The concept of net-zero

I’ve written about this before, but thought I might discuss it again. There seems to be a recurring narrative that the concept of net-zero is flawed. It might first have been presented in this article suggesting that the concept of net-zero is a dangerous trap. I agree with much of what is presented in the article. Net-zero plans tend to rely on technologies that have not been shown to work at a suitable scale, or rely on technologies that will almost certainly not work as intended. Additionally, a consequence of relying on these technologies is that there has been little in the way of actual emission reductions. It’s likely that this will continue as new net-zero plans are developed that will probably also rely on carbon removal technologies, rather than on actual emission reductions. However, none of this explains why the concept of net-zero is flawed.

The basics is all very simple. Global warming is happening, it is pre-dominantly due to the human emission of greenhouse gases, mostly carbon dioxide, and will continue while carbon dioxide continues to be emitted into the atmosphere. Consequently, stopping global warming requires that human-caused carbon dioxide emissions go to zero. This could happen through simply stopping emissions, or through removing and storing as much carbon dioxide as is emitted into the atmosphere. Hence, net-zero.

That many plans for reaching net-zero may not actually achieve this goal and may be being used to delay making actual emission reductions doesn’t mean that the concept is flawed. Why not criticise the net-zero plans, which may well be dis-ingenuous, rather than claiming that the concept is flawed? Claims that the concept of net-zero is flawed makes it sound like we shouldn’t be aiming for net-zero which, given the current net-zero plans, may well be where we are currently heading.

What I don’t get is why those who create this narrative don’t do so in a way that makes clear that they’re criticising they way in which the concept is being used, rather than the concept itself. As Gavin Schmidt points out in this debate with Benny Peiser, the basics that underpin net-zero are pretty simple and very well understood.

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91 Responses to The concept of net-zero

  1. There will never be net-zero GHG emissions. But talk is cheap. Thus the wringing of hands

  2. EFS,
    Hopefully, there will be net-zero CO2, or close, sometime reasonably soon.

  3. ATTP, fossil fuels provided 82% of the world’s energy this year. The amount of energy demanded by the world increases every year by a significant amount.

    As you note, mechanisms to either remove CO2 or block incoming radiation are barely out of the science fiction stage at the moment.

    There really is only one mechanism by which we can move in the right direction (nuclear) and it is not supported by the general population or the activist community.

    It isn’t criticizing the concept to note this.

  4. I think the concept of net zero is flawed because it relies on technologies that have not been demonstrated to work, just as you say. If the concept of net zero relied on emissions and ghg sequestration technologies that we know work and can be scaled up, then the concept of net zero would certainly be less-flawed. If the concept of net zero is seized upon and promoted based upon the flaws you identify, and is then touted by industries/countries/entities as evidence that enough is being done (or that a particular entity has done its part) to prevent a global climate catastrophe, then the concept as used seems pretty seriously flawed to me.

    I think this is a case where your mileage may vary. As in the recent post that suggested it is not too late, well, the metrics, results and consequences might come into play. If you are an Inuit citizen of planet earth, it may be too late… or maybe it’s just getting very, very late? But that idea of “too late” is hopelessly rhetorical in my opinion. Too late for what? Too late for whom?

    To the extent that I follow anything in these discussions, I tend to fall back on global CO2 and CO2e accumulation in the atmosphere. These numbers are clearly not rhetorical in my opinion. Increases in these numbers have real consequences, now and for a long time in the future. I tend to think that ideas like net zero are slippery and are subject to the endless shuffling of the goalposts that humans dearly love when we approach a difficult project.

    I read somewhere that when all is said and done, a lot more is said than done. I think that captures my gut reaction to the concept of net zero. Let me know when atmospheric CO2 and CO2e stop rising. What would we call that moment? Is that carbon cycle balance? That is a metric I understand, that I can see, that I believe has real world consequences. If we could stop the rise of CO2/CO2E at some specific number and hold it there for a reasonable period of time (maybe 10 years?) than we could begin to calculate how to further reduce the accumulation numbers, to limit our emissions so much that natural cycles would begin to reduce the accumulations. That would be a dream come true for me.

    Cheers

    Mike

  5. small,

    I think the concept of net zero is flawed because it relies on technologies that have not been demonstrated to work, just as you say.

    If this is what people mean by the concept of net zero, then they could be clearer. The basics of net zero is simply that this is required to stop global warming. This could be through balancing emissions and removals, or simply stopping emissions (actual zero). This is the case whether or not it’s actually possible to do so.

    If the concept of net zero is seized upon and promoted based upon the flaws you identify, and is then touted by industries/countries/entities as evidence that enough is being done (or that a particular entity has done its part) to prevent a global climate catastrophe,

    Except, actual zero is also net zero. So, either it’s possible to achieve this and we should be making sure that those who make net-zero plans actually follow though, or it’s not, and we should accept that global warming will continue. Criticising what is required to stop global warming because people think it isn’t possible to actually do what’s required to stop it, seems counter-productive.

  6. Ben McMillan says:

    I thought this was a neat article on the soil side of netting our way to zero:

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10533-021-00857-w

  7. I see. You are making a distinction between net zero plans and the concept of net zero. I am not sure why we need a “concept” of net zero if we are just talking about net zero. I like net zero. That is the point that I think I described as carbon cycle balance. I would not call that a net zero or actual zero or anything like that because it is probably a moving target based on the functions of the various carbon sinks, the status of the various feedback loops that have been identified and human emissions. Net zero suggests a static point to me and a carbon cycle balance suggests the variability that I think is likely if we could ever get close to the point where atmospheric CO2 and CO2e accumulations stop rising and hold at a certain point for a period of time that is long enough for us to conclude that we have actually achieved something close to a carbon neutral balance point.

    If we could get to that point, we might well want to discuss the cost benefit issues with further changes that would allow the CO2 and CO2e accumulation numbers to begin to fall. Until we get to that carbon neutral/balance point, all these concepts or plans about “net zero” have certain smoke and mirror characteristics to me. Lots of talk, lots of fancy calculation and “what if” scenarios around carbon removal accompanied by the inexorable rise in atmospheric CO2 and CO2e.

    But, hey, what do I know? I’m just a grandfather who worries about my kids, my grandkids and my great granddaughter.

    Cheers

    Mike

  8. small,

    That is the point that I think I described as carbon cycle balance. I would not call that a net zero or actual zero or anything like that because it is probably a moving target based on the functions of the various carbon sinks, the status of the various feedback loops that have been identified and human emissions.

    No, net-zero is when human emissions go to zero, either by actually going to zero, or through there being anthropogenic removals that balance any anthropogenic emissions. When human-emissions do get to net-zero, the natural carbon sinks will actually continue to take up *some* of our emissions so that global warming roughly stabilises. That’s why net-zero is the requirement for stopping global warming.

    If we get to some kind of carbon cycle balance stage, then atmospheric CO2 concentrations would stabilise, and warming would continue (i.e., equilibrium climate sensitivity would be the relevant metric, not the transient climate response to cuumulative emissions).

  9. Thanks. I am mulling that.

  10. Chubbs says:

    Yes we need to get to net zero, otherwise RCP85 or similar is inevitable. There is too much focus on details of the endgame. Of course all the technologies for net zero are unproven. We are so far from net zero that our vision of what it will be like isn’t very clear. If we put the right policies in place to reward zero carbon technologies, the cream will rise to the top. In the meantime. much more important to fill the bathtub at a slower pace, because we will not be able to turn off the tap quickly.

  11. Ten years ago I wrote here and elsewhere that we should start with low hanging fruit–addressing black carbon, methane emissions, deforestation, cement production, etc. I was roundly criticized by many who focused on stopping… fossil fuel emissions… now… Oh, well.

  12. Tom,
    Why, oh well? We still need to mostly focus on stopping fossil fuel emissions.

  13. russellseitz says:

    The elephant in the room is The Spectator’s turnaround

    After years of watching the speccie reprint, and Editor Nelson Fraser parrot, whatever Lord Lawson sends along it’s refreshing to see him sharing a screen with a climate scientist, and listening to what he has to say .

    Instead of a replay of Tucker Carlson gobbling loudly to drown out Bill Nye on Fox, we got four adults actually debating climate policy . Has BoJo started reading the riot act to the Tory press?

  14. Keith McClary says:

    I ran across this:
    “The nebulousness of how these international exchanges will work makes it very difficult to agree on what net zero even means. ‘The definition of what is net zero, nobody has the faintest idea,’ says Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative.”
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/11/its-time-to-delete-carbon-from-the-atmosphere-but-how/

    I suspect people are thinking “In 2039 we will rent a patch of remote jungle or boreal forest and claim credit for not logging it”. Of course, that does not actually stop any emissions, and even if that made sense, there are not enough forests in the world to cancel more than a few years of FF emissions. This is like promises from FF industries to clean up mines, wells and toxic sites.

  15. BBD says:

    @ Russell

    [quote] Has BoJo started reading the riot act to the Tory press?[/q]

    I think the direction of influence is still mainly the other way around. See for example the U-turn on Thursday over the egregious Owen Paterson.

  16. Keith,

    ‘The definition of what is net zero, nobody has the faintest idea,’ says Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative.”

    It may well be that many don’t understand the definition of net-zero, but it is pretty well-defined. It is simply getting to a stage where we’re no longer adding CO2 to the atmosphere, either by actually stopping emitting it, or by capturing as much as is emitted.

  17. Net zero …”is simply getting to a stage where we’re no longer adding CO2 to the atmosphere, either by actually stopping emitting it, or by capturing as much as is emitted.” That does sound simple and yet, isn’t it going to rather difficult to determine when we get there? Is there a there there?

    So, we get to 2050 and declare success, hey, we did it, we made it to net zero… and the next year the global accumulation of CO2 and CO2e does not start falling, or even stop rising, it just creeps up a bit… what is that point called?

    How will we know when we have truly reached net zero? Who is going to call that? If all the responsible parties are able to pull out spreadsheets and crunch forest numbers against emissions and everyone can show in writing that they have done their part, and yet CO2 and CO2e numbers keep rising, what do we call that? This does not seem simple to me. Maybe that is what Janos Pasztor is getting at when he says “nobody has the faintest idea” on net zero.

    I think I will watch/listen to this for more info: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnkSFZcv4ZE

  18. BBD says:

    [quote]How will we know when we have truly reached net zero? Who is going to call that? [/quote]

    Global CO2 monitoring eg. Mauna Loa etc.When the Keeling Curve flattens, then we’re at net zero.

  19. “Global CO2 monitoring eg. Mauna Loa etc.When the Keeling Curve flattens, then we’re at net zero.”

    Let the finger pointing begin immediately then! As no single country/territory is at net zero CO2 emissions today …

    Monitoring technologies will not save us either, as all you have to do is change your point sources to non-point sources through distribution-dispersion-diffusion networks.

    There will be many Ponzi-like national schemers who will claim net zero on the books. Who will enforce those countries to meet net zero emissions with actual boots on the ground? Peer pressure?

    Net zero was/is/will always be, a very bad joke made by, and for, human consumption. Look, I just made a (very bad) human consumption joke.

    Oh and don’t even try to get me started on so-called cryptocurrency mining, as such a waste of time-energy-worth humanity has never seen before. “The carbon footprint of a single mined bitcoin (including fees) amounts to 191 tonnes of carbon dioxide while to mine the equivalent value in gold, it would only take 13 tonnes of carbon dioxide.”

    ” …
    So you ride yourselves over the fields and
    You make all your animal deals and
    Your wise men don’t know how it feels
    To be thick as a brick.
    … ”

    From “Thick as a Brick” by Jethro Tull, 1972

    But you know what? …
    Shine On You Crazy Diamond

  20. Here are some global average numbers to consider when thinking about net zero to be defined as the flattening of the Keeling curve:

    1971: 330 ppm
    1972: 327 ppm
    1973: 330 ppm
    1974: 330 ppm

    That looks like a flattening of the Keeling Curve that suggests we were at net zero for several years.

    Was that net zero? Could we see something like that period again at a future point? Would some then say, hey, we did it! Net Zero! Would that be true? A fact? or is this rather slippery?

    What then would we say in 1975 when the number increases 331 or 1975 when the number increases to 332?

    I think if we are going to talk about the flattening of the Keeling Curve as evidence of anything significant, then we have to establish a time frame for the flattening that allows us to tell what numbers are signal and what numbers are noise. Am I missing something obvious about this? For me, the time frame for seeing a flattening of the Keeling Curve that we can rely on is ten years. That’s just my number. 4 years may not cut it as might be showing in the data from 1971 to 1974.
    Cheers
    Mike

  21. There are actually two types of denial going on here. The bog standard old AGW denial and the equally obnoxious (IM Humble O) we can still do it, no matter the timeframe or the realities of all that is the human condition. The 2nd type of denial is the greatest danger IMHO. The first type of denial is finally in its long slow death spiral IMHO. The 2nd form of denial, I am afraid, is still in its growth stage IMHO. When we hit 1.5C then 2.0C then 2.5C and finally 3.0C this century there will always be those voices saying “You can do it Kerri” as if it were simply a ten second vault.

  22. Keith McClary says:

    Everett F Sargent: Suriname and Bhutan are net zero.

  23. Jon Kirwan says:

    There is no possible way that we can address the carbon issue, directly. Abstinence means that billions will quite rapidly die. So the *only* alternative is “accounting” via net-zero gaming.

    Not that we have any real way to sequester carbon through mineralization. Climeworks, of course, is very visible. But while they have demo projects in Iceland, Denmark, and elsewhere, the projects just re-release what they capture. (I listened to one of the engineers at the Denmark demo plant admit they just re-release the carbon the capture because they don’t yet know how to mineralize what they capture, properly.)

    They don’t really have a practical process for mineralization — at the global scale needed. No one does. Great concept. Great marketing. No real global scale solution. Worse, when asked, they admit they will require 10s, perhaps 100s, of millions of such projects across the world to reach net-zero. Assuming all of their idealistic projections pan out.

    Which they will not do.

    Net-zero is the only game in town. No one can accept abstinence. (That means massive death, and right now and not later.) And that is not going to be a valid subject of discussion. I get that.

    Of course, just because the only way out of a massive die-off happens to be the promises of net-zero does NOT mean anything about whether or not it is a realistic or realizable goal.

    The very most optimistic estimates I’ve seen have said that it takes the emissions of 1 kg of carbon to capture 2 kg. (That’s from Climeworks. And I don’t believe that optimism. But that’s their words, not mine.) They claim that is sufficient. But taking them at their word (I absolutely do NOT), then this means that since we currently have about 85% of our energy (100 quads a year, let’s say) from fossil fuels that we will have to burn another 43 quads of fossil fuels to capture the output of 85 quads. That means instead of 100 quads, we have to very rapidly move to 143 quads just to get net-zero and to ADD NOTHING WHATSOEVER in terms of other values to our system.

    That’s not happening from renewables. Not in any time scale we care about. Not unless it comes from… you guessed it… fossil fuels.

    Frankly, Ken, I don’t buy all this “future talk” of idealistic projections of what “might be.”

    I also don’t believe we can just abstain, either. That would be global death on a huge scale, too.

    So I think nature will take care of things, because frankly we won’t do enough in time.

    That said, rather than complain about people who complain about net-zero, why not walk me through all of the details, proofs of concept, demonstrations, and where we consider all of the details … cradle to grave … for these projects that will save us? I’ve been spending significant time trying to find a good paper that covers how we get from where we are, in detail and with careful attention to specifics, to where we can get to … in sufficient time that it will make a significant difference. I’d read that. I’d study it. I’d develop my own models from it. If only I could see anything that actually made sense.

    So far, nothing has. And I have sincerely looked, this last couple of years now.

    I’m open. I’m just not buying the propaganda, yet.

    Nice question. Now show me.

  24. I get a feeling that more is being read into what I’m saying than is maybe necessary. This isn’t about declaring success, or being unrealistically optimistic, or ignoring how various industries/governments are gaming net-zero. I’m simply pointing out that stopping global requires getting to net-zero. If people don’t like the “net” then it’s simply zero. How much is emitted before we do so will largely determine the level of global warming (the carbon budget). If we fail to do so, then we will continue to warm. In a sense, my confusion is why so many seem to be highly critical of this requirement, rather than being critical of how it’s being used, either by those who are presenting net-zero plans that will probably not work, or those who ignore the challenges in getting there.

  25. TYSON MCGUFFIN says:

    ATTP, the best paradigmatic statement about net-zero is by Wally Broecker 2008:

    Burning fossil fuels is not bad; what is bad is dumping the waste into the atmosphere. There is a direct analogy to eating food, which is also not a bad thing. When we burn food in our bodies, we create waste too, and for centuries we simply dumped it wherever we liked. But as our numbers increased, and cesspools and privies got too close to wells, cities in America and Europe regularly endured not just foul smells but epidemics of typhoid fever and cholera. Today billions of people in poor countries still drink contaminated water; the World Health Organization estimates that six hundred thousand die of typhoid fever every year. The rich countries, however, have nearly eliminated such diseases, in part by building sewers and sewage treatment plants.

    If we are to avoid dangerously warming the planet, we need to figure out how to build the equivalent of a sewage system for carbon dioxide[…]

  26. Ben McMillan says:

    I think the problem is that it is hard to maintain the distinction between the original concept of “net zero” as an atmospheric physics idea, and the “net zero” that is used as a policy slogan.

    At some point, even things that are fine in terms of basic physics become toxic enough through misuse that they are hard to salvage, and talking about what they “really mean” is a bit of an uphill battle.

    There is a depressing reason why all the talk is about “net zero by 2050” and not about carbon budgets, or near-term targets for reductions.

  27. Chubbs says:

    Going to be pretty easy to tell when we are getting close to net zero. Your kids/grandkids will ask what is that?, when they see a gasoline car or some other use of fossil fuels. That world is hard to envision, but it is coming. Hopefully it is closer to 2060 than 2160.

  28. The problem most people have with Net Zero is because of the ‘#NetZeroFiddle’—which gives government officials the option of delaying action until they’re retired or out of office. What any individual, organisation or business would do to achieve a target would be to undertake a defined decrease each year until the goal is achieved. I guess the https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59199484 put the kibosh on that approach to emissions reductions.

  29. A problem I have is that I’ve seen people criticising carbon budgets, deadlines, net zero. In fact, those criticising deadlines suggested we should just aim for net zero. So, it sometimes seems that whatever is proposed, someone will find some reason to criticise it, often without providing much in the way of an alternative. Also, a lot of these things are just variants of the same basic idea. To limit overall warming, requires limiting overall emissions. This means getting to net zero and doing so within some budget, which typically require doing so within some timeframe (a deadline). There are multiple ways to frame this, all of which have ended up being criticised by someone.

  30. Keith McClary,

    Region:Population
    Suriname:575,990
    Bhutan:754,388
    World:7,905,000,000

    Way to go 0.017% of World!!!

  31. The thing that gets me about the opposition/pushback/consternation about “net zero (as a concept)” – which is always based on either a misunderstanding about what the atmospheric physics concept is and/or conflation of a disapproval of the mix of positive and negative emissions we might use to achieve net-zero emissions – is that it is almost a happenstance that we’re even having this conversation!

    It was really not long ago (mid- to late-2000’s) that the scientific consensus – and the state-of-the-art mitigation pathways and the UNFCCC ambitions – were that we needed to (eventually) reduce emissions by about 80%. We’re not now targeting ≥100% because we got off to a late start! The thinking genuinely was that the ocean (especially) and land sinks could provide a buffer for some amount of residual CO₂ emissions.

    It was not generally (nor immediately) accepted that we needed to get emissions to near net-zero until 2008-09, especially with the publication of, notably, Matthews and Caldeira, 2008, and then Allen, et al., and Meinhausen, et al., both in 2009.

    But here’s the thing:

    There was nothing a priori that said that the actual hurdle we were going to have to meet was net-zero emissions.

    Our improved understanding of the carbon cycle could have turned out to be that we needed to achieve net-negative emissions. In fact, if you look at panels b and d of Figure 2 in the seminal 2020 model intercomparison of zero-emissions scenarios, it is not certain that we *won’t* have to achieve net-negative emissions to prevent further warming!👇

    We’re not actually going to know whether net-zero is sufficient – whether we get there with zero positive emissions or some combination of positive and negative emissions – until we get closer to to actually achieving it.

    However, if it had been the case that our current carbon cycle and atmospheric physics knowledge was telling us *NOW* that we would need to achieve net-negative emissions to stabilize temperatures (which may actually be the case!), then I am pretty sure that all the gnashing of teeth over negative emissions would practically vanish overnight. Instead of being some boogeyman nightmare to be avoided (or at least minimized) at all costs, it would be a technology we’d all be resting our ambitions and confidence on.

    And I say “technology” advisedly, because we’d probably need to be using direct air capture and geologic sequestration in such a scenario.

    So, to my mind, it is only the conditional, provisional happenstance that our temperature stabilization objective happens currently to be net-zero and not net-negative that even gives licence to the position that we need to get to zero positive emissions.

    And in my own opinion, the tenacity with which such positions are held have little to do with the physical requirement determined by our best science, and more to do solutions aversion. CO₂ removal and geologic sequestration would be both capital intensive and reliant on technology to solve this environmental dilemma. Both of these requirements are freighted with real aversion amongst segments of the public. Oddly, that we appear to need net-zero and not outright net-negative emissions gives them just enough remaining wiggle room to argue that we must try to keep the wolf of negative emissions at bay.

    But going back to ATTP’s original point, the actual “concept of net zero” is a very straightforward result from our improved understanding of the carbon cycle and atmospheric physics within the last few decades, and the fact that there actually exists in the world both anthropogenic positive and negative emissions.

  32. ATTP,

    Net zero is one of those Homer Simpson moments. D’oh! As in no kidding, no sher Shitlock. No one is criticizing net zero as it is one of those d’oh moments.

    The current pathway, the most probable outcome remains 2C-4C warming by 2100. Stating the rather obvious is in no way criticizing net zero as a concept, but it is criticizing net zero as a meaningful probabilistic reality/outcome by 2100.

    That is all.

  33. Negative emissions? What a no brainer as far a concepts go.
    Negative population growth? What a no brainer as far a concepts go.

    Methinks thinking about something is infinitely easier then actually doing something. Kind of like writing science fiction. Thus, the vast amounts of dystopian science fiction filled with high hopes outcomes …

  34. EFS,
    Yes, I do get that, but some literally are criticising the “concept of net zero”. I have no problem with people criticising our current trajectory, net-zero plans that will not deliver net-zero, technologies that may not work, etc. What I do have a problem with (as Rust highlights) are what appear to be criticisms of a concept that has simply emerged from our understanding of the carbon cycle and atmospheric physics.

  35. EFS,
    But if you don’t like negative emissions, then net-zero is simply zero. The net-zero concept does not require negative emissions, it just allows for it.

  36. Scientists should be “Honest brokers of policy alternatives” unless one of those alternatives is something you don’t like. Science should be policy relevant, but not policy prescriptive, unless the relevant science allows for policies you don’t like. 🤔

    I realise the above sounds snarky, but it really does often seem like some are just presenting arguments that are inconsistent. You can’t expect scientific advice to be relevant, but not prescriptive, and then complain that the options have allowed for outcomes that you don’t like. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t criticise the outcomes, but why not focus more on advocating for your preferred outcome, than complaining that the way information was presented allowed for these outcomes that you didn’t like?

  37. ATTP,

    Seeing real substantive progress towards any of these goals, as in, actions speak louder than words, is what I am looking forwards to, very much so. We currently appear to be capable of plateauing our emissions. Massive and near immediate (a single human generation of say 20 years) reductions, not so much imho.

  38. It would appear that if humans behaved more like ants then problem solved. 😉

  39. an_older_code says:

    good new video from Potholer on the drive for renewables

  40. Jon Kirwan says:

    I was going to write more about net-zero, Ken.

    But then, today, I saw this:

    That pretty much spells out in very graphic terms what I think of the idea. You’ll see it addressed about half-way through the almost 4 minute video.

    I’ve spent a lot of time studying the facts behind net-zero arguments and I was starting to write them down last night before going to sleep. But I don’t need to. They captured the sum of it, complete with a simple chart that takes less than a second to absorb.

  41. Jon,
    I guess I still understand why you object to the “idea”, rather than objecting to the manner in which some are claiming to be aiming for this, while clearing not going to do so. What, for example, is the alternative to net zero?

  42. If I can jump in front of Jon, I would suggest looking at it from a different angle. Instead of a focus on emissions, why not focus on the global fuel portfolio? That’s what is most amenable to change. It is easier to quantify, easier to communicate and easier to chart progress.

  43. You can, of course, choose to focus on something like global fuel portfolio if you think that would be more effective. However, it doesn’t change that stopping global warming requires stopping adding CO2 to the atmosphere (i.e., net zero).

  44. Global fuel portfolio? Well at least the FF companies are paying lip service to AGW. Have you seen any of their commercials lately? Lip service, like turtles, all the way down.

    When I see nation states and the private sector (e. g. the Seven Sisters) divesting their FF infrastructures and investing tens of billions in alternative energy per annum, then and only then, will I believe anything they have to say wrt AGW.

    So far, the FF companies solutions to AGW consist of commercials. Do you feel good yet? Because the FF PR departments are all over this one big time.

    Quantify, communicate and progress? To date amounts to: Thank you for your concerns.

  45. Jon Kirwan says:

    “I guess I still understand why you object to the “idea”, rather than objecting to the manner in which some are claiming to be aiming for this, while clearing not going to do so.”

    I’m not sure I remember how these tags work. Hopefully that gets it. And I think you mean that you “don’t understand.”

    “What, for example, is the alternative to net zero?”

    Net zero is disingenuous for those who know better. For others, it’s being cozy for a little longer though denial. What are the alternatives for being disingenuous, dishonest or continuing in denial? A very long list, indeed.

  46. Jon,
    Yes, I meant “don’t understand”.

    Okay, if “net zero” is disingenuous, what is the alternative? Not getting to zero? If we don’t get to net zero (which includes real zero) then global warming continues.

  47. Ben McMillan says:

    I guess it would be helpful if people consistently acknowledged the physics requirement to stop adding carbon to the atmosphere before they started bashing the kinds of misbehaviours clustering under the umbrella of “net zero”.

    But that would be hard to fit in 140 characters, and much less punchy.

    How about “net Zeno”, where we asymptote our way under the carbon budget but never reach zero?

  48. I haven’t followed the net zero ciritcism in much detail, but being engaged in environmental issues and sustainable agriculture for decades I can somehow understand why people criticise it as just one in a row of new buzz words which will be abused until it totally looses meaning. But of course that doesn’t amount to what you are aiming at, if the concept is flawed or not.
    Conceptually, I can still understand the crticism that it leaves wide open which proportion of emissions will have to be reduced and which can be solved by DAC, BECCS or any other promising technology. When one factor in time and see all grand plans for net zero one can see a lot of faith in untested technologies which are promoted. Net zero thus allows policy makers to make bold pledges without any actual action today. Net zero is primarily a political concept and thus subject to politics.

  49. Gunnar,
    I completely get those criticisms, which I completely agree with. What I don’t get is why scholars who make them, can’t distinguish between criticising the manner in which governments/industry is planning to get to net zero (most of which will not achieve this as intended) and the concept of net zero (which is simply that stopping global warming requires stopping emitting – mostly – CO2 into the atmosphere). Maybe there’s some logic to this, but – if there is – I’m still missing it.

    If someone thinks net zero is flawed, then the logical conclusion is that they think we should continue to emit CO2 into the atmosphere and should accept that – for the foreseeable – future, global warming will continue. I think that’s rather defeatist.

  50. Richard says:

    As an alternative to Net Zero, don’t we really need to heading towards Net Negative? Even if we reached zero today, it seems the climate is already warmed enough to cause severe issues around the world, so surely we need to head back towards pre-industrial levels of CO2?

  51. Richard,
    Sure, we could argue for net-negative. However, we have to go through net-zero to get there, so net-zero is on the path to net-negative. Also, if someone objects to net-zero on the basis that it relies on un-proven technologies and promises that may not materialise, it would seem inconsistent to then argue in favour of net-negative, since that would rely even more strongly on such technologies and promises.

  52. Chubbs says:

    Worth pointing out that, other than coal, the fossil fuel resources for the 2nd half of this century aren’t proven either. Our energy future is wide open.

  53. Ben McMillan says:

    A global follow-up to the Caldeira-group work on geophysical constraints on wind+solar:

    https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-26355-z

  54. ATTP,

    ” … defeatist?”

    That sounds like a position or policy statement. Whereas. I would suggest staying within the bounds of actual projections of reality as they exist today and will exist at least into the next 2-3 decades.

    I think that is called being pragmatic (dealing with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical rather than theoretical considerations).

    Anyone can write equations. Anyone can put pie-in-the-sky into those equations. Jean-Luc Picard once said “Make it so” and Scotty replied “But captain we can’t go any faster” or some such, metaphorically speaking.

    As the engineer said to the scientist (nee architect), what you want and what we can give you are indeed two different things. As the lawyer said to the scientist, strict international laws will have to be emplaced AND enforced, something which humanity has failed to do to date (e. g. nuclear weapons proliferation).

    History is on my side, not yours, and that simple fact is in no way defeatist.

  55. Chubbs sez …

    “Worth pointing out that, other than coal, the fossil fuel resources for the 2nd half of this century aren’t proven either. Our energy future is wide open.”

    BGR and every other boots-on-the-ground authority disagrees with the above statement as no one can “prove” anything, they can only make projections, and those projections suggest otherwise to your current resource beliefs.
    https://www.bgr.bund.de/EN/Themen/Energie/energie_node_en.html

    I do follow this stuff rather closely, just as I have done so for over more than a decade, and earlier, using historical reports. Those (more reliable) reports date back to the very late 1980’s. I believe the genesis of these reports are more closely aligned with population projections and then current FF usage and not then current carbon emissions projections. I also believe the term “stranded assets” postdates the genesis of these reports.

    As to coal, we have at least several centuries of recourses, at least at current or past peak usage.

  56. EFS,
    I’m not entirely sure what you’re arguing. I’m not suggesting that we’re going to get to net-zero soon, or even that we will necessarily do so in the foreseeable future. I’m mostly pointing out that stopping global warming requires that emissions get to net-zero, and that the longer this takes, the more global warming there will be. So, I don’t really get how anyone who is in favour of taking action to limit global warming objects to the “concept” of net zero, even if they do object (rightly, in many cases) to the plans being put forward describing how governments/industries plan to do so.

  57. I don’t like the concept of net zero because I think it is ripe for gaming by the various entities who have some obligations or commitment to achieve this status. As a global concept, net zero or I have more connection to a concept like net zero accumulation as explained by Evan at Skeptical Science: https://skepticalscience.com/The_Keeling_Curve_Progress_to_Net-0.html

    But again, the concept is slippery unless we yoke it to a time frame that would allow us to differentiate noise from signal in atmospheric concentrations of ghg gases.

    I think the solution to the gaming is a carbon tax that starts at a level that requires we feel a little discomfort and increases upward from that point on some certain time frame. I think at least part of the proceeds of a carbon tax need to fund a solution to the inequities that are baked in to our situation with global warming. I think we all know what those are, so I won’t list them.

    When I think about the differences between a concept like the carbon tax as described and a concept like net zero, I think of a cartoon where the first frame has the characters being directed to stand with one foot on a banana peel. I think it’s easy to see where this will lead. Net zero is a fine concept, but it is standing with at least one foot on a banana peel in my opinion.

    Cheers
    Mike

  58. ATTP,

    Your usage and context of the word “defeatist” wherein the subjective of one’s opinion is turned into the objective of net zero. Particularly when no timeline is stated a priori. In other words, net zero is meaningless, even as a concept, WITHOUT a corresponding timeline. AR6 makes timeline projections based on different resource timeline allocations/pathways.

    So basically, we all need a timeline to net zero, then everyone can draw their squiggly lines.

    I am trying to NOT sound like a broken record but, d’oh! I think everyone gets the concept of net zero, as in, equal to net zero emissions. Net zero in 2050 is not net zero in 2100.

    Who, what, when, where, why and how. The conical (and interlinked) six questions. As it stands, or as you have portrayed it, carbon sinks = carbon sources, and that’s it. So an OBVIOUS equality, or in this case GOAL, is not sufficient, in itself, when the most, or more, important question is WHEN.

  59. ATTP sez …

    “So, I don’t really get how anyone who is in favour of taking action to limit global warming objects to the “concept” of net zero, even if they do object (rightly, in many cases) to the plans being put forward describing how governments/industries plan to do so.”

    How could “anyone who is in favour of taking action to limit global warming” object to the so-called “concept” of net zero as it is not a plan per se. but it is a goal or (hopefully) endpoint?

    I am very greatly in favour of net zero as a “concept” for humanity though. :/

  60. EFS,

    I am trying to NOT sound like a broken record but, d’oh! I think everyone gets the concept of net zero, as in, equal to net zero emissions. Net zero in 2050 is not net zero in 2100.

    Who, what, when, where, why and how. The conical (and interlinked) six questions. As it stands, or as you have portrayed it, carbon sinks = carbon sources, and that’s it. So an OBVIOUS equality, or in this case GOAL, is not sufficient, in itself, when the most, or more, important question is WHEN.

    I would clarify that net-zero is “anthropogenic carbon sinks = anthropogenic carbon sources”, but I of course agree that “when” is important, as is “how” and “why”. I’m not trying to suggest that the goal/requirement of net-zero immediately solves/resolves all these other complex related issues. I’m trying to understand why the complexity associated with how we might get to net-zero justifies claiming that the “concept” of net zero is flawed. So, how can everyone get the concept of net zero while also calling it “flawed”?

  61. ATTP sez …

    “So, how can everyone get the concept of net zero while also calling it “flawed”?”

    It is an equality, so much so, that there is no basis in calling it “flawed” as far as an equality goes.

    So the only reason anyone could call it “flawed” is to provide some sort of mathematical proof that humanity can not satisfy that goal. Or any goal that is less then net zero (negative anthro emissions).

    But darn it, I want my house to be at exactly 20C 247, if not, then my HVAC system is inherently flawed! :/

  62. “I would clarify that net-zero is “anthropogenic carbon sinks = anthropogenic carbon sources”, but I of course agree that “when” is important, as is “how” and “why”.”

    Do you have any concern that we might reach the point you describe above and find that natural carbon sinks no longer function as they have in the last 10,000 years and some have now become carbon sources on a warmed planet?

    I think net zero has to be an actual zero in terms of increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases or we could continue to see warming. I understand that anthropogenic carbon sources brought us to the point where we have to talk about the concept of net zero, but the way out of way predicament is to hit the “carbon sinks = carbon sources” as fast as we can, like 2050 or before, then we have to take stock and determine that we still need to reduce CO2e from the atmosphere.

    Cheers

    Mike

  63. Jon Kirwan says:

    ” Net zero thus allows policy makers to make bold pledges without any actual action today. Net zero is primarily a political concept and thus subject to politics.”

    Yes, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell.

    There’s an old Popeye cartoon, probably one few alive today have actually seen themselves, where Wimpy says, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

    It would be almost funny to laugh about, if the situation weren’t so seriously frightening, as well.

  64. Jon Kirwan says:

    “If someone thinks net zero is flawed, then the logical conclusion is that they think we should continue to emit CO2 into the atmosphere and should accept that – for the foreseeable – future, global warming will continue. I think that’s rather defeatist.”

    I don’t mean to bicker over words. But right now, it’s important to get on the same page. So I’ll spend a moment bickering over words.

    Conclusions aren’t logical. You can apply valid logic. True. But you cannot have logical conclusions. You can only have sound conclusions, if and only if they are based upon true axioms (assumptions) and are reached by reasoning with valid logic.

    The idea that we should continue to emit CO2 into the atmosphere and should accept that just comes from out of the air. You over-value your stated conclusion. Worse, you completely discount all other conclusions as if they cannot exist, with merely the wave of your hand!

    Sure, if you are allowed to set up such a simple strawman, then it is equally easy to knock it down, as you do here.

    But it is not the case that “if not net zero” then the only conclusion is to “keep emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.”

    You know better than this. I know you do.

    Net zero is just a way of saying “not now, maybe then.” Words promising ridiculous changes decades from now when resources will be fewer, population still higher, the tapestry of life still further stressed, and the chances of making those radical changes even still more crazy-minded than they are today.

  65. Jon,
    I get a feeling that we’re talking past each other. I’m certainly not suggesting that people shouldn’t make stronger arguments than simply “net zero”. By itself it doesn’t tell us when, or how, or how fast. I’m still not really understanding the merit in claiming that the “concept” of net zero is flawed, when net zero (or real zero if you dislike any reliance on NETs) is a requirement for stopping global warming.

    But it is not the case that “if not net zero” then the only conclusion is to “keep emitting CO2 into the atmosphere.”

    Well, there would seem to be 3 options. Net positive, net zero, net negative. We can certainly argue for net negative, which would be stronger than net zero. However, I would argue that net zero is a pre-requisite for net negative. Also, if the criticisms of net zero tend to focus on the reliance on technologies that may not work and that enable delays to actual emission reductions, then the same would seem to apply to net negative.

  66. small,

    Do you have any concern that we might reach the point you describe above and find that natural carbon sinks no longer function as they have in the last 10,000 years and some have now become carbon sources on a warmed planet?

    I think it’s extremely unlikely that the sinks would become net sources when we get anthropogenic emissions to (net) zero. However, it could be that the drawdown atmospheric CO2 more slowly than we expect and that warming continues. However, if this is a concern, then we could advocate for more rapid emission reductions, or even for net negative, but both of these would still seem to require at least passing through net zero.

  67. russellseitz says:

    Another defeat in the war against Climateball Cliche’ :
    Mike has added Doomism to his op-ed D-word litany

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2021/11/press-unites-to-divide-devastating.html

  68. Our host is being remarkably patient, and his interlocutors are just defining concepts and making claims willy-nilly without regard to what the science is telling us.

    Some points.

    1. The science is quite robust in indicating that if you want to stabilize temperatures, you need to stop forcing the system with CO₂ from outside the natural carbon cycle. That is a condition where anthropogenic sources (aka “positive emissions”, call them PE) roughly equal anthropogenic sinks (aka “negative emissions”, NE). If PE ≈ NE, then PE – NE ≈ 0. *That* is “net zero” – the same way if you owe me $50 and I owe you $30, you owe me net $20.

    This net-zero anthropogenic emissions *is ~the condition necessary* to stabilize planetary temperature. This is a direct conclusion from our understanding of the carbon cycle and atmospheric physics.

    No bafflegab about BECCS needing lots of land or irrigation, or whatever else, changes this requirement. Net-zero is just what the Earth system is telling us is going to be required.

    2. Science did not make up the concept of positive and negative anthropogenic CO₂ emissions any more than photosynthesis is a net sink and respiration is a source.

    If we cut down a 100 km² patch of the Amazon to create a farm, that represents a positive anthropogenic emission and radiative forcing. If we deliberately let it grow back, that’s a negative anthropogenic emission and radiative forcing. Same for the production of concrete vs the long-term carbonation of concrete that acts as a sink/negative emission. All of these items – and many others! – have long been inventoried as positive or negative anthropogenic emissions long before “net zero” was a term of art.

    Get over it. Positive and negative anthropogenic CO₂ emissions exist, and if they are roughly equal (even in the case if positive emissions are zero!) they net out to ~zero. (Covered in greater detail in ~grade 6 algebra.)

    3. If positive and negative anthropogenic CO₂ emissions are roughly in balance, the same is not the case for balance of natural CO₂ flows between the natural atmosphere, land and ocean sinks – at least for hundreds of years.

    Again, from the 2020 zero-emissions model intercomparison I cited earlier in the comments, if you look now at panels a and c in Figure 2, atmospheric CO₂ of ~>80 ppm is drawn down in the first century after ~net-zero anthropogenic additions are achieved. Back-of-envelope, that’s about 700 GtCO₂ that would be shifted to the land and (mostly) ocean sinks (*on top* of the ~1200 GtCO₂ they have *already* absorbed!).

    4. We expect the land and ocean to remain as growing net natural sinks – not sources! for the foreseeable future, and for well beyond the point of even a doubling of our historic cumulative anthropogenic CO₂ emissions.

    That’s not to say we expect some weakening of their relative sink efficacy, but we expect them to still be on balance overwhelmingly net carbon sinks. *Notwithstanding smaller parts of the natural system that may become sources!*

    All of these concepts are neatly and succinctly laid out in the recent IPCC AR6 WGI Summary for Policymakers (41 pages, but this material a few pages maximum) and the 2021 Global Carbon Project (approximately 50 easy-to-consume slides).

    As has been said ad nauseum, if you think we are relying too much on negative anthropogenic emissions, or, worse yet, *future* negative anthropogenic emissions, well have at it. Go nuts! Stamp your feet and yell and shake your fist at clouds! Write a letter to the editor, call your representatives, complain to your spouses, post a comment on WordPress!

    None of that changes the fact that the carbon cycle and atmospheric physics says we have to get to roughly net-zero anthropogenic emissions to stabilize temperatures (and that the temperature we stabilize at is a function of how much we emit before we actually get to net-zero emissions!).

  69. Jon Kirwan says:

    “I get a feeling that we’re talking past each other.”

    I’m addressing myself to how “net zero” is being used today, where it invariably includes geoengineering of global scale using technologies that are still, at least in significant part, mere lab-toys now. I’m also addressing myself to another characteristic about it that defers and delays the necessary rates of change to the future instead of immediately taking on a fair and significant portion of that job right now and not five years from now or a decade from now. There are a number of qualities about the term’s usage that matter to me.

    I do agree that we must stop raising atmospheric and oceanic levels of CO2 (beyond the annual capacity of the planet to properly moderate them.) And I do agree that we should work still harder to find a way to allow them to measurably decrease below current levels.

    Let’s get that much straight.

    If your use of net zero doesn’t necessarily include delays and deferrals of significant rates of behavior change in the near term and doesn’t necessarily include geoengineering at global scale, then yes we are probably going on about different things.

  70. bit above should read “That’s not to say we don’t expect some weakening of their relative sink efficacy, but we expect them to still be on balance overwhelmingly net carbon sinks.”

  71. I will defer to my original argument using different words. When you oversimplify a concept (answering only one of the six conical (and interlinked) questions) for public consumption, you ultimately underwhelm (or should that be overwhelm) public understanding of said conceptual details (or the six conical (and interlinked) questions).

    Has “net zero” become some sort of slogan? Oh and the “concept” of subtraction, the “concept” of negative numbers and the :”concept” of zero comes in the 1st grade.

    Someone should do a survey on what net zero means (including its current contextual meaning and include the six conical questions). Multiple choice of course. 😉

  72. Uncensored (h/t Jon Kirwan) and spot on …

    “Net Zero by 2050” is the slogan. That slogan is 110% BS. Absolutely will not happen in that timeframe. So yes, if one really actually means “Net Zero by 2050” then that particular “concept” is fatally flawed.

    Planphlets all the way down! Shame on someone for not mentioning said slogan. That makes this post rather misleading imho. Social context matters. 😦

    Net Zero by 2050
    https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050
    Ba-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, in 2051 the IEA will release their Net Zero by 2080 report.

  73. Since we appear to be switching to the “2050” being the problem, I might as well point out that the actual concept of net-zero has no dates attached to it. It is derived strictly from the relationship between temperature increase and cumulative net anthropogenic CO₂ emissions.

    Temperature stops increasing when additions to cumulative net CO₂ emissions stop. But if/whenever that occurs, it is by definition your net-zero date. The temperature we’re at when it stops rising is a function of how much we’ve emitted by then.

    If you look at these👇three plots, from the recent IPCC AR6 WGI SPM, and an important input paper prior coordinated (I think) by the WMO-WCRP, you will note that none have time as one of the axes. The very good reason for this is that the Earth’s temperature response is defined by the cumulative forcing, and the timing of the forcing largely does not matter.

    That’s the science of the net-zero concept.

    Where dates and the specific idea of “Net-zero 2050” entered into things is firstly that the 2015 Paris Agreement first mentioned 1.5°C as a target, and then commissioned the IPCC to do a special report on 1.5°C.

    In *that* report, specifically IPCC SR1.5 SPM Paragraph C.1👇, they work backwards from the net-zero concept to pathways that conform to limiting warming to 1.5°C (2.0°C), and note that almost all were characterized by mitigation pathways that fell from 2010 levels by 45% (25%) by 2030 and achieved net-zero by ~2050 (2070).

    But in many ways this just goes to show that what persists is the requirement for net-zero-emissions if you want to limit temperature increase. The dates can change, and the ultimate temperature and cumulative emissions can change, but the necessity of eventually achieving net-zero can’t be avoided.

  74. Rust,
    Thanks, that’s all very nice and clear.

    Jon and EFS,
    Yes, there are huge issues with the manner in which net zero is being used to delay making any substantive emission cuts. I’m not suggesting that these plans are acceptable and that people should not be complaining about them, and criticising them strongly. As Rust points out, though, none of this changes that net zero is the requirement for stopping global warming. The sooner we get there, the less will have been emitted, and the less global warming there will be.

  75. Nathan says:

    I know Australia has a bad reputation after the embarrassing show in Glasgow. But maybe things are changing here?

    Andrew Forrest is one of the top three or four richest people in Australia… He has some weight in business circles… Or maybe I have moved to an alternate universe…

  76. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, the Australian Federal Government are the coal-rolling fossils that have made Australia a byword for climate obstructionism. The state governments on the other hand are often quite progressive; e.g. the conservative government in South Australia (confusingly called the Liberals) is in charge of an electricity system that has the highest proportion of wind+solar in the world (at least at that scale).

    Obviously, the vast sums of export dollars from coal and gas skew the politics, and political opinions are very different in the fossil-dependent rural areas to the cosmopolitan inner cities. But at some point there is more money to be made from the clean energy sector than the sunset of the fossil fuel industry.

  77. rnt or ATTP,

    Are either of you stating that cumulative emissions are NOT a function of time? I hope not. The timing and the pathway to net zero matters greatly as that determines cumulative emissions.

    Oh and what is your problem rns? As far as I can tell, you have not provided any new knowledge to inform this discussion.

    “Yes, there are huge issues with the manner in which net zero is being used to delay making any substantive emission cuts.”

    How so? IMHO, if it was not net zero then another bogeyman would just take its place. As far as I know, what is going on here is not strictly limited to just the so-called “concept” of net zero and/or its very simple definition. Net zero IS being used as a slogan though and that does bother me, as I don’t take kindly to any forms of advertisement.

  78. rnt =rns = rustneversleeps above

  79. EFS,

    Are either of you stating that cumulative emissions are NOT a function of time? I hope not. The timing and the pathway to net zero matters greatly as that determines cumulative emissions.

    Of course.

    How so? IMHO, if it was not net zero then another bogeyman would just take its place. As far as I know, what is going on here is not strictly limited to just the so-called “concept” of net zero and/or its very simple definition. Net zero IS being used as a slogan though and that does bother me, as I don’t take kindly to any forms of advertisement.

    Sure, and this is sort of one of my issues. It’s likely that any possible message will be mis-interpreted, and misused, by those who are not engaging in good faith. I have no problem with people calling out, and complaining, about this misuse of this information. My preference would be that people do so in a way that doesn’t undermine our understanding of the basic information (net zero is a requirement for stopping global warming, even if there are problems with the way that this is being framed by some.). Each to their own, of course.

  80. To anyone who thinks ATTP’s concern that the scientific concept of net-zero emissions – the very condition that is required to stabilize temperatures! – is somehow flawed and itself significantly responsible for our ongoing emissions… may I present👇the opinion section of today’s Guardian?

    (Worth noting, the writer never suggests some other condition that needs to be met. Just slags the two words “net-zero” and heaps our collective 30+-yr failure on them!)

    EFS, obviously it can take us more time or less time to reach a terminal peak in cumulative emissions (and, by definition, also a net-zero date). I didn’t suggest anything about that.

    Nevertheless, the fact I *did* state remains: The rate at which we reduce emissions and/or the date at which we achieve net-zero have effectively no impact on the temperature increase due to those cumulative emissions👇.

    And you’re right that I am not really adding anything “new” here, in that I just keep pointing to the established scientific literature on the concept of net-zero. But it seems to need saying, because much of the comments are vague handwashing and of calibre of “Lol, net-zero. Lol, 2050. Lol.”

  81. Willard says:

    > The timing and the pathway to net zero matters greatly as that determines cumulative emissions.

    It matters so much that any contrarian worth their salt would suggest that unless and until we pinpoint a specific time we should wait for more studies and throw our arms in the air and cry about uncertainty.

    Climateball veterans should be able to anticipate at least one half-move ahead.

  82. above should read “ATTP’s concern that the scientific concept of net-zero emissions… is somehow being portrayed as flawed and itself significantly responsible for our ongoing emissions”

  83. izen says:

    @-Willard
    “…any contrarian worth their salt would suggest that unless and until we pinpoint a specific time we should wait for more studies and throw our arms in the air and cry about uncertainty.”

    Any contrarian worth their salt would suggest that the attribution of warming to the rise in CO2 is false because the method of detecting causation does not follow the Gauss-Markov rule.

    Click to access McKitrick-Optimal-Fingerprinting.pdf

    Net zero, or getting to zero CO2 emissions is just a political progrom driven by some undefined globalist/solcialist/Qanon ideology.
    At least according to the denizens of JC’s blog and other places

  84. Jon Kirwan says:

    “Net zero, or getting to zero CO2 emissions is just a political progrom driven by some undefined globalist/solcialist/Qanon ideology.”

    Well, it’s not as though misguided and/or disingenuous folks can’t “co-op” ideas and then own them and use them for entirely different purposes.

    By way of example of what I mean here, read this from Renée DiResta, the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory:

    https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/10/disinformation-propaganda-amplification-ampliganda/620334/

    (Something started by a left leaning twitter account was quickly elevated to national level by right leaning twitter accounts.)

    In any case, I’ve clarified what parts of the COP26-related “net zero” discussions bother me and also that a stripped down simple meaning to it is so obvious as to almost not need any mention about my agreement. We need to allow the natural “annual and daily breathing” of the Earth’s life to equilibrate atmospheric (in ppmv) and oceanic CO2, at a minimum. (No underlying rising baseline.) Better would be to show an underlying falling baseline before 2030.

    Separate topic:

    What I love about the process here and a very few other places (never get me wrong about that — this blog is very much worth my time reading from time to time) is that minds “resonate” in difficult to predict and sometimes useful ways. Misunderstandings are an important part of the process, as I see it, because those themselves raise up new resonances that are at times quite interesting. I like to imagine our minds as “bells” (if you are imagining a perfectly made bell, don’t — I know that at least my “bell-mind” isn’t at all perfect, but instead contains a great many flaws that may create discordant tones) that resonate when “struck” by some comment or thought.

    Some thoughts make just a dull thud with me and so little or nothing. Others, cause a long resonant tone of sorts — fractured I’m sure by those imperfections that don’t create clear, nice added tones and instead raspy ones. Those I may choose to pass on, less that my particular cacophony directly addresses the strike that originally caused it, more that it may itself generate further such resonances from minds I’ve grown to appreciate over time.

    The results are sometimes useful to my own thinking and help to correct prior inaccuracies or down-right errors on my part. (I also learn how to be still clearer when communicating.)

    In short, my thanks to many here! I do very much appreciate what this gives me. And Ken, I am most certainly deeply in your debt for all the hard work that goes into something like this as well as your guiding thoughts through it all.

  85. Jon Kirwan says:

    [Fixed. -W]

  86. Willard says:

    > attribution of warming to the rise in CO2 is false because the method of detecting causation does not follow the Gauss-Markov rule.

    Nice.

    I think it follows the same argumentative pattern as the one I wish to emphasize, which has been epitomized with the saying: unless we don’t know everything we know nothing. The pattern can be expressed the following way:

    (Concern) Unless we know P, we can’t say Q.
    (Ignorance) We do not know P.
    (Stall) We can’t say Q.

    Let’s adapt Doc’s recent pet line to the Net Zero slogan:

    (Concern) Unless we know the Earth’s optimum, we can’t argue for net zero.
    (Ignorance) We do not know what’s the optimal temperature on Earth.
    (Stall) We can’t argue for net zero

    Many contrarian arguments can be expressed using that framework.

    ***

    My counter to this kind of argument is to question the concern. For instance, I would suggest that we don’t need to know the optimal temperature on Earth to seek Net Zero. I would also suggest that we don’t need any Gauss-Markov test to know that the only way to make sense of the current warming is to take the anthropogenic component into account.

    There are many things one could say regarding that kind of argument. For instance, it looks quite post hoc: contrarians should be able to state what would convince them right from the start. Instead, we see them moving the goalposts as their concerns are being addressed. Under this light, there’s some kind of sorites argument behind that pattern.

    One way to cut the infinite regress is to use an indefinite modality: Net Zero will allow us to reduce the risks of AGW as much as humanly possible. We need to get to Net Zero as soon as it’s humanly feasible. We need to establish causation as much as is humanly possible. Et cetera.

    The overall idea is that imperfect and imprecise knowledge is often good enough for action. In fact it is by committing to a plan of action that we get to know better about it. Anyone who played a game should attest that it’s part of the fun.

  87. russellseitz says:

    COP26 just had a run -in with the Nyet Zero Movement:
    The Green Zone slogan zapped the Blue Zone , which retaliated with a photonic conniption:

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2021/11/great-moments-in-climate-communication.html

  88. Ben McMillan says:

    Here is Australia doing their best to illustrate the difference between the “concept of net zero” and things claiming to be “net zero”:

    Australian gas exports actually increase from now until 2050… you kind of wonder who Oz are going to be buying all the offsets from, because it can’t be the people who are buying their gas (who are also, presumably, buying offsets?).

  89. We briefly interrupt your normally scheduled programing to bring you this short message …

    But, it’s only human to KNOW how far we have to go!

    Will Chevron KNOW in 2050? Or KNOW in 2100? Because Chevron certainly does not KNOW in 2021!

    Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead … to … net zero by 2025!

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

  90. Jon Kirwan says:

    Thanks, Ben. Enjoyed reading a few things at Ketan Joshi’s twitter.

    Everett, I luckily won’t see much of that ad as I don’t watch TV or cable. It was enough to see it once, here.

    — — —

    This youtube captures all that needs be said about COP26 and net zero:

    Just sit and watch COP26’s President, Alok Sharma, apologize. In particular, and wait for it, listen to his voice almost ‘crack’ as he says the word ‘package’ circa the 24th or 25th second in. Then watch as he grabs the gavel to just hold it like a security blanket… and then difficult silence… and then some in the audience clapping to help him out…

    He knows. And that video says so much with few words.

    A profound moment.

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