Kevin Anderson on Paris

I realise Marc Hudson has already posted this on his site, but I thought I would also post it here. It’s a video of Marc interviewing Kevin Anderson about the Paris agreement. I think the video is a touch too long, but it’s still very interesting. He points out that the strong agreement that was reached sends a very clear message to the “skeptic” community; every world leader thinks climate change is important. I might nuance this slightly, as it’s not so much that it sends a very clear message to the “skeptic” community; it sends a very clear messsage about the “skeptic” community. I doubt that this will get the more vocal “Skeptics” to rethink their position, but I suspect that it will marginalise them more and more.

Kevin also explains, very clearly, the idea behind Bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Essentially, rather than aiming to do more now, we’re relying on as yet undeveloped technology which may need to operate at quite a remarkable scale. Additionally, we’re hoping that potential carbon cycle feedbacks (that would further amplify the warming) don’t also start to operate. The Paris agreement also largely ignored some big emitters, such as shipping and aviation. So, even though the message was very positive, the actual details leave a lot to be desired.

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42 Responses to Kevin Anderson on Paris

  1. Scientists and activists pursued two quite separate agendas at COP21; speaking consensus to power and mau-mauing the flak catchers .

  2. Russell,
    I’m not really sure what you mean, but I don’t think it changes that there is something of a mismatch between the supposed targets and what we’re actually doing – “kicking the can down the road”, as Kevin Anderson described it, I think.

  3. T-rev says:

    >>ATTP but I don’t think it changes that there is something of a mismatch between the supposed targets and what we’re actually doing – “kicking the can down the road”, as Kevin Anderson described it, I think.

    James Hansen was more succinct with his critique 🙂

    Nothing at a political level will actually change much in western democracies until a significant minority of voters start demanding it with their ballot, we’ve had decades of rhetoric. Climate Change never gets into the top 20 of list of voter concerns here in Australia, at a recent Federal by election in the seat of Canning voters elected a creationist to parliament ! The only candidate who said climate change was an issue that needed to be addressed garnered 10% of the vote. Until that changes to >25%, politicians won’t really care. That’s not a lack of science communication, or miscommunication but a human behavioural issue. How many here who say they take the issue seriously actually lowered their emissions significantly and changed their vote ? Aside from my partner and myself I don’t know anyone who takes climate change seriously ah la Kevin Anderson’s critique here about ‘leading by example’

    Many people seem to have decided to blame government or business for their personal emissions profligacy.

    We changed because we were concerned but also to get an understanding (theoretical vs applied) of what needs to be done at a personal level to get our emissions down to something like the required 2t per annum. We’re at 2.5t and it’s a significant, albeit enjoyable change in lifestyle and that’s reinforced by knowing we’re not actually contributing to the problem. As articulated by Kevin Anderson, Dues ex machina seems to be the goto ‘solution’.

  4. pete best says:

    Recent ideas regarding making up acronyms for great sounding but none existent technologies i think is his bug bear and it’s hard not to agree with him. Rather than ask the wealthy and affluent (that’s us) to change our lifestyles we will mitigate some of the carbon but when we can’t do enough we will geoengineer our way but who knows what the outcome will be.

    Geo anything is a can kicker, asking people to change their lifestyles is not an option. The 300 a year emitters need to continue

  5. RickA says:


    I find the framing of this interesting. As if skeptics have to be convinced of something or nothing will happen.

    Are skeptics controlling mitigation or adaptation?

    I don’t think so.

    Speaking as a skeptic, I am sitting on the sidelines throwing peanuts (or my 2 cents worth).

    Remember that President Obama controlled the Senate, the House of Representatives and of course the white house from 2008 to 2010. He could have passed any bill he wanted by a simple majority vote during that time.

    Nothing happened on the climate change front – because the issue was not seen as very important.

    No energy bill passed, for example.

    No carbon tax bill.

    We didn’t join Kyoto during that time by signing the treaty (the Senate has to vote to ratify).

    If stuff isn’t passing Congress, I think it on the merits and not because of skeptics.

    Now that Republicans control congress – things are much more difficult, and nothing will get through unless a majority of republicans agrees with it – but don’t forget that Obama controlled congress for 2 whole years and decided to focus on just health care – rather than write and introduce legislation into both houses of congress (gun control, energy, etc.).

    Just saying.

  6. jfchilds says:

    I think he is wrong that it sent the message that climate change is important. The skeptic community sees the agreement as world leaders agreeing that it’s not important to do anything about for the next few years, except for agree to talk about doing something in the next few years.

    It is this kind of thinking that is the reason why skeptics/deniers are winning. It’s like there is an unwillingness from the climate community to step back and ask the hard questions about why public support is diminishing.

    It’s why I’m disappointed. The same message is being delivered the same way to the same people. The polls seem to confirm that it isn’t working. Americans generally agree that climate change is occurring, but they are seeing it as less and less of a problem. And it’s because they see that the international community doesn’t see the problem as worth the cost of fixing.

    Who are they to disagree?

  7. Rick,

    I find the framing of this interesting. As if skeptics have to be convinced of something or nothing will happen.

    Are skeptics controlling mitigation or adaptation?

    I don’t think so.

    That’s kind of what I was suggesting. Skeptics don’t need to be convinced, they can simply be ignored. That there such over-whelming agreement amongst world leaders suggests that that is indeed what is happening.


    The skeptic community sees the agreement as world leaders agreeing that it’s not important to do anything about for the next few years, except for agree to talk about doing something in the next few years.

    We’re clearly leaving things late, but it’s still – IMO – an impressive level of agreement. Would be better had this been achieved 10/20 years ago, but that didn’t happen, so we have to start where we are now, not where we’d like to be.

  8. Andrew dodds says:

    RickA –

    My impression is that energy would have been problematic because of the coal-mining/blue state overlap, and gun control measures get a hysterical response for little political reward. Whereas the US healthcare situation was genuinely catastrophic for a large chunk of the population. Given the difficulty of getting anything done, he picked one.

    Checks and balances. At least it stops 20% of the population electing a dictatorship like we have in the UK.

  9. BBD says:


    Skeptics don’t need to be convinced, they can simply be ignored.

    Not when they effectively paralyse climate policy in the US they can’t.

  10. BBD,
    Well, yes, I didn’t mean that we should ignore their influence, but we certainly don’t need to convince them, we just need to convince enough of everyone else.

  11. The vocal ‘skeptics’ we come across—those involved enough to make a noise on line and in the papers—are a small minority. The vast majority of the population are like most of my acquaintances and other members of my family: they don’t want to think about it, and believe—if it is a problem—’they’ will take care of it. It’s not necessarily apathy, it’s more a feeling of helplessness.

  12. Pete best says:

    The idea of growing a load of crops, harvesting em, burning em and then capturing the co2 and burying it in liquid form below the surface of the earth sounds simple and brilliant and can be repeated until the co2 falls drastically and we are all saved. We could burn all of the known and unknown fossil fuels (using our present infrastructure), and use it to burn all of the crops and just add on some CCS to make it BCCS. I can see how this idea appeals to everyone except for a few who cant see i working due to the following issue.

    We need food and we need to grow BCCS crops at the same time which means land and how much of it we can turn over to grow and we need CCS to be developed to.

    Anyone got anything reasonable against this issue ?

  13. Pete,
    The thing that struck me was that not only has CCS not been shown (I think) to be able to operate at the required scale, the planting area for the plants that would be burned is 1 to 3 times the area of India. It might be possible, but the real issue is that we’re essentially starting to get to the stage where we’re relying on this being something that will work, rather than it simply being one of a number of possible solutions.

  14. verytallguy says:

    Pete, that, what attp said, plus it’s much more expensive than not emitting the co2 in the first place.

    Other than all that, it’s a brilliant idea.

  15. verytallguy says:

    The level of unreality on climate policy for me was nicely encapsulated in the response of the climate change committee in the uk being asked if doubling aviation emissions was compatible with the climate change act.

    Sure, they said. It just means that other emissions need to drop by 90% rather than 80%. Not a problem.

    So we carry on with the charade of the climate change act meaning anything whilst pretty much every other relevant government policy is in exact opposition to it.

    There are to many other examples of similar to list.

  16. Pete best says:

    yes but in the year 2050 it might be a much cheaper option to implement, deploy, fund etc. Dont get me wrong as it is a untested technology but untested does not mean anything to those people who dont mind burning all of the available fossil fuels as economically speaking its an easy option now followed bu harder options later.

  17. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >>> Not when they effectively paralyse climate policy in the US they can’t.

    “Skeptics” get air-time, on blogs and in the MSM, far, far out of proportion to the merits of their respective arguments and evidence.

    Perhaps they cannot be ignored. Nevertheless – mostly, they should be.

    Personally, I’m way more interested in the other end of the spectrum – the part of the PDF that ‘skeptics’ call ‘alarmist’. Most of the ‘alarmist’ literature is not ‘alarmist’ – but it is alarming.

    Nothing I’ve seen convinces me that Hansen isn’t correct in his assessments of COP21 as “half-assed and half-baked” and of CCS as “pure unadulterated bull…”

    The disproportionate focus on the ‘skeptics’ has lead quite a few otherwise smart people to fail to consider the merits of pessimism.

  18. Very interesting KA’s point that without BECCS, we require 85-90% of current reserves to stay in the ground! (i.e. the wind is closing faster than some carbon trackers think, including this one).

  19. I transcribed a key section …

    “… 85-90% of known fossil fuel reserves would have to stay in the ground if we are to stay below 2C” [without BECCS, which has no prospect of being available on the scale and timescales required]

    “Yet, no mention of fossil fuels in the 32 page agreement” (the COP21 Paris treaty)

    “The UK [Government] is enthusiastic about shale gas and DECC have said they want to support the oil and gas industry in the UK. There is no intention from an incredibly wealthy country like the UK with probably the world’s best renewable potential, but also lots of fossil fuels, we have no intention of keeping the fossil fuels in the ground.”

    “So the UK is emblematic of a complete absence of any real concern about climate change at the global level, despite the Paris agreement”.

    Professor Kevin Anderson, Interview regarding Paris Agreement, Manchester Climate Monthly, 8th January 2016 (as per your linked video above)

  20. verytallguy says:


    to which you can add:
    -Active hostility to cheapest renewable, onshore wind
    -CCS demo funding removed
    -Intention to double aviation
    -Roadbuilding focus for transport infrastructure investment
    -Building regulations relaxed to allow cheaper, less efficient housing
    -Solar subsidies slashed*

    This adds up to not even paying lipservice to climate policy – it’s doublespeak.

    *this is actually quite sensible in the uk, but I doubt that’s why it was done…

  21. VTG – is this cynicism or ignorance or naive belief in ‘the market will fix it’? I am all for playing the ball not the (wo)man but my patience is running thin.

  22. Marlowe Johnson says:

    21 comments in on a post about BECCS and still no mention of biochar. what’s wrong with you people 😉 ?

  23. verytallguy says:

    Very good question Richard,  and not easy to answer.   Some thoughts

    1) it’s not ideological,  or at least not entirely ideological.  The last labour government also had a huge chasm between rhetoric and reality on this

    2) the penny has not at all dropped on just how difficult achieving numbers like 80% reductions is.   I think this is denial in yhe genuine psychological sense – not of the science but of the policy implications. 

    3) there’s a lot of panglossian thinking- that somehow technology will magically save us. 

    4) the lack of a strong grass roots pressure group or campaign makes it easy to ignore. 

    5) it is partly ideological.   We have an administration very strongly committed to driving down the size of government; isnotwidelyunderstood just how transformative this already has been,  or is planned to be.  All functions of government are subservient to this. 

    6) a media largely owned by outright climate change deniers is a significant factor. 

    7) maybe most important of all,  there are short term and maybe medium term losers from all impactful policies on climate change.   It’s genuinely very, very, very difficult to enact policy strong enough to make reductions of the level required and stay in government.

  24. Andrew Dodds says:

    vtg –

    I would add, where lobby groups exist, they seem to have a fixation that if only they can push wind and solar hard enough, then everything will be fine. It’s genuinely worrying when someone claims that Solar PV is useful in the UK in winter ‘because the sun still shines’, and anyone disagreeing is clearly a denialist.

    And yes on 5), with the kind of mad ideological zeal that has China being bribed, more or less, to finance the French state owned nuclear operator to build a new nuclear plant in Britain. Because it keeps it off the books. It’s as if Tony Blair had started a program of farm collectivization..

    Personally, though, I’m not sure on 7). The reason being the WWII effect, there could be a huge stimulus from government actually driving the transformation through, and the end result is after all, a fuel bill of near-zero.

  25. Greg Robie says:

    RickA, that “Just Saying” twists history. Both House and Senate did climate bills ACES 2009 & CEJAP 2010?. Obama staid aloof. While both bills were ~2000 page loop hole specials, I take the President’s failure to invest political capital as a indication of the wishes of his overseers: Wall Street & oil companies. When he trashed COP15 in 2009, this became more clear. CapitalismFail cannot survive the loss of the credit fossil carbon has made viable. With the Paris Agreement a greenwash of BAU, what more proof do you need that the guy the business elite (& Washington) needed to snow liberals and get what was needed was this Democrat, a consummate Chicago politician?

    The Paris Agreement has language that exempts the US from a ratification prices, so Washington does not need to debate anything climate. Expect nothing from the US…but paying $15 billion to Trans Canada as the taxpayer-borne cost of a symbolic gesture that further fooled the gullible.

    I’m expecting to get sick to my stomach relative to any climate content that ends up in the SOTU in 10 minutes.

  26. Ethan Allen says:

    Too bad KA wasted so much of that interview on BECCS and the IKO/IMO. Oh wait, that was the entire 1st part.

    IKO ~ 2% and IMO ~4% of total CO2 emissions. KA’s GR/UK number comes in at 3.3% for 2014, only off by a factor of two.

    Waterborne then Rail than Truck than Air (from most efficient mover to least efficient mover per ton-mile).

    BECCS = vaporware technology. “Might as well believe in FTL travel, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny” quote by James Hansen after seeing KA interview.

    KA = total waste of my time.

  27. verytallguy says:

    Interesting mix of Science and politics Stephen

    Elizabeth Muller stressed, “The most important things we can do to mitigate global warming include energy efficiency and the increased use of renewables, natural gas, and nuclear power. It is time for us to stop being picky about which is the very best solution to global warming – we need all solutions that are available to us today.”

    Well said, mind.

  28. verytallguy says:

    Andrew, I’d agree with your addition- green lobbyists are in their own way often as mired in wishful thinking as deniers.

    I have no idea where you think near zero fuel bills are coming from. All low carbon energy I’m aware of is at least as expensive as fossil fuels, before externalities are accounted for.

  29. Andrew dodds says:

    Vtg –

    Fuel costs for renewables and (breeder) nuclear are basically zero.

    Other costs are nonzero, but subject to technology.

  30. verytallguy says:

    Why would near zero fuel costs imply near zero bills?

    Or to put it another way, if costs are not reflected in bills, who will be paying them?

  31. vtg,

    Interesting mix of Science and politics Stephen

    I found that an interesting mix too. Maybe more in terms of who can mix science and politics without being criticised, and who can’t.

  32. Pete best says:

    Ethan Allen, what are you on about could I ask regarding KA=waste of time. Too nad he has wated so much of the interview (is that your opinion?). Considering he has made a significant number of interviews across the entire subject of climate change, the science and the implications I cant see why anyone would say what you said. Its not as if he has not contributed on the subject in a significant and meaningful way.

  33. I must admit I’m not quite sure why Ethan has concluded that KA is a waste of time. He seems to be one of the few who is clearly quantifying what it would take to give ourselves a chance of keeping within the warming targets, and also discussing some of the issues related to the different options available to us (either now or in the future).

  34. Ethan Allen says:

    Sorry, I’m rather busy now on TLT BS stuff.

    KA said “IKO” not ICAO which is what the interviewee stated. Strike one.

    KA offers no alternatives to jet fuel (aircraft) and diesel (containerships and bulk carriers). Strike two.

    KA clearly has no idea how the international shipping industry works, where the ships are built and which countries do the vast amounts of seaborne commerce. Hint, it ain’t the UK! How much cargo is via waterborne commerce versus all other methods combined?

    Can’t do nuclear (not because It’s dangerous in the conventional sense, because it’s not, the US Navy has a stellar record in that regard, but because of the type of fuel used in our nuclear fleet, very highly enriched uranium.

    See for example this …

    Click to access Aviation-and-shipping-privileged-%E2%80%93-again-UK-delays-decision-to-act-on-emissions.pdf

    Don’t get me started on cruise ships, the epitome of home sapiens stupidity. Don’t get me started on the trucking industry, which, at least in the USA, is mostly paid for by the taxpayer (road repairs are largely due to truck wheel weight damages, instead of high speed rail the USA went with no speed rail).

    Strike three? BECCS. Where’s the 1st GW BECCS power plant? 2030 or 2040 or 2050. Three Indiia’s might turn out to be 30 or 300 India’s. All it is right now is a paper chase. No pilot plants and no prototype full scale demonstration (6.3 monies in US military R&D lingo). Absolutely nothing to to benchmark or baseline BECCS to our actual future energy needs.

    Do you want to feed 11 billion humans with wood chips or, you know, actual food?

    To me, at least, listening to KA is exactly like listening to Richard Tol. We’ve already lost. Betting on a future hope or prayer or promise is just not my style of discourse.

    Ka is about as useful as Mark Z.Jacobson (of 100% WWS infamy). Sorry. Bye. I’m going back to TLT BS stuff right now.

  35. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Ethan there is already a commercially available solution for all diesel applications including marine, rail, and aviation. Google NextBtl. Renewable diesel (not to be confused with biodiesel) is real and its here. Now.

    Now maybe you don’t like Finnish companies or the current price premium for biofuels in general but that’s not my problem.

  36. Ethan Allen says:

    Marlowe Johnson,

    So, in the hierarchy of transportation efficiencies where do you think that technology is being applied to at present in the cargo/transportation sector?

    Trucking and busing (e. g. road vehicles). The next sector that should follow would be rail based transportation. Then you get to waterborne commerce. It all comes down to GHGE per ton-km. So when that technology scales to the point of entry to waterborne commerce, then you have a point, but road and rail come first. But even there, I could see electrification of our entire rail infrastructure, same goes for shorter distance road transport. Electricity comes from wind, water, solar and OMFG nuclear. It’s kind of hard to electrify deep draft cargo ships (but if you want me to do the calcs, all I need is SHP assume full sea speed for the longest transit convert that number to gigatonnes of lead acid batteries and the additional downtime to recharge/replace said lead acid batteries, etceteras (it’s actually pretty straight forward)).

    Note to self: Containership operators absolutely abhor downtime.

    That also suggests a vast modernization of land based infrastructures away from roads to rail, at the very least for cargo transport. High speed rail should be considered for overland based transport for intermediate distances in lieu of air transport

    Heck, in any modern day port, the 1st thing you see are ships and berths, the 2nd thing you see is a rail hub and associated rail corridor, constructed specifically for that port.

    To paraphrase a certain admiral, this isn’t rocket science, it’s simpler.

  37. Pete best says:

    Aircraft and sea vehicles make up 4% of total emissions although it is growing and hence we probably can afford to leave it all alone for a few years until we have tacked more obvious and easy wins with coal and small road going vehicles.

  38. Marlowe Johnson says:

    That’s a pretty impressive bit of word salad Ethan. Renewable diesel is being used in on-road fleets because of regulations. The international nature of marine and aviation means that regulations there will probably come last. Consider allowable sulphur ppm limits in marine diesel vs rail vs road for an illustration.

    The low hanging fruit for marine is shore power electrification. This allows ships to run their auxiliary systems off electricity while in port rather than burning diesel. Apparently the locals and dock workers prefer this.

    Going gangbusters and investing in infrastructure to enable a significant mode shift is certainly possible in theory but highly unlikely in practice. Money, politics, nimbyism, etc….

  39. Ethan Allen, with his “Sorry. Bye”, makes a very poor argument for dismissing the concerns raised by Kevin Anderson, who as TP points out is one of the few, though increasingly numerous, scientists pointing out the carbon budget difficulty that we face for an emission path to 2C. At least he is trying to quantify and identify the challenges. We should be grateful for such outline analysis and its prompting of discussion and more detailed assessement, I don’t see how the dismissive angle helps at all.

    On Ethan’s list, all his ‘strikes’ against Anderson’s points are misses: ICAO is often pronounced ‘IKO’; Anderson, who knows a good deal about aviation and shipping emissions, is pointing to the fuel problem for aviation, he doesn’t have to provide solutions, especially if they are not apparent, & other than demand reduction they aren’t, as his colleague Alice Bows-Larkin has pointed out; and on Beccs, did Ethan even listen to Anderson who is spelling out the huge problems with Beccs operating at scale. And Anderson is ‘agnostic’ (as he says) about nuclear power The problem though is 2C carbon budget availability time – meaning that energy demand will need to be cut early if there is to be time for a huge ramp up in low carbon energy supply.

    Nit-picky auditing like this is symptomatic of discomfort with the underlying conclusion.

    The core point that Anderson makes repeatedly (discussed on other TP threads but not really addressed above yet) is that any plausible move, by richer nations especially, to an emission pathway aligned with 2C (let alone 1.5C) almost certainly requires an urgent, on-going whole-society commitment to rapid and deep decarbonisation pathways starting immediately, and that this poses severe political, economic and societal challenges to business as usual.

    Maybe that is the difficult conclusion that many want to avoid. Given the carbon budget arithmetic though, surely Kevin Anderson has a good point.

  40. Irish Michael says:

    Anderson was quoted saying this in regards to human population :
    Does anyone know if he still holds this view and if there’s any merit to it?

  41. Irish,
    You link doesn’t seem to work for me, so I don’t know (probably wouldn’t know anyway 🙂 )

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