Home > Environment > A big win for the planet, and others

A big win for the planet, and others

December 16th, 2007

The outcome of the international climate talks in Bali has been a huge win for the planet. Given the participation of the Bush Administration, we were never going to get firm short-term targets in the agreement of this round of negotiations (except as the result of a US walkout, and a deal struck by the rest of the world). But on just about every other score, the outcome has been better than anyone could reasonably have expected, including:

* Agreement in principle on a 2050 target of halving emissions
* Agreement to negotiate a binding deal in 2009, when Bush will be gone, and short-term targets back on the table
* Agreement to provide assistance to developing countries for both mitigation and adaptation
* Agreement by China to pursue emissions-cutting actions that are “measurable, reportable and verifiable.�

There are of course, some individual winners too, of whom the most notable is undoubtedly Al Gore. His intervention, correctly blaming the US Administration for the lack of progress at the talks, and putting effective pressure on its remaining allies, the governments of Canada and Japan, made it clear that the political price for a failure would be paid by the US, and that those who backed Bush now would find themselves alone in the near future.

Kevin Rudd has also been a big winner. Until his election, Australia, as the only other significant country not to ratify Kyoto, was Bush’s most important supporter. After the switch, Australia was able to pursue a negotiating strategy which sometimes seemed to accommodating to the US, but ultimately produced an excellent outcome.

Of course, there are also some losers, who did all they could to stop this happening, and failed. But they know who they are, and there’s no need to dwell on them today.

There’ll be plenty of difficulties ahead, and plenty of hard bargaining over details. But for the first time, we can be reasonably hopeful that the people of the world will act to avoid the worst of the impending ecological catastrophe of climate change.

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  1. observa
    December 16th, 2007 at 10:08 | #1

    Nice spot Bali and now it’s off to Copenhagen next time. It’s also patently obvious that Rudd Labor had no real plan for reducing GG and has handballed it all to Australia’s Al Gore in Australia now, presumably Ross Garnaut. He’s to report back to the Govt next August and they’ll mull it all over ready for the next election campaign, to make another big song and dance about its green credentials. Meanwhile the Iemma Govt has to get that new coal fired power staion signed up so the emitter can pick up its freebie emission licence. Anna Bligh just opened the biggest gas fired power station in Oz, so they should be right for theirs. It’s important for the States to hop in for their chop before those emission permits are handed out and anticipate a flurry of development approvals quick smart now.

  2. observa
    December 16th, 2007 at 10:21 | #2

    Well we would have had binding emission targets except for George Bush. Of course the Rudd Govt could walk the talk on its own and implement those desirable minimal cuts of 25% by 2020(the desirable 40% if it really chooses). Now even by today’s standards, that’s 6.25% reduction by the time of the next election. (Anyone know how much higher that really is in terms of 2000 base year?) All that low hanging fruit, just ripe for the plucking by the scientifically and morally motivated. We’ll see by the next election eh?

  3. December 16th, 2007 at 10:29 | #3

    sweet words always welcome. but i’m with observa: how come rudd doesn’t have a plan which he intends to carry out without international back-patting?

    he is going to conduct saving the planet as an exercise in re-election technique.

    can’t fault him for that, it’s how he makes his living. but professional politics is like professional sex: mirrors and peek-a-boo duds, hot words and little action. and you wake up the next morning with headache, a rash, less money, and still having to cook your own breakfast.

    ah, well, she’ll be right. and if the worst case scenario eventuates, or not.

  4. observa
    December 16th, 2007 at 10:41 | #4

    Actually it’s a pretty fair question to ask of those like JQ who are disappointed no real targets were set in Bali and bearing in mind John’s undertaken to examine all that low hanging fruit for us. What reductions does JQ think wall to wall Labor should achieve by the time of the next election and can you help him establish that consensus here, so the MSM can pick it up and put the word on our resolute leaders. Off the top of my head I think it should be minimum Kevin .07, but over to you.

  5. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 11:06 | #5

    “Anna Bligh just opened the biggest gas fired power station in Oz…”

    You know gas-fired electricity generation produces 75% less carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than coal, right?

  6. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 11:23 | #6

    Oh and in recent years, Queensland has closed down the Swanbank A and Callide A coal-fired power plants, effectively replacing them with the Swanbank E & F, gas-powered plants.

  7. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 11:36 | #7

    Actually Observa, if you accept John’s basic proposition that we let existing infrastructure operate until the end of its normal operating life, we won’t see a simple straight-line fall from 2007 to 2020.

    A 5% cut from current levels within the next three years is about what we should be looking for.

    That’s especially true because over the past few years strong growth in energy- and transport-related emissions have been offset by reduced emissions from land-clearing. Land-clearing emissions are approaching zero so there’s not much more benefit to cover from that.

  8. jquiggin
    December 16th, 2007 at 11:46 | #8

    Doesn’t this kind of snark get old for you after a while, Ob&Al?

    I think we can and should expect an emissions permits scheme in place by the end of 2009, covering electricity among other sectors, with reductions in net emissions under way by 2010, and a time-path to large reductions by 2020. If we don’t get this, feel free to snark at me by then. If we do, I guess you’ll find something else to snark about.

  9. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 11:56 | #9

    Having predicted for the several years that any reduction in carbon emissions will lead to the entire Australian population starving to death in the dark I think Obby will regard any policy that doesn’t involve a total ban on private cars, food rationing, electricity rationed to 2 hours per day and Khmer Rouge style spouse separation policies to reduce population growth as sadly inadequate.

  10. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2007 at 12:00 | #10

    I hope the more sanguine of the comments above, including JQ’s, prove to be true. As you would have gathered from my previous posts, I am worried about the lack of real progress on this issue. Let’s hope they (and we) don’t keep putting it off to the never-never. We already have a dangerous amount of global warming locked in.

    Probably we (the human race) won’t change until we are forced to. The laws of physics and the laws of economics will do their work and then things will change. We will get poorer, much poorer. Poor people don’t pollute as much. Oil will run out. Another plus for the environment.

    Let’s hope we have the wisdom to turn our backs on coal and nuclear.

    I know I keep banging on about but renewables can produce baseload power.

    Here is a prototype solar convection tower.


    Here is an artist’s animation impression of the real deal.


    If I see these sprouting on the western plains in my lifetime (another 20 or 30 years for me), I’ll believe my kids have a future.

  11. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 12:19 | #11

    Ikonoclast, never mind the solar towers.

    Baseload solar thermal power from Ausra will be coming on line in the western United States in the next two years.

    Let’s all give John Howard a big hand for forcing the technology’s developers to go off-shore for financing. After all, if not for him, the multi-million dollar manufacturing plant currently being built in Nevada might have ended up in New South Wales.

  12. Peter Wood
    December 16th, 2007 at 14:30 | #12

    Its a big win for forests as well. Being able to harness carbon finance in order to avoid deforestation could remove the incentive to clear a very large proportion of the worlds forests.

  13. observa
    December 16th, 2007 at 14:30 | #13

    So it’s a case of the greatest threat to mankind which wall to wall Labor has understood implicitly for a long time, lots of JQ’s low hanging fruit ripe for the plucking and yet no firm expectations then?

  14. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2007 at 14:35 | #14

    At least Labor (federally) understands it. We couldn’t say and still can’t say that much for the Liberals. However, I admit, understanding is worth nothing if it is not translated into practice. Eventually the situation will become so dire that the masses will demand action.

  15. observa
    December 16th, 2007 at 14:36 | #15

    Not even their corresponding share(6.25%) of the minimum 25% by 2020, called for by brave 10000 that rode at Bali?

  16. December 16th, 2007 at 15:16 | #16

    As I’ve said before, the quickest way to remove carbon from the cycle is to clear lots of bush by slash and (deliberately inefficient) burn, then bulldoze the charcoal into creeks so it can wash out to sea and sink where it can’t be sun bleached back into the air; repeat as needed. That should highlight the problem areas in this game. (“Terra Preta” is related, and a lot more sensible.)

  17. rog
    December 16th, 2007 at 15:24 | #17

    It seems that the reduction of coal mining, both for domestic and for export use, will be central to Australia’s reduction of carbon. This is going to hurt.

  18. John Greenfield
    December 16th, 2007 at 15:31 | #18


    You seem to be up on all of this. Why is there such silence on the fact that no matter how much we reduce emmissions, it will not have even the slightest ameliorative affect over the next 100 years? Thus, shouldn’t we be devoting a hell of a lot of energy to adjusting to living in a much warmer world even during our own lifetimes?

    For example, shouldn’t Australia be beefing up our military presence in Antartica, especially in oil exploration?

  19. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 15:41 | #19

    If there’s a global approach to reductions, the most carbon-intensive fuels such as lignite and Venezuela’s super-heavy heating oils, will be cut first.

    Australian black coal is amongst the cheapest and cleanest-burning coals so it should gain market share as those fuels become uneconomical.

  20. melanie
    December 16th, 2007 at 15:44 | #20

    The scenes at the conference that produced this result were amazing – the US delegation being booed, the PNG delegate telling them that if they didn’t want to join in why the hell didn’t they just leave and let the rest of us get on with it.

    Given that the Bush admin, and indeed the Republicans, will be gone by 2009, I’m not sure that it matters if the US were in on the deal or not. They haven’t signed anything they have to commit themselves to – except in a moral sense and they did that at Kyoto too.

    I guess the best thing out of this is that people can no longer make any excuses at all based on China and India not being “on board”.

  21. John Greenfield
    December 16th, 2007 at 15:49 | #21


    Do you think the situation of India and China is no ore significant than an opportunity for others to “make excuses?”

  22. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 16:06 | #22

    John, China in particular has been putting huge amounts of money and resources into renewable energy.

    China and India had also indicated all along that they were prepared to do a deal.

    The primary significance of China and India in the debate over climate policy in Australia and the US was as an excuse for inaction.

  23. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2007 at 16:25 | #23

    JG said, “Why is there such silence on the fact that no matter how much we reduce emmissions, it will not have even the slightest ameliorative affect over the next 100 years? Thus, shouldn’t we be devoting a hell of a lot of energy to adjusting to living in a much warmer world even during our own lifetimes?”

    A double-bunger question that merits a double-bunger answer. 🙂

    1. Limiting emissions will have an ameliorative effect. It will slow down the warming trend at least. That qualifies as an ameliorative effect in my book. Even if it only reverses the tredn in our children’s time or grandchildren’s time we should still do it. We have a duty of care to the planet and future generations.

    2. As well as devoting time, money and evergy to reducing carbon emissions we will be devoting time, money and energy to living in a warmer world in our lifetimes. The exigencies of the situation will force us to do that. It’s mostly a matter of whether our efforts are made proactively or reactively. Being proactive will save in time, money and energy costs in the long run. Long runs do matter. (Yes, I know what J.M. Keynes said.)

  24. Persse
    December 16th, 2007 at 16:28 | #24

    Here is a summary of some the proposals in comments. The updraft tower is not popular at this time, because the engineering challenges in constructing a tower a kilometre high are not thought to be cost efficient. I first read about it in the magazine Innovations put out by the Dept. of Science in Canberra, Nick Minchin killed it off. Another skanky thing that the Liberals did.

  25. SimonJM
    December 16th, 2007 at 16:42 | #25

    Less like a big win and more like a draw.

    While some new technology looks interesting



    given we may have only another 10 years to turn things around Bali didn’t really cut it.

    I wonder when the Dems get in will it mean the US finally gets a conscience and rather than looking for large developing nations to make larger cuts, it and others acknowledge their moral responsibility for the problem and realise they will have to pay for these countries to leapfrog to cleaner technology. China is already saying it will do much more if the developed nations do this.

  26. Nick Caldwell
    December 16th, 2007 at 16:46 | #26

    Shorter John Greenfield (18): We should keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last 200 years, but harder, faster, and with more guns!

  27. John Greenfield
    December 16th, 2007 at 17:27 | #27

    Ikonoclas/Nick Caldwell

    Neither of you even went near my question. Trends schmends. Dudes, we are talking NO effect on trends for at least 100 years.

    If you think there is something wrong with business as usual, except with guns, gives us the alternative. Oh, and with some science please. First person to mention “our children” is a rotten egg.

    If you do not realise that the only solution to this problem is TECHNOLOGY, you are dreaming.

  28. Hermit
    December 16th, 2007 at 19:54 | #28

    Ian G
    Yes this is nitpicking but won’t Kogan Ck obliterate
    the GHGs that Swanbank E saves?

    I sense the battle lines are drawn between optimists and pessimists, myself included. I think the required real carbon cuts will be far too big for Rudd to countenance. Remember Bush is an oil man and his instincts may be correct this time.

  29. Ikonoclast
    December 16th, 2007 at 19:56 | #29

    JG, my posts have mentioned technology quite a lot. And it mystifies me why mention of children should be ruled out of court. Sure, it’s a motherhood and apple-pie statement but you know sometimes motherhood and apple-pie are good.

  30. Alan
    December 16th, 2007 at 20:52 | #30

    Um, it would seem the Bush administration has issued a signing statement and criticised a decision that its own delegation agreed to. Bush has issued hundreds of domestic signing statements in any effort to exempt himself from the operation of Acts of Congress. Now it seems he’s invented the external signing statement.

  31. rog
    December 16th, 2007 at 22:10 | #31

    Careful reading of the bali agreement is that it is not much more than an agreement to meet again; the US has stated that emission cuts must accomodate economic interests of signatories and that all countries must be part of any future agreement not just developed. The US maintain that cuts by developed countries only will not be sufficient to alter global climate.

  32. Ian Gould
    December 16th, 2007 at 23:39 | #32

    Hermit, to a degree yes.

    But to be fair Kogan Creek will be the just about most efficient coal-fired plant in Australia when it opens. If we could replace the Loy Yang B and Hazelwood lignite power plants with supercritical black coal plants like Kogan Creek we’d make a fair sized dent in our national emissions.

    If the Callide A oxyfuels trial succeeds, CS Energy says they’ll retrofit the technology to Kogan Creek making it as greenhouse-efficient as a gas-fired plant.

  33. Chris O’Neill
    December 16th, 2007 at 23:56 | #33

    John Greenfield “Why is there such silence on the fact that no matter how much we reduce emmissions, it will not have even the slightest ameliorative affect over the next 100 years?”

    That’s a pretty bizarre idea that having a lower CO2 level than otherwise will have no effect.

    “Thus, shouldn’t we be devoting a hell of a lot of energy to adjusting to living in a much warmer world even during our own lifetimes? For example, shouldn’t Australia be beefing up our military presence in Antartica, especially in oil exploration?”

    I wouldn’t expect my lifetime to last anything like another 100 years but I think you’re putting the cart before the horse here. The time for emission mitigation is as soon as possible while adventures in Australian Antarctica are not going to be aided by warming for a looong time. Bear in mind that the earth’s surface south of 50 deg S is not yet being warmed up (on average) by anthropogenic global warming.

  34. observa
    December 17th, 2007 at 00:28 | #34

    Here’s our home grown Al Gore that we’re all waiting on now

    “On the eve of departing for the Bali conference, economist Ross Garnaut said it could be three years before Australia knew what post-Kyoto emission targets it would have to meet beyond 2012”
    How predictable Al. What no aspirational sef-imposed target over the next 3 years?

    ‘However, if economic ways of reducing emissions were not found, “there will come a time where there won’t be new coal-fired power stations”.’
    When we run out of coal Al? Certainly not before 2012 by the sound of things.

    ‘Professor Garnaut said the nuclear option had to take into account the considerable costs associated with community concern. “They are real costs that would affect the viability of the industry in Australia,” he said.’
    The costs of community concerns eh Al? I wonder if our pollies are any good at working those out, or if they need economists to work it out for them.

    ‘Professor Garnaut warned that Australians would pay a price for meeting the challenges of climate change, but he said the cost of doing nothing would be higher.
    Electricity bills and the cost of water in cities would rise. The cost of permits under a carbon trading system would be passed to consumers. The biggest cost would be the development of alternative energy sources such as wind.’
    Hang on a bit Al. Whatever happened to the costs of community concern about those electricity bills?

    These one percenter experts sure go quiet when you ask a simple question- What target should Kevin and wall to wall Labor be reasonably expected to meet by the time of the next Federal election? That’s because they’re a bunch of hectoring, moral posers, who are only good for ‘making the community more aware’, rather than walking the talk. That’s what I’ll tell the tradeys about these Kyoto shiny bums. Don’t believe a word they say but prepare yourselves for higher utility bills. As far as real GG emission cuts go, you’ll know our educated elites are fair dinkum the day they turn the aircons off in the universities, to experience the climate changing just like you do every day.

  35. jquiggin
    December 17th, 2007 at 06:20 | #35

    Desperate stuff, observa. Your lot wasn’t even going to get started with emissions trading until 2011, and wasted a decade doing nothing. Now suddenly, you want instant results.

    Fortunately, short of a global recession, Labor will be in for at least two terms by which time I’m confident we’ll see a significant decline in emissions (of course, if there’s a global recession we’ll get the emissions cuts the hard way).

  36. Socrates
    December 17th, 2007 at 07:30 | #36

    I agree that Bali is a (small) step forward. The criticism that Rudd had no plan of specific emission targets is true but unfair. The research work simply hasn’t been done and so we are all guessing on what might be a realistic short term target. In my field (transport) the Federal government hasn’t even done the technical studies needed to estimate emission reduction strategies. Want to see a national model of emisions from freight trucks? Bad luck, there isn’t one. That being said some major reductions (eg change to vehicle fleet) would be cost neutral and so shoudl be able to be the sbject of rapid policy action.

  37. observa
    December 17th, 2007 at 08:23 | #37

    So what you’re saying is Kyoto cap and trade to date was just a load of bollocks and we all have to sit down now and find real answers?

  38. Ian Gould
    December 17th, 2007 at 08:40 | #38

    “These one percenter experts sure go quiet when you ask a simple question- What target should Kevin and wall to wall Labor be reasonably expected to meet by the time of the next Federal election?”

    Actually, the two “one percenters” here – John and myself – both answered your question and in my case I gave a specific reduction target and justified it.

    But you’re obviously still upset over the election results, why not lie down and have a cuppa and a bex and come back when you’ve calmed down?

    Oh and the “costs of community concern” regarding nuclear power are the very real, direct, monetized costs involved in massive public inqiries and years of litigation.

    But I’m sure you’d be only too happy to volunteer Adelaide for the first nuclear plant (of the 50 or so we’d need), why don’t you chat with some of your neighbours and see what they think of the idea?

  39. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2007 at 09:32 | #39

    OK, we can all talk till the cows home (emitting methane too). 😉

    JQ, what is your opinion on the correct market policies to get clean economic energy? Would you agree the first step is to get rid of all subsidies? Bearing in mind the biggest subsidies by far currently go to fossil fuel and nuclear generation (world wide). Then we put prices on CO2 emission as a negative externality that must be costed. But how do we cost it? I have no idea as I am not a professional economist.

    Would not a tax be better than tradeable permits to emit. Why allow trade in a “bad”? Isn’t trade properly only for goods and not for negative externalities? Don’t tradeable permits open the door for too many rorts, loopholes and profiteering? If the loopholes are there people will find them and use them.

  40. John Greenfield
    December 17th, 2007 at 10:14 | #40

    Chris O’Neill

    That’s a pretty bizarre idea that having a lower CO2 level than otherwise will have no effect.

    I agree. It does seem bizarre. However, the whole greenhouse/global-warming thang is not “mechanical,” but “complex.” Linear reductions of only one factor – carbon emmissions – today will not have an ameliorative effect on the entire complex system for at least 100 years. In other words, it is largely too late simply to pull the system linearly in the opposite direction.

    The real action is in leap-frogging technology. But it is here that I am as ignorant as any other science fiction reader. 🙂

  41. gandhi
    December 17th, 2007 at 10:24 | #41

    My initial reaction was like a few others above, that Bali was just another agreement to meet again in another 2 years. But a closer reading shows Prof Q is right, and this was actually quite a substantial move forward.

    First we got Australia into Kyoto, which can only be good. Then we got this massive turnaround from a totally isolated and discredited USA. Here’s how The UK Independent reported it:

    “Last week was the week, and yesterday was the day, when the world finally showed that it was terminally fed up with the simple-minded, short-sighted and self-serving outlook of George Bush…

    It is simply not done in international negotiations for one country to single out another for criticism; it’s the equivalent of calling someone a liar in the House of Commons. But from early last week other delegations were publicly, unprecedentedly and explicitly blaming the US for the lack of progress. Worse, they were beginning to point the finger at President Bush himself, suggesting that things would improve once he was gone. That is the kind of humiliation reserved for such international pariahs as Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein. But even they were never subjected to the treatment that America received yesterday morning. When it tried, yet again, to sabotage agreement the representatives of the other 187 governments broke into boos and hisses. When Papua New Guinea told the US to “get out of the way”, they cheered.

    The US buckled…”

    It’s worth pondering whether this turnaround would have happened if Howard had won the election and we still weren’t signing Kyoto. It shows Bush isolated within his own country, and perhaps even within his own administration.

    If Bali did not deliver more it is because we are still – after all this time – at such early stages. For example, I wanted Rudd to make firmer commitments, but I can understand that he needs a few months to weed out all the institutionalized dross and get a clearer picture of what he can and cannot do.

    There will be another big meeting in Warsaw in Dec 2008, when a new US President should clarify the USA’s forward position. Till then, we should fully expect that all governments are working hard on back-room issues, so they will all be ready to sign on the dotted line in Copenhagen 2009.

  42. rossco
    December 17th, 2007 at 10:44 | #42

    Although the US presidential election will be in November 2008, the new president won’t take office until January 2009. That means Bush will still be president at the time of the Warsaw meeting. That is if he hasn’t been impeached un the meantime. We can only hope!

  43. December 17th, 2007 at 10:46 | #43

    Ausra came up in discussion again.

    Let me just make the point that startup tech companies always take much longer to deliver an end product than they claim. Many never do.

    Until they actually have their gigawatt-scale power plant up and running can we take their claims with just the teeniest grains of salt?

  44. pablo
    December 17th, 2007 at 10:52 | #44

    Unfortunately Ghandi, GWB will still be US president in Dec 08 for a Warsaw meet though you would hope that the incoming (Jan 09) pres would be able to do a ‘Rudd’ or at least forecast a ‘Rudd’ turnaround.
    I will be waiting to see what Bush’s aspirational group does in their meeting in Hawaii next month before I finally relax on Bali. I tend to think the brinkmanship involved in these 11th hour resolutions has a psycho-therapeutic side whereby the tired and irritable delegates will settle for anything respectable so that they can get some decent kip. I hope I’m wrong and that JQ has the wood on the Bali outcome.

  45. Hermit
    December 17th, 2007 at 12:06 | #45

    If Ausra fail then we are in strife. Of all the non-nuclear low carbon electrical generation technologies the most promising seems to be concentrating solar thermal with overnight heat storage. Wave power, hot granite geothermal, clean coal and the like don’t seem to be able to make the big time. Photovoltaics need an 80% price cut. At present windpower seems to be problematic after 20% grid penetration. Seems like we need 10 years more research before Christmas.

  46. Ikonoclast
    December 17th, 2007 at 12:50 | #46

    How many times do I have to mention… that solar convection towers run 24 hours a day. The heat gradient between the surface and top of the tower is actually higher at night as the air at 1,000 m cools faster than the surface.

    Can we build 1,000 m towers? Sure we can. The world’ tallest skyscraper is about 500m. Some towers are about 600m. The engineering problems are within the reach of current technology. Heck why not start with 500m towers? Clearly do-able. One would just have to look at the economics. But as it runs 24/7 and needs no overnight heat storage to produce baseload power continuously one would think it might be economic.

  47. rog
    December 17th, 2007 at 13:28 | #47

    The R+D has been ongoing for decades and still without any meaningful alternative.

  48. gandhi
    December 17th, 2007 at 14:26 | #48

    I wouldn’t expect too much from the Hawaii meeting, although you can be sure the US-centric Western Meejah will spin it for all it’s worth! And of course the sycophnat countries (still including Oz?) will bend over to help make it look good.

    Bush is the lamest of lame ducks and one can only hope he does not impede any incoming administration from signaling, if not actually signing up to, some more enlightened policies.

  49. December 17th, 2007 at 15:57 | #49

    Ikonoclast: Enviromission have been around since at least 2001, and haven’t built anything.

    Clearly, they are having trouble convincing investors that their concept is a goer.

  50. Roger Jones
    December 17th, 2007 at 17:31 | #50

    JG #18, #27, #41.

    You are wrong about the ameliorative effect. It is decades for air temperature, decades to centuries for sea level and longer for large ice caps. The science is clear.

    The benefits of beginning to stabilise in 2010 could be 15% by 2030 and 40% by 2050 measured as avoided warming.

  51. observa
    December 17th, 2007 at 21:24 | #51

    Oh great, typical! I’m constantly led on that signing Kyoto will be like the Dreamtime and Kyoto cap and trade will be the greatest thing since ATSIC, once that party pooper Howard’s gone, so I’m all fired up with Kevin .07 and the one percenters get brewer’s droop and can’t even get it up that far. Bush has given them a headache or something and now they need time to get in the mood, or wait for Garnaut or whatever.

    I can see this is a job for revvin’ Kevin to get them in the mood. Something right out of his party manual. Immerse them all in climate change eh Kev? Turn off all the airconditioners in the parliament, the PS offices and the universities, to really fire up all that moral energy and galvanise the intellect. No long Xmas break for them, when the planet’s at stake. Then we can send Ross out to the farms, factories, mines and building sites with his shiny new vapour detector, to measure the cost of community concern about the new policy initiative. Then when summer’s over he can head back to the unis and offices to measure all their concerns if we offered to slap up a nuke plant in order to get the aircons back on. Now I’m just a humble layman who’s not into all that digital wizardry of vapour detectors to measure the cost of community concern. Me, I’m still back at the level of wind up Bulls–t Detectors, so it’s only a layman’s hunch, when I reckon all Ross will really be checking, is whether his digital vapour detector is calibrated accurately to zero. Still, it’d be a damn good way to get cracking on those GG emissions and focus all the movers and shakers eh?

  52. jquiggin
    December 17th, 2007 at 21:50 | #52

    You’re on a roll, observa, but you’re going to roll right off the deep end if you don’t watch yourself 🙂

  53. mitchell porter
    December 18th, 2007 at 01:22 | #53

    John Greenfield, could you explain what your 100-years-to-make-a-difference claim refers to, preferably with a link? And Roger Jones, could you also back up your figures?

  54. Chris O’Neill
    December 18th, 2007 at 02:35 | #54

    John Greenfield: “Linear reductions of only one factor – carbon emmissions – today will not have an ameliorative effect on the entire complex system for at least 100 years. In other words, it is largely too late simply to pull the system linearly in the opposite direction.”

    So you think we should keep pushing it in the same direction. Again, a pretty bizarre idea.

    “The real action is in leap-frogging technology.”

    So if there is no leap-frogging technology then we’re stuffed. Sounds great.

    “But it is here that I am as ignorant as any other science fiction reader.”


  55. observa
    December 18th, 2007 at 08:47 | #55

    Yeah John, those old analogue BS detectors are finicky things. There’s an art to using them like teaching apprentices all about left handed screw drivers. Kevin .07 just needs to give the word and we’ll be over in a flash to open all those windows to let the fresh air in, quicker than he can finish saying … ‘and there’s carbon credits in it for the tradeys too’ 😉

  56. Roger Jones
    December 18th, 2007 at 09:05 | #56

    #55 – my figures are from a simple probabilistic model of global warming that I have built combined with recent work on emissions.

    It is based on departures from a reference emission scenario. The reference is some recent work that colleagues have done – I convert the emissions into warming curves.

    The underlying principle is faily robust, the number surprisingly robust if the climate system is assumed to be monotonic (i.e., nn tipping points between now and 2050 that later the warming path). The analysis is similar to the IPCC AR4 conclusions but this time we are using a consistent reference and policy set in recent history and short term projections (the IEA projections on Chinese and Indian steroids).

    The IPCC emission scenarios are not anchored on recent evidence and their reference and policy scenarios have different origins.

    This work is unpublished at present – the principle of low short-term gains but rapidly appreciating benefits is pretty well acknowledged amongst integrated modellers. One can quibble about the numbers but the overall conclusion is sound.

  57. Roger Jones
    December 18th, 2007 at 09:06 | #57

    Sorry – typos.

    The comment in brackets above should read “no tipping points between now and 2050 that alter the warming path”

  58. John Greenfield
    December 18th, 2007 at 13:51 | #58

    Roger Jones

    OK. This sounds good. You clearly know 1,000 times more about this than I do. So if you can direct me to some (relatively) accesible literature that will dissuade me of my “we’re all rooned anyway� fears, I would be very grateful.

  59. Chris O’Neill
    December 19th, 2007 at 01:06 | #59

    So if you can direct me to some (relatively) accesible literature that will dissuade me of my “we’re all rooned anyway� fears, I would be very grateful.

    Check out Realclimate’s Can 2°C warming be avoided. Also, don’t forget to look through Realclimate’s index for whatever you may be interested in.

  60. John Greenfield
    December 19th, 2007 at 09:11 | #60

    Chris O’Neill

    Ta. I’ll have a gander and who knows, I might be a greenie nutter.

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