>But the agreement could be an inflection point in human history: the moment at which, because of a huge shift in global economic policy, the inexorable rise in planet-warming carbon emissions that started during the Industrial Revolution began to level out and eventually decline.
So, is this really cause for celebration? This last paragraph reads as though there's no agency here. We agreed to half of what's necessary. Not to mention VW-type sleights of hand that mean we're not doing what we've said we would do in the past, when things were less dire.
Science will find out that within some small error bar we need to do exactly X, but bureaucrats see everything as a negotiation and will negotiate some number smaller than X. Now we're still slowly getting boiled to death (bad) albeit at a slower rate (good).
That's exaggerating. Science doesn't predict such a dire outcome.
Then again, maybe it will happen slowly enough for us and the ecosystem to adapt. I hope that's the case.
People might have to move and change their habits, though. And national borders might change or societies collapse if people don't move/change.
As far as I'm concerned, the point isn't about what temperature is objectively best, it's about the degree of change, and the cost of adaptation. Modern industrial civilization is built up progressively in certain geographical locations, with absolutely enormous sunk investments. If we had built our cities, our towns, our power plants, and ports during a climactic equivalent to the last ice-age, we would be absolutely fucked if the climate shifted in a short period of time to where it is now. During the last ice age there was a land mass which linked Britain to Norway, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, and sea levels were 100m lower than they are today. The northern ice cap covered everything north of London, and the Sahara was fertile. To go from that climate to the climate today would involve a level of cost that it is difficult to comprehend.
Yes, civilization will survive, but it might cost ~20% world GDP which is far more than swapping to non CO2 energy.
PS: Just stare at the read line on this map for a little while: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/World_ma...
What is the cost of swapping to non-CO2 energy? I don't think that number exists. Also, I'm not entirely convinced that switching to completely non-CO2 energy is even practical at present. Could we provide our energy needs with full solar / wind, even if we were willing to pay the price, given current efficiency and availability of supply? What do we do when it is dark or not windy?
I totally don't understand your point about the red line on the map. I was already familiar with the location of the equator, which is what it seems to emphasize. The reason most people don't live at the equator is that most land is not at the equator. A lot of the land there is desert, but that is not the equator's fault. The people that are in the watered parts get all sorts of diverse plants and animals to live in, and yummy tropical fruits. I'll take more of that up north, thanks!
As to swapping out from C02 energy wind is near parity with coal, and raw energy is not that large a chunk of the worlds economy.
As I like to think of it, life as a whole and humans in particular have evolved to be amazingly good at not going extinct. But the way nature fixes problems can be exceedingly unpleasant. If 7 billion humans are too many, nuclear war and mass starvation both solve that, but current and future humans would probably prefer other solutions.
Ericd's comment is a good description of the effects at three to four degrees, depending on how widespread a collapse he's talking about.
That alone underestimates the risk. Many scientists worry that somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees, positive feedbacks will kick in and take the planet several degrees further even if we stop emissions entirely. Hansen's book Storms of My Grandchildren has a good account of the geological evidence for that.
> How much of that doomsday scenario are actual scientific predictions? Sources?
I believe there are a large number of studies looking at individual impacts. E.g. "flooding" / "crop yields in sub saharan Africa" / etc. For studies that look at the grim end of the spectrum (i.e. +4 degrees C global warming or higher), there was a conference in 2007 that considered the consequences of a +4 degrees C world - not a bad place to start reading: http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/events/4degrees/
Similarly, there are studies regarding mass extinction. Current estimates of species extinction rates are way above what the estimates of "normal" rates are-- this won't all be due to climate change - as a species we are changing a lot more than just the climate (e.g. destroying ecosystems to make way for agriculture, etc). Do a google scholar search for words like "current mass extinction event" and you'll no doubt find many things to read.
I am not sure if we are capable of making "actual scientific predictions" regarding the cumulative impact of all these different threads - e.g. "collapse of many societies" / "ensuing unrest". Personally I reckon such things would be fairly plausible and unsurprising consequences of +4 degrees global warming.
Pragmatically, we just have to make the best decisions we can now with what information we have available. Certainty is a luxury and is not necessary to make decisions or take action, particularly when we're time constrained, and it takes a while for the consequences of our actions to manifest.
Here's an analogy from one of the decks of slides from the 4degrees conference.
> We are walking in Florida.
> You find you have just been bitten on the hand by a snake.
> We did not see the snake.
> If it was the deadly carbonblack snake, the bite will kill you in a painful way, unless you cut off your hand within 15 secs.
> I have a hatchet.
> You have 5 seconds left.
> Did you cut off your hand?
> How would a society learn to make such decisions?
> Luckily with climate change we have more than 15 seconds. Without knowing exactly how much more...
In little scientific echo chambers like Hacker News, we generally put science and rationality above human emotion. Unfortunately the world at large is not a technocracy, a good majority of people see science as an equivalent worldview to religious dogma, most are not particularly educated, and they primarily live to create their own families and provide them with sufficient resources for evolutionary success.
With things like climate change, you are attempting to change a mass behavior of people that often do not see the change as being in their best interest. This requires both negotiation on a regulatory level, as well as a lot of new level-setting within those communities. It is extremely possible that the best we will ever get is to be slowly boiled to death until it's too late to fix it.
No amount of negotiation between the hypothetical scientist and the bureaucrats about not cutting down the last tree on Easter Island that doesn't 100% go in favor of the scientist will come out well. The trees will still be extinct.
Education should double down on creative ways to make kids click on subtle abstractions in order for them to see issues and proactively discuss, seek and enjoy working toward solutions.
Is this also common outside of the US?
Look at a good chunk of the Mideast as it exists today geopolitically; even wealthy areas like the UAE exist under pretty much strict Sharia interpretations.
I have also observed this appears to be the case for a large chunk of the Muslim world, a decent part of Africa, Central America, and the Philippines, from my interactions with people natively from those areas outside of a scientific or professional atmosphere. I have a strong tendency to talk to anyone and everyone I can about their cultures, whether I am in their native land or they are in mine.
Now only if they could talk to global warming "skeptics" in "the West" and engage in some kind of verbal death match...
Those who expect dire events should attempt to empathize with "the other" enough to imagine a convincing argument to e.g. forego the diesel generator that would allow children to do homework at night, rather than write off such concerns as "ridiculous". The other option, of course, is brutal occupation, which is why one sees the bloody fingerprints of the military-industrial complex all over much of the recent warming hullabaloo.
Another interesting point is wrt. financial aid to developing nations. IIUC, developing nations will not be compensated for damage due to climate change, but they will receive funding for efforts to cut their emissions while continuing to develop.
Their engines released less CO2 and more NOx as a trade off. NOx is bad for humans and has slight cooling effect. CO2 is not dangerous and has heating effect.
"Less polluting" can mean several completely different things. People often don't get this.
forces the hand of domestic politics
We've seen from Kyoto that promises, especially those not duly ratified, may not mean all that much. Most of these rulers have just pushed the issue beyond their tenure... or lifetimes.
>It's important when these things happen that there's a sense that the whole world is watching, and
but my reason for saying that every 5 years is too low a frequency, i.e. it should be more frequent, like once in 2 or 3 years, was because 1) a lot can be done in 2 or 3 years, and 2) more importantly, I'd think that reviewing progress (or regress) should not be left for as large a gap as 5 years - so as to be able to either hasten progress or slow/stop regress more often, if needed, considering the huge importance of the issue. Cf. recent live example - Chennai (and Tamil Nadu state) floods in India. Huge damage and loss.
I should mention that I am not a climate expert; saying the above as a layman.
I fail to see how this summit differs from previous summits without anything being legally binding.
Getting everyone on board is a huge win and setting targets of 1.5C (max 2C) will help humanity stand together against the threat of climate change.
You know that people from states with strong extractive industries have a conservative tendency because of the really large business cycles, right? Throw in that these climes also sport lots of farmers, and.... Not everybody can move to the large, overpriced urban areas.
If Congress/the Senate is bought off that cheaply... which is always a questionable thing ...
Meanwhile, solidly blue California has none.
That doesn't seem insignificant, and I think part of the thing about the deal is that it puts a public focus on green development -- WORLDWIDE.
(They will add $100 billion, not million.)
1) Nothing short of a dark age will reduce human emissions to a non factor in climate shift
2) Climate shift was always inevitable. It has happened before; it will happen again. The only thing we have done is hasten it... maybe.
3) All global efforts in regards to climate shift should be pointed at adapting to the changes, safeguarding threatened species (or collecting the requisite genetic data to one day rebuild them), and ensuring our specie's evolutionary March into the future.
We shouldn't be designing green houses; we should be learning how to live underwater and underground. We should be planning for the Great Inland Migration. We should be hardening and burying all infrastructure. We should be decreasing energy and material waste for efficiency reasons, not feel-good reasons.
This nascent cataclysm is not a fire, it is a flood. The metaphorical waters will rise and recede over thousands of years. No one in the future will give a flying fuck about Priuses or carbon credits. They will either praise us for building the tools and protocols byvwhich they survive, or curse us for thinking we could fight the inevitable.
Our kind showed up at the end of an ice age. Let's not circle jerk ourselves to extinction in the face of another. Assessing past faults is pointless. We must adapt our collective civilizations to a dynamic future for which we are biologically and technologically I'll equipped.
Bangladesh is entirely at sea level.
Food production currently relies on relatively stable and predictable weather. The one certain thing climate change is going to do is make weather unpredictable. Bunker for you hardly matters, if you don't have anything to eat.
> As the CAT has previously noted, the national mitigation contributions, now associated with the Paris Agreement, would lead to a median warming of around 2.7°C by 2100 (a full range of 2.2-3.4°C, which means there is a likely chance of holding warming below 3°C, temperature would continue to rise after 2100).
> Compared to the 3.6°C by 2100 warming that is projected to result from current policies, the climate pledges submitted in the INDCs lower warming by about 0.9°C – but only if all governments fully implement their pledges.
So right now you see a lot of Canadians who villainized the previous government celebrating what sounds like it is effectively nothing. The new Canadian government sent 388 delegates to Paris, the vast bulk having nothing to do with negotiations and just enjoying the photo ops and a vacation junket, which was more than the United States, more than the UK, more than Australia. Indeed, it was more than all of those countries combined.
I don't mean to politicize this, but there is a detached "words versus action" argument that appears when Canada comes up and it is deeply disconcerting.
“The current text is weaker than the final agreement that came out of [the failed] Copenhagen [summit in 2009]”
"James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud'"
If Oil/Coal companies tank: Yes
If not: No
Always follow the money.
In regards oil the big producers are already flooding the market to try and kill alternatives. If something scares the likes of OPEC more than anything else it is cheap renewable energy. Wind and solar are getting very close to knocking out everything else at an oil price above $60 a barrel.
Trouble is, right now cheap oil hasn't been boosting the economy the way it usually does.
Professional traders will have diversified away from fossil stocks due to the uncertainty, but on monday they will either jump back in, or stay even further away, depending on their take on the agreement.
$12.45 in 2115 dollars in 1998 is the low.
they're usually variations on:
1. a big pile of (typically public) money is given to the most polluting companies
2. in return those companies exit the industry
i don't think such policies are a great idea, but they might be an example of action that would (i) be actually progressive re: greenhouse emissions, and (ii) might make the share price of such a company go up, supposing the pay out were large enough.
this little thought experiment aside, the heuristic of following the change in the market is probably a reasonable one.
The way to do this on the cheap is to buy the rights to shut down the assets at some point in the future. Buying an option to shut down all fossil fuel production 30 years in the future is relatively cheap. Take for example Exxon. It has $252 billion is physical assets  and its cost of capital is 9.11%  The present value of these assets if we were to scrap the lot in 30 years time is only $18.4 billion (252 / 1.0911^30). We could pay them something above this level today and it would be financially rational for them to sell us the option.
A few academics over here (in Australia) recently proposed that the most polluting energy generators be forced to exit the market, and that they would be paid compensation by their competitors, as their competitors stood to profit from the reduction in competition.
That was a pretty interesting argument. In the long run, I believe the public still ends up paying for everything (due to increased energy prices), but perhaps it would be a more politically acceptable way to wind down some of the more polluting companies.
Personally I think this kind of approach is far more complicated, and far less efficient than an appropriately priced carbon tax, but we don't have one of those.
I actually gave a talk about this years ago - I will try and find my slides and put them up somewhere
Edit. I posted the slides to my blog .
On the other hand, with responsible, smart politicians and capitalism, anything is possible.
What I'm saying is that the system is broken, but everybody is concentrating on the one part that actually does work.
Should be an interesting, spirited debate.
My hope is that the emissions targets (low by what the scientific community wants to see) are tough enough that they will mandate significant investments in new technology. When clean tech becomes profitable (optimistically cheaper via subsidies), then it may become easier to sell the world on ratcheting-up the targets before we run out of time.
As others have mentioned, I will be watching the market reactions with cautious optimism.
At least also mention how many are hurt or killed by kerosene..
I have a better plan. Here's how to reduce worldwide carbon emissions by 44% in 15-25 years.
Step 1) Replace all coal power plants with nuclear plants
Step 2) There is no step 2
There are certainly downsides and problems with nuclear power, waste is coming to mind and safety seems to be the other. I think that if we built nuclear power plants today they will be a lot safer and cleaner than the ones we used to built in the 60's and 70's.
Another thing that surprises me is how few people actually cost up different options on reducing CO2. I've given some money to reforestation projects and the CO2 saved per dollar is about 1000 times as effective as getting solar panels but no one seems interested in running the numbers.
Humanity has just about built the infrastructure to lock in 2 degree temp increase. We are talking about a matter of years, not a decade. We are talking about locking in, not higher probability.
Yet, there is uninterrupted talk of growing our economies (but little talk of reducing the wealth gap). If our economies are to continue growing. If we continue to be an extraction oriented species. If we continue to spend tens of billions a year searching out new fossil fuel reserves when we can't use half of those we already know of without pushing the 4-6 degree threshold..?
Nature, will go on. Some portion of humanity, will go on. It's not the end of the world. Just the end of the world as we know it.
If today everyone ditched their cars and used public transit and bikes, we shut down the airlines, and became vegan we'd be most of the way there. Switch to organic farming and cradle-to-cradle manufacturing would almost surely get us the rest of the way there.
Yeah, I know, that's not going to happen and people don't want it to. My point is simply, the solution is not some black magic or future technology. The solution is simply a choice.
edit: for cradle-to-cradle, see... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle-to-cradle_design
One of these things is not like the others: shutting down airlines is an actual regulatory action. The others are lifestyle choices (and for what it's worth, I overwhelmingly just use public transit and my bike).
>Switch to organic farming and cradle-to-cradle manufacturing would almost surely get us the rest of the way there.
I'd like it if you could explain "cradle-to-cradle manufacturing", but I'm very skeptical that organic farming would actually help. Last I heard, even when you account for the subsidies paid to make industrial farming cheap, organic farming is still more resource-intensive than industrial farming.
Further, again, last I heard, lifestyle changes on the part of individuals have far less impact on resource usage than policy changes in major industries.
If Congress legislated tomorrow that all gun sales and manufacturing were to be banned, and all existing guns should be collected and melted down, then should we still spend time and money researching gun violence and lobbying for stricter gun laws? I think everyone would agree that would be a waste of time because gun control is inevitable given the plan to ban them.
Why does it feel like funding additional climate studies and appointing more bureaucrats won't stop like it would for the gun control example?