Manchester Academic Slams IPCC “Smoke and Mirrors” Carbon Budget Claims

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From Watts Up With That?

Essay by Eric Worrall

March 2023’s synthesis report capped eight years of research. IISD/ENB/Anastasia Rodopoulou

According to University of Manchester professor Kevin Anderson, “IPCC science embeds colonial attitudes”.

IPCC’s conservative nature masks true scale of action needed to avert catastrophic climate change

Kevin Anderson
Professor of Energy and Climate Change, University of Manchester
Published: March 25, 2023 12.27am AEDT

The new report evokes a mild sense of urgency, calling on governments to mobilise finance to accelerate the uptake of green technology. But its conclusions are far removed from a direct interpretation of the IPCC’s own carbon budgets (the total amount of CO₂ scientists estimate can be put into the atmosphere for a given temperature rise).

The report claims that, to maintain a 50:50 chance of warming not exceeding 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, CO₂ emissions must be cut to “net-zero” by the “early 2050s”. Yet, updating the IPCC’s estimate of the 1.5°C carbon budget, from 2020 to 2023, and then drawing a straight line down from today’s total emissions to the point where all carbon emissions must cease, and without exceeding this budget, gives a zero CO₂ date of 2040. 

Given it will take a few years to organise the necessary political structures and technical deployment, the date for eliminating all CO₂ emissions to remain within 1.5°C of warming comes closer still, to around the mid-2030s. This is a strikingly different level of urgency to that evoked by the IPCC’s “early 2050s”. Similar smoke and mirrors lie behind the “early 2070s” timeline the IPCC conjures for limiting global heating to 2°C.

IPCC science embeds colonial attitudes

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Reading Professor Anderson’s “explanation” for the graph at the top of the page, published on his own website, yields this gem;

… The mainstream media is also complicit in allowing spurious techno-optimism to go unchallenged in politics. Journalists barely pen a line when BP, Shell, Exxon, Equinor, Chevron, Total, Saudi Aramco, Suncor and PetroChina make grand promises to be net-zero (or near-zero in PetroChina’s case) by 2050. The least investigation would expose such claims for the rhetorical, greenwashing nonsense that they are, applying only to the operational emissions from fuel production and processing (known as Scope 1 and 2 emissions), with no responsibility taken for the colossal quantities of carbon released when their oil, gas or coal is actually transported and burned, the inevitable outcome for extracted fuels (Scope 3 emissions).

Once we see through this ‘drug pusher’s subterfuge’, it quickly becomes clear that governments and oil and gas majors are singing from the same hymn sheet. Quite who is the choirmaster is not immediately clear, the distinction being blurred by revolving doors between ministers and oil and gas executives. The net zero by ‘not-in-my-term-of-office’ dates proposed by governments from the USA to Saudi Arabia, the EU to Russia, and China to Canada, essentially mirror those of the oil and gas companies. Wealthy nations with significant oil and gas production are not looking to phase out existing supply in line with 1.5°C [see endnote 1]. Instead they are licensing new oil and gas developments, including in the Arctic. As the recent minister overseeing the UK’s climate strategy blithely proclaimed, “we will extract every ounce of oil and gas from the North Sea“. Such developments, were they to proceed, would lock in fossil fuel use and high emissions for decades to come. They would also effectively lock out any prospect of 1.5°C and 2°C and bequeath to our children the chaos and suffering of an unstable climate heading towards 3°C and beyond. …Read more:

What can I say? These people train and influence young minds.