Sunday, April 22, 2007

Scientists Science-based Politicians Offer Deliberately Frightening (although not entirely accurate) Forecast

Timeline: The Frightening Future of Earth
By Andrea Thompson and Ker Than

[All emphasis added]
[In celebration of] the approach of this year’s Earth Day, April 22, [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), predicted that] the global average temperature could increase by 2 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 and that sea levels could rise by up to 2 feet. [...]

Fine bit of precision forecasting there, lads.
Epic floods will hit some areas while intense drought will strike others. Humans will face widespread water shortages. Famine and disease will increase. [A] quarter of plants and animals [will be] at risk of extinction.

So, The Frightening Future of Catastrophic Global Warming™ includes floods, drought, water shortages, famine, disease, and species at risk of failing to adapt to changing conditions. Uh-huh. And this differs from present conditions how, exactly ?
While putting specific dates on these traumatic potential events is challenging...

Ya don't say. But, since falsibility is the main difference between science and state-fair fortune-telling, please be kind enough to let us know when you graduate to professionalism, 'K ?

Global oil production peaks sometime between 2008 and 2018, according to a model by one Swedish physicist. Others say this turning point, known as “Hubbert’s Peak,” won’t occur until after 2020. Once Hubbert’s Peak is reached, global oil production will begin an irreversible decline, possibly triggering a global recession, food shortages and conflict between nations over dwindling oil supplies. (doctoral dissertation of Frederik Robelius, University of Uppsala, Sweden; report by Robert Hirsch of the Science Applications International Corporation) [...]

And this is due to global warming because... ???
This is a "let's throw in a bunch of scary stuff, regardless of relevance" item. I'm surprised that they aren't claiming that The Frightening Future of Catastrophic Global Warming™ will include an increase in attacks by werewolves and vampires.

In any case, "peak oil" definitely would trigger a severe global recession and probably food shortages, and its possibility is already causing conflict between nations over the dwindling oil supplies that are already in production.
But it's complete rubbish; see the bottom of this post for more.

Less rainfall could reduce agriculture yields by up to 50 percent in some parts of the world. (IPCC) [...]

Gee, Andrea Thompson and Ker Than "forgot" to mention that the IPCC report ALSO predicts that more rainfall in some parts of the world will increase agriculture yields. And why is this pegged specifically to 2020 ?

In developing countries, the urban population will more than double to about 4 billion people, packing more people onto a given city's land area. The urban populations of developed countries may also increase by as much as 20 percent. (World Bank: The Dynamics of Global Urban Expansion)

And this relates to global warming because... ???
...Werewolves and vampires, I tells ya !!

The Arctic Sea could be ice-free in the summer. [...] Other scientists say the region will still have summer ice up to [2105]. (Marika Holland, NCAR, Geophysical Research Letters)

Again with the precise forecast. Bravo.

World population reaches 9.4 billion people. (U.S. Census Bureau) [...]

That naughty global warming, causing robust human fertility !!

Or not. The U.S. Census Bureau and the United Nations Population Division were COMPLETELY WRONG in their 70s predictions about year 2000 population, and that was only for 25-30 years out; I regard their 45-year forecasts now as being "for entertainment purposes only".

Coastal population could balloon to 5 billion people, up from 1.2 billion in 1990. (IPCC) [...]

Sea levels could rise around New York City by more than three feet, potentially flooding the Rockaways, Coney Island, much of southern Brooklyn and Queens, portions of Long Island City, Astoria, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens, lower Manhattan and eastern Staten Island from Great Kills Harbor north to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (NASA GISS) [...]

So right now, 20% of humans live on a coastline, but for some reason by 2080 50% of humans will live there ?!

The "New York will flood" meme is really a "humans are stupid and incompetent" self-hating meme. Over the next seventy years, one of the largest and richest cities in the world can't build a ten-foot dike ?

Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will be much higher than anytime during the past 650,000 years. (IPCC) [...]

Thawing permafrost and other factors will make Earth’s land a net source of carbon emissions, meaning it will emit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it absorbs. (IPCC)

What's another term for "carbon dioxide" ?
"Plant food". So much for "reduced ag yields".

An Earth day will be 0.12 milliseconds shorter, as rising temperatures cause oceans to expand away from the equator and toward the poles, one model predicts. [...] The poles are closer to the Earth’s axis of rotation, so having more mass there should speed up the planet’s rotation. (Felix Landerer, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Geophysical Research Letters)

Oooooh, scary !

Earth Will Survive Global Warming, But Will We?
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer


'Nuff said.

End of Oil Could Fuel 'End of Civilization as We Know It'
By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Senior Writer
14 December 2004

SAN FRANCISCO -- [T]he argument stretches back to a 1956 prediction by M. King Hubbert that oil production in the lower 48 U.S. states would peak in the early 1970s. He was right. The United States now imports nearly 60 percent of the oil it uses.

Kenneth Deffeyes, a Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, has taken Hubbert's logic a step further and predicts the world's oil production will top out late in 2005. [...]

Deffeyes second book on the topic, "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak" (Hill and Wang) is due out in March. His crystal ball is full of complex formulas and, most scientists agree, numbers that are impossible to accurately pin down, such as the amount of oil in known fields and how much more will be found. [...]

[Michael Lynch, a political scientist and energy consultant] agrees there are problems with relying so heavily on oil, and he sees more price volatility ahead. But he argues that many smaller deposits will be found and they will add up to "a lot of oil" over time. He also faults the running-dry-soon predictions as being based not on geology, but on politics and economics: Oil production in various countries has flattened or fell at certain times for reasons having nothing to do with how much they could produce, Lynch says.

Further, Lynch contends, it is not possible to predict the discovery of new oil fields or the true size of existing in-ground reserves. He likens current oil forecasts to stock market prediction. Charts fit history well, he says, "but they're not predictive."

Likewise, analyst Bill Fisher of the University of Texas at Austin sees plenty of oil over the next few decades. [...] He pointed out that estimates of oil reserves tend to grow over time, no matter who does the guessing. [...]

Caltech physicist David Goodstein sees little hope. [...] "Fusion and shale oil are the energy sources of the future, and they always will be," he quipped. Solar energy shows promise, he said, but "we haven't figured out how to use it." [...]

Goodstein, author of the book "Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil" (W.W. Norton & Company) sees a looming world crisis that could fuel war and bring society to its knees.

"We have created a trap for ourselves," Goodstein said.

The United States has so far avoided serious consequences from the trap by relying on imports. The country uses about 7 billion of the 30 billion barrels of oil produced annually around the globe. And it makes us rich. Oil consumption equals standard of living, experts agree.

Meanwhile, other countries are beginning to clamor for oil at unprecedented rates, and therein lies the recipe for potential disaster.

China uses a comparatively modest 1.5 billion barrels a year (perhaps 2.4 billion this year) according to some estimates. India consumes less. Both countries' economies are becoming increasingly dependent on oil, however. China's consumption is expected to grow 7.5 percent per year, and India’s 5.5 percent, according to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security.

By 2060, oil production will have to triple just to meet global population growth and maintain current standards of living, said Stanford University geophysicist Amos Nur.

Yet China's own production has been flat since the 1980s and it now imports 40 percent of what it needs.

"What matters in the short term is, when do we panic?" Nur said. "In my opinion, the point of panic has already taken place."

It's a behind-the-scenes sort of panic. The two largest economies on Earth -- China and the United States -- have already incorporated the finite nature of oil into their national security policies, Nur argues, citing policy statements from both governments reflecting the need to secure stability in oil-producing countries and a free flow of the resource. The war in Iraq, a country second only to politically unstable Saudi Arabia in oil reserves, is another clue, he said.

"There is a huge conflict that might be emerging," Nur said. [...]

Governments do not have the political will to prepare for the end of oil, says Goodstein, the Caltech physicist.

"Civilization as we know it will come to an end sometime this century, when the fuel runs out," Goodstein said, adding that "I certainly hope my prediction is wrong."

No worries, mate, you ARE wrong.

The bit about "oil consumption equals standard of living" is exactly backwards, it's putting the cart before the horse. High productivity requires a lot of energy, and high productivity also (usually) leads to a high standard of living.
Therefore there's no mystery as to why nations with high standards of living use so much oil - the oil use and high life both stem from high productivity. This can be seen in the much higher demand for oil from China and India, two nations with very rapidly expanding economies.

Goodstein's claim that we don't yet know how to use solar power and oil shale are laughable. We don't much use them, but for reasons of cost and politics, not inability. They are mature technologies that are just sitting on the shelf, waiting for us to need or desire them.

But hey, he's got a book to sell. Kinda like Gore.
Oil Production Could Peak Next Year
By Melinda Wenner
Special to LiveScience
17 April 2007

Global oil production will peak sometime between next year and 2018 and then decline, according to a controversial new model developed by a Swedish physicist. [...]

Previous oil-peak models have used a “top-down” approach to estimate future production based on three factors—past rates of total production, estimates of how much oil is left and a steady decline rate.

The new model, developed by Fredrik Robelius, a physicist and petroleum engineer at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, uses a “bottom-up” approach based on field-by-field analyses of the 333 giant oil fields in use today. These together account for more than 60 percent of today’s oil production. He pooled the contributions from all the smaller fields together, treating them as an additional giant field.

Robelius built his model, which serves as his doctoral dissertation, after analyzing the fields’ past production rates and their ultimate recoverable reserves. Then he predicted how production will decline after peaking by incorporating rates of drop-off observed at other fields, ranging from six percent in a best-case scenario to 16 percent in a worst-case scenario. Finally, he combined his results with estimated forecasts for new field developments from sources such as the deep ocean and oil sands in Canada, but he says that these are unlikely to offset the upcoming declines from the giant fields—and there is little chance that new giant fields will be discovered in the future. [...]

Although there are other potential sources of oil, they are not only smaller, but also frequently have low production rates because of geological constraints, said Robelius. In Canada’s oil sands, for instance, the oil is so heavy that it must be heated up before it starts to flow, he said, and this is a slow and expensive process.

Others disagree. Not much can be said about additional oil resources because we haven’t really started looking for them yet, said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, an energy consultancy firm in Massachusetts. Lynch thinks that the oil peak lies farther into the future, partially because there’s likely to be a lot of oil in as-yet undiscovered smaller fields.

“You don’t go looking for them until you run out of the giant fields,” Lynch said in a telephone interview. Robelius, and others like him, he said, suffer from a “perceptual problem—‘if I don’t see it, it must not be there.’”

And new technologies could help solve extraction problems, said Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit public policy think tank in Washington, D.C.

“New technologies have turned fields that once seemed to be dormant into steady supplies of oil,” said Kazman, who is also of the belief that the oil peak is not necessarily right around the corner. Just because giant oil fields have been important for oil production in the past, he said, “does not mean that they’re going to stay important in the future.”

Robelius says that these kinds of approaches rely on resources and technologies that haven’t yet been developed or even discovered, which isn’t practical. People assume that new resources will be able to produce oil quickly, he said, “without having any evidence whatsoever that that’s the case.”

Lynch and Kazman are right, and Robelius is likely to be wrong. The fields that are already under production are definitely declining, but we have no real idea how much oil there is remaining to be discovered. Further, there are some massive fields that we do know about, that aren't yet under production. The ten billion barrels under ANWR, the two billion barrels in central Utah, and the ten billion barrel ultra-deepwater Jack-2 strike in the Gulf of Mexico are but a few examples; the list is long and global.
Kazman's quote about enhanced recovery techniques is also on point. Right now we leave between half and two-thirds of the oil in any given field in the ground. As we develop better tech for recovering that oil, it reverses or at least slows the decline in production from known fields, and it does so with no risk; as with the Canadian tar sands, we already know where the oil is, so there's no chance of a dry hole. We just have to go get it.

Robelius is technically correct when he insists that most anti-peak-oil arguments rely on resources and technologies that haven’t yet been developed. However, his own thesis rests upon analyzing historical data about oil development, and projecting those trends into the future.
Using that same method, we find that the history of humanity, and especially that of the United States, is of consistently overcoming technical and scarcity challenges. In essence, Robelius's subtext is that RIGHT NOW is the apogee of human problem-solving ability, and that the future is helpless in the face of the problem of pumping more fluid out of deep holes.

That is ludicrous, to put it kindly. One might also say deranged, but I shan't.

Here are some KNOWN methods of producing energy:

Wind. Vastly underused, but could potentially supply all power needs for the entire world - forever. Chief drawback is that the wind is fickle in most places. One possible solution: Flying windmills in the jetstream.

Solar. Vastly underused, but could potentially supply all power needs for the entire world - forever. The major drawbacks are geographical limits on the frequency and intensity of sunlight, cost issues, and NIMBY political issues, due to the area required for solar arrays. One really cool, cutting-edge project: The world's tallest freestanding building, a solar tower of power.

Oil shale. Royal Dutch/Shell believes that they can recover usable petroleum from shale kerogen, (a precursor to both petroleum and natural gas), for $ 30/bbl. The chief obstacle is political: Most Rocky Mountain shale lies under Federal lands. Potential: Some estimates are that there are three trillion barrels of usable petroleum that could be wrung from Rocky Mountain shale.

Coal. Coal can be turned into petroleum for around $ 100/bbl, a figure that seemed over-the-Moon a mere ten years ago. Now it seems nearly reasonable. The United States have the largest supply of coal reserves on Earth, over 27% of total world coal reserves. The U.S. have over 275 billion short tons of recoverable reserves; enough to last for over 250 years, at current use levels. That's the equivalent of 1.4 trillion barrels of oil.

Nuclear fission. Proven world reserves of land deposits of uranium have increased by around 50% since the end of 2003, mainly because the price of uranium has gone up by 1,000%, due to demand from China. Global demand for uranium is currently ~70,000 tonnes/yr. There are an estimated 4.5 billion tonnes of uranium that are dissolved in the world's oceans, that are recoverable for about twice the current price of mining it.

If we were to assume that future use of nuclear fission for producing electricity would increase 1,000 times, to account for replacing internal-combustion engine vehicles with electric cars and whatnot, and we were to harvest the oceans' bounty of uranium, and use Monju / Phoenix type breeder reactors to increase the efficiency of our uranium use 60-fold, then we could fairly cheaply supply the entire world's energy demand with nuclear-generated electricity for the next 4,000 years.


Blogger David said...

Based on my trip to Blighty, I'd say we use more energy because we like to heat things up and cool them off. At Heathrow, the bathroom taps have a warning sign: "Caution: Hot Water." This precaution is apparently necessary for any English travelers who have never before experienced the phenomenon.

April 22, 2007 7:53 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I don't know about oil, Oro, but on global warming you are wasting your time. While you were away, they declared the debate over.

Yesterday to celebrate Earth Day, MSN gave us this photo essay of sixteen threatened areas. I count at least thirteen as favourite tourist destinations for wealthy Westerners. Also, unless you think melted snow is a crisis, nothing much seems to have happened yet--it's all future threats, which makes me wonder whether we need a Fermi's paradox for climate change. The last one on polar bears is just dead wrong, as they are thriving and population levels are at an all time high.

But I waste my breath. The debate is over.

April 23, 2007 2:57 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Sure, the post is unlikely to be seen by anyone who doesn't already have a set-in-concrete position on warming, but it relieves my frustration to point out how utterly STUPID is the warming crowd.

What's ironic* is that in an earlier era, I would have been classified as an "environmentalist", since I'm all for paying more for energy sources that pollute less, or are renewable and sustainable.

* Maybe. As far as the American understanding goes.

April 23, 2007 4:58 AM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

I would have been classified as an "environmentalist"

More likely you would have been classified as a nut.

But a friend of mine tells the tale of a spinster aunt who lived in a remote cottage by a lake in the fifties and was into ecological issues and consciouness long before it was popular. To help keep the planet clean, she rowed out to the middle of the lake once a week , tied her garbage to a rock and let it sink. They would draw and quarter you for that today.

April 23, 2007 5:43 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I am a nut. Seriously.

But I'm other things too.

The "clean the land by polluting the water" story is precious. Unfortunately, it's also instructive, and is surely being played out again today - we just don't know what present best-practices will be held to have been insane by future gen's.

April 23, 2007 12:09 PM  
Blogger EVadvocate said...

Speaking of nuts, check this out:

Singer Sheryl Crow and environmentalist Laurie David tour the country in a biodiesel bus teaching Americans to use only one square of toilet paper after going to the bathroom and wipe their mouths on their sleeves instead of napkins. No kidding.

I thought it was a joke but it appears to be sincere.

April 24, 2007 6:14 AM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

That's very funny, since even if they could convince everyone to behave in that fashion, it wouldn't make very much difference at all.

Why don't they stump for something that really could make a difference ?

Crow is rich, why doesn't she start an alternative-power business ?

April 25, 2007 9:30 AM  

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