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Topic: Climate Science

[Episode #166] – IEA’s Climate Scenarios

As the energy transition continues to accelerate, it’s more important than ever that we update our models—both our empirical and mental models—of where we’re heading. Things that we used to take for granted, like oil and gas demand increasing every year, are no longer assured. And governments the world over are gradually tightening their restrictions on fossil fuel use and emissions, so it’s important to keep our data on climate policies and pledges current.

In this episode, we are joined by Christophe McGlade, Head of the Energy Supply Unit at IEA, to discuss the latest updates to the IEA’s Announced Pledges Scenario in light of the pledges announced at the COP26 conference in November 2021. We also revisit IEA’s other main scenarios, and review what the world needs to do to put us on a trajectory to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. Other topics covered in this interview include an exploration into the gap between what emissions scenarios imply about stranded fossil fuel assets and how the oil and gas industry is actually proceeding with the blessing of governments; the role of the oil and gas industry in the energy transition; the role of negative emissions technologies in the IEA’s scenarios; and the IEA’s plan to make more of its data available for free.

Geek rating: 7

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[Episode #117] – Climate Science Part 12b – Improving Climate Modeling

Are the climate change scenarios produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accurately representing our likely futures, or are they rooted in outdated data that doesn’t represent the progress we’re already making on energy transition? Is the world on a “business as usual” path to climate doom in a world that’s 5°C warmer, or are we actually within reach of limiting warming to 2°C by the end of this century?

In this episode, we ask two experts to debate these questions in the very first extended three-way conversation on this podcast. Representing the energy analyst’s critique of the IPCC models is Bloomberg New Energy Finance founder Michael Liebreich. And representing the IPCC modeling work is Dr. Nico Bauer, an integrated assessment modeler with the Potsdam Institute who has helped develop the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways used in the IPCC framework.

This episode is part two of that three-hour conversation. Part one was featured in Episode #116. Together, those two episodes make Part 12 of our mini-series on climate science.

Geek rating: 10

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[Episode #116] – Climate Science Part 12a – Improving Climate Modeling

Are the climate change scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accurately representing our likely futures, or are they rooted in outdated perspectives that don't represent the progress we’re already making on energy transition? Is the world on a “business as usual” path to climate doom in a planet that’s 5°C warmer, or are we actually within reach of limiting warming to 2°C by the end of this century?

In this episode, we ask two experts to debate these questions in the very first extended three-way conversation on this podcast. Representing the energy analyst’s critique of the IPCC models is Bloomberg New Energy Finance founder Michael Liebreich. And representing the modeling work that informs the IPCC process is Dr. Nico Bauer, an integrated assessment modeler with the Potsdam Institute who has helped develop the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways used in the IPCC framework.

This episode is part one of that three-hour conversation. Part two will be featured in Episode #117. Together, those two episodes make Part 12 of our mini-series on climate science.

Geek rating: 10

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[Episode #112] – Climate Science Part 11 – Climate Confusion

What do the various emissions scenarios published by the IPCC really mean? Is the worst-case RCP8.5 scenario “bollox,” as some have asserted, or it useful? Are we already doomed to experience seven feet of sea level rise and five degrees Celsius of warming globally, or is there still a chance that we can limit warming to two degrees? And if so…how likely is it that we can hit that target? How much can our energy transition efforts, both now and in the foreseeable future, do to mitigate that warming? Should our scenarios err on the side of being too extreme to account for unknown feedback effects and tipping points that may come in the future, or should we try to be as accurate as possible with our modeling, given the available data and scientific tools?

In this 11th part of our miniseries on climate science, we attempt to answer these questions and help our listeners sort out the various perspectives, from the tame to the apocalyptic, that feature in the current debates about our climate future. We hope that it will leave you with a much better understanding of what the climate scenarios really mean, how likely they are, and what the actual trajectory of climate change might be. We’re not out of the woods by any means, but our prospects may be better than you think!

View all parts of The Energy Transition Show mini-series on climate at: https://energytransitionshow.com/climatescience

Geek rating: 9

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[Episode #109] – Big Oil’s Climate Denial Machine

More than forty years ago, Exxon began researching the potential effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion on the climate. As far back as 1982, honest scientists doing respectable scientific work had realized that there was already a scientific consensus that a doubling of the carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere would produce average global warming of 3 degrees Celsius, plus or minus 1.5 degrees C. And they knew it would have significant changes in the earth’s climate, including rainfall distribution and disturbances in the biosphere, accompanied by major economic consequences.

But then, after climate scientist James Hansen’s presentation to Congress in 1988, Exxon did an about-face. It spiked its own research and started working on climate denial. For the next 20 years its efforts were oriented around manufacturing doubt and lobbying to block federal action. Along with other companies in the fossil fuel lobby, Exxon spent considerable effort and money on a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public and policymakers about the risks of climate change.

Our guest in this episode is a veteran energy and environment journalist who, as part of an investigative team at Inside Climate News in 2015, pieced together the story of Exxon’s history of doing research on climate change, and then discrediting their own research in an effort to frustrate action on climate change and energy transition. If you’ve ever wondered why the public and certain elected officials continue to deny the reality of climate change, this episode is for you.

Geek rating: 2

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[Episode #104] – 4-Year Anniversary Show

In this anniversary episode, we welcome back Jonathan Koomey to talk about some of the interesting developments and raucous debates we have seen over the past year. We’ll be talking about the flawed concept of “committed emissions” and how we should be calculating future emissions instead; we’ll expand that discussion and critique the conflicting stories that we’ve been hearing about the expectations for coal usage and emissions in India; we’ll review some of the efforts to execute so-called “just transitions” in coal country; we’ll take a little excursion into a recent raging dialogue on Twitter about RCP8.5 which had its genesis in the PhD thesis of our producer, Justin Ritchie, which we explored in Episode #49; we’ll move on from there to discuss the communication challenges around climate change science, and what’s wrong with the kind of hysterical journalism being practiced by writers like David Wallace-Wells in his book The Uninhabitable Earth; we’ll take a look at Jon’s latest research on the energy demands of Bitcoin mining; we’ll consider the rapid deployment of utility-scale storage and what that might mean for the future of the grid; we’ll review Jon’s update of global energy intensity data and ask what it all means; and we’ll wrap it up with another look at the energy transition modeling work of Christian Breyer’s team at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, which we explored in Episode #95.

Geek rating: 6

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[Episode #78] – 3-Year Anniversary on the Jonathan Koomey Omnibus

Veteran energy researcher Jonathan Koomey rejoins us for another anniversary show! In this episode we talk about California’s new plan to obtain 100% carbon-free power; the potential for “peak gas” as utility-scale solar-plus-storage and wind plants beat gas on price in the US; the outlook for nuclear power in the West; how to know when the numbers you’re seeing aren’t right, and how to understand data; and the degree to which energy transition can help us stay below 2 degrees C of warming. We also discuss some of the confusing issues with energy data and how that influences our forecasts for primary energy consumption, and we’ll talk about the future need for climate modeling. It’s a wide-ranging, fast-paced romp through all sorts of geeky energy topics that definitely deserves its Geek Rating!

Geek rating: 10

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[Episode #65] – Climate Science Part 9 – Jet Stream

In this ninth part of our mini-series on climate science, we turn to one of the key suspects in extreme weather events we have experienced in recent years—the shifting shape of the North Atlantic jet stream. And the fingerprints of the changing jet stream can be found in tree ring data. The guest in this episode has studied three centuries of European tree rings and found that the shape of the jet stream, along with clear deviations from historical weather, began in the 1960s, pointing to a connection to the changing climate. Other researchers have come to similar conclusions by studying things like the difference between Arctic and mid-latitude temperatures over time. And they conclude that increases in greenhouse gas emissions will make the jet stream increasingly wavy in the future, exacerbating such extreme weather events.

Geek rating: 3

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[Episode #61] – Climate Science Part 8 – Melting Glaciers and Sea Level Rise

In this eighth part of our mini-series on climate science, we tackle the subject of ice and melting, and how much sea-level rise it may produce. What if that viral story about a starving polar bear may not even have been accurate? What does it really mean when we say that a worst-case climate model projects 11 feet of sea level rise, and is that even a plausible scenario? What does it mean to say that sea ice is melting at the fastest rate in 1,500 years? How much sea level rise might actually result from ice shelves breaking off? And how can we relate the latest studies on melting glaciers and ice caps to degrees of global warming or meters of sea level rise? These aren’t easy questions to answer, but our guest in this episode has about as good a shot at answering them as anyone. His nuanced and deeply informed view of what’s happening to our glaciers and ice caps in this 90-minute interview is refreshing, thoughtful, and provocative, and offers an educational counterpoint to the usual simple projections of climate doom.

Geek rating: 4

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[Episode #48] – Climate Science Part 4 – Teaching the Carbon Cycle

In this fourth episode of our climate science mini-series, we dive into the carbon cycle to understand how the greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels accumulate in the atmosphere. We also discuss how climate science is taught, the concepts that students struggle to understand, and what the science of human reasoning and teaching can tell us about how best to communicate this enormously complex subject to a lay audience. Our guest is Dr. Sara Harris, a professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, who is an expert at teaching climate science, and who has published a book titled Understanding Climate Change: Science, Policy and Practice, as well as a self-paced free online course called “Climate Change: The Science."

Geek rating: 2

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