The futility of trying to limit CO2 emissions

Could controlling the output of Man-made CO2 make a significant difference to Global Temperature? Guest post by EDMH

Update: Ed emailed this week with updates to this information.  Here they are as downloads: Word document CO2 Greenhouse calcs (10 pages); Powerpoint presentation:  Co2 calcs 4-11 v (51 slides). Verity Jones (29th April 2011).

In 2005 Bjorn Lomborg, (the sceptical environmentalist) now much vilified by his by his previous Green colleagues, said:

“Even if everyone (including the United States) applied the Kyoto rules and stuck to them throughout the century, the change would be almost immeasurable, postponing warming for a mere six years in 2100 while costing at least $150 billion a year.”[1]

There are QUESTIONS to be asked:

Can the massive efforts and extreme costs now being expended and anticipated for the future be justified to partially reduce the man-made CO2 emissions by a limited number of Nations for such minimal and doubtful effects on world temperature?


Are controls on CO2 a rational way to save the world (and from what precisely)?

And, as the remedies proposed are so vast and so onerous

Where are the cost benefit analyses?

Where is the due diligence?

There is no difference between Man-made CO2 molecules in the atmosphere and the CO2 molecules that are generated within the biosphere and occur naturally.  Man-made CO2 molecules are not especially potent in affecting climate and temperature.  Photosynthesis is impeded and plant life is stressed at CO2 levels of less than 200 ppm.  Additional atmospheric CO2 significantly improves all plant growth and enhances drought tolerance.

By far the greatest bulk of the greenhouse effect is caused by water vapour, approximately 95%.  Of the remaining 5% greenhouse effect caused by other Greenhouse Gases only ¾ is attributable to CO2, both Man-made and Naturally occurring.  This differential [¾ CO2 – ¼ other GHGs] accounts for the much greater greenhouse effect of the other lower concentration gases such as Nitrous Oxide and Methane and CFCs [2].

Man-made additions to CO2 in the atmosphere are only a part of the overall CO2 level.  The most reasonable calculation seems to be that ~40% of the additional CO2 since 1850 is a Man-made contribution, (CDIAC, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center of the U.S. Department of Energy[3]) or about 44 parts / million, 11% of the current total ~390 ppm.

CO2 levels have been increasing naturally but they are also augmented by Man-made additions at a rate of about 1 ppm per year.  1 ppm per year is equivalent to an annual increase in warming from whole world Man-made additions of about 0.0032°C per annum.

Transposing the World Greenhouse Effect into  °C

But the precise value 0.14°C is practically immaterial because:

  • Achieving 100% in any national economy is impossible.
  • Achieving even as little as a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions would be enough to cripple any Western economy.
  • The world as a whole is Not Joining-In.

So at almost any reasonable level for the temperature increase attributed to Man-made CO2, the actual value is virtually irrelevant.

Nonetheless using 0.14°C as the temperature effect of whole world CO2 emissions since 1850, the Temperature reductions that could be achieved by the 100%, i.e. complete closure, of the Carbon economies of the individual major emitter Nations can be assessed:  they are measured in thousandths °C.  But these values would be less, (pro-rata), according to the actual level of CO2 reduction achieved in any particular Nation.

Temperature effect of closing the whole Carbon Economies of individual Nations [5] [6]: based on world temperature increase due to Man-made CO2 additions as being CO2≅0.14°C

The following graphs compare the world’s major CO2 emitters from the points of view of total emissions and levels of individual consumption.

Countries ranked by level of consumption…

And ranked by emissions…

However, the World is Not Joining-In:

  • China questions the role of Man-made CO2 in determining climate effects and is now the largest CO2 emitter, having surpassed the USA in 2006, now by ~40%.  China builds a coal-fired power plant each week.
  • India has set up its own climate institute to re-examine the claims and policy recommendations made by the IPCC and grew its emissions by ~9% in 2009.
  • Japan has withdrawn support for the Kyoto accord.
  • Russia, Brazil, South Korea, South Africa and Canada are not supportive of action on Man-made Global Warming.

Not Joining-In:  current percentages of world emissions

These Nations represent about 47% of the world emissions and 46% of the world population.  Their CO2 emissions are continuing to grow.  Their CO2 emission growth effectively negates the effects of any measures, however drastic, that could ever be taken in Europe and the USA.  Those Nations are certainly not about to curtail their national development in the name of an assertion about Catastrophic Man-made Global Warming that they do not adhere to.

With Republican control of Congress, the USA is likely:

  • to re-examine the scientific inconsistencies of the Man-made Global Warming assertion
  • to question the reliance of the Environmental Protection Agency on the reports of the UN IPCC
  • and thus to terminate any USA response to mitigate “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming”.

The USA failure to commit would add a further 18% to the world emissions not falling under the influence of any CO2 controls.  The withdrawal of the USA would then mean that about 65% of world emissions and 53% of the world population were no longer involved in action on CO2.

So the result is the isolation of a few Western Nations, leaving the European Union, Australia, New Zealand and a few others remaining in their continuing adherence to the Man-made Global Warming assertion.

The remaining “Rest of the World”, 200+ Nations, (23% of world emissions and 40% of the world population), mainly consist of Underdeveloped or Developing countries who are not interested in emission reduction but who are expecting to be the financial beneficiaries at the expense of the Developed Nations of the Western Climate Change process.

So where are the cost benefit analyses?

So where is the due diligence?

Although policies are already are well underway and being implemented to reduce Man-made CO2 the Essential Due Diligence does not exist, and, as the analysis above shows, it is more than ever necessary to call for it. So, if sceptics are accused of asking the same questions over and over, perhaps it is time to take them seriously before we condemn the world community to an expensive and futile exercise.

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12 Responses to The futility of trying to limit CO2 emissions

  1. John F. Hultquist says:

    It is not about climate.

    It is no fun being a politician if one does not have a lot of money to spread around to get elected again, to have things built with your own name on them, and to produce a legacy.

    Taxing “carbon” is the politician’s feel-good way of taking money – rather than just taking it.

  2. pascvaks says:

    Don’t we also need to have a few thousand ‘Environmental Impact Statements’? The tree-hugger folks are suggesting some pretty big projects here and I ain’t got no money. I think this is too much to ask of poor people in the middle of a depression who are scavaging around for seeds and roots (just before we go into another Glacial period too). Thank ‘you-know-who’ and Greyhound for the smart folks around the world who are too busy scratching for a living to worry about saving the planet for a bunch of pot-smoking, pill-popping, dizzie, can’t read or write, college students and their pi-in-the-sky, tree hugging professors. I have a feeling that the political problems we have will require a lot of tar and feathers and hickory rails; if we can find them. I’m told they’ve been running from state to state trying to prevent a quarum. (Whatever that is;-(

  3. Verity Jones says:

    When you see that so many countries are not committing to the changes, it is scary. It becomes about political will and what politicians think they can get away with. It is simple – in Europe the politicians feel they have the backing of the people (belief in CAGW) to regulate carbon, and that gives them a new source of revenue to spend on whatever they believe will keep them in power. Call me cynical but that is how I see it.

    Now the issue is whether they actually get to do it unilaterially (well not unlaterally of course but if the whole world doesn’t commit, it might as well be) and do untold damage to economic growth and competitveness, or whether common sense will prevail in time to stop the stupidity.

    • pascvaks says:

      Europe’s 19th & 20th Century track record is pathetic and, since 1945, the US hasn’t done much but huff and puff and blow its own house down. Speakie Chinese? What’s that old saying, ‘those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’? Well thanks in large part to the job teacher’s unions have done in the last 50 years, I’m getting that dejavue feeling all over again.

  4. Verity Jones says:

    Folks, Ed has been working on this stuff for a while and has an article and a link to a much longer essay published at Climate Realists today:

  5. Doug Proctor says:

    The number given, 0.14K for man-made CO2 is NOT what the warmists would say. They say that the feedback from CO2 through water vapour is a multiple of (they aren’t sure, but let’s say) 4X. So 0.14K for CO2 translates into 0.56K. Which is about the globally averaged temperature increase since 1980. A 20% cutback in this trend of 1.8K/century is 0.36K, something that the warmists * AGW proponents still claim to be a disaster as they also say that local conditions multiply even this small figure to catastrophic levels.

    I’m not saying I disagree with the overall premise that CAGW is a crock. But I believe that your math is not what the IPCC is all about. And if in this I picked on the wrong part of a degree, I apologize but then say that was what I thought you were saying.

    *Altered 01Oct2011 in line with new policy: VJ.

  6. Peter Harper says:

    Your pie-chart of emissions of CO2: my impression was that biosphere and oceans were net sinks rather than net sources, so this suggests you have a different source of data, be glad to know it

  7. Edmh says:

    Hi Peter Harper and Doug Procter

    Have a look at the following

    and best of all from the Guardian the up to date information about emissions by various Nations

    I am very keen to get a better handle on the actual figures but these are I believe the most reliable I can find at present. They of course assume that there is no positive feedback as alarmists* AGW proponents would have you believe. I accept Dr Roy Spencer’s view that water vapour feedback is likely to be nil or negative.

    A new paper asserts that feedback although probably positive for doubling CO2 is at least 1/7 of the IPCC published figures.

    This paper assess the temperature effect of doubling CO2 levels to be about 0.45deg C

    Frankly with whatever figure one chooses it almost doesn’t matter: with the US dropping out, only about 15% of the world emissions are potentially going to be controlled (EU and Australia etc.) and those Nations are incapable of reducing their emissions to nil.
    So say the manmade effect was as much as 10 times greater than my assessment of 0.14 deg C at ~1.4deg C X 15% (controlled) = 0.21 deg C X 20% (achievable reduction) = 0.042 deg C.

    At ten times the value I assess, that makes the UK maximum possible achievement (nil emissions) at ~1.7% of world emissions only 23/1000 deg C


    *Altered 01Oct2011 in line with new policy: VJ.

  8. tony says:

    I found this an interesting analysis. The premise is that we should do nothing about global warming. However I respectfully disagree. From the standpoint of pollution from coal plants in the US, there is no doubt that we could make a big impact with cap and trade, just as was done with acid rain in the 80s and 90s, with relatively insignificant impacts economically. Particulate emissions from coal plants are harmful to the public health, resulting in 10,000 unnecessary deaths per year in the US. I know it’s not the same thing as carbon emissions but why not attack both problems?
    As far as pollutants from cars and trucks, there is no question that from the perspective of security and the economy we should be more aggressively moving towards electric vehicles or vehicles that run on natural gas. Of course that electricity has to come from somewhere but we can move towards cleaner energy alternatives – we already are but we are doing so slowly. Massive and radical government investment in research could spark an energy revolution and reduce our dependency on foreign oil. If America willed it it could be accomplished. It is certainly a greater urgency from the standpoint of national security since the Middle East has consumed trillions of dollars fighting corrupt regimes propped up by oil money, but the benefits for the environment are not insignificant.

    Lastly, as far as bang for the buck, we (the world) need to drastically curtail the destruction of rainforests in Asia and South America. The amount of greenhouse gases released by burning forests and the loss of their benefits that they provide as climate regulators and carbon sinks makes this sort of the “low hanging fruit” in terms of slowing global climate change. Giving money to other countries like Indonesia to stop tearing down their forests runs against the grain of some people’s ideologies but in terms of cost/benefit it is remarkable cheap.

  9. TonyB says:

    Hi Tony (what a great name)

    I ‘own’ a couple of acres of rainforest specifically to stop deforestation.

    It makes a great gift-why not get a few acres and help do something practical about it?

    I think you are confusing particulates with carbon-the first is bad but are being greatly reduced. As for Carbon-well it helps the rainforest to grow, but as for causing CAGW, that still hasn’t been demonstrated after all these years.

    Having written energy articles-and Kevin UK who posts here is a nuclear engineer – the big question is where all this extra energy will come from?

    It simply isn’t available in the sort of form, or quantity, or price, that we need. I would reluctantly conclude that a realistic replacement for fossil fuel is probably 30 years down the line.

    Lastly, ‘global’ warming doesn’t actually exist. Search this site for ‘in search of cooling trends’ written by Verity and myself.

    All the best


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