December 15, 2017
Most efforts to decrease carbon emissions in the world is a hard topic to follow in the news today. What is usually reported sparks a debate that gets a lot of flak for being an illegitimately researched issue, or deemed a completely out-of-left-field theory concocted by conspiracy theorists of science. Unfortunately, policy world-wide seems to fall short when it should inspire us all to re-focus on what matters—the planet and our accountability to the hazards we risk for the sake of convenience or comfortability. Which one of those umbrellas do you fall under?
Human activities are the most significant drivers of greenhouse gas emissions. Current events today are a good indicator of what that means. What we do and the effects of those activities are the reasons for the rising temperature of the Earth by 1 degree in the 20th Century. One degree may sound like a small amount, but it is a highly unusual for the planet’s recent history. For many, 1 degree would sound like a complete detriment to the planet. We are here to tell you that it is.
This blog takes a moment to analyze what is happening in today’s world and how we, as the human race, are more culpable to being complacent when it comes to making a change for the greater good. Here, we focus on The City of Lights … Par-ee (Paris).
World leaders from across the globe came together for the first time in history in 2015 to legally ratify action against pollution through the United Nations Framework Convention. This agreement was called the Paris Agreement, which marked a turning point in battling climate change. As of late, President Trump has spoken of opting out.
United Nation’s former Climate Chief, Christiana Figueres, who helped institute the Paris Agreement, ultimately warned that the world has “three years to safeguard our climate.” It was an exaggerated claim then; however, new research makes it seem like a more believable time-frame would be somewhere around 20 years. Nature Geoscience published an analysis by Richard Millar of Oxford University. He suggests “that climate researchers have been underestimating the carbon “budget” compatible with the ambitions expressed in Paris. It may be possible for the world to emit significantly more carbon dioxide in the next few decades than was previously thought, and keep global warming “well below” a 2° Celsius rise above pre-industrial levels, which is what the agreement requires.”
For further clarification, Mr. Millar’s statements have recently been interpreted in the media as a false assertion of rising global temperatures and a dubious urgency.
“A number of media reports have asserted that our recent study in Nature Geoscience indicates that global temperatures are not rising as fast as predicted by the IPCC, and hence that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is no longer urgent. Both assertions are false.”
This level of certainty is a problem for policy making.
A recent report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demonstrated how the carbon budget has a good chance of keeping global warming to 1.5° Celsius. The preferred target was 2.25 metric tonnes (unit of weight equal to 1,000 kilograms) according to the Paris Agreement.
By the time of the Paris Agreement, the amount emitted was estimated was a little over 2 metric tonnes. The annual emissions at the moment are almost 40 billion tonnes. This suggested that the total carbon budget would be spent by around 2020 according to the models used by Mr. Millar and his research team. This seems to be the reason for Ms. Christiana Figueres’ worry.
The calculations of the IPCC budget depended on the use of a set of complex climate models called Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) to replicate what had happened in the climate since 1870 and assess what might happen in the century to come. The temperature they predicted would prevail at that time was about 1.2° Celsius above that of 1870 when, in fact, the temperature after 2 trillion tonnes had been emitted was only 0.9° Celsius higher. In different words, the real world had seen slightly more carbon emitted, and less warming than the models had suggested it should have.
The result was a sizeable increase in the budget. The world could emit about 750 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from 2015 onwards and still have a two-thirds chance to keep further warming below 0.6° Celsius. Given that warming by 2015 was 0.9° Celsius, this would define the budget for staying below 1.5° Celsius.
Researchers used technology to look at futures in which emissions are reduced sharply, the climate responds in the way it seems to have done in the past, and the overall temperature rise is limited to 1.5° Celsius or less. They found it likely that this could be done with 920 billion tonnes of post-2015 carbon-dioxide emissions. Given all uncertainties, this is a close match to their other figure. Again, the carbon budget lasts a couple of decades, not just a few years. With this in mind, does time mean we continue business as usual?
Not in the slightest.
TRUMP ATTEMPTS TO DISBAND
Earlier this year, President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which would weaken efforts to combat global warming. In his words, he vowed to stand with “the people of the US against what he called a ‘draconian’ international deal.” We happen to agree with many technology and business leaders on the issue, which is a drastic contrast from President Trump such as Elon Musk of Tesla.
Mr. Musk said the decision to disband from the Paris Agreement would ultimately harm the US economy by “ceding the jobs of the future in clean energy and technology to overseas competitors.”
Lose jobs, hinder our ability to collaborate on clean energy? That is, in essence, a bad thing.
Let’s review the history of the Paris Agreement onto when it met its demise with the US, shall we?
On December 13, 2015, a small group of White House officials entered a legal agreement to cut emissions causing climate change. They were just in time to catch a live feed of Former President Obama declaring “a turning point for the world.”
These were the same officials who set the United States negotiating position to craft a deal according to US specifications in order to insulate Obama and the agreement from attacks.
When it came to Republicans in Congress, they wanted the agreement to be bullet-proof. That was no easy feat in concessions over an immensely complicated challenge involving nearly 200 countries, and half a dozen rival negotiating blocks.
“We met the moment,” Obama said in his address. The Paris Agreement on its own would not end climate change, he said, but “this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change, and will pave the way for even more progress, in successive stages, over the coming years.”
The deal reached in Paris set goals to limit warming, phase-out carbon emissions by the middle of the century, help third world countries restore their economies, and analyze their progress towards hitting those targets at regular recesses.
Jim Inhofe, the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, who holds views on global warming outside the scientific mainstream, said he would continue to scrutinize Obama’s climate agenda. Inhofe and other committee chairs in Congress have held hearings seeking to undermine the Paris climate meeting and the work of government scientific agencies. Why do you think that is?
“The United States is not legally bound to any agreement setting emissions targets or any financial commitment to it without approval by Congress,” Inhofe said in a statement.
Campaigners, meanwhile, plan to use the agreement to push Obama to stop Congress lifting a ban on oil exports in the budget bill, and to phase out fossil fuel extraction on public lands.
But as administration officials pointed out after the deal was done, the agreement reached in Paris was constructed with a view to making it safe from Republican attacks – which was one reason negotiations were so problematic.
The United States needed a very particular kind of deal and it necessitated immense political capital to achieve it.
Obama and the French president, François Hollande, even until the final moments, were spending that capital to get to a deal, telephoning world leaders for support.
Obama met the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, at the beginning of the talks and the two leaders were in regular telephone contact throughout the meeting, administration officials said.
“This agreement was right in the zone where it needed to be,” an administration official said. “There was significant US involvement in the shaping and architecture.”
CASE STUDY: REDUCING GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS IN CALIFORNIA
California has shown progress toward a clean-energy economy, the California Air Resources Board released the latest statewide inventory of greenhouse gas emissions. This report showed significant emissions reductions along with the strongest economic growth since 2005.
“This data shows once again that California’s groundbreaking greenhouse gas emission-reduction programs are working as designed,” said Mary D. Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (CARB).
“These numbers clearly indicate that the state is on track to achieve its 2020 emission reduction goals and that California can grow its economy while continuing to fight climate change.”
The 2015 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, released earlier this year by CARB, found that climate-warming emissions fell by 1.5 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2015 compared to the year prior, which is equivalent to removing 300,000 vehicles from California’s roads for a year.
California, the sixth-largest economy in the world, has advanced its nation-leading climate goals while also growing the economy. In the last seven years, California has created 2.3 million new jobs – outpacing most of the U.S. – cut its unemployment rate in half, eliminated a $27 billion budget deficit and has seen its credit rating rise to the highest level in more than a decade. In 2016, California led the nation in job creation for the third time in a row.
The California Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32) set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, which equals about 431 million metric tonnes. Last year, the Governor and the Legislature established a 2030 target of an additional reduction of 40 percent below 1990 emission levels. This was an ambitious goal and one of the top set in North America.
The new data shows that California is on its way to meet these targets. Since the peak of 489 MMT in 2004, statewide emissions have declined by 10 percent, with the latest inventory showing emissions of 440 MMT in two years ago in 2015.
California’s primary programs for reducing greenhouse gases to 1990 levels are the:
Renewables Portfolio Standard;
The Advanced Clean Cars Program;
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard; and,
The Cap-and-Trade Program
Additional programs address a variety of greenhouse gas sources, from cleaning up freight movement to reducing potent super-pollutants. The continuation of these programs will be key building blocks in California’s efforts to achieve its 2030 target.
The 2015 Greenhouse Gas Emission Trends Report also shows that the carbon intensity of the California economy has fallen 33 percent since its peak in 2001. During the same period, the state’s GSP has grown by 37 percent.
Emissions from most major economic sectors declined in 2015, with the exception of transportation, the inventory shows.
The energy sector saw emissions from both in-state and imported electricity generation fall by more than 5 percent from levels in 2014. This continues a steady decline in the carbon intensity of California’s electricity supply that began in 2001. This trend is likely due to energy efficiency improvements, growth in renewable energy, and the Cap-and-Trade Program.
Fun Facts in California:
- Industrial sources emissions declined or leveled off.
- Refinery emissions dropped by 4 percent in 2015.
- Despite a surge in construction and highway repair, emissions from the cement sector remained stable in 2015. And,
- Increased fuel consumption in 2015 resulted in a 3 percent increase in emissions from the transportation sector, which is California’s largest source of greenhouse gases with 37 percent of statewide emissions.
Consequently, the State’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard, however, cleaner renewable fuels are continuing to replace gasoline and diesel fuels. In 2015, bio-fuels displaced more than one billion gallons of gasoline and over 300 million gallons of diesel fuel.
A 2030 Scoping Plan is being creating by CARB to guide greenhouse gas reductions beyond 2020. In addition to the programs already mentioned, the Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Strategy, the Sustainable Communities Program and the Sustainable Freight Strategy will help the state achieve the 2030 target.
The 2030 Scoping Plan lays out how these initiatives will work collaboratively to reduce greenhouse gases and to also reduce smog-causing pollutants.
All the greenhouse gas emission numbers above are stated in million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). Scientists use carbon dioxide as the benchmark in comparing the potency of heat-trapping effects among all greenhouse gases.
Consistent with international and national greenhouse gas inventory practices, global warming potential in a 100-year timeframe is used in the inventory.
You can find the 2015 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory data here.
WHAT’S THE COST TO REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS?
Starting in early 2007, a research team from McKinsey worked with leading companies, industry experts, scholars, and environmental non-governmental organizations to develop a detailed, consistent fact base estimating costs and potentials of different options to reduce or prevent greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) within the United States through 2030.
The team analyzed more than 250 options, encircling efficiency gains, shifts in lowering carbon energy sources, and expanded carbon sinks.
Consensus is growing among scientists and business leaders that concerted action will be needed to address rising GHG emissions in the United States. The discussion is now turning to the practical challenges of where and how emissions reductions can best be achieved, at what costs, and over what periods of time.
The United States could reduce GHG emissions in 2030 by 3.0 to 4.5 gigatons of CO2e using tested approaches and high-potential emerging technologies. These reductions would involve pursuing an abatement options with peripheral costs less than $50 per ton, with the average net cost to the economy being far lower if the nation can capture sizable gains from energy efficiency.
Achieving these reductions at the lowest cost to the economy; however, will require strong, coordinated, economy-wide action that begins soon.
From a united nations standpoint to progress happening within the states, one thing requires common ground—an understanding of the planet’s finite resources. With the help of technologists, business leaders, environmentalists, and policy-makers, we can make a true difference in the amount of greenhouse gas emissions we collectively produce. Understanding what is happening in current events is one way to get on the same page about what actions we must take as a human race. For some, there is no hesitation as seen in California. For others, we pull out of efforts that are intended to mitigate our footprint. What do we do then?
Well, there is plenty to do. And it starts with you.
Inibii Technology is a for-planet technology company striving to help enterprises become more data conscious. Elicit us to help you measure your energy footprint for your building portfolio. We are here when you need us.
What is the Paris climate agreement and who has signed it?
Global Climate Change NASA Vital Signs of the Planet Facts https://climate.nasa.gov/effects/
2015 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory data https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/us-greenhouse-gas-inventory-report-1990-2014
Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Causes & Sources https://www.livescience.com/37821-greenhouse-gases.html
Factcheck: Climate Models have not ‘Exaggerated’ Global Warming By Zeke Hausfather, originally published by Carbon Brief September 21, 2017 http://www.resilience.org/stories/2017-09-21/factcheck-climate-models-have-not-exaggerated-global-warming/