Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The ghost of ASPO-9: climate change

ASPO, the association for the study of peak oil and gas, has been around for more than ten years by now; from when it was conceived first by Colin Campbell, at a conference in Germany in 2000. In these years, ASPO has grown from a small group of petroleum geologists to a remarkable association of people with diverse backgrounds and impressive scientific credentials. Now, the 9th ASPO conference in Brussels is over. Jointly organized by ASPO-Belgium and ASPO-Netherlands, the conference had high level speakers, interesting talks and an active and participating audience.

And, yet, a ghost was hovering above the conference: the ghost of climate change.

Not that the issue was not discussed. The organizers did a good job in giving a prominent place in the program to Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chair of IPCC. The first morning of the conference he gave a good presentation of what we know today about climate change. But the IPCC vision is not the same as that of ASPO and the contrast flared during the panel discussion, when Kjell Aleklett, president of ASPO, accused van Ypersele and IPCC of following a "business as usual" approach. Having neglected peak oil (and peak fuels) in their scenarios, Aleklett said, the IPCC was presenting unrealistic and excessively pessimistic predictions of global warming.

Aleklett was not wrong in raising this issue and he has the merit of having being one of the first to have raised it. However, the problem is much deeper than a simplistic view that says that peak fuels will save us from global warming, as Aleklett seems to imply in some of his statements. It may well be that several of the IPCC scenarios are biased in this sense, but the IPCC correctly produces a "fan" of scenarios that take into account a variety of possibilities. Trusting specific projections for the future based on "peak fuels" scenarios in order to downplay the IPCC warnings is a dangerous game.  Indeed, the studies on this subject (see a short review of mine) indicate that, even taking into account an "ASPO-like" view of fuels availability, we can still get dangerously close to the threshold of "irreversible climate change." Climate models can't determine with certainty where the threshold is, but it may well be much too close for comfort; even with peak oil approaching. IPCC may, in fact, be excessively conservative in estimating the effect of positive climate feedbacks resulting, for instance, from methane release from permafrost.

Climate change and peak oil are not two separate issues: one is the mirror of the other. They are two major forcings affecting the ecosystem's balance and are bound to interact with each other in ways that are difficult to predict. It may well be that peak oil will slow down CO2 emissions and, at the same time, global warming will negatively affect the economy, further slowing down the consumption of fossil fuels. These two effects combined would help reducing the threat of irreversible climate change. But their interaction may be more complex and lead to the opposite effect. For instance, Euan Mearns noted at the conference that even energy efficiency, an apparently benign action designed to solve the peak oil problem, may actually worsen the situation by freeing resources that people may use to extract more fossil fuels. And, of course, the economic system may well turn to dirty and inefficiently fuels in order to compensate for the decline of oil production.

This problem appeared in full clarity with the talk by Darren Bezdek co-author with Robert Hirsch of a study on the mitigation of peak oil. In the world of Bezdek and Hirsch, there is no other solution to the threat of peak oil than stepping up the production of liquid fuels by methods such as coal to liquids, gas to liquids, tar sands, and the like. It is a good example of  "linear thinking" (as opposed to "dynamic" or "system thinking") that sees a problem and its solution in isolation, without considering the overall system. In this case, the switch to dirty fuels advocated by Bedzek would lead to a major increase in the emissions of greenhouse gases with unforeseeable (but most likely horrible) effects on climate. Hopefully, such a scenario may never unfold, but the fact that it is seriously proposed is worrisome. The audience at ASPO-9 seemed to be worried as well. The talk by Bezdek was strongly challenged in the debate and the most negative comments received open applause from the audience.

In the end, it may be the "peak oil approach" that can be accused of being "BAU." After all, if the IPCC scenarios do not include peak oil, it is also true that most peak oil scenarios do not include climate change. Indeed, in most of the talks on peak oil heard at ASPO-9 the climate issue was never mentioned.

Is there something wrong with ASPO that this fundamental issue remained a ghost; sometimes seen, but most of the time hidden? Probably not; it is just an objective difficulty of coping with the enormously complex problem of the human influence on the ecosystem. We all tend to specialize in something - it is the normal destiny of a professional. Then, when it is the moment of understanding the behavior of a system where multiple effects interact with each other in a cascade of feedbacks, it is difficult to see the limits of our vision. So, it is normal that peak oil specialists have troubles in including climate change in their views - just as it is normal that climate scientists often tend to downplay the role of peak oil in their scenarios.

At the end of the conference, the problems we face were well summarized by Philippe Lambert, green member of the EU parliament, who listed a series of dire problems that we are facing: not only peak oil and climate change, but also water supply, overpopulation and biodiversity (and he didn't mention nuclear weapons). None of these problems can be solved in isolation - concentrating on a single one may well worsen one or more of the others - as when proposing to replace oil with dirty, high emissions fuels.

So, we are facing big problems and often we just don't have the right frame of mind to see the right solutions. We'll see what happens, but the chances that we'll take the right approach to sustainability are not so good. In any case, remember that we can live without oil; our ancestors lived without it for thousands of years. But our ancestors never lived in a world 2 degrees hotter than it is now. And, surely, we could not survive in a world 6 degrees hotter. Perhaps peak oil will save us from that extreme outcome, but we cannot take that for granted. .


  1. Heavy use of CTL and GTL may well keep us somewhere near BAU for a decade or two, and electric cars might induce us to burn more coal to keep up with demand (since investment capital for wind/geothermal/etc is still weak).

    It is easy to discount the distant future, as Nate has summarized in some of his TOD posts. How much we allow ourselves to make the present as comfortable as possible will determine the fate of our descendants.

    Will Stewart

  2. Ugo:
    While you are so certain of the problems that rising levels of CO2 will bring, a little investigation of the actual temperature rise in various states in America shows it non-existant in some states, and less than half that touted in the press in others.

    I understand that this has become more of a religion than a scientific debate, but a little more checking of facts can be helpful.

  3. I am truly surprised of this message, HO. I remember having discussed with you about climate change in serious terms and it was an interesting discussion. Now, I can't believe that you are telling me that since Arkansas is not warming, global warming does not exist. Is this supposed to be a joke or what?????

  4. I think Aleklett is really right in pointing out how poor SRES scenarios are. Of course they have produced"a "fan" of scenarios that take into account a variety of possibilities." But this is not a big deal to produce a huge set of scenarios, even a kid with a set of colored pencils can draw such a set of curves - oh, yes, it can be that, or that, or that .... sure, it can !

    but there are a number of weird features that make the whole work very dubious
    - many scenarios are already wrong from the beginning - even at the date when they were published ! why such a big interval in the 1990 consumptions since they were fairly well known ?
    - the scenario based on known reserves (which was studied by Hansen et al ) is *not* in the set of SRES scenarios
    - all SRES scenarios assume an incredible high amount of natural gas - assuming it is impossible not to extract methane clathrates, probably. It is not justified to *exclude* that they won't be extracted.
    - concerning oil and coal - well you can find anything from zero to 30 Gt/yr. Are the economists unaware that some processes require FF that we cannot easily replace ? how to make metallurgy without coal, transportation without oil ? economists imagine that we COULD replace them, but - that's not science, just wishful thinking and fairy tales. Science is the reduction of uncertainties based on known physical laws - Campbell and Lahérrère seminal 1998 paper WAS science - it was a definite prediction of what should happen. SRES is not.

    -SRES scenarios are based on a universal assumption of continuous growth during the XXIth century - they are flat-earth scenarios.

    Now concerning the status of climate science itself - I NEVER heard in any field of any science that when a fundamental quantity such as the climate sensitivity was only known within a factor 2 or 3, this science was "accurate" and that everything was "settled" ... never.. but in climate science !

  5. Climate change and CO2 emmissions are for sure a huge issue, but as said in the post "Climate change and peak oil are not two separate issues: one is the mirror of the other." and if climate change had a "communication deficit" with respect to PO at this conference, in the general media the deficit is clearly tremendously the other way around, and this is maybe an even bigger problem.

    This is understandable, climate change message can easily be turned into something like "Ok people, our current way of life brought plenty of nice things, but it is a bit dirty, we really need to make it cleaner"(but basically keeping the same "functionalities"), whereas PO message can more or less only be "We are in a complete mess".

    Now of course "coal to liquids, gas to liquids, tar sands, and the like" are not the way forward, but on the "CO2 camp", things like CCS are also a total absurdity (knowing that capture and storage would decrease efficiency for power generation by around 40%, so increasing ressources consumption by 40%, and also increasing all the other pollutions linked to mining by 40%)

    Clearly in terms of policies, we should focus on "solutions agnostic" policies (that work both on the conservation side, and on the alternative production side), and that work both for PO and AGW, and that is basically increasing volume based taxes on fossile fuels by a major amount. In conjunction a big part of these taxes revenues should be put in direct redistribution, as proposed by James Hansen for instance (equal share of tax revenues per capita, done on a monthly basis). Not forgetting that a tax doesn't change a country GDP (all other things being equal as economists would say ...)

    As to the AGW deniers (such as HO above), seems to me that the best argument, for the ones with some scientific background, is to point out that since the beginning of the industrial revolution, CO2 concentration has been increased by 30%, and that we know this is from human activity (from the isotopes, but we also know we have burnt so much), and 30% whatever way you take it, it is 30% ...

  6. How about killing two, nay three birds with one stone?

    Warmer temperatures, more co2, oil scarcity?

    Grow hemp, with increased harvest due to more solar energy and co2, then convert to fuel or extract oil.

  7. Of course "solutions" of GW and PO are similar in the sense that they both require that we replace at least part of FF.But the great difference is the following : if we don't succeed in replacing entirely FF by renewables (which is very likely, or PO itself is no more a problem), what do we do with the spare FF ? do we use them later because we need them, delaying as much as possible the moment when we should make it without them - meaning probably a strong recession of our way of life - or do we let them for ever in the ground? depending if you think that the largest problem is the LACK of FF or is their EXCESS - the answer is opposite. And I agree with many PO activists that the lack of energy is much more problematic than a few degrees -actually tenths of degrees. After all , the correlation of economic growth with FF use is positive ...and so is the correlation with the average temperature ! this means at least that if global negative effects are supposed to arise from increasing temperature, they have been hardly perceivable - if any.

  8. Ugo:
    If you went to the site referenced, and followed up the thread there you would find that I have documented in great detail a study of the temperatures of the different states of the Union that I have been carrying out over the past eighteen months. The original post describes the early steps that I took, and reading the consequent posts will expose some of the interesting facts about the manipulation and cherry picking of data that exists in the mainstream science.

    Did I expect either credulity or anything but the pejorative "denier" cry, probably not. As I noted this is now more religion than science, and if you believe you certainly won't look at contrary evidence. But it does exist and is quite disturbing.

  9. HO, I had read your post and I had followed the thread. You are trying to demonstrate that Climate Science is all wrong on the basis of a few subsets of data for continental US. This is not a correct approach- it is wrong at the root.

  10. "As I noted this is now more religion than science"

    The most "beaten down" sentence used by skeptics (if not deniers) against current "climates studies results".

    The point is :
    1) Do you consider (or recognize) that human activity since the industrial revolution has indeed increased CO2 atmospheric concentration by 30% ? (amongst many other effects)
    2) "Earth Climate science" is indeed not a science in the "reproductible experiences" sense, as there is a single lab or test tube and only observations and past data gathering as possible "experience", so what ? It is indeed more applying plenty of "classical natural science" to this object with many possible cross checkings.

    Not sure why this leads to "grand witty declarations" such as "this is now more religion than science" ...

  11. I saw an interesting comment on this post on "The Energy Bulletin", so I reproduce it here.

    Thanks for the report. I was at the conference and it definitely was a weird moment - experts arguing over their respective modellings of the end of civilisation, and thinking the point was the assumptions made. I have not been one of the people who was freaked out by peak oil - I know that Western society can use a lot less oil. However, I am afraid of Americans. With a straight face, and without even having a clue how horrifying his "methods" for filling the gap between oil supply and demand were - Bezdek convinced me that we really are doomed: The Americans will frack and strip and do any other mad thing whether they can afford it or not, and they will never recognize that it was consumers that cooked the climate - not the Chinese.

    The King Tut exhibition is here in Brussels. After the conference I took a friend there and we were trying to figure out what it would have been like to live in a society that invested so much energy and resources and money in art for dead people. They were so convinced of their view of the world, and the way the afterlife was going to be, that they built beautiful things that would only be used by the king after he died. I then thought to myself, that it is indeed possible for a whole society to see the world in a way that it really isn't. Maybe this always happens when a few in the society get filthy rich off what ever the crazy belief is.

  12. By the way Ugo, do you know if videos of the talks will be made available ?
    And many thanks for your report.

  13. They said that videos will be available soon. Check the conference page http://www.aspo9.be

  14. Ugo:
    No, I am trying to find out what the truth is. It is clear, for example, that there is a population effect on station temperature, and that as I noted the other day the decision by GISS not to consider the effect of populations below 10,000 is an error.

    looking at one or two subsets would justify your criticism, however, as the data base grows, and the findings remain consistent it becomes more evident that there is some truth to them.

  15. I raised climate change as a compounding threat in my presentations at the Cooper Union Local Futures Conference in April 2006, the Petrocollapse and U of Maryland conferences in Washington DC a week later, and in the 2006 Boston ASPO-USA meeting, as well as subsequent ASPO events in Cork, Houston and elsewhere. That Boston one is still available for downloading at http://www.aspo-usa.com/fall2006/presentations/pdf/Bates_A_Boston_2006.pdf.

    In general the response to bringing up climate ranged from tepid to hostile. In 2008, at the ASPO in Houston, I raised the issue in pointed questions to Bezdek and Hirsch on submitted 3x5 cards, but was screened out by Randy Udall who is firmly in the Aleklett camp.

    IPCC assessments have been considering low emissions scenarios for 20 years, albeit not total collapse scenarios. Given the indications that some tipping points have been passed already, it should be apparent that even zero emissions is no longer good enough. We will need to get to carbon-minus, by mid-century if not sooner. There is no way that emissions reductions can accomplish this, nor can any single wedge, alone. We need several wedges, like afforestation, biochar, carbon-farming, no-till organic, holistic grazing, etc.

    Wasting what little fossil energy remains on fools' errands like steaming tar sands or coal-to-liquids just means it will be that much harder and take that much longer to deploy the wedges we really need, probably using unaided human and animal energy.

  16. Ugo,

    great post - I would add that one cannot (unfortunately) ignore also the financial sector (the debt problem has been growing for decades). Now the debt-deflation is upon us and it will shorten our already short-termism even more and even less people will care about the long-term prosperity. We are just dumping the future more and more, unfortunately.

    HO - I am in the climate change debate for 10+ years. With all the respect to thermometers (which are btw correct, as surface temps derived from satellites confirm), we do not really need them. You have myriads of (a)bio-indicators of very rapid climate change such as shifting vegetation, historical pest outbreaks (e.g., British Columbia), global melt of glaciers (both terrestrial and ocean), melting of permafrost, rapid arctic ice retreat, global sea level rise, increasing hurricane, drought and flood intensity, just to name the very few and most obvious...



  17. Alexander, peaksurfer :

    first question : do you have any indication that these variations are significantly larger than the past variability, expressed as a number of sigmas (standard deviations), and that it occurred only after the anthropogenic influence becomes predominant ?

    second question : can you prove that curtailing the use of FF faster than what is imposed by natural depletion would bring more advantages than drawbacks, given the economic impact of regression of energy uses ?

  18. To Peaksurfer - yes, ASPO remains tepid on Climate Change, very unfortunately. But things are rapidly changing. Already at the Brussels conference, Colin Campbell said in public that he was a "convert" to the science of Climate change; and that was a big step forward. It is difficult for people over - say - sixty of seven to accept such a thing as global warming that changes eveything in one's perception. But Campbell, although he is approaching 80, is a great man! Still able to change his mind when presented with facts. Not by chance he is the founder of ASPO. (co-founder, to be exact, the other is Jean Laherrere)

    Then, I noticed with pleasure that during ASPO-9 nobody dared to openly challenge climate science, not even people who have thundered against it in the past (the one who went closest to doing that was Bezdek - not an ASPO member, I believe). And, of course, the young members of ASPO - those I know, at least - understand the climate problem.

  19. In the above, I meant "people over sixty or SEVENTY" of course.... :-)

  20. Thanks Alexander. Next post in the pipeline is on the financial situation. I hope youl'll like it!

  21. HO, very good that you are continuing your studies on temperatures. Next, I expect you to publish your results in a reputable journal and then (if they are validated by other studies) you can come back here and define climate science as a "religion". But for now I am afraid that you are greatly over-estimating the value of what you are doing.

  22. Gilles, don't you have anything better to do than asking questions on climate change in the wrong place? If you have questions, read the scientific literature on climate and if there is something that you don't understand, ask the authors. I've done that several times and I always found climate scientists extremely kind and collaborative. Try that!

  23. @gilles
    "can you prove etc"
    Question that typically doesn't mean much,, benefits for who ? Your generation ?? The next ? The one after the next ?

  24. Ugo, I tried many times to post on forum devoted to CC - and has been invariably censored when they couldn't answer my questions. I certainly don't find climate science "extremely kind and collaborative" - except when you praise them of course.

    I am not saying that climate science is totally bogus - I think it is quite uncertain, starting with uncertain physical parameters (climate sensitivity), continuing with (mostly unlikely) amount of reserves , and ending with unknown possibilities of adaption of mankind. All these aren't known much better than a factor two uncertainty, to be optimistic - and of course multiplying all these uncertainties can produce such a large interval of predictions that it is easy to find dire consequences everywhere - without any hint of plausibility. Already from the beginning , emission scenarios are claimed to contain no likelihood estimates, being only "storylines". How can we speak scientifically with that ? no way !

    on the opposite, the problem of depletion is much better constrained in my sense - much more likely (actually quite certain to happen), much sooner , and with much more obvious economic consequences , being already observed. I can't understand the order of priorities given by the media. Peak oil is upon us - CC is a far and ill-understood possible phenomenon, for which - contrary to what is claimed everywhere - not a single clear economical consequences has been established so far.

    Here is a quotation that is generally censored on "warmist" websites :
    "I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn't being political, it is being selfish.

    the interesting part is not the self-claimed "selfishness" of the author, calling for the occurrence of an unfortunate event, "regardless of consequences". The most interesting part , by far, is the extraordinary naive recognition that he would like that " the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right" .

    Ghosh... Phil...you mean... you don't think it is already done ??? glad to hear you saying that !

  25. Gilles, if you ask polite questions, you'll receive polite answers. If you start saying that you "don't believe climate science is totally bogus", you mean that you believe most of it is. And what kind of answer do you expect to receive after having said that?

    Anyhow, it may well be that peak oil is a more pressing issue than climate change. In my modest opinion, though, climate change is immensely more dangerous.

  26. The Arctic sea ice is falling off the chart 50 years ahead of schedule; flood and drought trends are spiking with records broken across the world (After Pakistan and Australia, the Mississippi is now bringing some of the fun to the Deep South), and that with just 4% more moisture put in the atmosphere by climate change; temperature records are broken on a daily basis (the UK just had its warmest April in 353 years); yet somehow climate change is "not yet happening".

    Every single scientific paper published since the last IPCC report has shown the problem to be much worse than we thought.

    Meanwhile, I have yet to see a single "skeptic" offer an argument that has not already being catalogued and debunked on SkepticalScience.

  27. @Gilles

    Quotation of self quotation :
    ""I would like to see the climate change happen, so the science could be proved right, regardless of the consequences. This isn't being political, it is being selfish.

    What does this means ? Besides possibly you wishing to know how the earth or the climate will be in 100 or 200 years ? Besides that, you are perfectly free to look at climate change happening, as well as pondering (to no end) whether these changes correspond to climate science or not. Just invent a time machine, meanwhile, climate science projection for today + 50 years are not meant to happen tomorow, and this according to the said science.

  28. "Anyhow, it may well be that peak oil is a more pressing issue than climate change. In my modest opinion, though, climate change is immensely more dangerous."
    I'm just observing the simple fact that the growth of industrial civilization has been entirely correlated with increasing FF use AND with increasing temperatures (which is not negligible, around 0.7 °C, and even 2°C in some parts of Europe).

    This very simple observation shows at least that it has not been hampered by an increasing temperature ! we can also remark that without FF , mankind has adapted spontaneously to dozen of degrees of differences; even between the north and the south of France, there is a difference of many degrees, not speaking of the whole Europe and US - well why is the industrial civilization so widespread among very different climates if it is so sensitive ???

    . On the other hand, there is absolutely no industrial civilization without FF.Nowhere, never.

    Taking these data as zeroth order, face values, the obvious conclusion is that the industrial civilization is much more dependent on FF than on average temperature ! now given the fact that the proven reserves, even multiplied by the IPCC "best guess" sensitivity, do not exceed 2°C, so three times the past temperature increase (which hasn't have any measurable effect on the industrial growth to my knowledge) , I really don't understand why this increase should produce more problems than the disappearance of FF.

    "The Arctic sea ice is falling off the chart 50 years ahead of schedule; "

    this only means that the "schedule" was bogus, and it was actually bogus even when it was published. The only reasonable conclusion is that we really don't understand what makes Arctic sea ice melt -and it is thus not justified to blame AGW for it.

    "flood and drought trends are spiking with records broken across the world (After Pakistan and Australia, the Mississippi is now bringing some of the fun to the Deep South)"

    examples are not statistics. Where are data ?

    , and that with just 4% more moisture put in the atmosphere by climate change; temperature records are broken on a daily basis (the UK just had its warmest April in 353 years); yet somehow climate change is "not yet happening"."

    actually since GW has started from the XIXth century after the LIA, breaking the records is not really a new phenomenon ...

    Every single scientific paper published since the last IPCC report has shown the problem to be much worse than we thought. "

    yes, I know...


    Meanwhile, I have yet to see a single "skeptic" offer an argument that has not already being catalogued and debunked on SkepticalScience.
    This belongs to the sites from which I've been ejected - nice open minds.

  29. @GillesH38

    Va te faire soigner, ou lis Rimbaud, enfin fais quelque chose, ou même rien du tout, qu'est ce qu'on en à foutre ? Et pourquoi tu as horreur de la politique ? Ça sent mauvais ? Ou c'est pour faire la science va arriver à quelque chose ?

  30. Ladies and gentlemen, remember the good old rule: "do not feed the troll!"

    (Merci de ne pas nourrir le troll)

  31. Ugo:
    It is in the instant disparagement of opposing views (and data) that I see the transition of this topic from science to religion, and the unwillingness of folk to consider anything that does not fit with their opinions.

    I am amused by the demand that information must be "in a peer reviewed paper" before it is acceptable, and that all such are to be treated as gospel. I had that argument with Kjell last year in Washington where I took Hook's work and that of Rutledge and those of that ilk and showed why it was wrong. His response was that he would not accept my argument until it was in a peer reviewed journal.

    We saw with Climategate (and other recent examples) how scientists can control the papers that are so published, and I can't be bothered. I wanted to find out who was telling the truth, and what I am doing seemed an easy way to find out. I am finding more than I expected, and so it continues to be amusing to me. When it doesn't I will stop.

    Disparaging truth (and I show the exact path to what I have found in all the posts) is no reflection on me for writing it.

  32. Oh, and P.S. you mentioned the small size of my study. Phil Jones work was based on the study of around 30 stations, so far I have published work on somewhere around 500.

  33. yt : is it supposed to be a scientific argument ? maybe you could at least make some effort to write French correctly ?

    Ugo : I really appreciate your analysis of depletion problems. So I'm really sad that you take the usual way of "warmist" sites to avoid answering simple remarks.

    I'm ready to accept assertions like "climate change is immensely more dangerous [than oil depletion]". The only things I'm asking are : why ? following which metrics ? how is the "danger" measured ? how does it depend on the amount of FF we burn? what's the likelihood of these amounts ? i assume that you have scientific answers to these questions - so please give them.

    For instance could you give some kind of rough estimate of the "sensitivity" of human wealth to average temperature, and how ?

    (if you ask the same question for FF - I would say : yes).

  34. lol, Gilles, cesse donc de faire le clown 5 minutes (surtout le triste, "So I'm really sad" ...)

    Mais bon je vais écouter Ugo

  35. Well, two months of blogging and I already have a troll in the comments! In a way, it is a success...

  36. Ugo, the frustrating debate on this post serves to reiterate how far ASPO must go to embrace the climate change community and vice versa. Please do not be discouraged when anti-science comments are drawn in like moths to the flame.

    Please also accept my heartfelt thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront within the ASPO community, in spite of Kjell's importune reaction and the Hirsch/Bezdek ignorance of systems dynamics. It is my goal as board member of ASPO-USA to bring the climate change debate in under the big tent we have constructed. Without concerted joint effort by both camps, the political process will be so ill-informed as to be completely sabotaged by short-sighted opportunists.

    I continue to be baffled by the mad rush to consume all of our fossil fuels in order to maintain a civilization which so impoverishes our descendants as to be criminal. Whether our objections to consuming every barrel center around climate change which I have witnessed especially through the eyes of glaciologists, or because we fear the consequences of oil depletion, either way, we must push aggressively directly for alternatives. All investments now in fossil fuel-based solutions, whether a new freeway or an energy-efficient car (hybrid?) are good energy after bad.

    In the USA, since the new congress has swept aside the climate debate, our only short term political maneuver is peak oil. If ASPO can trigger that debate, one would hope that the climate folks would appreciate our advocacy in their favor. Likewise in Europe where climate change still has a voice and is not overwhelmed by the likes of HO, one would hope that the peaksters can get solidly behind the climate change initiatives and take no ridicule from meteorologists who can't fathom geology.

  37. My views on PO and climate change coincide with Ugo's.
    It is more than 20 years ago since I followed careful climate science papers in Nature and elsewhere. There were and remain uncertainties such as the net result of interaction with water vapor. Even now, mainly because of the heat inertia of the oceans, we are only seeing early signals of what it is reasonable to assume is a remorseless progress toward a new equilibrium temperature for the global heat budget. Like Ugo, I see a need for all the safety margin we can get.

    Meanwhile atmospheric CO2 continues its linear rise - more than 30ppm since I was first persuaded to pay attention. Not surprising ... world net energy use by industry and consumers increased again 5% in 2010. It is really for those who think the signals are not real to suggest why they think rising CO2 will not change the heat budget?