Why Copenhagen Will Achieve Nothing

Guest post by Willis Eschenbach

The upcoming Copenhagen climate summit, officially and ponderously named “COP15 United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen 2009”, is aimed at reducing the emissions of the developed world. The main players, of course, are the US and Western Europe. There is a widespread perception that if the US and Western Europe could only get our CO2 emissions under control, the problem would be solved. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To see the gaping hole in this idea, it is only necessary to look at the historical record of carbon emissions. Here is that graph:


While in 1970 the US and Western Europe combined to contribute about half of all CO2 emissions, at present this is far from true. In the past 35 years, the combined emissions of the US and Western Europe have risen only slightly. Globally, however, CO2 emissions have risen steeply, with no end in sight.

So it doesn’t matter if Europe signs on to a new Kyoto. It doesn’t matter if the US adopts Cap and Trade. Both of them together will make no significant difference. Even if both areas could roll their CO2 emissions back to 1970 levels, it would not affect the situation in the slightest.

These are meaningless attempts to hold back a rising tide of emissions. Me, I don’t think rising CO2 levels are a problem. But if you think it will be a problem, then you should definitely concentrate on adaptation strategies .. because mitigation simply isn’t going to work.


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Terry Jackson

Increasing the amount of plant nutrients is a good thing. Healthy plants, well fed people.


Oh but you forgot Australia… our PM is determined to push through legislation on the “Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme” and we emit around 1.5% of the world’s Co2… There, you see?
Once again the Aussies come to the rescue…

Eric Anderson

Very interesting. Assuming the graph is accurate, this is a real eye opener.


What am I bid for my share of Antarctica?


You don’t have to be a climate scientist.
Common sense is sufficient to see how bizarre things can turn out, once they have reached religion status, in the worst sense.
Thanks for this piece … and yes, WUWT is my science blog favorite.

Skeptic Tank

A bit off-topic, but I honestly don’t get the units. Is a “tonne” of carbon a mass of CO2 gas? Does it relate to standard cubic feet or normative liters?

Gene Zeien
Ron de Haan

How long is it going to take before people understand that the real objective is neither the Climate or CO2 emission reductions but an international power grab, taxation, resources and population control.
In Copenhagen is nobody will be present who believes we have a climate problem.


Gene, if I am reading that correctly we have not changed out output much since around 1980


the size of the total US emissions just equals the global increase between 2000-2005.
ruining the US and european economies makes abolutely no sense.
it would be hard to detect in a CO2 chart and undetectable in a temperature graph, even if the agw scam would be true.


Skeptic Tank (19:32:47) :
Tonne as in metric tonne as in 1,000kg or 1,000,000g and approximately 2,205lbs.
Here’s another way of looking at it… note the graph at the bottom where developing countries overtake developed ones in GHG emissions by 2015:

Gary Hladik

Skeptic Tank (19:32:47) : “A bit off-topic, but I honestly don’t get the units. Is a “tonne” of carbon a mass of CO2 gas? Does it relate to standard cubic feet or normative liters?”
From Wikipedia, a “tonne” is a measure of mass equal to 1,000 kilograms or approximately a cubic meter of water. To get “tonnes of carbon” emitted, I assume they estimate the mass of carbon dioxide emitted, but count only the mass of the carbon in the emitted gas, ignoring the oxygen.
Nostalgia: As a kid first learning about chemistry I was confused by the concept of mass with regard to gasses (how can something so ephemeral have mass?), until my teacher asked which had more mass, a kilogram of ice, a kilogram of water, or a kilogram of water vapor. Nowadays I still visualize “tonnes of carbon dioxide” as dry ice, and “tonnes of carbon equivalent” as a pile of coal. 🙂

4 billion

How can the US circa 1970 (pop. 200 m) be producing similar levels of C to todays US (pop. 300m)?
According to the graph the US, Euro and China (same as US) combined account for 4 Gtonne, where is the other 4 Gtonne coming from? considering Africa produces 3.5% of US output.

Chris Edwards

Ron de Haan is correct, to prove it how many deligates at Copenhagen will be asking people to boycott Chinese and Indian goods and services, the answer is only the ones who believe in CO2 driven AGW, read Rons comment for the answer.


In Copenhagen we Trust, nobody can hear you scream.


4 billion, the reason we are not emitting that much more now that in 1970 is energy effiencies have improved over that time, so even though there are more people, they use less energy per person, some sources would for that increase in effiency for example, more use of flourescent (sp) over incandenscent, and more efficient flourescents at that, better mileage vehicles, more effiecient power plants, ect.. bascially, the more we prosper.
p.s. forgive my spelling been a long day, not thinking clearly now.


so is Copenhagen on or off for now?.

Don’t expect logic; don’t expect science; don’t expect common sense. Expect this: “38. The scheme for the new institutional arrangement under the Convention will be based on three basic pillars:government; facilitative mechanism; and financial mechanism, and the basic organization of which will include the following: (a) The government will be ruled by the COP with the support of a new subsidiary body on adaptation, and of an Executive Board responsible for the management of the new funds and the related facilitative processes and bodies.
For “related facilitative bodies,” read: UN armed force.

Methow Ken

I continue to be more optomistic as time goes by; that the dogmatic and intolerant religion AGW has become will indeed in the end finally be overcome by the rising tide of objective science and factual data (facts are still stubbon things).
The danger is that AGW ”believers” in Congress and the White House will by a final desperate effort manage to buy off enough wavering MOCs to slip something close to the Waxman-Markey ”Cap and Tax” travesty thru in the dead of a dark night.
OTOH, if passage can delayed for just a few more months; and given the wake-up call for Blue Dog (D)s provided by the races for Gov in VA and NJ; the further we get into the 2010 election year the safer we will be.
Right now if I had to bet, I would say that Waxman-Markey (at least in anything like its original form) is sinking fast. Oh, Congress might end up passing something later on in 2010. But if we get into the thick of the 2010 primary election season, whatever can be passed then will (I sure hope) be a VERY pale shadow of the original Waxman-Markey idiocy.
And it’s clear things are starting to look up for objective science around the world too: Hopefully our saner friends Down Under will manage to sidetrack their PM’s version of Waxman-Markey, before Australia jumps off the AGW cliff.


and look at what they are doing now.
UNICEF and the NZ youth delegation attending the Children’s Climate Forum in Copenhagen need your help to fundraise $5,000 to send a Kiribati youth delegation to this important event.

a jones

Indeed which weighs more a ton of feathers or a ton of lead?
I think I learned that at about age five.
I found the idea that plants grow by turning CO2 gas into a solid, themselves as it were, much more puzzling because I sort of thought it was the land they were taking up. Age 7 or so I think.
And I am still amazed to hear people, and well educated people too, cling to the fallacy that the earth, its oceans and its atmosphere are in some kind of static and ideal equilibrium.
So that if you put some kind of supposedly non natural pollutant into the atmosphere or the ocean you will permanently disturb this perfect balance: and endanger us all which naturally must be a Bad Thing.
Nothing could be further from the truth yet it is this very infantile fallacy on which so much of so called Green ideology depends. From ideas that vast amounts of CO2 from burning fossil fuel will persist in the atmosphere for a thousand years, it won’t, [ bar, for pedants only, perhaps one molecule, but how do you tell it from another one?] to the concept that there is such a thing as a healthy planet.
Really? a healthy planet? and how do you know what makes for a healthly planet? have you asked the patient? Remember having a healthy planet is very popular these days. But who is the doctor around here? I mean most of the planets in the solar system look pretty healthy to me, but do you think Mars is looking a little bit peaky at the moment? or maybe Saturn could do with a bit more time in the sunshine.
Must get the Tarot cards out and chart their stars. For a smallish largish fee of course.
You couldn’t make it up, you really couldn’t. Oh they just did.
Kindest Regards


” 4 billion (20:12:10) :
How can the US circa 1970 (pop. 200 m) be producing similar levels of C to todays US (pop. 300m)?
According to the graph the US, Euro and China (same as US) combined account for 4 Gtonne, where is the other 4 Gtonne coming from? considering Africa produces 3.5% of US output.

The US emissions have remained static despite increased population due to increased energy use efficiencies since 1970.
Euro as quoted above only means the EU. The rest of the emissions must come from the rest of the world- non EU european countries Russua etc, the rest of Asia and the oil rich Middle East.

Ron de Haan

For all those who missed out on the message from Lord Monckton why CO2 emission reduction will not work:
“Global CO2 emissions at present are 30 billion tons/year (EIA), causing atmospheric concentration to rise by 2 ppmv/year (NOAA). So 15 billion tons emitted will increase atmospheric concentration by 1 ppmv/year. The UN (IPCC, 2007; see also BERN climate model), on scenario A2, which comes closest to the pattern of actual emissions today, says its central estimate of CO2 concentration in 2100 will be 836 ppmv. So the UN thinks we’ll add (836-368) = 468 ppmv to the atmosphere during the 21st century. Multiply that by 15 billion tons/ppmv and the UN is implicitly projecting that, in the absence of any mitigation, the world will emit (468 x 15 bn) = 7 trillion tons CO2 this century. It also projects (IPCC, 2007) that this extra CO2 will raise global temperature by around 7° F. So we need to forego 1 trillion tons of CO2 emission per 1° F warming forestalled. Divide 1 trillion by 30 billion and one concludes that we’d have to close down the entire world carbon economy for 33 years just to forestall a single Fahrenheit degree of warming. Since the UN has exaggerated the warming effect of CO2 sixfold (Lindzen & Choi, 2009), make that 200 years. Therefore, there’s no point in mitigation because the cost is extravagantly disproportionate to the benefit.”
The effort equals the emptying of the Pacific Ocean with a tea spoon.
It won’t influence our climate in any form whatsoever.
Those who state otherwise are criminals, idiots or politicians with an agenda.
The presentation of the figures based on the Mockton calculation tells you how pathetic those people are who tell you to switch your light bulbs, turn down the themostat of your heating system by one degree, organize a warm sweater day, tell you to buy a “green” car, use “green” energy, windmills, solar energy, bio fuels and sequester CO2 and store under ground.
What’s more serious, it tells you how stupid our politicians are who claim they are going to control the temperature of the planet by 2 degree Fahrenheit!
As the Communists stated during the cold war;
“The Capitalist West will sell us the rope we are going to hang them with”.
Well, the AGW Hoax will be that rope if we sign up to Copenhagen.
Read about some more references and arguments at this response from Climate Depot at allegations from PM Kevin Rudd who stated that skeptics are too dangerous to ignore and that we are holding the world to ransom.


Why Copenhagen will achieve nothing:
Folks, it’s like getting offered 10% of the stock in a fake business.
10% of nothing is still nothing.
You cannot solve a problem that does not exist.
You can, however, become a victim by accepting the transaction at face value.
If you knew your oil & filter had just been changed, would you let an eyeball-dodging salesman fast-talk you into changing your whole car to match the new oil & filter?
Doesn’t make any sense to me, either.
Copenhagen… where the Ghost of Climates Past meet Dr. FrankenGreen Scrooge.

Willis Eschenbach

Skeptic Tank (19:32:47), you ask a good question:

A bit off-topic, but I honestly don’t get the units. Is a “tonne” of carbon a mass of CO2 gas? Does it relate to standard cubic feet or normative liters?

Emissions are usually measured in tonnes (metric) of carbon. Since carbon has a molecular weight of 12 and oxygen is 16, CO2 has a molecular weight of 12 + 16 + 16, or 44.
So to convert tonnes of carbon into tonnes of CO2, multiply by 44/12, and by 12/44 if you convert the other way. So when Lord Monckton is quoted above as saying

Global CO2 emissions at present are 30 billion tons/year (EIA)

we multiply this by 12/44 to get between 8 and 9 gigatonnes of carbon emitted, as shown in my graph.

The KRudd govt here in Oz is a joke. When you have a PM wedded to climate scientology lashing out at the purveyors of truth, then you know you’ve won.

Ron de Haan

COP 15 discussion at youtube:


Here in the U.S. the majority party of the elected government and the President are still believers. They and their appointees will attempt to enforce climate change based control over the people. They will not stop until they are no longer in office.


Jimmy Hansen (21:31:43) :
i agree with you.
we have angela merkel here in germany who is exactly on the same track, but she may be excused by having a couple fanatic pseudo scientists as advisors, and has never practized such rude way of demonizing opponents. That is just a catastrophy for the British culture, that has been so successful through discussion, balancing reasons and sticking to facts.


Hey Manfred, You think Angela can be excused because she has a couple of fanatic pseudo scientists advising her, what about Obama’s advisors, Hansen, Gore, Chu, Jackson; they’re not exactly the sharpest crayons in the box.


Just saw Barbara Boxer forced the cap and trade bill out of committee (AGWers putting lots of spin on that) but that the bill is dead anyway.
Will check Mon for more info, will be off the grid til Monday.

I completely agree with this concise argument by Willis.


i haven’t heard anything similar from obama yet disuniting his country .
rudd (like brown or gore) appears to be motivated by base motives in running his country and staying at power.

Ron de Haan

Why Copenhagen SHOULD not achieve anything:
Article by David Warren:
“Energy reality is that the sun’s work over the ages has produced energy sources (oil, gas, and coal) that far exceed the dilute energy from the sun.
The stock beats the flow–by a country mile”.
Will technology solve our energy problems? This seemingly fatuous question is actually stupider than first appears. For we already have the technology to power anything within reason, with minimal if any environmental fallout.
Yet under the inspiration of the Green Zeitgeist, I cannot go into a magazine shop without finding some science-lite cover story on new prospects for harnessing solar, thermal, wind, tidal, or whatever “renewable” forces. There is an immense credulous audience out there, willing to be entertained by such nonsense.
No one with a grasp of high school physics should take any of these schemes seriously. In each case, we are looking at a crank idea from the hippie era, which has not since been significantly improved, because it can’t be.
All are basically bureaucratic arrangements: the idea being to live by taxing wealth produced elsewhere, in this case the kinetic energy in wind and water, or the radiant light and heat from the sun. Hydro was the original big government idea: to install the equivalent of a massive toll booth right across a river, flood everything behind it and starve everything in front. Conservationists going back a century were right to apprehend that the “renewable” paradigm is crazy.
To my mind, as well, the great Hoover dam, built on a scale to choke the Colorado River, was a monument to hubris. On Saturday I mentioned the Aswan dam, that choked the mighty Nile. The Three Gorges in China, the string of hydro dams straddling the geological faults along the Indian face of the Himalayas — unspeakably destructive to the productivity of the lands both before and behind them — are catastrophes patiently waiting for their earthquakes.
And likewise, the scale of desecration that is required for a landscape to supply the kind of power a large hydro dam provides, by alternative “taxation” schemes. Hundreds upon hundreds of gigantic propeller windmills, at each of many dispersed locations. Or, countless miles of coastline impounded to exploit the tides. Or, millions of acres of monotonous solar panels, that work only when the sun is shining.
Moreover, we can know that the environmentalists who demand these things will turn on them as soon as they are built. They are, as all utopians, not people who can be satisfied, and it makes sense to frustrate their ambitions decisively — before, rather than after, their tyranny has been consolidated.
Those who grasp basic physics will know that there will be no serious improvements in the efficiency of any of these “renewable resources.” The sun may be a superbly powerful ball of energy, but its radiation diminishes as the square of distance, and by the time it reaches earth is not intense. Wind is diffuse; water runs slowly.
A candid look at nature reveals that creatures live by finding and burning fuels, as food. We should trust nature to have found the inevitable solutions. Hence, by analogy, fossil fuels. They may not hold out perpetually, but the known reserves continue to grow faster than we can burn them. The engines we’ve designed are vastly less efficient than the engines of nature; but vastly more efficient and practicable than anything that “renews.”
And what do we mean by “renewable” anyway, in a universe as abundant as this one? Nature burns fuels far more efficiently, and could do so more efficiently still, were she not calibrated instead to produce so many useful by-products, that get used without exception.
One-billionth of the potential power in a litre of gasoline is released by the way we burn it, and the same can be said for coal and wood. This is a very poor show!
Some idea of what is possible when we employ more brains comes from comparing nuclear power, where the energy released in splitting a uranium atom is several million times greater than that from merely breaking the carbon-hydrogen bond.
As the journalist William Tucker and many others have repeatedly explained, instead of hundred-car trainloads arriving daily to feed the flames of a large coal-fired generator, we have a single truckload of fuel rods arriving about every third month. And while the waste product may frighten the incurably neurotic, it is small and easily contained. In nuclear reactors, the energy required to power a city the size of Ottawa, for a year, comes from the transformation of less than one ounce of matter.
Not that I would wish to put coal-miners out of their jobs. For as Baudelaire said of Ingres and Delacroix, “Let us love them both.” I love a coal fire, and there are all kinds of wonderful by-products of coal production.
Nor have I the slightest objection to sheeting the sails of my imagined yacht to the pleasure of Aeolus, but the idea of powering cities with rank after rank of these malicious bird-killing propellers is too droolingly idiotic. Let us tilt against them with the power of a million Don Quixotes!

Ron de Haan

Why Copenhagen 2009 is the “last chance” to save the world!

Ron de Haan
Ron de Haan

Rifts appear ahead of G20 Meeting

Lindsay H.

tricky stuff modifying weather !!
Chinese scientists in hot water over icy weather
Thursday, Nov 05, 2009, Page 5
Two people make a snowman at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven Park on Sunday. Not everyone was amused by the snowfall.
China’s Weather Modification Office has been pilloried for inducing a recent heavy snow fall that jammed traffic, delayed air travel and left city residents shivering, state media said yesterday.
Sunday’s snowfall dropped more than 16 million tonnes of snow on the Chinese capital, blanketing a city where winter heating services have yet to be switched on and leading to howls of public protest, the China Daily reported.

Ron de Haan

Leaders ‘likely’ to go to summit

Willis Eschenbach

Luboš Motl (23:23:14), you say:

I completely agree with this concise argument by Willis.

Luboš, many thanks, that means a lot. For those who don’t know of him, Luboš is a Czech physicist with a very interesting blog that covers a variety of climate and other issues.


It’ll certainly keep a few thousand delegates supremely well fed for a week or so, a tremendous achievement.

Greg Cavanagh

Its a shame this graph didn’t make headlines 10 years ago.


Manfred (23:25:34) :
I think you miss the point that Rudd is setting himself up for the next step up to the world stage… Australia is not big enough. I swear Murdoch has been reading the blogs because he came out and said the same thing today (which I have been saying for the last month – though I see no accreditation from the ole boy):
Murdoch said (about Rudd):
“He’s different in that he’s more ambitious to lead the world than to lead Australia,” he told Sky News, but quickly added that the comment may be a “little unfair” though “there’s some truth in it”.
No I don’t think it is unfair, but I guess this is Murdoch’s way of firing a shot and taking a bet each way by mollifying it somewhat. Ban Ki Moon already said a couple of times that Rudd had an important role to play…
BTW for a powerful graphical tool which includes global CO2 emissions and many other stats have a play with:
There are some great videos on applications of Gapminder as well – for instance at TED:
Now that’s stats made sexy!
I think someone with the time and insight could give some great presentations on the CO2 emissions stats and economic development and provide insights in this debate.

Andrew Chantrill

The chart is very interesting, but it shows only man-made CO2, which is but around 3% of the total. If one plots all CO2 the changes don’t even get off the X-axis.

Phil K

I’m having trouble verifying the graph. the web link doesn’t show the graph http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/overview_2006.html,
and the following link doesn’t match the blue line
Anyone help me out?

Can we honestly and factually claim that the “emissions” quoted in the title are FROM man-released energy production (which includes cement plants, transportation, power production, coke and steel, heating, etc, etc….)
Or are there ecotheist-added “fudge factors” such as
“trees we claimed are cut down” and
“CO2 increases we don’t the source of but they must be man-caused releases” and
“we have cut down all the forests everywhere so the lack of trees anywhere” is a man-caused emissions increase?


Aussie PM KRudd is unfortunately acting like a small politician with a big ego who is getting frustrated that the general public are starting to wake up to his real motive – glory, power and $$$.


The scandal here is the fact that a US with a population of 300 million is using about twice as much Co2 as Europe with a population of 500 million (and that’s just the European Union countries).
I am an AGW sceptic so I am not too bothered about the growth in Co2.
However I do hate waste and I am appalled at the MASSIVE energy inefficiencies of the US. And don’t blame it on quality of life. I live in France and the quality of life is higher than in the US due to the excellent health service and the lower disparity in incomes and I know this first hand because I lived and worked in Colorado for a time.
It would be good if you yanks did something about cutting your energy use. It’s a national disgrace.

stephen parker

We all know copenhagen is a politics fest. .A good way to justify tax increases and look like they’re doing something.