Citizen Action Monitor

Annual carbon emissions are 60% higher now than in 1990, affirming abject failure to act decisively

Political expediency continues to trump needed revolutionary change. Could political upheaval spawn hope? asks Kevin Anderson.

No 2184 Posted by fw, March 19, 2018

Kevin Anderson

“Today, despite four further IPCC reports, 23 rounds of international negotiations, and thousands of climate change papers and conferences, annual emissions are more than 60% higher than in 1990, and are still rising. Put simply, the international community has presided over a quarter of a century of abject failure to deliver any meaningful reduction in absolute global emissions. … Continuing with today’s ineffective “mitigation”, delusion and fear will bequeath many humans and other species decades and even centuries of climatic instability. … Imagine a space where climate academics could be truly honest with policy makers about their analysis and conclusions, and where disagreements were discussed openly and constructively. Add to this, vociferous engagement by younger generations, listened to by a new breed of policy makers …. Under such conditions, an alternative progressive paradigm could be ushered in – and soon. Certainly, none of this looks likely …. Most political and economic pontificators, buttressed by naysayers and established elites, remain incapable of seeing beyond their familiar 20th-century horizon. But the 21st century is already proving how the future is a different country – one that could yet be shaped by alternative interpretations of prosperity, sustainability and equity.”Kevin Anderson, The Conversation

Kevin Anderson is Professor of Energy and Climate Change, University of Manchester and Zennström Professor of Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University, Sweden.

In the context of Kevin Anderson’s article, reposted below, I was astounded to read an article in today’s National Observer: Ottawa ‘determined’ to see Trans Mountain pipeline expanded: minister. Carr is either wilfully or literally ignorant of the scientific facts and ethical reasons why Trans Mountain is a flawed and dangerous decision. Here’s the beginning of the article:

“Canada’s natural resources minister says Ottawa is determined to see the Trans Mountain pipeline expanded, despite an interprovincial dispute on whether the project should go ahead. Jim Carr said the federal government approved the project because broad consultations determined it was in the national interest and will help facilitate a transition to clean energy.”

Could there have been a better example to graphically illustrate Anderson’s point? —

“This preference for short-term hedonism (for the few) over longer-term planetary stewardship is essentially an active choice for politically expedient incrementalism over revolutionary change.”   

Moreover, one wonders what “broad consultations” Carr is talking about. When Trudeau claimed his approval of the Kinder Morgan project was based on “rigorous debate, on science and on evidence” scientists questioned what he meant since their own research revealed “significant gaps in knowledge and research.” Of course there was no response to their queries. (For a true scientific/mathematical explanation of why wealthy countries must be carbon free by 2035 or many people will die, see Anderson’s Our chances of avoiding climate crisis are slim to none, says leading climate scientist.)

On March 4, 2018, investigative reporter Paul McKay’s penetrating critique revealed “Alberta’s huge tar sands/oil sands deposits cost too much to dig up, refine, and ship” and can no longer compete with global oil producers in a “cutthroat” field.  McKay asserts that Notley/Trudeau have failed to conduct basic due diligence and appear to be “practicing the darker art of deception.

Below is an abridged repost of Kevin Anderson’s article, with my added subheadings. Alternatively read his complete piece on The Conversation’s website by clicking on the following linked title.

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Hope from chaos: could political upheaval lead to a new green epoch? by Kevin Anderson, The Conversation, March 15, 2018

Annual carbon emissions 60% higher now than in 1990, affirming abject failure to act decisively

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) published its first major report 28 years ago. This watershed document described the ominous implications of escalating emissions and the scale of the challenge in reversing this seemingly inexorable trend.

Today, despite four further IPCC reports, 23 rounds of international negotiations, and thousands of climate change papers and conferences, annual emissions are more than 60% higher than in 1990, and are still rising. Put simply, the international community has presided over a quarter of a century of abject failure to deliver any meaningful reduction in absolute global emissions.

Policy makers are “guilty of misunderstanding the fundamental science of climate change”

Certainly the rhetoric of action is ramping up. Yet those who talk confidently about renewables, nuclear and “carbon capture and storage” (CCS) eventually driving down emissions in decades to come are guilty of misunderstanding the fundamental science of climate change.

Cumulative buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere increases risk of exceeding 2°C carbon budget by 2030

We face a “cumulative problem”, with rising temperatures relating to the build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Based on this, the Paris 1.5°C and 2°C commitments demand total emissions remain within a small and rapidly dwindling “carbon budget”. Time is truly of the essence. Less than 12 years of current emissions will see our 1.5°C aspiration go the way of the dodo, with the 2°C carbon budget exceeded by the mid 2030s.

Paris defines a timeframe and scale of mobilization reminiscent of major wars, yet our collective response remains much more akin to the apocryphal tale of a gently warming frog.

Continuing ineffective mitigation commits many beings to decades even centuries of climatic instability

Continuing with today’s ineffective “mitigation”, delusion and fear will bequeath many humans and other species decades and even centuries of climatic instability.

Politically expedient incrementalism continues to trump required revolutionary change

This preference for short-term hedonism (for the few) over longer-term planetary stewardship is essentially an active choice for politically expedient incrementalism over revolutionary change. The latter is a prerequisite of meeting our Paris commitments – but can such rapid change ever be more than a “romantic illusion”?

Despite fossil fuel industry’s campaign of denial, significant global government intervention is called for

Set against this, and despite an orchestrated campaign of denial, there is now common acceptance that responding to climate change requires significant government intervention. The plummeting cost of renewable energy has coincided with widespread recognition that relying on fossil fuels also has serious consequences for health and security.

Hope from chaos?

Anderson calls for creation of an open, constructive decision-making space for climate scientists, younger generations and “new breed of policy makers” 

Imagine a space where climate academics could be truly honest with policy makers about their analysis and conclusions, and where disagreements were discussed openly and constructively. Add to this, vociferous engagement by younger generations, listened to by a new breed of policy makers playing a straighter bat.

Combine improved decision making with other supportive strategic moves, including

  • Imagine then an enlightened “quantitative easing” transferring resources not to banks, but to mobilize a rapid transformation in energy infrastructure, retrofitting existing buildings, decarbonising transport and constructing zero-carbon power stations.
  • A reformist political agenda could begin to emerge, facilitating secure, local and high-quality employment, eradicating fuel poverty, improving urban air quality, driving innovation and eliminating carbon emissions.
  • Stretch the imagination a little further to embed a democratic media reporting on this transformation to an increasingly savvy and responsive audience.

Yes, “none of this looks likely” but sudden and surprising change does happen – for the good and the bad

Under such conditions, an alternative progressive paradigm could be ushered in – and soon. Certainly, none of this looks likely, but who predicted the near-collapse of the Western banking system, the emergence of Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, the rise and early demise of the Arab Spring, or even the plummeting price of renewables?

Who knows? — The 21st  century could be shaped by emerging conceptions of prosperity, sustainability and equity

Most political and economic pontificators, buttressed by naysayers and established elites, remain incapable of seeing beyond their familiar 20th-century horizon. But the 21st century is already proving how the future is a different country – one that could yet be shaped by alternative interpretations of prosperity, sustainability and equity.

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