Sunday, August 09, 2015

Obama's Clean Power Plan Prevents 0.0004⁰C of Warming

Here's a number that shows how overwhelming the global warming problem is.

In a Scientific American article about President Obama's Clean Power Plan, David Biello quotes Obama:
The plan relies on three basic options to lock in and drive future reductions: improving the efficiency with which power plants burn coal; swapping natural gas for coal; or replacing electricity generated from burning fossil fuels with electricity generated from renewable resources, such as the wind, water, sun and geothermal heat. Such shifts lead the EPA to project the full 32 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from 2005 levels by 2030. "The nerdier way to say that is that we'll be keeping 870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere," Obama said.
(Emphasis mine.)

The carbon-climate response
So the plan saves emissions of 870 Mt of carbon dioxide. Now we can crank up the carbon-climate response (CCR) function of Damon Matthews et al, which used observations to show that the ultimate amount of surface warming the world will see is 1.5°C per trillion tons of carbon emitted, with 5th and 95th percentile limits of 1.0°C and 2.1°C.

This graph to the right, from the IPCC, shows how well the CCR function captures reality, and projects it into the future.

870 Mt CO2 is 237 Mt carbon, or 0.00024 trillion tons of carbon.

So the warming prevented will be 0.0004°C, or 0.4 milli°C. That's 0.006 0.0006°F.

The 5-95 percentile limits are (rounding) 0.0002°C to 0.0005°C.

That's just depressing. This significant proposed change in US policy, which seems a stretch but probably doable, though it may not survive years of court challenges, will barely nudge down the warming we are to expect.

And yet, the emissions cuts have to be done.

And more cuts must follow this.

The conclusion is, global warming has to be solved one milli-Celsius at a time. Many will complain that the number is too tiny and the plan isn't worth doing. But, of course, those same people would never acccept a plan that DID reduce warming 0.1°C at a time.

The US can't solve this problem alone, of course, We're a nation of 321 million people, putting forth a plan to prevent 870 million tons of CO2. If the entire world did the same, population 7.26 billion, the warming prevented would be 0.01°C.

Of course, much of the world can't cut that much. Some of the world's people don't even emit that much in total.

So if the entire OECD did the same, population 1.26 billion in 2013, prevented warming would be (rounding) 0.001°C.

Anthropogenic climate change looks very much like an insurmountable problem. At least tonight.


Unknown said...

The first priority is to slow the accumulation of CO2 down to get off the exponential high emissions pathway. At least by accepting reduction targets, we are no longer increasing the rate of CO2 emissions.

ncdave4life said...

David Appell wrote, "So the warming prevented will be 0.0004°C ... That's 0.006°F."

You're missing a zero there. 0.0004°C ≈ 0.0007°F.

BTW, David, you should not be depressed by this. It is actually very good news. It means there's no point to Obama's ruinous regulations. We needn't dismantle the industrial age, after all.

The best evidence is that anthropogenic warming is modest and benign. Sea-level rise is minuscule, and hasn't accelerated in over eighty years. You're fretting about nothing.

What's more, thousands of scientific studies have proven that the "fertilization" effects of anthropogenic (human-released) CO2 are extremely beneficial, both to mankind, and to the world's ecosystems.

This is not some recent discovery. Commercial greenhouse operators routinely run CO2 generators to increase the CO2 levels in their greenhouses by ~300%, at substantial expense, because it makes the plants grow much better. Long ago, Scientific American called anthropogenic CO2 "the precious air fertilizer," because it is so dramatically beneficial to plants. At least 15-20% of current crop yields are directly attributable to anthropogenic CO2.

Imagine the catastrophic effect of losing the benefit of all that anthropogenic CO2. Imagine crops all around the world ~20% smaller. Imagine millions of the world's poorest and must vulnerable people starving, especially poor children and the elderly. Imagine millions of other people pushed into desperate poverty. Imagine vast tracts of forest cut down to make room for urgently needed crops.

That's what the world would be like without anthropogenic CO2. That's what the "10 10" and "350 dot org" climate activists are campaigning for: death for poor children, and devastation for wildlife habitat.

That's why I and 31,486 other American scientists (including engineers in relevant specialties) have signed the Global Warming Petition, signifying our agreement with this statement:

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."

If you want something to worry about, worry about this: when mankind finally transitions away from fossil fuels, CO2 emissions are going to start falling. Already, half of the CO2 we emit is taken up by the oceans and biosphere. So when CO2 emissions fall by more than half, CO2 levels are going to start falling, too -- and when CO2 levels fall, so will agricultural productivity.

That's going to be a problem in a couple hundred years. In a world powered primarily by thorium, or fusion, or some other non-fossil fuel source, the "bubble" of improved agricultural productivity due to anthropogenic CO2 will begin to fade, and feeding the world will get harder.

David Appell said...

Dave: It's sad any so-called scientist would sign a petition based on 100-year old science and without a familiarity with the recent scientific literature.

You are a good example of why that petition is worthless.

“For wheat, maize and barley, there is a clearly negative response of global yields to increased temperatures. Based on these sensitivities and observed climate trends, we estimate that warming since 1981 has resulted in annual combined losses of these three crops representing roughly 40 Mt or $5 billion per year, as of 2002.”
-- “Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming," David B Lobell and Christopher B Field 2007 Environ. Res. Lett. 2 014002 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/2/1/014002

"Agriculture is one of the economic sectors most exposed to climate change impacts, but few studies have statistically connected long-term changes in temperature and rainfall with yields. Doing so in Europe is particularly important because yields of wheat and barley have plateaued since the early 1990s and climate change has been suggested as a cause of this stagnation. Here, we show that the impact of climate trends can be detected in the pattern of long-term yield trends in Europe. Although impacts have been large in some areas, the aggregate effect across the continent has been modest. Climate trends can explain 10% of the slowdown in wheat and barley yields, with changes in agriculture and environmental policies possibly responsible for the remainder."
-- "The fingerprint of climate trends on European crop yields," Frances C. Moorea and David B. Lobell, PNAS vol. 112 no. 9, 2670–2675 (2015)

“Total protein and nitrogen concentrations in plants generally decline under elevated CO2 atmospheres…. Recently, several meta-analyses have indicated that CO2 inhibition of nitrate assimilation is the explanation most consistent with observations. Here, we present the first direct field test of this explanation….. In leaf tissue, the ratio of nitrate to total nitrogen concentration and the stable isotope ratios of organic nitrogen and free nitrate showed that nitrate assimilation was slower under elevated than ambient CO2. These findings imply that food quality will suffer under the CO2 levels anticipated during this century unless more sophisticated approaches to nitrogen fertilization are employed.”
-- “Nitrate assimilation is inhibited by elevated CO2 in field-grown wheat,” Arnold J. Bloom et al, Nature Climate Change, April 6 2014.

“Higher CO2 tends to inhibit the ability of plants to make protein… And this explains why food quality seems to have been declining and will continue to decline as CO2 rises — because of this inhibition of nitrate conversion into protein…. “It’s going to be fairly universal that we’ll be struggling with trying to sustain food quality and it’s not just protein… it’s also micronutrients such as zinc and iron that suffer as well as protein.”-– University of California at Davis Professor Arnold J. Bloom, on Yale Climate Connections 10/7/14

- continues in next comment -

David Appell said...

"Long-term decline in grassland productivity driven by increasing dryness," E. N. J. Brookshire & T. Weaver, Nature Communications 6, Article number: 7148, May 4, 2015.

"We also find that the overall effect of warming on yields is negative, even after accounting for the benefits of reduced exposure to freezing temperatures."
-- "Effect of warming temperatures on US wheat yields," Jesse Tack et al, PNAS 4/20/15

Abstract: "Dietary deficiencies of zinc and iron are a substantial global public health problem. An estimated two billion people suffer these deficiencies1, causing a loss of 63 million life-years annually2, 3. Most of these people depend on C3 grains and legumes as their primary dietary source of zinc and iron. Here we report that C3 grains and legumes have lower concentrations of zinc and iron when grown under field conditions at the elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration predicted for the middle of this century. C3 crops other than legumes also have lower concentrations of protein, whereas C4 crops seem to be less affected. Differences between cultivars of a single crop suggest that breeding for decreased sensitivity to atmospheric CO2 concentration could partly address these new challenges to global health."
-- "Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition," Samuel S. Myers et al, Nature 510, 139–142 (05 June 2014).

"Greater levels of CO2 made no difference one way or the other. At higher temperatures plants open their pores, called stomata, to capture the elevated CO2, which boosts photosynthesis, greening the leaves. But plants also tend to close their stomata in warmer temperatures to prevent water loss. Mora says that on balance the two effects cancel out."
-- "Plants Will Not Flourish as the World Warms: A new study contradicts the notion that higher temperatures will enhance plant growth," Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, June 10, 2015

"Crop Pests Spreading North with Global Warming: Fungi and insects migrate toward the poles at up to 7 kilometers per year,"
-- Eliot Barford and Nature magazine, September 2, 2013

"Suitable Days for Plant Growth Disappear under Projected Climate Change: Potential Human and Biotic Vulnerability,"
-- Camilo Mora et al, PLOS Biology, June 10, 2015