O Lord, Make Us Green…

. .. but not yet.

Rembrandt, The Actor Willem Ruyter as St. Augustine, 1638

Rembrandt, The Actor Willem Ruyter as St. Augustine, 1638

Declaration of the G7 on climate change, 8 June, my italics:

Mindful of this [2º C] goal and considering the latest IPCC results, we emphasize that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonisation of the global economy over the course of this century.

The 85-year timeframe that was all they could agree to has attracted righteous scorn from climate scientists. Kevin Trenberth:

Decarbonization by the end of the century may well be too late because the magnitude of climate change long before then will exceed the bounds of many ecosystems and farms, and likely will be very disruptive.

Michael Mann:

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.

Sure. It’s still a landmark, an Overton shift, that leaders at this level have spelled out that the goal isn’t a 40% or 50% or 80% reduction in human carbon emissions, it’s stopping them completely. Everybody can understand this. Bye bye coal, bye bye oil, bye bye gas. Like Augustine’s self-reported prayer “O Lord, make me chaste, but not yet”, the G7 have conceded the principle. The rest is just timing.

Activists should note that the declaration was drafted by professionals. Over the course of this century isn’t the same as by the end of this century, and carefully leaves the door open to an earlier target.

The beauty of the full decarbonisation goal is that it immediately generates the full list of problems to be solved and new technologies needed. It’s impossible not to use some oil for petrochemicals? The residual usage will have to be offset by sequestration. Once you have robust sequestration options, the door is open to going carbon negative, as James Hansen insists.

The top of the list is obvious, and under way, if not fast enough.

  • Efficiency: check.
  • Cutting out coal for power generation: check.
  • Rolling out solar and wind generation: check.
  • Electric vehicles: check.

The LLNL energy flowcharts show that electricity and transport between them use two-thirds of US primary energy, so these are the big ticket items.

I am getting a little bored with just cheering on solar, wind, electric cars and buses, and smart controls, and I expect that goes for my readers. Some of the smaller problems lower down the list are technically more difficult and interesting. They include deforestation, aviation, shipping, steel-making, and cement. So let’s get started.

In my next post, I have a suggestion on cement.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]