Pumped-Hydro – The Climate Change Fix

Widespread implementation of pumped-hydro is the only simple fix for global warming. It will radically cut CO2 emissions without putting up the price of electricity.

Updated 24 February 2017

Energy Storage is needed in Australia

Pumped-Hydro provides a means to store “electricity energy” that is not immediately required. It does this by using this energy to pump water uphill. Later, when this energy is actually required by the users on the electricity grid, it can be quickly converted back into electricity by allowing the water to run down the pipes used to pump it uphill, thereby turning the generators at the bottom of the hill (being the same “devices” used to pump the water uphill in the earlier stage). The losses from this “storage process” are minimal, and actually have a very low cost. Most of the costs arising from this process relate to the need to build water storage, pipes and electricity generators (which also serve as the pumps).

In Australia, there is a great need to be able to store this surplus generated electricity, since electricity generation from wind does not match the demand pattern. This is beautifully illustrated by this set of graphs from a study of Wind generation in South Australia.

Here the demand is shown in the top graph, and supply from wind is shown in the bottom three graph, broken up into three regions of South Australia. As can be seen here, the largest generation region actually generates most electricity during the off-peak period from 2200 to 0600. At present, this large imbalance has had a very bad effect – it has led to the Alinta generators at Pt Augusta being shut down, since they could no longer be run 24 hours a day. They couldn’t compete with electricity supplied at a negative cost from these wind farms – a distortion created by a dysfunctional renewable energy certificate scheme. A better fix would be to utilize the storage capability of pumped hydro.

Why Pumped-Hydro?

Electricity is generated from wind energy for 24 hours a day: the quantum dispatched depends upon the wind and not upon electricity demand. Electricity generated during times of low demand is effectively squandered unless it is stored. The primary storage mechanism currently available is hydro-pumped storage, which is the central plank (with wind power) for Portugal achieving over 50% renewable energy. It is also used in Denmark, where existing hydro facilities in Norway and Sweden are used to recycle otherwise wasted wind-power electricity.

In Australia, pumped hydro could be implemented in NSW at the Fitzroy Fall Reservoir. This is a part of the water storage facility on the Shoalhaven River. At present it is mostly used to condition electricity generated by wind farms. Something more is required.

Pumped-hydro - an Australian example
Pumped=hydro at Kangaroo Valley, NSW

It is easily understood that electricity is generated by wind at times when it is not needed, this being an issue especially during the night. On the other hand, wind generators have no capacity to increase output during times of peak demand. Indeed, the extra electricity generated during these off-peak times adds to significant inefficiencies in the total supply system, with other generators having to be shut down to accommodate the additional power being produced from wind. This has happened in South Australia, where the Pt August brown coal generators became uneconomic, simply because they couldn’t be run for 24 hours a day, as they were originally designed to do.

The conventional solution to this “over-supply problem” is to store the electricity generated during the off-peak times using pumped-hydro. For example, Denmark do this with their wind energy, selling it to Norway and Sweden, who store it in their hydro systems, using this system “as a battery,” by pumping water uphill, and then releasing it later. These countries then sell the electricity back into the European grid at a higher cost than they bought it, thus providing themselves with a nice little earner.

Funding Pumped-Hydro

Using pumped-hydro power in this way can be easily accommodated as part of a wider hydro-electric scheme, such as in Norway, Sweden, and in the Australian Snowy Mountains and at Fitzroy Falls. The question remains whether a pumped-hydro electric scheme can be developed that has its sole justification in this kind of storage and release arrangement.

The economics of such a proposal is quite simple:

  • Electricity is purchased at $A25 MWh at off-peak times. Even with a 25% efficiency loss, this would only equate to $A31 MWh.
  • Electricity could be sold at $A275 MWh at peak times.
  • The electricity dispatch could be run for 6 hours every weekday, for 52 weeks a year.
  • Since the pumping operation could be run for 9 hours every day, also for 52 weeks a year this means that the system could also supply Shoulder tariff electricity (at $A160 MWh)
  • Cash flow from direct operating costs would be $A244 per MWh for peak electricity sold, and $A129 MWh for Shoulder tariff electricity sold.
  • If it were to run for one year, 6 hours per day, 52 weeks a year, 5 days a week, 90% of the time, it would return a cash flow of up to $A340,000 per year per MW installed, just for peak-load supply.
  • If it were to run for one year, 12 hours a week, supply Shoulder tariff electricity, it would return an extra cash flow of $A80,000 per year per MW installed.
  • Total direct cash flow would be $A420,000 per MW installed.
  • Installed costs for Hydro have been costed at between $US1m MW to $US7m MW (= $A1.4m and $A10m)
  • Operating costs could be managed to be around 2.5% of installed cost.
  • Allowing for operating costs of 2.5%, and a 10 year payback period, it will be economic to install such a facility, provided the cost of such an installation worked out to be up to $A3.5m per MW.

Thus, with proper planning is should be possible to deliver a profitable operation, without actually increasing the cost of electricity as delivered. One should also be able to see the potential to actually reduce the cost of delivered electricity, once sufficient pumped-hydro facilities have been build and commissioned, especially if they began their life as government funded facilities.

Pumped-hydro is a viable option in Australia

For those interested in following up this issue, I draw your attention to a December 2016 Engineers Australia article (p.46-53) which reported that Professor Andrew Blakers, ANU, observed that pumped-hydro has a cost impact that is a fraction of battery backups.

Blakers is reported to say that, in order to be cost competitive, the system should have modern high-quality turbines, 10 MW or greater, with the “top dam” being 400-900m above the “bottom dam”. They should also be “off-river.” He also commented that such facilities would not be difficult to site.

While Australian government funded ARENA seem to be happy to fund projects, such as the Kidson solar + pumped-hydro, there seems to be some problem with wind + pumped-hydro. This points to a fundamental problem with ARENA and other government funding and private advocacy organizations. For them, it seems that it must be solar, nuclear, or nothing. To hell with cost. Surely this cannot continue. Contact your MP and demand that action be taken that will reduce the cost of electricity, not just funding “lovely to have” projects, as seems to be the case at the moment.

Actually, the best option for increased pumped hydro is via the Snowy Mountain scheme, where it is likely that Tumut 3 power station could be upgraded to handle all the surplus electricity generated from wind farms throughout the National Electricity Market.

Useless arguments

Those who think that they know something about this subject are obsessed with establishing a carbon price, via some mechanism. My question for them is, “What will that do to resolve the problems caused by the over-supply of wind-powered electricity in South Australia?” The answer is obvious. “It will do nothing!”

The other “useless argument” is put forward by nuclear energy advocates. They don’t want anything to dampen their advocacy for that lost cause. Unable to really respond constructively to the risks indicated by the failures at Chernobyl and Fukushima, they attack pumped hydro as an improbable solution to the problem of a lack of consistent supply of electricity with non-arguments. We can forget about them until they can properly address voters’ legitimate concern about uranium nuclear.

More serious is the fact that the installation of a new 500 MW pumped hydro system in Germany because there is insufficient “surplus electricity” in that country. So it is the case, although they were prepared to go ahead with their plans when the ratio between average peak demand and average demand was 1.2 to 1.0. They delayed their plans when the ratio dropped to 1.1 to 1.0, which has been attributed to solar PV, which has taken the edge off peak demand, even though it remains a relatively minor contributor to total electricity supply. However, in South Australia the ratio between average peak demand and average demand is 1.4 to 1.0. If Australia were Germany, the extra capacity would be installed immediately.

It is time we left behind the dead arguments of 2007, and examined propositions more appropriate for 2017 and beyond.

Anyone who is concerned about global warming and climate change could surely not vote for a party that advocates an out-of-date, and ineffective, solution to the problem of too much CO2 in the atmosphere. Here the most vigorous advocates of action on this subject need to look carefully at their own motivation, for surely others will do the same.



Stable Electricity Supply & RECs

The oversupply of wind-power has seen the question of “stable electricity supply” enter into public debate in Australia. It is now very urgent that Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) scheme be modified to make it work for the nation, rather than just for “Green Advocates.”

Excuses are not enough

Update 10 February 2017. Now we discover that the REC scheme is even causing gas fired generators to be turned off. This situation is ridiculous.

RECs undermining a stable electricity supply

Who would seriously contemplate implementing a scheme that encouraged wind-farm operators to produce electricity in the middle of the night, when it is not needed? The Australian government did, via the REC scheme, in 2000. Surely it is the responsibility of governments to implement policies that result in a stable electricity supply, not an unstable one!

Under the current REC scheme, wind-farms can even deliver electricity to the grid at a negative price, since this apparent loss can be offset by approximately $25 per MWh. This is currently the approximate rated proceeds for each certificate produced, whether the electricity generated is really needed for successful grid operation or not. The electricity retailers buy this undifferentiated certificate, since this helps them to meet their “renewable obligations,” and they have no need or way to differentiate such certificates for themselves.

The downside of this is approach is that coal-fired generators (and nuclear for that matter), cannot be affordably run if they have to be shut down every day because there is insufficient demand from the grid for the electricity they would generate during the night. Unlike a wind-farm, coal-fired generated cannot be just “run on idle,” since they need the back-force of generating the electricity to offset the fierce power of their steam-driven turbines. Yet Alinta’s Port Augusta coal fired generators were turned off at night, causing Alinta’s operation to be unprofitable, and therefore to be shut down forever.

Who would support a scheme that caused the former back-bone of the South Australian electricity supply market to be shut down prematurely, causing unemployment in Port Augusta, and for South Australian businesses to consider moving interstate? The South Australian Labor government did and still does.

It is ideological madness to continue with this short-sighted approach, involving undifferentiated “Certificates” that do not distinguish between the “no need” electricity pushed into the grid by wind-power during the night, and the truly “useful” electricity generated by wind-power during the day.

Did the South Australian government know that too much wind-power was already causing disruption to the electricity supply in 2011? Yes. That was when an academic study showed the problems in the supply situation and called for an upgrade to the high voltage inter-connector to Victorian brown-coal backup power, as a way to address the difficulties. (My 2012 comments on this report can be found here.) So the inter-connector was upgraded, which led to even more wind-farms being installed in South Australia. Folly, built upon folly.

Wind-power – a viable Renewable option

The risk to the wind-power project is palpable. Yet wind-farms (and nuclear – but who wants that after Chernobyl & Fukushima?) are the only current viable solution to the need for long-term renewable electricity supply.

Despite the support of the Greens & government funded ARENA, current generation solar is a mickey-mouse solution, only able to supply electricity economically at the household level, not at the grid level, with or without batteries, except during peak periods.

Of the ARENA funded solar projects, only the Genex proposal to use grid-supplied electricity to create pumped-hydro electricity makes sense. This is a Queensland project, a state where there is almost no wind-power, despite the Queensland government dreamland proposal for a rapid uptake of renewable energy.

Grid-supplied electricity, generated overnight and purchased from the grid for about $25 MWh, and sold back to the grid at $275 MWh can make good logical sense, provided the capital cost is not too high. Pumped-hydro will deliver a stable electricity supply. This particularly applies to wind-power, because most wind-power is generated at night, when the wind blows more strongly, but also when it is not needed. By utilizing pumped hydro, “unneeded” electricity can be stored over the whole night and then released during the day. Yet it is not happening. Obviously there needs to be a push to force governments and the wind-farm industry to utilize pumped hydro. This can be achieved just by encouraging the Australian government to tweak the REC scheme.

RECs & a stable electricity supply

(Updated 10 February 2017)

My proposal is that RECs should NOT be counted if the electricity is generated in off-peak periods (10 pm to 7 am). This will allow the market-distorting effect of undifferentiated RECs to be eliminated.

Excluding electricity generated during off-peak periods means that wind-power will not soak up all the available demand during the night. Therefore there will be sufficient demand for base-load generators to keep working all night, and that unnecessary, costly, inefficient, and high carbon-emitting shut-downs and start-ups will be avoided. While it may be too late for Alinta’s Pt Augusta plants to be re-instated, it could allow the remaining Victorian Latrobe Valley generators to keep working until there is sufficient wind + pumped hydro capacity to permit them to be finally and rationally phased out. It could also mean that Engie’s Pelikan Point facility could be kept running.

While the concept outlined here may be a challenge for Greens voters and politicians, they should get on board. It is the only currently viable approach to achieving the higher level of renewable energy generation that they would prefer. At least, if the current REC scheme is continued, they are likely to see the de-industrialization of South Australia, so perhaps they will rejoice over that!

Changes to the REC Targets

(Added 10 February, 2017)

In the Australian system, given the highly politicized nature of the debate on this subject, changes to the REC target are likely to be too difficult to implement. This applies even though such changes would be needed to effectively keep the current arrangements in place. Therefore, it is proposed that no change be made to the REC Targets, but rather that, after this scheme is implemented, renewable energy providers be allow to issue a REC for each 0.625 MWh generated (rather the current arrangement of 1 REC per 1 MWh).

Food Security: PNG Leader

Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, welcomed the commitment of fellow APEC Leaders to strengthen food security around the region, that he said will benefit both the people and food producers of Papua New Guinea.

PNG leader on Food Security

The following is an extract from Papua New Guinea News Today.

After APEC Leaders delivered their Lima Declaration this week, the Prime Minister said APEC’s focus on regional food security will not only strengthen economies, but will open up skills training and technical support for Papua New Guinea.

He said food security is a further area of significant concern for APEC Leaders and they are encouraging greater action around the region and in individual countries.

The Prime Minister said, “APEC can address challenges to food security and this has implications for all people in the food supply chain, from farmer to consumer. As part of this, APEC Leaders have instructed our officials to place more emphasis on enhancing food markets, and this includes integrating food producers into domestic and global food supply and value chains. We further agreed that our Governments must do more to reduce food loss and waste, and for Papua New Guinea this is important in the post harvest-phase of production. This is the period after the crop is harvested and before it gets to market, and where food loses can have a serious impact in the incomes of our farmers and food producers.”

The Prime Minister went on to say that climate change and extreme weather pose a major challenge for food production and food security, noting that APEC Leaders have instructed officials in their respective countries to be proactive in dealing with this threat.

He concluded, “Papua New Guinea will participate in projects and technical capacity building programs that will help farmers better protect against climate change.”

Climate Sensitivity – it is not Science

The IPCC has published estimates of climate sensitivity of between 1.5 °C and 4.5 °C, but are unable to provide guidance on the likely actual level, whether it is in the middle of this range, or at either extreme. This is not science!

How can it be refuted (i.e. tested) if the premier organization does not dare make a prediction? Therefore, it is not science, since there is not an explicit statement that can be tested, and if necessary, refuted.

Climate Sensitivity

The expression “climate sensitivity” represents the warming theoretically expected if CO2 doubled from pre-industrial levels.

The use of this expression might have been an attempt to make an indirect proposition more understandable to lay-people. If so, one can say that has been fairly unsuccessful, and I believe it has stifled understanding and debate, rather than encouraged it.

In scientific circles, the effect of GHGs on the atmosphere is expressed more directly as “forcing” calculated as watts per square metre (W/m2). Scientists have calculated that the additional forcing for a doubling of CO2 will be 3.982 W/m2. (At least this part of the argument is reasonably treated as “settled science.”) So, expressing it another way, the IPCC are saying that additional forcing of 3.982 W/m2 is likely to result in an increase in global average temperature somewhere between 1.5 °C and 4.5 °C.

Complicating the use of this expression of “climate sensitivity” is the fact that CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas (GHG). What they actually mean is that any increase of GHGs resulting in a total increase in forcing of 3.982 W/m2 is likely to result in an increase in global average temperature somewhere between 1.5 °C and 4.5 °C.

One might be entitled to say that the definition and implementation of the expression “climate sensitivity” is too complicated to be useful in public debate. I prefer to use a new way of expressing this, referring instead to a “forcing multiplier,” even though it may superficially seem to be more complicated,

Converting the IPCC’s range of climate sensitivity into this new measure, we can say that the IPCC’s imputed estimate of this forcing multiplier would be from 0.38 to 1.13.

Forcing multiplier

Using the “forcing multiplier” we can directly compare forcing and warming.

We know that the additional forcing (since industrialization) from all GHGs has been 3.05 W/m2. Over that period the global average temperature has increased by 0.94 °C (from -0.44 °C to +0.5 °C). This means that the observed forcing multiplier can be simplistically calculated as 0.94 / 3.05 = 0.31. Alternatively, using a more sophisticated calculation, taking into account a number of different variables, and every annual value from 1850 to 2014, we can say that the actual observed forcing multiplier is 0.37.

We can see that the actual observed values for the forcing multiplier are slightly below the bottom end of the IPCC’s imputed range.

Alternatively, we can just say that the observed climate sensitivity is slightly below the bottom end of IPCC’s range for climate sensitivity.

This is a fact, but it is not something you are likely to find in a peer reviewed “climate change” journal.

Scientific difficulties

The major difficulty faced by most climate scientists is that their models predict a forcing multiplier much higher than the actual observed forcing multiplier. Indeed, the empirical data does not confirm their scientific analysis, so their proposition remains in limbo, and effectively “not proven.”

On the other hand, scientific propositions that are supported by the observed data are not being widely canvassed in the scientific literature. (Such propositions do exist, but they quickly disappear from view. Why?)

Currently there are no (accepted) scientific propositions to establish the forcing multiplier where both science and observations meet. We are in limbo on this subject.

We can present this problem graphically. Here we show just how far the IPCC upper range estimate of climate sensitivity (or forcing multiplier) is from the actuals. From direct communications I know that some climate scientists are expecting ocean temperatures to gradually increase, with the equilibrium (higher) temperatures of the ocean taking centuries to be achieved. While temperatures in the ocean are probably lagging the land temperature increases, there is no observable indication in the following chart that such a “catch up” has had any effect so far.

IPCC Climate Sensitivity fallacy
IPCC Forecasts cannot be trusted

On the other hand, those who try to reproduce temperature data without taking into account GHGs will continue to struggle to win the argument. As can be seen, the other variables included here, like the 11 year sun-spot cycle, volcanoes, and El Nino, are not sufficient to explain the long-term trend of an increase in temperatures.


If the forcing multiplier remains around the level of 0.38 per W/m2, the long-term strategy dealing with the likely continuing increase in global average temperature is clear. A steady reduction in CO2 emissions in developed nations (plus China) of about 2% per year is necessary.

If, on the other hand, if the forcing multiplier rises to 1.13 per W/m2, as the IPCC seem to either expect or are not willing to dismiss, more radical action on CO2 will be required.

Yet 165 years of evidence weighs against the wildest of the IPCC estimates. Accepting and acting upon an extreme estimate is likely to lead to extreme political difficulties right across the whole planet. The precautionary principle suggests we should wait for more definite evidence before acting on such unsupported claims.

Pumped-Hydro the way forward

South Australia, more than almost anywhere else in the world, is ripe for a Pumped-Hydro solution to its electricity supply problem.

South Australia looks to other states to rescue it from its foolish over-investment in wind-farms. Half-baked solutions won’t fix climate change! Pumped-Hydro will fix both.

SA’s experiment in Wind-power

A 2011 study by Australian electrical engineering scientists, Nicholas Cutler, et al., “High penetration wind generation impacts on spot prices in the Australian national electricity market,” provided a useful snapshot of impact of wind power on the dynamics of electricity dispatch (supply) to the grid.

Highlights identified by the publisher from their study were:

  • In South Australia (SA), wind generation has an influence on market prices.
  • Little or no correlation is found between wind generation and demand.
  • Wind farms in SA are receiving a lower average price than in other States.
  • The results highlight the importance of appropriate electricity market design.

From this study, one can conclude that not everything in the SA electricity market is satisfactory. The problems in the system also have the effect of limiting the ability of the system overall to take advantage of the wind power being generated in SA.

As I argued in 2012, the already extensive investment in Wind-power in SA meant that the electricity supply in that state was out of balance. I also argued for an upgrade to the inter-connector with Victoria was needed to fix that problem. Indeed, this was the solution adopted by SA and the national regulator. Yet it has led to even more wind-farms being built in SA, and now the larger inter-connector cannot cope.

A few months prior to the latest electricity generation disaster in SA, the SA Treasurer replied to me that he and his government were proud of their record on approving more wind-farms.

With an electrical storm hitting the towers carrying the wind-generated power  from the north of the state, and a lightning strike on the primary facility for balancing the load in SA a few days ago, the whole state was blacked-out. Yet we can see that the SA government and the advocates of more renewable energy will not accept any blame for this situation. Instead they change the subject and talk about the higher temperatures leading to the storm. While this is likely to be the case, it has nothing to do with the viability of the particular solution adopted in South Australia, where more wind-farms have been built than the electricity infrastructure can handle.


A primary problem with wind energy is that electricity generated during times of low demand is effectively squandered, being sold for around $10 MWh. In SA, this “surplus electricity” problem has even caused the Pt Augusta electricity generators to be prematurely retired thus building in more instability into the electricity supply system. This has meant that, during the storm, there was not enough capacity in the system to balance the load, and the Torrens Island generators had to be switched off, creating an outage of the whole state, because of “the outage of the state!” (Of course, this explanation, offered by AGL or the State government, does not make sense.)

Inevitably, electricity is generated by wind at times when it is not needed, mainly during the night, while wind generators have no capacity to increase output during times of peak demand. This means that the electricity generated during these off-peak times is effectively wasted, and in fact adds to instability in the grid, as other generators have to be shut down to accommodate the additional power being produced. It also raises the problem that back-up generators have to be provided “just in case” the wind fails at a critical time.

The conventional solution to both of these problems is to store the electrical generated during the off-peak times using hydro. For example, Denmark do this with their wind energy, selling it to Norway and Sweden, who store it in their hydro systems, using this system “as a battery,” by pumping water uphill, and then releasing it later. These countries then sell the electricity back into the European grid at a higher cost than they bought it, thus providing themselves with a nice little earner, provided the capital cost is not too high.

Also, Pumped-Hydro is used in Australia to store electricity generated by more conventional means during off-peak times, for example in the water storage facility on the Shoalhaven River in New South Wales (NSW). Here there is a hydro-electric power scheme operated as this kind of “electricity storage” at the Fitzroy Falls Reservoir.

The idea of storing electricity via Pumped-Hydro should be a popular concept in Australia: it appeals to our natural sense of maintaining a proper balance, and using everything most efficiently. Proposals of this kind can be found on the internet. It is not possible to assess the viability of such Pumped-Hydro proposals without carrying out detailed investigations. Nevertheless, the simple proposition is that, if the pumping cost plus the cost of the off-peak electricity, plus a return on the capital cost, was less than the final sale of peak electricity then we would have a viable proposition. For example, the following rough figures help us to put the concept into context:

  • Electricity stored: 6 hours a day at 500 MW = 1000 GWh per annum.
  • Cost of electricity purchased = $15 MWh = $A15m
  • Electricity sold at $150 MWh = $A150m
  • Gross Margin of $A135m
  • Other costs of $A10m
  • Net Margin of $A125m
  • This could support an investment of at least $A1 billion in infrastructure.

One does not normally associate hydro electricity with SA – the driest state in the driest continent. Nevertheless, if the Pumped-Hydro concept did prove to be economically viable, one could build such a facility in SA just off the River Murray, with one end of the system being adjacent to Nildottie, where the elevation is 43 metres, and the other being just north of Sedan Flats, where the elevation is greater than 300 metres, giving a very healthy 260 metre drop, in two steps. A rough map of this location (with apologies to the owners of this land) follows:

Pumped-Hydro – two dam concept

With the UK having recently approved the development of a new uranium nuclear facility, with a guaranteed cost of £92.50/MWh, one could say that pumped-hydro is becoming a more viable concept by the day. The costs of wind + Pumped-Hydro are likely to be less than half the cost of current generation nuclear power, and has none of the very large downsides that can be attributed to nuclear.

It should be surprising that those most concerned about climate change are not pushing this concept, but it isn’t. They are obsessed with solar, and nothing but solar will meet the objective of a de-industrialized world.

It should be surprising that the advocates of nuclear, on the basis of the unreliability of wind for generating electricity, do not endorse this approach. But true believers cannot be shifted.

It looks like the burden of coming up with a viable way forward for electricity generation will be left to the politicians, but even these are so blind that they cannot see the “writing on the wall,” preferring to pursue more “sexy” alternatives.

COP21 and Binding Targets

COP21 chose aspirational targets, rather than binding targets. It was a good outcome for the Paris Climate Conference.

An attempt to implement binding emission reduction targets at the Paris Climate Conference, COP21, would not have achieved as much. Under that scenario, only leaders who were being pushed by an ideological agenda would have made substantial commitments. As it turned out, only China held back from making a reasonable commitment, while actually working behind the scenes to take more drastic action (or at least that is what we currently think).

COP21 – not the IPCC

The IPCC has been ideologically blinded by its 1990 ambition to model the climate out to the future. This has proven to be “too difficult.” In response the “true believers” in this strategy have committed themselves to outrageous advocacy of a “climate disaster” position.

This is well illustrated in an article by Glen P. Peters, Robbie M. Andrew, Tom Boden, Josep G. Canadell,  Philippe Ciais, Corinne Le Quéré, Gregg Marland, Michael R. Raupach and Charlie Wilson, “The challenge to keep global warming below 2?°C,” NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE | VOL 3 | JANUARY 2013. In this article, it was claimed that the world was on a trajectory of totally out-of-control climate change (represented on the chart below as RCP 8.5).

The authors constructed a chart to demonstrate their point, and made a prediction of 2012 CO2 emissions that was more like a guess that supported their proposition. The Australian CSIRO even cited this article to me in 2015, even though evidence from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 CO2 atmospheric levels showed that emissions were likely to have fallen below the estimates in this graph.

It is now clear that Peters, et al. were wrong. Despite this, the orthodox position is that the collective known as the IPCC can do no wrong. Yet the politicians at COP21 do not appear to have believed them. They came up with plan that would actually work, which was not based on a “climate disaster” scenario, such as presented by Peters, et al.

We can compare the outrageous predictions of IPCC-linked climate scientists with the actual likely outcome, at least as indicated by hard evidence of the actual known CO2 atmospheric levels up to the end of 2015.

CO2: COP21 outcomes vs IPCC
Likely CO2 vs. IPCC “representative concentration pathways”

A caveat has to be raised for 2016, since the atmospheric levels of CO2 have risen much more than expected. Most of this increase can be attributed to the El-Nino effect, with a higher temperature resulting in more CO2 being released from the ocean. However, this does not entirely explain the increase, and we have to wait until June 2017, when the El-Nino effect has been fully purged from the data to be really sure about this. (Earlier I had written that the extra atmospheric CO2 was possibly due to emissions from the Middle-East war. While the war did increase atmospheric CO2, I am willing to concede that it is both temporary and was dwarfed by the El-Nino effect. I have now a more robust explanation, but publication of that explanation, even in this form, will have to wait until after June.)


A close to ideal strategy would be something like a 2% reduction in CO2 emissions per year per nation for the next 10 years from a 2013 base. COP21 did not adopt this target, but it headed in this direction.

Such a target is only fairly applied to those nations above the world average per person of CO2 emissions of around 5 tonnes per person. Using 2010 data, the following are the most important countries in regard to CO2 emissions:

China – 8 billion tonnes per year – 6 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
USA – 5 billion tonnes per year – 17 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
India – 2 billion tonnes per year – 1.6 tonnes per person – no reduction target
Russia – 2 billion tonnes per year – 12 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Japan – 1 billion tonnes per year – 9 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Germany – 750 million tonnes per year – 9 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Iran – 570 million tonnes per year – 7 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
South Korea – 560 million tonnes per year – 11 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Canada – 500 million tonnes per year – 13 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
UK – 500 million tonnes per year – 8 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Saudi Arabia – 460 million tonnes per year – 16 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
South Africa – 460 million tonnes per year – 9 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Mexico – 440 million tonnes per year – 4 tonnes per person – no reduction target
Indonesia – 430 million tonnes per year – 2 tonnes per person – no reduction target
Brazil – 420 million tonnes per year – 2 tonnes per person – no reduction target
Italy – 410 million tonnes per year – 7 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Australia – 370 million tonnes per year – 16 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
France – 360 million tonnes per year – 5.5 tonnes per person – down to 5 tonnes
Poland – 320 million tonnes per year – 8 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Ukraine – 300 million tonnes per year – 7 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Turkey – 300 million tonnes per year – 4 tonnes per person – no reduction target
Thailand – 300 million tonnes per year – 4.5 tonnes per person – no reduction target
Spain – 300 million tonnes per year – 5.5 tonnes per person – down to 5 tonnes
Kazakhstan – 250 million tonnes per year – 14 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Malaysia – 220 million tonnes per year – 7 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Egypt – 200 million tonnes per year – 2.5 tonnes per person – no reduction target
Venezuela – 200 million tonnes per year – 7 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Netherlands – 180 million tonnes per year – 11 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Argentina – 180 million tonnes per year – 4 tonnes per person – no reduction target
UAE – 170 million tonnes per year – 18 tonnes per person – 2% target applies
Taiwan should also be included, but is not listed in the UN data.


It is interesting that Methane is not the problem that IPCC predicted it would be. However, holding Methane emissions levels constant could be a good aspirational target.

Nitrous Oxide

Nitrous Oxide, particularly from transportation, is not open to easy attack. A solution to the growth in nitrous oxide emissions will probably depend upon the development of electric cars as a viable alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles. That is likely to be 10 years away. The target here could be to develop alternatives to current vehicle engines in that period.


Similarly, while atmospheric levels of CFCs are declining, atmospheric levels of HCFCs are growing. The target here could be to develop alternatives to HCFCs over the next 10 years.

History of this discussion

An earlier version of this article was published before COP21. It can found here.