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Quantifying our Faustian bargain with fossil fuels 

Quantifying our Faustian bargain with fossil fuels 

Our Faustian bargain: the byproduct of burning dirty
fossil fuels are short-lived atmospheric aerosols
which provide temporary cooling

The climate system will heat well past 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) and perhaps up to 2°C without any further fossil fuel emissions. That’s the conclusion to be drawn from new research which should also help demystify the rhetoric from the 2015 Paris climate talks of keeping warming to below 1.5°C .

It’s not that 1.5°C isn’t dangerous: in fact, at just 1–1.1°C of warming to date, climate change is already dangerous. A safe climate would be well below the present level of warming, unless you think it is OK to destroy the Arctic ecosystem, tip West West Antarctic glaciers into a self-accelerating melt, and lose the world’s coral reefs, just for starters.

The new research quantifies the effect of losing the very temporary planetary cooling provided by atmospheric aerosols.
Aerosols (including black-carbon soot, organic carbon, sulphates and nitrates and dust) are very short-lived particles in the atmosphere that have a cooling impact that lasts around a week. Most of these aerosols are anthropogenic, that is produced by human activity, and most of the anthropogenic aerosols are a byproduct of the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Perhaps best known are the polluting sulphates and nitrates from coal-fired power stations, that combine with water molecules in the atmosphere to produce what is popularly known as “acid rain”.

The problem is our “Faustian bargain”: these aerosols are keeping the planet cooler than it would otherwise be, but are coming from burning fossil fuels that pour carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, heating the planet for centuries to come. The absolutely essential moves to eliminate fossil fuel emissions will also cut the cooling aerosol impact; the net effect will push the planet towards very dangerous warming conditions.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The climate and the commons

The climate and the commons

The Paris agreement that ensued from the COP-21 summit states that “climate change is a common concern of humankind”. This brings to mind the position taken by an increasing number of climate activists: the atmosphere needs to be managed as a commons.*

There are plenty of precedents to draw from, precedents which prove that it’s entirely doable and not really all that complicated. Over the course of several decades Elinor Ostrom and her colleagues carried out extensive research on effectively managed commons around the world, and drew up a set of guidelines that could be applied to the atmosphere as well. That’s what this article will discuss.

If we take a look at existing commons we quickly notice a problem however. There’s very little correlation between their structures and the assumptions about managing the atmosphere that form the basis of the Paris agreement. This isn’t to say that the Paris agreement needs to be rewritten, but rather, that we need a back-up framework to ensure that the things that need doing actually get done.

As many observers have noted, the Paris agreement

– assumes that the atmosphere can be managed without any clearly defined rules governing its use. The agreement lacks a mechanism to ensure that most fossil fuels will stay in the ground. Indeed, its phrasing implies that we will probably have to resort to unproven and risky geoengineering or carbon capture and storage in order to try and meet its target of net zero emissions in the second half of this century.
– – fails to ensure that everyone affected by decisions about the climate will have a voice in the decision-making process.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Paris Gravity Well, Part II: Trillionization

The Paris Gravity Well, Part II: Trillionization

“We will not suddenly convert steel mills, cement kilns and road surfacing machines to operate on sunbeams.”

Charlie said, “That’s the trouble. You see it the way the banking industry sees it and they make money by manipulating money irrespective of effects in the real world. You’ve spent a trillion dollars of American taxpayers’ money over the lifetime of the bank and there’s nothing to show for it. You go into poor countries and force them to sell their assets to foreign investors and to switch from subsistence agriculture to cash crops. Then, when the prices of those crops collapse, you call this “nicely competitive” on the world market. The local populations starve and you then insist on austerity measures even though your actions have shattered their economy….

“You were intended to be the Marshall Plan, and instead you’ve been carpetbaggers.”

— Kim Stanley Robinson, Sixty Days and Counting: Science in the Capitol (2007).

“With fundamentals changing slowly and risk appetite falling rapidly, the stage is set for a longer period of risk asset underperformance,” Jabaz Mathai, a strategist at Citigroup Inc., said.  “There is no quick fix to the headwinds facing global growth.”
“Similar periods of weakness have occurred in only five other instances since 1985: (1) the majority of 1988, (2) the first half of 1991, (3) several weeks in early 1996, (4) late 2000 and early 2001, and (5) late 2008 and the majority of 2009 … all either overlapped with a recession, or preceded a recession by a few quarters.” There has been a storm brewing since the last trifle with full-on collapse in 2008-2009. The extend-and-pretend debt balloon was reinflated and stretched to new enormities as Keynesian cash infusions fueled a Minsky Moment, if not a Korowicz Crunch.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate Insurgency After Paris

Climate Insurgency After Paris

olr_monthlymean_md

NASA.

In December of 2015 – the earth’s hottest year since recordkeeping began — 195 nations met in Paris to forge an agreement to combat global warming. The governments of the world acknowledged their individual and collective duty to protect the earth’s climate — and then willfully refused to perform that duty. What did they agree to, and how should the people they govern respond?

The 195 nations meeting in Paris unanimously agreed to the goal of keeping global warming “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and to pursue efforts “to limit the increase in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” Despite that goal, the Paris agreement also permits the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that cause global warming to continue rising.

Under the Paris agreement, governments put forward any targets they want – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) – with “no legal requirement dictating how, or how much, countries should cut emissions.”[1] These voluntary commitments don’t come into effect until 2020 and generally end in 2025-2030.

Today there are 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in the atmosphere, far above the 350 ppm climate scientists regard as the safe upper limit. Even in the unlikely event that all nations fulfill their INDC pledges, carbon in the atmosphere is predicted to increase to 670 ppm by the end of this century.[2] The global temperature will rise an estimated 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.[3] For comparison, a 1-degree Celsius increase has been enough to cause all the effects of climate change we have seen so far, from Arctic melting to desertification. In short, the agreement authorizes the continued and even increased destruction of the earth’s climate.

US negotiators were adamant that the agreement must not include any binding restrictions on emissions. Secretary of State John Kerry told fellow negotiators that he “wished that we could include specific dates and figures for emissions cuts and financial aid” to developing countries, but “this could trigger a review by the US brecherclimateSenate that could scuttle the entire agreement.”[4]

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate Change and the Horse Manure Catastrophe

Climate Change and the Horse Manure Catastrophe


One of the reasons of the success of the motor car in replacing horses was that cars didn’t leave solid waste behind. It would take almost a century to understand that the exhaust of motor vehicles is way more toxic and polluting than anything that the rear of a horse could produce. (Above, 1898 car ad). 

The success of the Paris climate conference may have been only partial, but it has surely thrown into some disarray the anti-science party. For instance, at the National Review, they haven’t been able to criticize the Paris agreement with anything better than the old canard of “the horse manure catastrophe,” (see here for the origin of the story). Their recent piece on this subject is titled “Why Climate Change Won’t Matter in 20 Years” and it is penned by Josh Gelernter. It contains nothing new, but it is a slick and well-written piece that deserves some attention.

The central argument of the text derives from the horse manure pollution problem in the 19th century. Gelernter cites Michael Crichton and says,

What environmental problems would men in 1900 have predicted for 2000? Where to get enough horses, and what to do with all the manure. “Horse pollution was bad in 1900,” said Crichton. How much worse would someone in 1900 expect it to be a century later, with so many more people riding horses?”

From here, the text goes on listing the many changes that we have seen since that time and arguing that, today, it is impossible to predict what technology will be like in a hundred years from now, and that even 20 years from now climate change will not be a problem anymore.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Shaky Promise on Global Warming

A Shaky Promise on Global Warming


Paris was certainly 2015’s center for ticking bombs. The year was bracketed by major terrorist attacks in Paris – first in January (murders at Charlie Hebdo’s offices) and in November (shootings and bombings that killed 130 people at several locations) – and ended with a December environmental conference which, given its non-binding results, opens the door to even more terror, albeit of a different kind, into the next century and beyond.

The 21st Conference of Parties, or COP21, ended in Paris on Dec. 12. If you are not familiar with the name or acronym, it refers to the latest gathering of nations (195 of them) looking toward a collective decision to limit global warming by slowing the release of greenhouse gases. Following the conference closure there was a short spate of positive reactions that has now been followed by a rather ominous silence.

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other heads of state and delegations, observe a minute of silence for the Paris attack victims during the opening ceremony of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), at the Parc des Expositions du Bourget in Le Bourget, Paris, France, Nov. 30, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and other heads of state and delegations, observe a minute of silence for the Paris attack victims during the opening ceremony of the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), in Paris, France, Nov. 30, 2015. (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Until very recently there was a large number of people — mostly business people, lobbyists and politicians — who denied that human practices, such as the use of fossil fuels, had any significant impact on planetary warming, and some dismissed the idea of warming altogether. These numbers seem to have shrunk, and most of those still adhering to such notions are not often heard in public. This muted opposition helped pave the way for the at once limited and over-hyped result achieved at the Paris conference.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A State of Confusion

A State of Confusion

The EU and its Member States wish to communicate the following INDC. The EU and its Member States are committed to a binding target of an at least 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 1990.

In dark blue the reference year of 1990 and the target years of 2020 and 2030. CO2 emissions from BP, GDP growth from The World Bank. Implementation of Kyoto in 2005 sent Europe’s CO2 emissions onto a downward trajectory… and GDP growth with it? The rise in energy prices caused by a peak in conventional oil production, unsustainable growth in debt, the € project and the outbreak of WWIII make the big picture somewhat more complex.

So this is not a “National” but a group submission, and while it says “binding”, the Paris treaty is not. I guess some major horse trading lies ahead within the EU group, which as we all know is currently a picture of gracious harmony. The EU has found that recession and depression are the most effective way of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and the question does need to be asked to what extent climate and energy policies have created that state (see chart)?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Too Little, Too Late

Too Little, Too Late

Last week, after a great deal of debate, the passengers aboard the Titanic voted to impose modest limits sometime soon on the rate at which water is pouring into the doomed ship’s hull. Despite the torrents of self-congratulatory rhetoric currently flooding into the media from the White House and an assortment of groups on the domesticated end of the environmental movement, that’s the sum of what happened at the COP-21 conference in Paris. It’s a spectacle worth observing, and not only for those of us who are connoisseurs of irony; the factors that drove COP-21 to the latest round of nonsolutions are among the most potent forces shoving industrial civilization on its one-way trip to history’s compost bin.

The core issues up for debate at the Paris meeting were the same that have been rehashed endlessly at previous climate conferences. The consequences of continuing to treat the atmosphere as a gaseous sewer for humanity’s pollutants are becoming increasingly hard to ignore, but nearly everything that defines a modern industrial economy as “modern” and “industrial” produces greenhouse gases, and the continued growth of the world’s modern industrial economies remains the keystone of economic policy around the world. The goal pursued by negotiators at this and previous climate conferences, then, is to find some way to do something about anthropogenic global warming that won’t place any kind of restrictions on economic growth.

What that means in practice is that the world’s nations have more or less committed themselves to limit the rate at which the dumping of greenhouse gases will increase over the next fifteen years. I’d encourage those of my readers who think anything important was accomplished at the Paris conference to read that sentence again, and think about what it implies.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Everyone is the Mother of Victory

Bella COP illustration 'which way' eyerricksEveryone is the mother of victory; No one is the father of defeat. Do we claim COP21 as a success, and risk watching it being used by fossil fuel failures to carry on burning humanity, and so become complicit in defeat? Do we claim COP21 was a failure, and risk being the naysayers who didn’t recognise the work needed to bring fossil fuels (instead of humanity) to an end? This Loki-esque question about our motives, about our fears for how we might appear, may seem beside the point if the fundamental question is “Was the COP a success or a failure?And there are screeds of excellent articles assessing the outcome of the Paris COP Agreement, the Agreement that is now the world’s governments’ roadmap for addressing climate change.

On the side saying it has been a failure, we have Friends of the EarthClimate Code Red, the New InternationalistKevin Anderson, and a zillion other campaigning groups and scientists:

  • The New Internationalist describes the Paris deal as an ‘Epic fail on a planetary scale’ (see their cartoon history of climate negotiations) and conclude that, although “The Paris Agreement aims to keep the global average temperature rise to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C’” in fact “the emission cuts contained in the agreement are based on voluntary pledges called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCs) that governments drew up individually before the talks, . . . [and] are going to lead us to 3.7° warming of the planet.”
  • George Monbiot superbly sums up the talks, saying: “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.” He writes that: “A maximum of 1.5C, now an aspirational and unlikely target, was eminently achievable when the first UN climate change conference took place in Berlin in 1995.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Paris Climate Deal: How Could They Do This to Us?

Paris Climate Deal: How Could They Do This to Us?

paris-climate

On Sunday morning, 13 December 2015, the 2015 Paris Climate Summit (COP21) finally wound to close as the last decisions were agreed. At almost 1 a.m. observers representing youth, women, labour unions, research centers, indigenous peoples, and business were asked their opinion. Most media had already left COP21. Cleaners were dismantling the massive structures that had been erected to house thousands of conference participants for two weeks plus two overrun days. The Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change had finished their work, late as usual and with an usual outcome.

To his credit, COP21 President, former French Prime Minster and currently French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius returned to the Hall in the closing minutes to listen to the voices of the observers who he had banned from the negotiations two weeks earlier. One could see the consternation on his face as several observers lambasted the agreement for being too little too late. The youth for example, all but called Fabius a traitor to their generation and pledged to continue to work for the future their leaders had failed to ensure them. The business or BINGO constituency was the lone exception. For them the agreement meant more business opportunities and that the commodification of the planet was guaranteed, at least for near term corporate profits.

Fabius had been grinning like a Cheshire cat a few hours earlier as he graveled down the adoption of the Paris Agreement. It was irrelevant that he had done so without acknowledging the States seeking the floor either in the preliminary drafting Comité de Paris or in the plenary COP21 which convened in record time immediately afterwards. Like the scenes from Sorcosse movies that donned the walls of the Paris train station Gare de Lyon, the celebration in the makeshift Conference Hall in the northern Paris suburb of Le Bourget seemed perfectly scripted.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Renewable Energy After COP21: Nine issues for climate leaders to think about on the journey home

after-COP21-blog

COP21 in Paris is over. Now it’s back to the hard work of fighting for, and implementing, the energy transition.
We all know that the transition away from fossil fuels is key to maintaining a livable planet. Several organizations have formulated proposals for transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy; some of those proposals focus on the national level, some the state level, while a few look at the global challenge. David Fridley (staff scientist of the energy analysis program at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory) and I have been working for the past few months to analyze and assess many of those proposals, and to dig deeper into energy transition issues—particularly how our use of energy will need to adapt in a ~100 percent renewable future. We have a book in the works, titled Our Renewable Future, that examines the adjustments society will have to make in the transition to new energy sources. We started this project with some general understanding of the likely constraints and opportunities in this transition; nevertheless, researching and writing Our Renewable Future has been a journey of discovery. Along the way, we identified not only technical issues requiring more attention, but also important implications for advocacy and policy. What follows is a short summary—tailored mostly to the United States—of what we’ve learned, along with some recommendations.

1. We really need a plan; no, lots of them

Germany has arguably accomplished more toward the transition than any other nation largely because it has a plan—the Energiewende. This plan targets a 60 percent reduction in all fossil fuel use (not just in the electricity sector) by 2050, achieving a 50 percent cut in overall energy use through efficiency in power generation (fossil fueled power plants entail huge losses), buildings, and transport.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Godfather Of Climate Change Calls Obama’s Deal “A Fraud, It’s Bullshit”

The Godfather Of Climate Change Calls Obama’s Deal “A Fraud, It’s Bullshit”

Amid all the self-congratulatory mutual masturbation that has effused since the “historic” signing of a climate ‘deal’ with no enforcement mechanism, few are better qualified (or more outspoken) to describe the utter farce that COP21 is than former NASA scientist James Hansen, who as The Guardian notes, is considered the father of global awareness of climate change
“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

The talks, intended to reach a new global deal on cutting carbon emissions beyond 2020, have spent much time and energy on two major issues: whether the world should aim to contain the temperature rise to 1.5C or 2C above preindustrial levels, and how much funding should be doled out by wealthy countries to developing nations that risk being swamped by rising seas and bashed by escalating extreme weather events.

But, according to Hansen, the international jamboree is pointless unless greenhouse gas emissions aren’t taxed across the board. He argues that only this will force down emissions quickly enough to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.

Hansen has been a nagging yet respected voice on climate change since he shot to prominence in the summer of 1988. 

The Nasa scientists, who had been analyzing changes in the Earth’s climate since the 1970s, told a congressional committee that something called the “greenhouse effect” where heat-trapped gases are released into the atmosphere was causing global warming with a 99% certainty.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

COP 21: There Is a Way to Beat Climate Change

COP 21: There Is a Way to Beat Climate Change

 

PowerPlant, cc Mario Goebbels, Flickr, modified, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ 

The Paris Climate Change Conference might be the turning point in addressing climate change at the international level. The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) is the annual meeting of the 195 nations that make up the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. The goal is to reach an agreement and set a target cap for carbon emissions at 450 ppm, limiting global warming within 2 degrees Celsius, which scientists designate as a critical threshold.

It is easy to be cynical about achieving such an international agreement. The Copenhagen 2009 conference will probably haunt the COP21 meeting, due to the failure of delivering a climate deal. Domestic politics and the unwillingness of states to be bound by a top-down decision, hammered in at the last minute between the United States, Brazil, China, South Africa and India, derailed the conference. That is why at this year’s conference the states adopted a bottom-up approach, with every country declaring their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs). The problem is that, according to a UN synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs, the commitments made so far by 147 countries will not reach the goal of limiting global warming to 2℃ above pre-industrial levels. These INDCs cover only about 85% of the existing emission levels and will not be sufficient to reverse the upward trend. The projections point to a 2.7℃ rise in temperatures. There is also no guarantee that countries will adhere to their commitments. International agreements often set aspirational goals and many countries derogate from their obligations when faced with adverse domestic conditions. The U.S. signed, but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol; Canada dropped out of it in 2011; while Russia and Japan decided not to assume further emissions limitations for the second phase of the protocol.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Con 21

Con 21


Nickolay Lamm Jefferson Memorial under 25 feet of water 
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius just announced, in Paris, a “legally binding agreement” that no-one has agreed the financing for. We can hear a couple thousand lawyers across the globe snicker. But it’s all the COP21 ‘oh-so-important’ climate conference managed to come up with. No surprises there. They couldn’t make the 2ºC former goal stick, so they go for 1.5ºC this time. All on red, double or nothing. Because who really cares among the leadership, just as long as the ‘targets’ are far enough away that they can’t be held accountable.

I’ve been writing the following through the past days, and wondering if I should post it, because I know so many readers of the Automatic Earth have so much emotion invested in these things, and they’re good and fine emotions. But some things must still be said regardless of consequences. Precisely because of that kind of reaction. No contract is legally binding if there’s no agreement on payment. Nobody has a legal claim on your home without it being specified that, if, when and how they’re going to pay for it.

I understand some people may get offended by some of the things I have to say about this – though not all for the same reasons either-, but please try and understand that and why the entire CON21 conference has offended me. After watching the horse and pony show just now, I thought I’d let ‘er rip:

I don’t know what makes me lose faith in mankind faster, the way we destroy our habitat through wanton random killing of everything alive, plants, animals and people, through pollution and climate change and blood-thirsty sheer stupidity, or if it is the way these things are being ‘protested’.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World Leaders Just Agreed To A “Historic” Climate Accord… Which Is Non-Binding And Has No Enforcement Language

World Leaders Just Agreed To A “Historic” Climate Accord… Which Is Non-Binding And Has No Enforcement Language

Great news! The “greatest threat to future generations of the world” has apparently been solved. World leaders Saturday adopted an historic international climate accord in Paris, the first-ever agreement to commit almost every country to fight climate change. However, as we knew all along and just got confirmation, the 31-page pact does not have binding language or a mechanism to force countries to live up to the promises to cut greenhouse gases emissions or provide money for developing and poor nations to cope with the effects of global warming.

Basically, COP21 was a massive taxpayer-funded boondoggle, in which “leaders” enjoyed all the perks of Paris for two weeks, burned through hundreds of millions in public funding, and created millions of tons in greenhouse gases (what do you think to private jets and government 747s use to fly?) that has achieved absolutely nothing.

In other words…

Nonetheless, leaders and the environmental community hailed the United Nations agreement has a historic turning point that has the potential to stave off the worst expected effects of global warming.

And The UN reports a large round of mutual masturbation…

 

A joyful atmosphere fills the plenary hall at .


The Borg press is happy, clearly having no idea that absolutely nothing just took place:

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