The emission transition, following the demographic transition?

The demographic transition is the reduction in the birth rate that occurs when people achieve some level of economic progress. China is a spectacular example where the rising middle class are having one or two children per family despite the end of the one child policy.

Look for an emission transition along the same lines. Not that CO2 is a bad thing, far from it, just ask any green plant. But just to calm the fevered brows of the carbonphobes consider that the US is about the only country to significantly lower emissions. That came from the fracking revolution and I don’t expect much more reduction until nuclear power is a bigger contributor. There will be some progress in that direction as old coal-fires plants are replaced by new models that generate 25% less CO2 per unit of power.

China and India have been driving the recent increase in emissions, especially China, demonstrating the emission transition They are going to have more power without a great deal more CO2 because they are building nuclear capacity and also new coal fired power plants.

More charts on the performance of different nations. India is progressing faster than China at this stage, as you would expect because they lagging on the same path. The same thing is happening in other countries as well on a smaller scale.

In the meantime there is a growing awareness of the hole that we have dug with RE and expect a lot more talk about the need to keep coal in the system. Even Audrey Zibelman is talking about it, so it must be true.

As you would expect, cost of living trumps climate change as a concern for the punters while the ALP is tying itself in knots looking for a way to placate the Greens and at the same time get out of the hole that Bill Shorten dug. Where are the adults in the room? But wait, you can say the same about the Coalition.

A disgraceful call from the PM overnight – reported in The Australian, taking pride in Australia’s multi-billion dollar spend to meet Kyoto targets. What a disaster for the farmers and the nation.

Scott Morrison said Australia was doing the “heavy lifting” in setting and meeting its climate targets after investing billions of dollars to exceed the Kyoto 2020 target — to reduce emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels — by 367 million tonnes.

“Plenty of other countries set targets; not many like Australia meet them in the way we meet them,” the Prime Minister said.

UPDATE FROM THE COMMENTS

Good call Mark M and great links, of course, India is just starting the steep part of the increase in emissions. Great news for us! I don’t care where it ends up or how long it takes to get there, it took about 150 years for the US to get to the (possible) transition. China is doing it faster because they have the benefit of Western experience and technology.

In reply to Bruce of Newcastle, of course there is a more or less linear relation ship between GDP and emissions, the point is how far does it go after the first industrial revolution is replaced to some extent by the information economy that requires less concrete and steel (apart from windmills).

I can understand a decline in emissions per capita in the US but the decline in total emissions is strange, I would have expected total emissions to track up in line with population.

Hence my disbelief about the AEMO master plan a few years ago that projected “flattening” demand for power in Australia, maybe they were counting on smelters and high power industries going overseas. No benefit to the planet but ruinous for us.

Also I don’t trust official figures for anything from the developing world:)

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21 Responses to The emission transition, following the demographic transition?

  1. Don’t you know the CO2 emitted by developing countries isn’t the same CO2 that’s emitted by Australia? Only when Australia achieves zero emissions will the world be saved.

  2. RobK

    I hope you are right. Ultimately, I think you are right. The transition of a system with long life and high capital cost components takes a long time to be done in an effective and economic manner. There are solutions developing, other than nuclear, hydro and HELE coal but none is primetime ready (eg H2, NH4, coal gasification etc).
    The push to renewables has been too fast and conceived by zealots. It has been insidious because it is parasitic of coal by design. Like all parasites it is relatively innocuous at low levels but malaise increases with the increasing burden. We need to back-off RE subsidies as soon as we can. One more 50-80 year cycle of proven baseload capacity is in order to replace the oldest retiring plant. New technology will develop over time.

  3. Entropy

    That came from the fracking revolution and I don’t expect much more reduction until nuclear power is a bigger contributor. There will be some progress in that direction as old coal-fires plants are replaced by new models that generate 25% less CO2 per unit of power.

    No no no. CSIRO futurists assure us that solar and wind is cheaper than coal already, and the only reason they haven’t replaced coal already is the built investment in coal.
    /CSIRO says it so it must be credible.

  4. DaveR

    Time for the zealot Zilberman at the head of AEMO to go. Appointed by the disillusioned Turnbull in another era, she does not have the background or the desire to be a meaningful contributor to Australia’s fast approaching third-world style power crisis. In between the warnings on supply her organisation is forcing her to make (where were the warnings 2 years ago under the failed Turnbull-Frydenberg policies?) there are still the ridiculous comments implying power costs doesnt matter. Much more suited to a Democrat state in the US.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    Look for an emission transition along the same lines.

    Nope. At least not until the Left gets over its anti-nuke fetish.

    CO₂ emissions per capita vs GDP per capita

    Linear. No exceptions other than a very few small countries with lots of hydroelectricity – which is not widely available and is also disliked by the Left.

    You want to break the correlation? Build nuclear power stations, especially breeder reactors and thorium reactors.

  6. Nob

    cost of living trumps climate change as a concern for the punters

    Of course.
    Always was, always will be.

    There was never any political value in arguing about whether the climate was changing and why.

    The critical thing – politically – is that the measures being adopted are doing, and will do, more harm than the Problem they’re trying to solve could ever possibly do.

    RobK’s post is one of the best and most succinct summaries I’ve seen.
    “too fast and conceived by zealots” “parasitic on coal by design”.
    Brilliant.

  7. But just to calm the fevered brows of the carbonphobes consider that the US is about the only country to significantly lower emissions.

    There’s this nice bridge I’d like to sell to you and I have many other bridges for anybody else who believes zealots who supposedly “count” a countries CO2 emissions are anywhere close in accuracy.
    CO2 audits are about as reliable as IPCC Assessment reports.

    We still have about 5 billion people living in conditions that would be considered abject poverty in The West. No amount of fiddling with power generation will reduce CO2 emissions by these people who will get to some level of wealth, just like the 500 million (or so) Chinese and 200 million (or so) Indians did.
    These people want cars, washing machines, refrigerators, better food clothing housing etc. It al takes CO2 emissions.

    Playing the “Climate Game” on the alarmists terms guarantees we will lose the game, and we have been, badly.
    Talking about lowering emissions means we agree that emissions are bad. We lose.

  8. Mark M

    You may deny reality, but India will not be denied coal …

    India plans to be mining ONE BILLION tons of coal/year by 2026.

    https://www.financialexpress.com/market/commodities/coal-india-foresees-53-mt-shortage-in-fy26-at-100-pct-supply-level/1691842/

    India to become largest importer of coking coal by 2025, says Fitch Solutions

    https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/india-to-become-largest-importer-of-coking-coal-by-2025-says-fitch-solutions/article29297781.ece

    India’s coking coal consumption is forecast to grow at 5.4% per year.

  9. Rafe Champion

    Good call Mark M and great links, of course, India is just starting the steep part of the increase in emissions. Great news for us! I don’t care where it ends up or how long it takes to get there, it took about 150 years for the US to get to the (possible) transition. China is doing it faster because they have the benefit of Western experience and technology.

    In reply to Bruce of Newcastle,of course there is a more or less linear relation ship between GDP and emissions, the point is how far does it go after the first industrial revolution is replaced to some extent by the information economy that requires less concrete and steel (apart from windmills).

    I can understand a decline in emissions per capita in the US but the decline in total emissions is strange, I would have expected total emissions to track up in line with population.

    Hence my disbelief about the AEMO master plan a few years ago that projected “flattening” demand for power in Australia, maybe they were counting on smelters and high power industries going overseas. No benefit to the planet but ruinous for us.

    Also I don’t trust official figures for anything from the developing world:)

  10. BoyfromTottenham

    Rafe, please, please try not to give credibility to the anti-CO2 / ‘carbon’ propagandists by agreeing that lowering CO2 emissions is in ANY WAY a good thing. Doing so IMHO makes you look at best like a fellow-traveller (or at worst a ‘useful idiot’) of the UN’s ‘de-industrialisation of the West’ cause.
    Either fight against them tooth and nail, or sit and watch them win.
    This is not in the least a trivial matter. It is as important, if not more, than fighting the Cold War. In both cases the enemy is well funded, has a multitude of ‘useful idiots’ that are relentless and have infiltrated almost every Western government and institution. Fortunately the Cold War was terminated by the collapse of the USSR, but this new battle has already been going on for longer, and unfortunately I see few signs of the UN collapsing any time soon.
    Surely you must know that there are dozens of scientific reasons why the ‘CO2 controls the climate’ meme is nonsense. If you don’t, I suggest you go to sites like WattsUpWithThat to brush up.

  11. Jock

    I don’t believe numbers from the developed world either.

  12. GoWest

    The LABOR party lost their best chance last election all they had to do was follow trump.. even emissions would be down making their greenies happy. All walk out from COP would have wedged Morrison completely and the fracking revolution would have lifted the economy. Simple really.

  13. BoyfromTottenham

    GoWest, I cannot see how the ALP can ever ‘follow Trump’ after calling him all kind of names and brainwashing their followers that Trump and his policies are crazy, corrupt, etc. since he was (totally unexpectedly to them) elected. IMO the western world’s Left parties are all in the same boat (or wedge) – they cannot walk back an inch from their insane climate & energy policies without the same result as has happened to Corbyn’s UK Labour party over BREXIT – they lose all credibility and most of their previously ‘rusted on’ voters.
    The current BREXIT situation in the UK parliament is utterly extraordinary, probably the most un-democratic events in the UK parliament for centuries. Personally I hope that the Queen (IMO acting quite sensibly in the interests of her monarchy!) refuses to sign Assent to the ‘no hard BREXIT’ trick legislation that the current parliamentary rabble just passed, implicitly telling all the Remainers to shut up and get behind Boris’s BREXIT program, as required by the Referendum. The next UK general election will almost certainly be extraordinary too, hopefully being a huuuge landslide in favour of the (cleansed) Conservatives and the BREXIT party. I live in hope!

  14. I_am_not_a_robot

    A version of the law of diminishing returns applies to efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, as the emissions fall the cost per unit (MtCO2-e) goes up, eventually the economic and political costs become too much.
    Germany’s insanely expensive Energiewende policy in its own terms (legislated in 2010) is a failure and the German’s are finally revolting.
    The early gains here were at the expense of farmers and electricity consumers but the ‘low-hanging fruit’ has gone.

  15. Lee

    No no no. CSIRO futurists assure us that solar and wind is cheaper than coal already, and the only reason they haven’t replaced coal already is the built investment in coal.

    Recently, Extinction Rebellion held a concert in England that they had to run using a diesel generator, because, as their organiser/spokesman whinged “solar panels are too expensive”!

    Belies the claims of alarmists that renewable energy is cheaper than coal, etc.

  16. Aynsley Kellow

    Sorry to nitpick, Bruce, but the GDP per capita axis on the graph is log, so not linear.

  17. Rafe Champion

    Yes I thought about pointing that out, after the penny dropped due to the close proximity of China and the USA:

  18. Rafe Champion

    What is the nearest place to Australia?

  19. Aynsley Kellow
    #3154277, posted on September 12, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Sorry to nitpick, Bruce, but the GDP per capita axis on the graph is log, so not linear.

    Rafe Champion
    #3154296, posted on September 12, 2019 at 9:50 pm

    Yes I thought about pointing that out, after the penny dropped due to the close proximity of China and the USA:

    Both axis are log so still linear.
    By the way Rafe, that small purple circle almost upon the USA is Australia.

  20. Aynsley Kellow

    Apologies – I read the description and missed the ‘LOG’ at right angles and tucked up with the title of the chart.

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