Remember This: 350 Parts Per Million

Bill McKibben can be counted on to explain critical truths in simple ways, and in this case he had some help from his editors at the Washington Post, and from James Hansen, who took advantage of last year’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union to argue that we’re already over a key Earth-system tipping point.

There’s a lot of analysis behind this (check our Hansen’s web page if you want to see how much) but McKibben, a seasoned journalist, get’s just the right quote: “The evidence indicates we’ve aimed too high — that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm.” And, of course, the current level of 383 ppm is well past 350. Does this mean that we’re doomed McKibben’s answer is “not quite,” and it’s the right one. But there’s no more time to waste. Continue reading “Remember This: 350 Parts Per Million”

Hiding Behind the Poor

Greenpeace India just released this brief, fantastic, report (at the climate COP in Bali (December 2007). It deserves huge kudos, and a great deal of attention, for it shows that India — in claiming that its emissions are too low to demand mitigation — is actually relying on misleading average emission data. Which is to say that India’s elites are “hiding behind” their own poor. The authors show this in just the right way, by doing their homework. They break India’s population down into what, for lack of a better term, we might call “emission classes,” and — surprise — it turns out that there are about ten million people within India who have emissions above, and sometimes far above, the sustainable global average.

Highly recommended and, we hope, a sign of the times.

Startling new analysis from Lehman Brothers

Well, it seems that surprises are still possible! Not long ago, Climate Progress, Joe Romm’s excellent blog, contained a pointer to a new report by Lehman Brothers — the investment bank — with the unpromising title of “The Business of Climate Change II.” But promising it was! And among much else, it contained the following startling words:

“The United States, the European Union, Japan, and Russia are estimated to have accounted jointly for nearly 70% of the build-up of fossil-fuel CO2 between 1850 and 2004. Developed countries are also, directly or indirectly, responsible for much of the destruction of the world’s carbon sinks, most notably its forests. By contrast, India and China are estimated as having contributed less than 10% of the total. Developing countries are already making the point that the ‘social’ cost of carbon — and therefore the total abatement cost — is as high as it is because of past emissions. Hence, they argue, the developed countries should be paying for the amount by which the ‘social’ cost of carbon is higher than it would have been but for their actions … Continue reading “Startling new analysis from Lehman Brothers”

Two Degrees, Once Chance

Have you been wanting one good pamphlet that says it all Well, keep waiting, because there isn’t one. But there is, now, one pamphlet that contains a clear, precise, compelling overview of the impacts that we’re likely to suffer if the temperature is allowed to rise above 2C degrees. “Two Degrees, Once Chance” was, by the way, written by a group of British development organizations, and it has its priorities clear: the impacts will strike hardest on the weakest and most vulnerable. The world must act with urgency.

We Can Do This with Renewables!

And, once again, we have to repeat the basic point that we can decarbonize the global economy with renewables and efficiency. God knows it would be good if we could let this alone for a while, but with the nuclear lobby’s recent rise from the couch it seems like we’re going to have to go another round on this. So thanks to the World Wildlife Fund for another fine romp through the fundamentals. The report, by the way, is called Climate Solutions: WWF’s Vision for 2050. That’s a date that seems to be on everyone’s mind these days.

Human Tide: The Real Migration Crisis

We all know, at this point — by which I mean that we should all know — that climate change is going to set off a vast new wave of migration. Development groups are even debating, grimly and quietly, how to think about a future in which their job includes evacuating people people, lots of people, from lands that can no longer support them. And it’s not just climate. Many of today’s forced immigrants are the victims of “develpopment” itself. Not up to speed on the issue Start here.

Waxman's Safe Climate Act

Well whaddaya know There’s life in Congress, or at least in California. This, at least, is the conclusion we draw from Rep. Henry Waxman’s Safe Climate Act. Of course it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance, at least not yet. But this’ll change if the scientists, as seems likely, continue their barrage of bad news. Note that the Safe Climate Act:

* Actually defines a meaningful emissions reduction trajectory! “Beginning in 2011, it cuts emissions by roughly 2% per year, reaching 1990 emissions levels by 2020. After 2020, it cuts emissions by roughly 5% per year. By 2050, emissions will be 80% lower than in 1990.”

* Emphasizes the auctioning of permits, rather than their give-away to existing emitters, and establishes a “Climate Reinvestment Fund” by which the proceeds from the auctions could be used to maximize “the public benefit and promoting economic growth, including supporting technology research and development, compensating consumers for any energy cost increases, providing transition assistance for affected workers and regions, and protecting against harm from climate change, such as safeguarding water supplies, protecting against hurricanes, and mitigating harm to fish and wildlife habitat.”

Not perfect, but a hell of a lot better than some of the other trail balloons now floating out of Washington.

The Worth of an Ice Sheet

The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change received a lot of attention. But Stern dismissed stringent stabilization targets, or any sort of peak and decline trajectory that would have a high probability of keeping temperature increase below 2C.

In this analysis, EcoEquity’s Paul Baer takes a close look at Sterns treatment of potential catastrophic risks (like the l of the Greenland ice sheet) and demonstrates that Sterns treatment of these risks is clearly inadequate. And he draws the obvious conclusion: Those who claim that Stern has shown that emissions pathways consistent with the 2C target are not economically justified are simply wrong.

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The Inconvenient Truth: Part II

Weve seen the movie, so we know the first part were in trouble deep. And its time, past time, for at least some of us to go beyond warning to planning, to start talking seriously about a global crash program to stabilize the climate…

Which is exactly what this essay (we hesitate to call it a manifesto) sets out to do…

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Avoiding Catastrophe

This is interesting, and not just because it cites our work. The Climate Equity Project, a reality based supporter of the cap and share approach, did this survey of recent science, new data, and emissions scenarios designed to avoid catastrophic climate change for Friends of the Earth Australia in late 2006, and it’s still very much worth reading. Think of it as a sort of Reader’s Digest to the bad news. After all, who’s got the time to keep up

Late breaking news: Jim Hansen’s team has a relevant new report that could well have gone into Avoiding Catastrophe. It sports the snappy title of Dangerous human-made interference with climate: a GISS modelE study, and it argues (surprise!) that the ticking of the clock is getting pretty loud. Particularly interesting on positive feedbacks.

Hansen hasn’t given up yet, but he gets blunter every year. So should we.