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oil rig

Following the latest CA100+ benchmark and IPCC report it appears that not a single oil major is Paris-aligned, Follow This reports.

Despite net zero emissions by 2050 pledges by some oil majors, no oil major is aligned with 1.5°C on three other crucial indicators: medium- and short-term emissions reduction targets and capital expenditure (indicator 6.1b), signifies the Climate Action 100+ Net Zero Company Benchmark.

Oil majors misuse engagement as an excuse not to set Paris-aligned targets

Oil majors, for example,Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Chevron misuse engagement to claim that most investors support their current strategies, even though these strategies do not decrease absolute emissions by 2030:

  • BP claims to have “heard clear support for [BP’s] strategy” during “extensive engagement with investors after the vote”,
  • Shell claims “broad indications of support for Shell’s strategy”; in written responses to voting results, required by the UK corporate governance code (attachment),
  • ConocoPhillips claims that during engagement “Stockholders overwhelmingly did not express an expectation for ConocoPhillips to set a scope 3 target as set forth in the climate resolution” (proxy statement, page 16), and
  • Chevron states “Most stockholders generally did not favor shrinking Chevron’s traditional oil and gas business or shifting the core business to renewables as ways to reduce Scope 3 emissions” (2022 notice of the Chevron Corporation Annual meeting of stockholders, page 35).

As engagement happens behind closed doors, we can never be sure of the results reported by the companies. What is clear is that in 2021, investors increasingly voted in favor of emission reductions; 21% at BP (up from 8.4% in 2019), 30% at Shell (up from 14% in 2020) and 58% at ConocoPhillips and 61% at Chevron.

Therefore, only engagement combined with voting will send a clear and unambiguous signal to the boards of these companies.

Follow This is a group of green shareholders in oil and gas companies. Thanks to the votes of investors for the Follow This Climate Resolutions, Shell, Equinor, BP, Philllips 66, and Chevron reluctantly set ambitions to reduce their product emissions (Scope 3).

The Follow This Climate Resolutions support oil and gas companies to set Paris-consistent reduction targets for all emissions, including Scope 3 (product emissions).

tropomi methane in Australia

A Dutch group of scientists has used the space instrument TROPOMI to calculate methane emissions from six Australian coal mines. Together these account for 7% of the national coal production, but turn out to emit around 55% of what Australia reports for their total coal mining methane emissions.

Australia is in the top-5 coal producing countries in the world. It reports coal mining methane emissions of a million tons per year. ‘It is hard to believe that 7% of coal production is responsible for 55% of coal mining methane emissions,’ says Prof. Ilse Aben (SRON/VU), leading the team of researchers. ‘So in reality, Australia’s coal mining methane emissions are likely much higher than reported. More importantly, knowing which mines have such large emissions is critical in focusing efforts for mitigation.’

The research team observed five underground mines and one surface mine. Especially the emissions from the surface mine, called Hail Creek, stand out. It is one of 73 surface mines in Australia, but accounts for 88% of Australia’s total reported surface coal mine emissions.

First author Pankaj Sadavarte (SRON/TNO): ‘The most remarkable finding is that the emissions from the surface mine are so much higher than expected and by far the largest we see in the TROPOMI data over the coal mine area in Queensland: on its own, it accounts for 40% of emissions for all six observed mines. Common understanding is that surface mines emit much less methane than underground mines. And to be quite honest, we still don’t understand why this mine is emitting so much methane.’

Methane has been recognized as crucial to mitigate climate change in the short term. At the COP26 in Glasgow, over a hundred countries signed the global methane pledge initiative from the US and the EU to reduce methane emissions by 30%—relative to 2020—by 2030. A few major methane emitting countries, including Australia, have not signed the pledge.

TROPOMI methane observations on two different days showing large signals from three coal mine locations. The most Northern location is the surface mine, while the other locations are underground mines. Northern: Hail Creek. Middle: Broadmeadow, Moranbah North, Grosvenor. Southern: Grasstree, Oaky North.

Publication

Pankaj Sadavarte, Sudhanshu Pandey, Joannes D. Maasakkers, Alba Lorente, Tobias Borsdorff, Hugo Denier van der Gon, Sander Houweling, Ilse Aben, ‘Methane Emissions from Super-emitting Coal Mines in Australia quantified using TROPOMI Satellite Observations’, Environmental Science & Technology

climate change COP26

Following the publication of COP26’s final agreement, Molly Scott Cato, former Green MEP and now Professor of Economics at the University of Roehampton, says the event has failed in what history will see as our last chance to protect the world from disastrous over-heating.

“The fundamental purpose of COP26 was to ensure that our climate does not heat up by more than 1.5 degrees – by that measure, it has failed disastrously.

Nations know they have to cut emissions deeper and faster. Yet despite a limited increase in ambition, the majority of countries have failed to strengthen the promises they made in Paris in 2015, leading well-respected Carbon Action Tracker, to put the world on track for a calamitous 2.4 degrees of warming.

While the difference between 1.5 and 2.4 might not seem like very much, it is the difference between a liveable climate and one where thousands die from heat shock in Europe and millions are faced with starvation in Africa due to drought. It is the difference between the loss of all the coral in the world and having any chance of saving them. It is the difference between the Maldives or the Marshall Islands existing or simply disappearing under rising seas.

The absence of leaders from Russia and China, two of the world’s largest carbon emitters, and the last-minute intervention by India and China to water down the language on coal, have been pivotal to the event’s shortcomings. This is a diplomatic failure of the last few decades during which geopolitical maneuvering and self-interest have shamelessly dominated the climate crisis.

The countries that have signed up to the agreement cannot escape blame, with the majority putting self-interest above the common project of saving the climate. The need to remove fossil fuels from our global economy has been held up by many of the most powerful countries sheltering their fossil fuel interests, including the UK and US.  The UK presidency lost focus on the global diplomacy at the heart of COP with its desire to tout for sustainable finance business for The City.

Meanwhile, the failure of the wealthy nations that are responsible for historic emissions to put money on the table to repair Loss-and-Damage made it impossible for Alok Sharma, in spite of his best efforts, to maintain a unity of purpose.

While this is a gloomy picture, there are some individual rays of light, with deals on methane and forests helping to reduce the burden on the atmosphere. And the acceptance of the need to phase out fossil fuels by countries responsible for the vast majority of the world’s economic activity can only be welcomed.

Yet in reality, COP26 has been a political and diplomatic failure. History will judge Glasgow as the last opportunity to protect civilization against the ravages of an over-heating climate and, another year of delay until COP27 in Egypt, means that opportunity has been missed.”

However, where politics failed to deliver, businesses made their mark which, for now, also mainly consists of promises, could indeed make a significant contribution in reducing emissions and conserving nature. As the Financial Review put it:

Something has shifted in the business world. The capital is flowing into the energy transition; investors are holding companies to account for their environmental, social and governance performance; and the risks and costs of going green are shifting in the climate’s favor.

Nevertheless, another year is wasted by moving decisions ahead again, to COP27 at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. Ironically, it’s much warmer there than in Glasgow. Maybe that will put the heat on results a bit more.

wind power

The production of renewable energy from solar and wind power is increasing every year. But after analysing the growth rates of solar and wind power in 60 countries, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and Lund University in Sweden and Central European University in Vienna, Austria, conclude that virtually no country is moving sufficiently fast to avoid global warming of 1.5°C or even 2°C.

Read more

prince william earthshot prize

With the international awards ceremony coming to the US in 2022, innovators there believe Earthshot 2021 in London has shown the world the importance of backing, inspiring and acting on breakthrough environmental solutions.

And global coverage of the inaugural Earthshot Prize awards ceremony at the Alexandra Palace this week added further weight to the campaign, launched last year by Prince William Duke of Cambridge and legendary nature TV presenter Sir David Attenborough to accelerate solutions to environmental problems within ten years.

Speaking directly to the younger generation at the event, the Duke said: “For too long, we haven’t done enough to protect the planet for your future – but Earthshot is for you.”

“In the next ten years, we are going to act. We are going to find the solutions to repair our planet.”

The Prince and Sir David featured throughout the prize evening (Sunday 17 October), with awards presented by celebrities Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Mo Salah, and other high-profile names, plus performances including Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.

The winners

Winners included Costa Rica for its tree saving programme, Indian social enterprise Takachar, that won the clean air award for its technology that converts crop residue into saleable bioproducts, saving farmers from burning unused crop residue, reducing smoke emissions by 98% and improving life expectancy by up to five years, and the City of Milan for its innovative food waste recovering hubs. All five winners each received £1 million from the Royal Foundation towards their efforts.

The campaign has been lauded by the environmental innovation community, including Michael Jansen, CEO and Founder of pioneering Digital Twin technology company Cityzenith, which uses its SmartWorldOS Digital Twin platform to slash carbon emissions between 50-100%, as well as cut operating costs in buildings by 35% and boost productivity by 20%.

Jansen said: “Urban Digital Twins can be linked to carbon offsets so that building asset owners as well as agriculture and forests can be monitored in real time, delivering benefits and rewards within a global Digital Twin ecosystem.

“Globally recognised awards and events like Earthshot can show how cumulative climate protection innovations and discoveries like ours will make a huge difference, thereby encouraging investment and adoption in many more climate-friendly technologies over the next decade.

“Significantly, Earthshot also takes its cue from President John F Kennedy’s Moonshot declaration, 60 years ago in 1961, when he challenged America to land a man on the Moon within 10 years – it showed what can be achieved by dedicated effort.”

Earthshot Prize next year in the US

Cityzenith’s own Clean Cities – Clean Future international initiative offers its Digital Twin technology to major polluting cities for free to help cut emissions drastically – New York and Las Vegas signed up recently with other major US and international cities expected to follow this year. Earthshot has motivated companies such as Cityzenith to transform the global environment and re-shape the future of sustainability and life longevity.

Jansen added: “Earthshot came just a little too early for Clean Cities – Clean Future, but we have been inspired and hope to add to the impetus of next year’s event when it comes to the US and follows up on US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s good work this year, in reversing government efforts back towards fighting Climate Change.”

In a message to the Earthshot awards event, Mr Kerry said: “I’m very proud to invite the Earthshot Prize to the United States in 2022, and to join you all in celebrating and supporting next year’s breakthrough solutions from around the world.

Others, like Richard Heinberg, have less faith in tech solutions for the climate crisis.

Richard Heinberg

Climate change is not an isolated issue. And techno-fixes will not solve it. Only a dramatic move away from fossils combined with the willingness of a large part of society to forgo on excessive convenience and luxury products and services, argues Richard Heinberg.

As Heinberg writes: climate change is often incorrectly described as an isolated pollution issue. In this flawed framing, humanity has simply made a mistake in its choice of energy sources; the solution entails switching sources and building enough carbon-sucking machines to clear the atmosphere of polluting CO2. Only the political power of the fossil fuel companies prevents us from adopting this solution and ending our existential environmental crisis.

But techno-fixes (that is, technological solutions that circumvent the need for personal or cultural change) aren’t working so far, and likely won’t work in the future. That’s because fossil fuels will be difficult to replace, and energy usage is central to our collective economic power.

In other words, power is the key to solving climate change—but not necessarily in the way that many pundits claim. Solutions will not come just from defeating fossil fuel interests and empowering green entrepreneurs; real climate progress will require the willingness of large swathes of the populace, especially in wealthy countries, to forgo forms of power they currently enjoy: comfort and convenience, the ability to travel far and fast, and the option to easily obtain a wide range of consumer products whose manufacture entails large inputs of energy and natural resources.

This is not a feel-good message, Heinberg mentions, but the longer we postpone grappling with power in this larger sense, the less successful we’re likely to be in coming to terms with the climate threat.

Why not?

Why can there be no climate techno-fix? There are two routes to this conclusion. The first one meanders through the history of humans on Earth, revealing how each new technological or social innovation empowered some people over others, while often imposing a long-term environmental cost. The adoption of agriculture was a milestone on this path: it enabled more people to subsist in any given area, and it led to cities, kings, and slavery; further, in many places, plowing tended to deplete or ruin topsoil, and city-dwellers cut down nearby forests, leading to eventual societal collapse.

But the real show-stopper came much more recently. The adoption of fossil fuels gave humans the biggest jolt of empowerment ever: in just the last two centuries, our global population has grown eight-fold, and so has per capita energy consumption. Our modern way of life—with cars, planes, supermarkets, tractors, trucks, electricity grids, and internet shopping—is the result.

Climate change is the shadow of this recent cavalcade of industriousness, since it results from the burning of fossil fuels, the main enablers of modern civilization. Nevertheless, rapidly increasing population and consumption levels are inherently unsustainable and are bringing about catastrophic environmental impacts on their own, even if we disregard the effects of carbon emissions. The accelerating depletion of resources, increasing loads of chemical pollution, and the hastening loss of wild nature are trends leading us toward ecological collapse, with economic and social collapse no doubt trailing close behind. Ditching fossil fuels will turn these trends around only if we also deal with the issues of population and consumption.

That’s the big picture. However, the quest for a climate techno-fix also fails on its own terms—that is, as a painless means of averting climate change while maintaining our current industrial economy and way of life.

Why Solar Panels Won’t Save Consumerism

Renewables like solar and wind are not without challenges. While sunlight and wind are themselves renewable, the technologies we use to capture them aren’t: they’re constructed of non-renewable materials like steel, silicon, concrete, and rare earth minerals, all of which require energy for mining, transport, and transformation. These materials are also depleting, and many will be difficult or impossible to recycle.

Sunlight and wind are intermittent: we cannot control when the sun will shine or the wind will blow. Therefore, to ensure constant availability of power, these sources require some combination of four strategies:

  • Energy storage (e.g., with batteries) is useful to balance out day-to-day intermittency, but nearly useless when it comes to seasonal intermittency; also, storing energy costs energy and money.
  • Source redundancy (building far more generation capacity than will actually be needed on “good” days, and then connecting far-flung solar and wind farms by way of massive super-grids), is a better solution for seasonal intermittency, but requires substantial infrastructure investment.
  • Excess electricity generated at times of peak production can be used to make synthetic fuels (such as hydrogen, ammonia, or methanol), perhaps using carbon captured from the atmosphere, as a way of storing energy; however, making large amounts of such fuels will again require substantial infrastructure investment, and the process is inherently inefficient.
  • Demand management (using electricity when it’s available, and curtailing usage when it isn’t) is the cheapest way of dealing with intermittency, but it often implies behavioral change or economic sacrifice.

Today the world uses only about 20 percent of its final energy in the form of electricity. The other 80 percent of energy is used in the forms of solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels. A transition away from fossil fuels will entail the electrification of much of that other 80 percent of energy usage, which includes most transportation and key industrial processes. However, many uses of energy, such as aviation and the making of cement for concrete, will be difficult or especially costly to electrify. In principle, the electrification conundrum could be overcome by powering aviation and high-heat industrial processes with synfuels. However, doing this at scale would require a massive infrastructure of pipelines, storage tanks, carbon capture devices, and chemical synthesis plants that would essentially replicate much of our current natural gas and oil supply system.

Machine-based carbon removal and sequestration methods work in the laboratory, but would need staggering levels of investment in order to be deployed at a meaningful scale, and it’s unclear who would pay for them. These methods also use a lot of energy, and, when full lifecycle emissions are calculated, it appears that more emissions are often generated than are captured. The best carbon capture-and-sequestration responses appear instead to consist of various methods of ecosystem restoration and soil regeneration. These strategies would also reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions. But they would require a near-complete rethinking of food systems and land management.

Heinberg: fixes require even more energy

The essence of the problem with a climate techno-fix is this, Heinberg explains: nearly everything we need to do to solve global warming (including building new low-emissions electrical generation capacity, and electrifying energy usage) requires energy and money. But society is already using all the energy and money it can muster in order to do the things that society wants and needs to do (extract resources, manufacture products, transport people and materials, provide health care and education, and so on). If we take energy and money away from those activities in order to fund a rapid energy transition on an unprecedented scale, then the economy will contract, people will be thrown out of work, and many folks will be miserable.

On the other hand, if we keep doing all those things at the current scale while also rapidly building a massive alternative infrastructure of solar panels, wind turbines, battery banks, super grids, electric cars and trucks, electrified industrial equipment, and synthetic fuel factories, the result will be a big pulse of energy usage that will significantly increase carbon emissions over the short term (10 to 20 years), since the great majority of the energy currently available for the project must be derived from fossil fuels.

The happy illusion that we can do it all can be maintained only by refusing to acknowledge the stubborn fact that all activity, including building alternative energy generators and carbon capture machinery, requires energy.

Energy is inextricably related to power. Thus, if society voluntarily reduces its energy usage by a significant amount in order to minimize climate impacts, large numbers of people will likely experience this as giving up power in some form—whether physical, social, or economic.

It can’t be emphasized too much: energy is essential to all economic activity. An economy can grow continuously only by employing more energy. World leaders demand more economic growth in order to fend off unemployment and other social ills. Thus, in effect, everyone is counting on having more energy in the future, not less.

Problems ignored usually don’t go away. And not all problems can be solved without sacrifice. If minimizing climate change really does require substantially reducing world energy usage, then policy makers should be discussing how to do this fairly and with as little negative impact as possible. The longer we delay that discussion, the fewer palatable options will be left.

If we just could give up power

The stakes could hardly be higher. If emissions continue, the result will be the failure of ecosystems, massive impacts on economies, widespread human misery and migration, and unpredictable disruptions to political systems. The return of famine as a familiar feature of human existence is a very real likelihood.

It’s easy to see why people would wish to avoid giving up social, political, economic, and physical power to the degree that’s necessary in order to deal with climate change. Fighting entrenched power is a contentious activity, often a dangerous one. People with power don’t like threats to it, and they often fight back.

That’s why environmentalists like to choose their battles. The fossil fuel industry is wealthy and formidable, but at least it’s an enemy that’s easy to identify, and a lot of people already feel critical of the oil and gas companies for a variety of reasons (gasoline is too expensive, oil pipelines cause pollution, and so on).

But not all roadblocks to climate solutions are attributable to the oil companies. The rest of us are also implicated, though to greatly varying degrees depending on where we live and how much we consume. Our whole modern consumerist way of life, the essence of our economic system, is at fault. Unless we’re willing to give up some of our power over nature—our power to extract and transform resources and deliver the goods that we have come to rely on—then we’re destined to careen from one disaster to the next until our worst fears are realized.

It’s understandable why most environmentalists frame global warming the way they do. It makes solutions seem easier to achieve. But if we’re just soothing ourselves while failing to actually stave off disaster, or even to understand our problems properly, what’s the point?

The only real long-range solution to climate change centers on reining in human physical, social, and economic power dramatically, but in ways that preserve human dignity, autonomy, and solidarity. That’s more daunting than any techno-fix. But this route has the singular advantage that, if we follow it intelligently and persistently, we will address a gamut of social and environmental problems at once. In the end, it’s the only path to a better, safer future.

This article is adapted from POWER: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival (New Society Publishers, September 2021) by Richard Heinberg

Read the complete article by Richard Heinberg on resilience.org

Also read: Electric cars emit more co2 at production than conventional cars

ipcc leaks

Juan Bordera Romá reports about how recent IPCC leaks were passed on to him, and what it actually means. He is a screenwriter and journalist and a degrowth activist in Extinction Rebellion and the Transition Network.

Somewhat by chance and because I was working in the right place at the right time, I was one of the journalists who exclusively leaked the contents of one of the most important reports in recent years. This is the report by Working Group 3 of the UN organization – the IPCC – which is in charge of designing proposals to mitigate the effects of climate chaos. Both those already caused and those yet to come. The conclusions drawn from what has happened so far and from the report itself are not easy to digest. And precisely because of this, much less is being done than what is essential.

Let’s start by recalling that there was a leak prior to ours, of the report from the Working Group 3 – the one in charge of measuring the impacts – made by Agence France-Presse (AFP) in June of this year. I don’t know where the leak came from and what it contained, but the headline: “Life on Earth can recover from major climate change. Humanity cannot”, went around the world and we at Fastlove analysed it here.

These IPCC leaks already revealed that there was a certain nervousness in the scientific community, and a desire to skip the step of review and modification by governments of the summaries of the reports (yes, incredible as it may seem, governments can propose changes to scientists and must unanimously approve the final summary of each working group). Moreover, these summaries are what the absolute majority of journalists read, and they are the basis for the subsequent information that is disseminated, as the reports are several thousand pages long each. Although the scientific work is unimpeachable, this makes it even more difficult for the more daring positions to appear.

Then, a month and a half after the first IPCC leaks – on 6 August – just 3 days before the first part of the report was officially published (Working Group I – in charge of giving science evidence), a very special piece of content reached the Extinction Rebellion Spain movement, of which I am a member. We are talking about the leaked summary of Working Group 3, the mitigation proposals.

Obviously this part of the report is very important, as it has to dive into proposing paths that are passable to avoid the worst results of the climate chaos we have already unleashed.

And while sometimes they are not as bold as the situation requires – even with the summer of extreme events we are experiencing – on this occasion there are parts of the report that have challenged the usual somewhat tepid logic of previous reports.

So, in short, what does the scientific community propose?

Based on the previous work of more than 14.000 different studies, very briefly their conclusions are clear:

  • “Coal and gas plants should be shut down within 9 to 12 years”.
  • “Total emissions need to peak in 2025 and fall rapidly from there to net zero between 2050 and 2075”.
  • All these plans are based on technologies (carbon capture and sequestration, and carbon dioxide removal – CCS and CDR) that are far from being developed. Therefore, they are still relying on some sort of “technological miracle”. This is not very scientific, to be honest.
  • “In scenarios with reduced energy demand, the mitigation challenges are significantly reduced, with less reliance on CO2 removal (CDR), less pressure on land and lower carbon prices. These scenarios do not imply a decrease in welfare, but a provision of better services.” This is literally an adaptation scenario to the economic theory that advocates that it is possible to live well with less. Degrowth.
  • Different scenarios are expected: Global warming associated with these different emissions scenarios ranges from less than 1.5°C to more than 5°C by 2100 compared to pre-industrial levels. We are at 1.1°C and are already seeing increasingly catastrophic consequences of climate destabilisation. Avoiding exceeding 1.5°C is almost impossible to achieve. But every tenth of a degree counts.
  • Fighting energy poverty and climate change are not incompatible. This is because the biggest emitters are the richest ones: the richest 10% emit ten times more than the poorest 10%.

For all the above reasons, the content of the exclusive has gone around the world.

We first published it in the Spanish magazine CTXT, from there it reached The Guardian in the UKthe Spiegel in GermanyCNBC in the US and Yale University, as well as IndiaChinaIndonesiaBrazil and many other countries.

As if this were not enough, the source of the leak (a group of scientist-activists, Scientist Rebellion) was so happy with the work that they passed us more material (the entire chapter 1 of the report) and with it we were able to produce another article in CTXT, co-written with some of the best experts in our country on the issue, and which has even been translated into English in the prestigious Monthly Review. Well, now that the maelstrom of work and unleashed emotions has passed, and the content has settled, I am going to try to summarise how complex I see this issue.

Embracing degrowth can be key to managing climate chaos, and capitalism as we understand it is unsustainable.

These are the two main conclusions. And the fact that they are reflected in a report that tends to be more conservative than daring says a lot about the seriousness of the situation.

The first thing I would like to do is to thank the enormous team effort that has made it possible for this to get this far. Secondly, I would like to point out that there are many barriers in the media. Some – most of the television channels – have not even deigned to mention the leak. They dare not speak clearly about the enormous problem and how little is being done to solve it. And this barrier is key. If it is not told, it does not exist. And it is impossible to do what needs to be done.

You may be wondering: how huge is the climate problem? Well, I remember the headline of the first leak:

“Life on Earth can recover from major climate change by evolving new species and creating new ecosystems. Humanity cannot”.

Extinctions seem to us to be a thing of the past and could never affect us, the all-powerful and omnipotent being that calls itself “Sapiens Sapiens”, while destroying its own life support. But there are many facts that confirm that this is not the case. The current rate of species extinction is tens to hundreds of times higher than the average of the last ten million years. And it is accelerating. Dangerously close to the rate of the previous 5 great mass extinctions. Add to this runaway climate change that may take on an irreversible inertia for humans. It is not serious. It is a matter of life and death.

Extinctions are usually caused by an abrupt change in some factor that destabilises the quasi-magical balance of life on Earth. In the past they have been triggered by a series of volcanic mega-eruptions or a meteorite impact. And this sixth mass extinction is happening because of us. Yes, us. We are the meteorite now. At least the unbridled economic system we have built.

This story was first published on resilience.org

damage of climate change

A study by an international team of scientists found that the economic damage of climate change could be six times higher by the end of this century than previously estimated.

Projections like this help governments around the world calculate the relative costs and benefits of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. However, prior analysis has shown that the models used may ignore important risks and therefore underestimate the costs.

Currently, most models focus on short-term damage, assuming that climate change has no lasting effect on economic growth, despite growing evidence to the contrary. Extreme events like droughts, fires, heatwaves and storms are likely to cause long-term economic harm because of their impact on health, savings and labour productivity.

The study authors first updated one of the three climate-economy models used to set the price of carbon for national policy decisions, then used it to explore the impact of year-to-year climate variations and the rates of economic recovery after climate events.

The study, that was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, shows that by 2100, global GDP could be 37% lower than it would be without the impacts of warming, when taking the effects of climate change on economic growth into account. Without accounting for lasting damages – excluded from most estimates – GDP would be around 6% lower, meaning the impacts on growth may increase the economic costs of climate change by a factor of six.

Up to 51% of global GDP

Yet, there is still considerable uncertainty about how much climate damages continue to affect long-term growth and how far societies can adapt to reduce these damages; depending on how much growth is affected, the economic costs of warming this century could be up to 51% of global GDP.

“Climate change makes detrimental events like the recent heatwave in North America and the floods in Europe much more likely. If we stop assuming that economies recover from such events within months, the costs of warming look much higher than usually stated. We still need a better understanding of how climate alters economic growth, but even in the presence of small long-term effects, cutting emissions becomes much more urgent.”

The researchers also updated the model to take advances in climate science over the past decade into account, as well as the effect of climate change on the variability of annual average temperatures – both of which increased the projected cost of climate change.

The authors calculated the effect of these changes on the ‘social cost of carbon’ (SCCO2), a crucial indicator of the level of urgency for taking climate action that calculates the economic cost of greenhouse gas emissions to society. Expressed in US dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide, estimates currently vary greatly between $10 to $1,000. However, when taking more robust climate science and updated models into account, this new study suggests that the economic damage could in fact be over $3,000 per tonne of CO2.

“Burning CO2 has a cost to society, even if it is not directly to our wallets. Each person’s emissions could quite well result in a cost to humanity of over $1,300 per year, rising to over $15,000 once the impacts of climate change on economic growth are included,” Dr Brierley said.

Much higher than policy makers assume

While the findings show large uncertainties, the central values were found to be much higher than policymakers currently assume; the US government, for example, currently uses a social cost of carbon of around $51 per tonne to judge the costs and benefits of projects linked with greenhouse gas emissions, whilst the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which covers power, manufacturing and aviation, recently exceeded €61 for the first time.

Study co-author Paul Waidelich (ETH Zürich) said: “The findings confirm that it is cheaper to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than it is to deal with climate change impacts, and the economic damages from continued warming would greatly outweigh most costs that could be involved in preventing emissions now. The risk of costs of damage of climate change being even higher than previously assumed reaffirms the urgency for fast and strong mitigation. It shows that choosing to not reduce greenhouse gas emissions is an extremely risky economic strategy.”

Source: UCL

 

electric cars ford mustang

Electric cars and hybrid cars create more carbon emissions during their production than standard vehicles. That sheds a different light on the speedy transition to electrical transportation that climate activists advocate.

Electric and hybrid cars create more carbon emissions during their production but are still greener overall, according to a new report. A new report by Ricardo highlights the increasing importance of accounting for whole life carbon emissions to compare the greenhouse gas emissions of low carbon vehicles.

Some of the CO2 savings made during the use of low carbon vehicles are offset by increased emissions caused during their production, and to a lesser extent disposal. However, overall electric and hybrid vehicles still have lower carbon footprints than normal cars.

For example, a typical medium sized family car will create around 24 tonnes of CO2 during its life cycle, while an electric vehicle (EV) will produce around 18 tonnes over its life. For a battery EV, 46% of its total carbon footprint is generated at the factory, before it has travelled a single mile. For a conventional cars that is 26%.

Perverse effect: electric cars co2 emissions first go up

However, an accelerated replacement of fossil fuel propelled cars by electric, may lead to a perverse effect. In stead of reducing CO2 emissions in the short term, they will increase. Producing an electric vehicle emits almost twice as much greenhouse gas as a conventional one. It takes several years, depending from the annual mileage, to break even.

The calculation is simple: the extra emissions from production have to be compensated by the savings when operating the vehicle.

But there are complications. When a new car is sold, the old one usually enters the used car market and remains in use. At the end of the line some 5% of cars are scrapped annually, much less than new car production. And new conventional cars emit considerably less during operation than older ones, which decreases the lifetime footprint advantage further. (The carbon footprint of an electric car should be compared to a new, state-of-the-art conventional car of the same size, which it actually replaces. But electric replacements also tend to be larger than the cars they replace.)

On average, we look at some 4 tonnes of extra co2 per electric car produced, which has to be offset by 0.5 tonne annually of prevented emissions. According to these figures it would take some 8 years to break even. (Given electric cars run on 100% renewable energy)

What to do?

The automotive industry is taking steps to address this issue of production emissions- the recent announcement by Toyota of a solar array to provide electricity to power the hybrid Auris production facility and wind power at the Nissan Leaf plant are excellent examples of this.

But that will be far too little too late to result in short term effects. After all, we aim at 2030 for first results. No electric car sold today will contribute to those under the present conditions.

A key factor is car ownership. Reducing car ownership – especially in cities – and replacing it by electric car sharing, would result in a much more effective reduction of co2 emissions in the short term. It will reduce the need for new car production and take more cars out of circulation. And it will shift from fossil miles to electric miles much faster.

Of course this is a somewhat radical idea. But the central question is not how to sell as many electric cars as possible, it is how to reduce emissions and save the climate. That does take radical solutions to achieve it. The report does not address that. We do.

The report “Determining the environmental impacts of conventional and alternatively fuelled vehicles through LCA” and its associated documents are available for download from at DG Climate Action’s web pages.

 

real inconvenient truth about climate change

Some fifteen years ago, Al Gore tried to wake up the world with his Inconvenient Truth message, after dozens before him failed to do so. An audience of millions saw the movie or read the book, and moved on to business as usual. That was back in 2006.

New reports from the IPCC followed, in 2015 a major climate conference was held in Paris, and the climate continued to change. We hardly did. At all levels, we continue to underestimate climate- and societal risks.

In 2019 I wrote a column about the risk of extreme events, which is much greater than the IPCC wants us to believe. Breakthrough, an Australian think tank, described this phenomenon in a 2017 report.

It’s forecasts included both the corona pandemic (it could have been any other virus) and the current extreme weather disasters. No one responded to this really inconvenient truth. Even while the world experiences  runaway climate change, the illusion is kept alive that we can prevent worse.

Misty IPCC jargon and hidden deceivers hide real inconvenient truth

Underestimation results from the terminology the IPCC applies to describe the risk levels of events, and the level of consent about it. Outsiders are easily misled by this code.

It leads to a (far too) positive assessment of risks. For example, an event with a 33% chance, or 1 in 3, is described as ‘unlikely’. Would you get on a plane that has a 33% (or even a 10% chance = very unlikely) risk to crash? Or would you be able to insure a house that has even a 1% chance of burning down within a year? At the IPCC, they apparently don’t have a problem with those.

Hidden deeper is the underestimation that results from the risk-calculation itself, which is based on a normal distribution of the Gauss curve.

It works fine for collections of static elements, for example the height of people. However it does not work with dynamic elements, whose properties or values ​​change over time, such as the weather. With those, events with a small probability in a normal distribution could appear to pose a much greater risk as a result of the influence of external factors, creating a so called fat tail at the positive end of the graph. (What Lies Beneath, pg 13)

This can have major consequences for estimates like the possible rise of temperature, as Breakthrough shows. In a scenario of (average) 3 degrees rise, the risk that it eventually turns out to be 6 degrees warmer is not 2%, but 10%. In other words, 1 in 10, instead of 1 in 50, or 5 times as large. At the IPCC however, both are still “very unlikely”. So you can sleep peacefully.

The delusional IF word

The illusion that we can prevent worse is often preceded by the word ‘if’. If we take extra measures to reduce co2 emissions in time, if we all work together, if we… just name a few. The Paris Agreement is built on it: if we all stick to our resolutions….

In reality, we have not even done what is absolutely necessary. Even the day after the release of the last IPCC report, both China and the worst polluters of Dutch industry announced that they are not going to change their climate plans. Putin is silent. India says it can do no more and that probably goes for the rest of the world as well. Europe has a plan, but it is slow and divided.

As in the case of the corona pandemic, in the climate crisis too we are unable to organise a collective and coherent response to deal with it. Yet we know very well what needs to be done and there are more than enough resources to do so. But each and every time we don’t. Why?

Bubbles in a tunnel

This paralysis is rooted in a few reinforcing phenomena in human behaviour. Two of these are bubble thinking and tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision is the unwillingness or inability to experience events that lie outside one’s immediate world. It occurs in individuals and in group behaviour.

Bubble thinking arises when likeminded people form a group (bubble) in which they reinforce their common ideas. Thus bubbles are easily created based on tunnel vision. The larger (or louder) the group, the stronger the effect. It happens in football stadiums and in meeting rooms and more recently it happens on social media.

Add the effects of economic and political interests, socio-cultural sentiments and technical lock-ins of existing, rigid structures to this and then calculate the effects of the interplay of millions, perhaps billions, of organised and informal systems interacting. From Yellow Vests and Taliban to United Nations and football associations.

That outcome almost certainly leads to a real inconvenient truth: we won’t make it. The climate warms (much) more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. We are on course for 3 to 4.5 degree rise in temperature which will have dramatic consequences. For you, for me, for our (grand)children and for the rest of the planet, that becomes sheer uninhabitable. Dozens of disaster movies show what that looks like.

What we still might be able to do

Breakthrough argues that only an all-out war economy can turn things around. All our actions should be aimed at the max reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

It requires extreme measures that go way beyond keeping distance and wearing face masks. It will take extensive and powerful interventions.

Unavoidable in such a strategy is the rationing of CO2. Like food stamps during World War II, limited rights on emissions will be allowed. Emission equivalents are assigned to all products.

Car ownership and air travel are allowed only on a permit base. The idea that everyone can own a car is unsustainable, even if it is electric. Especially in cities we need to completely switch to car sharing and public transportation.

A progressive tax on unsustainable products will be introduced.

Climate crime will be included in criminal law.

No one would imagine it will ever come to this. But that’s what we thought too, two years ago, when it comes to face protection and lockdowns.

All of us have to act within our power to contribute: stop using fossil fuels, eat less meat, or none at all, consume less and sustainable only.
It we don’t, it will mean the end of our current civilisation. Unfortunately there is no more convenient truth.

Peter van Vliet

chief editor of iNSnet.org and Duurzaamnieuws.nl