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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. 251
    Silk says:

    #244 – “A win sets the investment mood. Folks with fossil fuel reserves on their books might be getting nervous.”

    They already are. The coal industry in Europe is frothing at the mouth – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/15/coal-lobby-boss-says-industry-will-be-hated-like-slave-traders-after-cop21

  2. 252
    Silk says:

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

    1 – The fact that countries are making contributions is, in itself, what makes this a deal worth (cautiously) celebrating. There are a lot more countries doing a lot more. It’s nowhere near enough, but it’s progress. (For me the inclusion of 1.5 degrees is blatant hypocrisy as they sign up to it and announce pledges that will completely bust it, but the rest of the deal is …. OK)

    2 – Kyoto demonstrates you can’t ‘require’ countries to do anything. Certainly not big ones like the USA and China. I’d love a globally binding deal but as both Canada and Australia have shown, a globally binding deal is in no way binding. The Government changes and they pull out. What are you going to do? Sue them? (Japan ditched Kyoto, too)

  3. 253

    Digby, everybody likes to save a buck if they can, even if they don’t ‘need’ to. And the incentives operate at multiple levels.

    For instance, consider two makers of widgets, ShineCo & Smut Ltd. We’ll say the carbon efficiency of Shine Co widgets is 50% better than that of Smut, and that pre-carbon tax both company’s widgets are almost identical in quality and price.

    Comes the day the carbon tax is effective, what happens? Smut’s production costs are now higher than ShineCo’s, and soon enough they decide they must raise prices. That leads to more people choosing ShineCo widgets on price. Since their widgets are cleaner, that means emissions drop a little.

    But that’s not all. Soon enough, Smut execs get worried about that lost market share. With a little luck they correctly attribute their cost penalty correctly, and choose to license better tech so they regain a cost advantage. (As opposed to, say, giving more money to ALEC in hopes of killing the tax.) If they do, then their widgets are now less carbon intensive, too, and emissions drop a little bit more.

    An illustrative case is British Columbia, which has had a carbor tax oF $30 a ton for several years now. Emissions have dropped, the economy has not been hurt, and the tax is more popular than when it came in.

    That tax is kept progressive by returning the money via the income tax system.

  4. 254
    Digby Scorgie says:

    #248, 250, 253

    Okay, I’m persuaded — theoretically. Getting such a carbon-fee-and-dividend system rolled out around the world might be one helluva practical problem, however. I shall monitor developments with interest.

  5. 255
    Mal Adapted says:

    Digby Scorgie:

    Getting such a carbon-fee-and-dividend system rolled out around the world might be one helluva practical problem, however.

    Since we’re the second-largest total GHG emitter, just rolling it out in the US would make a big difference globally. And we’re the largest per-capita emitter, so a US carbon tax would demonstrate our good faith. It might be possible to sell “rational” US conservatives a revenue-neutral carbon tax of some sort, especially if it’s paired with a Border Tax Adjustment on imported goods tied to the decarbonization policies of the producing country. How’s that for carrot-and-stick diplomacy 8^)!

  6. 256

    “…practical problem…”

    Indeed.

    “…monitor with interest…”

    Agreed!

  7. 257
    Ron R. says:

    From http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/finale-cop21/

    “The agreement includes a global stocktake starting in 2023 to assess the collective progress towards the goals of the agreement. The stocktake will be done every five years.”

    Perhaps it’s already been suggested, but if not, and if it dosen’t already exist some obscure elsewhere, I’d like to recommend that rather than waiting until 2023, with updates only once every five years after that, that a webpage or website be created that documents, in a continual flow of real-time news releases, concrete actions that are being taken to ameliorate not only the deleterious effects of climate change, but also other major anthropogenic behaviors which are seriously affecting our planet such as habitat and biodiversity loss. Something that counters the ceaseless negative documentation of our destruction of the planet, important as those reports are. Something that gives people hope and gets them excited and motivated.

    I envision a page on some central site which can be linked to and displayed on lots of other sites around the web.

    As a very rudimentary example (and just an example) of this idea here is page on my site:

    https://midmiocene.wordpress.com/2015/11/12/a-different-future/

    How about some positivity for a change?

  8. 258
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Kevin McKinney: 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.”

    RC: Well, perhaps if by “us” you mean “those of us in the 6th grade or less”. Beyond that, folks are expected to understand “hyperbole”.

    ——–

    Digby: transport fuel, fuel for electricity generation, and embodied fossil fuel in food and manufactured items. (Anything else?

    RC: The BIGGIE! Heat. Electricity sucks at providing heat. In ethanol and biodiesel (and the old-fashioned gasoline and fossil diesel) vehicles, the heat is FREE! In the standard household cogeneration system the user pays for either the heat or the electricity and gets the other FREE! (And in the old-fashioned gas furnaces still used in the luddite-filled USA, the heat is perhaps 1/3 the cost and INFINITELY* more efficient than electric heat.) Only the wrong-headed would go electric for vehicles or household heat** in a cold climate area. That Leaf loses energy at the power plant, loses more during transmission, loses even more during charging, and loses more through degradation and other losses while trying to shove energy while cold. THEN, significant chunks of the remaining energy get wasted providing heat (or the occupants suffer and freeze). EVs suck up north.

    However, we DID wave all those losses away with MPGe, which sets every single one, including the need for heat in winter, at exactly ZERO! A 100MPGe car is carbon-equivalent to a 50 MPG car, and that’s if the ICE is using putridly inefficient 15% corn ethanol. With 85% cellulosic ethanol, the EV can’t even get to the starting line. Yep, those “EVs are much more efficient than ICEs” people are right, but ONLY if ALL inefficiencies of EVs are ignored! Otherwise, ICEs are a bit more efficient now, and will surely be vastly more efficient in the future as we decarbonize the liquid-fuel system far faster than the electric grid.

    * There’s some of that hyperbole!

    ** OK, ground-source heat pumps are cool…

    ———

    Ray Ladbury: Getting anything that resembles progress through the Senate is at present is NOT a possibility.

    RC: True, but that leads to TWO possibilities, not one. The first, least productive one is to simply let Republicans and other deniers of facts determine the pace, but the other is to go around them. Since the USA is no longer dominant economically, the rest of the world could simply install a fee and dividend system and tell the USA to pound sand – and pay the fees at the port of entry, of course.

    ———–

    On carbon intensity: There are two types of economic activity, physical and virtual. Virtual dominates entertainment and electronics while physical dominates transport, housing, and food. Including virtual economic activity in the equation is wrong-headed. So if we only include physical economic activity, the fleet MPG of vehicles is NOT changing significantly, the efficiency of the total housing stock is NOT changing significantly, the efficiency of food production-to-table is NOT changing significantly.

    So yep, we’re adding virtual economy, but that has NOTHING to do with decarbonizing the physical economy. That takes decades and decades. That 10 MPG monster SUV you’re buying today will be polluting for 15-20 years. The house might spew for 100 or more.

    —–

    Silk: What are you going to do? Sue them?

    RC: Any large country or group of countries could get the ball rolling. Simply install a fee-and-dividend system at wells, mines, and ports of entry. The EU would be a perfect start. Charging an extra 20% (of the fee, not the product price) for products originating from non-taxed jurisdictions might speed things up, too.

    —-

    RC: And the Climate Villain of the day: Elon Musk, for starting the “fuel included in the cost” thing via SuperChargers. Even if EVs were as efficient as ICEs, this inducement to excess truly destroys their use as a tool against AGW. Shops are jumping on the bandwagon, and even the driver’s own garage “seems” free, so EV owners tend to falsely view their massive CO2 emissions as financially free and environmentally benign. (Some even “pretend” via accounting methods, such as attributing low-carbon energy sources to their usage, though, of course, such accounting does little in a physical sense for CO2 emissions.)

  9. 259
    Chuck Hughes says:

    i’m sitting here watching on the news as cherry blossoms are blooming on the East Coast and it’s between 70-80 degrees East of the jet stream. It’s freakishly warm-hot and everybody is noticing it. Anyone paying any attention to the climate situation ‘should’ be starting to get a little worried that things are out of wack. We’ve already noticed food prices going up locally. I see it coming but you have to recognize the signs. I can’t help but think that in a few more Winters it will be obvious. As people start to worry that should give folks the incentive to start some serious action. We’ll see I guess.

  10. 260
    mike says:

    I have absorbed more of the COP21 rhetoric and I am now thinking that it is useful to track one number as primary evidence of global progress on handling climate change. That number should be the level of CO2 at Mauna Loa. It is currently at 400.16 and I understand there is agreement that is needs to drop to 350. I hope that the 350 number is actually based on some science and is not just a politically convenient number. All of the talk about 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees of climate change seems like smoke and mirrors to me. Whatever we do to keep the global temperature in a reasonable zone is most accurately measured by this important number. The atmosphere was last around this level in the late 1980s. It took 30 years to jump from that “safe number” to the current level. The COP21 agreement for global action to address climate change can be construed as progress, but we need to see the change in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead of talk about a stall in the rise of CO2 we need to be looking for an actual reduction in CO2 in ppm. That is where this struggle to mitigate the sixth great extinction gets real.

  11. 261
    mike says:

    correction: 400.16 was November 2015 average. Last week the level was 401.31. Wrong direction last week.
    http://co2now.org/

  12. 262
    James McDonald says:

    Digby (254) — Another thing to note that for any given point in time the “average” person sees a net cost of zero — they get back exactly the rebate that they pay in increased product prices — but due to market pressures the average keeps dropping as people shift to cheaper products that produce a smaller rebate.
    At any instant in time, you win by simply being less carbon-intensive than your neighbor, but over time, you can only win by ever more aggressively shifting to ever-less-intensive products. That’s what drives carbon emissions down.
    It’s also worth noting that this scheme works best if it starts small but builds inexorably. The small costs at the beginning send a signal but avoid massive and destructive market disruptions. The inexorable march to high costs makes people factor those costs into long-term plans for houses, cars, factories, roads, airports, etc.

  13. 263
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Okay, lads and lasses, so when is this carbon-fee-and-dividend system going to be implemented?

  14. 264

    “RC: Well, perhaps if by “us” you mean “those of us in the 6th grade or less”. Beyond that, folks are expected to understand “hyperbole”.”

    What, mind-reading was seventh grade?

  15. 265

    That Leaf loses energy at the power plant, loses more during transmission, loses even more during charging, and loses more through degradation and other losses while trying to shove energy while cold. THEN, significant chunks of the remaining energy get wasted providing heat (or the occupants suffer and freeze).

    Hm, how ’bout actually quantifying that? Sez here:

    If you want some more detailed figures, you can see that a typical combustion engine car has an efficiency of 18-25% [Source], and that a power plant has an efficiency of between 33 and 60% [Source] and the entire electrical distribution system has a total loss of 6% [Source] electric drive vehicles have on-board efficiency of around 80% [Source]

    Sources:

    http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/atv.shtml
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil-fuel_power_station
    http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=105&t=3
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car#cite_note-PEVs2-161

    Multiplying that out, that would be 25-45% for the EV, versus 18-25% for the ICE, which seems like reasonable headroom to run the heater for 5 or 6 months each year.

    Extra value: one guy’s experience about the Leaf in winter:

    http://sam-koblenski.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-year-and-half-with-nissan-leaf-part-3.html

    Interesting that they’ve gone to a heat pump since ’13.

    Another thing about this: in Canada, about 60% of the electricity is hydro (IIRC, and the exact figure depends on where you live–in Quebec, the actual figure for hydro is 96.8%.) So that needs to be figured in, too, if you are going for low-e driving.

  16. 266
    Richard Caldwell says:

    On the alternative CO21 where Japan, the EU, and a number of other countries install global carbon fee while just saying, “We’re going to do this with or without you.” to the US (Congress), what do folks think Obama would have done? Perhaps he’d have stepped up to the plate and we’d have a global agreement in hand and the US election on the line. That would have been a guaranteed big win for the planet. The Iran agreement wasn’t the same, but many of the same players were involved. And even if Obama bailed or Congress didn’t get partially kicked out with the rest scared out of their wits if they don’t join the parade, the fees would work. Big corporations pay attention even if a fee only applies to 1/3rd(?) of their business. How many corporations would still buy coal power? Remember, the weather is cooperating.

    On Superchargers, Tesla is committed to making them carbon-neutral (so Musk is a climate hero 364 days of the year).

  17. 267
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Mike: I have absorbed more of the COP21 rhetoric and I am now thinking that it is useful to track one number as primary evidence of global progress on handling climate change. That number should be the level of CO2 at Mauna Loa.

    RC: You would think so, eh? Simple, easy to measure, hard to fudge. But fossil fuels are a lot like renewables in that they’re all capital. You pay the money to build the infrastructure and from then on it’s just dividing up the spoils and squabbling about price until the well runs dry. (Fracking is a growing partial exception. The wells run dry quickly, but the field doesn’t)

    This means that wells don’t permanently turn off easily. Refineries are hard to close. Brand new natural gas power plants – ah, a good example. By focusing on current CO2 levels, we will be driven inexorably to natural gas. A power company with 6 coal plants could convert one at a time to natural gas with zero regulatory or PR problems. No need for land swaps or clean-ups or hassle. Power lines aren’t popular. Fields of ugly solar cells aren’t either. Wind’s debatable. Some love them (so far and in limited quantities), while others are very NIMBY about it.

    But the coal plants were going to retire in 10-20 years anyway and the natural gas plants are expected to last a century. So our actions drop CO2 levels about as quickly as anything possible, but they also mean that we WILL have to choose between trashing lots and lots of infrastructure, going geoengineering, and baking the planet. Our focus should be squarely on dollars invested in infrastructure. Heck, perhaps(?) 2/3rds of our fossil fuel reserves are worthless. I’d give their owners a small initial haircut. That would discourage exploration.

  18. 268
    John McCormick says:

    Mike @ 261

    Mauna Loa measurement of CO2 on Dec 12 was 402.91. The December 2014 average was 398.85. That is an astonishing 4.06 ppm.

    That is an astonishing increase and anyone following closely the Mauna Loa CO2 trends knows there has never been that large an increase when compared to similar months. The front car bumper is against the tree and the throttle is wide open.

  19. 269
    Alexey says:

    Could anybody give the links to the articles and models that were used to make decisions at COP21 ?

    My impression that the balance is not achieved yet and the warming will continue for 100 years even if humanity will stop to produce CO2 right now.

  20. 270
    Alexey says:

    Could anybody give the links to the articles and models that were used to make decisions at COP21 ?

    My impression that the balance is not achieved yet and the warming will continue for 100 years even if humanity will stop to produce CO2.