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#COP21

Filed under: — group @ 30 November 2015

Apparently there is a climate conference of some sort going on. Happy to answer any science questions as they arise…

270 Responses to “#COP21”

  1. 201
    Omega Centauri says:

    Chris @193
    I’m sure weasling down the language was required to get agreement. And that doesn’t reflect badly on
    the delegates, they all know they have to sell the agreement to their respective domestic audiences. I really great agreement, that was unratifiable would be a far worse outcome. Even so, I suspect ratification by the US is a stretch goal, particularly if transfers to lesser developed countries are part of the package. Moocher-phobia has been made into a high art form in the US. And anyone who wants money/resources, and who isn’t a friend of conservatives is a moocher.

    But, still, I think it will stimulate the transition, which has been gaining momentum as renewables keep improving. I don’t expect smooth sailing, but I think there is cause for optimism.

  2. 202
    Chuck Hughes says:

    As I see it, the point is that 196 nations cared enough about the issue to fund sizable delegations, who in turn cared enough to wrangle over every ‘square bracket’ and every ‘shall/should’, including what sounds like a pretty brutal three-day ultra to finish up, a day late. And they cared enough to give up wish-list items to get an agreement. That’s not the behavior of posers and takers.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Dec 2015 @

    I agree with you Kevin. The only thing I would add is that the closer we get to ground zero, the more focused people become. And, you can’t take away the incentive to act. 1.5C may be unrealistic at this point but we’re not there yet. I don’t think inertia was factored in for that very reason.

  3. 203
    Tony Weddle says:

    Killian,

    “Exactly. What are you willing to lose on that bet?”

    It’s not “exactly”. You made an assertion, which is highly debatable, that’s all. I doubt whether many climate scientists would currently go along with the idea that surface temp could rise so quickly. One could always take the absolutely worst case all the time but this is like crying wolf. Sadly, even if such a rapid rise is not possible, the situation is bad enough to warrant far greater action than we’ve seen (we haven’t really seen any) and much higher commitments than were given at COP21.

  4. 204
    Mike Roberts says:

    Silk,

    No, that wasn’t my theory, though I strongly suspect it is the case. My point is that there is no evidence that the global economy can be decoupled from global carbon emissions. Individual country decreases have relied on exporting much of their emissions.

    As Kevin Anderson has said on many occasions, the kinds of decreases needed are incompatible with economic growth [and we have economies structured for growth]. He’s also said that, at 2C, many people will die because of that increase. 3C may be better than 4C but I don’t think it will be “a lot” better, for anyone still alive then.

  5. 205
    Tony Weddle says:

    I think James Hansen’s remarks on the Paris agreement are about right. Although there is some urging to beef up actions prior to 2020, the INDCs are for 2020+, so we’ll probably have another 5-6 years of rising emissions and little variation of the Keeling curve, before we can tell whether actions match the rhetoric. But the agreement talked about peaking emissions “as soon as possible”, fairly woolly words (and probably a fraud, since there were no conditions, which means it is possible within months, though economies would suffer, but that won’t happen, so a fraud) which are used in several sections. This alone probably indicates that it is only a document and will not translate to actions of any significance. Indeed, our Prime Minister, the great John Key, has said that despite needing to do more, following the agreement, New Zealand wouldn’t alter its policies on fossil fuel exploration. That pretty much says it all.

  6. 206
    Silk says:

    #204 – I disagree. And there’s nothing scientific in what you are saying. The fact that to date we have grown the global economy on the back of fossil fuels does not invalidate the proposition that we can grow the economy of tomorrow on the back of renewables, nuclear and [fossil fuels + CCS].

    One can generate electricity from nuclear, CCS and renewables. Once one has decarbonised electricity one can decarbonise heat the same way. Road transport is already decarbonising in the West, and that trend will accelerate. Industry and aviaition are hard, but who knows what we can do in 2040?

    Furthermore, there may well be ways of CO2 removal at the billion ton per annum scale available in the near future. We simply don’t know. (I wouldn’t bet on it, but all the same…)

    Our understanding of climate impacts is extremely limited. It may well be that 2.3 degrees leads to millions of deaths. It may well be that at 3.2 degrees there are still many billions of humans on the planet leading viable lives. Those people might well appreciate the global mean tempertaure not increasing by a further degree or two.

  7. 207
    Silk says:

    #205, and others

    I’m going to try to write a blog post (with a friend) on what Paris means. I was a negotiatior at Copenhagen (and previous COPs) and my friend was in Paris.

    I’m not sure my blog post will say anything that is /right/, and it might not add to the sum of all the blog posts already there, but I’ll post it here in case anyone is interested.

    If I get round to writing it…

  8. 208

    Mike Roberts, #204:

    My point is that there is no evidence that the global economy can be decoupled from global carbon emissions.

    Well, I can’t go with “no evidence”:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/07/global-emissions-to-fall-for-first-time-during-a-period-of-economic-growth

    The underlying paper is here, for now at least:

    http://tinyurl.com/NatureClimateChangeEmissions

  9. 209
    Chuck Hughes says:

    When you take into account all the negative impacts humans have had on the environment, becoming “carbon negative” is just a cog in the wheel. How do you go about undoing all the environmental damage that has taken place over the last few centuries and, how to you prevent it from happening again?

  10. 210
    Killian says:

    #203 Tony said Killian,

    “Exactly. What are you willing to lose on that bet?”

    It’s not “exactly”. You made an assertion, which is highly debatable, that’s all.

    I don’t care if it’s debatable. It’s not a paper in a journal we’re discussing, it’s risk assessment which is independent of the scientific process. It’s policy, and dependent on science info, but a separate process. When the long tail risk is non-trivial and massive, you act accordingly. It doesn’t matter if we know it will happen, only that something on the order of an ELE is possible. Does it matter if it’s 5C in 10 years or forty? Not really. Both would be massively disruptive and both would likely disrupt so badly we risk society, if not extinction.

    I’m not here to play word games with people who choose not to think with all issues accounted.

    I doubt whether many climate scientists would currently go along with the idea that surface temp could rise so quickly.

    Really? Cause I think Archer and Schmidt would have said kilometer-wide pingos on the Arctic Ocean floor weren’t very likely, either, but *I* said we’d be seeing methane issues much sooner than expected. Et viola. But that’s not really the point: Science is about consensus, risk assessment is about long tail risks.

    One could always take the absolutely worst case all the time but this is like crying wolf.

    No, it’s earthquake insurance, fire insurance, police shooting unarmed teens… Crikey…

    Sadly, even if such a rapid rise is not possible, the situation is bad enough to warrant far greater action than we’ve seen (we haven’t really seen any) and much higher commitments than were given at COP21.

    Yet you’re arguing against intelligent risk assessment? Pull it together.

  11. 211
    Edward Greisch says:

    204 Mike Roberts:
    1. The kinds of decreases in CO2 production needed are perfectly compatible with economic growth. Just replace coal with nuclear.

    2. Economic growth is a bomb. We are living on a finite planet. Infinite growth is not possible on a finite planet. In fact, we have run off the edge of the cliff already, so don’t look down. This planet can permanently support 3 billion people. We are feeding 7.5 billion on mined water. When the aquifer runs out, so does your food, and you die.

  12. 212
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ah, they almost got it right, at the last draft. The US appears to have let the cheering and PR go on for a while then quietly “fixed a typo” to satisfy the Republicans, making the agreement a cheerful aspiration rather than a burdensome legal commitment. Now it can be pointed out that, but for the US, there would have been a legally binding commitment — eh?

    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/climate/2015-paris-climate-talks/at-climate-talks-three-letters-almost-sunk-the-deal
    ______________

    The legally binding “shall” stopped the United States cold when it showed up on Saturday in what was to be the final draft of the historic pact.

    Throughout the process, the longer and less binding “should” was a deliberate part of the international agreement, put there to establish that the richest countries, including the United States, felt obligated to pony up money to help poor countries adapt to climate change and make the transition to sustainable energy systems. “Shall” meant something altogether different, American officials said.

    “I said: ‘We cannot do this and we will not do this. And either it changes, or President Obama and the United States will not be able to support this agreement,’ ” Mr. Kerry told reporters after delegates had accepted the deal by consensus Saturday night, amid cheering and the celebratory stamping of feet.

    In the world of diplomatic negotiations, seeking a culprit or trying to ferret out ill intention from another party could have spelled doom for an effort that the French and the Americans were equally eager to see succeed.

    With talks already running past their Friday deadline, the French conceded the change of wording had simply been “a mistake.” By humbling the “shall” to the status of a typo, it could swiftly be “fixed” and replaced by the more benign “should.”

    The fix made, within hours, the 31-page text was presented and adopted….

  13. 213
    Mike says:

    I am reminded that Brown v. Board of Education was able to be passed with unanimity by a Supreme Court when the important language “with all deliberate speed” was adopted as the time frame to accomplish desegregation.

    http://americanhistory.si.edu/brown/history/6-legacy/deliberate-speed.html

    That important language allowed segregation to continue largely unabated for decades.

    I think that the COP21 language is similar. I read something about the agreement creating carbon markets. Sounds like cap and trade/smoke and mirrors with strong possibility of a long round of profit-taking on that shell game.

    An agreement to a global carbon tax or fee is what is needed. We are working on a carbon tax in WA State right now by initiative. The WA carbon fee is similar to the one in BC, Canada that has proven to be successful at reducing emissions without destroying the economy.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/the-insidious-truth-about-bcs-carbon-tax-it-works/article19512237/

  14. 214
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I really don’t understand those like Hansen who are critical of COP21. It is hardly perfect, but I compare where we are now to where we were after Copenhagen, and it would be silly to deny the progress.

    Yes, it’s a should rather than a shall, but a shall would have become a “won’t” in the Senate. This is probably the best agreement that was feasible.

  15. 215
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Silk:. Road transport is already decarbonising in the West,

    RC: Actually, it has decarbonized essentially just as quickly everywhere in the country. Since coal always represents the “last watt”, few vehicles use much renewable electricity. In fact, EVs prevent the retiring of coal power plants. The more EVs we build, the longer those coal plants will run!

    But most vehicles use 15% ethanol. Granted, today’s ethanol uses corn, but cellulosic ethanol plants are already up and running. And if you want to decarbonize road transport, you need a fuel that can be used by both trucks and cars. Electricity simply can’t do the big rigs and is inferior even for cars given that those coal plants exist. Maybe EVs will have more than a niche role in 20 years when coal is gone, but for now, go E85 and biodiesel!

  16. 216
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I really don’t understand those like Hansen who are critical of COP21. It is hardly perfect, but I compare where we are now to where we were after Copenhagen, and it would be silly to deny the progress.

    Yes, it’s a should rather than a shall, but a shall would have become a “won’t” in the Senate. This is probably the best agreement that was feasible.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Dec 2015 @

    Based on what Kevin Anderson and some others are saying, the COP21 accord still puts us at least on the 3C trajectory.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF1zNpzf8RM

    COP21 is a big deal and an important first step but I don’t think it gets us to where we need to be and it’s dependent on our ability to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere. We don’t have a means of doing that.

  17. 217
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Kevin McKinney: Well, I can’t go with “no evidence”:

    RC: True. Of course, we also know the Chinese have started fudging data. I suspect others do it too. In any case, his point is largely true. “Decoupling” in the sense of “making a significant difference”? Not even close. Mostly, we’ve just exported our emissions to China and then yelled at them for emitting. However, doing our industrial work in China does make sense. They get something like a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by not scrubbing their coal plant smoke stacks!

  18. 218
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Kevin McKinney: Well, I can’t go with “no evidence”:

    RC: True. Of course, we also know the Chinese have started fudging data. I suspect others do it too. In any case, his point is largely true. “Decoupling” in the sense of “making a significant difference”? Not even close. Mostly, we’ve just exported our emissions to China and then yelled at them for emitting. However, doing our industrial work in China does make sense. They get something like a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by not scrubbing their coal plant smoke stacks!

    Hmmm… I already sent this, but it went to an ad for Goodwill, counted down from 20 seconds and then went white. “<" took me back here… so, is Realclimate now ad supported, and, I suppose it will be obvious…. did my first attempt to comment work?

  19. 219
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Hank Roberts: quietly “fixed a typo” to satisfy the Republicans

    RC: So the first commitments are unenforceable and pushed out to “after this term in office”, and help for those who are gonna get creamed is aspirational. This whole process just makes me roll my eyes. I’d have done a one-sentence agreement:

    “Nobody will build a new coal power plant without CCS”

  20. 220
    Richard Caldwell says:

    OK, two sentences:

    “Rich countries will pay the CCS costs for poor ones, or provide equivalent help with other low-carbon sources.”

    (Then add 200 pages of sliding scales and legalese, of course.)

  21. 221
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Ray Ladbury: I really don’t understand those like Hansen who are critical of COP21. It is hardly perfect, but I compare where we are now to where we were after Copenhagen, and it would be silly to deny the progress.

    RC: You’re right, but the question is whether we’re better off than the day before COP21, and whether we’re enough better off to change the trajectory. And whether the thing can be ratified in the USA, of course.

    I’d rather see actual behavioral promises. No more coal infrastructure. No fossil fuel exploration. Current fossil fuel reserves cut based on a permissive estimate of our carbon budget (i.e., folks Republicans would approve of).

    Talk about a fight! But with wiggles and whatnot, something could be designed which would accomplish what really is humanity’s first task: to stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure.

  22. 222
    Chris Dudley says:

    I think that this agreement’s impact on climate science will be to require a fine grid of emission scenarios at the low end and a better understanding of transient response since mere stabilization is no longer the policy goal.

  23. 223
    Mal Adapted says:

    Ray Ladbury:

    I really don’t understand those like Hansen who are critical of COP21. It is hardly perfect…

    COP21 is progress, but by itself it’s not enough to get the job done, so somebody has to keep the pressure on.

  24. 224

    #214, Ray–Yes, I agree with you.

    There are a lot of deniers, crypto-deniers, and general purpose ‘I am so world-weary’ posers and cynics opining right now on various news sites that the agreement is meaningless because it lacks an enforcement mechanism. From a denialist perspective, that is logical insofar as they think that–let’s all say it together!–“Climate change is a scam.” Therefore, in their world, there is no penalty to defaulting on the agreement.

    If, on the other hand, you are climate realist, there is an inherent penalty for doing so. What penalty would you rather suffer if you were part of the ruling body of your nation–permanent degradation of your national environment, biological capacity, and economy, or a couple of years of economic sanctions?

    And it’s not like sanctions need to be authorized by the treaty, either–there was no treaty, for instance, that specifically authorized Russia to respond to the downing of their bomber by Turkey. Yet various forms of sanctions have been put in place, virtually overnight. And most of them seem to be fairly well within the normal powers of a national government. (Their efficacy is another question, and one that need not affect the point in general.)

    I think I would go so far as to argue that the Agreement is indirect evidence that most of the Parties are not, in fact, climate deniers.

  25. 225
    mike says:

    RL says: “I really don’t understand those like Hansen who are critical of COP21. It is hardly perfect, but I compare where we are now to where we were after Copenhagen, and it would be silly to deny the progress.”

    I see the climate change situation as analogous to a passenger train (think of ecosystem and existing species as passengers) that is headed over a big cliff where the rail line and bridge have collapsed (think extinction event). COP21 agreement seems like a decision to slow the train from 70 mph to 45 mph to give us more time to think about what we should do.

    Some thing that should be considered are:
    1. How much track does it take to stop the train? (think net carbon emissions of zero as a stopped train)
    2. How much track do we have left before we tumble over the edge? (think built-in warming from present level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and estimate on high side for risk analysis common sense)
    3. How much time would it take us to build a track that would take us to a good destination instead of over the cliff to certain death? (think global economics, food supply, power infrastrstucture, medical care etc.)

    If you consider all of these questions and come to the conclusion that may already be out of space to stop the train, then you might take a pretty dim view of the COP21 decision to slow the train instead of committing to slamming brakes. In that spot, you would want to see an immediate commitment to the hard work to build new track and to address situation of the beings in the lead cars because the lead cars are definitely going over the cliff (think Maldives, Bangladesh), but some of the cars farther back are considering disconnecting from the lead cars that are going over the edge and are thinking that they will be able to look out for themselves in the calamity (think developed nations that have some ability to build infrastructure to address sea level rise or droughts, etc)

    I grew up in the segregated south and I know that when entrenched power commits to undertaking essential change “with all deliberate speed”, then the people who are depending on that change could be in serious trouble.

  26. 226
    Mike Roberts says:

    Kevin,

    When I say “no evidence” I’m referring to the entireity of the data. It may be that emissions have decreased in 2015, though I remind you that 2015 hasn’t ended and that emissions “data” are just estimates. I also note that the IMF recently put out some data about the global economy in 2015. It has estimated that the Gross Planet Product (a kind of global GDP) likely contracted sharply in 2015, close to the contraction during the GFC. If emissions did go down, it’s likely due to economic contraction, not a sudden increase in efficiency, especially with 80 million new people added.

  27. 227
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Mike Roberts: He’s also said that, at 2C, many people will die because of that increase. 3C may be better than 4C but I don’t think it will be “a lot” better, for anyone still alive then.

    RC: Maybe, but my gut says the damage is logarithmic. The differences between 3C and 4C are probably tremendous. Species have genetic variation so some individuals can survive a reasonable variation, but the quicker and the further one varies, the less likely that enough individuals will be genetically able to survive to form a viable population. Unlike most other temperature variations, this one is a once-and-done spike with little time for mutation. Low reproduction rate species will have to deal with it with the genetics they have in hand. You can only go so far in one jump. If you look at previous extinction events, mostly the tiny fast-reproducing species survive. Losing (random numbers) 10% of species could translate to losing 90% of species we care about.

    Mike: An agreement to a global carbon tax or fee is what is needed

    RC: It would be nice. It would level the playing field and provide the mechanism for compensating the developing world. Plus, we’d get to fight like heck over the rate!

  28. 228
    Tony Weddle says:

    Here is an article which perhaps explains why Hansen feels the way he does about the Paris talks. His view appears to be in sharp contrast to Michael Mann’s, who thinks that “It’s difficult to understate the significance of this agreement” and that “we are witnessing the end of the age of fossil fuels and the beginning of a new age of a clean global energy economy.” To me, that view is just as extreme as Hansen’s and shows how easily people can be beguiled by a few words, when all the meetings over the past 20-odd years have done nothing to put a dent in the rising concentration of GHGs.

  29. 229
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mike and Mal,
    The train analogy is flawed because it assumes a single possible outcome for failing to act. This ignores a simple truth: We can always make things worse. A CO2 content of 800 ppmv is worse than one of 500 ppmv and even 600 or 700 ppmv. And this is really the first thing the world has done to try to make it better. Frankly, to deny that this is progress over Copenhagen or Kyoto and to call it a fraud is to give aid and comfort to the enemy. After all, they’ve just about exhausted all their excuses except for “It’s too late to do anything.”
    I’m afraid I don’t have much patience for zealots who consider themselves too pure to get their hands dirty making things better.

  30. 230

    Mike, #226–

    Fair enough, but when you say “no evidence,” I think it’s reasonable for the rest of us to think you actually mean “no evidence,” as opposed to “some debatable evidence.”

    And while we’re picking nits, I have to say that I don’t follow the logic of this statement:

    If emissions did go down, it’s likely due to economic contraction, not a sudden increase in efficiency, especially with 80 million new people added.

    Mutis mutandis–a phrase I’m using in honor of the Paris Accord, which made liberal use of it–the addition of 80 million to the population should create new economic activity and add to the GPP. So you could just as well conclude, in the absence of further information, that the decline is more likely due to a ‘sudden increase in efficiency.’

    I’m not saying that’s the case, mind you–I don’t have that additional information, and I quite agree that, yes, the macroeconomy can be quite volatile. And it’s true that the ’emerging markets’ are in a funk–Brazil’s economy is in decline, Russia’s is in a tailspin, and China’s has slowed down even more than the Party was aiming for.

    As a sidenote, and for those who don’t already know about this, China’s government is trying to transition away from the explosive growth of the past, based on infrastructure and manufacturing growth, toward a more balanced economy which relies more on internal consumption and toward the service sector. It is seen as more sustainable and stable, and would look more like the economices of the developed world. There’s a lot written about this, and somewhat randomly, I present a collection of Goldman/Sachs articles the WaPo linked, just as a sample:

    http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/macroeconomic-insights/growth-of-china/index.html

    Returning to the main point here, I’d submit that there is more evidence that suggests that ‘decoupling’ of economic growth and emissions is not only possible, but ongoing. I don’t claim expertise–the point of these conversations for me is mainly to learn things–but let me suggest something. I’ll focus for a moment on the Chinese case, as that allows us to factor out the ‘exported emissions’ effect.

    I found this paper:

    http://www.hindawi.com/journals/mpe/2013/973074/

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/973074

    I don’t understand all the math, frankly, but I note this:

    From 1995 to 2010, China’s GDP increased sharply from 6079.37 to 25000.31 billion Yuan (average annual rate of 19.5%), exceeding the growth in energy-related carbon emissions (average annual rate of 9.81%) from 3312.15 to 8510.5 million tons. China’s carbon emissions intensity has decreased sharply from 5.45 to 3.4 tons per 10 thousand Yuan. However, the carbon emissions intensity is higher than many countries (such as USA, Japan, and UK) and the world average.

  31. 231

    Dang–hit ‘submit’ erroneously! Sorry ’bout that.

    Continuing, starting again from the quote:

    From 1995 to 2010, China’s GDP increased sharply from 6079.37 to 25000.31 billion Yuan (average annual rate of 19.5%), exceeding the growth in energy-related carbon emissions (average annual rate of 9.81%) from 3312.15 to 8510.5 million tons. China’s carbon emissions intensity has decreased sharply from 5.45 to 3.4 tons per 10 thousand Yuan. However, the carbon emissions intensity is higher than many countries (such as USA, Japan, and UK) and the world average.

    So the cumulative change over the 15 years is as follows:

    –GDP increased ~411%
    –Emissions increased ~257%
    –Carbon intensity (CO2 emitted/unit GDP) decreased ~38%

    It’s worth noting that, during that time, decreasing carbon intensity was in fact a stated goal of Chinese policy, as expressed in their famous ‘Five Year Plans.’ As we all knew already, that was not enough to counterbalance the astounding growth the economy achieved, and the result was rising total emissions. But put that in the present context, where growth rates in the Chinese economy are sharply lower; the official target for the near term is 7% annual growth, and many suspect, as RC comments at #218, that that is ‘fudged’, and that real growth will be lower.

    (The coal consumption/emissions data change we recently learned about does not, I think, reflect a ‘fudge’, but rather an honest correction. The lack of fanfare in the release has for me a suggestion of embarrassment about it, though quite possibly I’m reading too much in.)

    So, if growth is slowing, can the ongoing and intentional decrease in intensity now ‘catch up?’ Again, I don’t know, but there are some hopeful signs. First, the fact that as of 2010, Chinese intensity was still high relative to many other nations suggests that further improvements are not necessarily terribly difficult. And second, US intensity continues to decline, and the EIA projects that to continue out to 2040:

    http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=10191

    The EU trends are more or less comparable:

    http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/total-primary-energy-intensity-1/assessment

    Of course, all of this does not factor in recent policy developments in both nations, which one is entitled to hope have at least *some* positive effect!

    A big concern in this picture is India; her growth rates continue to be relatively high (7.4% for Q3, per the Economist), and the aspiration there is to emulate the Chinese trajectory. That does also include explicit policy on lowering intensity–the progress of which has also been ongoing, apparently:

    http://knoema.com/atlas/India/Energy-intensity

    It seemed to me that a big part of India’s stance in Paris was to try to get as much support for her push into renewable (and especially solar) energy. As many here will recall, India committed $30 million and land for a headquarters to support and host the ‘International Solar Alliance’:

    http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/India-Pledges-USD30-Million-for-International-Solar-Alliance/2015/11/30/article3154831.ece

    It remains to be seen to what extent India can decarbonize her energy supply, and how her emissions trajectory will play out. One hopeful observation is that the coal industry and bureaucracy has been pretty sclerotic, while the growth in solar under Mr. Modi has been quite explosive. One may hope that the planned coal generation capacity additions–which number in the hundreds of plants–will be accordingly restrained, and that the latter will continue to burgeon. Hope, of course, is not a plan, but…

  32. 232
    Mal Adapted says:

    Ray Ladbury:

    I’m afraid I don’t have much patience for zealots who consider themselves too pure to get their hands dirty making things better.

    Ray, you and I agree about most things climate-related, but if you’re referring to Hansen I think you’ve gone too far. Some might call Hansen a zealot, but he got the ball rolling 27 years ago, and the progress represented by COP21 owes a great deal to him.

    Furthermore, you can hardly argue that the COP21 agreement is the complete solution to AGW by itself. The obstacles to implementation are many, starting with the lunatic majority in the 114th US Congress. Even without forthright opposition, the agreement offers plenty of opportunity for politicians and plutocrats to pay public lip-service while subverting it sub-rosa. As I said, someone needs to keep the pressure on if COP21’s words are to be converted to actions, or Hansen’s fears will be confirmed. He’s played the role of Jeremiah since the outset, he’s uniquely qualified to keep doing so, and I, for one, am reassured that he’s not backing off.

  33. 233
    Ric Merritt says:

    Re recent comments on the Paris outcome:

    +1 to Ray Ladbury 16 Dec 2015 at 5:43 AM (currently # 229)

    Although worsening feedbacks are possible, anticipation of extinction scenarios is, to put it mildly, highly speculative. And short of that, we should be working to mitigate. So grouse if you like, but keep working.

    Dum spiro spero. (In English, despair is dumb. :-)

  34. 234
    Mike says:

    For Ray – I don’t think the circular firing squad is a good idea, so prefer to coexist with folks who think rhetoric and non-binding agreements are good progress.

    I don’t believe that is sufficient, but so what? No need to bash others, I have some patience for folks who think we can go slow, but less patience for folks who believe global warming is a hoax.

    Got this news today from Center for Biological Diversity:

    “Breaking news: The congressional budget bill unveiled last night includes a very dangerous provision to end America’s 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. Lifting the ban will open the doors to a vast increase in drilling, fracking and greenhouse gas pollution.”

    I think this reflects our larger problem: Republican congress and fossil fuel industry are continuing to work on building fossil fuel infrastructure that taking profits from industry of doom.

    This suggests to me that there is a lot of retrograde political power left in the fossil fuel industry and the folks who will determine US energy policy. We are caught in the prisoner dilemma with big carbon emitting players like India, China, Russia. I think it must be the case that the economics of global conflict and fluctuating markets of non-sustainable resources are just too good for industry and the republicans to give up on.

    That worries me.

  35. 235
    Russell Seitz says:

    Ray, the organized movement to criminalize non-renewable fire represents zeal of a very high order.

    Have you actually read the Nationally Determined Contributions formally submitted to COP21 ?

    Those who wrote them are still very much part of the process.

  36. 236
    Digby Scorgie says:

    I don’t understand Hansen’s carbon fee and dividend. If someone has to pay an extra $1000 for fuel as a result of the fee but receives a dividend of $1000, what stops them from just spending the dividend to pay the increased fuel price? What am I missing?

  37. 237
    Silk says:

    “After all, they’ve just about exhausted all their excuses except for “It’s too late to do anything.””

    Ray – This is absolutely right. Hansen is right to keep the pressure on, but there is (it seems to me) a change in momentum, and we have to welcome this and press on, not complain that there isn’t any progress.

  38. 238
    Tony Weddle says:

    Actions speak louder than words.

    When pressed on the need for more action, the Prime Minister of New Zealand said that the need for emissions reductions would not involve cutting back on the mining of oil, gas and coal.

    In the UK, their parliament just voted (without proper debate) to allow fracking under national parks.

    And, just to rub salt into the wounds, the UK Met Office has projected that 2016 will almost certainly be warmer than 2015, perhaps 1.14C above pre-industrial.

  39. 239
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, maybe I’m dense, but I fail to comprehend how acknowledging progress is in any way inconsistent with a commitment to keep up the pressure.

    Or perhaps folks outside the US have yet to learn that any treaty with binding obligations must be submitted to the Senate, currently led by the anti-reality contingent. What this means is that we have to keep said contingent out of the oval office. That is at least a conceivable possibility. Getting anything that resembles progress through the Senate is at present is NOT a possibility.

  40. 240
    SecularAnimist says:

    Digby Scorgie wrote: “If someone has to pay an extra $1000 for fuel as a result of the fee but receives a dividend of $1000, what stops them from just spending the dividend to pay the increased fuel price? What am I missing?”

    That person has an incentive to reduce his or her use of fossil fuels, so the increase in fuel costs will be less than the dividend, and they come out ahead.

  41. 241
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Digby Scorgie … What am I missing?”

    You’re missing the explanation; you’ve got a misunderstanding in its place.

    The fee isn’t charged to the individual who buys $1000 worth of gasoline, and that same person doesn’t receive $1000 back.

    The fee raises the price at the origin; that price rolls down to the retail level price. That’s charging closer to what fossil fuel really costs, counting in the costs they’ve avoided by dumping into the atmosphere.

    The people who receive the dividend look at the higher price of fossil fuel — and can compare that to the alternatives that don’t cost the earth.

    You can look this up. Don’t rely on my summary, I’m just some guy.

    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    “… The fee, applied to oil, gas and coal at the mine or port of entry, is the fairest and most effective way to reduce emissions and transition to the post fossil fuel era. It would assure that unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar shale and tar sands, stay in the ground, unless an economic method of capturing the CO2 is developed.

    The entire fee should be returned to the public, equal shares on a per capita basis (half shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in bank accounts. No bureaucracy is needed.
    Fee and Dividend (returns fee to the public)

    The public can understand this and will accept a fee if it is clearly explained and if 100 percent of the money is returned to the public. Not one dime should go to Washington for politicians to pick winners. No lobbyists need be employed.

    The public will take steps to reduce their emissions because they will continually be reminded of the matter by the monthly dividend and by rising fossil fuel costs….”

    — Hansen

  42. 242
    Mal Adapted says:

    Digby Scorgie:

    I don’t understand Hansen’s carbon fee and dividend. If someone has to pay an extra $1000 for fuel as a result of the fee but receives a dividend of $1000, what stops them from just spending the dividend to pay the increased fuel price? What am I missing?

    The fee (i.e. tax) is paid every time you fill your gasoline tank or pay the utility bill. That’s a “price signal” that forces you to take (some of) the cost of climate change into account with each fuel purchase.

    The incentive works because the dividend is paid yearly, so it’s decoupled in time from the price signal; and (I think this is what you’re missing) everyone gets the same size dividend. That means that those who burn more carbon than the national average lose money each year, and those who use less make money. It gives everyone an extra incentive to use less or switch to carbon-neutral energy sources, in addition to the price signal.

    What keeps this from being a regressive tax is that poor people use less energy in absolute terms than rich people, even if the the poor spend a larger fraction of their income on energy.

    That’s how I understand fee-and-dividend to work. Makes sense to me, but I Am Not An Economist.

  43. 243
    Mal Adapted says:

    My last:

    The incentive works because the dividend is paid yearly,

    Erm, Hansen’s proposal is to pay the dividend monthly rather than yearly 8^},, but it’s still decoupled from the price signal.

  44. 244
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Silk: there is (it seems to me) a change in momentum, and we have to welcome this and press on

    RC: Yes. Going for everything they could do without Republican approval might have been the wisest course. A win sets the investment mood. Folks with fossil fuel reserves on their books might be getting nervous.

  45. 245
    Digby Scorgie says:

    #239, 240

    Upon reflection I see that, if the carbon fee causes a fossil-fuel price rise for someone of X dollars and they receive a dividend of Y dollars, there might be three possibilities:

    If Y exceeds X, they can just pay for the more expensive fuel anyway and pocket the difference.

    If X exceeds Y but the person is swimming in money, they might think nothing of paying for the more expensive fuel.

    If X exceeds Y but the person is not so rich, then they might well search for cheaper alternatives. I suppose such people comprise the bulk of the population and would drive the change to alternative fuels.

    As for alternatives, it seems to me that there are again three main aspects: transport fuel, fuel for electricity generation, and embodied fossil fuel in food and manufactured items. (Anything else?) The average person can’t do much about some of these aspects — drive less, buy an electric car, fly less, consume less, install a wind turbine or solar panel or both (what else?). Is the difference between X and Y sufficient to drive the necessary changes?

  46. 246
    Mike Roberts says:

    Ray,

    The enemy is us. Calling it a fraud doesn’t give comfort to us. Sure, the words are better than the words we’ve had before. But it takes actions to make a difference. There is nothing in the agreement that requires any country to take any action other than to review its contribution every 5 years.

  47. 247

    OK then, here’s my plan.

    •Hydro-electric / Geothermal / tidal where appropriate

    •Land-based wind turbines

    •Offshore wind turbines

    •Solar power for local supply, recommended where there’s winter sun

    •Solar power for long-distance transmission supply (for example, Namib Desert -> Europe, Atacama Desert -> North America, Tibet & Australia -> Asia)

    •Pumped-storage hydro for energy storage with on-land generation

    •Undersea hydrogen storage for energy storage with offshore generation – wind / tidal

    •Carbon-neutral bio-fuels for transport such as dimethyl-ether (DME) from steam-reformed biomass

    •Convert old vehicles, for transport by land, sea & air to run on bio-fuels

    •New vehicles powered by hydrogen / electrical batteries / bio-fuels

    •Nuclear-powered mega-ships – container & bulk transport, cruise liners etc

    •Nuclear-powered tugs for high-power pulling of ships long distance (rather than low-power navigation)

    •Forget carbon-capture and storage from fossil-fuel burning power stations
    __________

    When the world is fossil-fuel free but if Europe & Africa still need much more power then make a mega tidal race by damming the Gibraltar Strait, put in water turbines and sea locks for shipping.

    I’m the go-to scientist if the world wants this done quickly.

    https://scottishscientist.wordpress.com

  48. 248
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Digby S
    Yes, “X exceeds Y .. such people comprise the bulk of the population”

    Unless you’re one of the small percent of people who consume most of the fossil fuel, yes, X exceeds Y. Fossil fuel use equals wealth, roughly.

    Look at the distribution of wealth per capita — it’s way skewed.
    The dividend would be per capita, equally. Robin Hood kinda thing, eh?

    The ‘thugs see this (and almost any other attempt to modify the “market” built to concentrate wealth) as “redistribution” or “social engineering” and hate the idea.

    Ironically they don’t see CO2 pollution as redistribution or geoengineering, eh? Because it’s in their favor so it must be right.

  49. 249
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mike: “There is nothing in the agreement that requires any country to take any action other than to review its contribution every 5 years.”

    And that is far, far more than we had a month ago. And the alternative to what we now have would have been to walk away with nothing. Yes, it may come to nothing in the long run. However, it is a whole lot more likely to bear fruit than just getting yourself arrested outside a coal-fired plant.

  50. 250
    Mal Adapted says:

    Digby Scorgie:

    The average person can’t do much about some of these aspects — drive less, buy an electric car, fly less, consume less, install a wind turbine or solar panel or both (what else?). Is the difference between X and Y sufficient to drive the necessary changes?

    As you say, people for whom the carbon fee is non-trivial would drive the change to alternatives. The assumption is that the “invisible hand” of the market would provide the motivation for creative solutions on both the demand and the supply sides.

    Anticipating some objections: It will not be a simple matter of “letting the free market work!”, but market forces can’t be ignored, either. I don’t fetishize the invisible hand, but I do think it is a powerful force for driving the transition to carbon-neutrality, if it’s supplemented by rational government action. Before a carbon tax is imposed, existing subsidies for fossil-fuel production and/or consumption must be eliminated. There may or may not be a need for targeted subsidies for alternatives. The various alternatives have their own external costs, requiring regulation. The legal framework for utilities will need to be revised. And so forth.

    We’re all going to need to stay involved, and be prepared for some disappointment when it doesn’t turn out exactly the way we wish.