Will it be enough….??

19 04 2015

Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane

Another guest post from resident climate scientist Mark Cochrane who asks “will it be enough?”

We are now in the build up period to the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21/CMP11) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), otherwise known as “Paris 2015” from November 30th to December 11th. This conference will be critical, as it needs to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. It follows on the debacle that was the Copenhagen Summit (COP 15) in 2009 where the whole thing dissolved in disarray when a weak statement, the “Copenhagen Accord” was rammed through by the US, China, India, Brazil and South Africa” to no effect. As weak as it was the US did not adopt it, choosing instead to officially “take note of” it, whatever that means. Courtesy of Edward Snowden, the world now knows that the US was spying on all of the other countries delegations and effectively scuttling any chance for meaningful accords arising from the Copenhagen Summit (link). To keep the public out of the debate we were treated to the fabricated spectacle of “Climategate” where hackers grabbed thousands of emails from climate researchers and selectively used bits and pieces out of context to spin the idea of a great conspiracy to mislead the public.

There have now been eight major investigations of the various allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct (link) including:

House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (UK); Independent Climate Change Review (UK); International Science Assessment Panel (UK); Pennsylvania State University first panel and second panel (US); United States Environmental Protection Agency (US); Department of Commerce (US); National Science Foundation (US).

Despite this you will find the same false allegations spun by the same sources.

However, this time around there appears to be some movement toward actually attempting to reach a global accord. The world has been without such an accord since the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012, though a shadow of it has limped on until now. Started in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol languished without effect until 2002 due to the intransigence of the United States. However, in 2004, Russia ratified the agreement and the world officially overrode the United States to bring the agreement into effect. At this point, of the 196 countries/parties within the UNFCCC, 192 have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. The United States never has, Canada did, but then dropped out in 2012.

At present, the world’s countries are putting forth their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), with developed countries expected to lead and developing countries to follow. You can monitor the growing list of submitted INDCs here. So far they include, in order of submission, Switzerland, The European Union, Norway, Mexico, the US, Gabon, and Russia. There are a hodgepodge of commitments including:

Switzerland commits to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 35 percent below 1990 levels by 2025, 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and 70-85 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. (link)

The EU’s INDC puts forward a legally binding commitment to reduce its overall emissions at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. (link)

The submission, referred to as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), is a formal statement of the U.S. target, announced in China last year, to reduce our emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and to make best efforts to reduce by 28%. (link)

The intent is for all of these commitments to come in to effect by 2020 as the world’s governments ratify the hoped for agreement. Assuming that all of this goes according to plan, is there any hope that these actions will limit warming of the planet to 2C or less? In a word No. No one has any illusions that they will. From the UNFCCC website:

“In October we will produce a synthesis report aggregating the effect of all the INDCs submitted. The initial INDCs will clearly not add up to the emissions reductions needed to keep the global temperature rise under 2 degrees C, which is one reason why the Paris agreement must factor in a long term emission trajectory based on science”. (link)

However, although the total commitments may be disappointing, I am encouraged that there is momentum to get something done. It is a lot easier to adjust targets over time than to create a global agreement from scratch. Regardless, any effort to actually start reducing emissions levels would buy more time to adapt to and mitigate climate change effects. Is it enough, no, but it could be a step in the right direction. Even if the agreement is made and ratified, each country would then face the challenge of determining how to implement or incentivate the results they they hope to achieve.

My personal hope is that a sea change in global commitments to actually do something with regards to climate change will provide outlets for human creativity to look for better ways of diminishing the problem rather than new ways to accelerate it.

As such, I am keeping my fingers crossed for the Paris 2015 conference producing some sort of global accord. It will undoubtedly come out weaker than hoped, take longer than expected to ratify, and disappoint on all fronts, but it would at least be something other than the vacuum that we have been inhabiting. Maybe the NSA won’t be in everybody’s conference rooms this time around, maybe another false flag disinformation campaign won’t derail the public perception of the messages coming out of the meeting, maybe, just maybe, humanity will fleetingly try to live up to our self-proclaimed name of Homo sapiens sapiens (translation being – wise wise man).

Mark