Durango scientist to debunk �myths� - Says predictions about peak oil, global warming overblown
By Dale Rodebaugh
Climate change is real, although the consequences aren't as dire as predicted. And the fear of oil production peaking and then plummeting is a figment of the imagination, according to a retired scientist.
Roger Cohen, who spent more than 25 years with ExxonMobil Corp. in various capacities, will speak about global warming tonight at Fort Lewis College and about the world's use of energy Sunday at the DoubleTree Hotel.
"There used to be just global-warming advocates and skeptics, but now there are advocates, skeptics and militants, who are taking to the streets to try to turn the world's economy upside down," Cohen said Monday in an interview at his Trappers Crossing home. "The alarmists are distracting us from rational solutions. This is a problem for humanity to manage, not a catastrophe to frighten us into actions we will later regret."
All the information he will present in his "Modern Myths" talks is available to the public, Cohen said.
Global-warming data often is distorted by experts, and the most ominous predictions are accepted by the media as gospel, Cohen said. For example, some media outlets reported on Dec. 15 that the Earth's warming trend continued in 2006.
"In effect, last year was preliminarily the coolest in the past five years," Cohen said. "Statistically, global temperatures have remained static from 1998 on."
Cohen cited other distortions or fudging of facts about global warming:
• Former Vice President Al Gore frightened people with visions of 20-foot sea-level rises.
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which had predicted that melt ing glaciers and icecaps would raise ocean levels 4 to 37 inches in the next 100 years, has revised its estimates to 6 to 17 inches, while most independent researchers foresee a 12- to 14-inch rise in ocean levels - not much more than in the 20th century.
"It's a serious issue," Cohen said. "But 100 years allows time to adapt."
• The glacier on Tanzania's Mt. Kilimanjaro has been receding for 200 years, but what is not said is that the rate has slowed in the last 50 years and the area around the mountain peak has not warmed.
"There are many effects, both natural and human-induced, that change climate, but there is no way to isolate them experimentally to weigh their impacts," Cohen said.
"Therefore, scientists must rely on climate computer models.
"But there are problems with computer models," Cohen said. "Findings don't jibe with observations and the range of predictions is so large - to the year 2100, for example - that people tend to say either 'Ho, hum' or 'Oh, my god.' Such models aren't useful. Also, many scientists believe that the models are fundamentally unreliable and give projections that are too high."
As for a peak and then abrupt decline in world oil production, Cohen called such predictions "an incoherent set of anecdotes." The peak theory is based on a model developed in 1956 by Marion King Hubbert, a Shell Oil Co. geophysicist who predicted that U.S. oil production would peak in 1970.
U.S. oil production today is twice what Hubbert's model predicted, and the nation already has produced more than the model predicted ever would be produced, Cohen said. Petroleum reserves aren't limitless, but about 3.7 trillion barrels remain to be extracted. Only 1 trillion barrels have been produced since the industry began.
"Hubbert's theory fails because it neglects the impact of new technology to find and produce new oil and gas," Cohen said. "It also fails because it's not what is underground that counts but what is above ground - the capital to develop reserves and geopolitical conditions such as the stability of governments."
Peak-oilers are focusing on the wrong things, but the peak-oil theory certainly is popular, resulting in books, blogs and films, Cohen said.
"The theory may not be a cult, but it is certainly an industry," Cohen said.
"If I'm right, CO 2 emissions will peak by midcentury, and by the year 2100, the world will have a nearly emission-less energy system. But the market, not governments, will determine what powers the system, whether it be hydrocarbons (coal with the burial of CO 2 underground), wind, solar, hydrogen, nuclear or a number of other options.
"By then we could be as nostalgic about hydrocarbons as we are about our coal-powered train in Durango now," Cohen said.