The Paris Accords Framework process restarts after the COVID freeze; perhaps actual suggestions will come with the Sixth Assessment next year
Recently, tens of thousands of the worlds’ best and brightest1 gathered in Glasgow for #COP262 - the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. This is apparently an annual event — although it was not held last year. The headline achievement was that the communique3 agreed that an objective is to reduce consumption of coal.
To be mathematical about it: if it takes fifty thousand people a fortnight to agree that “we will have to burn less coal in the future”, and those people engage in executive session for one fortnight per year, we may never get around to actually doing anything. Celebrity pundit Greta Thunberg summed it up as follows:
Greta Thunberg @GretaThunbergUnless we achieve immediate, drastic, unprecedented, annual emission cuts at the source then that means we’re failing when it comes to this climate crisis. “Small steps in the right direction”, “making some progress” or “winning slowly” equals loosing. #COP26 #UprootTheSystem
The organizers of the conference were not happy with the outcome either. The BBC bravely reported that the conference president “fought back tears” due to the replacement of language calling for a “phase out” of coal with language calling for a “phase down” of coal4.
A Sejm of Dunces
The United States Senate is the second-worst apportioned major legislative body in the world. The only group less representative is the United Nations5 General Assembly.
Of course, the UNGA doesn’t actually do anything, so this is not of any relevance to any possible outcomes6. The system where rich countries buy votes from small countries is pure corruption; it is only not illegal because there is nobody else to make it illegal.
The UN’s #COP26 takes this system and makes it require unanimity. This is a necessary sin of the system. Unlike in the Rzeczpospolita7, this is a necessary feature — no treaty can bind a country that hasn’t signed it, and this is a negotiation of a treaty.
In practice, only a handful of countries can veto the proceedings.
India and China can shut the whole thing down. Presumably “phase-down” versus “phase-out” isn’t the real issue, the real issue is reminding people that they can shut the whole thing down. I will leave the draw-down histrionics to those present at the tragedy in person.
If the likes of Belarus or Cuba were to do so, they might simply be invited to leave the session. If Tuvalu or Mauritius8 were to do so, they would find the aforementioned bribes would disappear, and possibly would enjoy a military coup.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has never been a party to the treaty. Some sources imply that the group known as a4288f97 is party to the treaty. I have been unable to find an attorney in the International Law field to advise me on that topic.
The Ratchet Log
The theory of the Paris Accords Framework is that by having year-by-year commitments to improve the situation, we will eventually get to a solution. I do not like that theory. But as I am unable to change the framework, I suppose I should address it as it exists.
There are two problems the Paris Accords Framework needs to solve. The second problem is how to make sure everyone eventually gets to net-zero conditions. A gradual process such as the Paris Accords Framework may work for that.
The first problem is what PPM the net-zero conditions will be at. That is: how quickly can we get to net-zero? Or more directly: can we get to net-zero? Paris seems utterly unwilling to even engage with those questions.
A Journey with Carbon Credits
Alf is a resident of the People’s Republic of Cambridge. Alf produces carbon directly by burning gasoline in his automobile and lawnmower. Alf also produces carbon indirectly by purchasing electricity from the grid. We assume an electric heat-pump rather than a gas furnace.
Alf purchases a 100 gallon9 carbon credit. Today, you can buy something similar-sounding for roughly $20, less than the market price of the gasoline. This must be viewed as an indulgence10 at the present time. A credible estimate on removing carbon from the atmosphere (and at net-zero, any carbon added must be removed) has a cost of $840 - and that price is for bottling CO2. You have to provide your own subterranean caverns to store the CO2 indefinitely.
You can also purchase an equivalent amount of energy in ethanol and bury that. There is a nasty11 conversion factor, but a 100 gallon tub of fuel-grade ethanol costs around $300, and 100 gallons of Charles Shaw wine costs12 $2000.
The process would look much better if there was a public agreement on a PPM number. There’s a lot of bad science about the correlation between PPM and “degrees of temperature rise”. Why not side-step it all by using a metric that is easily measured in one measurement anywhere on earth?
I can only assume the PPM number they would currently target is so high, they can’t say it publicly with a straight face. What does “1.5 C” mean anyway? It gives plausibe deniability to everyone. Whereas you can see what 440PPM means in terms of years to action from the comfort of your warm home.
It is a valid question whether we actually want “the best and brightest” negotiating this. Perhaps a panel selected by sortition would give better results.
Most stylations of #COP26 in the news media do not use a visible hashtag.
The “Pact” is written in United Nations Register. Every phrase starts with a gerund (Acknowledging the …) or third-person present (Welcomes the …).
There is a joke about the Nicene Creed here, but I neither know nor like the Nicene Creed enough to tell it.
Before Trump was elected, I was concerned he would withdraw the United States from the United Nations. This did not happen, and was never seriously discussed. I assume he (correctly) views the UN as an ineffective organization that brings prestige to a part of New York City where he owns a lot of real estate.
On the one hand, it’s lazy writing to repeatedly point out the failures of the UN. On the other hand, I am trying to prove the point.
Rzeczpospolita refers to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 1600s and 1700s. The commonwealth featured a strong parliament, but one where any member could veto the entire session. At some point the Russians figured out they could bribe members to do this. When reforms were finally proposed, the country was partitioned by Prussia, Russia, and Austria.
“April 18. This is the only country in the world where the stranger is not asked “How do you like this place?” This is indeed a large distinction. Here the citizen does the talking about the country himself; the stranger is not asked to help. You get all sorts of information. From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius. Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration; that the two chief villages, Port Louis and Curepipe, fall short of heavenly perfection; that nobody lives in Port Louis except upon compulsion, and that Curepipe is the wettest and rainiest place in the world.” - Mark Twain, published in Gutenberg.org 2895.
The confusion between “ton” and “megagram” is so prevalent we prefer to denominate carbon credits in “gallons of gasoline”. One gallon of gasoline is twenty pounds of CO2. Any reader who suppressed an urge to point out that “gram is a unit of mass and ton is a unit of weight” scores bonus points.
It is a dirty secret that what is being bought is often something like “perhaps some farmer in Thailand uses cow dung for fertilizer instead of modern nitrogen fertilizers”.
150 gallons of ethanol has about the same energy as 100 gallons of gasoline. However, we need to check the molecular formulas to do the correct conversion rate.
The math is $4 per bottle (inflation is real), 5 bottles to the gallon, 100 gallons. Charles Shaw is around 12.5% alcohol.