First the good news if you happen to be a warmist. As of November 4, 2016, precisely 116 “parties” of 197 nations had ratified the Paris climate accord. Even better, the UNFCC website tells us that 112 of those countries submitted CO2 emissions reduction targets, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). These are generally couched in terms of percentage reductions by a pre-determined year –2030, say, against a baseline year of, say, 2005 — and the latest additions to the list mean the accord has now reached its required threshold of global support.
Ostensibly, these contributions have been crafted to help attain the goal of limiting global warming to 2C, but preferably 1.5C, above pre-industrial times. Notice the wording of the national targets. It’s bit of a giveaway. Firstly, they are ‘intended’, i.e. no guarantee they will ever be delivered. And secondly, they are ‘nationally determined’.
On what basis are they determined? This is where the rest of us get to the bad news. One would imagine, ‘climate science’ being such a settled thing, that the UNFCC, prior to the Paris meeting, would have issued some guidance as to exactly what total global CO2 reductions would be needed to meet the 2C goal. How much less CO2 must we emit? Without such guidance how do we know that our nationally determined targets are going to be effective in achieving the goals? Further, how are INDCs to be co-ordinated to maximize the chance of success?
Well, guess what! There is no such official guidance anywhere. Countries simply decided what they could afford. In other words, there is a disconnect between the goal of limiting warming to 2C and what is being promised to achieve it. I’ve written before of this but it’s worth re-visiting the subject in order to highlight the absolute vacuousness of official policy on both sides of the political divide in this country.
Imagine a NSW Premier talking to the CEO of a major construction outfit:
Premier: “We want to build a bridge across the harbour from South Head to North Head. How much will it cost?”
CEO: “How much you got?”
Premier: “We’ve budgeted for $1 billion”
CEO: “Well, give us the billion and we’ll see how far across we can get”
Premier: “Well, it’s worth a shot. When can you start?”
Sounds fanciful, right? What politician in his right mind (admittedly a dying breed) would sign up to something like that? But that’s exactly what we’re doing in relation to the vaunted Paris agreement, only the dollar costs are much bigger.
Does anybody in the Coalition, apart from the Prime Minister, really believe this rubbish? Or are we just going through the motions because we want to look good in the eyes of the rest of the world? Well, even on that front, it’s not working. A self-important website, Climate Action Tracker, has this to say:
…Australia’s national emissions are projected to continue to increase through 2030 at least, with no reduction in sight under the current policy settings. As of September 2016, there is little indication that the Australian Government intends to review whether it can meet its current target, and/or whether the present target needs to be increased with a consequent upgrading of policy…
The green boys and girls at Climate Tracker rate our efforts as “inadequate” – along with those of Canada, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, Argentina and South Korea, so we’re in good company at least.
The Climate Action Network Europe has also rated us as “very poor”, putting us in the bottom group, along with Canada and Japan. Morocco, which hosted this year’s climate summit in Marrakesh, is doing well, placed at eighth. International agencies and organisations that applaud our efforts seem rather thin on the ground. Non-existent, actually.
Of course, limiting global warming is not the real objective of this farce, nor has it ever been. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, let the cat out of the bag:
This is probably the most difficult task we have ever given ourselves … to intentionally transform the economic development model, for the first time in human history
This website lists the “top 25 quotes” from Figueres. Interestingly not one of them includes any reference to limiting warming to 2C.
Meanwhile our ‘governing class’ bickers among itself about direct action, carbon taxes, RET, emissions trading schemes and ‘carbon reductions’. And not one of them — not one! — has the faintest idea whether or not whatever we do will achieve the putative aim.
OK, to be fair, the Greg Hunts of this world might claim, “We’ve got to do something about global warming, and every little bit helps, doesn’t it?” They might even fall back on that old chestnut that the cost of CO2 emission reductions are just like paying an insurance premium on your house. But if you’re concerned about global warming, whatever its cause, mitigation efforts, such as killing the economy in the name of achieving some highly dubious emission reductions, are a 50/50 bet at best. If you want to take out insurance, better to spend your money on adaptation measures. Droughts, floods, bushfires and cyclones are not new. They have been with us forever and will continue to plague us even if warming does halt at 2C. So why not spend what money we can afford on measures that will be beneficial, regardless of the efficacy or otherwise of the Paris agreement. Measures such as building dams, weather proofing our infrastructure and better manning and equipping our fire services to name but a few.
So far our adaptation expenditure has been limited to the provision of mothballed desalination plants, facillities that may well be obsolete before they’re ever needed. India and China have already signalled that their national interests comes first. The US under soon-to-be-inaugurated President Trump is heading in that same direction.
If Trump achieves nothing more than pulling the US out of the Paris agreement, his election will have been more than justified.