Global warming to run out of gas
CATASTROPHIC global warming due to fossil-fuel burning is unlikely because oil and gas will run out too quickly, scientists have claimed.
The controversial theory forecasts that all the fuel will be burned before there is enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to bring into reality melting ice-caps and searing temperatures.
Geologists at Uppsala University in Sweden claim there are not sufficient reserves of oil and gas left in the world for even the most modest of the scenarios put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to come to pass.
Predictions of global meltdown by the IPCC created the drive for the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement requiring compliant nations to restrict their emissions.
In response to the controversial theory, published today in the journal New Scientist, the IPCC staunchly defends its predictions, saying it had considered a range of estimates of oil and gas reserves, and drawing attention to the fact that coal-burning could easily make up the shortfall claimed by the Swedish scientists.
The IPCC put forward a range of future scenarios, from extravagant consumption of oil and gas to a quick change-over to greener energy sources.
Although estimates of oil and gas reserves vary widely, the Swedish researchers represent a growing body of experts who claim oil supplies will peak by 2010, and gas shortly after. They believe oil and gas reserves amount to the equivalent of 3,500 billion barrels - much less than the 5,000 billion barrels estimated in the IPCC’s most optimistic model.
The worst-case scenario sees 18,000 billion barrels of oil and gas being burned - five times the amount researchers believe is left. Nebjosa Nakicenovic, an energy economist at the University of Vienna, who led the IPCC team that formulated the forecasts, insisted his predictions were still legitimate.
He said the team calculated a much broader, internationally accepted range of oil and gas estimates than the "conservative" Swedes, and drew attention to the huge reserves of coal that could still be exploited.
But Dr Kevin Anderson, a scientist with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Britain’s most esteemed climate research institution, said lessons from history should not easily be forgotten.
He asked: "On how many occasions over the past three decades have we heard the cry of wolf over oil reserves?
"According to many experts of the day, we should now have either run out of oil or be parting with $100-plus for each of the remaining few precious barrels.
"Instead, our roads are clogged with ever more inefficient 4x4s guzzling gas, and our skies are increasingly clogged with aircraft - the most fuel-profligate form of transport.
"It seems that as the price of oil rises, so does our ability to either find new reserves or develop methods to extract more oil from each reservoir."
He said that burning 3,500 billion barrels - the Swedes’ conservative estimate - would see concentrations rise towards 1,000 parts per million (ppm). To put this in perspective, was 280ppm before the industrial revolution, is now 360ppm and, according to the Royal Commission on Environment and Pollution, must not exceed 450-550ppm if climate change is to be avoided.
Dr Anderson concluded: "Simplistic analysis neglecting the combustion of coal, our appalling record at forecasting fuel reserves and underestimating the carbon dioxide impact of known reserves is a dangerous basis ... [for] policy."
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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