Guest essay by Philip Lloyd, Energy Institute, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
The Paris Agreement is the most recent burp emanating from the turbulent politics of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [FCCC]. I am not normally dismissive of the cogitations of the great and mighty who forgather regularly for Conferences of Parties, but the Paris Agreement set a new standard for muddled thinking at the highest level.
“Emphasizing with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.”
Quite apart from the hubris of the thinking that anyone is able to control the global climate, or the admission that, even if they could, there was still a gap between what they thought they needed and what was offered, there remains an unacknowledged flaw in their thinking.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] is set up to advise the FCCC. The IPCC defines climate change as “Any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.” However, any change is difficult to detect; many supposed changes cannot be detected; and many of the observable changes show that the change has happened previously – for instance, many retreating glaciers are revealing previously used paths. It is not possible, at present, to ascribe conclusively any detectable changes to human activity.
The obverse is patently true – it is not possible to show conclusively that human activity will lead to climate change. Worse, it is certain that ceasing a human activity which is suspected of causing climate change cannot have the anticipated effect of stopping climate change – natural variability must still be present, and the climate will continue to change. Indeed, the Paris Agreement seems to have a lot in common with King Cnut, who commanded the tide to reverse, and had his throne flooded for his lack of understanding.
There are those who would have us believe that they can model the effect of additional greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. A typical example from the most recent IPCC Assessment shows the results of such models. The pink bands follow the black line observations faithfully- but they would, wouldn’t they. The models are fed with tuning parameters to make them fit the observations. Then the models are run without the parameters that are supposed to represent the effect of greenhouse gases, and the resultant detuned models are supposed to look like the world without greenhouse gases.
In fact, all they represent is a detuned model! And they cannot be what they claim to be, namely a world with only natural forcings, because many of the natural forcings are unknown. We know, for instance, that between about 1910 and 1945 the world warmed by about 0.4oC. We also know that greenhouse gas emissions were quite low during that time. So there is a known unknown responsible for the observed global warming, which, being unknown, cannot have been incorporated in the models.
Moreover, the models claiming to represent natural forcings are generally linear, over the total of about 1400 years of measurements. But we only have to look at the temperature records prior to 1950, when greenhouse gas concentrations started to surge, to know that there was quite a lot of volatility in the signals – far more than these supposed “Only natural forcings” show.
So the Paris Agreement is fundamentally flawed. It cannot achieve what it hopes to. Trillions will be wasted in pursuit of the unattainable. It is time to abandon the charade.