by Judith Curry
I’m working to wrap my head around the emerging UNFCCC pledges to cut carbon emissions, in preparation for the Paris meeting next December. Here’s what I’m reading.
I’ve tried to ‘storify’ this with titles to the articles (so you can get something out of this even without ‘clicking’ on links), and I’ve selected links that I regard to be fairly high quality articles that represent a spectrum of perspectives.
These pledges are called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDC). Carbon Brief has a good overview of the framework [link]
US Commitment to the UN [link]. Summary: Promises to cut emissions by 26% to 28% in 2025 against a 2005 baseline, confirming an existing goal jointly announced with China in November. Says the US will make best efforts to cut emissions by the maximum 28% by 2025.
Obama’s press announcement: Climate change is a global problem. Here’s another step towards solving it: [link]
Carbon Brief has a good summary [link] US climate pledge promises to push for maximum ambition
Tweet: As reality sets in, it looks like US is backing down a bit from its proposed CO2 emissions targets made at UN’s Copenhagen meeting in 2009 [link]
Slate: The wimpy new U.S. climate targets are letting the world down [link]
Obama’s CO2 Plan Will Only Avert 0.001° Of Warming A Year [link]
Technical and political feasibility
New U.S. #Climate Target is Achievable and Sends an Important Signal to the World [link]
Bloomberg: Obama’s new climate change plan in two charts. The President sends the UN a list of things he wants – and the Republicans don’t [link]
Vox: Obama has vowed to cut US emissions 17% by 2020. He’s not on track yet. [link]
Climate Madness: President Obama’s proposal to cut U.S. emissions by 28% over 10 years as America’s contribution to a global climate treaty will devastate our economy while doing nothing to reduce temperatures. [link]
Bloomberg: Obama’s UN Climate Vow Needs Court Wins, Cheap Natural Gas [link]
Daily Signal: The problems with Obama’s plan to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 30% [link]
The Hill: who should bear the burden of U.S. policy on climate change? [link]
White House: Global Warming ‘Deniers’ Shouldn’t Have A Say On UN Treaty [link]
Other international commitments
Carbon Brief Paris 2015: Tracking country climate pledges [link]
UNFCC Newsroom: more than 80% of global emissions covered and counting [link]
- Russia submits INDP to the UN [link]
- Russia sketches emissions cut of up to 30% [link] …
- Russia’s Clever Climate Trick: Offers Forests As Carbon Sinks [link]
- Tweet: In an unusual attempt to make Obama look like a stronger leader, Putin submits weakest INDC yet offered to the UNFCCC. [link]
- At least a 40% domestic reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 compared to 1990 levels [link].
- Carbon Brief summary: Unconditional 25% reduction in greenhouse gases and short lived climate pollutants from a business-as-usual scenario by 2030, which would rise to 40% subject to the outcome of a global climate deal. For the unconditional pledge, this means peaking net emissions by 2026 and reducing emissions intensity per unit of GDP by around 40% from 2013 to 2030.
- Brookings: Mexico’s new national pledge on #climatechange could serve as an example for other nations:[link]
- The World’s Worst Climate Villain Just Showed Us Exactly How to Stop Global Warming [link]
- US submits climate target to UN “while Australia looks for excuses” [link]
Is it enough?
Even if the UN is successful at garnering the desired level of commitments and individual countries are successful at actually meeting these targets, is it enough?
From Climate Central:
After all of the INDCs have been submitted, it’s very unlikely they will be enough, collectively, to keep global warming to below 3.6°F — which is the overarching goal of the international climate negotiations. The world is currently on track to emit enough greenhouse gases by about 2040 to exceed that target, beyond which the risks of “dangerous” consequences of global warming escalate, scientists say. By incorporating nearly all the world’s economies, and by doing so in ways that encourage and link together individual climate actions, the Paris agreement is being designed to provide an entirely new framework around which more ambitious climate commitments could be made in the coming years.
Questions from EENews:
How will countries address the fact that the collective targets are clearly not adding up to enough to meet the climate stabilization goal of keeping temperatures below a 2-degree-Celsius rise?
Can the United States convince the rest of the world that its target won’t unravel after 2016?
538: America’s new climate plan is its boldest yet, and still not enough [link]. Excerpt:
There’s a consortium of four climate research organizations that analyzes this kind of thing and produces the Climate Action Tracker (CAT). The CAT method ranks countries’ submissions to the UN convention, formally known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC), on the scale below.
According to this metric, the U.S. plan falls in the “medium” range. “They’re in the least ambitious end of the 2 degree global emission pathway,” physicist Bill Hare, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics, said. That means that if the U.S. goes no further than these targets, other countries will have to pick up the slack.
But where the extra reductions would come from remains uncertain. Other INDCs that CAT has analyzed, such as those of the EU, Switzerland, Mexico and Norway, also fall into the medium category. China has not yet submitted its INDC, but based on the agreement laid out in Beijing, “If you compare the U.S. to China, we see similar levels of effort,” Hare said.
The emerging INDC commitments appear to be sufficient for some kind of political success at the forthcoming Paris COP. Apart from the feasibility of actually meeting these commitments, there are several elephants in the room here, that people don’t seem to be talking about:
- We don’t know how the 21st century climate will evolve
- We don’t know, and whether reductions in emissions will actually alter the 21st century climate in beneficial ways.
- The unintended consequences of these policies could act to increase vulnerability to extreme events
- Deep, international focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an opportunity loss to deal with other more pressing and easily solved problems
In any event, it will very interesting to see how this plays out in terms of U.S. politics. Stay tuned.