The Paris agreement on Climate Change is cause for hope. In honesty, I cried at the news.
But the task that the countries of the world have set for themselves is breathtakingly difficult.
And in the euphoria surrounding the Paris Accord, I am not sure the level of difficulty has been properly conveyed.
The process will involve an entire century of ever stronger commitment to meet even the most minimal of targets.
Imagine going on a long car journey full of 200 ‘children’ who will bicker and fight – some of whom are not too bright but are armed with nuclear weapons. How long will it be until we hear the first ‘Are we there yet?’ or ‘ I wanna go home now!’ or ‘ Can I have some extra oil now?’ or ‘It’s all Johnny’s fault!’ or ‘It’s not fair!’
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is the Financial Times that has cut to the chase with an Interactive Calculator that shows the level of emission reductions required to meet various warming targets.
The calculator indicates that if we continue on our current path, we are headed (in our best estimation) towards 6 °C of global warming.
The calculator then allows you to see the anticipated effects of the pledged emission reductions.
What is shocking is that even the drastic (and barely believable) reductions pledged in Paris are not sufficient to achieve the 2 °C limit.
“It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”
Hansen suggests all governments should institute a $15/tonne carbon tax (rising each year by $10/tonne) . He sees the price of oil (and coal and gas) as the single essential lever we need to pull to achieve our collective goals.
Personally I am with Hansen on the need for urgent action right now, but I feel more charitable towards our leaders.
I don’t know whether it is more rational to feel hopeful or fearful.
But despite myself, I do feel hopeful. I hope that maybe in my lifetime (I expect to die aged 80 in 2040) I will have seen global emissions peak and the rate of increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide begin to flatten.