Citizen Action Monitor

Fossil fuels good, CO2 emissions bad, Exxon sold out, Politicians followed, Renewables too small

Hansen shares more of “the frigging mess” the young are inheriting from boomers behaving badly.

No 1965 Posted by fw, May 26, 2017

Dr. James Hansen

“In the United States the energy use has kind of flattened out in the last 10 or 20 years, but for the world as a whole, it’s still going up. About 85% is fossil fuels. The developed world emissions have flattened out now. But the developing world is still increasing their emissions quite rapidly…. But if the world is going to survive, if we’re going to avoid melting all the ice on the planet, and raising sea level 200 feet, we’re going to have to find energy that’s not fossil fuels…. the renewables, the green part, have not approached that dash-dot curve. They’re still only a few percent. We’re getting almost 10 percent of our energy from renewables but part of that is hydro…the biofuels are not carbon-free and the wood is not…. The solar has grown very rapidly but at 5% of 9% it’s only a small fraction of 1 percent of our energy. It’s not in danger of replacing fossil fuels.”Jim Hansen

On March 8, 2017, Dr, James Hansen, in a kind of climate change 101 address, a sweeping spectrum of climate change, talked for 50 minutes about what young people will have to do to take charge of the mess they will inherit from the boomers. His talk, titled, Global Climate Change: How Can Young People Take Charge of Their Future? was the keynote address of Williams College’s “Confronting Climate Change” year of inquiry.

Hansen, Adjunct Professor at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where he directs the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, is best known for his testimony on climate change to congressional committees in the 1980s that helped raise broad awareness of the global warming issue.

In Part 1 of this series, Hansen first outlined the global climate crisis, explaining why the crisis, although urgent, has largely been ignored, why there’s a need for a rapid reduction of CO2 emissions, and why a technically feasible solution is not even being proposed by Washington. Secondly, he briefly explained why the failure to act is a potential injustice to young people, to people living in southern regions of the globe, and to other species.

In Part 2, Hansen briefly highlighted more of “the frigging mess” boomers are leaving young people, this time in terms of the severe global impacts of a climate out of control. This 7:19-minute segment, begins at about the 5:41-minute mark of the full 72-minute embedded video, ends at the 13:00-minute mark. My transcript includes subheadings, text highlighting, and some but not all of Hansen’s slides.

In this part, Part 3, Hansen acknowledges that the Western world’s high standard of living owes much to the cheap energy provided by fossil fuels. Moreover, affordable energy is essential if the developing world hopes to raise its living standards. If only fossil fuels did not emit CO2 emissions that cause life-threatening climate change. Our very survival depends on a transition from this dirty energy source. In the early ‘80s, even Exxon recognized the need to have energies that do not emit CO2. But Exxon sold out, and the political system followed. At present, it appears that clean renewables will not scale up fast enough to replace dirty fossil fuels: as Hansen points out, renewables are “still only a few percent” of total US energy supply.

This segment begins at about the 13:03-minute mark of the full 72-minute embedded video, ends at the 23:38-minute mark. My transcript includes added hyperlinks, subheadings, text highlighting, and some, but not all, of Hansen’s slides. The transcript text has been edited to render Hansen’s stop and start speaking manner more readable.

To access the full video, without a transcript, click on the following You Tube linked title.

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Climate Expert Jim Hansen explains the Climate Crisis, James Hansen address at Williams College, You Tube, May 20, 2017 (72 minutes)

TRANSCRIPT

[Fossil fuels good, CO2 emissions bad, Exxon’s sold out, Politicians followed, Renewables too small]

Climate change is caused by cumulative CO2 emissions in the atmosphere

Climate change is caused not by today’s emissions but by the total emissions over time because CO2 stays in the atmosphere, in the climate system, for millennia. It’s the cumulative emissions that count.

Per capita cumulative emissions are 10 plus times larger for Western countries than China and India

The per capita cumulative emissions are more than 10 times larger for the Western countries like United Kingdom and Germany, and the United States than countries like China and India, which are now becoming the big emitters. But their responsibility for the climate change is relatively small, especially on a per capita basis.

Cheap energy from fossil fuels have made possible rapid increases in our standard of living

Of course, fossil fuels have been extremely valuable. That’s how we raised the standard of living in the Western world. We replaced slavery with fossil fuels. Initially we were burning down the trees to get our energy. But when the steam engine was invented, and the Industrial Revolution began, we began to use coal and then oil and gas were discovered

The US, with its relatively small population, burns almost half the fossil fuels of the world 

Initially, that started in the United Kingdom. They were the big user. But then by early in the last century, the United States had become the biggest user of fossil fuels. Almost half of the fuels, even though our population is only a few percent of the world, we were burning about half of the fossil fuels.

 

On an absolute basis, you can see that most of our energy is coming from coal, oil and gas, with some nuclear power and some renewables.

For the world as a whole, fossil fuels comprise about 85% of use and that is still increasing

That is similar to the world as a whole. In the United States the energy use has kind of flattened out in the last 10 or 20 years, but for the world as a whole, it’s still going up. About 85% is fossil fuels. The developed world emissions have flattened out now. But the developing world is still increasing their emissions quite rapidly on this log scale.

Affordable energy is vital for the developing world to raise its standard of living and reduce its population growth 

As I mentioned, energy is extremely important. That’s how the rest of the world hopes to bring its people out of poverty. They need affordable energy if they’re going to raise the standard of living. And that’s important if we’re going to control global population.

What we found is that as nations become wealthy the fertility rate goes down. The fertility rate in the developed world is now at or even below the replenishment level. But it’s the poor parts of the world that the population is still growing rapidly. If they want to raise their people out of poverty, they need energy.

To escape climate disasters, we must transition from fossil fuel energy

But if the world is going to survive, if we’re going to avoid melting all the ice on the planet, and raising sea level 200 feet, we’re going to have to find energy that’s not fossil fuels.

The political system has not faced the fact that most remaining fossil fuels must remain in the ground

We’ve only burned a small fraction of the total fossil fuels in the ground. What we’ve realized is that we’re going to have to leave most of the remaining fossil fuels in the ground. That’s become scientifically crystal clear. And yet the political system has not come to grips with that.

The reality of what we must do was crystal clear back in 1981 with Hansen’s first major paper

We realized this in the first major paper that I wrote with a number of other people in 1981. We already concluded – WOW, you can’t burn all these fossil fuels without creating a different planet, without melting all the ice on the planet.

We said in that paper that the “warming should emerge from the noise level by the end of the century, and there is a high probability of warming in the 1980s…. in the 21st century there [will be] the creation of drought prone regions…rising sea levels and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage.”

Back then, even the president of Exxon Research spoke about the need to have energies that don’t emit CO2

Well all these things are already happening. About that time, in 1982 we had a symposium at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory in Palisades, New York, sponsored by Exxon Research and Engineering. The principal speaker at the dinner that evening was the president of Exxon Research and Engineering company, E.E. David Jr. He gave a brilliant talk in which he pointed out that this climate system is one characterized by a delayed response. And that kind of system is very dangerous because you have the possibility of losing control. He said that means you have to have anticipation. The anticipation should be we better develop some energies that don’t produce C02. And he talked about energy efficiency and some ways of producing less carbon.

Years later, Exxon developed fracking and tar sands technologies, sending CO2 emissions to higher levels

But later he became rather a climate skeptic and Exxon decided to go down exactly the opposite path. [Later] they developed technologies to extract CO2 by fracking [to] extract more oil from shale and more gas by fracking. They went in the opposite direction, and also developed tar sands which have a very high carbon content. It took a few decades but a few years ago that technology took off. They finally mastered it. Now they have the potential to get a lot more CO2.

On the political front, the fossil fuels industry owns the Republicans

We have one political party which just denies the reality of climate change because they’re well funded by the fossil fuel industry.

And the Democrats? They swallowed a “fairy tale” plan based on energy efficiency and carbon-free soft renewables

And the other political party believes in fairy tales. Beginning in the 1970s they accepted the plan of Amory Lovins which was a great plan. I have a lot of respect for Amory. I liked what he was saying in the 1970s. It all makes sense. He puts great emphasis on energy efficiency. And he was right that the government projections for how much energy we needed were unnecessarily high, unrealistically high. In fact, his goal was the red curve. He said we should really be able to reduce our energy use.

We have reduced it a lot. Part of the reduction is because we’ve transported our production to China and other places. But it is also energy efficiency. He assumed that we could have soft energy technologies developed that would be carbon free. He argued we don’t need oil, gas, or coal. We don’t need nuclear power and we don’t need large hydro. We can do it all with these soft renewables.

So far, renewables provide about 10 percent of US energy requirements   

In reality, the renewables, the green part, have not approached that dash-dot curve. They’re still only a few percent. We’re getting almost 10 percent of our energy from renewables but part of that is hydro, and most of the green part is not really carbon-free: the biofuels are not carbon-free and the wood is not. The de-foresting to get the wood is not. The waste is probably legitimately carbon-free.

And solar? Growing rapidly but only a faction of 1% of US energy supply, far from replacing fossil fuels

The solar has grown very rapidly but at 5% of 9% it’s only a small fraction of 1 percent of our energy. It’s not in danger of replacing fossil fuels.

END OF PART 3

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