Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ottmar Edenhofer says it again

UPDATE: Some minor changes to the translation have been made -ER

As promised here is a translation of Ottmar Edenhofer's interview with the Sueddeutscher Zeitung from November 20. As far as Eli can find, it exists only in German and only in print and as an Adobe Acrobat image at Prof. Edenhofer's web site.

This is, as it were, the opening position for one of the Co-Chairs of the IPCC's WG III , and therefore worthy of notice.

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Sueddeutche Zeitung:Professor Edenhofer, you believe that Climate Summits such as will occur in Cancun at the end of November will less and less be less environmental conferences and increasingly be economic conferences. Why?

Ottmar Edenhofer: We have to free ourselves from the illusion that climate issues are purely environmental policy ones. For many countries it is all about concrete economic interests by now. They are only indirectly concerned with problems like desertification or the melting of glaciers, because climate policy extends today into many political areas. One thing has become increasingly clear: In the near future climate policy could redistribute the world's wealth.

SZ: How so?

OE: In the course of the 21st century it is not the fossil fuels that will become rare, it is the ability of the atmosphere to absorb additional greenhouse gases. We have more fossil fuel energy reserves in the ground than we can store in the atmosphere if we want to avoid dangerous climate change. That will not change because oil will run out. It will only lead to oil sands being used more and the liquidification of coal will become economical. A higher oil price therefore will lead to increased emissions. Further more coal will be used. And coal is relatively cheap and plentiful. You can turn and twist it as you wish: Climate policy has to make sure that the majority of the fossil reserves remain in the ground and are not used. Exactly that will diminish the income and wealth of the owners of oil and gas.

SZ: How much can the atmosphere take?

OE: Take coal for example. Worldwide there are about 12, 000 gigatons of carbon in the ground. If we want to meet the goal of not warming by more than two degrees Celcius we can only put about 230 gigatons into the atmosphere by the end of the century. That means that most of the coal reserves cannot be used. The science has been clear on this for a very long time. In politics, until now, no one is has been willing to say this in public.

SZ: Countries rich in natural resources will hardly want to cooperate with this.

OE: Until now the industrial countries have used the atmosphere cost free and ignored the negative implications. Those who have coal, oil and gas reserves will not be happy with an ambitious climate policy because they have profited from the cost free use of the atmosphere. However, every structural change since the industrial revolution has lead to a redistribution of wealth.

SZ: You are making no friends in the oil industry with your statements

OE: Since I put this obvious economic truth to paper in a book I have been constantly receiving mail from oil companies. But there won't only be losers. New shortages lead to innovation and innovators are the winners in the market economy. The stone age did not end because there was a shortage of stones, and similarly the era of fossil fuels will not end because of a shortage of reserves. It will be displaced by new technologies such as renewable energy sources.

SZ: Effective climate protection requires an international agreement. How should that succeed.

OE: Climate politics offers a chance for an ethical balancing of burdens. One much discussed possibility is to distribute emission rights on a per capita basis, so that at the end every person has the same right to use the atmosphere as any other. Africa, as well as India, would profit the most. It then comes down to insuring that the money is used to insures the development of these countries and not be given to corrupt elites.

SZ: Those who control the resources will insist that the world buy their coal, gas and oil in order not to use them.

OE: Could be, but that would be as if you paid a smoker to quit. That cannot be accomplished internationally. Climate policy has to be not only efficient but also just, otherwise it will fail.

SZ: How long will the transformation into a CO2 free economy take?

OE: Pretty long. The transformation will require almost the entire 21st century. We will be dependent for a long time on coal oil and gas. We should reach the high point of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Afterward the volume of emissions must decrease. Only near the end of the century will we have a CO2 free economy. We stand before a new, long structural change.

SZ: The Copenhagen Summit failed because of the conflict between the industrial, the rapidly developing and the third world countries. The industrial countries carry a historical guilt because they are responsible for the majority of emissions to date. Don't they have to pay for this in the future?

OE: The developing countries see it that way. But James Watt at the end of the 18th century had no idea that his discovery of the steam engine was the initiation of the greenhouse problem. Only since 1995 has it been clear of what we are risking with our economic model. You cannot hold the industrial countries responsible for what happened before then. What is clear though is that we are responsible for helping the developing countries reconstruct their economies.

SZ: Will the community of nations achieve the breakthrough in Cancun?

OE: Probably not. The positions have hardened. It is time to think about developing new models besides major climate conferences. Bilateral agreements between the EU and the rapidly developing countries for example, or even agreements below the national level. Why not, for example, the 30 largest megacities get together in a climate agreement. These should not serve as an excuse though, a global treaty is indispensable and is needed more every year.

18 comments:

guthrie said...

That's James Watt, not wall.

EliRabett said...

The bunnies are on typo patrol. Thanks

Flavius Collium said...

That's some straight talk. Expecting no economist (nevermind breakthrough people) to touch this with a long pole, as it points out the obvious "ain't just going to work" nature of laissez faire in pollution control.

Here's some sober music that goes for the reading background, it's about the same length...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvwO-GMoBCw

Hank Roberts said...

One word: Schwarzenegger

freetoken said...

"The stone age did not end because there was a shortage of stones..." - every time I see someone reusing that old adage I shake my head. It's a pretty good sign that the user of said piece of wisdom is leaving out lots and lots of important bits of the truth. To whit:

"SZ: Will the community of nations achieve the breakthrough in Cancun?

OE: Probably not. "

PROBABLY not???

Instead, try "Definitely not".

Belette said...

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7323/full/468508a.html

Horatio Algeranon said...

Climate change is the symptom.

Wreckonomics is the disease.

GRLCowan said...

"SZ: You are making no friends in the oil industry with your statements ...

OE: ... It will be displaced by new technologies such as renewable energy sources."

Friendship restored.

(How fire can be domesticated)

Marion Delgado said...

Scientifically consonant, well-expressed, succinct. More people like that out there will help.

Harold Pierce Jr said...

Here is a comment that I frequently post on the various climate blogs to remind everyone of energy use in the real world.

RE: Fossil Fuel Are Forever!

Harold the Chemist says:

Boats, planes, freight trains and trucks, military and emergency vehicles, heavy machinery used agriculture, construction, forestry and mining, cars and light trucks, recreational vehicles, and so forth will always require and use hydrocarbon fuels because these fuels have high energy density and are readily prepared from abundant crude oil, which exists free in Nature, by fractional distillation and blending of the distillate fractions, low energy processes which do not involve the breaking of chemical bonds. Even catalytic cracking of the heavy distillate fractions into lighter fractions for fuel formulation is a relative low energy process.

In the heavy industries, only fossil fuels can supply the heat energy and high process temperatures either directy or indirectly (e.g. the electric furnace) required by lime and cement kilns, smelters, steel mills, foundries and metal casting planets, all facilities manufacturing ceramic materials (glass, bricks, tiles, porcelin ware, etc), refineries and chemical plants and so forth.

Diesel-electrical generating systems are used extensively throughout the world for primary and back-up power and for power generation in many delveloping countries and at remote locations (e.g., diamond and gold mines, resort islands, drilling rigs, movie sets, etc). Electrical generators using gasoline are quite portable and are used for small snd modest power requriments.

Many processes in food production require large amounts of heat for baking, cooking and steam for sterilization, etc which can provided economically by fossil fuels. Drying of grain for storage requires enormous amounts of heat which can only be provided economically by fossils fuels.

Energy for space heating especially in cold climates and hot water production and for electricity generation, in particular for refrigeration, communication systems, hospitals and emergency services, is provided most reliably and economically by use of fossil fuels.

FYI: A Boeing 747 takes off with 346,000 US gallons of fuel for a long intl. fight. At large airports big jet are more numerous that house sparrows.

The most wasteful use of energy is diamond mining. Tons of ore are sometimes processed to obtain a few carats of rough diamonds. About 80% of gold production goes to the jewerly industry.

Who among you wants to tell the ladies, "No more diamonds, gold, sliver, platinium, rubies, emeralds, etc for jewerly." *In NYC, they would become outraged, ponce on you, take off the Pradas and pound you into hamburger which they would feed with glee to the coyotes in Central Park!

I don't want read any more foolish comments about getting rid of fossil fuels. Ain't ever going to happen.

EliRabett said...

This got hung up in the Blogger -

Here is a comment that I frequently post on the various climate blogs to remind everyone of energy use in the real world.

RE: Fossil Fuel Are Forever!

Harold the Chemist says:

Boats, planes, freight trains and trucks, military and emergency vehicles, heavy machinery used agriculture, construction, forestry and mining, cars and light trucks, recreational vehicles, and so forth will always require and use hydrocarbon fuels because these fuels have high energy density and are readily prepared from abundant crude oil, which exists free in Nature, by fractional distillation and blending of the distillate fractions, low energy processes which do not involve the breaking of chemical bonds. Even catalytic cracking of the heavy distillate fractions into lighter fractions for fuel formulation is a relative low energy process.

In the heavy industries, only fossil fuels can supply the heat energy and high process temperatures either directy or indirectly (e.g. the electric furnace) required by lime and cement kilns, smelters, steel mills, foundries and metal casting planets, all facilities manufacturing ceramic materials (glass, bricks, tiles, porcelin ware, etc), refineries and chemical plants and so forth.

Diesel-electrical generating systems are used extensively throughout the world for primary and back-up power and for power generation in many delveloping countries and at remote locations (e.g., diamond and gold mines, resort islands, drilling rigs, movie sets, etc). Electrical generators using gasoline are quite portable and are used for small snd modest power requriments.

Many processes in food production require large amounts of heat for baking, cooking and steam for sterilization, etc which can provided economically by fossil fuels. Drying of grain for storage requires enormous amounts of heat which can only be provided economically by fossils fuels.

Energy for space heating especially in cold climates and hot water production and for electricity generation, in particular for refrigeration, communication systems, hospitals and emergency services, is provided most reliably and economically by use of fossil fuels.

FYI: A Boeing 747 takes off with 346,000 US gallons of fuel for a long intl. fight. At large airports big jet are more numerous that house sparrows.

The most wasteful use of energy is diamond mining. Tons of ore are sometimes processed to obtain a few carats of rough diamonds. About 80% of gold production goes to the jewerly industry.

Who among you wants to tell the ladies, "No more diamonds, gold, sliver, platinium, rubies, emeralds, etc for jewerly." *In NYC, they would become outraged, ponce on you, take off the Pradas and pound you into hamburger which they would feed with glee to the coyotes in Central Park!

I don't want read any more foolish comments about getting rid of fossil fuels. Ain't ever going to happen.

Harold Pierce Jr.

Hank Roberts said...

> getting rid of fossil fuels.
> Ain't ever going to happen.

You have a secret source of supply we can rely on forever?
Are you welcoming new investors to your magic oil company?

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Rabett, I'm normally a very refined and restrained person, but why on earth did you retrieve this one?

I can quite understand an unimaginative person not being able to envisage other means of powering industry or heavy goods carriage. What I cannot understand is even the least imaginative person I've ever met not seeing that distributed power generation by renewables is far and away the best option for remote locations - both for desperate poverty and for luxury resorts. Has HJP not heard the US military is trying to convert as much as possible of their field accommodation and equipment to solar to avoid the problems they face in storing and transporting liquid fuels for their generators?

Easily portable electric generators indeed.

Smack!

MinniesMum

EliRabett said...

One should always allow others their say. Then it gets amusing

Anonymous said...

we have been provided an earth that has more than we can safely use. this is somewhat a dilemma for some.

Flavius Collium said...

Yes, some of my friends didn't buy gold rings because of that...

Isn't gold kinda kitsch too?

Some get titanium, some get hematite if you wanna go really "down to earth".

Flavius Collium said...

Hey, where does the 12 000 Gt come from? It's in the original newspaper clip but it seems very big. The proven reserves seem to be only 800 Gt?

http://www.ifpenergiesnouvelles.com/content/download/69133/1492353/version/4/file/Panorama2010_10-VA_World-Coal-Resources.pdf

Anonymous said...

Since all oil fields are from big pools of dead dinosaurs... How come scientists have not broken down the DNA codes in the oil and made us some big lizard draft reptiles, so we can pull plows or move a 70 ton M1 Abrams on the field of battle? Then when we have used up the reptiles we just created from goo, throw them back into a hole and wait a million years; or so---voila, fresh oil. Problem solved.
What; me worry? Cold blooded animals will do very well, working on a warmer Earth. AGW good...