Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Former Deputy and Interim Director of the Tyndall Centre Professor Kevin Anderson has accused his fellow academics of compromising their scientific integrity to present climate mitigation proposals they think will be politically palatable, instead of saying what they really believe.
Government climate advisers running scared of change, says leading scientist
Rapid transformation needed, Kevin Anderson says, particularly in lifestyles of rich
Fri 26 Jun 2020 22.16 AEST
Kevin Anderson, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, had a familiar reaction to the latest report from the government’s climate advisers, which was published this week.
He said: “Many senior academics, senior policymakers, basically the great and good of the climate world have decided that it is unhelpful to rock the status quo boat and therefore choose to work within that political paradigm – they’ll push it as hard as they think it can go, but they repeatedly step back from questioning the paradigm itself.”
“On mitigation, the academic community and the CCC have collectively failed the political realm and civil society by tailoring our conclusions to fit with what we judge to be politically palatable – all at the expense of scientific integrity.”
He said the models also ignored the fact that it was the lifestyles of a relatively wealthy few that gave rise to the lion’s share of emissions.
“Globally the wealthiest 10% are responsible for half of all emissions, the wealthiest 20% for 70% of emissions. If regulations forced the top 10% to cut their emissions to the level of the average EU citizen, and the other 90% made no change in their lifestyles, that would still cut total emissions by a third.
…Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jun/26/leading-scientist-criticises-uk-over-its-climate-record
The abstract of Anderson’s study;
A factor of two: how the mitigation plans of ‘climate progressive’ nations fall far short of Paris-compliant pathways
The Paris Agreement establishes an international covenant to reduce emissions in line with holding the increase in temperature to ‘well below 2°C … and to pursue … 1.5°C.’ Global modelling studies have repeatedly concluded that such commitments can be delivered through technocratic adjustments to contemporary society, principally price mechanisms driving technical change. However, as emissions have continued to rise, so these models have come to increasingly rely on the extensive deployment of highly speculative negative emissions technologies (NETs). Moreover, in determining the mitigation challenges for industrialized nations, scant regard is paid to the language and spirit of equity enshrined in the Paris Agreement. If, instead, the mitigation agenda of ‘developed country Parties’ is determined without reliance on planetary scale NETs and with genuine regard for equity and ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’, the necessary rates of mitigation increase markedly. This is evident even when considering the UK and Sweden, two nations at the forefront of developing ‘progressive’ climate change legislation and with clear emissions pathways and/or quantitative carbon budgets. In both cases, the carbon budgets underpinning mitigation policy are halved, the immediate mitigation rate is increased to over 10% per annum, and the time to deliver a fully decarbonized energy system is brought forward to 2035-40. Such a challenging mitigation agenda implies profound changes to many facets of industrialized economies. This conclusion is not drawn from political ideology, but rather is a direct consequence of the international community’s obligations under the Paris Agreement and the small and rapidly dwindling global carbon budget.Read more: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14693062.2020.1728209
I love this guy. I think he sees things a little differently to the rest of us, but he certainly doesn’t pull his punches.
For example, from the main body of his study, Kevin’s study appears to suggest developing nations cannot be allowed to industrialise .
As it stands today, the difference in the cement intensity (i.e. kg-cement/person-year) between developed countries with mature infrastructure and those developing nations rapidly constructing such infrastructure, ranges between a factor of two and five (see Appendix B for more detail). Put simply, whilst there are, at scale, substitutes for fossil fuel energy, as yet there are no such substitutes, at scale, for cement. Consequently, and given the key role of cement in facilitating development, penalizing poorer and industrializing nations for rapid infrastructure expansion runs counter to the concept of CBDR&RC.
Nevertheless, whilst ethical considerations are important, the global cement industry cannot be exempt from deep and rapid decarbonization. The inclusion here of the cement sector as a ‘global overhead’ does not exempt nations with high cement use from seeking to reduce process emissions, rather it puts pressure on the global industry to rapidly curtail its emissions. Failure to do so only puts further downwards pressure on global, and hence national, energy-only carbon budgets that are already at the threshold of what is achievable.Read more: same link as above
The conclusion of Kevin’s study prescribes carbon reduction rate of 10-12% per annum. To put this into context, the Covid lockdowns are estimated to have resulted in a 17% emissions drop – so Kevin is effectively calling for two thirds of a Covid lockdown worth of permanent CO2 reduction every year, for the forseeable future.
Sadly Kevin does not offer any solution to how this colossal societal shift might be engineered, other than a vague reference to the US funded post WW2 Marshall Plan in the conclusion of his study, and a suggestion in his Guardian interview that we could achieve an immediate 30% CO2 emission reduction by heavily restricting the life choices of rich people.
Below is Josh’s take on Keven Anderson’s climate theories, from 2010.