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4 Reasons the Paris Agreement Won’t Solve Climate Change


4 Reasons the Paris Agreement Won’t Solve Climate Change

James Hansen

Many hail the Paris agreement—set to cross the threshold this week to come into effect—as a panacea for global climate change. Yet tragically, this perspective neglects to take into account the scientific reality of our climate system, which tells a much different story.


Hansen offers us solutions. Four of them.
Solutions 2,3 and 4 are to increase the price to the consumer of available fossil fuels, establish a carbon tax to limit consumption, use tax dollars to pay for RD&D research, and finally get rid of the for-profit Capitalists who control the industry.
Those are all good ideas.
If we nationalize the fossil fuel industry they could all be put into place immediately.


For the past three years with low fuel prices, big SUVs and big trucks have been selling at rates never seen before in Murka.


The country to be most concerned about is India. With a population of about 1.3 billion people that is still growing, a surging economy, and long-term commitment to coal burning the way India goes my determine the way things turn out. Obama and Kerry did a pretty good job of finally getting India on board with the Paris climate agreement but more negotiations with India will be required. How much money the US and other developed countries are willing to give developing countries like India to help them deal with climate change is big and very important question.


Bullet point "#4 Courts are Crucial", needs to be expanded to address TPP, TTIP, CETA and any other regulatory capture scheme disguised as "trade deals".

TPP, TTIP and CETA will transfer judicial authority FROM courts to corporate tribunals that will effectively kill Paris and any other environmental focused regulation or standards.

With low fuel prices driving record sales of big SUVs and big trucks in North America, blaming India and China are dstractions from the real problems driving climate change.


Canada too!


Why must he insist on "safe nuclear power". Really? Still sounds like an oxymoron, sorry.


Fourth generation nuclear power, which Hansen advocates, would be pretty safe when compared to present US nuclear power plants. But I believe they are still in the research stage.


No nukes!


But why go there when we do not have to?


What he's advocating is investing into the development of a variety of clean energy technologies, and it is his feeling that this should include research into safe forms of nuclear power.

"Really? Still sounds like an oxymoron, sorry."

Strictly speaking, we have no safe options. They all have something about them which can hurt, sicken, or kill. What he means by safe is safe enough. And if you look at the physics--which is kind of his wheelhouse--it looks like it should be possible to develop forms of nuclear which are at least as safe as the best alternatives we have. At least as importantly, some of them also look like they could be cheaper than coal, and could be built as fast or faster.

But at this time that's just the apparent potential. Maybe it will turn out that there is some reason we don't know of yet why we can't develop safer and cheaper nuclear, but the only way to find out is to do the actual research. It only needs to have plausible prospects for success to merit inclusion in a call for research to look into it.


No nukes!!


OK, had to do some math, but had to set this straight. The calc is tons usage by population size. The US and Germans lead with tons per head at .003, followed by China at .002, and Japan and Russia at .001 each. India uses about 1/10 of the others at .0004.

Nation - Tons used - Population - Tons per head
China - 2,829,515 - 1,382,323,332 - .002
US - 1,121,714 - 334,118,727 - .003
India - 637,522 - 1,326,801,511 - .0004
Germany - 269,892 - 89,682,351 - .003
Russia - 269,684 - 43,439,832 - .001
Japan - 203,979 - 126,323,979 - .001

The industrial countries are the most wasteful. The Indians are way behind them. Where is your argument with the Indians? The US and the Chinese are the ones that need to be watched. As far as the Paris agreement is concerned, it's a joke and all our asses are eventually going to fry along with most of living organisms on this sorry planet.


We don't have to have nuclear power in the sense that it is technically possible to build an energy system without it. But given the economic realities of the world, that is not the plan that is going to have the best odds of success, and Hansen is all about the odds.

It could turn out that in some other sector of the energy research Hansen is calling for, we'll find something which would make any form of nuclear power, no matter how good, redundant. In which case, great, we're saved. But we don't see much prospect for such a discovery at this time, so having a large and diverse research portfolio is like having an insurance policy. Many of the lines of research will dead end--that's just the nature of research--but by exploring a large number of lines, the overall odds of success increase. We don't know at this time how much nuclear could be improved, or whether we'll need it. But better to develop it and find that we didn't need it than to not develop it and find out that we really needed it after all.


Nuclear power plants are far and away the most expensive way ever devised by man to generate electricity.
They are not economically viable no matter how you slice the baloney.


What Hansen called for here is research into better nukes. That would put us in the best position to evaluate their relative worth. I know there are people who find research and making informed choices objectionable, but Hansen is not one of them.


There have been specific instances of nuclear power where that is true--particularly for research reactors and reactors which were built and then hardly used before shutting them down, or never used at all. There have been other instances which amortized out cheaper than solar or wind, but the important mark nuclear power hasn't hit for decades is being cheaper than coal.

"They are not economically viable no matter how you slice the baloney."

Current reactors have a big economic handicap against fossil fuels. But all that is saying is that current reactors have a problem. The existence of a problem does not mean that we shouldn't look into ways of fixing the problem.


" neglects to take into account the scientific reality of our climate system, which tells a much different story."

No, what the scientific reality doesn't take into account is the economic reality. The scientists avoid the political economic solution.

The people of the world must organise ourselves to take action and that action has to be the creation of a society where it is not corporation bank balances that count but peoples’ needs come first. If humanity is to survive the climate change that we have created, we must start caring about everyone! The blindly pro-business attitude of the supposed ‘solutions’ seeing all environmental policies as "a burden" that needs to be "minimised" spells doom. Doom for the planet. Doom for the life-sustaining eco-systems we all depend on. Doom for the people of the Earth. Doom for a possible future human society that could truly benefit all. Whatever makes most money is what will drives corporations and nations. Those optimists who believe that politicians will save the world are seeking the cooperation of people who let babies drown and who bomb the countries these babies and their families are seeking to escape. To halt the destruction of the planet, you cannot rely on the same people who cause it.

There's work to do – let’s establish socialism before it is too late


But from what I've read about this (I'm certainly not an expert), there are two outstanding issues with "safe": 1. still the problem of waste, and 2. still an issue for access for dirty bombs, if you will. I'd like to cancel the nukes out, as there is evidence (I know, somewhat debatable) that we could indeed meet energy needs by sustainable alternatives, without nukes. So why not commit to that?


"But from what I've read about this... there are two outstanding issues with "safe": 1. still the problem of waste,"

The current spent fuel waste stream is a theoretical safety problem (it could cause harm under specific circumstances) and a potential future safety problem (this will depend on what ultimate disposition method we settle on) but for decades, the actual spent fuel handling and storage safety record has been phenomenal, with no significant contaminant leaks, no deaths, no serious injuries. In heavy and chemical industries, we routinely deal with stuff that is at least as deadly, and we usually do it with a much worse safety record. But that's today's spent fuel output stream. Better reactors could reduce the output to a small fraction of what it is now, and shrink the time needed for isolation down to a few hundred years for a fifth of it, and ten years or less for 4/5ths of it. And shrinking the waste profile makes deep borehole disposal more economically viable, essentially eliminating any long-term safety hazard. The most dangerous part would be the part of the output stream which has to be isolated for less than ten years, but with the reduced profile, (about 4 lbs. per gigawatt-day) even managing that would be easier than it is now.

"and 2. still an issue for access for dirty bombs, if you will."

Spent fuel is a really lousy candidate for that. First, access isn't that easy. You need to get into facility with armed guards, and then contend with massive concrete casks which require special handling equipment, and somehow make off with a cask, or open a cask and try to make off with some long fuel assemblies that are going to give you a lethal dose in a matter of minutes, and then evade tracking--with the assemblies basically acting like a beacon--long enough to de-clad some pellets, and even then you'd have to figure out some way to turn the metal oxide amalgam inside into a powder suitable for aerosol dispersal. But anyone looking to make a dirty bomb will undoubtedly know about the Goiânia accident (Wiki has an entry if you aren't familiar with it) which immediately suggests a much less secure source for dirty bomb material that is almost trivially easy to obtain and prepare by comparison. And again, what you're talking about applies to current spent fuel. A number of reactors under development would have even less suitable dirty bomb material in their waste stream. And if you're still worried about the present spent fuel stockpile, dropping it into reactors designed to burn it would be the most thorough and irrevocable way to get rid of it.

"I'd like to cancel the nukes out, as there is evidence (I know, somewhat debatable) that we could indeed meet energy needs by sustainable alternatives, without nukes."

Nukes may not qualify as renewable, but by pretty much any definition of the word, they would be at least as 'sustainable' as any other option we have.

"So why not commit to that?"

What you are proposing is that the world could meet all of its energy needs with renewables if it would only commit to doing so. Even if we assume that is true, that could still require a tightly constrained definition of "need"--which might leave billions mired in energy poverty--it isn't clear that would be the most environmentally friendly approach, it probably wouldn't be the fastest approach, it almost certainly would not be the cheapest approach, and the biggest sticking point of all, why doesn't the world simply unite to make that commitment? Because it would require a level of human consensus and cooperation never before experienced in the history of humankind and because our existing economic and political power structures would be arrayed against it. Remaking nuclear power into something much better is a project that might take ten or fifteen years and a few tens of billions of dollars. The theory is already well-established and all the parts already exist in some form or another for other applications, so it's mostly down to working out which designs would have the most favorable economics. As technological challenges go, that isn't nearly the most difficult thing we've done. But uniting the world? That is so difficult nobody even has a plausible idea about how it could be done.