Son of Kyoto

The MIT analysis should be a sobering message to the climate change cultists. The Global Change Program at MIT is first rate and is comprised of serious scholars. Jake Jacoby is a well regarded economist and the study conducted by him and his colleague is rich in significance. It is unfortunate, however, that the study is based on a faulty assumption—more about that later.

The odds against any agreement are long, although the parties will find some way to grab victory from the jaws of defeat, and the probability of achieving one that could actually meet the target of 530-580 ppm is zero. The history of the Kyoto process that continues to be the philosophy driving negotiations demonstrates that a flawed process can’t be used to accomplish anything meaningful. That was clear in 1997 and it ought to be clear today. Binding targets and timetables are politically vulnerable and any agreement that excludes developing nations, as Kyoto did, is doomed to failure.

Economies around the globe are weakening. China’s economy is showing signs of slowing, Russia’s economy is either collapsing or on the verge of collapse, and the EU at best is seen as providing meager growth which given the Ukraine/ Russia issue could just as well be negative growth. Under these circumstances, European nations and others like China and India are not likely to agree to near term actions that would produce significant reductions. The emerging economies, especially those in Africa, will continue to focus on economic growth and raising the standard of living for its very impoverished citizens.

As was seen during over a decade of negotiations, emerging economies, including China, demanded that rich countries—EU and US—pay for them to take actions that were not in their economic self- interest. That has not changed. And, with the global economy still weak, there is less of an incentive for them to take serious mitigation actions.

The real message of the MIT study is that the 530-580ppm goal is not realistic. Therefore, what countries should do is thoughtful risk management and adaptation. Sea levels have been rising for centuries, there have been periods hotter than today and also colder, and extreme weather events have for all of recorded history. Nations have to plan to adapt for an uncertain future, independent of the causes for a changing climate. Coastal communities ought to reconsider zoning about how close new structures can be built to the water. Agricultural research is needed to produce crop seeds that are drought resistant and can grow in a colder climate. The development of adaptation technologies along with the export of energy technologies will be of tremendous economic and social benefit to emerging economies where about 1.6 billion people live in abject poverty and suffer high disease and mortality rates.

There is a major disconnect between climate negotiations based on a climate catastrophe later this century and the empirical evidence associated with the 17 year pause in warming.

The foundation for gloom are models which forecast ever rising temperatures if atmospheric concentration exceed 530 or 580 ppm. Time has shown that models based on a linear relationship between CO2 emissions and temperature increases and a high climate sensitivity are seriously flawed. Every model has over predicted the increase in temperature increase since 1998. Although the IPCC admits that the models have serious deficiencies and yet continue to rely on their faulty results.

It is a sign of ideological zealotry when men and women trained in science don’t apply their training to climate change. They developed a theory about CO2 emissions and temperature increases. When the validation failed, as evidenced by the pause, they didn’t change the theory, they have attempted to change the facts with a series of potential explanations that also have not been validated.

Policy makers would be better served by accepting that the climate system is a chaotic system that presently cannot be modeled and is probably insensitive to attempts to alter it. Fewer resources would be wasted by planning for what we actually know about the current climate and investing in producing sound knowledge about all that we don’t know.

 

This article appeared on the National Journal’s Energy Insiders weblog at http://disqus.com/wokeefe/

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