The latest climate change prediction - sigh

The UN has told us, once again, that we're all going to end up boiling Flipper in the remains of the last ice floe.

When UN climate negotiators meet for summit talks this month, there will be a new figure on the table: 3C.

Until now, global efforts such as the Paris climate agreement have tried to limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels. However, with latest projections pointing to an increase of 3.2C by 2100, these goals seem to be slipping out of reach.

As you know about us around here, we take no real view of the underlying science here - not because we agree or don't (either with it or among ourselves) but because we don't think that's the useful thing to be arguing about. A sufficient head of steam has been built up that they're going to do something so let's discuss instead what to do. All of which means actually understanding what it is that people are telling us when they talk about last ice floes and Flipper etc.

The truth here being that the UN has just said something of no relevance whatsoever to reality.

Their report is here. What they are not saying is that emissions are going to rise sufficiently to create this temperature rise. They are not measuring technological change - the obvious thing which is going to determine what does happen - nor the turnover of capital assets which emit, whether we're on RCP 8.5 (we're not) or RCP 2.6 (probably not as yet at least) etc. 

What they are saying is that governments haven't promised, through their Nationally Determined Contributions, to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid that 3C.


It isn't going to be governments making pledges in Paris which change the future anyway, is it? It is going to be technological advance and the associated actions of the aggregated 7 billion of us which will. And one lesson to take from that great economic experiment we call the 20th century is that markets and incentives work rather better at determining what does happen than the promises, pledges and predictions of governments when trying to manage an economy. Or even reality. 

As Bjorn Lomborg said near two decades ago - and boy doesn't he still get stick for having been right - in a world where solar power drops in cost by 20% per annum and is still doing so what a politician promises to do to the rest of us is really very small beer indeed.