2020 Update: Fossil Fuels ≠ Global Warming

gas in hands

Previous posts addressed the claim that fossil fuels are driving global warming. This post updates that analysis with the latest (2019) numbers from BP Statistics and compares World Fossil Fuel Consumption (WFFC) with three estimates of Global Mean Temperature (GMT). More on both these variables below.

WFFC

2019 statistics are now available from BP for international consumption of Primary Energy sources. 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy. 

The reporting categories are:
Oil
Natural Gas
Coal
Nuclear
Hydro
Renewables (other than hydro)

Note:  British Petroleum (BP) for the first time uses Exajoules to replace MToe (Million Tonnes of oil equivalents.) It is logical to use an energy metric which is independent of the fuel source. OTOH renewable advocates have no doubt pressured BP to stop using oil as the baseline since their dream is a world without fossil fuel energy.

From BP conversion table 1 exajoule (EJ) = 1 quintillion joules (1 x 10^18). Oil products vary from 41.6 to 49.4 tonnes per gigajoule (10^9 joules).  Comparing this annual report with previous years shows that global Primary Energy (PE) in MToe is roughly 24 times the same amount in Exajoules.  The conversion factor at the macro level varies from year to year depending on the fuel mix. The graphs below use the new metric.

This analysis combines the first three, Oil, Gas, and Coal for total fossil fuel consumption world wide. The chart below shows the patterns for WFFC compared to world consumption of Primary Energy from 1965 through 2019.

To enlarge, open image in new tabl

The graph shows that global Primary Energy consumption from all sources has grown continuously over 5 decades. Since 1965  oil, gas and coal (FF, sometimes termed “Thermal”) averaged 89% of PE consumed, ranging from 94% in 1965 to 84% in 2019.

Global Mean Temperatures

Everyone acknowledges that GMT is a fiction since temperature is an intrinsic property of objects, and varies dramatically over time and over the surface of the earth. No place on earth determines “average” temperature for the globe. Yet for the purpose of detecting change in temperature, major climate data sets estimate GMT and report anomalies from it.

UAH record consists of satellite era global temperature estimates for the lower troposphere, a layer of air from 0 to 4km above the surface. HadSST estimates sea surface temperatures from oceans covering 71% of the planet. HADCRUT combines HadSST estimates with records from land stations whose elevations range up to 6km above sea level.

Both GISS LOTI (land and ocean) and HADCRUT4 (land and ocean) use 14.0 Celsius as the climate normal, so I will add that number back into the anomalies. This is done not claiming any validity other than to achieve a reasonable measure of magnitude regarding the observed fluctuations.

No doubt global sea surface temperatures are typically higher than 14C, more like 17 or 18C, and of course warmer in the tropics and colder at higher latitudes. Likewise, the lapse rate in the atmosphere means that air temperatures both from satellites and elevated land stations will range colder than 14C. Still, that climate normal is a generally accepted indicator of GMT.

Correlations of GMT and WFFC

The next graph compares WFFC to GMT estimates over the five decades from 1965 to 2019 from HADCRUT4, which includes HadSST3.

Since 1965 the increase in fossil fuel consumption is dramatic and monotonic, steadily increasing by 237% from 146 to 492 exajoules.  Meanwhile the GMT record from Hadcrut shows multiple ups and downs with an accumulated rise of 0.9C over 54 years, 6% of the starting value.

The graph below compares WFFC to GMT estimates from UAH6, and HadSST3 for the satellite era from 1979 to 2019, a period of 40 years.

In the satellite era WFFC has increased at a compounded rate of nearly 2% per year, for a total increase of 87% since 1979. At the same time, SST warming amounted to 0.52C, or 3.7% of the starting value.  UAH warming was 0.58C, or 4.7% up from 1979.  The temperature compounded rate of change is 0.1% per year, an order of magnitude less than WFFC.  Even more obvious is the 1998 El Nino peak and flat GMT since.

Summary

The climate alarmist/activist claim is straight forward: Burning fossil fuels makes measured temperatures warmer. The Paris Accord further asserts that by reducing human use of fossil fuels, further warming can be prevented.  Those claims do not bear up under scrutiny.

It is enough for simple minds to see that two time series are both rising and to think that one must be causing the other. But both scientific and legal methods assert causation only when the two variables are both strongly and consistently aligned. The above shows a weak and inconsistent linkage between WFFC and GMT.

Going further back in history shows even weaker correlation between fossil fuels consumption and global temperature estimates:

wfc-vs-sat

Figure 5.1. Comparative dynamics of the World Fuel Consumption (WFC) and Global Surface Air Temperature Anomaly (ΔT), 1861-2000. The thin dashed line represents annual ΔT, the bold line—its 13-year smoothing, and the line constructed from rectangles—WFC (in millions of tons of nominal fuel) (Klyashtorin and Lyubushin, 2003). Source: Frolov et al. 2009

In legal terms, as long as there is another equally or more likely explanation for the set of facts, the claimed causation is unproven. The more likely explanation is that global temperatures vary due to oceanic and solar cycles. The proof is clearly and thoroughly set forward in the post Quantifying Natural Climate Change.

Background context for today’s post is at Claim: Fossil Fuels Cause Global Warming.

5 comments

  1. Hifast · June 24

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

    Like

  2. Amos E. Stone · June 25

    Thank you, Ron. Being picky, 0C is a completely arbitrary point on the temperature scale. Doing the sums in Fahrenheit gives a different answer for percentages.

    Zero coal is zero coal, and so a percentage increase makes sense. Zero Celsius is not zero ‘temperature’, so any percentage increase surely needs to be based on Kelvin if anything. That gives a percentage increase equalling 97% of SFA, and strengthens your case!

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · June 25

      What you say is true enough. My thought was that Celsius temperature signifies the realities of life on our Planet Water (“Earth” being a misnomer). 0 Celsius is not arbitrary, but rather is the freezing point of water at sea level. Minus Celsius threatens many life forms, while an annual temp of +14C is very mild and liveable. Of course, we prefer it even warmer so less clothes are required, up to +28C, when we start to seek the shade.

      Like

  3. Paul · July 12

    Dear Ron,
    I fear that 1MToe=0.042ExaJoules and 1EJ=24E+6Toe
    Greetings, Paul

    Like

    • Ron Clutz · July 12

      Thanks for the feedback Paul. I went with BP conversions tables:
      “From BP conversion table 1 exajoule (EJ) = 1 quintillion joules (1 x 10^18). Oil products vary from 41.6 to 49.4 tonnes per gigajoule (10^9 joules). Comparing this annual report with previous years shows that global Primary Energy (PE) in MToe is roughly 24 times the same amount in Exajoules. The conversion factor at the macro level varies from year to year depending on the fuel mix. ”
      What needs correcting?

      Like

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