James Hansen Slams Paris Agreement As “Wishful Thinking”
By Paul Homewood
Eco-loon Hansen has been at it again.
From Eco Watch:
Many hail the Paris agreement—set to cross the threshold this week to come into effect—as a panacea for global climate change. Yet tragically, this perspective neglects to take into account the scientific reality of our climate system, which tells a much different story.
Our latest research, Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions, appeared Monday as a "Discussion" paper in Earth System Dynamics Discussion, and outlines how—if national governments neglect to take aggressive climate action today—today’s young people will inherit a climate system so altered it will require prohibitively expensive—and possibly infeasible—extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Global temperatures are already at the level of the Eemian period (130,000 to 115,000 years ago), when sea level was 6-9 meters higher than today. Considering the additional warming "in the pipeline," due to delayed response of the climate system and the impossibility of instant replacement of fossil fuels, additional temperature rise is inevitable.
Continued high fossil fuel emissions place a burden on young people to undertake "negative CO2 emissions," which would require massive technological CO extraction with minimal estimated costs of $104-$570 trillion this century, with large risks and uncertain feasibility.
Continued high fossil fuel emissions unarguably sentences young people to either a massive, possibly implausible cleanup or growing deleterious climate impacts or both, scenarios that should provide incentive and obligation for governments to alter energy policies without further delay.
The paper provides the underlying scientific backing for the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit against the U.S. government, which argues that climate change jeopardizes the next generation’s inalienable rights under the U.S. Constitution to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The paper offers an opportunity to examine the current state of the planet with respect to climate change. Four key takeaways include:
1. The Paris Climate Accord is a precatory agreement, wishful thinking that mainly reaffirms, 23 years later, the 1992 Rio Framework Convention on Climate Change. The developing world need for abundant, affordable, reliable energy is largely ignored, even though it is a basic requirement to eliminate global poverty and war. Instead the developed world pretends to offer reparations, a vaporous $100B/year, while allowing climate impacts to grow.
2. As long as fossil fuels are allowed to be held up as the cheapest reliable energy, they will continue to be the world’s largest energy source and the likelihood of disastrous consequences for young people will grow to near certainty.
3. Technically, it is still possible to solve the climate problem, but there are two essential requirements: (1) a simple across-the-board rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies at the source, and (2) government support for RD&D (research, development and demonstration) of clean energy technologies, including advanced generation, safe nuclear power.
4. Courts are crucial to solution of the climate problem. The climate "problem" was and is an opportunity for transformation to a clean energy future. However, the heavy hand of the fossil fuel industry works mostly in legal ways such as the "I’m an Energy Voter" campaign in the U.S. Failure of executive and legislative branches to deal with climate change makes it essential for courts, less subject to pressure and bribery from special financial interests, to step in and protect young people, as they did minorities in the case of civil rights.
He is, as some of us have been pointing out, spot on about the Paris Agreement. (Precatory, by the way, means “ referring to a wish or advisory suggestion which does not have the force of a demand or a request which under the law must be obeyed”).
He goes further:
President Obama seems not to understand that as long as fossil fuels are allowed (to appear to the user) to be the cheapest reliable energy, they will continue to be the world’s largest energy source and the likelihood of disastrous consequences for young people will grow to near certainty. Obama proudly states that his EPA regulations can actually produce a greater emissions reduction than would his initial nearly-worthless proposal of a cap-and-trade “scheme”. Obama salves his conscience by noting his agreement to share information with China on carbon-capture-and-storage, which neither nation will ever employ at the scale needed to deal with the climate problem, and his plans to be a climate ambassador in his old age.
Not for the first time, he claims he can cure all ills with his carbon tax, conveniently ignoring that there is no practical alternative to fossil fuels in the foreseeable future. Such a tax would, in any event, need to be draconian to have any noticeable effect.
He salves his conscience by suggesting that the tax revenue be returned to the people via other tax cuts. However, since the whole objective of a carbon tax is to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, there would soon be little revenue left to redistribute. Instead, everybody would be stuck with expensive renewable energy.
We would be able to dismiss all of this as the ramblings of a mad man, but for the fact that Hansen’s paper provides the underlying scientific backing for the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit against the US government, which argues that climate change jeopardizes the next generation’s inalienable rights under the U.S. Constitution to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
His paper finishes:
G. Funding for worldwide carbon sequestration and trace gas reductions.
Young People’s Burden makes clear that rapid reduction of fossil fuel emissions is the most important requirement to assure prospects of young people, but it is not enough. It is also necessary to have a large drawdown of atmospheric CO2 via improved agricultural and forestry practices, and to have multiple actions that limit the growth of or even achieve a reduction of other trace gases. These actions will need to occur nearly worldwide, especially in developing countries, and, even though there are some local benefits of many of these actions, substantial resources will be needed to see their realization.
Here is where legal action is almost surely required. Just as the tobacco industry was required to pay compensation to the public for health damage of smoking, so the fossil fuel industry should be required to pay, in view of the great largesse it has received from the public and the damage it is inflicting on young people and worldwide. Administration of these funds should be such as to continually evaluate and reward those countries that are most successful in taking the needed actions that store carbon and reduce trace gas abundances, thus avoiding graft and funds misuse.
His threats to fossil fuel producers are part of a wider political campaign, and pose a real threat to the US economy.
While he’s busy fining and taxing US oil and coal companies, what does he propose doing with producers in the rest of the world? Is he going to take the Saudis or China to court?
Punishing Big Oil might satisfy Hansen’s socialist urgings, but will do little to alter global emission trends, and will certainly damage US economic interests.