Gideon Polya, "“Clean Energy World” Painting. NASA’s Dr Hansen Pleads for NEGATIVE CO2 Emissions”, MWC News, 9 June 2008.
For image of “Clean Energy World” Painting: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gideonpolya/4290160934/ .
“Clean Energy World” Painting. NASA’s Dr Hansen Pleads for NEGATIVE CO2 Emissions
Top US climate scientist Dr James Hansen has written a letter to the newly-elected PM of Australia, Mr Kevin Rudd, urging global cessation of net carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution (letter dated 27 March 2008: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080401_DearPrimeMinisterRudd.pdf ).
Before summarizing what Dr Hansen said it is useful to summarize who Dr Hansen is: he is Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute, New York; he is a member of the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences; and he has received numerous awards including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2007 Award for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility (see: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2008/2008-02-19-092.asp ) and the World Wildlife Fund’s Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal from Prince Philip.
In addition to citing the latest scientific take on the “looming climate crisis” facing the world in a detailed attachment entitled “Fossil Fuel Facts”, Dr Hansen gave the following unequivocal message to Australian PM Rudd:
“The conclusion that net carbon emissions must be cut to a fraction of current emissions must be stunning and sobering to policy makers. Yet the science is unambiguous: if we burn most of the fossil fuels, releasing the CO2 to the air, we will assuredly destroy much of the fabric of life on the planet. Achievement of required near-zero net emissions by mid-century implies a track with substantial cuts of emissions by 2020. Aggressive short-term fostering of energy efficiency and climate friendly technologies is imperative for mitigation of the looming climate crisis and optimization of the economic pathway to the eventual clean-energy world.”
And as for the “science is unambiguous”, Dr Hansen provides the following sobering summary: “Global climate is near critical tipping points that could lead to loss of all summer sea ice in the Arctic with detrimental effects on wildlife, initiation of ice sheet disintegration in West Antarctica and Greenland with progressive, unstoppable global sea level rise, shifting of climatic zones with extermination of many animal and plant species, reduction of freshwater supplies for hundreds of millions of people, and a more intense hydrologic cycle with stronger droughts and forest fires, but also heavier rains and floods, and stronger storms driven by latent heat, including tropical storms, tornados and thunderstorms.”
Indeed in a paper written by Dr Hansen and 8 other climate science colleagues variously from the US, France and the UK (see: http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0804/0804.1126.pdf ) the summary states that “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that [atmospheric] CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm”.
Dr Hansen provided a summary Appendix in his letter to PM Rudd entitled “Basic Fossil Fuel Facts” and I have provided below a Summary of the 6 Figures provided in that Appendix together with the obvious major conclusions from the data [my own additions are in square brackets].
Figure 1 shows that it takes a long time for atmospheric CO2 to be dissipated - even after a century 33% of the CO2 is still in the air and 20% is still in the atmosphere after 1,000 years.
Message: CO2 pollution has long-term consequences even after zero emissions is attained i.e. the sooner and better we act the better.
Figure 2 has 2 pie charts, (a) showing that of today’s CO2 emissions, 39% come from coal, 42% from oil and 19% from gas and (b) that of the CO2 in the air today 50% has come from coal, 37% from oil and 13% from gas.
Message: coal, oil and gas are the overwhelmingly major sources of CO2 pollution and zero emissions means cessation of the burning of these fossil fuels [noting that clean energy substitutes for electricity, heating and transport are technically available now at costs per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity of less than the “true cost”
of electricity of fossil fuel burning: http://climateemergency.blogspot.com/ ].
Figure 3 summarizes estimates of the world fossil fuel reserves, specifically of oil, gas, coal and other sources (methane hydrates, shale and tar sands). Proven reserves (in Gt or billions of tons of carbon) are about 270 for coal (about 110 already used); 120 for gas (20 used already); 1220 for coal (with 140 used already); and perhaps 1200 for methane hydrates, shale oil and tar sands.
Message: Avoiding dangerous atmospheric CO2 levels requires long term curtailing of coal burning, coal being overwhelmingly the greatest future source of CO2 of those sources being currently used.
Figure 4(a) is a pie chart showing the breakdown of “2006 World annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions”:19.5% (the US), 19.5% (China), 5.3% (Russia), 4.9% (India), 4.1% (Japan), 2.6% (Germany), 1.9% (the UK), 12.1% (the rest of Europe) and 21.7% (the rest of the World), 3.2 % (Canada and Australia) and 5.2% (ships and air transport).
Figure 4(b) is a pie chart showing the breakdown of the “1751-2006 cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions”: 27.5% (the US), 8.2% (China), 7.4% (Russia), 6.6% (Germany), 6.0% (the UK), 3.9% (Japan), 2.5% (India), 18.0% (rest of Europe), 3.1% (Canada and Australia) and 4% (ships and air transport).
[The 2005 populations of these countries or regions are (in millions): 300.0 (the US), 1,322.3 (China), 141.6 (Russia), 1,096.9 (India), 127.9 (Japan), 82.6 (Germany), 59.6 (the UK), 32.0 (Canada), 20.1 (Australia), 464.0 (rest of Europe), 1,100 (Europe and Overseas Europe), 5,350 (the non-European World), and 6,450 (the whole World)].
Message: Ignoring their ship and air travel contributions, of the countries and regions listed, the major industrial countries listed (including Europe, Japan, India and China) are overwhelmingly responsible for about 78% of “2006 world annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions”; European countries are responsible for 44.6% and Anglo countries (the US, the UK, Canada and Australia) are responsible for 24.5% of annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions [while having only 6.4% of the world’s population; 2005 data].
Ignoring their ship and air travel contributions, of the countries and regions listed, the major industrial countries (including the rest of Europe, Japan, India and China) are overwhelmingly responsible for about 87% the “1751-2006 cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions”; European countries are responsible for 81.8% and Anglo countries (Anglo countries (the US, the UK, Canada and Australia) are responsible for 36.6% the “1751-2006 cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions” [while having 6.4% of the world’s population; 2005 data].
Figure 5 (a) lists the “2006 annual per capita fossil fuel CO2 emissions” (in tons of Carbon per person per year) for the major polluters as bar graphs; 5.5 (the US), 1.3 (China), 0.4 (India), 3.1 (Russia), 2.7 (Japan), 2.7 (Germany), 5.4 (Canada), 2.2 (the UK).
[Multiplying by a 3.73 correction factor yields the same 2006 data in “tonnes CO2 per person per year”: 20.5 (the US), 4.8 (China), 1.5 (India), 11.6 (Russia), 10.1 (Japan), 10.1 (Germany), 20.1. (Canada), 8.2 (the UK), 4.9 (the World, as estimated using data from Figure 4) - and 20.2 for Australia using US Energy Information Administration (US EIA) data.
By way of corroboration, using US Energy Information Administration data for 2004 and UN Population Division 2005 population data we get the following estimates for 2004 of “tonnes CO2 per person per year”: 19.7 (the US), 3.6 (China), 11.9 (Russia), 9.9 (Japan), 10.4 (Germany), 18.4 (Canada), 9.7 (the UK), 4.2 (the World) and 19.2 (Australia).]
Message: the annual contribution from China is still below the World average “annual per capita CO2 emissions” and that of India is over 3 times lower than the World average.
Figure 5 (b) lists the “1751-2006 cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions” in tons carbon per person” based on the 2006 population data: 305 (the US), 20 (China), 170 (Russia), 265 (Germany), 330 (the UK), 100 (Japan), 5 (India) and 210 (Canada).
[Multiplying by a 3.73 correction factor yields the same “1751-2006 cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions” data in “tonnes CO2 per person”: 1,138 (the US), 75 (China), 634 (Russia), 988 (Germany), 1,231 (the UK), 373 (Japan), 20 (India), 783 (Canada) - and the figures for Australia and the World are 660 and 192, respectively as estimated below.
Using data in Figures 4 and 5 and assuming a world population of 6,450 million (2005), one can estimate the “1751-2006 cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions” in tonnes CO2 per person as 1,241,100 Mt/6,450 million persons = 192 tonnes CO2 per person. The figure for Australia and the World just for 1900-1999 and dividing by the 2005 population are 10,026 Gt/20.1 million = 499 and 933,686 Gt/6,450 million = 145, respectively. Proportionality, noting Australia’s constant rate of increase in fossil fuel usage over the last quarter century, indicates a “1751-2006 cumulative fossil fuel CO2 emissions” figure for Australia of about 660 tonnes CO2 per person.]
Message: the historical per capita contribution of CO2 pollution by China and India [noting the devastation of these countries by European colonialism from the 18th century onwards: “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” , G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: http://mwcnews.net/content/view/1375/247/ ) is well below the World average and negligible compared to that of the US, Russia, Germany, the UK, Canada and Australia.
Figure 6 plots the ratio of “observed atmospheric CO2 increase” to “fossil fuel CO2 emissions” as an “annual mean” (very noisy), a “7 year mean” (a much less noisy wobbly line) and a “1958-2006 mean” (a straight line) over the period 1950-2006.
Message: on average over the last 60 years, the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere has been 57% of the fossil fuel emissions – 43% of the fossil fuel emissions has been taken up by the ocean, soil and biosphere [however the Great Southern Ocean recently ceased to be a net CO2 absorber; current agricultural practices militate against carbon storage in soil; global warming threatens ocean phytoplankton crucial to ocean life and cloud formation; and major deforestation also limits biosphere CO2 sequestration, and contributes about 18% of annual greenhouse gas pollution].
Dr Hansen pragmatically appreciates the enormous weight of the present carbon-based energy economy and argues that Governments must urgently recognize the dominant place of coal in the current and “business as usual” energy mix. He suggests phasing out of coal use that does not capture emitted CO2 coupled with appropriate pricing of fossil fuels to drive the uptake of requisite renewable and clean-energy technologies.
Dr Hansen concludes his summary for the PM of Australia with the following comment: “Perhaps the most important question is this: can we find the leadership to initiate the tipping point among nations? Can we find a country that will place a moratorium on any new coal-fired power plants unless they capture and store CO2? Unless this happens soon, there is little hope of avoiding the climate tipping points, with all that implies for the planet.”
Unfortunately Dr Hansen’s plea to Australia via its extreme right wing, Bush-ite Prime Minister Rudd will have fallen on deaf ears. Coal is King in climate criminal Australia. The Rudd Labor Government came to power at the end of 2007 with the promise to continue Australia’s world leading coal exports and to merely reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution by “60% by 2050” – a promise that simply means that, with Australia’s world-leading coal exports included, the projected “annual per capita fossil fuel CO2 pollution” will actually INCREASE from a 2007 value of 43 tonnes per person per year to 65 tonnes per person per year. Indeed Australia helped the US to sabotage the December 2007 Bali Climate Change Conference; is spending BIG on expanding coal export facilities; and at the recent “Australia 2020 Summit”, a Government-sponsored talk-fest involving 1,000 selected “brightest and best” of Australia to chart Australia’s future, the Climate Change sub-Section refused to even use the term “renewable energy”.
The only thing that remorseless, climate criminal countries like Australia will understand are Sanctions, Boycotts, Green Tariffs and Reparations Demands. Indeed I have made a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court over Australia’s evidently resolute commitment to a Climate Genocide involving the likely death of over 6 billion people this century due to unaddressed global warming, according to Professor James Lovelock FRS (see: http://climateemergency.blogspot.com/ ). Sanctions were successful against Apartheid South Africa for denying “one-man-one-vote” to South Africa’s African and Asian citizens – they are surely warranted for a small, politically correct racist (PC racist) country that is selfishly hell bent on devastating the whole planet.
Poor fellow my Planet.