2011-11-27 16:47:28Myth I've been encountering more often: we don't have enough fossil fuels to cause disastrous climate change
John Cook


Someone emailed me this:

One thing that seems to be lacking in all the discussion on co2 is the fact that we may not be producing as much of the gas because we are running out of all fossil fuels over the next decade or two.
Our discussion on future temps is extrapolating on what we are doing now that is just not going to happen.
So we are expending a lot of effort for nothing.
That is not knocking the science at all and not arguing against it by any means. It is just the fact that we are missing and not taking account on what is happening to our resources, that will dramatically effect our production of CO2

Other people have emailed me a few peer-reviewed papers that make the same argument - that there is not enough fossil fuel to sustain the more dire IPCC emission scenarios. This will be a growing argument so I think would be a good one to investigate.

2011-11-27 17:23:00
John Mason


I've heard that one a few times John - that Peak Oil will cancel out climate change.

Given the lag and residence times WRT to CO2, this doesn't wash, and secondly a likely response to severe oil depletion would be a forced curbing of usage by rationing to keep essential services going e.g. getting coal to power stations. Coal reserves look pretty safe for the forseeable, and then there's all that dirty and production rate-constrained non-conventional fossil fuel to take into account. So it is an oversimplified argument that ignores a lot of economic geology! It might be worth jointly exploring the issues with the people over at The Oildrum as they're pretty much on the ball WRT the ever-shifting energy scenarios.

Cheers - John

2011-11-28 18:20:36
Otto Lehikoinen

I believe these commenters frequently (always) dismiss also studies on sinks.


2011-11-28 19:16:17
Andy S

I've been meaning to address this one for some time and have already done a fair bit of work on it. It will have to wait until after the AGU though. As far as I can tell most of the people who promulgate this are some European peak oil gas coal zealots. I think to address it requires first requires making the case that peak ff theories are, at best, the most pessimistic forecasts possible. The key paper is the kharecha (sp?) and Hansen paper, which, even though it makes some peesimistic assumptions about oil and gas ( conventional only) shows that there's plenty of coal to screw things up.
2011-11-29 17:39:01
Glenn Tamblyn


A lot of the issue with peoples understanding of Peak (insert prefered ff here) is that people tend to equate the peak with it running out. When in reality it usually means the resource has been something like 50% depleted so continued extraction rates decline but that 50% is still there to use up. And King Coal is a LONG way from peak. Oil yes, Gas maybe, but not Coal.

And in an oil shortage world the scary scenario is that we shift to EV's and so on powered by electrons from King Coal. That would be a really perverse bad outcome.

2011-12-14 19:01:27
Doug Mackie
Doug Mackie

1) The warming doesn't stop until the CO2 is removed from the atmosphere.

2) "Recoverable" fossil fuels ~4,000 GtC. Sufficient to get atmosphere to over 2000 ppm. (Neglecting of course 8-) absorbtion into the oceans).