The John James Newsletter. <98> – post COP21

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The John James Newsletter 98 – post COP21

15 December 2015

This deal puts the fossil fuel industry on the wrong side of history

Kumi Naidoo

Paris Climate Conference 2015: Well done on the deal, but the real test still to come

“I’m totally frustrated,” a European negotiator told me after talks on the crucial climate finance section wrapped up after an all-nighter. “This is a minimal deal.” 

Naomi Klein Decries Climate Deal as Extraordinarily Dangerous

We know, from doing the math and adding up the targets that the major economies have brought to Paris, that those targets lead us to a very dangerous future. They lead us to a future between 3 and 4 degrees Celsius warming. These are figures from the Tyndall Centre and Kevin Anderson, who have analyzed those numbers. It does not lead us to 2 degrees Celsius, which is what many of our governments pledged to do in Copenhagen in 2009. In 2009, dangerous warming was defined as anything above 2 degrees Celsius in a document known as the Copenhagen Accord. When a draft of that document was leaked to the convention center in Copenhagen, the Bella Center, African delegates marched through the halls of the convention center and called it a “death sentence for Africa.” And the island—low-lying island states held demonstrations, chanting “1.5 to survive.”

We also know, from leading climate scientists like James Hansen, that 2 degrees is just too high. Indeed, we know from lived experience that the amount we have already warmed the globe is too much. We are already living the era of dangerous warming. It is already costing thousands of lives and livelihoods, from the Philippines to Bangladesh to Nigeria to New Orleans and the Marshall Islands 

Andrew Glikson: The Paris agreement: effects on the climate system

The Paris climate agreement is very excellent for people’s morale and should be celebrated. However the gap between what climate science indicates and the Paris pact is only growing:

  1. The continents have already warmed by an average by +1.5C relative to pre-industrial temperature (1)
  2. An average continent-ocean temperature of +2C has nearly been reached, but is masked by -0.5C to -1.0C from the sulphur aerosols emitted by industry. This global dimming blanket is transient and differs from region to region (2).
  3. The optimistic projection in the Paris accord expects reduction of emissions by between only one quarter and one third by 2030 (3). This would not be enough to prevent atmospheric CO2 from continuing to rise, by about +1.5 ppm/year, as compared to the current +2 ppm/year.
  4. We now have more than 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. If we include all other greenhouse gas emissions this is the equivalent of more than 450 ppm CO2-e. The extent of future growth in atmospheric CO2 depends on the scale of amplifying feedbacks, such as lowered CO2 sequestration rate into the oceans as they are warming, reduced vegetation cover, fires and methane release from melting permafrost.
  5. At a CO2 rise rate of +1.5 ppm per year atmospheric CO2 levels will still rise to over 450 ppm by mid-century and over 500 ppm toward the end, unless effective mitigation and sequestration methods are applied, and only if fast-tracked.
  6. Ocean levels would rise significantly as a CO2 level of 450 to 500 ppm is the upper stability limit of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets (4). As they melt sea levels would rise by many meters, threatening coastal and low river valley habitats.
  7. In spite of the stated goals in Paris the outcome will not in any meaningful way mitigate the existential risk for civilization and many species. To be truly meaningful we need an ambitious global-scale carbon emission reduction project that would lower greenhouse gas emissions by AT LEAST TWO THIRDS, coupled with re-forestation, soil carbon (biochar) and chemical methods.
  8. The combination of large scale coal mining and coal export could render Australia the largest global emitter per capita on the planet.


2. Figure 8.17 in the IPCC AR5 Report) 



Historic Climate Deal Reached

“There is no legally binding way forward to address the problem of lack of ambition of current national contributions towards post-2020 action—a very weak “facilitative dialogue” in 2018 with no obligation to actually improve these plans.” And as far as the 1.5 degree limit is concerned, the language used—”to pursue efforts”—is weak. 

Hidden gem in Paris deal condemns coal to early demise

The world currently emits around 50 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year. Even if all the pledges put together by 186 nations before and during the Paris climate talks were enacted, these emissions would grow to around 55 gigatonnes of GHG emissions a year by 2030.

But to meet the 2°C target, the world will need to reduce those emissions to 40 gigatonnes a year. And to reach that level, they are likely going to have to reverse direction before 2020.

What’s more, if the world does move to that aspirational goal of capping temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, then it is going to have to move a lot faster, and a lot more dramatically than that. 

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