Michael Klare: In the Carbon Wars, Big Oil Is Winning

Yves here. I have some quibbles with this post, in that it treats the Keystone XL pipeline fight more seriously than it should. Keystone XL diverted attention and resources away from more important battles (notice, for instance, how no one talks about taxing carbon combined with tax credits to low income people, since this would otherwise be a regressive tax? Yet no less than the Financial Times, in an editorial, endorsed this idea in 2007). And it also ignores how much China is now contributing to carbon emissions. But the West can hardly press China unless it has its own house in order. Finally, it unwittingly dignifies the notion that fracked natural gas is “affordable”. It isn’t when you factor in the cost of the water used and the contamination of aquifers. But this is still a good piece in terms of summarizing the state of play.

By Michael T. Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Originally published at TomDispatch

Listening to President Obama’s State of the Union address, it would have been easy to conclude that we were slowly but surely gaining in the war on climate change.  “Our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet,” the president said.  “Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.”  Indeed, it’s true that in recent years, largely thanks to the dampening effects of the Great Recession, U.S. carbon emissions were in decline (though they grew by 2% in 2013).  Still, whatever the president may claim, we’re not heading toward a “cleaner, safer planet.”  If anything, we’re heading toward a dirtier, more dangerous world. 

A series of recent developments highlight the way we are losing ground in the epic struggle to slow global warming.  This has not been for lack of effort.  Around the world, dedicated organizations, communities, and citizens have been working day by day to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote the use of renewable sources of energy.  The struggle to prevent construction of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline is a case in point.  As noted in a recent New York Times article, the campaign against that pipeline has galvanized the environmental movement around the country and attracted thousands of activists to Washington, D.C., for protests and civil disobedience at the White House.  But efforts like these, heroic as they may be, are being overtaken by a more powerful force: the gravitational pull of cheap, accessible carbon-based fuels, notably oil, coal, and natural gas.

In the past few years, the ever more widespread use of new extractive technologies — notably hydraulic fracturing (to exploit shale deposits) and steam-assisted gravity drainage (for tar sands) — has led to a significant increase in fossil fuel production, especially in North America.  This has left in the dust the likelihood of an imminent “peak” in global oil and gas output and introduced an alternative narrative — much promoted by the energy industry and its boosters — of unlimited energy supplies that will last into the distant future.  Barry Smitherman of the Texas Railroad Commission (which regulates that state’s oil industry) was typical in hailing a “relatively boundless supply” of oil and gas worldwide at a recent meeting of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

As oil and gas have proven unexpectedly abundant and affordable, major energy consumers are planning to rely on them more — and on renewable sources of energy less — to meet their future requirements.  As a result, the promises we once heard of a substantial decline in fossil fuel use (along with a corresponding boom in renewables) are fading.  According to the most recent projections from the U.S. Department of Energy, global fossil fuel consumption is expected to grow by an astonishing 40% by 2035, jumping from 440 to 615 quadrillion British thermal units. 

While the combined share of total world energy that comes from fossil fuels will decline slightly — from 84% to 79% — they will still dominate the global energy marketplace for decades to come.  Renewables, according to these projections, will continue to represent only a small fraction of the total.  If this proves to be accurate, there can be only one plausible outcome: vastly increased carbon emissions leading to rising temperatures and the sort of catastrophic climate change scenarios that now seem almost impossible to imagine.

Think of it this way: in our world, the gravitational pull of carbon exerts itself every minute of every day, shaping the energy decisions of individuals, companies, institutions, and governments.  This pull is leading to defeat in the global struggle to slow the advance of severe climate change and is reflected in three recent developments in the energy news: a declaration of surrender by BP, a major setback in the European Union, and a strategic end-run by Canadian tar sands companies.

BP Announces the Defeat of Renewables

Every year, energy giant BP (once British Petroleum) releases its “Energy Outlook” for the years ahead, an analysis of future trends in global production and consumption.  The 2014 report — extending BP’s energy forecast to the year 2035 — was made public on January 15th.  Typically, its release is accompanied by a press conference in which top BP executives offer commentary on the state of world energy, usually aimed at the business media.  This year, the company’s CEO, Bob Dudley, spoke with unbridled optimism about the future market for his company’s energy products, assuring his audience that the global supply of fossil fuels would remain substantial for years to come.  (Dudley took over the helm at BP after his predecessor, Tony Hayward, was dumped in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.)

“The picture in terms of resources in the ground is a good one,” he noted.  “It’s very different to past concerns about supply peaking.  The theory of peak oil seems to have — well — peaked.” 

This, no doubt, produced the requisite smiles from Dudley’s oil-friendly audience.  Then his comments took a darker turn.  Can we satisfy the world’s energy requirements with fuels that are sustainable, he asked.  “Not at the moment,” he admitted.  Because of a rising tide of fossil fuel consumption, he added, “carbon emissions are currently projected to rise — by 29% by 2035, we estimate in the Outlook.”  He acknowledged that, whatever good news might be found in that document, in this area “steps are needed to change the forecast.”

Next, Dudley tried to put a hopeful spin on the long-term climate prospect.  By replacing coal-fired power plants with less-carbon-polluting natural gas, he indicated, overall greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced.  Increasing the efficiency of energy-consuming devices, he added, will also help.  All of this, however, adds up to little when it comes to the big picture of carbon emissions.  In the end, he could point to few signs of progress in the struggle to slow the advance of climate change.  “In 2035, we project that gas and coal will account for 54% of global energy demand [and oil another 27%].  While renewables will grow rapidly, their share will reach just 7%.”

Most of the media coverage of Dudley’s appearance focused on his expectations of long-term energy abundance, not what it would do to us or our planet.  Several commentators were, however, quick to note how unusual it was for an oil company CEO to address the problem of carbon emissions at all, no less express something verging on despair over the prospect of making any progress in curbing them.

“[Dudley] concludes… [that] the world is still a long way from delivering the peak in greenhouse gas emissions many scientists advise has to be achieved within the next decade to minimize the risk of dangerous climate change,” observed energy analyst James Murray at businessGreen.com.

Europe’s Retrenchment

The member states of the European Union (EU) have long exercised global leadership in the struggle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the pace of climate change.  Under their justly celebrated 20-20-20 plan, adopted in December 2008, they are committed to reducing their emissions by 20% over 1990 levels by 2020, increasing their overall energy efficiency by 20%, and achieving 20% reliance on renewables in total energy consumption.  No other region has embraced goals as ambitious as these, and none has invested greater resources in their implementation.  Any wavering from this path would signal a significant retrenchment in the global climate struggle.

It now appears that Europe is preparing to rein in the pace of its drive to slow global warming.  At issue is not the implementation of the 20-20-20 plan, which is well on its way to being achieved, but on the goals that should follow it.  Climate activists and green energy entrepreneurs have been calling for an even more ambitious set of targets for 2030 and beyond; many manufacturers and other major energy consumers have been pushing for a slower pace of change, claiming that increased reliance on renewables is driving up energy prices and so diminishing their economic competitiveness.  Already, it appears that the industrialists are gaining ground at the expense of climate action.

At stake is the EU’s climate blueprint for 2030, the next major threshold in its drive to slow the pace of warming. On January 22nd, the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission (EC), released its guidelines for the new plan, which must still be approved by the EU Parliament and its member states.  While touted by some as a sign of continued European commitment to decisive climate action, the EC’s plan is viewed as a distinct setback by many environmental leaders.

At first glance, the plan looks promising.  It calls for a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 — a huge drop from the 2020 requirement.  This is, however, less dramatic than it may appear, analysts say, because energy initiatives already under way in Europe under the 20-20-20 plan, coupled with a region-wide economic slowdown, will make a 40% reduction quite feasible without staggering effort.  Meanwhile, other aspects of the plan are downright worrisome.  There is no mandate for a further increase in energy efficiency and, far more important, the mandate for increased reliance on renewables — at 27%, a significant gain — is not binding on individual states but on the EU as a whole.  This makes both implementation and enforcement questionable matters.  Jens Tartler, a spokesperson for the German Renewable Energy Federation (which represents that country’s wind and solar industries), called the lack of binding national goals for renewables “totally disappointing,” claiming it would “contribute to a marked reduction in the pace of expansion of renewables.”

To explain this evident slackening in Europe’s climate commitment, analysts point to the immense pressures being brought by manufacturers and others who decry the region’s rising energy prices caused, in part, by increased subsidies for renewables.  “Behind the heated debate in Brussels about climate and renewable energy targets, what is really happening is that concern over high energy prices has taken precedence over climate concerns in Europe,” says Sonja van Renssen, the Brussels correspondent for Energy Post, an online journal.  “Many [EU] member states and industry fear that a strong climate and energy policy will be bad for their economies.”

In arguing their case, proponents of diluted climate goals note that EU policies have raised the cost of producing a metric ton of aluminum in Europe by 11% and that European steel companies pay twice as much for electricity and four times as much for natural gas as their U.S. counterparts.  These, and similar phenomena, are “dragging the EU economy down,” wrote Mark C. Lewis, former head of energy research at Deutsche Bank.

Not surprisingly, many European manufacturers seek to reduce subsidies for renewables and urge greater reliance on less-costly fossil fuels.  In particular, some officials, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, are eager to follow the U.S. lead and bring advanced technologies like hydro-fracking to bear on the extraction of more oil and natural gas from Europe’s domestic reserves.  “Europe’s hydrocarbons production is in decline,” noted Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the International Energy Agency, but “there may be some opportunities… to slow down and perhaps reverse some of these trends” — notably by imitating the “revolution in hydrocarbon production” now under way in the United States.

Read this another way and a new and truly unsettling meaning emerges: the “shale gas revolution” being promoted with such fervor by President Obama as a “bridge” to a more climate-friendly energy system in the United States is having the opposite effect in Europe.  It is weakening the EU’s commitment to renewable energy and threatens to increase Europe’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Canada’s End-Run Around Keystone XL Pipeline Opposition

Much to the surprise of everyone, climate activists in the United States led by environmental author and activist Bill McKibben and the action group he helped to found, 350.org, have succeeded in delaying U.S. government approval of the Keystone XL pipeline for more than two years.  Once considered a sure thing, the pipeline, if completed, will carry 830,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen (“syncrude”) some 1,700 miles from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.  It has, however, been held up by detailed environmental impact studies and other procedural steps ordered by the U.S. State Department.  (Because the pipeline will cross an international boundary, it requires approval from the Secretary of State and, ultimately, the president, but not Congress.)

Opponents of the pipeline claim that by facilitating the exploitation of particularly carbon-dense Canadian tar sands, it will substantially increase greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.  The use of this bitumen-based fuel releases more carbon per unit of energy than conventional petroleum and its energy-intensive extraction generates additional carbon emissions.  Should all of the bitumen in Canada — the equivalent of 1 trillion barrels of oil — be consumed, it’s “game over for the climate,” as former NASA climate scientist James Hansen has famously written.

How the Obama administration will come down on Keystone XL is still unknown.  In a speech on climate policy last June, the president indicated that he would give highest priority to climate considerations when deciding on the pipeline.  “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” he said.  “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”  At the time, his comments raised the hopes of climate activists that Obama would ultimately decide against the pipeline.  More recently, however, an environmental assessment conducted at the behest of the State Department and released on January 31st cast doubt on this outcome.  The report’s reasoning: even though the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands will increase the pace of carbon emissions, their extraction and delivery to refineries is assured by alternative means — mainly rail — if the pipeline isn’t built and so its construction will not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of greenhouse gas emissions.

While this is certainly a uniquely sophistic (and shaky) argument, it is important to note that the Canadian producers and their U.S. partners are indeed attempting to stage an end-run around opposition to the pipeline by increasing their reliance on rail cars to deliver tar sands.    

“The indecision on Keystone XL really spawned innovation and mobilized alternatives, and rail is a clear part of the options available to our industry,” observed Paul Reimer, senior vice president in charge of transport at Cenovus Energy, a Canadian oil company planning to increase rail shipments from 7,000 barrels a day to as many as 30,000 barrels a day by the end of 2014.  Other Canadian firms have similar expansion plans.  All told, the Canadians claim that, over the coming years, they will be able to increase rail-carrying capacity from the current 180,000 barrels per day to as much as 900,000 barrels, or more than would be carried by the pipeline.

If this were to happen, count on one thing: rail transport will turn out to have its own problems — and its own opposition.  Not surprisingly, then, Canada’s oil industry still craves approval for Keystone XL, as it would allow even greater tar sands exports and legitimize the use of this carbon-heavy fuel.  But the growing reliance on rail transportation does once again demonstrate the powerful gravitational pull of Planet Carbon.  “At the end of the day, there’s a consensus among most energy experts that the oil will get shipped to market no matter what,” says Robert McNally, a former energy adviser to President George W. Bush.

Reducing Carbon’s Pull

These three recent encounters in the historic struggle to avert the most destructive effects of climate change tell us a great deal about the nature and terrain of the battlefield.  Climate change is not the product of unfortunate meteorological phenomena; it is the result of burning massive quantities of carbon-based fuels and spewing the resulting gaseous wastes into the atmosphere.  As long as governments, corporations, and consumers prefer carbon as an energy source, the war on climate change will be lost and the outcome of that will, in turn, be calamitous.

There is only one way to avert the worst effects of climate change: make the consumption of carbon unattractive.  This can be accomplished, in part, by shaming — portraying the producers of carbon-rich fuels as the enemies of human health and survival.  It’s an approach that has already achieved some modest successes, as in the prevention, until now, of Keystone’s construction.  Withdrawing funds from fossil fuel firms, or disinvestment, is another useful approach.  Many student and religious groups are attempting to hinder oil drilling activities by pushing their colleges and congregations to move their investment funds elsewhere.

But shaming and disinvestment campaigns are insufficient; much tougher sanctions are required.  To stop the incineration of our planet, carbon must be made expensive — so costly, in fact, that renewables become the common fuel of choice.

There are at least two ways to move toward accomplishing this: impose a tax on carbon emissions, raising the cost of fossil fuels above those of renewables; or adopt a universal cap-and-trade system, forcing major carbon emitters to buy permits (at ever-increasing cost) in order to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  Both measures have been advocated by environmentalists and some attempts have been made to institute each of them.  (Both California and the European Union, for example, are implementing cap-and-trade systems.)  There may be other approaches to the problem that could prove even more effective, but the most essential thing is to recognize that genuine progress on climate change will not be possible until carbon fuels lose their financial allure.  For this to happen, as BP’s Dudley begrudgingly acknowledged on January 15th, “you need carbon pricing.  Universally accepted carbon pricing.”

The gravitational pull of carbon is immensely powerful.  It cannot be overcome by symbolic gestures or half measures.  The pressures to keep burning fossil fuels are too great to be overcome in piecemeal fashion.  Rather, these forces must be met head-on, with the institutionalization of equally powerful counter-forces that make fossil fuels economically unattractive.  We humans have a choice: we can succumb to carbon’s gravitational pull and so suffer from increasingly harsh planetary conditions, or resist and avoid the most deadly consequences of climate change.

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  1. posa

    As usual, Klare is wrong on most counts.

    In the climate wars, Big Oil isn’t winning; Fake Science (“Catastrophic Global Warming” aka “Climate Change”) is losing. Anyone who bothers to look at the major science journals understands that “Climate Science” (or is it “Advocacy Hustling”?) is in shambles and you can’t blame that on BP.

    The current status of the “science” is neatly summarized in a Jan 15th article of the prestigious journal, “Nature”:
    HEADLINE: “Climate change: The case of the missing heat
    Sixteen years into the mysterious ‘global-warming hiatus’, scientists are piecing together an

    So there you have it…a) an unexpected 16 year stasis in global temperatures; b) a scramble to find out what went wrong and c) (as stated in the article) … the failure and repudiation of the climate models predicting catastrophic warming. 95% of the climate models were wrong and many forecast that the climate today would be .3 degrees hotter than it is.

    The participants are now looking to save face by claiming the ” deep oceans ate my global warming” , a theory that others among the climatetology community have easily refuted and substituted a prediction that all the “missing heat” is being stored away by easterly trade winds for a monster el nino that will save the day ( for repudiated “climatologists”) and push up global temperatures at some unspecified time slot.

    In light of all these failures and disarray, and the disgraceful legacy of the “Climategate papers”, it is no wonder no one takes the hysterical catastrophists very seriously anymore.

    Finally: as for energy resources and the like, I agree with Yves, that fracking just substitutes one scarce resource (fresh water) for another (fossil fuels)… The whole fracking revolution could burn out in the next few years .

    In the end, modern societies only have two choices for reliable, affordable electric power generation: fossil fuels or nuclear. The Greenies have demonized nuclear in places such as Germany, so they’re being replaced by dozens of new plants burning dirty coal. Congratulations environmentalists. Great job.

    1. will

      The ‘hiatus’ is only in surface temperatures; warming has continued if we also measure increasing heat in the oceans. The specific mechanism for this ocean heating is what that Nature article discusses.

      I disagree with Klare too though. How can sanctions or disinvestments possibly work if society depends on the energy to run? Our infrastructure, social complexity, skills – so much depends on the energy and other raw materials we use that energy to acquire. We need to ween ourselves off the fuel that we’re killing the planet to get before we discuss (relatively) tactical issues like disinvesting in fossil fuel companies. I’m trying to make this change in my own life – becoming less dependent on fossil fuels for my food, clothing, shelter, etc – and I think it will put me in a stronger position to suggest reasonable ways to transition away from disastrously polluting fossil fuels.

      If BP’s conference tells us anything, it’s this: We’ll either ween ourselves off voluntarily, or the global climate change will off us. We can’t count on our market economy to magically give us the fuel sources and infrastructure we need to survive since we don’t price environmental costs into fuel-related decisions.

      1. will

        Just to be clear – I know Klare advocates more than just disinvestment. But his suggestions of repricing carbon with taxes or cap/trade are very top-down and seem easy to game by industries with a long history of gaming laws and regulations. So long as we depend on those same energy and finance companies to live the industrial consumer lives we do, and so long as we collectively pay so much for the privilege, these companies will continue to have too much influence to stop.

      2. posa

        Sorry Will… You’re wrong on all counts. As the headline in Nature says, the story is “being pieced” together. It’s definitely a work in progress and, in fact, alternate theories to the far-fetch “deep ocean” theory were published shortly afterwards.
        For example, a lot of waves were made when a new study appeared in Nature Climate Change by Matthew England et al.

        The abstract refutes most of your claims:

        “Despite ongoing increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, the Earth’s global average surface air temperature has remained more or less steady since 2001. A variety of mechanisms have been proposed to account for this slowdown in surface warming. A key component of the global hiatus that has been identified is cool eastern Pacific sea surface temperature, but it is unclear how the ocean has remained relatively cool there in spite of ongoing increases in radiative forcing.”

        So a) the stasis in global temperatures was for the entire planet ie ” Earth’s global average surface air temperature”, not as you claim, just temperatures over land.
        b) the eastern Pacific is cool, when (theoretically) it should be warm, and the high-priests are baffled as to why this is.

        There is no evidence of ocean warming… in fact, it was only a few years ago that even 50% of ocean temperatures were monitored (Project Argos) … so baseline data don’t yet exist to understand trends in ocean temperatures, certainly the “deep ocean”

        Even if we use very spotty records, temperature changes in the deep ocean are in the range of a few thousandths of a degree… and upper strata have not warmed in recent years. Warming in the range of a few thousandths of a degree only worries the activists and hysterics. It is not an observed rise in ocean temperature that fuels this debate but the theoretical search for the “missing heat”. But the “missing heat” is only an imaginary artifact from flawed energy budget accounting that various climatologists have constructed.

        For these reasons M. England dismisses the Trenberth claims that the “deep ocean ate my global warming” and concludes that the trade winds have created a reserve of heat in the upper layers of the equatorial Pacific that will unleash a monster El Nino. Some day. Sort of.

        As I stated at the outset, the whole field is a bit in shambles. Expect more ad hoc hand-waving and desperate searches for a quick fix to make “the science” all whole again. I mean, this is what science does and that’s ok. New data, new theories. But “Climate Science” such as it is, hardly remains a picture of settled science, and hardly the basis for setting drastic economic and energy policies.

        1. Ben Johannson

          Nice try. No one’s buying it, so I hope the PR agency paying you to type this nonsense is shelling out by the word.

          1. gepay

            I am not paid by PR consultants hired by the Koch bros – I dislike for what they stand for. I also believe that our dependency on fossil fuels needs to be drastically reduced by changing our life styles – especially our economy. However I do not believe carbon dioxide is a pollutant causing man made (it’s now) climate change (why did it change from anthropogenic global warming?). So far as can be empirically substantiated we have seen nothing outside natural variation. To say that the science has been settled is to say that the study of climate is sufficiently advanced as to know enough about the climate so as to be able to make correct predictions – you really believe that. There isn’t even consensus on how clouds and aerosols fit into the puzzle. It still is a puzzle without many of the pieces needed to get a good picture. Before the 15 + year hiatus you never heard the ocean was going to eat the heat so there will be a hiatus. I believe the climate computer modelers are now retroactively changing parameters to include more natural variability. .”With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.” Attributed to von Neumann by Enrico Fermi, as quoted by Freeman Dyson
            I don’t know how many articles I’ve seen that use results of climate computer models the same as empirical observations.
            Do you really believe the US military or Bill Gates are going to change their lifestyles so as to have a small carbon footprint? Has Al Gore stopped using jet airplanes? Have any of these climatologists switched over to virtual climate conventions?
            I’ve seen these bandwagons before – both swine flu scares as example. I do remember the tv show with the probability of an ice age coming that I saw in the early 70s.
            Just use the same skepticism NC readers use on pronouncements of mainstream economists and view the flawed predictions of the AGW adherents I mean man-made climate change.
            Jet streams aren’t even understood well enough to predict what they might do from season to season but yeah they know the climate well enough to say with certainty what the average global temperature will be in 2100 – was that the global average temperature or mean global average temperature? What exactly is the definition of climate change? Was the Little Ice Age climate change?
            And don’t even try to tell me climatologists completely understand the feed backs involved but the man made adherents all believe they are positive and make for much more warming than the 1 degree that doubling CO2 (which still hasn’t happened) and would have to double again to go to 2 degrees by itself.

        2. Braden

          The primary explanation for why heating has slowed is that the oceans are being heated more rapidly. A Science article in 2013 found that over a 60-year period ocean temperatures rose .32 degrees F, roughly 15 times faster than at any point in the past 10,000 years. Since it takes an enormous amount of energy to warm something as vast as the Earth’s oceans, that amount of increase is actually pretty amazing.

          But, I actually disagree with the general premise that there’s been a “hiatus” in global surface temperatures. The global temperature is actually measured by thousands of weather stations located throughout the world. This would be an accurate measure if these stations were randomly distributed across the Earth’s surface. However, there are fewer stations measuring temperatures in the Arctic, which is warming faster than any other part of the Earth’s surface.

          If you use temperature measurements from Arctic satellites rather than weather stations, the “hiatus” disappears completely. A Real Climate post does a good job of explaining this result:


          There’s no hiatus. If anything, warming has accelerated and we’ve simply been lucky that a persistent La Nina in the Pacific has kept lower latitudes colder than predicted. The Arctic continues to experience abnormally high temperatures. By the way, forecasts call for an El Nino to develop, which, if I’m right, will result in a rapid rise in surface temperatures in the Pacific.

          It’s unfortunate for you that natural phenomena like the Earth’s climate involve physics, and not metaphysics. Wouldn’t we all love to be able to rationalize away the laws of nature.

        3. Linda J

          NASA Report from January 21:
          “Long-term global warming trend sustained in 2013”

          and on the oceans:
          “Put in terms that are easy (if horrifying) to visualize, Skeptical Science explains that the oceans used to be warming at a rate equivalent to about 2 Hiroshima bombs per second. Over the past 16 years, that’s doubled to a rate of 4 bombs per second. But in 2013, the warming became so dramatic that it was equivalent to 12 Hiroshima bombs every second. Seriously. [CHART AND CITATIONS AT ORIGINAL here: http://www.climatecodered.org/2014/02/oceans-warmed-at-rate-of-12-hiroshima.html%5D

    2. Banger

      Evidently the vast majority of scientists who study climate are part of an international conspiracy to get jobs at NRDC for 69k a year as opposed to working for Big Oil at 600k a year clearly an advantageous outcome wouldn’t you say? Where is the stampede to join the truth squad from Exxon? Believe me there’s plenty of money out there for whoever wants it.

      Without going into the science which I will leave with the simple statement that greenhouse gasses do have, according to physics, a greenhouse effect–the question is how much. But, here’s the key always missing from the “skeptics” about climate change which none have ever addressed. Why are you 100% sure that climate science is wrong? What if it were 20% right? Do you have any understanding of complex/choatic systems? If you did you wouldn’t be so confident. Instead most of those who address this problem on the right ignore the risk assessment side of the issue because they believe that they are 100% right. The fact is that it is the political pull of Big Energy, OPEC and others who are keeping us in the world of carbon.

      Renewables are possible to integrate into a new energy system if investments are made and along with more elegant engineering to create a less wasteful energy system would be able to come online within 20 years. I believe we would not only benefit from these changes in terms of energy but would also move away from oil/war and rewarding the nastier parts of the oligarchy and create a more convivial society even if climate change turns out to be 100% fiction.

      1. will

        I agree, but remember that the waste is an important part of our consumer economy. Forcing or encouraging waste is how we create sufficient demand to increase production every year (“growth”). To say ‘we just need less waste’ is to say we need to totally change not just attitudes, but how our economy manages and distributes its natural and financial wealth. The whole system would have to change. The the end of the consumer economy and unending growth must be part of any transition.

        1. Banger

          Depends on what you consider a “good” society or a good life for that matter. I believe using the natural world as a trash can is aesthetically, morally, and pragmatically senseless. Consumer society and the industrial ethic is facing the law of diminishing returns as a philosophy. Yes, it has spawned incredible growth and more tightly connected the world (for good and ill) but it is pointless and while pointless adolescent experimenting can be beneficial for adolescents eventually they must grow up as our society must grow up for wisdom to emerge.

          It’s now time to put a purpose to our activities other than just consuming in order to consume. The shallow morality that consumerism invites will insure devolution of the human spirit–such a life is stunningly wasteful and ugly when compared to the fuller possibilities inherent in human beings.

    3. Francois T

      Before having the nerve to comment on climate science, how about you educate yourself?
      Your ad hominem venomous bullshit about climate scientists reveals much more about YOU than anybody else.
      Trolls like you are unwelcome here. This is not The Galileo Movement, What’s Up With That or Red State.

  2. Podargus

    Argue the toss as much as you like about human induced climate change. It has been obvious for years and it will only get worse.

    Argue the toss about the various ways that carbon is polluting the atmosphere. That will continue until it is stopped by government fiat. Why? – because there is money to be made.

    Argue the toss about renewables being THE answer. They won’t cut it.This should be obvious to anybody with minimal vision who goes outside in the sun and wind – or the lack of.

    Argue the toss about the nuclear evil as much as you like. The fact is that nuclear is the ONLY proven,available technology we have which can rein in the fossil fuel industry. Get used to it,get over it,get on with it.

    1. posa

      Podargus: You wrote: ” Argue the toss as much as you like about human induced climate change. It has been obvious for years and it will only get worse.”

      Sorry man. It’s only “obvious” if you just woke up a few years ago. If anyone takes a look at the historic record (or is say 60 years old or older), it’s “obvious” that floods, storms droughts and the like weren’t invented in 1980.

      The IPPC 2013 AR5 also dispels most of the science-illiterate claims of increasingly extreme weather. From the report:

      “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”

      “In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale.”

      “In summary, there is low confidence in observed trends in small-scale severe weather phenomena such as hail and thunderstorms because of historical data inhomogeneities and inadequacies in monitoring systems.”

      “Based on updated studies, AR4 [the IPCC 2007 report] conclusions regarding global increasing trends in drought since the 1970s were probably overstated.”

      “In summary, confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extra-tropical cyclones since 1900 is low.”

      Climatologist Roger Pielke Jr. comments about the AR5:

      “There is really not much more to be said here — the data says what it says, and what it says is so unavoidably obvious that the IPCC has recognized it in its consensus. Of course, I have no doubts that claims will still be made associating floods, drought, hurricanes and tornadoes with human-caused climate change — Zombie science — but I am declaring victory in this debate. Climate campaigners would do their movement a favor by getting themselves on the right side of the evidence.”

      The problem in many situations such as Katrina, is that infrastructure has to be built and maintained in flood plains and coastal areas. People should not live in these areas if governments refuse to invest in infrastructure.

      1. Vatch

        If we’re going to dismiss increasingly severe weather, we ought at least have the decency to mention the astonishingly severe typhoon Haiyan that devastated the Philippines.

        As for “climatologist” Roger Pielke, Jr.: according to Wikipedia, he’s not a climate scientist. His advanced degree is in political science:

        Roger A. Pielke, Jr.

        Although he is skeptical about claims that extreme weather is increasing, according ot the Wikipedia article, he does accept the value of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

      2. Francois T

        Request to Yves,
        I know you value freedom of expression here but I would request we do here what the LA Times and Popular Science did, namely refuse to publish climate change deniers and paid shills?

        Thank you.

  3. taunger

    So carbon taxes are currently in discussion among MA climate activists, legislators, and economists.

    One of the driving figures is Greg Mankiw. He, along with an econometric consulting group, some true believer grassroots activists, and a couple ambitious “progressive” legislators have introduced a “tax and dividend” carbon tax. The consulting group analysis of their own bill shows that at $15 a ton the tax would provide $200 million for transportation investment (earmarked in the bill) would not be regressive for roughly the bottom two quintiles, but would transfer hundreds of millions per year from households, individuals, and sole proprietorships/partnerships to corporations. All for roughly a 10% decrease in CO2 emissions over 20 years.

    This have the grassroots and corporate sectors excited. Look for MA to pass a similar bill that is corp giveaway, which will go national 4 years later, just like Romneycare.

    Meanwhile the regulatory reforms in MA have been successful in creating efficiency and distributed solar generation, some of the best mitigation practices available. Why can’t we enact a regulatory regime to deal with CO2? The public favors it (see the Skopcol article on cap and trade failure), and its works. S

  4. The Dork of Cork

    Of course the west and in particular the US & UK deficit countries consume Chinese coal indirectly and the heavy fuel oil used to ship these goods across continents ….

    Germany is of course the strangest of countries being the most extreme example of scarcity production and therefore the bankers little pet.
    Its extremely efficient at producing high energy input products that in most cases are not needed.
    The European periphery of course pays for this neat little banking / industrial arrangement.

    Don’t buy the climate thingies Europe is selling.
    Whatever about the correctness or otherwise of these models – the objective of Europe is simply to sustain the global barbel economy whatever the true cost.

    In Europe we are dealing with a deeply embedded Cromwellian fascist state and there is no getting around this very obvious fact of economic and social life.
    If it expresses apparently social & environmental concern for this and that expenditure of its serfs then just like Cromwell it is trying to ban Christmas so that its banks can extract more of the surplus production for themselves.
    It wants us all to be Good little environmental Calvinists.
    But the energy we save in the great bank in the sky will merely be wasted in global banking operations and schemes.which of course add more emissions .

  5. Vatch

    Big oil may be winning the propaganda fight, but they’re losing on the scientific front. 2010 was the warmest year on record, and, like most of the other peak years, was an El Nino year. 1998 had an unusually powerful El Nino event, and that made 1998 a very warm year. Following this very powerful event, the annual temperatures declined somewhat, which makes it appear as though the world’s surface temperatures have been roughly stable for about 15 years. But from 1999 to 2010, the upward trend is clear, as is the longer trend from 1950 to 2010 or from 1950 to 2013. Sure, there are some warm years that don’t have an El Nino event, but that just makes the upward trend look a little bumpy. After the average dropped in 2011, it rose in 2012, and again in 2013. The next time there’s an El Nino, we can expect a very warm world.

    See the data and charts at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies:

    Chart of temperature from 1950 to 2013

    Table of temperature difference from mean, 1946 to 2013

  6. legendarybigfoot@yahoo.com

    Dippy deniers can pretend that nothing is going on but the facts are the facts and they are out their for everyone to see. European scientific report:
    Charts and everything. More storms. More intense flooding. Using data provided by Munich RE, known communists I mean reinsurance company.

    Banks are nervous because disasters could cost them money and because when Morlocks are hungry you start losing a lot of pampered Eloi.

    IPCC in Polish if it helps

    No climate gate fantasies. No grant money fantasies. No pandering to right wing extremists’ failures to address reality in favor of a fantasy world in which the hand of Mammon will fix the economy. Data, trends, facts.

  7. Francois T

    If Klare cannot factor in the increasing costs of climate change, his contribution is worse than useless.

  8. American Slave

    We could have a lot of jobs installing solar panels on rooftops but instead were stuck with this idiotic fossil fuel economy that has reached its limit on job creation.

  9. aw70

    There is also one more factor that makes this an uncontested “win” for “big oil”, at least in the medium term.

    The sad truth is that we simply do not have the technologies ready (yet) that are needed to go beyond a fossil fuel economy, big time. In particular, *the* elephant in the room is our inability to store significant amounts of electricity in any meaningful way. And no, I’m not talking about batteries – we have those, and while they are also not up to scratch (think electric car range issues), I mean technologies to store GWh of electricity. Not the teacup amounts you can store in current batteries. In other words, the sort of tech you need to keep a country that wants to live off solar and wind (and possibly other green but unreliable sources) ticking. We have no idea how to do that yet.

    Personally, I am all in favour of going renewable: the sooner, the better. But as an engineer, I can only shake my head at the amount of wishful thinking that is going on in environmentalist circles. “Switch to renewables”. Yeah, if we only could. The key technologies will take another decade at least until they are good enough. Then, it will probably be a breeze, but trying to force things will just result in more hurt like the lightbulb fiasco in Europe. Where they forced everyone to ditch incandescents *before* the only sane replacement (LEDs) was up to scratch, and ready for mass production. Which led to tens of millions of horrible CF bulbs that contain mercury being produced and sold, at enormous environmental cost that far outweighed any gain that we had from the saved electricity.

    The moral of the story: once the technologies for a switch to post-fossil are actually ready, you will not need government incentives to switch. People will do that on their own accord, because it will be much better than the alternative. Until then, forcing stuff is just a waste of money and resources.

  10. rob

    Mr. Klare is perpetuating two distinctly bad ideas.
    one is by saying “peak oil” , didn’t happen. using the massive uptick in oil production as a signpost to say we did not reach a peak of sorts.Peak oil is a reference of a curve point where the ease and therefore, the price of oil extraction goes up while the volume goes down.
    I will believe there was no “peak” in the oil markets, when the price of a barrel goes back down to $40-$50/barrel again.The renewed oil exploration is a direct result of higher prices.Now, unwise amounts of energy and environmental destruction are justified by the chase for high returns on investment.We are witnessing what we are precisely because a peak occurred, and we are now spending twice as much on the same energy we used to use to do the same thing.That is a giant suck out of everyone’s personal economy.Which in aggregate is one of our ills today.
    The other bad idea he is espousing are carbon taxes, and carbon credits.These are two completely “innovative” ideas that were surely hatched in the ivory towers of “the marketplaces”, where these “new sources of income”,will deliver fees and service contracts ad infinitum.Come on people, can anyone really say with a straight face that they think these taxes and credits won’t be the source of some wall st over leveraging, or accountability racket; get out of jail free card. There is no “sane” marketplace in the world.The markets are rigged.By the very well paid professionals who get paid to rig it every day.

    Look at BP’s /Halliburton’s dep water horizon
    , the pollution of an entire ecosystem. The direct shutdown of a very important section of the gulf coast.,demonstrable economic impacts as well as environmental.
    look at fukushima, is there really anything more to say about that….there will be.
    look at the leak of coal related chemicals on the water supply of Charleston WV.
    look at the fertilizer plant explosion in texas, that killed many people.
    look at the duke energy coal ash pond spill in eden NC
    Look at the 47 people who died in quebec, la fon dulec?, an entire town that was “bombed”, by a railroad company,
    These things were “accidents”, but why do people worry about terrorists who do almost nothing compared to these industrial accidents.Why doesn’t homeland defense protect the homeland from corporate malfeasance,.i.e.accidents.
    You know, the “markets” wouldn’t hear of it.

  11. Theresa

    I had no clue what the term peak oil even meant. When you think of it, it makes complete sense, but I don’t even think that I have ever heard the term used before. At least I haven’t heard it used recently. One thing that I have to say about solar panels and windmills is that as useful as they are, they also cost a lot of money for the actual fixtures and installation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in full support of a complete switch, but it’s going to take a huge effort and probably a lot of grant money and voluntary labor to get it all done. There are also many other ways that things can be done if people would stop wasting everything that they had, i.e. food, water, ect.

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