back to article All CO2-spewing kit now in existence is OK for the planet

All the carbon-spewing machinery the human race now possesses - powerplants, transportation, boilers, the lot - can be kept running for its entire designed life without any significant ill effects on the planetary ecosystem, according to new analysis. It is the new machinery to replace what we now have which will either push …


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  1. Tom7

    Er, maybe...

    "As the graph shows, all of the gear now existing can be run until it wears out, and CO2 will stay well below 450 parts per million"

    That may be their conclusion, but that graph doesn't show it. Can you point me to where 450ppm is marked on there? No. The scale is GtCO2, not ppm.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Bad Graph

      Surely the scale should be in gigatons per year or gigatons per second. Otherwise it's meaningless. Hopefully the editors at Science will catch this!

      The original caption at doesn't clarify this either.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Not convinced by a graph, which doesn't show what they say it does

        There's my 2 pence

  2. Cazzo Enorme

    That V8 Jag? Run it 'til it wears out, you're OK

    I guess my V12 Jag (an old but well cared for XJS) is OK as well then?

    1. Gene Poole

      Hope so.

      I'm hoping that my 3.0 SE X350 will be OK for at least another 10 years. (For the unitiated, the X350 series is the aluminium-bodied XJ built from 2003-2010)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Run it 'til it wears out

    Cool, now I can keep running my 3ltr M3 till it dies, ( was going to anyway, far too much fun to get rid of).

  4. Brett Weaver

    Of course

    The Cubans have proven that the V8 can actually last forever - properly maintained.

    Also the straight six flathead...

    I have not seen the figures.. How many tonnes of CO2 did that last Icelandic volcano spew?...

    1. John Hughes


      "I have not seen the figures.. How many tonnes of CO2 did that last Icelandic volcano spew?..."

      Not much.

      "Experts said on Monday that the volcano in Iceland is emitting 150,000 to 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day, a figure comparable to emissions released from a small industrial nation."

      Google is your friend.

  5. MJI Silver badge

    Looking at my next car.

    Hmm the VXR8s are getting a lot cheaper now. 6l V8, what is not to love?

    Oh and then LPG convert it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shirley the big question is...

    How much CO2 will be generated in building a replacement for that Jag? And how long will the (hopefully) lower carbon replacement have to run to offset that amount.

    Obviously the same applies to everything from a power station to a mobile phone.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The technical term for this... "backpedalling".

    It validates Lincoln's precept (the one about "all of the people all of the time").

    Sooner or later the absurdity of the proposition that "the human race has broken the planet's weather engine, but luckily it can be fixed with money" will occur to everybody. At which point all this "self-hating human" guff will hopefully cease.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My SUV

    Will be just fine with its V8 engine. A good car ought to last a couple of years, but then again did they account for the oil it will burn in its late life. One never knows.

    Long live the V8, horsepower, and Top Gear!

  9. NoDosh

    I suspect we're

    due a horde of "that's all very well but we have finite resources" posts any moment now.

    Yes, we have finite resources, but what good is a great big puddle of oil if you don't do something with it? The greatest driver for change will be clear, empirical evidence of a resource running out, not guesstimates and harbingers of doom.

    I also forecast a brief squall of "won't somebody think of the children". Rest assured I do, as I aim the bonnet of my car at them.

    So I'll keep driving my 240bhp 4x4 ta. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

    1. Graham Marsden

      "if you don't do something with it?"

      I don't give a toss what you do with it, just do it *EFFICIENTLY*!

      I stay out of the "Global Warming is Man Made", "No it isn't!", "Yes it is!" nonsense and just point out that if we start using that "great big puddle of oil" in a more efficient manner (instead of burning huge amounts in gas-guzzling 4x4s...) then we will, ipso facto, reduce the amount of CO2 and other gasses into the atmosphere *as well as* delaying the point at which those finite resources run out.

      In other words, a win-win situation!

    2. Tim Parker

      Big man

      "I also forecast a brief squall of "won't somebody think of the children". Rest assured I do, as I aim the bonnet of my car at them."

      You utter twat.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Dear oh dear.

      I'm not sure whether what I'm saying here is a joke or not.

      If you consider that civilizations are cyclic (which is not actually proven, but it's a good theory), then you need to leave some easily extracted mineral resources to allow a future civilization to progress through the equivalent of our early industrial age. Otherwise, once our reign a the top of the stack (last in, first out) comes to an end, future civilizations will get stuck in the pre-industrial age. An amusing fictional illustration of what might happen is described in "The Mote in God's Eye", by Larry Niven.

      They're not going to be able to jump straight to a solar/green/nuclear lifestyle without going through some pretty low grade technology! Unless you are suggesting a gap of 100Myears to allow fossil fuels to accumulate again.

      Mineral oil is actually a quite important lubricant, which may be more important in the future than using it as a fuel. Vegetable based oils are too light without significant processing (which takes energy).

      Still, I'm just ranting as an office-chair speculator here.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Dear oh dear.

        I suppose that says: "I see your 'think of the children' and raise you a 'think of the gigantic, intelligent, mutant cockroaches'."

        I love Friday humour around here.

        Oh and lubricants? Breed whales.

      2. John Murgatroyd


        Is petroleum fossil-fuel, or not ?

        The Russians seem to consider that petroleum is constantly being "made" in various chemical processes within the earth.

        1. Geoff Campbell

          You *what*?

          Can you point me at *one* single credible paper that describes the process by which petroleum is made in real time underground, or indeed anywhere? It's the long-dead remains of previous generations of animal and plant life, and it *will* run out. And we had better be prepared for it when it does run out, otherwise things are going to get messy.


        2. Goat Jam
          Paris Hilton


          So they are drilling for petroleum in Russia? They must save a fortune on the refining costs then.

  10. Tom Chiverton 1

    without energy-intensive technologies

    Or, let's get Fusion (or Fission sequestration) sorted and carry on.

  11. sabroni Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I'm a selfish thoughtless twat as well!!!

    don't want to be left out just 'cos I have a pleb car!!

  12. James Pickett


    "The Cubans have proven that the V8 can actually last forever"

    I think most of their old Fords and Chevys now have Lada engines (wince), if only for economy reasons. I'm all in favour of keeping cars running, however - perhaps we'll get back to ones that can be easily maintained!

  13. al 3

    Interesting but ultimately irrelevant

    So.... it's not rocket science that running exisiting stuff till it dies produces less carbon than building a new one... but the message will never pass go...

    The shareholder big bucks industry banker finaincier do nothin make nothing contribute nothing power hungry oafs can't have that.

    I here them scream... "Buy sh*t,, you NEED new sh*t... it'll save the planet..."

    After all, if they don;t pedal their consumerist mantra their shares won't increase in value.

    Wur awwwww doooommed :-)

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      "Buy sh*t,, you NEED new sh*t... it'll save the planet..."

      Mmm, that's getting a bit Ergo Proxy.

    2. scatter

      Sorry but that's simply not the moment.

      "So.... it's not rocket science that running exisiting stuff till it dies produces less carbon than building a new one... but the message will never pass go.."

      Embodied energy and embodied carbon of virtually every energy using product comprises a relatively small chunk of life cycle emissions. In use emissions are far greater. I say virtually every product because there are a few outliers that are used so infrequently that this is not the case (power drills for example).

      Replacing current, inefficient energy using products with substantially more efficient ones does lead to big life cycle benefits. Once we've driven in use energy down to a minimum then longevity of the product becomes essential.

  14. Red Bren

    All? Are you sure?

    "They've worked out how long all the current cars, trucks, buses, ships, airliners, coal-fired power stations, combi boilers etc will last before needing to be replaced and totted up all the resulting atmospheric carbon."

    So the researchers will be able to tell us *exactly* how many cars, trucks, buses, etc there are in existence right now and *exactly* how much CO2 each individual one of them will emit before replacement, and *exactly* when that replacement will be needed. Good work.

    Or perhaps they estimated?

  15. John A Blackley

    But wait.....

    "We cannot be complacent just because we haven't yet reached a point of no return."

    Umm, I seem to recall various hell-on-earthers telling me some time ago that we'd already reached that point. You mean they might not have known what they were talking about?

    Shocked, I am! Shocked and horrified!

  16. LeBeourfCurtaine
    Paris Hilton

    I've seen the future...

    ...and OMG it's the piss-poor Demolition Man variety of Sinclair C5 derived electric safety buckets!! Hydrogen fuelled cars would have been much more fun :(

    Oh and as noted by many others, EPIC FAIL on the lack of attention paid to the graph's units.

    Paris, because only she can save us now.

  17. Richard Porter
    Thumb Up

    Scrappage scheme was a disaster

    This study just shows the stupidity of the previous governments car scrappage scheme. If I run my present cars for the rest of my life (or theirs) they won't produce an much carbon as manufacturing one Toyota Pious. Of course what the motor industry should be doing is making replacement power units and control systems so that existing vehicles can easily be updated rather than replaced.

  18. NoDosh

    @ Tim

    I’d hoped people on this forum might recognise a bit of “Friday” when they saw it. In future I’d appreciate being referred to as “fat tosser” rather than “big man”. It’s much more accurate.

    On a serious note, the reduction in resources as a trigger for change strikes me as being how this will play out. The human race has a poor track record for changing without some degree of compulsion and a worse one for ignoring difficult decisions. I’d venture that for every great moment in history inspired by altruism and philanthropy, there will be a dozen driven by force.

    All the alternatives to oil presently being developed rely on consumption of finite resources; we’re simply swapping one shortage for another. It’s going to take greater minds than yours or mine to crack this one. In the meantime, lower consumptions buys us time but doesn’t solve the problem.

    Yes I do have a large 4x4 but then I split my time between project management contract work and forestry work with a sideline in agricultural fencing. I also have a smallholding where we produce much of our own meat, fruit, eggs and veg, bartering with others in the village for things we don’t produce ourselves. I tow a 3500kg trailer for moving animals, timber, feed etc.

    Trouble is, when I drive to a town I get labelled by the car I’m in by people who might have smaller cars. I’d prepare to bet the majority of their houses are a mass of processed foods and the latest must-have gadgets and they wouldn’t know a composting system if it came and kicked them in the backside

    1. Apocalypse Later

      Updating existing vehicles

      Not practical. It is seldom the engine that defines the life of a car. I always buy second-hand and run the things til they can no longer be economically repaired. This usually means critical body rust, as I have a high tolerance for cosmetic flaws and tatty interiors. When it fails the MOT and needs welding then it goes for scrap. I ran a diesel Citroen (just scrapped) for 4 years, having originally paid 600 pounds for it. At no point would I have paid to replace the engine, not even with one that ran on moonbeams.

      (Yes, in another post I say I have a V8 Jag. I do. I bought it second-hand.)

      1. skeptical i

        Depends on where you are.

        In hot dry areas (Amurkin southwest, for example), the body remains relatively rust- free while the engine and other innards wear out more quickly due to plastic and rubber things drying out more quickly, more dust getting into things and increasing wear, &c.

      2. Geoff Campbell


        You should learn to weld. Most cars can gain an extra couple of years lifespan with some very simple welding.


    2. Tim Parker


      Your life choices sound admirable and your points are well made (and I completely agree with observations about compulsion) - however I always run out of humour about children being run over, which I cannot change, but perhaps I was too short in my reply. Have a good weekend.

    3. Mickey Finn


      "On a serious note, the reduction in resources as a trigger for change strikes me as being how this will play out. The human race has a poor track record for changing without some degree of compulsion and a worse one for ignoring difficult decisions. I’d venture that for every great moment in history inspired by altruism and philanthropy, there will be a dozen driven by force."

      I can see no reason to exchange my Saabs for a G-Whizz or a Pious, all that this really achieves is a massive increase in the cost of production without any noticeable improvement in consumption, it might well be worse... Instead of using oil which I directly load into my fuel tank, I now use oil/gas/coal/uranium/wind-haha that is converted by some filthy power station.

      I agree with your general slant, but I don't agree with your idea that necessity is the great driver, rather I think that it is novelty. Novelty sells, people like selling and people like buying.

      As an example, consider the device we are all currently using as we read and write here... The PC/Mac etc. Who would have thought that we would have a use for one of these in 1980... I worked with computers from around 1972 and it wasn't exactly a common perception that everyone would have one of these, although we knew they were getting relatively cheaper and more compact.

  19. Big_Boomer Bronze badge


    It's obvious, we need NUKES! Lots of Nukes!

    We need Nukes to power the planet (very low CO2) and we need Nukes to reduce the population.

    At the moment North Korea and Iran are taking care of the latter but I'm sure the conflagration will spread to the whole Middle East, China and much of the so called "West".

    India and Pakistan will probably help each other reduce their populations (isn't it nice to see them getting along finally! <LOL>).

    Not only that but the ensuing nuclear (No you doofus, that's NEW-CLEAR, not NUKE-EWE-LAR!) winter should drop global temperatures nicely.

    What no mushroom cloud Icon? I'm disappointed!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    i feel sorry for CO2, everyone hates it. I quite like it. I'm a little more concerned about the CH4... but people seem to forget that...

    1. Chronos Silver badge

      Re: really...

      The dihydrogen monoxide is quite a potent greenhouse gas, too.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Hydroxic acid

        Is much more dangerous than all the dihydrogen monoxide! REALLY!

        In other news I plan to sell 1 liter bottles of dehydrated water. Just add 1 L of water and you have a liter of water. Brilliant!

  21. Apocalypse Later


    I actually have a V8 Jaguar, and there is every possibility of the engine at least lasting nearly forever. These were built with silicon carbide cylinder liners, one step softer than diamond. They will never wear out, though some early examples deteriorated very rapidly due to chemical action from petrol with high sulphur content.

    What won't last forever is all the other bits. The phone is now 13 years old, but so integrated into the car (with switches on the steering wheel and so on) that it cannot be upgraded. When the engine management computer goes bad or the catalytic convertor fails another perfectly good engine will go for scrap. Even replacing the airbags is likely to be uneconomic.

    1. Gene Poole
      Thumb Up


      I had a Merc E320 that rotted away. The cost of fixing said tinworm would have been considerably more than the value of the car, so I got rid of it. However, the engine and gearbox was sweet as a nut and would have probably gone on to half a million miles with regular oil changes.

  22. pdu

    smells of rotten eggs to me

    Isn't it funny how just before a massive economic screw-up, there wasn't a second to waste in replacing all our perfectly good consumer products for tree hugging models. Now Governments across the west are implementing austerity measures, the like of which we haven't seen since the end of WWII that some kind researchers decide that actually, you know what, we'll be just fine running everything until it breaks. I've always loved science and it's open minded quest to find answers, solve problems and generally enrich our understanding of our environment, but in the last few years it's become so politicised that a huge chunk of it is about as verifiable as religion. For what it's worth, I think this one is right on the money that running your V8 jag is better for the environment that replacing it with a toyota junk bucket, but doubtless when we've got a bit of cash to spend some new awesome research will come and reverse this research again.

  23. heyrick Silver badge

    and human civilisation would start going to the dogs*

    - and some might say it already has...

  24. brale
    Thumb Down


    It's sad to follow 3% of climate scientists who deny climate change.

    Perhaps the 97% are in some sort of communist conspiracy?

  25. david wilson

    Not exactly optimistic.

    Just doing a quick google easily turns up people years ago saying things like:

    "If you want to stabilise around 450ppm, that means in a decade or two you have to start reducing emissions far below the current level..."

    which, if anything, could be seen as *more* optimistic than

    "If we didn't make any more CO2 producing devices we'd be OK"

    since it assumes 10 or 20 years of output at today's levels, rather than starting an immediate decline, as the Carnegie report suggests.

    If someone can actually take the Carnegie report as being a cue for thinking that everything's going just fine, then I think it'd be being excessively charitable to call them a pathological optimist.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    The real solution to saving the planet

    Stop breeding humans like jack rabbits. I purpose a cap and spayed program.

  27. Jim Birch

    Yeah, but...

    This analysis is correct but it's a bit of a strawman. No one is seriously expecting existing CO2 sources to be replaced en masse. This would provide environment benefits but it would be incredibly costly and take a lot of time, and, it just won't happen. The best we can hope for is improving the worst bits of existing infrastructure.

    The real problem is not the existing stuff, it's the new stuff. The analysis indicates that we could forget about global warming if all new plant was CO2 neutral. Great! Unfortunately, a really big IF seems to have crept in unnoticed. Coal power plants are being built in massive numbers and there's a huge number of people out around who want to use that power to move into a middle class high energy lifestyle.

    The analysis that really counts includes the projected growth in energy use, and the CO2 hit of that energy. Desirable scenarios require low CO2 solutions for that new stuff and old stuff that gets replaced. The economically reliably - and equitably - way to achieve that is via carbon pricing. The problem is, this will cost, and a lot of people want a free ride and have got a great story about their special needs.

    (Then again, the whole AGW thing might be some totally weird incredibly complex plot by thousands of trained earth scientists and their economist mates who have managed to hoodwink the trusting public, with the only people who are smart enough to pick it up are a bunch of libertarian nut jobs, a handful of right wing think tanks (aka PR outfits), and few fat journalists. Yeah, right.)

  28. Dave 15


    In almost every case the cost in CO2 of replacement is far higher than the cost of continuing use. This is particularly true with transport. The cost in CO2 of the new car the scrappage scheme encouraged someone to buy (not me - I'm far too tight) was more than the CO2 that would have been produced by the old one.

    In fact you also have to query many of the new technologies - the average wind turbine barely saves the CO2 it costs if it keeps going 20 years (often beyond its design life), similarly for many solar cells and batteries.

    The only really effective ways of saving CO2 emissions are

    a) Population control - there is no reason to continue allowing 'religions' to promote massive families and to keep banning contraception.

    b) Travel restriction - perhaps stopping companies insisting you commute every day to do in the office exactly what you can at home

    c) Control on goods transport - making things in China and moving them round the world because an accountant reckons its 2p an item cheaper than making it near the market its destined for.

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