Climate Deal with Grand Promises

It looks very good, but just how good it really is remains very unclear.  As far as I can tell, the major question concerns how much will actually happen.  This question becomes more urgent as one realizes that there is still a lot of justified anxiety about the control of fossil fuels.

The NY Times:

The delegates in Paris achieved what had been unreachable for two decades: a consensus on the need to move away from carbon-based fuels and a plan for the 195 nations to do so…

Though the final deal did not achieve all that environmentalists, scientists and some countries had hoped for, it set the table for further efforts to slow down the slide toward an unlivable planet.

By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.

Inside the narrow frame within which the talks have taken place, the draft agreement at the UN climate talks in Paris is a great success. The relief and self-congratulation with which the final text was greeted, acknowledges the failure at Copenhagen six years ago, where the negotiations ran wildly over time before collapsing. The Paris agreement is still awaiting formal adoption, but its aspirational limit of 1.5C of global warming, after the rejection of this demand for so many years, can be seen within this frame as a resounding victory. In this respect and others, the final text is stronger than most people anticipated…

Outside the frame it looks like something else. I doubt any of the negotiators believe that there will be no more than 1.5C of global warming as a result of these talks.


Mere mention of the Paris climate talks is enough to make James Hansen grumpy. The former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, is a soft-spoken, almost diffident Iowan. But when he talks about the gathering of nearly 200 nations, his demeanor changes.

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he says, rubbing his head. “It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

In this context, the role of Ted Cruz, Republican presidential hope and climate change denier, as chair of the Senate’s committee is acutely embarrassing and indeed morally loathsome:

At the end of the first hearing he’s chaired on climate change, Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX) laid out a set of facts intended to disprove the claims of those he calls “global warming alarmists.” But the bits of information that Cruz presented yesterday are either irrelevant to, or at odds with, what is actually happening to Earth’s climate.

Cruz believes that carbon dioxide (CO2) “is good for plant life,” that the planet “is greener right now” than in the past, and that “for significant periods in history, prior to the industrial revolution, there has been markedly more CO2 in our atmosphere that could not have come from the burning of fossil fuels.” He also believes that “for the past 18 years … there has been no significant warming whatsoever” and that the current computer models used to understand global climate trends “are profoundly wrong … and inconsistent with the evidence and the data.”

At the same time, Cruz did not acknowledge that carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning have more than quadrupled since the 1950s and that the amount of C02 in the atmosphere has climbed by one-third, to nearly 400 parts per million, over that period. Asked by ScienceInsider whether he agrees that such data are correct, Cruz declined to comment.

Cruz laid out his views during a 3-hour piece of political theater staged by the science panel of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which he chairs. He provided a forum for three scientists known for their contrarian views on climate change—John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and William Happer of Princeton University. Cruz also welcomed a journalist/jazz musician, Mark Steyn, and had staff set a place for a nonwitness, Sierra Club President Aaron Mair, who hadn’t even officially been invited to testify.


One thought on “Climate Deal with Grand Promises

  1. I think it creates the possibility for more and better action though it certainly is not enough in itself. For all of us who are working for environmental sustainability, professionally and privately, I think it’s helpful as long as we know that it is just a start and that we have to keep up our efforts.

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