidized, levellized cost of electricity (LCOE) for utility scale solar photovoltaic, which was highly uncompetitive only five years ago, has declined at a 20% compounded annual rate, making it not only viable but also more attractive than coal in a wide range of countries. By 2020, solar photovoltaic is projected to have a lower LCOE than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world.’

“Add to this the fact that renewable energy — particularly solar and wind — is a new technology sector, in which large efficiency gains are to be expected. That’s quite unlike the fossil fuel industry, whose costs are increasing because the cheap, easy-to-get fuel has already been burned. By 2030, renewables could well leave fossil fuels in the dust. …

“Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English.”

This is the good news of the decade (even if bad news for fossil fuel investors)! For a decade climate activists have warned about the coming apocalypse from RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s AR5 report (often misrepresented as “business as usual” despite its unlikely assumptions). Almost all the articles you have read about the horrific effects of climate change assume the RCP8.5 scenario.

To learn about this possible future see “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011. It describes a hot dirty 21st century, in which coal use increases 5-fold to become the world’s major source of power (it’s a back to the 19thC future) — with the steepest increase coming after 2030. This graph shows energy use by fuel in 2100 for each of the four scenarios in AR5.

Energy use in the four scenarios of IPCC AR5

Figure 5 from Riahi et al: “Development of global primary energy supply in RCP8.5 (left-hand panel) and global primary energy supply in 2100 in the associated mitigation cases stabilizing radiative forcing at levels of 6, 4.5, and 2.6 W/m2 (right-hand bars).” Click to enlarge.

Rosenberg’s prediction makes sense, which is why so many people have said it is likely. (Climate activists’ rebuttal to mention of tech progress was to scream “denier!”). Coal production probably has already peaked. Fossil fuel use peaking in 2030 (followed by a slow decline as power infrastructure is replaced) plus continued technological progress would put us on track to reach the emission levels of RCP2.6 (the most favorable of the four scenarios) by the late 21st century.

For details turn to “The representative concentration pathways: an overview” by Detlef P. van Vuuren et al, Climatic Change, Nov 2011. See the large difference between annual emissions in the low- and high-end scenarios. They are world-changing differences.

CO2 emissions by RCP

Green: RCP2.6, Red: RCP4.5, Black: RCP6.0, Blue: RCP8.5.

Consequences

Does Rosenberg’s article show a shifting of priorities by the Left? Yesterday climate change was our greatest threat, warranting spending trillions of dollars — or even making drastic revisions to our economic system (as urged by Naomi Klein and Pope Francis). Today their top priority is opposing all things Trump.

Rosenberg’s prediction negates the nightmares that climate activists have bombarded us with during the past decade. If correct then seas will not cover cities by 2100 (although the seas will continue their millennia-long rise). Agriculture will not crash. The tropics will remain habitable.

But CO2 will continue to warm the world — and contribute to our always changing climate — for several more decades, although I doubt models can accurately predict the magnitude of this effect. Combine this with the environmental damage from a population growing to ten billion (perhaps 12B) and the pollution from a more crowded and industrialized world: the result will be tough times ahead. But we can work through it.

Look ahead to the second half of the 21st century. Combine a shrinking population, falling CO2 emissions, and better technology — we could repair the damage and make this world into a garden.

This is good news to start the New Year!

Updates

Great news: The leftists at Vox admit that the global coal boom is winding down, March 2017.

Another milestone! This might be the first study of future climate that does not rely on (or even mention) the IPCC’s worst-case scenario. It uses RCP4.5 not RCP8.5. Does this mark recognition by some climate scientists that RCP8.5 has become unlikely? See the NOAA press release: “Climate change to shift global pattern of mild weather.” Also see the paper: “Shifting patterns of mild weather in response to projected radiative forcing” by Karin van der Wiel et. al in Climate Change, January 2017.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about the politics of climate change…

  1. Important: climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.
  3. A story of the climate change debate. How it ran; why it failed.
  4. Science into agitprop: “Climate Change Is Strangling Our Oceans”.
  5. Ignoring science to convince the public that we’re doomed by climate change.
  6. The 5 stages of grief for the failure of the climate change campaign.
  7. A status report on global warming. Much depends on the next few years.

To learn more about the state of climate change…

…see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr. (Prof of Environmental Studies at U of CO-Boulder, and Director of their Center for Science and Technology Policy Research).

The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.
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37 thoughts on “Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.

  1. Say what!?

    You say: “But CO2 will continue to warm the world — and contribute to our always changing climate — for several more decades, although I doubt models can accurately predict the magnitude of this effects.”

    Your assumption is that CO2 is bad, foreign or even deadly. It also assumes that it’s the most abundant gas in our atmosphere. Fact is, nitrogen is followed by oxygen then H2O or water vapor as our most abundant gases. Yes, I know the hot-box scenario. We don’t live in a box and our Earth is far more dynamic than a fool killing himself in his garage with his car. CO2 is fifth on the list of atmospheric gases. After water is At (Argon) then CO2 which is a measly 0.0360% vol.

    Funny thing about all climate BS is, NO ONE accounts for volcanic activity. One Mount St. Hellen’s eruption is equivalent to all of the US industrial revolution at once! Look it up.

    Also a fact. Without CO2 and water, plant life dies off and guess what, so does all life.

    Then you say: “Combine these with the environmental changes from a population growing to ten billion (perhaps 12B) and the pollution from a more crowded and industrialized world: tough times for the world. But we can work through it.”

    AT 6 billion, all humans can fit in family’s of four, placed in a 1200 sf home and the whole world population can fit in the geography of the state of TX. Now here comes the science through observational perspective; smaller than a dimple on an orange is the total space we consume as humans. An Earth that has survived far more is going to be devastated by less than a dimple? Ye have little faith OR science! Like I said about the hot-box, Earth is a dynamic living system, mostly relying on the Sun for its functional system of cyclical decay and renewal. Just as the O-zone was an issue in my younger days of the 80’s, what happen to that scare I ask you? Oh yeah, recently that was determined by the very Earth deniers creating false science, NASA, showed that it has all closed up. Earth healed her O-zone layer. AMAZING right!?

    Lastly you say: “Look ahead to the second half of the 21st century. Combine a shrinking population, falling CO2 emissions, and better technology — we could repair the damage and make this world into a garden.”

    No, this is a Godless mindset thinking we have the power of God and can fix a “man made” scenario. We can fix this – STOP TELLING LIES and CREATING FAKE SCIENCE.

    All the technology we are creating is awesome. There is NO NEED to tie it to a lie to enjoy the fruits of our God given talent in creating it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Replace,

      “Your assumption is that CO2 is bad, foreign or even deadly. It also assumes that it’s the most abundant gas in our atmosphere. F”

      I know of no climate scientists who makes such daft assumptions. That you believe anything I said implies such nonsense is delusional. As is the rest of your comment. Good-by.

      Like

    2. “AT 6 billion, all humans can fit in family’s of four, placed in a 1200 sf home and the whole world population can fit in the geography of the state of TX.”

      The physical area occupied by a species has very little to do with the carrying capacity of an ecosystem.

      Might want to brush up a bit.

      Like

    3. Danny,

      That’s a great observation. Imagine how many blue whales the seas could hold if we stacked them like cordwood in the ocean basins!

      But experience has taught me that even a line-by-line factual rebuttal to Replace the GOP wouldn’t change his mind on anything by a dot.

      Like

  2. Editor,

    Wishing you all the best in the new year. The perspectives you provide are interesting. I’d linked this very article at C, etc. but your view expanded my thinking.

    Keep it up.

    As a side note, it’s appreciated to see your linking to Pielke Jr’s, book. One of the first I read and made tons of sense.

    Regards

    Like

    1. @Fabius: I agree that we’ll come through it alright, if probably with a lot of bumps and lumps. I am somewhat concerned that we will lose whatever first-mover advantage we had given the recent upsurge in fossil fuel supporters in the national government. Though, I mean, I gather Exxon-Mobil bid on an offshore wind opportunity on the Atlantic coast (and lost to the Norwegians, Statoil), there are the premonitions in this Slate article, etc.

      The question of what that loss of value in fossil fuel assets will mean for the general economy is also interesting, and beyond my own pay grade.

      Like

    2. Seems like a reasonable guess. I certainly hope Fusion works out and doesn’t get NIMBY’d to death.

      We’re definitely outracing the predictions of renewable introductions, worldwide, although all the predictions about hydrogen seem like they haven’t come to much.

      Like

  3. Rosenberg’s prediction negates the nightmares that climate activists have bombarded us with during the past decade.

    The whole purpose of showing the consequences of such a scenario (“the nightmares”) is to provide information about a possible future we may want to avoid. Negating the nightmare is the whole point of showing (“bombarding us with”) the nightmare.

    The growth of the renewables industry has been strongly influenced by a desire to move away from fossil fuels – a desire caused by showing the consequences of such high emission scenarios.

    That said, I’m not sure Rosenberg is right. It’s really not enough that renewables are growing. They need to grow much faster to make a difference and prevent fossil fuel usage from also growing at the same time, as overall energy demand continues to increase. After all, use of renewables by 2100 is higher in RCP8.5 than any of the other scenarios.

    Like

    1. I think you can argue that the fact that renewables are growing much quicker than anticipated, and things like natural gas biting into coal’s market share, indicate that we’re off the RCP 8.5 trajectory even if we aren’t exactly out of the woods yet. It also has the handy element of being a thing that actually is happening, as opposed to “oh, we’ll have fusion in X years, that will handle it.”

      The decoupling of economic growth from carbon emissions in the last few years is also encouraging. That said, unless Ray Kurzweil turns out to be right about solar growth (here’s hoping!) we seem to be on something in between RCP 2.6 and 4.5 in terms of those tracks. I don’t think we’re going to get into 2.6 anyway, because it seems like carbon sequestration (other than reforestation, of course) isn’t coming to a whole hell of a lot, and there’s other factors too. Methane seems to be on the rise even if it’s hardly “the methane monster.”

      Still, it’s good to see.

      Like

    2. Lessons,

      Google “solar auctions” to see the plunging market prices for solar power.

      Since tech progress continues on these, and the necessary grid technology to use higher levels of interruptible power, I see no reason to assume we’ll not be at RCP2.6 sometime in the late 21st century.

      Especially since over 80 years we’ll probably develop new power sources. Private capital is funding fusion (e.g., Tri Alpha Energy). These people require hard evidence before investing, and they don’t have long time horizons.

      Like

    3. Paul,

      “The whole purpose of showing the consequences of such a scenario (“the nightmares”) is to provide information about a possible future we may want to avoid.”

      Yes, that’s what the IPCC did. That’s what responsible scientists do when using the RCP’s. What I showed here (providing links) was that RCP8.5 was grossly misrepresented to scare the public. Most obviously, it is not a “business as usual” scenario — as it calls for large changes in long-standing trends for tech progress and population growth. In plain language, activists often lie about it.

      Like

  4. re: Fabius, oh yeah, I know – it’s gone down hugely. (Perhaps yugely.) Jaw-droppingly. When I say this I mean that the RCP 2.6 curve seems to have it going down sharply in less than ten years and continuing to descend sharply thereafter, while I figure it will not bend down that fast, due to all our installed capacity. This means there’d be more CO2 out there than in RCP 2.6 because we’d be emitting more for a while, even if it might well be below the RCP 4.5 levels.

    As has been pointed out in a lot of quarters, solar and wind in many places aren’t competing from scratch, they’re competing with existing investments. That said, India seems to have no national plans to build much more coal capacity – I think the last I read is that they expect to finish a couple of newer plants that are already mostly done, and past that they’re going to make a big play for solar/wind. The goal went from 40% renewable by 2030 to 57% renewable by 2030.

    Like

    1. Lessons,

      “This means there’d be more CO2 out there than in RCP 2.6 because we’d be emitting more for a while”

      I said “put us on track to reach the emission levels of RCP2.6 by the late 21st century”, referring to the graph I showed of annual emissions. Yes, that means the atmospheric levels of CO2 at that point will be higher than in RCP2.6 — but far below those of the RCP8.5 climate activists have terrified the public with.

      Like

  5. > Private capital is funding fusion
    I’d wondered about that. Lockheed Martin are also supposed to have something in the works.

    It does seem that we’re all waiting for developments in two technologies that have been remarkably resistant to innovation; fusion and batteries

    Like

    1. The thing with batteries is that they *are* under rather heavy development. Tesla’s already done some preliminary things in California, and I gather that grid battery storage is one of those things that’s just swell even if there’s only a small amount of it, relative to the size of the power demand. Even if, for the sake of the argument, we actually can’t do much better than modern lithium batteries do, we’d still get economies of scale from things like Tesla’s gigafactory and similar sources.

      As for waiting for them, and whether or not they’d “come in time,” I was looking at the RCPs as some light bedtime reading. There is not a very dramatic divergence between 2.6, 4.5 and 6.0 in 2030 in terms of CO2 (430.7, 435, and 428 PPMs respectively), and not a massive one by 2040 either (440, 460, and 450 respectively – I skipped the decimal for prettiness). So, we’re in for whatever consequences *that* will cause anyway. But those are 13 and 23 years out, respectively, and those are a *very* long time in terms of technological improvements. Which, too, have other drivers than utility demands – as we see in the Tesla example!

      Like

    2. Dana,

      “There is not a very dramatic divergence between 2.6, 4.5 and 6.0 in 2030 in terms of CO2”

      Yes, that’s clear in the graph shown in this post — CO2 emissions by year for each RCP — from Vuuren et al. The RCP’s have a range of 2% between best and worst by 2020, 5% by 2030, 18% by 2050, and 55% by 2100.

      “But those are 13 and 23 years out, respectively, and those are a *very* long time in terms of technological improvements.”

      But not a long time in terms of the service life of the world’s vehicles and power plants. Even if new tech was commercialized tomorrow, it would take time to move along the cost-performance curve. Also, old tech is not replaced until after its service life unless there is a massive cost savings to do so (the existing infrastructure is a sunk cost). So vehicles are replaced over 2 decades and power plants over two generations.

      Re: Tesla.

      I don’t understand the focus on Tesla. It’s losing fantastic sums of money, with little prospect for that to change in the foreseeable future.

      Like

    3. re: Fabius, in this case Tesla was just a charismatic illustration of several things in one package. Those things being ‘efforts at integrating batteries into the power grid,’ ‘the potential of economies of scale in battery production,’ and ‘other drivers for better batteries’ – in this case the efforts towards relatively high-performing electric cars.

      From what I’ve read, a lot of the cost drops in solar have more to do with the economies of scale in mass production than major improvements in the individual solar panels (though those occur too). Might not battery storage work the same way?

      Like

    4. Dana,

      Thanks for the explanation! Time will tell if Tesla’s gigafactory is in fact a breakthrough. There are skeptics.

      Re: solar

      Yes, the declining cost of solar is to a large extent due to increased volume. A large cost component of solar installation is the semiconductor material, and these are among the most volume sensitive products made today. Of course, improved conversion efficiency is also a major driver.

      Like

    5. Fabius: About Tesla I can’t say much beyond ‘isn’t it great they’re making all those batteries, and in America, yet.’
      About solar in general, it’s great. I hope Kurzweil’s estimate comes true. I actually tripped over an interview with him from ’13: http://www.pv-tech.org/editors-blog/could_kurzweil_be_right_about_solar_the_google_of_energy
      “Larry Page and I are convinced that within five years we will reach a tipping point where energy from solar will be less expensive per watt than from coal and oil.” (It’s not clear if he said that in ’08 or ’13, though… and I know there was some big polysilicon production problem for a few years there.)

      I wish my house wasn’t so north-facing and shady! Then again, cutting down our quarter-acre of backyard woods to install some rooftop solar seems like it would defeat the purpose.

      Like

    6. Dana,

      Kurtwell: “Larry Page and I are convinced that within five years we will reach a tipping point where energy from solar will be less expensive per watt than from coal and oil.”

      (1) Little electricity is generated from oil. It’s too expensive vs. other sources.

      (2) The statement makes no sense without specifying where. Solar at the North Pole is a radically different proposition than in an equitorial desert (strong sun, few storms). Such statements show that we’re hearing advocacy, not science or engineering.

      (3) A large cost of solar is back-up power capacity, since few people are willing to go dark when the sun doesn’t shine. Batteries help, but for most of America’s population the required energy storage would be massive. Someone has to pay for the back-up power. The less often it is used, the more expensive it is to use.

      Like

    7. Fabius: All solid points! I had presumed they meant in the industrial nations generally, and I gather it’s getting there, especially in sunny places. (Though even the American Northeast gets a lot of sun compared to Europe.)

      I do think that sometimes the conversation becomes a sort of false binary, though, like we can’t have ANY (or any significant) solar/wind/whatever until ALL of these problems are resolved to a high value. When it seems more likely that it’s going to be an evolutionary process, probably mostly at coal’s expense in the near term. It’s also not a given that the USA will figure it all out, either…

      Like

    8. Dana,

      “becomes a sort of false binary, though, like we can’t have ANY (or any significant) solar/wind/whatever until ALL of these problems are resolved to a high value.”

      I agree. False dualism is a curse on discussions, driven by deniers on one side and enthusiasts on the other. Climate policy debates have become dominated by these two sets of loons. Note that Kurzwell often speaks in such fashion. It’s not helpful, imo.

      “It’s also not a given that the USA will figure it all out, either…”

      I’m confident that we will handle the energy question as well or better than most nations. It’s the kind of thing we do well.

      Like

  6. Fell over this: “NuScale First To Submit SMR Nuclear Application to NRC“, Forbes, 15 January 2017.

    The NuScale submitting plans for an SMR that won’t suffer from the risk of thermal runaway.

    “NuScale Power is a company with a mission – to build the first small modular nuclear reactor in America. …Last week, NuScale announced their submission of the first design certification application for any SMR in the United States to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. …The application consisted of 12,000 pages of technical information. After a quick review period of two months to see if any additional information is required prior to starting their full review, the NRC will take 40 months to review and issue a design certification. That certification will be valid for 15 years to support a combined license application for NuScale to construct and operate this new type of power plant.

    “Expect the first SMR to be built in America and become operational in the early 2020s.”

    Like

    1. Steve,

      Thanks for posting this news! I added a full citation and an excerpt to your comment. The last line “Expect the first SMR…” is advocacy of an enthusiast — not analysis. There are many hurdles ahead — not just NRC certification, but endorsement by a utility and its State regulators.

      Still, it’s good news.

      Like

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