- Dr. Easton Wren: Earth has experienced many ice ages and warm periods before humans and CO2 and he is concerned that climate activists tend to ignore geological data in the models they use to analyze climate patterns and predict future climate change.
By Barry Blacklock, EnergiesNet
This is the second of a series of articles I have been commissioned to write by EnergiesNet.com about the 24th World Petroleum Congress (24WPC), which will be held September 17-21, 2023, in Calgary, Alberta.
24WPC’s theme, “Energy Transition: The Path to Net Zero,” has become even more relevant since my first article was published on August 4, as we are being inundated daily with alarming news about extreme weather events.
As of the writing of this article, the death toll due to the wildfire destruction of the historic town of Lahaina on the western shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui has reached 111 and is expected to rise dramatically. Many people are deeply saddened in Western Canada because Maui is one of the favorite vacation destinations of Canadians from this part of the world.
During the past week, giant uncontrolled forest fires have forced the evacuation of several communities close to the border between Alberta and the Northwest Territories. All 20,000 residents of Yellowknife, the capital of the NWT, have been ordered to leave the city before noon tomorrow because another giant fire is approaching the city’s outskirts.
Similar disasters are occurring in other parts of Canada and around the globe as we experience the hottest year in recorded history, making it indisputable that the planet is warming. With alarm bells ringing, climate activists are taking the position that this is due to greenhouse gases created by the combustion of fossil fuels. They are advocating a switch to renewable energy sources and demanding an end to the fossil fuel industry.
It is also indisputable that the atmosphere has become increasingly polluted since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. While acknowledging the need to reduce harmful emissions, geoscientists in the industry point to the analysis and interpretation of core samples from virtually every sedimentary basin in the world as evidence that the current climate crisis is the latest of many warming and cooling periods during the last 500 million years of Earth’s history.
I called Dr. Easton Wren, one of the Canadian and international petroleum industry’s pre-eminent geoscientists, to dig deeper into the reasons for these climactic fluctuations. He reminded me that the ten most productive oil wells in Alberta, beginning with the Leduc discovery in 1947 that initiated the modern Canadian oil and gas industry, were all from tropical reefs formed during the Devonian period when almost all of Alberta was covered by an inland sea.
Dr. Wren has been studying climate change for many years, and he is concerned that climate activists tend to ignore geological data in the models they use to analyze climate patterns and predict future climate change.
How would those models be affected by including data and information from over 500 million years of geologic time? Is it possible that the impact of human activity on climate change, including the production and emission of greenhouse gases, is overemphasized by the public, the media, and politicians?
Dr. Wren points out that we have documented proof that Earth has experienced many ice ages and warm periods before humans and CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The last Ice Age began to melt twelve thousand years ago, undoubtedly because the sun was getting hotter.
Does the planet heat or cool down because of different heat from the sun, or does the planet’s orbit change and move Earth farther away or closer to the sun? Since there is no evidence to suggest the latter, the natural conclusion is the sun’s output is not constant. A possible explanation for changes in the sun’s output is sunspot theory.
Sunspots appear as black areas on the sun’s surface that Chinese astronomers began to record over 2000 years ago. Since then, astronomers have witnessed significant variations in the number of sunspots that could be seen simultaneously.
Sunspot theory contends that a higher amount of energy is escaping from the sun’s surface via these sunspots and that the total amount of energy escaping increases dramatically during periods of high sunspot activity. Proponents of the theory believe that these bursts of higher energy are responsible for intermittent warming periods on Earth. Global cooling periods begin when each burst passes.
Dr. Wren suggests that other mechanisms could contribute. In particular, natural changes in the Earth’s climate are rooted in solar activity, which is far beyond our control.
At the same time, it is irrefutable that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, could make the current warming period an existential threat to a large percentage of the world’s population. I am surprised that we are not seeing more dystopian movies on Netflix focused on the social unrest that will develop from mass migration from regions that are becoming less inhabitable.
As forests continue to dry out during the coming years, we can expect increases in wildfire activity from this year’s record levels. Water conservation will become a higher-priority policy issue in many communities in Canada and the U.S., as in most other parts of the world.
A recent Washington Post article reported that the World Resources Institute (WRI) is warning that global water stress (the ratio of water demand to renewable supply) will worsen over the next decades due to rising temperatures and population and economic growth.
The WRI claims that 25% of the world’s population is living in 25 countries that are facing extremely high water stress each year, meaning that they are using at least 80% of their available water supply. Further, at least 50% of the world’s population live under highly water-stressed conditions for at least one month of the year, meaning that they use 40% of their water supply during that period.
Mitigating this trend will require significant investments in water infrastructure, such as desalinization plants and aqueducts where feasible, and much better water governance. Without sufficient water, unprecedented drought conditions will limit food production from agricultural sectors. Warmer seawater will severely affect the seafood industry.
Recognizing the enormous investment required to transition to a decarbonized and emission-free planet, I am concerned about how much will be spent on mitigation versus adaptation. Suppose the focus is on mitigating the impact of human activity on climate change by decarbonizing and eliminating emissions. What happens if, after all that investment, the planet remains hot or gets hotter?
Ross McKitrick from the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, published a paper in June 2023 that addresses this issue. He relies on exhaustive research to make a case for adaptation climate policy as an alternative to mitigation climate policy, which he claims has been generally adopted for the last 30 years but has failed to deliver desirable results. It should be required reading for policymakers! “Adaptacion needs greather focus in climate policy “
Making effective policy decisions related to climate change strategies has become more difficult because of the divisiveness and polarization we are experiencing in much of the world today. I share the average person’s frustration with politicians on both the left and the right who dedicate their time to grandstanding and spreading misinformation and disinformation, rather than finding combinations of solutions that work for all of their constituents.
I look forward to learning much more about all of these issues during the 24th World Petroleum Congress. It will be a great demonstration of the resilience of the Canadian and international energy industries as they transition to meet mandated regulations focused on achieving net zero global emissions by 2050.
NOTE: I want to express my sincere thanks to Dr. Easton Wren for contributing to this article.
Barry Blacklock is a founder or co-founder of start-up companies focused on oil and gas exploration and production and the provision of specialized petroleum services, He also focuses in Latin American energy development. He is EnergiesNet (previous Petroleumworld) Canada correspondent. Energiesnet.com does not necessarily share these views.
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energiesnet.com 08 18 2023