Massive Fires: far worse 4,000 years ago in Northern Australia

Kenneth Richard at NoTricksZone, found some studies showing Fires are less common today than in the past — including a ripper of an Australian study.

Emma Rehn et al went to a small lake in far North Australia and dug up about 6m of sediment core from the bottom. They looked at charcoal deposits and a bunch of different minerals. They discovered that the top most recent layers had the worst fires for a thousand years. It had all the makings of a Great Climate Change advert. But to their absolute credit, they kept going down and further back and uncovered a story of four thousand long years of wild blazes.

Despite millennia of prehistoric infernos, no media outlets in Australia have shown any interest in this study which came out a month ago — showing Sensationalism is not all its cracked up to be, and not as much fun as Confirmation Bias.

Look at the current blip (left hand side) since European settlement, compared to the fires of 4,000 years ago (right hand side). As Mr Dundee would say, “That’s not a fire…. ”

Carbon Flux showing the intensity of fires in Arnhem land for […]

via JoNova

March 5, 2021 at 12:46PM

Cascading COVID-style lockdown: Only way to save the planet!

Guest “we had to destroy village in order to save it” by David Middleton

Equivalent of Covid emissions drop needed every two years – study
Equivalent falls in emissions over a decade required to keep to safe limits of global heating, experts say

Fiona Harvey, Environment correspondent
Wed 3 Mar 2021

Carbon dioxide emissions must fall by the equivalent of a global lockdown roughly every two years for the next decade for the world to keep within safe limits of global heating, research has shown.

Lockdowns around the world led to an unprecedented fall in emissions of about 7% in 2020, or about 2.6bn tonnes of CO2, but reductions of between 1bn and 2bn tonnes are needed every year of the next decade to have a good chance of holding temperature rises to within 1.5C or 2C of pre-industrial levels, as required by the Paris agreement.


The Grauniad

The Grauniad article is referring to Le Quéré et al., 2021: “Fossil CO2 emissions in the post-COVID-19 era.”

Covid emissions? WTF? Fossil emissions? WTF’ingF? Fossils stopped emitting gases before they became fossils.

After just reading the first few paragraphs of The Grauniad dreck, I jumped to the Le Quéré and saw that it mostly prattled about rich countries not becoming Third World countries to save the planet… But, it did feature this nifty graph:

a, Annual emissions for 1970–2019 in GtCO2 yr−1, including a projection for 2020 (in red) on the basis of the analysis of the Global Carbon Project1 and their uncertainties (shading; Methods). b, Daily change in emissions in 2020 caused by COVID-19 restrictions, compared to a mean day in 2019, for the globe, updated from initial publication in May 2020 (ref. 3). c, As in b but for three economic income groups: the Annex B country group of mostly high-income economies with emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol; upper-middle-income economies (including China) as defined by the World Bank; and lower-middle-income economies and low-income economies (including India) as a single group. Global economic and energy crises are highlighted in a, along with key international policy dates.
Source data

The first thing I noticed was the effectiveness (/SARC) of Kyoto and Paris:

Date Notable events Δ GtCO
12/11/1997 1997 Kyoto Agreement Adopted 0.2 1998-1999
2/16/2005 2005 Kyoto Agreement Effective 1.9 2006-2007
12/12/2015 2015 Paris Agreement Adopted 0.5 2016-2017
11/4/2016 2016 Paris Agreement Effective 1.2 2017-2018
Average 1.0
Climate agreements cause emissions to rise. Modified after Le Quéré et al., 2021.

While, financial events seem to be the only way to reduce CO2 emissions:

Date Year Notable events Δ GtCO
1/1/1973 1973 Oil Crisis -0.1 1974-1975
1/1/1979 1979 US Savings and Loans Crisis -0.6 1980-1981
1/1/1991 1991 Collapse of the Soviet Union -0.5 1992-1993
1/1/2008 2008 Global Financial Crisis 1.2 2009-2010
1/1/2020 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic -2.6 Just 2020
Average -0.5
Unemployment causes emissions to fall. Modified after Le Quéré et al., 2021.

The Grauniad journalist wrote that we needed a COVID-style lockdown every other year to save the planet (my paraphrasing). However, Le Quéré et al appear to be calling for what would amount to a cascading COVID-style lockdown:

Although the measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic will reduce emissions by about 7% in 2020, they will not, on their own, cause lasting decreases in emissions because these temporary measures have little impact on the fossil fuel-based infrastructure that sustains the world economy2.


The task of sustaining decreases in global emissions of the order of billion tonnes of CO2 per year21, while supporting economic recovery and human development, and improved health, equity and well-being, lies in current and future actions. 

Le Quéré et al., 2021

This is what “decreases in global emissions of the order of billion tonnes of CO2 per year” through 2050 would look like:

CO2 emissions (GtCO2/yr). Data from CDIAC and Le Quéré et al., 2021.

This would result in global CO2 emissions as low as The Great Depression. Figuring out how to immediately do this “while supporting economic recovery and human development, and improved health, equity and well-being,” would be a neat trick, considering that only economic distress has s successful track record in reducing emissions.

Had COVID attacked “the fossil fuel-based infrastructure that sustains the world economy” instead of people, this sort of reduction would have been achievable. But it would have only delivered “equity”… we’d all be equally dead in a few years.

What’s even more insane than the total reduction they are calling for?

Growing at a slower pace, world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion in 2050 and could peak at nearly 11 billion around 2100
17 June 2019, New York

The world’s population is expected to increase by 2 billion persons in the next 30 years, from 7.7 billion currently to 9.7 billion in 2050, according to a new United Nations report launched today.


UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

If we insist on destroying the economy to save the planet, in 2050 the per capita emissions would only be about 1/3 of what they were in 1900. This would also deliver equity… Unless you’re a king.

Oh… I almost forgot…

Saving the Planet?

WARNING: Lot’s of F-bombs!!!


Boden, Tom, Gregg Marland, Bob Andres. Global CO2 Emissions from Fossil-Fuel Burning, Cement Manufacture, and Gas Flaring: 1751-2008. June 10, 2011. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6290

Le Quéré, C., Peters, G.P., Friedlingstein, P. et al. Fossil CO2 emissions in the post-COVID-19 era. Nat. Clim. Chang. 11, 197–199 (2021).

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March 5, 2021 at 12:09PM

Friday Funny: The Folly of Mann

From The Breakthrough Institute

Ted Nordhaus takes no prisoners in the article on our favorite foil, when Mann starts to diss even people on his own side of the aisle.

His subtitle sums it up. Josh sums it up pretty well too. Like Josh’s work? Buy him a pint.

You can’t defend the truth with lies

Nordhaus explains some of his interactions with the Hockey Team leader.

I’ve never met Michael Mann, corresponded with him, or written anything about him. Nor have I ever had any particular beef with the hockey stick graph or his work as a scientist. But a few months after I signed up for Twitter in 2014, I discovered that he had blocked me. A few years after that, I learned that he had alleged in a 2016 book that Breakthrough was funded by fossil fuel interests.

Mann’s accusation about our funding is false. The entirety of the claim refers to a single small grant we received in 2014 from the George and Cynthia Mitchell Foundation, a charitable foundation that, like many other prominent environmental philanthropies, has an endowment that traces back to a fossil fuel fortune.

He gives Mann a little bit of credit, not for the right reasons, but a little.

Anyone even a little bit familiar with Mann’s personal history will appreciate the irony in his deliberate misrepresentations of our work. Mann has himself been the target of slanderous and defamatory attacks from actual opponents of climate action. He figured prominently in the “Climategate” hack; has been investigated by the former Republican Attorney General of the State of Virginia, Ken Cuccineli, and by Senator James Inhofe; and has sued the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Frontier Center for Public Policy, and the National Review for libel.

One might think that having been on the receiving end of this sort of thing, Mann would not want to traffic in mistruths and disinformation himself. All the more so as a scientist who has risen to prominence in no small part as a leading tribune of the claims that climate science makes upon policy. One need not believe that scientists should abstain from politics to think that how they engage in politics and public discourse matters.

On can excuse Nordhaus’s ignorance of the history and actions of Mann.

Michael Mann did not deserve these assaults on his work or his integrity. And I can understand why, having been subject to them, he would be angry and prone to see many other things through those experiences. But Mann goes well beyond that, basically reducing the entirety of the struggle to address climate change globally to his personal history. For Mann, climate change is a Manichean struggle between greedheaded corporations (and the craven shills and right-wing ideologues they underwrite) and heroic climate scientists fighting to save humanity from ecological catastrophe, the latter personified by Michael Mann.

But he does have a relatively clear view of the current state of things.

This is not accidental. Mann has, in recent years, become the patron saint of the most vocal and ideological climate advocates, those who see the world’s continuing dependence on fossil fuels as, at bottom, a gigantic conspiracy by the fossil fuel industry. James Hansen, whose Congressional testimony in the late 1980s put the issue on the map and who, as a government scientist, was repeatedly muzzled by Republican administrations, was once similarly exalted by many climate activists. But Hansen has always carried his status as an eco-celebrity uncomfortably, and his more recent criticisms of carbon trading and renewable energy and his advocacy of nuclear energy have made him an unreliable totem

Mann, by contrast, is much more reliable ideologically and can be counted upon to conflate climate science with green technological and policy preferences and to wrap it all up in a sweeping narrative inseparable from his personal history. Doing so has served Mann well, establishing him as the go-to climate scientist for many of the big green NGOs, particularly those on the environmental Left. And it has served the interests of the most dogmatic wing of the climate advocacy community, who seek to delegitimize as climate denial any challenge to the claim that addressing climate change requires expansive government regulation, global governance regimes, and a rapid transition of the global energy economy to one powered exclusively by renewable energy.

Nordhaus’s summation is a thing of beauty.

Over the last decade, Mann has now published what is essentially the same book three times, once, literally, in cartoon form. What the ritualized incantations of his personal history and its political meaning actually serve is to enforce ideological discipline within the Left/environmental bubble that pays attention to him, to warn his disciples away from impure thoughts, and, perhaps most importantly, to keep himself at the center of it all.

Full story here:

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March 5, 2021 at 12:09PM

A Complete Confusion of Ideas: Climate Policy, Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation

The Paris Agreement targets rely on energy efficiency measures to reduce energy demand and so deliver the bulk of emissions reductions. The effects of the global pandemic have thrown these expectations into disarray, with the deployment of efficiency measures faltering across the world. Still worse, academic analysts are now concluding that W. S. Jevons was right and that even if deployed successfully efficiency improvements will not deliver as much energy conservation as is required, and may actually increase demand.

Global emissions reduction policies aimed at delivering the Parish Agreement rely on the timely arrival of a very large number of highly improbable things, for example, lower-cost renewable energy, cheaper electricity storage, globally synchronised carbon pricing, a viable “hydrogen economy”, carbon capture and sequestration that works, and practical and affordable electric vehicles, to name a few of the better known. Behind all these, though much less salient to the general public, is the central enabling assumption that gives the aura of reality to the ambitions in all other areas. Namely that improvements in the energy efficiency of end-use conversion processes, such as buildings and industry, will greatly reduce energy demand, bringing it down to manageable proportions. I last wrote here about this assumption in August 2018 (Energy Efficiency, Smart Meters and Climate Policy[1]), illustrating the point with a chart from the International Energy Agency (IEA) that summarised the aggregated ambition of the “stated policies” of the various nations.

The chart, slightly revised, was reissued in December last year when the IEA published its annual study of progress on the implementation of energy efficiency measures in the global economy, Energy Efficiency 2020.[2]

Figure 1: International Energy Agency projection of Energy Conservation to Deliver Climate Goals. Source: IEA.[3]

The fundamental assumptions in the figure remain the same, with a reduction in energy consumption delivering over 40% of the emissions reduction required by 2040, a larger share even than renewables.

However, the prospects of this historically unprecedented reduction in demand materialising were already poor, but are evaporating due to the effects of the global pandemic. The IEA itself comments: “Energy efficiency’s weakest progress in a decade threatens international climate goals.” Grave and realistic though that may seem, the chart illustrating this point reveals it as an understatement.

Figure 2. Primary energy intensity improvement rate, 2015–2020. Source: IEA.[4]

It is obviously true that Coronavirus has not helped, but it is equally obvious that the strong downward trend in the rate of energy intensity improvement predates the pandemic. Indeed, even in 2015, the improvement rate was barely adequate to deliver the 3% per year that would, in the IEA’s view, reduce demand to levels where decarbonisation policies realisable in practice and tolerable in their cost. Energy efficiency uptake wasn’t working to plan; coronavirus is simply the coup de grâce.

But could it ever have worked, or was the whole endeavour mistaken? Was the IEA guilty of what W. S. Jevons notoriously referred to in 1865 as a naïve “confusion of ideas” that misleads one into supposing that “the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption” when, in fact, “The very contrary is the truth.”?[5] If you had not examined Jevons for yourself and had only read or heard about his criticism, you might be inclined to give the IEA the benefit of the doubt and imagine that Jevons was speculating and that he overestimated the actual strength of “rebound” effects, whereby an improved process is used more because it is cheaper. But those who have engaged directly with Jevon’s steel-trap logic will know firstly that he is not principally referring to parochial phenomena, he is much more concerned with the entire economic system, and secondly that his “paradox” is not an empty speculation awaiting empirical testing, but itself an empirical historical observation.

What Jevons claims is nothing less than that “the whole of our present vast industrial system […] has chiefly arisen from successive measures of economy” of fuel.[6] Jevons was not speculating, but making an historical observation, namely that improvements in energy efficiency are seen to be the cause of economic growth and thus of increased energy consumption:

No one must suppose that [energy] saved is spared – it is only saved from one use to be employed in others, and the profits gained soon lead to extended employment in many new forms. The several branches of industry are closely interdependent, and the progress of any one leads to the progress of nearly all.[7]

Academics and others have been slow to follow Jevons’ lead, which is to a degree understandable, the remarks in the Coal Question being telegrammatic in their brevity. But in the last few months, several researchers well-known in the field, Paul Brockway of the University of Leeds, and Steve Sorrell, at the University of Sussex,  Gregor Semieniuk at the University of Massachusetts, Matthew Kuperus Heun of Calvin University, and Victor Court at the Institut Louis Bachelier have published a  substantial joint paper, “Energy efficiency and economy-wide rebound effects: a review of the evidence and its implications”, in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews that this is changing.[8] The abstract of the paper deserves full quotation:

The majority of global energy scenarios anticipate a structural break in the relationship between energy consumption and gross domestic product (GDP), with several scenarios projecting absolute decoupling, where energy use falls while GDP continues to grow.

However, there are few precedents for absolute decoupling, and current global trends are in the opposite direction. This paper explores one possible explanation for the historical close relationship between energy consumption and GDP, namely that the economy-wide rebound effects from improved energy efficiency are larger than is commonly assumed.

We review the evidence on the size of economy-wide rebound effects and explore whether and how such effects are taken into account within the models used to produce global energy scenarios. We find the evidence base to be growing in size and quality, but remarkably diverse in terms of the methodologies employed, assumptions used, and rebound mechanisms included.

Despite this diversity, the results are broadly consistent and suggest that economy-wide rebound effects may erode more than half of the expected energy savings from improved energy efficiency.

We also find that many of the mechanisms driving rebound effects are overlooked by integrated assessment and global energy models. We therefore conclude that global energy scenarios may underestimate the future rate of growth of global energy demand.

These conclusions are derived from several substantial bodies of information, and the analysis itself is as laboriously technical and explicit in detail as that of Jevons is condensed and elliptical. But the convergence of views is unmistakable.

In illustration of the first point made by the authors, that the global trends show no evidence of decoupling energy consumption and growth, we can refer to the paper’s figure 1:

Figure 3: Historical trends and future scenarios for global final energy use and GDP (1971–2050). Notes: Scenario plots are in four groups: orange (IEA models); green (1.5 ◦C IAMs); purple (2.0 ◦C IAMs) and blue (other models). (For interpretation of the references to colour in this figure legend, the reader is referred to the Web version of this article.). Source: Brockway et al. 2021.

This is an intricate chart, and readers are referred to the original for confirmation, but the main contrast is sufficiently clear even at a glance. All the modelled policy scenarios represented by the various coloured curves are strongly divergent from the trend of the empirically observed relationship between GDP and Final Energy Demand (it is, incidentally, a merit of this study that it concentrates on Final Energy Demand and not Total Primary Energy Supply). The authors quite properly raise the question as to whether the “radical departure from the historical trend” proposed by the policy models is plausible. To provide an interim answer the remainder of the paper surveys twelve technical models in published studies estimating economy-wide rebound effects:

However, the most notable finding from this review of other methods is that the studies consistently estimate large economy-wide rebound effects. Specifically, 10 of the 12 studies in Table 3 provide baseline estimates of ~50% or more, and three estimate >100% rebound.

As a crude indicator, the mean estimate of economy-wide rebound effects from the 12 studies is 71% – _with a mean of 62%from the macroeconomic models, 104% from the econometric studies, and 46% from the growth accounting studies.

As the paper observes, this degree of consistency is especially striking since such divergent methods are used in each of the studies, and thus lead the authors to conclude that “the results broadly reinforce the conclusion […] that economy-wide rebound effects may erode more than half of the energy savings from improved energy efficiency.”

But with the logic of Jevons in mind one may suspect that the economy-wide effects of energy efficiency improvements will as a rule always tend to increase overall energy consumption, which indeed some of these studies suggest. The resulting tight relationship between energy consumption and GDP thus becomes a deeply intractable problem for climate policy, and even the provisional conclusions offered by the Brockway et al. paper have extremely significant implications for the Paris Agreement policy agenda as summarised in the IEA figure cited above. If efficiency does not deliver as much conservation as is assumed in the global policy model, then the emissions savings will have to be supplied by other means if GDP and GDP growth is to be maintained. If that means more renewable energy, cost control will become a still greater concern than it is today.

Dr John Constable: GWPF Energy Editor





[5] W. S. Jevons, The Coal Question (1865), p.103.

[6] Coal Question, p. 105.

[7] Coal Question. p. 115.

[8] Paul E. Brockway, Steve Sorrell, Gregor Semieniuk, Matthew Kuperus Heun, Victor Court, “Energy efficiency and economy-wide rebound effects: a review of the evidence and its implications”, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (In press).

The post A Complete Confusion of Ideas: Climate Policy, Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation appeared first on The Global Warming Policy Forum.

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March 5, 2021 at 11:20AM