New language, same old story on Keystone from climate scientists

If you want to be on the side of evidence-based policies on climate change, you shouldn’t rely on exaggerations when writing about Keystone

Jeff McIntosh/CP

Jeff McIntosh/CP

This piece, published in the Guardian by Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, takes on the Keystone XL pipeline with exaggeration rather than evidence. The article continues a disturbing trend among some of our most prominent climate scientists who continue to equate Keystone XL with the extraction of hundreds of times more oil than it will ever likely transport and with more oil than will likely ever be extracted from the oil sands. The article ignores important market realities with respect to how pipelines interact with production decisions. If we’re going to have a conversation about greenhouse gas impacts of a pipeline, let’s have them on an honest footing. If you want to be on the side of evidence-based policies on climate change, you shouldn’t rely on exaggerations when writing about it.

Mann claims that, “even the very conservative estimate of my climate scientist colleague Andrew Weaver is dire: extracting and burning all the Keystone-targeted oil would likely result in approximately 0.4°C of additional warming.” Keystone-targeted oil, in this case, is Mann’s new way of referring to the entire oil sands resource—it would take the Keystone XL pipeline 10,000 years to transport that much oil.

10,000 years? Really? Yes. When Andrew Weaver and Neil Swart, estimated the emissions impacts of extraction and combustion of the oil sands resource, they used a figure of approximately 2 trillion barrels of original oil in place—a defensible number for oil in place, but not for expected future production, and certainly not for Keystone-targeted oil (a distinction about which the Swart and Weaver piece is very clear). At a capacity of 830,000 barrels per day, Keystone XL would be expected to transport about 200 million barrels of oil sands bitumen and about 100 million barrels of diluent (usually a natural gas liquid) each year, assuming 30 per cent dilution. At those rates, it would take about 10,000 years for the Keystone XL pipeline to transport the amount of oil sands bitumen associated with the Swart and Weaver 0.4°C estimate. Furthermore, given current prices and technology, only about 10 per cent of that total resource is economically viable and, while technology may improve and prices may increase, much of it is unlikely to ever be produced.

Mann goes on to say that the calculated impact of oil sands on climate change, in the context of emissions to date and an arbitrary free pass given to most conventional oil, was why James Hansen had, “characterized approval of the pipeline as tantamount to game over for the climate.” The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the oil sands bitumen shipped via Keystone XL, using life cycle emissions data, would likely amount to about 180 million tonnes of CO2 per year, assuming no improvements in emissions-intensity and that all the capacity is used to transport oil sands in situ-produced diluted bitumen to full conversion refineries. That may seem like a lot, and it is, but it’s not game over by any means—context matters.

In the International Energy Agency’s 450ppm scenario, an estimate of the impact of a set of policies designed to provide reasonable odds of keeping climate change below dangerous thresholds, annual emissions in 2035 are estimated at over 21,000 million tonnes. In other words, even in a world where we take serious global action on climate change, the total emissions associated with all the oil transported by Keystone XL are unlikely to exceed one per cent of global emissions. Game over? Hardly.

Mann doubles down in the next paragraph stating that, with Keystone XL in place, keeping climate change in check would require, “a moratorium on all other sources of fossil fuel energy, no more natural gas extraction, and no more oil drilling,” and argues that Keystone XL is by no means marginal. Looking again at the International Energy Agency’s analysis, in the 450ppm scenario, global oil production is projected at 76 million barrels per day in 2035. So Keystone XL would transport a little over one per cent of the oil projected to be consumed in a scenario consistent with keeping climate change below 2°C. Even if we restrict our attention to unconventional oil, Keystone XL would still transport less than 10 per cent of the International Energy Agency’s projection of global use of unconventional oil under stringent global climate change policy. Keystone XL is, based on evidence, the very essence of the commonly used definition of marginal.

The International Energy Agency’s 450ppm scenario also makes clear that climate stabilization is not an either/or proposition between Keystone XL and other natural gas and oil extraction—it’s orders of magnitude away from that. The 450ppm scenario predicts an increase in natural gas production globally between now and 2035, albeit not as rapid an increase as would happen in the absence of climate policies. It even predicts continued extraction of coal, but substantially less of it by 2035 than we see today. There is simply no evidence to support Mann’s contention that a world with Keystone XL would require significantly more stringent global climate policies than a world with it, all else equal.

Professor Mann should also re-consider his statement that Keystone XL will “lock-in decades of extraction of dirty, expensive fossil fuels.” Pipeline tolls are a significant but still relatively small—perhaps as high as 10 per cent—share of the total cost of a barrel of refined petroleum products, and pipelines are the lowest cost means to transport oil over long distances. As a result, it’s possible to imagine a case where some oil sands projects continue to produce only because a pipeline exists, but that scenario requires a particular combination of prices, investments, and pipeline construction. Contrary to Professor Mann’s contention, I believe it’s easier to imagine a scenario where too many pipelines, built on overly bullish oil sands growth forecasts, accelerate the decline of oil sands. In fact, you don’t have to look too far back in history to see oil sands producers worried about an overbuild of pipeline capacity.

Wait, how would more pipelines lead to a more rapid decline? To understand this, you need to keep in mind that pipeline tolls amortize the capital cost of the line and pass through operating costs through the tolls applied to barrels transported on the line. Now, suppose that market conditions such as the imposition of stringent climate policy lead to reduce production relative to what was forecast. What happens? Pipelines operate below capacity and so tolls increase. As tolls increase, pressure increases on projects already affected by the weak market, and production decreases further, causing a further increase in tolls, and so on. Should Professor Mann wish to see an example of this in action, he should look at Western Canadian natural gas pipelines, where decreasing production in response to a change in market conditions led to skyrocketing tolls on the TransCanada mainline which in turn put greater pressure on gas producers and so on. That downward spiral of pipeline capacity utilization is, in part, why re-purposing TransCanada’s natural gas mainline to oil as part of the Energy East project is feasible.

When I raised these points on Twitter, Mann’s fellow climate scientist Scott Mandia told me that I was missing the broader point. To me, the broader point has always been that if we are to combat climate change effectively, we need evidence-based policy. That means that those with the influence to move policy such as Professors Mann and Hansen need to be on the side of evidence, not exaggeration. Articles such as the one Professor Mann published this week place him on the wrong side.




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New language, same old story on Keystone from climate scientists

  1. The fact that it is Michael Mann…….of the hockey stick fraud tells you all you need to know. This is the guy who proclaimed he was a Nobel Prize Winner….and was reported as such by the media and other climate alarmists….until someone actually made a phone call to discover that Mann’s Nobel Prize…..was just as valid as his claims about climate change.

    People need to stop listening to these lying idiots….and at the very least, Canadian (and American) media need to start doing their jobs.

    Mann is a proven fraudster, and this will be coming out in court in his battle against Steyn.

  2. Our entire economic structure is based on the status quo.

    • Given that we are amongst the richest, most productive, and most free societies the world has ever known………..the status quo in Canada looks good to the majority of folks in other nations.

    • I should have STARTED with this one.

      Personnally, I think the “Climate Scientists” have it asz-backwards. I’ve gone through the records, and the observations I have made lead me to a different conclusion. If you look at the evolution of the earth, you will understand that for the majority of the time, the earth was FAR WARMER for the majority of its existence, and the sea levels were much higher as there was no water locked in as ice on land. (Ice on water has no impact on sea levels) We are still “recovering” from the last Ice Age. It stands to reason, that as the last ice age continues to wane, the ocean levels will rise as the ice on land in the arctic / antarctic / Greenland, continues to melt, and the earth slowly warms.

      I don’t think CO2 causes an increase in global temperature. I think the increase in global temperature increases the level of CO2. This is why historically, the increase in temperature preceded the increases in CO2.

      The “scientists” have it backwards.

  3. Terrific article. Thanks for presenting an argument based on real numbers and not inflated rhetoric.

  4. Mann’s article is exceptionally stupid, even by Mann’s standards.

  5. I used like Mann, but he’s gone from being a scientist to being a “Believer”. He so strongly believes in the threat climate change presents that he’s willing to say anything to try and advance his mitigation position. That in no way means he’s wrong about climate change in general terms, but it makes all of his claims suspect and takes away at least some of the legitimacy he has had as an academic expert.

    Action does need to be taken to prevent future climate change, but lying about the numbers only gives fodder to those who would maintain the status quo and dump the responsibility onto future generations.

    • Watson S:

      Not a single prediction MANN or his ilk have made has been accurate. He has been wrong on everything 100% of the time (but still receives his funding). How many times does he have to be shown to be in error before people wake up?

      If you want to know what causes global warming / climate change / climate disruption (pick one) do this: Go outside. Look up. See that big ball of burning hydrogen in the sky?

      that is your climate control device.

      We need to stop dicking around on baseless concerns, and start taking care of REAL environmental issues.

      Here’s a good rule of thumb. Any time you hear someone say “The debate is over” and then claim to be a real scientist……you can be assured, that both claims are false.

      Real scientists demand proof. They WANT someone to test their theories, and are willing to change theirs when the evidence demands they must. We just don’t see that in the folks who make a lot of $$ by claiming the planet is doomed.

      • “Not a single prediction MANN or his ilk have made has been accurate. He has been wrong on everything 100% of the time (but still receives his funding). ”

        Hahahaha!
        Back beclowning yourself, I see.
        Why don’t you tell us about these “predictions” Mann makes in his research.

        “If you want to know what causes global warming / climate change / climate disruption (pick one) do this: Go outside. Look up. See that big ball of burning hydrogen in the sky? ”
        Write it up and submit it for publication. You’ll be famous.

        “Real scientists demand proof. ”
        Thus proving, once again, that you haven’t the faintest notion of science.

        • If I wrote up that one line and it was published….then there would at least be ONE HONEST fact for the entire climate change debate.

          as for your denial about what real scientists want…….hmmm……..am I to assume that real scientists don’t want proof?

          Interesting viewpoint. but at least it explains your mindset.

          • Math deals in “proof”. Science deals in evidence and probabilities. You betray you utter lack of familiarity with the topic with claims like that.

            “If I wrote up that one line and it was published…”
            I wouldn’t want to anyone get credit for your work.
            Are you so selfish and lazy that you can’t be bothered to write up and submit for publication your brilliant “the sun is hot and is totally doing all that climate stuff” thesis, and save us all from economic ruin?

            Now tell me what predictions Mann has made is his work.
            You weren’t lying again, were you?

  6. Given the forecast growth of oilsands production by CAPP and others, overbuilding pipelines leading to a “death spiral” as experienced by gas pipelines is fanciful, at best.

    • I think we could surmise by that comment, that your number of sympathies about the climate debate, equals your number of clues.

  7. Well, they’ve tried to tell us that the coldest winter since 1898 was caused by global warming too. Why wouldn’t they use global warming as a reason to oppose keystone?

    • Global warming causes climate change….which is what we’re experiencing right now. Everything is shifting around.

      • Emily,

        the only thing shifting around is the data / arguments / reasons/ provided by those “scientists” who have based their entire reputation (and funding) on the fallacy of climate change. They have been wrong 100% of the time.

        • 97% of the world’s climatologists agree on global warming…..but little Jimmy Halifax from some unknown school in Canada with no qualifications whatever is right and they aren’t? LOL

          If you realized how silly you sound…….

          • He would have died of shame a long time ago.
            But it’s a merciful god that watches over the imbeciles.

          • Emily,

            the fact you still buy into the “97 % agree” column…..is not surprising. That “fact” is about as accurate as Mann’s “Hockey Stick”

            Do some research…stop reading propoganda.

      • Lennart Bengtsson is a meteorologist….you know….a weatherman.

        97% of climate scientists are in agreement however. Sorry.

        You could look this stuff up you know, instead of yelling at kids on your lawn.

        • This comment has been removed.

          • This comment has been removed.

          • Well since you’re the one promoting a cause everyone knows is lost I’d say you’re the one with the problem.

            Perhaps you should try St Jude?

          • Lefties can dish it out but they sure can’t take it.

          • Censorship alive and sick at Macleans

        • Emily…..let’s do some math.

          If 97% of a group of people predicted something….and that something did not happen.

          Are they right….just because they outnumber everyone else?

          And if those 97% of people who predicted something to happen…and it did NOT happen. what percentage of the time were they wrong?

          • “And if those 97% of people who predicted something to happen…and it did NOT happen. what percentage of the time were they wrong?”

            Heh.
            z=x/y
            z=frequency of incorrect predictions
            x=incorrect predictions
            y=total number of predictions
            Apparently James has such mad math skilz he can solve z without knowing x or y.

            When are you going to tell what the incorrect predictions in Mann’s work are?

          • A guy being sued says he’s innocent!
            Which has absolutely nothing to do with your claim that Mann has produced “predictions” that have been proven false.
            Time to put up or shut up, Jimmy. What specific predictions did Mann make?

          • Lenny…..

            Look at Mann’s “hockey stick”…what it represents, DID NOT HAPPEN….though it has made Mr. Mann some serious funding benefits.

            as for the link to the column….I’m not surprised you didn’t read it. I know you didn’t read it, because if you had….you would have seen the scientists (some in the IPCC itself) are well aware of Mr. Mann’s propensity to inflate, falsify, or omit data in order to make his theory fit with what we are seeing. and he didn’t even get that right.

          • Apparently my comment is awaiting endless moderation because it contains links so I’ll reproduce it without the links:
            The “hockey stick” has been confirmed by numerous independent studies, and a review of the literature by the National Research Council. ( the papers can be easily found using Google Scholar if you’re not too busy reading editorials from theatre critics)

            However, this all has nothing to do with the claim you made. There is no prediction contained within the “Hockey Stick” paper.
            So again, what specific prediction did Mann make which has been proven wrong?

    • Allister…have you heard the latest?

      Apparently, the abduction of those school girls in Nigeria can also be traced to the effects of global warming.

      (serious….some idiot in the UK wrote a column about it)

    • Allister…have you heard the latest?

      Apparently, the abduction of those school girls in Nigeria can also be traced to the effects of global warming.

      (serious….some idiot in the UK wrote a column about it)

    • Allister…have you heard the latest?

      Apparently, the abduction of those school girls in Nigeria can also be traced to the effects of global warming.

      (serious….some idiot in the UK wrote a column about it)

  8. Glo-Bull Warming is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated in human history.

  9. “That means that those with the influence to move policy such as Professors Mann and Hansen need to be on the side of evidence, not exaggeration. Articles such as the one Professor Mann published this week place him on the wrong side.”

    Hear hear Andrew. I hope you were as quick to point this out to folks like Ezra and his cronies in the federal govt when they hitched themselves to the parts of his ridiculous Ethical oil theory, back when he was peddling it? If you would care to point me toward your evidenced based criticism there i would much appreciate it.

    • …to the worst parts of his theory… [ numero uno for me was that our oil displacing ME or "unethical oil" would make one iota of difference in a world where demand outstips supply]

  10. It was interesting that comments on Mann’s article were closed after only 180 comments, on a site that usually gets several thousand.

    It’s almost as if Mikey is shy about having any of us peasants disagree with him. Is that possible?

    • More likely they got tired of listening to ignorance.

      • Emily,

        You know what I regret about this entire debate?

        The fact that you and I will long have turned to dust and the climate will not have changed…..and I will not be able to say “I told you so”…..

        But history will prove me right….and the “97%” you put your faith in will be seen as the fraudsters they are. It is not the skeptics that are going to lose the battle….it will be the trust of the populace in science.

        today: “climate science = politics”

        Facts have no bearing on today’s science about climate.

        • We already know the climate is changing James….there is no need to wait. We’ve known for a least half a century….it’s just more obvious now.

          A scientist requires a doctorate in their chosen field…..97% of those doctors agree we have man-made warming.

          You….without any qualifications whatsoever….disagree.

          Well woop-de-do for you. Meanwhile, the rest of us have work to do solving the problem.

          • the debate is NOT about the climate changing….the debate is about whether or not humans are causing it.

            the climate has been changing…for as long as there has been a climate. the CO2 levels have been MUCH higher in the past…..well before any SUV’s were built.

            Let’s use the 97% number you seem so fond of, and the idea of religion that you clearly despise.

            97% of Catholic priests believe there is an afterlife (the other 3% are faking it)….does that make them right? After all…..they are NINETY SEVEN PERCENT.

            The global warming alarmists are just the latest crop of snake oil salesmen who have become the priests for the Envirnomental movement. You are a member of the climate hysteria church…….and the “scientists” who claim the sky is falling are your priests.

          • We’ll start taking you and those priests seriously as soon as you publish your findings in Science (or Nature).
            What are you waiting for?

          • Lenny….in case you hadn’t noticed.

            I can’t get published in SCIENCE or NATURE…..because I don’t buy into the politically correct theory of the day.

            that’ is why most people only hear one side of the story…..the debate cannot happen, if only on speaker is invited.

          • So you’re able demonstrate that CO2 emissions don’t affect the climate but you’re unable to get published, not because you’re innumerate and have no understanding of Phd level climatology let alone basic science, but because every major science journal is part of a massive conspiracy to suppress science?

          • Lenny asked:
            “So you’re able demonstrate that CO2 emissions don’t affect the climate but you’re unable to get published, not because you’re innumerate and have no understanding of Phd level climatology let alone basic science, but because every major science journal is part of a massive conspiracy to suppress science?”

            Lenny, CO2 is plant food…not pollution. I do believe it does affect the climate to a certain extent; but certainly not to the level we hear about by the alarmists. The CO2 levels on the planet were FAR HIGHER even before humans existed, and it has fluctuated constantly. One good sized volcano, will put up more CO2 in the atmosphere in one day, than all humans do in a year. Amazingly enough, the earth has ways of “correcting” this. Always has…always will.

            The entire debate the alarmists want you to believe, is that HUMANS are causing it. to date…..ALL OF THEIR PREDICTIONS HAVE BEEN PROVEN FALSE. What they have repeatedly warned us about….HAS NOT HAPPENED.

            As for not being published due to a conspiracy…..you are pretty close to the mark there. And this has been noted many times by scientists who have raised the issue before.

            Look it up. I’m not going to provide links I know you won’t read.

            Remember Lenny, many of these “scientists” have their reputaions at stake. They have repeatedly made false claims, or falsified data (Hello Mr. Mann !!) to hide the fact that many of them are full of crap.

            These “climate scientists” remind me of Lucy and Charlie Brown kicking a football. The climate alarmists are Charlie Brown, and Lucy is mother nature; the football of course being “global warming.”

            Every time these dimwits wind up to make an announcement of doom and gloom, Mother nature takes their football away. Folks like me are just waiting for Charlie Brown to wise up.

          • “ALL OF THEIR PREDICTIONS HAVE BEEN PROVEN FALSE.”

            Except that they haven’t.
            It’s to bad about the global conspiracy of scientists, publishers, national science academies and universities, that prevents you from demonstrating your paradigm changing theory. But, you know that when you submit a paper the reviewers actually point out the errors in it, don’t you? So, it’ll be pretty hard for the conspiracy to dismiss your groundbreaking work of genius when they can’t demonstrate what’s wrong with it.
            So, armed with this new information, will you be getting to work on it right away?

        • Except there isn’t any ‘debate’.

          Why would qualified climatologists debate anything with unqualified bumpkins from the hinterland?

          We are all aware the climate changes…..over time. Humans have, however, speeded up the process to dangerous levels That is the concern.

          97% of climatologists agree that mankind is doing it. It needs to stop.

          ‘Debating’ ANY of this would be like you trying to discuss relativity with Einstein.

          What this has to do with priests/witch doctors/astrologists I don’t know…..beyond it being your usual smoke and mirror routine.

          • You’re sputtering again, Emily.

            I guess I made my point.

          • Emily,

            The very fact that your 97% don’t want any debate on the issues, is a pretty clear indication that they are hiding something. If their numbers were accurate, and their theories valid….they would welcome the challenge. If they have confidence in their work, they would NOT be afraid of questions.

            Here’s another group where an overwhelming number of people hold the same view. Are they also correct?

            http://www.timesofisrael.com/poll-93-of-palestinians-hold-anti-jewish-beliefs/

            For Lenny:
            I will use your level of debating skill to address the points you raised above

            “I know you are but what am I?”

          • Emily,

            Personnally, I think the “Climate Scientists” have it asz-backwards. I’ve gone through the records, and the observations I have made lead me to a different conclusion. If you look at the evolution of the earth, you will understand that for the majority of the time, the earth was FAR WARMER for the majority of its existence, and the sea levels were much higher as there was no liquid water locked in the ice on land. (Ice on water has no impact on sea levels) We are still “recovering” from the last Ice Age. It stands to reason, that as the last ice age continues to wane, the ocean levels will rise as the ice on land in the arctic / antarctic / Greenland, continues to melt, and the earth slowly warms.

            You see Emily, I don’t think CO2 causes an increase in global temperature. I think the increase in global temperature increases the level of CO2. The “scientists” have it backwards. All 97% of those you support.

          • Great. You know more about climate science than climatologists.
            Why won’t you write up your brilliant theories in papers and save us all from this folly?
            You have no excuse for not doing so.

        • Fascinating, James…..you wouldn’t dream of telling an engineer how to build a bridge….or telling a surgeon how to do a heart operation…..or explaining Relativity to a theoretical physicist ……or even telling a bricklayer he’s got a wall all wrong.

          But apparently Climatologists….PhDs all….don’t have a clue, and you stand ready to correct them on the subject.

          You’ve made your point alright James.

          • Yabbut Climatology is easy. Like, it was warmer when there were dinosaurs and there was more CO2 and there were ice ages and stuff and plants eat CO2 so….no global warming.
            The scientists know this but they’re greedier than other scientists. You see when they were deciding what to major in, the climate scientists were all like, “medicine – nah chump change, computer science – no, business school – nah….climate science! That’s where the money is! And even if it’s not I’m sure we can just *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge* some story that we all agree on and…uh…not sure were the ‘get rich’ part comes in but we’ll figure it out.
            What they didn’t count on was JAMES HALIFAX knowing that plants consume CO2, and that there were ice ages, and dinosaurs live in a warmer world.

          • LOL People like James are a drag on society….holding us back for some religion or ideology or folktale…..or just sheer ignorance.

          • Emily,

            Forget for a moment that many structures by engineers have failed…….

            1. Engineers (for the most part) build things that last. You see the effects first hand every time a bridge doesn’t collapse. Every time a dam holds back the water, and every time the power grid lights your house. What they do is tangible, and we know they are correct, because what they build, actually works.

            2. Heart surgeons prove their competency every time they save a life. There is no debating their skills…….some is alive because of their knowledge and skill.
            3. Theoretical physicists. Unlike the current crop of “climate scientists” theoretical physicists study each others’ work, and debate, challenge findings / theories.
            4. Bricklayers. Every time a brick house does NOT fall down….you know the tradesman has it right.

            Climatologists with PHd’s. (forget that many of your 97% are NOT scientists, but beaurocrats). The ocean levels have not yet risen as predicted, the earth has not warmed as predicted, the glaciers have not melted as predicted, the arcitc ice has not disappeared as predicted, the number of super-storms has not risen as predicted, there is no widespread famine as predicted, there is no unusual droughts as predicted..etc..etc..etc…

            Emily, when these “climate experts” become as reliable as the bricklayers, I will pay them more heed. Until then…they remain snake-oil salesmen with a cause.

            The next time I make a point….perhaps you should address the point I make.

          • Lenny……I’ll make it easier for both you and, Emily.

            Please show me a tangible example of climate change that correlates with human activity as predicted by these “97%” to whom you both refer.

            Just one. tick…tock…tick…tock….

            (and see if you can do it without simply regurgitating a “study”….I want to see actual changes caused by humans. After all, it should be easy if 97% of the scientists attest to it.)

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