by Andrew Glikson
|[ Oil and gas fracking pads in Texas. Photo: Dennis Dimick ]|
It should raise people’s hopes to believe “net zero emissions by 2050” will arrest or at least slow-down global warming, had it not been yet another cruel hoax perpetrated in the wake of more than 50 years of obfuscation and denial of environment and climate science.
This is because:
- The proposed zero emission by 2050 overlooks the long term nature of ongoing investments, mining and drilling for carbohydrates, such as new oil fields as in the North Atlantic and the sub-Arctic, new coal fields such as in the Galilee Basin, or fracking for coal seam gas in North America and Australia. According to Columbia University, “The gas industry and investors have plans to build over $70 billion of new gas-fired power plants through 2025, according to two Rocky Mountain Institute reports”.
Thus it is reported “the State Bank of India might lend $1 billion to Bravus, the absurdly renamed Adani Mining, to finance its Carmichael coal and rail project in the Galilee Basin”. Likewise “At the end of last year Australia overtook Qatar to become the world’s largest exporter of LNG, and now even more companies are investing in infrastructure throughout the region to turn Western Australia into a global LNG hub.”
- The proposed reductions in emissions are to be mainly confined to domestic emissions, neglecting carbon exports that end up mixing in the atmosphere and oceans, returning to harm life on Earth. Australia, China and the US are the largest CO2 emitters and Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia are the largest CO2 exporters. On a per capita basis, Australia’s carbon footprint, including exports, is nine times higher than China’s, four times that of the US, and 37 times that of India.
National emissions inventories exclude the large CO2 transfers associated with international trade, such as has grown dramatically since the early 1990s. This hampered overall progress to cut total CO2 emissions over the past few decades. When CO2 imports are considered, the reduction in emissions achieved by many developed countries is much smaller than would otherwise appear.
Australia mines about 57 tonnes of CO2 potential per person each year, about 10 times the global average, and is the world's third-biggest exporter of hydrocarbons behind Russia and Saudi Arabia. In total Australia emits about five per cent of global total CO2 once exports are included. A Fact Check estimated that Australia's domestic emissions plus the emissions embedded in its exports added to 1,712 million tonnes in 2016. The total falls from 3.6 per cent to 3.3 per cent of global emissions.
- The proposed reductions take no account of the accelerated rise of temperatures due to the radiative effects of the rising greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere, which by 2050 will be tracking toward 600 parts per million CO2-equivalent of combined carbon and nitrous oxide gases. These are already generating amplifying feedbacks from land and ocean which drive temperatures higher, rendering reductions of emissions ineffective. At that stage the large ice sheets would experience irreversible melting.
For this reason, the essential reductions in emission must be accompanied with sequestration of atmospheric greenhouse gases by at least the amount of annual emissions.
The authorities are not listening to what climate science is indicating. Instead they are consulting with economists ignorant of the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere and of the consequences of global heating. An example is the absurd idea as if “a rise of 4°C in global average temperature would be “optimal” when the costs and benefits of mitigating climate change are balanced”.
Currently, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing at the approximate rate of 2 to 3 parts per million per year. This leaves the fundamental question unanswered: What, if anything, would halt the fatal progression toward +4 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, given that according to the IPCC (cited by the World Bank) a “four degree world would be one of unprecedented heatwaves, severe drought and major floods in many regions”. In perspective, global warming of the 20-21st centuries is at least 70 times faster than the rise of about 5 degrees Celsius over a period of about 7000 years since the last interglacial period. At this rate of environmental change mass extinctions are inevitable. When Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (former climate adviser to the German Chancellor and the EU) was asked about the difference between a +2°C and a +4°C world, he replied: “Human civilization”.
Dr Andrew Glikson
Earth and Paleo-climate scientist
ANU Climate Science Institute
ANU Planetary Science Institute
The Asteroid Impact Connection of Planetary Evolution
The Archaean: Geological and Geochemical Windows into the Early Earth
Climate, Fire and Human Evolution: The Deep Time Dimensions of the Anthropocene
The Plutocene: Blueprints for a Post-Anthropocene Greenhouse Earth
Evolution of the Atmosphere, Fire and the Anthropocene Climate Event Horizon
From Stars to Brains: Milestones in the Planetary Evolution of Life and Intelligence
Asteroids Impacts, Crustal Evolution and Related Mineral Systems with Special Reference to Australia