Tag Archives: Paris Agreement

Trump’s Hot Air Far From Greatest Climate Threat

A service truck drives past an oil well on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, U.S. on November 1, 2014.  REUTERS/Andrew Cullen/File Photo

A service truck drives past an oil well on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, U.S. on November 1, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen/File Photo

by Andrew Revkin, ProPublica
Dec. 29, 2016, 8 a.m.

President-elect Donald J. Trump has long pledged to undertake a profound policy shift on climate change from the low-carbon course President Obama made a cornerstone of his eight years in the White House.

“This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop,” Trump tweeted a year ago.

In recent weeks, Trump doubled down, nominating champions of fossil fuels to several cabinet positions and peppering his transition team with longtime opponents of environmental regulations.

Both the rhetoric and the actions have provoked despair among many who fear a Trump presidency will tip the planet toward an overheated future, upending recent national and international efforts to stem emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from burning coal, oil and natural gas.

But will a President Trump noticeably affect the globe’s climate in ways that, say, a President Hillary Clinton would not have?

In recent weeks, a variety of consultants tracking climate and energy policy have used models to help address that question. ProPublica asked Andrew P. Jones at Climate Interactive, a nonprofit hub for such analysis, to run one such comparison.

The chosen scenario assumes Trump’s actions could result in the United States only achieving half of its pledged reduction through 2030 under the Paris Agreement on climate change, the worldwide but voluntary pact aiming to avoid dangerous global warming that entered into force on Nov. 4.

In this scenario the difference — call it the Trump effect — comes to 11 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide emitted between 2016 and 2030. That number is huge — it’s the equivalent of more than five years’ worth of emissions from all American power plants, for instance.

But it’s almost vanishingly small in global context. Here’s why. Even if all signatories to the Paris pact met their commitments, the global total of CO2 emissions through 2030 would be 580 billion tons, with the United States accounting for 65 billion of those tons. The Trump difference could take American emissions to 76 billion tons, with that 11-billion-ton difference increasing cumulative global emissions by less than 2 percent.

This calculation assumes Trump’s effect is not as damaging as his rhetoric might suggest. Is that realistic? In interviews, more than half a dozen environmental economists and climate policy experts said yes.

They said this less because they see Trump moderating his stances and more because many of the targets set by Obama, and built on in Clinton campaign pledges, were based on shifts in energy use that are largely being driven by market forces or longstanding environmental laws that are relatively immune to the influence of any particular occupant of the White House.

These include polluting industries moving overseas, increasing industrial energy efficiency, a sustained shift away from coal to abundant, cleaner natural gas and wind, and a host of climate-friendly policies pursued by individual cities or states.

For instance, while Wyoming is among the 27 states fighting President Obama’s Clean Power Plan in court, the coal-rich state looks set to meet the emissions benchmarks in those power-plant rules, largely because of a giant wind farm poised to be built in, yes, Carbon County, and newly approved transmission lines to send electricity to states in the power-hungry Southwest.

It’s notable that while Trump’s choice for secretary of energy, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, is a climate change contrarian, he’s credited by clean-energy champions with overseeing an enormous expansion of wind energy in his state. “Texas is a huge wind state, the biggest by far, and Rick Perry put in these transmission lines and made it wind friendly and that’s why they have such cheap electricity and no problems with reliability — none,” said Hal Harvey, a longtime climate and energy analyst who has advised past Clinton and Bush administrations and run a clean-energy foundation.

For many, this all hardly justifies a sigh of relief.

Indeed, many environmentalists reject the idea that any encouraging trends toward better energy choices are happening on their own. Many coal-fired power plants, they note, were stopped from being built only by lawsuits and political pressure brought by activist opponents, said Kierán Suckling, the founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, which uses the courts to limit harm to public lands and ecosystems.

“Industry and Republicans certainly don’t believe in a secular trend. Instead they have poured enormous resources into trying to amend or repeal old laws, pass new industry-friendly laws, strike down and influence Obama’s policies, and prevent activists from enforcing laws and policies,” Suckling said.

With Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, environmental groups are, in effect, “lawyering up,” vowing to counter any “drill baby drill” efforts with a “sue baby sue” response.

In the end, as global carbon-dioxide tallies reflect, such courtroom sparring, while important, is unlikely to have a game-changing impact on climate trajectories.

Much the same thing can be said of the lasting impact of American presidents. For nearly three decades, White House occupants have pledged to move the needle on climate change one way or the other, without terribly dramatic results.

In the scorching summer of 1988, when global warming first hit headlines in a significant way, presidential candidate George H.W. Bush used a Michigan speech to pledge meaningful action curbing heat-trapping greenhouse gases, saying, “Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect forget about the White House effect.”

Despite a host of actions since that summer, including President George H.W. Bush signing the foundational climate treaty in Rio in 1992, you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of such an effect in emission rates.

Globally, the “great acceleration” in emissions (that’s a scientific description) has largely tracked the growth in human numbers and resource appetites — particularly a seemingly insatiable appetite for energy, more than 80 percent of which still comes from fossil fuels despite sustained efforts to spread efficiency and renewable choices.

William Nordhaus, a Yale economist long focused on climate change policy, calls the global situation a high-stakes “climate casino.” He just published a working paper concluding that all policies so far have amounted to “minimal” steps that have had equally minimal effects.

Nearly three decades after that “White House effect” pledge, after eight years of sustained efforts by President Obama, including building a critical 2014 partnership with China, Nordhaus finds “there has been no major improvement in emissions trends as of the latest data.”

In the end, the main value of the climate calculations spurred by Trump’s election could be in refocusing attention on the true scope of the challenge, which some researchers have described as “super wicked” given how hard it has been, using conventional political, legal or diplomatic tools, to balance human energy needs and the climate system’s limits.

The Paris Agreement itself was far more a diplomatic achievement than a climatic one. Its 2030 pledges leave unresolved how to cut emissions of carbon dioxide essentially to zero in the second half of the century in a world heading toward 9 billion or more people seeking decent lives.

That plunge in emissions is necessary because unlike most other pollutants, carbon dioxide from fuel burning stays in circulation for centuries, building in the atmosphere like unpaid credit-card debt.

The real risk for climate change in a Trump presidency, according to close to a dozen experts interviewed for this story, lies less in impacts on specific policies like Obama’s Clean Power Plan and more in the realm of shifts in America’s position in international affairs.

Even if he doesn’t formally pull out of the climate treaty process, Trump could, for example, cancel payments pledged by the United States to a Green Climate Fund set up in 2010 to help the poorest developing countries build resilience to climate hazards and develop clean-energy systems.

President Obama has already paid in $500 million of the $3 billion commitment, with another $200 million potentially paid before he leaves office next month. Environmentalists last week pressed in an open letter for the full amount to be paid before Trump takes office.

“If the U.S. walks from its commitment, I would think it would be difficult for the other OECD countries to sustain donations, and if those donations are not sustained, developing countries will focus on growth as opposed to low carbon growth,” said Henry Lee, a Harvard scholar working in and studying climate policy for decades.

But in international affairs, Trump and his proposed secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, the Exxon chairman, will confront a world of intertwined interests in which climate change has moved from being an inconvenient environmental side issue in the early 1990s to a keystone focal point now, said Andrew Light, a George Mason University professor focused on climate policy.

Light, who served on Obama administration negotiating teams in the run-up to the Paris accord, said such intertwined interests will be thrust upon the Trump administration starting this spring and summer in venues like the annual Group of 7 and Group of 20 meetings of the globe’s most powerful countries.

“Those groups have committed to action using very strong climate and energy language,” he said. “The way we got so many leaders to come to Paris and make this happen and ended up getting an even more ambitious agreement than we expected was by breaking climate diplomacy out of its silo — and making it sort of a peer issue to questions like trade and security. In this world you can’t just walk away from all this stuff.”

Given how Trump appears to be relishing his position as a wild card and a self-described master of the deal, it’s still impossible to say what will unfold starting January 20.

In a blistering speech to thousands of earth scientists in San Francisco earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown vowed to fight Trump in the near term using that state’s influence on everything from automobile standards to the national laboratories, which are managed by the University of California system.

But he also accurately described the climate challenge for what it is: “This is not a battle of one day or one election. This is a long-term slog into the future.”

This story was produced by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom, and is republished here under a Creative Commons licence.

Help Us Investigate: If you have experience with or information about this topic, email andy.revkin@propublica.org.  Sign up for ProPublica’s newsletter.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Earth swelters as global warming targets near breach

An iceberg floats near a harbour in the town of Kulusuk, east Greenland August 1, 2009. Picture taken August 1. REUTERS/Bob Strong

An iceberg floats near a harbour in the town of Kulusuk, east Greenland August 1, 2009. Picture taken August 1. REUTERS/Bob Strong

By Alister Doyle
August, 2016

OSLO (Reuters) – The Earth is so hot this year that a limit for global warming agreed by world leaders at a climate summit in Paris just a few months ago is in danger of being breached.

In December, almost 200 nations agreed a radical shift away from fossil fuels with a goal of limiting a rise in average global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for 1.5C (2.7F).

But 2016 is on track to be the hottest year on record, also buoyed by a natural El Nino event warming the Pacific, according to the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization. The first six months were a sweltering 1.3C above pre-industrial times.

“It opens a Pandora’s box,” said Oliver Geden, of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “The future debate about temperature targets will be about overshoot.”

Many climate scientists say the Paris targets are likely to be breached in the coming decades, shifting debate onto whether it will be possible to turn down the global thermostat.

Climate scientists will meet in Geneva from Aug 15-18 to plan a U.N. report about the 1.5C goal, requested by world leaders in the Paris Agreement for publication in 2018. Overshoot is among the issues in preparatory documents.

Developing nations see overshoot as a betrayal of commitments by the rich and a recipe to worsen heatwaves such as in the Middle East this year or a thaw of Greenland’s ice sheet that could swamp island states by raising global sea levels.

“There is a risk that ‘overshoot’ is a slippery slope towards lower ambition,” said Emmanuel de Guzman, secretary of the Climate Commission of the Philippines, which chairs a group of 43 emerging nations in the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF).

OLYMPICS CAMPAIGN

Backing that view at the Rio Olympics, some athletes have signs saying: “1.5 – the record we must not break” in a campaign partly run by the CVF, whose members includes Bangladesh, the Maldives and Guatemala.

Developing nations say overshoot lets world leaders pay lip service to 1.5C while failing to act on pledges made in Paris for a trillion-dollar shift from coal and other fossil fuels towards renewable energies.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump doubts climate change is caused by human activities and has said he will pull out of the Paris Agreement if elected. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton strongly backs Paris.

The 1.5C threshold could be in jeopardy within five years on current trends of world greenhouse gas emissions, led by China and the United States, and 2C within about 25 years, according to U.N. calculations of the amount of carbon that can be emitted into the atmosphere.

Brazilian scientist Thelma Krug, who will lead the Geneva meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said a “wholesale transformation” of economies and society will be required to achieve the Paris targets.

The IPCC report will look at both the damage to nature from a 1.5C rise and ways to rein in rising temperatures.

Many IPCC scenarios in recent years discuss ways to extract heat-trapping carbon dioxide from nature. If applied at a wide enough scale, such “negative emissions” could reduce temperatures after an overshoot. But there are many pitfalls.

The simplest natural aid – planting trees that absorb carbon dioxide from the air to grow – would probably require too much farmland to be feasible. Industrial technologies for extracting carbon from the air are costly and in their infancy.

Draft documents for the 2018 report by the IPCC also mention more radical solutions, such as spraying chemicals into the upper atmosphere to dim sunlight through “geo-engineering”.

“It’s hard to avoid overshoot. It’s more a question of the size,” said Glen Peters, a scientist at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo.

The Paris text is vague about the temperature ceilings and does not say whether 1.5C or 2C refers to temperatures in one year, over a decade or longer.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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AI chills and thrills, climate pledges, a Nazi haven, children’s lit, and a film about a genius: Facts, and Opinions, that matter this week

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kisses his two-year-old granddaughter Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson after signing the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kisses his two-year-old granddaughter Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson after signing the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Reports:

Ban Ki-moon (2nd from R), Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivers his opening remarks at the Paris Agreement signing ceremony on climate change as French President Francois Hollande (2nd from L) looks on at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike SegarChina, US, among those pledging to ratify Paris Agreement. By Michelle Nichols & Valerie Volcovici  Report

China and the United States, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gas emissions, pledged to formally adopt by the end of the year a Paris deal to slow global warming, raising the prospects of it being enforced much faster than anticipated. The United Nations said 175 states took the first step of signing the deal on April 22, the biggest day one endorsement of a global agreement.

Focus on Artificial Intelligence

Figure-1The chilling significance of AlphaGo. By Sheldon Fernandez  Magazine

In March, a computer named AlphaGo played the human world champion in a five-game match of Go, the ancient board game often described as the ‘Far East cousin’ of chess. That AlphaGo triumphed provoked curiosity and bemusement in the public — but is seen as hugely significant in the artificial intelligence and computer science communities. Computer engineer Sheldon Fernandez explains why.

The Sunflower Robot is a prototype that can carry objects and provide reminders and notifications to assist people in their daily lives. It uses biologically inspired visual signals and a touch screen, located in front of its chest, to communicate and interact with users. Photo by Thomas Farnetti for Wellcome/Mosaic, Creative CommonsA one-armed robot will look after me until I die. By Geoff Watts Magazine

I am persuaded by the rational argument for why machine care in my old age should be acceptable, but find the prospect distasteful – for reasons I cannot, rationally, account for. But that’s humanity in a nutshell: irrational. And who will care for the irrational human when they’re old? Care-O-bot, for one; it probably doesn’t discriminate.

And from earlier this year:

Product and graphic designer Ricky Ma, 42, gives a command to his life-size robot ''Mark 1'', modelled after a Hollywood star, in his balcony which serves as his workshop in Hong Kong, China March 31, 2016. Ma, a robot enthusiast, spent a year-and-a half and more than HK$400,000 ($51,000) to create the humanoid robot to fulfil his childhood dream. REUTERS/Bobby Yip SEARCH "ROBOT STAR" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIESBuilding a humanoid Hollywood Star. By Bobby Yip  Report

The rise of robots and artificial intelligence are among disruptive labor market changes that the World Economic Forum projects will lead to a net loss of 5.1 million jobs over the next five years. Where will they come from? Why, we can make them ourselves. Or at least some of us can, and do.

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Commentary:

By Brian McMorrow - http://www.pbase.com/bmcmorrow/image/45156182, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=833719This Week’s Other Birthday, by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs  column

Until quite recently, while Queen Elizabeth and her family were celebrating her birthday every April 21, a group of elderly men in south-west Africa were nursing the effects of the birthday toasts they had drunk the night before, to Adolf Hitler,  born on April 20, 1889. The men had been senior  Nazi officials, and had managed to escape capture by the Allies at the end of the Second World War. What is now Namibia offered a lasting sanctuary.

Why Bernie Sanders need to fight on … and surrender, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda Column

It looks like the end is nigh for the Sanders campaign. But it is absolutely necessary that Bernie not give up running. Yes, he should start to encourage his supporters to support Clinton. I am, however, totally in favor of him building up his delegate total and going into Philadelphia in late July demanding that the party’s platform reflect his point of view.

Those Healthy Yankees: Graham and Alcott, by Jim McNiven, Thoughtlines Column

Sylvester Graham and William Andrus Alcott were men of their disease-ridden times, amongst the first American promoters of “health food,” “phys-ed” and temperate living for health in both the here and now — and the afterlife.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, in the midst of their ICESCAPE mission, retrieves supplies in the Arctic Ocean in this July 12, 2011 NASA handout photo. Kathryn Hansen/NASA via REUTERS/File PhotoAfter Paris climate pact, let’s get personal. By Gwynne Taraska and Shiva Polefka  Loose Leaf salon Column

Reengineering global economic dependence on carbon pollution requires conscious commitment and action from individuals as well as governments and corporations.

Arts:

image-20160421-30266-12jsnvsHow GH Hardy tamed Srinivasa Ramanujan’s genius. By Béla Bollobás   Report

Throughout the history of mathematics, there has been no one remotely like Srinivasa Ramanujan. There is no doubt that he was a great mathematician, but had he had simply a good university education and been taught by a good professor in his field, we wouldn’t have a film about him. Credit is due to GH Hardy.

Why children’s books are serious literature. By Catherine Butler Report

Once a generation, it seems, a cri de coeur goes out, in which a representative of the world of children’s literature speaks with revelatory authority to the literary establishment and makes it reassess the place of children’s books.

Last but not least: alongside the many musical tributes to the American artist Prince, who died this week at age 57, his appearance on the Muppets should not be missed:

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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China, US, among those pledging to ratify Paris Agreement

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivers his opening remarks at the Paris Agreement signing ceremony on climate change at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, delivers his opening remarks at the Paris Agreement signing ceremony on climate change at the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

By Michelle Nichols and Valerie Volcovici
April, 2016

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – China and the United States, the world’s top producers of greenhouse gas emissions, pledged to formally adopt by the end of the year a Paris deal to slow global warming, raising the prospects of it being enforced much faster than anticipated.

Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli signs the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli signs the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

The United Nations said 175 states took the first step of signing the deal on April 22, the biggest day one endorsement of a global agreement. Of those, 15 states also formally notified the United Nations that they had ratified the deal.

Many countries still need a parliamentary vote to formally approve the agreement, which was reached in December. The deal will enter into force only when ratified by at least 55 nations representing 55 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

China and the United States together account for 38 percent of global emissions.

“China will finalise domestic legal procedures on its accession before the G20 Hangzhou summit in September this year,” China’s Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli told the U.N. signing ceremony, attended by some 55 heads of state and government.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who signed the deal with his 2-year-old granddaughter Isabelle on his lap, said the United States “looks forward to formally joining this agreement this year.” President Barack Obama will formally adopt the agreement through executive authority.

The deal commits countries to restraining the global rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. But even if the pact is fully implemented, promised greenhouse gas cuts are insufficient to limit warming to an agreed maximum, the United Nations says.

Smoke rises from chimneys and facilities of steel plants in Benxi, Liaoning province November 3, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Smoke rises from chimneys and facilities of steel plants in Benxi, Liaoning province November 3, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

The first three months of 2016 have broken temperature records and 2015 was the planet’s warmest year since records began in the 19th century, with heat waves, droughts and rising sea levels.

“The era of consumption without consequences is over,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday. “We must intensify efforts to decarbonise our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition.”

‘REASON FOR HOPE’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kisses his two-year-old granddaughter Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson after signing the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry kisses his two-year-old granddaughter Isabelle Dobbs-Higginson after signing the Paris Agreement on climate change at United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, New York, U.S., April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Many developing nations are pushing to ensure the climate deal comes into force this year, partly to lock in the United States if a Republican opponent of the pact is elected in November to succeed Obama, a Democrat.

Once the accord enters into force, a little-noted Article 28 of the agreement says any nation wanting to withdraw must wait four years, the length of a U.S. presidential term.

The deal also requires rich nations to maintain a $100 billion a year funding pledge beyond 2020, providing greater financial security to developing nations to build their defences to extreme weather and wean themselves away from coal-fired power.

“We need to mobilise the necessary financial resources,” French President Francois Hollande said. “We need to ensure that our words become actions.”

The U.N.’s previous climate deal, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol entered into force only in 2005. Kyoto dictated cuts in greenhouse gas emissions only for developed nations, unlike the Paris Agreement which involves both rich and poor but lets all countries set national targets.

The previous first-day record for signatures for a global agreement was set in 1982 when 119 states signed the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“More countries have come together here to sign this agreement today than for any other cause in the history of human kind and that is a reason for hope,” actor and U.N. Messenger of Peace on climate change, Leonardo DiCaprio told the event, taking place on Earth Day.

“But unfortunately the evidence shows us that it will not be enough. Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong,” he said.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Louis Charbonneau, and Luciana Lopez; Editing by David Gregorio and Frances Kerry)

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You might also be interested in:

After Paris climate pact, let’s get personal. By Gwynne Taraska and Shiva Polefka  Essay

Reengineering global economic dependence on carbon pollution requires conscious commitment and action from individuals as well as governments and corporations.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Paris Agreement on climate

Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels. December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels. December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels, By Alister Doyle and Barbara Lewis

 The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.

Climate: Paris Agreement at a glance, by The Conversation staff. Report

Paris Agreement massive “take-back” scheme, by Myles Allen, University of Oxford. Analysis

I wonder how many of the delegates in Paris realise that they have just created the mother of all “take-back schemes”. The Paris emissions cuts aren’t enough — we’ll have to put carbon back in the ground.

Related on F&O:

Climate watch: the world cannot afford a war
PENNEY KOME: Over Easy  Column

World at “breaking point” as Paris summit begins
BRUCE WALLACE & ALISTER DOYLE

Talking about the Weather
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American climate change deniers’ last gasp
TOM REGAN: Summoning Orenda Column

Mark Carney: The tragedy of the horizon, in Expert Witness
MARK CARNEY

Big World, Small Planet: book excerpt.
JOHAN ROCKSTROM & MATTIAS KLUM Expert Witness

Catastrophe will result if climate summit fails — Pope.
PHILIP PULLELLA & GEORGE OBULUTSA Report

U.S. rejects Keystone XL pipeline 
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Global oil industry slipping into the red
RON BOUSSO, KAROLIN SCHAPS & ANNA DRIVER Report

From F&O’s vault:

Chris Wood’s Natural Security series

 The Banality of Ethics in the Anthropocene. By Clive Hamilton

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening? By Mark Maslin

An Argument for Carbon Divestment. By Desmond Tutu

The march of the king crabs: a warning from Antarctica. By Kathryn Smith

Are countries legally required to protect from climate change? By Sophia V. Schweitzer, Ensia

Wanted: A new story of humanity’s place in the world. By Philip Loring

Verbatim: Climate change to cause food shortages, mass extinctions, flooding. By Deborah Jones

Welcome to Iceberg Alley: Mixed blessing of icebergs in Newfoundland. Photo essay by Greg Locke

On eve of encyclical, Pope Francis appeals for “our ruined” planet. By Philip Pullella

RAJENDRA PACHAURI: Defended climate science, resigned amid sex scandal. By Marianne Lavelle

Verbatim: The Doomsday Clock ticks closer to disaster, F&O

The Pointy End. By Tzeporah Berman

The Drowning of the ‘Amazon of North America.’ By Bob Marshall, The Lens, and Brian Jacobs and Al Shaw, ProPublica

Talking about the weather: photo-essay by Greg Locke:

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions survives with an honour system. Try one story at no charge. If you value no-spam, no-ads, non-partisan, evidence-based, independent journalism, help us continue. Details.  

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Paris Agreement: landmark accord, turn from fossil fuels

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (C), President-designate of COP21 and Christiana Figueres (L), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, react during the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (C), President-designate of COP21 and Christiana Figueres (L), Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, react during the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

By Alister Doyle and Barbara Lewis
December 12, 2015

PARIS (Reuters) – The global climate summit in Paris agreed a landmark accord on Saturday, setting the course for a historic transformation of the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy within decades in a bid to arrest global warming.

After four years of fraught U.N. talks often pitting the interests of rich nations against poor, imperilled island states against rising economic powerhouses, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared the pact adopted to the standing applause and whistles of delegates from almost 200 nations.

“With a small hammer you can achieve great things,” Fabius said as he gavelled the agreement, capping two weeks of tense negotiations at the summit on the outskirts of Paris.

Hailed as the first truly global climate deal, committing both rich and poor nations to reining in rising emissions blamed for warming the planet, it sets out a sweeping long-term goal of eliminating net man-made greenhouse gas output this century.

“It is a victory for all of the planet and for future generations,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who led the U.S. negotiations in Paris.

“We have set a course here. The world has come together around an agreement that will empower us to chart a new path for our planet, a smart and responsible path, a sustainable path.”

It also creates a system to encourage nations to step up voluntary domestic efforts to curb emissions, and provides billions more dollars to help poor nations cope with the transition to a greener economy powered by renewable energy.

Calling it “ambitious and balanced”, Fabius said the accord would mark a “historic turning point” in efforts to avert the potentially disastrous consequences of an overheated planet.

The final agreement was essentially unchanged from a draft unveiled earlier in the day, including a more ambitious objective of restraining the rise in temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, a mark scientists fear could be a tipping point for the climate.

Previously, the goal on temperature rise was set at 2 degrees Celsius in 2010.

In some ways its success was assured before the summit began: 187 nations have submitted detailed national plans for how they will contain the rise in greenhouse gas emissions, commitments that are the core of the Paris deal.

While leaving each country to pursue those measures on its own, the agreement finally sets a common vision and course of action after years of bickering over how to move forward.

Officials hope a unified stance will be a powerful symbol for world citizens and a potent signal to the executives and investors they’re counting on to spend trillions of dollars to replace coal-fired power with solar panels and windmills.

“This agreement establishes a clear path to decarbonize the global economy within the lifetimes of many people alive today,” said Paul Polman, the CEO of consumer goods maker Unilever and a leading advocate for sustainable business practices.

It will “drive real change in the real economy”.

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TOO MUCH, OR NOT ENOUGH?

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, reacts after a press conference during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21, reacts after a press conference during the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 11, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

While some climate change activists and U.S. Republicans will likely find fault with the accord – either for failing to take sufficiently drastic action, or for overreacting to an uncertain threat – many of the estimated 30,000 officials, academics and campaigners who set up camp on the outskirts of Paris say they see it as a long overdue turning point.

Six years after the previous climate summit in Copenhagen ended in failure and acrimony, the Paris pact appears to have rebuilt much of the trust required for a concerted global effort to combat climate change, delegates say.

“Whereas we left Copenhagen scared of what comes next, we’ll leave Paris inspired to keep fighting,” said David Turnbull, Director at Oil Change International, a research and advocacy organisation opposed to fossil fuel production.

Most climate activists reacted positively, encouraged by long-term targets that were more ambitious than they expected, while warning it was only the first step of many.

“Today we celebrate, tomorrow we have to work,” European Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said.

From the outset, some have criticized the deal for setting too low a bar for success. Scientists warn that the envisaged national emissions cuts will not be enough to keep warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit).

Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the last major climate deal agreed in 1997, the Paris pact will also not be a fully legally binding treaty, something that would almost certainly fail to pass the U.S. Congress.

In the United States, many Republicans will see the pact as a dangerous endeavour that threatens to trade economic prosperity for an uncertain if greener future.

DESTINIES BOUND

After talks that extended into early morning, the draft text showed how officials had resolved the stickiest points.

In a win for vulnerable low-lying nations who had portrayed the summit as the last chance to avoid the existential threat of rising seas, nations would “pursue efforts” to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as they had hoped.

“Our head is above water,” said Olai Uludong, ambassador on climate change for the Pacific island state of Palau.

While scientists say pledges thus far could see global temperatures rise by as much as 3.7 degrees, the agreement also lays out a roadmap for checking up on progress. The first “stocktake” would occur in 2023, with further reviews every five years to steadily increase or “ratchet up” those measures.

It softened that requirement for countries with longer-term plans extending to 2030, such as China, which had resisted revisiting its goal before then.

And for the first time, the world has agreed on a longer-term aspiration for reaching a peak in greenhouse emissions “as soon as possible” and achieving a balance between output of manmade greenhouse gases and absorption – by forests or the oceans – by the second half of this century.

It also requires rich nations to maintain a $100 billion (£65.72 billion) a year funding pledge beyond 2020, and use that figure as a “floor” for further support agreed by 2025, providing greater financial security to developing nations as they wean themselves away from coal-fired power.

Copyright Reuters 2015

(Reporting By Emmanuel Jarry, Bate Felix, Lesley Wroughton, Nina Chestney, Richard Valdmanis, Valerie Volcovici, Bruce Wallace and David Stanway; Editing by Jonathan Leff and Clelia Oziel)

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FACTBOX, THE PARIS AGREEMENT

French President Francois Hollande (R) embraces French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21 during the Climate Change, at the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015.   REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Francois Hollande (R) embraces French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius, President-designate of COP21 during the Climate Change, at the final plenary session at the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21) at Le Bourget, near Paris, France, December 12, 2015. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) – After four years of global negotiations, two weeks of intense talks and more than a few sleepless nights, climate officials from almost 200 nations meeting in Paris are on the cusp of a landmark accord to arrest climate change.

On Saturday, hosts France released the final text of a “Paris Outcome”, this one devoid of the bracketed text that represented the sticking points yet to be resolved.

Written in the opaque legal language that has evolved from more than two decades of U.N. climate talks, the pact sets the world a roadmap for breaking away from the fossil fuels that have powered the global economy since the Industrial Revolution.

The new text is 31 pages, against 27 on Thursday and more than 50 at the start of the talks.

National delegations have broken up to review the text, with hopes high that they will return to a formal session to adopt it later on Saturday.

Following are details of the new draft:

FINANCE

Developed nations promised in 2009 to mobilise $100 billion a year by 2020 from both public and private sources to help developing nations limit their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to more floods, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Enshrining that figure in legal language was one of the biggest sticking points of the talks as delegates said the U.S. Congress could never ratify a commitment for developing nations to keep on increasing that figure from 2020.

In non-binding decisions that accompany the binding text, the agreement says governments shall set by 2025 “a new collective quantified goal from a floor of $100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries”.

LONG-TERM GOAL (DEGREES)

In 2010, the U.N. climate summit in Mexico adopted a goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, a level that scientists say could be a tipping point for the climate. Global average surface temperatures have already risen by about 1.0 Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit).

But many vulnerable, low-lying nations like the Marshall Islands say that a full 2 degrees Celsius rise would endanger their very existence as sea levels rise, and pushed hard for setting a goal to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

They found support from more than 100 nations, including the European Union and the United States, which formed a “high ambition coalition”.

Saudi Arabia and other nations resisted, saying there was insufficient research to support a tougher target and that setting too ambitious a figure could endanger food security.

The final draft text sets an aim to hold the increase in the global average temperature to “well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.

It also seeks to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

LONG-TERM GOAL (EMISSIONS)

Negotiators have struggled with how to phrase an aspirational longer-term goal for halting emissions, a symbolic but still potent message about how they see the world’s energy system transforming over the rest of this century.

Some of the most vulnerable nations and non-governmental organisations had campaigned for a clear, quantified goal for eliminating or reducing fossil fuel use by the middle of the century.

China and India, heavily dependent on coal, are among those reluctant to set clear dates for giving up fossil fuels they see as vital to lifting millions from poverty. Saudi Arabia, whose economy also depends on oil, is also a clear opponent.

The European Union, although keen to lead on climate had a problem with the word decarbonisation because of Poland, whose economy depends on coal.

As negotiations wore on, the options grew vaguer. By Thursday evening, the goal was greenhouse gas neutrality, a phrasing that confounded some climate experts, but avoided the word decarbonisation.

The final text said nations must “aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognising that peaking will take longer for developing country parties”.

It said that to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out by the deal, parties will aim to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Analysts at the talks interpreted the text as implying net zero emissions.

LOSS AND DAMAGE

Developing nations want a long-term mechanism to help them cope with loss and damage from disasters such as typhoons or the impacts of a creeping rise of sea level rise. All governments set up a loss and damage mechanism in 2013, but it has so far done little.

Earlier drafts recognised the importance of averting, minimising and addressing loss and damage, but offered divergent options, including one that left out the mechanism.

An existing international mechanism to deal with the unavoidable losses and damages caused by climate change, such as creeping deserts and rising seas, is anchored in the draft final deal.

A promise that it will not be used as a basis for “liability and compensation” — a demand from the United States that proved divisive — has been moved to a set of accompanying decisions in a compromise.

RAISING AMBITION

Well before the Paris talks began, it was clear that the promises made by 186 nations to curb greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, the backbone of the Paris accord, were too weak to limit rising temperatures to the agreed 2 degrees Celsius level.

Negotiators knew going in there would have to be a system for “ratcheting up” national measures, but how and when to do that has been a sticking point throughout.

Frequent reviews have been a major demand from negotiating blocs such as the European Union, but China in particular said it cannot commit to more aggressive action quickly because Beijing has already set domestic goals out to 2030.

In line with a date mooted in the previous draft on Thursday, the new draft text schedules a “first global stocktake in 2023” and every five years thereafter unless otherwise decided.

CARBON MARKETS

The draft legal text contains no explicit mention of carbon markets, nor of the possibility of carbon penalties for aviation and shipping. It does, however, include a reference to the “use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes,” which could allow nations on a voluntary basis to offset their own emissions by buying credits from other nations.

DIFFERENTIATION

Developing nations say that rich nations, as defined in a 1992 Convention, should continue to take the lead in cutting emissions and providing finance. Developed nations argue that many of these countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, have since become wealthy and should do more.

The new text says developed countries shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries and “other parties are encouraged to provide or continue to provide such support voluntarily”.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis, Megan Rowling, editing by Jonathan Leff and David Evans)

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Paris Agreement massive “take-back” scheme

The parties to the agreement are, in effect, saying “we’re going to sell this stuff, and we’re going to dispose of it later,” writes Myles Allen. Above, a Superport near Vancouver, Canada, is one of America’s major coal export terminals. © Deborah Jones 2015

A Superport near Vancouver, Canada, is one of America’s major coal export terminals. © Deborah Jones 2015

By Myles Allen, University of Oxford 
December 12, 2015

I wonder how many of the delegates in Paris realise that they have just created the mother of all “take-back schemes”.

As a consumer, you may have already come across this sort of deal: if you don’t want to dispose of the packaging of your new sofa, you can take it back to IKEA and it’s their problem. In many places, you can even take back the sofa itself when your kids have wrecked it. For the Paris climate deal to succeed something similar will have to happen, where companies that rely on fossil fuels will be obliged to “take back” their emissions.

The agreement reaffirms a commitment to stabilising temperature rises well below 2℃, and even retains the option of limiting warming to 1.5℃ if possible. But it also confirms national targets that do little more than stabilise global emissions between now and 2030.

Given those emissions, sticking to within 2℃ will require us to take lots of carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground. The parties to the agreement are, in effect, saying “we’re going to sell this stuff, and we’re going to dispose of it later”.

How do I know? Well, peak warming is overwhelmingly determined by cumulative carbon dioxide emissions. To stabilise temperatures at any level, be it 1.5℃, 2℃ or even 3℃, net carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced to zero. Most governments, environmental groups and business leaders now understand this. And it is acknowledged, albeit implicitly, in Article 4 of the Paris agreement, which calls for greenhouse emissions to be “balanced” by carbon sinks some time after mid-century.

But we’re unlikely to hit “net zero” emissions before temperatures reach 2℃, and even less likely before they reach 1.5℃. Warming is currently at about 1℃ and rising by 0.1℃ every five to ten years. We could slow the warming by reducing emissions, of course. But if we fail to reduce at the required rate – and the inadequate emissions targets indicate this is the intention – then we will be left with no option but to scrub the excess CO2 back out of the atmosphere in future.

Owners of fossil fuel assets

That is why the deal is like a gigantic take-back scheme. The proof lies in what is not said in the Paris agreement. There is no explicit mention of a global carbon budget for instance, which adds up total emissions since the industrial revolution. That is despite the fact that all governments have acknowledged, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the reality that stabilising temperatures requires a limit on cumulative CO2 emissions. Certain countries simply cannot accept the suggestion that they may be obliged to leave some of their prized fossil carbon reserves underground.

And why should they? We do not need, and nor have we any right, to ban India from using its coal. We simply need to ensure that, by the time global temperatures reach 2℃ (or 1.5℃ if that is what is eventually deemed safe), any company that sells fossil fuels, or any carbon-intensive product like conventional cement, is obliged to take back an equivalent amount of CO2 and dispose of it safely to ensure it doesn’t end up in the atmosphere.

Right now, that means re-injection underground: forests can’t be relied on over geological timescales (they might burn down, or even die out and re-release their carbon due to climate change itself). But there are plenty of other creative ideas for carbon dioxide disposal: someone just needs the incentive to do it.

And who better than the owners of the fossil fuel assets at the heart of the problem? Logically, the cost of CO2 disposal should be borne by the seller of fossil carbon. If it is paid for out of general taxation, no one will have any incentive to minimise the carbon content in the products they sell or buy, nor will companies have an incentive to minimise the cost of disposal. And relying on taxpayers to pay for disposal makes it vulnerable every time the purse strings are tightened.

The idea of a “CO2 take-back” scheme was suggested by Nick Robins, a UN sustainability adviser, at a recent event in Paris. It may have been meant as a whimsical aside, but it really is the only feasible way of stabilising the climate. The alternative – a global ban on fossil fuel extraction and use – is neither ethical nor enforceable.

Enthusiasts for renewable energy would like us to believe they can make it cheaper than coal, so a global ban would be unnecessary. But there will still be cement, jet fuel, fertiliser – the list is endless. The idea that we will develop a cheaper substitute for every single application of fossil carbon, everywhere in the world, before temperatures reach 2℃, is pure fantasy. As Ottmar Edenhofer, one of the world’s leading climate economists, put it: “As a Catholic, I believe in miracles, but I do not rely on them.”

Of course, if we include the costs of take-back, then high-carbon products will become more expensive, which is all good for renewables. But unlike new taxes, take-back schemes are generally popular despite industry’s dire warnings about increased costs.

People understand that the main beneficiary of fancy packaging is the company selling the product. And even at today’s prices, the main beneficiaries of our continued use of fossil fuels is not the long-suffering consumer, nor even the firm with its logo on the pump, but those who hoover up the royalties, taxes and rents as fossil fuels come out of the ground.

Earlier this year, I suggested that something like a CO2 take-back scheme (although not with nearly such a catchy name) should be considered in the UK energy bill, and was promptly taken out for a coffee by a well-spoken industry lobbyist to tell me what a bad idea it was. To my mind, that rather suggested that I was onto something.

Mandatory sequestration” hasn’t really caught on in the environmental movement, partly I’m sure because it is a bit of a mouthful for any campaigner. But stack up the net zero emissions point against the inadequate national targets, and you soon realise that all those shouting “1.5 to stay alive” in Paris (and there were plenty) were actually advocating a crash programme of CO2 disposal. #takebackCO2 – start tweeting it now.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science, Leader of ECI Climate Research Programme, University of Oxford. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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