European national science academies report warns tepid emission cuts not enough.
A new European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) report looks at a number of options, including reforestation, soil management, plankton fertilization, industrial CO2 capture plants, biofuels with emissions injected underground for storage, and even the boosting of bedrock weathering reactions.
The report’s conclusions: we have to develop carbon dioxide removal schemes more aggressively, but we also have to cut our emissions enough that we don’t rely on those schemes to save us.
….Those scenarios involved a substantial deployment of technologies to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Without those technologies, we’re even further from sufficient emissions cuts.
That leaves us with a crucial question: can carbon dioxide removal techniques be scaled up to the necessary level in time? A new European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) report—reviewed and endorsed by the national academies of more than two dozen countries—evaluates the outlook for carbon dioxide removal. And it’s not optimistic.…
….The EASAC report finds that few options look like they could scale up to three or four billion tons. And more importantly, none is on track to do so at this point. Reforestation and accumulating carbon in agricultural soils are probably the easiest options to make progress on, for example, but we’re currently still doing the opposite of these things: deforestation and soil degradation are adding to our greenhouse gas emissions, not counteracting them….
….The EASAC report’s conclusions are basically twofold: we have to develop carbon dioxide removal schemes more aggressively, but we also have to cut our emissions enough that we don’t rely on those schemes to save us….
Decades of diplomatic efforts to stem global warming have proven ineffectual because too many strategies have been taken off the table.
But what definitely won’t suffice is a climate strategy built out of wishful thinking: the proposition that countries can be cajoled and prodded into increasing their ambition to cut emissions further, and that laggards can be named and shamed into falling into line.
There is no momentum for investing in carbon capture and storage, since it could be seen as condoning the continued use of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy, the only source of low-carbon power ever deployed at the needed scale, is also anathema. Geoengineering, like pumping aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s heat back into space, is another taboo. But eventually, these options will most likely be on the table, as the consequences of climate change come more sharply into focus…
Global emissions of greenhouse gases amounted to the equivalent of some 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year — excluding those from deforestation and land use. Worried about its accumulation, the gathered scientists and policymakers called on the world to cut CO2 emissions by a fifth.
That didn’t happen, of course. By 1997, when climate diplomats from the world’s leading nations gathered to negotiate a round of emissions cuts in Kyoto, Japan, emissions had risen to some 35 billion tons and the global surface temperature was roughly 0.7 degrees Celsius above the average of the late 19th century.
It took almost two decades for the next breakthrough. When diplomats from virtually every country gathered in Paris just over two years ago to hash out another agreement to combat climate change, the world’s surface temperature was already about 1.1 degrees Celsius above its average at the end of the 1800s. And greenhouse gas emissions totaled just under 50 billion tons….
…Climate diplomats in Paris didn’t merely reassert prior commitments to keep the world’s temperature less than 2 degrees above that of the “preindustrial” era — a somewhat fuzzy term that could be taken to mean the second half of the 19th century. Hoping to appease island nations like the Maldives, which are likely to be swallowed by a rising ocean in a few decades, they set a new “aspirational” ceiling of 1.5 degrees.
To stick to a 2 degree limit, we would have to start reducing global emissions for real within about a decade at most — and then do more. Half a century from now, we would have to figure out how to suck vast amounts of carbon out of the air. Keeping the lid at 1.5 degrees would be much harder still.
And yet, when experts tallied the offers made in Paris by all the countries in the collective effort, they concluded that greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 would exceed the level needed to remain under 2 degrees by 12 to 14 billion tons of CO2.
Are there better approaches? The “climate club” proposed by the Yale University economist William Nordhaus has the advantage of including an enforcement device, which current arrangements lack: countries in the club, committed to reducing carbon emissions, would impose a tariff on imports from nonmembers to encourage them to join.
Martin Weitzman of Harvard University supports the idea of a uniform worldwide tax on carbon emissions, which might be easier to agree on than a panoply of national emissions cuts. One clear advantage is that countries could use their tax revenues as they saw fit.
Mr. Barrett argues that the Paris agreement could be supplemented with narrower, simpler deals to curb emissions of particular gases — such as the 2016 agreement at a 170-nation meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, to reduce hydrofluorocarbon emissions — or in particular industries, like aviation or steel.
Maybe none of this would work. The climate club could blow up if nonmembers retaliated against import tariffs by imposing trade barriers of their own. Coordinating taxes around the world looks at least as difficult as addressing climate change. And Mr. Barrett’s proposal might not deliver a breakthrough on the scale necessary to move the dial.
…But what definitely won’t suffice is a climate strategy built out of wishful thinking: the proposition that countries can be cajoled and prodded into increasing their ambition to cut emissions further, and that laggards can be named and shamed into falling into line.
Inveigled by three decades of supposed diplomatic progress — coupled with falling prices of wind turbines, solar panels and batteries — the activists, technologists and policymakers driving the strategy against climate change seem to have concluded that the job can be done without unpalatable choices. And the group is closing doors that it would do best to keep open.
There is no momentum for investing in carbon capture and storage, since it could be seen as condoning the continued use of fossil fuels. Nuclear energy, the only source of low-carbon power ever deployed at the needed scale, is also anathema. Geoengineering, like pumping aerosols into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s heat back into space, is another taboo.
But eventually, these options will most likely be on the table, as the consequences of climate change come more sharply into focus. The rosy belief that the world can reduce its carbon dependency over a few decades by relying exclusively on the power of shame, the wind and the sun will give way to a more realistic understanding of possibilities.
The ‘likely’ range of ECS (amount of global warming if doubled CO2) as stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has remained at 1.5–4.5 degrees Celsius for more than 25 years1. The possibility of a value of ECS towards the upper end of this range reduces the feasibility of avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, as required by the Paris Agreement.
New study presents a new emergent constraint on ECS that yields a central estimate of 2.8 degrees Celsius with 66 per cent confidence limits (equivalent to the IPCC ‘likely’ range) of 2.2–3.4 degrees Celsius.
If one is the loneliest number, two is the most terrifying. Humanity must not pass a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in global temperature from pre-industrial levels, so says the Paris climate agreement. Cross that line and the global effects of climate change start looking less like a grave situation and more like a catastrophe.
…today in the journal Nature, researchers claim they’ve reduced the uncertainty in a key metric of climate change by 60 percent, narrowing a range of potential warming from 3°C to 1.2°C.
…The metric is called equilibrium climate sensitivity, but don’t let the name scare you. “It’s essentially the amount of global warming we would predict if we just doubled the atmospheric carbon dioxide and let the atmosphere and climate come to equilibrium with the carbon dioxide,” says lead author Peter Cox, who studies climate system dynamics at the University of Exeter….
….the researchers say this means the probability of the ECS being less than 1.5°C—the Paris Climate Agreement’s super optimistic goal beyond the 2°C goal—is less than 3 percent. The upside, though, is they say this new estimate means the probability of the ECS passing 4.5°C is less than 1 percent.
…It’s just that global climate change is an exceedingly complex problem. There’s no way any scientist can dig down into all the granular details—changes in vegetation, small-scale hydrology, every single weather event like a hurricane or tornado. So what scientists do is find simplified descriptions of these small-scale events….
ABSTRACT: Equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) remains one of the most important unknowns in climate change science. ECS is defined as the global mean warming that would occur if the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration were instantly doubled and the climate were then brought to equilibrium with that new level of CO2. Despite its rather idealized definition, ECS has continuing relevance for international climate change agreements, which are often framed in terms of stabilization of global warming relative to the pre-industrial climate. However, the ‘likely’ range of ECS as stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has remained at 1.5–4.5 degrees Celsius for more than 25 years1. The possibility of a value of ECS towards the upper end of this range reduces the feasibility of avoiding 2 degrees Celsius of global warming, as required by the Paris Agreement. Here we present a new emergent constraint on ECS that yields a central estimate of 2.8 degrees Celsius with 66 per cent confidence limits (equivalent to the IPCC ‘likely’ range) of 2.2–3.4 degrees Celsius. Our approach is to focus on the variability of temperature about long-term historical warming, rather than on the warming trend itself. We use an ensemble of climate models to define an emergent relationship2 between ECS and a theoretically informed metric of global temperature variability. This metric of variability can also be calculated from observational records of global warming3, which enables tighter constraints to be placed on ECS, reducing the probability of ECS being less than 1.5 degrees Celsius to less than 3 per cent, and the probability of ECS exceeding 4.5 degrees Celsius to less than 1 per cent.
A research note from Barclay’s Bank last week summed up what the boom in electric vehicles, along with gains in fuel efficiency, might mean for oil demand—a reduction, by 2025, almost as large as Iran’s total production. And if electric vehicles seize a third of the car market by 2040, the drop in demand would be nearly as much as Saudi Arabia produces.
That kind of jaw-dropping outlook has become increasingly common in recent months amid signs that a tipping point is coming for electric vehicles.
The technology breakthroughs, market forces and government policies might also augur a peak in oil demand, and that would be a big step toward wiping out emissions of greenhouse gases from the automotive tailpipe.
From Europe to Asia, and in parts of the United States, policymakers are talking about how to make it happen.
France and Britain committed in July to ban the sales of all gasoline- and diesel-powered cars by 2040, motivated largely by health concerns about air pollution. Then China, the world’s largest auto market, announced last month that it will set a deadline for automakers to stop selling internal combustion engine vehicles and set emissions targets for automakers. California officials said they want to follow suit.
..Earlier this year, Sussmas co-authored a study for Carbon Tracker titled “Expect the Unexpected” that predicted EVs would be cost-competitive with internal combustion engine vehicles by 2020 and have a 35 percent market share by 2035….Carbon Tracker predicts that oil demand will peak as soon as 2020, remain somewhat flat until 2030, then drop off. It bases that analysis in part on its growth projections for EVs, which it says would displace 2 million barrels of oil use by 2035…
…Instead, in China, toxic air pollution from coal plants and car emissions are causing human illnesses and crop failures that have sparked public protests. The government responded to the pollution problem with strong subsidies for EVs, Sussmas said…
…The Energy Information Agency (EIA), which is the data arm of the U.S. energy department, recently projected that worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of all fossil fuels—oil, coal and gas—would grow 16 percent by 2040 from the levels of 2015, the year that the nations of the world agreed to the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change that is intended to reverse the trend.
The EIA’s current scenario shows a slowing, but no decline, in global petroleum use. …For EVs to make the most of their emissions-reducing promise, the electricity sector will also have to continue its rapid shift to renewable energy sources.
A new study evaluating models of future climate scenarios has led to the creation of the new risk categories ‘catastrophic’ and ‘unknown’ to characterize the range of threats posed by rapid global warming. Researchers propose that unknown risks imply existential threats to the survival of humanity. These categories describe two low-probability but statistically significant scenarios that could play out by century’s end, in [the] new study…
The risk assessment stems from the objective stated in the 2015 Paris Agreement regarding climate change that society keep average global temperatures “well below” a 2°C (3.6°F) increase from what they were before the Industrial Revolution.
Even if that objective is met, a global temperature increase of 1.5°C (2.7°F) is still categorized as “dangerous,” meaning it could create substantial damage to human and natural systems. A temperature increase greater than 3°C (5.4°F) could lead to what the researchers term “catastrophic” effects, and an increase greater than 5°C (9°F) could lead to “unknown” consequences which they describe as beyond catastrophic including potentially existential threats. The specter of existential threats is raised to reflect the grave risks to human health and species extinction from warming beyond 5° C, which has not been experienced for at least the past 20 million years…
…”When we say five percent-probability high-impact event, people may dismiss it as small but it is equivalent to a one-in-20 chance the plane you are about to board will crash,” said Ramanathan. “We would never get on that plane with a one-in-20 chance of it coming down but we are willing to send our children and grandchildren on that plane.”…
….Aggressive measures to curtail the use of fossil fuels and emissions of so-called short-lived climate pollutants such as soot, methane and HFCs would need to be accompanied by active efforts to extract CO2 from the air and sequester it before it can be emitted. It would take all three efforts to meet the Paris Agreement goal to which countries agreed at a landmark United Nations climate conference in Nov 2015.
…Xu and Ramanathan point out that the goal is attainable. Global CO2 emissions had grown at a rate of 2.9 percent per year between 2000 and 2011, but had slowed to a near-zero growth rate by 2015. They credited drops in CO2 emissions from the United States and China as the primary drivers of the trend. Increases in production of renewable energy, especially wind and solar power, have also bent the curve of emissions trends downward. Other studies have estimated that there was by 2015 enough renewable energy capacity to meet nearly 24 percent of global electricity demand.
…most of the technologies needed to drastically curb emissions of short-lived climate pollutants already exist and are in use in much of the developed world. They range from cleaner diesel engines to methane-capture infrastructure.
“While these are encouraging signs, aggressive policies will still be required to achieve carbon neutrality and climate stability,” the authors wrote.
The historic Paris Agreement calls for limiting global temperature rise to “well below 2 °C.” Because of uncertainties in emission scenarios, climate, and carbon cycle feedback, we interpret the Paris Agreement in terms of three climate risk categories and bring in considerations of low-probability (5%) high-impact (LPHI) warming in addition to the central (∼50% probability) value. The current risk category of dangerous warming is extended to more categories, which are defined by us here as follows: >1.5 °C as dangerous; >3 °C as catastrophic; and >5 °C as unknown, implying beyond catastrophic, including existential threats. With unchecked emissions, the central warming can reach the dangerous level within three decades, with the LPHI warming becoming catastrophic by 2050. We outline a three-lever strategy to limit the central warming below the dangerous level and the LPHI below the catastrophic level, both in the near term (<2050) and in the long term (2100): the carbon neutral (CN) lever to achieve zero net emissions of CO2, the super pollutant (SP) lever to mitigate short-lived climate pollutants, and the carbon extraction and sequestration (CES) lever to thin the atmospheric CO2 blanket. Pulling on both CN and SP levers and bending the emissions curve by 2020 can keep the central warming below dangerous levels. To limit the LPHI warming below dangerous levels, the CES lever must be pulled as well to extract as much as 1 trillion tons of CO2 before 2100 to both limit the preindustrial to 2100 cumulative net CO2 emissions to 2.2 trillion tons and bend the warming curve to a cooling trend.
The temperature baseline used in the Paris climate agreement may have discounted an entire century’s worth of human-caused global warming, a new study has found.
Countries in the Paris climate agreement set a target of keeping warming below 2 degrees Celsius by curbing carbon emissions compared to their preindustrial levels. But a new study shows that the preindustrial level used in the agreement, based on temperature records from the late 19th century, doesn’t account for a potential century of rising temperatures caused by carbon dioxide emissions. Accounting for those gases, released from about 1750 to 1875, would add another one-fifth of a degree to the baseline temperature, the study found.
Published yesterday in Nature Climate Change, the research suggests there’s less time than previously believed to address global warming, said Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University.
The study estimates that there may have already been 0.2 degree Celsius of warming, or 0.36 degree Fahrenheit, built into Earth, he said. That means the Paris Agreement would have to be more aggressive, according to the study, which was also written by researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Reading in the United Kingdom.
“When you take that into account, it turns out we have 40 percent less carbon to burn than we thought we had,” Mann said….
Andrew P. Schurer, Michael E. Mann, et al. Importance of the pre-industrial baseline for likelihood of exceeding Paris goals Nature Climate Change doi:10.1038/nclimate5
Sweden passed a new Climate Act on Thursday, legally binding the country to reach net-zero emissions by the year 2045. The act, which passed in parliament by a vote of 254 to 41, is even more ambitious than what the Scandinavian country pledged under the Paris Agreement: Under the new act, Sweden will reach carbon neutrality five years earlier.
According to a recent analysis, Sweden is one of just three European countries with climate policies in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.The country has had a carbon tax in place since the 1990s and has invested heavily in wind and solar since the early aughts. Sweden derives only 25 percent of its energy from fossil fuel....
Additionally, 12 states (California, New York, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia) plus Puerto Rico created the US Climate Alliance, committed to upholding the Paris accord. These states represent 97 million Americans – 30% of the national population.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg submitted a statement to the United Nations on Monday that over 1,000 U.S. governors, mayors, businesses, universities and others will continue to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement abandoned by President Donald Trump last week.
…Bloomberg, who is the U.N. Secretary-General’s special envoy for Cities and Climate Change, submitted the “We Are Still In” declaration to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa.
He also launched a process to work with local governments and non-state entities to formally quantify the combined – and overlapping – emissions reduction pledges, which will be known as “America’s Pledge,” and submit the report to the United Nations.
“Today, on behalf of an unprecedented collection of U.S. cities, states, businesses and other organizations, I am communicating to the United Nations and the global community that American society remains committed to achieving the emission reductions we pledged to make in Paris in 2015,” Bloomberg said in a statement. Signatories to the new initiative include 13 Democratic and Republican governors, 19 state attorneys general, over 200 mayors, and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and small businesses….
…“America’s Pledge” will be submitted to the UNFCCC as a “Societal NDC.”
“The UNFCCC welcomes the determination and commitment from such a wealth and array of cities, states, businesses and other groups in the United States to fast forward climate action and emissions reductions in support of the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” said Espinosa.
Continued US membership in the Paris Agreement on climate would be symbolic and have no effect on US emissions. Instead, it would reveal the weaknesses of the agreement, prevent new opportunities from emerging, and gift greater leverage to a recalcitrant administration.
After the election of President Trump and a two-house Republican majority, many fear for the future of US climate policy. The new administration has indicated that they will abolish Obama’s climate legacy through executive orders1. The repeal of domestic measures will likely result in the US missing its first nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, which is an inadequate target of reducing emissions by 26–28% compared to 2005 levels by 2025. If other countries adopted comparable targets, global warming would likely exceed 2 °C (ref. 2). The US would need to implement the Clean Power Plan and additional measures to reach its NDC3. Preliminary research suggests that the policies of the Trump administration would instead lead to emissions increasing through to 20253….