Monday, December 15, 2014

Demographics Doom Climate Talks

The most recent United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting held in Lima, Peru to once more discuss, negotiate and talk about climate change finally ended early Sunday morning.  Despite  being extended over 30 hours to try to salvage some sort of agreement, nothing was really accomplished. The agreement announced and issued in the wee hours of Sunday morning was so watered down as to be practically meaningless. The agreement calls for:

Reaching an agreement next year in Paris that reflects "differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities" of each nation. Developed countries will provide financial support to "vulnerable" developing nations. And countries will set targets that go beyond their "current undertaking" without any accountability.

The talks in Paris next year will fail to produce a plan that will make any difference despite the “historic” climate agreement between President Barack Obama of the United States and President Xi Jinping of China announced last month. If you will recall the United States promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide, CO2) 26-28% from 2005 levels by 2025. This was an increase from the previously promised reduction made by President Obama for the United States to reduce CO2 emissions 17% by 2020 and 83 % by 2050. To achieve this goal the United States will have to reduce their standard of living and quality of life even with increases in efficiency of electrical production and gas mileage it cannot be accomplished any other way given the current and foreseeable technology . This would require approximately doubling annual CO2 reductions from 1.2% from 2005-2020 to 2.3-2.8 % from 2020-2025.
China will not cap their greenhouse gas emissions or economic growth, but instead announced its intent to peak CO2 emissions around 2030 (right about the time their population is due to peak). China also plans to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in electrical generation to around 20% by 2030. China had previously pledged to increase the share of non-fossil fuels for energy to around 15%.

The climate talks in Paris next year will fail to produce a meaningful plan to reduce world CO2 emissions because it can’t be done. The developing world will not cap their greenhouse gas emissions or economic growth while they are still poor. The developed world no longer represents the lion’s share of CO2 emissions. In 1990’s when the Kyoto Treaty was signed by the European Union, Japan and Canada, the developed world represented 72% of global CO2 emissions from fuel, now they represent about 43% and falling. Europe’s birth rate has plummeted and Europe’s population (including Russia and Eastern Europe) of 740 million is projected to decrease to 726 million by 2050. The population of the United States is projected to grow from about 316 million today to 440 million by 2050.

Asia is home to 60% of global population. China and India account for more than half of Asia’s total population. China’s total fertility rate is a very low 1.5 children per woman. India is projected to pass China in population size in about 15 years, becoming the world’s most populous country and is projected to have 1.625 billion people by 2050 while China’s population is projected to begin to fall from 1.357 billion today to 1.314 billion in 2050. Combined, they will represent about 30% of the world’s population. At the climate talks in 2012 China’s chief climate negotiator Xie Zhenhua announced that China’s CO2 emission would peak around 2030, pointing out that its per capita gross domestic product would have only reached half the level of other developed countries’ CO2 emissions when they peaked. No comment was made on the projected peak per capita CO2 emissions we are left to guess..

The only way to improve the standard of living and quality of life of their citizens is through the use of energy, for industry, transportation, lighting, water treatment and delivery, sewage treatment, growing food everything depends on energy most of which comes from fossil fuels. Even with increasing efficiency more carbon will have to be burnt to raise the standard of living of the developing world.

The world carbon emissions are growing each year faster than the developed nations can cut them even if we had the will to reduce our living standards to accomplish that. In addition, the developed world is growing older and will not have the financial resources to meet the promises that were made in their national social contracts. We may be rationing healthcare along with electricity and be unable to provide financial support to "vulnerable" developing nations. The United States will face a trade off of reducing living standards even further or missing the President's goals. .

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