The Paris climate agreement: the real work starts now


Pep Canadell, CSIRO and Rob Jackson, Stanford University

The Paris climate agreement is an extraordinary achievement. It codifies the long-term goal of keeping global temperature increases below 2°C. It also sets a more ambitious aspirational target of capping global warming at 1.5°C degrees.

But this more ambitious target will be beyond our reach within a decade or two at current rates of fossil fuel use around the world.

Beyond how achievable the goals are, and at what cost they can be achieved, they are aggressive and consistent with minimising the dangerous interference of human activities on the climate system.

The Paris agreement also recognises the significant gap between the actions needed to stabilise global temperatures and the current national mitigation pledges through 2030. As written now, those pledges won’t keep average temperatures below 2°C, let alone 1.5°C. That’s why the document encourages nations to strengthen their targets in the near future.

The agreement focuses not just on mitigation activities, but on adaptation, too. Adaptation includes the many activities that reduce the costs and consequences of climate change that will occur even after mitigation.

The Paris agreement calls for substantial efforts to develop new capabilities for adaptation and the funding needed to support them. Even climate stabilisation below 2°C will, and has already begun to, bring climate impacts, particularly to the most vulnerable nations and communities.

And, as always, under the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the document acknowledges the dangers of looking at the world through the single lens of climate change. We need to safeguard other critical services such as food production, water resources, and biodiversity.

Some shortfalls

The agreement missed the opportunity to establish some mid-term goals, sharpening the milestones required after 2030. We know that the current mitigation pledges to 2030 are not enough to keep global temperatures below 2°C. The hard work of mid-term goals lies ahead of us.

A specific emissions mitigation target for 2050, for instance, would have benchmarked where emissions need to be to keep temperatures below 2°C by end of this century. Intermediate goals are critical for keeping us on track with compatible pathways.

Instead, the agreement settled on the goal of achieving a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases during the second half of this century. This goal is based on the results of the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The “balance” acknowledges that we could still have some greenhouse gas emissions in the future but these emissions would need to be offset by the removal of an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. We interpret this language as being the same as the better known requirement of “zero net emissions”.

An important shortcoming of calling for achieving a greenhouse gas balance “in the second half of the century” is that it leaves open the possibility that the balance might not be achieved until 2100. This more lenient approach would almost certainly fail to keep global temperatures under 2°C.

An additional shortcoming concerns the contentious issue of financial payments and incentives. The agreement recognises the fact that nations, mostly developing, representing almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions don’t yet have a plan to peak (initially) and then reduce their emissions unless climate financing is available. The text of the agreement is vague and does not clarify how such funds will be obtained, distributed, and monitored.

Let’s get to work

To enter into force, the Agreement will need to be ratified by at least 55 nations under the UN climate convention. These parties must also be responsible for at least 55% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

It took years for the Kyoto Protocol to be ratified, so it is important this agreement be ratified quickly. The longer this is delayed, the faster countries will have to reduce emissions.

The “55% of emissions” number is an interesting one. Two countries, China and the United States, are responsible for 44.5% of global carbon dioxide emissions. It is technically possible therefore for the agreement to enter into force if all countries except the US and China ratify the deal, but that outcome seems unlikely.

Ratification in China will hinge on its perceived effects on economic development.

Approval in the US will largely depend on a legal determination of whether the agreement must be ratified by the senate. This was a major reason the US has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

Even if 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions ratify the agreement, it will do little to achieve the goal of limiting warming to 2°C. Unless countries covering more than 90% of global emissions ratify the agreement, there is little chance of success in reaching the ambitious climate goals.

The need for immediate action includes raising at least US$100 billion per year by 2020. This challenge is enormous, but necessary, if developing countries are to forego the fossil-fuel-intensive development that characterised wealthier nations in the past.

And finally, we need to build new capacity for climate adaption, particularly in poorer, more vulnerable nations. Climate change is already here, and its fingerprint in many recent climate extremes is clear. All countries and communities need new capacity and knowledge to strengthen their resilience and sustainable development pathways.

The Conversation

Pep Canadell, CSIRO Scientist, and Executive Director of Global Carbon Project, CSIRO and Rob Jackson, Professor, Earth System Science, Stanford University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Advertisements

Holiday Update


My latest holiday plan has gone flop – the back packing holiday is a no-goer. Reason? It would seem from all reports that the Tops to Myalls Heritage Trail has been abandoned, with parts of the route now so overgrown as to be unrecognizable. I have been told of walkers in recent times having to back track a fair distance when the way ahead was no longer able to be walked. So as disappointing as it is I have abandoned the trail myself and will now do something else.

With time running out for a settled option, I have decided to fall back on an earlier idea and that is to visit the Cathedral Rocks National Park and possibly do some further walks at the Dorrigo National Park. I have booked a vehicle (car rental) for the trip so things are fairly settled now as far as the destination is concerned. I am now going to put some meat on the bones of my idea and draw up an itinerary, Google Map, etc. So some real detail of what I plan to do will be coming over the next few weeks.

This isn’t going to be an expensive holiday or a long one, but is mean’t to be a simple time-out break and one that will allow me to plan some much bigger holidays for later in the year and into the coming year also.

Climate Change: Further Evidence


Further evidence has emerged for climate change with King Crabs now moving into the warming waters of Antarctica. The appearance of these crabs in Antarctic waters is cause for real concern as they pose a serious threat to endemic species in this area.

For more on this story visit:
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2011/03/king-crabs-invade-antarctica-40-million-years.php

Holiday Planning: Must get Moving on This


I am yet to come up with any real destination for my next holiday, despite saying it was time to plan back in August 2009. I do however, have a possible timeframe in which to have the holiday, so planning must now begin with some earnest.

I am hoping to go on my next trip at the start of February 2010 and it will be for about 2 weeks I think. I have no solid plans on just where to go, but I am thinking out west somewhere (New South Wales, Australia). I may even go to the Northern Territory.

So now it is time to really begin planning.

Copenhagen Summit Fails to Deliver


In news that has delighted the ears of climate change sceptics the world over, the Copenhagen summit on climate change has failed to deliver anything of real value that will actually make a difference. It is truly disappointing that even in the face of a massive environmental disaster that will affect the entire planet, global leaders have failed to lead and work together in finding solutions to the major issues we face over the coming decades and century.

Newspapers in Australia have reported the failure of the summit and are reporting on the leader of the opposition gloating over the failure of the summit. His solution is to ignore the real issue and hope that the Australian people prove to be as oblivious to climate change as the coalition he leads.

Typically, the usual anti-Kevin Rudd biased journalists and climate change sceptics of the newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) I read this morning, were also quick to pour further scorn on the Prime Minister and the problem of climate change itself (which they deny). One particular vocal climate change sceptic in the Sunday Telegraph has very little credibility with me and I find his obsessive anti-Rudd tirades more than a little tiring. This self-opinionated buffoon is little more than an embarrassment for both the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph for which he also writes. His columns are becoming more of a personal vendetta against Kevin Rudd than anything resembling real journalism.

I’ll be finding a better way to become acquainted with the daily news than continuing to read the biased diatribes that continue to be put forward by these papers in future. I’ll also be hoping that our leaders can overcome the various preoccupations each have with self-interest (whether it be personal or national) in order to reach a real workable agreement on dealing with the growing threat of climate change