The Policy Gap in Achieving the Emissions Goals

The Millar et al. 2017 has severe problems with the numbers, as my previous post suggested. But there is a more fundamental problem in achieving emissions goals. It is contained in the introductory paragraphs to an article lead author Richard Millar posted at Carbon Brief

The Paris Agreement set a long-term goal of limiting global warming to “well-below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to restrict it to 1.5C.

A key question for the upcoming rounds of the international climate negotiations, particularly when countries review their climate commitments next year, is exactly how fast would we have to cut emissions to reach these goals?

In a new paper, published in Nature Geoscience, we provide updated estimates of the remaining “carbon budget” for 1.5C. This is the total amount of CO2 emissions that we can still emit whilst limiting global average warming to 1.5C.

Our estimates suggest that we would have a remaining carbon budget equivalent to around 20 years at current emissions rates for a 2-in-3 chance of restricting end-of-century warming to below 1.5C.

This suggests that we have a little more breathing space than previously thought to achieve the 1.5C limit. However, although 1.5C is not yet a geophysical impossibility, it remains a very difficult policy challenge.

The problem is with the mixing of singular and plural statements. The third paragraph shows the problem.

In a new paper, published in Nature Geoscience, we provide updated estimates of the remaining “carbon budget” for 1.5C. This is the total amount of CO2 emissions that we can still emit whilst limiting global average warming to 1.5C.

In the first sentence, the collective “we” refers to the ten authors of the paper. That is Richard J. Millar, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Pierre Friedlingstein, Joeri Rogelj, Michael J. Grubb, H. Damon Matthews, Ragnhild B. Skeie, Piers M. Forster, David J. Frame & Myles R. Allen.  In the second sentence, the collective “we” refers to approximately 7500 million people on the planet, who live about 195 countries. Do they speak for all the people in Russia, India, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, China, Taiwan, North and South Korea, the United States and Australia for instance? What I would suggest is they are speaking figuratively about what they believe the world ought to be doing.

Yet the political realities are that even though most countries have signed the Paris Agreement, it does not commit them to a particular emissions pathway, nor to eliminate their emissions by a particular date. It only commits them to produce further INDC submissions every five years, along with attending meetings and making the right noises. Their INDC submissions are not scrutinized, still less sent back for “improved ambition” if they are inadequate in contributing to the aggregate global plan.

Looking at the substance of the Paris Agreement, point 17 notes gives an indication of the policy gap.

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

But the actual scale of the gap is best seen from the centerpiece graphic of the UNFCCC Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs, prepared in the run-up to COP21 Paris. Note that this website also has all the INDC submissions in three large Pdf files.

The graphic I have updated with estimates of the policy gap with my take on revised Millar et. al 2017 policy gaps shown by red arrows.

The extent of the arrows could be debated, but will not alter the fact that Millar et. al 2017 are assuming that by adjusting the figures and assuming that they are thinking for the whole world, that the emissions objectives will be achieved. The reality is that very few countries have committed to reducing their emissions by anything like an amount consistent with even a 2°C pathway. Further, that commitment is just until 2030, not for the 70 years beyond that. There is no legally-binding commitment in the Paris Agreement for a country to reduce emissions to zero sometime before the end of the century. Further, a number of countries (including Nigeria, Togo, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Iraq and Syria) have not signed the Paris Agreement – and the United States has given notification of coming out of the Agreement. Barring huge amounts of funding or some technological miracle most developing countries, with a majority of the world population, will go on increasing their emissions for decades. This includes most of the countries who were Non-Annex Developing Countries to the 1992 Rio Declaration. Collectively they accounted for just over 100% of the global GHG emissions growth between 1990 and  2012.

As some of these Countries’ INDC Submissions clearly state, most will not sacrifice economic growth and the expectations of their people’s for the unproven dogma of politicalized academic activists in completely different cultures say that the world ought to cut emissions. They will attend climate conferences and be seen to be on a world stage, then sign meaningless agreements afterward that commit them to nothing.

As a consequence, if catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is true (like the fairies at the bottom of the garden) and climate mitigation reduction targets are achieved, the catastrophic climate change will be only slightly less catastrophic and the most extreme climate mitigation countries will be a good deal poorer. The non-policy countries will the ones better off. It is the classic free-rider problem, which results in an underprovision of those goods or services. If AGW is somewhat milder, then even these countries will be no worse off.

This is what really irritates me. I live in Britain, where the Climate Change Act 2008 has probably the most ludicrous targets in the world. That Act was meant to lead the world on climate change. The then Environment Secretary David Miliband introduced the bill with this message in March 2007.

From the graphic above COP21 Paris showed that most of the world is not following Britain’s lead. But the “climate scientists” are so stuck in their manipulated models, they forget that their models and beliefs of their peers are not the realities of the wider world. The political realities mean that reduction of CO2 emissions are net harmful to the people of Britain, both now and for future generations of Britains. The activists are just as wilfully negligent in shutting down any independent review of policy as a pharmaceutical company who would push one of its products onto the consumers without an independent evaluation of both the benefits and potential side effects.

Kevin Marshall

Shotton Open Cast Coal Mine Protest as an example of Environmental Totalitarianism

Yesterday, in the Greens and the Fascists, Bishop Hill commented on Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascists. In summing up, BH stated:-

Goldberg is keen to point out that the liberal and progressive left of today do not share the violent tendencies of their fascist forebears: theirs is a gentler totalitarianism (again in the original sense of the word). The same case can be made for the greens. At least for now; it is hard to avoid observing that their rhetoric is becoming steadily more violent and the calls for unmistakably fascist policy measures are ever more common.

The link is to an article in the Ecologist (reprinted from Open Democracy blog) – “Coal protesters must be Matt Ridley’s guilty consience

The coal profits that fill Matt Ridley’s bank account come wet with the blood of those killed and displaced by the climate disaster his mines contribute to, writes T. If hgis consicence is no longer functioning, then others must step into that role to confront him with the evil that he is doing. (Spelling as in the original)

The protest consisted of blocking the road for eight hours to Shotton open cast coal mine. The reasoning was

This was an effective piece of direct action against a mine that is a major contributor to climate disaster, and a powerful statement against the climate-denying Times columnist, Viscount Matt Ridley, that owns the site. In his honour, we carried out the action as ‘Matt Ridley’s Conscience’.

The mine produces about one million tonnes of coal a year out of 8,000 million tonnes globally. The blocking may have reduced annual output by 0.3%. This will be made up from the mine, or from other sources. Coal is not the only source of greenhouse gas emissions, so the coal resulting in less than 0.004% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Further, the alleged impact of GHG emissions on the climate is cumulative. The recoverable coal at Shotton is estimated at 6 million tonnes or 0.0007% of the estimated global reserves of 861 billion tonnes (Page 5). These global reserves could increase as new deposits are found, as has happened in the recent past for coal, gas and oil. So far from being “a major contributor to climate disaster”, Shotton Open Cast Coal Mine is a drop in the ocean.

But is there a climate disaster of which Matt Ridley is in denial? Anonymous author and convicted criminal T does not offer any evidence of current climate disasters. He is not talking about modelled projections, but currently available evidence. So where are all the dead bodies, or the displaced persons? Where are the increased deaths through drought-caused famines? Where are the increased deaths from malaria or other diseases from warmer and worsening conditions? Where is the evidence of increased deaths from extreme weather, such as hurricanes? Where are the refugees from drought-stricken areas, or from low-lying areas now submerged beneath the waves?

The inability to evaluate the evidence is shown by the comment.

Ridley was ( … again) offered a platform on BBC Radio 4 just a week before our hearing, despite his views being roundly debunked by climate scientists.

The link leads to a script of the Radio 4 interview with annotated comments. I am not sure that all the collective brains do debunk (that is expose the falseness or hollowness of (an idea or belief)) Matt Ridley’s comments. Mostly it is based on nit-picking or pointing out the contradictions with their own views and values. There are two extreme examples among 75 comments I would like to highlight two.

First is that Matt Ridley mentioned the Hockey Stick graphs and the work of Steve McIntyre in exposing the underlying poor data. The lack of a medieval warm period would provide circumstantial (or indirect) evidence that the warming of the last 200 years is unprecedented. Gavin Schmidt, responded with comments (5) and (6) shown below.

Schmidt is fully aware that Steve McIntyre also examined the Wahl and Amman paper and thoroughly discredited it. In 2008 Andrew Montford wrote a long paper of the shenanigans that went into the publication of the paper, and its lack of statistical significance. Following from this Montford wrote the Hockey Stick Illusion in 2010, which was reviewed by Tamino of RealClimate. Steve McIntyre was able to refute the core arguments in Tamino’s polemic by reposting Tamino and the Magic Flute, which was written in 2008 and covered all the substantial arguments that Tamino made. Montford’s book further shows a number of instances where peer review in academic climatology journals is not a quality control mechanism, but more a device of discrimination between those that support the current research paradigm and those that would undermine that consensus.

Comment 6 concludes

The best updates since then – which include both methodology improvements and expanded data sources – do not show anything dramatically different to the basic picture shown in MBH.

The link is to Chapter 5 on the IPCC AR5 WG1 assessment report. The paleoclimate discussion is a small subsection, a distinct reversal from the prominent place given to the original hockey stick in the third assessment report of 2001. I would contend the picture is dramatically different. Compare the original hockey stick of the past 1,000 years with Figure 5.7 on page 409 of AR5 WG1 Chapter 5.

In 2001, the MBH reconstruction was clear. From 1900 to 2000 average temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere have risen by over 1C, far more than the change in any of century. But from at least two of the reconstructions – Ma08eivl and Lj10cps – there have been similarly sized fluctuations in other periods. The evidence now seems to back up Matt Ridley’s position of some human influence on temperatures, but does not support the contention of unprecedented temperature change. Gavin Schmidt’s opinions are not those of an expert witness, but of a blinkered activist.

Schmidt’s comments on hockey stick graphs are nothing compared to comment 35

The Carbon Brief (not the climate scientists) rejects evidence that contradicts their views based on nothing more than ideological prejudice. A search for Indur Goklany will find his own website, where he has copies of his papers. Under the “Climate Change” tab is not only the 2009 paper, but a 2011 update – Wealth and Safety: The Amazing Decline in Deaths from Extreme Weather in an Era of Global Warming, 1900–2010. Of interest are two tables.

Table 2 is a reproduction of World Health Organisation data from 2002. It clearly shows that global warming is well down the list of causes of deaths. Goklany states in the article why these figures are based on dubious assumptions. Anonymous T falsely believes that global warming is curr

Figure 6 for the period 1990-2010 shows

  • the Global Death and Death Rates per million Due to Extreme Weather Events
  • CO2 Emissions
  • Global average GDP Per Capita

Figure 6 provides strong empirical evidence that increasing CO2 emissions (about 70-80% of total GHG emissions) have not caused increased deaths. They are a consequence of increasing GDP per capita, which as Goklany argues, have resulted in fewer deaths from extreme weather. More importantly, increasing GDP has resulted in increased life expectancy and reductions in malnutrition and deaths that be averted by access to rudimentary health care. Anonymous T would not know this even if he had read all the comments, yet it completely undermines the beliefs that caused him to single out Matt Ridley.

The worst part of Anonymous T’s article

Anonymous T concludes the article as follows (Bold mine)

The legal process efficiently served its function of bureaucratising our struggle, making us attempt to justify our actions in terms of the state’s narrow, violent logic. The ethics of our action are so clear, and declaring myself guilty felt like folding to that.

We found ourselves depressed and demoralised, swamped in legal paperwork. Pleading guilty frees us from the stress of a court case, allowing us to focus on more effective arenas of struggle.

I faced this case from a position of relative privilege – with the sort of appearance, education and lawyers that the courts favour. Even then I found it crushing. Today my thoughts are with those who experience the racism, classism and ableism of the state and its laws in a way that I did not.

That reflection makes me even more convinced of the rightness of our actions. Climate violence strikes along imperialist lines, with those least responsible, those already most disadvantaged by colonial capitalism, feeling the worst impacts.

Those are the people that lead our struggle, but are often also the most vulnerable to repression in the struggle. When fighting alongside those who find themselves at many more intersections of the law’s oppression than I do, I have a responsibility to volunteer first when we need to face up to the police and the state.

Faced with structural injustice and laws that defend it, Matt Ridley’s Conscience had no choice but to disobey. Matt Ridley has no conscience and neither does the state nor its system of laws. Join in. Be the Conscience you want to see in the world.

The writer rejects the rule of law, and is determined to carry out more acts of defiance against it. He intends to commit more acts of violence, with “climate” as a cover for revolutionary Marxism. Further the writer is trying to incite others to follow his lead. He claims to know Matt Ridley’s Conscience better than Ridley himself, but in the next sentence claims that “Matt Ridley has no conscience“. Further this statement would seem to contradict a justification for the criminal acts allegedly made in Bedlington Magistrates Court on December 16th
that the protesters were frustrated by the lack of UK Government action to combat climate change.

It is not clear who is the author of this article, but he/she is one of the following:-

Roger Geffen, 49, of Southwark Bridge Road, London.

Ellen Gibson, 21, of Elm Grove, London;

Philip MacDonald, 28, of Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London;

Beth Louise Parkin, 29, of Dodgson House, Bidborough Street, London;

Pekka Piirainen, 23, of Elm Grove, London;

Thomas Youngman, 22, of Hermitage Road, London.

Laurence Watson, 27, of Blackstock Road, Finsbury Park, London;

Guy Shrubsole, 30, of Bavent Road, London;

Lewis McNeill, 34, of no fixed address.

Kevin Marshall

Indonesia Outflanks the Climate Activists in its INDC Submission

I have spent a few weeks trying to make sense of the INDC submissions. One of the most impenetrable appeared to that from Indonesia. This view is shared by The Carbon Brief.

Uncertain emissions

As well as being hazy on policy and financing needs, it is also difficult to gauge the ambition of Indonesia’s INDC emissions targets. This is despite the document including a projected figure for BAU emissions in 2030 of 2.9bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e).

The pledge to reduce emissions by at least 29% compared to this trajectory means an effective cap in 2030 of 2GtCO2e. With the more ambitious 41% reduction compared to BAU, the cap would be 1.7GtCO2e.

 

Similarly the World Resources Institute states

(T)he current draft contribution still displays several important gaps in transparency and ambition, which must be addressed before submitting a final INDC to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). By eliminating these gaps, the Indonesian government could bring its contribution into line with international best practices on transparency, demonstrate leadership internationally by enhancing ambition, and help ensure success at COP 21.

The context from Indonesia’s perspective is stated in the opening paragraph of Indonesia’s INDC Submission.

In more basic language, Indonesia has more important and immediate priorities than “climate change“. From a national point of view, imposing drastic and ineffective policies will go against the Indonesian Government’s perceived duty to its people. This will happen regardless of the truth of the projected catastrophes that await the planet without global mitigation. The policies will be ineffective because most other emerging economies have similar priorities to Indonesia, and are taking similar measures of policy avoidance. In the case of Indonesia these are

  • Cherry-picking a base year.
  • Making reductions relative to a fictional “Business as Usual” scenario with inflated economic growth figures.
  • Making sure that even the most ambitious objectives achievable within the range of an objective forecast.
  • Focus the negotiations on achieving the conditional objectives subject to outside assistance. Any failure to reach agreement then becomes the fault of rich countries failing to provide the finance.
  • Allow some room to make last minute concessions not in the original submission, contingent on further unspecified outside assistance that is so vast the money will never be forthcoming.

The calculations to achieve the figures in the submissions are fairly simple to work out with a bit of patience.

 

Calculating the 2030 Business as Usual 2881 MtCO2e

The Indonesian INDC submission states that in 2005 total emissions were 1800 MtCO2e and combustion of fossil fuels were 19% of this total. That implies about 342 MtCO2e from the combustion of fossil fuels. The Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC1) has an estimated figure of 341.71 MtCO2e and the UNFCCC Country Brief in 2005 “CO2 emissions from fuel combustion” were 335.71 MtCO2e. For 20112 the CDIAC estimate is 472.53 MtCO2e, rounded to 473. Let us now assume a growth rate in emissions of 6.0% per annum from 2012 to 2030, against an economic growth rate of around 5.2% from 2000 to 2010 and 5.8% from 2005 to 20103. At 6.0% compound growth fossil fuel emissions in 20304 will be 1431 MtCO2e.

The non-fossil fuel emissions are a bit more problematic to work out. In 2005 the baseline estimate is 81% of 18005 is 1458. It is only a vague estimate, so round it down to 1450 and then assume it is constant for the Business as Usual (BAU) scenario.

The BAU 2030 total emissions forecast for Indonesia is therefore 1431 + 1450 = 2881 MtCO2e.

There might be other ways to derive this figure, but none are simpler and the figures do not fall out exactly.

 

How does Indonesia achieve the unconditional 29% reduction against BAU?

The easiest part to achieve is outside of fossil fuel emissions. The major cause of these emissions is in the reduction of the rainforests. The Carbon Brief is claims the biggest source of non-fossil fuel emissions is due to illegal forest clearances to grow palm oil. Although in 2015 the forest fires are closing in on the record set in 1997, it is safe to say that that these will reduce considerably in the coming years as Indonesia already has 52% of world palm oil production. By assuming a 3.34% reduction per annum in these emissions from 2005, they will reduce from 1450 MtCO2e to 611 MtCO2e in 2030. Total emissions of 2042 MtCO2e (1431+611) are 29.1% lower than BAU without an expense on the part of the Indonesian Government.

 

How does Indonesia achieve the conditional 41% reduction against BAU?

Indonesia claims that it needs international cooperation increase the reduction against BAU to 41%. In whole numbers, if BAU is 2881 a 41% reduction would make 1700. Not 1699 or 1701, but 1700. This is 100 less than the estimated 1800 MtCO2e total GHG emissions for 2005. This will be achieved without any “international cooperation“, a euphemism for foreign aid. The reason is simple. From the UNFCCC Indonesia Country Brief for Indonesia GDP growth for 1990 to 2012 average GDP growth per annum was 4.9% and CO2 emissions from fuel combustion was 5.1%. Normally GDP growth exceeds emissions growth. As a country develops this gap will widen until emissions growth ceases altogether and will even fall slightly. In India GDP growth from 1990 to 2012 averaged 6.5% and emissions growth was 5.7%. In China the respective figures are 10.3% and 6.1%. In China, emissions will peak around 2025 to 2030 without any policy change. It is reasonable to assume therefore that forecast fossil fuel emissions growth will be at a lower rate than the forecast GDP growth of 6.0%. A conservative estimate is that the fossil fuel emissions growth rate will be 25% lower than GDP growth rate from 2011 to 2030 at 4.50%. Rounding as before4 gives forecast emissions of 1089 MtCO2e as against a BAU of 1431.

The revised 2030 total emissions forecast for Indonesia is 1089 + 611 = 1700 MtCO2e. This is a 41.0% reduction on the BAU of 2881 MtCO2e.

 

Why should Indonesia have such a cynical manipulation of the numbers?

Indonesia is caught between a rock and a hard place. The stated major priorities for this country of 250 million people are at odds with doing its bit to save the world. In this Indonesia is not alone. India, China, and Vietnam are other major emerging nations who site other priorities. Ranged against them are the activist scientists behind the climate scare who hold the a priori truth of the prophesied global warming catastrophes that await the planet if we do not amend out wicked ways. Further, mitigation policies are good for the sole, regardless of their effectiveness, and the practice of these policies will lead others to enlightenment they have found. They will not recognize that any alternative points of view exist, whether morally, politically or scientifically. Rather than argue, the best policy is to outflank them. The activists will accept official policy objectives without question so long as it appears to fit the cause. So the Indonesians gave them massive cuts related to fictitious projected figures, cloaked with the language of climate speak to throw them off the scent. They should be applauded for protecting 250 million people, rather than inflicting ineffective burdens upon them. The real shame is that the leaders of the so-called developed economies have fallen for this rubbish.

Kevin Marshall

Notes

  1. Reference of the full global carbon budget 2014: C. Le Quéré, R. Moriarty, R. M. Andrew, G. P. Peters, P. Ciais, P. Friedlingstein, S. D. Jones, S. Sitch, P. Tans, A. Arneth, T. A. Boden, L. Bopp, Y. Bozec, J. G. Canadell, F. Chevallier, C. E. Cosca, I. Harris, M. Hoppema, R. A. Houghton, J. I. House, A. K. Jain, T. Johannessen, E. Kato, R. F. Keeling, V. Kitidis, K. Klein Goldewijk, C. Koven, C. S. Landa, P. Landschützer, A. Lenton, I. D. Lima, G. H. Marland, J. T. Mathis, N. Metzl, Y. Nojiri, A. Olsen, T. Ono, W. Peters, B. Pfeil, B. Poulter, M. R. Raupach, P. Regnier, C. Rödenbeck, S. Saito, J. E. Sailsbury, U. Schuster, J. Schwinger, R. Séférian, J. Segschneider, T. Steinhoff, B. D. Stocker, A. J. Sutton, T. Takahashi, B. Tilbrook, G. R. van der Werf, N. Viovy, Y.-P. Wang, R. Wanninkhof, A. Wiltshire, and N. Zeng 2014. Global Carbon Budget 2014. Earth System Science Data Discussions, doi:10.5194/essdd-7-521-2014
  2. 2011 is the baseline year for the IPCC reports.
  3. This can be obtained from two sources. First the INDC submission notes that “GDP Growth Rate has slowed between 2010-2015 from 6.2-6.5% per annum to only 4.0% per annum (first quarter of 2015).” A return to the higher levels of growth is an assumption of successful government policy.
  4. Each year growth of 6.0% is rounded to the nearest whole number.
  5. The 2005 total emissions estimate of 1800 MtCO2 is at odds with other estimates. The WRI CAIT 2.0 figure is 1600; the EDGAR estimate is 1171; and the UNFCCC estimate is 2828. There might be another method of estimation. Maybe it is being a bit too cynical to assume that someone could have taken the average of the three (1866) and rounded down.