This morning, while preparing for a meeting, I learned that Paul Baer, my friend and EcoEquity’s co-founder, had just committed suicide. If you’re also a friend of his, you may know part of the story, which was long and often agonizing.
Paul and I met in late 1999, just before the dramatic 6th Conference of Parties in The Hague. I was giving a brown bag talk up at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, one called “After the Kyoto Protocol.” Afterwards, we talked and talked, and it turned out that we agreed on a very great deal indeed. What better way to celebrate such accord than to found an organization? Thus, EcoEquity was born.
The tragedy of Paul’s death is underscored by the fact that it occurred just before the Paris Agreement enters into force. When it does, it’s going to thrust us into a world of new complexities, and new possibilities. And, no doubt, new infamies. It’s a world he should have lived to see, and to work within.
Back in 2002, Paul and I wrote a book together, one called Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming. (We were trying for a broad audience, so we used the J word). It’s still a nice piece of work, though we were at the time too heavily influenced by per-capita approaches to global climate equity. I know Paul would agree with this judgement, because he was a co-developer, along with myself and Sivan Kartha of the Stockholm Environment Institute, of the Greenhouse Development Rights framework (archived here), which went on to have a considerable influence on the global fair-shares debate. GDRs, in case you don’t know, evolved into the Climate Equity Reference Project, and Paul’s fingerprints are all over it.
Here, from a 2015 grant proposal, is Paul’s last bio:
“Paul Baer is an internationally recognized expert on issues of equity and climate change, with training in ecological economics, ethics, philosophy of science, risk analysis and simulation modeling. Paul has been the Research Director for EcoEquity since 2000, when he co-founded the group with Tom Athanasiou, with whom he also co-authored the 2002 book Dead Heat: Global Justice and Global Warming (Seven Stories Press). Together with Tom and colleagues at the Stockholm Environment Institute, he is a co-author of the Greenhouse Development Rights framework, an influential equity-based proposal for sharing the costs of global climate policy. His work has been published in a number of interdisciplinary journals and several published anthologies, including Fairness in Adaptation to Climate Change (Adger et al., eds. MIT Press 2006), Climate Change Science and Policy (Schneider et al., eds, Island Press 2009) and Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (Gardiner et al., eds, Oxford University Press, 2010).
From 2009-2013 he was on the faculty of the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he taught statistics, climate policy, environmental policy, and ecological economics. He holds a PhD from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, as well an MA in Environmental Planning and Management from Louisiana State University and a BA in Economics from Stanford University.”
Bye Paul. I am so sorry for your trouble. Really sorry.
Slowly but surely, the “fair shares” issue is taking the stage. It has to if we’re going to get anywhere near the Paris temperature targets, which I will conservatively characterize as “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.” Which brings me to Implications for Australia of a 1.5°C future, which my colleague Sivan Kartha just wrote for a few brave Australian climate groups.
It’s an interesting report, for two related reasons. First, it is brief, and it sticks very closely to the mainline implications of the carbon budget approach, laying out the logic of the high-ambition Paris targets in a clear, step by step, fashion. Second, it is conservative. Not only does it reference the Australian fair share, as calculated by the Climate Equity Reference Project for the Civil Society Equity Review of the INDCs, but it also references a far more forgiving estimate of Australia’s fair share, one calculated by the Australian Climate Change Authority in 2014.
The report’s headline result, which the Sydney Morning Herald gave as Australia’s carbon budget to be exhausted in six years, is an understated one. If, that is, you actually want to meet the Paris targets, which is to say, if you actually want to reduce the risk of an utter catastrophe in which, to quote a recent paper by Jim Hansen and colleagues, the “Social disruption and economic consequences” arising from “large sea level rise, and the attendant increases in storms and climate extremes,” that trigger “conflicts arising from forced migrations and economic collapse” that are so severe that they could even “make the planet ungovernable, threatening the fabric of civilization.”
Not that Australia is going to drop its emissions to zero in six years. This isn’t in the cards and we all know it. But it should do its level best, and support a great deal of offshore mitigation as well. This, in any case, is what it would mean for it to do its fair share.
Paris was a breakthrough, no question. At the same time, it left us with a whole hell of a lot to do. The problem is that much of it has to do with offshore suffering. And, well, this doesn’t exactly seem to be a moment of high internationalism.
Still, it’s worth reminding ourselves that global solidarity is going to be an absolute necessity if we want to to avoid global catastrophe. And that, despite this moment of strange, strained, nationalism, there are people that are desperately in need of a helping hand. You don’t need to forget the poor and the vulnerable in the US to remember the 3.5 billion poorest people around the world who face increased risk of floods, droughts, hunger and disease.
So let’s spare a moment to note, in particular, just how pathetically little adaptation funding there is on the table. Here’s a graph:
And here’s a link to Unfinished Business, a new report from Oxfam International that will give you a rundown on exactly how to read the graph. (Hint: The big numbers in the blue bar are official lies; the real amount is much smaller.)
And here are a few words from the report itself: “In particular, the [Paris} agreement left many questions on climate finance unanswered. It extended the Copenhagen commitment from developed countries to jointly mobilize $100bn per year by 2020 for climate action in developing countries by another five years through to 2025. And it strongly calls for those countries to increase their funds for adaptation beyond current levels. But it failed to include meaningful mechanisms to ensure that adaptation finance will increase sufficiently, or to address the massive neglect of adaptation compared to mitigation in international climate finance flows to date.”
Keep the phrase “Unfinished Business” in mind. It will come in handy as we make our way though the post-Paris years.
I refer to George Monbiot’s Roots of the Rubble. And lest you think that I have strayed, and that there is nothing here about the climate crisis, just search for the word “emissions,” which appears (appropriately) in the phrase “cut their emissions and pay their taxes.”
I’ve just read an interesting paper by one Jonathan Pickering (University of Canberra). It’s called Top-down proposals for sharing the global climate policy effort fairly: lost in translation in a bottom-up world? and is well worth reading, not least because it is a corrective to the view, unfortunately popular on the “climate street,” that Paris is a fraud because, well, only a top-down principle-based regime could possibly be real.
Pickering, for his part, offers a nice capsule analysis of why a top-down regime was never in the cards, and not just because the wealthy countries of the North refused its disciplines. Also, and importantly. there’s the unfortunate fact that:
“While developing countries have supported the idea that developed countries should share their efforts according to a common formula, they have resisted the idea that developing countries themselves should be subject to the same formula.”
This position was justified, and probably still is, by the Convention’s statement that developed countries should “take the lead” in protecting the climate system, but it had consequences in any case, and we’re facing them today.
Here’s the TEDx San Francisco talk I gave on October 29th. I call it “Stories of the Future,” though the TEDx shows it as “Make it Bigger,” by which I meant our conception of the problem. I’m afraid it wasn’t one of my best performances, in part because I just finished the talk the night before, and hadn’t properly memorized it. Still, it’s not bad — in fact, it might be the best talk I know on climate crisis and the “second machine age.” And if you prefer old media — like reading a website — the script is below.
It’s often said that the 20th Century began, not in 1900, but in 1914, with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the subsequent outbreak of World War I.
This raises a question about the 21st Century — has it begun yet? I think it has, though it’s hard to mark its exact beginning. To do so, you need a storyline. A story of the future.
If you want a dystopian story, it’s easy to date its beginning. Just use September 11, 2001.
But what if you want to tell a helpful story? One in which we actually deal with our greatest problems. A believable story in which the historians of the future look back to our time, today, as a time of new beginnings. What date, exactly, would mark these beginnings?
Let me suggest two possible dates, marking two very different storylines, which are fated to play out together.
Just dying to know my views on global climate justice and the Paris Agreements. Here’s an interview I recently did with Bing Gong (Jun 13, 2016) on KWMR Post Carbon Radio in Point Reyes Station. I hate listening to myself in any recorded form, but this is really not too bad.
As the lay of the post-Paris land starts to become clear, it’s also becoming clear that few people outside the climate negotiations really understand the details of the equity debate, as it is unfolding on the inside.
Thus it may be interesting to read this somewhat technical piece. Think of it as a Climate Equity Reference Project discussion paper, designed to inform the debate on equity review that is now, partly because of our work, a clear aspect of the What’s Next? debate. Here’s the opening abstract:
“Paris was a breakthrough, but is not yet a success. It could yield success though, and (together with the climate movement, and the solar revolution) help to catalyze a true climate mobilization. But only if the still unfinished negotiations yield a solid global ambition ratcheting mechanism.
Some people believe that we’ve already won such a mechanism.This paper argues that we’re still missing at least two fundamental building blocks of a robust ambition ratchet: a public-finance breakthrough and a “real review” mechanism.
The second of these is the topic of this paper. It argues that 1) real review by definition includes the science-based, ex-ante equity assessment of individual pledges, 2) such assessments were in Paris beyond the will of the Parties, 3) they can nevertheless be done well, and can positively influence the formal negotiations, and 4) civil society should (on top of everything else it has to do) take the lead in demonstrating that this is so.
This paper is a call to civil society – and to the Parties – to support such an effort, and to do so quickly. The effort should culminate in or before the 2018 political moment, which must be a big one.”
Oxfam argued, back in January of 2015, that sometime in 2016 the top 1% of the world’s population would have more than everyone else. Here’s the study, if you want to follow the math. According to the folks over at therules.org (see their awesome video on global inequality) the global 1% only has 43% of everything. (The difference here is in the methodological noise and, in any case, good data is hard to get. As inequality scholar Branko Milanovic politely noted in The Haves and the Have-Nots, his excellent 2011 book on global inequality, the super rich don’t actually like to be studied.)
Oxfam is sticking to its own numbers. In a new (2016) study, An Economy For the 1%: How privilege and power in the economy drive extreme inequality and how this can be stopped, it argues that the 50% line has now been crossed. I’m going to trust them on this, because their data is from Credit Suisse, and who (what?) better than a Swiss bank to study “ultra high net worth individuals.” An Economy For the 1% is an interesting read. It goes on from the numbers to talk about the nuts and bolts of global stratification, tax havens in particular, and to connect the dots. And to continue its projections:
“If this deeply alarming inequality clock continues to tick as fast, by 2020 a mere 11 people could have the same wealth as half the world. That’s not even a dozen.”