Idiotprogrammer Climate Change Cheatsheet (2014 Edition)

by Robert Nagle on 5/4/2014

in global warming

It may not be as evident on my blog, but people who follow me on Facebook and Google Plus already know that I post lots of climate change links. I keep up with the latest policy debates and to a lesser extent, the science. But it is hard to reference a G+ post and harder still to find it. Therefore, I am keeping this page of G+ posts as a reference. I’ll try to include dates for everything and put the most important quotes/articles on the top of each section. You will note that I often link to the partisan Climateprogress site. The reason I feel comfortable doing that is that climateprogress usually reports the research accurately and often it puts the study in the appropriate context. Climate change studies have been coming out frequently, so sometimes being as much as 6 months behind  on the scholarship can prevent you from using persuasive evidence. Note: Because I’m using this page mainly as a reference, I won’t accept comments on this page unless they pertain to the sources mentioned here or contain better/more-to-date research. PS, I tend to include a lot of articles by Joe Romm. He’s very partisan and advocacy-oriented, but he also has a deep understanding of current science and policy research. Most of the listed articles by Joe Romm are simply Romm citing/summarizing the latest research. You can disagree with his analysis or the policy implications, but at least he can report  scientific research accurately and put it in the proper context.

My old posts about climate change (may be out of date)

  • Let’s Not Have a Pity Party for Oil Companies (April 2014). Less of a science piece than a discussion of climate change and social justice.
  • Natural Gas is Not Lobster (April 2012, plus updates).  I stopped updating this a year ago, but its basic conclusions on natural gas are basically sound — only we now have better data.
  • Books on Climate Change, Energy and Economics (2012).  I haven’t updated it in a while (mainly because I hadn’t read any books about the subject in 2013 or 2014), but the books I mentioned are still excellent and generally relevant. Now that I have remembered it, I will start keeping it up-to-date again.
  • How to Choose a Texas  Electric Provider the Wrong Way. (Feb 2012)  Here’s an amazing stat from 2011 data: Electric plants in Texas (population 25 million) emit as much CO2  as electric plants in the COMBINED states of   New York, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Oregon (population: 86 million)

Calculations about natural gas and methane emissions

  • NOAA Study (June 2014) estimates that globally methane leaks  are in the range of 2-4%.. That is enough to negate the climate benefits of gas over coal in the next two decades, the studies find.
  • Latest estimates (April 2014) on methane leaks in Pennsylvania suggests that leaks are 100-1000 higher than what EPA estimates. “Drilling operations at several natural gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania released methane into the atmosphere at rates that were 100 to 1,000 times greater than federal regulators had estimated, new research shows. Using a plane that was specially equipped to measure greenhouse gas emissions in the air, scientists found that drilling activities at seven well pads in the booming Marcellus shale formation emitted 34 grams of methane per second, on average. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that such drilling releases between 0.04 grams and 0.30 grams of methane per second…. The researchers determined that the wells leaking the most methane were in the drilling phase, a period that has not been known for high emissions. Experts had thought that methane was more likely to be released during subsequent phases of production, including hydraulic fracturing, well completion or transport through pipelines.”
  • JOE ROMM SUMMARIZES THE STANFORD STUDY (below) AND OTHERS (Feb 2014)  “Replacing coal plants with gas plants would be worse for the climate for more than 6 decades. And again, in the real world, NG doesn’t just displace coal, it also displaces nuclear power, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. So it appears quite safe to say that natural gas simply has no net climate benefit whatsoever in any timescale that matters to humanity. Perhaps it is time to stop squandering tens of billions of dollars — and rendering billions of gallons of water unfit for human consumption — on a fossil fuel source that probably has no meaningful net climate benefit in the real world and may well do considerable harm.”
  • In a June 2014 post, Romm does the math: After discussing the matter with the lead author, Stanford’s Adam Brandt, I wrote that given the risks to humanity from climate change, it seems conservative to take the middle of the range, 5.4%. That’s particularly conservative given that 3 separate studies by NOAA found leakage rates just from NG production of 4%, 17%, and 6-12%!…If one were to use 3 percent as the leakage rate, LNG-fueled power plants would be worse than coal from a climate perspective for decades. If you use 5.4 percent, then Figure 6.8 makes clear LNG-fueled power plants are worse than coal for a century!… Contrary to the implication of NETL’s analysis, natural gas doesn’t just displace coal — it also displaces carbon-free sources of power such as renewable energy, nuclear power, and energy efficiency. A recent analysis finds that effect has been large enough recently to wipe out almost the entire climate benefit from increasing natural gas use in the U.S. utility sector if the leakage rate is only 1.2 percent.
  • This milestone Stanford  study (Feb 2014) summarizes current research that tries to estimate methane leakage from extraction and distribution of natural gas. So far there have been widely divergent estimates about methane leakage. QUOTE: “Reducing easily avoidable methane leaks from the natural gas system is important for domestic energy security,” said Robert Harriss, a methane researcher at the Environmental Defense Fund and a co-author of the analysis. “As Americans, none of us should be content to stand idly by and let this important resource be wasted through fugitive emissions and unnecessary venting.” One possible reason leaks in the gas industry have been underestimated is that emission rates for wells and processing plants were based on operators participating voluntarily. One EPA study asked 30 gas companies to cooperate, but only six allowed the EPA on site. “It’s impossible to take direct measurements of emissions from sources without site access,” said Garvin Heath, a senior scientist with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and a co-author of the new analysis. “But self-selection bias may be contributing to why inventories suggest emission levels that are systematically lower than what we sense in the atmosphere.”
    MY OPINION: This is important research because it forces the natural gas industries to scrutinize their own methane leaks and adopt better leak reduction solutions. Personally, I’m guessing that the natural gas industry will never be able to reduce leakage to 3% or below (the magical threshhold needed for natural gas extraction provide a GHG advantage over coal), but developing better tools to identify and fix these leaks could bring dramatic reductions in GHG. Just arriving at useful metrics and methodologies for measuring these things could bring dramatic improvements.
  • IEA REPORT: (Jan 2014) “An increased share of natural gas in the global energy mix alone will not put the world on a carbon emissions path consistent with an average global temperature rise of no more than 2 [degrees Celsius] ….  Natural gas displaces coal and to a lesser extent oil, driving down emissions, but it also displaces some nuclear power, pushing up emissions. This puts emissions on a long-term trajectory consistent with stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at around 650 parts per million CO2 equivalent, suggesting a long-term temperature rise of over 3.5 [degrees Celsius].”

 

Climate Sensitivity

  • Quote: “Greenhouse gases contributed a global mean surface warming likely to be in the range of 0.5°C to 1.3°C over the period 1951 to 2010, with the contributions from other anthropogenic forcings, including the cooling effect of aerosols, likely to be in the range of −0.6°C to 0.1°C. The contribution from natural forcings is likely to be in the range of −0.1°C to 0.1°C, and from natural internal variability is likely to be in the range of −0.1°C to 0.1°C. Together these assessed contributions are consistent with the observed warming of approximately 0.6°C to 0.7°C over this period.” (IPCC 5, SUMMARY FOR POLICYMAKERS, 2013, p15 — PDF)
    Noteworthy here is the magnitude of the difference between manmade forcings (fossil fuels, land use, etc) and natural forcings and internal variability. Also: the range of uncertainty in the cooling effect of aerosols (loosely defined as dust/pollution/soot/volcanic ash)
  • Computer  models have had lots of difficulty modeling clouds when estimating climate sensitivity. A new paper tries to address this. (Jan 2014)”When water evaporates from the oceans, the vapour can rise over nine miles to form rain clouds that reflect sunlight; or it may rise just a few miles and drift back down without forming clouds. In reality, both processes occur, and climate models encompassing this complexity predicted significantly higher future temperatures than those only including the nine-mile-high clouds. ‘Climate sceptics like to criticise climate models for getting things wrong, and we are the first to admit they are not perfect,’ said (the study’s author) Sherwood. ‘But what we are finding is that the mistakes are being made by the models which predict less warming, not those that predict more.’”Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt comment dryly: “there is a great asymmetry in risk between the high and low end estimates. Uncertainty cuts both ways and is not our friend.”

Climate Models and Prediction of Physical Consequences under Various Scenarios

 

How Agriculture/Land Use contributes to Warming

  •  UMBRA (1/2014) : “Livestock, on the other hand, are four-legged methane factories. That includes buffalo, sheep, goats, and camels, but cattle are the primary offenders. A cow’s natural digestive processes produce lots of methane through burps and, yes, flatulence, to the tune of 200 to 400 pounds per year for the average bovine. And cow manure kicks in its fair share, too, when stored in lagoons or holding tanks. How bad is it?  Here in the U.S., cow burps (a.k.a. enteric fermentation) and manure management account for 30 percent of the country’s methane tab. Globally, livestock emissions make up a full 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas production.””

US Production of Fossil Fuels ( and  Subsidies)

  • BILL MCKIBBEN: “By the time Obama leaves office, the U.S. will pass Saudi Arabia as the planet’s biggest oil producer and Russia as the world’s biggest producer of oil and gas combined. In the same years, even as we’ve begun to burn less coal at home, our coal exports have climbed to record highs. We are, despite slight declines in our domestic emissions, a global-warming machine: At the moment when physics tell us we should be jamming on the carbon brakes, America is revving the engine.”  McKibben is right to shift the focus from the “American lifestyle” to the “American way of doing business.” Selling fossil fuels used to be something  which only developing countries did; now it seems that the US is embracing this economic model. This seems to conflict with what Americans think of themselves as forward-thinking innovators.
  • Elizabeth Kolbert: (March 2014)  “According to the IMF, the U.S. is the world’s largest single source of fossil-fuel subsidies; the I.M.F. has estimated that eliminating such subsidies worldwide could cut carbon emissions by thirteen per cent. Meanwhile, the tax credit responsible for much of the recent growth in wind generation in the U.S. has been allowed to lapse.”

 

Climate Change and Texas

  • Texas Climate Scientists (Oct 2013): Of the dozens of atmospheric scientists in Texas, approximately ZERO of them are skeptical of this mainstream view of climate science. Every single  UT & A&M climate science prof signed off on these 4 statements:  1. It is virtually certain that the climate is warming, and that it has warmed by about 0.7 deg. C over the last 100 years. 2. It is very likely that humans are responsible for most of the recent warming. 3. If we do nothing to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, future warming will likely be at least two degrees Celsius over the next century. 4. Such a climate change brings with it a risk of serious adverse impacts on our environment and society.
  • Here’s a long profile of Port Arthur, probably the most polluted place in the US. (Sept 2013). “Cancer rates among African Americans in Jefferson County are roughly 15 percent higher than they are for the average Texan. Shockingly, the mortality rate from cancer is more than 40 percent higher. And cancer is only part of the story. A study by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that residents of Port Arthur were four times more likely than people just 100 miles upwind to report suffering from heart and respiratory conditions; nervous system and skin disorders; headaches and muscle aches; and ear, nose, and throat ailments.”
    QUOTE 2: “When you’re used to presenting versions of the classic David-versus-Goliath tale, what do you do when the Davids have become so dispirited that they’ve all but given up the fight? Today, Carver Terrace specifically—and Port Arthur more generally—are so far gone, so forsaken, that there’s almost no need for industry officials to deceive, or to issue craftily worded denials, or to vow halfheartedly to reduce their refineries’ environmental impact. The industry abides by the letter of the law, dutifully documenting thousands of emissions events, knowing that, in the end, practically no one cares.”
  • 2012 DOE REPORT: (May 2014)Texas has one of the highest potentials for solar capacity — including rooftop arrays, utility-scale arrays, and concentrated solar power — of any state in the country. But with just 201 megawatts of solar as of 2013, Texas ranks 13th among the states for total installed capacity — and it’s using a minuscule 0.7 percent of its potential. Compare that to California, which boasts 5,660 megawatts of installed capacity, which takes up over six percent of its reported potential, and ranks the state first in the nation.
  • TEXAS A&M PROFESSOR LARRY MCKINNEY:    (May 2014) “The recent reports of an accelerated disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet have implications for the Gulf of Mexico and especially Texas where sea level rise is a significant issue, especially along the Upper Coast.Regardless of the cause, we may have reached a tipping point where we will see a rise in sea level more quickly than anticipated. It adds urgency to the need for the long-range planning to adapt to a changing world-scape and in our case, Gulf-scape.”

Green Stuff and Houston

China

  • AIR POLLUTION MORTALITY (Oct 2013). “Currently, China consumes almost twice as much coal as the rest of the world combined….Earlier this year, a study found air pollution has reduced life expectancy in northern China by five and a half years.
  •  CHINESE SCIENCE STUDY: (Jan 2014)  “coal burning, industrial pollution and secondary inorganic aerosols — the result of the reactions between different pollutants in the air–– are responsible for 18 percent, 25 percent and 26 percent of Beijing’s  air pollution respectively.” Interestingly, trash burning and car pollution are responsible for a combined total of only 4%.  That suggests that China’s temporary measures of reducing car usage on high pollution days is unlikely to make much of a difference and that more systematic changes are needed.

International Treaties

 

Which places are affected the most?

 Economic Projections/ Cost of Taking Action

  • Cost of Delay. IEA: “Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.” Also: “The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming.”
  • The most recent estimates say that emission targets — if agreed to today, would reduce the world’s economic growth rate by 0.6% per year.  But waiting as little as 10 years will end up tripling  the annual costs in order to reach  the exact same emission target.
  • IEA Report:  (May 2014): “The $44 trillion additional investment needed to decarbonise the energy system in line with the 2 degree scenario (2DS)  by 2050 is more than offset by over $115 trillion in fuel savings – resulting in net savings of $71 trillion….” The 44 trillion number is a revision from the 36 trillion estimate given in 2012. “Some of the increase is due to accounting changes, but the calculations show that the cost of decarbonising the energy system – in real terms – is about 10% higher than it was two years ago. In part, this illustrates something the IEA has been saying for some time: the longer we wait, the more expensive it becomes to transform our energy system.”
  • Lower carbon alternatives to Bitcoin (Dec 2013)

Economic Effects of Climate Change

  • SKI JOURNALIST:  (Feb 2014) “Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s, and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100. The same could happen in the United States, where in the Northeast, more than half of the 103 ski resorts may no longer be viable in 30 years because of warmer winters. As far for the Western part of the country, it will lose an estimated 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed — reducing the snowpack in Park City, Utah, to zero and relegating skiing to the top quarter of Ajax Mountain in Aspen.”

Impact on Ecosystem

  • Elizabeth Kolbert: “(Feb 2014): There have been moments in the past where the earth has experienced very swift, extreme changes—in a geological sense. And right now, we are in one of those moments. We are causing changes so fast that in the span of a human lifetime or a couple of human lifetimes, you can watch them happening. So part of the question for who will survive and who won’t is how fast generations are produced. If you are a microbe, you might do a lot better than an insect, which may do a lot better than a mammal. Big mammals are in serious trouble.”
  • Joe Romm (March 2013)  covers what’s new and interesting about the latest IPCC report. He faults the report for not discussing the impacts of 3-5 degree C temperature increase, which seems to be the path we’re currently headed down. The consequences of 3+ degree temperature increases are harder to project even though it seems more likely to happen.

Green Report Cards

Ice, Glaciers and Sea Level

  • 2 Separate Studies suggest that a significant part of the melting West Antartic ice sheet  has already crossed an irreversible threshhold and cannot be prevented from causing 10 feet of sea level rise within a couple of centuries. (The current estimate for this century is 3-6 feet of sea level rise because of global warming). We’ll have to wait for confirmation of these results, but the conclusion has a shocking finality to it. There is evidence that increasing CO2 has contributed to reaching this threshold, but unlike the predicted melting of Greenland or the Arctic (which the link is pretty clear), the Antartic threshold seems to be a result of several factors — including ozone depletion and natural variability… > Even if the warm water now eating away at the ice were to dissipate, it would be “too little, too late to stabilize the ice sheet,” Dr. Joughin said. “There’s no stabilization mechanism.” ….  Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved in the new research but has studied the polar ice sheets for decades, said he found the new papers compelling. Though he had long feared the possibility of ice-sheet collapse, when he learned of the new findings, “it shook me a little bit,” Dr. Alley said. He added that while a large rise of the sea may now be inevitable from West Antarctica, continued release of greenhouse gases will almost certainly make the situation worse. The heat-trapping gases could destabilize other parts of Antarctica as well as the Greenland ice sheet, potentially causing enough sea-level rise that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned. “If we have indeed lit the fuse on West Antarctica, it’s very hard to imagine putting the fuse out,” Dr. Alley said. “But there’s a bunch more fuses, and there’s a bunch more matches, and we have a decision now: Do we light those?” (May 2014)
  • Joe Romm discusses the Antarctica research in the broader context of glacier research.  ” In 2012, the National Science Foundation reported on paleoclimate research that examined “rock and soil cores taken in Virginia, New Zealand and the Eniwetok Atoll in the north Pacific Ocean.” Lead author Kenneth Miller of Rutgers University said: “The natural state of the Earth with present carbon dioxide levels is one with sea levels about 70 feet higher than now.” (Romm adds, “So the “good” news is that it might take 1000 years (or longer) to raise sea levels several tens of feet, and the choices we make now can affect the rate of rise and whether we ultimately blow past 69 feet to beyond 200 feet.”)
  • Jason Box: (2013, as reported by Chris Mooney).  “Box also provided a large-scale perspective on how much sea level rise humanity has already probably set in motion from the burning of fossil fuels. The answer is staggering: 69 feet, including water from both Greenland and Antarctica, as well as other glaciers based on land from around the world.”

Green Computing

  • 2014 Greenpeace Report on Data Centers: The US uses the most power to run data centers, followed by Japan, the UK and Germany, according to the Greenpeace report. Stefansson noted that less than 20% of the electricity used by most of the cloud computing service providers globally come from renewable sources. (PDF of actual report is here).

 

Chevron Lawsuit

Climate Change and Proposed Laws

Viability of Renewable Energy

  • Wind Farms also reduce the impact of hurricanes.  Mark Z. Jacobsen:  Installing offshore wind farms would not only increase energy output, it can partially offset storm surges of hurricanes. QUOTE: “They concluded that the wind turbines could have sapped Katrina of so much energy that wind speeds would have been reduced by up to 50 percent at landfall and the hurricane’s storm surge could have been reduced by about 72 percent.”

Transportation Issue and Electric Cars

Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

  • A shocking report  about transporting oil by train. From 2008 to 2012, oil transported by trains inside the US  have increased 900% nationally. Last week  the DOT issued an emergency order   about the unsafe design of train cars for transporting oil. (Canada has banned these cars — which are still being used to transport about 70% of oil inside US by train).   Unfortunately, unless Obama issues an emergency order, it will probably take a year or more to implement a new safety standard — which surely will be opposed by the fossil fuel industry. In Houston, I live a few miles away from a train track, so I guess I have a personal interest in ensuring that oil is transported safely.  (May 2014)
  • Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said May 4 2014, “We are very clear that this issue needs to be acted on very quickly,””There is a very high risk here that hasn’t been addressed.” … “One of the most fundamental questions that cuts across everything in crude oil by rail is how it is classified,” (Secretary of Transportation Anthony) Foxx said. “If it is not classified correctly at the beginning, then it is not packaged correctly and the emergency response needs aren’t understood by the communities through which this material is moving.” (Source).

 

Climate Change, Literature, Movies and TV

Basic Science/Reference

  • How long does CO2 stay in the air?  (2012) “The lifetime in the air of CO2, the most significant man-made greenhouse gas, is probably the most difficult to determine, because there are several processes that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Between 65% and 80% of CO2 released into the air dissolves into the ocean over a period of 20–200 years. The rest is removed by slower processes that take up to several hundreds of thousands of years, including chemical weathering and rock formation. This means that once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can continue to affect climate for thousands of years.”

Attribution to Humans (IPCC, etc)

  • IPCC 5 Summary for Policymakers:  “It is extremely likely (i.e.,more than 95% probability)  that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.”

Political Rhetoric/Analyzing Media Coverage

  • “Despite extensive data compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be specifically accounted for from public records. Approximately 75% of the income of these organizations comes from unidentifiable sources.”

Climate Change and Historical Analysis

  • One paper suggests that the doubling of carbon in the PETM period caused rapid temperature increase of  5 degrees in 13 years. The jury is still out about whether this admittedly worst case scenario applies to the CO2 doubling of the current era.

“Carbon Bubble” (Disinvestment Campaigns)

  • AL GORE:  (Oct 2013)“We have a carbon bubble…Bubbles by definition involve a lot of asset owners and investors who don’t see what in retrospect becomes blindingly obvious. And this carbon bubble is going to burst.”
    Specifically, Gore cites the estimated $7 trillion in carbon assets on the books of multinational energy companies. “The valuation of those companies and their assets is now based on the assumption that all of those carbon assets will be sold and burned,” he says. “They are not going to be burned. They cannot be burned and will not be burned. No more than one-third can ever possibly be burned without destroying the future.”

Air Pollution and Harm (Not  Climate Change)

Best Reference Websites for Looking Up Skeptical Arguments

Carbon Neutral Lifestyle

  • Carbon Calculator. (Jan 2014).  Much better than previous ones. My total annual footprint is 5.8 tons CO2 per year, with 2.5 coming from diet. Admittedly, my own lifestyle is a bit extreme.

Government Reports/Docs

Stupid US Energy Policy

  • Stupid Ethanol Policy. (Oct 2013). This groundbreaking article about ethanol reveals the follies and the environmental destruction caused by ethanol. Started by George W. Bush and continued under Obama, few politicians have the courage to cease this madness

 

 Worst Case Scenarios

  •  Scary  9/2013 video (with quotes from scientists) about how warming of 6 degrees C or higher could trigger another Permian-like extinction. Caveats: it can take as long as 100 years for CO2 to “translate” into global warming, so we’re talking late 2200s or 2300s. Also, this assumes that equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) turns out to be higher than current estimates AND that  the current Business as Usual (BAU) trajectory of carbon emissions will continue much  longer than most people expect.  Both scenarios are certainly within the realm of possibility.

Cool diagrams and graphs

Carbon-T-F

STUDY (PDF Dec 2013). AmericanCarbon

IiB CO2 graphic v3

cost-projections-climatepolicy

Some IPCC 5 Graphs. Mitigation Reports/Policymaker  graphics and graphics from the full report.   Below (Figure 8-15)  is a graphic from the full report which  compares natural forcings with manmade forcings and the uncertainty surrounding aerosols. Aerosols is a broad category of forcings — mainly dealing with manmade emissions that change the amount of heat being reflected.  That includes sulfates, etc, but it also includes volcanic dust. A NASA site says, “Models estimate that aerosols have had a cooling effect that has counteracted about half of the warming caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases since the 1880s. However, unlike many greenhouse gases, aerosols are not distributed evenly around the planet, so their impacts are most strongly felt on a regional scale.”

WGI_AR5_Fig8-15

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: