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Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 2.5
What is the impact of peak oil and peak coal?

Joseph Romm, Gristmill
The goal of this post is to explore how peak oil and, yes, peak coal might affect the world’s effort to stabilize CO2 concentrations. Here I present calculations I haven’t seen anywhere else, and since different sources provide different numbers, please view these as a crude estimates. I welcome corrections.

At recent growth rates for oil consumption, we are all but certain to peak in oil production within two decades — and if we follow the recent trend-line for coal use (and for coal reserves), we could hit peak coal within three decades. It looks like it simply isn’t possible for oil and coal use to sustain for decades the trends that led CO2 emissions to rise 3 percent per year since 2000, if the analysis below is roughly correct. That would be a very good piece of news.

Oil: I have already written at length on oil (see “Peak Oil? Bring it on!”). In 2006, the world consumed about 85 million barrels a day (MMBD) of oil. Oil use had been rising about 2 percent per year, though the recent price jump may have slowed things a tad. And, for the first time, not just the “peakists” but the CEOs of major oil companies think we have a big problem.

… Conclusion: I believe peak oil and peak coal will in fact interfere with the path that carbon emissions take in the first half of this century to a very great (but difficult to quantify) extent. That is a terrific piece of news for the planet (though, sadly, we have more than enough coal to destroy the climate if we burn most of it).

It is, however, a so-so piece of news for energy and climate modelers, because we lack solid numbers that are widely agreed upon for …

* how much oil reserves we have
* how much of a role unconventional oil could play in the next few decades (especially if we exclude much coal to liquids because we’re using all the coal up for other uses), and
* how much coal reserves we have now, or might have in a couple of decades.
(26 April 2008)

North Pole could be ice free in 2008

Catherine Brahi, New Scientist
ou know when climate change is biting hard when instead of a vast expanse of snow the North Pole is a vast expanse of water. This year, for the first time, Arctic scientists are preparing for that possibility.

“The set-up for this summer is disturbing,” says Mark Serreze, of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). A number of factors have this year led to most of the Arctic ice being thin and vulnerable as it enters its summer melting season.

In September 2007, Arctic sea ice reached a record low, opening up the fabled North-West passage that runs from Greenland to Alaska.
(25 April 2008)

Plan to reverse global warming could backfire

Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters
A proposed solution to reverse the effects of global warming by spraying sulfate particles into Earth’s stratosphere could make matters much worse, climate researchers said on Thursday.

They said trying to cool off the planet by creating a kind of artificial sun block would delay the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole by 30 to 70 years and create a new loss of Earth’s protective ozone layer over the Arctic.

“What our study shows is if you actually put a lot of sulfur into the atmosphere we get a larger ozone depletion than we had before,” said Simone Tilmes of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, whose research appears in the journal Science.
(24 April 2008)

Study Says Near Extinction Threatened People 70,000 Years Ago

Associated Press
Human beings may have had a brush with extinction 70,000 years ago, an extensive genetic study suggests. The human population at that time was reduced to small isolated groups in Africa, apparently because of drought, according to an analysis released Thursday.

The report notes that a separate study by researchers at Stanford University estimated the number of early humans may have shrunk as low as 2,000 before numbers began to expand again in the early Stone Age.

… Eastern Africa experienced a series of severe droughts between 135,000 and 90,000 years ago and the researchers said this climatological shift may have contributed to the population changes, dividing into small, isolated groups which developed independently.
(24 April 2008)