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10, give or take 10

20 Dec 2023 | OP ED Watch

Robinson Meyer of Heatmap Daily intoned last week that: “I want to draw your attention to a particularly interesting report that came out in Dubai over the weekend. On Sunday, a consortium of climate science groups released this year’s 10 New Insights in Climate Science, a synopsis of the most recent climate research. The report was written at the invitation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change…” And you can guess just how new or insightful these deep thoughts from the IPCC were.

The idea that a set of new findings would be rushed out just in time for the COP was already absurd. Especially if you also believe the science on climate change has long been settled and the only reason people keep doing studies is to hammer home the catechism for the especially dense or wilful among sinners, or to get more grants.

In any case, whether science really was in fact a matter of unified dogma or a giant ongoing endeavour involving all sorts of conflicting perspectives and sometimes ambiguous results, parts of which are quite stable for long periods while others are subject to churn, you can’t go to this giant conference, held once a year, with the plan of getting up to speed on the science only once you’re there and then developing a plan. The conference is a place for making policy plans based on what you think you know, so you have to get as far up to speed on the science as you can ahead of time, say in October 2023 which would be good enough for negotiations in November and December unless the settled science changes week by week. Especially given the frantic pace of networking and negotiating at the conference, the idea that you’d also have the leisure to peruse lengthy verbose scientific documents one after another while there is like showing up the morning of the exam planning to get your studying done while running laps and chatting with friends.

Undaunted, Meyer claims that:

“Here were its top three insights:/ A. Overshooting 1.5 degrees Celsius [of global temperature rise] is fast becoming inevitable. Minimizing the magnitude and duration of overshoot is essential./ B. A rapid and managed fossil fuel phase-out is required to stay within the Paris Agreement target range./ C. Robust policies are critical to attain the scale needed for effective carbon dioxide removal (CDR).”

How is any of that stuff new? Or useful? Or even really comprehensible? What does “Minimizing the magnitude and duration of overshoot is essential” even mean? How do we do it? How rapid and complete a “managed fossil fuel phase-out” would it take to keep us “within the Paris Agreement target range” and if we managed it, what do the computers say would happen to temperature? (He later claims that “1.5 degrees Celsius of temperature rise, the level at which climate change will become especially disastrous”, having his climate disaster cake and eating it too. But no science says any such thing.)

Finally, “Robust policies are critical to attain the scale needed for effective carbon dioxide removal”. Yes, and robust growth is critical to attain the height needed to pursue my long-deferred effective NBA career. If only I knew how to get a foot taller and 40 years younger. Saying “Robust” is apparently meant to show that you’re a practical person ready to take action, not some windbag. But unfortunately it isn’t actually saying anything. Who thought feeble policies might work? How far are we from the “scale needed” and what plans do you have to get there?

None at all. Instead, after interviewing an expert who says, Meyer alerts breathless readers that “I think this pairing – a phaseout of fossil fuels and a get-serious moment about CDR – is promising.” Yeah. Except for the bit where neither of them shows the slightest sign of working.

P.S. If carbon capture ever did show promise, the “live in caves and eat dirt” crowd would find some objection to it. But we’re a long way from there.

3 comments on “10, give or take 10”

  1. Right about the "live in caves and eat dirt" crowd objecting to carbon capture.They turned against natural gas after everyone got off coal and oil heating.Remember that?The "Get Off Oil" campaign in the 80's.Gas was welcomed.Then the Ont. Lie-berals got the province off coal fired power plants
    into gas fired plants.They cheered.No more!They've made it next to impossible to build a new nuclear reactor almost anywhere.And now they want
    everyone off nat. gas furnaces into heat pumps,which are no good in Canadian winters,for the most part.So yeah,they'll object to carbon capture which
    is next to useless anyway.First thing first is to get rid of this nefarious Lib/NDP cabal,once and for all.

  2. "Lets say carbon capture worked. We would run it with abandon until all plants died"
    At which point some wonk would advocate using the "abundant solar and wind power" to crack water to liberate O2 - but only for the elites in their lavish underground cities. But take heart. Some plants employ a form of photosynthesis which uses less CO2 and they would likely survive. Meanwhile due to the massive die off of homo saps the CO2 capture schemes would collapse and the inevitable end of the current interglacial period would release CO2 from the cooling oceans.

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