A Different Look At Business As Usual–Climate Style

Probably the least reported climate story this year is the wonderful news that emissions of greenhouse gases did not rise in 2014, the first time that ever happened without an accompanying economic downturn. For the climate mainstream, good news is no news.

Instead, what we get is a steady diet of RCP 8.5, a set of inputs to climate models falsely labeled a ‘business as usual’ scenario. It isn’t a scenario, projection or prediction. They were told to generate inputs for climate models that topped out at 2100 with 8.5 watts per square meter forcing and that’s what they provided.

As far as business as usual, some say all that means is ‘no new policy’ on climate change. But the EPA has set new policy on emissions in the U.S. China has set new policy on emissions. Japan is restarting their nuclear power program. There is no ‘business as usual.’ What there is is governments taking action to forestall climate change.

As for business…

From the New York Times: “Nine major companies are expected on Wednesday to join a global coalition of firms intent on converting to renewable energy. The new members include Johnson & Johnson,Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Walmart andGoldman Sachs. A handful of the companies have already reached the 100 percent target; others do not expect to do so for several decades, but they are typically setting aggressive interim targets.

For example, Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest consumer-products company, said it would convert to 30 percent renewable energy by 2020, up from 7 percent today. The new target, a culmination of years of environmental efforts by the company, means that Bounty paper towels, Charmin toilet tissue, Tide detergent and many other goods commonly found in American pantries will increasingly be made with green energy.”

And as for the rest of us, “Shattering previous records, the United States residential solar market grew 76 percent over the first quarter of 2014, installing 437 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) in the first three months of 2015. According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) Q1 U.S. Solar Market Insight report, released today, the U.S. installed 1.3 gigawatts of solar PV across all market segments.”‘

So while Konsensus activists continue to shout their lamentations from the rooftop, tear their hair and beat their chests, remember that business as usual is actually working.

Just don’t mention Volkswagen….



7 responses to “A Different Look At Business As Usual–Climate Style

  1. VW has issued a fix for their diesel Beetles:

  2. Radiative forcing has been rising pretty much linearly since 1950. Absent an energy revolution that displaces fossil fuels, there is no reason to expect that to change very much. So “business as usual” should be a continued linear increase in forcing, leading to a forcing between 5.0 and 5.5 W/m^2 in 2100. I have never looked into either economics modelling or fossil fuel supply modelling, but from what I’ve heard those approaches give a roughly similar result to the crude analysis above.

    There is no immediate need to replace fossil fuels. That is lucky, since we will have time to recover once the present renewable craze burns out as people realize that wind is crazy expensive and neither wind nor solar provides a realistic path to replace more than a fraction of our total energy use. Then people might be willing to reconsider nuclear. With luck (i.e., adequate investment), new nuclear technologies (like molten salt reactors) might be ready for prime time by then.

    By the way, CO2 emissions from developed countries (about one billion people) have been flat for some 30 years.

    Semantic point: RCP8.5 is indeed a “scenario”. Scenarios can be highly speculative, even fictional, unlike responsible predictions or projections.

    • There’s no immediate need to replace fossil fuels, but we do need to keep in mind they won’t last forever. I prepared an estimate of peak CO2 ppm using what I thought was a reasonable amount of fossil fuel resources.

      I discussed my work with a couple of friends and they felt it was “ok”. Our weakness lies in our inability to estimate oil and gas replacement source costs. For example, let’s take an extreme. Say solar power and energy storage can, together, deliver base load electricity at 15 USA cents per kWh, in that case, solar power becomes highly competitive once oil prices hit $150 per barrel. This in turn reduces oil demand, and emissions from oil.

      Anther issue we have to consider, which I see is not discussed. If emissions drop to roughly 45 % of today’s levels the atmospheric CO2 concentration will start to drop slightly. Or, if we get smart, we can offset emissions with increased removal via geoengineering. Based on what I see, the best option is to emphasize efficiency, support renewables to a small extent to encourage cheaper technology, research geoengineering, and worry like crazy about the end of fossil fuels. The later is a lot more critical, because we really can’t subsidize solar and wind to the extent they do replace oil and gas. Which means we are in trouble, have too much population and are on a dead end unless we get our act together.

  3. Then there is that pesky greening of planet Earth that is clearly correlated to increased CO2.
    More green = more food. Earth seems to self-engineer itself pretty well.
    Perhaps we should focus on helping more people live better healthier lives and stop letting the mentally obsessed control the public square.

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