Sunday, December 20, 2015

Soon it Begins, but First, We Celebrate!

"We are at threshold of a monumental, civilization-bending paradigm shift."

From 1980 to 1989, we collected and analyzed more than 3,000 published studies on climate change. Having received formal training in liberal arts, political science, and law, we were poorly prepared but nonetheless taught ourselves the arcane language of climate science and how to separate the wheat from the chaff in complicated studies and reports.

At the end of that decade, we wrote a book that sifted all this assembled scientific literature and synthesized it into a statement that any reasonably bright 15-year-old could read and understand. That book, Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What We Can Do, still stands up pretty well after 25 years. Many of the unknowns that existed then are known today. Many uncertainties with interpretations suspected but not confirmed have been resolved. Still, new knowledge has brought new questions and, in time, we will discover still more answers. Science never sleeps.

One of the more controversial chapters in that 1990 book was called "Runaway" It described a possible scenario in which positive feedbacks cascaded so quickly that Earth's usual recovery mechanisms would not have time to adjust. In an exceptionally bad run of luck, we could lose the friendly atmosphere that sustains higher life forms and instead be shrouded in thick clouds of carbon dioxide and methane, something akin to the atmosphere of Venus. Today there are a growing number of scientists who think that is where we are headed - that Earth will no longer be able to support large mammals such as ourselves, and we could experience our own mass extinction by as early as 2030.

These kinds of doomsday scenarios are not certainties, and may even be improbable, but they are not impossible, given what we are observing in the natural world today and from what we understand of geophysics. We are in an accelerating pace of change, and unless we can radically shift both the pace and direction, it will not end well.

In 1965, an advisory committee warned Lyndon B. Johnson that the greenhouse effect was a matter of "real concern." With estimated recoverable fossil fuel reserves sufficient to triple atmospheric carbon dioxide, the panel wrote, "Man is unwittingly conducting a vast geophysical experiment." Emissions by the year 2000 could be sufficient to cause "measurable and perhaps marked" climate change, the panel concluded.

Since then, every U.S. President has been warned by the best scientists in the world that the problem is serious and getting rapidly worse. Previous to Barack Obama, no U.S. president except Jimmy Carter had done anything to even slow the problem, and Carter demonstrated what Obama already knows - that it is a political liability even to try.

Someone who foresaw this dilemma early and found himself in a position to do something about it was Maurice Strong, the first Director of the United Nations Environmental Program. He, more than any single individual, was responsible for establishing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the Convention on Biological Diversity to bring together science and diplomacy.

It was a strange life's trajectory that took him there. A child of the Canadian prairies who suffered through the Great Depression, he went on to become a self-made oil millionaire and then a key player in energy and utility businesses. He became the first chairman of Petro-Canada and later chairman of Ontario Hydro. Then Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson appointed him to start the Canadian International Development Agency and he began a lifelong interest in the problems of the poor.

In 1971, Strong commissioned a report on the state of the planet, Only One Earth: The Care and Maintenance of a Small Planet, co-authored by Barbara Ward and Rene Dubos. The report summarized the findings of 152 leading experts from 58 countries. It spurred the first UN Conference on Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972. Strong's report was the world's first "state of the environment" warning.

Maurice was Secretary-General of that 1972 Stockholm summit and later the Rio Sustainable Development Summit  in 1992,  It was his view that better knowledge would lead to wise and timely action by all the nations of the world working in concert. He was Founding Executive Director of the UN Environment Program and not a believer in summits as an end in themselves. Rather than setting up his UNEP shop in Paris or New York, he established a global headquarters on what was then a coffee farm at the outskirts of Nairobi. In 1999 he took on the task of trying to restore the viability of the University for Peace, headquartered in Costa Rica

Maurice Strong died at the age of 86 in November 27, 2015 in Ottawa, just as delegates were arriving to Paris for the UN climate meeting. Had his health and longevity permitted, he would have been there too.

Despite the poorly informed quality of the climate discussion in the United States, science has already reached a consensus. It took thousands of scientists many decades to reach it, something, by the way, that has never occurred before. Exxon, the Koch brothers, Saudi Arabia, and others have almost unlimited money to spend buying political favors and sowing doubt. Through spending billions of dollars each year — many, many times the amounts that are usually spent on political campaigns — these oil and coal interests have produced a generation of politicians with wacko views of science. It is no accident that in the United States, until recently the world's leading carbon polluter, the key Congressional committees charged with addressing climate change have been disbanded, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under attack for regulating carbon, and President Obama has been formally informed, by legislative resolution, that any UN climate agreement forwarded to the Senate will be Dead On Arrival.

Against this backdrop we have the Paris Agreement, which changes everything. How did it come into being? What does it mean for the economies of industrial nations? What are its chances of Senate ratification, or funding of its programs? What will be its effects on the stock market, on jobs, and on future elections?

After spending the last 6 years reporting on the run-up to the Paris conference, actually being there for this historic moment was much more exciting than we anticipated. Right up until the last it could have gone either way. We could have seen another Copenhagen. Instead, we saw a genuine breakthrough. Indeed, we are at threshold of a monumental, civilization-bending paradigm shift.

In heralding the adoption of the agreement, President Barack Obama said:

[T]his agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is firmly committed to a low-carbon future. And that has the potential to unleash investment and innovation in clean energy at a scale we have never seen before. The targets we've set are bold. And by empowering businesses, scientists, engineers, workers, and the private sector - investors - to work together, this agreement represents the best chance we've had to save the one planet that we've got.

So I believe this moment can be a turning point for the world. We've shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge. It won't be easy. Progress won't always come quick. We cannot be complacent. While our generation will see some of the benefits of building a clean energy economy - jobs created and money saved - we may not live to see the full realization of our achievement. But that's okay. What matters is that today we can be more confident that this planet is going to be in better shape for the next generation. And that's what I care about. I imagine taking my grandkids, if I'm lucky enough to have some, to the park someday, and holding their hands, and hearing their laughter, and watching a quiet sunset, all the while knowing that our work today prevented an alternate future that could have been grim; that our work, here and now, gave future generations cleaner air, and cleaner water, and a more sustainable planet. And what could be more important than that?

Today, thanks to strong, principled, American leadership, that's the world that we'll leave to our children - a world that is safer and more secure, more prosperous, and more free. And that is our most important mission in our short time here on this Earth.

While we may not have a crystal ball, we have now been following and reporting this issue for 35 years. Over the past 7 days we have compiled a new book, which is now available on Kindle and for the remainder of the year can be downloaded for $1.99. The Kindle app is available for free for almost any smart phone or digital device.

This book is our diary of the past year, as we watched the quickening pace of negotiations that led, ultimately, to the adoption of the final text in Paris. Regular readers will recognize many of the chapters because they were posted here beginning this past February, but there are many new chapters added to lend the story its power and immediacy.

Dropping the royal "we" for a moment, I know that I carry my own biases into this reporting, borne of more than three decades watching politicians and diplomats fiddle while Earth burned. I come not from the world of journalism or academic science, but from a world of permaculture, solar power experiments, and ecovillages; a world that is unknown to most people. My expertise lies in appropriate technology, biophysical economics, and ecological restoration. Because of this, I offer a different point of view than what our readers can easily find in other books in this subject. I write with an opinionated style that some may find difficult to accept, even offensive, but I speak with a passion borne of conviction. I hope this book helps deepen your understanding of a complex issue. It is an issue that will affect you very profoundly in coming years whether you choose to believe it or not.

Merry Christmas to one and all, and to each a festive holiday season. And when the New Year comes, our real work can begin. That is soon enough. Light a candle, raise a toast, and may we have peace on Earth, all good will to all our relations.  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Here Comes The Sun

"The COP agreed that the era of fossil energy is over. That is no longer in question. It will end by 2050, if not sooner. The question is how, and the Paris Agreement leaves that to fairy dust."

  At 7:27 pm Paris time (ECT), the President of the COP, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, gavelled the Paris Agreement home. The crowd stood, applauded and whooped. The text is here:

Success, it seemed to us, came because of the unions. They were not dockworkers or ironmongers. They were unions of countries with brands that read like corporate logos: AOSIS, ALBA, G77 Plus, High Ambition, the Like-Minded in favor of Kyoto Annexes, stealth-OPEC. No single effort could broker a deal unless it got the big unions on board. In the end ALBA and stealth-OPEC were too small to matter. The Like-Minded splintered in favor of the Ambitious. AOSIS and G77, the Climate Vulnerable Forum, and High Ambition ruled.

In their 2 minute closer, Philippines noted it was the first time that the concept of Climate Justice appears in a legally binding document. In time, they hinted, the United States and other overdeveloped countries will be made to pay reparations to those who will lose all or substantial parts of their counties, including all that high-priced real estate in Rio, Capetown, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Consumerist Empires built on fossil energy may have an unusually large credit card statement coming at the end of the billing cycle.

Pluses and minuses in the new agreement: the 1.5C target is in, thanks to the efforts of UNFCCC head Christina Figueres to give a voice to civil society in these corridors. Five-year 'stocktakes' (Websters Dictionary please take note) — reassessment of progress and commitments — are in. Full phase-out of fossil energy by 2050 is not, but that door is not entirely closed and may be reopened at Marrakech next year.
"Each Party’s successive nationally determined contribution will represent a progression beyond the Party’s then current nationally determined contribution and reflect its highest possible ambition, reflecting its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances."
What the text mandates, which is actually significant, is to "achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty."

Decarbonization by 2050 is no longer just a t-shirt. Now it's international law.

Bill McKibben said:
“Every government seems now to recognize that the fossil fuel era must end and soon. But the power of the fossil fuel industry is reflected in the text, which drags out the transition so far that endless climate damage will be done. Since pace is the crucial question now, activists must redouble our efforts to weaken that industry. This didn’t save the planet but it may have saved the chance of saving the planet.” Executive director, May Boeve said:
“This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.

The final text still has some serious gaps. We’re very concerned about the exclusion of the rights of indigenous peoples, the lack of finance for loss and damage, and that while the text recognizes the importance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C, the current commitments from countries still add up to well over 3 degrees of warming. These are red lines we cannot cross. After Paris, we’ll be redoubling our efforts to deliver the real solutions that science and justice demand.”
The thinktank E3G said,  “The transition to a low carbon economy is now unstoppable, ensuring the end of the fossil fuel age.”

Carbon Tracker said: “Fossil fuel companies will need to accept that they are an ex-growth stocks and must urgently re-assess their business plans accordingly.”

The Guardian called it "a victory for climate science and ultimate defeat for fossil fuels."

One piece of statescraft managed by Obama and Kerry was to neatly skirt what killed Kyoto: the 60 Neanderthals in the US Senate put there by the coal kings Koch Brothers. The New York Times spotted the play and reported:
Some elements of the accord would be voluntary, while others would be legally binding. That hybrid structure was specifically intended to ensure the support of the United States: An accord that would have required legally binding targets for emissions reductions would be legally interpreted as a new treaty, and would be required to go before the Senate for ratification.

Such a proposal would be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate, where many lawmakers question the established science of climate change, and where even more hope to thwart President Obama’s climate change agenda.


The accord uses the language of an existing treaty, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to put forth legally binding language requiring countries to verify their emissions, and to periodically put forth new, tougher domestic plans over time.

In just updating regulations enacted under an already ratified treaty, the Paris Agreement bypasses the need for new Senate ratification.

Inside Le Bourget, after the obligatory high fives and selfies, delegates crafted sound bytes for the press and kept the lights on and microphones active past midnight. Outside, 10,000 activists took to the streets to pull a "red line," representing 1.5 degrees, to the Arc de Triomphe.

French President Francois Hollande, who has a gift for hyperbole, said "History is made by those who commit, not those who calculate. Today you committed. You did not calculate." Although not in the way he meant it, this is ironically a first-rate assessment of the Agreement.

There is a quality of awareness among all the delegates to the Paris climate talks that, after 20 years of these discussions, is passing strange. We would not call it a deer-in-the-headlights look, because it is not even quite there yet. Those jockeying for the best outcome for their own economies and constituencies are still quite oblivious to the science of what is transpiring and the seriousness of the threat. They have their noses down in the trough and do not hear the butcher at the barn door.

This should not be surprising. Nowhere in the fossil record is there anything quite like what is transforming the world of humans today. Our physical brains are virtually the same as they were 30,000 years ago, when we were standing upright in the savannah, alert to proximate, not distant, threats and quickly obtained, not slowly exploited, resources.

We make ourselves ignorant in at least three ways: not knowing the basic science of climate change, not knowing what to do about it once we 
become aware of the problem, and being barraged with wrong information about both of those and being unable to distinguish fact from fiction.

We might think that a lamb raised in New Zealand and eaten in London would create more greenhouse gases than one being locally grown, but in the way the world works today, the opposite is true. We might think that going vegan is more climate responsible than raising farmed animals, but because of how pastured animals stock soils with carbon, the opposite can be true. We might think, as climate scientist James Hansen does, that low prices for gas cause more fossil fuels to be burned, but the opposite is true, because low prices keep whole provinces of production from being tapped.

When disciplined and deliberate attempts 
by profit-driven vested interests in the production of 
greenhouse gases cast doubt on science and corrupt politics and the media, grasping these nuances becomes even more difficult.

We are a lucky species in that our optimism is more-or-less hard-wired. People tend to be overly optimistic 
about their chances of having a happy marriage or avoiding illness. Young people are easily lured to join the military, become combat photographers, or engage in extreme-risk sports because they are unrealistically optimistic they can avoid harm. 
Humans are also overly optimistic about environmental risks. Our confirmation bias helps us keep up this optimism even when confronted with scientific truths to the contrary.

The principal outcome is less about the how than about the whether. The COP agreed that the era of fossil energy is over. That is no longer in question. It will end by 2050, if not sooner. The question is how, and the Paris Agreement leaves that to fairy dust.

The Guardian reports:

Throughout the week, campaigners have said the deal had to send a clear signal to global industry that the era of fossil fuels was ending. Scientists have seen the moment as career defining.

Carbon Tracker said:
“New energy technologies have become hugely cost-competitive in recent years and the effect of the momentum created in Paris will only accelerate that trend. The need for financial markets to fund the clean energy transition creates opportunity for growth on a scale not seen since the industrial revolution.”
What will replace fossil energy? The basket of renewables described by Jeremy Leggett in Winning the Carbon War? There is a slight problem there, and one wonders how long it will take for that to catch up to the delegates. Perhaps by the first stocktake, but maybe longer.

The problem, as often described on this site and elaborated in our book, the Post-Petroleum Survival Guide (2006), is net energy, or return on energy investment (EROEI), first elaborated by systems ecologist Howard T. Odum. These days the leading scientists in that field are calling it "biophysical economics."

To put it as simply as possible, the source of almost all our energy is the sun. When the EROEI of a resource is less than or equal to one, that energy source becomes a net "energy sink", and can no longer be used as a source of energy, but depending on the system might be useful for energy storage (for example a battery, or the tidal storage in Scotland). A fuel or energy must have an EROEI ratio of at least 3:1 to be considered viable as a prominent fuel or energy source. This chart shows typical values for various technologies.

Right now most of what powers the world comes from the top half of that chart. The Paris agreement suggests that most of what we need by 2050 must be selected from portions of the bottom half of the chart — the so-called "clean" energies." Quoth the prophet, Wikipedia:
Thomas Homer-Dixon argues that a falling EROEI in the Later Roman Empire was one of the reasons for the collapse of the Western Empire in the fifth century CE. In "The Upside of Down" he suggests that EROEI analysis provides a basis for the analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations. Looking at the maximum extent of the Roman Empire, (60 million) and its technological base the agrarian base of Rome was about 1:12 per hectare for wheat and 1:27 for alfalfa (giving a 1:2.7 production for oxen). One can then use this to calculate the population of the Roman Empire required at its height, on the basis of about 2,500–3,000 calories per day per person. It comes out roughly equal to the area of food production at its height. But ecological damage (deforestation, soil fertility loss particularly in southern Spain, southern Italy, Sicily and especially north Africa) saw a collapse in the system beginning in the 2nd century, as EROEI began to fall. It bottomed in 1084 when Rome's population, which had peaked under Trajan at 1.5 million, was only 15,000. Evidence also fits the cycle of Mayan and Cambodian collapse too. Joseph Tainter suggests that diminishing returns of the EROEI is a chief cause of the collapse of complex societies, this has been suggested as caused by peak wood in early societies. Falling EROEI due to depletion of high quality fossil fuel resources also poses a difficult challenge for industrial economies.
When we hear pleas from underdeveloping countries for greater financial assistance to allow them to adapt — meaning building out renewable energy and migrating coastal cities inland — we have to ask ourselves if they really comprehend what they will need to adapt to, and whether any amount of money will ever be enough. The status quo ante – the way things worked before — is gone, and so is the modo omnia futura. One hundred billion dollars per year is not enough to save human beings as a species but asking for more won't help, either. What might help is committing to degrowth, depopulation, and scaling back our human footprint to something closer to what we had coming out of the last Ice Age, before we started building monumental cities, mining metal, and inventing writing. We don't need to abandon writing, but lets get real — those megacities may be unsalvageable on a solar budget.

Dr. Guy McPherson writes:
Astrophysicists have long believed Earth was near the center of the habitable zone for humans. Recent research published in the 10 March 2013 issue of Astrophysical Journal indicates Earth is on the inner edge of the habitable zone, and lies within 1% of inhabitability (1.5 million km, or 5 times the distance from Earth to Earth’s moon). A minor change in Earth’s atmosphere removes human habitat. Unfortunately, we’ve invoked major changes.

This discussion seems strangely absent, despite the pushback against Saudi Arabia and India after they succeeded in excluding the substantive recommendations of the Structured Expert Dialogue from the COP. They were not allowed to dump the provisions on transparency and uniform accounting, although it was not for lack of effort.

Instead, we keep hearing reference to an outdated and unfortunate IPCC number — the bent straw everyone is grasping for — that to have a 50-50 chance of limiting warming to 2°C (itself untenably overheated), cumulative emissions to end of century and beyond must be limited to 1 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide in total, starting 5 years ago. In that past five years we burned through one tenth – 100 Gt. Most predict that with added growth (a big assumption) we’ll have burned through 75% of this "budget" by 2030 and we’ll bust the budget around 2036. If we cut back, we might have until 2060.

Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace said, "We have a 1.5C wall to climb but the ladder is not tall enough." But he acknowledged, “As a result of what we have secured here we will win… for us Paris was always a stop on an ongoing journey… I believe we are now in with a serious chance to succeed.”

Glen Peters, scientist at CICERO, said 1.5C effectively requires a fossil fuel phase-out by 2030. He later clarified that was without negative emissions or the immediate introduction of a global carbon price, which are some of the assumptions in 1.5C models. His personal view was chances of achieving 1.5C were “extremely slim.”

Will voluntary pledges, revisited every five years starting in 2023 be enough to cut emissions and hold to the budget? It is the wrong question. That budget does not exist. Closer scrutiny of embedded systemic feedbacks reveal we'd blown though any possible atmospheric buffer zone by the 1970s and have just been piling on carbon up there every since.

The Atlantic today reports:
Recent science has indicated that warming to two degrees, still the stated international red line, might be catastrophic, creating mega-hurricanes and possibly halting the temperate jet stream which waters American and European farmland.

From that perspective, 1.5 degrees is an encouraging, ambitious goal. But it’s also a promise that costs negotiators nothing while indicating great moral seriousness.

Because here’s the thing: The math still doesn’t work. 2015 is the hottest year on measure. Because of the delay between when carbon enters the atmosphere and when it traps heat, we are nearly locked into nearly 1.5 degrees of warming already. Many thought the world would abandon the two degree target at Paris due to its impracticality.

Once we apply honestly science-based Earth system sensitivity at equilibrium, excluding none of the feedbacks and forcings that we know of, we discover we passed the 2°C target in 1978. To hold at 2 degrees we would need to bring CO2 concentration down to 334 ppm, not increase it to 450 as the Paris Agreement contemplates. To hold at 1.5°C we would need to vacuum the atmosphere even lower, to a level last seen some time before mid-20th century.

Outside of elite scientists such as those we've mentioned this past week — Anderson, Schellnhuber, Rockstrom, Hansen, Wasdell, and Goreau — few in Le Bourget seem to grasp some simple arithmetic. And so we are treated to the spectacle of fossil producers like India, Russia, Saudi Arabia and many of the underdeveloping countries demanding more time to fill up the available atmospheric space, when in reality there is none and hasn't been for quite some time.

Some say the UN is hamstrung by multilateral consensus, but voting would be no better. After the COP meeting in Durban, the UNFCCC adopted a traditional South African negotiating format to speed up decision-making and bring opposing countries together. The Guardian's John Vidal explains:
Zulu and Xhosa communities use “indabas” to give everyone equal opportunity to voice their opinions in order to work toward consensus.

They were first used in UN climate talks in Durban in 2011 when, with the talks deadlocked and the summit just minutes from collapse, the South African presidency asked the main countries to form a standing circle in the middle of hundreds of delegates and to talk directly to each other.

Instead of repeating stated positions, diplomats were encouraged to talk personally and quietly about their “red lines” and to propose solutions to each other.

By including everyone and allowing often hostile countries to speak in earshot of observers, it achieved a remarkable breakthrough within 30 minutes.

In Paris the indaba format was used by France to narrow differences between countries behind closed doors. It is said to have rapidly slimmed down a ballooning text with hundreds of potential points of disagreements.

By Wednesday with agreement still far away, French prime minister Laurent Fabius further refined the indaba by splitting groups into two.

“It is a very effective way to streamline negotiations and bridge differences. It has the advantage of being participatory yet fair”, said one West African diplomat. “It should be used much more when no way through a problem can be found.”

What may need to happen next year in Marrakech is that the COP host an indaba with experts both in the climate sciences and in biophysical economics.

What may hold out the best hope lies buried 20 pages in, at Article 4:
In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.

Article 5:
1. Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases as referred to in Article 4, paragraph 1(d), of the Convention, including forests.

2. Parties are encouraged to take action to implement and support, including through results-based payments, the existing framework as set out in related guidance and decisions already agreed under the Convention for: policy approaches and positive incentives for activities relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries; and alternative policy approaches, such as joint mitigation and adaptation approaches for the integral and sustainable management of forests, while reaffirming the importance of incentivizing, as appropriate, non-carbon benefits associated with such approaches.

It is not yet clear whether integrated food and fuel sequenced permaculturally designed forests, composed of mixed aged, mixed species robust ecologies and maximum carbon sequestration though biomass-to-biochar energy and agriculture systems will be scaled fast enough, but these two articles could be the spark they need to spur investment.

As the clock ticked on towards end of day, the leader of the High Ambition group, Tony de Blum, introduced to the plenary an 18-year-old girl from Majuro who spoke of water gradually rising on three sides of her home.
"The coconut leaf I wear in my hair and hold up in my hand is from my home in the Marshall Islands. I wear them today in hope of keeping them for my children and my grandchildren -- a symbol, these simple strands of coconut leaves that I wear. … Keep these leaves and give them to your children, and tell them a story — of how you helped my islands and the whole world today. This agreement is for those of us whose identity, whose culture, whose ancestors, whose whole being, is bound to their lands. I have only spoken about myself and my islands but the same story will play out everywhere in the world."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Realpolitik in Paris

"The question of feasibility is a completely different thing."

"No-one wants a repeat of Copenhagen… perhaps the planets were not aligned, but now they are," Laurent Fabius said, as he opened the not-quite final plenary at noon Saturday.

"To conclude, one of us the other day reminded us of Nelson Mandela’s sentence: 'It always seems impossible until it’s done.' I wish to add some other words to that, words spoken by the same hero: 'None of us acting alone can be successful. Success is built collectively.' In this room you are going to be deciding upon a historic agreement. The world is holding its breath. It’s counting on all of us."

No one does superlatives better than the French, the blogger for New Scientist opined. Hollande: "You are on the last step and you must hoist yourself one step higher still."

There are two major competing narratives and a number of minor ones as COP-21 winds down towards its conclusion. Most narratives have it that too much is at stake for the conference to fail and everyone to go home empty-handed — again. And yet that is precisely where the COP was headed as of now, Saturday, awaiting the release of the so-called "final" draft.

Henry Kissinger once famously opined that nations do not behave as individuals do and so one should never negotiate as if they did. Nations are not guided by morality the way people are, but by a calculation of the imperatives of power. Interests of nations are best served not by striving to dominate or game the system but by recognition of rules and limits among a sophisticated international community that may include actors other than states, such as corporations, activists and labor unions.

The Clinton-Obama Copenhagen gambit was an effort to break the 15-year logjam over the climate issue by radically restructuring the game being played at the United Nations, from one of sanction-backed mandates (Kyoto) in which bad actors are punished by economic penalties, to one of voluntary pledges in which bad actors are shamed. Under this theory, nations behave as individuals would, seeking praise and avoiding blame. It hasn't worked. India and Saudi Arabia are shameless. Nonetheless, both have hired high-end PR firms to keep their images up.

Independent analyses of the national pledges, or INDCs, suggest they could put the world on track to warming of between 2.7 and 3.5 °C by 2100, depending on what assumptions are made about emissions after 2030 and ignoring the full system equilibrium calculation which would at least double that temperature range.

“I think it is clear that the INDCs will fall well short of what is required for any reasonable probability of avoiding 2°C,” says Alice Bows-Larkin of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Manchester, UK. And what happens after 2030 is crucial, too. “We can’t assume that emissions will immediately decline.”

At a meeting in London on 28 October, New Scientist asked the UNFCCC Chief, Christiana Figueres, if it was now time for the world to accept that limiting warming to 2°C is unrealistic and to start preparing for even greater warming. Figueres vehemently rejected this idea.

“Would you want that for your children,” she responded. “This is about the quality of life on this planet.” The Paris treaty would “build a pathway” to 2 °C, she said, by paving the way for further cuts.

Listening for a moment to Henry Kissinger, what is needed is not a praise and blame game but an agreed set of rules. The tough part is reaching agreement on what those rules need to be.

John Schellnhuber of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who advises Germany and the Vatican on climate change, says there is a scientific rationale for 1.5C being in the current Paris draft text:

I have been involved from the very beginning in the 2C target. It was sort of a surprise that the 1.5C came out here so strong in the text. Let’s face it we are still a night away from the final treaty. But we can be pretty sure the 1.5C will be referred to clearly, like we are going to land planet Earth somewhere between 1.5C and 2C, hopefully very close to 1.5C.

There is a scientific rationale for that. When I have looked into tipping points of the climate system, you discover the real dangers start around 1.5C, 2C. We cannot provide you with that precision. We cannot say Greenland melts at 1.7C and then its irreversible but we can say we are entering the risk zone at 1.5C. That is same for the coral reefs [they are at risk after 1.5C].

In order to be on the safe side it is very wise to consider 1.5C as the right guardrail, given all the uncertainties from risk analyses.

The question of feasibility is a completely different thing.

What I feel is insufficient in the current treaty is that if you say 1.5C then you need [to be] phasing out CO2 by the middle of this century. You need zero carbon emissions by 2050. If that would also appears in the text than I would be more than happy, and entitled to open a bottle of champagne at Champs Elysee.

There are those who would keep the stopper in Professor Schellnhuber's bottle.

As we reported previously, John Kerry at his Thursday press conference revealed the existence of a shadow "High Ambition Coalition" that had been meeting in secret for 6 months to set high goals for the Paris Agreement. After that revelation, several key players who were not part of the Coalition caucused among their delegations and joined, including Canada, Australia, Brazil, the EU and Philippines. The Coalition is chaired by the Marshall Islands, which represents the Island nations, AOSIS, the most vulnerable of all to sea level rise.

Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum revealed to Andrew Freeman of Associated Press that "Last night we sat in a negotiating room listening to a coordinated campaign to gut the text of ambition."
"These included interventions requesting the deletion of long-term emissions pathways, concrete language to land the 5-year revisiting of targets, and a refusal to recognize the science.”

According to others in the room, the nations deBrum was referring to were Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia, plus China, India and Malaysia. These countries sought to remove any references to a global warming target of 1.5 degrees, as well as provisions calling for a mandatory review of countries' emissions reduction plans and full transparency.

He did not name them. That would be shaming. Instead, he merely held out for a firm regulatory context.

"We’re not here to accept a minimalist Paris agreement, this is our red line,” de Brum said.

Thursday evening's draft agreement aimed for "carbon neutrality" toward the latter half of the century, without defining what that term means. Saturday's draft is expected to instead say "greenhouse gas emissions neutrality," which is more precise and would necessitate a near-complete decarbonization of the world economy by 2100. The High Ambition Coalition was seeking neutrality by 2050. We await the "final" text to clarify this point.

Is that so difficult? Earlier this year Hawaii passed legislation requiring that, by 2045, the entire island will be powered by renewable energy sources. Sweden is on track to be all renewable by 2050. It is more than 60% of the way there.

Ironically one of the things that could speed up decarbonization is the low price of oil. Anything below $75 per barrel makes extracting from unconventional sources uneconomic. That prevents production, which prevents consumption. To keep the price down what is needed is not more production — that would be impossible at lower prices — but lower demand, something that is virtually assured in the era of steep contraction that lies ahead, for reasons that have nothing to do with climate change and a lot to do with the karma of financial debt overreach.

The meeting adjourns until 3:45 pm to allow text to be first translated, then distributed, then read. Time for all to go for a long French déjeuner.  Back later, after we are joined by our West Coast affiliates…. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Paris: Top of the Stretch

"What is missing from last night's draft, in our view, was strong, coercive language."

It is as yet too soon to know how this story will be told a century or more from now.

One version is that by then, owing to the clathrate gun, the Atlantic Current, or some other nasty self-reinforcing feedback, Earth resembles Tatooine, the desert homeworld of Anakin Skywalker, his son Luke, and the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. The planet is oppressed by harsh deserts and only a small portion remains that can sustain life, and that is shrinking. In this scenario, the story of COP21 in Paris is meaningless. We were genetically not predisposed to do what we had to do to survive, methane concentrations will eventually eliminate mammalian life, and so there is not much of a future ahead for us.

A somewhat different story might be that although the changes wrought by sudden onset climate change have been drastic, erasing most coastal cities and taking us past 2 degrees, they have not stopped human ability to ingeniously adapt by moving underground, planting drought hardy forests to cleanse the atmosphere, and abandoning inhospitable regions. Population is inching down, partly by the severity of the weather but increasingly by a popular will to live more in balance with what nature can provide. In this scenario, what happened in Paris was clearly inadequate and tone deaf, and most people will sneer or spit when it is mentioned.

A third possibility is that life is actually a bit better in 2115 than now. Sure, there are still lots of hazards to be wary of, like superstorms and extended droughts, or that nasty Fukushima disaster no-one has yet figured out what to do with, but 2015 was when the world decided to use the last few drops of fossil sunlight to make an aggressive switch to solar energy and permaculture, and now ubiquitous windmills made of bamboo composites and low-tech solar thermal devices perform enough useful work for everyone that leisure time can be devoted to philosophy, reading and writing books, making music and art, and social networking.

This world of the future also has common threads with Tatooine, in that something like a race of Jawas — actually, tribes of gleaners and scavengers — travel about in pedal-powered sandcrawlers collecting scrap metal and plastic bits from worthless consumer junk from failed industrial projects. In this world, the events in Paris a hundred years earlier are looked upon as a sort of turning point, when the arc of human history swung away from self-destruction and relearned to garden.

Then of course we have the heavy metal sci-fi version subscribed to by Bill Gates, Elon Musk and most of the political leaders in Paris today, which involves shiny nuclear plants, test-tube food, towering megacities filled with well-fed workers that live to be 200, and colonies on Mars. Grow grow grow! This scenario is, of course, fiction unless someone suddenly discovers an energy source comparable to fossil fuels, which seems implausible because no-one has, but that's a fortunate break for the many species not already driven to extinction by human ecosystem expansion.

So, dwelling on that third story, the green energy one, sitting around the fire in 2115, what do we think? We imagine the obvious question a child might ask is why ever did they wait so long? We could have done this long before and there would still be polar bears and whales and we would not have these unpredictable monsoons and droughts. Were they that oblivious, the child asks, or was it willful? We would have to say it was a little of both.

In countries like the US and Australia, where corporate control of media and Fundamentalist legislation of school curricula dictates what people know about most things, the climate threat was ridiculed and silenced. Even in Paris nearly every speech by a USAnian began by apologizing for being scientific and not as ignorant as the average US citizen, Republican or otherwise, just as nearly every speech by a European somewhere made reference to the tidal wave of refugees. Climate was always filtered through political rose-colored glasses, no matter where you were. Because of that, people seldom saw the world the same, or got anything close to an accurate view of what was really happening. The colored glasses made you oblivious, but you always had a choice about whether to take the glasses off.

They only had to turn off their televisions and walk outdoors, we might tell the child. "What's a television?" she might reply.

The truth is, those few who correctly diagnosed the situation early were labeled Cassandras, anarchists and flakes. You would not find much mention of them in popular news media, except for the occasional derisive reference. In 2115, those people are heroes.

Most of yesterday the arguments continued around LeBourget on the points of contention we have been describing all week. The document scheduled for 3 pm release was delayed to 7 and then 9. When it was finally issued there was a two hour period permitted for review. Each country was rationed 3 badges, no more, for the final "Indabas" (Zulu for agreement circles) begun at 11:30 and going much of the night. Each topic of contention was given its own space and a skilled facilitator. This morning we are awaiting the "final" text that the Indabas have agreed to and the coordinators have synthesized.

From the near-final text last night it seems agreed that 1.5 degrees is in the treaty, not as a mandate but as a defense line, as the Structured Expert Dialog had urged. It first appears in the Preamble, which says, "consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, recognizing that this would significantly reduce risks and impacts of climate change…."

It next appears in Article II, the voluntary pledge protocols, where the document notes with concern that existing pledges will not deliver 2° and that "much greater emission reduction efforts … will be required in the period after 2025 and 2030 in order to hold the temperature rise to below 2°C or 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels[.]" Article II concludes with a call for the IPCC to provide a technical paper by 2018 on the likely impacts of exceeding 1.5 and the required emissions pathways to hold the line there.

Loss and damage provisions are back in, mandating a review in 2016 to develop "modalities and procedures for the mechanism's operation and support." Adaptation is back in, but largely locally driven, with financial support from the Green Climate Fund. Finance is made contingent upon "enhanced results-based payments for verifiable achieved emission reductions and removals related to existing approaches..." which is to say nobody gets a free lunch.

Needless to say, nowhere in the four corners of the document is reference made to agriculture (although food security is raised as a concern for adaptation purposes), biochar, holistic management, soil fertility, mob grazing, or planting new forests for carbon sequestration. There is no mention of ecovillages, transition towns or permaculture, although the section on adaption does make mention of empowering community based solutions, driven by transparent, egalitarian processes, and that is laudable.

What is missing from last night's draft, in our view, was strong, coercive language. A striking example is in removing fossil subsidies, where countries are urged "to reduce international support for high-emission investments." Why not just require that? Words like "takes note," "requests," "invites," and "urges," need to be replaced with words like "shall," "must," and "are required."

A good example is a particularly strong paragraph 111, where the body
Decides that the committee [facilitating implementation and compliance] … shall consist of [X] members with recognized competence in relevant scientific, technical, socio-economic or legal fields , to be elected by the Conference of the Parties … on the basis of equitable geographical representation, with [X] members each from the five regional groups of the United Nations and one member each from the small island developing States and the least developed countries, while taking into account the goal of gender balance"

That committee is a key part of the agreement, because they will be influential in what happens next. In the legally binding treaty part, Article II.2 says,
"The committee shall be expert-based and facilitative in nature and function in a manner that is transparent, non-adversarial, and non-punitive."

There are no sanctions, no fines, no punishments, and no leverage that can be applied to enforce the treaty. There is not even something like the ING decision to not do business with anyone relying more than 50% on coal. No boycotts, trade sanctions, tariffs, fees. The treaty is based entirely on trust and voluntary compliance.

What the treaty does fairly well is set ambitious but not impossible goals and suggest ways to achieve them. You can quibble about whether the ambition is strong enough, but this is a big first step, and more steps will follow. The first "global stocktake" is set for 2018, with subsequent reviews and revisions every 5 years.

Anyone wishing to review the 27-page draft from Thursday night, knowing that by now it has been revised, can find it here:

We will soon find out what the outcome of all the overnight indabas was and how much has changed.

Last night, we were passing an outdoor café and were hailed by our friend Daniel who wanted to know what our take on the talks was. "Are we f**ked?" he asked.

"Not yet," we replied and although we meant that we still have another day or two of negotiations ahead, in a larger sense here we are, sitting in an outdoor café, enjoying peak civilization as though nothing has happened. And yet, in a larger sense the world has changed completely, and yes, we really are f**ked, although there may never have been much we, who were born this late in the game, could have done.

For the grandchild, there is even less she can do; just hope and wait. The hope is that it is not already too late and that the puny start we are making is at least leading us in the right direction. And that was better, to quote Keats, "than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Down to Business

"If the Illuminati actually exists, they have suddenly, after a quarter century of heel dragging and backsliding, had a come-to-Jesus moment. "

 We have to confess we tend to cast a jaundiced eye whenever we see proposals to save the planet through the power of business, free enterprise or so-called “fair trade.” Our first instinct is to make sure our wallet is intact.

A dogged protest has stalked nearly every COP since Kyoto, unfurling its banners with slogans like “System Change not Climate Change.” The protest has found an unlikely ally in Pope Francis, whose Laudato Si encyclical pointed the finger at capitalist greed and made it inseparable with the climate crisis. These are grand gestures and undeniable truths, but we have to wonder whether making a Paris agreement dependent on the dawning of the Age of Aquarius is a viable strategy.

That said, we sense a sea change in business as usual. When Henry David Thoreau said it was no good having a comfortable house if you did not have a habitable planet to put it on, he was not referring to posh villas overlooking Cannes or infinity pools on private islands in The Seychelles but for the upper one-tenth of the one-percent living in such places, he may as well have been. It took a while, but now they get it.

If you manage billions of dollars, pounds, rubles or euros of your own or other peoples' money, it has by now not escaped your attention that it is all at risk in a most profound way.

The IPCC’s (vastly overestimated) atmospheric budget of 1,000 GtCO2, even with highly optimistic assumptions on curtailing deforestation, air travel, shipping and cement emissions, requires global reductions in energy-CO2 of at least 10% each year, transitioning rapidly to zero emissions by 2050 and then going beyond zero. The severity of such cuts would likely exclude even clean coal and natural gas from most countries' energy mix after 2025, President Trump's Energy Policy Task Force notwithstanding.

Reality cannot be reconciled with repeated claims by world leaders and renewables advocates that in transitioning to a low-carbon energy future “global economic growth would not be strongly affected.” You know that is not true! You cannot grow an industrial economy on daily sunbeams the way you can from 500 million years of stored sunlight. Heck, you can even send people to the Moon on that kind of energy.

The economy is a heat engine. It needs to be completely reversed if anyone is going to survive. Degrowth may be unmentionable in Paris, but it is the only policy that gives us any chance to survive to the end of this century. Tyndall Centre's Kevin Anderson observes,
“... [T]here remains an almost global-scale cognitive dissonance with regards to acknowledging the quantitative implications of the analysis, including by many of those contributing to its development. We simply are not prepared to accept the revolutionary implications of our own findings, and even when we do we are reluctant to voice such thoughts openly.”

At a side event on Tuesday called “Growth, the Driver of Climate Change Action” presented by Brazil, Climate Policy Initiative and Brookings, Sir Nicholas Stern mentioned four ways to move towards the zero or negative emission rates that will be necessary: soil rehabilitation; reforestation; CO2 capturing from the air; and biomass with carbon capture. He said that economic decline from resource overshoot and population pressure, notably migrants from South to North, would likely mean that governments would not be up to the task.

Sterns prognostication was affirmed at the Press Briefing on Wednesday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who, after posturing for some 20 minutes, pulling out every platitude imaginable about the heroic work we are all undertaking and how this will be humanity's finest hour — “… our commitment to the global clean energy economy that every one of us knows we need if our future is to be secure…” —finally slipped in some statements worth picking our head out of our chest for.
“Ladies and gentlemen the situation demands, and this moment demands, that we do not leave Paris without an ambitious, inclusive and durable global climate agreement.

“Today we are formally announcing, the United States, that we are part of what we are calling the 'High Ambition Coalition.' … Addressing climate change will require a fundamental change in the way that we decide to power our planet and our aim can be nothing less than the steady transformation of the global economy. And that's not a pipe dream, some sort of pie-in-the-sky idea that's way out there and we're waiting for Godot to come along and give us the answer. That's not it. This is not a situation where we have to hope and pray that some smart person is going to come along and find a solution. No! We already have the solution!

“Remember, one of the things that we expect to happen here and makes Paris so important is not that we're going to leave here knowing everything we do is going to hit the 2-degree mark, but what we are doing is sending the marketplace an extraordinary signal, that those 186 countries [that submitted INDCs] are really committed. And that helps the private sector move capital into that, knowing that there is a future that is committed to this sustainable path. That is why we need a strong, legally binding, transparent system.”
The High Ambition Coalition that Kerry blew the cover on has been gathering in secret for 6 months. It consists of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, the US and all of EU member states. Notably absent are Australia, South Africa, Brazil, China and India. Canada only just joined.
The group is focusing on at least four key issues. They want an agreement at Paris to be legally binding; to set a clear long-term goal on global warming that is in line with scientific advice; to introduce a mechanism for reviewing countries’ emissions commitments every five years; and to create a unified system for tracking countries’ progress on meeting their carbon goals. —  Karl Mathiesen and Fiona Harvey

On Tuesday the group demanded a binding agreement with five-yearly reviews to consider more ambitious targets for the world and individual countries. They wanted clear rules for all countries to report on their emission reductions promises and have them reviewed and revised. That piqued oil rich Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Malaysia – who complained of procedural irregularity and argued the talks should revert to line-by-line negotiations. India said flatly it did not intend to revisit its promised emissions reduction target until 2030.

Hewlett Foundation President Larry Kramer said that new technologies cannot drive change by themselves because of inadequate regulatory frameworks. Neither can climate finance philanthropy provide the needed scale of resources for the necessary investments. Kerry said the overdeveloped countries could not go it alone and even if they reduced all emissions to zero tomorrow, the Earth would continue to warm without comparable cuts coming from the Two-Thirds World. So where does that leave us?

As we looked out the windows at French robocops manhandling journalists who strayed too close to the Grand Palais, we had to say it would not come from street protesters. It had to come from the direction Kerry was pointing — the Illuminati!

Despite the grand claims by Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein that public protest had brought down the Keystone pipeline and transformed energy utilities, we seriously doubt that. What stopped the pipeline is the same thing that stopped King Coal: the economic downturn in China driving the price of crude oil down; the halving in the price of renewables despite a half century of every possible barrier and disincentive being erected by the Department of Energy, the White House and most governments around the world; and, not inconsequentially, some gnome bean-counters in Switzerland actually running the numbers and closing the spigot on fracking and tar sands, as they must eventually on genetic modification, not because of health concerns, but because they are scientific and economic frauds.

The smart money wants to go green, fast. Jean-Dominique Senard, CEO of Michelin, said pointedly, “You should never oppose the future.”

Michael Bloomberg was equally succinct: “No CEO could survive if they said climate change is not a problem.” Leading companies are seeing an average 27% internal ROI on low-carbon investment.

If the Illuminati actually exists, they have suddenly, after a quarter century of heel dragging and backsliding, had a come-to-Jesus moment. They have realized the existential implications of climate change and are changing the marching orders they are sending to their minions.

An example of that is “We Mean Business,” a consortium of 353 companies, with $7.2 trillion in revenue and $19.6 trillion under management, 50 of whom have already committed to 100% renewable energy (RE100). WMB has an 8-fold demand for the Paris treaty that sounds like it could have been written by Climate Action Network:

The Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition (PDC) is a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by having institutional investors (ie: the owners of trillions of dollars of assets) redirect their capital to low-carbon investment opportunities. For 2015, PDC set a target of decarbonizing $100 billion in Assets Under Management. In November it announced it had smashed its target, hitting $230 billion.

The take-home point for Parties in Paris is that while they haggle over a few missing billions in government and private contributions to the Green Climate Fund they are loosing sight of the trillions that can be unlocked with the keys already in their hands.

The French Environment Minister Ségolène Royale announced a global call for tender to create cheaper and more efficient electric vehicles. The goal, he said, is to produce EVs which can be sold for less than €7,000, with a charging time of 30 minutes and a 500 km capacity. That carries a number of implications. To bring down the cost, designers will have to use fewer, cheaper and renewable resources. Think molded bamboo frames and bamboo biochar fuel cells.

Anthony Hobley, CEO of Carbon Tracker said that a critical element in remaining within the limits of a habitable Earth is the need to pull back from projects in the “danger zone.” He pointed to billions of dollars tied up in projects that are simply not needed due to massive cost reductions in renewable energy technology and changing demands. The US has the greatest financial exposure with $412 billion of unneeded projects, followed by Canada ($220bn), China ($179bn), Russia ($147bn) and Australia ($103bn).

Solar and wind are already getting to grid parity across the globe, and earlier this year, Warren Buffett set a price of three cents per kilowatt hour for his 100 MW solar farm.

ING, a Dutch investment company, announced this week in Paris they will stop financing new coal-fired power plants and mines worldwide and will turn away new clients whose business is more than 50 percent dependent on coal.

As the final days of COP21 draw to a close, the divides are familiar. Dropping the goal from 2° to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels now seems within reach. Not the temperature — that is no longer within reach — but the Maginot Line and the effort to defend it.

Those resisting this goal, such as India, China and the Arab States, suggest that such a target would represent too heavy a burden on competitiveness, economic development and poverty alleviation. The US and Canada have switched sides and are backing 1.5 to stay alive.

On the issue of finance, underdeveloping economies – those that are transitioning from agriculturally secure, renewably based societies to overpopulated consumerist fossil-addicted client state Ponzi systems — require enormous capital to invest in new coal plants, super-highways and megacities they’ll need to pursue unobtainable economic growth and customer population expansion that exists only in their dreams. Dozens of countries have aspirations like this and have sent delegates to Paris to push for their Bollywood fantasy of curry in every pot.

On the other hand, overdeveloped countries grappling with financial collapse from years of officially sanctioned systemic ripoffs and lagging resource extraction from the edges of their empires are struggling to meet Hillary Clinton's commitment to mobilize $100 billion per year in support of the bribes extorted by India, South Africa, Brazil and China at Copenhagen.

While other important differences exist, these issues are the biggest impediments to  success at Paris. They are slowing the pace of negotiations and undermining trust. Some countries seem intent on rejecting reasonable compromise because they fear being economically disadvantaged or thrown off their projected growth trajectory, as if that were even possible for anyone but unrepentant economists.

What could shift the argument might be private sector investment, within a enforceably defined regulatory regime, with accountability and transparency, to deploy low-carbon and net-sequestering technologies, including biomass-to biochar carbon capture and storage with agriculture and ecosystem service benefits. These represent an investment opportunity pegged by Stern and others at $4.7 trillion. For Ponzi economists it is a wet dream, and for red-eyed French diplomats trying to bring this puppy home, it is God-sent.

A few countries seem intent on making requests that cannot be met and are well beyond the bargaining range – what negotiators call pozo, the “zone of possible agreement.” Include India, Bolivia and Saudi Arabia here. Continuing to push for impossible positions risks everything for nothing.

We Mean Business writes:
“The climate action plans tabled by national governments in the run up to COP21 are already on course to change the temperature trajectory from an estimated 4.8°C by the end of the century to an estimated 2.7°C. Is that enough? Not at all. But a thriving clean economy and a platform for further ambition is contained within those INDCs. Moreover, for those looking for climate finance, remember, the deal itself is the financial package. The combination of a long-term goal, an ambitious review mechanism, appropriate mechanisms for transparency and accountability, and seed capital for low-carbon development provided by the public purse creates the environment for trillions of dollars in investments and funds the innovation that will drive our common success.”
In his famous 1971 Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky said, “A good tactic is one your people enjoy. They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones.” In this case, anyone who wants utilities to get off coal or nuclear power should look up and see if there are solar cells or a windmill on their house and maybe a bicycle in the shed and complimentary currency in their pocket.

Alinsky warned, “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem…. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” This is what is happening to the street protesters outside the corporate venue, who are having their lunch eaten by Big Business as it mashes the accelerator on the green technology revolution.

When engaging in a large-scale political conflict involving civil disobedience, Gandhi believed that satyagrahis (“truth warriors”) must undergo training to ensure discipline. He wrote that it is “only when people have proved their active loyalty by obeying the many laws of the State that they acquire the right of Civil Disobedience.”

Gandhi contrasted satyagraha (holding on to truth) with “duragraha” (holding on to force), by saying the latter was meant more to harass than enlighten opponents and change the status quo. He wrote: “There must be no impatience, no barbarity, no insolence, no undue pressure. If we want to cultivate a true spirit of democracy, we cannot afford to be intolerant. Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause.”

One of the biggest roadblocks to achieving the Paris treaty, after Senate Republicans in the US, is India. India demands $2.5 trillion in development pledges before it will implement its national commitments to carbon reductions put forward by its government ahead of the talks. Moreover, it is intolerant of any agreement that will force it to cut its high carbon development path before mid-century, bending the science to fit its politics.

Secretary Kerry said,
“We did not come to Paris to create a ceiling that contains all we ever hope to do. We came to Paris to build a floor, on which all of us together can continue to build. The progress that we've made, particularly with respect to INDCs, is unprecedented and encouraging, but it alone will not be enough. The targets that we've announced, taken together, will make a major dent in global emissions. They will bend the curve. But they will not hold the temperature to 2°C, which is what scientists tell us is what needs to happen to prevent the worst impacts, or lower than that, even, if possible, the 1.5, whatever. And that is why it is important that we keep an eye on our targets and insure that they are as ambitious as possible, that we understand whether we are making progress, that we set up a system to review our targets and ratchet them up at regular intervals if we need to, and given the rapid pace that I just mentioned, in which technology is evolving, in five years the individual capacity of one nation or another could increase dramatically.”
Both Wednesday and Thursday will have midnight sessions, it was announced this afternoon by COP President Laurent Fabius. Delegates hope Friday will be a day of rest while the legal and linguistic group reviews the text. The next iteration of the text, expected for Thursday afternoon, will be what Fabius calls the “penultimate text.” We shall see. Some brackets are more stubborn than others.

Governments may not be able to curb India's counterambitions. But maybe the Illuminati will, especially if, like ING, it refuses to do business with anyone who leaves Paris and is still burning coal. That would be most in keeping with the spirit of the Mahatma. 




The Great Change is published whenever the spirit moves me. Writings on this site are purely the opinion of Albert Bates and are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 3.0 "unported" copyright. People are free to share (i.e, to copy, distribute and transmit this work) and to build upon and adapt this work – under the following conditions of attribution, n on-commercial use, and share alike: Attribution (BY): You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). Non-Commercial (NC): You may not use this work for commercial purposes. Share Alike (SA): If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws. Therefore, the content of
this publication may be quoted or cited as per fair use rights. Any of the conditions of this license can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder (i.e., the Author). Where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license. For the complete Creative Commons legal code affecting this publication, see here. Writings on this site do not constitute legal or financial advice, and do not reflect the views of any other firm, employer, or organization. Information on this site is not classified and is not otherwise subject to confidentiality or non-disclosure.