Climate Change

U.S. and China Both Pledge Nothing at U.N. Climate Summit

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Obama Climate Change
UN

New York-At the United Nations Climate Summit today, the world's two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, China and the United States, both held off on making any specific additional pledges regarding their future emissions. In 2012, humanity emitted 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, of which 10 billion came from China and 5.2 billion from the United States. Convened by General-Secretary Ban Ki Moon, the Summit is supposed to "catalyze action" in advance of the big U.N. climate change conference at Paris in 2015. At the Paris conference, the nations of the world are supposed to make pledges to cut their emissions sufficient to keep future warming below the internationally agreed upon threshold of 2 degrees Celsius. It is not at all clear that today's Summit catalyzed much more than pious clichés.

In his remarks before the U.N. General Assembly, President Barack Obama opened by noting that while the world is confronting the current issues of terrorism, instability, inequality, and disease, "there's one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate." The president proudly added that since he took office the U.S. produces three times more electricity from the wind and 10 times more from the sun. How much is that? The Energy Information Administration reports that in 2013 electricity from wind power amounted to 4.13 percent and solar to 0.23 percent of supply.

The president observed that "the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution by more than any other nation on Earth." In fact, by 2012, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions were down by more than 12 percent over the 2007 peak; down to about where they were in 1994. However, emissions upticked 2 percent in 2013. While the president reiterated his pledge that the U.S. would by 2020 cut its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below the levels emitted in 2005, he held off making any new ones, promising that "by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target."

With China clearly in mind, President Obama declared, "We can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation –- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass."

Zhang
UN

General Secretary Ban Ki Moon had hoped to attract heads of state of most the big emitting countries to the Summit, but China's President Xi Jinping declined to come. Instead, Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli put forward China's views at the international confab today. Like Obama before him, Zhang largely stuck to restating China's earlier pledge of cutting its carbon intensity by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level. Carbon intensity is the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product—basically burning ever less fossil fuel to produce goods. Zhang noted that by 2013 China's carbon intensity was already down by 28.5 percent. There is plenty of room to improve: China emits almost twice as much carbon dioxide per dollar of GDP as does the United States.

Like President Obama, the Chinese vice-premier was not yet ready to reveal his country's negotiating bid just yet, stating, "We will announce post-2020 actions on climate change as soon as we can." Zhang did, however, suggest that China's future pledges with regard to its greenhouse gas emissions will aim to bring "about marked progress in reducing carbon intensity, increasing the share of non-fossil fuels and raising the forest stock, as well as the peaking of total CO2 emissions as early as possible."  

On the face of it, this part of Zhang's statement – especially the part about peaking emissions—should cheer those concerned about man-made global warming. Well, maybe. In his remarks, Zhang also repeated China's dogged insistence on adherence to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In that treaty, China and a bunch of other developing countries have no firm obligations whatsoever to do anything about their emissions. That treaty was adopted in 1992 when China's was much poorer and its emissions hovered around a third of what they are today. In other words, Zhang seems to be insisting that the world's biggest emitter should be given a "pass" with regard to making any commitments toward actual cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile Zhang also declared that "developed countries need to intensify emission reduction and fulfill their commitment of annual financial support of 100 billion US dollars and technology transfer to developing countries by 2020."

I plan to do a more in-depth report and analysis of what happened – and did not happen – at the U.N. Climate Summit later this week.

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  1. More blab from the blabber. And if that doesn’t work, Obama will blab some more.

  2. U.S. and China Both Pledge Nothing at U.N. Climate Summit

    Yay.

    1. Best case scenario: another failed climate summit.

      1. But, but, but… Kyoto worked, no?

        After all, the planet hasn’t warmed at all since 1997 when Kyoto was passed. It worked!

  3. With China clearly in mind, President Obama declared, “We can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every nation ?- developed and developing alike. Nobody gets a pass.”

    Um, yeah, what are you going to do? Invade China? Revolk their MFN trade status?
    I know…. LETS FUCK UP THE WORLD ECONOMY TO FORCE CHINA TO CUT EMISSIONS!!!

  4. “by early next year, we will put forward our next emission target.”

    “Success looks like at least 7 million people having become CO2-nonemitters by the end of March 2015.”

  5. More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation, and hygiene-related causes.

    How about we tackle a problem that is ALREADY KILLING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE A YEAR before worrying about rising seas that may force people to move.

    1. Re: Tman,

      How about we tackle a problem that is ALREADY KILLING MILLIONS OF PEOPLE A YEAR before worrying about rising seas that may force people to move.

      Who told you the watermelons are concerned about the lives of people? Didn’t you see the guy with the sign that said “Overpopulation Is Not A Myth”?

      1. Didn’t you see the guy with the sign that said “Overpopulation Is Not A Myth”?

        Is that guy still around?

      2. “Overpopulation Is Not A Myth”

        I hope the guy killed himself forthwith.

        Actually, we’ve already reached peak children; the remaining world population growth is really just due to the population pyramid filling up for developing nations.

  6. If the world did come together to develop the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) we COULD solve the problem.

      1. The modifications to the iridium reactor concerned the lead safety engineer. She twitched her tail uneasily as she typed up the memo. “If this goes sour, the only things to survive on the whole planet will be the cockroaches and mammals.”

    1. Just build a simple Molten Salt Reactor running on good ol’ low-enriched U235.. no need to tackle the difficulty of breeding with thorium.

      1. Not so simple if you really want to run LEU. Fuel volumes will need to be significantly larger. The advantage is no chemical reprocessing, but you also don’t get anywhere near the same burn up of fertile material (almost none or else you have to convince yourself you can run in a fast breeder mode).

        Breeding Thorium, given that it’s a thermal process, isn’t hard at all. The challenge is entirely in the chemistry.

        1. There is many more challenges than chemistry (and that is a big one). A core geometry is nowhere close to finalized. No credible design can really run with Th in the U fuel because the large neutron cross section of Pa, so you need to separate. How do you do this? What materials do you use? None of these questions have really been answered. This is all on top of the fact that a 2-fluid reactor adds serious proliferation concerns.

          Besides, there is no need to burn fertile material right now so why add all of that complexity? Your fissile burnup will be higher than any PWR so go with that. I really don’t see what Th adds right now. Uranium is cheap and easy to attain. Its properties well understood in thermal to fast flux.

  7. U.S. and China Both Pledge Nothing at U.N. Climate Summit

    Sometimes you feel like a nut* … and sometimes you DON’T!

    *(Climate Change doomsayer)

  8. I plan to do a more in-depth report and analysis of what happened

    What do you mean? Didn’t the inaction itself speak volumes about the concern for and immediacy of this issue?

  9. The president is too busy bombing Assad’s enemies to be get wrapped up in global climate change.

  10. The good news is that even lefties like Obama have come to this basic mathematical conclusion: anything the US does is NOTHING in comparison with growing economies elsewhere.

    Next step is for them to realize that asking these growing economies to stop emitting is asking them to stop growing. I assume it will take them another 10 years to get that.

  11. as a carbon based life form I’m against this

    1. Many of Obama’s supporters in Hollywood are partially silicone based.

  12. Nothing else happened?

    I take that as a good result. Excellent!

  13. So we purchased a house in Southern California last year with long south-facing roof. Perfect for solar. So I call this company called Varengo Solar to get a quote for putting some panels on the roof. They’ve been calling me non-stop ever since. This was 3 months ago. Here you go search engines Varengo Solar, Varnego Solar, Varengo Solar. WTF is wrong with these people?

    The rebate incentives have gone. California Republicans must have caused that. What’s left as an incentive is the staggering pension liability of Southern California Edison. The SCE rates must go up over the next 20 years to cover that.

    The wife is skeptical and my spreadsheet calcs show the savings as small. Even Varengo Solar didn’t oversell it, at first. The Varengo Solar technician brought up some good points when he with met me. Solar panels have weight and you can only put them on a roof that will not support them. You cannot cost-effectively put solar panels on an old roof that’s due for replacement within the next 10 years. You will not a get a positive ROI by going off-grid with batteries in the near future.

    I’m still cool with the idea, but this type of technology comes out in baby steps. Speeches and protests from angry liberal arts majors won’t help.

  14. my co-worker’s step-aunt makes $70 an hour on the internet . She has been without work for 5 months but last month her check was $14363 just working on the internet for a few hours. Get the facts visit the site….

    ???????? http://www.netjob70.com

  15. my co-worker’s sister-in-law makes $83 /hour on the internet . She has been without work for nine months but last month her paycheck was $17548 just working on the internet for a few hours. learn the facts here now….

    ???????? http://www.netjob70.com

  16. A non-solution to a non-problem.
    Works for me.

  17. Yes, a lot of it is just talk at this point. But its a start. Compared to where we were in 2007, its improvement. Admitting the problem, and outlining steps to tackle it is a start. We have improved fuel efficiency standards, more and more businesses are stepping up. When you have a BUSINESS like PriceWaterhouse Coopers, one of the world’s largest tax, audit and consulting firms, putting out graphics like this…

    http://www.pwc.co.uk/sustainab…..ding.jhtml

    …then you know things are changing when that is what they are advising some of the world’s largest Fortune 500 companies. And they did not stop there, they also included what countries must do, You would think this pamphlet came from the IPCC, but no, its from business.

    http://www.pwc.co.uk/sustainab…..hway.jhtml

    There is hope.

    1. No, what you have is an entire industry of leeches who have co-opted the government in a massive program of money grabbing.

      10 years ago, I watched venture capital going into new versions of software to make peoples’ lives better. In the last 5 years I’ve watched as those VCs moved billions of dollars into Solar and EV startups whose business plan was solely based on getting tax credits and subsidies from the government.

      The Green Industrial Complex is slowly eating up more and more of our budget. The only good news is that they haven’t been able to accomplish mandates anywhere but a handful of states.

      1. 10 years ago, I watched venture capital going into new versions of software to make peoples’ lives better.

        10 yrs. ago, I was in biomedical research and grad students and post-docs were complaining that money was lean. I exited with the election of the new administration and told several colleagues they hadn’t seen anything yet and that if they wanted funding, they were going to have to work renewable energy into their research. Low-and-behold, the NIH is suffering a crisis of systemic underfunding and ‘hyper-competitiveness’ and we’re flushing green energy money down the crapper.

        I love how, when these coporations are in the pocket of big oil, they’re vicious, corrupt, greedy, cronyists, mercenaries. But when they ‘switch sides’ they’re suddenly enlightened, pioneering, visionaries of the new economy rather than just vicious, corrupt, greedy, cronyist, mercenaries that are seeking a new source of funding.

        1. Or when they are exactly big oil themselves, they are doing God’s work. But the minute they admit the reality of AGW, they are on the take.

      2. This is PwC. It has nothing to do with green. They have done more work for big oil than they ever have for green firms.

  18. In other words, Zhang seems to be insisting that the world’s biggest emitter should be given a “pass” with regard to making any commitments toward actual cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

    If the pass given to the current leading emitter works out as well as the pass given to the previous leading emitter did, we should be in pretty good shape.

    Also, from what I hear about Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai; CO2 emissions should be pretty low on the list anyway.

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