A while ago, I made some bold statements regarding elected officials who should focus on protecting jobs and helping Wyoming citizens to house, feed and clothe their families. I said it was silly, and a little stupid to debate whether global climate change was man-made.
The story would be incomplete, however, if I didn’t share how government types are exaggerating the consequences of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by using out of date models. Relying on unreliable models is not going to change the market, but it may waste a whole bunch of money, and wreck an economy or two.
Let me preface my analysis with this statement – I am not a climate scientist. I do know how to read. I do know how to talk to the experts. I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express one time.
Allow me to share my understanding of one example of how climate models are being gamed. Put on your thinking caps. The information is technical, and it our laziness in processing technical information that has gotten us into this mess. So, all of you folks up on the mast of the sinking ship, let me share some research with you, that I urge you to verify, before you believe me.
Climate models use underlying assumptions about energy sources and uses, and based upon those assumptions, the climate models predict the climactic conditions in the future. So, if the assumptions are wrong, the results are wrong. You hear lots of politicians saying they “believe” the models are wrong, but rarely do you hear anyone tell you why.
Climate forecasters create complex computer models that process all types of data, and at the end, the climate forecasters come up with a prediction. Each model contains assumptions about uncertainties. Some of those uncertainties include how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions (such as methane, etc.) will be emitted into the atmosphere, the concentrations of greenhouse gases, the solar activity and how sensitive the climate might be to concentrations of greenhouse gases.
If the doomsday data is inserted into the front end of the model, doomsday data comes out the other end.
The model used most often for making policy decisions is a model called RCP8.5 (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5).
RCP8.5 assumes the sources and uses of energy, and then based on those assumptions, predicts the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The RCP models of carbon dioxide concentration range from very low (RCP2.6) to very high RCP8.5. The RCP8.5 model is out of date, and has been for a long time.
According to Dr Roger Pielke, Jr., RCP8.5 assumes that per capita global coal consumption will increase more than six times that the coal consumed in 2020.
Intuitively, that would mean coal companies in Wyoming, by the end of the century, would be producing more than six times the coal they produced in 2020.
No responsible person believes coal consumption is going to increase by 6.2 times by the year 2100. BP’s Energy Outlook 2023 (p. 15) notes a fall in global coal consumption by seventy-five percent by 2030. The RCP model is based on this preposterous assumption.
RCP8.5 also does not take into account the shale gas revolution of the 2010’s. It does not take into account the shifts to renewable energy sources. The model does not consider efficiency or the shift to low-carbon hydrogen. Some of the technology used today in energy production didn’t even exist when RCP8.5 was developed in 2011.
A graphic example of the changes in use of energy are contained in BP’s 2023 Energy Outlook which is the definitive estimation of the future of energy markets, predicted the following trends in energy. A simple view of the graphs reveals that fossil fuel utilization is predicted to decline.
Based on this information, RCP8.5 is hopelessly out of touch with reality, and has been for quite some time. Three other models exist for prediction of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But there has been little interest in changing to utilize models to which accurately reflect reality.
In a world where half the population lives in energy poverty, and the other half trends toward usage of more electricity, we are going to need generation of every type to meet the world’s demands for energy. Electricity does not come from a switch on the wall. Electricity needs to be created from another energy source.
The following are questions to which I do not have the answer, but I pose them for your consideration. I have some suspicions as to the answer, but there are a lot of suspicions going around and very little factual information. We should make decisions based on facts and science – not opinion and speculation. (We used to say in the fire service – When perception meets reality, reality always wins – and it usually hurts.)
Why, then, would the Biden administration, politicians and environmental groups use RCP8.5 to pass new regulations on methane emissions? (Roger Pielke, Jr. has a great article in The Honest Broker called, Secret Sauce – You’ll Never Guess What Drives the Biden Administration’s Social Cost of Carbon. December 4, 2023). I recommend it for your reading pleasure.
While you are answering the rhetorical question about the Biden Administration’s new regulations relying on RCP8.5, perhaps you would like to answer why academic papers, central banks and endangered species listings also rely on RCP8.5 as the most used model?
Who benefits financially from the unnecessary use of RCP8.5?
While you are pondering those questions answer these questions – what types of political pressures are going to come to bear on those who point out the fallacies of climate models?
Why do the climate modelers get away with basing their climatic assumptions on outdated assumptions?
Why is it that reading this article is most likely the first time you heard anything about why RCP8.5 is wrong?
A tendency exists to run around spouting opinions, rather than basing arguments upon facts. We deserve decisions based on factual information. The good information is out there. We just have to dig for it.
Tom Lubnau served in the Wyoming Legislature from 2005 - 2015 and is a former Speaker of the House.