09 June 2021

Trickery in climate neutrality – How "net zero" is secretly being redefined

In the Amazon, fires are contributing to the rainforest becoming a net source of carbon emissions, rather than a natural carbon store
 Corporations and governments will leave out no tricks and lies to give the impression that we are well on our way to halting climate change, while doing too little or nothing. The contradiction between propaganda and fact will become ever larger.

by Wolfgang Knorr, first published at Brave New Europe

Sprawling net zero declarations have recently given us a sense that leaders finally “get the climate crisis”. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), so it goes, has unequivocally judged that we will need to balance all sources and sinks of carbon dioxide by 2050 in order to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement to stop dangerous climate change from happening.

Apart from the fact that the concrete pathways discussed are not in line with the agreement’s goals, there is another important issue lurking in the details.

10 May 2021

What roles for markets and for the state when climate risk is existential?

Climate system tipping points. From Climate Reality Check 2020

This blog is based on a paper given to the University of Hamburg's “Unsustainable Past – Sustainable Futures?” conference on 12 February 2021.  A video of the presentation is available. 

by David Spratt

In his foreword to our 2018 Breakthrough report on scientific reticence and the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, the Director Emeritus of the Potsdam Institute, wrote that:

"When the issue is the very survival of our civilisation... conventional means of analysis may become useless."

And yes, he was talking about the IPCC! This failure of analysis extends beyond the science of climate change, to the political economy of climate disruption. 

The climate policymaking orthodoxy is that markets can efficiently price and mitigate climate risks, but this blog argues that when risks are existential — that is, a permanent and drastic curtailing of human civilisation’s future development — then the damages are beyond calculation. What follows is that conventional climate cost-benefit analyses and climate-economy models, which rely on the quantification of both the potential damages and the  probabilities, are of little value, and that markets cannot efficiently assess or optimally price the risk.

13 April 2021

Net zero emissions must be reached before 2030 for 2°C target, new analysis says


by Michael Mazengarb, RenewEconomy

Calculations of global carbon budgets have underestimated potential increases in global temperatures, and the world will have to dramatically accelerate its decarbonisation efforts, a new analysis of climate projections has argued.

According to new briefing note published by the  National Centre for Climate Restoration, also known as Breakthrough, carbon budgets calculated by authorities like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are virtually meaningless due to a failure to adequately account for feedback effects, and are likely to lock in higher temperature increases.

02 March 2021

Zero by 2050 or 2030? 1.5°C or 2°C? Overshoot or not? Demystifying carbon budgets.

by David Spratt

Confused about carbon budgets for the Paris climate  goals? Zero by 2050 or 2030? 1.5°C or 2°C? Overshoot or not?

There is a maze of contradictory positions,  claiming to be based on research evidence. But the assumptions behind much of that evidence obscures some startling conclusions.  

The Breakthough Briefing Note on "Carbon budgets for 1.5 & 2°C",  released today, explores some of the myths and realities about the Paris Agreement targets and the associated carbon budgets, and what it would really take to achieve them.

The main findings are:

  • IPCC carbon budgets underestimate current and future warming, omit important climate system feedback mechanisms, and make dangerous assumptions about risk-management.
  • 1.5°C of warming is likely by 2030 or earlier, a product of past emissions.
  • There is no carbon budget for the 1.5°C goal; such “budgets” rely on overshoot, with unrealistic reliance on speculative technologies.
  • The current level of greenhouse gases is enough for around 2°C of warming, or more.
  • 2°C of warming is far from safe, and may trigger the “Hothouse Earth” scenario.
  • There is no carbon budget for 2°C if a sensible risk-management approach is taken.
  • Even accepting the IPCC carbon budget for 2°C at face value, emissions need to be zero before 2030 for developed countries with higher per capita emissions.

08 February 2021

Matters of fact that we ignore at our peril

by David Spratt

“Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless.”  

That statement, by Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, was the starting point for a presentation I gave on Tuesday 2 February at the "Matters of Fact" public forum organised by the National Climate Emergency Summit as part of its Reset.21 series of public discussions.

On the panel were Sir David King, former Chief Scientific Adviser for the United Kingdom and Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate scientist from the University of NSW. The moderator was journalist and university teacher Jo Chandler.

The video of the event is available on YouTube...  


27 January 2021

New research on forests and oceans suggest projections of future warming may be too conservative, with serious consequences


By David Spratt

How much will the world warm with ongoing fossil-fuel carbon emissions? It’s a big question that preoccupies policymakers and activists, with important discussions about when the world will hit two degrees, are we really on a path to four degrees of warming with current Paris commitments, and so on.

And the answer is that the world is likely to warm more than current projections, if two recently published pieces of research on the terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks are any guide.

Warming projections and carbon sinks. Future warming projections come from complex climate models, which combine historic data, current observations, equations that encompass current understandings of the bio-geo-physical processes, and some assumptions about processes where direct observation or modelling is more difficult.