Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Energy Consumption Data Projects Threshold For Hothouse World Will Be Crossed By 2040

Graph above shows historical and projected global CO2-related emissions by 2040.

Projections for global energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 2040, as published in an Energy Information Administration paper in May,   e.g.

sets the stage for what I call the permanent crossing of a critical threshold into a hothouse world. By "hothouse world"  I mean the immediate precursor to the runaway greenhouse world This is extrapolated from a study published in Nature in 2013 for which sometime in the 2040s  we transition to "a hot new world from which one never goes back.”  This, in the words of climate scientist  Chris Field, one of the scientists who worked on the (2013) project.

In the new project, based on the International Energy Outlook 2016, the world's energy consumption will increase 48 percent between 2012 and 2040. In effect, fossil fuels - rather than receding to the 50 percent proportion of all energy use envisaged by the Paris Summit dreamers- will instead account for nearly 75 percent of all world energy use by 2040.

This will translate into an increase of 34 percent in energy-related carbon emissions over that same interval. Thus, annual emissions will rise from 32 billion metric tons in 2012 to 43 billion metric tons in 2040.   Unfortunately, coal - among the most pernicious fossil fuels - will continue to generate the most energy-related CO2 emissions worldwide (despite its share of total energy declining from 43 % to 38%)

What all this means is we will come nowhere near close to staving off the highest incremental increase in global mean temperatures - which will now likely hit 4C by 2050 and 6C by 2100.

In retrospect it all ought to have been obvious and the current projections not too controversial  The reason Field and his co-workers were able to make their original  specific calculations in 2013 was quite simple: and scary: they just expected dumbo humans to keep burning fossil fuels and pumping C02 into the atmosphere at a rapid rate into the coming decades. Given the inability or unwillingness to change, the rest - as they say - was self-evident..

It will mean is that an essential thermal equilibrium will be reached in our planetary  atmosphere by 2040.  So effectively, no more winters, summers or even intermediate (spring, fall) seasons anywhere. That will also mark the emergence of much higher mean global temperatures, probably as high as 60-65F. Locally, we can expect to see highs of 115F- 120F and covering much larger areas for much longer (heat 'waves' will be more like heat seasons, lasting months, fire seasons nearly all year.)  Relatively cooler breaks, say with highs of 85-90, and lows of 80-85, will likely appear in what used to be northern winters.

That's your hothouse world.

If anyone thinks the planet is screwed up now with so many "hundred year events", wait until you see  the “new normal” arrive in 2040. Savage storms, deadly droughts, cholera and dengue fever epidemics in the American South, torrential flooding – all of these disasters will be more common and more powerful than they are currently. Millions of refugees will also have to flee from rising sea levels and governments around the world will have to find a way to both pay for their own displaced populations as well as the damage caused by an increasingly violent climate.

But wait. The actual projections for greenhouse gas increases could actually be much worse than portrayed in the current (EIA) report. According to Rachel Cletus, climate policy manager for the Union of Concerned Scientists, the forecast does not address the implications of rising methane emissions due to use of natural gas.

If the CH4 emission rate is as high as was reported 2 years ago in  The Denver Post, (May 8, 2014, 1A)  from a study of Colorado's front Range oil and gas production, at 19.3 tons an HOUR, then we are looking at a serious oversight indeed.

This is especially given earlier work from the Nov. 26, 2013  issue of the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, in which the authors warned that the Arctic Ocean is releasing methane at a rate more than twice what existing scientific models predicted.  Natalie Shakhova and Igor Semiletov at the University of Alaska- Fairbanks' International Arctic Research Center found this unexpected result  after a decade spent researching the Arctic's greenhouse gas emissions.

Shakhova, the lead author of the report, in an interview post-publication, warned the methane release rate was likely even greater than their paper describes..

All this portends a very uncomfortable entry point to a climate reality most people won't tolerate very well. By the time it is entrenched - likely by 2044 - today's climate deniers will genuinely wish they had been correct that all the AGW science was "rigged" and "fudged".

Alas, they will  now learn emphatically that was not the case and the climate events  manifest in 30 years will be unstoppable. To paraphrase Chris Field, we will have entered "a hot new world from which there is no going back.” 

If you're young, maybe a millennial, enjoy the world with seasons while you can, it won't last too much longer.

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