Saturday, November 12, 2022

There is no Carbon Budget

[ Sam Carana: "There is no carbon budget!" ]

In the above image, the atmosphere is presented as a "bucket" filling with greenhouse gas pollution from fossil fuel use from 1870 to 2020. The image depicts the idea that there is some carbon budget left, before 1.5°C above pre-industrial will be reached. The Global Carbon Project has just issued an update of what it refers to as the Global Carbon Budget

[ adapted from Global Carbon Budget 2022 ]
The Global Carbon Project insists that there still is some carbon budget left, even as global fossil fuel C₂O emissions in 2021 were higher than 2020, and are projected to be higher again in 2022 than 2021, as illustrated by the image on the right.

Arctic-news has long said that the suggestion of a carbon budget is part of a narrative that polluters seek to spread, i.e. that there was some budget left to be divided among polluters, as if polluters could safely continue to pollute for years to come before thresholds would be reached that could make life uncomfortable, such as a rise of 1.5°C above pre-industrial. 

For starters, an earlier analysis warns that the 1.5°C threshold may have been crossed long ago. The situation looks set to soon become even more catastrophic. The upcoming El Niño could make a difference of more than 0.5°C over the next few years. Additionally, there will be a growing impact of sunspots, forecast to peak in July 2025. 

Arctic-news has long warned about rising temperatures, not only due to high greenhouse gas levels, but also due to a number of events and developments including a rise of up to 1.6°C due to loss of Arctic sea ice and permafrost, and associated changes, a rise of up to 1.9°C due to a decrease in cooling aerosols, and a rise of up to 0.6°C due to an increase in warming aerosols and gases as a result of more biomass and waste burning and forest fires.

More recent posts also warn that the rise could cause the clouds tipping point at 1200 ppm CO₂e to be crossed. Accordingly, the total temperature rise could be as high as 18.44°C from pre-industrial by 2026. Keep in mind that humans are likely to go extinct with a rise of 3°C, as discussed in an earlier post.

[ image from quotes, text from 2013 post ]
So, there is no carbon budget left. There is just a huge amount of carbon to be removed from the atmosphere and oceans, a "debt" that polluters would rather be forgotten or passed on to future generations.

This "debt" has been growing since well before the industrial revolution started. Long ago, people should have started to reduce emissions and remove greenhouse gases, as well as take further action to improve the situation, and Arctic-news has long said that comprehensive and effective action must be taken without delay.

The IPCC has betrayed the very scientific basis it was supposed to reflect

The IPCC keeps insisting that there was a carbon budget, and this goes hand in hand with peddling the notion that the temperature rise was still less than 1.5°C. As discussed in an earlier analysis, the temperature has been rising for thousands of years and may have crossed the 1.5°C mark long ago.

Furthermore, the Paris Agreement instructs the IPCC to specify pathways to limit the rise to 1.5°C. In its arrogance, the IPCC on the one hand keeps insisting that 1.5°C has not been crossed, while on the other hand bluntly refusing to specify credible pathways to keep it that way. The untenability of this attitude is illustrated by a recent UN news release Climate change: No 'credible pathway' to 1.5C limit, UNEP warns.

Many studies point at ways improvements could be facilitated, such as by support for solar panels, wind turbines, heat pumps, biochar, vegan-organic food, air taxis, etc. This analysis and this earlier post agree and also conclude that local feebates work best and that it is preferable for decision-making regarding their implementation to be delegated to local communities. The IPCC on the one hand refuses to contemplate policy instruments, yet on the other hand it keeps peddling pet projects pushed by polluters, such as cap-and-trade, nuclear power, CCS, bioenergy and BECCS (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), as illustrated by the image below. 

[ IPCC keeps peddling pet projects pushed by polluters ]

The IPCC keeps downplaying the potential for a huge temperature rise

The IPCC keeps downplaying developments that could lead to a huge temperature rise. Such developments include:

• Rising greenhouse levels due to more emissions by people and collapse of the biosphere, and due to more emissions from forest, peatlands and waste fires;

• Collapse of the cryosphere, including decline of permafrost, glaciers and sea ice loss and latent heat buffer loss resulting in more clouds over the Arctic, more ocean heat moving into the Arctic Ocean and associated seafloor methane releases;

• Loss of cloud reflectivity and the potential for CO₂e levels to cross the clouds tipping point;

• Loss of the aerosol masking effect;

• More water vapor in the atmosphere in line with rising temperatures and as a result from loss of sea ice.

Altogether, these developments have the potential to raise the temperature by 18.44°C from pre-industrial, as discussed at the extinction page

One of the most harmful ways in which the IPCC has been downplaying the potential for temperatures to rise is by using a too low Global Warming Potential (GWP) for methane. 

This is illustrated by the image on the right, from an earlier post. In the IPCC special report Climate Change and Land a GWP for methane is used of 28 over 100 years to assess the impact of AFOLU (agriculture, forestry, and other land use) versus the impact of fossil fuel, etc. The image illustrates the difference in impact when a GWP for methane of 171 over a few years is used instead.

The IPCC seeks to justify its use of a GWP of 28 by focusing on a pulse of methane over 100 years. The impact of such a pulse declines over the years, since the lifetime of methane is only 11.8 years. However, using a pulse to calculate the impact of the total methane in the atmosphere isn't appropriate, because methane doesn't just disappear, but is constantly replenished, or rather is more than replenished, as illustrated by the image further below. Because of this and because of the potentially huge temperature rise within a few years, it makes more sense to calculate the impact of methane over a short period. Over one year, methane's GWP is 200, as discussed at this page. A GWP of 200 is used in the image below (right axis). 

[ from earlier post ]
Very threatening is a rise in methane that kept following the trend depicted in the above image, created with WMO 2015-2021 global annual surface mean methane abundances, with an added trend that points at a potential mean global abundance of methane of more than 700 ppm (parts per million) CO₂e by the end of 2026. The image warns that, if such a trend kept continuing, the clouds tipping point could be crossed as a result of the forcing of methane alone.
The above NOAA image shows a methane monthly average for November 2022 of more than 1950 parts per billion (ppb) at Mauna Loa, Hawaii.  


The situation is dire and the right thing to do now is to help avoid or delay the worst from happening, through action as described in the Climate Plan and at the recent post Transforming Society.


• Global Carbon Project - Global Carbon Budget 2022

• The upcoming El Nino and further events and developments (2022)

• Arctic Methane Monster (2013)

• The Clouds Feedback and the Clouds Tipping Point

• Methane levels threaten to skyrocket (2014)

• Pre-industrial

• Sunspots

• Extinction

• NOAA - Global Monitoring Laboratory

• Methane Keeps rising

• When will we die?

• IPCC - Special Report on Climate Change and Land

• Climate change: No ‘credible pathway’ to 1.5C limit, UNEP warns

• Human Extinction by 2025?

• Climate Plan

• Transforming Society (2022)