“As early as the third page of the draft agreement is the acknowledgment that its CO2 target won’t keep the global temperate rise below 2 deg C, the level that was once set as the critical safe limit.”
– Professor Paul Beckwith (University of Ottowa) et al., Letter to The Independent, January 2016.
James Hansen struck first, predicting that the Paris accord would be a farce–then following up by labeling the agreement “bullshit.” Although he cannot seem to question his high-climate-sensitivity science conclusion, Hansen had done the math and knows that only a very high carbon tax and rush to nuclear power can reduce CO2 emissions meaningfully, not paper promises and renewable-energy subsidies.
Now comes a group of scientists arguing that since manmade greenhouse gas emissions are not going to be appreciably reduced in the next years and decades, world governments must embark on a crash course to reverse engineer the planet (a new round of public funding for sure).
Here is their letter sent to The Independent (England), which titled its article “COP21: Paris deal far too weak to prevent devastating climate change, academics warn Exclusive: Some of the world’s top climate scientists have launched a blistering attack on the deal.”
The hollow cheering of success at the end of COP21 agreement proved yet again that people will hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest. What people wanted to hear was that an agreement had been reached on climate change that would save the world while leaving lifestyles and aspirations unchanged.
What they disregarded were the deadly flaws lying just beneath its veneer of success. As early as the third page of the draft agreement is the acknowledgment that its CO2 target won’t keep the global temperate rise below 2 deg C, the level that was once set as the critical safe limit. The solution it proposes is not to agree on an urgent mechanism to ensure immediate cuts in emissions, but to kick the can down the road by committing to calculate a new carbon budget for a 1.5 deg C temperature increase that can be talked about in 2020.
Given that we can’t agree on the climate models or the CO2 budget to keep temperatures rises to 2 deg C, then we are naïve to think we will agree on a much tougher target in five years when, in all likelihood, the exponentially increasing atmospheric CO2 levels mean it will be too late.
More ominously, these inadequate targets require mankind to do something much more than cut emissions with a glorious renewable technology programme that will exceed any other past human endeavour. They also require carbon to be sucked out the air. The favoured method is to out-compete the fossil fuel industry by providing biomass for power stations. This involves rapidly growing trees and grasses faster than nature has ever done on land we don’t have, then burning it in power stations that will capture and compress the CO2 using an infrastructure we don’t have and with technology that won’t work on the scale we need and to finally store it in places we can’t find. To maintain the good news agenda, all of this was omitted from the agreement.
The roar of devastating global storms has now drowned the false cheer from Paris and brutally brought into focus the extent of our failure to address climate change. The unfortunate truth is that things are going to get much worse. The planet’s excess heat is now melting the Arctic Ice cap like a hot knife through butter and is doing so in the middle of winter. Unless stopped, this Arctic heating will lead to a rapid release of the methane clathrates from the sea floor of the Arctic and herald the next phase of catastrophically intense climate change that our civilisation will not survive.
The time for the wishful thinking and blind optimism that has characterised the debate on climate change is over. The time for hard facts and decisions is now. Our backs are against the wall and we must now start the process of preparing for geo-engineering. We must do this in the knowledge that its chances of success are small and the risks of implementation are great.
We must look at the full spectrum of geoengineering. This will cover initiatives that increase carbon sequestration by restoration of rain forests to the seeding of oceans. It will extend to solar radiation management techniques such as artificially whitening clouds and, in extremis, replicating the aerosols from volcanic activity. It will have to look at what areas that we selectively target, such as the methane emitting regions of the Arctic and which areas we avoid.
The high political and environmental risks associated with this must be made clear so that it is never used as an alternative to making the carbon cuts that are urgently needed. Instead cognisance of these must be used to challenge the narrative of wishful thinking that has infested the climate change talks for the past twenty one years and which reached its zenith with the CO21 agreement. In today’s international vacuum on this, it is imperative that our government takes a lead.
Professor Paul Beckwith, University of Ottowa
Professor Stephen Salter – Edinburgh University
Professor Peter Wadhams – Cambridge University
Professor James Kennett of University of California.
Dr Hugh Hunt – Cambridge University
Dr. Alan Gadian -Senior Scientist, Nation Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, University of Leeds
Dr. Mayer Hillman – Senior Fellow Emeritus of the Institute of the Policy Studies Institute
Dr. John Latham – University of Manchester
Aubrey Meyer – Director, Global Commons Institute.
John Nissen – Chair Arctic Methane Emergency Group
Kevin Lister – Author of “The Vortex of Violence and why we are losing the war on climate change”
Is it too much to ask that these scientists start considering that mitigation is futile to call off the climate crusade. Will they increasingly look to adaptation by free-market capitalism enabled by carbon-based energies?
Nice conclusion wish. Got a lamp to rub? I think the answer regarding turning to adaptation falls out from the endowment balances of causes committed to mitigation (and the people working for them eager to draw career-length salaries from the gains) vs. the endowment balances of institutions committed to the “what now?” if the “what if” of climate catastrophe someday (some millennium) strikes. The answer, I believe, is “Most certainly not.”
These people have lost it. This is just a sciencey way of saying let’s throw a virgin into a volcano. (maybe that’s how they’ll do aerosol release?)
Actually it’s worse. I’m particularly worried about injecting aerosols into the atmosphere. If solar physicists are correct about declining solar activity, then the added aerosols could cause problems a lot worse than one virgin dying.
Perhaps we can ask Mr. Nissen from the Arctic Methane Emergency Group if he would agree that if we cannot control the release of Arctic methane and if the integrity of the methane hydrates is at risk as well then we have no alternative but to mine this methane and burn it all as quickly as possible so as to ensure that we release CO2 instead of the more “dangerous” CH4. And we get electricity to boot.
Last month Richard Heinberg posted a paper just after Paris entitled:
“Nine issues for climate leaders to think about on the journey home”
Given the goal (+2 or 1.5 degrees above preindustrial temps) and the increases in CO2 expected in the near term I can see why “Fossil Fuel Triage”, see page 14 or the paper, is being considered:
…”We may be entering a period of fossil fuel triage. Rather than allocating fossil fuels
simply on a market basis (those who pay for them get them), it may be fairer, especially
to lower-income citizens, for government (with wartime powers) to allocate fuels
purposefully based on the strategic importance of the societal sectors that depend on
them, and on the relative ease and timeliness of transitioning those sectors to renewable
…”The political center of gravity, particularly in the United States, will have to shift
significantly before decision makers can publicly acknowledge the need for fossil fuel
link to the paper: http://www.postcarbon.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/PCI_RE-After-COP21_FINAL.pdf
‘… government with wartime powers’ … Wow. Thanks for pointing this out Mark.
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