Vetting the Paris Agreement

December 14, 2015

Australian-German Climate and Energy College:

The Paris Agreement writes history.

The crucial Article 4 is: “In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty. ”

In our assessment, the Paris Agreement rises to the challenge of limiting dramatic climate change. It sets the framework for a chance to limit multi-metre sea-level rise in the long-term. Individual post-2020 country targets put on the table before Paris are insufficient to the task of limiting warming to 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. The so-called INDCs have not been enhanced here in Paris (they were never meant to be enhanced here because the main focus was on the global agreement). Thus, there exists a big gap between INDCs and the global ambition needed. This will need to be bridged by upgraded mitigation contributions from countries in the years to come. In this article, we keep in mind those insufficient country INDCs but look at the Paris Agreement itself.

A well informed observer writes:

Also there is a private Barclay’s investor’s note that was written and sent to clients today coming off the back of COP21 – their closing takeaway: “Investor momentum around portfolio decarbonization will likely continue to build.” 

The Economist:

Perhaps the most significant effect of the Paris agreement in the next few years will be the signal it sends to investors: the united governments of the world say that the age of fossil fuels has started drawing to a close. That does not mean that they are necessarily right, nor that the closing will not be much more drawn out than the Marshall Islands and other such states would wish. But after Paris, the belief that governments are going to stay the course on their stated green strategies will feel a bit better founded—and the idea of investing in a coal mine will seem more risky.

Cartoon in the Rupert Murdoch owned Australian. Again, Racism hand in hand with denial:


Joe Romm of ClimateProgress tells me he still stands by his September assessment:

The world appears to have bought itself a little time in the fight to avoid climate catastrophe, according to a new analysis.

Virtually every major country has made pledges to limit or reduce carbon pollution in advance of the Paris climate talks this December. These pledges generally end in 2025 or 2030, and so they only matter if the world keeps ratcheting down its greenhouse gas emissions in future agreements until we get near zero by century’s end. Otherwise we will blow past the 2°C line of defense against very dangerous-to-catastrophic global warming, and hit 3.6°C warming by 2100.

That’s the key finding of a new analysis from Climate Interactive and the MIT Sloan School of Business, tallying up the global pledges to limit carbon pollution leading up to the big Paris climate talks later this year.

Those pledges, called intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), include the European Union cutting total emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, the U.S. cutting net greenhouse gas emissions emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 (including land use change and forestry), and China’s peaking in CO2 by 2030.

climate pledges

Impact of national climate pledges (aka INDCs) on world’s greenhouse gas emissions measured in CO2 equivalents (CO2e).

The good news, as you can see, is that the INDCs have bought us another five to 10 years of staying close to the 2°C path. I asked Andrew Jones, one of the systems-thinking savants behind Climate Interactive, if that was correct and he said, “Yep, about seven years.” By “staying close” I mean staying close enough to the 2°C path that it remains plausibly achievable — though (obviously) politically still very, very challenging.


41 Responses to “Vetting the Paris Agreement”

  1. Gotta hand it you guys who were apparently able to read, digest & analyse the 31 pages of the Paris Agreement in 24 hours. It’s taken me 3 days.

    1. James Hansen is right: it’s a fraud.

    2. I feel utterly betrayed by the politicians, by the scientists who’ve failed to shout from the rooftops, “Poppycock!” and the press who are falling over themselves to avoid pointing out that the emperor is stark fucking naked.

    3. I made a list of decisions COP21 would have to take in order to maintain (achieve?) credibility:

    – take enforceable decisions
    – name a date for peak emissions
    – call a halt on hidden subsidies to the fossil fuel industries
    – call a halt on all exploration for new reserves of fossil fuels
    – name an end date for the production of cars with internal combustion engines
    – tax carbon and redistribute the revenue

    I knew I was being optimistic, but Paris has done none of those. Not only that, but:

    4. There is no mention of the need to reduce reliance of fossil fuels.

    5. There is no mention of the need to phase out petrol engined cars

    6. There is one passing reference to the need to achieve peak emissions “as soon as possible”.

    And above all,

    7. There is §17 of chapter II, which reads:

    Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in
    2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below;

    And that, once you establish the context, is un-fucking-believable.

    In its 5th report, the IPCC established what you might call a survival budget. If we kept out CO2e emissions, from the year 1750 on, to a maximum of 1,000 Gt we might have a chance of avoiding the worst of the worst. “Might” was the operative word.

    In 2013 we had already used up 53% of that budget and our emissions, which then stood at 36 Gt/y were still increasing at the rate of 3% a year. Let’s say we’re now at 600 Gt, or 60% of budget.

    In order to stay with the IPCC budget, we would need to reach peak emissions in 2018 and then reduce global emissions by 10% annually. That, by the way is only my calculation: the IMF says 2017.

    So what does COP21 have to say about that? Fuck all! COP21 appears to be delighted to announce that current INDCs will lead to emissions of 55Gt in 2030. Now anyone who’s able to use Excel even for basic arithmetic, like me, can easily work out that that means we go over-budget in 2024 and that by 2030 we’ll be at 1318Gt.

    True, the authors recognise that that might be a bit much, so they recommend a 2nd pathway resulting in a mere 40Gt of emissions in 2030. Great! That would mean a total of 1275Gt in 2030 and we would still burst the IPCC envelope in 2024.

    8. Worst of all, they have the effrontery to tell me that that 2030 target of 40Gt will guarantee that global warming stays below 1.5°C. Now, as I said, I’m no mathematician, much less a physicist, and I’ve no idea how to convert Gt of emissions into ppm of atmospheric CO2e, but I can spot a rule of thumb when I see one.

    In 250 years we’ve added 600Gt of CO2e to the atmosphere and atmospheric CO2e has risen by 100ppm. Average surface temperatures have risen by 1° (and counting – we don’t know how the weight the inertia) and the observable effects are already severe but not yet catastrophic. So where’s the problem? Let’s go ahead and pump out another 700Gt over the next 15 years and soar haplessly to >500ppm. Why not?

    My Excel spreadsheet is here :

    Please, someone, tell me I’ve got it all wrong, that I’m a foolish amateur But tell me why. Because for me Hansen is right and I’m thoroughly pissed off at being taken for a fool who can’t count.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      I wish I could tell you that you’ve got it all wrong, but it appears that you’re very close to the mark with your calculations. Check out this link to a piece in Skeptical Science re: converting Gt of emissions into atmospheric CO2 concentration.

      According to this article, it takes 7.81 Gt of CO2 emissions for an increase of 1ppm in atmospheric CO2 concentration. So, doing a quick “backwards” check of your math for a 100 ppm increase, dividing 781 by 15 yields an average of ~46 Gt per year between now and 2030, which is close to what your spreadsheet shows.

      You may not be a mathematician or a physicist, but you are no “amateur”, and you see the problem more clearly than some of those who should (or perhaps they are unwilling to speak out). COP21 is notable only for the fact that it APPEARS at this point that all the countries of the world are united in WANTING to do something, nothing more.

      IMO, we have almost no time left to REALLY attack AGW before the SHTF, and I don’t see it happening. Maybe we’ll have some kind of “wake-up call” like permafrost melting and methane “burps”, massive ice sheet collapse, rapid SLR and global temperature rise, and rapidly accelerating rates of worldwide extreme weather occurrences. I remain pessimistic.

      • Thank you for the link and for taking the time.

        • I think you’re wrong to call it a fraud. Emissions are projected to decrease in 2015 and stalled in 2014. And 196 countries coming together represents a pretty powerful statement to me.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Here’s Bryant again, overwhelming us with ill-informed opinions and bald assertions. It’s wrong to call COP21 a “fraud”? And his reasons are that “196 countries coming together represents a pretty POWERFUL STATEMENT” and that “emissions are PROJECTED to….blah blah, blah…”? LOL

            Bryant should come back and talk to us when he has studied AGW enough to know what he’s talking about. Otherwise, he should go over to WUWT and join the echo chamber ensemble. They thrive on short and meaningless affirmations of shared ignorance over there, and he’ll fit right in.

          • Have you read the Paris Agreement? Do you know who James Hansen is? Do you ever actually think for yourself?

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Based on reading Bryant Moronelly’s comments on this and other threads, and tracking him down on other blogs, I will take the liberty to answer for him and say:

            1) No, he most assuredly has NOT read the Paris Agreement—it’s too long for his short attention span and too complicated for him to understand.
            2) Perhaps, but he has no understanding of what Hansen believes.
            3) Rarely. His “thinking for himself ” is mostly limited to deciding what “nut” to google and then doing a superficial search—once he finds an “acorn” of information (like Skritch in Ice Age), he will mindlessly and endlessly “roll it around” (i.e., misinterpret it).

            PS I am quite taken aback by his saying “Emissions are projected to decrease in 2015 and stalled in 2014” as if that had any real meaning. Lord love a dozen ducks, but that’s about as intelligent as Inhofe looking out the window, seeing snow, and declaring AGW is not occurring!

  2. indy222 Says:

    I’d agree that gene evolution would favor “Growth Uber Alles” as a prime driver, and so arriving at the limits to growth would pit the forebrain against the reptilian brain. I don’t like to make excuses for people for giving in to the reptilian brain, whereas I’d be entirely forgiving of a reptile giving in to it’s reptilian brain. We DO have a forebrain and we DO have will power and damn it’s time to use it!

    • dumboldguy Says:

      You need to review your brain structure and function a bit, because you’re giving us thoughts based too much on a “pop” interpretation of how the brain works. The “reptilian brain” is not the one that is creating the problem—it’s the limbic brain that first appeared in early mammals that steers us wrong, and the neocortex, that developed in primates and has taken some “crazy” turns in its evolution, that has really got us messed up.

      You need to read some E.O. Wilson on human evolution, and particularly the evolution of the human brain. Will power is not enough to overcome its failings, and it’s unfair to blame it on the reptiles—they have been around for a long time and haven’t managed to put the whole planet in jeopardy by using their “reptilian brains”.

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