Climate Change Discussions Should Evoke Policy Discussions within AAPG

It is encouraging to see discussions concerning climate change in the pages of the EXPLORER after being absent for over a half-decade, a period during which the vast majority of world governments have agreed to limit carbon emissions and at least nine medium- to major-petroleum companies, which do business in the United States, are currently factoring some kind of carbon emission restrictions into their long-range business plans.

Although we applaud the comments of Dr. Robert Yeats (January) and those of Dr. Lee Gerhard and Bob Shoup (April), we disagree with their suggestion to hold a “scientific debate” within AAPG over the science of climate change. We support the AAPG Executive Committee, which in disbanding the AAPG Committee on Climate Change issued a statement that the AAPG, an association dedicated to the science of petroleum geology, is not the best forum for technical discussion of atmospheric science, and feel such discussions should be left to organizations that deal with climate science on a day-to-day basis, such as the American Geophysical Union.

What we feel AAPG should be discussing within our membership and all our Divisions, is how to plan energy/mineral exploration and production strategies based on impending regulations or carbon taxes. In addition, we should be considering how AAPG Members design future infrastructure for rapidly rising sea levels and extreme weather events that are projected by models to increase in the future and thus have a greater impact on operations.

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It is encouraging to see discussions concerning climate change in the pages of the EXPLORER after being absent for over a half-decade, a period during which the vast majority of world governments have agreed to limit carbon emissions and at least nine medium- to major-petroleum companies, which do business in the United States, are currently factoring some kind of carbon emission restrictions into their long-range business plans.

Although we applaud the comments of Dr. Robert Yeats (January) and those of Dr. Lee Gerhard and Bob Shoup (April), we disagree with their suggestion to hold a “scientific debate” within AAPG over the science of climate change. We support the AAPG Executive Committee, which in disbanding the AAPG Committee on Climate Change issued a statement that the AAPG, an association dedicated to the science of petroleum geology, is not the best forum for technical discussion of atmospheric science, and feel such discussions should be left to organizations that deal with climate science on a day-to-day basis, such as the American Geophysical Union.

What we feel AAPG should be discussing within our membership and all our Divisions, is how to plan energy/mineral exploration and production strategies based on impending regulations or carbon taxes. In addition, we should be considering how AAPG Members design future infrastructure for rapidly rising sea levels and extreme weather events that are projected by models to increase in the future and thus have a greater impact on operations.

In our opinion, AAPG should also be part of a conversation refuting the public perception that immediately eliminating the petroleum industry will stop global warming.

For at least several decades to come, energy created by fossil fuels is necessary to not only power the global economy but also to be part of the renewable energy infrastructure as they are developed. AAPG needs to be part of the conversation on global energy use (hydrocarbon, coal, nuclear, geothermal and renewables) to help change the public perception that our industry is solely the problem and, instead, be considered part of the solution.

Consequently, we urge AAPG to hold forums, reestablish a committee or form special interest groups to discuss how AAPG should address the issue of global energy production in a dynamic environment and a changing climate.

In closing, there are three points that we, as petroleum professionals, should consider in the broader debate over climate change:

  • Recognize that the long-term geological record shows fluctuations in climate and that, for the past 20,000 years, the Earth is coming out of a glacial period and hence there is naturally occurring glacier melting and subsequent sea level rise. During that time, some of the rates of sea level rise have far exceeded the current rate of sea level rise.
  • Acknowledge that CO2 and methane introduced into the atmosphere through burning coal and oil, by deforestation, by raising livestock, etc., have made measurable contributions to the continued rise in global temperature.
  • Our industry must strive to help raise the standard of living for the billions of people still relying on charcoal and animal dung for energy while also addressing the consensus agreement of both developed and developing nations at the 21st annual Conference of Parties to limit a rise in global temperatures to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

This is where AAPG should be part of the discussion.

Jeffrey B. Aldrich is Past President of AAPG’s Division of Environmental Geosciences President (2015-16); Randi Martinson is an AAPG Past President (2014-15); James M. Rine is an AAPG Emeritus Member; Jim Tucker is AAPG Treasurer for 2014-16.

Editor’s Note:

The opinions expressed in the Commentary section do not necessarily reflect those of AAPG, its leadership, or the EXPLORER editorial staff, but are the writers' own.

Comments (2)

Climate Change Policy Discussions Within AAPG Reply
I agree with the body of the Climate Change Article and the first closing bullet point but the last two bullet points are problematic for me. The second bullet point basically claims that man-made CO2 and methane have made measurable contributions to the continued rise in global temperature. I have passionately researched climate change for over 10 years. It is very important to make it clear if you are talking about climate change in general or man-made climate change. The public is purposely being confused and when man-made climate change is being discussed the man-made prefix is being left off. After many years of evaluating all of the data and coming up with my own model for climate change my conclusion is that there is no man-made global warming and the effect of human generated CO2 and methane on the climate is infinitesimal. Temperature is driven by solar activity and the main greenhouse gas is water vapor. Human activity is responsible for about .24% of the greenhouse effect. Adjusted for heat retention values water vapor accounts for 95% of the greenhouse effect. CO2 is about 3.62% of the greenhouse effect and methane about .36%. Now look at the man-made portion of these three greenhouse gases. Water vapor is approximately 99.999% natural. CO2 is approximately 3.225% man-made leaving it at approximately .117% of the greenhouse effect. Methane is approximately 18.338% man-made leaving it at .066% of the greenhouse gas effect. The man-mad portion of the greenhouse effect for CO2 and methane is approximately .183%. Furthermore, there is evidence we are approaching Solar Cycle 25. There are indications that we could be in Solar Cycle 25 within four years or less. Cycle 25 is predicted to possibly be a cooling period along with the next two cycles after it. If the AAPG were to print a statement supporting the concept that man-made CO2 and methane have made measurable contributions to a rise in global temperatures I believe this would be like animals that eat their young. This statement coming from the AAPG will only be used against the oil industry impairing the industry’s ability to fight against carbon taxes, if that is even possible at this point. In my opinion nothing good can come from the AAPG getting involved in man-made climate change discussions since at this point it isn’t scientific it is purely political. I would recommend that the AAPG Members educate themselves with every nuance of climate change starting with the geological history of climate change. I would then recommend that the Members weekly, if not daily, educate people wherever they go as to the scientific facts behind climate change. The general public only has an intuitive feel for climate change and they need the facts. Unfortunately the public can only be educated on an individual to individual basis at this point. Put together a Climate Change Power Point Presentation and carry it with you on your phone and you will be amazed at how many people will listen to you intently. In conclusion, it is my opinion that it isn’t the responsibility of the AAPG at this point to educate the public (the AAPG has been written off by the public as defending the oil companies) but the responsibility of each individual Member of the AAPG. Good luck to us all. Jeff Nankervis
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8/16/2016 1:10:53 PM
Climate change debate within AAPG
AAPG would shirk its responsibility to the humanity, if they leave the climate debate to the atmospheric scientists. Climate changes leave their imprint on sedimentary rocks. In their search of petroleum, geologists have studied sedimentary rocks and their environment of deposition like nobody else did. Divorced from geology, nobody can have the full historic perspective on climate change. Therefore, AAPG must debate this issue within and outside its ambit. The following two are seminal works that came out early remain hugely relevant on the subject. Gerhard Lee C et al Eds., 2001: Geological Perspective of Global Climate Change-AAPG Studies in Geology#47 The Earth Story, 1998: BBC DVD Series -The Big Freeze
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8/7/2016 10:54:39 PM

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