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Harsh Arithmetic of Paris 
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Post Harsh Arithmetic of Paris
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The attached diagram from the New York Times shows that all Paris pledges by 2030 will only cut annual world emissions by less than 10%. As such, Paris emission reduction pledges should be seen as no more than 'icing on the cake', with the body requiring carbon removal.

The key numbers are roughly as follows.
• By 2100, humans will have added about 6000 gigatons of carbon dioxide to the air.
• By 2030, the Paris Accord if fully implemented will have reduced the total addition by 60 gigatons of CO2, about five gigatons per year.
• This Paris goal removes about 1% of the total carbon addition, and if continued at the same rate to 2100 would avoid addition of about 5% of the total added carbon.
• A result of 5% is marginal to the scale of the problem, creating high risks of dangerous tipping points.
• The difficult politics and precedents and trajectories around the Paris Accord indicate that even this marginal result could only be achieved with great difficulty.
• By contrast, Carbon Dioxide Removal technologies such as Iron Salt Aerosol or large scale ocean based algae production offer potential to remove 100% of the added carbon, at far lower unit cost and faster speed than any emission reduction methods.

The 60 GT total reduction under the Paris Accord (about 1% of the 6000 GT projected cumulative emissions by 2100) is supported by an article in Scientific American, which states: “The planet’s current policies put it on a trajectory to emit carbon dioxide at a rate between 58 and 62 gigatons in 2030. Pledges under the Paris Agreement would bring that down [by about five GT per year] to a range between 52 and 57 gigatons of carbon dioxide.”

trillionthtonne.org at Oxford University that says with 3 degrees of warming there will be 5500 GT of CO2 (=1.5 GT carbon) by 2050. 6000 GT by 2100 is well within business as usual.
Global CO2 emissions forecast to 2100 Figure 4 shows cumulative emissions reaching 6000 GT this century under all population scenarios.

In assessing climate restoration, an important starting point is to be guided more by science than politics. Accepting current political opinions as binding constraints is a recipe for climate failure. This is particularly so in regard to the balance between emission reduction and carbon removal. This balance should first be assessed on a scientific basis, in order to work out if the prevailing assumption of the primacy of emission reduction is well grounded in evidence.

If the unit cost through carbon dioxide removal technologies is orders of magnitude less than through emissions reduction, as appears the case, it is crazy and self-defeating to insist on emission reduction for purely political reasons.

Gaining acceptance for climate restoration will only work with a viable scientific and political case. Climate restoration requires analysis of constraints and opportunities. The entire concept of climate restoration faces political and cultural blockages, both from defenders of the old economy and from proponents of emission reduction as the sole climate strategy. Sometimes the barriers are hidden, or activities which seem beneficial may prove unhelpful. The ability of the Paris Accord to realise its warming targets is impossible while it focuses on the marginal factor of emissions.

A big question is the balance between carbon removal and emission reduction for achieving a healthy climate. The mathematics shows emission reduction is marginal, even though at present it is central to climate politics. Addressing constraints to implementation requires discussion about the political economy of climate restoration, identifying which groups are possible allies or opponents, how strong and influential are their views, resources, incentives and alliances, and what the implications of working with them might be for achieving the restoration goal.

My analysis of the debate suggests the Paris Agreement is mired in confusion about how to reach the 1.5 target, or even the two degree target.
UNEP says in its November 2017 Emissions Gap report, “current state pledges cover no more than a third of the emission reductions needed, creating a dangerous gap, which even growing momentum from non-state actors cannot close. This report highlights the dangers of that gap, the issues behind it and the means at our disposal to close it.” My reading is that this UNEP report fails in this objective of showing how to close the gap, largely ignoring the central need for a shift of policy to focus on R&D for oceanic carbon removal. The problem is that we cannot ‘close the gap’ by speeding up emission reduction, since neither the politics, the economics or the physics make that a feasible strategy.

The UNFCCC meeting in Bonn in May 2017 appears to have failed to address any practical measures to reach the 1.5 target, with no sessions discussing carbon removal.

There is no convincing rebuttal of the US government observations that all Paris commitments would have only marginal impact on temperature. In fact, the only thing that will cut temperature rise is taking out the excess carbon already in the air, but that is barely on the IPCC agenda.

The statement that emission reduction could be marginal is an incentive for effective large-scale action in cooperation with industry. The key argument is about the moral hazard of carbon dioxide removal. The perceived hazard is that CDR on a scale comparable to total emissions would remove all political pressure and much ecological/climate need for emission reduction and would thereby serve fossil fuel interests.

But why is that necessarily bad? The moral hazard opposition to carbon removal can be questioned for confusing means with ends. Emission reduction is not an end in itself, but only a means to achieve climate restoration.

The goal of climate policy is a safe and stable climate, but the focus just on emission reduction can only achieve results that are too small to achieve that goal. By making the attack on the fossil fuel industry central, the climate lobby generates political opposition, as seen in Mr Trump, and also prevents focus on carbon removal.

If fossil fuel industries could cooperate with carbon removal at scale, recognising that they are likely (BP Energy Outlook) to provide most energy for the next decades, we could get on a realistic path to solve the global warming problem.

The contrasting reasoning, against the moral hazard arguments, is that cooperating with affected industries to identify practical ways to remove carbon at large scale could achieve far more than the 5GT per year of CO2 reduction planned under the Paris Accord.

It is not easy to calculate the economics of CO2 removal. Apollo/Manhattan scale research to develop new innovative Carbon Dioxide Removal technology may even find that CDR can be profitable, with high economic return.

My view is that the best methods of CO2 removal will prove to be around large scale ocean based algae production, building upon both NASA’s OMEGA project and the new refinement of Ocean Iron Fertilization using Iron Salt Aerosol to distribute iron at very low concentration via the troposphere, mimicking the principal ice age cooling agent of dust feedback.

These methods could become profitable due to the potential for algae to provide commercial products such as food, feed, fish, fuel, fabric and fertilizer, and the benefits of a cooler ocean, including direct benefits for industries including insurance, shipping, tourism, fishing, finance and mining, who should all have a solid business investment case for safe and efficient carbon removal. The profit would then fund rapid expansion and refinement.

The stumbling block, however, is the moral hazard argument mounted by the climate lobby, that such industry partnerships undermine emission reduction. Unfortunately, exclusive focus on emission reduction advocacy now looks like a ‘dog in the manger’, preventing innovative research and development of safe and profitable methods of climate restoration.

The benefits of renewable energy for economic efficiency and a clean environment are massive and should be celebrated and expanded. However, these superb results have been oversold as a climate solution. If the Paris Accord results only in the removal of about 5GT of CO2 per year as projected by 2030, or even double that projection, clean energy will remain marginal to climate restoration, which requires a higher order of magnitude of carbon removal.

We need immediate investment in carbon removal technology to prevent dangerous climate tipping points, especially in sensitive location such as the Arctic and the Great Barrier Reef.

To make a banking analogy, carbon emissions have put the world heavily in debt, but the Paris Accord is not even paying back the interest, let alone the principal. We may pray that our debts should be forgiven, but the reality is that mortgagee repossession is looming quickly. And doubling down on emission reduction won’t work. A completely different strategy is needed, with carbon removal as the new paradigm for climate restoration.

I give no value to IPCC review processes because I have seen little evidence of sincere engagement by governments with the need for carbon removal for climate restoration. The main driver of ascendancy for renewables is unfortunately the mass delusion that emission reduction could be decisive for climate restoration.

Robert Tulip


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Post Re: Harsh Arithmetic of Paris
The approach of using market-like mechanisms, endorsed by such notorious liberals as Milton Friedman and Gordon Tullock, would properly encourage methods emitting fewer GHGs and methods absorbing more GHGs. Instead of listening to two dogs fighting over the manger, we should pay attention to the vast field of net benefits sitting untapped for lack of incentive.

At the time of the Paris agreement all interested parties were aware that they were completely inadequate, but wanted to establish the process of doing something, and of agreeing to do something. The current administration is citing the inadequacies of the agreement as an excuse to go back to doing nothing. This is fairly typical of 45.



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Fri May 25, 2018 6:37 am
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Post Re: Harsh Arithmetic of Paris
Robert Tulip wrote:
The benefits of renewable energy for economic efficiency and a clean environment are massive and should be celebrated and expanded. However, these superb results have been oversold as a climate solution. If the Paris Accord results only in the removal of about 5GT of CO2 per year as projected by 2030, or even double that projection, clean energy will remain marginal to climate restoration, which requires a higher order of magnitude of carbon removal.

We need immediate investment in carbon removal technology to prevent dangerous climate tipping points, especially in sensitive location such as the Arctic and the Great Barrier Reef.

I wasn't sure that you gave much credit at all to renewables, so I'm glad to hear you say this. I would compare solutions to the climate problem to those to the gun violence problem in the U.S., in this respect: there is not one solution needed, but many. The politics of each interest group claiming that their answer is the right one prevents any broad, effective actions from occurring. Looking at the gun problem, we need to stem the free flow of military-style weapons; to make the background-check system effective; to improve the mental health system; to heighten school security, perhaps through more armed personnel; to have strong laws requiring locking up guns at home; and the list could go on. To lower carbon in the atmosphere, we need to increase existing renewables, find new renewables such as algae production, institute a carbon-credit system, keep the focus on every individual decreasing his or her carbon footprint, ensure that we have international agreements in place, and more. All of this. We need to get away from the thinking that spending money on one solution takes away from other, more effective solutions. The only answer to that supposed dilemma is to increase the spending.



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Fri May 25, 2018 9:09 am
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Post Re: Harsh Arithmetic of Paris
Harry Marks wrote:
The approach of using market-like mechanisms, endorsed by such notorious liberals as Milton Friedman and Gordon Tullock, would properly encourage methods emitting fewer GHGs and methods absorbing more GHGs. Instead of listening to two dogs fighting over the manger, we should pay attention to the vast field of net benefits sitting untapped for lack of incentive. At the time of the Paris agreement all interested parties were aware that they were completely inadequate, but wanted to establish the process of doing something, and of agreeing to do something. The current administration is citing the inadequacies of the agreement as an excuse to go back to doing nothing. This is fairly typical of 45.

Thanks Harry, but your comments contain some major mistakes. Market mechanisms are far too slow to stop the looming catastrophe of global warming. An incentive based approach is fiddling with the tax code while the world burns. The problem is not at all like “two dogs fighting over the manger”.

The paradigm shift to carbon removal instead of emission reduction is more like the oxen who want to eat the food, while the signatories of the Paris Accord prevent those who could use the resources from doing so.
Attachment:
Emission Reduction Dog in the Manger.png
Emission Reduction Dog in the Manger.png [ 232.37 KiB | Viewed 424 times ]


If “all interested parties were aware that they were completely inadequate”, then why have the Paris signatories cultivated the false myth of a commitment to keep warming below two degrees? It is a big lie, a dangerous deception. They know the Paris trajectory is for three or four degrees, with massive risk of tipping beyond points of no return.

The reason for the big lie is that the unworkable Paris strategy is to double down on the decarbonisation war against our existing economy, even though that is not a winnable war. Climate extremists are unwilling to brook even conversation about other strategies.

The numbers I provided above prove this to anyone not blinkered by ideology. Paris can at best remove ten percent of the increase in the problem. Any banker offered that repayment schedule would foreclose. We need to restructure, placing climate change in the big context of paradigm shift. That means focus on carbon removal.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Fri May 25, 2018 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri May 25, 2018 3:38 pm
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Post Re: Harsh Arithmetic of Paris
DWill wrote:
I wasn't sure that you gave much credit at all to renewables, so I'm glad to hear you say this.
Solar and wind are innovative technologies that produce economic growth and a clean environment. However, as the numbers in the opening post prove, their subsidies cause climate harm by crowding out research and investment in practical carbon removal solutions.

It is like if you have a mortgage and have the option of two jobs, one which will pay down the mortgage in twenty years, and one that will leave you in poverty, unable even to pay the interest. While the poverty job may be more rewarding intellectually and socially, it does not pay the bills and is unsustainable if you want to live in your house. That is the analogy for renewables.

We need to get a real job, one that will pay down the principal of the carbon debt, the 6000 GT of CO2 we will have added to the air by the end of the century. It is entirely possible but is stymied by the UN ideology of emission reduction alone.
DWill wrote:
I would compare solutions to the climate problem to those to the gun violence problem in the U.S., in this respect: there is not one solution needed, but many.
I can see why people are confused, since on one side you have the might of most of the world’s governments and scientists, and on the other side there are only a few dissident heretics advocating carbon removal, pointing out the emission reduction emperor has no clothes. Meanwhile all the climate science peer review journal articles must pay obeisance to the new God of emission reduction. And then the loopy climate denialists are worse than holocaust denialists. It is perplexing that the debate can be so badly derailed.

For example, Russ George, a climate scientist, conducted an ocean iron fertilization experiment funded by the Government of Canada in 2012. The climate change extremists hit the roof, in my view mainly because his carbon removal method could undermine the need for emission reduction. While putting up a false smokescreen of environmental concern, his enemies arranged for the Canadian Government to send in the police to steal all his data. Since then, ocean iron concepts have vastly improved, but field tests are still stymied by the UN, and the whole topic struggles for attention, even though it could be a key to climate restoration. It is an appalling scandal.

The extraordinary scandal around Russ George’s work helps to explain why some suspicion of official claims is warranted, as explained in this 3 May 2018 interview with Russ at The Ecologist. Contrary to extremist claims that there was no official government or scientific engagement, the Haida Salmon Restoration project was “funded by the Canadian Federal Government… with the support of the Canadian National Research Foundation, who was paying for 50% of the science costs.” However, illustrating the toxic politics of climate change, “George’s collected scientific data was destroyed under Canadian federal warrant before the experiment could be completed for review. But despite the raid, the fish had returned to shore, demonstrating that what he, and John Martin before him, had hypothesised was correct."

I just cite this as an example to show that the distortions of climate politics within the UN framework are severe, and that far faster results on carbon removal are possible than the official consensus would suggest.
DWill wrote:
To lower carbon in the atmosphere, we need to increase existing renewables, find new renewables such as algae production, institute a carbon-credit system, keep the focus on every individual decreasing his or her carbon footprint, ensure that we have international agreements in place, and more. All of this. We need to get away from the thinking that spending money on one solution takes away from other, more effective solutions. The only answer to that supposed dilemma is to increase the spending.

The problem with your analysis here is that the climate restoration contribution of each of these actions can be quantified. My estimate is that about 95% of the solution will come from physically removing excess carbon from the air, and all the others are just feel-good nice-to-have extras, contributing about 5% of the job. The shame and scandal and danger is that these 5% marginal activities such as increasing renewables and decreasing individual footprints entirely crowd out the political and popular focus on investment in real solutions.


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Post Re: Harsh Arithmetic of Paris
Tragically, the prestigious science journal Nature sees the partisan politics of climate change as meaning that this comment article containing a string of blatant factual errors and distortions was suitable for publication.

The Nature comment article International Law Poses Problems For Negative Emissions Research (June 2018) presents an excellent summary of current official and mainstream scientific thinking about carbon removal and climate restoration. However, while presenting a few sound points, it mixes these with the error and confusion that unfortunately currently dominate discussion on climate policy, so going through these problems systematically is well worth while.

The opening sentence claims that Carbon Dioxide Removal activities are “aimed at achieving a net reduction in GHG emissions.” That is simply wrong. CDR aims to do much more than reduce emissions, aiming instead to reduce the amount of carbon in the air. The paper’s statement misses the basic conceptual distinction between carbon removal and emission reduction. It is surprising that the review process could miss such a major mistake, but sadly that failure reflects the confused state of climate politics.

The next sentence is equally wrong, arguing that “a path of rapid decarbonisation might still achieve the Paris Agreement’s target.” The fact is that decarbonisation can only reduce future emissions, an outcome that falls well short of achieving warming targets. At present, Business As Usual would deliver about 60 GT CO2e in 2030, and all the decarbonisation agreements of Paris would cut that annual emission figure by less than 10%, to about 55 GT. (New York Times) That path is massively short of achieving the warming targets, leaving aside the massive political conflict that it would first have to win. Decarbonisation can only achieve the Paris target if augmented, indeed vastly outweighed, by CDR.

Next, reliance on carbon removal is described as “a risky strategy”. In the context where global warming poses massive risks, every strategy has challenges, but failure to immediately scale up research and development of carbon removal is vastly more risky than not doing so. So the risk analysis is misconceived. Then, in speaking of whether research is “socially acceptable”, there is a further failure to compare this alleged social risk against real projections such as sea level rise and coral bleaching. Under any coherent ethical compass these natural impacts should be far less acceptable than CDR, which is a major scientific research program targeted at stopping those severe real problems. This analysis is then moderated slightly by a welcome call for direct public engagement with CDR research, although the undertone seems to be that the main public engagement could prove hostile.

It is true that CDR proposals carry biological risks, but again, the Nature Article does not adequately analyse these risks against the counterfactual of what could happen without CDR. It may well be that BECCS will fail because of costs and agricultural displacement, and on the SRM side that Solar Aerosol Injection will prove only a stopgap to prevent sea level rise. The only way to properly assess those factors is through well managed scientific field trials, rather than scaremongering about risks.

The statement in this Nature paper that I found most important to discuss is that “it is critical that governance arrangements continue to emphasise the need to drastically mitigate CO2 emissions.” I recognise this is seen as motherhood orthodoxy among climate policy makers, but given the numbers mentioned above, showing that all Paris pledges can only slow the CO2 increase by 10% at best, this allegedly “critical” proposition should be on the table as something needing evidentiary analysis. It should not simply be stated as fact, since it begs the question of whether other strategies, especially rapid ramp up of carbon removal, could be a better way to deliver climate stability.

The next baseless assertion is that “all conceivable CDR options today could offset only about a third of emissions.” The authors must be unaware of prominent CDR discussion, such as presented by the prestigious Australian scientist Dr Timothy Flannery in his recent book Sunlight and Seaweed that algae farms on 9% of the world ocean could offset all emissions, triple their claim. Perhaps they want to dismiss such information as inconceivable, but that would involve what is called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

Continuing after this litany of errors, they then make an apparent U-turn by saying research is urgent, including field tests. Well, if they think that, then perhaps it would help if they got the facts and strategic context right in the first place.

Next, the main risk of not getting underway with CDR is described as undermining the expectation that CDR capacity will be available by 2030. While true, that under-emphasises the possibility that CDR and SRM will be needed much earlier to address the extreme risks of global warming and acidification.

Next, the paper calls it an “advance” that the 2010 decision of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity sought “to prohibit geoengineering activities that may negatively impact biodiversity.” Far from an advance, this decision was a harmful backward step, which my reading suggests was designed mainly to safeguard the UN ideology of “only emission reduction”, under the cover of groundless environmental concern. The backward attitude was then reinforced in 2013 by the London Convention on Dumping Waste at Sea, with its dubious caricature of serious efforts to fix the climate as “dumping waste”.

Next, the Nature paper appears to mis-characterise the Ocean Iron Fertilization experiment run by Russ George, without naming him or the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation. First, it alleges this experiment was “aimed at creating emission reduction credits”. I would like to know the facts about this case, but much of the criticism of it appears uninformed and biased. For example, Russ George has said the main aim was to bring back the fish, restoring biodiversity, and that carbon credits were only ever a secondary factor. Second, the Nature paper says “there have been no known scientific ocean iron fertilization field tests since 2009”, apparently dismissing the Haida 2012 OIF test as unscientific. The extraordinary scandal around this work is explained in this 3 May 2018 interview with The Ecologist. While there may be some errors in that interview, it does plausibly say, rebutting hostile claims that there was no official government or scientific engagement, that the Haida Salmon Restoration project was “funded by the Canadian Federal Government… with the support of the Canadian National Research Foundation, who was paying for 50% of the science costs.” Illustrating the toxic politics of climate change, it says “George’s collected scientific data was destroyed under Canadian federal warrant before the experiment could be completed for review.” Perhaps this data destruction by police is why the Nature article does not include this 2012 experiment?

There are grounds to question the Nature paper’s assertion that the London Protocol “rules were primarily developed with environmental protection in mind.” It appears more plausible that these rules were developed to send a chilling signal about Ocean Iron Fertilization, regardless of environmental protection, and were instead focussed more on the unstated political view that emission reduction is the only game in town and that geoengineering field work presents a serious challenge to the emission reduction paradigm for climate policy.

Despite all these complaints, I welcome this Nature paper, since its assumptions appear to be widely accepted, and the opportunity to question them is valuable as a way to help find out the facts about carbon removal potential. If any of my comments above are incorrect I would welcome proof.

My own work in carbon removal is focussed on Iron Salt Aerosol. Our discussions indicate that despite the strong scientific framework for this research, many of the pervasive political errors featured by Nature will continue to hinder progress in climate restoration.


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