Environmental Sustainability In The Oil And Gas Sector Essay


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Environmental Sustainability In The Oil And Gas Sector Essay

  1. 1. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR ESSAY Apr. 2009 Climate change scepticism: shameful selfishness or return to reason? Since the scandal of the “climate gate” story, where researchers from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) the main research unit of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been caught manipulating data in order to intensify alarming predictions concerning global warming, a scandal probably partly responsible for the disappointing outcome of December’s 2009 Copenhagen submit (Booker, 2009), and since the terrible revelations that Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of IPCC , may probably be deeply linked to “carbon trading” companies and is making a fortune when new constraining regulations concerning climate change are being adopted (North, 2009), the aura of sympathy from the public and the monopolistic-preaching position that “global warmers” were enjoying have started to crack. Indeed a recent pool from BBC News indicates that people believing in global warming have fallen from 10% since November 2009. The fall is even more significant (15%) concerning the influence of humankind in that matter (BBC News, 2010). UK’s population is not the only one having second thoughts, similar trends can be seen worldwide, especially from countries that suffered a very rough winter. In this climate, “climate scepticism” is on a roll and scientists previously despised for not agreeing with the common consensus are now making the headlines. So what have they against the “global warming” theory? Is it only a clash of interests, or are some of their remarks worth taking into account? Before studying this question further, a distinction needs to be made between the different “climate change sceptics”. The level of disagreement between them and the scientists in favour of climate change varies enormously. Some sceptics only question the impact of humankind to climate change. Some others question the strength of the increase. Others even contest global warming completely. These later sceptics think that the average global climate trend tends to cool down rather than warming up. Now that we have looked into the level of disagreement that exists concerning global warming, let’s focus on the two main arguments of the sceptics: Global Temperature problem: The IPCC report of 2007 states that: “Since 1905 the average temperature of the planet, then at 14°C, has increased 2.5%, an unusually rapid rate (a 0.35°C rise). Over the last 25 years, from 1970 to 2005, it went up 4% (or 0.55°C). The total increase in global average temperature represents a rise of 5.4% (or 0.74°C) since 1750” (Pachauri, 2007). Of course, as we cannot measure the temperatures of every corners of the globe, representative samples measurements from different weather stations will be used in order to create the average temperature. Sceptics see two major sources of marginal errors from these samples that could potentially highly affect the IPCC reported results: location & time. 1 The problem of location regroups many issues such as the” urban heat island effect”, the quality of the surface station network and the unwarranted adjustments to the temperature record. Sceptics Lionel Wandfluh © |
  2. 2. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR ESSAY Apr. 2009 show that the majority of the panel of weather stations chosen for the global temperature sample are located in populated areas that are probably more affected by a warming increase due to the heat generated by cities ”urban heat island effect” than global warming. They question the relevance of such measurements in an average global increasing temperature (J. Hansen, 2001). The issue concerning the surface network used to collect data could also be a source of marginal errors. Readings’ locations are not evenly spread across the globe, and the quality of the measurements varies considerably between countries and even inside countries (Davey & Pielke Sr., 2005). The problem of time is probably even more relevant than the problem of location. Real accurate global measurements of temperature only started in the 1970’s. Previous temperatures were inferred from mathematical models and local proxy data of uncertain accuracy (such as ice cores and tree rings) (Koutsoyiannis, 2008). Furthermore, the technology used, and the number s and places of weather stations have changed considerably during the years. The adjustments made to deal with these changes could also be a potential source of marginal errors (Davey & Pielke Sr., 2005). The role of humankind in climate change The IPCC report attributes recent climate change to the recent heavy increase of anthropogenic GHGs: "Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."[; It is extremely unlikely (<5%) that the global pattern of warming during the past half century can be explained without external forcing (i.e., it is inconsistent with being the result of internal variability), and very unlikely that it is due to known natural external causes alone. The warming occurred in both the ocean and the atmosphere and took place at a time when natural external forcing factors would likely have produced cooling” (Pachauri, 2007). However, many sceptics question at least partially this theory. They attribute global warming to natural variations, ocean currents, increase in solar activity, cosmic rays, or unknown natural causes. They contest the real impact of anthropogenic GHGs in the equation and the particularly contest the correlation between CO2 concentration and the increase in temperature. This correlation primarily derives from a study of a period of rapid climatic warming about 55 million years ago known as the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum. During this period, the amount of carbon in the earth atmosphere rose rapidly. Even though the reasons for this sudden rise are still unknown, average temperatures worldwide also rose by about 7 degrees Celsius in a relatively short geological span. For this reason we use this analogy to explain a potential CO2 correlation with present-day temperature increase. However there are again many flows in this approach. First of all the short geological span still represents 10,000 years. Secondly recent studies from Dickens and co-authors Richard Zeebe of the University of Hawaii and James Zachos of the University of California-Santa Cruz determined that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased only by about 70 percent during that time. Today the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is believed to have already increased by 33% since the start of the industrial revolution for an increase of only half a degree. Therefore, the sudden increase 2 in temperature encountered during Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum cannot be imputed to the increase in CO2 (Richard E. Zeebe, 2009). Lionel Wandfluh © |
  3. 3. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR ESSAY Apr. 2009 But the critics are not only scientific. Sceptics also refer to sociological and political factors to explain global warming consensus. They question the objectivity of the scientific approach in the study of global change. In another way, the models and their results could be biased not only because climatology is an extremely complicated science that needs to take into account so many known and unknown variables and that the correlations between these variables are far from been clear, but also because of human factors directly link to the behaviour of living in societies. The sociological factor The psychological reason behind the global warming success might lie in the needs of humankind to believe in something, to share a common goal, at a time where traditional political ideologies and Christian faith have been partially abandoned at least in the old continent. Many people, in the 20 century, thought, that they could replace Christian faith by communism ideas. They have been terribly disappointed. Global warming and ecology represent a new type of doctrine that offer, in many ways, similar trends than communism and Christian faith, their foundation is also the Original sin. Men are guilty, men are essentially bad. To pay for their sins, they must be punished. And what could be a better way to pay for his sins, than depriving him of what he takes pride in: his amazing economical development and technological progress. His development was wrong and has deeply damaged and depleted Mother Nature. In this view of mankind, men are exterior to nature, they are its cancer (Morrissey, 2009). Even though this explanation might be a bit caricatural, it is difficult not to see some correlation between this explanation and the attitude of many ecological groups such as Greenpeace that systematically attack consumption, progress, technology, and so on. The political factor Another issue that has been many times raised and that is worth talking about is the functioning of the IPCC. During the past, science had often failed to address politics because of the lack of consensus between scientists. Response to a problem could easily be seized up in endless debate because it was never too difficult to find scientists with dramatically opposite view. In order to avoid this problem, the IPCC addresses a vast panel of scientists from extremely diverse background. Three reports are created from their research and address to the public: the Working Group I Report (WGI) or the Physical Science Basis, the Working Group II Report (WGII) or Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the Working Group III Report (WGIII) or Mitigation of Climate Change, and The Synthesis Report (SYR) or the Summary for Policymakers (SPM). The SPM is supposed to be a synthesis of all the previous ones that create a strong consensus between scientists in order to address politics with a strong voice. This approach, however, faces two main issues: The IPCC members in charge of writing the reports have generally no particular competences in climatology just like Rajendra K. Pachauri, the chairman of IPCC who has a degree in Railway Engineering, an Msc in Industrial Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering and Economics, but no degree in any sciences closely related to climatology. Secondly this entity not only synthesis the results of a vast amount of researches very often contradictory, but also allows itself to dictate standards in 3 every fields of the economy (transports, energy, agriculture, forest, buildings, etcetera). The danger of this off course is the obscurantism linked the dominant ideology (Trenberth, 2001). Conclusion Lionel Wandfluh © |
  4. 4. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR ESSAY Apr. 2009 In conclusion: is climate change scepticism a danger or a benediction? I think personally that it really depends on our response to it. Indeed climate change scepticism reminds us that climate change science is far from being perfectly accurate. As a parallel, geology, geophysics, reservoir engineering, etcetera have allowed drilling science to progress considerably in the last 50 years. However, we still often drill dry holes. The principle of precaution put forward by many climate change scientists, nevertheless, is still valid. Indeed, it is difficult to contest that pollution in the long run will have harmful consequences, and therefore we should not continue acting as nothing is wrong. On the other hand, our choice of response should still be open to debate. Do we want to follow the partisans of a condemnatory ecology or a corrective one? I am clearly situated on the side of the corrective ecology. I believe in the capacity of humankind to face challenges, to come up with new original solutions. I think that ecology should not curb growth and development but should be a driving force. Alternatively to taxation and sanction, solutions should come from greener alternatives that are also more viable economically. 4 Lionel Wandfluh © |
  5. 5. ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY IN THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR ESSAY Apr. 2009 Bibliography BBC News. (2010, February 7). Climate scepticism 'on the rise', BBC poll shows . Retrieved April 11, 2010, from BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8500443.stm Booker, C. (2009, November 28). Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation . Retrieved April 10, 2009, from Telegraph.co.uk: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6679082/Climate-change-this- is-the-worst-scientific-scandal-of-our-generation.html Davey, C. A., & Pielke Sr., R. A. (2005). Microclimate Exposures of Surface-Based Weather Stations: Implications For The Assessment of Long-Term Temperature Trend. Bull. Am. Met. Soc. 86 , pp. 497- 504. Hughes, W. (n.d.). Errors in IPCC climate science. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Warwick Hughes Blog: http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/ J. Hansen, R. R. (2001). A closer look at United States and global surface temperature change. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from Journal of Geophysical Research: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2001/2001JD000354.shtml Koutsoyiannis, D. A. (2008). On the credibility of climate predictions. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 53 , pp. 671–684. Morrissey, J. (2009, November). Climate change alarmism: a new 'religion' for Christians? AD2000 Vol 22 No 10 , p. 9. Norcia, V. d. (2008). GLOBAL WARMING IS MAN-MADE. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from http://livinggreenbarrie.com/LvGnGlblWarmgIPCCRpt.pdf North, C. B. (2009, December 20 ). Questions over business deals of UN climate change guru Dr Rajendra Pachauri. Retrieved April 10, 2009, from Telegraph.co.uk: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/6847227/Questions-over-business-deals-of-UN-climate-change- guru-Dr-Rajendra-Pachauri.html Pachauri, R. C. (2007). The AR4 Synthesis. Geneva: IPPC. Richard E. Zeebe, J. C. (2009, July 13). Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum warming. Nature Geoscience 2 , pp. 576-580. Trenberth, K. (2001). The IPCC Assessment of global warming 2001. Journal of the Forum for Environmental Law, Science, Engineering, and Finance , pp. 8-26. Weart, S. (2010, April). Retrieved April 12, 2010, from The Discovery of Global Warming : http://www.aip.org/history/climate/summary.htm 5 Lionel Wandfluh © |