Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2019
Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant and former public servant of 27 years, holding senior policy advisory positions on Kyoto and GHG management issues. He was a diplomat for 10 years prior to that service.
Every day, it seems, the media reports another example of a government or well-known group that has declared a “climate emergency”. Such declarations are based on the thesis that humans are causing potentially catastrophic changes in the global climate and that extremely large reductions in the more advanced countries’ emissions must be made within the next decade or two to “solve” this problem.
The basis for such claims lies in the repeated statements of international organizations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and especially its Special Report 15 of October 2018.
Unfortunately, climate change is a very complex issue. To understand it well, one must read a great deal about science, modelling, economics, and public policy. Few people have the time or patience to do that. For those who challenge the catastrophe thesis, the challenge is to tell a complex story in simple terms that people will understand. To that end, I here offer a set of counterpoints to the climate hysteria thesis.
The Global Situation
- The global climate is affected by both natural and human factors. On average, temperatures have been rising, but not at rates that demonstrate the likelihood of serious environmental damage.*
- There is no remotely compelling scientific evidence that extreme weather events have increased in frequency or intensity in post-industrial times.
- There is no remotely compelling scientific evidence that climate change has resulted in widespread species extinction.
- Sea levels are rising at the rate of 7-8 inches per century, a rate that has remained constant in spite of rising greenhouse gas emissions.
- From 1990 to 2016, carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from fuel combustion rose from 20.5 gigatonnes (Gt) to 32.3 Gt, a rise of 57 per cent.
- Today, emissions are not declining. In fact, carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 were 33.4 Gt compared to 30.0 Gt in 2007. So, emissions increased 11.3% over that period.
- Eighty-four per cent of the world’s primary energy needs are today provided by fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas).
Important Emissions Trends
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) declined at the rate of 123 megatonnes (Mt) per year over the period 2007 to 2016, or 0.8% per year. Meanwhile, the non-OECD countries increased their emissions during the same period at the rate of 417 Mt per year, or 2.9% annually. In other words, emissions growth in the developing countries is more than four times emissions reductions in the developed countries.
- In 2017, the non-OECD countries constituted 63% of global emissions, and the OECD countries constituted 37%. With every passing year, the non-OECD countries hold a larger share of the total.
The Results of the Paris Conference (COP21) in 2015
- The COP21 Agreement imposed no legal obligation on the participating countries to reduce emissions and there are no penalties for failing to do so. The “commitments” countries made there were entirely political.
- If all countries honoured their commitments, global temperatures would be reduced in 2010 by 0.17 degrees C., compared to the notional target of avoiding a 2-degree C. increase.
- The United States has indicated that it will leave the agreement and few, if any, of the developing countries are adhering to their commitments.
- Neither China nor India committed to reduce emissions, only to eventually cap emissions intensity. By 2030, these two countries alone may have combined emissions of 23 Gt.
IPCC Special Report 15
- This report stated that global greenhouse gas emissions must decline by 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030 and to zero by 2050, or else terrible things would happen.**
- A 45 per cent drop from current emission levels would take global emissions down to about 17 Gt. As China and India’s combined emissions by 2030 will exceed that total, the rest of the world (i.e. 195 countries) could reduce their emissions to zero and the IPCC goal still would not be met (i.e. this is impossible).
- Special Report 15 called for a global carbon tax of at least $880 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions; that exceeds the per capita annual average income of much of the developing world (i.e. such a tax is impossible).
- The report said that $2.4 trillion must be invested in non-fossil fuel energy every year from 2015 through 2035, an investment seven times current levels. The interest alone on that amount would be $200 billion per month – more than the whole world now spends on childhood education and environmental protection combined.
- The emissions reductions would be so disruptive of current lifestyles and so contrary to the choices people would make in free markets that they could be achieved only through massive government intervention and the widescale suspension of individual liberties.
*Temperatures have risen since ~1860, but not at rates or range outside of previous warming cycles.
**In fact the scientific report does not make catastrophic claims. The Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) and Headline summaries sound scary. Most commentators never read the scientific report, but rely on the SPM: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2018/07/sr15_headline_statements.pdf
No Climate Emergency:
Faulty Premises=Poor Public Policy on Climate: Friends of Science Rebuttal to IPCC SR15
Faulty Premises – video:
Composition of Global Emissions