Posted by: Dr Churchill | October 29, 2012

The lowering of the US carbon emissions due to increased gas use won’t slow climate change – in fact it will strengthen it…

And the game of tomfoolery with the fossil fuel industry continues…

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), energy-related CO2 emissions in the first quarter of 2012 were the lowest in two decades. Since emissions are normally high between January and March because people use more heating in the winter, and the last winter was mild in the US, this has been welcomed as good news…

Yet it remains to be seen where the good news really is…

The EIA says that an increase in gas-fired power generation, and a corresponding decline in coal-fired, contributed to the fall in emissions. Burning natural gas produces fewer emissions than burning coal, and natural gas is currently unusually cheap in the US thanks to a glut of shale gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”.

If gas companies continue to expand their shale gas operations, the US could generate even more electricity from gas, and its emissions could fall for several years more. But the EIA fails to mention that the carbon in the atmosphere does not recognize national borders. The CO2 parts per million volume that we have now hit 400 ppmv of carbon in the atmosphere is the same whether you live in Washington, in London or in Beijing.

So when we talk about global emissions as the relevant yardstick, we mean that we need global reductions. Otherwise these local and national reductions that cause increases of CO2 emissions elsewhere in the world are at best illusory and a sleigh of hand so we can keep our pride and have our emissions too. It doesn’t hold true, anymore than the venerable whole cake while eating it too, theory.

And the jubilant exclamation of US emissions reduction, will certainly not slow down climate change, because although the US coal consumption has fallen, the production of coal in the US is increasing rapidly with the surplus coal being exported to Asia to be burned in vastly inefficient coal fired power plants that increase the emissions of CO2. As a result, the US is effectively exporting the coal-related emissions, failing to recognize that the atmospheric problem is of a global nature.

Gas is bad because it gets burned and CO2 emissions are generated. Yet it is emitting less than burning coal, but only if you keep the coal in the ground. So this shift to natural gas looks like good news, but it’s not. The US has recorded a sharp fall in its greenhouse gas emissions from energy use due to this — but the complacency of government and citizenry alike has increased. Fast food mentality and short-termism reigns supreme in the US to begin with, but the apathy about the Environment has grown to the point that nobody talks about Climate Change even during the Presidential debates.

And thanks to this rise in the use of natural gas, and the resulting fall in US emissions, the country is not even advocating internationally the need for a global Climate deal. Additionally this illusory fall in emissions, boosts the fossil fuel industry’s greenwashing agenda, further stopping any enviuronmentally sensible policy from being considered. Never mind that in reality the emissions have simply been exported to Asia and China in particular.

Greenwashing proponents of natural gas argue that it is a “transition fuel” that we can burn for a few years while we install low-carbon infrastructure such as geothermal, wind farms, marine energy, and solar power stations.

Sadly we don’t have a few years to take it easy and keep experimenting with burning more fossil fuels and expanding the greenhouse gas emissions.

After all natural gas is a burning fossil fuel too, in case your mind has been greenwashed and you have forgotten the basic facts.




We are feverish…


And when we are caught in the thrall of a strong fever — we become delusional.

The viewpoint of gas as a transition fuel is delusional.

Still the idea of transition fuel for gas, has been gaining traction even amongst the less informed environmental folks, but in our analysis this looks untenable. Because if we want even an outside chance of limiting global warming to a 2 °C rise, there is no emission space for keep on burning gas.

Because in order to hit the 2 °C target, global emissions need to peak by 2020 before dropping again, which means making a rapid transition to low-carbon energy.

And with the latest round of United Nations climate negotiations scheduled to begin in Doha, next month, expectations could scarcely have been lower. A globally binding deal is further away than ever.

And that makes considerable warming and climate change inevitable. The next increases of the global thermostat by 5 °C – a catastrophic rise of five degrees Celsius is awaiting us.


Major reports by the International Energy Agency and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have concluded that we cannot still meet the UN’s target of limiting Global Warming to a 2 °C rise above preindustrial levels. Major climate scientists are far less optimistic. Many say the chance to avoid a 2 °C rise has been and gone, and we must now prepare for the damage to come from a 4 °C rise.


To have a fair chance of keeping below 2 °C, global emissions would have to peak by 2020 or so before falling. There’s no sign of that: they made their biggest-ever leap in 2010. Many countries promised to cut their emissions at the 2009 UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, but modelling carried out by climate consultancy Ecofys, based in the Netherlands, shows that even if those cuts were implemented in full we would still see 3.5 °C of warming by 2100.

Even if by some real miracle we could contain it to a two degree Celsius rise, I haven’t seen anything to suggest that 2 °C is less dangerous now than it was when it was adopted. At all costs, we must avoid a 4 °C temperature rise.

Because this 4 °C temperature rise, would indeed wipe out the the Amazon rainforest completely, along with all other rainforests. It will make agriculture impossible in all the Equatorial belts of our earth. It will melt all existing glaciers, and thus also alter the tectonic plates. And it will totally stop the Asian monsoon – the monsoon that regulates rainfall worldwide and makes agriculture possible through regular growing seasons for food crop production.

Think you can live with that ?


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