Study finds decarbonisation numbers don’t add up

Posted: March 26, 2016 by oldbrew in Energy, research

Petrochemical industry plant [image credit: Business Korea]

Petrochemical industry plant [image credit: Business Korea]

Green dreams are just that and little more, it seems.

The goals set a few months ago in Paris to prevent further rising of worldwide temperatures are almost sure to fail and will never be achieved, according to a new study.

Last December, officials representing more than 190 countries met in Paris to participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

The historic outcome from that conference was the “Paris Agreement” in which each country agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures seen near the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 1850s.

Such a level was considered acceptable, or “safe,” by all participating countries, but the goal is unrealistic and almost impossible to achieve, according to a new study by two Texas A&M University at Galveston researchers. Glenn Jones (professor of marine sciences) and Kevin Warner (Ph.D. candidate in marine biology), have had their paper published in the international journal Energy Policy.

The Texas A&M researchers modelled the projected growth in global population and per capita energy consumption, as well as the size of known reserves of oil, coal and natural gas, and greenhouse gas emissions to determine just how difficult it will be to achieve the less-than-2 degree Celsius warming goal. “It would require rates of change in our energy infrastructure and energy mix that have never happened in world history and that are extremely unlikely to be achieved,” explains Jones.

The Paris Agreement’s overall goal is to replace fossil fuels, which emit huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which in turn leads to higher temperatures, with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power and biofuels. “Just considering wind power, we found that it would take an annual installation of 485,000 5-megawatt wind turbines by 2028. The equivalent of about 13,000 were installed in 2015. That’s a 37-fold increase in the annual installation rate in only 13 years to achieve just the wind power goal,” adds Jones. Similar expansion rates are needed for other renewable energy sources.

Recent statistics show that the month of February 2016 was the warmest February ever, while 2015 was also the warmest year since records have been kept. Jones and Warner point out that every hour of every day:
• 3.7 million barrels of oil are extracted from the Earth
• 932,000 tons of coal are removed from Earth
• 395 million cubic meters of natural gas are removed from Earth
• 4.1 million tons of carbon dioxide are put into the Earth’s atmosphere
• 9,300 more people inhabit the Earth

“There will be about 11 billion people on Earth by 2100 (compared to 7.2 billion today),” Jones adds. “So the question becomes, how will they be fed and housed and what will be their energy source? Currently 1.2 billion people in the world do not have access to electricity, and there are plans to try to get them on the grid. The numbers you start dealing with become so large that they are difficult to comprehend.”

“To even come close to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, 50 percent of our energy will need to come from renewable sources by 2028, and today it is only 9 percent, including hydropower. For a world that wants to fight climate change, the numbers just don’t add up to do it.”

Source: Efforts To Decarbonise World Economy Will Almost Surely Fail | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

  1. oldbrew says:

    We tend to focus on fuels, but petrochemicals are a major source of many vital products including agrochemicals.

  2. oldbrew says:

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  3. graphicconception says:

    “The numbers you start dealing with become so large that they are difficult to comprehend.”

    That sums up much of what is wrong with many people’s views about the future of energy. It is easy to look at a solar power plant, for instance, and say look at all that clean, renewable energy.

    However, if you do the sums it looks very different. I once calculated that the USA would need about 14,000 of their Ivanpah facilities to cover all their energy needs. That was before I found out that Ivanpah delivers much less power than expected. I estimated 14,000 plants each covering five square miles and taking about five years to build would be required. How soon could that be completed?

    Another comparison with Ivanpah and Didcot ‘A’ power station revealed that we would need to cover 200 times the area we use now to supply UK electricity only. Where would we put all of them?

    You can do similar calculations for wind turbines but assuming you can build them all, after 25 to 30 years you have to rebuild them. The number of non-biodegradable carbon fibre blades that would need to be disposed of at that time runs into thousands every day.

    In reality, coal and oil are just as “free” as sun and wind. It is the conversion process into something useful where the cost lies. All schemes use the earth’s limited resources – just in different ways.

  4. J Martin says:

    We don’t even know if solar panels reduce co2 since we don’t know how much of the very much worse greenhouse gasses that are used during their manufacture are released to the environment. Nor do we have numbers for the energy used in mining, manufacturing, shipping, installing, maintaining wind turbines.

    Chances are that wind and solar only reduce co2 output by a fraction.

    As for the putative 11 billion souls, once the earth enters the forthcoming glaciation the population will drop.

  5. oldbrew says:

    It can be done if you have enough nuclear power, like France.

    Otherwise – no way.