The Lightfoot Institute



Accuracy of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Results Challenged by Recent H. Douglas Lightfoot Paper

A recent independent review, by H. Douglas Lightfoot, of a crucial Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) report, Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (AR4),
appears in the December 2010 (vol. 21.7) issue of Energy & Environment (Multi-Science

(PRWEB) December 15, 2010 -- H. Douglas Lightfoot's recent paper, "Nomenclature, radiative forcing and temperature projections in IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (AR4)", identifies significant inconsistencies and problems in the crucial IPCC AR4 report.

Three main problems are identified:

Firstly, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration units have been confused. Measurement units of “parts per million by volume” (ppmv), meticulously specified by Charles Keeling for measurements of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, were replaced by “parts per million” (ppm), a measurement by weight without sufficient notification. For carbon dioxide, 1 ppmv is equal to 1.52 ppm, a significant difference.

“This confusion has escaped to the scientific community at large,” explains author H. Douglas Lightfoot, “and has potential to cause serious problems. One has only to remember the Gimli Glider, an Air Canada flight, which ran out of fuel in mid-air over confusion between gallons and litres, to recognize potential hazards in confusing units.”

Secondly, the most frequently quoted estimate of the warming effect of carbon dioxide appears to be
overestimated by 2 to 10 times. There is a large discrepancy in the warming contribution of carbon dioxide between pre-industrial times and the present era. Before 1750, carbon dioxide was estimated to contribute approximately 11% of the warming effect, whereas between 1750 and 2005 the IPCC report states the effect at close to 100% of total warming.

The paper suggests the large discrepancy in values is unsubstantiated, casting doubt on the validity of the IPCCs reported contribution of carbon dioxide to current global warming.

Finally, the paper explains that there is simply no evidence to support the upper range of projected increases in atmospheric temperature to 2100 of between 2.9 and 6.4C, stated in the AR4 report. Using only information presented in the AR4 report, calculations show that required levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are two to four times more than is possible for the scenario estimates of world energy demand in the year 2100.

Identified inconsistencies in the AR4 report are evidence that there are no trustworthy temperature projections in AR4 for the purpose of policymaking.

“A reasonable recommendation is that the IPCC issue a warning about the problems in AR4,” Mr. Lightfoot explained, “followed by a schedule for completing necessary corrections. This would minimize damage to the credibility of the IPCC and that of its scientists, many of whom have done good work and are not associated with the temperature change projections.”

“An investigation into how these problems passed through unnoticed would be a welcome further step,” Mr. Lightfoot explained. “It is imperative that a body of engineers and scientists independent of the IPCC verify the results of the re-assessment. I support the 2010 Interacademy Council review of the IPCC’s procedures. Their recommendations are an important step towards preventing the types of problems identified in the IPCC’s AR4 report.”

“We currently have a debate in the climate sciences,” Mr. Lightfoot explained. “It is possible that several of the existing inconsistencies identified in my recent paper are contributing to this debate. It is my hope that the process for correcting these problems can change the debate to a useful and beneficial dialogue.”

For science journalists and editors:

A more detailed explanation of this paper’s findings is available by contacting The Lightfoot Institute through their website: .

About H. Douglas Lightfoot:

A retired Mechanical Engineer, H. Douglas Lightfoot graduated from the University of British Columbia and later received an MBA from Concordia University. He spent eighteen years with Domtar Inc., working on research, engineering and economic studies of alternate energies as well as a wide variety of projects for the pulp and paper, chemicals and construction materials businesses. He is an affiliated member of the Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre (GEC3), McGill University branch. He is also co-founder of The Lightfoot Institute.

About The Lightfoot Institute:

The Lightfoot Institute is a Canadian non-profit research and education organization, with charitable status, formed:

“To generate awareness of today’s global energy challenges and to advance a workable and sustainable plan that would solve the universally growing needs.”

About Energy & Environment:

Energy & Environment is an interdisciplinary journal aimed at natural scientists, technologists and the
international social science and policy communities covering the direct and indirect environmental impacts of energy acquisition, transport, production and use.

Copies of the paper are available at the following website:

Download the PDF
Download the PDF

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Introducing The Lightfoot Institute

New institute brings accurate analysis crucial to understanding our energy future.

Montreal, QC (PRWEB) September 29, 2010 -- The Lightfoot Institute is a newly founded non-profit research and education organization formed:

"To generate awareness of today's global energy challenges and to advance a workable and sustainable plan that would solve the universally growing needs."

“People have little understanding of how much energy we use,” said co-founder H. Douglas Lightfoot. “For instance, the United States used more energy in 1850 than 60 per cent of the world’s countries use today — and that’s before Henry Ford’s Model-T revolutionized transportation in the early part of the 20th century.”

"We must have adequate energy to adapt to climate change, whether or not climate is warming or cooling, otherwise the environment will be destroyed," he explained. "The trees we all enjoy will be burned to heat people's houses."

“Like income, we use energy in a discretionary manner,” explained co-founder Brian G. Lightfoot.
“Manufacturing a 2-pound box of breakfast cereal burns the energy of about two litres of gasoline. Arbitrarily limiting our energy use will have many negative and unforeseen consequences.”

Charitable Status

The Lightfoot Institute has recently received status as a Registered Charity in Canada.

We can now offer you a valuable opportunity to join us in promoting a reliable energy supply, to keep the lights on, the machines running and a sustainable future for us all.

Please visit us at for details.

About H. Douglas Lightfoot

A retired Mechanical Engineer, H. Douglas Lightfoot graduated from the University of British Columbia and later received an MBA from Concordia University. He spent eighteen years with Domtar Inc., working on research, engineering and economic studies of alternate energies as well as a wide variety of projects for the pulp and paper, chemicals and construction materials businesses. He is a member of the Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre (GEC3), McGill University branch.

About Brian G. Lightfoot

Brian G. Lightfoot, worked for many years as a senior technical writer in the telecommunications industry. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology from McGill University, a computer applications programming certificate and is a graduate of the Canadian Securities Course. He co-wrote and co-produced the widely respected documentary film, Nobody's Fuel, and is currently adapting a textbook on energy for lay audiences.

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Download the PDF

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Although not written by H. Douglas Lightfoot, we recommend the following article:

Technology as Magic

The Metropolitain, September 8th, 2010
By Steven D. Lightfoot

An Age of Pessimism

Robert Goddard was a dreamer and inventor. Born in Massachusetts in 1882, he was a sickly child, and fell behind his fellow students. But he had an  insatiable curiosity about the physical world and was a voracious reader. He managed to become valedictorian of his high school class, stating in his address, "It has often proved true that the dream of yesterday is the hope of today, and the reality of tomorrow."


Robert Goddard had dreams of practical liquid fueled rocketry, and he was the pioneer in the field. In 1926 he launched his first liquid- fueled rocket, and worked throughout the 1930s to develop his designs for higher altitude. His work was so successful that it caught the attention of the Germans, who during the second world war, used their own V2 liquid fueled rocket, built around Goddard’s ideas, to attack England. And he believed that liquid fueled rockets had the capability of taking man to the moon. Robert Goddard was a visionary and achieved amazing things.


And yet he was mercilessly ridiculed for his efforts and belief that his liquid rocket technology would take man into space. In 1920 a New York Times editorial expressed disbelief that Professor Goddard actually "does not know of the relation of action to reaction, and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react". Goddard, the Times declared, "only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools”.


Justice was finally served many years after his death, when the Times published a short item entitled “A Correction” on July 17, 1969, the day after the launch of Apollo 11. Although a bit tongue-in-cheek, but no doubt heartfelt, "A Correction", summarized its 1920 editorial mocking Goddard, and concluded, "Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.”


William Thomson (1824-1907) was a British engineer and physicist, who among other achievements, was noted for his work on the transatlantic telegraph, the mariner’s compass, and on the laws of thermodynamics. He was knighted and elevated to the House of Lords in London, earning the title Lord Kelvin. He is probably best known in scientific circles for developing the concept of an absolute zero temperature, and thus the temperature unit Kelvin is named in his honour. In his day Lord Kelvin was extremely successful, and very well respected.


And he became additionally well known in the technical world for a prediction gone wrong. In a 1902 newspaper interview, one year before the Wright brothers’ first flight, he predicted that "no balloon and no aeroplane will ever be practically successful."


It seems there was a time, early in the past century, when prestigious newspapers and learned persons, not to mention the general public, had little faith in the potential for advancement of technology.


How times have changed.

The Relentless Advance of Technology

I bought a run-of-the-mill new laptop computer last week. It cost me eight hundred dollars, and it has 4 Gigabytes of random access memory (RAM). In 1983, my parents bought our family an Apple II computer for three thousand dollars. It had 64K of RAM memory, which was already 4 times more than the moon-landing Apollo 11 spacecraft on-board computer, developed by NASA 14 years earlier. Thus from 1983 to today, a period of 27 years, a consumer grade personal computer has increased in at least one aspect of performance by a factor of 63,000 and dropped in price by 75% (not even considering inflation). I don’t really need to remind you that the computing power of the personal computer has increased exponentially since it was first developed.


And it’s not just computers. There isn’t a day that goes by when some new advancement in technology isn’t announced in the media.
It’s literally everywhere, and with the introduction of the Internet, tool of communication and trading of information, the root of all technical innovation, the rate of advance only increases.
Incredible, odds-defying advances are everywhere.
In medicine, it’s new very serious diseases arriving on the scene such as HIV/AIDS, and at least life-prolonging treatment developed within two decades of its arrival. It’s MRI development, giving accurate non-invasive diagnosis almost in real time. From unravelling the human genome, to stem cell research and disease treatment, it does not stop.
Privately developed space aircraft are on the verge of taking paying passengers into space, and the international space station is going strong.
It seems there are no limits to what technology can do. Even aircraft that are powered by the sun are making the news.

Solar Aviation – the Sky’s the Limit

The Solar Impulse project is the brainchild of Bertrand Piccard, a Swiss balloonist and adventurer. Piccard, in conjunction with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, is developing two aircraft for what is planned to become the first attempt to circumnavigate the globe in a solar powered aircraft.
The first aircraft, named HB-SIA, is a prototype, being tested in 2010 and making big news doing so. The second aircraft, named HB-SIB, will be slightly larger and will have the capacity to travel around the world in around 25 days.
The first Solar Impulse aircraft is a one-seater. It has a very large wingspan –63 meters, and is 21 meters long. It has four 10-horsepower electric motors, driving propellers, and has a maximum speed in flight of 70 kilometers per hour. It is made of lightweight materials such as carbon fibre.
Beyond the sheer thrill of adventure, Piccard`s motives for attempting such a groundbreaking technical feat are about showing how science and technology can be used for the development of renewable energy sources.


He is quoted as saying "We have to support the environment without threatening the world economy and our mobility. Solar Impulse will show that a win-win situation is possible."

A Challenge to the Reader

I am now going to pose a challenge to the reader. Would you follow me through a very short, but meaningful, engineering calculation? There is a lesson to be learned on the completion of the calculation, and I think, if you have the patience to follow, you will profit from it.
OK, here goes. Asking myself the question “With all the interest surrounding solar aviation, could solar power be used to power a typical modern passenger aircraft?”, I set out to find an answer. It is a surprisingly simple calculation, so please follow along, if you wish.
Using the concept of conservation of energy (from the First Law of Thermodynamics, but please, don’t let these fancy words intimidate you), let us simply compare the maximum possible amount of solar power available from the sun landing on the upper surface of the aircraft (that would somehow be converted into forward propulsive power) compared to the actual power consumed during take-off. Let’s consider using a fairly big aircraft, say, the Boeing 737-900, for example. This is the latest version of the 737, the passenger transport workhorse of many airlines worldwide.
From the publicly available specifications for the 737-900, the total surface area of the aircraft when viewed from above is approximately 290 square meters. Let’s assume it’s completely covered in solar panels, and all of the sun’s power gets transferred into the propulsion system. Assuming the power from the sun landing on the aircraft skin is approximately 1.0 kilowatt per square meter at sea-level (this is also called insolation, and 1.0 is a typical value used at the equator, for a sunny day), the total solar power available to the aircraft is therefore 290 kilowatts (kW). For those readers who prefer dealing in Imperial units, this equates to about 390 horsepower, the power typically available from a large automobile engine.
So, how much power is required to get a 737-900 off the ground and into the air, at high speed? From publicly available information, the fuel consumption of the jet engine on the 737-900 (called the CFM56-7) under full power (take-off) conditions is approximately 0.91 kilograms per second. There are two engines on a 737, so the total fuel consumption at take-off is 1.82 kilograms per second. Knowing that the energy content of jet fuel (similar to kerosene) is about 43,000 kilojoules per kilogram, multiplying the two gives 78,260 kilojoules per second (or kilowatts, as kilojoules per second are known).
So the maximum possible power available from the sun is 290 kilowatts, and the fuel power required at take-off is 78,260 kilowatts (or about 105,000 horsepower). This results in the conclusion that the aircraft take-off power requirement is 270 times greater than the maximum power available from the sun.
For readers with a technical background, I will point out that my calculations are highly simplistic, in that I have disregarded both solar cell efficiencies and jet engine efficiencies (converting fuel energy into forward thrust). Given that solar cell efficiency and jet engine efficiencies are both in the order of 30 to 40 percent, the overall power ratio remains the same.
So, in summary, our very simple energy-balance engineering calculation shows the impossibility of ever powering a large, high-speed passenger aircraft with solar power.

Predicting The Future Of Solar Aviation

So, now that we have established that solar power is insufficient to power a transport aircraft the size of a 737 (with its speed and passenger carrying performance characteristics) by a factor of 270 to 1, let’s quickly estimate what the specifications of a solar powered aircraft with the wingspan similar to that of a 737 would look like.


Given that the available solar power for the aircraft is in the order of 290 kW (or 390 HP) and the electrical power available is a lot less in practice, there would probably be one or several small electric motor-driven propellers. The aircraft might have lightweight and dense batteries for some power storage. The aircraft would have a large wingspan (for solar power collection as well as high lift at low speed), but the body would be small and thin, and the whole structure would be lightweight, no doubt made of carbon fibre and other composite materials. The aircraft would be slow moving, and fragile, and possibly be able to carry one, or maybe several passengers, at the most.
Lo and behold, that sounds a lot like a description of Solar Impluse.
In other words, Solar Impulse, for all the wonder that it is, is about the best humanity is ever going to get out of a solar powered airplane. Any notion that the sun will ever power a heavier-than-air passenger-carrying aircraft significantly larger or faster than Solar Impulse is simply incorrect. The power required from the sun is simply not available in sufficient quantity, as we have shown.

Building Unrealistic Expectations

I think Bertrand Piccard’s goals are noble, and Solar Impulse is a great project. Both inspiring a new generation of aviation adventure, and generating interest in sustainable development are good objectives.

Solar powered aircraft no doubt have a practical future, possibly being used as long-duration, high altitude communication platforms. But solar power will never drive large, high-speed transport aircraft. We have proven it together in this article, and should anyone propose to develop one, we can advise against it with confidence.

I take issue with one of the outcomes of Solar Impulse. I have heard a senior executive in civil transport aviation (someone without technical training), speak about research into solar aviation. He left the decided impression among the listeners that solar aviation for passenger traffic was not only possible, but also the inevitable future of aviation.

When Bertrand Piccard attempts to show that air mobility is not threatened when supporting the environment by the use of solar power, he is entirely wrong. Affordable air travel for the general public is completely threatened by the use of solar power for aircraft propulsive power.
When projects like Solar Impulse are used, whether purposefully or not, to further the public’s expectations that anything is literally possible via technology, this is not only wrong, but also dangerous.

Technology As Magic

Unlike in the early part of the 20th century, the general public has come to have a very different view of technology and its possibilities.


I have heard it said by numerous economists that regarding climate change, and greenhouse gas emission reductions, economic incentive plans such as a carbon tax will spur technical innovation, with the implication that there are no limits to technology. Tax it, and it will come! The technical solution, that is.


This kind of thinking is somewhat naïve. No doubt economic incentive schemes can have an effect, depending on the technology available.


My point in performing the aircraft calculation above was to show that there are limits to technology based on, among other things, physical laws. Today we suffer from the opposite problem of the past, namely, the general public, not to mention some economists, believe there are no limits. We have developed unrealistic expectations of what is possible.

Critical Thinking Required

Humanity faces some very difficult challenges going forward, especially with regards to reducing emissions of all kinds, and building a more sustainable energy future. And while there are huge political elements to these challenges, there are also technical challenges.

I am personally against any effort to make the challenges we have look easy to solve, and the proposal of simplistic solutions to hugely integrated problems. When our citizens en masse start to expect unfeasible miracles from technology, and this gets translated into unrealistic policy from government bodies, we all lose. Investment money, a limited resource, is wasted on projects that ultimately do not deliver concrete benefits to society. And time is wasted.
There is much serious work to do to build a sustainable future. We need to embrace our enthusiasm for technical solutions with critical thinking so that the best, most realistic solutions are implemented.
We must not be lulled into thinking there are easy solutions to energy-related technical challenges, or sold exaggerated capabilities. There is too much at stake to get it wrong.

Learning From Icarus

Icarus, of Greek mythology fame, was the son of Daedalus. Icarus and his father were imprisoned on the island of Crete by King Minos. In an effort to escape, Daedalus fashioned two pairs of wings out of wax and feathers for himself and his son.
Enthralled with his new wings, and the possibility of flight, Icarus flew too close to the sun, beyond the capabilities of his wings. His wax wings melted and he plunged to his death in the Icarian Sea, which today bears his name.
We can learn from Icarus. All the technology around us is astounding. As I have described, as a society, we have gone from underestimating the possibility of technological advance, to now believing there are no limits. We are told time and again that all of the huge challenges facing our world, be it climate change, peak oil, and future energy crises are all solvable with existing and future technology that will inevitably be developed.
But there are limits, and the laws of physics apply today just as they always have. We need to balance our enthusiasm for technology with the critical thinking required to properly evaluate which future technologies make sense and which don’t. We have the power to do this.
Let’s not allow our belief in the future of technology to cause us to fly too close to the sun, wasting precious time and resources on ill-thought out ideas.

About the author: Steven D. Lightfoot is a Mechanical Engineer who trained at McGill University. He has worked for 20 years in the aerospace and power generation industries, and is currently employed in the consulting engineering industry in Montreal.

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They got the math wrong

The Metropolitain, January 7th, 2010

The level of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding the real and perceived issues of "climate change" related to CoP 15 in Copenhagen is enormous, but it need not be. . .

Download the PDF
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H. Douglas Lightfoot Wins Canadian Nuclear Society Award

Author of Nobody's Fuel wins CNS/CNA Education and
Communication Award

(PRWEB) June 2, 2008

H. Douglas Lightfoot, of, has won the Education and Communication Award for 2008, a joint award from the Canadian Nuclear Society/Société Nucléaire Canadienne (CNS) and the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA).

"We are very pleased with the positive response our message continues to receive," said H. Douglas Lightfoot. "The DVD of Nobody's Fuel was prepared to communicate to the public the Nobody's Fuel Energy Supply Plan. It is a workable plan to lift poor nations out of poverty, maintain the well-being of everyone on Earth, adapt to climate change, and protect the environment. It leaves no one behind."

"We must have adequate energy to adapt to climate change, whether or not climate is warming or cooling, otherwise the environment will be destroyed," Lightfoot explained. "The trees we all enjoy will be burned to heat people's houses."

The awards ceremony will take place at the evening banquet on Tuesday June 3rd during the Canadian Nuclear Society's 29th Annual Conference, June 1st to 4th at the Marriott Hotel in Toronto, Ontario.

About Nobody's Fuel:
Nobody's Fuel was produced to make people aware of impending energy challenges ahead, and to promote a workable plan to provide the energy the world needs, while ameliorating the carbon emission problem.

DVD title: H. Douglas Lightfoot's Nobody's Fuel -- energy supply is more important than climate change.

About the Canadian Nuclear Society/Société Nucléaire Canadienne, Inc.:

The Canadian Nuclear Society (CNS) was established in 1979 as "the technical society of the Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA)".

The CNS is dedicated to the exchange of information in the field of applied nuclear science and technology. This encompasses all aspects of nuclear energy, uranium, fission and other nuclear technologies such as occupational and environmental protection, medical diagnosis and treatment, the use of radioisotopes, and food preservation.

For more information, see:

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Lightfoot is Nobody’s Fuel

April 2007

Baie d’Urfé resident Doug Lightfoot’s got an inconvenient truth for you: it’s an overdependence on fossil fuels that’s going to sap the planet’s finite resources before climate change can really even take hold.

Lightfoot, a retired mechanical engineer and a member of McGill University’s Global Environmental and Climate Change Centre, has produced and is actively promoting a DVD production called Nobody’s Fuel, which details his hypothesis that the world’s current reliance on finite fossil fuels will lead us all into ruin.

“I’ve been studying this for a long time — since the 1970s, actually,” said Lightfoot, who has published multiple research papers detailing the consumption and depletion of the world’s natural fuel resources. “The reason the United States is so rich is because it has been burning more energy than anyone else.”

For instance, Lightfoot reports the United States used more energy in 1850 than 60 per cent of the world’s countries use today — and that’s before Henry Ford’s Model-T revolutionized transportation in the early part of the 20th century.

The solution, he contends, is nuclear energy that is gleaned from uranium in fast-breeding reactors — nuclear fission energy.

H Douglas Lightfoot explains his message

“There has been enough uranium mined already to power the world for another 150 to 200 years,” he said. “Using fast-breeder reactors, we could have enough energy to last for tens of thousands of years,” he said, adding that one kilogram of uranium holds more energy than 2.3 million litres of gasoline.”

Now, he’s taking Nobody’s Fuel on the road. Lightfoot, who has produced a two-hour DVD detailing his ideas - available on his website, - will speak at the Senneville Curling Club.

The presentation, which includes a viewing of the DVD, is slated for Sunday at the Senneville Curling Club.

The nuclear-fission idea, Lightfoot says, is not out of the financial question.

“It’s not untenable from an economic standpoint, and even if the price of uranium goes up, it’s still within reason,” he said.

The big obstacle is getting scientists and engineers together to help the engineers put the scientists’ ideas into practice, he said.

“We have to bring the two fields together to make things work past a theoretical standpoint,” Lightfoot said.

Copyright © 2010 The Lightfoot Institute