Posts Tagged ‘CO2’


Sea Level Projections vs. Tide Gauge Data

February 28, 2016

Carbon dioxide, climate change, disaster, SEA LEVELS WILL RISE!

You can see all kinds of sea level rise predictions for the 21st century, with over-wrought images of houses and buildings under water.  One of the favorite predictions of the hand wringers is “1.8 meters” of sea level rise for the 21st century.  A major purveyor of this lurid climate-porn prediction is Stefan Rahmstorf (see here, here, and here).

Consider the following points

  • 75% of atmospheric anthropogenic CO2 arrived after 1950.
  • There has been no obvious acceleration in sea level rise rates since 1950 as seen from tide gauges.
  • Extrapolating tide gauge time series to 2100 would give about 15cm of sea level rise between 200o and 2100.
  • Projections of 1, 1.8 or 2 meters of sea level rise between 2000 and 2100 would require extraordinary rise rate accelerations.

Let’s compare the sea level data of the 20th century with these wild prediction for the 21st century.  The movie below will show all the tide gauge data sets available from NOAA that extend over at least 75 years.  In each case the trend is extrapolated to 2100.  Additionally, the likely local relative sea levels corresponding to 1 meter and 1.8 meter global sea level rises for the 21st century are shown.

Music is by Mechett and licensed under Creative Commons

The likely local relative sea levels are calculated by by assuming that the global anthropogenic sea level rise would be distributed evenly over the planet.  This assumption may not be entirely accurate but it is a good first approximation. Here is how the calculation is done.


  • GSLR (20th century) be the 2oth century global sea level rise
  • LSLR (20th century) be a local 20th century sea level rise
  • GSLR(21st century) be the projected 21st global sea level rise
  • LSLR(21st century) be the projected local 21st century sea level rise

LSLR(21st century) = LSLR (20th century) – GSLR (20th century) + GSLR(21st century)

Say the 2oth century global sea level rise was 18cm and the projected 21st century global sea level rise is 100cm.   And say the local 20th century sea level rise was 18cm at location A, 30cm at location B, and -10cm at location C.  Then the local projected 21st century sea level rises would be

Location A
Projected rise = 100cm = 18cm – 18cm + 100cm

Location B
Projected rise = 112cm = 30cm – 18cm + 100cm

Location C
Projected rise = 72cm = -10cm – 18cm + 100cm


Barack Obama: Glaciologist

September 6, 2015

The avid outdoors-man and eminent scientist, Barack Obama, has been trekking through Alaska lately.  He is lamenting the demise of the great glaciers of the North.  He is surely grieving over the harm that man is inflicting on the planet by spewing his toxic CO2.  The Washington Post reports

Standing near the foot of the Exit Glacier, which has receded 1.25 miles since 1815 and 187 feet last year alone, Obama said “this is as good of a signpost of what we’re dealing with it comes to climate change as just about anything.”

The man certainly has a way with words – a true poet.

I guess we are supposed to be alarmed because 187 feet per year is a lot faster than 1.25 miles per 200 years.  After all, 1.25 miles in 200 years averages out to only 33 feet per year.  The message we are supposed to get is that the Exit Glacier is receding about 6 times faster now than its average over the last 200 years.  This, of course, is due to the CO2 that vile humans use to poison the atmosphere and it means endless and escalating disaster unless we socialize the economy of the world.

But what does the National Park service say about the retreat rate of Exit Glacier? The following table of retreat distances and rates comes from the National Park Service’s “The Retreat of Exit Glacier.” Annotation in red was added by me.

Exit glacier retreat annotatedSo, this data confirms Obama’s assertion that the Exit Glacier has retreated 1.25 miles in the last 200 years.  But it also makes it quite clear that it was retreating as fast, or faster, 100 years ago.

If CO2 is the culprit today, what was the culprit 100 years ago?  The following graph shows the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere as a function of time going back to 1750.  The data comes from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  I made the plot and added the annotation. It’s kind of hard to explain why the retreat rate was so much greater in the past when there was less than 10% of the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 than there is today.  Perhaps Professor Obama will elucidate.

anthro atmos carbonMy wife and I were up in Alaska a few years ago, and we also visited some some of those receding glaciers.  At Glacier Bay National Park, which is several hundred miles southeast of Exit Glacier, I happened to pick up a park pamphlet that had the following series of illustrations showing the glacier extents in the park going back to 1680.

glacier bay extents v3The first thing that jumps out at you is the rapid ice advance between 1680 and 1750 and the subsequent retreat between 1750 and 1880.  The pamphlet said

“The Little Ice Age came and went quickly by geologic measures.  By 1750 the glacier reached its maximum, jutting into Icy Strait.  But when Capt. George Vancouver sailed here 45 years later, the glacier had melted back five miles into Glacier Bay – which it had gouged out.”

As an aside, a co-worker once told me that the Little Ice Age was not a global phenomenon, but rather, local to Europe.  He cited the Union of Concerned Scientists as the source of this insight.  But there it is, in Alaska!

It is hard to argue with the Union of Concerned Scientists because they’re, well, scientists.  Not just anybody can be a Concerned Scientist.  You have to send a check first.  My wife used to send a check years ago, but it was from our joint account so I figure I was only half a Concerned Scientist then.  Now I guess I am just a wholly unconcerned scientist.

IMG_1546 v2Anyway, Obama was getting excited about 1.25 miles of glacier recession since 1815, and a whopping 187 feet in the last year.  That pamphlet that I mentioned also had a large map of the Glacier Bay area marking the location of the various glaciers back to 1760. It’s easy to string the locations together and calculate the recession rate of these glaciers.  The image at the left  shows the map as I marked it out for Grand Pacific Glacier. (Click to enlarge.)

I have plotted the distance as a function of time for three glacier routes using this crude method.   As you can see below, these glaciers have receded at a much faster rate than Exit Glacier.  But Exit Glacier and the Glacier Bay National Park glaciers have one thing common:  they all retreated at their maximum rate back when anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 levels were very low compared to today.

Glacier retreatLet’s take a closer look at the Grand Pacific Glacier.  John J. Clague and S. G. Evans (J. of Glaciology)  used various data sources to plot the retreat of the Grand Pacific Glacier.  I have converted their data to miles and overlaid it with my coarser data from the map. The Clague data and the map data agree nicely, but the Clague data fills in some of the gaps.  The most interesting point is that like Exit Glacier, the retreat rate for the Grand Pacific Glacier was greatest around the last part of the 19th century. In fact, the Clague data may indicate that the Grand Pacific Glacier was slightly progressing, not retreating, during most of the 20th century.

Grand Pacific Glacier retreatIt is pretty clear that the Grand Pacific Glacier was retreating fastest around 1860.  Where is that on the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 timeline?  The graph below shows that the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 level was only about 2% of today’s level when the Grand Pacific Glacier was retreating at its fastest by far!

CO2 and Grand PacificHow is that possible???????  I thought it was high CO2 levels that caused the glaciers to recede.


Editorial Leakage at NPR

September 17, 2014

jungleWhen I was in college I worked for Phytofarms of America, which produced the highest quality leafy vegetables in a hydroponic environment.  The environment was completely artificial, high-powered lamps, nutrient controlled water and CO2 at three times the atmospheric level.

Years later when I was working at NREL I received incredulous guffaws from some co-workers when I mentioned the growing advantages of high CO2.  They were certain, of course, that any deviation from the “normal” CO2 level was bad.

We’ve now had two decades of dire predictions of disastrous effects from CO2.  People who have suggested possible advantages of elevated CO2 have been treated like kooks.  This adherence to quasi-religious dogma is usually flawlessly practiced a the Church of NPR.  But something slipped by the editors.

A recent episode of Science Friday covered the discovery of the dinosaur Dreadnoughtus Schrani.  This dinosaur, they tell us, was as massive as a Boeing 737.  It had to eat a lot to get that big.  How could it find enough food to sustain itself?

Ira Flatow (host): It would seem like it would take a lot of food to feed a body that size.  Is it constantly eating all day long just to stay in shape? …  Would this mean that you couldn’t have a lot of them living together because they would just eat so much and, you know, compete for food?

The guest, Kenneth Lacovara says…

 Well, you know, it depends on what the baseload productivity is in the eco-system, the phyto productivity…

Then Locovara said this (click link to play mp3)…

…the temperatures in the Mesozoic, especially in the Cretaceous, are high, CO2 levels are high. Plants love this, so you would imagine that plant productivity is high.

I guess its time for the re-education camp for an NPR sound editor


Not much of Chinese energy is from wind or solar.

December 2, 2013

A few days ago I wrote about the pollyannish belief that “China is slowing its carbon emissions.”  An essential element of this ridiculous meme is that the Chinese are producing significant portions of their energy via wind and solar. Not true.

Consider just electricity.   Here is a breakdown of China’s installed electricity capacity by fuel type in 2011 and their electricity generation by fuel type for 2000 to 2010 from the The United Stages’ Energy Information Administration’s evaluation of China’s energy consumption (2012)…

"China's installed electricity capacity by fuel, 2011," from the US Energy Information Administration's evaluation of China's energy consumption

“China’s installed electricity capacity by fuel, 2011,” from the US Energy Information Administration’s evaluation of China’s energy consumption

"China's electricity generation by fuel type, 2000-2010" from the US's Energy Information Administration

“China’s electricity generation by fuel type, 2000-2010” from the US’s Energy Information Administration

What do these charts tell you?

These two charts are drawn from the same data set and appear next to each other in the same document.

As you can see from the top chart, 6.2% of China’s installed electricity capacity is in wind or solar.  That is over 60 gigawatts installed.  Compare that the the US’s 60 gigawatts of installed wind and 10 gigawatts of installed solar.

Alas, the top chart shows installed capacity, not actual production.  There is a little thing called the “capacity factor.”  The capacity factor is the fraction of the time that particular power source can actually produce power at its rated capacity.  For example, a one gigawatt capacity nuclear power plant will have a capacity factor of about 90%, meaning it can produce one gigawatt 90% of the time.  Wind and solar capacity factors tend to be much lower, simply because sometimes the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.  The capacity factor for wind in China is 22%

The second chart shows the amount of electrical energy actually produced using the various “fuel types”.  Do you see that very, very thin yellow band along the top of the second chart?  That represents the Chinese electricity generation due to that 6.2% of installed wind and solar.  Can’t see the yellow line?  Let me blow up the last year of the chart for you…

Chinas electricity generation by fuel type blown up 3

That 6.2% of installed capacity in the form of wind and solar yields less than 1.5% of the actual energy.

China’s energy future

The Energy Information Administration document tells us…

China is the world’s second largest power generator behind the US, and net power generation was 3,965 Terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2010, up 15 percent from 2009. Nearly 80 percent of generation is from fossil fuel-fired sources, primarily coal. Both electricity generation and consumption have increased by over 50 percent since 2005, and EIA predicts total net generation will increase to 9,583 TWh by 2035, over 3 times the amount in 2010.

Wow!  three times as much as 2010, a mere 21 years from now!  Where will all this energy come from?

Again, the Energy Information Administration…

Total fossil fuels, primarily coal, currently make up nearly 79 percent of power generation and 71 percent of installed capacity. Coal and natural gas are expected to remain the dominant fuel in the power sector in the coming years. Oil-fired generation is expected to remain relatively flat in the next two decades. In 2010, China generated about 3,130 TWh from fossil fuel sources, up 11 percent annually.

Let me be clear, I am not knocking the use of wind and solar.  I have been personally working on solar energy for 17 years.  But I am knocking unrealistic expectations and quasi-religious environmentalist beliefs.  And I am not criticizing the Chinese for their increasing energy consumption.  They understand, correctly, that abundant energy is the key to prosperity.


The Guardian: “China is slowing its carbon emissions.” Huh?

November 27, 2013

Left-wingers in the US have a need to see everything European as superior to American.  But it may be a necessity of left-wingers in general see some other culture as preferable to their own.  So if you are a European left-winger, who do you look up to?  Certainly not the United States!  That’s what China is for!

So a few days ago Jennifer Duggan, in her Guardian column said “China’s action on air pollution is slowing its carbon emissions.”  Maybe Duggan doesn’t know the difference between first and second derivatives and meant to say “China is reducing its acceleration of carbon emissions,” but even that wouldn’t be true.

Duggan tells us…

The latest Climate Change Performance Index published by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe suggests that China is taking action to clean up its act as it tries to deal with its hazardously high levels of air pollution.

The report states:

“Recent developments indicate a slower growth of CO2 emissions and a decoupling of CO2 growth and GDP growth. Both, its heavy investments in renewable energies and a very critical debate on coal in the highest political circles, resulting from the heavy smog situation in many towns, give hope for a slower emission growth in the future.”

OK, sure, “slower growth of CO2 emissions.” Whatever you say Jennifer.

There is rhetoric – and there is reality.  Here is some reality.


BEIJING — China’s coal consumption is expected to hit 4.8 billion metric tons by 2020, the China National Coal Association (CNCA) forecast on Sunday.

CNCA data showed that China’s coal output increased to 3.65 billion tons last year from 2.35 billion tons in 2005, representing an annual increase of 190 million tons. Consumption in 2012 stood at 3.52 billion tons.

So, going from 3.65 billion tons this year to 4.8 billion tons in 2020 represents neither a decrease in usage (first derivative) nor a decrease in the rate of increase (second derivative).


From Trends in Global CO2 Emissions: 2012 Report from PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, here are the CO2 emissions per region from 1990 to 2012…

Global CO2 emissions per region

By the way, how does Chinese emission acceleration compare to US emissions acceleration?

China vs US


From the 2014 China International Electric Power & Electric Engineering Technology Exhibition webpage

China’s five-year plan ending in 2015 envisions adding 520 GW to its current power production, expanding its capacity by 54%. Coal will be the primary source of energy in this increase…Coal-fired plants will contribute 58% of the increase in 2015 to remain the largest contributor to China’s power generation.


From Reuters, October 14th 2012

Coal, propelled by rising use in China and India, will surpass oil as the key fuel for the global economy by 2020 despite government efforts to reduce carbon emissions, energy consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie said on Monday…

The two Asian powerhouses will need the comparatively cheaper fuel to power their economies, while demand in the United States, Europe and the rest of Asia will hold steady.

“China’s demand for coal will almost single-handedly propel the growth of coal as the dominant global fuel,” said William Durbin, president of global markets at Woodmac…

China – already the top consumer – will drive two-thirds of the growth in global coal use this decade. Half of China’s power generation capacity to be built between 2012 and 2020 will be coal-fired, said Woodmac…

“If you take China and India out of the equation, what is more surprising is that under current regulations, coal demand in the rest of the world will remain at current levels,” Durbin said.

In Southeast Asia, coal will be the biggest winner in the region’s energy mix. Coal will generate nearly half of Southeast Asia’s electricity by 2035, up from less than a third now, the International Energy Agency said in early October…

This will contribute to a doubling of the region’s energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to 2.3 gigatonnes by 2035, according to the IEA.


The United Stages’ Energy Information Administration’s evaluation of China’s energy consumption (2012) shows us the breakdown of the fuel types for China’s electricity production for the last two decades.  Do you see the difference in trends for “Total Fossil Fuels” and “Other Renewables?”  You may need a magnifying glass to see it.

2010 china electricity by type from EIA

Air Pollution is out of control in China.

There is no doubt that simply breathing in many Chinese cities can be hazardous to your health.  But CO2 is not the source of that hazard – it is other gasses and particulates that are destroying people’s lungs.  There is also no doubt that China will continue full-bore toward energy-consuming industrialization.

I expect that improvement (if any) in Chinese air quality in the near future will come in the form of particulate removal.   But CO2 emissions will grow and grow and grow in China.


James Delingpole, please correct this mistake

November 23, 2013

The only thing that bugs me more than when climate alarmists get things wrong is when skeptics get it wrong.

A case in point is the assertion by James Delingpole that a recent volcano in Iceland put more CO2 into the atmosphere that all of human activity since 1950.

Delingpole is a vocal supporter of the skeptic community, and the fact the he has a widely viewed blog , writes for several publications and authored several books, all give his words wide dissemination.  The problem is that when a fence-sitter who is trying to make up his mind about the global warming issue realizes that somebody like Delingpole is asserting and defending an indefensible claim, well, that fence-sitter is likely to fall off the fence to the side of the alarmists.  This will happen even if Delingpole is correct on other points.  Fence-sitters don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to sort out and weigh all the arguments, and something like this can easily tip their judgement scales one way or the other.

Delingpole appeared as a guest on the Mike Rosen Show on Denver’s AM station KOA.  This is a 50,000 Watt station and tens of thousands of people probably heard this exchange.  Rosen is a pretty smart guy and usually nobody’s fool, but he let this bogus assertion slide by…

Audio version: Rosen/Delingpole 11/20/13 MP3

Rosen: 713-8585 our telephone number in Castle Rock. Cliff, you’re on 850 KOA. James Delingpole our guest. Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Mike and James, good morning.

Rosen: Morning

Delingpole: Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Hey, I finally think I have somebody who can actually answer this question.

Rosen: Alright.

Cliff: Ah, you know we’ve got, the greenies are all against cars and the exhaust, and you know, all this pollution that we put in the air. Ah, whats the equivalency of a volcano that’s erupting and spewing stuff into the air thirty miles high.

Delingpole: That’s a good question. You remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland a couple of years ago?

Cliff: Yep, that’s the one that made me start thinking about it

Delingpole: Yeah, I think that, I think that that – that volcano produced more CO2 than I think humans have produced in the last, in the last fifty years.

Cliff: Watta we gonna do about that? (…unintelligible…)

Delingpole: We should ban volcanoes.

You  can hear the entire interview (Wednesday, 10AM, 11/20/13) on KOA’s podcast

What are the facts?

The facts are well know, easily accessible, and have been presented to Delingpole before now.  Here it is summed up by the USGS…

Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for a projected 35 billion metric tons (gigatons) of CO2 emissions in 2010 (Friedlingstein et al., 2010), release an amount of CO2 that dwarfs the annual CO2 emissions of all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2011).

The published estimates of the global CO2 emission rate for all degassing subaerial (on land) and submarine volcanoes lie in a range from 0.13 gigaton to 0.44 gigaton per year (Gerlach, 1991; Varekamp et al., 1992; Allard, 1992; Sano and Williams, 1996; Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). The preferred global estimates of the authors of these studies range from about 0.15 to 0.26 gigaton per year. The 35-gigaton projected anthropogenic CO2 emission for 2010 is about 80 to 270 times larger than the respective maximum and minimum annual global volcanic CO2 emission estimates. It is 135 times larger than the highest preferred global volcanic CO2 estimate of 0.26 gigaton per year (Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). 

It is an embarrassment to me, as a skeptic, that the alarmist site “Skeptical Science” gets it right while Delingpole, a well know mouthpiece for skepticism, gets it wildly wrong.  This meme has been around for years and was long ago thoroughly debunked.  

I would forgive an acquaintance at a coffee shop or around the water cooler for making this mistake.  Then I would gently try to set him straight with the facts  But if you are going to put yourself forth as some kind of expert, then you need to get your facts straight.  This type of mistake may win converts to your side in the short run, but when people realize how wrong you have were, then they will not believe you even when you are right.  Worse yet, they will also be less inclined to believe other skeptics when they are right.

So, James, please fess up on this issue.  Admitting this mistake will only improve your credibility in the long run.


By the way, this reminds me of another misinformed claim:that underwater volcanoes in the Gakkel ridge were causing reduced sea ice in the Arctic.


November 17, 2013

Nuclear Roundup 11/17/13

If you are worried about CO2 (I’m not), then you should be pro-nuke (I am).



Japan slashes climate reduction target amid nuclear shutdown

Japan had previously pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions to 25% below its 1990 levels in a (misguided) bid to battle global warming.  Now it is likely that there will be no reduction below the 1990 level because they have pulled back from nuclear power and have re-embraced fossil fuels 

According to  BBC Asia, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said “Our government has been saying… that the 25% reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn’t feasible.”  Japan’s chief negotiator at UN climate change talks in Warsaw, Hiroshi Minami, said “The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our ambition level.”

BBC Asia points out…

Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been forced to import huge amounts of coal, liquid natural gas and other fuels.

Reuters reports

“Given that none of the nuclear reactors is operating, this was unavoidable,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said.

Japan’s 50 nuclear plants were closed on safety concerns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima reactors northeast of Tokyo. Nuclear accounted for 26 percent of Japan’s electricity generation and its loss has forced the country to import natural gas and coal, causing its greenhouse gas emissions to skyrocket.

Natural-gas consumption by Japan’s 10 utilities was up 8.4 percent in October from a year earlier and coal use was up 4.4 percent as the companies used more fossil fuels to compensate for the nuclear shutdown, industry data showed on Friday.


United States

As nuclear is shut down in California, CO2 emissions rise.

From Bloomberg

Greenhouse-gas emissions from power generators, oil refineries and other plants in California climbed in 2012 as a nuclear plant shutdown and low hydropower supplies increased the state’s reliance on natural gas.

Power-plant releases rose 35 percent to 41.6 million metric tons last year, according to data posted today on the state Air Resources Board’s website. Total emissions were 437.8 million metric tons, up from 429.3 million in 2011. Edison International (EIX) shut the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California in January 2012, and the state that year faced one of the lowest snowpack levels on record.

“The rise in total emissions is primarily due to emission increases from California electricity generation using natural gas as a fuel,” the board said. “The majority of this additional natural-gas electricity generation is due to a decrease in available hydroelectric generation for 2012 and a reduction in nuclear generated power.”


Movie – Pandora’s Promise

This is a documentary featuring prominent environmentalists that are pro-nuclear.  It is soon to be released by Netflix

Netflix description…  

Former antinuclear activists and groundbreaking scientists speak out in favor of the much-maligned energy source in this provocative documentary that explores the history and future of nuclear power.


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