Monthly Archives: April 2015

USA isn’t Number 1 in Carbon Emissions

This morning I decided to look up some recent carbon dioxide production statistics.  I performed a Google search and selected the Natural Resources Defense Council website, which came up first on the search (and you wondered how Google made money).  The site was chock full of climate propaganda and half truths.  I selected the following question from their website:

Q:  What country is the largest source of global warming pollution?

A:  The United States. Though Americans make up just 4 percent of the world’s population, we produce 25 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution from fossil-fuel burning — by far the largest share of any country. In fact, the United States emits more carbon dioxide than China, India and Japan, combined. Clearly America ought to take a leadership role in solving the problem. And as the world’s top developer of new technologies, we are well positioned to do so — we already have the know-how.

Al Gore used similar data in his 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth. 

Both Al and the Environmental lobby are wrong.  Big Surprise!  They must be using ancient data.  The data used by Mr. Gore  in his 2006 released film has a 1999 copyright date.  Data takes time to compile.  I’d guess the actual data was probably produced using data form the mid 1990’s.   2014 data is now available .

I wish the Natural Resource Defense Council had spent a bit more on content  editing and a bit less on online advertising.

The Statistica website has  data from 2014.  Their data shows the USA is second place with 14.7% of total manmade carbon dioxide production.  China leads and has led the country chart since 2006.  Their 2014 share was 23.4%, a number that has been steadily rising for over 20 years.  India, another rapid grower sits in third position with 5.7%, followed by Russia (4.9%), Brazil (4.7.%), Japan(3.6%), Indonesia (2.31%), Germany (2.23%) and Korea (1.71%).

Why did Al Gore use old statistics in 2006 when he made his film and why does the USA’s largest environmental lobby still use 20 year old data today?   Because it works as a fundraising tool.  Potential givers want  to feel important. China (and India too) have the ability to overwhelm the mathematics.  Why give.  We in the USA are powerless to impact the autocracy that is China.

I’d argue the data doesn’t begin to tell the full story.   Population density, location and GDP all must also be considered.  China and the USA are about the same size, but China has 4 times as many people and produces less than 50% of the goods the USA produces.  All those people with middle class desires.  Urbanization will lead to additional carbon production.  Throw in GDP differences and China looks more and more like the Elephant in the room nobody talks about

China is a bit closer to the equator than the USA, which means they need to use less energy to keep warm.   The USA has been reducing  their carbon footprint steadily since about 2000.  China continues to grow theirs at nearly 8% per year.

India is another rapid grower and that has the potential to be a perplexing problem for the climate control crowd.   India is about 1/3 the size of the USA and produces a bit more than 1/3 of the USA’s total carbon dioxide.   Their population is still growing rapidly which means that their carbon production will grow rapidly unless they can use much less on a per capita basis.   Their current per capita use is rising from a very low level which means that India has a long runway of increased carbon production in front of them.

China’s impact is huge.  India’s is growing rapidly.  The USA’s potential climate impact (if you trust the UN scientists) has been declining for most of the 21st century.  Who knows what will happen next.  Any notion that we in the USA can change the world with rather modest  changes at home seems a bit fanciful.

Perhaps the guys at the UN are wrong.  Their temperature predictions for the first 15 years of the 21st century have been awful.  The world has been colder than predicted.  Yes surface data shows 2014 as being a warm year.  Satellite data disagrees; and both land based and satellite data are lower than UN predictions made just a few years ago.  Perhaps increased carbon dioxide won’t be as damaging as advertised.

China’s growth rate is slowing and they are building a bunch of new Nuclear Power Plants which should slow their emissions growth rate in the 2020’s.   Maybe the elephant in the room will move more carefully a few years from now.

Time will tell.

Pollution — The Big Lie that Lives on Forever

Air pollution and carbon dioxide have been linked together since the global warming debate began some 25 years ago.  It’s the big lie in the climate game that won’t go away.  Al Gore’s film video cover art is a perfect example of the faux reality we all live with.  Pollutants from factories and carbon dioxide pollution are shown and one and the same.

Carbon dioxide is colorless and odorless, which is why it acts as a greenhouse gas.  Since it is colorless and odorless it makes a boring picture.  The material coming from the smokestack is either water vapor or visible pollution.  Chemicals in air pollution can cause cancer, and can make air unsafe to breathe for people at risk.  Carbon dioxide is beneficial.  Greenhouses add carbon dioxide to their microclimate to make plants grow faster.

Traditional air pollution is neither colorless nor odorless.  Newspaper articles regularly feature a polluting factory photo while discussing carbon dioxide issues.  It’s the big lie that wont go away.

There really is a big difference between air pollution and carbon dioxide. When I visited Shanghai, my eyes watered and I had a sore throat my entire stay. Beijing has air pollution many time worse than Shanghai.  Particulate matter floating around  Beijing’s air causes immediate health problems for its residents.  People are warned not to leave their homes on bad days.  The health risk is immediate and real.  Ironically, visible air pollution shields the surface of the Earth from the Sun, reflecting the Suns energy back to space.  Air pollution makes the world cooler, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, helping to keep the world warm.

We as a society need to distinguish between traditional air pollution and carbon dioxide.  Air pollution is an immediate health problem; carbon dioxide makes the world a bit warmer than it otherwise would be and is necessary for life on Earth.

Global warming is presumed to be bad.  If the Earth warms fast enough, and then stays warm for a really long time, there will be many environmental consequences.  Some will be good, many will be bad.  People living near the ocean will get wet.  A little warming is not to be feared, the warming we have seen in modern times has been on balance, good for mankind.   250 years ago the world was a degree C cooler than it is today.   Were we to have that climate today, we’d have difficulty feeding the worlds population.

Imagine what the world would be like if it were say….10 degrees C cooler, as it was just 17,000 years ago.

Climate scientists presume that the warming we have right now is just right for society.  The world is not too hot, it’s not too cold, it’s just right.   The tree bears would be proud.

If we did everything just right, exactly as the scientists at the UN want us to, would the world stay just right?  No.  The ecosystem is too dynamic.  It changes all by itself all the time.   The world warmed 10 degrees all by itself some 15000 years ago.  It could start cooling next week or a century from now or a thousand years  form now.  Most of the time in the last 2.5 million years, the world has been has been cold, 5 to 10 degrees colder than it is today.  We live in the Holocene, an 11,000 year long warm spell.   There is no guarantee it will last, no matter what we do.

That said.  We should try to be good stewards of our planet.  But nobody knows how warm we’ll be 500 years from now.  NOBODY!

Global warming theory has been simplified.  The dumbed down version  goes something like this.  Man produced carbon dioxide (and methane and other greenhouse gases) is changing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Carbon dioxide is a weak greenhouse gas, so it only warms the planet a little.  This warming is enough to cause an increase in water vapor.  Water vapor is an effective greenhouse gas and that warms the planet more rapidly which causes even more water vaper (the proverbial tipping point) and then we have rapid warming.

Should increased water vapor cause an increase in clouds, the impact would be mitigated as clouds near the surface cool the environment.  Interestingly, the world has been warmer than it is today in the recent past (120,000 years ago) and we did not spiral out of control then.  Maybe the earth won’t warm as much as predicted.

The worlds ecosystem is extraordinarily complicated with many many variables (solar cycles, variations in the earth’s orbit, the solar winds, positions of the continents, volcanic eruptions, changes in circulation of oceans).  These variable have been linked to past ice ages.   The Earth’s climate may appear stable, but it isn’t.  Wild variations are a part of climate history.  Natural variation exasperates an already difficult science problem.  It is extraordinarily difficult to ascertain a specific cause and effect for any individual variable.  Wild ass guessing is a job requirement in climate science.

Both carbon dioxide and water vapor are building blocks of life.   If they go away bad things happen.   During ice age cold cycles, carbon dioxide levels get very low. They were scarily low at the end of the last ice age cycle some 20,000 years ago.  Low carbon dioxide levels slow plant growth.  Clearly too much is better than too little.

Carbon dioxide has been declared a pollutant by some because it has been presumed to be the deciding factor in climate change.   Any honest debate about climate change must begin with the notion that carbon dioxide is one of many many variables.

Still in doubt.   Carbon dioxide has been steadily rising since the beginning of the industrial revolution as this graph demonstrates:

http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/atmospheric-concentration-of-co2-ppm/csi013_fig04_co2_concentration.png/image_original

Temperatures have been  more erratic.  The correlation is less than perfect.  Temperature has done next to nothing since 1998 as carbon dioxide has been steadily rising. During the period from 1940 to 1978, temperature went down while carbon dioxide rose. Don’t take my word for it, compare the chart above with the chart below courtesy of East Anglia University:

gtc graph

Still doubtful,  lets take a really long view and look at data from an Antarctic ice core with both temperature and carbon dioxide plotted. The chart that follows is the Vostok Ice Core  with carbon dioxide and temperature plotted together:

https://i2.wp.com/www.climatedata.info/resources/Proxies/Ice-Cores/05-Vostok-temperature-and-CO2.gif

Carbon dioxide and temperature share a similar shape, but can go in opposite directions for thousands of years before following each other again. About 400,000 years ago carbon dioxide and termperature were out of sync for about 10,000 years. More often than not, carbon dioxide appears to be a following rather that a leading indicator. Temperature peaks first, begins down and then carbon dioxide follows it down.

The data does look a bit different in the most recent past.  Carbon dioxide is going up faster than temperature which is probably the result of recent activities by man.

Carbon dioxide is regarded as a pollutant because it is assumed to be a leading cause of catastrophic warming a few hundred years from now.  There might be a more than a bit of guessing behind that assertion.   The impact carbon dioxide plays is difficult to quantify.  Past efforts have a poor track record with many missteps.  The science is less clear than most people think.

One thing is  certain….carbon dioxide is a specific and different science experiment than is air pollution.  Sometimes the two come from the same source, like a volcano or a coal fired power plant, but the data leads in different directions.  One is a clear immediate health risk,  the other probably will contribute to a warmer world.  Exactly how much carbon dioxide contributes to warming is a very difficult mathematical problem.

Today the New York Times ran an article with global warming in the title, and a discussion of health issues including Asthma in the text of the article.   The article was about air pollution.  The title was a poor editorial choice.  The Times was mixing normal air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions together as if the subjects were one and the same.

Some carbon dioxide is good, too much, probably not so good.  When does it stop being beneficial and start being a problem?  Do we have too much now?  Would the world be OK if we let carbon dioxide get 100 or 200 ppm higher than it is today.  The last 100 ppm seemed mostly beneficial?  How much is too much?

Most pollutants in the world are just bad.   No amount of Smog is beneficial.  Maybe we need a new name for whatever carbon dioxide is because air pollution is the wrong label.   An essential ingredient for life has been labeled as if it were a poison.