Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?

The Paris Agreement of 2015 remarkably brought together all of the nations of the world, except for the United States after Trump cancelled, in a concerted effort to combat the dire consequences of global warming, which on a worst-worst-worst case basis could lead to human extinction; although, not many climate scientists discuss that possibility.

But, it really could happen.

But then again, when?

Meanwhile, the Paris Agreement is constantly being scrutinized because it is well understood that if the science about the timing of not exceeding 1.5C, or maybe 2C, is correct, then humanity doesn’t have many shots, or much time, at fixing this monster before it grows totally out of control, and then human extinction will reluctantly need to be factored into climate models… for the first time ever! Nobody wants that to happen.

Meantime, climate complexities, as they relate to the Agreement, are starting to throw poisoned darts at Paris/2015 and hitting bull’s-eyes.

After all, since the very beginning, the Agreement was not on solid footing, as, for example: Dr. James Hansen, one of the world’s foremost climate scientists, “nailed it” when, immediately on the heels of the climate accord, he said:

It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit….

The famous or infamous, depending upon one’s viewpoint, Paris Agreement uses “linear relationships” in calculating cumulative CO2 emissions and global temps with the goal of holding temp increases to less than 2C vis-à-vis pre-industrial but preferably below 1.5C. Otherwise, all hell breaks loose. Disconcertingly, some climate scientists take issue with the data assumptions in Paris/2015, as way too timid. (See Postscript for alarming current status report on atmospheric CO2)

In that regard, a new study has already plugged some of the holes in the Paris Agreement, or maybe drilled new holes, by looking at “non-linear feedback” phenomena of CO2 and methane emissions via permafrost, which is seldom, if ever, considered in projections of future global warming. Hmm!

For example, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) recently published in Nature Geoscience: T. Gasser et al, “Path-dependent reductions in CO2 emission budgets caused by permafrost carbon release“, Nature Geoscience (2018).

The upshot of the study’s inclusion of permafrost into Paris emission budgets demonstrates that Paris climate targets could/might/most likely will be exceeded “sooner than expected.” That’s not good, especially for policymakers, meaning nation/states, which use Paris/2015 as a roadmap for cutting CO2 emissions.

Significantly, the IIASA study is not “crying wolf.” Aesop’s fabled Boy Who Cried Wolf is nowhere to be found in this grisly tale.

Above and beyond that IIASA study, the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology also published a study dated July 2018: Edward Comyn-Platt et al, “Carbon budgets for 1.5 and 2 °C targets lowered by natural wetland and permafrost feedbacks”, Nature Geoscience (2018).

Somewhat similar to IIASA’s findings, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology analyzed wetlands and permafrost, concluding: Global fossil fuel emissions will have to be reduced by up to 20% more than previous estimates to achieve Paris temp targets because of natural greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost.

Arithmetically, a reduction of 20% is equivalent to 5-6 years of current human-caused carbon emissions. That’s a lot! Hence, it throws off calculations for every country’s voluntary plans to cut emissions (Paris/2015 cuts are voluntary, not mandated… Oh, well! C’est la vie!)

As such, nations to the Agreement need to go back to the drawing boards. Will they?

And, as for further dispensing of The Boy Who Cried Wolf analogy, a third permafrost study was released September 4, 2018: S. Serikova et al. “High riverine CO2 emissions at the permafrost boundary of Western Siberia“, Nature Geoscience (2018).

This study demonstrates how Western Siberian rivers actively process and release a large portion of the carbon received from degrading permafrost, an unexpected finding that emphasizes how changes in the Arctic exert strong negative influence on the climate system with far-reaching consequences for the world.

All of the above-mentioned deficiencies in the science utilized for the Paris Agreement makes the original analyses suspect, or when looked at from another angle, gives the entire Agreement a bad odor. (Recall that Dr. Hansen called it “bullshit.”) In other words, by all appearances, if nations actually follow the precepts of Paris/2015, they’ll come up short. Not good and extremely perilous.

The Paris/2015 complexities are only too obvious, and as such it is incumbent upon the nations of the world to achieve much, much deeper cutbacks than ever realized in CO2 emissions (as well as remove CO2 from the atmosphere, hopefully, fingers crossed, knock on wood, but who knows?) in order to prevent the onset of a hothouse planet scorching crops across the mid latitudes and thus forcing humanity into a massive panic mode that would likely make the French Revolution look like a cake walk. Back in the day (18th Century) heads rolled by the thousands (elite aristocrats, which were standout targets at the time) along the Place de la Concorde where today the Obelisk of Luxor marks one of humanity’s bloodiest spots of final resting.

After all, somebody has to pay the price when society turns upside down because of massive starvation that drives humanity into a state of utter madness. Unfortunately for rich people, their gated communities happen to be low-hanging fruit and easy, predictable targets for release of pent up anger by masses toppling iron gates, similar to the storming of the Bastille (1789). Sorry, but that’s just the way it is when the going gets rough and tough with starving pissed off people.

Of interest, all of today’s teeth-gnashing over global warming was foreseen as far back as 1975 by Wally Broecker (Columbia Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), whose paper in August 1975 “Are We on The Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming” published in Science was the first official use of the term “global warming,” as he correctly predicted an overall 20th Century global warming of 0.8ºC due to CO2, and he worried about the consequences for agriculture and sea level rise, meaning more trouble to come in the 21st Century.

How does Broecker weigh in on today’s global warming juggernaut?

Here’s Broecker, “the grandfather of global warming,” quoted in 2017:

In 1950s, when I was in graduate school, we got 15 percent of our energy from renewables and nuclear, and 85 percent from fossil fuels. Today it’s the same. Both of them have been increasing at 3 percent a year. Renewables and nuclear are not changing in their percentage share. And in order to stop the CO2 from rising we have to go to a factor-of-ten reduction in fossil-fuel burning — at least a factor of ten. And that means changing all the world’s infrastructure.”1

That’s a Bunyanesque task.

Is the world up to it? Hmm.

So far, in spite of worldwide agreement to do something to prevent global warming’s most destructive potential, or, God forbid, human extinction, the outlook as of today is downright dismal; in fact, really lousy! Prepare to batten down the hatches! (See Postscript)

In a nutshell:   “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Pieter Tans, lead scientist of NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, commenting: “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”

Wait ‘til the aftershock hits humanity.


What does the data tell us? It shows that all is not well in the state of the atmosphere! In order to prevent further warming, the carbon dioxide levels must not grow any further. On the growth curve, this corresponds to the curve having to settle down to -0- ppm/y. There is absolutely no hint in the data that this is happening. On the contrary, the rate of growth is itself growing, having now reached about 2.3 ppm/y the highest growth rate ever seen in modern times. This is not just a “business as usual” scenario, it is worse than that, we’re actually moving backwards, becoming more and more unsustainable with every year. This shows unequivocally that the efforts undertaken so-far to limit green house gases such as carbon dioxide are woefully inadequate.

Carl Edward Rasmussen, University of Cambridge, September 14, 2018

  1. David Wallace-Wells, “The Man Who Coined the Term ‘global Warming’ on the Worst-Case Scenario for Planet Earth,” Daily Intelligencer, July 19, 2017. []
Robert Hunziker (MA, economic history, DePaul University) is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and appeared in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide. He can be contacted at: Read other articles by Robert.