In a new article (subscription only, but link here will take you to a pre-edited version on Professor Anderson’s home page) published in the journal Nature Geoscience, Kevin Anderson of Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester, argues that many of the recent scenarios for limiting temperatures to 2C or below are far too insouciant about the challenges ahead. Anderson contends that such “up-beat — and largely uncontested — headlines . . . are delivered through unrealistically early peaks in global emissions, or through the large-scale rollout of speculative technologies intended to remove CO2 from the atmosphere …”
By contrast, Anderson contends that the carbon budgets consistent with a 2C scenario requires “profound and immediate changes to the consumption and production of energy.” Among Anderson’s conclusions:
- The IPCC’s 1000 Gt cumulative carbon budget (for having a 66% chance or better of avoiding passing the 2C threshold) requires cessation of all carbon emissions from energy systems by 2050, five decades earlier than projected by the IPCC in its 5th Synthesis Report;
- Of 400 IPCC scenarios that have 50% chance or more of keeping temperatures below 2C, a whopping 344 require large-scale deployment of so-called negative emissions technologies (poster’s note: these include technologies such as Direct Air Capture and Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Sequestration);
- Limiting emissions to 1000 GtCO2, with energy production alone chewing up 140 GtCO2 of this budget from 2011 to 2014 alone (overall a fifth of the budget has been emitted in four years), “suggests a profoundly more challenging timeframe and rate of mitigation than that typically asserted by many within the scientific community;”
- To avoid exceeding the remaining 650 GtCO2 in the budget would require ratcheting up emissions reduction rates to 10% annually by 2025, continuing this rate to virtual elimination of carbon dioxide by 2050. This would most likely exclude the use of fossil fuels in the post-2050 period, even with deployment of carbon capture and storage, unless its life cycle carbon emissions could be reduced by an order of magnitude;
- Given the need to avoid further imperiling the welfare of the global poor, developing countries should need to reduce carbon intensity by approximately 13% annually, higher still for the wealthiest developed countries.
Anderson’s piece could be an excellent reading for a module on long-term responses to climate change and what it will mean to reach the overarching objectives of the Paris Agreement. Among the questions that would be ripe for class discussion:
- What would be the policy implications of seeking to meet the more ambitious objective under Paris of limiting temperature increases to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels?;
- Anderson portrays negative emissions options as “speculative” or a deus ex machina; do you agree? Assuming that negative technologies can help to remove carbon from the atmosphere, are there any downsides to this approach?;
- What are some of the measures that could be taken to effectuate the radical transformation of the world’s economy that could meet the objective of limiting temperatures to 2C?
One of the ongoing debates in climate science, and by extension, climate policy making, is the role of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in historically unprecedented increases in temperature over the past few decades. A recent study by Michael Mann, et al. in the journal Scientific Reports seeks to
The recognition that most IPCC scenarios for to avoid exceeding the 2°C “guardrail” require large-scale deployment of negative emissions technologies (NETs) has led to extensive recent discussion of the potential effectiveness and risks associated with a range of option. However, as the authors of a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology conclude, most studies to date have focused on bioenergy with carbon capture and sequestration (BECCS), direct air capture, enhanced weathering of minerals, and afforestation and reforestation. This study, by Pete Smith at the University of Aberdeen, expands the scope of inquiry to two other NETs options: 1. soil carbon sequestration (SCS), through methods such as alternation of agricultural practices, including no-till or low-till with residue management, organic amendment and fire management; and 2. Biochar, which is production of charcoal as soil amendment via the process of pyrolysis which can, inter alia, sequester carbon. Biochar, at least, is often included under the rubric of “climate geoengineering” options, in the subcategory of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approaches.
Among the study’s findings:
- SCS at global scale could sequester from 0.4-0.7GtCeq. yr-1, with technical potential of 1.37GtCeq. yr-1, at a cost of ~$70-370 per ton of Ceq. Biochar could effectuate sequestration of ~1 GtCeq yr-1, with a maximum potential of 1.8 GtCeq yr-1
- By contrast, BECCS might be able to sequester 3.3 GtCeq yr-1 by 2100, and direct air capture a comparable amount. However, the potential of SCS and biochar are higher than either enhanced weathering and comparable to afforestation and deforestation;
- About 20% of the mitigation to be derived from SCS could occur at negative cost, and 80% between $0-40 tCeq. Biochar costs range from -$581-1560 billion;
- In terms of water requirements, SCS and biochar are virtually zero, while direct air capture has medium to high water demands, and BECCS creating “a very large water footprint;”
- In terms of energy requirements, SCS has a negligible energy impact, and biochar can actually produce energy during the pyrolysis process; by contrast, both direct air capture and enhancing mineral weathering have significant energy requirements;
- One significant issue in terms of both SCS and biochar is “sink saturation,” i.e. decreased carbon sequestration potential as soils approach a new, higher equilibrium level. This can occur after 10-100 years for SCS, and is also an issue for biochar. This has implications for deployment of these technologies, as most scenarios for use of NETs envision primary importance in the second half of this century, meaning that deployment of some approaches in the next few years might have little impact later this century.
Overall, the author of the study concludes that SCS and biochar should be given serious consideration in integrated assessment models given their advantages over some other NET approaches.
Among the classroom questions that this study might generate:
- How do we determine the optimal mix of R&D funding for NETs?
- What should be the most important criteria for determining if we proceed with research on individual NETs options?
- What kind of governance architecture should be established for NETs research and development and/or deployment?
The purpose of this compendium, which will be continually updated, is to amass a compendium of online pieces that might be useful for getting a handle on the new agreement, as well as providing some potential student readings.
1. UN INSTITUTIONAL RESOURCES
- UNFCCC Secretariat, Text of the Paris Agreement, Dec. 12, 2015
- UNFCCC Secretariat, Progress Tracker, Work Programme, Paris Agreement (2016)
- Christina Figueres, The inside story of the Paris Agreement, May 11, 2016 (TED Talk)
- UN News Centre, COP21: UN chief hails new climate change agreement as ‘monumental triumph’, Dec. 12, 2015
2. NEGOTIATING HISTORY AND PROCESS
3. GENERAL CRITIQUES
- Daniel Bodansky, Reflections on the Paris Conference, Opinio Juris, Dec. 17, 2015
- Will Bugler, COP21: Historic agreement reached, but hard work begins now, Acclimatise, Dec. 14, 2015
- Marcus Brandt, COP21 Explained #1 – The Paris Climate Agreement – Saving the Planet?, LinkedEnergy, Jan. 19, 2016
- Marcus Brandt, COP 21 Explained #2 – The Paris “Agreement” – What does it say?, LinkedEnergy, Jan. 30, 2016
- Marcus Brandt, COP 21 Explained #3 – The INDC’s – All in the same boat?, LinkedEnergy, Feb. 2, 2016
- Joshua Busby, After Paris: Good Enough Climate Governance, Current History, Jan. 2016
- Carbon Brief, Analysis: The final Paris Deal, Dec. 12, 2015
- Ann Carlson, The Paris Agreement is a Miracle, Environmental Law Institute Blog, Oct. 12, 2016
- Center for Climate & Energy Solutions, Outcomes of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (Dec. 2015)
- Committee on Climate Change (UK), The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Paris Agreement, Dec. 21, 2015
- Thomas Day, et al., What the Paris Agreement means for global climate change mitigation, New Climate Institute, Dec. 14, 2015
- John Dernbach, Paris to Earth: Act Locally within the Global Framework, Dec. 13, 2015
- Meinhard Doelle, The Paris Agreement: Historic Breakthrough or High Stakes Experiment, SSRN, Dec. 22, 2015
- Meinhard Doelle, The Paris Climate Agreement: Historic Breakthrough in Spite of Shortcomings, Marine and Environmental Law News Blog, Dalhousie University, Dec. 13, 2015
- Justin Gillis, Climate Accord is a Healing Step, if Not a Cure, The New York Times, Dec. 12, 2015
- Peter Haas, The day after Paris: politicians hand the baton to green industries, The Conversation, Dec. 17, 2015
- IISD, Earth Negotiations Bulletin, Summary of the Paris Climate Conference, Dec. 13, 2015
- Michael Leibreich, We’ll Always Have Paris, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Dec. 16, 2015
- Kelly Levin, Understanding the Paris Agreement’s Long-term Goal to Limit Global Warming, World Resources Institute, INSIDER, Dec. 15, 2015
- Sarah E. Light, Reasons for Optimism in the Paris Agreement, RegBlog, Dec. 24, 2015
- Robinson Meyer, A Reader’s Guide to the Paris Agreement, The Atlantic, Dec. 16, 2015
- Axel Michaelowa, The Paris COP: Laying the foundation for ambitious climate change mitigation, Perspectives Climate Change, Dec. 14, 2015
- Jennifer Morgan, 4 Signs the Paris Agreement Is the Start of a New Era in International Climate Action, World Resources Institute Blog, Dec. 14, 2015
- Eric W. Orts, The Paris Agreement Delivers a Champagne Moment, RegBlog, Dec. 22, 2015
- David Roberts, The conceptual breakthrough behind the Paris climate treaty, Vox, Dec. 15, 2015
- Science Media Center, Expert reaction to agreement at Paris COP 21, Dec. 12, 2015
- Robert Stavins, Paris Agreement – A Good Foundation for Meaningful Progress, Resources for the Future, Dec. 14, 2015
- Robert Stavins, At last, global fretting on climate change, Harvard Gazette, Dec. 14, 2015
- David Victor, Why Paris Worked: A Different Approach to Climate Diplomacy, Yale Environment360, Dec. 15, 2015
- Shailendra Yashwant, A beginner’s guide to what transpired at the Paris Summit, Scrollin, Dec. 17, 2015
- The Paris agreement marks an unprecedented political recognition of the risks of climate change, The Economist, Dec. 12, 2015
- Paris climate deal is agreed – but is it really good enough?, New Scientist, Dec. 12, 2015
4. CRITICAL CRITIQUES
- Ben Adler, The Big Climate Agreement Won’t Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground, Mother Jones, Dec. 9, 2015
- Tom Bawden, COP21: Paris deal far too weak to prevent devastating climate change, academics warn, Jan. 8, 2016
- John Clark, The Summit of Ambition: COP21 Adopts Higher Ambition Standards, Academia, Dec. 18, 2015
- Danny Chivers & Jess Worth, Paris Deal: Epic Fail on a Planetary Scale, New Internationalist, Dec. 12, 2015
- Oliver Gedden, Paris climate deal: the trouble with targetism, The Guardian, Dec. 14, 2015
- James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud,’ The Guardian, Dec. 12, 2015
- Naomi Klein, We are Out of Time: We Need to Take a Leap, Bill Moyers, Dec. 11, 2015
- George Monbiot, Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments, The Guardian, Dec. 12, 2015
- Benito Müller, Finance in Paris, Oxford Climate Policy Blog, Jan. 2, 2016
- Surya P. Sethi, Ten Inconvenient Truths about the Paris Climate Accord, Dec. 16, 2015
- Ezra Silk, Sanders’ Climate Plan Outdated & Insufficient After the Paris Agreement, The Climate Mobilization, Dec. 17, 2015
- Tom Switzer, Paris agreement is a triumph of hope over facts, Sydney Morning Herald, Dec. 28, 2015
- Durwood Zaelke, Paris Deal’s Carbon Cuts Miss Critical Warming Target, The Energy Collective, Apr. 25, 2016
5. FUTURE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PARIS AGREEMENT
- G. Ananthakrishnan, 1.5C Target is a Tall Order, The Hindu, Dec. 10, 2015
- Carbon Trade Watch, Paths Beyond Paris: Movements, Action, and Solidarity Towards Climate Justice, Dec. 1, 2015
- European Commission, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, The Road from Paris: assessing the implications of the Paris Agreement and accompanying the proposal for a Council decision on the signing, on behalf of the European Union, of the Paris agreement adopted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Feb. 3, 2016
- Ranping Song & Cynthia Elliot, From commitment to action: Signs of progress since the Paris Agreement, Eco-Business, April 19, 2016
- Piers Forster, 1.5C is a brave new world, CarbonBrief, Dec. 15, 2015
- Michael Gerrard, Legal Implications of the Paris Agreement for Fossil Fuels, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Dec. 19, 2015
- Georgetown Climate Center, The Next Frontier of Climate Change, Dec. 18, 2015
- Justin Gillis & Coral Davenport, Leaders Roll Up Sleeves on Climate, But Experts Say Plans Don’t Pack a Wallop, New York Times, Apr. 21, 2016
- Justin Gillis, A Path for Climate Change, Beyond Paris, New York Times, Dec. 1, 2015
- Hilal Elver, Climate change and the right to food, Aljazeera, Dec. 23, 2015
- Michael Hopkin, Beyond Paris: What was really achieved at the COP21 climate summit, and what next?, The Conversation, Dec. 13, 2015
- Nick Mabey, et al., Judging the COP21 outcome and what’s next for climate action, E3G, Dec. 12, 2015
- Bill McKibben, Climate deal: the pistol has fired, so why aren’t we running?, The Guardian, Dec. 13, 2015
- Joe Meyer, Which countries have the most work to meet the Paris Agreement?, World Economic Forum, Dec. 16, 2015
- Dominique Maingot, COP21: Taking a closer look at climate’s impacts on the oceans, Outreach on Climate Change and Sustainable Development, Jan. 10, 2016
- Eliza Northrup, Not Just for Paris, but for the Future: How the Paris Agreement Will Keep Accelerating Climate Action, World Resources Institute Blog, Dec. 14, 2015
- Eliza Northrup, When Could the Paris Agreement Take Effect? Interactive Map Sheds Light, World Resources Institute Blog, Apr. 13, 2016
- Brad Plumer, The world just agreed to a major climate deal in Paris. Now comes the hard part, Vox, Dec. 12, 2015
- Joeri Rogelj, Why Paris Pledges Need to Overdeliver to Keep Warming to 2C, CarbonBrief, June 29, 2016
- Frauke Roser, Thomas Day, Marie Kurdziel, After Paris: What is Next for Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs)?, International Partnership on Mitigation and MRV, March 2016
- Eric Roston, Paris Climate Pact: Too Little, Too Late?, Bloomberg News, April 19, 2016
- Megan Rowling, Does premature Paris climate deal risk a painful birth?, Reuters, April 18, 2016
- Stephan Saverese, To Reach Paris Agreement Objectives, Cut GHG Emissions Now!, Saving Our Planet, Jan. 28, 2017
- Clare Shakya & Benito Müller, Why an Effective Ambition Mechanism is Vital to Deliver the Paris Mechanism, Oxford Climate Policy Blog, Oct. 2016
- Randy Showstack, Experts Look for Early Successes from Paris Climate Accord, EOS, June 16, 2016
- Sara Stefanini, Next stop for the Paris climate deal: the courts, Politico, Jan. 11, 2016
- John Upton, How the World Has Changed Since Paris Compact Pact, Climate Central, Mar. 16, 2016
- Durwood Zaelke, Climate Agreement in Paris: Champagne Tonight, Hard Work, Fast Mitigation Tomorrow, Huffington Post Blog, Dec. 13, 2015
- Paris Agreement: near-term actions do not match long term purpose – but stage is set to ramp up climate action, Climate Action Tracker, Dec. 12, 2015
- Beyond Paris: What was really achieved at the COP21 climate summit, and what next? (74-page e-book prepared by The Conversation)
- UN chief calls for action on Paris climate agreement, Climate Action, Jan. 22, 2016
- Climate Cooperation after Paris, University of Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance, Jan. 13, 2016
5.1 U.S. Implementation
- Academics call for geoengineering preparation in wake of Paris Agreement’s ‘deadly flaws’, Business Green, Jan. 11, 2016
- Kevin Anderson, The hidden agenda: how veiled techno-utopias shore up the Paris Agreement, Kevinandersoninfo, Jan. 6, 2016
- Olivia Boyd, World would likely need geoengineering to meet Paris targets, but what are the risks?, China Dialogue, Mar. 28, 2016
- Dan Farber, Does the Paris agreement open the door to geoengineering?, The Berkeley Blog, Dec. 14, 2015
- Simon Nicholson & Michael Thompson, To meet the Paris climate goals, do we need to engineer the climate?, The Conversation, Feb. 23, 2016
- John Shepherd. What does the Paris agreement mean for geoengineering?, The Royal Society, Feb. 17, 2016
- Daniel Tanuro, Spectre of Geoengineering Haunts Paris Climate Deal, Climate & Capitalism, Jan. 25, 2016
- John Upton, Geoengineering Is Too Risky, Scientists Warn Paris COP21 Negotiators, AlterNet, Dec. 8, 2015
6. BUSINESS FOCUS
- Lauren Compere, The Role of Investors After Paris, Huffington Post Blog, Dec. 28, 2015
- Risteard De Paor & Michael Polkinghorne, The Paris Agreement on Climate Change: Beware the Shield?, Breaking Energy, Apr. 1, 2016
- Clifford Krauss & Keith Bradshear, Climate Deal is Signal to Industry: The Era of Carbon Reduction is Here, New York Times, Dec. 13, 2015
- Mark McDivitt & Tim Nixon, Are Global Investors Playing Defense or Offense After Paris Accord?, Yale Climate Connections, Feb. 24, 2016
- Kevin Moss, Business Helped Make the Paris Agreement Possible, World Resources Institute Blog, Dec. 17, 2015
- Cecilia Reyes, The Paris Agreement – What Next for Business?, Eco-Business, May 24, 2016
- Valdeshi Shah, Business pledges at COP21: Progress or COP out?, Ecobusiness, Dec. 11, 2015
- What does the Paris Agreement Mean for Business?, Interview with Carbon Tracker’s CEO Anthony Hobley
- UNFCCC, Carney/Bloomberg Dialogue, Dec. 4, 2015 (video press briefing)
- David Wei, How Business Can Act on the Paris Climate Agreement, BSR, Apr. 20, 2016
7. ENERGY SECTOR IMPLICATIONS
- Paul Brown, Paris Deals Crushing Blow to Coal, Climate News Network, Dec. 19, 2015
- Chris Carr, Robert Fleischman, William Sloan, Paris Agreement on Climate Change Boosts Clean Energy Innovation and Finance, Breaking Energy, Dec. 23, 2015
- Suzanne Goldenberg, Rapid switch to renewable energy can put Paris climate goals within reach, The Guardian, Jan. 16, 2016
- Eric Holthaus, Paris Agreement Ushers in End of the Fossil Fuel Era, The Slatest, Dec. 12, 2015
8. LEGAL ANALYSES
- Baker & McKenzie, The Paris Agreement. Putting the first universal climate change treaty in context, Jan. 2016
- Daniel Bodansky, Reflections on the Paris Conference, Opinio Juris, Dec. 17, 2015
- Elizabeth Burleson, Paris Agreement and Consensus to Address Climate Challenge, SSRN, Jan. 1, 2016
- Gary Coglianese, When Management-Based Regulation Goes Global, RegBlog, Dec. 23, 2015
- Jean Galbraith, The Legal Structure of the Paris Agreement, RegBlog, Dec. 21, 2015
- Jennifer Huang, Post-Paris Transparency under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 19(4) Climate Change, Sustainable Development (July 2016) (pp. 17-19)
- David Hone, Paris Agreement: Developing Article 6, The Energy Collective, Feb. 22, 2016
- Jennifer Huang, The 2015 Climate Agreement: Key Lessons Learned and Legal Issues on the Road to Paris, SSRN, Dec. 28, 2015
- Jennifer Morgan & Eliza Northrup, Form AND Function: Why the Paris Agreement’s Legal Form Is So Important, World Resources Institute Blog, Dec. 16, 2015
- Eliza Northrup & David Waskow, What’s In a Name? What’s In a Name? Paris Agreement’s Legal Form Explained in 7 Questions, World Resources Institute, Dec. 4, 2015
- Wolfgang Obergassel, et al., Phoenix from Ashes – An Analysis of the Paris Agreement to the United Nations Framework, Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (Jan. 2016)
- Samantha Page, No, The Paris Climate Agreement Isn’t Binding. Here’s Why That Doesn’t Matter, Climate Progress, Dec. 14, 2015
- Sara Stefanini, Next stop for the Paris climate deal: the courts, Politico, Jan. 11, 2016
- Jorge E. Viñuales, The Paris Climate Agreement: An Initial Examination, C-EENRG Working Papers, no. 6, Dec. 15, 2015
8.1 Loss and Damage
- William C.G. Burns, Loss and Damage and the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, SSRN, January 2016
- Kathleen Mogelgaard & Heather McGray, When Adaptation Is Not Enough: Paris Agreement Recognizes “Loss and Damage,” World Resources Institute, Dec. 24, 2015
- Saleemul Huq & Roger Mark De Souza, Climate Compensation: How Loss and Damage Fared in the Paris Agreement, New Security Beat, Jan. 12, 2106
9. ROLE OF CARBON MARKETS
- Katherine Lake, How will carbon markets help the Paris climate agreement?, The Conversation, Dec. 13, 2015
- Anthony Mansell, What role for carbon markets in the 2015 climate agreement?, Biores, Volume 9, Number 1
- Rebecca Pearse, After Paris: Where Now for Carbon Pricing?, Inside Story, Dec. 21, 2015
- Steve Zwick, Building on Paris, Countries Assemble the Carbon Markets of Tomorrow, Ecosystem Marketplace, Jan. 29, 2016
- Steve Zwick, The Road from Paris: Green Lights, Speed Bumps, and the Future of Carbon Markets, Ecosystem Marketplace, Feb. 1, 2016
10. JUSTICE AND EQUITY CONSIDERATIONS
11. MULTI-MEDIA PRESENTATIONS
- Boston University, Pardee Center, French Ambassador Gives Inside Account of Paris Deal, Feb. 9, 2016
- Francesco Sindico, Presentation on the Paris Agreement (video), University of Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance, Jan. 13, 2016
- Security and Sustainability Forum, Post COP21: From Intent to Action, Feb. 26, 2016
I recently delivered a lecture at University of Wisconsin, entitled “Into the Great Wide Open: The Potential Promise and Peril of Climate Geoengineering.” It provides an overview of climate geoengineering options and potential avenues for governance. The video for the lecture, including the Power Point presentation, is available here.
As this blog is being penned, the Parties to the UNFCCC are convening in Paris for COP21. The cynosure of the meeting is the mandate “to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties” to enhance climatic commitments. Thus, questions of fairness and equity in allocating emissions reductions and State responsibility are front and center. A new study by Damon Matthews in the journal Nature seeks to provide pertinent metrics to guide this inquiry. The study quantifies historical “carbon debts” of States, defined as the cumulative (since 1960) debt of countries whose emissions exceed an equal per capita share, and “climate debts,” defined as “the accumulated difference between actual temperature change caused by each country … and their per-capita share of global temperature.”
Among the findings and conclusions of the study:
- In terms of the “carbon debt,” the cumulative world debt (and “credit” for some countries) is 500 GtCO2 since 1960, and 250 GtCO2 since 1990. This translates into 40% of said emissions produced by countries in excess of levels consistent with their shares of world population;
- The United States is the leading “debtor” under these calculations, with the leading “creditors” being China and India, given historically low per-capita emissions. However, the landscape has changed more recently in terms of China, with its per capita emissions now pegged above the global average;
- In terms of so-called “climate debt,” the United States is responsible for 32% of the cumulative debt since 1960, with other significant debtor countries including Russia (10%), Brazil (9.8%), as well as Germany, Australia and Indonesia. Brazil and Indonesia’s debt is largely attributable to high levels of deforestation and methane and nitrous oxide emissions associated with the agricultural sector;
- Countries with the climate “credits” include India (35%), China (26%), Bangladesh (4.9%), Pakistan (4.3%) and Nigeria (2.4%)
- The total climate debt translates into 0.11C temperature increase form 1990-2013, or approximately a third of warming since 1990
- The decision as to whether to assess emissions based on territorial/production-based emissions or a consumption-based approach that allocates emissions associated with consumption of goods to consumer countries, can make a profound difference in the calculations of the “debt.” For example, China’s exported carbon debt is almost twice as large as its production-based value, and Russia’s transferred debt/credit is almost 35%. The same is true for large importers, such as Japan, Germany and the UK.
Among the class discussion questions that this article could raise are the following:
- From an equity perspective, should a major product exporting country, e.g. China, be responsible for the emissions associated with said products when they are consumed in other countries? Does the fact that they derive profits from such production influence your answer?
- The article suggests that we might wish to modify the per capita emissions metric for carbon debt to acknowledge differences in circumstances, e.g. cold temperatures. Do you think this would be a good idea, and if yes, what factors would you include and how would you weight them in the carbon debt equation?
- The study pegs the respective carbon/climate debt and credits of countries based on emissions beginning in 1960. Would you establish a different baseline, and why?
For instructors discussing the prospects for “The Road to Paris” at COP21 to help us build a bridge to a safer climatic future, a new study in the journal Nature would be a good student reading. The study draws upon the Intended National Determined Contributions of the more than 150 countries that have made such pledges to date,embodying 90% of the globe’s emissions. The study’s authors seek to assess both the prospects for limiting temperature changes to 2C from pre-industrial levels, as well as how much such pledges reduce the risk of the highest potential increases in temperatures. The authors emphasize that because temperature changes ultimately depend on cumulative emissions, it’s critical to assess the likely long-term paths of emissions commitments beyond the INDCs, which extend to only 2025 or 2030. This was calculated through the use of a global integrated assessment model. Also, the uncertainties associated with the global carbon cycle and climate system responses necessitates probabilistic assessments. The study utilizes two scenarios, a Paris-Continued minimum (2% annual rate) scenario assuming that countries proceed to reduce emissions at the same rate as required to achieve their INDCs between 2020-2030, and a Paris-Increased ambition scenario, assuming a 5% annual reduction beyond 2030.
The study’s conclusions include the following:
- The Paris-Continued scenario reduces the probability of temperatures increasing more than 4C in 2100 by 75% compared to the Reference-Low policy scenario, and by 80% from a Reference-No policy scenario;
- The chance of exceeding 4C is virtually eliminated if mitigation efforts are increased beyond 2030, such as in the Paris-Increased ambition scenario
- There is an 8% probability of limiting temperature increases to 2C from pre-industrial levels In the Paris-Continued ambition; this increases to about 30% under the Paris-Increased scenario.
- Scenarios to increase the probability of limiting temperatures to 2C to between 50-66% are plausible, but assume rapid emissions reductions after 2030, and many also include negative global emissions in the second half of the century, effectuated through the deployment of Bio-energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration (BECCS).
- To limit warming to any prescribed level in the future will necessitate ultimately reducing carbon dioxide emissions to zero. If this doesn’t transpire quickly beyond 2100, the prospects of both extreme temperature changes and exceeding the 2C threshold are substantially increased.
For instructors who include a discussion of European responses to climate change, including the EU-ETS, I would suggest checking out the resources on the Polimp site. The site is funded by the European Commission under its 7th Framework Program.
Among the resources on the site pertinent to those teaching climate and energy courses are the following:
- The Climate Policy Information Hub, a portal which provides concise summaries and links to additional resources on an array of climate policy and science issues, including European Union climate policy, international climate policy institutions, renewable energy policies, and detailed information about climate and energy issues in several key sectors, including residential, transportation and agriculture;
- An archived webinar series, which includes an excellent recent discussion of the future of the EU-ETS, lessons learned from the 15th UNFCCC COP in Copenhagen for the upcoming 21st COP in Paris, and the contours of European climate policy for 2030;
- A Policy Brief Series, which includes briefings on stakeholder perspectives on the EU-ETS, and financing renewable energy in the European Union,
The site also includes a (free) newsletter for apprising subscribers of new resources on the site and upcoming events.
In its most recent Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the World Meteorological Organization provides some of the most contemporaneous data on the status of long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as well as providing some excellent charts for lectures and presentations on climate science.
Among the key findings in the publication:
- Radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 36% between 1990 and 2014, with carbon dioxide accounting for approximately 80% of this increase;
- Carbon dioxide levels reached 143% of pre-industrial levels in 2014 and is responsible for 83% of the the increase in radiative forcing over the past decade. Global atmospheric concentrations reached 397.7ppm in 2014, with an average annual growth rate of 2.06ppm over the past decade, with last year’s growth rate over 2013 of 1.9ppm
- Approximately 44% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions reached the atmosphere in the past decade, with the remaining 56% removed by oceans and the terrestrial biosphere
- Methane concentrations in the atmosphere reached 254% of pre-industrial levels in 2014, contributing 17% of the radiative forcing of long-lived greenhouse gases. Atmospheric concentrations were 1833 ppb in 2014;
- Nitrous oxide levels reached 327 ppb in 2014, up 21% above pre-industrial levels. Nitrous oxide accounts for 6% of radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases;
- Chlorofluorocarbons and minor halogenated gases account for 12% of radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases, though their production is declining due to international treaty regulation. While potent greenhouse gases hydrochlorofluorocarbons and hydrofluorcarbons are increasing in production at a substantial clip, their atmospheric concentrations remain low, in the parts per trillion currently.
The Bulletin also provides a concise explanation of the anthropogenic greenhouse effect, including an excellent chart explaining radiative forcing.
For instructors discussing the likely impacts of the emissions reductions commitments agreed to by the Parties to the UNFCCC under the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (denominated “Intended National Determined Contributions” or “INDCs”), the just-released eight-page Executive Summary of UNEP’s Annual “Emissions Gap Report” would be an excellent reading. Other recent assessments of INDCs include the UNFCCC’s Synthesis Report on the Aggregate Effect of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, and studies by Climate Action Tracker and Climate Interactive. The 2015 Report compares projected emission levels in 2030 (based on the INDCs of 114 States by October 1, 2015) with scientific assessments of emissions pathways consistent with keeping temperature increases below 2C from pre-industrial levels.
Among the study’s findings are:
- Based on the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report’s estimate of a remaining cumulative carbon dioxide emissions budget of 1000 GtCO2 (to avoid passing the 2C threshold), net global carbon emissions will have to be reduced to zero between 2060 and 2075;
- To have a greater than 66% chance of avoiding temperature increases above 2C by the end of century the median level of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in 2030 should be 42 GtCO2e (range of 31-44), 39 GtCO2e to keep temperature increases to 1.5C.
- While the INDCs made by the Parties to the UNFCCC to date constitute “a real increase in the ambition level compared to a projection of current policies, the emissions gap between full implementation of unconditional INDCs and the least-cost emission level for a pathway to remain below 2C are estimated at 14 GtCO2e in 2030 and 7 GtCO2e in 2025. Conditional INDCs could reduce the gap to 5 GtCO2e in 2025 and 12 GtCO2e in 2030. This translates into a temperature increase of 3.5C by 2100 (66% chance)
- The global emissions levels in 2030 consistent with avoiding passing the 2C threshold is 42 GtCO2e in 2030, while project emissions from unconditional INDCs are projected to be 56 GtCO2e in 2030, or 45 GtCO2e when conditional INDCs are taken into account.
- Global greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by an additional 5-12 GtCO2e below unconditional INDCs through measures such as enhanced energy efficiency, and International Cooperative Initiatives, such as efforts by cities and regions, sector specific initiatives (such as reducing cement-related initiatives), and forest-related initiatives, e.g. REDD+
The electronic version of the report also includes a number of charts and diagrams that would could be used in class lectures, including portrayals of historical GHG emissions and projections until 2050, the emissions gap of INDCs and requisite reductions in emissions to avoid passing critical temperature thresholds, and a map outlining the INDCs of UNFCCC Parties.