Unburnable Carbon Bubbles

 

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  • #8385

    Artwork: Ilargi for The Automatic Earth A report came out in Britain 10 days ago that deserves more attention than it got. If only because it uses the
    [See the full post at: Unburnable Carbon Bubbles]

    #7486

    Ken Barrows
    Participant

    Notwithstanding Gravity’s admonition a few days ago that climate science is, well, not science, it seems that feedbacks may already do most of us in.

    Although the surface temperatures in the 2000s were warmer than in the 1990s, they have slowed a bit the last few years. In addition, according to NCDC, the Earth is at 337 consecutive months above the 20th century average. And, of course the Arctic is melting, the oceans are acidifying, and without question CO2 is the atmosphere is rising about 3 ppm per year.

    If we want to retain some remnant of industrialized, urbanized society, our future carbon budget is so limited that we should start (or accelerate) the depaving of roads.

    Could this scenario be completely wrong? Sure. Life is all about probability.

    #7487

    p01
    Participant

    Climate science may be controversial. Hell, even peak oil seems to be controversial for many.
    However, finance shouldn’t be, since it is simple math (even exponents can be reduced to additions and subtractions using logarithms). What to do when many (even people who should know better) chose to ignore even finance (simple math and balance sheets).
    Such is the religion of our times.

    EDIT: Worse is (IMHO, of course) peak oil and climate change awareness without as much as giving a second thought to finance.

    #7488

    Nassim
    Participant

    Here is an article by Jeremy Grantham posted on ZeroHedge two days ago:

    Jeremy Grantham On The Fall Of Civilizations (And Our Last Best Hope)

    Grantham writes:

    try being in Sydney on January 18, at 114.4°F, the hottest day in that seaside city’s history, without air conditioning!

    Of course, anyone who cares to check would find out that the hottest recorded temperature at Sydney (records exist for only around 150 years) was on January 22 1923 at 116.9F (47.2C) – 90 years ago. There is another date in the 1930’s when it was hotter than in 2013.

    What is the hottest temperature recorded in sydney?

    Frankly, I find it a bit of a chore pointing out the truth when so many people are so terribly keen on fiction. It is a bit like pointing out slowing monetary velocity when everyone is so keen to have “inflation”

    #7489

    Mark T
    Member

    Quietly, without much public fuss or discussion, a new ruling class has risen in the richer nations.

    These men and women are unelected and tend to shun the publicity hogged by the politicians with whom they co-exist.

    Power Shift: First in a series on the rise of the central bankers and the global imposition of cheap credit

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/story/2013/04/26/f-rfa-macdonald-power-shift-savers.html

    #7490

    jal
    Participant

    Guess what?
    There are already 493 comment on that article.

    Yep!
    A lot of people know what we have learned on this blog.

    #7491

    John Day
    Participant

    Canada has another big problem. Vast swarms of pine beetles have crossed over from their ancient containment West of the Rockies, and are consuming the boreal forest, which has never known them, and is defenseless.
    This is because the winters have gotten a little warmer.

    #7492

    davefairtex
    Participant

    Zombie money. I like it.

    Perhaps that’s why interest rates are so low. All that zombie money floating around looking for yield, looking for a place to hide. Money vastly in excess of actual savings or surplus, extracted from the bubble, kept alive through extend and pretend, only partially attached to actual income able to service the attached debt.

    Its an interesting concept.

    #7493

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi John,

    Yes interesting how nature plays the ‘one-upmanship’ game.
    Humans: “Look at how we deforest such vast areas, surely this must be wrong, the forests will never recover!”
    Nature: “Deforestation? Ha, watch this! Pine beetles – attack!”

    As for warmer/cooler winters, check out the latest ‘observed’ facts:

    https://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=04&fd=28&fy=2008&sm=04&sd=23&sy=2013

    Sure is cold out there…

    L,
    Sid.

    #7495

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi Folks,

    Interesting synchronicity – James H. Kunstler has written about an Atlantic Magazine article with a ‘cover’ title of “ “We Will Never Run Out of Oil”, and an article title of “What If We Never Run Out of Oil?”, which has led to numerous comments on the conspiratorial agenda. Both titles are dubious as the guts refer to the Japanese attempts to extract methane from frozen methane hydrate deep in the ocean. Its an obvious choice for Japan as if successful there is plentiful energy for a an energy poor country (now that their nuclear program is off-line) possibly for a hundred or so years. But of course the detractors are also having afield day, with leaks and landslides and all manner of scary beasties. But the latest is that they have had some success: check out the video.

    Remains to be seen if there is any money left to build the infrastructure of course, or whether this too will be left where it is. But then as Matt Taibbi points out they make the rules up as they go along…

    L,
    Sid.

    #7496

    pipefit
    Participant

    A lot of carbon that is on the books of energy producers will be ‘unburnable’, but not for the reasons stated. They will be unburnable due to simple economics.

    The blog dieoff.org, in its first iteration, discussed one aspect of this, in depth. One cannot, economically, use more energy up in production (and exploration) then is produced. In that case, your operation is an energy sink, not an energy producing project. However, if you are pumping oil from a great depth, using an electric motor, that consumes subsidized (mispriced) electricity, the operator of the project might make a profit, but it still an energy sink.

    Looking at the situation with a much wider lens, as the article on First Nations does, consider the value of clean, fresh water used in tar sands production. For a small pilot project, the cost to the nation of destroying a small fresh water resource might be considered nil. But what happens when you try to scale the operation?

    Or consider the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and nearby countries are still producing cheap oil from the great discoveries of the early to mid 20th Century. Since the overall production costs are so low, it is fairly easy (economically) to justify vast military expenditures to protect the resource. But as more and more production comes from newer, marginal fields, these huge military expenditures make the overall cost uneconomic.

    If these ‘extra’ cost are well hidden, by off budget measures, or Orwellian propaganda, the resource can still be exploited, but it is uneconomic. For the time being, the USA and other large nations are engaged in all sorts of off budget and Orwellian measures that are clearly unsustainable. When they grind to a halt, so will the uneconomic activity. This could be ‘bridges to nowhere’ in important Congressional Districts, marginal oil production, or other uneconomic activities.

    #7497

    Nassim
    Participant

    Sid,

    Thank you for that link. Here is the same link for 1998 and now:

    https://igloo.atmos.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/test/print.sh?fm=04&fd=28&fy=1998&sm=04&sd=23&sy=2013

    I take it the dark brown/black stuff is open water.

    #7498

    Nassim
    Participant
    #7500

    John Day
    Participant

    Hi Sid,
    Sorry, I don’t have much time of my own to get online, just a little in the late evening.
    The extent of arctic ice in the spring isn’t much of an indicator, since it expected to be near maximum extent. September tells the story of thinning and weakening and breaking up.
    It’s a lot thinner, even now, than it was when we went to discotheques in tight bell bottoms.
    It might be all broken up in a few Septembers.
    Hard to tell, huh?

    #7501

    A lot of carbon that is on the books of energy producers will be ‘unburnable’, but not for the reasons stated. They will be unburnable due to simple economics.

    Didn’t get to read the entire article, pipefit?

    #7502

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi John,

    Yes, I was thinking that maybe this years late spring and overall cold winter would retard the advancement of the pine beetle, which is according to the film you posted part of a natural oscillation. That and natural fires, which humans have a habit of playing with; many native peoples used to use fireto manage their ecosystem to improve it for game wild crops as well as pest control. Due to the focus on ‘timber’ extraction, fire is now seen as the enemy, though it was ironic to see them try and use it in the film in a botched attempt at halting the beetle. However its a good example of an ‘unburnable carbon’ due to its greater ‘value’ as timber for such things as toilet paper. Still the timber is still viable for up to 12 years and is also a possible source of biofuel. Problem is if you remove the material off site, all the nutrients go with it.

    L,
    Sid.

    #7503

    p01
    Participant

    The “D”-word has reappeared in the news. And it’s not related only to Japan this time.
    https://www.google.ca/trends/explore#q=deflation

    #7510

    pipefit
    Participant

    “The point to take away from all this is that a storm cloud of uncertainties is taking shape above the carbon industry.”

    Governments will not shut down oil fields to protect the environment. More likely, they will require cleaner burning gasoline, which will add greatly to the retail price, and they will require higher mileage, more expensive cars. The high cost per barrel fields will be shut down by the market place, not the government.

    #7513

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi p01,

    The “D”-word has reappeared in the news. And it’s not related only to Japan this time.

    It’s not only ‘D’ but ‘D-D’ :blink: as seen here for instance:

    “The danger is when deflation combines with high debt and deleveraging and becomes toxic. That raises the risk of a debt-deflation spiral. There are already signs of this in southern Europe.”

    .

    L,
    Sid.

    #7514

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi Pipefit,

    Governments will not shut down oil fields to protect the environment. More likely, they will require cleaner burning gasoline, which will add greatly to the retail price, and they will require higher mileage, more expensive cars. The high cost per barrel fields will be shut down by the market place, not the government.

    This fits in perfectly with Joseph Tainter’s reducing marginal return on complexity:

    As well as the laws of thermodynamics as pointed out here. Also the cycle actually returns to zero:

    While that is the result of a model, as far as ‘human’ society is going, that prediction IMHO is entirely feasible. :dry:

    L,
    Sid.

    #7516

    Mark T
    Member
    #7517

    Gravity
    Participant

    Ken Barrows post=7201 wrote: Notwithstanding Gravity’s admonition a few days ago that climate science is, well, not science, it seems that feedbacks may already do most of us in.

    Some domains of climate science remain valid because these aren’t politicised, not influenced by ideological bias. Paleoatmospheric extrapolations without prescriptive functions are absolutely necessary to understand how co2 is coupled to temperature over geological history.

    https://rogerfromnewzealand.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/global-temp-co2-over-geological-time1.jpg

    https://www.biocab.org/Geological_Timescale.jpg

    Assuming the temperature/co2 extrapolation is not totally off in those graphs, there is a rough correlation between atmospheric co2 and temperature over geological time, but co2 alone doesn’t seem to be the principal component of temperature deviations. Moreover, there is no evident correlation between relatively sudden rises in co2 and known mass extinction events. Maybe the cretaceous extinction event involved vulcanics and rising co2, not evident for the graphs, but that also involved a multi-gigaton asteroid impact. There does seem to be an enormous rise in temperature coinciding with the permian extinction, but no correlation between that temp rise and co2 is evident in the graphs. Of course the ancient atmosphere had different equilibria and sensitivities, and the margin of error in those graphs may be too large.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Extinction_intensity.svg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Evidence_CO2.jpg

    There has been a very clear trendshift in atmospheric co2 relative to the usual interglacial flux in the 20th century, which happens to coincide with the industrial era of burning lots of stuff and deforestation, and these are intuitively causally related. But this fact alone provides no falsifiability on the antropogenic theory, the co2 rise could merely be remarkably coincidental with, but unrelated to, human industrial growth, and could have happened anyway even without human activity. There is no scientific way to isolate direct causation unless we could turn back time and deliberately didn’t industrialise in order to isolate co2 trends apart from our activity, or use a test biosphere on another planet.

    Ken Barrows post=7201 wrote: …according to NCDC, the Earth is at 337 consecutive months above the 20th century average.

    Maybe so, by a fraction of a degree. Some calculate as much as 0,8 degree rise over the 20th century, others calculate only a 0,2 degree increase.
    There has been a slight warming trend measured in past decades, but only indicating a fraction of a degree increase, almost within the margin of measurement error and statistical noise. Global temperature has been periodically fluctuating by at least 0,1 degrees since the last ice age ended, due to incidental vulcanics and solar cycles. Some regions are definitely warming much quicker than establised trends would allow, and more quickly than would be optimal for local ecosystemic integrity, but these changes, whether transient or permanent, are more properly called shifting weather patterns instead of global climate change, due to their localised nature.

    https://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/twenty-year-hiatus-in-rising-temperatures-has-climate-scientists-puzzled/story-e6frg6z6-1226609140980

    Ken Barrows post=7201 wrote:
    If we want to retain some remnant of industrialized, urbanized society, our future carbon budget is so limited that we should start (or accelerate) the depaving of roads.
    Could this scenario be completely wrong? Sure. Life is all about probability.

    Precisely so, this scenario could still be completely wrong. But direct economic damage caused by overzealous mitigation policy to curtail carbon exhaust is a fast-acting certainty, whether correctly applied to existant threats or not, whereas any economic/biospheric damage due to climate change still remains mostly a probability, slowly manifesting and poorly quantified.

    One cannot absolve the probability of [greater] damage caused by runaway climate change by the certainty of [lesser] damage caused by deliberate policy to counter such change. This is scientifically unsound and morally objectionable, given the many unknowns in quantifying the possible damage of doing nothing, the certainty of damage if doing too much, and the possibility of grave error in weighing the risks.
    Not even utilitarian functions [where ends justify means] allow for policy to be implemented if said probability of runaway climate change is too slight, its potential damage too poorly quantified, and the magnitude of certain damage due to mitigation policy too high.
    The ends are too uncertain and the means too costly.
    Depaving roads or committing to other industrial sabotage by deliberate policy will most certainly impoverish/kill people more quickly than any possible probably provable climate threat, in this century at least.

    The deliberateness of any such climate mitigation policy as would possibly solve the problem, but certainly impoverish people, by carbon taxation for instance, would make such policy morally objectionable to counter a mere probability with. Even if runaway climate change were a certainty, there is no certainty that mitigation policy would solve the problem, yet it would begin damaging people to greater magnitude more immediately than the climate change itself.
    Thus there seems greater certainty that climate mitigation policy, as economically crippling, would increase the magnitude of human misery more quickly than climate catastrophe [albeit to lesser eventual magnitude if such climate catastrophe is both real and the mitigation policy proves effective], and moreover the negative policy effects are more immediately quantifiable and more politically accountable, whereas any positive policy effects would take centuries to manifest, far beyond the duration of applicable political mandates.

    #7518

    Ken Barrows
    Participant

    As theories go, aren’t they, in the strictest sense, either disproven or uncertain?

    I’ll admit that if CO2 ppm in the atmosphere continues to rise for 50 years and surface temperatures don’t, that would seem to disprove the anthropogenic theory of warming.

    If CO2 ppm rises and the temperature catches up, sure you can say that it’s not anthropogenic. The debate won’t matter much at that point, though.

    I think it’s whether humans have to adapt to observations in changes in many factors besides surface temperature: acidifying oceans, warming of deep oceans, loss of Arctic ice volume, thawing of permafrost.

    If it’s not science, it’s not science. We can ignore observations of the natural world and deal with possible consequences later. Society, on the whole, is deciding to take that risk right now.

    #7519

    Gravity
    Participant

    @ Ken Barrows

    Look, I don’t want to be that climate sceptic, but using what remains of the sound science of climatology and the logic of scientific hypothesis, we simply don’t know for certain and cannot yet disprove whether humans are causing the unusual rise in co2, whether this rise is causing global temperature to rise, comparable to the antropogenic theory of global warming, whether global temperature is really rising or still rising concurrent to the co2 rise, if this possible temperature rise is going to be a big problem we need to counter, and whether any mitigation policy will actually work to lessen the possible temperature rise at an acceptable cost before the 23rd century.

    The alternative theory to antropogenic global gravity remains tenable, albeit even less easily falsified, proposing that the co2 rise is a delayed effect of temperature rise, not the cause, and that the temperature rise is due to solar activity or the earth’s mantle warming up.

    All we know for certain is that co2 is rising in a very anomalous way according to paleo-atmospheric extrapolations, and has far overshot its normal flux for this interglacial period, which might indicate this interglacial period is about to end, one way or another.
    That >2° temp rise would be a problem for ecosystemic integrity and climate equilibrium does seem a reasonable assumption. We do know ecosystems have only small tolerance for lasting temperature changes, and so a rapid >2° temp rise would likely cause some mass extinction, but its less certain what the threshold for runaway global warming is. Instead of >2°, it might be >1,5° or even >4°. The models for this are deeply flawed.
    Given the envisioned catastrophe of >2° temp rise and the misguided zeal for preventing such rise at all costs in ecofanatic circles, desperate climate mitigation policy, such as proposed geoengineering projects, if implemented, could easily backfire catastropically, causing a new ice age or biospheric collapse, triggering a mass extinction with more certainty than moderate temperature rise.

    Oceanic acidification may be less damaging than expected, but if it becomes as severe as some marine biologists expect, it is indeed possible that the oceanic foodchain will collapse and mass extinctions of some magnitude will be triggered because of the extinction of hard-shelled calcifying creatures, possibly causing global climate change in some centuries when massive algae blooms begin sulfurous respiration. The great permian extinction may have involved this very mechanism.
    But atmospheric co2 has been much higher than now in past epochs without such acidification happening, or without causing oceanic foodchain collapse, for unclear reasons. Calcifying hard-shelled sea creatures which would be vulnerable didn’t go extinct in the cretaceaous with atmospheric co2 at somewhere between 500ppm and 2500ppm for many millions of years.

    Curbing human co2 exhaust in an economically damaging way, by cutting off energy resources or destructive carbon taxation, solely to limit atmospheric co2 rise because of the assumed relation with temperature rise, would be folly without being absolutely certain about the causal relation between co2 and temperature, or the sensitivity of such relation. In this regard, we believe there is scientific consensus that climatology can be upgraded to an exact science instead of dabbling in mysticism and geomancy.

    That was an important point in this article, that the expectation of having to cut off fossil fuel supplies by some asinine consensus treaty may already cause a carbon panic with greater economic damage than what could be reasonably expected from possible climate catastrophe in this century, and with more certainty.

    Now in the article, Im reading that one might supposedly calculate with confidence a 80% prob that temperature rise will remain below 2° if one leaves a certain amount of fossil fuels unburnt, or only 50% prob of <2° rise if some lesser quantity is left unburnt.

    Yet such calculations are only pretense, the margin of error here must be above 50% given the wrong sequence of known unknowns, disregarding the unknown unknowns. Its preposterous to formulate deliberately damaging policy based on the arbitrary coupling of variables in a partially invalidated model informed by partially disproven theories, I fear that these pseudo-scientific prognostications are the product of a politicised and delusional science dealing with unmodelable variables, but clearly being used to forward an ethically unsound utilitarian policy.

    I do advocate permaculture, relocalised food production, sensible freshwater usage, ecosystem preservation, lessening overfishing and deforestation and sustainable energy development that can provide prosperity. Most eco-friendly economic agendas are useful and profitable, up until the point of eco-fascism.

    And certainly I wish to avoid the danger of mass extinctions or biospheric collapse caused by any of our activities, only instead of focusing on climate, I quantify rogue genes, chemical and radioactive pollution, global thermonuclear war and such industrial byproducts as a greater threat to industrial civilization and life on earth right now.

    I’ve always found the oil companies reserve statements to be absurd, with the possible, probable and provable categories, but to cause deliberate scarcity of energy by imposing a new unburnable category seems hasty. Limiting carbon consumption in the proposed way, if no viable substitute for fossil fuels with comparable energy density is forthcoming, will only cause politically accountable energy scarcity and poverty with no accountable improvement in climate to be expected for many lifetimes.

    I do agree that much of the possible and probable categories of fossil reserves will be revealed as economically unviable even with no imposed limits to carbon appetite. But some say innovation in extraction technologies will triumph. Some years ago, the saudi oil minister optimistically mentioned that they’d dreg up the last oil molecules from their depleting fields with nanobots in the future.

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