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Posted on: December 16, 2020

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The Carbon Budget Conundrum | Thongchai Thailand


What needs to happen in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C?
analyzed what each carbon-polluting sector must do in order to reach this goal. When the governments of nearly every country in the world signed the Paris Agreement in defense of our planet’s climate in 2015, they requested an analysis from the scientists at the IPCC of the impacts humanity would suffer if global warming were to reach 1.5ºC, as well as an analysis of how humanity could keep global warming below this level. Well, the thousands of scientists around the world that make up the IPCC have now weighed in. They delivered their analysis in October of 2018, in a special report that tries to answer the following questions: What will be the impact of a rise in temperatures of 1.5ºC and 2ºC? What is needed to limit the rise in temperatures to 1.5ºC? And what are the trade-offs with the UN Sustainable Development Goals? Here we have tried to summarize the actions that each economic sector needs to take in order to keep global warming below 1.5ºC. This is a guide to understanding the 2018 IPCC special.

HOW BIG IS OUR CHALLENGE? The IPCC scientists developed different scenarios for future levels of greenhouse gas emissions year by year, which they called “trajectories.” In the trajectories compatible with a temperature rise of 1.5ºC, the world must become carbon neutral by the middle of the century. In other words, in these scenarios, humanity must stop adding carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere by 2050. This would require an unprecedented cut in CO2 emissions, as well as in emissions of other greenhouse gases. A weak or slow response could allow the rise in global temperatures to exceed 1.5ºC. We would then depend more and more on technologies capable of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere (which are still risky, unproven, and often very costly) in order to lower the planet’s temperatures. If no additional action is taken, global warming will have already reached 1.5ºC by around 2040. Keeping within the 1.5ºC goal requires fast and significant reductions from every sector responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. Below, we list a series of measures that can help reach this goal, grouped together by sector: energy production, land use, industry, transportation, and construction. In the final section we also list some possible ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. It is important to note that all sectors have choices regarding how they will reduce their emissions and by how much, but the decisions made by each sector will influence the others. On an individual level, every one of us will have to change our habits to help limit global warming to 1.5ºC. How? By changing our diets to reduce meat consumption, reducing food waste, driving less and using more public transportation, using more efficient appliances and installing better insulation systems to depend less on air conditioning in hot regions and heating in cold regions. But it is important to remember that these behavioral changes, although important, are not enough on their own. The entire economy must change.

STAY COOL, EVERYONE! Sector by sector, we can heed the IPCC warnings, limiting global warming to 34.7°F and becoming carbon neutral by 2050 1. ENERGY: responsible for 35 percent of global emissions SOLUTIONS Replace fossil fuels with clean sources of energy worldwide Quit using charcoal by 2040. Reduce the use of natural gas to a minimum by 2100. Quit using oil over the course of the century. GLOBAL ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR Since 2010, 1,705 coal-fired power plant projects have been canceled. The first country to commit to giving up coal was the United Kingdom. By 2016, 24 percent of the world’s electricity came from renewable sources. Total decarbonisation of electricity is projected by 2050. The largest investors in renewables are China, the United States, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, India and Brazil. 2. USE OF LAND: responsible for 24 percent of global emissions SOLUTIONS Protect ecosystems and increase the sustainability and efficiency of agriculture Use residues from agriculture and forestry to generate energy through biomass. Fight food waste, the fate of 1/3 of all food produced in the world. Encourage people to eat less meat: reducing consumption to 50g per day reduces individual emissions by up to 35 percent.

GLOBAL ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR: In 1943, 77 percent of Costa Rica was covered by forest; in 1986, this number dropped to 41 percent. In 2012, the recovery process began, and today, 52 percent of the country is covered. The Bonn Challenge is a global effort, launched in 2011, to restore 150 million hectares of deforested land by 2020, and 350 million by 2030. It has already led to significant reforestation and job creation in Pakistan, Mexico, Rwanda and many other countries. 3. INDUSTRY: responsible for 21 percent of global emissions SOLUTIONS Move to clean energy and decrease the waste of materials Cut emissions from industrial processes by installing carbon capture and storage systems. Increase the efficiency of companies, with products of greater durability, and reduce the loss of materials in the production process. Use less material and increase the industry’s recycling and “remanufacturing” capacities. GLOBAL ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR Due in part to industry changes and the declining use of coal, emissions in China declined each year from 2014-2016. Senegal’s largest cement manufacturer has partially replaced coal with biomass, avoiding the emission of over 59,000 tons of CO2 per year. Today, recycled scrap accounts for 64 percent of European steel consumption. Since 1945, Volvo, the Swedish automaker, has been remanufacturing components: in 2015 alone, this practice prevented the production of more than 859 tons of steel and more than 330 tons of aluminum.

TRANSPORTATION: responsible for 14 percent of global emissions SOLUTIONS Improve supply chains and encourage clean transportation Democratize the use of electric cars: If 70 percent of vehicles are electric by 2050, global CO2 emissions will be reduced to 3.6 billion tons (8 percent of current emissions). Develop electricity technology, biofuels, hydrogen and more efficient batteries for heavy commercial vehicles. Plan cities with density, bike paths, pedestrian paths and mass transit, an approach which can reduce car use by up to 40 percent (Urban Land Institute).

GLOBAL ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR 15 countries announced plans to end the sale of diesel and gasoline cars between 2030 and 2040. Among them are Austria, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, United Kingdom The annual sale of electric vehicles is increasing dramatically and is expected to reach 11 million by 2025 and 30 million by 2030. In Europe, in the first half of 2018, electric cars sales increased by more than 40 percent, and there are now more than one million such vehicles on the roads. Today, thanks to generous tax breaks, subsidies and toll exemptions, plug-in electric cars make up 55 percent of new cars sold in Norway. The city of Portland, Oregon has integrated urban planning and transportation, emphasizing population density and mixed-use development in the vicinity of the public transit system.

CONSTRUCTION: responsible for 6 percent of global emissions SOLUTIONS Make buildings more efficient Set higher efficiency standards, especially for air conditioning and heating. Modernize apartment or office buildings, generating energy consumption savings of between 75-90 percent. Improve energy efficiency rules for household appliances.

GLOBAL ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR With strict rules on energy consumption, homes built in Denmark after 2008 use half the energy of those built before 1977. In Cape Town, South Africa, more than 2,300 homes for low-income families were built with solar water heaters, efficient light bulbs and thermal insulation, avoiding the emission of more than 7,700 tons of CO2 per year. SOURCE: All data can be found in the ClimaInfo report, “What needs to be done in each sector to limit global warming to 34.7°F (1.5°C).”

WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE IN ENERGY PRODUCTION The energy sector – the set of economic activities that extracts resources like oil, natural gas and coal, generates electricity, produces fuels such as gasoline, diesel and ethanol, and transports energy to where it is used – is responsible for approximately 35% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it the most carbon-polluting sector. Cutting down on these emissions quickly is essential if we are to reach the 1.5ºC goal. Since other sectors will need to use more electricity to substitute for fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas, it is important that the electricity supply comes from sources with low CO2 emissions (often referred to as “low carbon”). This will require cuts in fossil fuel use and an increase in the use of low carbon sources of energy. Reductions in energy use: In order to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, fossil fuel use must be drastically reduced. This is especially true for coal, which must be essentially abandoned by around 2040 [4]. But the use of oil must also decrease over the course of the century. And the use of natural gas must also be low by 2100, although in some of the IPCC’s trajectories it must be reduced immediately. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) – a set of technologies that tries to capture the gases produced by burning fossil fuels and store them in rocks – could, in theory, allow us to use gas and coal for a longer period of time without exceeding the 1.5ºC threshold. But attempts to develop these technologies have faced challenges. Worldwide, at least 32 projects for coal thermal plants with CO2 capture and storage have been cancelled or suspended, and only two are currently in operation.

Reaching the 1.5ºC goal will be much easier, cheaper and less disruptive if governments around the world take immediate steps to replace fossil fuels with clean sources of energy. Continuing investment in thermal plants that run on fossil fuels will result in deeper and more drastic cuts in the future. This will be harder to do and will lead to “stranded assets,” such as coal and gas plants that can no longer operate – leaving investors no longer able to generate the revenues necessary to cover their costs and get any kind of return. Hope comes in the form of initiatives like the Powering Past Coal Alliance [6], founded in 2017 by 21 countries, states, companies and cities committed to ending the use of traditional coal plants. The Alliance had already expanded to 74 members by September of 2018, including 29 countries, with significant participation by U.S. states, cities and businesses opposed to the Trump administration’s rhetoric in support of coal. Since 2010, 1,705 coal power plant projects have been cancelled worldwide. [7] The first country to commit to a gradual and total abandonment of coal was the United Kingdom in 2015. Since then, the proportion of electricity generated by coal in the UK has declined rapidly, and coal supplied less than 7% of that country’s electricity in 2017. [8]

The growth of low carbon energy Low carbon energy, which includes sources like solar, wind, biomass, nuclear, hydro and geothermal, must increase quickly to fill the void left by the reduction in fossil fuel use and, most likely, meet the increasing demand for electricity that will help the world stay within the 1.5ºC limit. There are many ways in which low carbon sources can come to supply the world’s energy needs. Most trajectories suggest that solar and biomass energy will expand rapidly and become some of the most important sources. There is less certainty about how much nuclear energy will be necessary – with some trajectories suggesting it will be an important source, while others suggest it will not be needed. According to one recent scientific journal article, electricity generated by wind and solar would have to keep up their recent growth rates (between 25% and 30%) until 2025. After that, the growth of these renewables could slow to between 4% and 5%, which would still keep us on track for a complete decarbonization of global electricity by around 2050. This transition is already well under way: in 2016, 24% of global electricity was already produced by renewable sources [11], making them the second largest source of electricity after coal [12]. In 2016, the world had 32 times more solar capacity and five times more wind capacity than it did in 2007. The cost of solar and wind energy are falling rapidly. Between 2010 and 2017, the cost of producing wind energy on land fell by 25%, while the cost to produce solar energy on a large scale fell by 73%.

The cost of these renewable sources is competitive with coal. The average cost of coal electricity in 2017 was between $50 and $73 per MWh. Meanwhile, the global average cost of wind power on land was around $67/MWh, and between $56 and $86/MWh for photovoltaic solar power [15]. By the end of 2017, the lowest prices for solar and wind energy were $21/MWh and $19/MWh, respectively, both in Mexico [16]. It is likely that within the next 15 years it will be cheaper to build new solar or wind plants than to keep using the gas plants already in existence [17]. To give investors confidence in the transition to clean energy, support from governments will be important. The government of India, for example, has set a goal of installing 175 GW of renewable capacity by 2022 [18]. In the past year India has invested more in renewable energy than it has in fossil fuels, having more than doubled its investment in solar power, and investing record amounts in onshore wind power. Electricity storage will also be crucial to the success of the energy transition. Since some renewable sources – like wind and solar – are intermittent, the ability to store the electricity they generate may ensure that supply can always meet demand. Storage technology is developing and expanding at a rapid pace. And decreasing costs, the need to control air quality, pollution regulations, and climate policies will probably continue to fuel its expansion.


10 Things to Know About the IPCC Scenario Framework | weADAPT | Climate  change adaptation planning, research and practice


  1. On the matter of the IPCC 2018 special report that determined that warming since pre-industrial must not be allowed to exceed 1.5C to avoid runaway feedback warming beyond human control. Prior to the 2018 determination by the IPCC that the critical amount of warming since pre-industrial is 1.5C, the same IPCC had determined that the critical amount of warming was 2C and the 2C estimate followed prior estimate of 3C and that came after the estimate of 4C which in turn had come after the initial IPCC estimate of 5C. Given this extreme form of uncertainty in IPCC assessments the degree of certainty and credibility needed to demand a multi trillion dollar global response to overhaul their energy infrastructure is not possible or even rational. The mean and standard deviation of these 5 different estimates of the critical amount of warming imply a 95% confidence interval of 0.54C to 5.66C. This kind of data does not contain useful information and therefore no demand can be made for a global energy infrastructure overhaul based on these IPCC assessments. The data do not indicate that the IPCC is credible.
  2. A related issue in this estimate is that all of these values for the critical amount of warming from 5C to 1.5C are computed from the “pre-industrial” reference temperature but no estimate is given for a pre-industrial reference temperature. A possible reason for this is that there is no estimate for a pre-industrial temperature because the IPCC does not really know when that was. The first IPCC report identifies this critical pre-industrial year as the year 1750. However, in the very next report, the pre-industrial year is moved up 100 years to 1850. At the same time, NASA GISS has made an independent assessment of the pre-industrial year from the data to determine that the reference pre-industrial year from which the amount of warming should be measured is 1950, one hundred years after the most recent IPCC pre-industrial year assessment. Given the variance of these assessments, the 95% confidence interval for the pre-industrial year is 1650 to 2050. This range does not indicate that the IPCC has sufficient information on this issue to demand immense global economic sacrifices based on their climate change assessments.
  3. As serious as items #1 and #2 above are, the most egregious evidence of absence of information the IPCC climate action demands is the mathematics used in the construction of the relationship between emissions and warming that serve as a basis for the climate action demanded. This relationship, shown graphically in the chart below, serves as the theoretical basis in the demand for climate action for a given target amount of warming. It is based on the observation of a near perfect correlation between temperature and cumulative emissions that can also be described as a correlation between cumulative annual warming and cumulative emissions. It is called the TCRE.
The Carbon Budget Conundrum | Thongchai Thailand

The statistical and mathematical flaws in the TCRE are described in a related post on this site: LINK: . Briefly, we show in the related post that a time series of the cumulative values of another time series contains neither time scale nor degrees of freedom and that therefore the correlation between two such time series has no interpretation in terms of the real world phenomena represented by the original time series from which the cumulative values were computed. Therefore the TCRE and carbon budgets constructed from it have no interpretation in terms of the real world phenomena represented by the data from which the TCRE was computed.

MATHEMATICAL INCONSISTENCY: A second, and equally egregious mathematics error in these carbon budget constructions of the IPCC is that the theoretical relationship between cumulative emissions and temperature in climate science is logarithmic because temperature is responsive to the logarithm of atmospheric CO2 concentration; but the same relationship in TCRE carbon budgets is represented as linear. These mathematical errors and inconsistencies make it impossible to relate the IPCC carbon budget construction shown in the image above to the theory of anthropogenic global warming. Details of this mathematical inconsistency in carbon budgets are provided in a related post on this site:

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  • Bree Bites Food: Loved reaading this thanks
  • Laurence Hunt: Oh yeah, I reposted on Twitter.
  • Laurence Hunt: I take global warming as a serious issue, though I favour private (investment-based) solutions to anticapitalism, government expansion and tax increas
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