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A Generation of Delay: Climate Policy Is 20 Years Behind

Friday, 04 December 2015 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis
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(Photo: Smokestacks via Shutterstock)(Photo: Smokestacks via Shutterstock)

The perceived debate on climate change has discredited traditional climate science communications to such an extent that we are just now implementing policies developed during the Kyoto Protocol era that began in 1992. New climate science knowledge is simply not making it out of academia and into public policy. One of the biggest examples is the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report telling us strong negative emissions (removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than we emit every year) are now required.

Directly removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is the only thing we know of that can create strong negative emissions.

Emissions reductions alone, like from Kyoto-era legacy policy currently being implemented, are four to six times less than what are needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Not only does the IPCC suggest more treatment of greenhouse gases, but also, new discoveries about global cooling pollutants and net warming reveal that legacy policy based on warming pollutants alone may create more warming than doing nothing. And the solutions? They are no more expensive than the cost of sick days in the United States every year. New education and communications techniques must be developed to better communicate the latest science to policy makers and the public.

Since just a few years before the Kyoto Protocol was born, our civilization has emitted as much greenhouse gas pollution as we did in the previous 230 years, (1) but the amount of carbon dioxide emissions reductions under the Clean Power Plan enacted by the US Environmental Protection Agency in July 201Global Thermostat’s pilot project can remove 100,000 tons CO2 per year for $10 per ton. (Photo: Global Thermostat)Global Thermostat's pilot project can remove 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year for $10 per ton. (Photo: Global Thermostat)5 occur 18 years after commitments from the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, the Obama administration's current climate commitments for 2050 are 30 years behind the Kyoto requirements for 2020. (2)

The 2013 IPCC has acknowledged this great disconnection between climate science and current policy with a clear and unambiguous statement of fact: "A large fraction of climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, unless net anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period." (3) In other words, we have to remove more carbon dioxide from the sky every year than we emit. Emissions reductions alone are not nearly enough.

The 2013 IPCC did not define how much "strong" meant. Research findings were not robust enough at the time. New work from the French National Center for Scientific Research, Japan's Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the Met Office in the UK reveals our future path.

For the best-case scenario, to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius while limiting carbon dioxide emissions to 390 parts per million (today it's 400 parts per million), we need to remove all the carbon dioxide that we emit every year, plus one-third more. For the worst-case scenario - and we are basically straddling the worst-case scenario today; carbon dioxide levels will reach 1,190 parts per million by 2100 without action - we need to remove over twice as much carbon dioxide as we emit every year. These amounts are four to six times greater than those put forth by the Clean Power Plan. (4)

How in the world are we going to do this? To start with, we must ensure that we begin to limit carbon dioxide emissions as much as possible through changes in our energy sources, agricultural techniques and REDD (reforestation), as well as through many more smaller adjustments, such as using more efficient light bulbs, buying locally, limiting packaging, carpooling and showering with a friend.

This next bit is important: Everything we know how to do combined is not enough to equal strong negative emissions. Directly removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is the only thing we know of that can create strong negative emissions.

Propaganda From the Climate Change Counter-Movement

The climate change counter-movement's enhancement of the perceived debate has wrongly persuaded the public that direct air capture of carbon dioxide is economically infeasible. (5) However, direct air capture technologies exist today that can remove 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for $21 trillion at $200 per ton and basically end the climate pollution challenge for a generation. (6) Is this economically infeasible? No, not by a long shot. It is no different than what Americans spent on health care in the decade prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (7)

Moreover, the cost of these technologies will inevitably fall. No surprise here; new technologies (cell phones, computers, microwave ovens, big-screen televisions) typical see costs plummet upon full industrialization. The research says we should to expect to spend $20 per ton, or less than $2.1 trillion to remove 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide (less than total global life insurance premiums in 2014). (8, 9)

For the cost of what we spend on advertising across the planet every year ($500 billion), in a matter of years, we could rapidly industrialize direct air capture.

How has the climate change counter-movement so badly impeded the transfer of knowledge from academia to the rest of us? Most significantly, they have enhanced the "fairness bias" in the media. (10) Mountains of propaganda are telling us that climate change is not real (the warming hiatus is a good example, see here), and that climate scientists are corrupt (emailgate). Even though the science and facts tell completely different stories from those being told by the climate change counter-movement, the heavy influence of that "movement" in our society means that their "side" of the story is often reported by the mainstream media equally to the rest of the story. This fairness bias has its roots in law, the equal-time rule and the fairness doctrine that sought to achieve fairness in media reporting of issue-based topics. The media literally cannot tell whose science or "opinion" is real; they report each "side" of the story as if it were an issue based on opinion.

Perhaps in part due to this fairness bias, a report by the American Physical Society in 2011 claimed that direct air capture was infeasible because of costs. The report did not speculate on the recent science about new direct air capture technologies, citing that there was insufficient evidence to evaluate and instead evaluated World War II-era technology. That the co-chair of this study was "a distinguished adviser within British Petroleum [BP] Refining and Marketing's Research and Technology department" is a concept that bears thought. (11)

Because the American Physical Society report was a hot topic in the news cycle, media everywhere picked up on it and the damage was done. The fact that the American Physical Society did not evaluate the new technologies did not escape the third-most prestigious scientific journal in the world, Nature, which published a rebuttal to the report, making the significant omission clear. (12)

However, the news cycle had already run its course, and the Nature rebuttal didn't make the headlines. As in the public conversations around smoking, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals, the fairness bias of the media had done its job. The news cycle ended and reporting of the truth never made into the news. It took years to decades for the truth to be revealed on these other issues, and it may take a generation to shift the climate change debate. (13)

Racing Against Time

Nevertheless, it is likely that direct air capture will still be incorporated into the fabric of our industrial machine sooner rather than later. Why? Because a meaningful price on carbon has arrived with the Clean Power Plan. It's quite possible that the fossil-fuel-industrial complex - which includes energy generation and everything else that uses fossil fuels to make things - itself will actually get us out of this mess, and it will not be because we make it extinct. When we put a meaningful price on climate pollution, as the Clean Power Plan does, the new direct air capture technologies will likely be launched by the fossil-fuel-industrial complex because they are cheaper than removing carbon dioxide from smokestack emissions with current technology.

We have seen this happen before. When sulfur cap-and-trade regulations went into effect in the mid-1990s, it was widely understood that energy generators (coal plants mostly) would all install scrubbers on their smokestacks to treat sulfur pollution. Instead, industry switched to a little-known but more economical solution: low-sulfur, Western coal. (14) Once the fossil-fuel-industrial complex industrializes direct air capture technology, it will be a matter of little consequence to find the money to make meaningful reductions of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The lack of successful communications from academia, however, is much broader than simply the amount of carbon dioxide we need to remove from the atmosphere.

In the last five or six years, new research has finally allowed us to evaluate all warming and cooling gases and mechanisms. (Counterintuitively, only warming gases in the long-term time frame are included in current legacy policy). A lot of this science revolves around what are called dynamic atmospheric effects, including the effects of the global cooling pollutant sulfur. (15)

It turns out that sulfur in the atmosphere, in the form of sulfates, is a strong global cooling pollutant with a short life span. The sulfur (sulfates) comes from fossil carbon dioxide in coal, oil and gas. The IPCC says that over half of warming that should have already occurred today has been masked by sulfate emissions (one of the main ingredients in smog), which are mostly from burning coal. (16)

Why don't we all know about this? Don't put all the blame for the education failure on the climate change counter-movement. Arguments about why strong negative emissions and direct air capture are truly economically feasible are a bit of rocket science, after all. This science is very difficult to communicate without the confounding influence from the climate change counter-movement.

In 2009, work from NASA, Columbia University, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the Environmental Defense Fund and Berkeley told us that oil warms more than coal in the critical time frame of a few decades (because global cooling sulfates are short-lived) and that air travel actually cools Earth (because of where the sulfates are emitted) instead of it being one of the worst mechanisms of warming known, as is commonly thought. (17) Global warming pollutants are still important and in longer time frames, carbon dioxide warming is still dominant. But impacts likely increase nonlinearly with temperature. Therefore, any warming at all increases risks, especially the risks from abrupt changes.

That policy lags behind both science and public understanding is not new, but over 20 years of delay - continuing alongside catastrophic risks that likely increase nonlinearly - have made things much worse. But the most significant disconnect between climate science and public perception has to do with solutions. For the astonishing cost of what we spend on advertising across the planet every year ($500 billion), in a matter of years, we could rapidly industrialize direct air capture once the fossil-fuel-industrial complex seeds the industrialization. In another five years, it could be possible to do the unimaginable and end the climate pollution problem for good by simply removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. (18)

The challenge is the time frame. To make this happen, climate pollution needs to be treated as the most important global issue we have ever seen, and the only way for that to happen is for more of us to get involved personally.

We need to treat climate pollution - using economical new technologies far cheaper than in the past - before it is too late.

Footnotes

1. Emissions since the Kyoto era ... Since 1978, the US has emitted as much carbon dioxide as was emitted in the previous 228 years. Globally, since 1984 we have emitted as much carbon dioxide as in the previous 236 years. These numbers do not include offshored emissions, or emissions made in countries other than the US, where the products or services created in those other countries are consumed in the US. Historical Emissions 1850 to present, World Resource Institute

2. Clean Power Plan is less stringent than the Kyoto Protocol ... Kyoto Protocol era emissions reductions were born of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The Clean Power Plan is 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (1969 levels of 4007 Gt C) vs. Kyoto at 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 (1984 levels of 4559 Gt C). The Clean Power Plan is 12 percent more stringent but 18 years behind. Kyoto commitments for Phase II were generally at 80 percent below 1990 by 2020. (The United States, South Sudan and Afghanistan were the only countries to not ratify Kyoto). The current UNFCCC commitment by the United States is 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, 30 years behind.
Historical Emissions 1850 to present, World Resource Institute
Clean Power Plan Fact Sheet
Kyoto Protocol Reference Manual
Phase II Kyoto Protocol
United States 2050 UNFCCC commitment

3. Strong Negative Emissions ... The IPCC now says that we must remove greater than 100 percent of annual emissions directly from the sky in order to avoid dangerous climate change. The following quote is from the next to the last statement of fact in the SPM: "A large fraction of anthropogenic climate change resulting from carbon dioxide emissions is irreversible on a multi-century to millennial time scale, except in the case of a large net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over a sustained period." Chapter 12 repeats this statement in different language that adds more meaning and clarification to the Summary for Policymakers statement. From the summary of  Chapter 12 Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility, we find: "A large fraction of climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, unless net anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period."

4. How much is a large net removal? ... The IPCC did not quantify how much "a large net removal" meant, but it recognized the need. A "large net removal" is "largely" more than emissions reductions alone. This amount has now been published in Nature Communications as 105 to 135 percent of today's annual emissions for the best case scenario (RCP2.6, 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide, 390 parts per million carbon dioxide) and 170 to 210 percent of today's emissions with the worst-case scenario (RCP8.5, 1370 parts per million of carbon dioxide, about 1190 parts per million carbon dioxide). Because today's emissions in the US are approximately equal to 2005 emissions, Gasser's suggested 135 percent negative emissions is about four times more than the CPP's 32 percent below 2005 and six times more than the US current commitment for 2050 of 80 percent below 2005. From the abstract: "Because these figures have not been shown to be feasible, we conclude that development of negative emission technologies should be accelerated, but also that conventional mitigation must remain a substantial part of any climate policy aiming at the 2-°C target."

Paywall: Gasser et al., Negative emissions physically needed to keep global warming below 2C, Nature, August 3, 2015.

5. Climate Change Counter-Movement ... From 2003 to 2010, $7 billion in climate change counter-movement funding has been identified from revenues reported in IRS tax returns for 91 of 118 organizations and institutions identified in the academic literature as being involved. The research from Drexel and Stanford concludes: "With delay and obfuscation as their goals, the US CCCM has been quite successful in recent decades. However, the key actors in this cultural and political conflict are not just the "experts" who appear in the media spotlight. The roots of climate-change denial go deeper, because individuals' efforts have been bankrolled and directed by organizations that receive sustained support from foundations and funders known for their overall commitments to conservative causes. Thus to fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation, we need to focus on the institutionalized efforts that have built and maintain this organized campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight. In the drama of climate change, these are often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians, such as Senator James Inhofe. However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger production. Supporting this effort are directors, scriptwriters, and, most importantly, a series of producers, in the form of conservative foundations. Clarifying the institutional dynamics of the CCCM can aid our understanding of how anthropogenic climate change has been turned into a controversy rather than a scientific fact in the US"

Brulle, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of US climate change counter-movement organizations, Climatic Change, December 21, 2013.

6. Direct air capture (DAC) costs ... Goeppert et al., produced a literature summary of current DAC findings in 2012. It is important to note that considerable false propaganda has been circulated in the media about the infeasibility of DAC based on a report by the American Physical Society. Discussion of this controversy is given in references 11 and 12.

Abstract only: Goeppert et al., Air as the renewable carbon source of the future - carbon dioxide Capture from the atmosphere, Energy and Environmental Science, May 1, 2012.

$20 per ton (just over) capture and storage ... Section 5.1 paragraph 2, "using the K2CO3/KHCO3 cycle is described as being able to capture carbon dioxide from air for less than $20 per ton. The total cost including sub-surface injection was estimated to be slightly above $20 per ton."

$49 to $80 per ton ... Section 5.1 paragraph 3: "An air capture system designed by Keith et al. using a Na/Ca cycle was estimated to cost approximately $500 per ton C ($140 per ton carbon dioxide). The authors added that about a third of this cost was related to capital and maintenance cost. Further development and optimization of the system by Carbon Engineering Ltd. for the effective extraction of carbon dioxide from air resulted in the decrease of the estimated cost to $49-80 per ton carbon dioxide."

$30 per ton long term ... Section 5.1, paragraph 5: "Lackner and co-workers developed an anionic exchange resin able to release carbon dioxide in a moisture swing process. The cost of only the energy required per ton of carbon dioxide collected was around $15. The initial cost of air capture including manufacturing and maintenance can be estimated at about $200 per ton of carbon dioxide. However, this cost is expected to drop considerably as more collectors are built, possibly putting carbon dioxide capture in the $30 per ton range in the long term."

Conclusion, first paragraph ... "Despite its very low concentration of only 390 parts per million, the capture of carbon dioxide directly from the air is technically feasible. Theoretically, carbon dioxide capture from the atmosphere would only require about 2 to 4 times as much energy as capture from flue gases, which is relatively modest considering that at the same time the carbon dioxide concentration is decreased by roughly a factor of 250-300."

7. Costs of solutions are similar to things our society does without thinking ever day ... Lord Nicholas Stern: when he was Head of the Government Economic Service and Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development under British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared a 700 page report on the economics of the solutions to climate change that showed the costs to be 1 percent of global gross domestic product per year. Even though the academic metrics have changed (as this article points out but that has yet to be assimilated into climate policy), the point of this footnote is that very substantial expenditures are relatively cheap and similar to a very large number of things we do in our society every day without thinking. Making a $500 billion commitment to climate pollution treatment every year is simple and cheap and if prolonged will be able to rapidly clean up climate pollution. See the last footnote for an explanation of the timelines likely involved.

Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, HMS Treasury, October 2006. Summary of Conclusions, paragraph 6.

Clean Air and Clean Water Acts ... Kenneth Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology, is quoted in the New Yorker: "The Clean Water and Clean Air Acts each cost about one per cent of [US] GDP": Although one percent of US GDP is $168 billion(2012), extended globally, we can legitimately compare one percent of efforts to control climate pollution as being $500 billion annually: Specter, The Climate Fixers, The New Yorker, May 4, 2012, paragraph 38. Also see global costs to control climate pollution are similar to those to control toilet pollution ... Alley, Earth: The Operators' Manual, WW Norton, 2011, chapter 16: Costs, page 209; costs of water/water infrastructure, page 217.

Health care in the US ... We spend $2 trillion every year, averaged 2000 to 2009 - before Obamacare - on healthcare in the US alone, in 2013 it was $2.9 trillion: National Health Care Expenditure Data, NHE Tables, Table 1.

Advertising globally ... We spend $500 billion every year on advertising across the globe according to the eMarketer Global Media Intelligence Report: eMarketer, Asia-Pacific Poised to Dominate North America as World's Top Ad Market, October 10, 2012

Agricultural Damages in the US ... $500 billion in Agriculture Damages (not counting climate change) in the US Every Year: Lazo et al., US economic sensitivity to weather events, American Meteorological Society, June 2011.

Sick days in the US annually... We spend $576 billion every year in the US on the costs of being sick at work: This includes incidental absence due to illness, workers comp, short-term disability, long term disability; Treatments at the doctor's office and pharmacy, lost productivity and reduced performance. This is according to the Integrated Business Institute's Full Cost Estimator.

Press Release: Life Insurance globally ... $2.65 trillion in global life insurance premiums in 2014: Life Insurance Carriers Profile, First Research, 11/09/2015

Entertainment in the US... $479 billion in entertainment in the US in 2012: The US entertainment and media market generated $479.23 billion in 2012, representing 29.2 percent of the worldwide revenue of nearly $1.639 trillion. In 2017, the US is expected to account for $632.09 billion, or 29.4 percent of the worldwide total of more than $2.152 trillion

Paywall Report no data: The Price Warehouse Coopers Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2013-2017  Data:

Fossil fuel subsidies globally ... $1.9 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies globally: International Monetary Fund Report in 2013:

US energy costs 2010 ... $1.2 Trillion is what US citizens spent on energy in 2010: US Energy Information Administration / Annual Energy Review 2011. Table 1.5 Energy Consumption, Expenditures, and Emissions Indicators Estimates, Selected Years, 1949-2011

US Transportation costs in 2012 ... $1.1 Trillion is what US citizens spent on transportation in 2012: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditures 2012, USDL-13-1833

8. 50 parts per million carbon dioxide for $21 trillion using existing technologies, $2.1 trillion fully industrialized ... Hansen says "At $200/t C, the cost of removing 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide is ~$20 trillion." Being a little more accurate, the figure is $21 trillion. In reference 6 above, Lackner describes the costs of their existing technology today as $200 per ton and $30 per ton fully industrialized. Also in reference 6, Steinberg and coworkers at COAway tell us their technology fully industrialized would be a little over $20 per ton including disposal. At $20 per ton, costs to deal with 50 parts per million carbon dioxide would be $2,1 trillion.
Hansen et al., Target Atmospheric carbon dioxide Where Should Humanity Aim? Open Atmospheric Science Journal, November 2008, page 226 and 227, Section 4.4 Policy Relevance, paragraph 1.

9. See reference 7

10. Climate Science Education has failed, the "Fairness Bias" and climate scientists don't trust the media ... "Through content analysis of US prestige press - meaning the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal - this paper focuses on the norm of balanced reporting, and shows that the prestige press's adherence to balance actually leads to biased coverage of both anthropogenic contributions to global warming and resultant action." Boykoff and Boykoff, Balance as Bias - Global Warming and the US Prestige Press, Global Environmental Change, 2004, abstract. "Only 1 percent of climate scientists rate broadcast or television news as very reliable and 3 percent rate local newspapers as very reliable, while 26 percent rate Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth as very reliable." Lichter, Climate Scientists Agree on Warming, Disagree on Dangers, and Don't Trust the Media's Coverage of Climate Change, George Mason University, STATS, April 2008, paragraph 12.

11. American Physical Society Study ... Socolow et al., Direct Air Capture of carbon dioxide with Chemicals, The American Physical Society, June 2011.

12. APS research revealed as significantly incomplete by Nature ... Socolow 2011 evaluated existing WWII Era atmospheric removal techniques and not surprisingly found them economically infeasible to address climate pollution. New technologies were not evaluated. The Climate Change Counter-Movement widely circulated the APS study and even though the third most important scientific journal in the world refuted APS claims - because they did not evaluate current new technologies - the damage was done; the media cycle had run its course. Today DAC is almost completely discredited in climate pollution mitigation strategies considered by policy makers and advocates, regardless of academic findings counter to this understanding.

Evaluation of APS study by Nature

13. Smoking, acid rain and ozone depleting chemicals ... One of the book's focal points is that some of the exact same people that were involved in creating the smoking, acid rain and ozone depleting chemicals debates have now created a climate science debate where none should exist. Also see CCCM, reference 5.
Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt, Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010.

14. Sulfur cap and trade - Carbon tax and marketization of DAC will likely be similar to the unexpected results with sulfur cap and trade ... It was widely believed that sulfur cap and trade rules in the 1990s would result in widespread installation of smokestack scrubbers to remove +/- 50 percent of sulfur from energy generation emissions. What happened instead was energy generators found a more economical alternative in simply using low sulfur western coal to generate electricity. Because of the significant cost effectiveness of new direct air capture technologies, the same thing will likely happen with carbon emissions regulations that do not specify exact mitigation requirements. Schmalensee and Stavins, the SO2 Allowance Trading System - The Ironic History of a Grand Policy Experiment, MIT Center for Environment and Policy Research, August 2012, last paragraph, page 5.

15. Global Cooling Sulfates ... Unger et al,. reveal the mechanisms behind net warming that include global cooling gases and mechanisms, the short-term time frame of 20 years, as well as traditional long-term climate policy time frames of 100 years.
Unger et al., Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors, PNAS, December 2009.

16. More than half of observed warming to date (57 percent) has been masked by aerosols ... Aerosols, which are heavier than air molecules that are held in suspension in the atmosphere by electrical attractive forces (static electricity), and which are mostly sulfate pollution from burning coal (smog), have been found to have masked 57 percent of warming that should have already occurred because of mankind's excess greenhouse gas emissions. In context, bullet seven of the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers says: "The RF of the total aerosol effect in the atmosphere, which includes cloud adjustments due to aerosols, is -0.9 [-1.9 to -0.1] W m-2 (medium confidence), and results from a negative forcing from most aerosols and a positive contribution from black carbon absorption of solar radiation. There is high confidence that aerosols and their interactions with clouds have offset a substantial portion of global mean forcing from well-mixed greenhouse gases. They continue to contribute the largest uncertainty to the total RF estimate."
IPCC 2013Summary for Policy Makers (SPM), page 13, C, seventh bullet. Drivers of Climate Change, bullet 7. Up to (-)1.9 Wm(-2) masked by aerosols out of 2.29 Wm(-2) total observed warming (from bullet 1) = 57 percent.

17. Oil (Transportation sector) is responsible or 2.5 times more warming than coal (energy sector) in the 20-year time frame, air travel cools, not warms the atmosphere ... Page 3384, Figure 1 reveals that On-road (transportation) radiative forcing (global warming) of 199 Watts per meter squared vs. Power (coal) 79 Watts per meter squared, or 2.52 times more warming. In the 20-year time frame, the Industry Sector has a (negative or cooling) forcing of -158 Watts per meter squared and Aviation -6 Watts per meter squared. In the 100-year time frame, the Aviation sector creates only 27 Watts per meter squared of warming while Power (coal) creates 554 Watts per meter squared.
Unger et al., Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors, PNAS, December 2009, page 3384, Figure 1.

18. Simply removing carbon dioxide from the air ... One of the main things this article has tried to communicate is the simplicity and economic feasibility of simply removing carbon dioxide from the air. At $200 per ton, to remove 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide from the sky will cost $21 trillion. Fully industrialized the cost could certainly fall to $20 per ton or $2.1 trillion for 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide. (Ref. 7) To industrialize this process would take a good three to five years on an expedited time timeline. If we spent the same amount of money on this project as we lose to sick days in the US alone every year it would be $500 billion per year. Considering a $2 trillion or $3 trillion investment is needed to bring the costs per ton down to $20 per ton, it would take four to six years to fully industrialize. Then for less than the cost of health care in the US for 2013 ($2.9 trillion), we could remove 50 parts per million carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and dispose of it for a little over $20 per ton as per work cited in reference 6 for direct air capture of carbon dioxide.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, author and CEO of the Climate Change Now Initiative in Austin, Texas. The Climate Change Now Initiative is a nonprofit outreach organization reporting the latest discoveries in climate science in plain English. Information on his book, Climate Discovery Chronicles, can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films at www.climatediscovery.org. Images copyright Bruce Melton and the Climate Change Now Initiative except where referenced otherwise.


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A Generation of Delay: Climate Policy Is 20 Years Behind

Friday, 04 December 2015 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis
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(Photo: Smokestacks via Shutterstock)(Photo: Smokestacks via Shutterstock)

The perceived debate on climate change has discredited traditional climate science communications to such an extent that we are just now implementing policies developed during the Kyoto Protocol era that began in 1992. New climate science knowledge is simply not making it out of academia and into public policy. One of the biggest examples is the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report telling us strong negative emissions (removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than we emit every year) are now required.

Directly removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is the only thing we know of that can create strong negative emissions.

Emissions reductions alone, like from Kyoto-era legacy policy currently being implemented, are four to six times less than what are needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Not only does the IPCC suggest more treatment of greenhouse gases, but also, new discoveries about global cooling pollutants and net warming reveal that legacy policy based on warming pollutants alone may create more warming than doing nothing. And the solutions? They are no more expensive than the cost of sick days in the United States every year. New education and communications techniques must be developed to better communicate the latest science to policy makers and the public.

Since just a few years before the Kyoto Protocol was born, our civilization has emitted as much greenhouse gas pollution as we did in the previous 230 years, (1) but the amount of carbon dioxide emissions reductions under the Clean Power Plan enacted by the US Environmental Protection Agency in July 201Global Thermostat’s pilot project can remove 100,000 tons CO2 per year for $10 per ton. (Photo: Global Thermostat)Global Thermostat's pilot project can remove 100,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year for $10 per ton. (Photo: Global Thermostat)5 occur 18 years after commitments from the Kyoto Protocol. In addition, the Obama administration's current climate commitments for 2050 are 30 years behind the Kyoto requirements for 2020. (2)

The 2013 IPCC has acknowledged this great disconnection between climate science and current policy with a clear and unambiguous statement of fact: "A large fraction of climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, unless net anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period." (3) In other words, we have to remove more carbon dioxide from the sky every year than we emit. Emissions reductions alone are not nearly enough.

The 2013 IPCC did not define how much "strong" meant. Research findings were not robust enough at the time. New work from the French National Center for Scientific Research, Japan's Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology and the Met Office in the UK reveals our future path.

For the best-case scenario, to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius while limiting carbon dioxide emissions to 390 parts per million (today it's 400 parts per million), we need to remove all the carbon dioxide that we emit every year, plus one-third more. For the worst-case scenario - and we are basically straddling the worst-case scenario today; carbon dioxide levels will reach 1,190 parts per million by 2100 without action - we need to remove over twice as much carbon dioxide as we emit every year. These amounts are four to six times greater than those put forth by the Clean Power Plan. (4)

How in the world are we going to do this? To start with, we must ensure that we begin to limit carbon dioxide emissions as much as possible through changes in our energy sources, agricultural techniques and REDD (reforestation), as well as through many more smaller adjustments, such as using more efficient light bulbs, buying locally, limiting packaging, carpooling and showering with a friend.

This next bit is important: Everything we know how to do combined is not enough to equal strong negative emissions. Directly removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is the only thing we know of that can create strong negative emissions.

Propaganda From the Climate Change Counter-Movement

The climate change counter-movement's enhancement of the perceived debate has wrongly persuaded the public that direct air capture of carbon dioxide is economically infeasible. (5) However, direct air capture technologies exist today that can remove 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for $21 trillion at $200 per ton and basically end the climate pollution challenge for a generation. (6) Is this economically infeasible? No, not by a long shot. It is no different than what Americans spent on health care in the decade prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. (7)

Moreover, the cost of these technologies will inevitably fall. No surprise here; new technologies (cell phones, computers, microwave ovens, big-screen televisions) typical see costs plummet upon full industrialization. The research says we should to expect to spend $20 per ton, or less than $2.1 trillion to remove 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide (less than total global life insurance premiums in 2014). (8, 9)

For the cost of what we spend on advertising across the planet every year ($500 billion), in a matter of years, we could rapidly industrialize direct air capture.

How has the climate change counter-movement so badly impeded the transfer of knowledge from academia to the rest of us? Most significantly, they have enhanced the "fairness bias" in the media. (10) Mountains of propaganda are telling us that climate change is not real (the warming hiatus is a good example, see here), and that climate scientists are corrupt (emailgate). Even though the science and facts tell completely different stories from those being told by the climate change counter-movement, the heavy influence of that "movement" in our society means that their "side" of the story is often reported by the mainstream media equally to the rest of the story. This fairness bias has its roots in law, the equal-time rule and the fairness doctrine that sought to achieve fairness in media reporting of issue-based topics. The media literally cannot tell whose science or "opinion" is real; they report each "side" of the story as if it were an issue based on opinion.

Perhaps in part due to this fairness bias, a report by the American Physical Society in 2011 claimed that direct air capture was infeasible because of costs. The report did not speculate on the recent science about new direct air capture technologies, citing that there was insufficient evidence to evaluate and instead evaluated World War II-era technology. That the co-chair of this study was "a distinguished adviser within British Petroleum [BP] Refining and Marketing's Research and Technology department" is a concept that bears thought. (11)

Because the American Physical Society report was a hot topic in the news cycle, media everywhere picked up on it and the damage was done. The fact that the American Physical Society did not evaluate the new technologies did not escape the third-most prestigious scientific journal in the world, Nature, which published a rebuttal to the report, making the significant omission clear. (12)

However, the news cycle had already run its course, and the Nature rebuttal didn't make the headlines. As in the public conversations around smoking, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals, the fairness bias of the media had done its job. The news cycle ended and reporting of the truth never made into the news. It took years to decades for the truth to be revealed on these other issues, and it may take a generation to shift the climate change debate. (13)

Racing Against Time

Nevertheless, it is likely that direct air capture will still be incorporated into the fabric of our industrial machine sooner rather than later. Why? Because a meaningful price on carbon has arrived with the Clean Power Plan. It's quite possible that the fossil-fuel-industrial complex - which includes energy generation and everything else that uses fossil fuels to make things - itself will actually get us out of this mess, and it will not be because we make it extinct. When we put a meaningful price on climate pollution, as the Clean Power Plan does, the new direct air capture technologies will likely be launched by the fossil-fuel-industrial complex because they are cheaper than removing carbon dioxide from smokestack emissions with current technology.

We have seen this happen before. When sulfur cap-and-trade regulations went into effect in the mid-1990s, it was widely understood that energy generators (coal plants mostly) would all install scrubbers on their smokestacks to treat sulfur pollution. Instead, industry switched to a little-known but more economical solution: low-sulfur, Western coal. (14) Once the fossil-fuel-industrial complex industrializes direct air capture technology, it will be a matter of little consequence to find the money to make meaningful reductions of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The lack of successful communications from academia, however, is much broader than simply the amount of carbon dioxide we need to remove from the atmosphere.

In the last five or six years, new research has finally allowed us to evaluate all warming and cooling gases and mechanisms. (Counterintuitively, only warming gases in the long-term time frame are included in current legacy policy). A lot of this science revolves around what are called dynamic atmospheric effects, including the effects of the global cooling pollutant sulfur. (15)

It turns out that sulfur in the atmosphere, in the form of sulfates, is a strong global cooling pollutant with a short life span. The sulfur (sulfates) comes from fossil carbon dioxide in coal, oil and gas. The IPCC says that over half of warming that should have already occurred today has been masked by sulfate emissions (one of the main ingredients in smog), which are mostly from burning coal. (16)

Why don't we all know about this? Don't put all the blame for the education failure on the climate change counter-movement. Arguments about why strong negative emissions and direct air capture are truly economically feasible are a bit of rocket science, after all. This science is very difficult to communicate without the confounding influence from the climate change counter-movement.

In 2009, work from NASA, Columbia University, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, the Environmental Defense Fund and Berkeley told us that oil warms more than coal in the critical time frame of a few decades (because global cooling sulfates are short-lived) and that air travel actually cools Earth (because of where the sulfates are emitted) instead of it being one of the worst mechanisms of warming known, as is commonly thought. (17) Global warming pollutants are still important and in longer time frames, carbon dioxide warming is still dominant. But impacts likely increase nonlinearly with temperature. Therefore, any warming at all increases risks, especially the risks from abrupt changes.

That policy lags behind both science and public understanding is not new, but over 20 years of delay - continuing alongside catastrophic risks that likely increase nonlinearly - have made things much worse. But the most significant disconnect between climate science and public perception has to do with solutions. For the astonishing cost of what we spend on advertising across the planet every year ($500 billion), in a matter of years, we could rapidly industrialize direct air capture once the fossil-fuel-industrial complex seeds the industrialization. In another five years, it could be possible to do the unimaginable and end the climate pollution problem for good by simply removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. (18)

The challenge is the time frame. To make this happen, climate pollution needs to be treated as the most important global issue we have ever seen, and the only way for that to happen is for more of us to get involved personally.

We need to treat climate pollution - using economical new technologies far cheaper than in the past - before it is too late.

Footnotes

1. Emissions since the Kyoto era ... Since 1978, the US has emitted as much carbon dioxide as was emitted in the previous 228 years. Globally, since 1984 we have emitted as much carbon dioxide as in the previous 236 years. These numbers do not include offshored emissions, or emissions made in countries other than the US, where the products or services created in those other countries are consumed in the US. Historical Emissions 1850 to present, World Resource Institute

2. Clean Power Plan is less stringent than the Kyoto Protocol ... Kyoto Protocol era emissions reductions were born of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. The Clean Power Plan is 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 (1969 levels of 4007 Gt C) vs. Kyoto at 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 (1984 levels of 4559 Gt C). The Clean Power Plan is 12 percent more stringent but 18 years behind. Kyoto commitments for Phase II were generally at 80 percent below 1990 by 2020. (The United States, South Sudan and Afghanistan were the only countries to not ratify Kyoto). The current UNFCCC commitment by the United States is 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, 30 years behind.
Historical Emissions 1850 to present, World Resource Institute
Clean Power Plan Fact Sheet
Kyoto Protocol Reference Manual
Phase II Kyoto Protocol
United States 2050 UNFCCC commitment

3. Strong Negative Emissions ... The IPCC now says that we must remove greater than 100 percent of annual emissions directly from the sky in order to avoid dangerous climate change. The following quote is from the next to the last statement of fact in the SPM: "A large fraction of anthropogenic climate change resulting from carbon dioxide emissions is irreversible on a multi-century to millennial time scale, except in the case of a large net removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over a sustained period." Chapter 12 repeats this statement in different language that adds more meaning and clarification to the Summary for Policymakers statement. From the summary of  Chapter 12 Long-term Climate Change: Projections, Commitments and Irreversibility, we find: "A large fraction of climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, unless net anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period."

4. How much is a large net removal? ... The IPCC did not quantify how much "a large net removal" meant, but it recognized the need. A "large net removal" is "largely" more than emissions reductions alone. This amount has now been published in Nature Communications as 105 to 135 percent of today's annual emissions for the best case scenario (RCP2.6, 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide, 390 parts per million carbon dioxide) and 170 to 210 percent of today's emissions with the worst-case scenario (RCP8.5, 1370 parts per million of carbon dioxide, about 1190 parts per million carbon dioxide). Because today's emissions in the US are approximately equal to 2005 emissions, Gasser's suggested 135 percent negative emissions is about four times more than the CPP's 32 percent below 2005 and six times more than the US current commitment for 2050 of 80 percent below 2005. From the abstract: "Because these figures have not been shown to be feasible, we conclude that development of negative emission technologies should be accelerated, but also that conventional mitigation must remain a substantial part of any climate policy aiming at the 2-°C target."

Paywall: Gasser et al., Negative emissions physically needed to keep global warming below 2C, Nature, August 3, 2015.

5. Climate Change Counter-Movement ... From 2003 to 2010, $7 billion in climate change counter-movement funding has been identified from revenues reported in IRS tax returns for 91 of 118 organizations and institutions identified in the academic literature as being involved. The research from Drexel and Stanford concludes: "With delay and obfuscation as their goals, the US CCCM has been quite successful in recent decades. However, the key actors in this cultural and political conflict are not just the "experts" who appear in the media spotlight. The roots of climate-change denial go deeper, because individuals' efforts have been bankrolled and directed by organizations that receive sustained support from foundations and funders known for their overall commitments to conservative causes. Thus to fully understand the opposition to climate change legislation, we need to focus on the institutionalized efforts that have built and maintain this organized campaign. Just as in a theatrical show, there are stars in the spotlight. In the drama of climate change, these are often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians, such as Senator James Inhofe. However, they are only the most visible and transparent parts of a larger production. Supporting this effort are directors, scriptwriters, and, most importantly, a series of producers, in the form of conservative foundations. Clarifying the institutional dynamics of the CCCM can aid our understanding of how anthropogenic climate change has been turned into a controversy rather than a scientific fact in the US"

Brulle, Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of US climate change counter-movement organizations, Climatic Change, December 21, 2013.

6. Direct air capture (DAC) costs ... Goeppert et al., produced a literature summary of current DAC findings in 2012. It is important to note that considerable false propaganda has been circulated in the media about the infeasibility of DAC based on a report by the American Physical Society. Discussion of this controversy is given in references 11 and 12.

Abstract only: Goeppert et al., Air as the renewable carbon source of the future - carbon dioxide Capture from the atmosphere, Energy and Environmental Science, May 1, 2012.

$20 per ton (just over) capture and storage ... Section 5.1 paragraph 2, "using the K2CO3/KHCO3 cycle is described as being able to capture carbon dioxide from air for less than $20 per ton. The total cost including sub-surface injection was estimated to be slightly above $20 per ton."

$49 to $80 per ton ... Section 5.1 paragraph 3: "An air capture system designed by Keith et al. using a Na/Ca cycle was estimated to cost approximately $500 per ton C ($140 per ton carbon dioxide). The authors added that about a third of this cost was related to capital and maintenance cost. Further development and optimization of the system by Carbon Engineering Ltd. for the effective extraction of carbon dioxide from air resulted in the decrease of the estimated cost to $49-80 per ton carbon dioxide."

$30 per ton long term ... Section 5.1, paragraph 5: "Lackner and co-workers developed an anionic exchange resin able to release carbon dioxide in a moisture swing process. The cost of only the energy required per ton of carbon dioxide collected was around $15. The initial cost of air capture including manufacturing and maintenance can be estimated at about $200 per ton of carbon dioxide. However, this cost is expected to drop considerably as more collectors are built, possibly putting carbon dioxide capture in the $30 per ton range in the long term."

Conclusion, first paragraph ... "Despite its very low concentration of only 390 parts per million, the capture of carbon dioxide directly from the air is technically feasible. Theoretically, carbon dioxide capture from the atmosphere would only require about 2 to 4 times as much energy as capture from flue gases, which is relatively modest considering that at the same time the carbon dioxide concentration is decreased by roughly a factor of 250-300."

7. Costs of solutions are similar to things our society does without thinking ever day ... Lord Nicholas Stern: when he was Head of the Government Economic Service and Adviser to the Government on the economics of climate change and development under British Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared a 700 page report on the economics of the solutions to climate change that showed the costs to be 1 percent of global gross domestic product per year. Even though the academic metrics have changed (as this article points out but that has yet to be assimilated into climate policy), the point of this footnote is that very substantial expenditures are relatively cheap and similar to a very large number of things we do in our society every day without thinking. Making a $500 billion commitment to climate pollution treatment every year is simple and cheap and if prolonged will be able to rapidly clean up climate pollution. See the last footnote for an explanation of the timelines likely involved.

Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, HMS Treasury, October 2006. Summary of Conclusions, paragraph 6.

Clean Air and Clean Water Acts ... Kenneth Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology, is quoted in the New Yorker: "The Clean Water and Clean Air Acts each cost about one per cent of [US] GDP": Although one percent of US GDP is $168 billion(2012), extended globally, we can legitimately compare one percent of efforts to control climate pollution as being $500 billion annually: Specter, The Climate Fixers, The New Yorker, May 4, 2012, paragraph 38. Also see global costs to control climate pollution are similar to those to control toilet pollution ... Alley, Earth: The Operators' Manual, WW Norton, 2011, chapter 16: Costs, page 209; costs of water/water infrastructure, page 217.

Health care in the US ... We spend $2 trillion every year, averaged 2000 to 2009 - before Obamacare - on healthcare in the US alone, in 2013 it was $2.9 trillion: National Health Care Expenditure Data, NHE Tables, Table 1.

Advertising globally ... We spend $500 billion every year on advertising across the globe according to the eMarketer Global Media Intelligence Report: eMarketer, Asia-Pacific Poised to Dominate North America as World's Top Ad Market, October 10, 2012

Agricultural Damages in the US ... $500 billion in Agriculture Damages (not counting climate change) in the US Every Year: Lazo et al., US economic sensitivity to weather events, American Meteorological Society, June 2011.

Sick days in the US annually... We spend $576 billion every year in the US on the costs of being sick at work: This includes incidental absence due to illness, workers comp, short-term disability, long term disability; Treatments at the doctor's office and pharmacy, lost productivity and reduced performance. This is according to the Integrated Business Institute's Full Cost Estimator.

Press Release: Life Insurance globally ... $2.65 trillion in global life insurance premiums in 2014: Life Insurance Carriers Profile, First Research, 11/09/2015

Entertainment in the US... $479 billion in entertainment in the US in 2012: The US entertainment and media market generated $479.23 billion in 2012, representing 29.2 percent of the worldwide revenue of nearly $1.639 trillion. In 2017, the US is expected to account for $632.09 billion, or 29.4 percent of the worldwide total of more than $2.152 trillion

Paywall Report no data: The Price Warehouse Coopers Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2013-2017  Data:

Fossil fuel subsidies globally ... $1.9 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies globally: International Monetary Fund Report in 2013:

US energy costs 2010 ... $1.2 Trillion is what US citizens spent on energy in 2010: US Energy Information Administration / Annual Energy Review 2011. Table 1.5 Energy Consumption, Expenditures, and Emissions Indicators Estimates, Selected Years, 1949-2011

US Transportation costs in 2012 ... $1.1 Trillion is what US citizens spent on transportation in 2012: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Expenditures 2012, USDL-13-1833

8. 50 parts per million carbon dioxide for $21 trillion using existing technologies, $2.1 trillion fully industrialized ... Hansen says "At $200/t C, the cost of removing 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide is ~$20 trillion." Being a little more accurate, the figure is $21 trillion. In reference 6 above, Lackner describes the costs of their existing technology today as $200 per ton and $30 per ton fully industrialized. Also in reference 6, Steinberg and coworkers at COAway tell us their technology fully industrialized would be a little over $20 per ton including disposal. At $20 per ton, costs to deal with 50 parts per million carbon dioxide would be $2,1 trillion.
Hansen et al., Target Atmospheric carbon dioxide Where Should Humanity Aim? Open Atmospheric Science Journal, November 2008, page 226 and 227, Section 4.4 Policy Relevance, paragraph 1.

9. See reference 7

10. Climate Science Education has failed, the "Fairness Bias" and climate scientists don't trust the media ... "Through content analysis of US prestige press - meaning the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal - this paper focuses on the norm of balanced reporting, and shows that the prestige press's adherence to balance actually leads to biased coverage of both anthropogenic contributions to global warming and resultant action." Boykoff and Boykoff, Balance as Bias - Global Warming and the US Prestige Press, Global Environmental Change, 2004, abstract. "Only 1 percent of climate scientists rate broadcast or television news as very reliable and 3 percent rate local newspapers as very reliable, while 26 percent rate Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth as very reliable." Lichter, Climate Scientists Agree on Warming, Disagree on Dangers, and Don't Trust the Media's Coverage of Climate Change, George Mason University, STATS, April 2008, paragraph 12.

11. American Physical Society Study ... Socolow et al., Direct Air Capture of carbon dioxide with Chemicals, The American Physical Society, June 2011.

12. APS research revealed as significantly incomplete by Nature ... Socolow 2011 evaluated existing WWII Era atmospheric removal techniques and not surprisingly found them economically infeasible to address climate pollution. New technologies were not evaluated. The Climate Change Counter-Movement widely circulated the APS study and even though the third most important scientific journal in the world refuted APS claims - because they did not evaluate current new technologies - the damage was done; the media cycle had run its course. Today DAC is almost completely discredited in climate pollution mitigation strategies considered by policy makers and advocates, regardless of academic findings counter to this understanding.

Evaluation of APS study by Nature

13. Smoking, acid rain and ozone depleting chemicals ... One of the book's focal points is that some of the exact same people that were involved in creating the smoking, acid rain and ozone depleting chemicals debates have now created a climate science debate where none should exist. Also see CCCM, reference 5.
Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt, Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2010.

14. Sulfur cap and trade - Carbon tax and marketization of DAC will likely be similar to the unexpected results with sulfur cap and trade ... It was widely believed that sulfur cap and trade rules in the 1990s would result in widespread installation of smokestack scrubbers to remove +/- 50 percent of sulfur from energy generation emissions. What happened instead was energy generators found a more economical alternative in simply using low sulfur western coal to generate electricity. Because of the significant cost effectiveness of new direct air capture technologies, the same thing will likely happen with carbon emissions regulations that do not specify exact mitigation requirements. Schmalensee and Stavins, the SO2 Allowance Trading System - The Ironic History of a Grand Policy Experiment, MIT Center for Environment and Policy Research, August 2012, last paragraph, page 5.

15. Global Cooling Sulfates ... Unger et al,. reveal the mechanisms behind net warming that include global cooling gases and mechanisms, the short-term time frame of 20 years, as well as traditional long-term climate policy time frames of 100 years.
Unger et al., Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors, PNAS, December 2009.

16. More than half of observed warming to date (57 percent) has been masked by aerosols ... Aerosols, which are heavier than air molecules that are held in suspension in the atmosphere by electrical attractive forces (static electricity), and which are mostly sulfate pollution from burning coal (smog), have been found to have masked 57 percent of warming that should have already occurred because of mankind's excess greenhouse gas emissions. In context, bullet seven of the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers says: "The RF of the total aerosol effect in the atmosphere, which includes cloud adjustments due to aerosols, is -0.9 [-1.9 to -0.1] W m-2 (medium confidence), and results from a negative forcing from most aerosols and a positive contribution from black carbon absorption of solar radiation. There is high confidence that aerosols and their interactions with clouds have offset a substantial portion of global mean forcing from well-mixed greenhouse gases. They continue to contribute the largest uncertainty to the total RF estimate."
IPCC 2013Summary for Policy Makers (SPM), page 13, C, seventh bullet. Drivers of Climate Change, bullet 7. Up to (-)1.9 Wm(-2) masked by aerosols out of 2.29 Wm(-2) total observed warming (from bullet 1) = 57 percent.

17. Oil (Transportation sector) is responsible or 2.5 times more warming than coal (energy sector) in the 20-year time frame, air travel cools, not warms the atmosphere ... Page 3384, Figure 1 reveals that On-road (transportation) radiative forcing (global warming) of 199 Watts per meter squared vs. Power (coal) 79 Watts per meter squared, or 2.52 times more warming. In the 20-year time frame, the Industry Sector has a (negative or cooling) forcing of -158 Watts per meter squared and Aviation -6 Watts per meter squared. In the 100-year time frame, the Aviation sector creates only 27 Watts per meter squared of warming while Power (coal) creates 554 Watts per meter squared.
Unger et al., Attribution of climate forcing to economic sectors, PNAS, December 2009, page 3384, Figure 1.

18. Simply removing carbon dioxide from the air ... One of the main things this article has tried to communicate is the simplicity and economic feasibility of simply removing carbon dioxide from the air. At $200 per ton, to remove 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide from the sky will cost $21 trillion. Fully industrialized the cost could certainly fall to $20 per ton or $2.1 trillion for 50 parts per million of carbon dioxide. (Ref. 7) To industrialize this process would take a good three to five years on an expedited time timeline. If we spent the same amount of money on this project as we lose to sick days in the US alone every year it would be $500 billion per year. Considering a $2 trillion or $3 trillion investment is needed to bring the costs per ton down to $20 per ton, it would take four to six years to fully industrialize. Then for less than the cost of health care in the US for 2013 ($2.9 trillion), we could remove 50 parts per million carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and dispose of it for a little over $20 per ton as per work cited in reference 6 for direct air capture of carbon dioxide.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, author and CEO of the Climate Change Now Initiative in Austin, Texas. The Climate Change Now Initiative is a nonprofit outreach organization reporting the latest discoveries in climate science in plain English. Information on his book, Climate Discovery Chronicles, can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films at www.climatediscovery.org. Images copyright Bruce Melton and the Climate Change Now Initiative except where referenced otherwise.


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