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Those who contribute the least greenhouse gases will be most impacted by climate change

Posted on 17 March 2011 by John Cook

The central question of climate change is, How will it affect humanity? New research has been published examining this question, estimating which regions are most vulnerable to future climate change (Samson et al 2011). The researchers then compared the global map of climate vulnerability to a global map of carbon dioxide emissions. The disturbing finding was that the countries that have contributed the least to carbon dioxide emissions are the same regions that will be most affected by the impacts of climate change.

To estimate the impact of climate change on people, James Samson and his co-authors developed a new metric called Climate Demography Vulnerability Index (CDVI). This takes into account how regional climate will change as well as how much local population is expected to grow. They incorporated this index into a global map and found highly vulnerable regions included central South America, the Middle East and both eastern and southern Africa. Less vulnerable regions were largely in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere.

Figure 1: Global Climate Demography Vulnerability Index. Red corresponds to more vulnerable regions, blue to less vulnerable regions. White areas corresponds to regions with little or no population (Samson et al 2011).

Next, they created a map of national carbon dioxide emissions per capita. They found the countries most severely impacted by climate change contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions. It is quite striking that blue, less-polluting regions in the CO2 emissions map correspond to the red, highly vulnerable areas in the vulnerability map.

Figure 2: National average per capita CO2 emissions based on OECD/IEA 2006 national CO2 emissions (OECD/IEA, 2008)  and UNPD 2006 national population size (UNPD, 2007).

The study didn't delve into the question of which countries are least able to adapt to the impacts of climate change. But it doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to surmise that the poor, developing countries that emit the least pollution are also those with the least amount of infrastructure to deal with climate impacts. So we are left with a double irony - the countries that contribute least to global warming are both the most impacted and the least able to adapt.

This research put into perspective those who try to delay climate action, arguing that "CO2 limits will hurt the poor". This argument is usually code for "rich, developed countries should be able to pollute as much as they like". This presents us with a moral hazard. If those who are emitting the most greenhouse gas are the least affected by direct global warming impacts, how shall we motivate them to change?


 

Note: I've added a new graphic to the Climate Graphics resource: a comparison of the polluting countries versus the vulnerable countries.

A shorter version of this post has been published on Huffington Post.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 91:

  1. Also note that if the emissions map were as detailed as the impact map (rather than averaging at the country level) the inverse correlation would continue to hold in many cases. For instance, the U.S. northeast has the highest 'emissions density' in the world, but will show little impact... while the U.S. southwest will have some impact despite having relatively low emissions.

    That said, there are some areas where the reverse correlation does not hold. Most notably... Saudi Arabia.
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  2. First : the map is the map of CURRENT emissions. What about the map of PREDICTED emissions in a "BAU" scenario? if CO2 emissions increase, it can only be through the growth of consumption in poor countries !

    Second : the fact that countries that emit the most CO2 are the most resilient does prove per se that use of FF increases the wealth and the capacity of mankind to resist natural cataclysms. This is true also without GW - of course there will always be hurricanes, earthquakes, and droughts, in any case. So one should carefully balance the fact that limiting the use of FF would automatically limit the capacities to resist natural hazards - even without warming.
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    Moderator Response: [Daniel Bailey] When you make statements of this nature, please support your assertions with links to credible sources. As it stands, your comment in its entirety amounts to trolling. Be advised.
  3. Clearly if there's a God, he's not known for being fair in meting out punishments.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Not all are meted out in this lifetime. All will be meted out, eventually.
  4. Gilles:" the fact that countries that emit the most CO2 are the most resilient does prove per se that use of FF increases the wealth and the capacity of mankind to resist natural cataclysms"

    So correlation is causation, in your view? So all of those Chinese first time car buyers got wealthy from fossil fuel use and *then* bought a car? Or did they make money some other way, use it to buy a car, and thereby increase their fossil fuel consumption? I know which one sounds more plausible to me. Prove the causation, the correlation proves nothing "per se" or otherwise...
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  5. Gilles, your "FF increases wealth" meme that you're pushing seems like just another variant of the "CO2 limits harm the economy" argument, refuted here.

    In any event, we have a choice.
    1) Provide undeveloped nations with cheap fossil fuels, so they can build the wealth & capacity to attempt to adapt to global warming (although based on some predictions, it seems the entire GDP of the planet would be required, and then some).
    2) Provide undeveloped nations with alternate (non-fossil) energy sources, so they can build wealth & capacity to improve their standard of living, without making global warming worse...

    I don't know about you, but I'd prefer #2 myself. Thing is, it'll end up being a whole lot cheaper for the developed parts of the world, too.

    I mean, seriously. Predictions of sea level rise suggest that by the end of the century half of Bangladesh might be under water. Where are you going to put those 80 million climate refugees? And how are developed nations going to deal with them while madly trying to move $trillions worth of real estate & infrastructure to higher ground?

    This paper suggests a cost on the order of a trillion dollars for a 1m sea level rise. That'd buy a whole lotta renewables for developing nations. It also ignores costs due to other potential impacts of global warming (such as heatwaves, decreases in crop yields, droughts & floods due to a more intense hydrological cycle, etc etc etc). Start to factor those in, and you're talking about a serious chunk of change...
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  6. Gilles:
    Please provide links to support your extraordinary assertion that predicted growth is in undeveloped countries.

    Your assertion that FF consumption directly relates to wealth is also false. See Wikipedia list fo co2 emissions. Provide links that support your claims, not just your poorly informed opinion.
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  7. Gilles, that doesn't necessarily follow. If you look at the 'advantages' of wealth and modernity that citizens of places like US and Oz aspire to, we're perfectly capable of increasing our already profligate use of power. And by far more than the kind of modest first steps that previously impoverished people can do.

    Just look at the shopping centre carparks near my home. Are they teeming with economical consumption vehicles. Not at all. Huge SUVs, people movers and other gas guzzlers abound and seem to increase by the month. One of our new suburbs, touted as 'environmentally friendly' in its early publicity, uses nearly twice the power of other suburbs (the environmental advantage was confined to water use).

    We now buikd bigger houses than anyone else in the world and they seem to require vast expanses of sun facing, single sheet glass - which requires extraordinary airconditioning efforts to make them livable in our extremely hot summers. (If you need a comparison, our climate is equivalent to some parts of the North African Mediterranean.)

    We don't even have a legal requirement to have our roof spaces ventilated to speed evening cooling and slow daytime heating. Air conditioning Adelaide during a heatwave is a huge use of power - we do it because we can and we're doing it more and more.

    If cities like Adelaide and Perth took serious steps to manage power use by negawatts alone (leaving aside renewable power), we could probably power and transport many multiples of the 3 million people currently luxuriating in such extravagant wastefulness. And the same could be said for most Australian and US cities.
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  8. Gilles: "the fact that countries that emit the most CO2 are the most resilient does prove per se that use of FF increases the wealth and the capacity of mankind to resist natural cataclysms."

    That is a ridiculous idea, Gilles. Undoubtedly, cheap energy does create more wealth. It allows people to more cheaply produce, distribute, and consume food, water, shelter, and other types of goods and services. It does not increase the capacity of mankind to resist natural cataclysms. Only the ability to predict and the willingness to do something about the cataclysms will protect humanity from these cataclysms. True, the predictive ability is enhanced indirectly through cheap energy: more people can do science.

    Indeed, wealth may make people more susceptible to cataclysms--or, rather, it may make more people susceptible. Take the claim (I believe it was on SkS a couple of days ago) that Japan was saved by their wealth--saved relative to Haiti. Japan's infrastructure allows 30 million people to live in Tokyo. That infrastructure is based on cheap energy--energy to heat, to cool, to import food, and to provide jobs. What is Tokyo suddenly without cheap energy? A death trap. Without cheap energy, Haiti looks like . . . Haiti. The destruction in Haiti was the result of the quake's epicenter being 15 miles away from the capital city and the relatively unexpected nature of the event. If that 9.0 hits 15 miles away from Tokyo . . . at least twice the number of people that died in Haiti.

    Just because we have cheap energy, should we use it in an unrestrained manner? Should a species of animal populate an area to the extent of that area's available energy--when it knows that the energy source will diminish and a significant portion of the population will necessarily die? Should that same intelligent species use an economic mode that places productive people in harm's way for the sake of unrestrained growth (precisely what this article is about)?
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  9. Well, Gilles was wanting attention and he sure has received it. I for one would ignore his pontificating until he posts something substantial and that is backed by the science and related literature. otherwise the thread just gets hopelessly off topic and derailed-- the intention perhaps?
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  10. Gilles keeps making this argument that if we're forced to reduce global fossil fuel use, poor countries will remain poor. Reality is that as DSL notes in #8, energy use increases with wealth, but there's no particular reason fossil fuels must be the source of that energy. It's just been the case so far because fossil fuels have been (artificially) cheap and plentiful. That doesn't mean economic growth and increased energy consumption in developing nations can't come from another energy source if we want it to. Gilles is stuck in the past, unfortunately.
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  11. One of the limitations of applying cost-benefit analysis to climate change is because the costs and "benefits" (ie, avoiding or reducing negative impacts) accrue to different people or groups of people. Seen from the point of view of a poor Bangladeshi girl, having a wealthy westerner pay more for their energy in exchange for a slightly reduced chance of he grandfather's farm becoming submerged looks like a good deal, regardless of the discount rate or the damage probability function. And vice versa, unfortunately.
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  12. It's a striking picture.

    I understood IEA data include only fossil fuel combustion (someone correct me if I'm wrong).

    For greater accuracy, I think the CO2 emission figures should include all emission sources, and all GHG. I don't think the overall picture would change much, but there could be some notable local differences. After all, fossil fuels are only about half of the picture.
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  13. Not when you consider methane emissions. What goes up as methane comes down as formaldehyde and the United States of America is one of the countries impacted greatly by it, according to a 1995 study by the Smithsonian University and Harvard scientists.

    Andrea Silverthorne
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  14. I note that Bangladesh has been mentioned several times in the posts as seriously at risk due to AGW above but looking at the graphics Bangalesh seems to be coming off not to badly compared to many others. Does the CDVI take into account sea level rise, and if it it does what degree of sea level rise/timeframe is it based on? I cannot access original paper.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] The mapping simulations specifically take into account sea level rise, but make no projections as to how much sea level rise occurs when. Here's Bangladesh (remember the scale you're looking at):

    It's interesting to note the river bed channel cut into the continental shelf by the river during glacial maximums.

  15. I challenge the validity of this study on 2 grounds:
    1. Accuracy of the vulnerability measure used and
    2. Country contribution to global warming.

    1. Vulnerability of people to climate change is best measured as sensitivity of their environment to the effects of global warming, which includes climate change nut also includes changes in ocean chemistry, sea level and water supplied from snow and ice. In other words it must be a measure of the ability of the human environment to provide those living in it with the essentials of life.

    This is very difficult to incorporate in an index and the CDVI very clearly does not do so.

    If it did, it would not show countries with highest population/hectare of arable land as having medium to low vulnerability. It would show them as being highly susceptible and vulnerable to the effects of global warming because that is what they are.

    2. Global warming arises because of the emission of greenhouse gases, most notably CO2, by distinct socio-economic units called countries, permitted by the policies, practices and controls (or lack of them) imposed by their governments.

    It is a dangerous nonsense to assert that China contributes relatively little to global warming because it has a high population and therefore low per-capita emissions. Or that the USA contributes far more to global warming because of its much lower population. The fact is that in 2007 China emitted 6.538 and the USA 5.838 billion tonnes respectively, over 42% of global emissions of CO2 between them.

    Fig 2, shows countries of the world coloured on the basis of per capita emissions. It is therefore a nonsensical distortion, since it purports to show the relative importance of country emissions on global warming. It does no such thing.

    It defies credulity to assert that a thousand tones of CO2 released by China is far less harmful than a thousand tones of CO2 released by Australia. Yet that is what we are being asked to accept, even though both have precisely the same effect and make the same contribution to global warming.

    In Conclusion: by combining two defective measures to a map of the worlds’ countries, it is asserted that those contributing least to global warming are the worst affected by the results of global warming.

    Sorry, I do not buy it – nor dear reader should you!
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  16. I don't understand your criticisms. It's not ME who is saying that the countries consuming the most FF are the most resilient to natural hazards, it's YOU (or them..) :

    "They found the countries most severely impacted by climate change contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions. It is quite striking that blue, less-polluting regions in the CO2 emissions map correspond to the red, highly vulnerable areas in the vulnerability map."

    This is a simple logical contraposition of the previous statement : countries with less CO2 consumptions are the most vulnerable < = > less vulnerable countries are those with the most CO2 consumption (which seems to be a rather obvious observation, BTW). Where is the problem ?
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  17. Agnostic @15, the Climate Vulnerabilty Index developed by Samson et al (2011) was developed using 19 different climate indices. They developed two different models using contrasting subsets of these 19 indices to ensure that their results were robust. They then developed a model based on agricultural density as a second check on the robustness of their result. There results held regardless of which of the three models they used, showing that they are indeed robust.

    If that were not enough, we have Mapleleaf's Climate Vulnerability Index,based on 42 different social, economic and environmental factors, which shows a similar pattern of vulnerability.



    You reject these indices of Climate Vulnerability because you mention certain environmental effects from climate change without checking whether or not they were used in developing the indices, and without purporting to show how including them would have changed the indices (ie, you use pure hand waving).

    You also reject the indices because they do not show countries which have high populations but little arable land as vulnerable. One might suppose that such nations (Singapore for example) might get most of their food by trade, and hence are not reliant on local climactic conditions for their food; ie, that they are amongst the least vulnerable of societies to climate change. One might also suppose that, having read the paper (you did read the paper, didn't you) you would have noted the key factor in the CVI is the predicted change in factors effecting agriculture as the climate warms. Having noted that, you would presume that nations with high populations and little arable land in which the climate is not expected to change adversely are not that vulnerable.

    Cherry picking a single datum as an excuse to reject a paper is not scepticism - it is avoidance.

    Finally, Global Warming arises from the emissions of Green house gases, not by countries, but by cars, and trucks and power stations. They are the individual mechanisms of the economy serving the individuals in the economy. So the only honest comparison of GHG emissions is on a per person basis. Our credulity is indeed being stretched in this debate, but it is being stretched by those who maintain (as you are doing) that the 18.9 metric tons of CO2 per person in the US does less harm than the 4.9 metric tons per person emitted in China (2007 figures). Even this comparison underestimates the US contribution (as it would other western nations) because it ignores the extent to which high emission products in China have their final use in the United States.

    Agnostic's claim that CO2 emissions are properly considered a feature of nations carries some absurd implications. It implies that Monaco and Lichtenstein should be allowed the same net emissions as the US in any international treaty. It implies that if a nation should divide in two, then their joint permissible emissions should double. Conversely, it implies that if the EU should ever coalesce into a single nation, its permissible emissions should be divided by the current number of member states.
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  18. Gilles-the criticisms of you are because you've made these claims-like a broken record-without providing a shred of evidence to back you up. Can you honestly show that the growth of First World wealth began *before* large-scale consumption of fossil fuels? I doubt it very much, given my own reading of history shows that the nations of Europe & North America had already reached extremely high levels of wealth *before* fossil fuels became widely available, whilst many nations in South America & Asia currently consume large amounts of fossil fuels, whilst still being gripped by massive poverty. Of course, even if you *could* show that consumption of fossil fuels was necessary to create wealth-in the *past*-that is certainly *not* true now that so many clean & renewable sources of energy are available to meet all of our energy needs.
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  19. Marcus : "I doubt it very much, given my own reading of history shows that the nations of Europe & North America had already reached extremely high levels of wealth *before* fossil fuels became widely available"

    Marcus, are you really serious ???? which epoch are you referring to , and how do you measure this "level of wealth" ?
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  20. "whilst many nations in South America & Asia currently consume large amounts of fossil fuels, whilst still being gripped by massive poverty."
    Same question : which nation are you referring to, on a per capita basis ?
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  21. and last questions (sorry for not combining them in the same post)

    "so many clean & renewable sources of energy are available to meet all of our energy needs."

    could you please give me the quantitative amount of energy produced currently by these "so many clean & renewable sources of energy", and the growth rate you're expecting reasonably from them ?
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  22. Gilles, when are you going to cease with your constant, repetitive cheer-leading on behalf of the coal/oil industry? The nations of Great Britain, United States, Germany & France were already extremely wealthy prior to the 1950's-when the output of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels really started to take off. Not surprising given that, until the 1950's, coal-fired electricity was much more expensive, in today's dollars, than most renewable energy sources are today-or that cars were then only owned by the wealthiest people. It seems to me that, in spite of your claims, you know *nothing* about our world's history-or choose to ignore it in your desperate attempts to push fossil fuel industry propaganda down our throats.
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  23. Well, lets see-Wind already provides 160GW of energy world-wide (as of 2009)-the equivalent of 100 coal-fired power stations, up from only 6GW back in 1996. More than 100GW of energy is supplied by solar energy (photovoltaics & thermal). 270GW of energy is provided by biomass. 900GW of energy is supplied by hydro-power. In total, renewable energy currently provides about 10% of the world's energy needs, with the capacity to provide much, much more-especially with proper energy storage, where needed. Of course, clean renewable energy hasn't enjoyed the decades of *massive* government support that the coal & nuclear power industry has enjoyed in order to make them so "cheap"-so it will take time, effort & money to ensure that renewable energy is more attractive to developing nations who're seeking to improve their standards of living.
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  24. Gilles:
    According to 2007 data, France generated 1/3 the CO2 per person as the USA, but has a comparable living standard. This shows your unsupported claim that FF consumption is required for generation of wealth is a false choice. Note that the average person in France takes twice the yearly vacation as the average person in the USA and has a longer life expectancy, yet still uses similar amounts of consumer goods.
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  25. 22 Marcus: " The nations of Great Britain, United States, Germany & France were already extremely wealthy prior to the 1950's"

    Not to mention, for example, China - which was far more wealthy than Europe upto the 1800s, the Abbasid dynasty in the middle ages... ahhh Rome, the British Empire etc. etc.

    It is really, really important that people see the FF based age as just one age amongst many - not the first nor is there any good reason to believe it's the last.
    Anyone who looks at our current struggles with FFs and cannot see a way forward clearly has little perspecitve on history in general nor technology development - for them I have (again) just one word horse-manure
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  26. The point, Gilles, is that you're constantly trying to sell fossil fuels as the miracle ingredient in the creation of wealth & staying power-yet have provided not a *shred* of evidence to back your claims. There are many elements to creating a wealthy society, all of which are much, much more important than that society's energy intensity or reliance on fossil fuels-things like good education, a strong labor movement to ensure decent wages, proper emancipation, full control of one's reproductive rights....and so the list goes on. All you keep doing is trying to show that a very weak correlation "proves" causation, when it clearly doesn't. As a proof of your weak correlation, though, China & Iran both have more energy intensive economies (in MJ/$ of GDP) than the UK, yet their per capita GDP's are *lower* than the UK. You really do need to check your facts before repeating fossil fuel industry propaganda Gilles.
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  27. les "... people see the FF based age as just one age amongst many - not the first nor is there any good reason to believe it's the last."

    Even more importantly, the FF era was a choice. When I was a toddler in the late 40s in a rural area, our neighbours used 'windlights'. Ordinary windmills ran lighting and recharged car batteries to allow lighting when the wind died down. Large wind power generators were around in the much earlier part of the 20thC in the USA.

    We "chose" to develop power generation by combustion of fossil materials rather than develop existing engineering capacities in other ways.

    The other thing we should do is stop calling them fossil "fuels". They're valuable carbon resources and the very worst thing we could possibly do with them is incinerate them. Now that we've seen the marvels of carbon fibre technology, we can only dream of what further marvels can be performed with these materials.

    We always have choices. We should choose more wisely.
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  28. 27 adelady: Well, to twist an old phrase, We are born with some choices already made, some choices we can make, and some choices are thrust upon us.

    Oil is a fabulous product. It's one of those products (like e.g. MS Windows) which feeds into a vast number of markets from a point of supply which is relatively narrow and not very competitive (some are born with oil, some find oil, most don't have any). The result is a self catalysing market, the more it's used, the more ubiquitous it becomes, the more uses there are for it etc.

    You are right about the "fuels" point, of course, but that's one place there may new problems. The rest of the petrochemical industry depends (as an economic externality) on oil being extracted and refined to subsidize their raw materials. Once the use of oil in fuels collapses (I had the word tipping point, but that) these other industries will become much expensive. If we're really unlucky, that'll happen after all the easy to reach stuff is extracted, exacerbating the situation.

    Given the inevitability of F-Fuel use going down sharply over the next years - the rest of the petrochemical industry should be campaigning like crazy to preserve the hight quality, easy to extract sources!

    bit off topic. sorry.
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  29. Marcus : the energy intensity in the 50's was not very different from the current one. It means that the "extreme wealth" of France or Great Britain is just the current one scaled by the energy consumption. Are you living here ? do you have parents or grand parents able to tell you how exactly they lived then? I have. In the 50's, they just escaped from the WWII, before the green revolution. France was still essentially an agricultural country, many people lived in farms with no electricity, no telephone, no car, no fridge, no TV of course. The great changes occured between the 50's and the 70's, with a considerable mutation in the society. Probably the energy consumption per capita peaked around 70's, before conservation measures following the oil shocks improved it. So i am not saying that all improvement is impossible. I say that the current way of life is not possible with a minimal amount of FF, well above the world current average.

    Concerning your figures : energy is measured in TWh or Gtoe, not GW - you must mix up with peak power capacity.

    M. Sweet : I know France - i'm French actually. The low CO2 production is obtained through the use of 80 % nuclear power (and a general better use in Europe than in US, due to their history and more concentrated cities and smaller distances between them). But note that if the whole electricity should be produced by nuke worldwide , it would exhaust the known uranium reserves in 10 years or so - not to speak of minor inconvenience of nuclear plants we can see currently. And despite this high level of decarbonated electricity, the FF consumption in France is by no means negligible - we still drive, heat our houses, and cook with oil and natural gas.


    Heating is interesting for instance : due to the high nuclear electric production , people were encouraged to adopt electrical heating (which is a heresy if electricity is produced by FF). The problem is that heating in winters produce spikes in the consumption in the evening, where everything is cold and dark outside. Often few wind , too. And nuclear plants cannot respond fast enough to adapt the production to these spikes - so we use .. thermal plants. Sigh , the total yield of producing electricity from FF for heating is much worse that the direct use of these fuels...

    Les : "
    Not to mention, for example, China - which was far more wealthy than Europe upto the 1800s, the Abbasid dynasty in the middle ages... ahhh Rome, the British Empire etc. etc.

    It is really, really important that people see the FF based age as just one age amongst many - not the first nor is there any good reason to believe it's the last."

    I agree with that - it's only that all these "wealths" were all of the order of that of the poorest countries in the current world, and in all these civilizations, without any exception, the great majorities of people were poor peasants surviving with fluctuating crops and regularly decimated by famines, droughts, epidemics, and wars. Check YOUR history.
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  30. 28 Gilles: "the great majorities of people were poor peasants surviving with fluctuating crops and regularly decimated by famines, droughts, epidemics, and wars."

    Gilles, get a grip. The advances or otherwise of todays situation are clear to everyone. Many of which, we all know are due to plentiful energy supplies as well as a wide range of technical advances (as I point out above, many of which use power from oil etc.). None of which contradicts the fact that economic growth has happened at other times, in other places.

    But your 'defense' is poor... poorer than the peasants to which you allude. The point was that there have been many incidents of great wealth, technical advance, etc. before oil became ubiquitous. That is 100% clear. Those societies has some problems, ours has others. adding a 'yes but' doesn't change that.

    Instead of spouting the above rubbish, you could have pointed to some hard facts like the massive improvement in life expectancy across the world and given a link like this. But no, you just make it up as you go along...
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  31. Certainly the climate is warming since 1960. In countries with low CO2 emissions (on the maps above) have come primarily to a decline in food production.

    On this page, is briefly described the global food market.:
    “Food production more than doubled (an increase of over 160%) from 1961 to 2003. Over this period, production of cereals—the major energy component of human diets—has increased almost two and a half times, beef and sheep production increased by 40%, pork production by nearly 60%, and poultry production doubled.”
    For example, in Africa - which is most affected by global warming (tropical and subtropical zone of the World) - the production of food is strongly associated with the climate - but not from global warming - rather, the phases of the AMO - the warm phase -growing (as currently) - in the cold phase - drops ...
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  32. Gilles: "Where is the problem ?" The problem is not that there are correlations with wealth and fossil fuel use, just that *you state that fossil fuels increase wealth* and don't support your statements of causation with any facts. As I asked before, do you believe correlation is causation?
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  33. Gilles:
    You said "use of FF increases the wealth" of countries. I have provided a specific counter example and all you can say is it is because France uses nuclear? Tell me something I don't already know. You make my point: other energy sources can be used to support a modern economy. Your claim that FF use is proportional to success in a modern economy is proved incorrect. When 2010 numbers come out it will show that Spain got 16% of their electricity from wind and they continue to rapidly install turbines. No problem with increasing coal and oil prices there! Please provide references to your extraordinary claims.
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  34. les : The point was that there have been many incidents of great wealth, technical advance, etc. before oil became ubiquitous."
    what do you call "great wealth" ? i don't know any wealth comparable with current western countries without or before the use of oil.
    Michael : I'm speaking of a general correlation and a minimum amount , not of a strict proportionality constant. Impact of climate changes are ALSO statistical, I can find numerous examples where a warming does not produce any inconvenience. Electrical power is the only application that can be replaced by other sources, but in a limited amount. Although some people here seem to ignore that wind energy is intermittent, it is. And there is no interconnected network where wind energy produces more than 25 % of power. So extrapolating the fact that SOME part of the FF consumption can be spared up to zero is just plainly unjustified - although extrapolations seem to be a fashionable game.
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  35. "Gilles: "Where is the problem ?" The problem is not that there are correlations with wealth and fossil fuel use, just that *you state that fossil fuels increase wealth* and don't support your statements of causation with any facts. As I asked before, do you believe correlation is causation?"

    No more than for climate studies - how do you compute the effect of climate changes, tell me ? but they are numerous evidence of the necessity of FF - just look at japan and imagine they wouldn't have any FF at all - the distress would be much larger. Tell me just how they would carry rescuers, food, how they would heat , build new buildings. Part of the country without oil are in a total misery - as was Haiti.
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  36. Gilles... Why is it so difficult to comprehend that there are viable solutions to FF energy? I'm always left curious what the resistance is.
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  37. Gilles, you are avoiding the question, still. I see this has been a waste of time, take care.
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  38. Gilles:
    By definition FF are limited in amount and will eventually run out. Is your contention that when that happens civilization will collapse? What will happen when the FF runs out? I think people are smart enough to find substitutes. Why don't we start now, rather than wait for the climate to be permanently damaged? Since we have already passed peak oil (you claim here that oil cannot be replaced), and the best coal deposits have been mined, your pessimism about the ability of civilization to adapt to less FF will be tested soon enough in any case. At the rate India and China are increasing their consumption, even the USA will have to cut back soon, the oil is gone.
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  39. Gilles, the point you keep missing is that the wealth of the First World nations *precedes* the rapid rise in the consumption of fossil fuels. How else can you explain the fact that, between 1900-1950, annual CO2 emissions remained between 1 to 2 billion tonnes? I'd go so far as to say that it was the pre-existing wealth of the First World nations which allowed them to invest all that money in the construction of such large energy networks, & the wealth of its individual citizens that allowed them to buy all the luxuries-post WWII-that allowed them to make use of the fossil fuels-so you've really put the cart before the horse in your desperate bid to "prove" the necessity of fossil fuels in the creation of wealth.
    Also, I too have relatives who remember the first half of the 20th century-in both the UK & Australia-and they don't tell me tales of grinding poverty or misery. Indeed, my family all enjoyed lives of well-fed, middle-class comfort-even those who lived a rural life never spoke of being poor, so again your claims of "proof" are actually extremely weak-something which is to be expected from what is, in effect, barely disguised propaganda.
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  40. Also, a few facts for you Gilles. All First World Countries have actually reduced the energy intensity of their economies. The US, for instance, went from 15,000 BTU/US$ GDP in 1980 down to around 9,000 BTU/US$ GDP. France, Germany and the UK show similar downward trends in the energy intensities of their economies. Not only that, but France, Germany & the UK have energy intensities of between 5,000-6,500 BTU/US$ of GDP, yet Brazil, Panama & Argentina-for example-use closer to 7,000 to 9,000 BTU/US$ GDP, yet these nations are significantly *poorer* than the aforementioned nations of Western Europe. Indeed, when you look at a table of energy intensity of various nations-between 1980 & 2006 (which is all I currently have available from the Energy Information Administration at this point)-there is very, very little relationship between the change in energy intensity & change in wealth of the various nations over this time period-with many developing nations significantly increasing their energy intensity, whilst their actual GDP (total or per capita) has failed to increase in any significant fashion. Meanwhile, wealthy countries have reduced the energy intensities of their economies whilst still enjoying strong improvements in GDP growth. So really your claims, Gilles, lack any foundation in basic fact-even *before* you even consider the role of fossil fuel consumption in the equation of energy intensity.
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  41. So Gilles, when you consider the declining energy intensity of Western Economies & the growing proportion of energy derived from renewable energy sources in these same countries, then we see how weak your claims regarding "the dependence of wealth on fossil fuel consumption" actually are. If the developed nations of the world were sensible, though, they would be exporting their more than 30 years experience in energy efficiency & renewable energy to the 3rd World, to ensure that they can achieve-& maintain 1st world wealth *without* the need to consume more fossil fuels- ( -Snip- ).
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    Moderator Response: [DB] The goal is to provoke you; do not allow it.
  42. Marcus : you argue that the wealth was already very large in the 50's, but you give only figures after 1980. Why don't you give the figures for the 50's ?
    What you're totally missing is that energy intensity worsened a lot during industrialization and after the war. Energy consumption grew faster than GDP. Subsequent improvement was only possible because we spoiled a lot of energy just before (and also, thanks to globalization, because we exported heavy and energy consuming industries, closed almost all our exhausted coal mines in Europe, etc...). Just take the numbers.

    You can also easily without harm reducing your own food by 20 %, I guess. Many people live comfortably and eat much less than western citizens. Would you deduce that food is by no means necessary to life ? why not ? - well, the answer to this question gives the answer to the other one.

    Besides, I'm happy to know that people living in Australia and UK lived with cars, electricity , or maybe TV and computers ? they didn't say they were "poor" just because poverty is a RELATIVE notion - of course they probably compared their standard of living with the average one of their time - not ours. But I'm not saying it is impossible to live like them - it is quite possible of course. What is impossible is to live LIKE US without FF.

    Michael : Gilles:
    By definition FF are limited in amount and will eventually run out. Is your contention that when that happens civilization will collapse? What will happen when the FF runs out? I think people are smart enough to find substitutes."

    OF COURSE I'm contending that - or I wouldn't be logical. That's exactly what I'm saying : the main risk is , by far, a collapse of civilization through the exhaustion of FF and NOT through a few degrees of warming. And I say that just through the simple observation that wealth is MUCH BETTER correlated with the use of FF than with the average temperature -and this is not a mere correlation of course, there are plenty good physical reasons for that. Cars and planes can travel by 30 °C or by 10 °C, but never without fuel.
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  43. sorry, I'm not thinking that " people are smart enough to find substitutes.""is granted : for the moment, it's just wishful thinking.
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  44. "What you're totally missing is that energy intensity worsened a lot during industrialization and after the war. Energy consumption grew faster than GDP. Subsequent improvement was only possible because we spoiled a lot of energy just before (and also, thanks to globalization, because we exported heavy and energy consuming industries, closed almost all our exhausted coal mines in Europe, etc...). Just take the numbers."

    At least I give *real* numbers-we're still waiting for you to present anything other than blatant propaganda. You still have failed to disprove my point-that nations which increased their energy intensity have not necessarily improved their GDP output (in almost 30 years), whereas 1st World Countries have reduced the energy intensity of their economies whilst still enjoying rising GDP growth-thus disproving your point about the apparent causal link between energy consumption (aka fossil fuel use) & wealth. You've also failed to show contrary evidence that it was the accumulated wealth of the 1st world which came *before* the rise in fossil fuel use-not because of it as you've constantly contended. There are other things which are far, far better correlated to wealth than fossil fuel consumption-like education levels, wage parity, quality of health care, access to abortion & contraception-all of which occurred in the West *before* the rise in fossil fuel consumption, in spite of your lame attempts to claim the contrary.
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  45. "You can also easily without harm reducing your own food by 20 %, I guess. Many people live comfortably and eat much less than western citizens. Would you deduce that food is by no means necessary to life ? why not ? - well, the answer to this question gives the answer to the other one."

    Complete errant nonsense Gilles-much as we've come to expect from you so far. The reality is that agriculture can be done more successfully with a *reduced* carbon footprint. The Green Revolution has proven to be a double edged sword-wrecking the land which it initially helped, though rampant overproduction hasn't helped either. None of my family growing up in the early 1900's ever went hungry-& none of them were exactly wealthy people I might add.
    Also, its perfectly possible to have modern luxuries *without* having a massive carbon footprint to go with it. I've got a computer, a flat-screen TV, a fridge/freezer, an A/C unit, a stereo & a DVD recorder but-guess what? My energy consumption is less than 6kw-h per day, & *none* of it comes from fossil fuels. I'm also smart enough to know that using a car to drive during peak hour is going to leave more poorer-not richer-because I'll be wasting 20% of the fuel I put in the car to sit still in the traffic-something you seem to advocate. Seriously though, Gilles, when are we going to see hard facts from you, rather than your repetitive, unfounded platitudes? Seriously, if you have nothing sensible to offer, why don't you go off & hang out with your mates at Watts Up with That instead?
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  46. "sorry, I'm not thinking that " people are smart enough to find substitutes.""is granted : for the moment, it's just wishful thinking."

    We already have, Gilles, but weak-kneed governments-with the help of a lot of propaganda from paid-up lobbyists-have failed to make them widely available, because they've been sold the lie that only fossil fuels are a viable option for our energy needs. Perhaps if we cleared out our parliaments of all the fossil fuel industry lobbyists, & instead gave our politicians access to the best scientific evidence relating to renewable energy, then we would see a hastened demise of the most polluting & inefficient sources of energy ever invented-coal power stations & cars with internal combustion engines.
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  47. "And I say that just through the simple observation that wealth is MUCH BETTER correlated with the use of FF than with the average temperature -and this is not a mere correlation of course, there are plenty good physical reasons for that. Cars and planes can travel by 30 °C or by 10 °C, but never without fuel."

    You can say it all you like-but it doesn't make it true, especially as you continue to fail to provide any *evidence* to back your assertions, just platitudes that sound like they were quoted from a fossil fuel industry pamphlet. We've already established that cars can run on either fuels derived from algae (grown up on the CO2 absorbed from power stations run on bio-gas), or directly from electricity generated by those self-same power stations. Its also been shown in the lab that the fuels derived from algal biomass can also be used as aviation fuel-so again your assertion that we simply can't get by without your beloved fossil fuels is just so much hyperbole. I suggest you don't bother posting anything more until you're prepared to back your assertions with something more than your *Beliefs*. Personally, I think everyone here has been more than patient with someone who-in spite of your protests-is not here to learn, but simply here to spread "The Good Word" about fossil fuels.
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  48. Gilles at 19:40 PM, I'm not going to get into this exchange, you seem to be doing OK anyway.
    I wanted to add to your comment about reducing food consumption, at present there are about 1 billion obese people in the world with a similar number without sufficient food. About 25% of food is wasted, mainly by those who are already overfed. Not only is the food wasted but also all the nutrients, fertilisers and energy that went into producing it.
    It seems very clear where the starting point is.
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  49. Actually, John D, I'd say Gilles is doing extremely badly. All he ever does is keep repeating the same unfounded assertion, without ever once providing any evidence to back it up. If there is such a clear correlation between fossil fuel, then all he needs to do is post data-any data-that proves that correlation. We've shown here a major disparity between modern levels of fossil fuel consumption (per $ of GDP) & quality of life-even between First World Nations &-given sufficient time-I'm sure I can find the data from the Energy Information Agency that also shows little or no correlation between per capita energy consumption & per Capita GDP. I used to have that data somewhere, but now can't seem to find it.
    Anyway, at least you're correct about the amount of food waste we're currently seeing in the First World, but it goes further than that-even today, in the world of supposed "Free Trade", we see farmers dumping-or stockpiling-large amounts of food, in order to drive up prices, whilst farmers in developing nations are forced to abandon their own crops in favor of the expensive, imported variety. That represents a massive waste of resources too, in my opinion.
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  50. Gilles:
    Your argument crontradicts itself. You say here that if FF use is not replaced civilization will collapse in the near future when FF run out. Yet the rest of your posts say that we cannot begin to replace FF with renewables because it would cause the economy to collapse. Your position appears to be that we should continue to use all the FF as fast as we can and then give a collapsing economy to our children. Is that really what you want to do? What if I live too long and get caught in the collapse?

    The stark poverty of the skeptic arguments shows again.
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