COP 26 How Successful?

Discussion in 'Earth Science' started by exchemist, Nov 14, 2021.

  1. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    While I find some aspects of the outcome disappointing (phase "down" coal), it seems to me that huge strides have been made. It's clear that world leaders are now united in recognising the urgency of the problem.

    And remarkably, it seems to be accepted that the developed world will have to transfer funding to the developing world, to compensate for them not being able to use fossil fuels the way the developed world has done.

    Also it has highlighted the various backsliders (Australia, Saudi Arabia, India, China) in a public way, which will put them under pressure.

    Interestingly, there are people already pointing out that India is not really such a villain as it appears as a result of its dirty trick at the conference. India is really strapped when it comes to alternatives to coal, apparently.

    I thought it might be of interest to put up some approx numbers for the relative emission of the 3 main types of fossil fuel.

    Coal: 100kg/GJ
    Oil: 75kg/GJ
    Gas: 50kg/GJ

    Gas has another advantage as it can be burnt in a combined cycle power plant that can get something like 60% conversion to electricity, whereas most coal plants only get 40-50%max.

    So, while renewables and nuclear are obviously the way to go, replacing coal by gas gets you halfway there, so it can help quite a bit.
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  3. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    Did COP26 also publish an estimate of the temperature rise expected, because a new study claims that it will still get to 2.4 degrees; still dangerous but maybe not catastrophic.

    To keep the rise to around 1.5, a lot more is needed; that is, economies need to suffer a bigger hit and the likelihood of that isn't much.

    I think the only way 1.5 is doable now, is if some economies more or less collapse, or if some kind of political action is made against the fossil-fuel industry.

    Yeah, right.
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  5. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    1.5 seems to be an arbitrary(and, most likely meaningless) number
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  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    We are currently at 1.1C - and we already see some of the highly expensive consequences all over the globe. The sea level rise will take longer to feed through, though.

    So 1.5C is not arbitrary: it is the earliest point at which we might be able to arrest the process, given that even with drastic action there will some overshoot.

    But don't worry: idiots like you will all be dead soon. The next generation gets it, even if you don't.
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It's not. It's based on an expert assessment of tipping points in the climate, and more.
  9. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Here is a commentary from the Independent's Hamish McRae:

    Success, or failure, or both? The outcome of Cop26, with its last-minute compromise on running down the use of coal, will be picked over in the coming weeks.
    While it is a temptation to give rapid judgements, one of the overriding lessons from previous climate summits is that what happens in the following year is more important than the wording of the communique at the end of the meeting. With that health warning in mind, here are five thoughts.

    The first is that nailing the need to run down the use of coal is a massive advance. To have India and China onside there, albeit in weakened language, is huge. I suspect in the end it will be economics as much as environmental concerns that determine the pace at which its use will be eliminated. With luck, the falling costs of renewables may make it too expensive to burn coal. But the official commitments do matter.

    Second, the role of NGOs in pushing governments has been really important, and was most evident in Glasgow. To generalise, they have become more effective and coherent in formulating both the dangers of the climate crisis and the opportunities for enterprise that the new technologies might bring. They are at the very centre of policymaking.

    Third, a wall of commercial money will be mobilised to back those new technologies. I commented last week on the initiative headed by Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg to coordinate the big money that will be thrown at efforts to decarbonise the world economy. In the past few days, the market response has rather reinforced that argument.

    The prime example of this was the float on the New York stock market of Rivian, the US start-up that manufactures electric trucks. It was valued at $91bn (£68bn), more than Ford or General Motors. Some have argued that this valuation is outlandish, but it is backed by both Amazon and Ford. So members of both the new and the old US corporate aristocracy are putting their money behind this example of new technology.

    Fourth, environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is sweeping through global markets, and Glasgow has given it a further boost. There is a ratchet effect. These particular concerns have become steadily more important in investment portfolios, and while of course there is the important issue of companies “greenwashing” their products and services, this is a movement that is going in only one direction. Funding new investments that do not pass scrutiny from an ESG perspective becomes more expensive, maybe sufficiently so to render the investment unviable. Those that pass scrutiny find that money is available on better terms.

    Finally, young people are on the side of the push for a greener economic system. Again, this is something that impressed the delegates in Glasgow. The issue is about the pace of change, and young people will drive that. This is not about politics. It is about consumer preferences and about technology.

    Young consumers will set the pace in insisting that the goods and services they buy are produced in environmentally sound ways – or at least, in ways that adopt current best practice. As for improving that practice, many of the new technologies that will speed up decarbonisation do not yet exist. If the recent past is any guide, those technologies will be developed by young people, maybe those currently still in education. After all, the great leaps forward in the past have come from young disrupters, not established enterprises.

    None of this is to play down the sense of disappointment that many people will feel. Cop26 could have gone further. But Glasgow’s miles better – to quote a slogan that was used to promote the city in the 1980s – than it might have been. There was real progress. Let’s wait a year before being either truly confident about that progress or in despair that more was not achieved.

    Let’s see what China, India and the US actually do. Let’s see to what extent the Carney-Bloomberg initiative gathers pace. But it clearly was not a waste of time and energy, and in this troubled world that is a relief.

    What I find most encouraging is the extent to which business and international finance are driving change. In many ways they are ahead of governments. I suppose that is not surprising, given that governments, at least in democracies, struggle to tell their voters that there are things they can no longer have, or which will become more costly. Business, on the other hand, is quick to see money-making opportunities from change.

    But we do now see all governments signing up to owning the problem, too, and to tackle practical steps.

    (What a blessing for the world Trump is no longer in office: he'd have wrecked it.)
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Regarding COP 26, I haven't really kept up with what was achieved.

    What I'm worried about is that it's easy to talk and say good things and to make commitments in writing, but it's another to live up to those commitments with effective action.

    Australia - my country - is not doing anywhere near enough to reduce emissions. Of course, I knew that electing our current federal government would be a mistake from the start, for all kinds of reasons, this being just one of them. But enough other Australians were scared sufficiently to vote them in, despite the clear warning signs (to those interested enough to pay attention to how their nation is governed).

    Australia, under pressure, has just committed to net zero by 2050, but as far as I can tell, the current government has no actual plan for how to get there. In the meantime, the coalition government has significant numbers of members of parliament who are climate change deniers of the typical heads-in-the-sand kind, and some who are happy to spread actual disinformation just like the kind of stuff that sculptor has hoovered up.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2021
    Kristoffer and exchemist like this.
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I agree that this is a positive development. It seems likely that, while at least some governments will drag their feet on taking meaningful action, many businesses can see the writing on the wall and will work to maintain or increase their profits. They are already innovating, and will be driven by market pressures - if nothing else - to do more of it. That does not, of course, mean that government action cannot be incredibly helpful; it would be far better for everybody to work on addressing the problem together, rather than in opposition.
  12. geordief Valued Senior Member

    Would be ironic if the transition to a sustainable economy (and society?) was to benefit from a tipping point effect and the change came sooner than anticipated- or we were even ready for.

    "There's green energy in them thar hills"
  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Yes. Where government must come in is to set the regulations that drive take-up of the new products that business can provide. Without that, business can only sell new climate-friendly products if they intrinsically out-compete the existing technology. This is a tough ask, given the decades of optimisation and supporting infrastructure that have gone into those old technologies.

    So things like carbon taxes, or bans on certain damaging technologies (e.g. IC engined vehicles), are essential in order to make the new technology attractive to buy.
    Kristoffer likes this.
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Yes, and no-brainers like: stop giving government subsidies to fossil fuel industries.
  15. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    What, exactly, do you expect to see at your much ballyhooed "tipping point"?

    A return to the holocene thermal maximum?
    A return to sea levels 3.3 meters above current msl?
    A green sahara??

  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Google is your friend. There's a lot of information that you could easily find, if you're really interested.
  17. Kristoffer Giant Hyrax Valued Senior Member

    Well, sculptor's not really interested. The sand he buried his head in is so pretty up close. And it's also so very hot and getting hotter for some reason.
  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Yes, that that will increase the price of fossil fuels and so help to level the playing field in the competition between fossil fuels and renewable energy.
  19. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    Google is an idiot
    I much prefer to read scientific knowledge without it being buffered through an idiot.
    You did not answer the question. Which, rather implies that you have no answer. You are just singing the party song---(in hopes that that will make you less unpopular?)
    During the holocene thermal maximum, the arctic ocean was, at least seasonally, ice free---leaving beaches on the north end of Greenland.
    A return to the holocene thermal maximum,
    A return to sea levels 3.3 meters above current msl.
    A green sahara,
    An ice free arctic ocean,
    and mountain meadows where now there are glaciers.

    What in hell are you worried about?
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Increased incidence of extreme weather events.
    Extreme changes in climate that will fundamentally change the typical climates of major human-populated areas.
    Mass displacement of human populations caused by rising sea levels and inundation.
    Extinction of certain animal and plant species.
    Increases in human mortality rates from extreme weather events (both heat and cold, as well as storms, blizzards, hurricanes, etc. etc.)
    The irreversibility of climate change for at least millions of years, once certain tipping points have been reached.
    Famine on a mass scale.
    War brought on by certain areas or nations becoming uninhabitable, or at least unable to support their current populations, leading at first to mass migrations of people and later to inevitable conflicts.
    Daily life for the average human being becoming, in general, much more challenging, simply because one will have to cope with the new weather normals.

    That's just a few things, off the top of my head. Not a comprehensive list, by any means.
  21. geordief Valued Senior Member

    Seems ironic.
  22. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    The main problem with nations such as India, China, Australia etc. is that they/we believe they have a choice when in fact there isn't one.
    There simply is no choice and to believe there is one is a part of the denial we all, in sometimes subtle ways, suffer from.
  23. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    Unfortunately, this response is just "megaphone diplomacy", i.e. talking past the other side and blaming it, instead of trying to understand their situation. India in particular faces a genuine political problem, of a scale that is hard for people in developed countries to appreciate. They are rapidly industrialising and people re getting for the first time the electrical appliances we all take for granted. Just telling them they can't use fossil fuel for electricity is a Marie Antoinette, "let them eat cake" attitude. They have to phase coal out, yes, but they can't do it immediately because it's about all they've got to keep up with today's growth in electricity demand. They need either more time or some funding from rich countries to accelerate their transition to solar etc.

    Australia is a quite different case. It has no such problem - in fact I read just today in the Financial Times that energy is now relatively cheap in Australia thanks to the growth of renewable generation. Australia is a climate change laggard because of its coal export business. That is going to die anyway, as countries move away from coal, so the sooner the politicians recognise that and plan for an economy that does not rely on it, the better.

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