Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Paris Bar Tab

"The bill is still considerably shy of being paid and the waiter is starting to look around for the manager. "

Place 2 Be in Paris
During the pre-COP talks in Bonn, National Public Radio in the US ran a piece to explain the complicated negotiations. They compared the Independent Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to a bar tab.

Lets say you have been in a bar a long time and a bunch of your friends have joined you. Some have been there as long as you have and others only just arrived. It is time to split the tab, so, like the INDCs, everyone throws some cash on the table. Someone has to take on the unhappy task of counting up the contributions, and in this case, they are quite a bit short of the bill. The waiter is standing there, looking impatient, maybe expecting you to pull out your Diner's Club card.

James Hansen explains where COP21 is missing the picture
If what has been put on the table were all to be paid, temperatures will go up by some 3.5 degrees C this century without the full equilibrium calculation and at least double that at equilibrium. To get the settlement down to 2 degrees (by no means “safe”), we need more contributions, so you start asking everyone to chip in to the cash on the table. The US, Australia and Canada, who were quite a bit short to begin with but have been there longest and drinking hardest, are a bit tipsy but feeling generous and decide to chip in more. China reluctantly joins them. India, who didn't put in anything yet, picks up a few hundred in cash off the table, saying it is owed for a previous tab. The bill is still considerably shy of being paid and the waiter is starting to look around for the manager. 

This raises some questions that are relevant to what is going on in Paris so we will carry the analogy a little further than NPR did. Firstly, who gets the honor of doing the count? Presumedly there needs to be a UN office that does this, like the Green Climate Fund or some such. Some countries — most, in fact — are going to balk at being told what to do by some blue helmeted One World'ers who want to take away their guns and impose some New World Order. 

Secondly, what if it turns out the tab is wrong, by a sizeable amount, as in fact it is. The barkeeper, in this case the Structured Expert Dialogue, comes around, all apologetic, and says, sorry for the mistake but you are going to have to pay much more than we indicated on the bill we gave you and here is the new bill. 

Some of your drinking buddies turn out their pockets and say, we have no more, or rather, it would wreck our plans for the weekend. Call that the economics excuse. Some, the underdeveloping group plus China, say “We only just arrived, this big tab is yours.” Call it climate justice.

So now, if you really intend to pay this tab (don't even think what might happen if you don't, because then the Paris talks will be another bust and we are all screwed), you need to come up with a formula that everyone will agree to.

On the first negotiating day, Tuesday, the Overdeveloped Countries let it be known that the issue of “Loss and Damage” or climate justice, would not be part of the treaty. Those words were coming out. 

That placed the proponents of the idea of historic responsibility, most notably India, on notice that these negotiations would not be paddycake. The US would not be guilted in reparations for slave trafficking, the atomic bomb, or coal taken out of the ground before the Civil War. If India, or anyone else, wanted to be painted as the ones to stop the Paris Treaty, then they can go ahead and walk out right now.

So we see the lines being drawn. China and the Like Minded Countries may need to back down on their insistence that Kyoto distinctions between the overdeveloped and the underdeveloping be retained. We are all in this together, or, to borrow from Benjamin Franklin, “we shall most assuredly all hang separately.”

Climatologist Emeritus Jim Hansen, who has never attended a COP before, was induced to do a press conference on Wednesday in which he pulled no punches. Calling the draft document "Half-assed and half-baked," he said he sat down with UNFCCC head Christina Figueres a few months earlier and told her the same thing he is saying now, so no one should feel sandbagged.

At his first UN COP, Hansen is mobbed by the press
Emissions reductions will not save us, if they are going country by country, based on a voluntary pledge system, Hansen said, because all you need to screw that up is a few countries, like India, saying they do not feel a moral compunction to reduce. 

Of the anthropogenic carbon now in the atmosphere, 25% is from the US, 25% from Europe, 10% from China and 10% from India. The remainder is from everyone else.

Any reductions by the larger industrial countries would serve to reduce world demand for fossil fuels, which would make them cheaper, and then the outlaws and rapidly underdeveloping would consume even faster. If you put a carbon tax on all sources, Hansen told Figueres, you could avoid this, make the price global, and even keep it rising. The tax could be rebated to the public and most people would gain money (so-called “tax and dividend” or "cap and share"). The only ones actually paying more might be people with two houses or private jets. Figueres told Hansen a carbon tax would never fly, and "differentiated responsibility" has already been locked in. 

We stopped by one of the booths belonging to a research institute working on clean coal. There are no technological barriers to removing carbon from the atmosphere, they told us. Its been being done, and it works. You can capture carbon and store it. The barriers are strictly financial. If you want to change that, put a tax on carbon, they said.

The pub crowd here in Paris has not even agreed how to settle the bill, never mind how much to tip the waiter. Some are eyeing the exits and hoping to leave someone else with the tab, but no one has left yet.

1 comment:

Danny C said...

I don't know if this analogy is correct, but, this sounds similar to the way we offered the native peoples a place to abide (reservations) knowing these were not the best lands and therefore their future would remain in question but prosperity would be ours. These under-developing countries don't have a prayer anyway unless they keep making trinkets for us the over-developed.peoples. Isn't this also an equation the major powers are eyeing? To partially mitigate the energy these slaves would need to do our dirty work so consumption can remain or even prosper is ruining our own "economic" scenario. Maybe Holmgren, et al, are right. Collapse maybe the way to force a draw down of this madness.




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