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Climate Policy Actually Slowed Decarbonization Trends

Paris climate agreement will reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100

SmokingChimneysWesselCirkelDreamstimeWessel Cirkel/DreamstimeForty rich countries agreed in the Kyoto Protocol to cut by 2012 their future greenhouse gas emissions by around 5 percent below what they were emitting in 1990. The United States, which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, would have been required to cut its emissions by 7.2 percent below their 1990 levels. A new study, "Does Climate Policy Matter?," by the folks at the eco-modernist Breakthrough Institute looks how greenhouse gas trends fared before and after the treaty was negotiated. The Breakthrough analysts point out that the downward trend in carbon intensity (that is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to produce a unit of GDP) and upward trend in generating low-carbon energy for signatory countries actually slowed once the Kyoto Protocol was finalized in 1997. From the analysis:

Overall, the carbon intensity of economies that were party to the Kyoto Accord fell more rapidly in the decade before the agreement was signed than in the decade after. In the 10 years before signing, the compound annual growth rate for carbon intensity was -0.7%. In the 10 years after signing it was only -0.2%. Similarly, the low-carbon share of energy was growing at an annual rate of 1.0% in the ten years prior to 1997, and only at a rate of 0.3% annually for the ten years after, meaning deployment of clean energy stalled or slowed in comparison to fossil fuels in these countries after they signed Kyoto.

Interestingly, the Breakthrough analysts conclude that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions have actually fallen faster since 2010 than they would have had the the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade scheme been adopted by Congress. The U.S. trend toward lower carbon dioxide emissions was helped along by the global financial crisis, a weak recovery, and the ongoing switch from coal to cheap natural gas for electricity generation.

Despite Germany's much-vaunted Energiewende, the Breakthrough report notes, "Germany's share of clean energy grew at 2% annually before 2007 and only 1% annually after 2007, and the carbon intensity declined at 0.5% annually before 2007 but has been almost flat since then."

So will the Paris Agreement on climate change make a difference? The Breakthrough report cites a 2015 MIT climate modeling study that estimated the effect that the Paris commitments would have on climate in 2100. The Breakthrough report observes that the MIT study ...

... projects global atmospheric concentrations of carbon in 2100 at 710 ppm assuming full implementation of INDCs, versus 750 ppm in the absence of them, which translates to a difference in temperature increase above pre-industrial levels of 3.7 versus 3.9 degrees Celsius.

What becomes clear in looking at climate policy as it has been implemented at the international level is that most countries have only been willing to commit to decarbonization targets that are consistent with expected business-as-usual trends, accounting for measures that they have intended to take in any event.

So is international climate policy just "full sound and fury signifying nothing?" The Breakthrough report concludes:

Even should the next [U.S.] administration withdraw from the Paris Agreement and abandon the Clean Power Plan, the United States might outperform the commitments that the Obama administration made in Paris if it keeps the nation's nuclear fleet online, continues tax incentives for deployment of wind and solar energy, and stays out of the way of the shale revolution. By contrast, a Democratic administration indifferent to the fate of the nation's existing nuclear fleet and hostile to shale gas production might ultimately slow US decarbonization trends.

For folks worried about climate change, one big helpful de-regulatory step that could be taken by the new administration would be not just to keep existing nuclear power plants online but to revise the mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to encourage innovators to develop and deploy safer and cheaper advanced nuclear power plants.

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  • Homple||

    We know to one decimal place C how the earth's "temperature" would be altered in 84 years if the ....

    I just can't go on.

  • Microaggressor||

    Garbage in, garbage out.
    We fucking love garbage.

  • timbo||

    Its best to produce your garbage on 100 year forecasts. That way, it won't stink for a century.

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    We didn't build a single nuclear power plant under Obama, so pardon my belief that we're being scammed.

  • ||

    "We have to get the american public on board with climate change and we cant let the data get in the way."

  • Juice||

    Were there any built under Bush or Clinton? I think the last ones built in the US were finished in the 80s.

  • AlexInCT||

    That should tell you how serious the whole carbon problem really is: the solution pushed by the warmists is an unpalatable political/financial one and not a technical/engineering one.

    Carbon credits and alternative energy have made some connected people stinking rich and allowed governments to decrease our liberties. Nuclear power plants would produce 100% carbon free energy in enough quantity to replace practically all current and future needs served by the carbon emitting fuels, but we can't get any of that.

    I think the real problem is self evident when you look at those facts.

  • commodious got a stew going||

    "Even if we broke ground today it would be twenty years before a nuclear plant began producing electricity."

    "We must drastically reduce our carbon footprint today to prevent a climate cataclysm fifty years from now."

  • ||

    which translates to a difference in temperature increase above pre-industrial levels of 3.7 versus 3.9 degrees Celsius.

    And what, do you suppose, is the margin of error on that figure?

    +/- 15.0C?

    Climate models, to date, appear to be less accurate than chicken entrails or coin tosses.

    The good news? Will all likely be dead by then.

  • Juice||

  • Zero Sum Game||

    For folks worried about climate change, one big helpful de-regulatory step that could be taken by the new administration would be not just to keep existing nuclear power plants online but to revise the mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to encourage innovators to develop and deploy safer and cheaper advanced nuclear power plants.

    NIMBYs everywhere just got a giant rage boner.

  • ||

    "Climate Policy Actually Slowed Decarbonization Trends"

    If you discover a cure for breast cancer please share it with the world, but first you have to go into hiding like Salman Rushdie to keep the Susan B. Komen foundation from hunting you down and killing you.

    "Paris climate agreement will reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100"

    I suspect it won't.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    I suspect no one will ever know. The alarmists will ignore this to scare everybody and raise funds. If they actually got their entire agenda in place, they would be horrified at the loss of funds. And still no one would ever know.

  • John||

    You don't just suspect that. You really will never know. You can't know that the policies reduced the temperature unless you know what the temperatures would have been without them. Since we can't go back in time and live the counter factual, the only way we can "know" is to guess what they would have been using the same models that we are trying to justify.

    I don't know if Bailey is just trolling the readership, is just sloppy or really does believe this horse shit. But when he rights things like this without any qualification implying that it is true, it just drives me nuts.

  • timbo||

    He must believe this stuff hook, line, and sinker. I've never heard a published author regurgitate drivel so much.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Gosh, it's almost as if bureaucratic diktat doesn't work as well as the market incentives of efficiency.

  • Citizen X||

    What!?! Has anyone told the president?

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    So we shouldn't centrally plan the world's economy? But we have to look like we're trying as hard as possible, results be damned

  • Brochettaward||

    Last time I suggested to some lefties and Europeans online that it was moronic to trust government bureaucrats to control the climate, they reacted with incredulous condescension.

  • Ron Bailey||

  • Playa Manhattan.||

    Short answer: Always.

  • ||

    An ex-pat Norwegian explained it to me like this:

    "America sifted all of the misfits out of Europe. They came over here, went out into the wilderness with their family, a mule, an axe and a rifle and carved out a farm. Norwegian society spent a thousand years living in longhouses. Everyone slept, ate, bathed, fucked, and shit in common rooms. They raised their children collectively."

    Europe was loaded with kings until just a couple of generations ago. The number one answer immigrants to America gave during the 19th century for why they were immigrating was "There are no kings over there."

    We aren't going to be seeing eye-to-eye with them anytime soon.

  • John||

    In the 19th Century buying votes in elections was not uncommon nor was it particularly frowned upon. Immigrants absolutely loved the idea of politicians paying them to vote for them. They had come from a world where they were ruled and no one ever so much as asked for their opinion much less cared what it was. To then go to a country where someone was willing to pay you to give them your support was to them amazing.

  • Citizen X||

    Hell, i offered to sell my vote to the highest bidder this time around. Never heard back from the Trump or Clinton camps.

  • John||

    It would. I doubt they could afford me, but for the right price sure.

  • Juice||

    God I wish someone would buy my votes.

  • ||

    I have many, many dead relatives whose future votes in swing states such as Ohio and Florida can be bid on right now! Contact me for details!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    ...and the ongoing switch from coal to cheap natural gas for electricity generation.

    Hence the strong opposition to it as a cleaner alternative to coal?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    They were all for NG as an alternative to coal, as long as it remained a theoretical possibility that could make them appear reasonable. Then fracking made it not just possible but practical and a reality, and suddenly they were aghast at no longer having the bogeyman of dirty coal to scare up funds and wield power in DC. Suddenly NG was the enemy.

  • timbo||

    Then when the water polluting was debunked, they then made up the term: Fugitive Emissions. honest to god.

    I cannot believe they are not on TV every day talking about the earthquakes in OK. That is actually a legitimate concern that could be tied to fraccing.

    If the wind created profitable energy, they would find a way to vilify it.

    The only thing that matters to these retards is snuffing out profitable business and eliminating prosperity for anyone but themselves.
    They are at the very root, envious morons and little else.

  • R C Dean||

    Just to give a little perspective on that "0.2 degrees by 2100", that's 84 years in the future. 84 years ago was 1932. The idea that, in 1932, they could have predicted CO2 emissions from then to now is laughable. But that is exactly what is being done to come up with that 0.2 degree number.

  • ||

    Not to come up with a number. It's to justify more theft.

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Nuclear warships FTW! GO USA!

  • ||

    Paris climate agreement will reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100

    Sure it will.

    Oh Really

  • Quincy.||

    The two attitudes to carbon: 1) This shit is evil! Let's put up expensive monuments to celebrate our self righteousness! or, 2) This shit is expensive! Let's tweak existing systems to make them more efficient and cheaper to run.

    I place my bet on 2) being the model for long term sustainability.

  • John||

    The problem with number 2 is saying it is "expensive" isn't good enough. You have to know how expensive it is or you can't make any kind of meaningful calculation on how much much is worth spending to limit it. And to know just how expensive it is, requires a level of understanding of the climate that is unlikely to ever occur and would take centuries to confirm even if we achieved it.

  • Quincy.||

    You are overthinking it, John. I'm talking BTU per dollar output and fuck externalities and climate models. UPS burns a zillion gallons of fuel a year, if it can shave that down a 1% by banning its drivers from making left turns, it will ban left turns. Consider Moore's law. Everybody get's excited about how many zillion calculations a processor can make per second. Just think how may more calculations it can make per watt, and how many dollars are transacted with that single watt of electricity.

  • Juice||

    Paris climate agreement will reduce global warming by 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100

    Oh for the love of Christ.

  • John||

    Does Bailey actually believe that? It sure looks like he does.

  • Juice||

    He sure stated it with unequivocal certainty.

  • Juice||

    And it won't reduce the "average temperature of the planet" (whatever that means) by 0.2 C. No, it will reduce "global warming" by that much. So, heads they win, tails, fuck you.

  • John||

    To know how far temperatures didn't rise, you have to know how much they would have risen without doing anything. And to figure that out, they use the same models that claim the drop. It is almost like it is some kind of self proving scam or something.

  • Christophe||

    It's the same thing they did for unemployment figures during the stimulus.

    When they predicted 5%/7% for with/without and got 9%, they said that clearly we'd have gotten 11% without the stimulus.

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    That's how science works man. You make a prediction, you leave one fudge factor in your system, and then when you observe the results, you know what your fudge factor was, thus verifying your model.

    DUH. I cant believe all you yokels and hayseeds are so anti science.

  • Ron Bailey||

    J: Just reporting the MIT study's projections - the point of reporting it is that even folks who think climate change is problem don't think that the Paris Agreement as it stands will do much to solve it.

  • Tornado35235gsg35423ttg3gt3g3g||

    Yea this is my thought as well. More of a dog and pony show enrich cronies thing

  • macsnafu||

    So, this seems to underscore my idea that government action will do little or nothing to affect climate change, although most of us will still suffer from government regulations, anyway. The science may be settled, but the politics sure isn't! ;-)

  • timbo||

    it's fun to use the word settled to call people stupid.

    All SJW and Climate Changers are robot Marxists. Its settled.

  • Rusureuwant2know||

    "Even should the next administration withdraw from the Paris Agreement and abandon the Clean Power Plan, the United States might outperform the commitments that the Obama administration made in Paris if it keeps the nation's nuclear fleet online, continues tax incentives for deployment of wind and solar energy, and stays out of the way of the shale revolution."
    There is absolutely no good reason to continue to provide tax incentives for wind and solar. They come at a huge environmental cost, and take up far too much room for the energy they provide. It's an environmental nightmare. I would hope you looked into the nasty side of both issues. Solar is fine for individual homes, but on an industrial scale, it is ludicrous. Likewise if someone wants to supplement their own energy with a wind turbine, fine - but don't go shoving those things on all of us and devastating our bird and bat populations. If that was oil, you can bet they would be screaming to stop it. CO2 is a non-issue. It's time to stop the crap about human CO2 emissions and climate change. 3%/yr comes from humans. 3%. 97%/yr comes from nature.

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