Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Why the Paris Climate Change Agreement Will Fail

In Paris, In mid-December, after two weeks of talks between 195 countries, ended with an agreement on climate change, there were high-fives and pats on the back for all those politicians, from all those countries that attended the summit.  The media called  it "historic".  CNN proclaimed "The End of Fossil Fuels", as if the world will somehow toss all their gasoline-powered cars to the wayside; commercial jets will find some way to fly without fuel; people will find something other than natural gas to heat their homes and cook their food with; and cement and steel will, I suppose, be created without high-carbon coke as fuel.  Also, somehow, we will figure out how to pave our roads without the asphalt that is a by-product of refining oil.  All before 2030, in order to keep the global temperatures from rising another 1/2 degree Celsius.

Of course, those items mentioned above, and many others, are just many of the impossible hurdles facing the Paris agreement.  Then, there's the toothlessness of the agreement itself.
  • The agreeing parties will set their own goals and targets to reduce carbon and "do their best" to implement those reduction targets "as soon as possible".  
  • Progress towards the stated targets/goals will be on the honor system with each country self-monitoring its own progress and self-reporting such progress.
  • Those failing to meet their goals will be "named and shamed" and, supposedly, spat upon by the world community as a polluter; assuming that each country will honestly report their progress. 
  • The 55 dirtiest countries will ante-up $100 billion a year to be handed over to the other 140 of the total 195 participating counties, so they too, can fight climate change.
There you have it; and I'm quite sure that last item was a real crowd pleaser among the 140 countries who are now licking their chops in anticipation of billions of dollars coming their way that will surely be used solely for fighting climate change.  More importantly, this agreement is like having no agreement at all.  Especially since most of the "politicians" involved probably won't be around over the next 15 years of initial commitments.  For sure, Obama and his people won't be around past February 2017 to insure that the U.S.'s progress toward our targets and goals will be met.

But, here's the two biggest reasons that the Paris agreement will fail:  (1) Growing populations and (2) Growing affluence in emerging economies.

Take India for example.  By 2028, India is expected to overtake China in total population.  Also, by 2030, a 2012 BP study projects that automobile ownership in India will grow from just 20% in 2011 to 65% by 2030.  That's just one country and a massive growth in affluence.  China will also see huge growth in automobile ownership; nearly 300% on a per capita basis by 2030. All told, there will be 2 billion cars on the world's roads just 5 years later in 2035; according to a Navigant Research study published last year.  That's a 66% increase in automobile ownership and a presumed growth in affluence in just 21 years.  So, with this in mind, every car sold going forward from today has to be more than 66% more fuel efficient just to keep automobile emissions the same as they are today.  If that's not an impossible task, I don't know what is.

However the growth in affluence doesn't just stop with the world buying more cars. Air travel demand is expected to double by 2035.  And, as a result, emissions from commercial aircraft will substantially increase unless fuel economies are at least halved.  Even so, most of today's aircraft will probably still be flying in 2035.  Just as improving automobile fuel inefficiencies is an impossible task, improving jet liner fuel efficiency would be even more difficult; especially when you consider that many of today's planes (and some cars) will still be operational for the next 15 to 20 years.

Simply, growing populations and even faster growth in affluence will be the downfall of the Paris agreement. The growth in affluence won't just be with cars and air travel.  It will be seen in all other forms of human activity.  There will be larger, better heated, and well lit homes with more electrical appliances, and highly unreliable wind and solar will not be able to keep up with the demand without the assistance of energy produced by fossil fuels.  So much for CNN's "End of Fossil Fuels" folly. Also, do we really think that building nuclear power plants is the solution?  The inherent problems and risks make the choice not a good one.  Just look at the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.

In my opinion, the Paris agreement is historic alright.  A historic failure!


2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_United_Nations_Climate_Change_Conference

COP21: Paris climate change deal is end of fossil fuels - CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/12/opinions/sutter-cop21-climate-reaction/ 

India To Overtake China As Largest Populated Nation: https://www.google.com/search?q=2030+population+india&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

India will add more cars than China in 20 years: http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/india-will-add-more-cars-than-china-in-20-years/article2939216.ece

Two billion vehicles projected to be on roads by 2035: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/In-Gear/2014/0729/Two-billion-vehicles-projected-to-be-on-roads-by-2035

Air travel demand projected to double in 20 years: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2015/06/08/demand-to-fly-will-likely-double-but-industry-may-not-be-ready/28680637/

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