“If you thought it was hard to keep up your New Year’s resolution, try keeping an 85-year pledge, reported the CBC about the G7 promise to decarbonize by the year 2100. We all know how such resolutions turn out.

Some environmentalists have called the G7 agreement groundbreaking or a game-changer in the fight against climate change and the transition to a carbon-free world. It is a hopeful sign and I too applaud the announcement. But 85 years into an uncertain future? What we have is a climate emergency calling for a shorter-term solution. To put this in perspective, almost all of the current 7 billion people on this planet will be gone by then. My youngest grandchild will be 92 years old by the time all fossil-fuels are phased out – a truly asinine time-scale that may outlast humankind.

The G7 85-Year Carbon Pledge is Laughable, boomer warrior

85-Year Carbon Pledge is Laughable

This is such a weak commitment that even Canada’s Prime Minister, undeniably the world’s worst climate villain, signed the non-binding pledge. Canada has already withdrawn from the Kyoto agreement and now will fail to meet its 2020 Copenhagen target. Now Harper has the audacity to make even more long-lived climate pledges after having failed to follow past environmental promises.

During the recent G7 meeting, Stephen Harper characteristically blocked attempts to include a stronger statement on binding greenhouse gas reduction targets. “That’s shameful,” said David Keith, an engineering professor at Harvard University. “For a government to try and avoid such a statement, is really a shame.” About the 85-year pledge, he goes on to say that “It’s not groundbreaking. It is politically cheap to pledge a non-binding commitment that falls way behind someone’s time in office.”

Time is not on our side.

In November of 2014, the IPCC released its Synthesis Report warning that a failure to transition away from fossil fuels in the near-term will increase the likelihood of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” to the environment. The key word is “near-term”. Waiting 85 years to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels ignores the need for massive adaptation to climate change. It’s simply too late. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it best at the time. “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”

What is clearly missing from the 85-year pledge is a concrete plan for immediate action on reducing GHGs. This has been left to the Paris2015 COP. As of now, the G7’s phaseout goals are non-binding and do not include individual emission targets. The agreement lacks teeth and remains unenforceable. This is where illusion takes the place of policy.

“The goal is a step in the right direction, but not very meaningful considering greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced dramatically within the next decade, well ahead of the G7’s timeline,” said Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.

In my view, the science makes clear that 2050 or 2100 is way too far down the road…We will need near-term limits if we are going to avoid dangerous warming of the planet.

The Fallacy of the 2°C Threshold

The G7 85-Year Carbon Pledge is Laughable, boomer warrior

At their meeting, the G7 also agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperature to a maximum of 2°C over pre-industrial levels. However, climate scientists argue that the IPCC and policymakers need to acknowledge that the planet is already on track for warming beyond 2°C.

“A policy narrative that continues to frame this target as the sole metric of success or failure to constrain climate change risk is now itself becoming dangerous,” wrote Todd Sanford and Peter Frumhoff of UCS  in Nature Climate Change. “[It] ill-prepares society to confront and manage the risks of a world that is increasingly likely to experience warming well in excess of 2°C this century.

Retired NASA climate scientist James Hansen claims that the 2°C target is misguided – not stringent enough – and is “so dangerous” as to be “foolhardy.” Hansen and his colleagues suggest that a 1°C target is far less dangerous. The Earth has already warmed 0.85°C from 1880 (preindustrial times) to 2012.

The 2°C limit comes from the 2009 U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen. “There was little scientific basis for the 2°C figure that was adopted,” David Victor (UC San Diego) and co-author Charles Kennel (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) wrote in Nature, “but it offered a simple focal point and was familiar from earlier discussions … At the time, the 2°C goal sounded bold and perhaps feasible.”

Given where emissions are in 2015, there’s a need to debate the 2°C threshold. The IPCC itself (in September 2014) reported that the world’s “carbon budget,” the amount of greenhouse gas that can be emitted without exceeding 2°C, could be used up entirely by 2040, says Andrew Jordan of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Norwich, England. This fact alone makes the G7 85-year carbon pledge laughable.

But simplicity must now face reality. It was never meant to be a safe limit. It has proven to be impractical scientifically as emissions are on track to break through this barrier.Politically, it has allowed world leaders to pretend that they are taking serious action to tackle global warming when in fact they have achieved very little.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

With this recent G7 announcement, one would expect governments to abolish oil subsidies immediately. But don’t hold your breath. As far back as 2009, the G20 agreed to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.

Not only are world governments spending $775 billion to subsidize the use and production of fossil fuels, they are also paying $88 billion per year to subsidize the exploration for further fossil fuel deposits. Global renewable subsidies, by comparison, amounted to $101 billion in 2013. (Source: Planet Experts)

Today, the U.S. spends $5.1 billion on fossil fuel exploration, almost twice as much as in 2009. (Source: ODI – Overseas Development Institute)

The G7 85-Year Carbon Pledge is Laughable, boomer warrior
Oil and gas exploration expenditure in G20 countries (public and private). Photograph: ODI/Rystad Energy

So let’s not expect fossil fuel subsidies to end anytime soon. In fact, we may see an accelerated and frenzied rate of development of oil, natural gas and coal reserves as fossil fuel companies seek to maximize their profits in the shorter term, knowing that they will become extinct like the dinosaurs in the longer term. After all, they have 85 years to go.
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Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a blogger and a Climate Activist. Rolly has been published widely – Toronto Star, The Hill Times, Kingston Whig, the PEN, UnpublishedOttawa, Climate Change Guide, World Daily, Examiner, The Canadian, 350Ottawa, ClimateMama, MyEarth360, GreenDivas, The Elephant, Countercurrents, County Weekly News.

He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa). You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Linkedin.

9 COMMENTS

  1. We are totally ignoring the Science and our governments are selling us all down the river, urged on by greed and self importance… am not a religious person (Agnostic), but this smacks of Christian Biblical prophesy…

    “Timothy 3:1

    But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

    Matthew 24:21 – For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

    “Matthew 24:29 – Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:”

    “Matthew 24:22 – And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”

    The bible prophesies describe the activities of man going on as completely unaware when the tribulation hour comes…

    “Matthew 24:
    36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”

    • Colette – you lost me with all the biblical references. It sounds pretty ominous.

      I retain this line “they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away.” Sounds prophetic, especially for the hundreds of millions who will be exposed to rising ocean levels.

      • Ah well, sorry about that Rolly – you could say I was having a particularly bad day.
        Apologies to anyone offended by the Biblical stuff… probably not appropriate.

  2. The Koch Bros and the Fossil Fuel Industry, have spent Millions on Legislators,Regulators, and the Judicial System to continue Poisoning Our Air, Water, and Soil.

    The Global Warming, Sea Level Rising, Fossil Fuel Energy Policies, that Globally emitted 40 – 50 Billion Toxic Tons of Carbon, of that the United States emitted 6.8 Billion Toxic Tons, and leads the charge to Frack the Globe.

    Right Now we have 404 parts per million of carbon in our atmosphere.

    The Jet Stream of Old, is Gone.

    There is No Carbon Budget, each Toxic Ton we emit, is Warming the Planet.

    The past Five years have Global record temps steadily increasing.

    Northwest Pacific Ocean, 3 – 6 degrees Warmer than Normal,

    “At just 0.80C of Global Warming, the World is Already experiencing Climate Change.

    West Antarctica and Greenland Calving.

    Arctic 75% gone and melting, with severe consequence for the Future Stability of the Permafrost, and Frozen Methane Stores, as Ice Sheets retreat the Earrths Reflective Power Decreases.

    In reality 2C is the boundary between Dangerous and Very Dangerous Climate Change and a 1C is warmer than any Human Civilization has Experienced” David Spratt

    In the 1850s parts per million of carbon was 260 – 280.

    Whales, Dolphins, Sea Lions, Starfish, Die Off along the Western Coast of the Pacific Ocean over the past year . Ocean Acidity levels climbing, Mercury 3x more than the start of the Century.

    “Ice sheets contain enormous quantities of frozen water. If the Greenland Ice Sheet melted, scientists estimate that sea level would rise about 6 meters (20 feet). If the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted, sea level would rise by about 60 meters (200 feet).” National Snow and Ice Data Center.

    When will Sea Level Rise to 220 – 300 Feet ? 2020 ? 2025 ? ?

    California emitted 459 Toxic Tons of Carbon Dioxide in 2014.

    Gov Browns call to reduce this to 1990 levels so we can continue to emit over 400 million Toxic Tons a year, will not help us stop or slow down Global Warming and Sea Levels Rising.

    “Updates to the 2020 Limit.
    Calculation of the original 1990 limit approved in 2007 was revised using the scientifically updated IPCC 2007 fourth assessment report (AR4) global warming potentials, to 431 MMTCO2e. Thus the 2020 GHG emissions limit established in response to AB 32 is now slightly higher than the 427 MMTCO2e in the initial Scoping Plan.” Ca. Gov. Data

    We Need 100% Renewable Energies .

    No Twin Tunnels, Save the Delta, this Fragile Eco-System is a measurement of our commitment to bring in Sustainable Energy Policies.

    Cap and Trade Phased Out.

    75% Airport reduction in Carbon emissions.

    Close Diablo Nuclear Power Plant, and relocate All Nuclear Waste above 2,000 feet.

    Ban Fracking

    Close all 108, for profit, Water Bottling Plants in California

    Implement a California Residential and Commercial Feed in Tariff.

    California Residential Feed in Tariff would allow homeowners to sell their Renewable Energy to the utility, protecting our communities from Poison Water, Grid Failures, Natural Disasters, Toxic Natural Gas and Oil Fracking.

    Our California Residential Feed-In Tariff should start out at 16 cents per kilowatt hour, 5 cents per kilowatt hour to the Utility for use of the Grid, 11 cents per kilowatt hour going to the Home Owner.

    A California Commercial FiT in Los Angeles, Palo Alto, an Sacramento Ca. are operating NOW, paying the Business Person 17 cents cents per kilowatt hour.

    Sign and Share this petition for a California Residential Feed in Tariff.
    http://signon.org/sign/let-california-home-owners

    • Daniel – apologies for responding so late to your interesting comments. And thank you for following BoomerWarrior.Org.

      I would sign the petition attached but I’m not a California resident. You raise many valid climate facts and offer logical solutions. Keep up the good work.

      Thanks again.

  3. I think Canadians and the world need to stop blaming and belittling their governments for not meeting GHG targets. If we continue to do that, it isn’t moving anything forward. It isn’t productive. It sometimes even encourages governments to be even more defiant. It’s like bullying the bullies. Stating the facts over and over, showing the climate worsening and worsening also isn’t helpful in moving us forward. It’s a way of wallowing and feeling sorry for ourselves. Prophesying from the Bible is only showing us that there is no hope, the world will end anyway. We need to move away from this negativity and look for positive answers and goals for dealing with GHG emissions and get them reduced WITHOUT our government’s help or leadership. Our government will not help, so we need to work on this ourselves.

    We need a plan to reduce Canada’s GHG’s. Canadians working together can reduce our dependance on GHG’s. Even if we cannot do it as effectively or efficiently as a government can, small steps are better than no steps. So what needs to change? We need to know our country’s greatest guzzlers of GHG’s and work on target reductions. When we have worked on this and met some targets of our own, we would hope to inspire others to take on similar challenges. I think trying and working together is a positive goal moving us forward. We need to be positive and we need to show some effort. This is what I think needs to happen.

    • Linda – sorry for the late response.

      Although I agree that just showing the negative side of climate change and focusing on how bad it’s getting is not particularly useful, it does remind all of us that we face a climate emergency on our hands. But my sense is that many forces are lining up – Road to Paris2015, the pope on a climate mission, the recent G7 announcement, American leadership on climate – to finally move the world to the reality of climate action.

      Many people like you and I are engaged on a daily basis in many different ways as activists to raise awareness and exert pressure on our political leaders to adopt the kind of plan you refer to.

      Thanks for your comments Linda. Keep up the good work.

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