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The Reason We’re Not Going To Limit Climate Change To 1.5oC – It’ll Make Us All Poorer

Carbon Brief tells us all that children born today will have very much smaller carbon allowances than we did. Hmm, that seems obvious enough if the world’s going to emit less carbon in the future. They then frot themselves into the usual fantasy that we’re going to create that world of genuine equality as a result:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] But in a second analysis, Carbon Brief posited a future carbon budget that would be the same for every citizen on the planet. This would mean that the budget for a child born today in the US is even lower, 97% lower than that of that of their grandparents. For someone born today in Europe, their budget would be 94% lower. “That those born today only have a carbon budget a fraction of the size of those from previous generations exemplifies the need for a transformative approach that puts social and economic justice at the heart of plans to tackle the climate crisis,” said Woodier. “We need massive investment in people and planet to transform our economies, and we need it urgently.” [/perfectpullquote]

This entirely missing what the IPCC itself tells us, that globalised capitalism and free markets is the solution, not the problem.

But the report does contain something of interest. The proof of why we’re not going to limit temperature rises to 1.5 oC:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Global emissions must peak in the next decade and quickly decline for the world to stay below its Paris Agreement limits, according to the UN. In the scenarios examined in this article (see methodology at the end for details), global emissions peak around 2020, decline around 50% by 2045 and then fall below zero around 2075 in order to hold global warming to below 2C. Emissions have to fall even faster for warming to be kept below 1.5C – falling around 50% by 2030 and to below zero by 2055. In the 1.5C scenarios examined here, large amounts of negative emissions are deployed by the end of the century, removing carbon from the atmosphere equivalent to roughly a third of today’s emissions. [/perfectpullquote]

Within the figures and logic being used here there are benefits to cutting emissions, sure there are. We don’t actually want to be steaming Flipper in the vapours of the last ice floe after all. But there are also costs. And how fast we do things is a large determinant of those costs.

This is because of what William Nordhaus has been telling us. And yes, he did get the Nobel last year largely for this work. We’ve got a society around us that we’ve already built. That cost us a lot of money – but those are sunk costs. We also want to change the emissions structure of the future society. OK. So, what should we do? Scrap everything we’ve already got and build anew? Or run with what we’ve got and as we replace it in the normal manner, as the capital cycle turns, make sure the new stuff is non-emitting but continue to use the old stuff while it still works?

That second is obviously cheaper than the first. But the benefits of the first will be greater than the second. Logically, we should be aiming for where the benefits equal the costs. Faster would mean more cost than benefit. Slower would mean not gaining benefit that’s just lying there waiting for us.

So, halting emissions today would have a very high cost. 3 pm this arvo and human civilisation moves to net zero – 6,900,000,000 of us die by about June. That’s a pretty high cost. Agreeing to be net zero by 3 pm GMT April 10 2219 is trivially easy but comes with rather large costs to that environment out there. The correct date is somewhere inbetween.

So, what Carbon Brief is telling us is that to get to 1.5 oC means doing all of this very quickly. At high – huge – cost as we junk the civilisation we’ve already built. 2 oC we could probably manage within that normal capital replacement cycle. Actually, the IPCC says we can do that, that’s the A1T scenario for future emissions.

So, logically, Carbon Brief has just shown us why we’re not going to limit to 1.5 oC. It’s too expensive. Sorry Flipper, bit of a bugger and all that, but rational calculation of costs and benefits is indeed rational calculation of costs and benefits.

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5 years ago

Carbon Brief is just doing marketing for the Green Snake Oil industry, though that is actually an insult to snake oils, which people were not forced to buy, unlike the modern version.

The only carbon data worth looking at is the atmospheric CO2 measurements, such as from Mauna Loa, Hawaii, which show a steady rise. The atmosphere appears to be blissfully unaware of the £hundreds that UK bill payers contribute annually to the “fight against climate change” or the laughable “need to meet our targets”, but the bank accounts of the Green Snake Oil industry are doing nicely thank you.

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
5 years ago

Global temperatures are not rising, in fact it was warmer in the 1930s and 40s. Rising CO2 levels from anthropogenic causes represent 1 part in 10,000 of the atmosphere, which likely has made a small contribution to the greening of the planet and increased agricultural production. There is no guarantee that reducing CO2 emissions would reduce temperatures or indeed that a slightly warmer planet would not be better for biodiversity as well as humanity. The IPCC have fiddled data, misrepresented fact and have been shown to have bullied disenting voices. It is a political body using fear of catastrophe to… Read more »

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