Paris Will Make Little Difference To Emissions
By Paul Homewood
One thing I think we can expect from Paris is that a lot of claims will be made about how the various INDC’s submitted will have a very real impact on emissions. This will be necessary for western leaders to persuade their electorates to continue down the decarbonisation track.
Developing countries will, of course, support the narrative in order to get their hands on the money pot without actually having to do anything.
Kevin Marshall over at ManicBeancounter picks up on Christina Figueres’ statement to the BBC last month:
The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7C by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs.
The impression is given that we are nearly there, and only have to do a bit more to achieve the 2C target. Kevin shows this to be essentially nonsense in a detailed post here, and offers this summary:
The analysis by the UNFCCC shows that the policy proposals contained within the INDCs will make very little difference to trends in global emissions of greenhouse gases to 2030. In the accompanying literature, the UNFCCC makes no projections of the difference the INDCs will make beyond 2030. The claim that policy will limit forecast temperature rise to the 2.7C by 2100 is claimed by two other organisations, and is only referenced in a table at the very end of a separate technical annex without any discussion or endorsement. One of these, the IEA, achieves the projection by, post 2050, replacing forecasts contingent on the policy impact of the INDCs with an average of modelled RCP emissions pathways. The RCP website explicitly states that they are not forecasts of potential emissions or climate change, whether with or without policy action. It also states that any of the differences between the pathways be directly attributed to policy differences. The IEA thus replaces real emissions forecasts with data that is unrelated to the real world. The other claim, by Climate Action Tracker, has no explicit statement of how the increasing global emissions through to 2030 start tracking downwards post 2030. Contributing factors may include understating the emissions impact of India and China, along with excluding the likely increasing emissions in the coming decades from the poorest nations.
The claim that any agreement reached in Paris based on the INDCs will constrain to global average temperature rise to 2.7C by 2100 through constraining GHG emissions is therefore unsupported by any rigorous forecast of the policy impact in the referenced documents. Such forecasts are based on making a forecast without policy, then modelling the impact policy will make, stating the assumptions. With 40,000 people attending a conference, the UNFCCC could surely have set aside a couple of million dollars to obtain such a forecast from genuine experts.
Kevin also shows this graph of emissions from the UNFCCC, which makes clear the emissions pathway that lies ahead. (The chart is clearer on the link).
The orange pathway is the estimate of what will happen without the INDCs, and the yellow box shows the range with the INDC pledges. The emission savings from the INDCs is of the order of about 2 GtCO2e/yr.
So where does Figueres get her projections from? Quite simply by assuming mammoth emission cuts after 2030. Other than the EU, there is little in any of the INDCs that commits any countries to making cuts in emissions after 2030, and certainly not of any real significance. Most simply waffle on about the need to “do something”.
And, of course, the whole purpose of the INDCs was to make a start by getting countries looking at the immediate period up to 2030, rather than some distant, nebulous future.
There is an almost childlike naivety which assumes the rest of the world is going to step off the cliff in 2031, and rapidly cut emissions. Does anybody seriously expect the Chinese to suddenly shut down all of the coal power stations they are still busy building? Or that India will happily give up all of the benefits brought by economic growth in the next 15 years?
Even if economic growth in China, India and other developing countries is as great as planned, and history tells us that such plans always usually grossly optimistic, standards of living there will still be very low. What government is going to tell its people in 2030, “Sorry chaps, we’re not allowed any more growth because some wally made a pledge 15 years ago”?
And even if some miraculous technology comes along, nobody is going to chuck out existing technology overnight.
As for the third world, their journey to a better future has only just begun.
On top of all this, it is a cert that global population will be much higher in 20 or 30 years time. This alone will put upward pressure on emissions.
The reality is that whatever is agreed at Paris, it will have a negligible effect on emissions between now and 2030.