This is the first day that countries can give their one year notification to leave the Paris agreement. It's no surprise that the US has given notification. But he is not speaking for the city of Pittsburgh, who have taken strong action on climate change for over a decade, and many others in the US are in support of the agreement. Withdrawal is largely symbolic, and won't change anything, as there is no longer central federal support for climate action in the US as is.
Right now China is the key, as their are the biggest emitter, and their emissions are still rising, while the US emissions are reducing naturally through competition with renewables and the actions of the many in the US who do care about climate change. The next president can rejoin in the first 30 days after taking office. Perhaps even Trump could change his mind, given the increasing groundswell of support for climate action amongst the younger Republican voters. If not, hopefully they rejoin in 2024.
You can watch his speech about it here
As with his original announcement in 2017, he says he is doing this on behalf of the people of Pittsburgh:
My job is to represent the people of Pittsburgh not the people of Paris.
But Pittsburgh is one of the many US cities with its own independent strong climate action plan as its Mayor tweeted after the original announcement
As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future. https://t.co/3znXGTcd8C— bill peduto (@billpeduto) June 1, 2017
For instance the city of Pittsburgh purchases 25% of its energy from renewable sources each year, as part of its Climate Action Plan 3.0 and signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement in 2007. See: .Sustainability & Resilience
I've made this meme to highlight this paradoxical state of affairs:
There I have photoshopped the Global Carbon Atlas behind president Trump. The mention of Pittsburgh was already there.
California which would count as the fifth largest economy if it was a separate country, is targeting zero emissions by 2050 - which it can do independently of the Federal government.
Nobody else has withdrawn - which is really confirmation that everyone in the world except the US is on board with it. Even Brazil is - Bolsonaro floated the idea of withdrawing but never went through with it.
Here are a couple of news videos about the withdrawal:
Coincidentally the US doesn't actually withdraw until the day after the next election. If any of the Democrats candidates win, they would immediately rejoin and will have 30 days to do it.
Also Trump could change his views in a year. For instance, could youth Republicans (who are more concerned about climate change) put enough pressure on him to change? Could his decision change during the election campaign and debates?
He hasn’t tried any kind of renegotiation. It’s not clear what that would mean anyway, as the commitments are voluntary; the US could have just set an unambitious target like Russia.
Russia’s existing policies will actually lead to reducing emissions but its Paris accord pledges so far are so weak they would allow it to increase emissions to up to 24% above 2016 levels by 2020 and up to 22% above them by 2030.
The Green Climate Fund is to help developing countries to make deeper carbon cuts, e.g. by rapidly transitioning to renewables, and to adapt, e.g. protection from sea level rise.
Obama promised a total of $3 billion, and transferred $1 billion before leaving office.
This makes it a total of $2 billion that the US has saved by withdrawing from it - not “trillions and trillions”.
The US could easily have just withdrawn from the Green Climate fund. Or, simpler, it could have changed its contribution from $3 billion to $1 billion, so that it has all been paid. Russia’s contribution is only $3 million. Green Climate Fund contributions.
Instead it has given notice that it will withdraw from the agreement altogether. This is largely symbolic.
If the US does withdraw though it's not such a big deal either.
It is the second largest emitter, but its emissions are falling anyway. Not as fast as their Paris pledge, but nto far off. Meanwhile India, China and Russia, the other top emitters, all have increasing emissions and the first step is for them to level off and reduce emissions.
This shows the carbon emissions for 2017
Also Trump's attempts to revive the coal industry aren't working, fossil fuels, especially coal, are uneconomic.
The fossil fuels have low up front costs but very high ongoing costs. The renewables are nearly all up front cost, and these upfront costs are plummeting.
Solar panels, for instance, had a ten-fold reduction in price from the mid 1990s to the mid 2010s and the price is continuing to fall rapidly
- from this 2018 paper Evaluating the causes of cost reduction in photovoltaic modules
In the Middle East solar energy has dropped to below 3 cents per kilowatt hour in some places. It helps to have low cost land, and to have very sunny weather. The US can achieve that too. One of the US plants already quotes less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour without subsidies (there are 30% subsidies):
Unlike China, The US is already industrialized. Its CO2 emissions are very high (though not the highest) and its population is only a fraction of China's. However, its emissions are falling anyway because of the actions of the likes of California, Pittsburgh and many other entities within the US.
Right now for the next few years, China is the key, if the world is to reach zero emissions by 2050 and not use up all its budget of CO2 for 1.5 C.
China needs to peak emissions earlier than its promised 2030, or it's really hard for the rest of us to stay within 1.5 C. However, the signs are it is likely to peak in the early 2020s. It has said it will increase its pledge in 2020 and will map out a way to reach zero emissions later this century (not yet by 2050 probably but zero emissions at all is a big step).
The US is important later in the 2020s and the 2030s as we get closer to zero emissions. But if it rejoins in 2024, say, then that would not make so much of a difference.
Every bit counts of course, but if it is just the US, and Brazil, Australia and Canada that under achieve for the next few years, that's not make or break for 1.5 C. (And Canada may be more ambitious again with the new government)
Also - if we head for 2 C then it's much easier (all this is with margins of error) - it's a case of every 0.5 C counts. The US is not going to make a difference of more than a smidgen of a fraction of a degree with 4 more years of emissions reducing rather less rapidly than it would if they were in the Paris agreement.
On the other hand if the US adopts a very strong climate policy of zero emissions by 2050 or even 2030, then that would be a strong signal to the world.
I.e. it can do a lot positively but not that much negatively and other countries can step up and become the world leaders on Climate if the US doesn't, for the next few years,
Indeed some of the smaller countries such as Finland with its target of zero emissions by 2035, are pioneering the things all of us need to do eventually.
China is showing how you can industrialize while switching to renewables, and in the process it is driving down the costs of renewables throughout Asia and indeed worldwide.
This is another article I'm writing to support people we help in the Facebook Doomsday Debunked group, that find us because they get scared, sometimes to the point of feeling suicidal about it, by such stories.
Do share this with your friends if you find it useful, as they may be panicking too.
CHANGING VIEWS FOR YOUNG REPUBLICAN VOTERS IN THE US
This wasn’t a question about climate change particularly, but asked if they “agreed” or “strongly agreed” with the statement “I worry about the damage humans cause the planet” then the numbers for Republicans generally increased from 47% to 58%.
However for young republicans voters aged 18-34 it rose 18 percentage points to 67% in that same period (for Democrats it’s 83%).
FINDING FROM 2018 - NOT A CLIFF EDGE BUT EVERY HALF DEGREE MATTERS
This was the big finding in 2018. In their review of the literature, they didn’t find any tipping points for climate change over a century timescale. But they did find that there is a significant difference between 2 C and well below 2 C.
There are tipping points for the Greenland and West Antarctic ice, but these unfold over thousands of years, plenty of time to step back from that particular cliff using carbon capture and storage over many centuries.
Techy detail: Greenland ice has a tipping point between 0.8°C and 3.2°C, median 1.6°C. If we cross that tipping point (it is possible we already have) the result is very dependent on future climate, between 80% loss after 10,000 years and complete loss after 2,000 years. The threshold for Western Antarctica (and sectors of Eastern Antarctica) is hard to estimate but probably between 1.5 to 2°C. Most of Eastern Antarctica continues to accumulate ice, as it did through the previous interglacials. See 22.214.171.124 Sea level
The melting of the Arctic sea ice is not a tipping point either, according to the report (see 126.96.36.199 Sea Ice). As soon as we reach zero emissions the Arctic ice then is in steady state and will slowly being to heal as some of the excess CO₂ leaves the atmosphere.
The idea that the climate will suddenly go haywire once all the Arctic ice melts is junk science. The ice only melts in summer and if the entire Arctic melts one year, then that means it freezes much faster the following winter (the ice forms an insulating layer which stops the oceans from freezing so quickly in winter).
The ice albedo effect in the Arctic is not a tipping point because other areas such as the southern Pacific around Australia and Malaysia are getting significantly brighter as a result of global warming and you have to look at the whole picture, which actually is of a planet that is getting slightly brighter, less absorbing of heat as it warms up. See my:
They found no other climate tipping points.
As for ecosystems, the corals go nearly extinct at 2°C but no other major ecosystem is affected. They do not turn to deserts either, sponges may take over for instance.
Some corals such as the ones in the Red sea will survive, because due to a historical accident they are pre-adapted to higher temperatures. Some individual species of coral in the barrier reef are more resistant than others, and corals can certainly adapt given time, since there is a range of several degrees in the temperature conditions that corals do survive in. The issue is that local corals are so finely tuned to local conditions they die after just the minutest of increases. So the problem here isn't really a coral species hard edge for temperatures either, it is more a question of whether they can adapt or move in time. It might be that humans can help to some extent by translocating them artificially, but this is not easy if you have an entire coral reef to maintain. For more about the corals, with a focus on the Australian great barrier reef, see the second half of my
Other coastal ecosystems such as sea grasses, kelp forests, and salt marches span wide ranges of conditions. However, like many of the terrestrial ecosystems, they would be largely unaffected, with many of the species surviving over a wide range of conditions. There are vulnerable spots near the warm edges, however again other species will take over in time, and fish especially can move easily in response to climate change.
- Yes kelp and seagrass also have issues like coral bleaching - but only vulnerable spots near the warm edge of the species range
Even the mangroves, sensitive as they are, survive a 2°C rise fine. This is a major thing to happen to our world, to lose most of the corals, but it does not endanger the planet as a whole or human survivability.
YES THINGS CAN GET BAD IF WE DON’T ACT - THE IPCC WORST CASE
This is one of the IPCC’s scenarios from chapter 3 of the 2018 report. There is nothing remotely like extinction or end of civilization in this scenario. We can still feed everyone as well, though with less food security. It is still a world with much of our natural world still here, the majority of the species survive, not a desert. However it is a world we would not want to head for, with the corals nearly all gone, many areas of the world facing problems, severe loss of biodiversity and increasing rather than decreasing world poverty by 2100.
We are also working on climate resilience, retaining nature’s services, biodiversity, sustainable development, and adaptation. The more we do that, the better our world will be, whether the temperature rise is 1.5°C, or 3°C.
The worst case here is one where all that stops as well. Not likely.
You might wonder why their worst case isn’t “Business as usual”, keeping at our current emission levels through to 2100, and a nearly 5°C rise. However, how likely is that, that we do nothing at all all the way through? It is useful for climate modeling, but not very plausible as a scenario.
Instead their worst case is one in which we do act, but only later in the century. In this future, the Paris agreement falls apart by 2020, and though there are many initiatives locally and nationally they are not enough to make much of a difference. There is little work on climate resilience either, or mitigation, and it’s not until the late 2030s that we start to step up our activity in earnest, with various uncoordinated emergency responses. Sadly, it’s too little, too late, we end up at 3°C by 2100, and then they describe what the world would be like in that scenario.
WE DON’T RUN OUT OF FOOD ON ANY SCENARIO
The world currently produces plenty of food - the problem is distribution not growing enough of it.
For anyone panicking, we do not risk human extinction, nor do we risk not being able to feed everyone. The experts for the UN IPBES report were asked what the world looks like in 2050 in the worst case. One of their experts (Almud Arneth) said:
None of the scenarios we've been exploring would indicate that we cannot feed the world or cannot provide water cannot provide shelter that's for sure. But we can do it in a sustainable way or we can do it in an unsustainable way and that is really our choice.
SO MUCH YOU CAN DO YOURSELF
Many feel helpless, faced by climate change and biodiversity loss. Other people and governments seem to be doing nothing (actually they are doing lots but the news is not shared). There seems nothing they can do personally and the whole thing seems hopeless.
This is so far from true. One person can’t do much but collectively through our life choices we can help transform the planet. Indeed, governments can’t do it by themselves, we are needed too.
The IPCC, and IPBES say a transformative change is needed at all levels in our society to combat climate change and biodiversity loss. This is empowering because it means there is much we can do ourselves already, even if we are in a country where the government is not yet doing anything.
They say that we need changes at a personal level complemented by changes at community levels, and government levels. We also need intergovernmental co-operation and co-operation of cities and communities that cross national boundaries as well as collaboration between governments and local communities.
To take a familiar example, recycling would never work if people didn't separate their rubbish and put it in the appropriate recycling bins. That transformation happened in the UK in my liftime - in the 60s and 70s hardly anyone recycled. Now just about everyone does, in the UK at least.
It’s the same with food waste, once consumers realize that it is a significant issue for the envronment and the planet, they are likely to voluntarily choose to act to reduce the amount of food they waste in the kitchen.
It’s the same also with meat. Once we know about the impact of intensively farmed meat on the planet, then many may choose to eat less meat. This is working already. We don’t all need to act, it’s enough if a significant number of us do, to make a big difference.
You do not have to do all of these things, or any of them. It may help to think it more in a positive way. If you want to help the planet, these are all things you can do that will make a difference, if significant numbers of us do the same.
There are many excellent and strong reasons to act promptly on climate change. It is important to combine food security with preserving biodiversity and nature services. But IPBES made it clear we don't face a future where it is impossible to grow enough crops to feed everyone.
YES GOVERNMENTS ARE ACTING
And the governments are acting. Not enough yet. But it was never the idea of the Paris agreement that we would be able to pledge to 1.5 C right away. China, for instance, is rapidly industrializing, and didn’t yet have a large scale renewables industry in 2015. The state of technology back then was such that to supply all of Chinese electricity from renewables would have been very expensive, technologically challenging and there would have been possibilities for large scale problems.
Fossil fuel power stations have low start up costs but high on going costs, both economically (the cost of the fuel) and to our world (from the CO2 emissions).
Renewables have high start up costs, originally very high, but minimal ongoing costs as there is no need for any fuel.
In this situation it makes sense for an industrializing country like China to continue to build fossil fuel power stations. If China and India increase their pledges to 1.5°C compatible, then they will need to be used for less than the industrial average of 53% capacity for 40 years. But it still makes sense as a way to keep the lights on as they industrialize.
Coal is already uneconomic to the point that for most of the world population, a renewables power station makes more financial sense. Indeed, even in the UK, solar is competitive with the lowest price fossil fuels power station.
- New study does NOT conclude that we have too many fossil fuel power plants and vehicles to stay within 1.5°C
THREE THE TOP SEVEN EMITTERS ARE OVER ACHIEVING ON THEIR PARIS PLEDGES
What I’ve done is to look at the top seven emitters. These emit three quarters of global emissions.Of those, China, the EU, and India are over achieving on their pledges. Russia is keeping their pledge from 2015 (Russia is critically insufficient according to CAT but the question is whether they are keeping their very inadequate Paris pledge and the answer is yes).Japan is not quite on track. While Brazil is under achieving (basically not trying under Bolsorano) and the US is going to withdraw from the agreement but does have reducing emissions almost tracking its Paris pledge so far.
WE ARE NOT IN THE MIDDLE OF A MASS EXTINCTION
By "At the brink of a mass extinction" scientists mean one that would unfold over SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS if we continued at our current rate of extinction of 2% per century for amphibians, and less for birds, mammals etc. At that rate it would he 2,000 years for 20% of amphibians to go extinct, amongst the most at risk of them all.
Yes it is many times the background rate but it's not what most people understand by "at brink of a mass extinction" they imagine something that would unfold over a few decades.
Of course the rate may go up but it can also go down.
The point of the IPBES study is that we know what is causing this, with perverse agricultural subsidies that encourage harm to biodiversity as their top reason why creatures are going extinct. Their report was about how we can SAVE a million species (half of those million are insects BTW, which is only 10% of insects and many others are minute sea creatures). That million includes many species with a 10% risk of extinction by 2100 and ones that have small or fragmented populations.
The killer frog disease peaked in the 1980s.
MANY MISTAKES IN THE MEDIA
If have come to think from media stories that we risk running out of oxygen, or deadly heat that would kill billions, or that all the ice in Greenland could melt this century or that insects can go extinct or that we will run out of topsoil, or face a world without higher animals, birds or common trees, see my fact checker - you’ll be surprised in a positive way.
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Seven tips for dealing with doomsday fears
If you are scared: Seven tips for dealing with doomsday fears which also talks about health professionals and how they can help.
If in the middle of a panic attack, see
- Breathe in and out slowly and deeply to calm a panic attack by Robert Walker on Debunking Doomsday
- Tips from CBT - might help some of you to deal with doomsday anxieties
- STOPP skill
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