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Peak Oil vs. Global Warming

Could we avoid the worst ravages of global warming because we run out of oil?

Not since King Kong vs. Godzilla have we seen a monster fight of this magnitude. Disaster vs. Disaster! Things Fall Apart vs. The Center Cannot Hold! Category I Apocalypse vs. Category I Apocalypse! Best of all, NASA's James Hansen serves as referee.

In the first corner, we have Peak Oil, the premise that we'll soon (or perhaps already) have reached the maximum production of petroleum, and that remaining reserves are far lower than generally acknowledged. The result: ever-rising fuel prices, global conflict over dwindling resources, and possibly even social and economic collapse if peak oil hits faster and harder than expected. Even the moderate-case scenarios show declining petroleum access by the 2020s -- and all while China and India are ramping up a car economy.

In the second corner, we have Global Warming, the result of greenhouse gases -- particularly CO2 from human sources, such as burning petroleum -- trapping heat in the atmosphere. We're now at 385 parts-per-million and rising (up from 284ppm in the pre-industrial era). Climatologists generally consider 450ppm a tipping point into unrecoverable disaster, although there are now some signs that the already-past 350ppm would be a safer maximum. Among the actions required to avoid global warming disaster: a dramatic reduction in the consumption of fossil fuels.

In the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the "business-as-usual" scenario, which posits that society keeps going as it has, and fossil fuel consumption continues to grow at its current pace, results in an atmospheric CO2 concentration of over 950ppm by the end of this century. That's not likely to happen, of course -- the effects of global warming (sea level rise, drought, pandemic disease, dogs and cats living together, etc.) would make such steady growth untenable. Technology change would play a role, too, as would shifts in population. But the biggest reason why it wouldn't happen is a simple one:

There isn't enough petroleum in the ground, in any form, to make it possible.

That's the argument that James Hansen and his colleague Pushker A. Kharecha make in an article posted to the science website Arxiv.org. (I've been informed that the article went up about six months ago, but hasn't received much attention.) In "Implications of “peak oil” for atmospheric CO2 and climate" (PDF), Kharecha and Hansen assert that the effort to keep atmospheric carbon levels below 450ppm may be greatly helped by basic limits on the amount of available oil. Because of peak oil forcing limits on petroleum consumption, a reasonable phase-out of coal ("developed countries freeze their CO2 emissions from coal by 2012 and a decade later developing countries similarly halt increases in coal emissions. Between 2025 and 2050 it is assumed that both developed and developing countries will linearly phase out emissions of CO2 from coal usage"), active measures to reduce non-CO2 forcings (including methane and black soot), and draw-down of CO2 through reforestation, would limit CO2 to below 450ppm. This doesn't require the most aggressive peak oil scenarios, either -- simply using the US Energy Information Administration's estimates of oil reserves is enough. Using more aggressive numbers, atmospheric CO2 peaks at 422ppm.

Kharecha and Hansen present five scenarios, using a variety of estimates of peak oil timing and pace.

Peak oil emission in the BAU scenario occurs in 2016 ± 2 yr, peak gas in 2026 ± 2 yr, and peak coal in 2077 ± 2 yr (Fig. 3a). Coal Phase-out moves peak coal up to 2022 (Fig. 3b). Fast Oil Use causes peak oil to be delayed until 2037 (Wood et al., 2003), but oil use then crashes rapidly (Fig. 3c). Less Oil Reserves results in peak oil moving to 2010 ± 2 yr (Fig. 3d), under the assumption that usage approximates the near symmetrical shape of the classical Hubbert curve. In the Peak Oil Plateau case, oil emissions peak in 2020 and remain at that level until 2040 (Kerr, 2007), thereafter decreasing approximately linearly (Fig. 3e).

The difference between Kharecha and Hansen's business-as-usual and the other scenarios points to the importance of limiting coal and other greenhouse gases. Peak oil isn't going to save us from global warming by itself. We'll still have to make major changes to how we live, how we build, how we generate energy, etc. -- all of the imperatives we've had to reckon with for awhile.

And peak oil itself, despite its global warming benefit, remains a real problem. While the "doomer" peak oil scenarios seem to me to be overwrought and simplistic, it's true that our society is thoroughly dependent upon fossil fuels, and an abrupt reduction in availability would be traumatic. As I noted in The Big Picture: Climate Chaos, the intersection of global warming and peak oil means that we have overwhelming reason to move away from fossil fuels as energy sources as rapidly as possible -- and that solutions in one arena can help in the other.

It will be interesting to me to see how both peak oil watchers and anti-global warming activists take this report. I suspect that some oilers will dismiss it as not big news, since they already knew that society is going to collapse before we reach the worst of global warming; others might take it as an indicator that trying to deal with peak oil by producing liquid coal fuels (or similar fossil substitutes) is a bad idea, as it would eliminate the one slight benefit of peak oil conditions. I hope that climate watchers might have a generally more positive response, relief that the worst-case scenarios are even less likely than before. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that more than a few global warming-focused activists will see this report -- despite coming from Hansen -- as an attempt to reduce the urgency of the need to deal with anthrogenic carbon emissions.

What this report tells us, however, is that we can't simply focus on one crisis -- no matter how large and looming -- without taking into consideration the other key drivers of change. The onset of peak oil will alter how we deal with climate disruption, rendering climate strategies that don't take peak oil into account of limited value. Similarly, the fact of global warming must shape how our economies deal with a permanent oil crunch.

For both issues, the kinds of strategies most likely to succeed are those based on the precepts of an open future: innovation and experimentation; transparency and shared knowledge; and collaboration and shared responsibility. It's a future worth fighting monsters for.


Perhaps, fossil fuels are simply breeding themselves out so to speak.


Hi, Jamais-

Absent a concerted effort to address global warming, don't you think we would just replace oil with coal? (Including production of synthetic oil from coal using the Fischer-Tropsch process?)

Seems to me, even a calamitous peak oil scenario doesn't necessarily keep CO2 levels down. So a clash of the titans is a nice dramatic way to put it, but I question if it is the best way to frame the discussion.

If you are actually curious about findings funded by neither government nor industry see http://www.middlebury.net/op-ed/pangburn.html

Significant warming of planet earth ended in 1998. If it wasn't for the 22 year period from 1976 to 1998 when the atmospheric carbon dioxide level and average global temperature happened to increase at the same time, the term 'greenhouse gas' would be virtually unknown and Kyoto and the rest of the Global Warming Mistake would never have happened. It is going to take a long time to un-brainwash much of the public and get some climatologists and the IPCC to abandon their self serving agenda.

BAU is coal, Trey. All of the other scenarios assume a (possibly unrealistic) phase-out of coal after 2025.

Then again, maybe it's not unrealistic. Coal is dirty, and people don't want it in their back yards. I suspect that people will use whatever is cheap, abundant, and superficially clean. Coal is a fuel of last resort, because it so obviously dirties the air.

Thanks for answering Trey, John.

I debated whether or not to approve Dan Pangburn's comment -- after all, he's just regurgitating long-discredited denialist crap that's been churned up again on Drudge. But it's important to recognize that folks like him are still out there, and are still influencing policy. Moreover, it's important to have them on record, if we need to know why we missed our opportunity to act in time.

I believe the mindset has to be zero emissions all across the board, zero emissions as a goal to which we are continually progressing as in zero defects on a production line in total quality management.

Peak Oil is only part of the picture. As JH Kunstler keeps pointing out, the financial system is another crisis that will affect our response to climate change. Peak Water may be even more important. These days there are so many stormclouds on the horizon that it is hard to pick just one.

For an even more pessimistic -- and arguably more realistic -- outlook, see this report on James Hansen's call for a crash program to reduce atmospheric CO2 back to 1988 levels.

Pessimistic? Guys - this is huge! There IS a God! There's just enough oil to screw things up but not totally annihilate everything? It's The Flood 2.0!

I know I'm somewhat atypical amongst peak oilers, but I've always thought peak oil is a bad thing (at least in the medium term) from a global warming point of view if we stick to BAU, as it will simply encourage those wedded to the current energy paradigm to turn to unconventional fossil fuels and (first generation) biofuels - both of which will rapidly increase our carbon emissions (along with numerous other unpleasant side effects).

You can already see this in action - deforestation in the pursuit of palm oil and soy, coal to liquids plants being investigated in numerous countries, efforts to accelerate tar sands developments in Canada (and interest in developing heavy oil deposits in places like Venezuela and Madagascar), renewed interest in shale oil, interest in gas to liquids (including using coal seam methane), keen interest in tapping methane hydrates / clathrates etc etc

Most peak oilers (1) underestimate conventional oil reserves - Iraq being the striking example, and (2) underestimate unconventional oil reserves and our ability to harness them if we choose to.

I think Hansen is being overly optimistic here (I may be the first person to accuse him of this, excepting maybe Lovelock, but he does so for different reasons). Several ASPO people have argued this line for years, but I for one don't buy it.

Great blog. Great post. Devils advocate question, Jamais: the document in recirculation that Pangburn has been discredited by whom? The reason I pose the rhetorical question is not to raise the specter or doubt over global warming, but to address the issue of motivation.

By whom are different entities publishing studies being funded? Countless studies show how results of even double-blind studies err in the direction of a funder's agenda. Statistics can, after all, be manipulated.

This comment also points a finger in the direction of Big Gav's comments. After all, we all come to the table with our own back-story, and agendas, regardless of how transparent we are about revealing them. What I particularly enjoy about everything you prublish is the obvious attempt to find that middle ground that exists between findings, how the truth lies somewhere within that Participatory Panopticon, and how neither alarmists, nor cheerleaders almost always the farthest from the truth.

The Energy Watch Group's Coal Report (Google to download) forecasts peak coal in ~20 years. The USA coal tonnage is still increasing, but the heating value is already falling because the quality of the coal is falling. We are moving from anthracite, to bituminous, to sub-bituminous to lignite. Miner productivity is also falling because the coal seams are deeper and thinner. Call it coal depletion, ...or peak coal.

Big Gav -- you're absolutely right that the "Business As Usual" scenario still screws up the planet, even with peak oil. We need to get off of fossil fuels (oil & coal) as soon as we possibly can. With the possibility of "Peak Coal" and even "Peak Uranium" this century, there's no question that renewables are the only answer.

RJ -- don't know if anyone has taken apart that particular document, but the ideas it embraces have been discredited for awhile. Hit Real Climate for the best source of actual climate science.

As for finding the middle ground, I wouldn't necessarily say I do that. The "middle ground" is all too often a myth that obscures the strength of a given "extreme" argument. I try not to take claims at face value, although -- like any thinking person -- I come to trust certain sources. In this case, I trust Hansen. And, to be clear, he's by no means an "alarmist" -- he's not talking about the remnants of humankind living in villages in the overheated polar circle...

I think their scenario is unrealistic. What they're saying is that a decline in the world's oil supply will prevent a lot of CO2 from getting into the atmosphere if coal is deliberately restricted.

So they're saying that we'll go sick and just burn all the oil we have, limited only by its physical availability, but have great restraint with our coal.

It just doesn't make sense. If we go sick with oil, why wouldn't we go sick with coal? If we have restraint with coal, why wouldn't we have restraint with oil?

Surely as oil becomes scarce we'll see more use of coal?

For reference, the IPCC 2004 report told us that 21st century emissions of 1,800Gt CO2e would give us 450ppm, and 4,100Gt would give us 1,000ppm.

However, already from 2001-7 we've added 315Gt, taking these levels to 1,500Gt and 3,800Gt CO2e.

But only 55% of emissions come from burning fossil fuels. It's fair to assume that other contributions will at best remain in proportion. In practice they'll probably rise; the places short of fossil fuel will probably cut down more forests, and deforestation already contributes around 17.5% of greenhouse gases.

So for example, with our current 49Gt CO2e emissions annually, and with 17.5% or 8.6Gt coming from deforestation, well 8.6Gt for 92 years is 789Gt CO2e. That is, just cutting down forests pretty much takes us to 450ppm, forget about the fossil fuels.

Hansen and Kharecha of course do say that there should be forestation programmes; but again that suggests planning and restraint. Why are we going to have planning and restrain for forests and coal, but not for oil?

But looking just at the fossil fuels, being optimistic and assuming they rise or decline in that same proportion, so that fossil fuels remain 55%, we can set the 450ppm level as requiring the burning of fossil contributing around 800Gt, and the 1,000ppm level requiring around 2,000Gt CO2e.

So burning fossil fuels and adding 800Gt of CO2 will give us trouble but not catastrophic, but if we hit 2,000Gt CO2 from them then all bets are off.

Considering our reserves and the emissions burning them gives, we have,

Oil reserves of 1317Gbbl@ 450kg CO2e/bbl give 593Gt CO2e
Coal reserves of 998Gt@ 2,350kg CO2e/t give 2,854Gt CO2e
Natural gas reserves of 6,074T cu ft@ 52.2kg CO2e/1,000 cu ft give 316Gt CO2e
For total emissions of 3,763Gt CO2e

Which is to say, if we burn up all our reserves we'll completely screw ourselves. Well, we all knew that already.

Current coal consumption is 6Gt, oil 31Gbbl, and gas 100T cu ft.

To keep contributions by 2100 under 800Gt requires a decline every year in use by 4% in each of the three. We would then have used only 15% of coal reserves, 55% of oil reserves, and 39% of gas reserves. It would mean that over any decade, use would decline by a third. This seems remarkably restrained over a period of 92 years.

To keep contributions under 2,000Gt requires only a decline of 1% annually. This is essentially 10% in any decade. This seems more plausible.

Hansen and Kharecha's scenario with one lot of fossil fuels being guzzled up like mad and another lot being restrained makes no sense. More plausible is that use of all of them increases, or all declines.

Only a strong decline - of 4% each year for 92% - gives us eventual CO2 of around 450ppm; business as usual or a slight decline of 1% annually takes us past 1,000ppm. Burning the lot in this century means catastrope.

Now, I've previously pointed out that any particular individual in the West can make their impact only about one tonne of CO2, down from the 12 tonnes which is average for the US and Australia, or 5-10 tonnes for most of Europe. For everyone to be able to do this might take a decade or so of improvements in renewable energy availability, mass transit and so on.

Things individuals can control like transport and diet make up about half of all emissions. So total Western emissions could decline by around 40-45% over those ten years without any significant discomfort or decline in lifestyle for the average Westerner. The other half of society contributing emissions, in industry, commerce and agriculture, would then have to get their shit together and act.

Neither peak oil nor climate change will help "solve" the opposite crisis. It's much more of a double whammy. Whatever we need to do as a species to address climate change will be far more difficult because of resource depletion (peak oil, but also minerals, water, etc....) Whatever actions we take to deal with depleted resources means far, far more environmental destruction.

Michael Byron writes in "Path to Infinity's Rainbow" that we and the values and beliefs according to which we build our civilization are the direct cause of the crises we face. In other words, more of what we are doing will make matters worse. Very obvious when someone points it out so clearly. The paradigm shift is to "LESS".

I like that you're making the bridge between the Peak Oilers and the folks concerned Climate Change. The mix could be a powerful coalition.

One thing is for sure, if change isn't made, we'll have to deal with each other for sure.

One thing that Hansen and Kharecha did not account for was the impact of economic decline due to peak oil. In Hirsch's latest report, Mitigation of Maximum World Oil Production:Shortage Scenarios, Energy Policy, Feb 2008, Hirsch reasons that we can expect to see the world GDP decline at roughly a 1:1 correlation with oil depletion. His paper outlines decline rates between 2% to 5% per year. (For further corroboration of the relationship between oil and GDP, see Estimating the Economic Impacts of Peak Oil.)

Given that the world economy will "unwind" (to use a generous term), electricity use will go down, hence so will coal use and CO2 emissions.

The unfortunate thing is that as the economic declines, we will likely find it more difficult to produce alternative energy machines of all types. The supply chains will continually break and most of these devices are very clearly high technology.

Now, what's not clear is whether in this new world we will simply stretch out the use of coal because it is such a ready source of energy. Back to the coal- and wood-only age, as it were. (We technically never left the coal age — we use more coal now than we ever have.)

On the surface it looks like peak oil is good for climate change — it will reduce worldwide emissions far faster than any human-lead initiative appears capable of so far. But I don't think we should have any delusions about the capacity of our economy to continue the transition to alternative energy sources as we follow the depletion curve down. In my view, we will travel through Energy Descent largely with the energy infrastructure we have now and with whatever we can produce and install in the small amount of time we have before we fall off the production plateau we currently are on (0 to eight years).

And of course the mitigation and adaptation of the impacts of global warming will be much, much more difficult post-peak. Those actions will compete with all the core societal functions for the same, ever-declining amount of energy.

My wife and I are planning to have our peak oil preparations complete by the end of 2008. And as founder of Post Carbon Marin, I'm beginning the work in my county to prepare my community, too.

If you are interested in what other communities are doing to prepare for peak oil, the Oil Independent Oakland report is here, Portland's is here and Connecticut's is here (PDF).

-André Angelantoni

As far as tar sands, oil shale and quite a few of the "unconventional" energy sources, I haven't see a single comment here acknowledging the terrible EROEI, energy returned on energy invested, ratio of these sources. It makes them completely impractical with present technology, even if they are economically practical they will not stay so for long and will require unconventional amounts of production just to give us the same net energy we have now. refer to this for more on EROEI.

You might be interested in my upcoming book on the topic discussed here and the importance of addressing the complex links between oil, water and climate. The title is: Oil, Water and Climate: An Introduction" and it is published by Cambridge U. Press.

Lavallee (and Pangburn, if you are still around): The idea that global warming ended in 1998 was given prominence by the Australian Bob Carter, a marine geologist working for yet another industry-funded right-wing think tank. So much for "funded by neither government nor industry".

It could be that Carter was not the first, but either way it's a brazen example of cherry-picking. 1998 was an extreme record year, so if you start counting there you can almost say that global warming has stopped - but it doesn't make it true.

Coby Beck has a well written reply to this classic denialist line:


It’s great to see robust discussion about how we can improve the environment and reduce greenhouse gases. Many government and industry leaders believe hydrogen is an important part of the energy mix that will not only improve our environment, but also reduce our dependency on oil. This week the NHA Annual Hydrogen Conference and Expo US, March 30 – April 3, is taking place in Sacramento, CA. Please visit hydrogenconference.org to learn more. If you live near or if you’re traveling to Sacramento, we invite you to join us and experience how hydrogen can have a positive impact on our lives. The latest hydrogen technologies from all over the world will be on display, and there will even be opportunities to drive hydrogen vehicles from several leading auto manufacturers – all this is free and open to the public on Monday, March 31 at the Sacramento Convention Center. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements from the Hydrogen Conference.

In addition, the Hydrogen Education Foundation has recently launched a website to help people better understand hydrogen as a fuel. Please visit www.h2andyou.org to improve your knowledge about hydrogen as an alternative fuel.

It seems to me that the unconventional sources of oil are pretty vast and there is some synergy between them. The Bakken oil play in North Dakota may produce 100 billion barrels of oil and 75 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That gas is close enough to the Alberta tar sands so that it may end up supporting extraction there. With low energy return on energy invested, these sources will end up producing even more emissions than more conventional oil. We have to choose to stop using coal, but I think we also have to choose to stop using oil. This becomes even harder as large new domestic resources start to be tapped because it will seem good for the economy to get our oil domestically. So, I think we need to think hard about both coal and oil consumption as well as gas on their own rather than relying on the idea of peak oil, which may only be peak cheap oil. Conservation and alternatives need to be persued as a matter of policy, not geological default.

Is it helpful to point out that "Peak Oil" refers to that point when we've half of all known reserves? That leaves half in the ground. This is catastrophe with exponential growth. But with radical efficiency, hydrocarbons could play a role in our energy future for centuries. Obviously, the amount we use would need to emit fewer greenhouse gasses than natural systems can deal with. But I'm often amazed at how we seldom link these problems to our pattern of exponential growth. If we were using 10% of the hydrocarbons we now use, and not doubling that amount every 20 years or so, this wouldn't much of a big deal.


I just wanted to make a point which seems quite obvious to me but I'm no expert.

Anybody that is old enough can remember the all of the chicken littles running around in the 70s saying we were almost out of oil. I've heard the same alarmist view about every decade since then and now I hear this theory about Peak Oil.

As far as I can tell the Peak Oil theory is simply another chicken little scare tactic. As mentioned in one of the comments above, we have the Bakken oil in ND and the tar sands in Canada, plus many more oil reserves that keep growing.

The simple fact is that the "Known Reserves" of oil go up proportionally to the price of oil. This will continue to happen into the foreseeable future.

I think by the time the human race has used half of all of the discoverable and recoverable reserves of petroleum products we will have long since found a much cleaner, less costly and virtually infinite form of energy.

Oh Jamie, the USA did hit peak oil in 1970, domestically, what's being talked about now is global peak oil, another story altogether.

Yes we will find more oil reserves and figure out new ways to extract it, but the fact remains that it will get more and more expensive and one day it will run out. These are very simple concepts to grasp, and yet what kind of investment do we see in alternative energies by industry or government. Its minimal.

If we don't use the abundant and relatively cheap energy we get from sources like oil and coal now to help us build the science, technology and infrastructure of a post-oil world, well... How will we build a hydro-electric dams or a fusion reactors without the assistance of diesel powered machinery?

Make the short term sacrifice now to invest in alternative energy and effeciency improving technologies now so that we can "retire" from oil and coal comfortably instead of living on welfare in a decaying civilization.


You are absolutely correct about using cheap energy like oil and coal to help us make the switch to more sustainable and earth/people friendly energy sources. The fact is we have to make the switch sooner rather then later as is becoming abundantly clear.

However, I'm still not convinced that we have hit peak oil. Maybe we have maybe we haven't but one thing I'm sure about is that environmental regulations have contributed a huge amount to our current energy woes. The US has not built a coal fired plant, nuclear reactor or a refinery in this county in over 30 years due exclusively to environmental regulations. In the mean time china builds 2 coal fired plants per week and Europe gets upwards of 80% of their total energy output from nuclear power. The US has 100's of Billions of untapped barrels of oil that will never be used due to more environmental regulations.

We cannot put wind farms off shore from the Kennedy compound because that might spoil their view. Al Gore Buys new Gulf streams jets, has a fleet of limos, is building his forth house and he is telling us to ride a bike. Can you say hypocrisy? It seems to me that if the Kennedy’s and Gores and others were that concerned about global warming that they would practice what they preach. For Gods sake they are telling us that global warming will be the end of human civilization. You’d think they would be a little more concerned than they are showing.


I'm afraid you're laboring under a few misconceptions.

The US has been building coal power plants throughout the last 30 years, and continues to do so, albeit at a slower pace (see here for some numbers: http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0304/p01s07-usec.html ).

The refinery issue is more complex than just environmental regulations restricting their construction. US oil producers over-built during the last wave of building in the 1970s, and actually *closed* refineries in the 1980s and 1990s. Clean air rules have limited placement of new refineries (which are being built now), but changing demand patterns and a producer emphasis on expanding capacity in existing refineries are at least as influential. See: hhttp://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/business/14refine.html and http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/09/business/09refinery.html for some details.

Nuclear power plants haven't been built in the US over the last 30 years, to be sure, but construction costs and insurance, more than environmental regulations, have been the limitation.

Nuclear power produces 79% of France's electricity, not Europe's. I haven't seen that reference to UK oil reserves (with or without environmental restrictions); do you have a link?

I don't know where you got your info about Gore's jets, "fleet of limos" or "fo(u)rth" house. The usual talking point is that his one house is big and uses a lot of power, but since that house has been entirely shifted over to renewable power (long planned, and only recently approved), that meme no longer works. There's no evidence that he owns jets of any kind, nor a fleet of limos.

The one point you make that I can confirm (and agree with, for what it's worth) is that it's ludicrous for the Kennedy family to fight the placement of wind turbines that might spoil their view.


You are surely correct about there being new coal power plants built in the last 30 years. I heard that little of bit of incorrect data somewhere and did not research my facts. Bad me. I think I heard from the same source about Europe having 80% of there energy derived from nuclear and that turns out to be France only. Bad me again. I will be better at checking my facts before I post. The fact remains that Europe in general derives a far greater amount of there energy from nuclear power than the US.

Please don't tell me that you don't see a conflict of interest in what Al Gore is doing.

He is Chairman of the board of a company called Generation Investment Management. They broker or sell carbon offsets. He buys carbon offsets from his own company! Do you still not see the conflict of interest here? See links. http://www.billhobbs.com/2007/02/more_on_gore.html , http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2008/06/04/gore-invests-carbon-credit-company-will-media-care , http://www.algore.org/node/403 , http://thecitizensjournalblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/al-gore-exposed-buys-his-carbon-offsets.html

Two Years ago Al Gore was my hero. I read all his books. I have read most of Paul Ehrlich and Lester Browns books and many others as well. I dismissed every Gore basher or global warming skeptic as either a hired mouth piece for big oil, a Nazi or just plain stupid. About 2 years ago I heard a global warming skeptic (forgot his name) who had impeccable credentials slam Al Gore and his cause. My first reaction was “another Nazi big oil mouth piece”. But the more I listened the more it all made sense. That was a turning point for me. I started grudgingly reading books by authors like Bjorn Lomborg and many others and have came to the conclusion that we have been had.

For someone NOT to see the hypocrisy and conflict of interest completely surrounding Al Gore is nothing less than stunning.

(Jamie, just to note, the reply to you posted earlier today -- the one you recently responded to in turn -- came from the site owner, Jamais Cascio, not from the commenter "Kay".)

Let's, for the moment, assume that everything you said about Al Gore's hypocrisy and conflicts of interest are true. I've only met the guy once, and I don't know about what kinds of business dealings he has going on behind the scenes, so sure -- he's a hypocrite and a double-dealer.

How does that change the science?

Gore didn't think up global warming and somehow convince tens of thousands of scientists (from climatologists to solar astronomers to atmospheric chemists and more) that it was real. Gore used his position as a political figure to draw attention to a position. Even if he regularly eats kittens for breakfast doesn't mean that the decades of scientific work he points to is wrong.

Forget the personalities. No hero worship or villain hatred, just look at the science.


Sorry for the confusion as to who the poster was.

The science. How many Scientist does it take to refute the idea that there exists some kind of scientific consensus on global warming? How about 31000? Would that be enough? See the Oregon Petition Project. http://www.oism.org/pproject/ .

There are 9 inconvenient errors in Al Gores Movie so says an English Judge. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/10/11/scigore111.xml , http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/corporate_law/article2633838.ece . If you would like more examples simply google “9 errors in Al Gores Inconvenient Truth”. There are hundreds of web pages devoted to this subject and many more errors than the 9 I will cover below.

To summarize these 9 errors in Gores Film.
1. “Sea level rising 6 m by 2100”: IPCC estimates at most 59 centimeters rise by 2100. I would say this constitutes what most people would call an Exaggeration.

2. “Pacific Islands drowning”: Gore say low-lying inhabited Pacific coral atolls are already being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming”. How in the world could this Already be happening when the sea level rise has only been 6 to 12 inches over the last 100 years? I believe this constitutes what is known as a Lie.

3. “Global Warming will shut down thermohaline circulation in oceans (he calls it the “ocean conveyor”): GW. may slow it down but not stop it. Exaggeration.

4. “CO2 Driving Temperature” Not true. It is the other way around. The records show that for the last 600,000 years or so Temperature has driven CO2. In otherwords increases in earths temperature increase CO2. This is a major blow to Al and another Lie.

5. “Snows of Kilimanjaro Melting”. The melting of the glaciers of Kilimanjaro began 125 ago, before humans were putting any significant CO2 into the air. Temperatures at the summit never rise above freezing and average -7 C. There are varies theories as to why the melting is taking place but it is definitely not due to Global warming. Another Lie.

6. “Lake Chad dying up”. Global warming has nothing to do with this. It is caused from over-extraction of water and changing agricultural pattern. The lake was also dry in 8500 BC, 5500 BC 1000 BC and 100 BC.
Another Lie.

7. “Hurricane Katrina Man Made” Completely false. It was caused by failure of government to heed 30 years of warning that the levies would fail! And guess what, they did. This was not a super hurricane, it was a category 3 but it was big enough to cause the long predicted and well documented failure of the levy system.

8. “Polar Bears Dying” There is only one documented case of polar bears drowning. In 2005 four polar bears were found drown after an exceptional storm in the Beaufort Sea. There is absolutely nothing else to base all of the Polar bear hysteria on. Also, Al neglected to tell his audience that the Polar bear population has exploded from just 5000 bears in the 1960’s to over 25000 today. I’m going to call this an inconvenient truth for Al.

9. “Global Warming is causing coral reef bleaching” It is not. An exceptional El Nino in 1998 caused some coral bleaching. Two similar El Nino’s occurred over the last 250 years and also caused coral bleaching but these had nothing to do with human caused global warming. Exaggeration/Lie.

There are many more very Inconvenient errors in Al Gore’s movie than what it stated above. Again simple google “ mistakes or errors in Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth” You’ll find hundreds of them.

I am as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that people who already have made up there mind that humans are to blame for Global Warming will dismiss me as some king of a kook or big oil mouth piece. They will not read what I have to say and they will definitely not read any of the links I have provided. I can’t really blame them. The media has done a fantastic job of indoctrination on this subject. I remember when this story broke about the 9 errors in Al gores movie, it could not be found in the main stream media except for FOX news. I don’t really care for FOX, I think they more than any other major news network to blame for getting us in the horrible war we are in now. The fact is the media sells fear. Fear is what makes them money. Global warming scares people and so people watch.

Jamie, you might want to do a bit more research before citing the Oregon Petition Project. The OPP criteria for what constitutes a 'scientist' is amusingly broad, requiring only a BA/BS in some kind of technical discipline. The vast majority of signatories are engineers, followed by medical doctors. Experts in their fields, no doubt, but not who I'd go to for climate science. There are also numerous hoax names. Estimates of actual climate scientists signing the petition range from zero to just a couple hundred, none of whom actually have published articles in the field. Graduating with a degree in a given field does not automatically make one a specialist; I graduated (with honors) in evolutionary anthropology as one of my undergrad degrees, and I wouldn't even think of calling myself an "anthropologist."

Moreover, the core paper used as the basis of the current version of the OPP, aside from not being published in a peer-reviewed journal, itself has numerous significant errors. If you think that the "9 errors" in Gore's movie are enough to dismiss everything he's talking about, surely you'd accept that more, and more egregious, errors in this document are enough to dismiss that entire perspective.

Here are some references:


As for the "9 errors" themselves, it's worth looking at what working climate scientists have to say:


here's another take-down of the "9 error" claim, a bit more acid in tone:


And note, even after I encouraged you to set aside Gore, to set aside personalities, and look at the science, once again you focus your attention on this one guy, not on the underlying research.

If your skepticism about anthropogenic global warming comes from a technical point of view, and not a political posture, then I'd encourage you to do some more reading. I'd look forward to your response in that case. If the only reply you can come up with, conversely, is more Gore-bashing and links to long-discredited arguments, then I'm just going to lump you in with creationists and astrologers.

The long and the short of it is that it's my blog, and I have better things to do than rehash arguments from three years ago.


I’ll admit I sometimes get a little hot under the collar when the subject of Al Gore comes up. It must be my Irish blood. Does that mean you must dismiss everything I said about the 9 errors in Gore’s film simply because I talked about Gore? Do the 9 point not constitute what you would consider science?

I will cover one scientific subject per post for now on, otherwise rebuttals will get to complicated and confusing.

I do believe that humans are having an impact on the climate. What I am skeptical about is the amount of impact we are having. I also have an issue with the media driven hysteria surrounding this issue. This hysteria has caused worry and despair around the world. When people are desperate and hysterical they make very bad decisions. These decisions are going to affect every human on earth at an unprecedented level, especially the most vulnerable among us, the billions of people living in poverty. These people could be saved at a very, very small fraction of the cost we are proposing to spend on GW.

The science behind the Polar Bear (Bjorn Lomborg, Cool It Page 5, 6 and 7):

Of the 20 distinct subpopulations of polar bears, one or possible two are declining in Baffin Bay; more than half are known to be stable; and 2 subpopulations are actually increasing around the Beaufort Sea. As noted in my earlier post global polar bear populations have increased dramatically over the past several decades, from about 5000 in the 60’s to 25000 today. The 2 populations in decline come from areas where it has actually been getting colder over the past fifty years, whereas the two increasing populations reside in areas where it is getting warmer. The best studied polar bear population lives on the western coast of Hudson Bay. That its population has declined 17 percent, from 1200 in 1987 to 950 in 2004 has gotten much press. Not mentioned in the press, however, is that since 1981 the population has soared from just 500, thus eradicating any claim of a decline. Moreover, nowhere in the news coverage is it mentioned that 300 to 500 bears are shot each year, with 49 shot on average on the west coast of Hudson Bay. Even if we take the story of decline at face value, it means we have lost about 15 bears to global warming each year, whereas we have lost 49 each year to hunting.

The polar bear story teaches us 3 things. First, we hear vastly exaggerated and emotional claims that are simply not supported by data. Second, polar bears are not the only story. While we hear only about the troubled species, it is also a fact the many species will do better with climate change. In general, the Artic Climate Impact Assessment { http://www.acia.uaf.edu/ } projects that the Arctic will experience increasing species richness and higher ecosystem productivity. It will have less polar desert and more forest. The assessment actually finds that higher temperatures mean more nesting birds and more butterflies. This does not make up for the polar bears but it is important that we hear both sides of the story. The 3rd point is that our hysteria makes us focus on the wrong solutions. We are being told that the plight of the polar bear shows “the need for stricter curbs on greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.” Even of we accept the flawed idea of using the 1987 population of polar bears around Hudson Bay as a baseline, so that we lose 15 bears each year, what can we do? If we try helping them by cutting greenhouse gases, in theory we can at the very best avoid 15 bears dying. In actuality the number is about 0.06 bear deaths avoided. But 49 bears from the same population are being shot each year, and this we can easily do something about. Therefore, if we really want a stable population of polar bears, dealing first with the 49 shot ones might be a much better strategy. Yet it is not the one we hear about. In the climate debate we mostly Don’t hear the proposals that will do the most good but only the ones that involve cutting green house gases.


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