PROJECT GREEN APOLLO October 15, 2009Posted by wmmbb in Natural Environment.
While alarmist, is it realism, that the measures that governments might agree to at Copenhagen are in no way appropriate to the problem posed by atmospheric carbon dioxide?
So the primary question is the scientific ones rather than an economic or a political questions. What are the atmospheric climate implications of the existing carbon dioxide levels and emissions? What needs to be done, at a minimum, to bring these levels down to safe levels? Can that be done at all?
WBGU, the German Advisory Council on Global Change are not optimistic is there report summary. They say:
At their meeting in the Italian city of L’Aquila in July 2009, the heads of state and government of the G8 countries and the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF), whose members include India, Brazil and China, acknowledged the importance that global warming must not exceed the 2°C guard rail if dangerous climate change is to be avoided. WBGU views this as an extremely important step towards the adoption of a binding international agreement which establishes a well-founded target for global climate protection. The task now is to build on this consensus and reach agreement, at Copenhagen, on a follow-up treaty to the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to expire in 2012. This new international agreement should translate the relevant scientific knowledge into a fair and practicable global strategy to combat global warming. So far, however, the lack of unanimity between the countries involved in the negotiating process has meant that there is no clear leitmotif pointing the way towards such an agreement.
There press release summed up the science and its implications:
The latest scientific findings show that if a dangerous climate change is to be avoided, only a limited amount of carbon dioxide may be emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere between now and the year 2050. For this reason the WBGU proposes the introduction of a global cap for carbon dioxide emitted from fossil-fuel sources, i.e. a “global budget.” As each individual person should have the same emission rights, this global budget is to be distributed among the various states according to their sizes of population. This results in national emission budgets from which reduction commitments for each separate country can be derived. Under this method developed by the WBGU, only a small number of political parameters for determining the national budgets would then have to be negotiated.
Based on its national carbon dioxide budget allowance, each country would then be required to develop sustainable and verifiable strategies for a low carbon economy. Due to the higher amount of emissions caused in the past, the industrialised countries would be required to assist the developing and newly industrializing countries in their endeavours by means of financial and technological transfers.
A “business-as-usual” mentality will lead to climate crisis
This “stocktake” prior to the climate conference in Copenhagen also illustrates that very ambitious reduction goals will have to be agreed upon involving the fundamental decoupling of economic growth from CO2 emission levels as soon as possible. “The world economy is on the way towards CO2 insolvency. For approximately two thirds of all countries a ‘business-as-usual’ policy is no longer an option. In order to avoid dangerous climatic changes it is absolutely essential to set all countries a course for transformation to a low-carbon economy immediately. This also includes the newly industrialising and developing countries. The whole world must pull together in a concerted effort to overcome the climate crisis,” said Dirk Messner, Vice Chairman of the WBGU.
Global carbon dioxide emissions need to sink drastically by 2050
Between now and the year 2050 not more than 750 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels may be emitted if dangerous climate change is to be avoided. At the present time approximately 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide are being emitted worldwide per year. If emissions continue at today’s levels, the global budget will be exhausted in around 25 years. Emission levels are still increasing from year to year. The WBGU urgently recommends reducing levels worldwide by 2020 at the very latest. “Thus a race against time has already begun,” continued Schellnhuber. Any further delay would make such drastic measures necessary that dangerous climate change would be almost impossible to avoid. Once climate change has occurred it will not be possible to reverse it for hundreds of years.
Slicing through the Gordian Knot of climate policy
Climate change is progressing more rapidly than previously expected and thus increases pressure on the policymakers to take action. The sluggish progress in climate negotiations seen till now is not sufficient to meet this challenge. The negotiation of a new climate protection treaty is likely to be far more complex and therefore more difficult than in the past. This is partly due to the growing number of countries that will have to agree to concrete reduction commitments in order to avoid dangerous climate impacts. “The Gordian Knot of climate policy can be sliced through if the negotiations are geared towards the WBGU budget approach,” said Schellnhuber.
Creating a framework for a low-carbon world economy
The WBGU shows that climate policy inevitably leads to restructuring to form a low-carbon world economy and describes the conditions and incentives that need to be created in order to achieve this objective. In addition to determining the CO2 budgets still permissible for each country, it is also necessary to expand global emission trading, promote technology partnerships and foster cooperation between so-called high- and low-emission countries. A world climate bank needs to be established in order to monitor these mechanisms and the decarbonisation roadmaps of each of the countries.
The “2°C guardrail” for avoiding dangerous climatic changes
Already in 1995 the WBGU proposed the introduction of an upper limit for a tolerable rise in global mean temperature, the so-called “2°C guard rail,” and, working on this basis, calculated the necessary emission reductions. The WBGU budget approach develops this method further and makes it adaptable to international climate policies.
The full report can be read here. They say that a 2degree Celsius rise in mean global temperatures will be a irreversible disaster.
Mark Hertsgaard, at Alternet and The Nation notes:
There is a fundamental political assumption underlying the WBGU study: that the right to emit greenhouse gases is shared equally by all people on earth. Known in diplomatic circles as “the per capita principle,” this approach has long been insisted upon by China and most other developing countries and thus is seen as essential to an agreement in Copenhagen, though among G-8 leaders only Merkel has endorsed it. The WBGU study applies the per capita principle to the world population of 7 billion people and arrives at an annual emissions quota of 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide per person. That’s harsh news for Americans, who emit twenty tons per person annually, and it explains why the US deadline is the most imminent. But China won’t welcome this study either. China’s combination of high annual emissions and huge population gives it a deadline only a few years later than Europe’s and Japan’s.
“I myself was terrified when I saw these numbers,” [Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chief climate adviser to the German government] told me. He urges governments to agree in Copenhagen to launch “a Green Apollo Project.” Like John Kennedy’s pledge to land a man on the moon in ten years, a global Green Apollo Project would aim to put leading economies on a trajectory of zero carbon emissions within ten years. Combined with carbon trading with low-emissions countries, Schellnhuber says, such a “wartime mobilization” might still save us from the worst impacts of climate change.
The priority at Copenhagen may well be to clear all the politicians out of the conference hall and give over to climate scientists and climate advisors to first reach a consensus on what is the truth, what is the science, and then invite the political representatives back only when they can face the facts square on.
Copenhagen could be a failure if the measures agreed by the participating governments do not match the problem posed by atmospheric CO2 levels. If that were to be the case a conclusion might be that a new political architecture is required for the world, which of course may be very necessary anyway given the report of one billion people starving on the globe. We as a global community to design the political structures and processes to address the problems faced.
Let’s not forget about the record levels of atmospheric methane.