Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Support

Bluesky Facebook LinkedIn Mastodon MeWe

Twitter YouTube RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


The Climate Shell Game

Posted on 21 March 2022 by Evan, jg

This is an opinion piece. I offer my views of how some data is presented to focus on small gains and away from large setbacks in addressing the climate crisis. I invite you to give your opinions in the "Comments" section at the end of this post.

With feet firmly on the accelerator pedal, we're speeding faster and faster down an increasingly treacherous road. The brakes ineffective, so far, to slow us down. One last chance to exit this road before it becomes unnavigable at our speeds. Cruising by the 1.7°C exit ramp, we are told there is a plan to develop, install, and then apply new, better brakes before we reach the 2°C exit ramp. These untested wonder brakes can not only stop our speeding car before we reach the 2°C exit ramp, we're told, but they can do so without spilling any drinks!

Some even talk about stopping so fast that we exit at the 1.5°C ramp.


I'm skeptical!

If this was a simple car with a simple engine and a simple reverse gear and driven by a single person who just had to apply the simple brakes ... maybe. But this is a car not being propelled by a single, controllable engine, but by 8 billion people all pushing this car. The car is accelerating because each year 80,000,000 additional people get behind the car to push it to higher speeds.

The Climate Shell Game

A shell game is played, knowingly or unknowingly, that showcases spotty successes, and hides the true scope of the climate crisis and requisite solutions. In this post I offer a couple of views on how the shell game is played and, more importantly, a simple method for determining if you're being snookered. We need to support efforts to stabilize climate. That is not the question. But to effectively plan for the future, you must learn how to assess our actual progress towards climate stabilization.

Consumer Disconnect

John Mason discusses the disconnect of people from the world around them (read here). The environment is not something we live in, it is something we see when we go into the “country”, to the “beach”, or somewhere associated with a “nature” place. Apples don’t come from trees, they come from the supermarket. Gas does not come from oil wells, but from the local gas station. People are fed a version of reality that is intertwined with fictional dramas. We become scripted actors on an artificial stage. The goal of those running the "show" that we call "life" is to maintain compliant consumers who ask few questions and loyally consume what they are fed while asking a minimum of questions.

The trained consumer is served optional realities selected from myriads of media feeds. To attract viewers, stations create palatable, marketable versions of reality. Into this world of viewer-selected alternate realities we will try to channel information about the real-world climate emergency, what we plan to do about it, and how scripted actors are expected to participate. That is, provided disconnected consumers don’t change the channel to a station where the weather is always nice and predictable and where tragic events are OK, because they’ve happened before and they always happen somewhere else. The "News" has become little more than another "Daytime Drama."

This disconnect is dangerous, because the climate emergency may only ever be nightly news entertainment. If one channel offers a version of reality more pleasant and less guilt-ridden, --click--. This continues until like an Amazon-Prime package, reality is finally delivered one day, by the environment, to your front door in the form of one of a smorgasbord of natural disasters. At that point we may have reconnected one person to reality. One down, many more to go.

Science Disconnect

Examples abound of scientific miracles that have transformed our lives: smart phones, medical devices, apps that do just about anything imaginable. More recently, the rapid and successful development and deployment of Covid vaccines. The abundance of examples of successful transitions from conception to consumers creates a blind faith that anything scientists develop will be rapidly and successfully deployed to consumers. But to succeed, new ideas must navigate the following deployment chain

  • Scientists develop new tech.
  • Engineers package new tech into new devices.
  • Industry develop processes and channels to deploy new devices.
  • Politicians create a favorable environment for rapid deployment of new devices.
  • Consumers accept the new devices.

Which illustrated looks like

Science deployment chain

Be skeptical of how quickly and easily we'll implement the scientific miracles developed to save us from the climate crisis. Not everyone participating in the deployment chain is as enthusiastic as the authors (think vested interests). Or there may be pesky problems such as budget limitations, material shortages, technical issues, or consumer rejection (think Covid vaccines).

The job of scientists is to feed ideas into the start of the deployment chain. The job of consumers is to remove devices from the end of the deployment chain. Consumers and scientists are, for the most part, disconnected from the difficulties and realities of getting scientific ideas through the deployment chain.

This leaves scientists disconnected from the real-world path their ideas must traverse from concept to consumers. Their ideas may be oversold, in part, because the difficulty of navigating the deployment chain is minimized.

How the Shell Game relies on Disconnected Consumers and Science

The shell game works because marketeers hype their products, hide impediments, with the effect of maximizing hope while minimizing hurt. Disconnected Science sells well to Disconnected Consumers who hold in their hands the miracles of science, sold to them for a modest price. Disconnected Consumers are easily led to believe that science can produce any kind of life-saving miracle. The shell game feeds into this narrative by compressing the difficult science-migration path from its full form illustrated above, to the much simpler form

Science → Consumer

Those pesky intermediate steps that slow down the deployment chain are conveniently omitted, or hidden in charts that often highlight only the positive trends. The idea that emerges is more like, because we have wind turbines and solar panels, with the wave of a hand we can easily switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Cars? Now that all the car companies have announced aggressive plans to electrify their fleets, we simply start buying EV's and we will easily eliminate vehicular GHG emissions.

Despite all of the progress and hopeful news, here are two examples of the kind of shell games played, knowingly or unknowingly, that make me skeptical of how "easily" and "quickly" we'll stabilize the climate. The point of this analysis is not to discourage you nor to criticize particular entities. The goal is to help you gauge the effort needed to stabilize the climate so that we can enact effective mitigation and adaptation strategies. The job will be much more difficult than we're being told, and we need to prepare for a more difficult struggle to tame the climate than the Disconnected Science projects.

Examples of how the Shell Game is played

Here are two examples of how the shell game is played. The first example shows how the presentation of population data can hide what is really happening and show an opposite trend. The second example shows how focusing your attention on one set of data, and ignoring another, gives a false sense of progress.

Misleading statistics

Global population is one of the main drivers of the climate crisis, because each person is a carbon emitter. Until I got involved studying climate issues, I routinely heard here and there that global population growth was slowing, heading down at the good clip shown in Fig. 1. The implications were that we would not have to worry about the effects of overpopulation because birth rates were "stabilizing".

Population growth as percentage of population

Figure 1. Annual, global population growth as a percentage of current population (data is here).

Great, we have that problem under control and there is no need to worry. Population should be leveling off just as soon as that straight line hits zero. There is a problem with Fig. 1, however. It does not show population growth, it shows population growth as a percentage of the current population. Figure 2 shows a plot of actual population growth.

Population growth - number of people

Figure 2. Annual, global population growth as a percentage of current population (dashed line) and as actual growth (solid line). Data is here.

So, all these years the population growth rate had actually been increasing, not decreasing. Or, because we don’t want to split hairs, the population growth rate has been nearly constant for the last 50 years at about 80,000,000 people/year. Growth in a finite world with limited resources ends only one way. Just ask a bunch of breeding rabbits with limited food supply.

After many years of being misled by statistics, I now know the truth. But before you cheer at the downward trend since 2015, the governments of many countries around the world have noticed that drop as well, and now are actively encouraging their populations to have more children. Even when the natural progression of human civilization is taking population where we know it needs to go if we are going to “solve” the climate crisis, governments are stepping up their efforts to prop up global population. Drat!

The shell game presents population data in such a way as to hide the 50-year trend of steady, consistent, unchanging population growth. Will government intervention maintain that steady growth?

Showing the good parts, hiding the bad parts

Then there is the issue of the deployment of renewable-energy systems: wind and solar and others. Theoretically that is going great guns with exponential growth starting in 2000, and a rosy future for continued, exponential growth to come. The growth shown in Fig. 3 makes us feel very good and hopeful. To build extra hope, it's good to show the arrow busting up through the top of the graph.

 Rapid growth of renewables

Figure 3. Global renewable electricity generation by year (data is here).

Just look at that steep climb. It’s like a rocket headed for the Moon. Or is it Mars? Graphs like this are great for lifting the spirits of people who know a thing or two about the climate crisis. Thing is, over this same time period the Keeling Curve has not deviated from its upward acceleration one bit. Not at all. Why? Because

The Keeling Curve does not care about the rise of renewable energy!

Any scientist or educated science communicator knows this, and yet we're shown graphs such as Fig. 3 which show this rapid growth of renewables. The Keeling Curve cares about what’s happening to fossil-fuel consumption. The Keeling Curve will only take note if the rise of renewable energy substitutes for fossil-fuel use and does not supplement it. How about we plot the two together to see how the rise of renewables has affected fossil-fuel use.

Rise of fossil-fuel usage together with rise of renewables and Keeling Curve

Figure 4. Global renewable electricity generation, global fossil-fuel usage, and Keeling Curve. Renewable energy data is here, fossil-fuel usage data is here.

How impressive does that "Global renewables" line look when compared to the fossil-fuel usage line? What impact has it had on the "Global fossil-fuel usage?" For all our progress with renewable energy, it remains little more than a hope for the future and currently is coexisting with, rather than replacing fossil-fuel use. Apparently the vested interests powering our world with fossil fuels are happy to let renewable energy mop up the energy crumbs while fossil fuels command the lion's share of energy supply. How easy will it be to switch the position of the renewable-energy and fossil-fuel curves? Might the vested interests resist this swap?

Up to 2020, there is no indication of any slowdown in fossil-fuel use. There is lots of talk about slowdowns in isolated segments here and there, but the total usage keeps going up. The Keeling Curve responds to the fossil-fuel usage curve, and not to the renewable-energy curve.

The shell game focuses our attention on the meteoric rise of renewables, and distracts us from the comparable rise of fossil-fuel usage and the upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve. Don't just ask "What will it take to scale up renewable energy systems?" Ask also, "What will it take to scale down entrenched fossil-fuel systems?"

How to tell if you're being snookered

Science communicators advertize solutions for stabilizing the climate at 1.5°C, even though in 2022 there is enough carbon in the atmosphere to take us to 1.7°C and by 2050 we will easily have enough carbon in the atmosphere to take us to 2.0°C or more ... if we don't succeed in getting the Keeling Curve to descend.

How can you assess whether you're being snookered by climate-stabilization projections? How is the climate shell game being played?

Global policy makers raise hopes by citing all of the agreements that have been reached. Promises for what climate negotiators around the world say their governments will commit to in the future. One company after another announcing they are carbon-neutral. Questionable, opaque methods likely used to determine carbon neutrality. Now the grand plan is to make the entire world carbon neutral by sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

I'm not here to throw cold water on the negotiations and efforts under way. I support them. I am here to help you assess how well we're converting talk into action. Future plans you and your family make depend on the sum total of our effort, not on the bits and pieces, and certainly not on bold talk.

There are two things to monitor: global population and the Keeling Curve. Global population is one of the prime drivers of the Keeling Curve. Although there are bold plans to reduce the per-capita carbon footprint, adding 80,000,000 new carbon emitters each year simply means that however more efficient we make each carbon emitter, year after year after year we keep adding more and more of them. As long as global population growth continues anywhere near 80,000,000 new carbon emitters/year, it represents a very strong headwind. Figure 5 shows a near linear relationship, over 100 years, between global population and annual atmospheric CO2 accumulation.

CO2 accumulation rate vs global population

Figure 5. Annual atmospheric CO2 accumulation rates vs global population. Various notable events are shown. The dashed lines show the trend towards Net-Zero we might have followed had we started immediately after the IPCC was formed, and the trend currently proposed. This figure implicitly assumes that we will reach a global population of 9.5 billion by 2050, the target year for achieving Net-Zero.

Or to put it into an easier form to monitor, Table 1 shows the pace at which we need to ramp down the annual rate of CO2 accumulation to reach Net Zero by 2050. Table 1 also shows the resulting CO2 concentration. Keep track of how well we're doing. The numbers bounce around from year to year, so don't expect them to exactly follow this trend every year.

Table 1. Path to achieving Net-Zero by 2050.

Year ΔCO2 [Δppm/yr]  CO2 Conc [ppm]
 2021  2.5 415
 2022  2.5 417.5
 2023  2.4 420
 2024  2.3 422.4
 2025  2.2 424.7
 2026  2.1 426.9
 2027  2.0 429
 2028  1.9 431
 2029  1.8 432.9
 2030  1.7 434.7
 2031  1.6 436.4
 2032  1.5 438
 2033  1.4 439.5
 2034  1.3 440.9
 2035  1.2 442.2
 2036  1.1 443.4
 2037  1.0 444.5
 2038  0.9 445.5
 2039  0.8 446.4
 2040  0.7 447.2
 2041  0.6 447.9
 2042  0.5 448.5
 2043  0.4 449
 2044  0.3 449.4
 2045  0.2 449.7
 2046  0.1 449.9
 2047  Net-Zero 450

This path shown in Table 1 leaves us with 450 ppm CO2 in 2050, sufficient to take us to 2°C warming, if we don't get CO2 to start decreasing at that point.

It would be a huge success to stabilize the climate at any temperature.

It would be an even larger success to stabilize the climate at 2°C.

What would it take to stabilize the climate at 1.5°C?

To stabilize the climate at any temperature will hurt. There will be sacrifice and people forgoing things they want. But that is not the message that is being broadcast. The messaging needed is alluded to by a quote from Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows in a paper they wrote (read here):

“… this is not a message of futility, but a wake-up call of where our rose-tinted spectacles have brought us. Real hope, if it is to arise at all, will do so from a bare assessment of the scale of the challenge we now face.”

It is time that we stop playing a climate shell game, deceiving people about what it will take to get out of our climate mess. Telling people the truth is not a guarantee of success, but deceiving them about what it will take to solve the climate crisis will commit us to ineffective action. Will we inform them of the truth or wait until climate disasters wake them one-by-one from their stupor?

If climate skeptics/deniers are being dishonest about how bad the problem is, a vocal part of the scientific community, or scientific messengers, are not being honest about what is needed to effectively deal with the climate crisis.

Playing the climate shell game will not magically solve the problem. At best, it keeps consumers happy until they are woken from their slumber by an unwelcomed, but expected climate demon.

These are my thoughts on the subject. What do you think? How do you feel about the information you're getting? Tell us below in the "Comments" section.



1 0

Printable Version  |  Link to this page


1  2  Next

Comments 1 to 50 out of 93:

  1. Thank you for providing another thought provoking presentation.

    I will share more thoughts after pondering the entire presentation further.

    But my initial thought is that the root of the problem can be better understood by evaluating:

    • What if the global population was not still growing?
    • What if the developing poorer portion of a global total of 8 billion people continued to aspire to develop to live like the supposedly 'more advanced - higher status' portion of the population did/do?
    • What if the higher status people continued to live 'more' harmfully rather than all competing to set better example of living in ways that are less harmful and more helpful to others?
    0 0
  2. I cannot agree with the notion set out by the OP that "accelerating" AGW is being driven by the rise in global population.

    Firstly, yes, the global population is increasing, presently at 80 millions per year, and the population & CO2 emissions rises are very similar, but the societies with rising population are not the major contributors to the emissions rises. There is thus no viable connection between population & CO2 emissions. 
    Secondly, what is meant by the idea that AGW is "accelerating" does need to be nailed down before it is presented in such an analogy.

    I do agree with the general view that there is a disconnect between the science and the real-world policies to mitigate AGW.
    There certainly is a "don't scare the horses" agenda being propagated by politicians. (Or perhaps it is the civil servants that advise dumb politicians who are doing the propagating.) The idea that we can scale up renewables to achieve a 50% cut in GHGs by 2030 and 100% cut in CO2 by 2050 is not practical given the present efforts to achieve it.
    I am from UK whose ruling politicians are not-so-long-ago climate-change-deniers. They delight in telling the world how we have cut our emissions by a world-beating 40% since 1990. Ignoring the significant exporting of emissions through the period since 1990 that allowed the 40% cut to be achieved, we are still (2020 data) at 32M toe non-fossil-fuels primary energy production, a value that hasn't moved since 2017. (See DUKES 2021 datasets) So no sign of any actions to address any looming climate emergency. Instead we get bonkers Boris and his world-beating nonsense.
    So I generally agree with the message the OP is hoping to provide, but am not at all happy with the analogies.

    I would also point to errors in the portrayal of "net zero". The zero is about CO2 emissions and not about atmospheric concentrations. The scenario SSP1-1.9 hits net zero emissions by 2050 but atmospheric ppms peak and begin the drop from 2040 (at 440ppm according to Meinshausen et al 2020).

    0 0
  3. MA Rodger@2 thanks for your comments. Much appreciated.

    I agree that Net Zero as defined by the leading authorities means net zero emissions by 2050, which would cause CO2 cocnentrations to drop well before then. I also understand net zero emissions is an aspiration. There is no way to ensure this is enforced. It is merely a goal.

    Hence, what I am presenting is actually much easier than that, and yet Fig. 5 and Table 1 clearly show the great effort required to meet this "easier" goal. If we were to achieve anything like what is shown in Table 1 it would be a great accomplishment.

    So I accept your correction to my use of the term "net zero", but maintain that what I show in Table 1 is sufficiently close to what we need to achieve, is much easier to comprehend and remember, and itself represents a near miracle if we achieve it.

    As far as population, let's just leave it that you and I disagree. Every person is a carbon emitter. Even if you remove the top 10% of carbon emitters, responsible for 50% of emissions, we still have a climate crisis. So we are splitting hairs, because halving our emissions won't get us anywhere near where we need to be.

    0 0
  4. You made an excellent case for climate pessimism. I've also been a climate pessimist since 2015; it was the Vox articles "the awful truth about climate change no one wants to admit" and "7 reasons america will fail on climate change" that convinced me.

    Like the author of 7 reasons (as well as ~99% of climate pessimists), I would be deeply grateful to anyone who could convince me I'm wrong. Non-pessimists have given me information that we're making progress, and I simply keep pointing out that emissions are still increasing, so what's happening isn't enough. This article does a great job of explaining why those statistics are highly misleading, so I can refer here when I need to without simply repeatedly pointing back to the same fact.

    I agree with you on overpopulation, and am infuriated with people who think there's a low birth rate crisis and people need to have more kids. The simple fact is, fewer people means fewer emissions. We certainly could sustain 8 billion people if we chose to live more sustainably, but there's no sign of that happening, so not having children is the best choice. Plus, even if we do collectively wake up about this crisis and act, fewer people will help reach our goals.

    Also, am I interpreting you correctly that if all carbon emissions ended right now, we'd still get to 1.7C? If so, where do you get that?

    0 0
  5. Congratulations!

    At last: a piece in an influential science-based outlet that doesn't skirt around, or ignore, the fundamental problem which is there are too many of us, and more by the second.

    I've seen all sorts of arguments from all sorts of people attempting to play down the population issue, none of which make sense.

    We are all familiar with arithmetic v exponential growth. It really is as simple as that. All living systems find equilibrium within their niches - except us: our technology has enabled us to outwit the exponential v arithmetic equation. Except that it hasn't. What it HAS done is enable us to extract from a limited - if large - natural capital of energy and raw materials to APPEAR to have done it, and now the end game is in full view. It's not just CO2, or energy generally - it's everything. There are just too many of us even if starting from a full bowl and not from the point where we have already used a large amount from the bowl.

    It's not easy being optimistic today: I'm just glad to be eighty this year and with no children to worry about.

    0 0
  6. anticorncob6 @4

    Thank you for your thoughts. I am trying hard not to write as a pessimist, but to help people see the true scope of the problem so that we can prescribe effective solutions. Getting to net zero will be tough, and we need to prepare for that. Whether or not we achieve net zero by 2050, we need to push to achieve that as close as possible and as fast as possible.

    "Also, am I interpreting you correctly that if all carbon emissions ended right now, we'd still get to 1.7C? If so, where do you get that?"

    This is tricky. If we ended all carbon emissions now, we would stabilize at something like 1.1C. But if we stabilize CO2 at something like 420 ppm and it does not drop, then we eventually warm to something like 1.7C. This is due to the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS), which the IPCC estimates as being in the range of 2.5 to 4C increase for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. A common value used for ECS is 3C/doubling CO2. In Analogy 4 I show measured temperature and CO2 data that exhibits this ECS = 3C/doubling CO2.

    0 0
  7. The idea that emerges is more like, because we have wind turbines and solar panels, with the wave of a hand we can easily switch from fossil fuels to renewables.

    I don't think wind turbines owe much to science.  As an engineer I much prefer solid state power for which we need more science.  China as one example puts a lot of money into science such as solar fuel catalysts.  Those promise not just carbon neutral fuel, but solar energy storage and eventual sequestration.

    This path shown in Table 1 leaves us with 450 ppm CO2 in 2050, sufficient to take us to 2°C warming, if we don't get CO2 to start decreasing at that point.

    Seems rather obvious to me that decreasing ambient CO2 is inevitable after stopping the rise.  I agree stopping the rise by 2050 is very challenging, but probably only by a decade or two.  Along with your fig 4 you should show cost per watt ($3 when I bought my first panel to 50 cents today), efficiency (approaching 50% in the labs), etc.

    0 0
  8. Eric (skeptic)@7

    "Seems rather obvious to me that decreasing ambient CO2 is inevitable after stopping the rise."

    I don't think any of this is inevitable. We will only solve the climate crisis through shear willpower. You are referring to carbon from the energy sector, but agricultural emissions are more difficult to zero out, and will likely require negative emission technologies (NET) to do that. Although some of the NET systems represent modified agricultural practices that may represent win/win scenarios, much of the NET systems will represent a pure tax. And we know how people respond to increasing taxes.

    0 0
  9. Carbon Neutral, especially in China, is a dream.

    With the current approach, RES technologies, speed of replacement of fossil fuel energy produced to the RES or Nuclear it will take more than 50y from now (in the best scenario).

    But China would have to accelerate RES capacity building significantly. However, no one considers the deterioration of conditions, which are limiting for the RES. For example, there will be less solar capacity if there is more precipitation. Furthermore, no one considers how the current YtY growth in energy consumption (only in China) will cause there to generate twice as much energy in 2050 as is needed in 2021. I have seen a few Chinese "scientific" studies that are virtually impossible. For example, here is my analysis of such approach:


    Unless we know how to "solve" China, we can put all the plans in the trash. But China does not have a headache. So who will push them UN, G7, G20?

    Here I have discussed several possible development scenarios for the China energy sector:


    And here is the simplified version:


    There is one option that no one will like - to freeze and reduce energy production growth in China. But it will hurt everyone.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Links inserted and shortened to prevent page formatting issues.

    The web software here does not automatically create links. You can do this when posting a comment by selecting the "insert" tab, selecting the text you want to use for the link, and clicking on the icon that looks like a chain link. Add the URL in the dialog box.

  10. Evan, stopping the rise is inevitable although by 2050 is far from inevitable.  Progress is not my "opinion". It is a fact. The only question is the timeframe.  Once the rise is stopped by whatever date, the decrease is also inevitable since the processes will continue and are scalable.  Perhaps we only disagree on the time frame, and you believe technological progress is much too slow.

    I admit there are some scenarios where production, e.g. burning lots of coal, can outstrip the CO2 increase reduction and CO2 elimination, mostly this century, but probably not beyond.  I agree NET costs money.  But the cost is decreasing and will continue to decrease.  Also we don't have to uselessly pump liquid CO2 into the ground.  We can, for example, sequster solid carbon above ground.  For example carbon-based infrastructure that builds itself and constantly renews itself by sequestering ambient CO2.

    0 0
  11. Eric (skeptic)@10

    So let's be clear by what we mean when we talk about "stopping the rise."

    The Keeling Curve is currently accelerating upwards. Nothing we've done to date has had any effect on its upward, accelerating trajectory. Any statements being made are based on what we "hope" will happen in the future, because nothing we've done in the past has had any effect.

    NET is a technology not yet deployed on a scale to have any impact. It's deployment therefore represents only a hypothetical plan. What I am trying to show in these posts is that if we are to realize the expectations to which you're referring, we are going to have to prioritize them (i.e., they must affect how we vote) and make sacrifices to achieve net zero in any reasonable time frame. So far that is not happening. There is lots of talk, but very little action. And unfortunately, a lot of the talk is to reassure people that we have the technology that will allow us to do this, without communicating that one of the best ways to achieve net zero is to cut back on energy consumption.

    To deploy renewable technology so that it reduces carbon emissions, we must ramp down fossil-fuel eneregy production. That will not happen without a fight. So far renewable energy seems to be coexisting with fossil-fuel energy, and not replacing it. IMO, many science communicators seem to think that fossil-fuel energy systems will naturally ramp down as we deploy more renewable energy systems. I am skeptical of this happening. It may be that all we do with wide-spread deployment of renewable energy systems is to simply increase the available energy consumption.

    Where we differ is that I am skeptical that the carefully-crafted scenarios to net zero can be deployed without facing the kind of resistance that will put their success in jeopardy. We need to prepare the public for a long struggle to get to net zero.

    0 0
  12. Evan, the cause of the acceleration is important.  It's not the usual suspects using more energy, it's billions of people who use very little energy using more energy.   Two million children die each year from indoor air pollution. That's because 2.5 billion people use indoor fires for cooking and heating.  Governments of all types will do what China did, first giving people stoves and then coal-fired electricity.

    What do we do about that since that is the cause of the acceleration?  We look at China's R&D as I pointed out in my opening comment, with the largest investment in solar hydrocarbon fuel research in the world. The benefits will be carbon neutral heat and cooking on demand.  Fossil electricity is available today so they are doing that today.  They will ramp up renewables as your fig 4 shows.  The past lag is due to high price and the current lag is due to lack of emergy storage.

    I hope I have explained why the curves in fig 4 have those shapes.  Perhaps you can counter that argument and/or explain why lower prices and energy storage won't change the outcome by particular dates.

    0 0
  13. Eric (skeptic)@12

    "Perhaps you can counter that argument and/or explain why lower prices and energy storage won't change the outcome by particular dates."

    I am not challenging your detailed analysis, and it is interesting. There are so many facets to this problem. But getting to net zero means tackling all of the source of GHG emissions simultaneously and in every country. That is a huge challenge. Yes, as you point out, there are uses of fossil fuels that will naturally give way to better, cleaner methods. But other uses may not give way so easily, and the companies that sell fossil fuels are, and will likely continue, to fight to sell their product.

    If, as you predict (and I hope you're correct), we replace all fossil-fuel energy by 2050 or within a couple of decades after, there will still be remaining issues such as deforestation and ag-related GHG emissions.

    My point is this. If we broadcast that these things will naturally happen because price is on our side (we just need time to allow market penetration to happen), and that there is no need for the average citizen to change the way they live, I am quite certain we will fail. Even if we are able to eventually execute the transition to net zero for the reasons you articulate, time is of the essence. If we allow temperatures to rise too high before we get to net zero, we may lock in dangerously high temperatures for a long time.

    I hope you and I can agree that there is an urgency to doing this quickly, and we need to convey this urgency to the average person. One of the ways to immediately cut down GHG emissions is to simply consume less.

    I am, of course, talking about those of us in developed countries cutting down. People in developing countries will likely use fossil fuels to raise their standard of living for some time yet.

    0 0
  14. Let me add the following comment to this discussion. Table 1 shows a path that is almost incomprehensibly challenging. The consequences of not meeting that incomprehensible challenge is dire. Yet people are confidently placing their hope and trust in forecasts and predictions when nothing we've done, to date, has slowed the upward acceleration of the Keeling Curve.

    To me, this indicates that we must do all that we can to reduce GHG emissions. It would be a mistake to trust in technologies that have yet to be deployed at a scale to make a difference. It seems prudent to start campaigns to get people to consume less.

    There is no guarantee of success. But we increase our odds for success by not just relying on wonder technologies, but being prudent and encouraging people to reduce consumption.

    0 0
  15. Evan,

    I am still pondering the entire presentation. But I agree with the urgency of getting people to significantly reduce their consumption, and not just their energy consumption.

    That brings up some other good questions to ponder.

    • Is it OK that there are a significant number of people who lack basic needs like: adequate nutrition and clean water, basic health care and education, adequate shelter? Global GDP has grown far faster than global population so how is that still happening?
    • Why do people who obtain the ability to provide for all of their basic needs become desperate to pursue More? And why do they pursue More without serious concern for the harm done by their pursuits of More? Every person consuming more than their basic needs reduces 'space and resourse access' for Others who do not have the ability to meet their basic needs. And being harmful is only potentially excused if a poor person does something harmful in pursuit of basic needs.

    Policy changes are required, like the Carbon Fee and Rebate, that can help the less fortunate achieve improved living while the harmful developed ways of 'living better' get removed form the system. But, as with any aid for the less fortunate that depends on unsustainable harmful action like fossil fuel use, a carbon fee and rebate program would not be a lasting improvement for the less fortunate.

    The challenge is changing the perception of value in global societies to be "valuing the pursuit of being less harmful and more helpful to others". And there are many powerful people who will fight against that change of focus and any related changes of policy objectives. They have been fighting against new policy like Carbon Fee and Rebates. The current dramatic challenge is due to Their Success through the past 30 years.

    Another way to say all this is that the challenge is to take power away from undeserving 'higher status people who will fight viciously to resist losing their undeserved developed perceptions of superiority'. And that can only happen if more people become aware of that challenge and make it clear to political candidates that they will vote for the policy makers who are most committed to make the required changes happen.

    0 0
  16. Gents, for this fight you need masses. But masses don't care about your topic. Current science is in chaotic stage in case of the climate change:

    - deniers

    - supporters

    - followers (they will be silen and wait for a miracle)

    - amateurs (they do perfect job for the denier's responses)

    - opportunists (they use current chaos for their profit)

    Who will be the trustworthy advisor for the masses:
    - who submits deep dive evidence?
    - who will use simple keywords?

    Just consider it from the Stanley Milgram obedience experiment side. 
    It is necessary to look at the causes, not the consequences. otherwise those measures will be shooting into the dark.
    Take the help of the Pareto principle to sort out the points of interest.
    1. If 10% of countries account for 81% of fossil fuel emissions, dealing with measures in the remaining 188 countries is a waste of time. And the time can't be bought.
    2. However, it is necessary to look deeper. I've already done it.

    And it's bad.
    Take a look here:

    and here:

    and here:


    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Links activated

  17. @Jan #16:

    Not so sure about that. The measures taken here in the UK against COVID were dramatic and severe, yet given clear information regarding the nature of the threat, the majority of people accepted them to "do their bit". Countries where a degree of denialism prevailed saw, by contrast, massive losses. I know these are two very different issues but to me it shows what's possible if people are well-informed.

    0 0
  18. @John #17

    got your point. But between the COVID-19 pandemic and the Climate change topic, there is a heavy gap (as you stated).

    You can't compare it in terms of your own social bubble. You have to go down one level.

    Let's compare them:

    - the COVID-19 pandemic brought a real threat. People were under pressure of an increasing number of deaths every day = this is a significant and unquestionable enabler. It affected a person's basic feelings - will I die?

    - Climate change topic is unclear for the masses. Something is wrong, but nobody dies. There is no instinct threat. People continue to buy things they don't need. They believe in the profit-driven agenda that if they buy EVs, they will save the planet. But they don't understand that they will recharge that EV from the outlet that is connected to the coal-fired plant. Let's look at + 50% EVs market share = China and their 70% share of fossil fuels in energy production + YoY increase in fossil fuel power plants. They continue to buy new smartphones because for many it is something connected to social status. The biggest attraction is its performance, which they don't need, and the number of Megapixels they can't judge on their screen. TV with 4k is no longer enough, we need to exchange all TVs for 8k. And so I can continue until the next morning. Do you still feel that the masses are aware of where this ship is heading? Do you feel afraid they will die?

    Compare how many people are willing to watch Super Bowl, Formula 1, Football, Olympics, a new movie from Marvel, know the story of each athlete/actor, take care of their privacy, collect gossip vs. how many people sit down on the Internet to learn more about e.g. climate change?

    In the past, we thought that the lack of interest in the serious issues of this world lies in the absence of information and education which would’ve been solved with social networks. Unfortunately, it now turns out that free access to information and relatively easy access to education (sources) does not result in more knowledge, outlook, and awareness. On the contrary, we observe an unprecedented rise and spread of delusions, misinformation, and conspiracies, often by the uneducated and uninformed. The masses consume such "information" only seeking affirmation of their opinions, not new knowledge. The problem of disinterest obviously has deeper causes: keyboard philosophers/scientists, pettiness, selfishness, light energy efficiency - lifestyle, and the embedding of the meaning of life in material plentifulness and entertainment.

    That is why I think that the fight to reduce climate change should not be paramount - unless we realize that the majority of the population does not care and only wants to have fun, we will lose every attempt at this game of life. Gaining likes will never lead to true climate change.

    Only one thing can awaken people - affect their instincts. The behavioural economy has long described this.

    1 0
  19. @All

    Mr W. Churchill:

    - "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter".

    - "Democracy is the worst system, except for all the other systems".

    Unfortunately, old Mr Churchill was right, and nothing had changed during that time.

    Each country will do decided by its voters, who elect their representatives. Democracy is about the choice of the majority. Do you have an idea that the masses will elect someone to proclaim restrictions in their perfect consumer life? Elsewhere in the world, elections succeed with those who promise assurances.

    I spent my young period in socialism. Something terrible. However, today's capitalism is long beyond its initial thoughts. And that's the problem. People are driven through Social networks. The low-energy way of thinking suits them. They have more time to have fun. However, suppose you do not understand the judgment of the masses will be based on whether their source of knowledge has hundreds of million views and hundreds of million likes. In that case, we can invent anything - it will be useless.

    I spent my young period in socialism. Something terrible. However, today's capitalism is long beyond its initial thoughts. And that's the problem. People are controlled through Social networks. The low-energy way of thinking suits them. They have more time to have fun. I'm not a fan of conspiracy theories. However, if you do not understand the judgment of the masses will be based on whether their source of knowledge has a million views and a million likes, then we can invent anything - it will be useless.
    See what people are most interested in on YouTube:
    Social Blade: TOP25 You Tube channels

    or on Facebook:

    Social Blade: TOP25 Facebook channels


    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Links should work now.

  20. sorry for the hyperlinks, I finally found the Insert/Hyperlink feature

    0 0
  21. @#18 - yes I do  agree with a lot of that. It's why I have thought long and hard on the communication strategy and I realised that extensive demographics can be reached but not in the way we have been doing. For these, it is necessary to come at climate science from a different angle, I researched and wrote The Making of Ynyslas to see if I could reach the non-climate-engaged but nevertheless natural-history-enthusiastic, for example. That's a lot of people potentially. There's some evidence that it works in this purpose, from formerly non-engaged people who say they now understand.

    0 0
  22. A simple example of the masses thinking:

    Question: "What do you think is the fundamental problem in our civilization: ignorance or disinterest?"
    Answer: "I don't know. And I'm not even interested."

    Masses: We do not take care unless our house burns down.

    That's why I changed my approach to creating links for the masses. They don't need graphs, numbers, evidence.
    They need examples, stories. Something they can feel in the subconscious:

    No more good news on Global warming

    Let's join forces, knowledge, possibilities and let's communicate it so that the masses understand it.
    Of course, it is also necessary to maintain the scientific level. But again - this is not something the masses can understand.

    0 0
  23. @John Mason #21

    great job John, I will read it.

    We are in the same way. Now let's prepare a common understanding for the masses - a story - which will be easily digestible for them to understand.

    0 0
  24. jan, I started writing analogies for the very purpose you describe: to reach the masses. I work in the sciences and generally communicate like an engineer. But I understand the need to which you're referring to speak to lay people on a different level. And some times this gets me in trouble with climate scientists because I will sacrifice scientific rigor to improve clarity and understanding.

    One of the problems we face is the mental, digital switch: all or nothing. If people lose hope, they say, "What's the point in trying." Yet life is often lived in a gray, imperfect zone, and we extract meaning from daily struggles with the results of less-than-perfect decisions. Whatever happens in the future with our imperfect political systems, life will go on, and the better people understand what is happening and why, the better they will be able to navigate life's bumpy roads.

    SkS is a great forum for discussing climate-science communication strategies.

    0 0
  25. @Evan #24

    as a data scientist, I'm on the same page.

    I need to maintain a scientific approach to my hypotheses. That's why I make documents that follow this form 9testing, confirmation/rejection, references, ...).

    Subsequently, I make educational documents based on scientific methods, but I use data visualization (more than text doc) because people understand images better than text. This section is dedicated to popularization for scientists at a broader range than the Climate area.

    Subsequently, I started with documents for 80% of the population (Pareto). Then, thanks to what fed me, I understood that this auditorium needed a light information diet. Otherwise, they will refuse all because it will be difficult for them.

    Got your point regarding the "imperfect world".  I do it for my children and their successors lest they shouldn't be ashamed of what we left them.

    0 0
  26. jan, I like your approach. I write, and my co-author, jg, illustrates. I agree with the need for visual communication, and that's why I like collaborating with an illustrator: he brings the message to life as do you with your visualizations.

    My writing may, in fact, be how I practice to dialogue verbally with others. Effective communication needs both text and illustrations, in the proper balance. And getting that balance correct is the trick.

    And I like John's technique of wrapping the message in a tale of local history. That brings the message home and personalizes it.

    I hope you will continue to participate in SkS jan and to add your comments.

    0 0
  27. @Evan

    thank you.

    Here is one of my first complex documents:

    GHG [CO2] emissions problem in a dark box - 1st part of the Global warming series



    0 0
  28. @Eric (skeptic) #12:
    “Two million children die each year from indoor air pollution. link to the study. That's because 2.5 billion people use indoor fires for cooking and heating. “

    I found in the linked study (Fullerton, 2008):
    One-third of the world’s population burn organic material such as wood, dung or charcoal (biomass fuel) for cooking, heating and lighting.
    My note – no source and year defined for the: “1/3 of the world’s population burn organic material” claim.

    Then I found there:
    “The amount of exposure in terms of the number of people, exposure intensity and time spent exposed is far greater in the developing world (Smith, 1993); approximately 76% of all global particulate matter air pollution occurs indoors in the developing world (Figure 1).”

    My note: The study is from 1993 (29y ago) and refer to the situation in 1990 or “the late 1980s” when the world population was about 5.327B(1990) … (source: UN Population). Developing countries based on HDI<0.9 (defined by the author of the study) … can’t find the exact number.

    But the mentioned “ Indoor air pollution from biomass combustion in LDCs” (Smith, 1993) – are based on mixed country samples (developing countries) and different years of the data captured within the years 1968-1993. To be sure diff years for diff countries in the sample list. Then the study gets a heavy range of the Typical pollution level (fLg/m3) from 90 up to 21,000.

    There is also mentioned another source for the:
    “BMF refers to burned plant or animal material; wood, charcoal, dung and crop residues account for more than one-half of domestic energy in most developing countries and for as much as 95% in lower income countries (Smith et al., 2004).”
    My note:
    - Study source from 2004 is about different years and different country samples and different kinds of methods of obtaining data (local energy statistics, local census, International Energy Agency, local survey, statistical UN, statistical WRI, FAO, …)
    - The study from 2004 uses the list of different sources for “Parameters in the fuel use prediction model”: UN, World Bank, Author calculation, from different years: 1993-2001 for every single parameter.

    My conclusion:
    I certainly would not recommend using these data in research outputs, as climate deniers would literally tear you apart by comparing pollution from 1964 and today through research published in 1993. Or by the “strange” defined data for the modelling in 2004.
    It could be used as a comparison sample for research done today. That would make sense for me.

    To be completely clear. The importance of examining the impact of using Biomass fuels is essential. But it is much more important to use data that will not ruin the whole effort.

    @Eric (skeptic):
    “What do we do about that since that is the cause of the acceleration? We look at China's R&D as I pointed out in my opening comment, with the largest investment in solar hydrocarbon fuel research in the world. The benefits will be carbon neutral heat and cooking on demand. Fossil electricity is available today so they are doing that today. They will ramp up renewables as your fig 4 shows. The past lag is due to high price and the current lag is due to lack of emergy storage.”

    My note:
    Solar Hydrocarbon fuel is really great idea. No doubt.

    0 0
  29. OPOF@15 Good questions.

    "Is it OK that there are a significant number of people who lack basic needs like: adequate nutrition and clean water, basic health care and education, adequate shelter? Global GDP has grown far faster than global population so how is that still happening?"

    IMO these groups should be allowed to continue to use fossil fuels longer than those of us who can afford to transition sooner. I believe this is the concept of "equity" included in the Paris Agreement.

    "Why do people who obtain the ability to provide for all of their basic needs become desperate to pursue More? And why do they pursue More without serious concern for the harm done by their pursuits of More? Every person consuming more than their basic needs reduces 'space and resourse access' for Others who do not have the ability to meet their basic needs. And being harmful is only potentially excused if a poor person does something harmful in pursuit of basic needs."

    Why do cats chase, play with, and then kill mice when they have all the food they need in their food dish?

    Why do tyrants invade and kill innocent people? If they have sufficient funds to wage war, presumably they have sufficient funds to properly run their country without waging war. I have no idea how we "retrain" people to play nice and to be fair.

    0 0
  30. Jan Rapan, thanks for the links. Its certainly true that many people are apathetic about the climate issue. This is for well known psychological reasons like these:

    You say you are a "data scientist. What university degree do you have and from what institution please?I was unable to find anything in any of your links or your biography.

    You wrote in one of your links: "Logically we need to have clean green energy first; only then do we need to change over tonew devices, like EVs. We cannot do it oppositely. Otherwise, we only transpose the CO2emission problems from oil fuels to our electric outlets filled by combustion power fuels (coal,natural gas, biomasses). It is the big irony driven by profit only. But look at an excellent exampleof simplification for people: Green is Cool. EVs are cool. EVs are zero emissions. EVs are Green.Yes, it holds for the country regions with low/zero emissions power sources. But remember,China is worldwide the most significant EVs market, and China produces electricity for themmainly from fossil fuels (and even openly plans to continue with it)"

    I disagree partly. You do actually have to start using some EVs even if the energy source is only about 10% renewables. You have to phase in EV's gradually. Otherwise we would have a situation where we get say 30 years down the road and the grid is say 75% renewables, then we have to start building EVs and everyone driving them which would probably be another 30 years because scaling them up is inevitably a slow process. By then the climate is totally cooked.

    0 0
  31. nigelj@30 Agree with your comments about EV's. The world is not uniform. We've had an EV for 5 years, powering it, theoretically, on wind power. Many power utilities will certify that they use "green energy credits" to ensure the power used for cars comes from renewables.

    Also, getting a lot of EV's on the road sends the right signal to the company's making them and to the company's powering them. Hard to know where to start, but I think we need to just jump in and get things going whereever we can. Getting to net zero will likely not be as orderly as the modelers would like us to think.

    I think they call this the chicken or the egg problem. :-)

    0 0
  32. OPOF @15

    "Why do people who obtain the ability to provide for all of their basic needs become desperate to pursue More?"

    Very good question I have also asked myself. A combination of reasons from well established biology and psychology:

    1) Humans are status seeking animals. We demonstrate this in part by accumulating consumer goods.

    2) Humans are hoarders. We accumulate more than we need in case there are shortages. This could be consumer goods or the money that can buy them. And its hard to put an upper limit on how much is appropriate to hoard so it gets huge with some people.

    3) Retail therapy makes us feel good by triggering the dopamine / seratonin pathways in the brain.

    4) Humans seek ever more life experiences. People like to fulfill their wants even if these are extravagant wants. (Defining wants versus needs is also not as easy as it seems)

    5) Humans are fundamentally selfish animals. We do share things and cooperate but this is only secondary and as an insurance policy. Given rich people already have an insurance policy because they are rich and self sufficient, they are not so driven to share. However people do sometimes share because sharing does make people feel good. And people are hardwired to share with their families obviously.

    So for me this easily explains the fact that people are materialisitic and pursue more and more things or the most expensive things. It also easily explains why its hard to change this.

    0 0
  33. Evan, nigelj,

    I am still pondering all of this, so thanks for the feedback.

    Another observation (like a question), but this time directly linked to a specific point of the presented information.

    The question is: Why is there a lack of rigorous effort to investigate potential harm of developments, and lack of related leadership actions and policy implementation, to limit harm done?

    In the Science Disconnect image there is something missing. 'The scientific investigation of the potential harm of new developments' is missing. The people pursuing profit and popularity understand that many people who developed by being immersed in the pursuit of benefit from new developments (consumers) are only potentially interested in 'personal harm'. Harm to Others, especially future generations is irrelevant to them. And, even if there is risk of personal harm, many people seem OK with that if the sales pitch for the new thing seems to be 'promising enough potential personal benefit'.

    It is obvious that serious investigation into the potential harm of new developments is not something that the power players in the developed competitions for perceptions of status care about. In fact, it is pretty apparent that the power players likely have powerful motivations to stifle any potential investigation into the potential harm of what they benefit from. And there is powerful knowledge of misleading marketing power that is at their disposal to fight against that type of investigation happening or its results becoming common sense understanding among their captive audience of compliant, desperate, easily manipulated consumers.

    That leads to another question: What will effectively un-brainwash people who have learned (developed a way of thinking) driven by liking what they perceive to be personally enjoyable, thrilling, or beneficial? What will change the mind of someone who will passionately rely on misunderstanding to defend and excuse what they like to believe against evidence that it is harmful? Older people can still learn. But they have developed many beliefs that can be hard to over-turn (the mind builds those short-cuts through learning). And if they sense personal benefit is obtained by preserving a harmful misunderstanding (meaning they will have to give up personal benefit if they give up the harmful misunderstanding) they are likely to passionately insist on more harmfully misunderstanding things (they get angrily resistant when pushed toward corrected understanding that they sense they will not personally benefit from).

    How to be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi, presents an interesting understanding based on the origin of the term racism being the 'race (or competition) for superiority; the development of artificial and likely unjustified hierarchies of people. And he mentions the problem of climate change several times in the book as a harmful result of persistent harmful misunderstanding. His conclusion is essentially that the solution requires institutional, systemic, policy changes. And the policy changes require the people who 'care to address the problem' to have the power to make the policy changes happen.

    A related understanding is that "everybody's actions add up". Regarding climate change, that obviously is why the problem continues to grow. More people are continuing to cause more harmful impact thta adds up. And the solution is people acting helpfully to limit the harm done. And the policy changes required need to equitably limit everybody's harmful contribution. The less fortunate should be the only ones who 'temporarily' benefit from harm done (not any of the most fortunate). And the more fortunate, all of them, especially the most fortunate, need to lead the rapid correction of what has developed. Any more fortunate people 'freer to believe and do as they please' makes the future situation worse than it needs to be, including the bad example they set for others to aspire to develop towards.

    0 0
  34. Australia plays the climate shell game very well.. "This is little more than a wealth transfer. People can think of this as welfare payments for the undeserving".

    I stopped feeling guilty about buying my only 4k oled smart tv 3 wks ago after reading 

    Thanks Evan for simplifying to some of the bottom lines. Many years ago I stumbled onto Skeptical Science which began my AGW learning, now of course commonly called climate change. Yes, the overshoot problem with 80 million people extra every year on a finite earth isn't helping.

    I try to use many different media sources to reduce bias but with a lot of my friends many are not so caring. Thanks Jan@18 for hitting the nail for me. When I pulled my head out of the ground to educate myself, it was a fruitful exercise but lately it seems the doomer in me is growing stronger. Is that why so many wilfully delude themselves-I think in this media world people need to see the high status/leaders showing integrity and sacrifice( because it's needed now)- just don't hold your breath..

    0 0
  35. OPOF@33

    There are likely many people who know they are doing harm, and don't care. No idea how to solve that one.


    0 0
  36. Quote from Jan@28:

    To be completely clear. The importance of examining the impact of using Biomass fuels is essential. But it is much more important to use data that will not ruin the whole effort.

    Jan, thanks for examining my sources and for your corrections.  I would like to know which populations are moving away from unhealthful conditions (e.g. indoor biomass burning) to electric cooking. Or to renewable biomass in a stove.  Or moving from home coal fires to biomass fires or other energy source.  Or still stuck with one of those awful energy sources.

    Once we understand those populations, we will know where to target policies and programs ($$$) to help leapfrog the cheap coal electricity phase.  That might mean helping with cultural shifts to match energy demand with renewable energy supply.   Renewables are quite cheap when demand can be matched with supply.  Shifting the supply curve is very expensive (e.g. Germany's pumped storage) but shifting the demand curve may be much more realistic for countries without Germany's wealth.

    Also very high birthrates are often correlated with the poverty typified by the indoor cooking and heating fire and subsequent childhood mortality.  So while the numbers are not as high as I thought, it is still a significant source of future energy demand represented by rapidly increasing population.

    One alternative to leapfrogging is a program like India to take the population from 30% electrified to close to 100% in the past two decades.  That's amazing progress from a health view (eliminating indoor burning), but terrible for global CO2.  That's somewhat of a red herring, but being actively pursued in many countries.  Also I should not pick any other country without acknowledging our own lack of energy efficiency and other easy targets here.  But I am talking about the future shape of the top curve in fig 4.

    That's my main focus in my discussion above.  My overall argument is that we need not be pessimistic, but think globally and promote realistic global energy solutions.  Also provide lots of funding of R&D for tomorrow's cheap renewable energy.

    0 0
  37. Evan @33,

    People who powerfully resist learning that they had developed a liking for being harmful and related harmful misunderstanding do not have to have their minds changed. They just need to be kept from being as harmful as they would like to be. They need to be kept from significantly influencing policy makers.

    A potential effective solution for the challenge of limiting the harm done by people who do not care that their pursuits are harmful is the Development and Implementation of Policies that limit the harm done (through public education efforts and penalty or refusing permission - think about COVID policies).

    Getting that done for climate change harm limitation requires the majority of the winning policy makers to be people who actually will do that. That is not an easy task. But it is a way to solve the problem. However, it exposes why the problem has become so large and challenging today. There was a lack of popularity for the required changes due to the popularity of harmful misunderstandings (and better science presentation was/is helpful but not a solution).

    The root of the problem is harmful political game players who are not, or cannot, be penalized for making harmfully incorrect claims or be denied permission to make such claims. The actions and regional popular support of the Putin Group and Trump Group are evidence of how harmful it is for people to have, or choose to have, the information they are aware of limited to misleading marketing that promotes harmful misunderstandings, or hides or fails to discover and expose harmful things that people should be aware of.

    As you say, the distraction by misleading presentations of the Positives (harmful misunderstandings) is a serious part of the problem (as is the distraction of attention grabbing entertainment including sports).

    My hope is that people who become more aware that they have been harmfully misled into believing harmful misunderstandings are unlikely to fall back into believing the nonsense. But I am well aware of the power of the need some people develop for their 'developed identity community' to draw them back into the fold of harmful misunderstanding. Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind, presents how that is more likely, but not certain, to happen to people with Libertarian or Conservative personality traits.

    0 0
  38. @nigelj #30

    regarding your reques to my background:

    Slovak technical university, Faculty of electrical engineering

    I am glad that you are interested in the reason why I focus mainly on energy, which is so fundamentally involved in emision issues. 

    Btw: Who is actually a scientist?

    In the simplest sense- it is an investigator of topic based on scientific approach (observation, research, hypothesis, test, analysis, conclusions.

    I do not divide people according to titles, number of published papers, articles, ... but according to the description of what methods they use, what sources influence their interpretations of results and what conclusions their activities bring. After all, it is the basis of science. Otherwise, we would very easily be subject to the fact that a scientist is only the one who has many titles before and after the name. In some cases, it comes as far as the absurdity that the Nobel Prize winner is a scientist, but he speaks without a scientific approach. Just look at Ivar Giaever's statements on Global warming. Is it necessary to continue this topic?

    Or will we look at useful long-term sustainable ways to reduce the impact of emissions on ongoing climate change?

    Especially in a small circle of scientists, we should use the justification of our doubts about other proposals based on knowledge, not based on opinions only. I have a deep research about the topic of EVs, what exactly and why and on what basis is your doubt based? We can meet, I prefer face to face discussion than just offline (such this one). I can easily setup a video call.

    Btw: I communicate openly, you can see who I am, where I am from, I make public contacts. I only know your nickname about you.

    0 0
  39. @Eric (skeptic) #36

    you are right in your approach. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

    Regarding my note #28 - this is my approach; when I read something, I examine how those conclusions were made and what data was used and what methodology was used to examine the data. It is more arduous, but it helps me use only sufficiently reliable data in my hypothesis tests.

    Quite often, I get into a position of devil's advocate, which provokes a discussion in order to get better outputs. It's nothing personal. If I can find something more useful, I'll send it to you. Because I also have suggestions on how to do things better.

    0 0
  40. @nigelj #30

    your opinion:

    I disagree partly. You do actually have to start using some EVs even if the energy source is only about 10% renewables. You have to phase in EV's gradually. Otherwise we would have a situation where we get say 30 years down the road and the grid is say 75% renewables, then we have to start building EVs and everyone driving them which would probably be another 30 years because scaling them up is inevitably a slow process. By then the climate is totally cooked.

    My note:
    You read this sentence from my essay for masses: No More Good News on Global Warming; link

    When you will read deeply my document: GHG [CO2] emissions problem in a dark box - 1st part of the Global warming series; link
    you will get more answers to my point of view.

    Step by step to your opinions:

    “You do actually have to start using some EVs even if the energy source is only about 10% renewables.”

    My point: YES

    “You have to phase in EV's gradually.”

    My point: YES

    “Otherwise we would have a situation where we get say 30 years down the road and the grid is say 75% renewables, then we have to start building EVs and everyone driving them which would probably be another 30 years because scaling them up is inevitably a slow process.”

    My point: YES – from the Global level only. But this is the wrong attitude. Reason:
    Vehicles operation is not global but regional. It follows that we cannot use global emissions from cars as a tool to calculate emission reductions with the introduction of EVs, but strictly regional, per country. It will be mathematically correct (the global data approach), but you will not be able to put it into practice.

    An example:
    Slovakia - Electricity generation by source: almost 80% comes from Carbon Zero technologies (mostly from Nuclear, then Hydro, partially PVe) and just 20% from the fossil fuels (mainly Natural gas, partially from coal which will be terminated 2023 and thin part from oil and biofuels). Then according to the study from NREL (2016): Emissions Associated with Electric Vehicle Charging: Impact of Electricity Generation Mix, Charging Infrastructure Availability, and Vehicle Type; link

    Slovakia has a Low carbon average Daily profile of electric grid carbon intensity. This will be changed from the autumn of 2022, as another 471MW reactor in the new NPP will be launched to operation, which will bring the next 3.7TWh to the grid. It will cover fully coal, oil and almost 50% of the natural gas power production in the country = ready to immediately switch off. Then Slovakia will achieve from the beginning of 2023 near to 90% of green electricity. So, not gradual, but the fastest possible strategy of exchanging combustion engines to EVs seems to be workable.

    But then we have a country like China. Its share in the EVs market is 53% (car sales according to The Chinese government’s official target is for electric cars to reach a market share of 20% for the full year in 2025, and their performance in 2021 suggests they are well on track to do so. link
    If China had up to 270M passenger cars in 2020 and in 2025 it expects the number of EVs to be 54M EVs (270M x 25%) and in 2035 it expects 100% EVs, then it will need to produce 618TWh of energy in its electric grid, which does not exist today. In the same year, 50% of fossil fuel energy sources from Todays near 5 PWh (2021) will have to be transformed. So China needs to build a capacity for 6PWh/annually power production infrastructure and also distribution grids upgrade by 2035 (you can't generate electricity at point A, which is thousands of miles away from point B consumption. It's inefficient.) What's hard to achieve because China by 2025 will rise with coal fire power plants construction. Plus, energy consumption is growing - no one expects it to freeze. When it puts into a comprehensive analysis – so, China will need a miracle or something to do.
    You can find more in my analysis: GHG CO2 emissions - Part 01 China Power production, race to zero analysis;link

    I like to talk about exact data, analysis. Opinions are one thing, but the data shows something else. When thinking about such complex things as energy production and distribution, we need to be purely pragmatic and not subject to immediate results, but to look for ways to long-term sustainable solutions.

    Ready for a discussion. But especially here we need to use more facts than opinions.

    0 0
  41. @Evan #31

    Many power utilities will certify that they use "green energy credits" to ensure the power used for cars comes from renewables.

    People are often subject to tempting keywords. 100% certainty that your electrical outlet is currently supplying electricity from "green sources" is only if your house is off-grid + connected to your PVe/Wind/Hydro power production system. Otherwise, your distribution company supplies a mix of energy from sources that are currently providing this energy. Just to be sure.

    Also, getting a lot of EV's on the road sends the right signal to the company's making them and to the company's powering them. Hard to know where to start, but I think we need to just jump in and get things going whereever we can. 

    Shouldn't this discussion be scientific? This is just a chaotic shooting into a dark approach. No hypothesis verification. 

    I think they call this the chicken or the egg problem. :-)

    For common people - yes.

    If you want to run a stable distribution grid you need:

    - the stable source of energy production for 24/7/365 operation (any time, any weather conditions). Today they are - Nuclear, Coal, Natural gas, Hydro (dams). You can't control the sun (irradiation, clouds) or wind (atmospheric pressure).

    - for unstable energy sources you need storage with sufficient capacity. More unstable weather, more capacity for the storage.

    - all the sources must be able to deliver power quality conditions (Variation in voltage magnitude, frequency, transient voltages and currents, harmonic content for AC)

    - solve challenging demands for the transmission losses. More warm conditions = more losses = need more energy production. Note: I have done a study in Slovakia power grid how weather conditions have a heavy impact on the transmission losses (in period 1964-2019). And I can responsibly say that this is a very modern power grid vs UK or US.

    So, we have heavy challenges:

    - transform existing energy production from the fossil fuels, including YoY increment of energy production

    - upgrade the obsolete power grids to keep existing power demand

    - in parallel create new energy production capacities for new electric charging points (EVs, trucks, busses, ...). You can't build up these points anywhere.

    - create new power grids for the new energy sources, including new transition stations, ...

    - and keep it all orchestrated to achieve a sustained power supply. This is really tricky now (see below)

    - and in Europe, we have an additional heavy variable - to cut off from Russia natural gas - one of the important resources for Europe power production and power grid sustainability.


    Finally yes - it is about chicken or the egg:

    - you can't decrease emissions with EVs charged from Coal, Oil or Natural gas power plant energy sources.

    - stabilize the obsolete power grid or new demand in the existing obsolete grid.

    It's similar to enjoying a healthy diet that you're preparing on a coal fire stove.


    Power production needs an order. No chaotic solutions. 


    Some useful information:

    - Jan/2021 - Europe was near heavy Blackout due to power supply failure that is suspected to have originated in Romania disrupted the Continental Europe Synchronous Area. Its frequency dropped to 48.75 Hz (target frequency 50Hz), which caused the South-East area to be separated from the rest of the grid. This disruption and a lack of operating reserves in France nearly caused a Europe-wide blackout. Luckily, the automatic activation of power stations throughout Europe and the automatic initiation of contracted load shedding in Italy (1000 MW) and France (1300 MW) kept the grid stable and prevented a blackout. This incident shows the fragility of the grid and the real possibility of a Europe-wide blackout, which we need to

    - IPCC AR6 - The latest IPCC report suggests that average wind speeds over Europe will reduce by 8%-10% as a result of climate change.

    UK’s renewables share drops to 35.9% in Q3 2021 on slow winds

    The changing sensitivity of power systems to meteorological drivers: a case study of Great Britain (Bloomfield et all,2018)

    Quantifying the sensitivity of european power systems to energy scenarios and climate change projections Bloomfield et all, 2020)

    Spain's solar energy crisis: Thousands os Spaniards bankrupt after investing in solar panels

    0 0
  42. jan@41, a friendly admonition.m:-)

    I would say that you are somewhat falling into the shell game of which I'm writing.

    There is this myth that we are going to orderly, neatly, and in a highly controlled manner transition into a green-energy world. Kind of like what is talked about on Star Trek when they refer to how humans lived before the big societal transitions.

    I am an engineer and well aware that a promise of supply by renewable energy is not a guarantee of purity. But I know the utility behind this promise, and they are credible. I also know it is a step in the right direction.

    The transition will be messy and far from the utopian path many climate scientists envision. Such is the nature of the real world.

    So all I mean to say is that we need to push hard. I will not wait until the perfect EV is available and charged from the perfect energy source. By then it will be too late.

    0 0
  43. @Evan #42

    thank you for the feedback.

    Just last post and I will keep this group in the previous stage.

    Follow the data for Minnesota state energy (power production sources):

    43% share is based on fossil fuels (coal + natural gas) source

    0 0
  44. jan@43 What is your point? I am well aware that Minnesota gets over 50% of its power from renewable energy. Shall I not drive an EV until that number reaches 100%. Great River Energy, MN, is pushing hard to generate renewable energy. Shall we stand by and watch and wait until they get the grid to 100% renewables and then buy EV's?

    I think now is the time to push, because coops like Great River Energy are doing the kinds of things we need.

    0 0
  45. Evan @35,

    A suggestion related to my comments @33 and @37 that relates to both the Consumer and Science Disconnect.

    The image under Science Disconnect should be expanded to indicate “marketing” (pursuing popularity and profit) behind the curtain and connected to Industry and Politics.

    And it would be helpful to have a way to represent “Helpful Governing: The pursuit of learning about the harm of what is developed and effort to limit harm done”. That feature has different values in front of and behind the curtain.

    • In front of the curtain there is some interest in self-governing in pursuit of learning to limit harm done, but it is not the ‘governing’ interest.
    • Behind the curtain there is a powerful ‘anti-interest’ including attempts to block investigations into potential harms. That drives the development of misleading marketing to cover-up or excuse the harm that cannot be kept hidden. And that marketing over-promotes potential benefits, promotes harmful misunderstanding, and encourages people to be dismissive of the harm or risk of harm (because the benefit has to be worth it).

    It would also be helpful to present an "External Influence" - Governing what is going on by pursuing learning and education about what is harmful and implementing policy and laws to limit harm done through education, regulation, restriction and legal penalty.

    External Helpful Governing to limit harm done, and change the developed system, is the Key Requirement. Expecting the pursuit of more benefits and higher status to be Self-Governed to limit harm done is obviously absurd. Without external governing effectively limiting harm done the "Science (learning) - Consumer (pursuit of benefit)" system will produce an endless stream of harmful “popular and profitable results”. It will also produce a bunch of harmful results that fail to be the most popular and profitable, but still get to compete in the market. And less harmful developments will have a competitive disadvantage because they will be "less rewarding", require more effort and be more expensive than more harmful alternatives.

    Without effective external helpful governing the “solutions developed by the competition for status system” are almost certain to be more harmful and less helpful than they needed to be (like the madness of global geo-engineering experiments, only able to be fully understood after being implemented, to "solve the avoidable global geo-engineering experiment climate change problem that has been caused by the belief that the pursuit of new technology that is highly desirable and profitable will effectively develop The Required harm limiting Solution").

    0 0
  46. Here is an Alberta Example of the Shell Game.

    The largest Solar Farm in Canada is now being built in Alberta. Read the following article about it, and note the statements regarding the 'number of homes it would power'.

    CTV News - Canada's largest solar project under construction in Vulcan County

    Now read the following article from a different news source published on the same day.

    Global News - Southern Alberta firm signs massive solar power deal with tech giant Amazon

    Note how the second article tells about the the 'new benefit for Alberta of the Amazon server farm' that is going to consume almost all the power from the new solar farm.

    What happened is an added energy demand in Alberta that fully consumes a renewable energy generating facility. Essentially, no improvement. But lots for Albertans, and Others, to be pleased about.

    0 0
  47. I missed an important aspect of the Shell Game example I shared @46.

    I am not able to find the total power demand for the Server Farm. It appears that it may be higher than the 400 MW contract for power from the new Solar Farm. And that power demand will be 24-7, not just when the sun shines or the wind blows. So there may even need to be added non-renewable power in Alberta to meet the added power demand for this "new improvement in Alberta".

    And the Shell Game sales pitches continue with the glowing presentation by Calgary Economic Development that also mentions all the 'homes Amazon will supposedly be powering with renewable power'.

    0 0
  48. OPOF @45 Yes, this chain is not complete, but hopefully it conveys the idea without getting too complicated. The inclusion of government might conjure up images of corruption and the like, but every well-functioning society relies on some form of governance to set policies, standards, etc.

    Marketing is somewhat implicityly in the industrial segment, because they are the ones manufacturing and selling the products. I'll try to weave in your ideas, but am afraid that the complexity will grow.

    There's that growth problem again. :-)

    0 0
  49. OPOF@46 and 47. Very interesting example. It's easy to market these feel-good stories, because it's what people want to hear. Thanks for sharing yet another concrete example of the Shell Game.

    0 0
  50. Jan,

    I  think you have the incorrect assumptions behind many of your calculations.  This results in your conclusions being in error.  In general, whenever I see someone relying on their own calculations instead of published calculations I figure their conclusions are incorrect.  I see very little peer reviewed data in your posts.

    For example, many published studies describe how to get 100% renewable energy.  See this description of Connelly et al 2021 for a starter.  I note that you have no problem with "baseload" power sources that require emergency back up power every day to provide peak power but you are concerned that renewable energy might have problems providing peak power.  Why is it OK for "baseload" sources to require back up but not renewables?  Most of the pumped hydro storage in the USA was built to store power from nuclear power plants at night to use for peak power during the day.  Plans like Connelly et al describe how to provide 100% renewable energy.  You are wrong to suggest it cannnot be done.  Providing 80% renewable energy using existing fossil gas peaker plants as storage is easy and cheaper than fossil power.

    Your anaylsis of EV cars seems to me to be completely off.  Even if the grid is 100% coal there are benefits from EV.  You do not consider that baseload coal power plants are about 40-45% efficient at generating electricity form the heat of the coal.  Gas combined cycle plants are over 60% efficient.  EV cars are about 90% efficient in using electricity.  By contrast, internal combustion cars are only about 20% efficient at using the energy in the oil they burn.  When you consider the comparable emissions of carbon dioxide, an EV with electricity from a 100% coal electrical system releases comparable carbon to internal combustion engines.  Since the electricity for Evan is over 50% from wind, his EV releases much less CO2 than a comparable ICE car. 

    According to Our World in Data China gets about 30% of its electricity from renewable sources.  It seems to me that when you consider the efficiency of EV cars compared to internal combustion cars the EV's release less CO2 than ICE.  Since almost all coal systems use gas for peak power the release of CO2 is even less from EV cars than ICE cars.  My brother has solar panels on his roof that recharge his EV car.  How much CO2 does his car release?

    This peer reviewed paper says that the best thing to do for the next ten years is to build out renewable energy sources as fast as possible and switch to EV's at the same time.  If we wait on EV's until we have more renewable energy we will not be able to switch fast enough from ICE's.  Your argument that we should wait for more renewable energy to be built is completely incorrect.  Please cite a peer reviewed paper that suppports your wild claims.  I think your calculations are incorrect as described above.

    I note that the people engaging in this conversation are citing their own calculations and not peer reviewed documents.  I see many claims that I think have been demonstrated as false in the peer reviewed papers I have read.  It seems to me that many of the claims made here are simly fossil propaganda against renewable energy.  I want to remind posters that  this is supposed to be a science based site.  You must support your claims with peer reviewed data.

    The poor are building out renewable energy in many locations.  Why build a coal generator when renewable energy is much cheaper?  Why build out central facilities wheen distributed generation (like PV) is much cheaper?  You guys need to read the literature and give up on the fossil fuel propaganda.

    0 0

1  2  Next

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2024 John Cook
Home | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us