Extreme Temperature Diary- December 20th, 2018/ Topic: A Lesson From Whaling

Thursday December 20th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😊. 

A Lesson From Whaling

As most know well before the advent of using petroleum for fuel in the 19th century whales were vigorously hunted for oil and other byproducts. During the 20th century many species of whale were killed to extinction before nations came together banning or severely limiting hunts. Environmentalists, such as those from Greenpeace, are very often identified with trying to save whales and for good reason. Humanity needs to start working in harmony with nature on relatively “small” issues so that larger items like controlling climate change can be accomplished.

Today I saw that once more a few “pariah” states (Norway, Japan and Iceland) will leave or defy the International Whaling Commission to continue lucrative hunting and butchery of great animals that can’t put up much of a defense. Please read more from this Guardian Article:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/20/japan-to-resume-commercial-whaling-after-leaving-iwc-report  Evidently careful negotiations creating the IWC in the first place have not “sustained” long term harmony between man and whales.

So what do you, dear reader, think of carefully negotiated climate treaties like the Paris Accords in association with long term sustainability if a much simpler issue like whale hunting can’t be resolved? Unfortunately these are dark thoughts leading up to the holidays. In this case going through the year 2030 we need to point to the main pariah states of the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia and potentially Brazil. If Paris unravels like the IWF is doing now it will be because nations with a lot to gain in the short term, or petrol states, make agreements on paper without meaning to adhere to commitments. How many times has this happened in human history? Just ask the American Indians.

As discussed earlier on this site mot of these petrol states are headed by “Populist Nationalists.” Here is why politically Paris may fail during the next short twelve years, the time most experts suggest that we have to get our climate act together (from https://theconversation.com/why-the-rise-of-populist-nationalist-leaders-rewrites-global-climate-talks-107870):

Populism and cutting national emissions

What is populist nationalism? Although both populism and nationalism are contested terms, political scientist Francis Fukuyama, offers this tidy synthesis of the characteristics associated with populist nationalists leaders in democracies.

Firstly, these leaders define “the people” narrowly to refer to a single national identity which is oftentimes anti-elitist. Secondly, they promote policies which are popular among their selected people, or base of support, in the short term but may not be in the long-term economic, social or environmental interests of the country. Thirdly, populist nationalists are expert at capitalizing on their supporters’ cultural fears about a loss of status in society.

Over the past five years there have been several populist electoral victories in countries that are among the highest emitters of greenhouse gases. This includes the U.S., India, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland and the Philippines. While these regimes each represent a different brand of populist nationalism, they exhibit the basic characteristics I’ve just described.

From my perspective as a scholar focused on global energy and climate policies, it’s clear that the political structure of populist nationalism makes introducing policies to reduce, or mitigate, emissions in democracies difficult. (Commenting here, basically populist nationalist take a more short term, inward view on humanity rather than a longer term outward looking globalist view.)

Mitigation policies require leaders to expend short-term political capital for long-term economic and environmental gains. However, populists have shown a particularly strong disinterest for doing so, particularly if those short-term costs would affect their prioritized group of the people.

Perhaps the clearest example of this is President Donald Trump’s unwinding of the Clean Power Plan. It may bring short-term benefits to his base, which includes coal miners and related interests, but it is not aligned with long-term energy market trends in the U.S. toward natural gas, wind and solar for generating electricity and away from coal.

Let’s not get too negative here. From the glass half full crowd I did see this in association with Paris: https://theconversation.com/an-economists-take-on-the-poland-climate-conference-the-glass-is-more-than-half-full-108915

Quoting a little from this Conversation article about COP24:  

Delegates in Poland wanted to make progress by filling in details of the skeletal Paris Agreement. Was the meeting a success? A simple yes or no would be misleading. But from my perspective leading a delegation from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements at the conference, there were significant gains in two key areas. 

Nations agreed on uniform rules for measuring and reporting their own performance in cutting emissions. There also were intensive discussions of how to connect reduction efforts across regions, nations and sub-national areas, which offers many economic and other benefits. Even though the latter issue was not resolved in Katowice, I see the final agreement as a glass that is more than half full.

As I wrote in 2015 when it was signed, the Paris Agreement was a major milestone. In it, 195 countries plus the European Union – accounting for 97 percent of global emissions – pledged to develop national targets and action plans for reducing their emissions. They also agreed to revise these contributions every five years, with an eye to ratcheting up their goals over time. In contrast, the predecessor international agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, covered only 14 percent of global emissions.  

But the Paris Agreement gave 154 developing countries significant wiggle room by granting them flexibility in determining how they would measure their emissions and track progress toward their national targets. For developing countries, this was important. Some lacked the capacity to accurately monitor their emissions, and others resisted being treated with the same rigor as industrialized countries. In their view this was unfair, since developed nations’ emissions were responsible for most of the warming that had occurred to date.

But now this has changed, thanks partly to close collaboration in Poland between the U.S. and Chinese delegations. These delegates worked closely to foster a remarkable consensus that all countries must follow uniform standards for measuring emissions and tracking the achievement of their national targets.

This was a significant accomplishment, and a major step toward a level playing field among nations. Such uniform treatment is essential for addressing the threat of climate change, because increases in emissions are mainly coming from the large emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico and Indonesia.

Conceivably, this equal treatment could make it easier for the United States to remain in the Paris Agreement if President Trump should become convinced that such action would be politically advantageous in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. It also will create a path for a future Democratic or Republican administration to rejoin the Paris Agreement if Trump follows through on his promise to withdraw.

I found the last statement I mentioned from this article more than a bit naïve, though. Trump won’t change his mind on Paris; however, there is a glimmer of light since framework is there for the U.S. To easily rejoin the accord once Trump leaves office. Will what was agreed to at COP24 really reduce emissions significantly much like the IWC did for a time limit whale killing? The jury is still out here, but Bob Henson of Weather Underground has some comprehensive thoughts: https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/Good-News-Bad-News-2018-UN-Climate-Meeting

Quoting Bob Henson:

Four major oil producers—Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the U.S.—refused to join other nations in officially welcoming this year’s special report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the consequences of 1.5°C of global warming (see below). According to NRDC’s Jeff Turrentine, “In voting that the report’s dire conclusions should be ‘noted’ but not ‘welcomed’, Trump administration representatives in Katowice weren’t just quibbling over semantics. They were stating, for the record, that the official position of the U.S. government regarding the IPCC report is: What’s the big deal?” 

In the end, the report was received with “appreciation and gratitude” rather than formally welcomed, reported the New York Times’ Brad Plumer

One thing is certain: every year in which emissions fail to drop significantly will only make it that much tougher to make the needed cuts later on. Multiple studies have shown that the initial Paris pledges by themselves would still allow for an estimated 2.7°C – 3.7°C of warming. This heightens the importance of a major ramp-up in national pledges by the scheduled 2020 update, if not sooner—which in turn implies the need for a huge and rapid shift toward renewable energy and away from fossil fuels. As we discussed in a post on December 6, there are powerful incentives to use up our known reserves of fossil fuels, which would push us way beyond 1.5°C. 

FAQ 2.1 in the IPCC’s 1.5°C report includes a dire warning: “If current pledges for 2030 are achieved but no more, researchers find very few (if any) ways to reduce emissions after 2030 sufficiently quickly to limit warming to 1.5°C.”

Well, between reporting on whales and our current emission path, I guess I’m playing the part of Scrooge going into Christmas. Let’s get more positive this weekend breaking down a nice Christmas present for the whole world…the “Green New Deal” and what that would entail. I’ll be posting and commenting on that the next couple of days. If anyone wants to pass along information concerning the Green Nee Deal please do so.


Here is more climate and weather news from Thursday:

(Speaking of whales):



(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity.)

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

The Climate Guy



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