“The global emissions’ curve needs to bend in 2020, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030, and net zero emissions need to be a reality by 2050,” said Johan Rockstrom, head of the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
“Achieving this is possible – with existing technologies and within our current economy,” said the revered climate scientist. “The window of opportunity is open, but barely.”
Where I ended up after a series of happenings as described below, is concluding that we need a paradigm shift in our climate change aspirations. Instead of trying to limit warming to a point where we can avoid dangerous climate change, we need to recognize that we’ve already gone too far, that the climate is already dangerous, so we should aim to ratchet down GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to attain a safe climate.
1. Germans look to 7.4 trillion tons of fake snow to save the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Coal India, the largest coal mining company in the world, has announced it will close 37 mines because they are no longer economically viable. That’s around 9 per cent of the state-run firm’s mines.
The government has announced it will not build any more coal plants after 2022 and predicts renewables will generate 57 per cent of its power by 2027 – a pledge far outstripping its commitment in the Paris climate change agreement.
Sometimes personalities matter. What if the ‘hanging chads’ in the Florida vote had been counted differently and Al Gore had become President in 2000 instead of George Bush. It was a sliding doors moment for climate change.
According to the findings, future droughts in both regions will be more severe than even the hottest, driest megadroughts of the 12th and 13th centuries, which are believed to have contributed to the fall of ancient Native American civilizations that inhabited the Southwest, such as the Pueblo Indians.
The chances of a megadrought (lasting 35 years or longer) are up to 50%.
The odds of a decade-long drought are around 90%.
There’s also a 5-10 percent chance that parts of the region could see a state of “permanent” megadrought lasting 50 years or longer under the highest-warming scenario, a greenhouse gas emissions path we’re currently on.
3. New era of climate action and hope
Christiana Figueres reckons 2015 is going to be a transformational year in climate change action. She of course is the boss-person of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which is sponsoring the Paris talks in December.
Amongst other things she mentions the June Live Earth concerts initiated by Al Gore and Kevin Wall (reviving their 2007 effort) to be held in New York, South Africa, Australia, China, Brazil and Paris.
David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have agreed to work together to tackle climate change, as they warned it posed a threat to national security and economic prosperity.
In what might be seen as a surprising move in the run-up to the general election, the three party leaders have pledged to work “across party lines” to agree cuts to the UK’s carbon emissions.
They have also signed up to seeking a “fair, strong, legally binding” international climate deal, set to be negotiated in Paris at the end of the year, to limit global temperature rises to below 2C – the level beyond which “dangerous” climate change is expected.
And they pledged to move to a low-carbon economy, ending the use of coal without technology to capture and store its emissions for power generation. (Emphasis added)
A team at Princeton Optronics working on replacing conventional spark plugs with laser igniters has produced a running engine and they claim that replacing spark ignition with lasers could improve the efficiency of gasoline powered engines by 27%. Considering that the basic design of the spark plug hasn’t really changed in over a century, this would be a revolutionary step, frickin’ lasers or not.
Because the spark plug is located on the edge of the combustion chamber, not all of the fuel is combusted. Laser ignition can be directed to the centre of the chamber, or in fact to multiple parts of the chamber in extremely rapid succession. Ignition can also be more accurately timed in relation to the movement of the piston. The result is a more complete burn and greater fuel efficiency.
Michael Mann posts on research he was conducted, with others, on multidecadal climate oscillations in the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. They found that the Pacific dominates and was the predominant cause of a slight slowing in predicted warming over the past decade-and-a-half or so.
It is possible that the downturn in the PMO [Pacific Multidecadal Oscillation] itself reflects a “dynamical response” of the climate to global warming. Indeed, I have suggested this possibility before. But the state-of-the-art climate model simulations analyzed in our current study suggest that this phenomenon is a manifestation of purely random, internal oscillations in the climate system.
This has implications for the future.
Given the pattern of past historical variation, this trend will likely reverse with internal variability, instead adding to anthropogenic warming in the coming decades.
The “false pause” may simply have been a cause for false complacency, when it comes to averting dangerous climate change.
ReminderClimate clippings is an open thread and can be used for exchanging news and views on climate.
Seems the most important thing that can be said about the Lima climate change conference (earlier post here) was that it did not fail. The prospect is still there for a deal in Paris next December, but it looks like being a weak deal – a deal that does not limit warming to two degrees, a deal that will not be legally binding, and a deal that may lack some of the major participants.
The most exciting thing about the conference was that the reference to ensuring the world has net-zero emissions by 2050 is still there:
The mitigation section of the draft text states countries must aim for “a long-term zero emissions sustainable development pathway” that is “consistent with carbon neutrality / net zero emissions by 2050, or full decarbonization by 2050 and/or negative emissions by 2100.”
Giles Parkinson says this was explicitly supported by over 100 countries. Julie Bishop was not bloody-minded enough to insist that it be removed.
The phasing out of fossil fuels as a reality is now part of the conversation and capital for fossil fuel exploration and development should begin to dry up.
Lima Call for Climate Action outlines main aspects of a new global climate deal.
Keeps goal of limiting global warming to less than two degrees.
Contains reference to ensuring the world has net-zero emissions by 2050.
Doesn’t clarify if a new deal will be legally binding.
Doesn’t give countries the power to alter other country commitments.
Doesn’t offer new assurances on the flow of climate finance.
Leaves all options on the table regarding compensation for countries worst hit by climate change.
The principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ is enshrined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Accordingly in the Kyoto deal only the developed countries were required to limit emissions.
This time everyone is going to have to front with a climate mitigation plan, but
countries must work to ensure a 2015 deal “reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.”
Initial plans should be submitted by March. Australia has said that we will submit ours by June. Work has not yet begun, but it is clear that Tony Abbott himself is going to take control of the process.
The UN will do an analysis and report on the overall impact of the country targets by November. There is no chance that it will add up to a plan to limit warming to two degrees.
The EU wants ‘contributions’, once established to stand for 10 years. Some other countries favour five years, for greater flexibility.
The EU, some of the smaller countries and Australia want targets, once set, to be legally binding. There seems no chance that this will happen. Luke Kemp at The Conversation says that for the US to agree two-thirds of the Senate have to vote in favour. They won’t vote for a legally binding agreement and China won’t sign up unless the US does.
Frankly, I can’t see the US Senate agreeing to any kind of a climate deal in the foreseeable future, so the Paris deal, like Kyoto, may have to start without some of the major players.
Kemp says that Australia was softening its stance, so fears that Australia was playing a game to torpedo the talks seem to be misplaced.
Each country’s official plan to cut emissions and tackle climate change will be known as an ‘intended nationally determined contribution’ (INDC). The conference could not agree whether INDCs should be scrutinised.
The EU is willing to agree to the INDC system if governments can scrutinise each country’s INDCs, and suggest how they may need to change to increase ambition. Other countries, such as China and India, are very much against such scrutiny, known in the process as ‘ex-ante review’.
Lima’s draft text doesn’t determine whether the INDCs will be subjected to official review.
I’d say forget it.
There was more, of course, including financial assistance (never satisfactory). The draft document contains as many as 11 alternative versions of the text. There is masses of work to do.
Work will continue in various working parties and in a major conference in Bonn in June. No doubt discussions will continue in other forums, such as the G20 in Turkey. The next step is to submit INDCs by March. We’ll cheat by looking at everyone else’s homework. So will the Abbottistas be proudly recalcitrant, or will we track near the back of the peloton but try to pretend we are in the middle?
There is an upbeat feel as the Paris conference next December looms, where a deal is scheduled to be cut.
2) Expectations are being managed
They hope to complete a draft text at Lima, but it is only a stepping stone.
3) The US-China climate deal means the spotlight is on India
With the US, China and the EU making positive pledges, eyes now turn to India. So far they have been true to form, grumbling that the developed countries should do more and provide finance for adaptation.
4) Record temperatures and typhoon threat are framing the conference
In Copenhagen in 2009 it was freezing. At Lima the atmospherics a quite different with looming record world temperatures and typhoon Hagupit making its way towards the Philippines.
5) Old divisions persist
The EU wants countries’ pledges to cut emissions to be legally binding. The US is adamant that this can’t be the case as it would then have to ask Congress to ratify the deal.
A group comprising Saudi Arabia, China, India and 30 other ‘like minded nations’ continues to call for more transparency in the process. The group has used such pleas as a delaying and blocking tactic at previous negotiations.
2. Australia drags the chain at Lima
Australia has distanced itself from the Cartagena Dialogue, a group of 30 or so “progressive” countries Australia helped found five years ago seeking an “ambitious, comprehensive, and legally binding regime in the UNFCCC, and committed, domestically, to becoming or remaining low carbon economies.” You’re right, that’s not Australia now.
Giles Parkinson thinks that Australia’s main aim is to keep selling coal. That’s why Andrew Robb is there as Minister for Trade.
Effectively and, from Robb’s tweets and other evidence, in fact Australia is channelling the thoughts of their favourite thinker, Bjorn Lomborg:
who as others have pointed out has made quite a nice career casting doubt on the seriousness of climate change, arguing the problem is overstated, and concluding that on a cost-benefit analysis there is no need to do anything. That pretty much sums up current Coalition government policy.
3. China fingers Australia
One point of permanent discontent has been that developing countries would like more effort to be put into the Green Climate Fund designed to help them to adapt and mitigate climate change. China has called the $9.7 billion contributed so far by 22 countries as “far from adequate”.
In doing so China has fingered Australia as a climate bludger. Australia’s policy is to contribute nothing. So far the GFC
has received funding pledges of $3 billion from the United States, $1.5 billion from Japan, $1 billion from the UK and France, $900m from Germany as well as pledges of at least $100m from Sweden, Italy, Norway, Holland, South Korea, Switzerland and Finland. It has even received a small contribution from New Zealand.
Even Canada has stumped up $300 million.
The original pledge at Copenhagen in 2009 had been $100 billion per year by 2020 from public and private sources.
One thing they are discussing is the form of each country’s pledge of climate action to be submitted in draft by march 2015. The only way they will agree on anything is to use the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ adopted in Copenhagen. This leaves countries to make it up as they wish, which means different base and target dates.
This makes comparisons difficult.
They also have yet to decide whether the basic division of Annexe 1 used in the Kyoto agreement will be retained. With Kyoto only the developed Annexe 1 countries made pledges. The US wants to eliminate subcategories. Brazil has proposed three concentric circles:
In the innermost circle, developed and Annex I Parties would commit to absolute, economy-wide mitigation targets. In the next ring, developing countries would commit to economy-wide targets that are relative to national gross domestic product, business-as-usual emissions trends or population size. In the outermost ring, the least-developed countries would commit to objectives on reducing emissions that are not economy-wide.
I’m betting on one undifferentiated blob, because they won’t all agree on anything else.
Similarly on whether pledges should be legally binding, they’ll never agree, because the US will point blank never agree to it, and all countries must agree for a decision to stand. Perhaps the New Zealand option of making reporting legally binding, but not the content of the contributions themselves, will get up.
Emily Williams writing in the Santa Barbera Independentpoints to the sad truth – the proposals coming forward, the US-China announcement notwithstanding, “would mean ‘game over’ for the planet and the most vulnerable communities.”
The pressure is for an agreement, any agreement, to avoid “Nopenhagen” in Paris. Her article carries this image of young protestors in Lima:
In road cycling terms, Australia’s climate effort is dropping off the back of the peloton. More than that we are now spreading tacks on the road up front.
Abbott, with his soul-mate from “Canadia” Stephen Harper, is proposing to build an alliance of conservative world leaders to block what he calls job-killing carbon pricing.
Dr Robyn Eckersley of Melbourne University who has been conducting research on climate change leadership finds that this would be “a very retrograde step at a very crucial time in international climate negotiations”. She also finds that he may struggle to find partners. The UK under David Cameron are unlikely to join. New Zealand has a conservative leader, and a carbon pricing scheme. Perhaps he’ll enlist the support of Saudi Arabia, who Eckersley sees as the biggest spoiler of all.
Eckersley points out that British Columbia, Quebec and California, one of the biggest economies in the world, have carbon pricing. China is launching seven provincial pilot emissions trading systems.
Abbott claims that the world is moving away from carbon pricing to ‘direct action’ type policies. Sophie Vorrath at RenewEconomy cites the World Bank as saying that carbon pricing is here to stay with more than 60 carbon pricing systems currently in operation or development globally.
At a press conference Abbott said that climate change is “not the only or even the most important problem that the world faces.”
Abbott doesn’t realise that the economy exists within the environment.
There is Australia at the back of the peloton. If everyone did what we are doing the world would be toast, and with no economy to speak of. Climate Tracker currently sees Australia’s effort as “inadequate” and getting worse. With our performance the world would be heading towards 600 ppm and 4°C.
Abbott’s Canadian performance was no doubt intended to be one in the eye for Barack Obama, who Abbott sees next. The signal is that Obama would be wasting his time persuading Abbott to put climate change on the G20 agenda.
Laura Tingle, talking to Phillip Adams, opined that addressing climate change in the G20 would be a precedent since the G20 so far has restricted itself to economics. She also said that there was nothing doing in terms of international co-operation, and they were all off doing there own thing.
That would be news to the people currently attending climate talks from 4 to 15 June in Bonn under the auspices of the UNFCCC. In the Warsaw post I laid out the sequence as follows:
The timetable is that leaders will meet with the UN Director General in New York on 23 September 2014 with a show and tell of their thinking on contributions, and no doubt receive some jaw-boning from him in return.
There will be more talking at the 20th COP in Lima from 1-12 December 2014, where a draft new climate agreement will be tabled. Then in April 2015 countries will seriously start putting their “contributions” (rather than “commitments”) on the table “without prejudice to the legal nature of the contributions”. These “contributions” might be targets but could be other efforts to keep emissions down.
All this is aimed to get a legally binding agreement which reflects the “common but differentiated responsibility” of each state to be concluded at the Paris COP at the end of 2015 – for implementation in 2020 when the Kyoto Protocol officially expires.
So the leaders meet in September, but then not again before the deal is sealed in Paris in December 2015. In Lima I believe only the ministers will attend, noting that we did not bother to send a minister to Warsaw.
A new climate agreement is mainstream in policy and planning for the economy.
In spreading tacks on the road and trivialising the issue of climate change, Abbott and his government have form. In opposition in 2012 they would not grant Greg Combet a pair to attend the Rio+20 conference. In Warsaw, without a minister (who would have been Julie Bishop, since Greg Hunt is not allowed to conduct international negotiations) the Australian delegation was notorious, earning four “Fossil of the Day” awards and the overall “Colossal Fossil” for the meeting. Civil society groups like Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth, took the unprecedented step of simply walking out with a day still to go, muttering “Australia” as they went.
Being serious about climate change, the last thing Barack Obama would need is that kind of leadership at the G20.