The Paris Climate Accords Are Looking More and More Like Fantasy
Remember Paris? It was not even two years ago that the celebrated climate accords were signed — defining two degrees of global warming as a must-meet target and rallying all the world’s nations to meet it — and the returns are already dispiritingly grim.
This week, the International Energy Agency announced that carbon emissions grew 1.7 percent in 2017, after an ambiguous couple of years optimists hoped represented a leveling off, or peak; instead, we’re climbing again.
Even before the new spike, not a single major industrial nation was on track to fulfill the commitments it made in the Paris treaty. To keep the planet under two degrees of warming — a level that was, not all that long ago, defined as the threshold of climate catastrophe — all signatory nations have to match or better those commitments. There are 195 signatories, of which only the following are considered even “in range” of their Paris targets: Morocco, Gambia, Bhutan, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, and the Philippines.
This puts Donald Trump’s commitment to withdraw from the treaty in a useful perspective; in fact, his spite may ultimately prove perversely productive, since the evacuation of American leadership on climate seems to have mobilized China, eager to claim the mantle and far more consequential to the future of the planet because of its size and relative poverty, to adopt a much more aggressive posture toward climate. Of course those renewed Chinese commitments are, at this point, just rhetorical, too.
From the recently released IEA report:
Global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.4% in 2017, an increase of 460 million tonnes (Mt), and reached a historic high of 32.5 Gt. Last year’s growth came after three years of flat emissions and contrasts with the sharp reduction needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The increase in carbon emissions, equivalent to the emissions of 170 million additional cars, was the result of robust global economic growth of 3.7%, lower fossil-fuel prices and weaker energy efficiency efforts. These three factors contributed to pushing up global energy demand by 2.1% in 2017.
The trend of growing emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise in carbon emissions, some others experienced declines, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan.
The biggest decline came from the United States, where emissions dropped by 0.5%, or 25 Mt, to 4 810 Mt of CO2, marking the third consecutive year of decline. While coal-to-gas switching played a major role in reducing emissions in previous years, last year the drop was the result of higher renewables-based electricity generation and a decline in electricity demand. The share of renewables in electricity generation reached a record level of 17%, while the share of nuclear power held steady at 20%.
The growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 is a strong warning for global efforts to combat climate change, and demonstrates that current efforts are insufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement.
It seems President Trump was right. The U.S. isn’t even a part of the Paris accord anymore since president Trump pulled out of the accord last year, and yet it is the leader in CO2 emission reductions by country.
Predictably, warmists will not be amused.