See Comments down arrow

#GettingWorse: Global GHG emission trends

17 Apr 2024 | Science Notes

Today we turn to the issue at the core of the climate problem, our filthy habit of spewing carbon into the atmosphere. The experts say we’re adding more and more all the time, and over the coming century we’re going to add so much it will cause the climate breakdown thingy. How do they know? They have scenarios. They call them Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs), and just like their exploded RCP8.5 scenario the SSPs run into the problem that in the intervals where we can check them against what actually happened they overpredict emissions. And in the years to come even the lowest SSP scenarios are higher than what the energy experts say is most likely to happen. Global emissions simply are not on the extreme upward course the IPCC keeps claiming, and that means neither are climate damages.

The data come from a useful tool provided by Resources for the Future, a Washington think tank that sips its share of climate Kool Aid, but also likes to look at data once in a while. Here is the chart showing historical GHG emissions in black and the IPCC SSP scenarios ranked from SSP1 (lowest) to SSP5 (highest):

We’ll zoom in on the overlap period so you can see how they compare:

In 2005 the average IPCC scenario said there would be 29,760 megatonnes of CO2 emissions. But in reality there were only 27,070. In 2010 the IPCC said there would be 32,520 megatonnes of emissions, but reality only coughed up 30,490. Even when the IPCC has the actual level of emissions to compare with their scenarios, they publish overestimates instead.

And what of the years ahead? We can compare the IPCC projections to those of two other groups who have no incentive to overstate matters: Exxon Mobil and the US Energy Information Administration. Both have skin in the game, in the sense that they need to know what are the most likely patterns of fossil energy consumption in the decades to come. So unlike the IPCC they face costly consequences if they make the wrong projection.

Here is what the first chart above looks like if we add the Exxon and EIA projections of what future emissions will be like with no additional climate policies in place:

Every single IPCC projection, even their supposed lowball SSP1, lies above the projections from the EIA and Exxon.

The reason this pattern matters is that IPCC scenarios like SSP5 are called the “no policy” case and SSP1 is said to represent the future if we implement deep emission cuts. And since SSP1 yields less warming, they tell us we need to have expensive climate policies to prevent the big bad SSP5 outcome and get us down to the cute innocent SSP1 one. But what the EIA and Exxon scenarios suggest is that we are already at the low SSP1 case, in fact below it, even if we don’t do anything else. It, not SSP5 or even worse 8.5, is the real “no policy” case.

Emission trends in the real world are not getting worse, and they don’t provide any support for more and more costly climate policy.

5 comments on “#GettingWorse: Global GHG emission trends”

  1. Point of information. I want to point out as a 50 practicing Petroleum Geologist that the EIA (Energy Information Administration) is an agency of the US Federal government and is charged with tracking all aspects of energy production, transportation, and consumption in the United States and some for the whole planet as it affects the US. The IEA (International Energy Administration is a UN Agency charged with supporting UN policy with data from world energy usage, if it can. In all my 50 years of having to research energy trends and pricing for PAYING customers, I have never relied on the IEA as a reliable source of data or reporting, they are no better than anecdotal in quality. However, the EIA has been spot-on in a vast majority of the cases and the most reliable source available. Kudos to the EIA for resisting the Federal agency conversion attempts by the current administration.

  2. A good obrervation, Teddy. During the 2004-2008 period oil sands development (Google "Oil Sands Technology Roadmap", 2004) was seen as an emormously positive developent that was meeting its challenges sensibly, with enormous strides over decades (and still continuing). As editor and lead writer on that document and (as a practicing Chemical engineer) expert in some areas, and fairly expert in others, I was contacted by the IEA and the (then) reasonably sane Pembina Institute in Alberta. In both cases the main issue was the environmental footprint and how to calculate or characterize it. They appeared not to have those skills internally. Would that the same attention was given to aweful worldwide mining practices to feed the EV planned but now faltering "revolution"....they now await second generation battery technololgy.
    On topic, the misuse of the extreme SSPs/RCPs continue to pervade the media discource of climate activists, and even in my own town of Qualicum Beach is still the "leading light" of our local CCCAP (Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan. As you say, kudos to the EIA and other agencies resisting "goverment by models".

  3. When combined with the 80% low side miss on the number of CO2 munching trees on the planet (800 billion estimate revised to 4 trillion) I am becoming concerned whether there will be enough CO2 to keep the vegetation happy, I also wonder what else they got wrong....or fabricated out of thin air!

  4. Actual empirical data trumps failed predictions and computer models every time.Now somebody tell the alarmists and politicians.

  5. All this talk of SSPs and RCPs reminds me of the intense discussions they used to have in the Middle Ages about the number of angels that could dance on the head of a pin. Get on the wrong side of one of those debates and you could be cancelled by being burnt at the stake. I wonder how long it will be before selecting the wrong SSP will result in being similarly cancelled?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *