Time will run out to prevent 2°C warming barrier being breached

I have a number of times referred to a graphic “Figure 2 Summary of Results” produced by the UNFCCC for the Paris COP21 Climate Conference in December 2015. It was a centerpiece of the UNFCCC Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs.

The updated graphic (listed as Figure 2, below the Main Document pdf) is below

This shows in yellow the impact of the INDC submissions covering the period 2015 to 2030) if fully implemented against limiting warming to 2°C  and 1.5°C . This showed the gulf between the vague policy reality and the targets. Simply put, the net result of the INDCs submissions would insufficient for global emissions to peal Yet in reaching an “agreement” the representatives of the entire world collectively put off recognizing that gulf.

For the launch of the UNIPCC AR5 synthesis report in 2014, there were produced a set of slides to briefly illustrate the policy problem. This is slide 20 of 35, showing the  reduction pathways.

 

The 2°C  of warming central estimate is based upon total GHG emissions in the 21st Century being around 2500 GtCO2e.

At the launch of 2006 Stern Review Sir Nicholas Stern did a short Powerpoint presentation. Slide 4 of the PDF file is below.

 

The 450ppm CO2e emissions pathway is commensurate with 2°C  of warming. This is based upon total GHG emissions in the 21st Century being around 2000 GtCO2e, with the other 500 GtCO2e presumably coming in the 22nd Century.

The UNFCCC Paris graphic is also based on 2500 GtCO2e it is also possible to calculate the emissions reduction pathway if we assume (a) All INDC commitments are met (b) Forecasts are correct (c) no additional mitigation policies are enacted.

I have produced a basic graph showing the three different scenarios.

The Stern Review assumed global mitigation policy would be enacted around 2010. Cumulative 21st Century emissions would then have been around 450 GtCO2e. With 500 GtCO2e allowed for post 2100, this gave average emissions of around 17 GtCO2e per annum for the rest of the century. 17 GtCO2e, is just under 40% of the emissions in the year the policy would be enacted.

IPCC AR5  assumed global mitigation policy would be enacted around 2020. Cumulative 21st Century emissions would then have been around 950 GtCO2e. A presentation to launch the Synthesis Report rounded this to 1000 GtCO2e as shown in slide 33 of 35.

Assuming that global emissions were brought to zero by the end of the century, this gave average emissions of 20 GtCO2e per annum for the rest of the century. 20 GtCO2e, is just under 40% of the emissions in the year the theoretical global policy would be enacted. The stronger assumption of global emissions being reduced to zero before the end of the century, along with a bit of rounding, offsets the delay.

If the Paris Agreement had been fully implemented, then by 2030 cumulative 21st Century emissions would have around 1500 GtCO2e, leaving average emissions of around 14 GtCO2e per annum for the rest of the century. 17 GtCO2e, is just over 25% of the emissions in the year the policy would be enacted. The failure of the Paris Agreement makes it necessary for true global mitigation policies, if in place by 2030, to be far more drastic that those of just a few years before to achieve the same target.

But the Paris Agreement will not be fully implemented. As Manhatten Contrarian (hattip The GWPF) states, the US was the only major country proposing to reduce its emissions. It looks like China, India, Indonesia, Russia and Germany will all increase their emissions. Further, there is no indication that most countries have any intention of drastically reduce their emissions. To pretend otherwise is to ignore a truism, what I will term the First Law of Climate Mitigation

To reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the aggregate reduction in countries that reduce their emissions must be greater than aggregate increase in emissions in all other countries.

Modeled projections and targets are rendered meaningless if this truism is ignored. Yet this is what the proposers of climate mitigation policy have been effectively doing for many years. Emissions will therefore breach the mythical 2°C warming barrier, but based on recent data I believe warming will be nowhere near that level.

Kevin Marshall

 

 

IPCC AR5 Synthesis Report Presentation Miscalculated the Emissions for 2C of Warming

In a previous post I mistakenly claimed that the Ladybird Book on Climate Change (lead author HRH The Prince of Wales) had incorrectly interpreted the AR5 IPCC Synthesis Report in its egg-timer. It is the IPCC that is at fault.
In 2014 the IPCC produced a simplified presentation of 35 slides to summarize the AR5 Synthesis Report Summary for policy makers. A quick summary of a summary of the synthesis report.

Slide 30 on Limiting Temperature Increase to 2C, clearly states that it is global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are needed.


The Ladybird egg-timer is adapted from slide 33 of 35.

As a (slightly manic) beancounter I like to reconcile the figures. How are the 1900 GtCO2 and the 1000 GtCO2 arrived at? It could be that it is GtCO2e, like the throughout the synthesis report, where other greenhouse gases are recast in terms of CO2, which accounts for well over half of the warming from trace gases.

Some assumptions for my quick calculations.

1. A doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of 3C. This was the central estimate of the Charney Report 1979 (pdf), along with all five of the UNIPCC assessment reports.
2. If the pre-industrial level of CO2 was 280ppm, the dangerous 2C of warming will be reached at 445ppm. Rounded this is 450ppm.
3. In 2011 the Mauna Loa CO2 level was 391.63 ppm.
4. Using the CDIAC World CO2 emission figures, gives the following figures for billions of tonnes of CO2 to achieve a 1ppm rise in CO2 levelsin the graph below. In the five years to 2011 on average it took 17.02 billion tonnes of CO2 to raise CO2 levels by 1 ppm. Lets round it to 17.

Now some quick calculations.
Start with 280ppm
Add 111.76 (=1900/17) gives 391.76. Pretty close to the CO2 level in 2011 of 391.63ppm
Add 58.82 (=1000/17) gives 450.58. Given rounding, this pretty close to 450ppm.

There are problems with these calculations.

  • The estimate of 17 GtCO2e is on the high side. The World CO2 emissions from the CDIAC National Emissions spreadsheet gives a sum of 1069.68 GtCO2 from 1960 to 2011, against a rise in CO2 of 74.72 ppm. That is 14.3 GtCO2e over the whole period. Since 2011 there has been a drop towards this long-term average.
  • The Ladybird Book, like the UNFCCC at COP21 Paris December 2015 talks about restraining emissions to 1.5C. If a doubling of CO2 leads to 3.000C of warming then going from 280ppm to 401ppm (the average level in 2015) will eventually 1.555C of warming. This is a tacit admission that climate sensitivity is vastly overstated.
  • But the biggest error of all is that CO2 is only the major greenhouse gas (if you forget about water vapour). It might be the majority of the warming impact and two-thirds of emissions, but it is not all the warming impact according to theory. That alone would indicate that climate sensitivity was 2 instead of 3. But actual warming from 1780 to 2011 was less than 1C, against the 1C from CO2 alone if CS=2. That indicates that CS ≈ 1.3. But not all of the warming in the last 230 years has been due to changes in GHG levels. There was also recovery from the Little Ice Age. Worst of all for climate alarmism is the divergence problem. In this century the rate of warming should have increased as the rate of CO2 levels increased, in turn due to an increase in the rate of rise in CO2 emissions. But warming stopped. Even with the impact of a strong El Nino, the rate of warming slowed dramatically.

 

Conclusion

The IPCC calculated their figures for 1000 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions for 2C of warming based on CO2 being the only greenhouse gas and a doubling of CO2 levels producing 3C of warming. On that basis 401ppm CO2 level should produce >1.5C of warming. Add in other greenhouse gases and we are in for 2C of warming without any more greenhouse gas emissions. It is only if climate sensitivity is much lower is it theoretically possible to prevent 2C of warming by drastically reducing global CO2 emissions. The IPCC, have concocted figures knowing that they do not reconcile back to their assumptions.

The questions arise are (a) where do the cumulative emissions figures come from? and (b) whether the UNIPCCC has copied these blatant errors in the COP processes?

This is an extended version of a comment made a Paul Homewoods’ notalotofpeopleknowthat blog.

Kevin Marshall

Update on a Global Carbon Tax

In a previous post I looked a statement made by Richard Tol in his recent paper The Structure of the Climate Debate

Only a modest carbon tax is needed to keep atmospheric concentrations below a high target but the required tax rapidly increases with the stringency of the target. If concentrations are to be kept below 450 ppm CO2eq, the global carbon tax should reach some $210/tCO2 in 2020 or so (Tol 2013).

Tol, to his credit, replied to me (and others) in the cliscep comments. In particular

Note that these climate policies consist of two components: An initial carbon tax, and its rate of increase (4-6% a year).

The $210 carbon tax in 2020 is just a starting point. With a 5% escalation, it would double every 14 years making the carbon tax $910 in 2050, $3070 in 2075 and $10,400 in 2100. The escalator is the far more important aspect in reducing demand for fossil fuels through a combination of reducing energy use and switching to more expensive (and often less convenient) renewable sources. The escalator was not clear in the original article, and Richard Tol has agreed to make a correction.

Consider again just imposing a fixed $210 carbon tax. From the British perspective the additional tax on petrol (gasoline), with 20% VAT applied, is equivalent to 47p a litre added to the retail price. The tax is already nearly 70p a litre, so unlikely to have the impact on motorists of reducing their consumption by 90% or more. Even with the tax at 200p a litre implied by a $910 t/CO2 tax (making petrol £3.13 a litre) may not achieve this objective. For a car doing 15000 miles at 39mpg, this would generate an additional cost to the owner of £3500 per year. It would still be less than the depreciation on a family car averaged over the first three years. It might also be less than the full costs of converting to electric cars, particularly if the roll-out was not subsidized on the purchase cost and provision of charging points. Within the UK, the carbon tax would also replace the current renewables policy. Here the escalator would really hit home. For coal-fired power stations producing 400kg CO2 per megawatt hour, the carbon tax would be £70Mwh in 2020 and £300Mwh in 2050. Gas-fired power stations would have a tax of about half that level. Even wind turbines, backed by massive pump-storage schemes would be much cheaper. Nuclear power would be the cheapest alternative of all. But British voters are hardly going to keep on voting for a Government that imposes real increases in taxes of five percent a year until they become unaffordable except for the very rich.

However, it is from the global perspective that the cost of the carbon tax really hits home. In another comment Tol says

The big worry for climate policy, studiously avoided by the majority of its advocates, is that you need lots of cheap energy in the early stages of economic development.

It is worth stating again that a Global Carbon Tax needs to be Global to achieve the desired objectives. From the UNIPCC AR5 Synthesis Report Summary for Policy Makers is graphic SPM11(a). This shows the non-policy or Business as Usual RCP8.5 scenario, where emissions in 2100 are projected to be over 2.5 times the level of 2010. The 2C warming target is the RCP2.6 scenario. I have inserted a big arrow to show the difference that the global carbon tax needs to make. It can be demonstrated that most of the emissions growth will come from the developing countries, following the pattern from at least 1990.


The scale of the harm of policy is by assuming that the $210 carbon tax is applied without any change in demand at all, using the estimated CO2 emissions from fossil fuels for 2013 from CDIAC and the IMF 2015 GDP figures for ballpark estimates.
Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels were about 33.8 billion tonnes (two-thirds of total GHG emissions). A $210 carbon tax without any effect on demand would thus generate $7100 bn. This represents nearly 10% of global GBP of $73500bn. If we assume 2% emissions growth and 3% economic growth, then the carbon tax would represent 9.6% of GDP in 2020 without any drop in emissions.
Here is the same calculation for selected countries using 2013 emissions and GDP data.

30-33% Iran, Russia, South Africa
19-20% India, China
16-18% Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam
11-14% Poland, Czech Republic, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia.
7% Bangladesh, Philippines
6-7% USA, Japan, Canada, Australia
4-5% Spain. Germany, Nigeria
UK 3.4% France 2.9%

The highest tax rates are a result of inefficient economic systems. Iran has subsidised petrol, effectively a negative carbon tax. South Africa’s high emissions are as a result of apartheid. Oil embargoes caused it to convert coal to liquids, a process that generates 4-5 times the CO2 of burning coal alone. Russia, in common with its neighbours, still has the legacy of the economically-inefficient communism.
The carbon tax would also be high as a proportion of GDP for the rapidly emerging economies. It highlights the Tol’s comment about needing lots of cheap energy in the early stages of economic development. With higher fossil fuel emissions per $1000 of GDP the impact on output would be relatively greater in the emerging economies than in the OECD. A globally uniform carbon tax would end up transferring back some manufacturing back to the more energy efficient economies, slowing economic growth and thus emissions growth.
More importantly, emerging countries have large parts of the population with very low energy consumption. Even those with access to gas and electricity have much lower energy consumption than is typical in the West, whether from heating, air conditioning, cooking, or private transport. Pushing up the cost of energy will massively slow down the spread of consumerism and consequent improvements in living standards.

Three years ago I looked at the takeaway policy quote from the Stern Review.

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year.

I largely agree with Richard Tol when he states that a carbon tax is the optimal policy in terms of maximum effect for minimum cost, at least with respect to fossil fuel emissions. Yet a high, and rapidly increasing, carbon tax would cost far more than 1% of global GDP each year, even if the additional tax revenue was spent efficiently and/or used to reduce other taxes. But the most pernicious effects would be felt in the effects on long-term economic growth – the very growth that is moving billions of people out of poverty towards the far better living standards we enjoy in the Western World. The  carbon tax does not present a feasible policy even in theory to achieve the objectives desired. Yet is, in theory, the best policy available.

Kevin Marshall

Plans to Increase Global Emissions at COP21 Paris

Summary

It is a necessary, but far from sufficient, condition to cut global greenhouse gas emissions for any increases in emissions in some parts of the world to be offset by emissions cuts elsewhere. INDC submissions for the COP21 in Paris contain proposed emissions targets between 2010 and 2030 suggest the opposite will be case. For every tonne of emissions reductions in 32 leading developed countries there will be at least three tonnes of emissions increases in 7 major developing countries. The net effect of these targets being achieved from these countries (which combined make up both 60% of global emissions and 60% of global population) will be to make global emissions 20% higher in 2030 than 2010. Using UNIPCC AR5 projections, unless there are large and rapid cuts in in global greenhouse emissions post 2030, any agreement based those submissions will not save the world from two degrees of dangerous global warming and will likely not save the world from three degrees of warming. This leads to a policy problem. Emissions reduction policies will only reduce a small part of the harms of climate change. So even if the more extreme claims of climate catastrophism are true, then it might be more beneficial for a nation to avoid emissions reduction policies.

Assumptions

In the following analysis makes these assumptions.

  • UNIPCC estimates of the relationship between global average temperature and atmospheric greenhouse gas levels are accurate.
  • UNIPCC estimates of the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric greenhouse gas levels are accurate.
  • Policy commitments will always turn into concrete policy.
  • Climate change policy priorities will not conflict with other priorities.
  • All policy will be effectively implemented in full, implying the requisite technological and project management capacities are available.

The Context

The World’s leaders meeting from 30 November to December 11 in Paris together to thrash out a plan to save the world from a dangerous two degrees of warming. In preparation 146 countries, representing 87% of Global Emissions have submitted plans to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These are available at the submissions website here. There is no-one who has gone through to evaluate whether these submissions are consistent with this objective. I have chosen a small sample of 7 major developing nations and 32 developing nations (EU 28 have a single target) which combined represent about 60% of global emissions and 60% of global population.

The level of global emissions control required to constrain global warming is given by the IPCC in their final version of the 2014 AR5 Synthesis Report page 21 Figure SPM 11(a) and reproduced below.

The dark blue band is the maximum emissions pathway to avoid going beyond 2 degrees of warming, with RCP2.6 denoting the central pathway. The dark orange pathway would produce 2.5-3.0 degrees of warming. According to the figure SPM 5(a) Annual GHG emissions in 2010 were 49 GtCO2. They are currently increasing by at least 2% a year. The extrapolated projection for 2030 is 70-75 GtCO2, roughly following the solid black line of the RCP8.5 BAU (non-policy) scenario. In 2015 this will be about 54 GtCO2. The minimum for policy is that global emissions should be at least no higher than they were in 2010, and preferably below that level to offset the cumulative overshoot that will occur.

How does the global policy requirement fit in with the country submissions?

If the IPCC projections are correct, to avoid 2 degrees of warming being exceeded there needs to be a global cap on greenhouse gas emissions of around 50 GtCO2 almost immediately and for that level to start to start falling in the early 2020s. Alternatively, if global emissions reach 60 GtCO2 without any prospect of major reductions thereafter then from the model projections three degrees of warming is likely to be exceeded. There is a large gap between these two scenarios, but even with submissions from a limited number of the major countries it is possible to state that the lower limit will be exceeded. This can be done by calculating emissions increases in the major high growth developing countries and the proposed emissions reductions in the major developed countries. This is not straight forward, as in most country submissions there are no clear figures, so various assumptions need to be made. For developing countries this is particularly difficult, as the estimated business as usual (BAU) emissions are usually not stated and are dependent upon assumptions of economic growth, though sometimes there are clues within the text. For the developed countries the projections are easier to calculate, as they are relative to a date in the past. There is a further issue of which measure of emissions to use. I have used the UNFCCC issued estimates of GHG emissions in its Country Briefs for 1990, 2000, 2005 & 2010.1 In many of the submissions there often both conditional and unconditional estimates of 2030 emissions. For developing countries the lower estimates are dependent on external funding. For the other countries, emissions reductions are expressed as a range. In every case I have used the lower emissions figure.2

For the developing countries, those with major projected emissions increases countries are as follows.3

Estimated targeted emissions increases from 2010 to 2030 for major developing countries based on INDC Submissions
Country

Emissons Change

INDC Submission

Country Brief

Mexico

30%

Mexico

Mexico

China

55%

China

China

Indonesia

90%

Indonesia

Indonesia

Turkey

115%

Turkey

Turkey

India

138%

India

India

Bangladesh

250%

Bangladesh

Bangladesh

Vietnam

260%

Vietnam

Vietnam

The targeted total increase GHG for these seven countries between 2010 and 2030 is estimated to be in excess of 13 Gt.

According to World Bank Data there were 3300 million people in these seven countries in 2013, or 46% of the global population.

For the developed countries those with the largest quantitative emissions reductions are as follows.4

Estimated targeted emissions change from 2010 to 2030 for major developed countries from INDC Submissions
Country

Emissons Change

INDC Submission

Country Brief

Australia

-30%

Australia

Australia

Canada

-29%

Canada

Canada

EU

-40%

EU

EU

Japan

-20%

Japan

Japan

USA

-28%

USA

USA

The targeted total decrease GHG for these thirty-two countries between 2010 and 2030 is estimated to be 4 Gt.

According to World Bank Data there were 900 million people in these thirty-two countries in 2013, or 13% of the global population.

For every one tonne of emissions reduction by developed countries, it will be replaced by at least three tonnes of emissions elsewhere. Bigger reductions by these developed countries will not close the gap, as their total 2010 emissions are just 12.9 G. The developing countries do not include a single African country, nor Pakistan, Iran, Venezuela, or numerous other countries. Yet it does include all the major developed countries.

Whilst the developing countries way not achieve this increase in emissions by 2030, collectively they will achieve this increase shortly after that date. Many of the developed countries may not achieve the emissions reductions due to changing priorities. For instance the EU targets reduction may not be achieved due to Germany abandoning nuclear power in favour of coal and Southern European states reducing renewables subsidies as a response to recent economic crises.

The Elephant in the Room

In 2030, even with an agreement based on the INDC submissions signed this December in Paris, and then fully implemented without compromise there is still a problem. If the IPCC models are correct, the only way to stop the 3 degrees of warming being exceeded is through rapid reductions in emissions in those countries where emissions have recently peaked (e.g. South Korea and China) along with steep reductions in emissions of countries where they are still increasing rapidly (e.g. India and Bangladesh). Unless a technological miracle happens in the next decade this is not going to happen. More likely is that global emissions may keep on rising as many slower-growing African and Asian nations have ever larger unit increases in emissions each year.

The Policy Problem

The justification for mitigation policy is most clearly laid out in the British 2006 Stern Review Summary of Conclusions page vi

Using the results from formal economic models, the Review estimates that if we don’t act, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts is taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20% of GDP or more.

That is the unknown and random costs of climate change can be exchanged for the lesser and predictable costs of policy. A necessary, but far from sufficient, condition of this happening is that policy will eradicate all the prospective costs of climate change. It could be that if warming is constrained to less than 2 degrees the costs of climate change would be trivial, so the reality could be a close approximation of Stern’s viewpoint. But if warming exceeds 3 degrees and the alleged harms are correct, then emissions reducing policies are likely to lead to net harms for the countries implementing those policies and a small net benefit for those countries without policy.

Kevin Marshall

Notes

  1. The exception is for Bangladesh. They are one of the few countries that clearly lays out 2030 estimates in MtCO2, but the 2010 estimate is about 20% lower than the UNFCCC figure. I have just lifted the Bangladeshi figures.
  2. For instance the USA the target is to reduce is emissions 26-28% on the 2005 level. I have used the 28% figure. The United States is about the only country not providing target figures for 2030. I would be imprudent to assume any greater reductions given that it is not certain even this level will be ratified by Congress.
  3. Not all the countries outside of the rich are targeting emissions increases. Brazil and Argentina are targeting emissions reductions, whilst Thailand and South Korea would appear to be targeting to maintaining emissions at around 2010 levels.
  4. Not all developed countries have emissions reduction targets.
  5. South Korea with 1.3% of 2010 global emissions could be included in developed countries, but its target it is to roughly maintain emissions at 2010 levels. Switzerland, Norway and Singapore are all committed to emissions reductions, but combined they have less 0.3 GT of emissions.