This page expands and documents the material on the home page.
COP21 pledges would prevent a 2°C path.* Ever!
It’s simple math based on the UN’s own numbers.
Tweet this graph:
The goal of COP21 was to put us on the path to 2C. Instead it blocked the path.
Here’s the basic story:
- Every 2C scenario must limit CO2 emissions to 1,000 Gt¹ total after 2011.
- Under the COP21 pledges, the UN estimates that, with all pledges honored perfectly, 723 Gt will be emitted by 2030.
- And by then CO2 emissions will be up to 40 Gt per year.
- With only 1000 – 723 = 277 left to go, if we keep emitting 40/year we will pass the 2C scenario limit in 7 years.
- But if we scale back to zero as shown, we can use half that much on average for 14 years and just barely stay under the limit.
- The trouble is, going to zero that fast is just impossible.
We would have to stop using gasoline cars, gas and oil home furnaces, replace all the coal and gas power plants in the world, and then some. But with the pledges we are still on an upward path and China is still building new coal plants to replace old ones and India and the developing world are on track to double their fleets. Coal plants last 40 or more years, and they are not going to throw them all out 15 to 30 years after they built them.
If you want to see the above numbers documented, turn the page.
The UN Did Not End China’s CO2 Burst
The coincidence. The UN and EU reports predict global emissions in 2030 without the Paris pledges, which we will call, business as usual (BAU) based on data from 1990 to 2010. By coincidence, China‘s emissions included a huge CO2 burst between 2002 and 2010, and then, with smog-related deaths reaching over 1 million per year. That cutback was not due to the UN or to China Paris pledge, it’s INDC. That cutback is China’s new BAU.
Here’s how Christiana explains China’s cutback in emissions:
And here’s how China was explaining it back in mid 2014. But the UN report on INDCs (pledges) ignored China’s health concerns and its economic interest in renewables and attributed its drop in emissions growth completely to COP21 (documentation).
To see how the coincidence between China’s shift to limit pollution and the Cancun agreement fooled the UN and others, we need two graphs. First, we need a graph of World CO2 emissions and the UN’s projection of business as usual.
The UN’s prediction for 2030 is essentially a straight line based on two points—CO2 emissions in 1990 and 2010. But emissions did not, and will not, follow a straight line. In fact, emissions accelerated dramatically in 2002. The next graph shows why.
China’s CO2 burst from 2002 to 2010 was so extreme that in eight years it increased emissions by almost 4 Gt more than its trend line. That’s 70% as much as the US now emits in total. Looking back at the world graph, this is a lot of the reason for the high CO2 prediction in 2030.
But does it makes sense to predict that China would continue this burst until 2030? Obviously it does not. They are just killing too many Chinese citizens with the side effects. And as we see from the world CO2 graph above, if China chooses to go back to its pre-2002 CO2 growth policy, the forecast for emissions in 2030 would be much lower.
The bottom line: If the UN report on pledges had taken account of China’s return to normal CO2 growth to limit smog, the UN would have predicted business-as-usual emissions in 2030 that are the same as with the Paris pledges. In other words, the UN finding that pledges are effective is mainly the result of using an inflated CO2 emission baseline.
Reviews will cause no “upward ratchet of ambition”
It has been documented time and again that the tragedy of the commons occurs has when there is no set of rules for sharing the commons. This happens whether it is a pasture, a fishing grounds or the atmosphere. With a common rule that all agree to, everyone one knows that by agreeing and upholding the rule, they are not being left to do more than their share while greedy parties take advantage of them.
A common rule for sharing the commons creates reciprocity — “I will limit my use if others limit their use.” If enforced, such a rule leads to trust, and that sustains ambition. Doing more than is in your narrow self interest.
Here is the most “advanced thinking” on how an upward ratchet would work:
France has been pushing hard for a special clause that would involve all nations revising their targets for slashing pollution every three to five years.
Under such a clause, countries that fail to deliver enough emission cuts could see their targets toughened. While still not legally binding, the arrangement would give the climate deal teeth and put pressure on the laggards.
The good news for Hollande is that China has said it is open to the clause – with one important caveat, says Dahan. According to the French specialist, Beijing has said it will accept a clause that reviews its pollution cuts, but not one that forces it to do more. —France24.com, News, 2015-11-28
This is nonsense. All pledges are INDC’s. The ND means “nationally determined.” The key to the whole agreement is that no one and no group will force anyone to do more. It will be easy to get all nations to revisit their “Intended Contributions” every 3 to 5 years, but that has no teeth. Try to give it teeth and you have completely undone the basis of the agreement. The Contributions would no longer be just “intentions” and no longer “nationally determined. The whole concept of an “ratcheting up” pledges that are too weak is a contradiction. It will not happen.
Fact #4: Danger: When the world wakes up it will be too late
It’s not intentional, but the agreement is a set-up. Countries don’t like to pledge to do things right away (like stop subsidizing fossil fuel), so they pledge to start five years from now and finish 15 years from now. This way the politicians will be out of office, and the new ones can blame the previous ones for any failure.
This is the perfect way to lull the world to sleep. Everyone is saying how wonderfully this will work. “It’s not enough, but an excellent start, and frequent reviews will ratchet up the commitments [actually just intentions].” So we can all rest easy.
But the reviews will squeeze out a few more phoney pledges to build lots of solar if they get paid lots of money, or just to do things they know they won’t do. And so people will get a bit nervous, but they will fall for the same story — “We are on our way, things are getting better, and next review will work even better.”
This is an extremely risky situation:
- So far that UN’s pledge-and-review has produced on pure self interest according to Christiana Figueres, the UN climate chief.
- So the current pledges let emissions increase through 2030, and burn up 75% of our carbon budget.
- At that rate we would have only 5 years left by MIT’s estimate and only 7 years left by the most optimistic UN estimate.
- So the only hope is reviews (probably every 5 years) and a ratchet mechanism that is clearly out of the question — see #3.
- Or some surprise miracle.
If Paris cannot at least start moving towards a treaty based on the science of cooperation and reciprocity, then it won’t start till 2020. And there will be nothing substantive to discuss until at least 2025, and even if they implement something then, it won’t kick in until 2030, by which point we will be far past any hope of a 2°C scenario.
The only hope is agree at Paris to assign a small group of critical countries (say, China, the US, the EU and India) to develop a treaty that changes changes narrow self-interests so that they align with the global good. Yes this is possible. You can read about it here:
- Nature magazine
- This news story
- This free PDF book with articles by many top climate policy experts.
- Start by reading the Purpose, Preface, and Section 1 of the Introduction.
- Global Carbon Pricing: We Will If You Will
- (Note that “pricing” does not mean a global tax or a global cap.)
Also sharing or linking this site is a great help. Thanks, —Steve Stoft
* Note that a 2C scenario only gives us a 66% chance of keeping the global average temperature increase to less than 2°C.
¹ Note that 1000 Gt means just CO2 and not all greenhouse gasses. An approximate adjustment has been made for the other gasses to simply the limit. See the UNEP Emission Gap Report, 2014.