Climate Endgame


Original Contraction and Convergence curve for a Climate Agreement
At the request of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1992, Aubrey Meyer conceived and presented his analysis of ‘The Unequal Use of the Global Commons’ to the Policy Working Group of the IPCC. This was dubbed ‘Expansion and Divergence’ and, led to a decisive international rejection, at the UN climate negotiations in 1995, of the global cost benefit analysis of climate change by some economists from the US and UK. This led to the development of GCI’s framework of ‘Contraction & Convergence’ (C&C). Introduced at the UNFCCC in 1996, C&C’s approach to stabilising greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at ‘safe’ level (by sharing the limited and finite weight of such gases that future human activity can release into the atmosphere on an equal per capita basis) raises a key issue in the climate change debate.
More detailed background is here from the Blue Planet nomination
In-depth examination of the C&C concept is here from the 2005 City of London Award
C&C politics as of a decade ago
A comprehensive library of climate change resources citing C&C is here
Case studies illustrating Contraction and Convergence 
==========================================================
After all is said and done, the basic issue at hand is how fast should this contraction take place? First of all, there's the rate of reduction necessary to get to simple zero carbon emissions, which is critical because we've already passed safe levels of CO2, and the longer we wait, the worse the outcome for planetary systems (because of planetary feedback):
Maximum Reduction Rates under the Contraction Point by year (GCI)
A discussion with respect to the rate at which the emissions must be reduced is on this page, centering on the drastic reduction required to keep from triggering the 2 degree C change that would be catastrophic. At this point, it's not yet clear what the numbers are, particularly since feedback effects from natural processes are not yet factored in. But it's still a drastic, immediate shift:
Three scenarios for rapid CO2 reduction to avoid runaway Climate Change
The historic curve on the above chart has clearly spiked far more than the original C&C curve that was initially proposed. China now produces more emissions than the USA, and India isn't much further behind. This throws out all earlier assumptions about how much of the carbon budget is allocated to "third world" countries, because they've now almost used them up, and they approach the cumulative total for developed countries. This means that the convergence must be very rapid, as is shown. In fact, given the uncertainties in the just-issued IPCC AR5 WG1 final statement report, the available carbon emissions budget may actually be zero right now to avert runaway climate change.

From GCI (9/13): Talks must start urgently on the world's "carbon budget" – the amount of greenhouse gas that can be poured into the atmosphere without triggering dangerous climate change – as without radical policies to cut emissions humanity will exceed the limit within 15 to 25 years, the world's leading climate economist has warned.

Lord Stern, the former World Bank chief economist and author of the landmark study of the economics of global warming, said the world faced a stark choice. On Friday Sept 27, 2013, after days of deliberations, the world's leading climate scientists put a figure for the first time on how much carbon dioxide humanity can continue to pour into the air before overheating the planet. The stark conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was that half to two-thirds of the "budget" have already been used up.

Tim Yeo, a Conservative MP, said: "The publication of a carbon budget by the IPCC increases the urgency and importance of the UN process and of future CoP meetings. Work should start at once on the establishment of a fair apportionment of emissions country by country, based on the principle of Contraction and Convergence." (Full Story in The UK Guardian)

An early presentation to the UN Climate Panel by GCI shows how various scenarios are constructed using the Contraction and Convergence framework to model the impact scenarios. This series of charts shows the growth of GHG emissions since 1800 and the growing impact this has on emissions, proceeding to dangerous levels of carbon if a rapid shift to renewals is not undertaken. The C3 sequence essentially represents a "business as usual scenario" or a High level. The C2 sequence represents a still-dangerous risk of climate impact, or a Medium level. The acceptable risk scenario is C1, or a Low level of emissions accomplished with the complete and rapid elimination of fossil fuels.

Problem: With the published IPCC AR5 still omitting natural emissions feedbacks in its report, GCI's Aubrey Meyer, has analyzed it, showing the calculations. He has set up an interactive Carbon Budget Analysis Tool (CBAT) that shows the interconnectedness of the three factors (temperature, acidity, and sea level) with a graphic user interface, which nobody else has done.To "do the math" correctly requires an iteration of calculations and an examination of the different scenarios to understand the impact of 450 PPMV as a "runaway" scenario. It uniquely displays the segregated feedback scenario that reflects the planetary feedback relationships (arctic ice melt) being added to human emissions and shows the acceleration of the impact of carbon on the biosphere.

Another example, a site from Oxford University, is counting current emissions in real time, and the emissions have come to over 574 billion tons at present, on their way to a catastrophic trillion tons by November of 2040. In order to prevent the trillionth ton ever being emitted, global emissions have to fall by 2.47 percent a year, and to keep on falling at that rate until they reach zero. But according to a numerical analysis, even this is woefully inadequate.

Analysis: The CBAT tool  is an interactive carbon tool website. It's a way to analyze different probable scenarios to establish the necessary reduction GHG emissons to avert catastrophic climate change, which we're approaching now as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations hit 400 PPMV. It steps through four "Domains" in sequence that allow the user to progressively examine the impacts of different carbon budgets.
The further documentation and explanatory notes and terminology are on the following pages:
CBAT was released at CAT on Dec 11, 2014. Aubrey Meyer talks about the presentation here.

A draft presentation of the steps in CBAT which will be finalized:

This video can be stopped for reading charts by using the bottom slider control

Strategy: Rapid global adoption of carbon limits, guided by the analysis and a conservative position on emissions, legislated as the Precautionary Principle, is the only effective means for global consensus. Since this approach is based upon the C&C allocation method for all countries, it establishes a fair basis for carbon reduction. Climate change strategy is a choice between increasing harm, or acting to restore safety. 

Conclusion: The only realistic way to deal with this is to leave the carbon in the ground (all fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil) and get to zero global emissions by 2050 at the latest, given the current rate of climate change. Temperatures have already risen by 0.8C (1.4F) since the Industrial Revolution and are on track to cause more heatwaves, floods and rising sea levels despite a hiatus in the pace of warming at the Earth's surface so far this century. But this warming has been absorbed by the oceans at a very fast pace. A rapid, systemic transformation to clean energy sources and human habitation is entirely possible. The Rocky Mountain Institute shows how the 1973 Arab Embargo has already shown the way. This also includes regeneration of the biosphere so that carbon can be absorbed from the ocean and the atmosphere. This can be funded with carbon taxes, but not with a cap-and-trade scheme that has been proposed by the oil industry as a delaying tactic; it's now too late to use that scheme and stay under 2C warming because so much carbon has been pumped into the atmosphere over the last 20 years while nations dithered.

World governments should point energy subsidies strictly to harnessing natural processes: wind, solar and geothermal. But it would mean restructuring the government subsidies meant to expand the fossil fuel industry (including the eternally ongoing wars waged by the USA funded by the giant military budget), which corporate won't allow to happen without some kind of drastic reaction. Which would amount to either natural collapse or revolutionary government changes, thanks to the 1% that is too selfish to fix our self-imposed climate change and save the future for our grandkids.

Yet, on the other hand, this from Naomi Klein: ... there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed. Which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.

Update Nov. 14, 2013

Lars Bolen has taken the information from the just-released International Energy Agency report and came up with his own rough infographic based upon that information. Here it is below:


Further developments in this dialogue, December 4 of 2013, from GCI:

"Carbon Budget in the UK Climate Act [UKCA] should not exceed 200 Gt C. GCI has been arguing this to Environmental Audit Committee [EAC] since 2009 - here and here"



Anthropocene: The closing doors of climate targets:

And the endgame, as presented by the Imperial College of London in a 1-hour lecture. The Grantham Institute for Climate Change Annual Lecture 2013, given by Professor Thomas Stocker, University of Bern, Switzerland and Co-chair of IPCC WGI

CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere are now unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years, and they rise more than 100 times faster than during the past 20,000 years. This is caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels and land use change with consequent changes in the entire Earth System.

A further analysis of the climate sensitivity factor, which is important for gauging the rate of impact of increasing carbon emissions correlated with temperature rise, is discussed by David Wasdell. His analysis stipulates that we have no carbon budget left, and that we must act immediately to cease producing fossil fuel energy.

Update Feb. 14, 2014 from Aubrey Meyer on the adoption of C&C as the framework for a global agreement on carbon emissions reduction:

Human caused global climate change biggest threat to human welfare. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] agreed in 1992 to deal with this.

Objective of UNFCCC is 'safe and stable atmospheric GHG concentration'. By definition inclusive Emissions Contraction and Convergence C&C 'inevitably required' for this.

COP 1 - 20 emissions and concentrations have continued to rise, the pace of climate change has accelerated and consequential damages already very significant - future looks bleak. Self-imposed deadline for inclusive UNFCCC-compliant global climate deal, COP 21 in Paris in 2015 if we are to avoid more than 2 degrees and runaway climate change.

Policy overview: -

Feb 2016: COP 21 Summary - RCP Scenario Budgets fail to keep temperature under 1.5C

March 2016: C&C framework presented by Sir David King

November 2016: The Paris Agreement Implementation Blueprint, with Plan B

Update Dec 2016: Aubrey Meyer's summary of C&C underlying structure

John Wheeler's idea of the 'acoustic memory' is certainly most appealing, as is his central idea about the simple, the beautiful and what may also be the 'obvious' that underlies everything. Many physicists have spoken in some detail about the famous 'string demonstration' by Pythagoras around 520 BCE.

As a string player for sixty years now I (and countless other string players over the Centuries) have literally lived and been guided by the 'reality of that resonance'. If anything any of us have ever played is 'beautiful', however difficult that may have been, it was only possible at all because of the fundamentally beautiful simplicity of what Pythagoras demonstrated two and a half millennia ago.  

However, there is also a subtlety in that simplicity that seems not to have been much less noticed.

Pythagoras’ famous ‘string experiment’ from around 530 BCE, demonstrated relativity where: -
  • if a string of constant length and at constant tension (Fundamental)
  • is divided into 2 1/2 lengths, the rate at which each 1/2 vibrates doubles (Perfect Octave) &
  • is divided into three 1/3 lengths, the rate at which each 1/3 vibrates trebles (Perfect Fifth) &
  • the 3 in the time of 2 in the time of 1 is called in music a ‘Hemiola’.
String length and vibrational frequency being inversely proportional this way, in 2010 physicist Stephen Hawking stated the view that we can call this, ‘the first law of theoretical physics’. 

In music this ‘First Law’ gives rise to ‘Perfect’ or ‘Pythagorean Tuning’. With the intervals between the notes within the octave being unequal (including the ‘semi-tones’ arising), it roots any music played on an instrument that is tuned ‘Perfectly’, firmly in the key-resonance in which that instrument is tuned (hence sympathetic strings on a Sitar for example). Around 2,225 years later ‘Equal Temperament’ or ‘Well-Tempered’ tuning was consolidated in Western music. In 1722 J S Bach published his ‘Well-Tempered Harpsichord’. It comprised ‘48 Preludes & Fugues’ (four in each of the 12 keys available within the 'Perfect Octave') but this required ‘Equal Temperament’ or ‘Well Tempered Tuning’ of the harpsichord, where the tuning of each of the 12 semitones is tuned to be in equal steps within the Perfect Octave.

In both of these tuning systems a ‘Perfect Octave’ is always a ‘Perfect Doubling’. However, in Well Tempered Tuning, a ‘Perfect Fifth’ becomes a ‘Well Tempered Fifth’, comprised of seven of the 12 Well Tempered or ‘equal’ Semitones within the 'Perfect Octave' and this is marginally smaller than the ‘Perfect Fifth’. Well-Tempered tuning removes the Pythagorean Comma, rooting the instrument equally in any key and this ‘Well-Tempered’ tuning remains the basis of Western music to this day. It shows that music can be written, played in-time and in-tune and modulate between any of the twelve ‘keys’ available within the 'Perfect Octave', without sounding 'out of tune'.

For exactly the same reason, Contraction & Convergence ‘well-tempers’ future rights to anthropogenic carbon emissions by embedding the principle of equal carbon rights per capita within a finite global carbon budget. Like an orchestra playing in in tune and in time together, this 'Well-Tempered Climate Accord’ enables the carbon-contraction-budget to be ‘performed’ at whatever rate (or in whatever key) that science requires. Crucially, any convergence rate to equal per capita rights that may be negotiated remains a function of the global contraction-rate chosen, thus removing the randomness of the political-economic model applied so far.

This much is now as good as vernacular.
However, the ‘Pythagorean Comma’ has a much deeper subtlety than has been realised. It is measurable as the Hertz (Hz) or ‘rate’ difference or ‘gap’ that emerges between 2^7 (seven Perfect Octaves) compared with 1.5^12 (twelve Perfect Fifths). As we progress the Hertz values through this sequence, twelve Well-Tempered 5ths progressively diverge from twelve Perfect Fifths, and the tiny deviations arising create a constant differential that is also audible and beautiful. 

Then, the most remarkable subtlety of all, is that on completion of the cycle 2^7:1.5^12, this Hertz gap has given rise to a sequence of rate-values that feedback between zero and ‘Phi’ or 0.618 – a subtle ‘deviation’ with a subtle ‘derivation’ from ‘The First Law of Theoretical Physics’, and the invariant significance of this seems difficult to overstate. 

Physicist Richard Feynman once remarkably described the ‘Fine Structure Constant’, a very close derivative of ‘Phi’, as ‘one of the greatest damn mysteries of physics: a magic number that comes to us with no understanding by man’. Electro-magnetically, ‘Phi’ is evident throughout nature at every scale of time & space. From the spiral of galaxies to the double helix of DNA, Phi is dynamically encoded in the self-structuring self-limiting growth patterns of sunflower seeds, pineapples, fir cones, the human cochlea and much else besides. 

Does this simple, beautiful and obvious derivation of the ‘Golden Rate/Ratio create an invariant that is, perhaps like Wheeler's 'acoustic memory', what drives musicians and perhaps everything, to respond even unknowingly to the fine structure of frequency governed this way? In his book 'What is Life', Erwin Schrödinger (who apparently called his cat 'Atman') called it 'negative entropy'.

Likewise, is the ‘living music of Phi-the-rate’ that emerges from ‘The First Law’, a key to resilience of ‘the Well-Tempered Climate Accord’, a methodology to collective global action to cut carbon emissions in time to keep in tune with the planet, other life-forms and ourselves?

Often known as ‘Contraction & Convergence’, after thirty years and in the face of the now rapidly rising concern about our future climate, this ‘C&C’ methodology remains remarkably robust.