The Carbon Bubble is Here

Its been clear for more than a decade that in order to stay below 2 degrees C, many assets on fossil fuel companies’ balance sheets must remain stranded, at huge costs to them and ultimately their shareholders–though they’ll reap those benefits too.

 

Now the UN Climate Chief agrees:

“If the 2C target is rigorously applied, then up to 80% of declared reserves owned by the world’s largest listed coal, oil and gas companies and their investors would be subject to impairment as these assets become stranded,” wrote the group in their report Unburnable Carbon.”

Properly Pricing the Cost of Carbon

There are many who think that putting a  price on carbon will solve the Earth’s Carbon Dioxide problem.  One  challenge is calculating what the “social cost of carbon dioxide is.  This  article suggests that the social cost is far  higher than the current market rate for  CO2 avoidance.  The current government calculation is that  the social cost is $37/ton, while the  article estimates that the social cost is $220/ton.

The central flaw in current pricing models, researchers say, is that the prediction mechanisms account only for the effects of environmental damages of economic output — not economic growth.

or 20 years now, the models have assumed that climate change can’t affect the basic growth rate of the economy,” Moore said. “But a number of new studies suggest this may not be true. If climate change affects not only a country’s economic output but also its growth, then that has a permanent effect that accumulates over time, leading to a much higher social cost of carbon.”

The study’s authors are quick to point out where their research is lacking. Their prediction models doesn’t account for the economic impact that climate change mitigation efforts might, and it’s not ideal for trying estimate when and how less developed countries — that may be more vulnerable to climate change — should employ mitigation strategies. Per usual, more research is needed to work out such details.

A carbon tax might not work for many reasons, but  its clearly  not  going to  work if  the cost we use is  far lower than  the social  cost.

Methane is leaking from permafrost offshore Siberia

There’s a lot of methane sequestered in the permafrost.  The permafrost in the north is in danger of melting and releasing that methane.  That permafrost includes a lot of it on the ocean floor.

Here‘s a recent report in Phys.org that says that the methane is now being released from the permafrost as it melts.

The thawing of permafrost on the  is an ongoing process, likely to be exaggerated by the global warming of the world´s oceans.” says PhD Alexey Portnov at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment (CAGE) at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway.

Portnov and his colleagues have recently published two papers about permafrost offshore West Yamal, in the Kara Sea. Papers look into the extent of permafrost on the ocean floor and how it is connected to the significant release of the greenhouse gas methane.

The thawing of permafrost on the  is an ongoing process, likely to be exaggerated by the global warming of the world´s oceans.” says PhD Alexey Portnov at Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Climate and Environment (CAGE) at UiT, The Arctic University of Norway.

Portnov and his colleagues have recently published two papers about permafrost offshore West Yamal, in the Kara Sea. Papers look into the extent of permafrost on the ocean floor and how it is connected to the significant release of the greenhouse gas methane.

Where Does Sea-Level Rise Come From?

One of the unsolved problems of climate change over the last 25 years has been matching up the actual sea-level rise to the expected sea level rise, based on observations and projections of melting in Greenland and Antarctica.

This article in Nature purports to match up the ice melt and sea rise levels much more accurately than previous attempts.  The news is not good.

 

 the IPCC has decided that researchers finally have a good enough handle on ice behaviour in Greenland and — to a lesser extent — Antarctica to forecast how ice sheets will respond, at least provisionally, says Don Chambers, a sea-level researcher at the University of Texas at Austin. The latest estimates add between 3 and 21 centimetres to the predicted sea-level rise by 2100, although tens of centimetres more are possible, according to the most recent IPCC report draft.

The end result is set to be a much higher forecast for sea-level rise than in 2007. Direct comparisons are difficult because the latest report uses different time frames and emission scenarios, but the leaked draft puts the range of estimates between 28 and 97 centimetres of rise by 2100. That is still not as high as semi-empirical estimates, but process-based results are edging upwards — and the difference is narrowing. “I consider it something of a vindication,” says Rahmstorf.

 

Comparing US to Chinese Emissions Pledges

The climate pledges that the Chinese and US have agreed to are a “glass half full”.  Its an agreement, and some have applauded it as the Guardian’s “China makes larger pledges than US”.

However, this article makes a compelling argument with data that the agreement is not likely to mean much by itself.  The charts tell a story of dramatically higher Chinese emissions over the last ten years, and its hard to see how they reduce to the levels needed to stop us from a 2 degree rise.

From the Guardian last month:

Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were among the few who issued negative public statements about the climate agreement. McConnell in particular badly misunderstood the practical consequences of the Chinese and American carbon pledges, saying,

As I read the agreement it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years while these carbon emissions regulations are creating havoc in my state and around the country,

Senator McConnell misunderstood the Chinese target of reaching peak carbon pollution levels by 2030 as a pledge to “do nothing.” In reality, China has been developing rapidly with hundreds of millions of citizens rising out of poverty, thus demanding more energy. Much of that demand has been met with new coal power plants; China has added one and a half times the entire US coal power plant fleet in just the past decade. As a result, Chinese carbon pollution has been rising fast.

 

What IPCC Says about the Climate

Climate change is irreversible and we need to move beyond zero emissions. Zero emissions are not enough.  According to IPCC, we need to start by using zero carbon, then we need to start putting carbon back in the ground.  And we need to do it now.

“A large fraction of climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales,” the IPCC tells us, “unless net anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period.” This quote comes from the Summary for Policy Makers from the first report in the 2013 IPCC series released October 2013 (Physical Science Basis). (1) It means that somehow, today’s 400 parts per million (ppm) concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere must begin to lower, not continue to rise.

Methane Hydrate on the Ocean’s floor… For now

Methane is a problem on multiple levels for several years.  There are more and more emerging indicators that methane hydrate may be a ticking time bomb, with the critical heat absorption in the oceans setting the switch.

We don’t know how much heat the ocean needs to absorb  to set a feed forward system in motion, but there are multiple indicators that this may be a huge problem.

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