Archive for the ‘fossil fuels’ Category
Lloyds of London have warned that fossil fuel exploration of the Arctic will damage an important ecosystem. With that in mind, here is the latest email I have received from Greenpeace:
Any moment now, Gazprom will pump the first drops of oil from beneath the icy Arctic seas.
But Gazprom’s plans to open up huge areas of the Arctic to drilling depend on its powerful partner, Shell. This January, Shell has a new boss taking over. That means we have a major opportunity to stop both companies from destroying the pristine Arctic.
Why would he listen to us? Because Shell’s investors want to make money, not take risks. Shell’s board want the investors to be happy, and as a new CEO, he will want to start with a clean record.
More and more industry insiders are warning that Arctic drilling is a losing battle. Shell already suffered a massive PR fail and a criminal inquiry for its series of mishaps trying to drill in Alaska last year. And Gazprom, already infamous for a 2011 rig accident in which 53 people died, came under serious fire recently for its role in the imprisonment of the Arctic 30.
This might be the best chance we’ve ever had to protect the Arctic. If Shell scraps Arctic oil, Gazprom will be cut off from the resources it needs to expand oil drilling to grotesque proportions. And it will send a clear signal to other oil companies that Arctic oil just isn’t worth the risk.
Our movement to save the Arctic is incredibly strong. We sent 2.5 million messages to Russian embassies demanding freedom for the Arctic 30, who were finally released on bail last month. Nearly 5 million of us have added our voices to a call to create a global sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the North Pole, protected from oil drilling and destructive industry. We won’t stop growing, or fighting, until we win.
Thank you for everything,
The BBC have very helpfully posted the recent Panorama programme ‘Energy Bills: Power Failure’ on YouTube (as embedded below). Presented by Tom Heap (who regularly does spots on CountryFile), it is very fair-minded and includes contributions from a wide range of people. Therefore, even if you do not live in the UK, I would recommend watching the programme because: it is very good at describing the problems that we all face; and makes it crystal clear that we must find a solution (but does so in a way that somehow avoids being dogmatic).
Some questions I would like help in answering are as follows:
1. What is the instrumental music used in the opening night-time sequence in Blackpool?
2. Why do so many poor people use the most expensive (pay-as-you-go) way to heat their homes?
3. Can we give Angel Gurria (Secretary-General of OECD) a Nobel Prize for plain-speaking?
4. How can anyone avoid concluding that Ed Milliband is an opportunist and a con-man?
5. Why did the CEO of RWE nPower not admit profit margin on generation (as opposed to sales)?
6. Is the need for decarbonisation actually incompatible with power generation being privatised?
7. Why has carbon capture and storage not been made a priority in order to continue burning coal?
8. Is it realistic to think that (in a post-carbon era) energy will ever be cheaper than it is now?
9. When will the UK government admit that fracking is not actually low-carbon and (thus) not the answer?
10. Has Michael Fallon not read the BGS report that says only 10% of shale gas is probably recoverable?
Latest email from Greenpeace
Amazing news! Four minutes after I heard Colin’s appeal hearing had started, news came that he had been granted bail. I didn’t even have time to make myself a cup of tea.
The support team in St Petersburg are paying the bail money as soon as possible. Hopefully he’ll be out before the weekend.
Thanks to the 100,000-plus people who petitioned for Colin’s release, and sent messages of support to him and his wife Christine. She wanted to send this message in reply to you all:
“Thank you thank you thank you. As I am reading your beautiful words of love and support for Colin, [our daughter] Madeleine and myself I have tears running profusely. My heart is filled with your love. Colin will be so humbled by your messages of support when I see him and hug him he will feel and know your love and support. Love to you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
If you would like to leave a message for Colin, or any of the Arctic 30, you can do so via this website.
Despite today’s good news, this is not over yet. The Arctic 30 still stand accused of a crime they did not commit.
Twenty-eight activists took peaceful action on behalf of us all, and two journalists shone a spotlight on destructive Arctic oil drilling. The charge of hooliganism is both an insult and an outrage. Nobody will truly be celebrating until they’re home and the charges have been dropped.
I concluded yesterday’s post, entitled ‘The importance of being earnestly wrong’, by quoting a wonderfully circular argument from Oakwood. This was the assertion that “…you cannot show any one of these [opinions] to be inaccurate, except by appealing to ‘the consensus’…” In reality, the scientific consensus regarding climate science is no more the subject of legitimate debate than the consensus views that: the Universe and the Earth were not created in six days little more than 6000 years ago; the Sun does not orbit the Earth; humans did not co-exist with dinosaurs; and the Earth is not flat.
There are therefore some things about which we humans are no longer wrong (with the exception of those whose approach to science is prejudiced by their ideology or theology).
Yesterday’s post also contained a TED video of a March 2011 talk, entitled ‘On Being Wrong’, given by Kathryn Schulz. This is so good – and so fundamental to appreciating the predicament that Oakwood is in – that I have embedded it here once again.
Schulz warns against automatically assuming that people with opposing views are either ignorant of all the relevant facts, intellectually incapable of processing the information, or deliberately stating things they know to be false. However, she also makes the fundamental point that most people don’t know they are wrong – they are just as convinced that they are not wrong as those who are actually right. This makes it critically important that everyone be willing to accept that they may be wrong. I have done this a lot; and I still do it regularly. However, with regard to climate science, I repeatedly find myself coming back to the logical proposition that:
Doubting the science can only be justified by asserting that the consensus is unreal, unreliable or unreasonable. This does not require all scientists to be liars; but it does require the vast majority of genuine experts to be either stupid, mistaken or mendacious.
Not only would such (implausible, improbable, or insidious) things be without precedent (and require an awful lot of people to be wrong or corrupt), there is also a clear precedent – in the tobacco industry – for the business-funded disputation of highly inconvenient science (which only required a few people to be corrupt in order to fool an awful lot of people).
So, then, because I think it highly instructive – and since it is impossible to breach the confidentiality of someone who chooses to remain anonymous – Oakwood’s email to me is reproduced below (entirely without permission) with rebuttals included in bold text:
“You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.” Yes, that applies to everyone. Here are a few facts:
IPCC models did not predict the current temperature pause. If the IPCC has [now] said ‘because of what we know about the ocean’s massive heat capacity compared to the atmosphere, and the potential for aerosols from growing economies such as India and China, a 15 to 20 year pause is possible’. Of course, they didn’t say that [before], and only come up with the theory after the event. The IPCC do not do the modelling; they merely synthesise the results and summarise the implications. This is therefore statement of belief in either widespread scientific incompetence or political conspiracy. Furthermore, since (1) ice continues to melt (at sea and on land); (2) sea level continues to rise; and (3) ocean pH continues to decline, warming has clearly not stopped. See also ‘How reliable are climate models’ and ‘Global Warming Has Stopped’ on SkepticalScience (SkS).
Proxy temperature data studies cannot reproduce instrumental data for recent decades – when temperatures are at their highest. Therefore, we cannot rely on them to say anything about previous ‘high temperature’ episodes, such as the MWP. This is a complicated issue but this argument has been comprehensively and repeatedly discredited. For example, see ‘Response by Marcott et al’ on Real Climate (with links to other sources of info). As for the MWP, see ‘How does the Medieval Warm Period compare to current global temperatures?’ on SkS.
While so much is made of the Arctic’s ‘record’ low, little is said about the Antarctic’s ‘record’ high, except ‘well that’s different’. Antarctica is geographically isolated and affected by the hole in the ozone layer but, despite this, the West Antarctic and the Antarctic Peninsula are warming as fast as the Arctic. See also ‘Antarctica is gaining ice’ on SkS.
The IPCC finds NO convincing link between extreme weather events (floods, drought, hurricanes) and global warming. Their best is ‘medium confidence’ (for heavy precipitation). (More warm days and fewer cold days is not ‘extreme weather’, but simply a logical outcome of the fact temperatures rose over the 20th C). The IPCC has been repeatedly shown to understate all kinds of risk. Historical analysis of weather in the Northern Hemisphere has shown that extreme weather is becoming more frequent. Multi-decadal change like this cannot be explained without reference to human activity.
IPCC and climate scientists have no idea when the pause will come to an end. Their ‘accurate’ models cannot tell them. This does not matter. Arguing that warming has stopped requires falsification of the evidence that increased atmospheric CO2 is the dominant factor. See ‘It’s not us’ on SkS.
The 97% consensus includes most AGW-sceptics, including me. That is: CO2 is a greenhouse gas; its concentration has increased over the 20th C; it has very likely made some contribution to warming. This myth has been repeatedly debunked. This piece on the RealSceptic blog is the best source of information I have yet seen on how and why this argument is entirely bogus.
There is general agreement amongst climate scientists that a doubling of CO2 on its own will create about a 1dgC rise. CO2 is not acting alone and it is the totality of change that is causing problems. Apart from that facet of reality, this is a very misleading argument, as explained by Michael Mann himself on the LiveScience blog.
Anything more relies on the belief/assumption that positive feedbacks will significantly outweigh negative feedbacks. Ongoing change despite a pause in surface warming implies warming effects are outweighing cooling effects.
But, we’ve had all these discussions before. But you cannot show any one of these facts to be inaccurate, except by appealing to ‘the consensus’ and making nonsensical statements about ‘believing all scientists to be liars’. No, Martin, the practice of science is not about saying: ‘If you disagree with me, you’re calling me a liar’. I have not called Oakwood a liar but, I must admit, he/she does seem to be remarkably incapable of accepting that he may be wrong.
It’s about proper open debate. The fact that the vast majority of ‘sceptics’ are libertarians and/or free-market ideologues proves that the ongoing ‘debate’ is driven by policy implications not any residual uncertainty regarding science. See this excellent essay by Stephan Lewandowsky on The Conversation blog.
While still a minority, there are plenty of climate scientists and experts who do not believe AGW is a major threat. For this to be valid the pool of “climate scientists and experts” would have to be broadened to include all kinds of scientists whose expertise is not relevant. Since we do not generally allow this when discussing evolution or cosmology, why should we do it for climate science?
Of course the answer to that final question is that, as with evolution and cosmology, some people are ideologically opposed to accepting the nature of reality.
I began my previous post by asking the question: “Must the World Bank now be added to the supposed list of environmentally-alarmist institutions seeking to use the perceived threat of climate change as a pretext for imposing global authoritarian government via the United Nations?” I followed this by observing that: “This is essentially the position of all those that dispute the reality of the 97% scientific consensus - or the IPCC’s 95% confidence - that humans are the primary cause of the climate change we are now witnessing.”
‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is, of course, a very funny and very famous book by Oscar Wilde. Sadly, this post is neither funny nor famous (not yet, anyway). In fact, this post is prompted mainly by a TED video (embedded below) of a March 2011 talk, entitled ‘On Being Wrong’, given by Kathryn Schulz – the author of ‘Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error’.
As the TED website makes clear, in its biography of her, Kathryn is a journalist who has written articles for a wide range of newspapers and magazines and is also a former editor of the Grist blog. She was a 2004 recipient of the Pew Fellowship in International Journalism (now the International Reporting Project), and has reported from throughout Central and South America, Japan, and, most recently, the Middle East.
Anyone who automatically assumes that people with opposing views are either ignorant of all the relevant facts, intellectually incapable of processing the information, or deliberately stating things they know to be false… needs to watch this video. Although this may sometimes be true, in the vast majority of cases it probably is not.
Earlier this year, the movie ’Greedy Lying Bastards’ went on general release – and so will soon be available on DVD. Accordingly, reviews are now appearing in the media again. This one by Peter Bradshaw on The Guardian website is typical. For many people, therefore, the truth that the fossil fuel companies have financed a longstanding campaign to perpetuate doubt regarding climate science is a well-established fact – as incontestable as the fact that the tobacco industry did exactly the same for decades in order to sell as many cigarettes as possible. However, there remains a sizeable minority of people on this planet for whom, it seems, the very repetition of this fact is proof of its falsity. For these people, who generally decided what they wanted the truth to be a very long time ago, any evidence that they are wrong is proof that they are right (or that the person presenting the evidence has been duped by – or is part of – the conspiracy to perpetuate a lie).
Of course, if you try and point this out to such people, you are accused of peddling your own conspiracy theory. However, tobacco companies have been taken to court and found guilty of trying to hide the link between cancer and smoking. Climate scientists have only ever been taken to court for saying things fossil fuel companies do not want us to hear. This too will be dismissed by the factually-challenged as evidence of a wider conspiracy; now including the judiciary. However, for these people, is there no point at which the simplest explanation (which is supported by observable and documentary evidence) becomes more reasonable than an ever-expanding conspiracy (which is not supported by the vast majority of available evidence)?
This brings me back to something else I said on my previous post:
Unfortunately, for such conspiracy theorists, the truth of the matter is much more unpleasant: Climate scientists are not engaged in a global conspiracy to provide the UN with an excuse to subvert the power of national governments. Conspiracy or not, it would be bad enough if our national governments had spent the last 25 years ignoring the warnings of climate scientists. However, the truth of the matter is even more insidious: The IPCC has spent the last 20 years or so compiling reports detailing the nature, scale and urgency of the problem we face, only to have our national governments systematically neuter their reports and ignore the warnings they contained.
So, again, the question remains: What about all those people who are not being paid to misinform (i.e. the so-called ‘Merchants of Doubt)’? How do we explain their existence – and how can we tell the difference between those who are being deliberately deceitful and those who are merely wilfully ignorant? To be blunt, how can we spot the difference between someone who is just bigoted and someone who is being paid to be wrong?
I am afraid that I do not know for sure but, having spent an entire year carefully examining all the evidence, I am entirely satisfied by the scientific, historical, and observational evidence – and the logical arguments – that the burning of fossil fuels is altering the Earth’s climate. Therefore, although I can never be certain, despite everything Kathryn Schulz says in the above video, I think it is legitimate to question either the sanity or motives of anyone who repeatedly ignores the fact that their arguments have been shown to flawed; and/or repeatedly re-states things that can easily be determined to be false.
No-one should be in any doubt about this: such people are not being sceptical; they are in denial.
Sadly, I recently had to delete an entire comment on my most recent post by someone identified only as ‘Oakwood’. He or she claims a professional need to remain anonymous but spends an awful lot of time posting comments on blogs by non-experts such as Anthony Watts (WattsUpWithThat), Steven McIntyre (ClimateAudit) and Andrew Montford (BishopHill). It is, therefore, not that surprising that much of the content of what Oakwood’s comments elsewhere can be traced back to things by these non-experts (whose arguments have all been repeatedly falsified and discredited).
I therefore decided to send Oakwood an email in which I started by saying, “You are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts…” In response, Oakwood started by saying he agreed with that assertion but, sadly, followed it with yet another re-statement of his own “facts” that are not actually facts at all… Then, as if to add insult to injury, Oakwood followed that litany of previously debunked arguments and climate myths (which I will look at in detail tomorrow), with this masterpiece of unfalsifiability:
…you cannot show any one of these facts to be inaccurate, except by appealing to ‘the consensus’ and making nonsensical statements about ‘believing all scientists to be liars’.
This is a self-sealing argument that is entirely predicated on conspiracy theory: If the consensus is real, reliable and reasonable, there is no legitimate reason to doubt the science. Therefore, doubting the science can only be justified by asserting that the consensus is unreal, unreliable or unreasonable. This does not require all scientists to be liars; but it does require the vast majority of genuine experts to be either stupid, mistaken or mendacious.
Tomorrow, probably not for the last time, I will rebut all of Oakwood’s “facts” in part two of this series, entitled: ‘The imprudence of being earnestly Oakwood’.
Must the World Bank now be added to the supposed list of environmentally-alarmist institutions seeking to use the perceived threat of climate change as a pretext for imposing global authoritarian government via the United Nations? This is essentially the position of all those that dispute the reality of the 97% scientific consensus - or the IPCC’s 95% confidence - that humans are the primary cause of the climate change we are now witnessing.
Unfortunately for such conspiracy theorists, the truth of the matter is much more unpleasant: Climate scientists are not engaged in a global conspiracy to provide the UN with an excuse to subvert the power of national governments. Conspiracy or not, it would be bad enough if our national governments had spent the last 25 years ignoring the warnings of climate scientists. However, the truth of the matter is even more insidious: The IPCC has spent the last 20 years or so compiling reports detailing the nature, scale and urgency of the problem we face, only to have our national governments systematically neuter their reports and ignore the warnings they contained.
Similarly, it seems, our national governments appear determined to ignore warnings from professional bodies, national scientific academies, and international organisations. Anyone who asserts that humanity needs to stop burning fossil fuels as fast as possible is, it seems, immediately dismissed as an environmental ‘alarmist’.
If you stop to think about it objectively, even for a moment, the reasons for this are very obvious: Far more serious even than the USA defaulting on its debt repayments, the problem is that the share prices of the World’s fossil fuel companies are entirely dependent upon the assumption that all the Earth’s fossil fuels will be burned. This is referred to as ‘business as usual’ (BAU).
Thus, in the minds of our politicians at least, if they accept the reality that we have a problem at all, the only solution to the problem is one that allows fossil fuel companies to continue with BAU.
Unfortunately for our politicians, fossil fuel companies, and all life on Earth (human and non-human), such a solution does not exist and is, almost certainly, technologically unachievable in the timescale that it would now be required.
The solution everyone is hoping will emerge is carbon capture and storage (CCS). This is a subject about which I have written a great deal; and I do not intend to repeat myself now other than to say this: CCS will only be able to help solve our problem when the rate of removal of CO2 from our atmosphere is greater than global emissions. Getting CCS to work will take decades (as will decarbonising our economies). It is quite possible that we do not have decades of time in which to do either but, one thing is for sure, it makes no sense to delay making a serious attempt to do either.
Therefore, I believe all would do well to ponder the question as to why the World Bank published ‘Inclusive Green Growth: The Pathway to Sustainable Development’ last year. There is a big clue given in the ‘Abstract‘, which reads as follows:
Economic development during the next two decades cannot mirror the previous two: poverty reduction remains urgent but growth and equity can be pursued without relying on policies and practices that foul the air, water, and land.
The World Bank accepts that humanity cannot go on treating the Earth with contempt; treating it as if both its resources and regenerative capacity are infinite. This is because, as is becoming increasingly obvious (in the case of the latter at least), they are not infinite.
This brings us to the crux of this post, which is to refute the entirely bogus argument that we humans have nothing to be afraid of because climate change is natural; life has survived it in the past; and will therefore do so again. There are at least two problems with this line of argument:
1. Because we were already in a warm interglacial period – and atmospheric CO2 is now 40% higher than at any time in the last 1 million years – it is highly unreasonable to dispute the fact that post-Industrial warming is unnatural (i.e. all sparrows may be birds but not all birds are sparrows).
2. In the entirety of Earth history, there have been 5 mass extinction events (i.e. periods when between 50 and 95% of all species have been wiped out). These events are each associated with periods when global average temperatures were more than 5 Celsius warmer than they are now (and there is strong evidence that a sixth mass extinction is already underway).
In responding to sensible comments on my previous post, ‘A summary of the ‘Climate Departure’ research of Mora et al.‘, I found myself referring to the most recent mass extinction event in the Earth’s history, the so-called Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred 55 million years before present (MaBP). However, as the following video graphically demonstrates, what is now happening to the Earth’s climate as a result of the post-Industrial burning of fossil fuels, is looking increasingly like the Permian mass extinction event, which occurred 252 MaBP.
This video is only about 10 minutes long, so I hope people will watch it. If not, however, the main points are summarised below:
1. There have been five mass extinctions before and humans are now almost certainly causing a sixth.
2. The ongoing melting of terrestrial ice will now cause sea level to rise continuously for several centuries.
3. This is probably unstoppable but is survivable (i.e. assuming all humans can move away from coastal areas).
4. All past mass extinction events occurred when global average temperatures > 5 Celsius warmer than now.
5. Common to each event is further rapid warming triggered by methane release from permafrost and seabed.
6. We already have evidence that rates of both species extinction and methane release are now accelerating.
7. Positive feedback mechanisms (such as disappearing sea ice) will soon make methane release unstoppable.
8. If this ‘tipping point’ is passed, anthropogenic climate disruption will almost certainly be unsurvivable.
This is why the World Bank agrees that we need to decarbonise our global economies as fast as possible.
Here is an email I have received from freelance photographer Nick Cobbing:
I was shocked to see pictures of Denis behind bars in the Russian courtroom on Thursday. I’m a freelance photographer too and I was about to replace him when the ship reached the next port. But now Denis is being held in jail for another 2 months, without charge.
Yesterday, a further eight Arctic activists appeared before a court in Murmansk, Russia. No charges were laid, but now all 30 are being detained for two months as Russian authorities pursue an investigation around piracy charges. Today, Greenpeace lawyers have launched an appeal against these detentions.
The Russian authorities are punishing those who have risked their liberty to highlight the madness of Arctic oil, while protecting the fossil fuel industry. It should be the other way around.
Join me in central London or at a venue near you, on October 5, as part of worldwide event to free the Arctic 30. Sign up to get an SMS or email with more details about events at various locations around the country.
I am relieved to see people all around the world speaking out in support my friends. Russian newspapers are blanking out images on their webpages to draw attention to it. Together we’ve sent over 660,000 messages to Russian embassies worldwide. We’ve made global headlines. Now we need to show our determination on the street.
On Friday, I went to the Russian embassy in London with my young son (pictured). I met his mother onboard the Arctic Sunrise four years ago. We all visited the ship again just a few months back. Some of the crew are like part of our family now: people like Haussy (the ship’s electrician from New Zealand), ‘Big John’ (outboard mechanic from Tonga), and Paul (first mate from Canada). It’s upsetting to think I was saying goodbye to them on the quayside in Norway only last month. Now they are facing up to two months in a Russian jail without charge.
I could have been behind bars in that courtroom yesterday. But instead I can stand with my brave colleagues and show them that they’re not alone. Join me in standing up for the Arctic 30 on October 5. We must show the world that blatant intimidation will not succeed.
I’ll do anything I can to get these guys home as soon as possible. Thanks for being there with me.
Freelance Photographer and part of the Greenpeace community
As promised earlier this month, this is the second part of my review of The Revenge of Gaia, as published by James Lovelock in 2006. Having been told by many people I should read it, I have now done so (almost). It is a deeply challenging book – for people with or without religious beliefs; and for people with or without strong views regarding the environment.
In the first part of my book review (as per the above link), I said that I thought the concept of Gaia was convincingly argued and well explained. Indeed, I still consider that to be the case.
However, throughout my reading of the book I have been troubled by a little voice in my head repeatedly reminding me that Lovelock has since said he was wrong to be such an Alarmist (April 2010) and/or Fracking is the answer to our energy problems (June 2012).
This kind of inconsistency and intellectual incoherence also runs right through the book. However, to be fair to Lovelock, once you have been fooled into thinking burning carbon is not the problem you once thought it was, fracking is bound to seem like a dream come true. I will return to this issue later but, for now, let’s get back to the book.
Just as it deeply inconsistent to argue that humanity is on a self-destructive path and then argue that it may not be so bad as we thought – or that now we know we are in a hole we should just keep on digging it deeper – it is also inconsistent to argue:
–(1) that the primary problem is the post-Industrial increase in the global human population and then argue that the best solutions may be highly technological and require the consumption of vast resources; and
–(2) that modern agriculture has reduced biodiversity and then argue that Rachel Carson was wrong see modern agriculture as the problem in her seminal book, Silent Spring, and that DDT should not have been banned.
Sadly, Lovelock does both of these (and more).
However, to be fair to Lovelock once again, he has always been pro-nuclear and anti-wind; and – in this book – he explains both positions very clearly and convincingly. There is no intellectual incoherence or internal inconsistency here. There is, however, a great deal to challenge the conventional wisdom of environmentalists. Although I think Lovelock takes his opposition to wind farms just a little too far, I think he is absolutely right to challenge the anti-nuclear stance of most environmentalists. However, once again, I think Lovelock damages his case by being a little too enthusiastic – offering to heat his own house by having a nuclear waste repository in his own back garden. However, rather than be side-tracked into a debate about the safety of the civil nuclear power generation, let’s do as Lovelock does – and review all the options.
Lovelock prefaces all his remarks by pointing out how completely dependent modern civilisation is upon the constancy of supply of electricity. Given this, he then looks at all the energy sources we could use to generate this electricity, starting with fossil fuels:
Bizarrely, Lovelock begins by trying to falsify the argument that fossil fuels are a finite non-renewable source of energy. Sure, their energy is ultimately derived from the Sun, but, if we are using them up many times faster than they are formed, their potential future formation is irrelevant (as is the fact that the Sun is also a finite source of energy). However, before moving on to compare individual fossil fuels, Lovelock does make the valid point that there is nothing “unnatural” about using them; and then concludes by making the fundamental point that the rate at which they are now being burnt vastly overwhelms the planet’s natural capacity to recycle the CO2 produced by our doing so.
Lovelock then begins his comparative review of fossil fuels by pointing out the inefficiencies of burning any solid or liquid fuel to generate electricity; whilst also acknowledging that the petroleum industry can produce petrol, diesel and aviation fuel from natural gas. However, in a way that makes his most recent pronouncements about Fracking appear very strange, he then goes on to point out all the problems of reliance upon natural gas: These arise from the fact that it is very hard to prevent between 2 and 4 percent of methane escaping without being burnt. As lovelock explains, because methane is nearly 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas (GHG), the warming effect of the unburned methane is almost equivalent to that caused by burning the methane that does not escape. This is just one reason why relying on natural gas is not a good idea.
Along the way, Lovelock also alludes to the problems of scaling-up carbon capture and storage (CCS) to the point that it becomes effective (i.e. atmospheric CO2 concentrations will only begin to fall when sequestration is greater than emissions). He points out that, as with every other technological innovation in history, it will probably take humanity about 50 years to get to the stage where this is happening globally. In 2006, at least, Lovelock was adamant that time is a luxury humanity does not have; and that we must stop using fossil fuels (for generating heat and power) as soon as practicable (within a decade being suggested as a sensible target).
Although I have not completed Lovelock’s review of all our energy options, I think I will stop there. The rest of my book review will have to wait. However, I would just like to conclude by returning to the subject of Lovelock’s subsequent pronouncements (2010 and 2012). In light of the most recent statements by the IPCC, these would now appear to have been very foolish indeed: Gaia is not mocked; and as humanity sows, so it shall reap.