A (relatively) new Lowe for Christmas

As Nick explains in the intro, this is one, if not the best of Christmas songs. Please enjoy it with my compliments while sipping white wine in the sun, sweltering in the USA, or storm-tossed in the North Atlantic. For your reading pleasure, why not spend some time in the company of Skeptical Science’s retelling of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol — or even revisit my own little attempt at Dickensian levity from a few years back.

The compliments of whatever season you celebrate from all at Hot Topic.

Fall in San Francisco: Jim Renwick’s AGU report

Jim RenwickI took part in the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting, held at the vast Moscone Center in San Francisco, 14-18 December. As always, it was an absolute cornucopia of everything to do with the Geo/Earth Sciences, from exoplanets to the earth’s core to climate change and science policy, delivered by over 20,000 geoscientists. The Fall Meeting is always a blast, a real mind-expander.

This year, I was committed to chairing sessions first thing on Monday morning and then again on Friday. Monday’s session was “Evaluating Reanalysis: What Can We Learn about Past Weather and Climate?” with my sub-session having a focus on polar regions. The Thu/Fri session was “Precipitation over Mountainous Terrain: Observations, Understanding, Modeling, and Future Prospects”. In between, I soaked up as much as I could, wandering the halls to hear and see fascinating presentations on climate history, science communication, sea ice, and designing climate change musicals for primary school children. Here’s a few highlights, my personal “tip of the iceberg” from this year’s meeting.
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New minister for Climate Change Paula Bennett confirms NZ uses ‘Hot Air’ creative accounting to meet emissions targets

New Minister for Climate Change, Paula Bennett New Zealand’s new Minister for Climate Change, Paula Bennett, has just confirmed New Zealand will be “carrying forward” 127 million “Hot Air” emissions units (or offsets) under Kyoto Protocol rules. These units mostly do not represent a tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent reduced somewhere else and yet the Government intends to use them to allow New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions to continue to increase.

On Thursday 17 December 2015, Ms Bennett released a statement stating that New Zealand had met its 2008 to 2012 Kyoto Protocol emissions reduction target and was well on the way to meeting the 2013 to 2020 target.

The Minister’s statement linked to four reports on the Ministry for the Environment’s website;

In two scathing posts last week, blogger No Right Turn assessed the dubious use of the Ukrainian and Russian units derived from — of all things — coal stockpile projects; Climate change: A policy based on fraud and Climate change: How bad is NZ’s climate fraud?.

My previous estimate of the amount of surplus units likely to be used was 86 million units. The reports confirm the number to be 127 million units. I did a back-of-envelope calculation to relate the numbers of units cancelled (to match 2008-2012 emissions) and the numbers left over as ‘surplus’ which may be carried forward.

Surplus units
The Kyoto Protocol “true-up” of units and ‘carry-over’ of surplus units

The updated Latest update on New Zealand’s 2020 net position explicitly confirms that New Zealand is ‘re-using’ the surplus units in assessing compliance with the 2020 target of a 5% reduction in emissions from a 1990 gross emissions base. So we will ‘meet’ the 2020 target in spite of projected increases in both gross emissions and net emissions. Gross emissions in 2020 are estimated to be 83 million tonnes, or 24% higher than 1990’s 67 million. Net emissions in 2020 are estimated to be 59 million tonnes, or 24% higher than 1990’s 38 million tonnes.

Manipulating accounting rules like this — so that an adverse trend is systematically misrepresented is as its opposite, a positive trend — is the text-book definition of creative accounting. I agree with No Right Turn that this is another example of New Zealand’s completely unethical climate change policy.

Paris: winners and losers

Pillow diplomacyWhat can I add to the millions of words in dozens of languages that have already been written by the thousands of journalists and commentators around the Paris Agreement? We now have a globally binding agreement that really looks like it could curtail the use of a fuel that has been central to our way of life for more than 150 years.

Of course, if we’d managed to actually make deep cuts in emissions 25 years ago, getting governments to limit warming to 1.5 degrees would have been an awful prospect – who would want that much warming.  When I started working on this, it might have been possible to have no warming at all.

And if industrialised countries had actually made deep cuts in emissions when they said they would,  would we even be having an argument about equity?  Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but let’s look forward here. What’s in this agreement?

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Will the Paris agreement side with the angels?

IMG_4904One of the most beautiful things I saw on my facebook feed last week were some angels at Republique, the scene of the attacks last month. Those same angels appeared at the entrance to the UN zone at the climate talks out at Le Bourget the other day as we walked into the centre. Today it was the Greenpeace polar bear, Aurora, roaring at everyone.  But whatever is set up to amuse us  on the way in, there’s no getting around it:  we’re heading to the pointy end of the Paris agreement, and it’s no longer really about pictures. It’s all about words. The text.

I’ve been here a few times now: these last 48 hours at a climate talks where nobody gets any sleep, and everybody’s obsessed with the regular new rounds of the draft agreement.

We’ve been waiting all day:  governments battled over words all night last night, and the French Environment Minister Fabius’s team started drafting a new version of the draft agreement early this morning.

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