Implications for Australia of a 1.5°C future

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.

bridgeIt’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.

In Memoriam: Paul Baer (1962 – 2016)

pbaer-smThis 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 2000, 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.

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