Paris Climate Change Conference

Paris Climate Conference Greenhouse Gas Cuts: Almost No Impact on Global Warming

Plenty of economic pain for a likely reduction in global temperature rise of about -0.17°C in 2100



At the end of this month, leaders from 80 countries, including President Obama, will gather in Paris to inaugurate the U.N. climate change conference at which a universal climate treaty is supposed to be adopted. The aim of the treaty is to get countries to agree to policies that reduce their emissions over greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. The goal of the reductions is to prevent global average temperature from rising by more than 2.0 degrees higher than the pre-industrial average. Average global temperature is now about 0.8 degrees Celsius higher.

As part of the process, each country has been asked to submit their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) to future greenhouse gas emissions cuts. The Obama administration pledged earlier this year that the United States would reduce its emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. At the end of October, the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) released its Synthesis Report analysis of those INDCs. The report concluded that when summed together, they will not put humanity on the track toward fulfilling the 2 degree Celsius threshold.

In new study, "Impact of Current Climate Proposals," published today in the journal Global Policy, Bjorn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center think tank, adds up all of the INDCs to see what their overall effect on the future trajectory of man-made global warming would be. The answer: Minuscule.

From the abstract:

This article investigates the temperature reduction impact of major climate policy proposals implemented by 2030, using the standard MAGICC climate model. Even optimistically assuming that promised emission cuts are maintained throughout the century, the impacts are generally small. The impact of the US Clean Power Plan (USCPP) is a reduction in temperature rise by 0.013°C by 2100. The full US promise for the COP21 climate conference in Paris, its so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) will reduce temperature rise by 0.031°C. The EU 20-20 policy has an impact of 0.026°C, the EU INDC 0.053°C, and China INDC 0.048°C. All climate policies by the US, China, the EU and the rest of the world, implemented from the early 2000s to 2030 and sustained through the century will likely reduce global temperature rise about 0.17°C in 2100 (emphasis added). These impact estimates are robust to different calibrations of climate sensitivity, carbon cycling and different climate scenarios. Current climate policy promises will do little to stabilize the climate and their impact will be undetectable for many decades.

In the accompanying press release Lomborg states:


"Paris is being sold as the summit where we can help 'heal the planet' and 'save the world'. It is no such thing. If all nations keep all their promises, temperatures will be cut by just 0.05°C (0.09°F). Even if every government on the planet not only keeps every Paris promise, reduces all emissions by 2030, and shifts no emissions to other countries, but also keeps these emission reductions throughout the rest of the century, temperatures will be reduced by just 0.17°C (0.3°F) by the year 2100.

When releasing the UNFCCC's analysis of the INDCs, U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres declared:

"The INDCs have the capability of limiting the forecast temperature rise to around 2.7 degrees Celsius by 2100, by no means enough but a lot lower than the estimated four, five, or more degrees of warming projected by many prior to the INDCs."

Lomborg counters: 

"That entirely misrepresents the world's options. The 2.7°C comes from the International Energy Agency and essentially assumes that if governments do little in Paris and then right after 2030 embark on incredibly ambitious climate reductions, we could get to 2.7°C. 

That way of thinking is similar to telling the deeply indebted Greeks that just making the first repayment on their most pressing loans will put them on an easy pathway to becoming debt-free. It completely misses the point. 

Figueres' own organization estimates the Paris promises will reduce emissions by 33Gt CO? in total. To limit rises to 2.7°C, about 3,000Gt CO? would need to be reduced – or about 100 times more than the Paris commitments (see figure below). That is not optimism; it is wishful thinking."

What should be done to address the problem of man-made global warming? Lomborg asserts:

"Instead of trying to make fossil fuels so expensive that no one wants them – which will never work – we should make green energy so cheap everybody will shift to it."

For more background, I reported that the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan that aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power generation sector by 32 percent by 2030 would reduce warming in 2100 by -0.015 degrees Celsius. See also, my article, "Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Renewable Energy Technology" in which I calculated that it would cost by 2030 nearly $10 trillion to replace all fossil fuel energy in the United States using current versions of renewable technologies.

Note: I will be publishing daily dispatches from the Paris climate conference starting the second week of December.

Disclosure: The Copenhagen Consensus Center paid my travel expenses to report on one of its conferences. The Center had absolutely no say in my reporting and writing on the conference.