Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Klimazwiebelists have to say on the COP21 result

All have an opinion on the result of COP21, even if these opinions may be based on rather different perceptions of the results. But we thought that it could be interesting if we Kimazwieblists would present some individual views. Four of us, Reiner Grundmann, Werner Krauss, Hans von Storch and Eduardo Zorita, have taken on the challenge - here are their views (in alphabetical order):

Reiner Grundmann

Pretty much everyone was taken by surprise that not only did the Paris agreement come to pass, but that it entails a much more ambitious goal than previously thought possible. Even the EU Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action admitted today (three days after the adoption of the treaty) that they had not looked into the implications of this target.

COP21 may have been a masterstroke in diplomacy but it is not a roadmap to decarbonization. The diplomatic agreement was made possible through various developments over the last months, among them the US China alignment. During the negotiations in Paris, a compromise on two key fronts was decisive: 
(1) denying developing countries compensation in exchange for a more ambitious target (1.5 C), and 
(2) replacing the formula of greenhouse gas neutrality for net zero carbon emissions.

Both terms are different. Net zero carbon emissions are much harder to achieve than greenhouse gas neutrality. Future fossil fuel emissions from existing infrastructure alone would increase temperatures by 1.3 C above pre-industrial levels. And we are adding more fossil fuel plants to this infrastructure. 

The final text wants to see a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions “as soon as possible”, and achieve a “balance” between emissions and sinks in the second half of the century.

What does this mean? It means that the coming months will expose the goals as unachievable on current technologies and trajectories. There is a stark choice: either radically new zero carbon technologies will be stimulated, or geo-engineering solutions will be promoted. Both could be developed unilaterally, or within a multilateral framework.
Diplomacy has achieved a stunning result, but the job only has started.

Werner Krauss

Paris means hope - COP 21 should leave everyone happy, at least for the moment. Only recently, Paris was a synonym for a world shaped by terror. Now Paris stands for the will of humanity to take care of a common planet, with the new climate treaty as a powerful symbol. And we should not underestimate symbols; symbols are facts, too. Once again, climate scientists played the role of the high priests by providing the magic 2-degree target that finally enabled small islands, emerging and developed nation states to find common ground.

It was left to the Pope and environmental activists to add some realism: they reminded us that climate is first and foremost a relationship between human and non-human actors, angels included. From now on, climate change will more than ever serve as a powerful point of reference for the fight of indigenous groups for environmental justice; for the development of new technologies, or for treaties among powerful nation states in order to reduce their carbon emissions. Nothing is solved yet, but the door is still open.

Hans von Storch

I welcome the COP-21 agreement as constructive and as an effort to deal with the real problem, which is the change in climate, related to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, for political reasons an unreachable goal is included – namely of limiting the change of global mean air temperature to a maximum of 1.5 degree – but voicing impossible wishes may have its therapeutic value.

The agreement is of significance because it places the implementation of measures for reducing emissions and for dealing with the consequences of anthropogenic climate change at the forefront, while legal issues and thus expected future conflicts of national and ideological interests occupy less attention. The concern is about the future of the climate system, not about the legal opportunities of labelling oneself and others as good or evil. The governments of almost countries agree that both issues, the emissions and thus the accumulation of greenhouse gases, and the vulnerability to extreme weather events need attention. The positive aspect is that the governments agree that the choices must be temporarily flexible and conditional upon, in particular, the development goals of the different countries.

Admittedly, I do not expect that the bundles of measures, which will be implemented in the future, will allow meeting the 2 degree goal. But in the course of time additional significant options will emerge, so that the climatic development will become less and less unfavorable in the coming decades.

However, agreeing on the treaty should be wake-up call for climate science, if it can contribute to a better debate and political decision making process. This means that it confronts the ubiquitous warning practice by some scientists that this and that drama will unfold if certain political measures are not taken. Science should also engage in robust monitoring efforts, for accurately determining both emissions and the response in terms of climate change; new options for mitigation as well as reducing vulnerability should be researched. And finally, science should oppose the trivializing narratives that almost all extreme weather events are significant because they are ”due to” anthropogenic climate change; that most negative social developments are related to changing climatic conditions. These narratives contribute to a dramatizing of the climate change problem, and maybe lead for a short time to heightened attention, but another effect is that other significant failings, such as insufficient adaptation or the consequences of European colonialism, are minimized.

Eduardo Zorita
The agreement reached by the Conference of the Parties in Paris to limit  greenhouse gas emissions reminds me of other declarations that have been  touted in the past as 'historical steps' forward: the EU Lisbon  declaration (2000) to establish Europe as the most competitive economic  region in the word by 2010 (!) or the Euroland comprise to limit
government budget deficits to 3% of GDP. The countries that signed the  COP21 agreement were bound to present, already at the Paris conference,  their individual plans to limit their emissions: and yet, it turns out  that those plans are not enough to limit the self-imposed warming limit  of 2C. Why should a voluntary treaty, signed by the very same countries,
work better ?

The only mechanism that could contribute to limit emissions and that I  could identify more or less in the text of the agreement is the indirect threat to oil and mining companies that credit and investment maybe not  yield the expected returns. But that by itself will not help surpass  the technological challenges that still need to be solved to the  expand energy production by renewables.

All in all, my view is that the COP saga is the wrong path to mitigation.


Hans von Storch said...

The Helmholtz Association (HGF) has also assembled a list of statements and published on its web-page, see: http://www.helmholtz.de/erde_und_umwelt/paris-ist-nur-der-anfang-5060/, however in German (note that the my entry here is an extended version of my HGF statement transferred into a kind of English).

Roddy said...

I love Werner. Especially when he's on this form.

richardtol said...

The Paris Agreement is, in my mind, the first attempt at realism in the international climate negotiations and is therefore to be welcomed. At the same time, climate policy is still long on rent-seeking and short on emission reduction. More details will appear tomorrow.

More importantly, the Climate Onionists again show the way. The four contributors could not disagree more, but do so in a respectful and amicable manner.

Anonymous said...

It's complicated. The climate onionist disagree, but in some way I agree with all of them. Paris is a symbol and it's difficult to assess its implications on societies and politics (or policies?) in the next decades.


Anonymous said...

"There is a stark choice: either radically new zero carbon technologies will be stimulated, or geo-engineering solutions will be promoted."

There is another possibility: that the vague agreement will be ignored, illustrated by the latest news that India, Japan and South Korea are going ahead with their plans to build new coal-fuelled power stations.

heidruns hønseri said...

Herr von Storch

"For political reasons an unreachable goal is included- namely of limiting the change of global mean temperature to a maximum of 1.5 degree- but voicing impossible whishes may have its therapeutic value."

Jenes ist nach meiner Ansicht schlechte, ich darf sagen QVAKK- salberische Terapie. Das Denken und Sinnen oder das Gehirn zu amputieren um leichter Kamele schlucken zu können, ist gar nicht so gesund. Aber vielleicht kann es eben "politisch" sein.

Ich mag sowas gar nicht. Ich erzähle dann eher Abendteuer oder versuche den Pazienten in andere, presumtiv ehrliche und erlaubte Weisse zu helfen oder trösten oder zu ermuntern, obwohl die Sache ehrlich gesagt hoffnungslos aussieht und nicht mehr in menschliche Mandat liegt zu ändern.

Denn gerade wo es ganz unmöglich ist, und das ist es öffter im Leben, sollte man nicht den verstand verlieren sondern eher was anderes machen um doch das beste aus der Situation zu haben. Das ist wohl auch die bessere therapie oder poltik oder?

Und das heisst offt sich anpassen können und irgendwie in möglichst bester Weisse damit leben können, was auch öffter das gesundere ist.

Ich würde mich viel bequemer fühlen wenn ich zb hier in Norwegen eher den offenbar starkeren Wachstum auch noch im Hochgebirge, und dazu noch die Fischereien und die Wasserkraft diskutieren konnte, denn das ist alles realistisch und machbar, falls wir alle Holländer und auch noch die Ostfriesen hierher holen müssen. Aber diese 1.5 deg, damit kann ich nichts anfangen.

Fernando Leanme said...

World crude oil and condensate production is slightly less than 80 million barrels of oil per day (the 90 million plus you are used to seeing includes other liquids, such as NGL and biofuels). OPEC nations, Russia, Kazakhstan, & China produce about 2/3 of the total crude oil and condensate. These nations won't be too impacted, impressed, or bothered by a divestment campaign or a perception that oil isn't about to be producible. They simply go on with their lives.

Other nations produce the remaining 1/3, but only Canada has meaningful long term resources. The others have very short lived reserves. Exploration for new oil resources in conventional reservoirs isn't faring well. The world is simply running out of the stuff. Non conventional oils are very expensive to extract, they will suck huge amounts of cash and resources in the future.

Thus the way I see it the world is already heading towards lower emissions because humanity uses resources at huge rates. And the only viable option to cure the emissions problem with existing technology is a combination of nuclear power with geoengineering.

Günter Heß said...

Watch out onionist, be aware, hide and fear, Naomi Oreskes in the Guardian is looking for a new form of climate denial als celebrated by James Hansen and Kerry Emannuel.

eduardo said...

Assuming that this climate treaty would be adequate, even as a first step (I assume the the second step will be in COP42?) , looking back at the the history of the 20th century, I cannot honestly believe that a world-wide international treaty that redefines the world energy supply can last for several decades, let alone 100 years.
Non-carbon energy generation can only sustainably expand when it becomes more advantageous for each individual country., either for economical or geopolitical reasons.

Werner Krauss said...


maybe the assumption that nation states are only driven by economic or geopolitical reasons is wrong, and this is why science-based climate politics failed up to now. In the recent decade, there were many social movements that questioned these assumptions that became the hallmark of neoliberal (climate) policies. Rio 1992 serves as a foundational myth for a vision of a world where taking care of people and their environment is the main driver, and where an idea of humanity and a commonly shared atmosphere supersedes national interests. This post-cold-war transition is reflected in the climate treaty. Seen from this perspective, the climate treaty changes the general terms and conditions of climate politics. I admit that this is an optimistic interpretation, but the treaty does not speak for itself, it only speaks through its interpreters. And I agree that the job still has to be done, of course.

hvw said...

Werner, I don't get that:

"maybe the assumption that nation states are only driven by economic or geopolitical reasons is wrong, and this is why science-based climate politics failed up to now."

How does "science-based climate politics" imply "economic or geopolitical" motivations to act? Some economists calling themselves "scientists" doesn't make economic motivation more sciency than, say, humanitarian motivation. What is wrong with the idea that a "scientific basis" can underlie any values-derived reasons to act (or not act)?

Werner Krauss said...


oh me oh my, my expression sounds like misleading sloppy language? My arugment is not against science per se, but against "current science-based climate politics" that rests on these assumptions. Okay?

Freddy Schenk said...

I agree with Eduardo here that...

... the indirect threat to oil and mining companies that credit and investment maybe not yield the expected returns

... is perhaps a real step forward. This is partly already happening (just check RWE, EnBW etc.). I think also the increasing pressure by more and more citizens to "motivate" companies to divest from dirty energy can further stimulate the shift of big money to other technologies just as a matter of image or losing customers. I noticed that other scientistis here at the AGU think that this point might become more relevant than the agreement in Paris. Will we get a bottom-up movement to more efficient emission reductions with politicians and companies rather reacting than acting?

Best greetings from San Francisco,

Fernando Leanme said...

Freddy, most oil and gas companies are used to dealing with risk. And most of those risks are much more troublesome than seeing Christina Figueres claim they won't be able to produce all their oil and gas reserves in the future.

Their main problem is depletion of existing reserves, and their inability to replace them. Inability to replace reserves leads to lower production rates, which in turn lowers sales, unless unit prices go up. My guess is that most oil companies are starting to strategize how to survive the future crunch (which has nothing to do with the short lived price swoon we are seeing in 2014-15-16).

Thus company strategies will probably involve cannibilizing the weaklings, we should see industry consolidation and much more nimble sharks surviving in a world with disappearing resources.

eduardo said...



The Rio Conference was held in 1992. This was 25 years ago. Isn't it about time to think autocritically and ponder whether the whole process is working or not ? If you look at the curve of emissions - arguably the best way to evaluate the success of the process, you cannot see any influence of any climate agreements so far. Sure, one answer is the global conspiracy argument. But I would rather expect a more comprehensive and more down-to-earth analysis of why we have only seen very limited results so far.

We have many other examples from which it is rather clear that the direct model science-speaks-to-policians is nor correct. Take, for instance, nuclear power. The science is the same, and yet Germany and France have taken very different paths. Is the nuclear lobby much stronger in France than in Germany ? are the French stupid ? or is it rather the complex interaction of culture,history, economics, etc. that determines the policy response ? All that is absent in COP. COP assumes that once science has spoken it is just a matter of (lacking) political will. I think this is totally misguided.

Werner Krauss said...


sure, I can share your concerns; I just try the positive interpretation.

By the way, there is possibly a contradicition in your argument: on the one hand, you say a simple linear science-politics approach does not work. On the other hand, you say a simple (scientific) emission curve is the best measure for political failure or success. This ends in a double-bind, right?

Rio 1992 started after a world divided by the Cold War. Only 25 years later, a vision of a non-divided world is at hand in form of the Paris treaty. Failure or success? It is no longer capitalism versus communism, it is humanity having to live with climate change. This is in terms of politics maybe a fundamental, ground breaking change and a pre-condition for reducing carbon emissions on a global level. Maybe. Or maybe not and your pessimistic version is true. As said before, there is no objective measure to judge this treaty; each interpretation changes content and effect of the treaty in discussion. From this (humanities) perspective, natural science indeed does no longer talk (directly) to politics: falsification is not possible, emission curves only serve in a limited way to judge politics, and climate change is not primarily a technological problem to be solved by experts. Instead, it is a political problem all nation states have to deal with, a.s.a.p. I see a little hope (might be due to the overall end of the year atmosphere).

Werner Krauss said...


Oliver Geden vertritt eher Deine Meinung im Interview in der FAZ und sagt: "2 Grad sind unrealistisch". Im unten stehenden Ausschnitt aus dem Interview fällt mir auf, dass der Begriff 2 Grad es ermöglicht, entweder diese als Symbol zu verstehen oder aber sie "wörtlich" zu nehmen. Deutlich an der Stelle wo Oliver sagt: Aber das bleibt nur Symbolpolitik - um dann die "harten Fakten" ins Spiel zu bringen. Doch wann ist es legitim, das eine gegen das andere auszuspielen? Schwierige Frage. Hier Oliver:

Kommt das Pariser Ergebnis zu spät, um das Zwei-Grad-Ziel zu erreichen?

Ich halte bloß zwei Grad Erwärmung bis Ende des Jahrhunderts für unrealistisch. Um eine solche Obergrenze einzuhalten, kommt Paris einfach zu spät. Dafür sind die jetzt zugesagten Emissionsminderungen viel zu gering. Auf Basis der jetzt eingereichten Zusagen wird das Emissionsbudget dafür bereits im Jahr 2037 vollständig ausgeschöpft sein. Vollkommen unrealistisch ist deshalb auch das 1,5-Grad-Ziel. Damit sich die Erde bis zum Jahr 2100 nur um diesen Wert erwärmt, müssten wir in fünf Jahren aufhören, Kohle, Öl und Gas zu verbrennen. Aber gerade hat der indische Energieminister angekündigt, die Kohleförderung zu verdoppeln. Selbst Industrieländer wie Japan und Südkorea wollen sechzig neue Kohlekraftwerke bauen.

Warum hat man die 1,5 Grad dennoch beschlossen?

Das war Teil der Verhandlungstaktik und gleichzeitig eine Art offizielle Anerkennung der Klimarisiken besonders verwundbarer Staaten. Die Weltgemeinschaft hat damit zum Ausdruck gebracht, dass sie die Folgen, die bereits bei einer Erwärmung von 1,5 Grad entstehen, ernst nimmt. Zudem sollte das Signal gesendet werden, dass man klimapolitisch das Maximale anstrebt. Letztlich bleibt es aber Symbolpolitik, mit der die Hoffnung genährt wird, eine Begrenzung auf 1,5 oder maximal zwei Grad Erwärmung könnte noch erreicht werden. Dazu müssten aber nicht nur die CO2-Emissionen schnell und drastisch sinken. Wir müssten nach Berechnungen des IPCC auch negative Emissionen produzieren.


Anonymous said...

Herr Krauss schrieb:
Doch wann ist es legitim, das eine gegen das andere auszuspielen

Ich frage mich, blockiert das Symbol "1,5K" irgendetwas? Verhindert es Lösungen, verbietet es Adaptionen bspw.? Ich habe bisher nichts gesehen, dass das zeigen würde. Ich lasse mich aber gern aufklären.

Klar, es gab unnütze Diskussionen, die aber leicht mit dem Argument "Symbol" beendet sind.

Was sind genau die Auswirkungen des Symbols? Ich finde, die positive Anmerkung von Oliver Geden "... gleichzeitig eine Art offizielle Anerkennung der Klimarisiken besonders verwundbarer Staaten. Die Weltgemeinschaft hat damit zum Ausdruck gebracht, dass sie die Folgen, die bereits bei einer Erwärmung von 1,5 Grad entstehen, ernst nimmt. Zudem sollte das Signal gesendet werden, dass man klimapolitisch das Maximale anstrebt. ...". sehr schön. Aber direkt tut er das als Symbolpoltik ab. Was soll denn sonst auf dem Gipfel beschlossen werden?

Was wäre eine Altnative? 600ppm? Gar kein Ziel, sondern nur die Richtung? Ich finde Gedens Kritik doch sehr an den Haaren herbei gezogen.

Wenn man weiter liest:
Zu hohe Ziele waren das Problem? Huh? . Nee, das war es nicht. Kyoto wurde in den USA nicht ratifiziert, weil es zu hohe Ziele hatte??? Nee, wie will man das denn sinnvoll begründen? Politisch und gesellschaftlich (keine Ahnung) war es eben nicht gewollt. Das ist das "Problem" oder eben auch nicht. Ich finde nicht, dass das was mit dem Umfang des Ziels zu tun hat. Ich sehe da ehrlich gesagt keinen Beweis dafür, insbesondere nicht in der Politik in den USA, die doch speziell ist.

Journalistisch mies ist natürlich die Frage "Ist die Welt jetzt gerettet?". Schöne Vorlage für das weitere Blah. Das ist schon ein wenig peinlich für den "Experten" Geden und die FAZ. Wäre es nicht auch seriös gegangen?

Aber gut finde ich, dass Geden erstmal das Ergebnis als Fortschritt anerkennt und ich finde es auch gut, dass Geden eine Dynamik sieht oder besser hofft, ich finde sogar sie ist längst da, und er will, dass diese gehegt und gepflegt wird (denke ich). Bei aller Kritik an seiner Kritk, ich finde, das ist ein guter Ansatz. Aber ist diese Dynamik nicht das Ergebnis der anderen Anstrengungen, des 2-Grad-Ziels, der technischen Entwicklung, die sich alle nicht in den Emissionen bisher niederschlagen, aber in eine Dynamik? Gäbe es das Ergebnis von Paris überhaupt?

Frohe Weihnachten,

Martin Landvoigt said...

As far as I have learned, this agreement is NOT a binding treaty - more a statement of intend. Officially, because many contributors would not be entitled to sign, including Obama. But also to leave the back door open if someone cannot fulfill the intentions, or may not even put efforts to fulfill. So, what does that mean?

Politically spoken, everyone is sure that isolatated action will not have a chance to have any tangible effect - beside the costs for it. Also, those who like to put some action must have the argument to be part of a world wide movement. Therefore, the agreement will serve. But if all the promises, in any case insufficent, will come true, will be kept is questionable.

On the other hand, climate is by far not sufficiently understood to make reliable predictions. It may happen that there will be no significant rise in earth temperature any more any way. In this case all the action and agreements were futile, but nobody could know. The actors would claim, that their efforts made the point.

In this case: Nothing bad would happen, main goals are achieved, everybody should be happy ... or not? Lots of mony will be spent, and someone has to pay this. Those who pay would be the loosers.

Leonard Weinstein said...

The only comment close to realistic was from Eduardo Zorita. The other commenters made assumptions of the expected temperature rise in the future based on assumptions that have resulted in models that have shown no skill at all. Do you not understand that the temperature is no longer rising (over the last 18 years or so) except for El-Nino and will fall back with La-Nina. Sticking to totally unsupported logic shows something, but I am not sure what.

Anonymous said...

Just an idea that could possibly reduce carbon-emissions and enhance the albedo.

We have very bad logistic systems consuming huge amounts of carbon fuel and polluting the whole planet.

My solution: Huge Zeppelin-airships driven by sails or kites linked to a railway on the ground or to guidance on the sea. They could be transporting huge amounts of goods and radiate sunlight back to space.

Most of the propulsion could be 100% carbon-free either driven by wind or solar power. They could be stabilized either by their huge dimensions or their link to a rail or a kind of water-anchor or cable.

Modern artificial-intelligence-guidance-systems could calculate their trajectory and even generate their propulsion.

If I am the first to express this idea please mention my name:

heidruns hønseri said...


I have a better suggestion.

The rules here are that we must state it in a language that can be understood in Hamborg.
Thus I state:

Mange ting man har besvær med
Klares bedst ved at la`s vær med


By problems, ask H. van Storch to translate it.

Hans von Storch said...

Det lyder som Piet Hein ... Hvem har formuleret dette dybe sandhed -

Mange ting man har besvær med
Klares bedst ved at la`s vær med


heidruns hønseri said...

Hr.van Storch

Det stemmer. Det er Piet Hein selvfølgelig.