Friday, 15 April 2016

COP21 Pledges for greenhouse gas emissions

Guest Post by Tom Quirk 

A supplement by Dr Tom Quirk to the previous post by Des Moore -

 on the pledges made at last December’s meeting in Paris.

Originally posted by Joanne Nova at

189 countries submitted pledges to the COP21 meeting in Paris at the end of 2015. These have been sorted and summarised in a very useful website Carbon Brief[1]. The following analysis is based on the top 12 countries for greenhouse gas emissions. This covers 72% of the world total but ignores forest and peat fires. The pledges cover broadly defined greenhouse gas emissions. For instance Brazil has land use emissions that are estimated at 4 times the sum of their other contributions.

The total greenhouse gas emissions for 2012 were 10.85 Gt C in CO2-equivalent while total CO2 emissions were estimated to be 9.68 Gt C in CO2. (Source Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center CDIAC[2])

The pledges have been standardized to be from 2012 to 2030 as countries have chosen various starting points to indicate their plans. The most important and most uncertain pledge is the target for China. The 75% increase indicated below is a “best estimate”.

For greenhouse gas emissions the pledges would see an increase from 7.83 Gt C to 9.59 Gt C for the 72% fraction analysed. This is a 23% increase. It is clear that China is both the major contributor to the increase and the source of the greatest uncertainty.

USA performance for CO2

For the USA the CDIAC record of CO2 emissions shows the conversion from using coal to natural gas in power stations has driven the decline in CO2 emissions. An example of an innovation by reduced cost not subsidy. The indicated targets for USA emissions are labelled intention with a 28% reduction of total emissions by 2025. The extension to 2030 gives a reduction of 25% from 2012 to 2030.

China performance for CO2

For China the CDIAC record shows the importance of coal use in power stations. This will drive emission increases.

The key pledge is a 60% cut to the 2005 CO2 emission intensity (CO2 emissions per unit of GDP).

The table below shows the relationship of GDP to CO2 emissions. The estimates used to calculate the 2030 emissions are based on 5% annual GDP growth and a pledged CO2 intensity of 0.96 CO2 in tonnes C-equiv per $10,000 of GDP.

Population 2012 (million)
GDP per capita 2013 (World Bank)
CO2 emissions per capita in  tonnes C  2012 (CDIAC)
CO2 Intensity:
CO2 per GDP in tonnes C per $10,000 GDP

 Australian performance for greenhouse gas emissions  
The Australian performance is reported by two agencies, first CDIAC giving CO2 and second greenhouse gas emissions in CO2 equivalent C from the Federal Government Department of the Environment[3].
It is worth noting that the present annual increases in China’s annual emissions are equal to the annual emissions from Australia.

Australian emissions black total are mostly due to coal (red squares)

For Australia the use of black and brown coal provides the fuel for power generation. The plateau in energy emissions which is seen in both records may be due to increasing electricity prices limiting demand as well as the closing of mineral processing plants such as aluminium smelters. The decline in greenhouse gas emissions starting in 2006 appears to be due to changes in the land use contribution. Land contributions are not well measured and subject to accounting rule changes.

The present government has avoided a direct carbon tax that would impact commercial activity by introducing a Direct Action plan for plant and soil sequestration of CO2. 

Further the changes in land use accounting rules will help the Direct Action plan but the time needed for this plan to have an impact is uncertain. So the 31% reduction in emissions from 2012 to 2030 remains problematic.


A glaring omission in the COP21 meeting was consideration of forest and peat fires which may produce as much as half of all fossil fuels burned. (See also “Where have those fossil fuel emissions gone?“). [They forget phytoplankton too, says Jo Nova.]  

The fires are treated as “acts of God” since He or She is not anthropogenic (an interesting philosophical question). Thus these emissions are no longer included in the inventory of contributions. However the annual forest and peat fires CO2 emissions are estimated to be equal to 50% of present total annual fossil fuel CO2 emissions[4].

Only one country, North Korea has decarbonised itself at great cost to its people. There, per capita emissions have dropped from 3 tonnes C in CO2 in 1997 to less than 1 tonne C in CO2. The best illustration of this is the NASA image of the Korean peninsula at night.

Night image of the Korean Peninsula in 2014 shows that North Korea is almost completely
dark compared to neighboring South Korea and China (source NASA).

Finally the best summary for COP21 is to be found in the Bolivian submission where capitalism is “a system of death”, carbon markets are rejected and a call for a world carbon budget between countries, with 89% allocated to the developing world.

However what is clear from the pledges is that China and India will become the largest emitters of greenhouse gases with rises in the standard of living in both countries. Why should they curtail their growth?

So how can this COP21 “construct” work?

[4] David M. J. S. Bowman, Jennifer K. Balch, Paulo Artaxo, William J. Bond, Jean M. Carlson, Mark A. Cochrane, Carla M. D’Antonio, Ruth S. DeFries, John C. Doyle, Sandy P. Harrison, Fay H. Johnston, Jon E. Keeley, Meg A. Krawchuk, Christian A. Kull, J. Brad Marston, Max A. Moritz, I. Colin Prentice, Christopher I. Roos, Andrew C. Scott, Thomas W. Swetnam, Guido R. van der Werf, Stephen J. Pyne: Fire in the Earth System, Science, Vol 324 24 April 2009 481

Tom Quirk trained as a nuclear physicist at the University of Melbourne where he took courses in meteorology. He has been a Fellow of three Oxford Colleges

Dangerous Global Warming - Fact or Fiction?

Presentation by Des Moore with a supplement by Dr Tom Quirk

to the Australian Institute for International Affairs, Vic, 14 April, 2016

Dangerous Global Warming - Fact or Fiction?   The Limits of the Paris Accord

Des Moore: Source IPE
My thesis today is that, despite the continued claims reported in the media, there is minimal risk that continued usage of fossil fuels will produce temperatures which become dangerously high. There is therefore no sound basis for governments to continue with expensive policies aimed at reducing usage of coal and other fossil fuels, which are by far the cheapest energy source. The so-called precautionary motive is not applicable now and is in fact less relevant than it was a few years ago.

Historically, there have been many examples of doom and gloom which did not eventuate. These include economist Jevons’s 1865 book expressing concern that excessive usage of coal was threatening to exhaust coal supplies and stop economic growth. This followed the thesis promulgated by Malthus in 1800 that population growth must be stopped and was again utilized in 1968 by US ecologist and demographer Dr Paul Ehrlich. Then in 1972 a large number of eminent scientists, including five fellows of the Royal Society, supported Ehrlich. In the same year the Club of Rome group predicted that, without government intervention, growth would stop within 100 years and population and industry would fall. For some time we have also had the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC predicting dangerous temperatures unless we stop using fossil fuels.

By contrast, the 2007 book Scared to Death by Christopher Booker and Richard North not only rejected the dangerous warming thesis but outlined numerous other projects proposed by scientists and wrongly adopted by governments.  Increasing numbers of organisations and individuals both here and overseas have also expressed sceptical global warming views in books and articles, including a petition by over 30,000 scientists in the US. My talk today draws particularly on research and advice by physicist Tom Quirk and meteorologist Bill Kininmonth former head of Australia’s National Climate Centre.  There is no consensus that “science” justifies stopping the use of fossil fuels.
My own experience over the 28 years I worked in Federal Treasury is that professional scientists and economists often seek government action or funding to prevent wrongly perceived looming problems.  When in 1972 I was temporarily researching at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London, I was given an “excellent” award for my analysis of the deficiencies in theses supporting Limits on the Supply of Resources. When in Treasury, I authored a publication on the serious deficiencies in proposals made through United Nations agencies for governments to establish a new international economic order to help low income countries. The NIEO is no longer pursued.
However, almost all governments and United Nations agencies still accept the dangerous warming thesis and, through the IPCC, have tried for over 30 years to reach agreement on action to prevent temperatures increasing by more than 2ºC since the 19th century.  Not only have they failed, temperatures have also failed to increase over the past 17 years. This has given sceptical views some recognition.
I want now to consider some deficiencies in the dangerous warming thesis. I do so not as a scientist but as an economist with experience in recognizing claims which exhibit many uncertainties. You don’t have to be a scientist to find mistakes in assessments made by scientists.
The Theoretical Explanation Fails to Acknowledge Important Uncertainties
The dangerous warming thesis derives from the fact that a proportion of emissions of carbon dioxide from usage of fossil fuels remains in the atmosphere. What happens to it there?
The CO2 in the atmosphere is open to heating from the surface of the earth which is itself open to being heated from the sun’s radiation. Some of this heating of the CO2 in the atmosphere is in turn radiated back to the surface and increases the surface temperature as though in a greenhouse. Hence, warmist believers argue, the apparent increase in global average temperatures of about 0.7ºC over the past century is predominantly caused by this so-called greenhouse effect. This is argued to eventually raise temperatures to levels threatening human existence unless usage of fossil fuels stops.
One problem with this thesis is that the heat radiated back to earth from the CO2 in the atmosphere is offset by evaporation which absorbs heat and thus reduces the “greenhouse” effect. Expert opinions differ about the evaporation reduction effect but it is widely accepted as significant.
Let me over simplify the main aspects of the warming process
  1. Some of CO2 from fossil fuels stays in the atmosphere and is an addition to it;
  2. That remaining CO2 is exposed to heating from the earth’s surface which is itself heated by the sun;
  3. This heated CO2 also radiates back towards the earth’s surface;
  4. However some of the radiation back to the earth’s surface is subject to evaporation;
  5. There is dispute over the net effect on temperatures.

Another problem with interpreting the greenhouse theory is that it is based on research made many years ago suggesting that 55 per cent of emissions from fossil fuel usage stay in the atmosphere. But recent research suggests that only 16 per cent may be staying in the atmosphere. Much lower concentrations would of course have much smaller upwards effects on temperatures. 
What Has Happened to Temperatures and Fossil Fuel Emissions (Figure 1)
Figure 1  compares what has happened to atmospheric CO2 concentrations and global surface temperatures since 1900. The temperatures, which are those used by the IPCC, are shown by the purple squares line. The CO2 concentrations are shown by the brownish circles, with the continuous line marking the periods of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. This PDO reflected natural influences on temperatures  arising from the replacement of cold water along the western Pacific coast of the North Americas and obviously had no causal connection with fossil fuel emissions.
What picture emerges from this over the period since 1920?

First, CO2 concentrations increased by 30 per cent as growth in world economies brought strong increases in emissions from fossil fuel usage. But average global temperatures increased by only about 7 per cent, with a rise from 14.7 to 15.8ºC

Figure 1: CO2 measurements at the South Pole from ice cores and direct measurements and average global
temperatures as published by HadCrut4 and used by the IPCC .The continuous line from 1920 marks the
periods of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
In short, temperature levels have increased much less than the increase in CO2 concentrations. A comparison of the two time series clearly indicates that there is no correlation between changes in the two. This comparison is summarised in Table 1.

Table 1: Variations in temperature and atmospheric CO2

Pacific Decadal Oscillation Phase
Global Temperature

0C increase per 10 years
CO2 at the South Pole
Annual increase in ppm
1922 - 1947
0.13 +/- 0.02
0.40 +/- 0.03
1948 - 1976
-0.02 +/- 0.03
0.85 +/- 0.03
1977 - 2000
0.16 +/- 0.03
1.49 +/- 0.01
2001 - 2015
0.08 +/- 0.04
2.01 +/- 0.02

What this shows is that there were two periods, one from 1948 to 1977 and one from 2000 to the present, during which temperatures were relatively stable even though CO2 concentration levels increased quite strongly (except for the 1940-50 period where atmospheric CO2 may have decreased).
The figure also shows a period when both temperatures and CO2 concentration levels increased (from 1977 to 2000) but where the Pacific Decadal Oscillation was clearly a major contributor to the temperature increase.
It is only in the period from 1922 to 1947 that changes in concentrations and temperatures appear to be correlated. But usage of fossil fuels would then have been relatively small.
My assessment is that this analysis makes it very difficult to justify the conclusion by the IPCC and others that a causal correlation exists between changes in temperatures and CO2 concentration levels.
Paris Meeting of COP21 in December 2015 (Figure 2)

At the end of 2015, 189 countries submitted pledges to the twenty-first meeting on climate change (COP21) in Paris. These pledges are voluntary and there is no supervision of progress reports to the UN. It is of some interest that the submission by Bolivia declared that capitalism is “a system of death” while North Korea will have no difficulty in further reducing its emissions as already virtually no electric lights are on at night.

The following analysis by Tom Quirk is based on the top 12 countries for broadly defined greenhouse gas emissions which cover 72% of the world total (for 2012 the total was 10.85 Gt C in CO2-equivalent while total CO2 emissions were an estimated  9.68 Gt C in CO2. Source: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center CDIAC)

The pledges have been standardized to be from 2012 to 2030 as countries have chosen various starting points to indicate their plans. For greenhouse gas emissions the pledges would see a 23% increase (from 7.83 Gt C to 9.59 Gt C) for the 72% fraction which have been analysed.

Figure 2: Pledges from the top 12 countries for greenhouse gas emissions.
This covers 72% of global emissions The pledges are standardized to be 
from 2012 to 2030

It is clear that China is both the major contributor to the increase and the source of the greatest uncertainty. The 75% increase indicated in Figure 2 is a “best estimate”. The pledge from China is a peak in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, with best efforts to peak earlier. The aim is to source 20% of its energy from low-carbon sources by 2030 and to cut emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% of 2005 levels by 2030, potentially putting it on course to peak by 2027.

There was no discussion on limiting CO2 emissions from forest and peat fires. No estimates of these emissions are included in the total which are now about 50% of global CO2 emissions and occur in the Amazon basin, sub-Saharan Africa and Indonesia. In short, even if pledges are met total emissions could be even higher than pledged – or quite a bit lower.

However what is clear from the pledges is that China and India will become the largest emitters of greenhouse gases with rises in the standard of living in both countries. Why should they curtail their growth?

Accuracy of Temperatures (Figures 3 & 4)
There are also questions about the accuracy of the temperatures published by official agencies and used by the IPCC.
First, published daily temperatures are calculated only by averaging the minimum and maximum. However, what if Australia’s average temperatures were calculated from temperatures recorded every 30 minutes?
Figure 3: Temperatures measured at 30 minute intervals through a 24 hour day.
The solid black line is the weighted average of readings every 30 minutes.
The dashed 
red line is the average of the minimum and maximum temperatures

Research by Tom Quirk shows that, in the central desert region (such as Alice Springs), the average over 30 minutes is about the same as with the averaging of minimum and maximum (Figure 3). But in coastal and inland areas (such as in Cairns) averaging of minimum and maximum produces temperatures about 0.6ºC higher than if the averaging is done on a 30 minute basis. This research suggests an overall upward bias in the published daily Australian temperatures of 0.3-0.4ºC.

Second, it appears that the Bureau of Meteorology calculation of Australian temperatures has not taken account of the heat island effect which keeps temperatures up when recorded in large built up urban areas.
Figure 4: BOM records of direct maximum and minimum temperatures at the BOM office
in central Melbourne and at Laverton airport. The central Melbourne minimum would be
much lower if account was taken of the urban heat effect

Figure 4 comparing maximum and minimum temperatures at the BOM office in central Melbourne with those at Laverton shows similar maximum temperatures but much higher minimum for central Melbourne because more heat is retained in urban Melbourne.
Thirdly, although a recent review of temperature records of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology stated that it could not conclude whether there has been an upward or downward bias, it indicated that there was uncertainty about the adjustments made to “raw” temperatures by the BOM.  Submissions by independent experts justifiably claimed the adjusted temperatures had an upward bias. 
What conclusion can be made about the accuracy of the temperature increase of about 0.8ºC of a degree since about 1900? One possibility is that about half is incorrectly calculated and the other half may well reflect natural causes. But even if the published data was accepted, it is relevant that temperatures were higher in the Medieval Warming Period (about 800 -1,100 AD and also in the Greco-Roman warm period (600 BC - 200 AD). Yet there were few fossil fuel emissions then. In fact, temperatures in those periods were likely higher than the scare temperature promulgated by warmists that they should not increase by more than 2ºC since industrialization.
Droughts and Rainfall (Figure 5)
Much attention is given in the media and elsewhere to areas experiencing below average rainfalls and droughts and claims are made that these illustrate the effects of global warming. However, an examination of the variations in Murray Darling Basin’s annual rainfall clearly shows no connection with levels or variations in Australia’s average temperature. Indeed, there is no statistically significant change in MDB rainfall since 1900 (Figure 5).
Past Australian droughts occurred when global temperatures were lower than now and wetter years occurred when such temperatures were rising. There is no reason to expect that to change.

Figure 5: Yearly rainfall in the Murray-Darling Basin. Average value is 470 mm.
There is no significant trend in rainfall through this period but with large variability- standard
deviation of 111 mm with rainfall extremes of a minimum 258 minimum in 1902
and a maximum of 809 mm in 2010

Antarctic and Arctic Ice Sheets –Sea Levels and the Reef (Figures 6 & 7)
Sea levels have been increasing over recent years and, if higher temperatures caused large ice sheets and glaciers to melt, sea levels would rise further and low-lying land would become more susceptible to flooding. In fact, some owners of properties close to the ocean are already being stopped from development by measures that have been introduced by councils because of such alarmism (Figure 6).
However, IPCC reports have predicted much higher sea levels than actually occurred. Satellite measurements of sea levels from 1994 show an average rate of increase which, if continued, would result in levels about 30 centimetres higher by 2100.  Most residences would readily be able to protect themselves against such an increase.

Figure 6: The global mean sea level figure was made using satellite altimetry
 and processed by the University of Colorado at Boulder. Note that the rate of 
increase is 3.3 +/- 0.4 mm/year for1992 to 2015.  If the rate of increase continues 
at about 3 mm a year, sea levels would reach about 30 cm in 2100. That is consistent 
with the IPCC's projection of 19-59 cm by 2100 and would not involve any significant
 flooding of low lying lands. . If the rate of increase continues at about 3mm a year, 
in 2100 average sea levels would be about 30cm higher than now. Note the apparent 
influence of the 1997-98 El Nino.

As to ice levels (Figure 7), until recently the extent in the Arctic had been falling even 
though global temperatures were not increasing.

However, melting ice in the Arctic has no effect on sea levels because the ice there is already floating in the sea. Canada’s North West passage has in fact been navigated in earlier periods when fossil fuel usage was low.

In the Antarctic, the total ice area there has been increasing and recently reached record levels. Break offs of sections of the Antarctic ice sheet attract media attention but such break-offs are normal. Satellite data covering the past thirty years show a distinct cooling of the Antarctic region.

Changes in Northern and Southern Icecaps
Changes in Northern and Southern Icecaps
Figure 7: Arctic and Antarctica ice extent. The maximum extent occurs in February
 in the Northern Hemisphere and in September in the Southern Hemisphere.
Summer minima occur in September and March.
The Northern Hemisphere ice extent is decreasing with reducing maximum and
minimum extent. Note that the slopes for the fitted straight lines give the change per decade
As to the Great Barrier Reef, alarmism by conservation bodies has been shown to be unwarranted by the declaration last year of an international heritage agency that the reef is not in danger of destructive bleaching. Most of the reef recovered from the bleachings of 1998 and 2002, which probably resulted from the temporary warming of sea water during the light winds which occur at the time of El Ninos and that limit the flow of cooler water across the reef. There are present concerns about the reef but the Reef Authority says it is too early to assess the extent of damage from bleaching.

David  Attenborough claimed in his ABC program last week that the reef is ten thousand years old, which suggests that it has already experienced temperatures higher than the present ones.

Any action by Australia to reduce emissions would not help to protect the reef unless there is an effective international agreement by major emitters.

Temperature Measurements and Predictions (Figure 8)

A key temperature test is to examine the predictions used by the IPCC which have been calculated 
by modelling. Figure 8 shows that none of the supposed expert modelling used by the IPCC as a 
basis for its predictions coincides with actual temperatures published and shown in the figure as 
observations. The published measured temperatures are much lower than the model predictions.
The marked difference shown between global temperature predictions and measurements published is 
still said by some to support the dangerous warming thesis. The difference for the years 2001 to the 
present is said to be missing heat that has gone into the ocean. But little or no increase in ocean 
temperatures has occurred and the missing heat has not been found. Most scientists do accept that, if 
atmospheric CO2 were to be doubled from the existing 400 ppm to 800 ppm, this would be likely to 
raise the global temperature by 1C. 

But models predicting rises of 2C to 4C to the end of the century do not take account of evaporation 
from the oceans, which reduce upwards radiation. 

Bill Kininmonth has published estimates of the temperature increase taking into account evaporation.  
These predict global temperature increases of less than 1C and there is some satellite evidence to 
support this approach.

Figure 8: A comparison of modelled and actual measured temperatures by Roy Spencer, Uni of Alabama at Huntsville. The solid continuous black line is the average temperatures from 73 computer models. The circles and squares are temperature observations from balloons and satellites. The published measured temperatures are much lower than the model  predictions.

Further, although the effects of the phase changes in the Atlantic and Pacific oscillations are seen in the temperature and CO2 time series, the influence of the oceans on the atmosphere is not well accounted for in the computer modelling. In fact, since the timing of these ocean changes is not well understood, their future effects cannot be projected by computer modelling.


I summarise my assessment as follows. There are fundamental faults in the statistical and scientific analyses used to justify the need for early comprehensive mitigatory action by governments; claims of a consensus on the IPCC science have no credibility and account is not taken of the long history of faulty analyses by scientists more generally; examination of the temperature and CO2 concentrations data indicate that any green house effect on temperatures to 2100 is likely to be very much less than the IPCC (and other believers) predict; there is no satisfactory explanation of why temperatures did not increase during two lengthy periods when fossil fuel emissions did so; new research adds to existing evidence that temperature increases in the last 100 years or so have been considerably overstated; new research also suggests that the extent of carbon dioxide in atmospheric concentration is much smaller than previously thought; there is no substantive evidence of threats from rising sea levels or melting of sea ice in the Arctic or Antarctic; there is no evidence of any significant change in average rainfall or that droughts and other severe weather events are likely to occur more frequently. As pointed out by analysts such as Ridley, the increase in carbon dioxide over the last century has been beneficial in allowing and encouraging additional growth of vegetation.
In a word, my assessment is that the best policy for governments, businesses and individuals is to adapt to changes in climate and welcome the additions to CO2. 

Des Moore, a former Deputy Secretary of Treasury, is Director of the Institute for Private Enterprise. Tom Quirk trained as a nuclear physicist at the University of Melbourne where he took courses in meteorology. He has been a Fellow of three Oxford Colleges


See also Companion Posting by Dr Tom Quirk - COP21 Pledges for greenhouse gas emissions