Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. The demands on my time have been intense recently, and I have found little time to read, let alone write.
- The third instalment of The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) was published on 12th April, hot on the heels of the second instalment which came out on 31st March. The latest report is from Working Group III and is titled “Mitigation of Climate Change”. “The Summary for Policy Makers”, which pulls out the most pertinent points, can be found here. With mankind currently emitting around 50 giga tonnes of CO2 equivalent, it looks almost impossible to constrain end-of-century warming to 2 degrees Celsius.
- Real Climate has an interesting commentary on this IPCC report by Brigitte Knopf (which you can find here). It highlights the fact that mitigation strategies remain relatively low cost. To avoid dangerous climate change would likely only require a reduction in global GDP growth from 2.0% to 1.94% per annum. Further, the Real Climate post also contains the infamous chart that was excluded from the original “Summary for Policy Makers” since it showed upper middle income countries (led by China) driving emission growth.
- I am still skeptical over the Chinese growth story remaining intact for decades to come. The Q1 GDP release saw growth slowing to 7.4% (see here). Business Insider has a series of ugly charts on China here, while a Morgan Stanley report suggesting that China may be reaching a Minsky Moment (a credit inflexion point) has received a lot of comment (for example, here). Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture has a series of charts showing the credit madness here. Personally, I still think China will ‘do a Japan’; that is, experience a sudden and sharp drop in GDP growth. Not good for China, but certainly good for climate change.
- More generally, the upbeat ‘hiatus’ mentality is everywhere. We have a ‘hiatus’ in global mean temperature rise, a ‘hiatus’ in oil price increases (although the oil price is certainly not going down despite the shale story) and a ‘hiatus’ in the global financial crisis. The International Monetary Fund in its April “World Economic Outlook” publication (WEO) publication, sees global growth of 3.6% in 2014 and 3.9% in 2015, up from 3.3% in 2013. More important, it puts the risk of a near-term global recession close to zero. The Federal Reserve Board-led super monetary ease and abundant access to credit has, for the time being, proved victorious. I still believe that there are longer term forces at work which will confront the average household with a whole new world of risk by the end of the decade. The current ‘hiatuses’ provide a golden opportunity to prepare for the future, but are generally seen as a confirmation of good times are here again. For the vast majority of people, including the educated, global warming is dead, peak oil is dead, and financial/economic risk is dead. We shall see.
Re: China, what do you make of this report from Greenpeace? http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/briefings/climate/2014/The-End-of-Chinas-Coal-Boom.pdf
According to the report, provinces accounting for 44% of China’s coal use have put in place measures to limit coal use by 2017, including a 50% reduction in Beijing. 10 of 34 provinces have already seen falls. China’s growth in coal use, more than 9% in 2010 and 2011, dropped to 2.8% in 2012.
This does tie in with other reports that China may be able to peak emissions earlier than thought. In 2009 their estimate was 2030-2040, but more recently 2025 has been mentioned. That is not far away. They are also presently introducing a nationwide ETS. On the other hand, China’s urbanization has only half run its course, so I think radical efficiency measures would be needed to meet such a target.
Robert: There is a good article in today’s FT that deals with this very same topic. For coal, 2030 is given as a potential peak.
I guess it’s not just the peak but also how quickly the decline is thereafter. Given that the country has embraced nuclear, they have less of a problem with base load. A credit crunch would mean much slower economic growth, but also likely a capital constraint in investment in nuclear and renewables. My personal opinion is that China’s emissions trajectory is such that almost alone it makes the two degree warming target impossible. Yet I don’t see an exponential increase in emissions as growth slows and renewables/nuclear kicks in. So the optimism I can muster is that, say, 5 degree warming scenarios remain low probability unless we are very unlucky with respect to sensitivity and/or some of the known unknowns like permafrost emissions zap us (or we get zapped by some of the unknown unknowns as the climate moves into completely unchartered territory).