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Has changed a lot during the last year or so when I started putting climate change together with peak oil. I might get flamed a bit, but here goes:

We know temperatures and CO2 levels are correlated. But we don't know if CO2 changes temperature, or if temperature changes CO2 levels.

But the current dogma has weaknesses. For example, historically CO2 levels started rising on average 800 years after temperature levels began rising.

This could either mean

a) temperatures increase CO2 levels, not the way around

or

b) while CO2 increases have not historically initiated temperature increases, they might well have strengthened or sustained temperature increases that were initiated by other things.

Not that it matters much though. There aren't enough cheap fossil fuels on the planet to cause dangerous climate change even if the theories are correct. And even if there were enough cheap fossil fuels (mainly coal) we could solve the problem just by legislating that no new coal power plants were allowed to be built, and all new power, heating and industry energy demand could instead be filled by wind and nuclear.

By the way, I wouldn't trust the IPCC for a second. It is a political, not scientific organization. They have ignored science before (visavi the resource base*) so they might ignore it when it comes to other things too (like the climate feedback mechanisms).

* Even their lowest emissions scenario requires us to burn more fossil fuels than even the BP or the IEA thinks exists...

So, what does this really mean? It means that peak oil is a huge problem, and that we should not work against alternative fossil fuels (like GTL, CTL, CNG, tar sands etc) to bridge the gap. It also means we have to look at the efforts done to fight climate change and stop spending resources on the things that just works against climate change but does not work against peak oil. Things like CCS, planting forests and so on, while still pressing on even harder on efficiency, nuclear, wind etc.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 11:52:51 AM EST
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we don't know if CO2 changes temperature, or if temperature changes CO2 levels

Apparently we do (where it explains the 800 year lag BTW). We also know that the extra CO2 out there is mostly man-made.

Also "an easy-to-understand explanation for why increasing CO2 is a significant problem without relying on climate models"

I'm not sure that there are not enough fossil fuels to produce a global warming effect. Is there some study or an elementary calculation about this?

the IPCC...is a political, not scientific organization

Yes it is but: a. the political part seems mostly to have an effect of watering down the bad news and b. The way that scientific consensus translates to political counseling and advisory bodies on scientific matters is exactly through political bodies, staffed, ideally, with respected scientists in the field. What other model is there?

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 07:39:12 AM EST
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a. the political part seems mostly to have an effect of watering down the bad news

Not only does this seem to be the case - around the release of TAR-4 (I think - but it may have been TAR-3 or the summary for policymakers), someone actually caught the politicians red-handed, because someone leaked the pre-political-approval version of the report, so people could compare it with the final version...

I can try to dig it out if anybody's interested.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 11:22:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can also observe how the oxygen levels in the atmosphere has fallen slightly as CO2 concentrations increased. A clear sign the increased CO2 levels exist because of large scale combustion (of fossil fuels).

Your link from Realclimate replicates exactly what I stated above.

In other words, CO2 does not initiate the warmings, but acts as an amplifier once they are underway.

I wrote:

while CO2 increases have not historically initiated temperature increases, they might well have strengthened or sustained temperature increases that were initiated by other things.

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    Is there enough oil to cause global warming?

With the caveat:

Even if oil and gas run out, "there's a huge amount of coal underground that could be exploited", he says. Aleklett agrees that burning coal could make the IPCC scenarios come true, but points out that such a switch would be disastrous.

Since then this research group has been looking closer at coal reserves and found them much smaller than they thought they were. They have an article which has been published or is in review right now.

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What other model is there beside the IPCC non-scientific one? Well, decisions based on peer-reviewed articles.

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One more thing: the climate change scenarios are based entirely on our very limited understanding of feedback systems, because on its own higher CO2 levels only increase temperatures extremely marginally. This is basic light/radiation physics. At the current CO2 levels the ability of CO2 to capture more light/heat is pretty much saturated; even if we had 1000 ppm CO2 it wouldn't change temperatues much.

What people worry about is that these CO2 increases will start feedback processes like releasing methane from permafrost, or changing the planets albedo, things which will in turn increase temperatures much more than CO2 itself will. But we don't understand these processes and there are indeed other negative feedbacks we don't understand either (like increased cloud cover).

And it does worry me that we put our weak understanding of the climate into models which output pretty color-coded maps with temperature gradients which fools people into believing that we pretty much know what will happen. It worries me even more that when the climate models are run backwards, they cannot even rudimentary "predict" the past climate.

So I say, let's just not build more coal fired power plants, and then be done with it.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Aug 8th, 2008 at 06:03:04 PM EST
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