Do the math: the ‘contribution’ of China and India to the Paris agreement is worthless

Guest essay by Alberto Zaragoza Comendador

A common argument against the Paris agreement has been that the “pledges” to cut emissions are only that: promises, targets, hopes. There is no way to enforce them, or even to verify them in many cases.

Another common argument, highlighted in Trump’s speech but made since long before, is that even if the pledges were met the deal would be useless. According to this view, China, India et al are not even putting up with the charade of trying to reduce emissions. Their emission targets are what you’d expect if their economies and energy systems continued their historical experience; in other words, their “target” is equivalent to doing nothing. Most hilariously, Pakistan’s INDC simply stated its emissions would peak at some point.

(Proponents of the agreement have usually countered this argument by putting their hands on their ears and ceaselessly screaming “I HEAR NOTHING”)

In this article I take a quick look at historical emissions and economy data from China and India. As in other articles, data on emissions comes from the BP Energy Review and data on GDP growth comes from the World Bank; this Dropbox folder contains both the data and my calculations.

The TL; DR version is that, indeed, both countries submitted pledges that implied simply continuing the previous economic and energy trajectory; there is no extra decarbonization of their economies, compared with what they were already doing in 1990, 1995, etc. In the last section I delve on the implications of this fact for climate communications.

(That said, both China and India include a reforestation target. The impact of reforestation is definitely not captured by statistics on emissions, as these are derived from statistics on fossil fuel consumption. Growing forest cover has been a reality in developed countries for many decades. But I don’t know enough about the world’s forests to judge what would have been the “normal” reforestation in both countries, with no additional effort on their side, so I’ll leave it at that.)

India pledged to cut the CO2 intensity of GDP by 1.6-1.7% a year – exactly the rate since its economy’s liberalization

India’s independent, nationally determined contribution (INDC) said the country “intends to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 from 2005 level”. A cut of 33% in 25 years is equivalent to a reduction of 1.6% per year, while the 35% cut equals 1.7% a year. In practical terms this means that, if GDP stayed constant, each year emissions would have been 1.6 or 1.7% lower than the previous. Or that, if GDP had grown 1.6-1.7% a year, then emissions would have stayed constant. All the percentages in this article are compound, not average.

India had relatively slow economic growth until the early 1990s. Perhaps the most intriguing fact is that starting from 1993 or thereabouts not only did economic growth take off, but CO2 emissions started to grow consistently below the rate of GDP; as you can see, they previously grew at the same rate (years of intensity decline were offset by those with intensity increases).

India’s rate of decarbonization since the year 2000 is 1.65% a year; approximately the same rate has held since 1993 or 1994. Of course India’s GDP has grown much faster than that so emissions have increased.

China pledged to cut the CO2 intensity of GDP by 3.6-4.1% a year – a bit more slowly than the historical pace

By 2030, China wants to “lower carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP by 60% to 65% from the 2005 level”. These goals are equivalent respectively to yearly declines of 3.6% and 4.1%.

China’s case is a bit more complicated because, while its GDP growth has been very stable, its emissions (and hence its decarbonization rate) have fluctuated wildly.

Over the full 1979-2016 period, China had a compound rate of decarbonization of 4.2% a year. However, as is common in formerly Communist economies the early years it had a very fast decarbonization, stemming from the shutdown or restructuring of energy-intensive industries (e.g. steel). Thus it may be unfair to compare its modern target with the decarbonization it was achieving back in 1980. In any case, the rate since 1990 is also 4% a year – on the high side of the country’s Paris target.

What about the other targets? Installing so many solar panels and so on

To read about “climate action” is to be inundated with a deluge of irrelevant factoids:

  • India installed 20MW of solar the other day
  • Oslo just banned cars from the city center
  • Wind generation made up 50% of Germany’s power output at 3am yesterday (it makes you wonder what happens the rest of the year)
  • Etc

Why do I call these things irrelevant factoids? Because, to the extent that they reduce emissions, their effect is included in the emissions-intensity target. If installing wind turbines actually makes emissions per unit of GDP lower than they would otherwise have been, this effect will show up in the country’s decarbonization rate. It may sound “obvious” that wind turbines reduce emissions, but when you stop to think about it it’s not obvious at all. For months or years they may not be connected to the grid; if connected they may frequently be curtailed; they involve energy for manufacture, deployment and servicing; they may make thermal generation less efficient by requiring power plants to quickly ramp their output up and down; if they make electricity too expensive they may cause customers to replace it with diesel or gas. And, of course, they may also reduce economic growth.

(That’s another reason implementing fifty different climate policies at once is dumb: even if the policies work, in the sense that they increase the decarbonization rate, you will not know which are working).

China has pledged to deploy 800-1,000GW of renewable electricity generation capacity by 2030. A big number, but one that is the equivalent of pledging to deploy 100 Diet Cokes around your home without promising you will actually lose weight.

Climate scientists need to communicate better with the Chinese and Indians

Climate activists / communicators, including many scientists, have a brain-melting obsession with the US, and with Republicans in particular.

Just try to wrap your head around this instance of climate communications. First off, it’s mathematically absurd: even if the whole world had started a faster rate of decarbonization back in 1979 the difference in today’s temperatures would be less than 0.1ºC. If we spoke exclusively about the US, the difference between the emissions that were actually emitted in 1979-2016 and those that may have been emitted under faster decarbonization would be 0.01 or 0.02ºC. Not sure how that is going to affect wildfires.

But even more to the point, there is no evidence having a Republican or Democrat government makes any difference to CO2 emissions! This is true whether one looks at the US as a whole during different administrations, or by comparing different states with the US.

In short, it seems climate communicators have failed to convince the Chinese and Indian leaders of the urgency of the global warming. I, for one, believe the biggest challenge in climate communications is communicating with clueless climate scientists.


NOTE: Thanks to formatting issues in the original MS-Word document, the original graphs did not copy over on the first publication attempt. That has been remedied about 8 hours later. Note to contributors-  please don’t use header and footer formatting of pages, it screws up HTML web conversion of the document.. – Anthony

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63 thoughts on “Do the math: the ‘contribution’ of China and India to the Paris agreement is worthless

  1. Not only that, neither one is kicking in billions of dollars either. In fact, nobody is (well, except for Obama on the way out the door).

    • And the seond of the two Obama tranches to the UNFCCC (NOT Paris) Green Climate Fund violated a clear 1994 US federal law stating that no US funding can go to any UN affiliated organization that recognizes Palestine. Clear precedent with UNESCO in 2011.UNFCCC recognized Palestine as a full member April 2016.Obama sent the second 1.5 billion tranche in January 2017, after the election but 3 days before the inauguration. Criminal.

    • Javert: Don’t forget about Canada. Our so-called leader (A.K.A. the Little Dick Tater) is throwing millions of our taxpayers’ hard-earned money into this farce, trying to buy a seat at the U.N.

    • The object is a radical change of society in the Western World. Those behind it are ex communists and peace activists that had to flee into the environmental movement when the wall came down. So China and India really does not matter.

      • It is a shame you can not acknowledge how big a failure, liar, and criminal was #44.

        Historians are now having to deal with Obysmal’s epic foreign policy failures.
        They include: ISIS-Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Russia, China, and the UN.

        Obysmal was an colossal failure of epic proportions, domestically and internationally. History will bear that out. Do not delude yourself on how bad Obysmal was. The MSM could only protect him in the Present. But, history with a new generation of eyes is a harsh judge though. It has no biases, … left, right, center. Obysmal will go down as the 21st Century equivalent of President James Buchanan.

      • The USA only paid $1B USD because the Worst Ever President spent money that Congress had not appropriated for the UN Climate Aid Fund.
        An Impeachable Offense if there ever were.

      • Australia kicked in $200 million thanks to leftist centre right Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. His predecessor, whome he knifed mid term Tony Abbott refused to contribute. He said climate change was bullshit.

  2. How are the statistics collected on Chinese CO2 output? If they are like other Chinese government stats they are useless.

    • In principle, stats on CO2 emissions should be reliable because the stats on consumption of oil, natural and coal are reliable. In practice, countries with a high share of coal in the energy mix will have more unreliable data, both because the data for coal is less reliable than for hydrocarbons and most importantly because the carbon content of coal varies enormously, from 50% to 90%. Whereas pure natural gas is 75% carbon, petroleum products are 85% carbon, and LPG, ethane, etc. are somewhere in the middle.

    • You can sort of trust the figures from 2016 onwards, they started jailing officials who falsified emission reports in 2015.

      You can use the econutts own site they have setup to track how countries are going with there emission controls. Climate action tracker is this econutt team I don’t know how good or bad they are
      http://climateactiontracker.org/theteam

      I did roll my eye at the concept and interpretation of a “fair” approach .. a econutt catch cry :-)

      As at Nov 2017 China is failing they are a RED card.
      http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/china.html
      Griff’s pinup boys aren’t doing very well but he loves them.

      Australia and EU get insufficient to meet targets which gives us an orange card but I agree with that so they at least seem to be unbiased.

      The big emitters USA and Russia get a critically unsufficient those guys got a black card :-)

  3. China and India only signed up because they are required to ‘do nothing’ accept perhaps to get their hands on some cash.

    • Add the rest of the non donor nations ….. 180+ of them? Most people don’t realize that the vast majority of the countries signing on to the Paris Agreement have nothing to lose and everything to gain by saying ‘me too’ and claiming to be victims.

  4. I admit that under both dems and reps co2 emissions have increased in various states. But if Gov. Moonbeam, no-Fracking-sense Cuomo and whoever gets elected Dem of Illinois have their way, they may be able to completely depress all economic development in those states and curtail co2 emissions quite well.

    • That is the sad truth. They cannot, and will not, get their way with the world, and probably not even the United States. But they will hurt of lot of people in their home states who they do have more immediate power over.

  5. You have a gullible public with poor math skills on top of that.

    James Hansen was an idol of the warmistas, so much that Tamino famously called himself “Hansen’s bulldog” (which he subsequently deleted…but it lives-on http://web.archive.org/web/20081229060414/http://tamino.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/hansens-bulldog/). When Hansen took Obama to task and claimed that Paris was a “fraud,” none of the Hansen acolytes joined with him. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/james-hansen-climate-change-paris-talks-fraud

    • “Tamino famously called himself “Hansen’s bulldog””
      Tamino never struck me as being anything more than a yapping Chihuahua behind a 6ft fence.

  6. India is actually hinting that they will increase emissions 6 fold. From its INDC “pledge”.

    https://t.co/eHY6uZCepQ

    China has promised to peak emissions in 2030. Right when its population is projected to start declining.

    So, neither are really relevant to a global cut emissions.

    • Its actual suggested it may ‘consider ‘ the situation around about that date and perhaps think about doing something . And all the data it will use will come from itself . In other words nothing but talk.

    • India will easily make it’s Paris targets for 2030, they like Australia did not go for anything too ambitious.

      ndia has pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20–25% in 2020 below 2005 levels. This target does not cover emissions from the agricultural sector. India proposed the target during the Copenhagen negotiations and submitted it to the Copenhagen Accord on 30 January 2010. The quantification of this pledge covers a range of emissions between 3.6–3.8 GtCO2e in 2020 (excluding LULUCF). These emissions are 3.7–3.9 times greater than 1990 emissions levels.

      • missed the extensions

        During the period 2016–2030, India’s population is projected to increase by 13% (or 177 million people), reaching 1.49 billion people (World Energy Outlook 2016 projections for India) by 2030. Over the same period, we project per capita emissions to reach around 3.4–3.6 tCO2e per capita (excluding LULUCF) by 2030. Despite this strong growth, per capita emissions in 2030 are projected to be about 30% below the world average in 2013

    • India’s „INTENDED NATIONALLY DETERMINED CONTRIBUTION“-“Pledge“ can be read there: http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/India/1/INDIA%20INDC%20TO%20UNFCCC.pdf It is quite entertaining.
      To satisfy their electrical energy need of 2500 TWh in 2030 they would have/want to increase electricity generating capacity as follows:
      Wind from 23.8 GW to 60 (2022, intended)
      Solar from 4.06 to 100
      Biomass from 4.4 to 10
      Hydro from 46 to 100 (potential)
      Nuclear from 5.8 to 50
      Coal from 167 to 190. In addition coal would then have to make up for the shortfalls of everything else.
      While they did not spell out the (too small) number for coal, they did not omit a tacit reminder that the Paris UNFCC Convention was „not binding“.
      I assumed a reduction of the emissions intensity of its GDP by a quarter until 2030, a 75% yield of biomass to coal, and the anticipated 2.7-fold increase of the GDP.

      • Yes, we must erect a false evil that is ageless, raceless, sexless (to avoid all discrimination or bias) — in order to engineer a grand humanitarian effort showing that humanity CAN work together for a noble cause, as one, unified global people. It’s the thought that counts, … NOT the truth.

  7. The TL; DR version

    Definitions would be real nice for people that aren’t savvy like me.
    This is my biggest pet peeve when it comes to writers. Just assuming everyone knows.

  8. The ‘contribution’ of China and India to the Paris agreement is not ‘worthless’ to the CAGW Calumny as it is not interested in reducing CO2 or trying to control the weather or the Climate. The aim of the CAGW Calumny is to control a docile world population, cowed by fear, under a socialist-sharia formula and ensure the Hegemony of World Socialism.

  9. Wait until the ‘victim nations’ realize there is no money coming that was promised when they signed on. Even China has voiced concern over lack of payment. How many other countries do you think will be pouring money into this scam without US participation? The scam is unraveling.

    • Nice one Keith..
      I’d disagree on one part – It don’t need any “more research” per se
      Just some clear headed thinking.

      It goes back to recent rant about ‘if folks lived to 10,000 years old’ and how they’d view ‘climate’ and its causes.

      Its surely obvious that any and every ‘civilisation’ that ever existed, to date, has ceased to function or exist when they cut their last tree(s)
      As is The Modern Way tho, our ever-so-clever academics use their primary-school teaching to tell them that the sequence of events was:
      The climate hanged > the trees/plants died > the people died

      wrong wrong wrong.
      In fact:
      People cut the trees > climate changed > people died

      People (humans) actually *do* have to cut trees.
      Forests are, as far as humans go, very bad places to find food.
      Assuming we are in fact fat eaters (Lipivores), a forest is an awkward place to catch the stuff. To much cover and we ain’t really *that* fast on our feet.

      Assuming we eat any other shizzle, a forest is *still* a bad place to find stuff. Usually it is seasonal (doesn’t ‘keep’ well) plus there are countless critters out there who are better tree-climbers that us, Even before the competition grows/has wings.

      So we learned to make spaces in the forest to a) Attract critters we can catch and b) Grow annual plants we could eat

      OK ok, it is ‘Gaia Thinking’, but by making these spaces in the forest, we were knocking holes in the roof of our house.
      Good Stuff was escaping – good stuff being water (from the forest floor) plus CO2 from the decomposing litter, normally slowed in its escape to the wider atmosphere by that strong canopy.
      Also by using fire, really good stuff like (carbon) soot and all the micro nutrients in the ash were being scattered out to the ‘4 winds’

      Also, the holes in the roof were letting in ‘bad stuff’ – stuff like bright/hot sun that dried out the forest floor, allowing it to burn. Plus wind. By letting wind into the forest, good stuff like CO2 and water were escaping ever faster.
      Under an unbroken canopy the CO2 fed the trees and the water gave Thermal Inertia that maintained a temperature climate. No extremes of temperature as we can see to this day in what’s left of large unbroken forest(s)
      The water > rain and acted as a fire-brigade by creating rain *and* kept nutrients circulating,
      The rain also washed any high-flying nutrition from the greater atmosphere, stuff like CO2, SO2, SO3, NOx, dust, smoke from distant fires etc down into the forest.

      (and we think all that stuff is ‘pollution’ – sigh – The Madness is Complete)

      Smashing holes into the forest destroys all that – it can do nothing else but die.

      What *would* happen if/when you knocked a hole in the roof of your own house?
      Think about it for a moment.

  10. A small point. INDC stands for Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, not Independent Nationally Determined Contribution. They were intended at one time (prior to Paris, 2015 and even for some time after) because they hadn’t been formally pledged.

    Most of the big emitters formally signed as parties to the Paris Agreement on 22nd April 2016 in NYC and were expected (per the agreement) to formally submit their NDC’s at the point of signing. They were called NDC’s from that point onwards because they were no longer “intended” but a solid pledge (supposedly at least). So nowadays they are just called NDC’s. The reason we still see “INDC” everywhere in the scientific literature is because much of that literature was researched and published before April 22nd 2016.

    I’m just pointing this out because we see “INDC” and “NDC” and might think they’re different types of Paris pledge. But they’re the same thing. There’s enough confusion over the conflation of NDC’s (actual pledges implemented prior to 2030) and Mid-Century Strategies (MCS’s) which are not Paris pledges but are vague, long-term plans. MCS’s are being deliberately conflated with NDC’s and being presented as pledges to increase the impact of the Paris Agreement by 43% to 75% depending on the study cited.

    They get away with this conflation because the MCS’s were politely asked for in the very short Paragraph 19 of Article 4 in the agreement. This was tacked on at the end of 18 paragraphs relevant to NDC submission but none of the 18 paragraphs apply to paragraph 19. It’s a stand-alone additional request for a non-commital overview of a hoped-for future strategy.

  11. Quote some proper figures: Chinese coal use over the last 3 years, capacity use of Chinese coal plants, Chinese coal plants cancelled, Chinese coal plans postponed, India actual installs of solar power and Indian targets for same.

    Ignoring what has actually happened in terms of fossil fuel use and renewable installs since PAris is not giving a true picture.

  12. This is for those who believe in a radiant greenhouse effet in the Earth’s atmosphere caused by trace gases with LWIR absorption bands. No one is doing anything to decrease the primary greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmsophere. Hence no effort is being made to reduce the total over all radient greenhouse effect. The effort is just to reduce the increase slightly. The effort will have no siginificant effect on AGW. For those that realize that the radiant greenhouse effect has not been observed anywhere in the solar system. the effort will have no effect on climate.

  13. But Reddit told me that China now is the world leader in green technologies and policies…

  14. This seems very very short sighted. Shoul one give up because we don’t see immediate results now? Or should one gear up global efforts so we see half CO2 release every 10 year? Hope you mean the latter.

    • IMO, it’s short sighted to intentionally reduce production of an essential trace gas which is continually interred on a massive scale by marine organisms.

  15. A fine synopsis of the whole “dog and pony show” that characterizes the Paris agreement, Sr Zaragoza Comendador. If only this was presented in the MSM, the public might see the truth.

  16. eia as a nice database, where you’ll find Total primary energy consumption 2015
    https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/country.cfm?iso=CHN
    https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/country.cfm?iso=USA
    https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/country.cfm?iso=IND

    China: ~120 (Quad BTU = exajoules ), or the equivalent of a yearly output of 40 GW
    USA: 97
    India : 25 India, roughly 5x less than China, 1/4 of USA

    Also of interest:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption
    “per capita”, China is now on par with EU. It is NOT a developing country anymore, it qualifies as a fully developed country now, not so far behind USA. People should understand this, when they think of China as a “cheap labor” country. That’s an outdated vision.

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