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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Global Heat Budget #2: Oceans

The world’s oceans are warming.  Ocean warming is the strongest confirmation that greenhouse gases are warming the planet. 

The heat capacity of water is among the highest of common substances.  That means that water can absorb a large amount of heat while its temperature changes only slightly.  The measurable warming of the world’s oceans indicates that a very large amount of heat has come from somewhere.  The only credible source for so much heat is the retention of heat by atmospheric greenhouse gases.  Let’s look at the source of the data, and the numbers.

ARGO Oceanographic Program
Rising ocean temperatures have been measured by oceanographic surveys since the 1970s.  However, these ocean surveys were limited in geographic coverage and continuity of data acquisition.  A more comprehensive system, ARGO, was put in place beginning in the early 2000s, with improvements and new deployments continuing today.  Today, ARGO consists of nearly 4000 floats which continuously measure ocean temperature, salinity, density and currents from the surface to 2000 meters. 
ARGO floats measure temperature to an accuracy of two-thousands (0.002) of a degree Celsius.  The floats are “parked” at 1000 meters, and every ten days submerge to 2000 meters and return to the surface, where data is broadcast to satellite receivers.  The system provides comprehensive coverage worldwide except for polar latitudes, and continuous measurements.

Ocean *Weather*
Like the atmosphere, ocean temperatures are seasonal, cyclic, variable, and turbulent.  The large number of ARGO floats was designed to adequately measure and characterize the variable temperatures of the ocean.  The volume of data acquired allow scientists to make maps of the changing water temperature and calculate the total heat content in the ocean.
Surface temperatures are warming the fastest.  NOAA presents charts of average ocean temperature and ocean heat content according to water depth, based on ARGO observations and earlier oceanographic studies.

Surface waters (0 – 100 m) have warmed by about 0.6 degrees C on average since the late 1960s. 
Intermediate waters (0 – 700 m) have warmed by a little over 0.2 degrees C on average since the late 1960s. 
Relatively deep waters (0 – 2000 m) have warmed by about 0.1 degree C on average, since the late 1960s.
Over all depth increments observed, the rate of warming seems to be slightly increasing.

Heat Content
The changing heat content of the ocean is a simple function of the change in temperature.  The heat capacity (or specific heat) of water represents the amount of heat required to change the temperature of a given volume of water.  From an observed change in temperature, we can back-calculate the amount of heat that has entered the ocean.  The density and heat capacity of water change slightly with pressure (and water depth).  NOAA has calculated the heat content of the ocean over various depth intervals from the temperature data and heat capacity.  

The heat content of the ocean at intermediate depths (0 – 700 m) has increased by about 2 x 1023 joules since the late 1960s. 
The heat content from the surface to 2000 meters (0 – 2000 m) has increased by about 3 x 1023 joules since the late 1960s.  This means that the heat content over the interval from 700 m to 2000 m has increased by about 1 x 1023 joules, about half of the increase in heat content at intermediate water depths.
Source of Increasing Heat
NOAA unfortunately did not report temperature change or heat content in separate depth intervals, but only in overlapping intervals of 0 – 100 , 0 – 700, and 0 – 2000 meters.  Starting from the average change of temperature for each interval, I calculated the heat content for 0 – 100 m, 100 – 700 m, and 700 – 2000 m.  My figure for total heat content calculated from temperature change exceeds the heat content reported by NOAA by 14%, probably due to errors in my single-point values for temperature or heat capacity over these depth intervals.
Temp Rise (C)
Volume (km3)
Density (g/cc)
Mass (kg)

Heat Capacity (J/kg-C)
Change in Heat Content (J)
0 - 100 m

0 - 700 m

0 - 2000 m

Change in Heat Content
Percent of Heat Change
Change in Heat Content per 100 m
0 - 100 m
100 m - 700 m
700 m - 2000 m

There is a large difference between the heat gained in the upper 100 meters of the ocean and the heat gained at deeper levels by equivalent volume.  The ocean is clearly heating from the surface downward.  About 35% of the total heat increase has occurred in the upper 100 meters of the ocean, about 36% in the next 600 meters, and about 28% in the next 1300 meters.  Research on deep ocean currents shows that heat is also being introduced into the deep ocean by currents, rather than by conduction. 

The geographic distribution of ocean heating also shows atmospheric influence.  The ARGO ocean data shows distinct heating anomalies between 30 and 40 degrees of latitude, north and south.  These are the down-welling points of large atmospheric convection cells termed Hadley cells.  You can see atmospheric circulation in observations of ocean warming.

The first post in this series quantified anthropogenic heating and cooling, primarily from greenhouse gases, particularly CO2.  This post looked at the largest heat sink on earth – the oceans.  

Net Anthropogenic heat absorbed by the planet from 1970 to 2016 was about 3.4 x 1023 joules.  Over the same period, the heat content of the oceans has increased by about 3.0 x 1023 joules.  Anthropogenic heat is the only credible source for the heat appearing in the ocean, and the warming oceans confirm that greenhouse gases are, in fact, warming the planet.  
Global Heat Budget #1: Anthropogenic Heat

Ocean heat content figures.

Ocean temperature figures.

Gridded temperature data in map view.

The Oceans Their Physics, Chemistry, and General Biology, UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004, University of California Press 
Physical properties of sea water.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Global Heat Budget #1: Anthropogenic Heat

I have been away from my blogs for far too long.  I will try to post a series on the global heat budget.

Previously, I posted a lot of work on atmospheric CO2, considering the geographic distribution, isotope data, rates of change, comparison to man-made emissions from various sources, and interaction of the atmosphere with global carbon reservoirs.  The latest summary post is here:
I deliberately avoided the question of climate change to focus on the science of atmospheric CO2.

For the past year, I’ve been studying on the problem of global warming (the first-order consequence of greenhouse gases) and climate change (the higher-order consequences of greenhouse gases).  And I’ve been posting less while I worked to understand the data.

I’m going to present what I’ve learned as a series of short posts, rather than writing a book.
The very short version is this:

The Global Heat Budget; The Very Short Version
People have raised the concentration of atmospheric CO2 by burning fossil fuels.  The volume of CO2 released by fossil fuels has increased sharply since about 1950, and continues to increase today.

CO2 and other greenhouse gases retain heat in the atmosphere.  The quantity of heat is easily calculated as a function of the concentration of CO2 in the air.  We can calculate the amount of heat that has been trapped to date, and we can forecast the heat that will be trapped in the future.

Heat is increasing in heat sinks on earth.  Observations show that the amount of heat appearing in earth’s heat sinks is approximately equal to the heat retained by greenhouse gases.  The heat is showing up as rising ocean temperatures, melting ice, and a warmer atmosphere.  The quantity of heat appearing in these systems has been measured by high-accuracy monitoring programs since about 2003.  The warming ocean accounts for about 95 percent of our estimates of anthropogenic heat.  Retained heat due to greenhouse gases is the only credible source for the heat appearing in heat sinks.

Sea-level is rising.  Sea level rise has been documented by tidal gauges for 130 years, and by high-accuracy satellite measurements since 1992.  The amount of sea level rise matches the observed volumes of melted ice, thermal expansion of the ocean, and ground-water extraction.  The fact of rising sea level confirms observations of melting ice and warming oceans.

Higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations are inevitable for the foreseeable future.  Quantitative forecasts of future heating indicate serious and expensive problems will develop for the nation & the world.
Atmospheric CO2 has risen as a consequence of fossil fuel emissions.  The following chart is my version of the Keeling Curve ( showing global CO2 concentration, including high-amplitude seasonal cycles in the Northern Hemisphere, and low-amplitude seasonal cycles in the Southern Hemisphere.
History of Study of CO2 as a Greenhouse Gas
The physics of CO2 as a greenhouse gas is settled science, based on published studies dating back over 150 years.  High accuracy programs to measure melting ice, ocean temperatures, and rising sea level have been in place in recent decades, long enough to yield conclusive results.

Carbon dioxide was first proved to be a greenhouse gas by John Tyndall in 1859, proving speculation that began in 1820.  The planet-wide effect of changing CO2 concentrations was calculated by the Swedish chemist Arrhenius and published in 1896.  Arrhenius was originally attempting to find the cause of the ice ages, but later recognized the possibility that fossil fuel emissions could change the climate, and published that result in 1906.  Quantitative measurements of CO2 and rising temperatures were published in 1938 by Guy Callendar.  Systematic global measurements of CO2 concentrations began in 1955 by Charles Keeling.  Satellite measurements of sea level rise began in 1992.  Satellite measurements of Antarctic and Greenland ice mass began in 2003.  Detailed, comprehensive and continuous measurements of ocean temperatures began in 2004.

Calculation of Heat Retained by Greenhouse Gases
Greenhouse gases are mostly transparent to wavelengths of visible light, which carry most of the energy from our sun.  Visible light strikes the earth and is converted to heat.  Normally, some portion of that energy is re-radiated into space as thermal infrared radiation.  But greenhouse gases are opaque to infrared wavelengths, and trap heat in the atmosphere as a function of the concentration of those gases.  As greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere, lower levels of the atmosphere have warmed.  Higher levels of the atmosphere have cooled, as more heat has been trapped near the surface.

NOAA publishes historical tables of the atmospheric heating coefficients (known by the awkward and uninformative phrase *radiative forcing*) for anthropogenic greenhouse gases, dating back to 1979.  The coefficients are prepared according to international standards, taking into account cloudiness and angle of solar incidence to yield a global average.  You can do the math yourself to calculate annual heat retained by each greenhouse gas, which I have done.  Carbon dioxide represents about two-thirds of the heat retained in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases.  Methane, nitrogen oxide, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and minor greenhouse gases account for the rest of the heat retained by greenhouse gases. 
In 1979, greenhouse gases retained about 7 x 1021 joules.  By 2016, greenhouse gases retained about 1.2 x 1022 joules, an increase of 78% in annual heating.  It’s difficult to conceptualize how much heat is represented by 1022 joules.  A joule is about ¼ of a standard calorie – the heat required to raise a gram of water by one degree C.  It’s a small amount of heat.  But 12,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules is a lot of heat.  Later in this series, we’ll consider how the earth can absorb that quantity of heat, and where the heat is going.
Aerosols and Anthropogenic Cooling
Aerosols are the least-well quantified anthropogenic influence on earth’s climate.  Sulfate aerosols cool the atmosphere by making clouds more abundant and reflective.  Sulfates can originate from volcanic eruptions, but are also a common industrial pollutant.  Carbon black aerosols warm the atmosphere by absorbing sunlight. 

Sulfate emissions have dropped dramatically in the United States and Europe over the past 25 years, thanks to regulations intended to limit acid rain, but world-wide sulfate emissions have continued to grow.  The average global impact of sulfates and black carbon aerosols is shown in the following graphs, but the more significant impacts are regional.  South Asia suffers from the greatest carbon black emissions and impact, while China is now the source of most sulfate emissions.

IPCC Net Anthropogenic Heating and Cooling
The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) 5th Climate Assessment contains a table of anthropogenic heating and cooling coefficients.  The IPCC numbers for conventional greenhouse gases are identical to NOAA, but IPCC also recognizes other anthropogenic factors, which can both heat and cool the atmosphere.  These factors act by direct absorption of sunlight, or by a greenhouse effect that is restricted to certain levels in the atmosphere.  The IPCC recognizes the warming factors of tropospheric ozone (O3), stratospheric water vapor (H2O), black carbon on snow, and contrails.   IPCC recognizes cooling factors, including land-use changes (which affect the reflectivity of the earth), stratospheric ozone, and aerosols. 

Here is a chart based on IPCC data, showing anthropogenic heating and cooling coefficients (*radiative forcing*).

Primary Anthropogenic and Other Heat
Strangely, to me, the IPCC report makes no mention of another source of anthropogenic heat – the primary heat resulting from burning fossil fuels and nuclear plants, and secondarily, the primary heat resulting from deforestation.  The global heat from non-renewable sources is reported in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.  The energy released by deforestation can be easily calculated from the volumes of carbon dioxide released, which is estimated in several sources.  These sources of heat represent about 5% and 1%, respectively, of the net anthropogenic heat reported by IPCC, and exceed several other minor sources of heat in the report.

Here is a chart showing the calculated anthropogenic heating and cooling, based on IPCC estimates for radiative forcing, plus heat from primary energy.
I considered and calculated the incremental accumulation of geothermal heat, due to the retention of heat by greenhouse gases.  Geothermal heat is normally in a steady state, with heat flux from the planet balanced by thermal radiation into space.  The quantity of heat retained is quite small, however, and not worth adding to the heat budget. 

Agriculture has a significant influence on the planet’s seasonal CO2 cycles, due to the preponderance of agriculture in the temperate Northern Hemisphere.  Changes in atmospheric CO2 necessarily imply changes in heat, through the reduction and oxidation of carbon.  Agriculture appears to be a zero-sum influence on the long-term heat budget but may be significant in seasonal climate modeling. 

Net Anthropogenic Heat
The net heating coefficient (*radiative forcing*) for all anthropogenic heating and cooling was about 2.4 watts/min 2011.  The global average for solar insolation at the top of the atmosphere is 1361 watts/m2.  About 1000 watts/mof the sun's radiation reaches the earth's surface.  Anthropogenic heat represents a small but noticeable increment to the natural heating of the earth by the sun, about 0.24% above the natural, steady state of solar heating and radiative cooling.

Using the IPCC heating and cooling numbers, plus primary heat, we see that net global anthropogenic heating was 9.8 x 1021  joules in 2011. That’s enough heat to melt about 29,500 gigatonnes of ice, or to bring 14,000 gigatonnes of water from room temperature to boiling.  Of course, the icecaps are much larger than 29,500 gigatonnes of ice, and the ocean is much larger than 14,000 gigatonnes of water.  So the changes we see in a single year are subtle.
Net anthropogenic heat from 1970 to 2016 is about 3.4 x 1023 joules.  The effect of heat retained by greenhouse gases is cumulative. Over time, the consequences are not so subtle.  In the next few posts, we will look at how anthropogenic heat is being distributed in earth’s heat sinks.  
NOAA Radiative Forcing Tables

IPCC climate change references
31 page Summary

VOX article on BECCS (Bio-energy and Carbon Capture and Sequestration) requirement to keep temperatures less than 2 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels.

2013 Full IPCC report, 1500+ pages

Fourth National Climate Assessment

BP Statistical Review of World Energy
Primary Heat from Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Energy

Primary Heat from Deforestation
Primary heat calculated from CO2 released.
Houghton, R.A. 2008. Carbon Flux to the Atmosphere from Land-Use Changes: 1850-2005. In TRENDS: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A.

IPCC 5th Climate Assessment, pg. 1446.

Aerosols caused by human activity play a profound and complex role in the climate system through radiative effects in the atmosphere and on snow and ice surfaces and through effects on cloud formation and properties. The combined forcing of aerosol–radiation and aerosol–cloud interactions is negative (cooling) over the industrial era, offsetting a substantial part of greenhouse gas forcing, which is currently the predominant human contribution. The magnitude of this offset, globally averaged, has declined in recent decades, despite increasing trends in aerosol emissions or abundances in some regions. (emphasis mine).

By nucleating a larger number of smaller cloud drops, aerosols affect cloud radiative forcing in various ways. (A) Buffering in nonprecipitating clouds. The smaller drops evaporate faster and cause more mixing of ambient air into the cloud top, which further enhances evaporation. (B) Strong cooling. Pristine cloud cover breaks up by losing water to rain that further cleanses the air in a positive feedback loop. Aerosols suppressing precipitation prevent the breakup. (C) Larger and longer-lasting cirrus clouds. By delaying precipitation, aerosols can invigorate deep convective clouds and cause colder cloud tops that emit less thermal radiation. The smaller ice particles induced by the pollution aerosols precipitate more slowly from the anvils. This can cause larger and longer-lasting cirrus clouds, with opposite effects in the thermal and solar radiation. The net effect depends on the relative magnitudes.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Arctic Drilling, Climate Change, and Dependence on Fossil Fuels

My cousin asked me to write a blog post about proposed drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  As part of the Republican-led tax reform bill, Congress recently overturned a decades-old ban on drilling in the area, largely at the insistence of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski.  Alaska will share in the leasing and production tax revenues from oil development within the refuge.  ANWR is on Alaska’s North Slope, and covers about 30,000 square miles (a little bigger than Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined).  The refuge is coastal plain adjacent to the Arctic Ocean, and mountainous to the south.  Most of the coastal plain was recognized as prospective for oil in the 1970s, and set aside by Congress as “Area 1002” in 1980 for a future decision on drilling.  Area 1002 covers about 2350 square miles (about twice the size of Rhode Island). 
Image Credit: Alaska Department of Natural Resources

Some issues are not simple.  Decisions regarding fossil fuels are that kind of issue.  To make these decisions, we have to look at both sides of the coin.

Fossil-Fuel Dependence
First, let’s consider our use of fossil fuels.  As you are reading this, the computer screen in front of you is made from oil.  The energy powering the computer was probably produced by burning natural gas or coal.  Everything you possess, everything you can touch, every stick of your house is either made from oil or was certainly transported by oil.  Most of the food you eat was produced on farms which use tractors powered by oil to plough and harvest.  You probably use oil to travel to work, and you are certainly supported in life by others who use oil for their daily lives, which enables them to make your clothes, transport your food, build your houses, sell you things, and so on.  If oil suddenly ceased to exist, most of the population on earth would not be able to live.  We are all connected, and together we are dependent on fossil fuels.  If you are breathing, you can thank an oil company.

That’s the status quo. 

Climate Change
The other side of the coin is that continued use of fossil fuels will cause great destruction unless mitigated by some costly and unproven technology.  There is no question that climate change is occurring, is accelerating, and is caused primarily by man-made emissions of CO2.  Forecasts for any scenario without removing CO2 from the atmosphere show an increase of average global temperatures between 3 and 8 degrees Celsius (from 1900).  The mid-range of these forecasts would greatly impair agriculture in the United States, and flood coastal communities and barrier islands within 150 years.  Natural disasters will become more frequent.  Food production from the ocean may fail.  The higher end of these forecasts is likely to render swaths of the planet uninhabitable, due to complete agricultural failure, heat extremes, or flooding.  Countries likely to be affected most are those near +30 and -30 degrees of latitude (due to atmospheric convection cells), including Australia, South Africa, Mexico, the southwest United States, Spain, Italy, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and southern China.  It is worth noting the number of nuclear-armed countries on the list, particularly in South Asia.

Heating will continue even if all fossil-fuel use stopped today, because of the compounding effect of CO2 already in the atmosphere.

Renewable Energy Growth Limits
Renewable energy is currently about 3.5% of global energy supply.  
Data Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy

Globally, renewable energy is growing at a rate of about 14% per year, while overall energy use is rising at 1% per year.  As a purely mathematical exercise, we could completely replace fossil fuels by the year 2044, if renewable energy continued to grow at the rate of 14% per year.
But there are limits to the growth of renewable energy, too.  Starting from a base of 3%, it is fairly easy to construct the next 0.4% of the global energy supply in a single year.  Starting from a base of 50%, it will be very hard to replace 7% of the global energy supply in a single year.  Massive new mines will have to be constructed to supply the rare-earth elements needed for wind turbines and lithium for batteries.  New factories will be needed to construct solar panels. Steel & aluminum will be needed for transmission.  And mostly, a massive amount of money will be needed for capital investment.  As a summary judgment, this cannot happen by mid-century.

We therefore need to research and implement CO2 capture & sequestration technologies or mitigation technologies as soon as possible.

Energy Security
The United States consumes about 20% of the world’s energy, with about 4% of the world’s population.  As this blog has noted before, the use of so much energy is largely responsible for America’s high productivity and wealth, (

American oil production peaked at 10.2 million barrels in 1970, as predicted by M. King Hubbert in 1956.  The development of horizontal drilling & fracking technology made large volumes of unconventional resources economically viable, invalidating Hubbert’s assumptions.  The decline in US production reversed dramatically in 2008 due to shale-oil production.  Shale oil now accounts for 6.5 million barrels per day – about two-thirds of American production, and still growing.  The United States is expected to pass the 1970 peak sometime this year and become the world’s leading oil producer in 2019. 
U.S. oil production has grown from 5 million barrels a day to 10 million barrels a day since 2008 as a result of shale-oil fracking.  Petroleum demand has fallen from near 20 million barrels a day to about 13.5 million barrels a day of net consumption thanks to greater efficiency in energy usage.  The U.S. still has a supply deficit of about 3.5 million barrels a day.

Increased domestic production and improved automotive efficiency now allow the U.S. to refine & export refined product.  The level of our dependence on foreign oil is a little difficult to quantify, because we are importing 10 million barrels of crude oil per day, refining the oil, and re-exporting 6.5 million barrels per day, mostly as refined product.  That leaves us with a net deficit of about 3.5 million barrels per day, most of which can be supplied from Canada, a relatively safe supplier. 

U.S. Oil Imports by Country, 1000s of Barrels per Day
Saudi Arabia
United Kingdom
Bahama Islands
United Arab Emirates
Trinidad and Tobago

Nevertheless, the United States is vulnerable to supply disruptions or embargos in the event of an international crisis or war.  We would no longer be able to supply the buyers of our refined petroleum products, which would cripple our customers’ economy, and by connection, our own. 

 The United States has a strategic oil reserve of about 725 million barrels, but even this reserve would last only 100 to 200 days if all sources of foreign oil were cut off.  In the event of a conflict, military demand would clearly take priority in the use of the strategic reserve.  An extended conflict could leave the country with insufficient oil for the economy, for trade with potential allies, and for military use. 

Where Will You Get Your Oil?
As I noted in the beginning of this post, oil is still necessary for the transportation of all goods, the manufacture of most goods, the raw materials and energy for manufacturing, the production and transportation of food, and the energy and materials for construction.  We can’t yet live without oil. 

Solar and wind renewable energy sources currently account for about 3% of the global energy supply.  Those sources are growing at 14% per year, but even in the most aggressive renewable energy scenarios, the global economy will remain dependent on oil for decades.

Many people object to various sources of oil.  People protest fracking of oil shale.  People protest offshore oil production (which is generally safer than oil transportation by tankers).  People protest the use of oil sands.  People protest Arctic Ocean drilling.  People protest oil pipelines (which are safer than oil transportation by rail). 

Those who protest any particular oil project should answer the question: if not here, where will you get your oil?

Foreign oil production is often conducted less responsibly in terms of the environment than production in America.  There is weaker environmental oversight, more flaring of gas, and more frequent transportation accidents.  Foreign purchases of oil transfer large amounts of wealth to foreign interests who may use that wealth directly against us.  Major exporters of oil include Islamic autocracies, Russia, Venezuela, and other countries who oppose the United States.  These sources may also be subject to an embargo in the event of a conflict.

I’ve been tempted to make a simple game for this question.  The player is asked “Where will you get your oil?” and must choose between options.  It is not possible to leave the game, and necessary to choose sufficient options to meet the country’s economic and security needs.  It would look something like this:
Where Will You Get America's Oil?
All values in millions of barrels per day.  Twenty million barrels per day are required.  “Available” barrels are probably available for use or import.  I assume that no additional barrels are available from conventional fields in the lower 48 onshore, or Gulf of Mexico offshore. The “Current” column represents America’s current oil supply mix.
Conventional Onshore Oil
Offshore Gulf of Mexico Oil
Offshore Florida, California or East Coast
Arctic Oil
Shale Oil Fracking
Canadian Oil Sands
Islamic Country Imports
Russian & former Soviet Imports
South American, Unstable Country Imports
African Imports
European & S. Asian Imports
So, spend a moment and choose where you will get America’s oil.  It is necessary for all of the things that you use in a normal day, and also necessary for all of the people who provide you with things and services.  

Policy Recommendations
I reluctantly favor drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the (ANWR) National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA).  The volumes of oil which might be produced from these areas is uncertain, but they have the potential to add one or two million barrels of oil a day to American production.  This would materially increase the nation’s energy security and reduce the money paid to America’s geopolitical opponents. 

Not drilling in ANWR will not reduce the world's use of oil.  It will simply displace Alaskan oil supply with supply from authoritarian regimes elsewhere in the world, and the money earned will fuel social repression and wars.  Instead, we have the choice to produce Alaskan oil, and use the money for education, health-care, and broader environmental protections.  

The USGS mean resource estimate for ANWR 1002 area is 7.7 billion barrels of oil. Volumes of gas were not explicitly estimated, but are undoubtedly large.  The mean resource estimate for NPRA is 8.7 billion barrels and 25 TCF.  The NPRA estimates were revised upwards in 2017 due to recent large discoveries in Cretaceous stratigraphic traps.  The apparent specificity of the numbers is an illusion.  There is an order-of-magnitude uncertainty in these numbers, but there is strong potential for large volumes of production.

Exploration of ANWR will take more than a decade.  The process will involve the acquisition of seismic images of the subsurface, processing and interpretation of the data, a leasing process to establish the right to drill, exploratory drilling, and design of development & production facilities.  All of these activities will be regulated to minimize impacts on the environment.   Most activities will be conducted only in winter when the ground is deep-frozen, to avoid impact on tundra wetlands. 

I do not favor drilling in the waters of the Arctic Ocean.  An oil spill on land is relatively easy to clean up, compared to an oil spill in Arctic waters. 

Conclusion and Carbon Tax
The decision whether to drill for Arctic oil requires balancing our current dependence on oil with the impending disaster due to climate change, with consideration for whatever alternative sources of oil exist.

Our economic dependence on oil requires that we continue to drill and produce oil at the present time, while we develop renewable energy sources and technologies as quickly as we can.  In my opinion, it is not wise or effective to block individual petroleum projects on a one-off basis.  Every one of us is still dependent on oil, and we are supported in every aspect of our lives by others who are dependent on oil.  Each decision to prohibit an oil development project necessarily is a decision to obtain oil somewhere else.  Often those alternatives are environmentally less responsible, and counter to the fundamental economic and military security of the United States.

I believe a steep carbon tax is the most effective incentive to rapidly develop renewable energy without causing debilitating economic disruption.  I favor a carbon tax rather than cap-and-trade schemes, because of the relative simplicity of a tax system compared to the difficulty of ensuring compliance under cap-and-trade.  But I realize the any measures to control carbon emissions will be difficult, especially in the United States.  A carbon tax will be politically unpalatable and possibly impossible in a democracy.  A carbon tax will also hurt poor people disproportionally.  But if we proceed with Arctic drilling to ensure America’s energy security, it should be accompanied by measures like a carbon tax which will reduce total carbon emissions. 

ANWR resource estimates.
NPRA resource estimates.

Limit on surface development in ANWR is 2000 acres.
Revenue from oil leasing (and production royalty) would be split evenly between the US and Alaska.