Later On

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Peak Oil and our future

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Interesting survey of articles on global warming and Peak Oil. It begins:

Will the world end in fire or in ice? That is, are we going to be hit by global warming or are we going to freeze because of lack of fossil fuels? We don’t know yet, but it is starting to appear clear that geology is placing a major constraint on anthropogenic CO2 emissions and, therefore, on global warming. Here, I present a brief summary of some of the recent papers that have appeared on the subject.

Until recently, most simulations of future climate have been run without taking into account "peaking" of the major fossil fuels. Concepts such as "peak oil" are not discussed, and not even mentioned, in the reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, with peak oil coming, or already arrived, the subject is starting to appear in scientific journals, blogs, and conferences. In a previous post , I reported about the "Mission Earth" seminar held in Zurich in 2009 where climatologists and depletion experts gathered to exchange views. Here, I present a short review of the status of the field. There is a very small number of papers published in scientific journals on this subject and I think this summary includes them all. I also tried to include a number of less formal studies published on the web or presented at conferences.

Some early papers raised the question of the discrepancy of the standard IPCC scenarios and the peak oil projections. The first one was probably Jean Laherrere with a paper published in 2001. Later on Anders Sivertsson , Kjell Aleklett and Colin Campbell wrote in 2003 in "The New Scientist" a paper titled "Not enough oil for climate change". They criticized the IPCC scenarios for being overoptimistic in terms of oil and gas reserves. These early papers didn’t attempt to calculate the future concentrations of CO2.

Perhaps the earliest attempt to quantify the effects of CO2 on climate while taking depletion into account was the work by Jim Hansen and Pushker Karecha, who produced a paper titled "Implications of "peak oil" for atmospheric CO2 and climate". This study was published in 2008 but became available on line as a working paper in April 2007. Hansen and Karecha start from the premise that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere should not be allowed to exceed 450 ppm; larger values would lead to disastrous consequences. So, they examine several scenarios that involve policy measures to force the reduction of emissions. They find that, if no such measures are taken, CO2 concentrations might rise to near 600 ppm by the end of the century, mainly as the result of coal combustion which, here, is not assumed to peak as a consequence of depletion. Oil and gas would peak before 2030 and would give only a minor contribution to the total of the emissions.

Shortly after the paper by Hansen and Karecha, David Rutledge published a post on "The Oil Drum" website with the title "The coal question and climate change" (June 2007). Later on, in December 2008, Rutledge also presented his results as an invited talk at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Society. Rutledge set up an approach that would be used again by other authors; that is, he started with an estimate of the available resources, from that he generated a production curve that involves "peaking" and then he calculated CO2 emissions in the atmosphere. Then, by means of the software package named "MAGICC," available from NCAR, Rutledge generates climate scenarios in terms of CO2 concentrations and atmospheric temperatures. The results are that geological constraints on coal production (what he calls "producer limited" profile) would limit CO2 concentrations to about 480 ppm even without policy measures to curb emissions. Under these conditions, temperatures might rise of approximately 1.6 deg. C. Rutledge concludes that "if we wish to reduce the temperature rise, we must bury the CO2 (assuming that it will not leak out for 1,000 years), or establish preserves for fossil fuels that prevent them from being produced." …

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Written by Leisureguy

9 March 2009 at 11:44 am

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