RealClimate logo

Trump carbon and the Paris agreement

Filed under: — david @ 17 November 2016

The recent US election has prompted cries that the decision on Earth’s climate has now been irrevocably made, that the US has unilaterally decided to scrap the peak warming target from the Paris agreement of 1.5 oC. What do the numbers say? Is Earth’s climate now irrevocably fracked?

The short answer is that, strictly speaking, the future of global climate would have been fracked even had the election gone the other way, unless stronger action to cut CO2 emissions is taken, very soon.

U.S. Emissions under 2020 and 2025 targets, from Columbia University Earth Institute, 2015

Here are some numbers. Carbon emissions from the United States have been dropping since the year 2000, more than on-track to meet a target for the year 2020. Perhaps with continued effort and improving technology, emissions might have dropped to below the 2020 target by 2020, let’s say to 5 gigatons of CO2 per year (5000 megatons in the plot). In actuality, now, let’s say that removing restrictions on energy inefficiency and air pollution could potentially lead to US emissions by 2020 of about 7 gigatons of CO2. This assumes that future growth in emissions followed the faster growth rates from the 1990’s.

Maybe neither of these things will happen exactly, but these scenarios give us a high-end estimate for the difference between the two, which comes to about 4 gigatons of CO2 over four years. There will also probably be extra emissions beyond 2020 due to the lost opportunity to decarbonize and streamline the energy system between now and then. Call it 4-6 gigatons of Trump CO2.

This large quantity of gas can be put into the context of what it will take to avoid the peak warming threshold agreed to in Paris. In order to avoid exceeding a very disruptive warming of 1.5 oC with 66% probability, humanity can release approximately 220 gigatons of CO2 after January, 2017 (IPCC Climate Change 2014 Synthesis report, Table 2.2, corrected for emissions since 2011). The 4-6 Gtons of Trump CO2 will not by itself put the world over this threshold. But global CO2 emission rates are now about 36 gigatons of CO2 per year, giving a time horizon of only about six years of business-as-usual (!) before we cross the line, leaving basically no time for screwing around. To reach the catastrophic 2 oC, about 1000 gigatons of CO2 remain (about 20 years of business as usual). Note that these estimates were done before global temperatures spiked since 2014 — we are currently at 1.2 oC! So these temperature boundaries may be closer than was recently thought.

An optimistic hope is that humanity may soon feel the need to clean up the atmosphere by direct CO2 removal. The American Physical Society estimates a cost for this at about $600 per ton of CO2. Based on this the cost of carbon emitted by the US in the next four years would come in at $8-10 trillion, which amounts to about 14% of US GDP over that time. Even under the scenario that lost in the election, $6 trillion of clean-up costs would have been incurred (8% of GDP).

If you are in a new-found panic about the future of Earth’s climate, know that what you’re feeling now would still have been almost as appropriate had the election gone the other way. The fight to defend Earth’s climate would still be just beginning.

194 Responses to “Trump carbon and the Paris agreement”

  1. 1
    Roger Albin says:

    Correct but limited.
    1) There is a real chance that under a Trump administration that US GHG emissions will actually rise.
    2) More important, without US leadership and with what is likely to be US obstructionism, the <2C target, already challenging, is likely now unreachable. With a Clinton administration, there would have been a modest hope of stabilization around 2C.

  2. 2
    Kimberly Dick says:

    Sadly, the election of a Republican president and congress make any action to further mitigate climate change for the next four years next to impossible. And given the extraordinary fascist tendencies of Trump himself, things may well get much worse on many fronts, including carbon emissions.

    If Clinton had been elected with a Democratic congress, then we may well have had some significant further action. Alas, white supremacy is still entirely too alive and well in the US.

  3. 3
    Dan Miller says:

    Cost for direct air capture (DAC) of CO2 can drop below $100/ton with further R&D. There is pitiful investment in this space because no one will pay $1/ton unless there is a price on carbon. $100M of government support for this “insurance policy for the Earth” would go a long way. But before we bother with direct air capture, we need to first bring our emissions down to near zero. CCS for power plants will cost far less than DAC. With further development, the price for power plant CCS should drop below $40/ton including pressurization and injection. Long term storage liability will need to be addressed by the government because the CO2 needs to stay underground for hundreds to thousands of years.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    DF says:

    “In order to avoid exceeding a very disruptive warming of 1.5 oC”
    “we are currently at 1.2 oC”

    How do we know that a warming of 1.5 oC will be disruptive?
    And what is the definition of disruptive?

    Right now it looks quite ok I would say.

  6. 6
    Thomas says:

    Yes. Good to see numbers and costs.

    a WMO Graph +1.2C in 2016
    UN ©Thomas SAINT-CRICQ, Jean Michel CORNU, Kun TIAN (AFP)

  7. 7
    Thomas says:

    Recent Graphs

    NSIDC Global Sea Ice extent and area graphs Nov 2016 – a record low,1457.msg93031.html#msg93031

    NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent Graph to Nov 16th – continuing record lows

    NSIDC 5 day averaged Antarctic sea ice extent is now at a record low level for the date, since satellite measurements began in 1979:

  8. 8
    Nick says:

    I will never give up! As long as there is life on Earth, I will keep fighting. The world (with or without the US government) needs to rally behind new and cleaner technologies. We can no longer afford to debate the moral ramifications of CO2 removal. It’s academic now. Secondly, we need to bring nuclear energy back to the discussion table. I’m sure many of you are aware of molten salt reactor technology. Third, (and I think this is the most important point of all) we cannot throw our arms up in despair and cry “The end is nigh!” People aren’t going to fight climate change if they believe the situation is hopeless. Case in point, Guy McPherson and his little group of neophytes. Hopefully, I’m not the only person who still believes we can save our species. Let’s get back to work, people!

  9. 9
    Willem says:

    Thank you for a down-to-earth analysis. Beyond these 4-6 Gtons of ‘Trump CO2’, I’d say that the chances of the world taking stronger action than what has been promised thus far has dropped a lot. So in that sense, feeling some extra panic seems appropriate.

  10. 10
    Alastair B. McDonald says:

    When the US elected George W. Bush for the first time I thought that they had signed the death warrant for mankind. By electing Trump they have assembled the firing squad!

  11. 11

    Thanks. That’s a good contribution.

    But the real issue at this point is the political one. Will the probable defection of the US from the Paris Accord (maybe even from the entire Framework Convention) focus minds and heighten efforts from the rest of the world? Or will they shipwreck the process and lead to lots of ‘indirect Trump carbon’?

    The hopeful sign is precisely “what you’re feeling.” Because as a group we–and by ‘we’ I mean folks who have a high awareness of the problem–haven’t acted as if we entirely believed what we know. And our friends–presumably those with at least secondary awareness–still less so. Some probably voted for Trump on other grounds, like wanting a conservative Supreme Court, or opposing abortion, or a (very foolish, IMO) belief that Trump will improve the US economy. After all, according to Gallup, over 60% of Americans claim to ‘worry’ at least ‘a fair amount’ about climate change. It’s mathematically possible that none of them voted for Trump, given that only about half of potential electors did vote, but seems unlikely–and if they didn’t vote, that makes the larger point anyway. If they entirely believed and understood our situation, they’d have voted against any amount of “Trump carbon.”

    Do we believe, really believe, the reality of our situation now? If so, what are we willing and able to do about it?

  12. 12
    E Freeman says:

    Isn’t direct CO2 removal somewhat dubious at best? BECCS is a fantasy at scale; we are making almost no progress on reforestation, and with the soon to be 9 billion on the planet, even if we figure out better agriculture practices to sequester CO2, will it be even close to enough? What process of CO2 removal, at the scale we need it, will possibly solve the problem? It all helps, but the fact is, we’ve run out of time.

    You are absolutely right: the outcome of the election will have very little effect on the climate disaster we are in. The biggest effect may be to dissuade other countries from taking strong action (if the US doesn’t feel the need to limit CO2, why should we?). And I doubt seriously a Trump (#notmypresident) administration will feel the need to contribute money to the $100b reparation fund, which may also slow the development of renewables in developing countries.

    I suppose we can only hope that Trump’s (#notmypresident) election will mobilize other countries to take stronger action, rather than less, and to treat the US as a rogue state on climate.

  13. 13
    Jon Kirwan says:

    I have a completely different question on my mind from all this. And the question is for the active scientists here where NSF (or other US gov’t agencies?) funds components of their research work.

    Will there be an additional pulse of _flight_ of quality scientific talent from the US, now?

    If I were serious about my work, and I’ve no doubt at all that researchers are very serious about their work, I think I’d be looking hard to compete for research activities in other countries, now. And although some of those perhaps could be (partially) performed here in the US, I’d imagine I’d have more options and better options if I were considering a move, as well. (Picking up the family and taking off.)

    It has been difficult enough, it seems, with the past Congress here in the US. But I could see how I might think about riding that out for a while. But it has been a while, now. Quite a while. And with this ahead, I think that would be my last straw. I love the work I do (I actually do, by the way) and if the environment for interesting opportunities working with interesting people getting interesting work done looked as bleak as this situation seems (to me) to be, I’d be giving very, very serious consideration to departing.

    And I’d probably have to commit my mental thoughts to it being a permanent departure (even if, in fact, I might still keep an eye open to coming back.) I don’t think I could do it, otherwise, without fully committing my mental state of mind to the process of leaving as a permanent move.

    If this is wrong (and I’ve no reason to think I know better than the scientist themselves on this), I’m curious how it might be wrong.


  14. 14
    Jim Eager says:

    DF @ 5, the current rise of 1.2C has already become disruptive. If you think temperature rise effects such as increased localised tidal flooding in places like Miami and Boston, or the current dramatic decline in Arctic sea ice, ice shelves and mountain glaciers, or the spread of insect pests and disease vectors into poleward expanding climate zones have not already become disruptive then you are in serious denial of physical reality.

  15. 15
    John S Sadowsky says:

    I read all of the above comments, and I have two comments.

    First, I totally agree, the dispare is not so much about the numbers (4-6 GtCO2 out of a 220 GtCO2 “budget”). It is the the fact that this is a major change in direction – others will follow. It’s not just the next 4 years. Its too depressing to consider.

    Second, the idea of carbon capture from the atmosphere, as with any pollution, has a big problem: the 2nd law of thermal dynamics. In thermaldynamics terms, pollution is taking an substance (CO2, mercury, nitrates, … – you name it) that is initially in a high concentration, which is a low entropy state, and dispersing it widely to very low concentration, which is a high entropy state. The 2nd law say you can do that, but only of the entropy of the system is increased – and, that requires energy! Pardon me, but isn’t energy the problem? Trees capture and concentrate carbon using the energy from the sun – but it is a slow process. Maybe Dan Miller is correct that with some investment we can get the cost of carbon capture down to $100/ton – I really don’t known. However, if that projection doesn’t account for the physically fundamental issues of thermaldynamics, then I’ll remain highly skeptical. Trees have evolved to solve this problem of 100s of millions of years. Once you consider that carbon capture requires energy, I have to ask, is there really a man made technology that can do better.

  16. 16
    Tony Weddle says:

    I agree that Trump’s victory makes very little difference to our chances of avoiding 1.5C or even 2C. However, I’m surprised you showed such an out of date chart of US emissions. With rises in recent years, US territorial emissions don’t look as good and have barely changed since the recession ended. Adding in exported emissions, the picture is probably worse.

  17. 17
    Spencer says:

    In this fight we must not think of either/or (either the world will be saved or it will be doomed), but

  18. 18
    Spencer says:

    In this fight we must not think of EITHER/OR (either the world will be saved or it will be doomed) but of HOW MUCH? … If a given effort keeps the temperature in 2100 lower by 0.1 degree, that’s worth doing, for it represents quite a lot of lives saved, species extermination delayed, etc. Every bit of effort counts.

  19. 19
    Francis says:

    Rather than focusing on the perils of climate change, which the general public does not (as a whole) care about, what about focusing on how the technologies can save people money. This is the silver bullet.

  20. 20
    Brian Lux says:

    Thank you, scientists! You give us hope and reason to keep working for what makes sense. Keep up the good work. And kudos to Nick for his positive comments above (no. 8).

  21. 21
    Jef says:

    Nick – You are not the only person who still believes we can save our species. In fact Guy even believes it. But we sure as hell are not going to do it buy ramping up industry to build out an entire infrastructure of “new and cleaner technologies”. That spells increased CO2, heat, and waste.

    What we need to do is LESS!!! Way LESS!!! Which is nothing anyone wants to propose or can propose thus the predicament.

  22. 22
    JP Huberty says:

    If I’m correct as great as 7% of the natural gas produced in the US is being inadvertently released. Based on the its half-life and GH activity how does this factor into the GHG equation? Can only assume with increased warming water vapor will also play a greater role. Interesting as this is no specie sentient or otherwise can expand forever in a closed system without eventual problems.

  23. 23

    That the rate of GHG accumulation in our atmosphere is generally increasing appears to be correct and its acceleration will most likely continue because of inertia. The increasing rate of climate change strengthened by feedback mechanisms is out of our control. We need to think more intensively about RESILIENCE than heretofore contemplated so that instead of hearing “You did nothing about this?” we hear “You did your best”. We must persevere. Our entire ecosystem is in the balance.

  24. 24
    Thomas says:

    @5 – “Right now it looks quite ok I would say.”

    Daily temperature anomalies at Vize, Island, Russia (79°N/76°E). Temps running 25°F-30°F above norm. Chart courtesy Dr. Richard James.

    It’s been similar across the Arctic. Like Alaska

    In other places ocean temps being 3-5C above normal are not abnormal anymore.

    Gavin Schmidt ‏@ClimateOfGavin Nov 15
    No surprise here, planetary warming does not care about the election. Now including October data.

    Yessir, all looks quite OK.

  25. 25

    There is no economic evidence that a Carbon Tax will slow down anything. There was no overwhelming rush to zero Carbon sources when oil was $105 per barrel and that’s because behavioral response to, say, high gasoline prices is very inelastic. So the Carbon Tax would need to put oil at $300 per barrel.

    A better idea, offered by attorney Ruth Silman last Tuesday at a Massachusetts Environmental Business Council meeting, is to reward proper Carbom reducing behaviors with credits akin to SRECs, whether for energy efficiency, or demand resonse shifts, or even eating vegan.

    These are inverse Carbon Taxes, duals that have the same but better effects.

  26. 26
    mike says:

    DF at 5 is delusional or trolling or both. Don’t feed the trolls.

    Daily CO2

    November 17, 2016: 404.23 ppm
    November 17, 2015: 400.26 ppm

    3.97 ppm increase in noisy number

    Warm regards


  27. 27
    DF says:

    Jim Eager @ 14

    What caused sea level rise before Humans really started to emit CO2 into the atmosphere around 1950?
    Will sea level stop rising if we stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere?

  28. 28
    Rod B says:

    Can someone clarify? (I haven’t followed it that closely lately.) Does this say that to meet the peak 1.5 °C target no more than 220 gigatons of CO2 can be released after 2017 from all sources for all time?

    [Response: Yes, that’s the story. David

  29. 29
    John S Sadowsky says:

    Mike – I don’t know if DF is a troll, but he certainly has missed the big point. We are unleashing forces that will take centuries to roll out their final effect. Whether or now we feel comfortable now is irrelevant (although many people are not so comfortable, even now). We may not have a prefect model of the climate system, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about its dynamics. Surprisingly to some, we can actually make long term predictions better than short term. I use the following example. Scientist say earth’s energy system is out of balance by about 1 W/m2. Of all the water on earth, 2% is land ice. If we could apply 100% of that 1 W/m2 to just melting land ice, how long does it take to melt all of it? Now, go the Wikipedia and get the numbers you need (like the volume of land ice, the surface area of the earth and the specific heat of melting ice, etc.) and do the calculation. The answer is about 500 years.

    This simple calculation – which anybody high school physics student should be able to do – illustrates that climate dynamics will take centuries to fully play out their course. We are literally gambling with the future of civilization! DF’s assertion ignores the time scale of the dynamics of climate change, and when you consider that, things certainly do not look “OK”.

  30. 30
    Ronal W Larson says:

    I like the COP22-related document released by the White House the day before this thread got started:

    Plenty of good tables and figures. To me the best part is a new US emphasis on placing excess carbon back in soils. They don’t mention biochar – but that would seem the best option.

  31. 31
    Mike Roddy says:

    There is one area that has been neglected, and I wish forest scientists like Harmon and Birdsey would appear here. Between 90 and 95% of our native forests have been logged, and remaining regrowth of merchantable species is smaller, less diverse, and less resistance to climate change.

    The cause is massive consumption of wood products in the US, around 24% of the global total, because we like fluffy toilet paper (from old trees in Canada, courtesy of the Kochs’ Georgia Pacific, among others) and, particularly, housing framed with two by fours. Not to mention oriented strandboard and plywood laced with formaldehyde, a banned product all over the world except here and a few other places. Our houses are toxic, fragile, wasteful contraptions, which last an average of 60 years, accompanied by many times more per capita deaths from fire than in other parts of the world. Even concrete has a lower carbon footprint, and light steel comes in at about 20% of wood’s in the same application (I wrote two articles on this subject).

    Heath and Birdsey did a study some years ago that included this exercise: What would happen if we stopped logging in the US? Result: 2 billion tons of CO2 emissions would be saved annually. That does not even include wood from Canada, which provides us with 33% of our wood products.

    In 1998 I went went before Congressional Committees and NAHB Government Affairs to make the argument to deploy light steel framing, which lasts for centuries and adds about 2% to house construction costs. Steel would be cheaper if the many subsidies for clearcutting were removed. I drew a complete blank, apart from support in the bar and halls of Congress after giving my presentations.

    The main obstacle here is the political power of NAHB, which has political reps in almost every Congressional District. Their constant mantra is to keep two by fours cheap. I became a member of their political action committee in order to learn how they operated, and most were innocent victims of timber industry misinformation.

    Forest restoration in the US would be a very cheap way to capture carbon, though of course we will also need CCS (thanks for the data, Dan Miller). We would also see restored landscapes, increased precipitation, and cooler microclimates.

    This is a huge wasted opportunity. Even now the timber industry fights with bogus claims about clearcuts increasing albedo, so we should do more of it (partially true in very cold areas at high elevation, but most trees are harvested at lower elevations).

    Don DiMicco, former Nucor Steel CEO and now a Trump supporter, would aid in this effort, as he did in the 1990’s. The task should be nonpolitical.

    Congress, especially now, won’t help. Our steel industry has given up on that market, in spite of significant residential market penetration in the heyday of steel framing in the mid 1990’s. Ideas welcome.

  32. 32
    jipkin says:

    Can someone comment as to whether the graph making the rounds on social media showing total sea ice at somewhere like a 10-sigma event right now is accurate? These come from an ASIF user afaik. Is there any sensor error anywhere that could account for it? I’m surprised not to see more climate scientists chiming in, or articles written if it truly is this exceptional.

  33. 33
    Mal Adapted says:


    What caused sea level rise before Humans really started to emit CO2 into the atmosphere around 1950?

    Definitely a troll. Only a committed AGW-denier would think that question hasn’t long since been answered.

    Some friendly advice, DF: if you got your information on climate science from peer-reviewed sources rather than denier blogs and television “news” shows, you’d have a much clearer picture of the truth.

  34. 34
    Jim Eager says:

    What caused sea level rise before 1950? That would be a mix of 1) continued natural interglacial melting of ice shelves and mountain glaciers, and 2) the CO2 humans emitted before 1950, which is half of all CO2 emitted by humans since the start of the industrial revolution.

    Will sea level stop rising if we stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere? No, but the rate of increase will slow down. It won’t stop (i.e. return to a purely natural rate) until we draw down the 40% increase in CO2 that we humans have put there.

    Notice that DF’s reply did not address the poleward expansion of climate zones and accompanying expansion of insect pests and disease vectors. Another consequence is the poleward expansion of Hadley Cell circulation and the subsequent drying of North Africa, Southern Europe, Turkey and the Middle East, and the American Southwest.

    As I said, DF is in serious denial of physical reality.

  35. 35

    “What caused sea level rise before Humans really started to emit CO2 into the atmosphere around 1950?”

    Human CO2 was significant long before that. Read the literature. You can start with this as an entry point:

  36. 36
    Hank Roberts says:

    R.I.P. Jay W. Forrester

    “… The ordinary spoken and written language allows a person to hide behind ambiguous, incomplete, and even illogical statements. Language, within itself, does not impose a discipline for clarity and consistency. By contrast, computer modeling requires clear, rigorous statements….

    Translating from descriptive language to model language is only half of the story. One can then make the reverse translation. From a simulation model, reverse translation to descriptive language yields clear statements that embody the precision that came from building and using the model.

    … any debate about policies for the future can be clarified and made more meaningful if someone will make the underlying assumptions explicit and show which assumptions lead to behavior that best fits the knowledge we have of the real world….

    … I have often seen extreme differences of opinion converge into agreement. Students should see modeling and an understanding of systems as a way to reduce social and political conflict.

    Building Courage.
    A strong background in modeling should show students that conventionally accepted opinions about social and economic policies are often actually the causes of our most serious problems. …

    Working with models should not only enhance skill in making precise statements, but also bolster the courage to do so. … In model building, students will many times have the experience of making assertions that model simulations demonstrate to be incorrect. Students should develop the courage to be precise, even if wrong, in the process of learning and improving understanding.

    Personal Philosophy.
    Experience in computer simulation should change the way students respond …. They should have seen many times the counterintuitive nature of such systems. They should understand that “obvious” solutions to problems are not always correct, and that apparently correct actions are often the causes of the very problems that are being addressed.

  37. 37

    Last week at COP22, Marc Morano detailed a climate denial report full of misinformation and outright falsehoods. I think it is important to take his points and refute them one by one.Has this been done? Will it be done?

  38. 38
    Boiledfrog says:

    Unfortunately no matter if you think we can survive, or are Doomed, or know climate change is a Chinese plot started by Ronald Reagan I doubt we could pick an intelligent path. History shows a certain level of chaos in human affairs. At best we can hope is for independent communities to build arks. Hopefully in different ecosystems with various social structures. Maybe survival of the fittest will light a path.

  39. 39
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Francis@19 says, in effect, “Don’t worry about all of this science crap, technology will save us.”

    I will leave it up to the reader to determine exactly how stupid this is.

  40. 40
    Thomas says:

    27 DF asks: “What caused sea level rise before Humans really started to emit CO2 into the atmosphere around 1950?”

    DF, CO2 is only 50% of the cause of AGW and that began in significant volumes long before 1950. For centuries humans were land clearing and clear felling rain forests. These things too contributed to AGW.

    “Will sea level stop rising if we stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere?”

    More or less, yes. It’s important to keep in mind that both modern day Climate science and past Paleoclimates is really complex. There are no “pat answers” for simplistic questions. By learning more about different aspects to climate science it will automatically begin to answer most of those questions without even asking them.

    Peter Ward In a World Without Ice Caps

    Dr. Peter Ward presents the University of Washington’s 34th Annual Faculty Lecture on one of the most controversial topics of our times: global warming.

    These two links start at key points in the middle of lectures – I suggest watch both in full as a “starter” to SLR and what caused it in the past and when. Different times = different causes. Today’s cause is predominantly Carbon emissions from fossil fuels, from Concrete, from fertilizers use in agriculture, from cattle, and from ongoing land clearing and deforestation.

    The latter few points usually spoken of in climate science/ipcc reports as ‘Land Use changes’ that began centuries ago and accelerated in the late 20th century.

    DF, here’s a useful site to expand one’s knowledge and awareness of how and why Climate Science gets to be so confusing in the public domain.

  41. 41
    Thomas says:

    PS for DF

    another shorter video that can help to understand ‘ice melt/slr’ and the many confusions about that in the public – it empathizes the need to NOT listen to news reports, bloggers, or denialists and to READ the literature for oneself and to listen to what the science experts in their individual fields have to say about what they know for sure, and what they expect is where the planet is heading and WHY and about WHEN.

    by potholer54 – it should help people to think about what’s real and important.

    and did DF look at these current refs about sea ice and temps?

    … and grasp their meaning?

    No summer artic sea ice coming circa 2025-2030 suggests a major disruption to the global climate system especially in the NH in a way that climate scientists do not fully know what will happen.

  42. 42
    Thomas says:

    31 Mike Roddy, well said.

    I think many people don’t understand that CO2 isn’t the only problem or cause for alarm. Back in the 1990s ~3,000 acres per hour of native forests were being destroyed. Next to nothing was done then or since. Australia only has about 1% of it’s original forests left from 200 years ago. Similar things happened in every European ‘colony.’

    It’s not only forests that should be of concern. All kinds of land clearing is important. Destroying native bush lands and scrub for agriculture matters too. eg and

    These things cannot be stopped unilaterally, the question is when is it justifiable to log forests and clear land – knowing full well that these types of environmental impacts will tend to either raise or lower the global CO2e ppm long term. I think people forget that CO2 is more of a definable measurable measuring stick (label). Our collective human behavior is the cause, not CO2 per se – a molecule isn’t good or bad, nor evil.

    ‘Anthropocentric’ means what human activity does – which either increases or decreases the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and stored for eons in the oceans, atmosphere, or the land. iow in the Biosphere: the part of the Earth in which life can exist.

    Rational Regulation seems to me the best way to go. People and business need some long term clarity of what human activities and practices are harmful and which aren’t – which are acceptable and which are not anymore.

    Those activities that are harmful need to be understood and then Regulated in a way that ‘rationally’ minimizes harm as fast as possible.

    But unless ‘the People’ make their governments responsive to this then little will happen, with each nation at COP trading off who can do the least and get away with it. What each nation/govt is actually doing or planning to do, gets lost in all the noise over 2C, CO2 etc.

    I think the COP could be encouraging/applying specific “best practice standards” and “aspirational goals” about all the “human activities and practices” that are harmful and encouraging those which aren’t.

  43. 43
    Thomas says:

    I think it’s better focusing on the many separate human “activities and practices” that are known beyond any doubt to increase CO2e ppm long term.

    Despite the RC article on Washington’s forests I still believe that reafforestation is ‘the right thing’ to do, it is also a really ‘good thing’ in many more ways than AGW/CC alone. I believe at the very same time “the essential efforts to reduce emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels” will continue unabated.

    eg Using timber in construction is now a question that must include how much it tends to increase or decrease emissions and long term storage in the biosphere. imho either Industry or a body like COP should be handing out Advisories and/or “Best Practice Standards” that need to considered in each nation individually and whether or not some kind of Environmental/Energy Use regulation could apply.

    Best Practice Standards in Coal Use

    – No new coal mines approved
    – No approved coal mines to be opened
    – No existing coal mines expanded or extended in time
    – No new coal fired power plants approved or built
    – No existing coal fired power plant time extended
    – Coal fired power plants decommissioned
    – Existing Lignite/Brown coal fuel changed to Black Coal
    – Existing Coal fired power plants expanded or converted to Natural Gas
    – Facilitates R&D of CCS technology, plant and infrastructure
    – Reduce reliance on Coal imports from other nations.

    Each national Government would decide which Standards could be met immediately and which set as aspirational goals to achieve in the next decade or two. It’s much clearer for each nation to determine if their goals were achieved or not, based solely on their actions and not on dubious “global temperatures” or tons of “carbon emissions”.

    No direct penalties by COP need to be applied for a ‘breach’ of standards – as these matters (to regulate/tax or what) are political decisions made by each Government who have to be responsive to their own People. (eg Chinese protests and subsequent changes made about pollution there.)

    It’s basic Democracy – most Governments are confronted with the need to educate and inform the People they Represent about what the Government is doing and why – to justify their actions (or inaction) in the court of world opinion at COP and via the Ballot box at the next election.

    However, if the people/voters can’t convince their representative government to act constructively on all causes for AGW/CC in a rational and balanced way, then they need to do something about that.

    It’s up to the nations individually and collectively at COP what to do about recalcitrant nations who are not pulling their weight. An eternal optimist or tilting at windmills? :-)

  44. 44
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Don’t forget that that 2C target was the figure Dr James Hansen came up with years ago. It was also what he thought could be just within our reach if we all went hell for leather and started to slash our global emissions. 2C is a figure that he now concedes to be still way too high. You can only look around and see what a 1C average global rise is doing to the climate.
    That is why at Paris they were using the default figure as being 1.5C. 1.5C is still going cause catastrophic climate disruption.
    I would like to read the same article based on a 1C and 1.5C (post industrial era) global temp limit respectively.

    [Response: We’re already at or beyond 1C, and 1.5C was addressed in the post. David]

  45. 45
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    4:Russell: My God Russell, don’t give Trump too much of a swelled head.

  46. 46
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    8:Nick: I couldn’t agree more!!! I’ve got an 11y/o son so I’ll never give up fighting and educating. I’m teaching him all I understand of the science of climate change.
    Nuclear has got to be in the mix! We have no other choice given the miniscule time frame left to us.

  47. 47
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    DF: this is a site for serious discussion on Climate Change. Your comments strongly indicate that you are a troll and thus are not welcome at Real Climate. Thank you.

  48. 48
  49. 49
    Brian Blagden says:

    For a Science blog there is a considerable amount of over reaction exhibited by commentators. If you are indeed as panicked, depressed and despairing as some here suggest they are (William # 9, JSS # 15, Nick #8) then I can’t help but think that those feeling that way need to seek some form of counselling or medical intervention.

    It has long been known that panic, depression and despair are associated with wild and irrational thought and over-reaction. Claiming that you are stricken by these maladies (or making comments that suggest you may be) calls into question both your comment, and your future ability (be you a PhD, Professor, MSc student, undergrad etc.) to comment sensibly on any issue raised in this blog.

    Please, dispense with the emotion and get back to discussing science -It’s why I (and probably most) visit this blog.

  50. 50

    It is probably more accurate to say the warming since 1900 was 1°C. The 1.2°C is just one year.

    The outcome of the climate conference in Marrakesh suggests that the world is united against Trump’s America. Republican spokesman Bill O’Reilly and personal friend of Trump seems to fear a backlash and said on his television show that Trump “should accept the Paris Treaty on climate to buy some goodwill overseas”.

    I seem to be more optimistic than most, but in my view the energy transition has become inevitable. The question is how fast we will do so. America has a large historical responsibility, but is not that important for the future.

    For details, see my last blog post: Climate nightmares in America, dreams in Marrakesh.