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Kevin Anderson Tells Us What The Government Won’t Admit

December 17, 2013

By Paul Homewood



Kevin Anderson is Deputy Director of the Tyndall Centre, the organisation set up to research, assess and communicate from a distinct trans-disciplinary perspective, the options to mitigate, and the necessities to adapt to, climate change, and to integrate these into the global, UK and local contexts of sustainable development.


Whatever criticisms we may make of him, he has to be applauded for his honesty. He has recently written an article “Avoiding dangerous climate change demands de-growth strategies from wealthier nations” , which makes absolutely clear the logical outcome of decarbonisation policies.

He sums up:


To summarise, if:
1.  reductions in emissions greater than 3-4% p.a. are incompatible with a growing economy,
2.  the 2°C obligation relates to a twenty-first century carbon budget,
3.  a 50% chance of exceeding 2°C is adjudged an acceptable risk of failure,
4.  and Non-Annex 1 nations peak emissions by 2025 & subsequently reduce at ~7% p.a.,
5.  then the wealthier nations’ carbon budget is the global 2°C budget minus the poorer nations’ budget,
6.  and consequently wealthier nations must reduce emissions at 8 to 10% p.a.,
7. Q.E.D. Annex 1[i.e.developed countries] mitigation rates for 2°C are incompatible with economic growth

In his article, Anderson also refers to a submission to the Parliamentary Environmental Committee last year, which concludes:


that if the emissions of ‘less-developed’ nations (non-Annex 1) peak by 2025 and subsequently reduce at ~7% p.a., then for a ‘reasonable probability’ of 2°C the UK and EU must deliver immediate emission reductions of ~10% p.a., with complete decarbonisation of the energy system by around 2030. Such levels of mitigation are far beyond anything countenanced by those engaged in debates on the UK carbon budget or EU 2030 targets; yet if avoiding the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change is to be taken seriously, the maths of the situation are inescapable.


It’s a pity that our politicians have not been as honest with us as Professor Anderson has.

It also raises the question – if the current decarbonisation plans, in both the UK and the EU, are so ineffective in tackling climate change, why are we even bothering with them. If Anderson is correct, the enormous cost of the existing policies cannot be justified, if the “benefit” is so small.

While I applaud his honesty, I would suggest Anderson has been a bit economical with the truth when he suggests there will be no growth. After all, economic growth has been pretty anaemic over the last few years.

Choosing “zero growth” is not an option. The reality is that the “complete decarbonisation by 2030”, that he calls for, could not be achieved without a, probably substantial, shrinking of the economy.


It is time for our politicians to man up and admit the logical consequence of their actions.

  1. edmh permalink
    December 17, 2013 9:11 pm

    The temperature increasing capacity of atmospheric CO2 is known to diminish as concentrations increase. This diminution effect is probably the reason why there was no runaway greenhouse warming caused by CO2 in earlier eons when CO2 levels were known to be at levels of several thousands ppmv.

    Both sceptics and Global Warming advocates agree on this. IPCC Published reports, (TAR3), acknowledge that the effective temperature increase caused by growing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere radically diminishes with increasing concentrations. This information has been in the IPCC reports. It is well disguised for any lay reader, (Chapter 6. Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: section 6.3.4 Total Well-Mixed Greenhouse Gas Forcing Estimate) .

    Up to ~200 ppmv, the equivalent to about 82% of the temperature increasing effectiveness of CO2, is essential to maintain plant life and thus all life on earth. The current level of ~400 ppmv is already committed and immutable. At that level it already amounts to ~93% of the potential warming effect of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Thus only ~7% of the effectiveness of CO2 as a warming greenhouse gas now remains.

    Thus there can only ever be a minor temperature reduction impact of any de-carbonization policy, controlling CO2 emissions. Whatever political efforts are made to de-carbonize free world economies or to reduce man-made CO2 emissions, (and to be effective at temperature control those efforts would have to be universal and worldwide), those efforts can only now affect at most ~7% of the future warming effect of CO2.

    The rapid diminution effect is an inconvenient fact for Global Warming advocates, nonetheless it is well understood within the climate science community but it is certainly not much discussed.

    So more CO2 in the atmosphere cannot inevitably lead directly to much more warming. And increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere cannot give rise to any dangerous temperature increase.

    Thus de-carbonization policies could never have useful impact to realistically control any rising world temperatures and the future world climate.

    As the future temperature effect of increasing CO2 emissions is now so minor, therefore there is no possibility of ever reaching the political target of less than +2.0°C by the control of CO2 emissions.

    Both CO2 sceptics and Global Warming advocates agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and does increase temperature: the question between them is one of degree.

    • higley7 permalink
      December 19, 2013 9:09 pm

      More accurately, the ability of CO2 to warm the atmosphere is zero. But, let’s say it can do what they say. During the day, it’s conversion of IR to heat would be a wash as heat would be also converted to IR and emitted.

      BUT and a big but, during the night, with no IR input from the Sun, CO2 and water vapor would actively convert heat to IR and lose it to space. This part of the real world is entirely ignored by the climate models and the “climate scientists”.

  2. tom0mason permalink
    December 18, 2013 4:31 am

    The UN’s IPCC willfully ignores the fact that over the history of this planet temperatures and CO2 levels did not exactly track, and that the world has survive, and often flourished with temperatures and CO2 well above the current averages.
    Even during the modern times of man’s existence on this planet he and nature has, through marvelous adaptability, survived larger climatic extremes than currently postulated.

    The theory of runaway global warming has always been a sham. Why so many charlatans have been allowed to propagate, and profit from it is the big question.

  3. John F. Hultquist permalink
    December 18, 2013 6:08 am

    Well, it took a lot of words but Kevin finally got to the punch line; namely “De-growth strategies are not going to happen – Now what?”

  4. Asmilwho permalink
    December 18, 2013 6:48 am

    Zero economic growth while the UK Population rises to 70 million over the next decades means ….

  5. mitigatedsceptic permalink
    December 18, 2013 12:35 pm

    Is this just another post-normal science explanation of why reality is not conforming to the models?

  6. December 18, 2013 7:57 pm

    I wouldn’t applaud this fellow for his honesty. This is a kool-aid drinker with a capital D – from somewhere deep in the heart of la-la land.

    “Avoiding dangerous climate change demands de-growth strategies from wealthier nations” sounds like a clarion call to me – to proceed (lemming-like) off the economic and social cliff.

  7. Brian H permalink
    December 20, 2013 6:58 am

    “the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change” – not to be taken seriously. Even double that would still be beneficial.

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