COP 21–We Should Focus On What We Can Measure

As 40,000 of the climate concerned descend on Paris for COP 21 (Government budget: 187 million Euros), the debate continues on what we can do to keep temperature rises under 2C. To the extent that we can do anything about it, it will largely depend on reducing emissions. How much? By whom?

Emissions are hard to measure–China just discovered it was burning about 17% more coal than it thought. That impacts their CO2 emissions, but it’s hard to say by how much. Nobody has updated their statistics for the past few years to account for this, so people are arriving in Paris with wrong numbers in their spreadsheets.

Worse, the calculations of what we should do are based on assumptions about sensitivity that are seemingly outdated. If sensitivity is lower than the estimated 3C, then two things happen: first, it will be easier to stay at 2C total temperature rise and second, each unit of CO2 emissions is worth less.

All this is explored at length at Judith Curry’s blog here. What I would like to focus on is how much easier it would be to focus on our fuel portfolio and to match it to projected increases in energy consumption. This leaves out other human contributions to climate change, such as deforestation and cement production, but it has the twin benefits of being a good proxy and already the subject of much measuring.

Given that we know energy consumption will increase dramatically during this century, configuring our portfolio of available fuels to minimize impacts on the environment (not just CO2 emissions, but conventional pollution as well) would result in much firmer plans that are easier to evaluate in terms of success.

For the U.S. it could be quite simple. The U.S. has long held out the goal of 30% electricity generation from renewables. It is transitioning from coal to natural gas for the bulk of its electricity generation. It is dipping its toes into the nuclear pool once again. It really wouldn’t be too difficult for the EPA to come up with a plan and a timeline to get U.S. to a fairly clean fuel portfolio that would meet energy needs and reduce emissions. If they use (almost) zero coal for electricity and build about 30 new nuclear power plants, continue subsidies for solar and wind at current levels and maybe build a few more dams so that California can give its newcomers something to drink and get hydroelectricity from them as well, they’re pretty much done. CAFE regulations, a little waste to energy, some CHP and a boost to ground source heat pumps in the northern parts of the country will tidy up the loose ends.

This could be done at a country level quite rapidly and efficiently. As opposed to focusing on CO2 emissions, energy provision is metered and charged for–we know how, when and why most energy is consumed.We know where we’re starting from and we know where we want to end up.

Measuring the aether is fraught. It’s good for playing political games but not for getting the results we want.

And we do want results, don’t we?


5 responses to “COP 21–We Should Focus On What We Can Measure

  1. Tom, you ask, “We do want results, don’t we?” Perhaps it was a purely rhetorical question … then, again, perhaps not:-)

    I seem to recall that you’ve been at this quite a few years longer than I have; however, I am increasingly coming to the view that as long as the UN is “taking the lead” on this, the world is unlikely to arrive at anything other than “let’s you and him fight”, forever and ever, Amen!

    In my view, the preferred “solution” – as radical as it may seem to some – is to simply abolish the UN, along with its money-grubbing arms, elbows, hands and fingers (not to mention an ever-expanding proliferation of “bodies” that were never part of its original mandate).

    Perhaps after an “hiatus” of five, ten or fifteen years, it could be reconstituted with a completely different cast of characters. All of whom can be shown to possess more integrity than can be found in the little fingers of the current cast of “influential” – and far too frequently “recycled” – personnel who seem to flow through its ever-revolving doors (and foggy extensions thereof).

    Not that I expect anyone to listen to my voice in the wilderness; but, hey, I can dream, can’t I?!

    P.S. I’ve been meaning to drop by and thank you for including my blog in your honour-roll. So, many – belated – thanks!

  2. “40,000 of the climate concerned?” I seriously doubt that climate is in the minds of those with most to gain from the monetisation of a minor atmospheric gas.

    In “The Endless Algebra of Climate Markets”, Larry Lohmann quotes “Richard Sandor, a wealthy Chicago trader and economist who was one of the originators of interest rate derivatives in the 1970s; helped develop the idea of pollution markets in the 1980s; collaborated on a UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) initiative entitled ‘‘Building a Global CO2 Emissions Trading System’’ in the early 1990s; and in the 2000s, with philanthropic support, set up the Chicago Climate Exchange, of which he sold off his shares in 2010 for US$606 million (Carr & Lomax 2010).”

    (Part of that philanthropic support was from the Chicago based Joyce Foundation, which at the time had a young Democrat senator on its board, named Barack Obama. Maurice Strong, Al Gore and the World Resources Institute were all on the CEX board).

    He continues:
    “In 1997, the Clinton regime, represented by Al Gore (who later went into the carbon business himself as a private individual), played the decisive role in ensuring that the Kyoto Protocol became a plan for a world climate market. ….market development continued under figures such as Ken Newcombe, who headed the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund before moving on to Climate Change Capital (a boutique merchant bank founded by, among others, attorney James Cameron, who had also helped negotiate the Kyoto Protocol as an advocate of the interests of small island states), Goldman Sachs’ carbon-trading desk, and the carbon-trading firm C-Quest Capital.

    Queried about the climate effectiveness of carbon offsets, Richard Sandor retorts impatiently that whether or not they result in less greenhouse gas going into the atmosphere is ‘‘not my business. I’m running a for-profit company’’

    The Executive Secretary of UNFCCC also has a considerable history in the “carbon money” game, having been Vice chair of the Climate Ratings Agency, part of IdeaCarbon, co-founded by Lord Stern. (he left in 2013). She was also involved with C-Quest Capital and was on the board at Winrock International, the carbon credit offshoot of the Rockefeller Foundation. She has been a driving force behind the UN CDM mechanism, of which her commercial activities have been beneficiary. She boasts of having been personally trained by Al Gore to deliver his video presentation.

    Even before her present position, she was operating as a working group chair on long term commitments by annex 2 countries under the Kyoto Protocol, at the same time that she was Vice Chair of Stern’s Carbon Ratings Agency, a direct conflict of interest.

    She is married to German national, Konrad von Ritter and they live in Bonn, so very handy for the climate meetings. Von Ritter has over 25 years of experience in “sustainable development”, of which he spent 20 years with the World Bank. He is Co-founder and Director at WEnergy, a Singapore based start-up company offering renewable energy solutions in East Asia. His company is a beneficiary of energy subsidies and the CDM, promoted at the UN by Mrs Von Ritter.

    In 2013, he was on a UNFCCC panel dealing with climate finance,

    Date: 28 May 2013
    Venue: Fira Barcelona, Hall 5 – Palau de Congressos
    16:15 – 17:30: Group C: “The role of local investors in mobilizing additional climate finance”
    Discuss which actions of the GCF, MDBs, NDBs, as well as local governments, would be considered most helpful by local investors. Panellists included:
    Konrad von Ritter; Consultant on climate change and cities. No declaration of interest, who would know he is the husband of the head honcho?

    Her brother is Jose Figueres, former president of Costa Rica, (as was her father). He is a former CEO of the World Economic Forum, is currently the President of The Carbon War Room,, pushing low carbon technology, a beneficiary of his sister’s activities at the UN.

    The whole thing is nothing to do with climate, it is all about money and creating a virtual market for “carbon”, which as you point out, they don’t even have accurate figures for. The two degree meme is a farce with no science base and is simply there as a mantra for the aim of getting a global base price for carbon, under the control of the UN, along with the Green Climate Fund.

    They call it The New Climate Economy, pushed by Stern, Edenhofer, George Soros and major financial institutions who will benefit, such as Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, JP Morgan et al.

    Caio Koch-Weser, who was on Ban Ki Moon’s “High Level Climate Finance Panel” after Copenhagen, along with George Soros, Lord Stern, Christine Lagarde, (now IMF chief), had this to say:

    “Over the next 15 years, USD 90 trillion will be invested globally in energy systems, cities and land use sectors. The nature of these investments will affect the strength of economic growth and society’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change. The Vice Chairman said that “sustainability and innovation are essential ingredients for future prosperity and the wellbeing of society”.

    “Emissions Trading Up Close”

    “…… takes a lot of money to validate, register, monitor, verify, and certify a carbon offset project on both compliance and voluntary markets. A small-scale project faces anywhere between $40,000 and $200,000 in total transaction costs, which in turn, can represent over 40 percent of the total value of a certified reduction.

    This high cost is another major point of contention, and also why to date most offset projects have been coordinated with large corporations, which in places like India and China receive the vast majority of carbon offset finance.

    One of the central difficulties involved in the commodification process of carbon offsets is the fact that for every offset project, consultants have to create a unique storyline describing a hypothetical world without the project, and then assign a number to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with that imagined world.”

    It is this virtual market that drives the false scenarios that CO2 emissions are cooking the planet. This is why the global financiers are supporting the UN agenda and why oil companies are now joining in. Add to this the subsidies for so-called renewables and there is massive wealth for global corporations and finance houses being created literally out the air we breathe.

    You shouldn’t have got me started!

  3. Tom,

    “If they use (almost) zero coal for electricity and build about 30 new nuclear power plants, continue subsidies for solar and wind at current levels and maybe build a few more dams so that California can give its newcomers something to drink and get hydroelectricity from them as well, they’re pretty much done.”

    That won’t get close to 30% renewables, unless you count hydro and nuclear as renewable, in which case 30% renewable is not much different from what the U.S. has now. I’d be fine with that; but I think that decreased fossil fuel availability plus technological advances in alternatives will most likely prevent problematic CO2 levels without any government intervention.

  4. “To the extent that we can do anything about it,”

    Which we can’t.

    Mankind can no more significantly change the climate than significantly change the time the Sun rises and sets.

    Even termites produce more GHG than we do, are you going to try to claim they are changing the climate too?

  5. Scams all the way down.

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