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Oh noes! The world’s not going to saved now!

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, November 13th, 2016 - 49 comments
Categories: climate change, energy - Tags: , ,

A bit of agitation and fear has accompanied the assumption that Donald trump will pull the US out of the Paris agreement.

Can we all be clear about something? The Paris agreement only spans 10 years and if all commitments are made good in full, then the world will heat up by about 3.5 – 4 degrees C. That’s just physics.

The truth behind mainstream media doing a “kumbya the world is saved 1.5 degrees” is that the world was abandoned in Paris.

No government wants to commit to the yearly 15% reduction in energy related emissions that would, alongside huge strides in land use emissions, give us a last and only very slim chance of achieving something close to 2 degrees of warming.

From the perspective of 2 degrees, Trump is a peculiar, or even ungodly, godsend. If Trump pulls out of Paris, then climate change is very much back on the table. And if climate change is back on the table, then we have the opportunity to insist that our government gets real and makes commitments of the required magnitude.

It’s not only in the US that people need to make the public conscience visible on the steets. And the public conscience has much more important things to coalesce around than mere opposition to Trump policies

49 comments on “Oh noes! The world’s not going to saved now!”

  1. mickysavage 1

    But opening more coal mines and completing oil pipelines and stifling research into and development of renewable energy sources in the States is going to set the world back big time.

    The election of Trump will only be bad for the planet.

    • weka 1.1

      It’s also going to influence the culture whereby people start assuming it’s ok again to deny AGW, or they move more quickly to the ‘we’re fucked’ place of non-change, so that will need to be redressed.

      Many people who are serious about CC understand that Paris was a stepping stone in the right direction, and not nearly enough but better than nothing (and probably all we could expect from governments in 2015).

      What the US election has done is a create an instability that has the potential to mobilise people to take action. I don’t know if this is better or worse than what would have happened under Clinton, but it’s what we have and we should work with that potential, and urgently.

      And the middle classes need to understand that it’s not going to be comfortable. We’re past that now, being able to stay comfortable. Time we all got woke and took it seriously, not in a this will all work out kind of way, but in a we’re deep on the shit right now kind of way, it’s going to get worse, and there is important work to be done nonetheless. In that sense, we can take advantage of the chaos of the election outcome but it means we have to adapt and fast. Yes, let’s keep up the critique of Trump, but that’s not the main point here.

      For those that are still relatively comfortable in their daily lives, they at the least need to step up and supports those who are working in the chaos.

      • weka 1.1.1

        As an aside, while I agree with Bill’s general premise, I think the title is inflammatory and unhelpful. There is a lot of political confusion happening currently and a mass breakdown of our social/political structures. Allies going round poking each other with a sharp stick and telling each other they are stupid and wrong while understandable in some ways, seems counter productive in others. But if I am getting it right, the pokey stick is an attempt to get people to see that there is something else here that needs to be addressed, that isn’t being addressed, and time has just run out for pleasantries. Pretty soon we are all going to have to stop going ow, oww, oww, put down the sticks and start listening to each other.

        (I see Ad has his own pointy stick out below).

    • Bill 1.2

      Set back from what? Paris commitments = 3.5 – 4 degrees C or warming. It’s pretty hard to imagine being somehow ‘set back’ from that.

      Coal mines can’t usually just be re-opened btw, but even if they could be, the difference between 3.5 degrees or 4 degrees and something like 4.5 degrees is more or less immaterial from the perspective of a globally integrated human civilisation.

      Everything around you right now will be sorely tested in a world that follows through on Paris commitments. Much of it will fall over, collapse or otherwise disappear.

      If it was a case of “not Trump” = doing anything worthwhile from the perspective of 2 degrees of warming versus “Trump” = not doing anything worthwhile, then I’d share your sentiment.

      But we’ve chosen to do bugger all and the trajectory we’re on is smacking civilisation into a kind of ‘game over’ zone.

      Trump’s stupidity might open a window for people to look at things and then disavow themselves of the comfortable illusions provided by Paris. And for those of us who’ve being paying attention, we can legitimately relitigate the arguments made to our governments about their ‘genocidally inadequate’ responses to basic physics.

      • Lanthanide 1.2.1

        “Set back from what? ”

        Set back from the alternative path, obviously.

        Once these assets are built, they will be used. There’s two direct ramifications of this: the opportunity cost of instead building better energy sources for the environment – we spent $5B on a pipeline so that’s now $5B less that can be spent on solar.

        Secondly the pipelines being in place means there will be less need in the future to develop alternatives. If you need power in location X, and your choices are build a solar plant and have it completed in 3 years time, or keep using your pipelines that are already available, then it’s obvious the pipelines will have a big advantage.

        • Bill 1.2.1.1

          When the ‘alternative’ path is 3.5 to 4 degrees of warming, then we need to get our arses off of the ‘alternative’ path. Basically, Trump pulling the US out of Paris just keeps us going along the already disastrous path we’re on at a slightly quicker lick.

          • weka 1.2.1.1.1

            Except for the bits just explained about entrenching decades of fossil fuel use that will be hard to roll back. If we are talking government action, that’s important. If we are talking revolution, it might be a moot point.

            • Bill 1.2.1.1.1.1

              We’re currently locking ourselves into decades worth of fossil fuel use all over the show, whether that be through the construction of gas fired power stations or whatever.

              At some point, if we’re going to get serious, we’ll have to abandon all of it. So a pipeline and a whatever getting added to the mix doesn’t really alter shit. We don’t have the luxury of seeing out the expected lifetime of a whole lot of our already existing energy related infrastructure. Even pulling out all of the stops (we’re pulling out none at present) – anything still around by about 2035 or 40 gets ‘stranded’.

              We can’t build the alternative infrastructure in the time available to us. We need to cut our fossil dependent energy demands (by about 15% year on year) while we build up non-fossil sources of power.

              If we don’t, we’ll shoot way over 2 degrees. If we adhere to Paris commitments, we’ll shoot way over two degrees. If we keep using all the gas and coal and oil fired power stations until the end of their expected life cycle, then we’ll shoot over 2 degrees. If we don’t reduce carbon emissions from all of our cars, planes, ships, generators and what have you by 15% every year, then we’ll shoot over 2 degrees.

              It’s our choice.

              Slash fossil dependent energy demand now or wait until it’s all coming down about our ears, at which point it will likely be too late from a 2 degrees perspective and possibly too late to avoid warming way in excess of that if we’ve crossed the temperature thresholds at which natural feedback loops kick in.

  2. Garibaldi 2

    Hear,hear Bill. The Paris agreement was indeed a feel good talk fest with inadequate measures/goals set, and as our brave govt has shown, most countries just try to find ways to fudge their lack of both commitment and progress.
    As is so often said … we have no hope unless Capitalism goes. Fat chance of that because of human stupidity and outright greed.

  3. Ad 3

    Be honest Bill nothing is going to make you happy.
    You like things failing so you can say that only impossible extremist policies sound more rational.

    Your righteousness about the immanent death of the whole of humanity due to whatever humanity should be blamed for is identical to any other extremist.

    • Bill 3.1

      I’ll be honest Ad. I don’t like things failing. And I don’t like bad things succeeding. I don’t ascribe to ‘impossible extremist policies’ – (on CC, it’s our governments who are following a path of impossible extremism) and I’ve never said anything about ‘the immanent death of the whole of humanity’.

      But if gross misrepresentation of what I think and say is your way of holding onto some false hope about the track we’re on, then hey – all I’d ask is that you find another way to do that. Cheers.

    • Lanthanide 3.2

      +1

    • Peter Swift 3.3

      +1

  4. Sanctuary 4

    No one has ever explained to me convincingly exactly how we can a) maintain our standard of living and b) allow the third world to become more prosperous and c) reduce carbon emissions all at once. The reason why no one has explained this to me is because it is impossible. We’ve already seen in the UK and USA how the general population react to falling standards of living, no democratically elected politician is going to win power promising to make us all poorer (and no dictator is going to care about the environment, as long as he/she and their cronies are OK). The third world with its corruption and hunger for higher standard of living won’t accept permanent poverty because they were late to the industrialisation party.

    There are about 6 billion more people alive today than is sustainable in a pre-industrial/scientific human population. Simply expecting them all to die off in a climate catastrophe and leave a wrecked to the planet for the survivors is no plan, but that is our current trajectory.

    The only way out of the climate change problem is to let big capitalist corporations make money out of coming up with solutions. Recycling, breakthroughs in carbon sequestration technologies, a Manhattan project for fusion power, geoengineering (cloud seeding, etc), even developing the technology needed tor a space umbrella would all provide jobs and growth and hopefully come up with solutions. Because what we are doing now – trying to reduce emissions by cutting back – isn’t working and isn’t going to work.

    • weka 4.1

      No one has ever explained to me convincingly exactly how we can a) maintain our standard of living and b) allow the third world to become more prosperous and c) reduce carbon emissions all at once.

      I also believe that this is an impossibility. But before we surrender to our only hope being big tech, we should consider that the Powerdown doesn’t have to equate to a falling standard of living as experienced in the UK and the US. We have huge amounts of privilege and resource to transition to truly sustainable living, and we have people who have already been pioneering this.

      If we look at NZ, what we are talking about is having to give up some things, but there is still hope that we can have reasonable lives that include the things that we value and need (assuming that our values and needs aren’t greed or having a new car every few years or having overseas holidays).

      Needless to say, moving to at least a steady state economy is an imperative, there is no way around that, but that’s not the same as mass impoverishment.

      That big tech is inherently unsustainable is also a powerful motivator.

      • BM 4.1.1

        No one will be powering down, no one will be giving up there trips and toys.

        Any government who tries to implement a power down approach will be given the boot from office.

        If climate change is going to take us out, in all honesty the only hope for Humanity is a technological breakthrough.

        • weka 4.1.1.1

          People will powerdown when the shit hits the fan, governments have nothing to do with it. And the people who have been practicing the powerdown for the decades preceding that will be an invaluable resource. Nevertheless people have powered down before as a society with government intervention, eg during the great wars.

          • Lanthanide 4.1.1.1.1

            “Nevertheless people have powered down before as a society with government intervention, eg during the great wars.”

            But that was never a case of “power down now, and face lower standards of living for eternity”.

            People believed that by fighting and winning the wars, they and their children would have a more prosperous future than the present they currently found themselves in.

            • weka 4.1.1.1.1.1

              People who are doing the Powerdown work definitely believe they are working for a more prosperous future for themselves and their children than what we will have if we don’t transition. But you are right, it’s not about the situation we are in in the same way as a war, because of the time delay of CC. We have to act now, but we’re not on a war footing yet because the tidal wave is still approaching and we still think there is time to get out of the way.

              “But that was never a case of “power down now, and face lower standards of living for eternity”.

              I don’t know what you mean by lower standards of living. We have to give things up, yes. We have to share more fairly, yes. But we can probably all still have safe, warm housing, good food, meaningful lives etc.

              I guess the upper middle classes are going to take a drop in standard of living if by that you mean not having overseas holidays or a new car every few years. But people in the great wars were willing to die in their thousands, so let’s get real here about the potential of sacrifice.

              • Lanthanide

                When I envisage a lower standard of living, I’m thinking of the 1800s.

                No cars. Most people never travel further than 10 miles from where they were born.

                That’s quite different from now.

                • weka

                  That’s where I think we will likely end up if we don’t transition. But that’s not the Powerdown when done intentionally.

          • BM 4.1.1.1.2

            That’s last resort stuff, have faith in humans to come up with the answers,due to the internet and the sharing of information, technology is moving at a staggering pace.

            I expect in another 20 years everyone one will be looking back at all the worry and angst about climate change and will be loling their arses off.

    • Chuck 4.2

      That is properly the best summary I have read any where Sanctuary.

    • Bill 4.3

      This is from memory. The numbers are correct, though it may be the global 10% rather than the top 10% in the US….if the top 10% of emitters in the US brought their emissions down to the European average , then global emissions would drop by 30%.

      50% of us produce only 10% of all emissions.

      There’d be no huge drop in living standards for most of us. In fact, most of us would experience an increase in our standard of living. The change in how we live our lives would be enormous. But that’s something else again and since it seems that ‘everyone’ is throwing votes at anything and anyone that promises to instigate change…. 😉 Okay, that was facetious, but the serious point is that more than a few of us have nothing much vested in the status quo.

      • Lanthanide 4.3.1

        Except it’s not individual people ’emitting’ all that gas.

        It’s businesses, that produce goods and services (including food) that the public wants.

        I would imagine that a lot of the emissions come from meat production. Bringing emissions down to the european average, would mean less meat, and people would have (in their opinion) a lower quality of life, because they would have to eat less meat.

        Really the argument you’re trying to make, is that there’s a lot of CO2 emissions happening for precisely no benefit, and no one would miss it if those emissions just went away.

        Unless you can point to literal burning of gas/coal/oil for no purpose whatsoever, then you’re simply wrong that no one would be impacted if the emissions stopped.

        • Bill 4.3.1.1

          The studies have been done from an ‘end user’ perspective. Oxfam did one and Chancel and Piketty another. Their conclusions were more or less identical.

          10% of humanity is responsible for about 50% of emissions – it comes from the carbon embedded in the stuff they buy (from production processes etc), the travel they take….

          Are you joking when you suggest that a Leonardo DiCaprio – a person with emissions the equivalent of thousands of low emitters – should just ‘sail on’ because it would be unfair to ‘impose’ a European average on him and his ilk?

          The European average is way above what most people in Europe actually emit btw, given that their numbers are pushed way up by Europe’s own 10% of high emitters.

  5. So the more deniers we have at the top the more that will lead to more action. Nah it don’t work like that. We need people to be inspired to see hope and options. Deniers and their entourage stiffle the hope and real action people can and must do.

    • weka 5.1

      That most people haven’t gotten on board with something like the Transition movements suggests that hope and options alone are not enough. I think they are a prerequisite, and that scarey shit on it’s own is doomed as a strategy, but we do have people leading the way and they’re not being followed. I don’t think shock is a good strategy by intention, but it’s what we have to work with right now, so maybe we should work with it. The value in the election result isn’t that we will have more denial, it’s the chaos following the result might move us in a better direction. And yes, we need to have hope and options available or it will be very bad.

      • marty mars 5.1.1

        Might move us isn’t really worth much. Fear will move people but frankly if someone isn’t moving by now they are really going to be pushed timewise.

        How about – the shock of trump gets some protesting, the shock of a megadeath climate warming incident or a death by 1000 cuts incident say continual drought will get people protesting moving, rattling the gates of power but for what at that point – too late.

        Hope and options for resilience etc are imo the ONLY chance for people.

    • Bill 5.2

      I didn’t suggest that Marty.

      Trump might kill Paris. Paris is false hope. If Trump (for the wrong reasons) kills Paris, we’re possibly presented with an opportunity to breath life into demands for something meaningful.

      At the moment CC is ‘off the table’ because Paris took care of CC – That’s the big lie.

      • marty mars 5.2.1

        But a denier will create the opportunity for something meaningful. I don’t think that is possible even by accident. It will take will and that has to be directed imo.

        At govt level maybe they think Paris is it. Dunno I’ve given up waiting for govt.

      • Macro 5.2.2

        Paris was not a false hope – it was the first time after 25 +years of debate that the whole world agreed to put a price on Carbon. If you don’t understand that you don’t understand the Paris Agreement.
        Yes the commitments were far to little, and not enough, but just as babies take a tottering first step – so was the Paris Agreement. The world was headed in the right direction – beginning to take action to mitigate the effects of Global Warming, now that is all in jeapody. Sure we were hard pressed to limit global temp rise to less than 2 degrees – but now even that small window of opportunity has been slammed shut. As for the preparedness of the world to deal with the effects and adapt? Well the well spring of funding has just been turned off as we open the taps on more oil and coal.

        • Bill 5.2.2.1

          There’s a global price on carbon, is there? And what will that achieve in terms of deep, fast cuts to carbon emissions? Nothing. Which, if we were in 1990 or something, might be okay, because we didn’t need an immediate and drastic cut in our emissions.

          If, ‘just as babies take take a tottering first step’, that first step had been back in 1990, then sure. That would have been worth something and we might even have been fair sprinting along by now.

          But we have not got the time that it will take for carbon pricing to work it’s incremental way into our emissions. And we do not have the time to be heading in anything other than the correct direction with decisiveness and urgency.

          Show me any piece of intelligent writing that would claim it’s possible to mitigate for temperature increases of 4 degrees C (our current path) at all latitudes. Show me the country that is doing the necessary work on its infrastructure with an aim to mitigating the likely effects of CC?

          The International Energy Agency (a very conservative body) isn’t a lone voice saying that 4 degrees in incompatible with any version of a globally integrated human civilisation. The World Bank speaking from the same page as the IEA doesn’t constitute an isolated pair of institutions who just happen to be saying the same thing off the back of independent studies they’ve commissioned. The scientists increasingly saying in public what they only a few years ago only admitted to in private – that we’ve blown it – isn’t just some fad within the scientific community.

          Belief in the commitments of the Paris Agreement and the reality of physics, not Donald Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, is what has overseen the window of opportunity for 2 degrees C close.

          • Macro 5.2.2.1.1

            Don’t take my word for it – Here is the World Bank on the subject
            http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2016/04/15/carbon-pricing-building-on-the-momentum-of-the-paris-agreement

            There is growing global momentum to put a price on carbon pollution.
            About 40 national and 23 subnational governments have put in place carbon pricing mechanisms, covering 12 percent of global emissions.
            Nearly half of the national pledges submitted in the run-up to the Paris COP21 climate conference reference carbon pricing, and new approaches are being rolled out in China, France, Canada and other countries.
            The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, which brings together more than 20 governments and 90 companies, is holding its first High Level Assembly in Washington this week, where it will push for greater global support for stronger carbon pricing policies.

            • Bill 5.2.2.1.1.1

              A carbon price is irrelevant. To be effective it would have to be $1000s of dollars on items like training shoes. And, as you can figure, that hits the poor very disproportionately.

              Essentially, as a central plank in any policy a carbon price/tax will not work.

              There might be a role for a huge carbon tax on specific luxury goods that only the richest 10% tend to buy, or even for a slightly lesser one on stuff the next richest 40% tend to buy or on goods that we agree to be ‘superfluous’.

              But how many years do you reckon it would take to agree on the goods to be covered and the price to be levied? We have about 20 years to be at zero carbon from all forms of energy (so no bio-fuel) to have any chance at all of achieving anything even close to 2 degrees.

              You think tax/price levels can be agreed to and that any agreed to level would guarantee that effects will hit hard enough and fast enough given that time scale?

              • Macro

                No I completely disagree that Carbon needs to be that highly priced to be effective. Yes it does need to be at a higher price than now – but you overlook the use of Carbon Taxes as a means to fund mitigation and adaptation programs. Also the channelling of funding off Fossil Fuels (which are hugely subsidised) would alone make them more expensive.
                https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/18/fossil-fuel-companies-getting-10m-a-minute-in-subsidies-says-imf
                Into more socially just programmes would also result in a far more equitable world.

                • Bill

                  If we simply ramp up the cost of carbon, then all we’re going to do is throw the poorest under a bus.

                  I believe at Paris idiots argued over some paltry sum to go from Annex 1 countries to Annex 2 countries. – $100 billion per annum for 5 years towards mitigation and adaption while our governments collectively threw how many trillions at the financial sector?

                  The studies have been done on carbon pricing. The amount would have to be very, very high and no-one can quite figure out how to gather them equitably or distribute them equitably. Chancel and Piketty had a go at figuring it out. Failed.

                  I agree with the bit concerning fossil industry subsidies. NZ currently subsidises to the tune of about NZ$2.5 billion per year. That’s enough to fund giving away all of the petrol and diesel used in NZ for free and subjecting the supply to a hard sinking cap.

                  Post on that here.

                  • Macro

                    That’s the whole point of the carbon tax – to redirect that money to those who need it most.
                    At present the world’s poor are subsidising the wealthy to the tune of trillions of dollars a year. Making wealthy people pay more for their carbon is not going to affect the poor. But saving them trillions in subsidies will.

                    • Poission

                      Major earthquake christchurch realrisks

                    • Bill

                      I understand the theory. In practice, collecting that tax and distributing the proceeds just doesn’t pan out. You really think there’s a scheme whereby a tax collected in the US or the EU will get paid out across Pakistan or Vietnam or Nigeria?

                      That aside, this link to a rather long post with links to studies that pretty well show the infeasibility of bringing in a carbon tax might be worth ten minutes of your time…

  6. So, the hobbits return to the Shire to find it buggered. They boot out the wreckers then set about reviving the place, using good old fashioned hobbit-grunt (and the gifts from the elves). Seems like a good plan to me 🙂

  7. Most of the really useful books are fiction and in any case, fictitious thinking is our only real hope, imo.

  8. Paul 8

    Too late.

    ‘Climate change may be escalating so fast it could be ‘game over’, scientists warn.

    New research suggests the Earth’s climate could be more sensitive to greenhouse gases than thought, raising the spectre of an ‘apocalyptic side of bad’ temperature rise of more than 7C within a lifetime’

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/climate-change-game-over-global-warming-climate-sensitivity-seven-degrees-a7407881.html

  9. Glenn 9

    My almost 94 year old mother often talks about her life pre and during WW2 when trams and railway and shanks pony were almost the only transport for folks.
    Coastal shipping was a big thing in the transport industry.
    All gone or almost gone and we call it progress.
    No wonder our carbon footprints are getting bigger.
    Governments in NZ have been antiRail for decades and very pro trucking.
    Railroads getting closed and billions spent on motorways.
    The government don’t give a toss about CC.

  10. The issue isn’t that Trump is going to pull out of the Paris agreement, though.

    The issue is that any practical agreement to get us under 2° warming requires the USA to participate to work, and Trump is a full-blown climate skeptic. (somehow) He’s not going to participate in a better agreement without some serious levarage being applied (and I don’t even suspect that leverage exists…) and nations aren’t going to agree to aggressive targets that would work without the US.

    So this is the moment where everyone can stop gaming out low-odds options and realise that yes, what those of us who are well-informed had been suspecting for a few years, we are definitely fucked on climate change.

    • Karen 10.1

      Exactly this Matthew. I didn’t hold out much hope after Paris (agree with Bill that much more drastic action required) but having the US sign up was at least something that could be built on. That very faint hope is gone now, and the future indeed looks bleak.

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