Abandon coal, oil or face climate disaster, Davos experts warn

January 21, 2016
Experts at the World Economic Forum in Davos warn of climate catastrophe if humanity doesn't stop buring coal, oil and gas for p
Experts at the World Economic Forum in Davos warn of climate catastrophe if humanity doesn't stop buring coal, oil and gas for power

Humanity must stop burning coal, oil and gas to power the global economy or face an irreversible climate catastrophe, scientists, business chiefs and analysts warned at an elite gathering in the Swiss Alps.

Barely five weeks after the world hailed a 195-nation Paris accord to stop global warming, plummeting oil prices have thrown into perspective the challenge of bringing about its promised energy revolution.

Crude oil prices this week plunged to fresh 12-year lows under $27, slammed by gloomy economic forecasts, China's slowdown and abundant crude supplies.

"The economics at these prices will mean that it is very cost effective to use oil rather than renewables which are still very expensive at these prices," said IHS chief economist Nariman Behravesh.

Governments would need to take drastic action, for example by imposing a carbon tax, he told AFP at the January 19-23 annual meeting of the rich and powerful in the snow-blanketed ski resort of Davos, casting doubt, however, on whether it would be possible to do so on a global scale.

The post-2020 Paris Agreement, reached December 12, aimed to avert the most calamitous effects of climate change: severe droughts, floods and storms, and rising seas that would engulf islands and coastal areas populated by hundreds of millions of people.

Catastrophic tipping points

The Paris accord set a target of limiting warming of the planet to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with the Industrial Revolution, while aiming for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees. To do so, emissions of greenhouse gases will need to peak "as soon as possible", followed by rapid reductions, the agreement stated.

"Science indicates that if we can come close to 1.5 C it allows us to avoid what we call catastrophic tipping points," said Johan Rockstrom, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

"We could avoid irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet—seven meters (23 feet) of sea level rise. We could avoid irreversible methane release from thawing permafrost," he added.

"This would allow us to stay in the adaptation realm rather than the catastrophic disaster realm."

Already, Rockstrom said, disruption to the Earth's climate system was evident in the unprecedented impact of the 2015-2016 El Nino weather pattern, which is associated with a sustained period of warming in the central and eastern tropical Pacific and can spark deadly and costly climate extremes.

Solar power gets cheaper

To avoid the worst, mankind would have to protect the oceans and the planet's ecosystem including its forests, in addition to slashing heat-trapping , he said.

"Why? because the biosphere—nature to put it simply—takes up 4.5 gigatonnes, actually half of our emissions of carbon dioxide."

Renewable energies may start to win the financial argument, however, said Ratul Puri, chairman of Hindustan Power.

The cost of solar energy had plunged by about 25 percent in the past decade, he said, increasing its lure in India, which relies heavily on coal to power its economic development.

"There will be a need for a balance because renewables including solar are intermittent in nature, and therefore any grid system as it is designed out needs to have a balanced approach," Puri said.

"India has an opportunity to leapfrog ahead," he said, by building a solar power distribution network and taking advantage of the broad availability of solar radiation across the nation.

The cost of inaction is incalculable, said a senior insurance executive, who estimated the economic burden of all natural catastrophes at $180 billion a year of which only about a quarter was insured.

"If we don't do anything we won't be talking about the market for the insurance industry in 50 years—the planet will simply be uninsurable," he said.

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marcush
4.5 / 5 (8) Jan 21, 2016
I will be only voting for parties that promise a carbon tax, cap and trade, or floor price for oil. Simple as that.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (9) Jan 21, 2016
I will be only voting for parties that promise a carbon tax, cap and trade, or floor price for oil. Simple as that.

Admirable, but impractical.
Politicians are - for the overwhelming majority - (multi)millionairs. You don't get to be one by being squeamish about where the money comes from. Even worse: The backers of political parties (those with the REAL money) are all heavily invested in the status quo. They're going to play this out with an 'pleas-not-in-my-lifetime'-attitude until it falls down around their (and our) ears.
Zzzzzzzz
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
However, a divestment strategy allows a person to put what financial power one has to work. When combined with others of similar mind and means, this can turn into something more than just a statement. I am actively looking into this kind of strategy in an effort to have more than just an opinion.
MR166
1.9 / 5 (9) Jan 21, 2016
Anti I am astounded that you do not see or will not admit the connection between the AGW movement, big business and big politics. Your statement implies that there is not a political/business block that wishes to enrich themselves from the renewable energy movement.
tear88
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2016
"or face an irreversible climate catastrophe" should say "or the irreversible climate catastrophe already happening will be even worse". It's like described already occurring damage as a "threat". A threat is when someone pulls a gun on you. It's far beyond a threat when you're already full of holes.
gkam
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2016
"Your statement implies that there is not a political/business block that wishes to enrich themselves from the renewable energy movement."
------------------------------------------

Do you mean folks who will invent the systems and devices which will save us?

Those "greedy" folks?
HannesAlfven
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2016
What AGW advocates could not do with technology, they will impose by law, and apparently at the expense of the public. Good job, guys.
greenonions
4.4 / 5 (7) Jan 21, 2016
that there is not a political/business block that wishes to enrich themselves from the renewable energy movement

And there is not political/business block enriching themselves from oil and gas, or automobiles, farming, etc. etc. Odd how cronnie capitalism is fine for MR - until the evil renewable energy industry joins the game. Here is a look at one aspect of the auto industry - http://moderntran...c06.html
Benni
1 / 5 (4) Jan 21, 2016
What AGW advocates could not do with technology, they will impose by law, and apparently at the expense of the public. Good job, guys.


And what is that? Pass laws making nonbelievers do what they won't do? Ride bicycles everywhere.
Zzzzzzzz
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
And there is the rub..... there is science, and there is belief. Some follow the science, and some follow belief. Just another word for delusion. There are no people who "believe in" climate change, there are only delusional types who "do not believe in" climate change.
I suppose I just revealed that my curiosity got the best of me, and I looked at Benni's ignored comment.....
greenonions
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
MR - I forgot to mention two of the biggest cronnie capitalist gangs - the military industrial complex, and of course the medical industrial complex/big pharma.
MR166
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
"And there is not political/business block enriching themselves from oil and gas, or automobiles, farming, etc. etc."

Onions there are no government mandates that you must purchase oil, gas, food or automobiles. But there are government mandates that renewables MUST be part of the energy mix. There is where the conflict of interest lies.
aksdad
1 / 5 (4) Jan 21, 2016
Economist Nariman Behravesh says "it is very cost effective to use oil rather than renewables". Oil (petroleum) fuels transportation not power plants. Coal and natural gas are much more cost-effective for power plants so low oil prices won't initiate a building boom in oil-fueled power plants.

The only viable renewable fuel for transportation right now is ethanol and only Brazil can produce enough of it to replace petroleum, and only for their own consumption. Total life cycle carbon emissions from sugarcane ethanol are about 40% of petroleum but unfortunately few countries have the natural resources to make enough, though research continues into other ethanol feed stocks.
aksdad
2 / 5 (8) Jan 21, 2016
"Science indicates that if we can come close to 1.5 C it allows us to avoid what we call catastrophic tipping points," said Johan Rockstrom.

"Science" says no such thing. There is no evidence--none, zero, nada--that a global temperature rise of 2 C will cause irreversible warming. Alarmists picked this number arbitrarily, based on no scientific evidence.

Paleoclimate data show that the earth was quite a bit warmer in the past and atmospheric CO2 was much higher and life thrived. It also shows that sea levels during the last interglacial period, 129,000 years ago were at least 5 meters (16 feet) higher than current levels.

What the science actually says is that in a closed atmosphere, a doubling of CO2 concentration will restrict emission of infrared radiation (into space) enough to cause a temperature increase of 1 C. So it would take doubling the pre-industrial 280 ppm to 560 ppm to do that. We're at around 400 ppm right now, a lot less than 560 and 1 C.
antigoracle
2.3 / 5 (9) Jan 21, 2016
I will be only voting for parties that promise a carbon tax, cap and trade, or floor price for oil. Simple as that.

The ignoRANT of the simple mind. Did the High Priests of the AGW Cult explain what would happen to all those who cannot afford those "solutions"?
jeffensley
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
"If we don't do anything we won't be talking about the market for the insurance industry in 50 years—the planet will simply be uninsurable," he said.


Wolf!! Real scientists need to tone these people down if they want to be taken seriously.
greenonions
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2016
Ohhh - I get it MR - cronie capitalism if fine - as long as there are no mandates involved. You really are a total hypocrite. No one mandated me to buy my electric car - honest - it was totally voluntary. But it is fine with you if the other industries find their unique ways to feed at the trough of government - like farm subsidies - cheap leases on government lands for coal industry etc. But you have a hissy fit when renewable energy looks for their share of the feed. At least there is a good rational for government supports to transition our economy off of fossil fuels. Maybe you don't care about the millions who die of pollutions related illness.
jeffensley
1 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
"Science" says no such thing. There is no evidence--none, zero, nada--that a global temperature rise of 2 C will cause irreversible warming. Alarmists picked this number arbitrarily, based on no scientific evidence.


And unfortunately, people who don't know better think those values have meaning...
ab3a
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
I would love to not need to burn coal. But the suggested replacement is not a viable substitute. Solar energy and wind energy are ephemeral sources. Unless and until we arrive at some sort of efficient, safe storage, this will forever remain a pipe dream.
MR166
2.3 / 5 (4) Jan 21, 2016
"Ohhh - I get it MR - cronie capitalism if fine"

Right Onions there is no "Crony Capitalism" at all involved with renewables. They are pure as the driven snow and all of the companies involved are doing so out of the goodness of their heart and are only concerned with the health of the planet. There is absolutely no political influence peddled by these companies.
leetennant
5 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
"The Paris accord set a target of limiting warming of the planet to "well below" 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) compared with the Industrial Revolution, while aiming for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees."

While refusing to commit to any targets that would actually ever achieve that. We need to be completely renewable by 2030 to even think about meeting 2 degrees, let along 1.5. And I highly doubt human society will survive 2. At this stage, I'm not convinced civilization as we know it will survive 1.5.
jeffensley
1 / 5 (4) Jan 21, 2016
We need to be completely renewable by 2030 to even think about meeting 2 degrees, let along 1.5. And I highly doubt human society will survive 2. At this stage, I'm not convinced civilization as we know it will survive 1.5.


And tell me, what besides fear suggests that these prognostications are founded? Are you suggesting scientists actually know how Nature and the ecosystem as a whole will respond to such future conditions?
leetennant
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2016
Yeah it's called physics, mate. Look it up. We're at 1 degree and we've lost 70% of Arctic sea ice causing massive weather anomalies across Nth American and Europe, we're in a climate change fueled El Nino that's already causing massive drought, bushfires and water shortages and we're about two seconds away from a number of methane bombs under various glaciers and permafrost.

Saying "nothing is ever certain so therefore we should never do anything" is flat out dumb when we're living the impact of 1 degree already.
greenonions
5 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
MR
Right Onions there is no "Crony Capitalism" at all involved with renewables
How to totally miss the point. Did you take reading classes in elementary school? I have never said that there is no crony capitalism in renewable energy. Of course there is. There is crony capitalism in the whole U.S. political/economic system. The point you of course miss - is how hypocritical it is of people like you - to decry crony capitalism for one group - like the renewable energy companies - and give others like the oil and gas industry a pass. Fossil fuels have been slurping at the trough of governments across the world for hundreds of years. You say nothing. At least there is a strong argument that moving to a low carbon energy system is in the interest of the human race. Giving a leg up to a better energy system makes sense. We look forward to a cheaper, better, cleaner, world.
greenonions
5 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
ab3a - why would you say wind and solar are ephemeral? The wind and the sun are going to be around long after you and I are gone. Denmark is on track to get 50% of it's power from the wind by 2020 - how is that in any way a pipe dream.
MR166
1 / 5 (5) Jan 21, 2016
" Fossil fuels have been slurping at the trough of governments across the world for hundreds of years."

And during that period of time the standard of living in the developed world has skyrocketed!

Nothing, except perhaps antibiotics, has contributed more to mankind that fossil energy.
greenonions
5 / 5 (6) Jan 21, 2016
And during that period of time the standard of living in the developed world has skyrocketed!
And no one has disputed that. Why can't you stay on topic? There has also been massive environmental damage in that same time period - and we have put the climate on a very dangerous trajectory. So for many reasons - including cost, pollution, environment, progress - it is time to transition to low carbon energy. The point at hand is your duplicity in attacking renewables for crony capitalism - whilst giving fossil fuels and many other industries a pass.
ryant
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 21, 2016
Climate disaster? Pure BS .. I wonder when will these alarmists stop quacking..
Eikka
4 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2016
No one mandated me to buy my electric car - honest - it was totally voluntary.


And the tax credits didn't have anything to do with your decision, I bet.

Denmark is on track to get 50% of it's power from the wind by 2020 - how is that in any way a pipe dream.


They do so only on paper. Denmark is a small country of 5 million straddling the border between the central-european and nordic grids which consist of nearly 500 million consumers, which allows them to use the two huge market areas as their virtual battery.

That allows them to produce an amount of wind power that would equal 50% of their own consumption - if only it were to coincide with the domestic consumption. In reality they're exporting a huge portion of the energy.

Especially when the weather is changing rapidly, they simply run natural gas/oil plants for their own electricity, and push the wind power to Norway, which is why the power prices in the Nordpool sometimes drop to negative.
Eikka
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
Basically, the situation in Denmark is that the taxpayers are forced into paying fixed prices to private companies to produce wind power which they never recieve in return for the money.

The producers sell much of the subsidized power across borders to other countries, sometimes at profit, sometimes at loss, and sometimes paying the recipient to accept the power. They're nevertheless making money because the subsidies are far greater than the fees they have to pay for an utility in Norway or Poland to accept their power.

The system is a huge crony-capitalist wealth redistribution from the public to the private companies that build and operate the wind turbines. The public doesn't really get their money's worth in return, and Denmark is still producing massive amounts of CO2 per kWh because they can't shut down their fossil fuel plants due to the massively variable power output of the renewables.
Eikka
2 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2016
For reference:

http://data.world...CO2E.PC/

CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita)
Denmark 7.2
France 5.2
Germany 8.9
Hungary 4.9
Poland 8.3

(Hungary is the EU country with the smallest forecast penetration of renewables of the electricity demand in 2020)

If anything, those countries with more renewables tend to produce more CO2 per capita. Germany is not actually any better than Poland - which makes almost all its energy out of coal - thanks to the inefficiency of running a grid with large amounts of randomly variable power production.

Plus the fact that countries like Germany and Denmark use relatively little energy in the form of electricity, and rather prefer to heat, cook, and shower using gas because the electricity is so expensive thanks to the subsidies.

It's easy to boast large shares of renewable energy in electricity when you don't use much electricity.
Eikka
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2016
District heating is very popular in Denmark, and it's usually run by CHP which is to say, an oil or gas turbine produces both heat and electricity.

https://en.wikipe..._Denmark

Danish district heating plants use 100 Petajoule/year,[18] but little of this consumption is from 180MW of electrode boilers installed in powerplants or 37MW of large heat pumps. The boilers are only used to soak up the powerplant's own electricity when prices are negative, to avoid paying tax.


Wind power is not being used to heat homes and businesses, because 1) most of the time it's more profitable to collect subsidies and then export the power 2) there is no capacity to store heat in the heat distribution grid, to accept intermittent wind power.

The amount of renewables in Denmark look really good on paper, but what's actually happening in the energy sector is quite something else.
greenonions
5 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
Eikka
And the tax credits didn't have anything to do with your decision, I bet.

The topic was mandates - please stay on topic. Yes the tax credits factored in to my decision. So what? The government is providing incentives to get a new industry of the ground. Only fair when everyone else is feeding at the trough of government.

The amount of renewables in Denmark look really good on paper, but what's actually happening in the energy sector is quite something else.


No it is not. It is quiet remarkable - and shows us the road forward to a low carbon energy system. All of your bed wetting shows you up for what you are - a coward hiding under the desk - scared of progress. As the European grid expands, and the price of wind and solar come down further (17% for solar in the 3rd quarter of 2015, 15% annual drop for the past 3 years), and storage comes of age - the new energy system emerges - you stay under the desk and watch.
MR166
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2016
"And no one has disputed that. Why can't you stay on topic? "

Because THAT is the topic, people being forced by the government to support/purchase something that they otherwise would not. People flocked to fossil fuels because they were superior and cost effetive in every way to the fuels they replaced. There was no Crony Capitalism involved in it's adoption.
If it wasn't for the discovery of fossil fuels there would not be one tree left in all of Europe.
greenonions
5 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
Eikka only knows how to take the short view - due to the lack of perspective - hiding under the desk there. Germany is now on track to take 2.7 GW of lignite off line by 2020 - and be totally coal free by 2050. The situation is complex.
rather than filling a gap left by nuclear, additional lignite capacity came online at a time when Germany – thanks to the boom in renewables – started producing more energy than it needed, exporting record amounts to neighbouring countries.
From - https://www.china...rty-coal Keep whining Eikka - progress will happen anyway.
greenonions
5 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
Mr
Because THAT is the topic,
No it is not you moron. The topic was feeding at the trough of government - NOT 'have fossil fuels benefited the world.' They have - and that is not the topic. Now - because of pollution, environmental destruction, and global warming - it is time to evolve to a better energy system. We will have a cheaper, cleaner, better energy system - thanks to the creativity of brilliant minds in the energy sector. You and Eikka can keep on bed wetting. You make me sick.
MR166
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
The green movement is not feeding at the trough eh! Here in CT the sale led and cfl light bulbs is subsidized by my electric company. Of course, this is ultimately paid for by myself in the form of higher electric rates.
MR166
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
One of the reasons wind and solar are even possible in Europe is that the Scandinavian countries have a large exportable surplus of hydroelectric. Thus, if and when the reservoirs are full and water is being discharged without producing electricity that potential power is wasted and must be deducted from the solar wind energy balance. Also, the constant cycling of the impellers needed to balance the fluctuations in renewable power are leading to impeller failures. Many of these were designed for a more constant water flow.
greenonions
4.2 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
The green movement is not feeding at the trough
Yes it is - as is the oil and gas industry, the farm industry etc. etc. You will eventually benefit from the green movement - in the form of cheaper, cleaner, better, low carbon power. That is a huge benefit to our society, and in my view a valid role for government to play - is taking care of our environment, and making sure we have a secure energy system. Really MR - how stupid do you have to be to not understand that we are NOT saying the renewable energy movement is not feeding at the trough of government - we are just asking for a fair share.
MR166
1.7 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2016
But the renewable lobby is not just asking for it's fair share. It is asking for a carbon tax, reparations to poor countries, a central world governing body and the banning of fossil fuels.
leetennant
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2016
Ah, no. The renewable lobby is asking for the same subsidies as fossil fuel companies. It's those of us trying to combat climate change that are asking for a carbon tax, reparation to poor countries and the controlled phase out of fossil fuels. Nobody is asking for a central government, except for a couple of batshit phys.org commentators who still haven't learnt the definition of basic socio-political concepts.
Phys1
5 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
rather prefer to heat, cook, and shower using gas because the electricity is so expensive thanks to the subsidies.

Just a sidenote: heating and showering using electricity is very inefficient, thus expensive.
Phys1
3.7 / 5 (6) Jan 22, 2016
The rational thing to do is to limit the production of fossil fuels.
This is the only way to control the emission of CO2.
Simple, obvious but politically next to impossible to achieve.
Phys1
4 / 5 (4) Jan 22, 2016
I should have said "politically and economically very difficult to achieve".
greenonions
3.4 / 5 (5) Jan 22, 2016
MR166
But the renewable lobby is not just asking for it's fair share. It is asking for a carbon tax, reparations to poor countries, a central world governing body and the banning of fossil fuels.


You are an idiot. The renewable lobby is asking for an extension to the itc, and ptc. They got what they wanted which is an extension of these - to be phased out over the next few years - http://www.greenb...what-now Who is calling for the banning of fossil fuels? With links please.
jeffensley
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 23, 2016
Yeah it's called physics, mate. Look it up. We're at 1 degree and we've lost 70% of Arctic sea ice causing massive weather anomalies across Nth American and Europe, we're in a climate change fueled El Nino that's already causing massive drought, bushfires and water shortages and we're about two seconds away from a number of methane bombs under various glaciers and permafrost.

Saying "nothing is ever certain so therefore we should never do anything" is flat out dumb when we're living the impact of 1 degree already.


Massive weather anomalies? I'm not seeing anything that we (and the planet) haven't dealt with before. If these are the consequences of 1 degree, I'm not too concerned about another 1. You're living in a bubble of fear, not reality.
leetennant
5 / 5 (2) Jan 23, 2016
Yeah, jeff, this discussion is about global data. Not the view from your window this afternoon
julianpenrod
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 24, 2016
Among other things, the illustration at the top is of cooling towers that would be seen at "clean" nuclear reactors, not smokestacks. One wonders if there is an attempt in manifestations like these to get across a clandestine message that, despite the requirement to toe the "official story" line, there are many, many other facts to consider. With respect to that, Zzzzzzzz speaks of "science" with the almost reverential air of a shill pushing the "official story" and dullards who do as they're told. Next to no one, if not no one, who follows what "science" says to believe has ever done the experiments or seen the actual gathering of data said to promote the "official story". It is a matter of belief for them. And, in the end, it's chemtrails that are causing climate change.
Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Jan 24, 2016
Translation: Give us your money.

1) If it is too hot, paint your roofs and roadways white.
2) If it is too hot, tear down your 5000 sq meter mansions and move into a carbon negative cave.
3) If it is too hot, stop flying chartered and private jets.
4) If it is too hot build enough fission plants to replace those burning fossil fuels.

Otherwise leave me the fuc*k alone you statist fatherless cretins..

"the polar bears will be fine" -- Freeman Dyson

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