The Carbon War: Dispatches from the End of the Oil Century. (London: Allen Lane, The Penguin Press, 1999).
“atmospheric physicists were becoming concerned that burning so much coal, oil, and gas -- the carbon or fossil fuels 1 -- risked turning up the planetary thermostat too high, destabilizing global climate.”
“...there was a danger of changes of rapidity never before seen.”
“…carbon as heat trapping carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere.”
“To quite literally fuel a threat to the future, and risk bequeathing their children an uninhabitable world.”
The speed at which change occurs is sometimes alarming:
Berlin Wall and the Glasnost of the 1980s for example
1988 and the creation of the IPCC, Berkshire, UK. (Lashof, p. 3)
“the draft (statement of IPCC) said that 60 to 80 per cent cuts would be needed in carbon dioxide emissions in order to stabilize atmospheric concentrations of the gas.”
“…need for deep cuts in emissions.” despite any lingering uncertainties.
John Houghton director of the UK MET office chaired the meeting.
Margaret Thatcher briefing to the press on 300 of the world’s leading scientists (IPCC):
“authoritative early warning signal”
“They confirm that greenhouse gases are increasing substantially as a result of man’s activities, that this will warm the Earth’s surface with serious consequences for us all.”
“The complexity of the climate system is such that there are many scientific uncertainties about the enhancement of the natural greenhouse effect.” 2
“a synergistic dominance of such feedbacks - be clearly spelled out for policy makers?”
“potential for feedback amplifications of warming”
“deep cuts in emissions.”
the longer we delay in implementing emission reductions now the more we have to be willing to make in the future.
“emissions would need to be cut 60% or more.”
comparison to tobacco industries strategy of “denial, obfuscation”
by 1990 (Sundsvaal, Sweden)
“There was a yawning gulf between the scientific assessment report and the policy responses report.”
Formation of the GCC - global Climate Coalition -- anti action -- delay group of:
API, Arco, Phillips Texaco, DuPont, Dow (orig. BP and Shell later seceded).
Don Pearlman, DC lobbyist, ex Reagan under-secretary of the Interior & Global Climate Council
“The West German government was convinced of the magnitude of the threat... that it was going to cut carbon dioxide emissions, unilaterally, by 25% of present day levels by the year 2005.”
Norway proposed “uncertainties” are the realm of experts (scientists) those who are not experts should not take the uncertainties any more lightly, or any more seriously than do the scientists.
Meaning -- do not exaggerate the uncertainties to argue that nothing need be done to cut emissions!
Staking out sides:
Proactive (reduce emissions) | Reactive (no action now)
Germany Saudi Arabia
Kiribati (Pac Is)
“concerted international action is needed to drastically reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. The time to start is now. In low lying nations, the threat to us of global warming and sea level rise is frightening.” Peter Timeon delegate of Rep. of Kiribati (Pac Is) 8/1990
formation of the Carbon Club in opposition to IPCC and proactive nations & NGOs
the ozone layer accords on Ozone destruction from the Vienna Convention to the Montreal Protocol took 14 years to conclude international agreements to phase out CFAs.
Mustafa, Tolba, director of UNEP is quoted “
The alliance between oil and auto companies is one of the most powerful alliances in the world. It can paralyze governments.”
global warming is a data set that can over time -- if unchecked -- engender climate change
Swiss delegation “you can’t compromise with science.”
meaning -- the warming is observed, rapid, extreme (more than in all human history) !
“massive saline invasion of groundwater” from a 30 centimeter rise in sea level / 50 years
November 4 1990, Geneva, Switzerland forming of the Association of Small Island States or AOSIS -- eventually 30 island nations.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change (adopted Chantilly , Va. 2/1991
1987-1990 (Nature, April 1991.) Soviet Arctic water warmed by 1 degree C
Worldwide coral reef bleaching, die-off and calcium loss, 1982-83 & 1990 El Nino!
July 1991 worst recorded floods on the Yangtze River. “20% of China’s croplands, were being submerged” 1000 dead, 10 million homeless.
“one extended period of unusual rainfall.” Chinese scientists blamed Global Warming!
“Insurance against a worse case analysis for global warming.”
gradual ocean warming can shut down circulation patterns (such as the gulf stream) causing Western Europe’s temperatures to plunge.
positive feedback cycles
warmer sea surface temperatures
less carbon fixation at the sea surface
decreased transport of carbon to deeper waters (coccolithophores)
“Warmer temperatures boost both respiration and photosynthesis” R> P<
tundra & permafrost melting -> release carbon dioxide and methane
“Cloud feedbacks are a major source of uncertainty in Climate models.”
Key question? At what point does the planetary response to TŻ > begin to generate more GHG from natural sinks thereby decreasing in a sense by diminishing returns human attempts to counter the greenhouse effect?
Kyoto and the Autumn of Coal and Oil -- 160 countries; 3600 observers ; 1/12/97
Anti-binding targets | pro-legally binding targeted reductions
US Global Climate Coalition | British Petroleum
Senator Chuck Hagel Congressman Henry Waxman
The US official position: “insisting that all six 3 gases plus sinks be included in the protocol, along with trading and joint implementation for credit.” reduce US emissions by 2010 to 30% below the anticipated increases by that date absent any agreement.
“disingenuous” this is not a reduction
8 million lives worldwide could be saved if targets were adopted at Kyoto WHO
Brazil, Clean Development Mechanism - encourage new energy savings technology in third world
Dec. 10, 1997 last day of the Kyoto negotiations
“The USA had indeed agreed to a 7 per cent reduction target in the six greenhouse gases. The EU target was 8 per cent. Japan’s was 6 (4% would have meant actually allowing increases due to the collapse of the Eastern European economy and the concomitant decline in energy use there). The overall target of the industrialized countries, including permitted increases for Australia, Iceland and Norway amounted to 5.2 per cent.”
“This was not bad at all. It would surely send a signal to the energy markets, notwithstanding the potential loopholes inherent in trading and sinks.”
“The overall target of 5.2% is 30% below business as usual.”
“It would be 10 per cent below expected emissions in the year 2000.”
They (BP and Shell -- ironically the best of the worst) deny for the moment that it is feasible to build a PV manufacturing plant big enough to make solar electricity as cheap as coal power. They are wrong. They could build such a plant for not much more than $100 million, This last stand won’t last long.”
“The solar revolution is coming. It is now inevitable. The only question left unanswered is, will it come in time?”
Addendum - clarification in terms
in 1990 US produce 4.833 billion tons of CO2 or 16.7 tons / person
Currently US emissions of CO2 increase by more than 1 per cent / annum more than 10% since 1990 and thus a reduction from current levels of over 17% to hit the Kyoto targets and over 27% by 2010 (more likely 35%)
What constitutes a reduction? 1. actual cut back? 2. adding carbon sinks?
pounds of CO2 per
22 /gallon of gas
1.5 / KWH
11 /therms of natural gas
13 /gallon of propane gas
1 Carbon is a major building block of life. Carbohydrates are built by plants from visible light, water and carbon dioxide -- CO2 -- vapor in the air. Stored in plants, bacteria, fungi and animals carbon is hard to decay. When trapped by geologic forces and buried in the earth without air, the carbon containing material in plants, bacteria and animals is fossilized. 400 million years ago so much carbon was fossilized from swamps that the entire geological era is called the ”Carboniferous.” So fossil fuels are deposits of carbon in solid (coal), liquid (oil), or vaporous (natural gas) form. Pound for pound they produce very high temperatures when burned when compared to wood or charcoal. As with all combustion carbon dioxide is released into the air to settle in the oceans when in the presence of oxygen these materials are burned.
2 THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT, Wm. Keiffer, Chemistry, p. 403.
“The influence of increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the air is counter to that of the dispersal of heat radiation by particles.
Light of the relatively shorter wavelengths, the ultraviolet and the visible light from the sun, passes through carbon dioxide without being absorbed; that is, carbon dioxide is transparent to the light of these wavelengths. However, infrared light (heat energy) is capable of causing CO2 molecules to rotate and vibrate.”
“Accordingly the molecules absorb and reemit light of the longer infrared wavelengths.”
3 carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride