Page 21 - Respond 2016 Magazine
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                                                                                           New calculations from a US NGO
                                                                                           indicate tar sands extraction in
                                                                                           Alberta, Canada will have to stop
                                                                                           for the world to have a chance of
                                                                                           limiting warming to below 2C

            Pic: © sbamueller

           New wells have investment and political interests behind them   To sum it up:
           that makes them harder to shut down when the time comes.  Carbon Tracker: 50% chance of 2C   > some new gas and oil OK

           “Since political action is required, we should look for solutions   Oil Change International: 66% chance of 2C   > no new extraction
           that are not just economically optimised, but politically optimised.
           Politically, it is much more difficult to demand the loss of physical   The difference is important because it reveals a split amid
           capital – on which dollars have been spent, and steel and concrete   influential thinkers in the climate debate about the best way to
           installed – than to relinquish the future hope of benefits from   effect change.
           untapped reserves,” argues the report.
                                                                The question hinges on whether to engage fossil fuel companies
           Here we find the crux of the disagreement. Carbon Tracker offers   on their terms: the IEA is considered an authoritative voice within
           an olive branch of leniency to oil and gas companies to continue   the energy sector and some new oil wells is better than none. Or is
           doing what they do for a while longer. OCI says they are drunk on   it time for all-out war?
           profits and we should take away their keys.
                                                                McKibben notes that his initiation to carbon budgets came when
           Having made that decision, the maths was found to back it up.   he based a seminal essay on the subject on the work of Carbon
           According to Kretzmann the major difference between Carbon   Tracker. But he now clearly believes their approach is too weak for
           Tracker’s report one year ago and Oil Change’s more recent one   the times.
           is the budget under which we allow ourselves and the fossil fuel
           companies to operate.                                Writing in the Guardian, Monbiot frames it as the conflict we must
                                                                have: “Preventing climate breakdown means defending democracy
           This is a risk judgement. In the climate world, the more carbon you   from plutocrats. It’s their interests versus the rest of humanity’s.”
           emit, the less chance you have of achieving a certain temperature
           limit. Carbon Tracker base their budget on a scenario developed by   The war has already begun. Climate activists are drawing “red
           the International Energy Agency (IEA) – called IEA 450.  lines” in the grassy hills of Dakota and the courtrooms of the US, in
                                                                the mud of the Ecuadorean Amazon, on the backs of whales in the
           “IEA 450 is based on a 50% chance of 2C, which frankly we think   Great Australian Bight and dozens of other places.
           is too low to represent the top end of the Paris range,” Kretzmann
           told Climate Home. “If this is our policy ambition, shouldn’t we be   Calls for a moratorium on new coal mines will now shift to all
           aiming for better than a coin flip’s chance of success?”  new fossil fuel extraction. The above formula will be cited as the
           OCI chose a scenario that gave a 66% chance of staying within 2C.
           Their budget also gives the world a 50% shot of staying below 1.5C   The reason McKibben invokes mathematics is its immutability. “The
           – the more ambitious end of the Paris agreement.     numbers are the numbers,” he says. An equation is inarguable. But
                                                                the simplicity hides the subtext.
           So the new maths is based on a decision about acceptable risk.
           Which is fair enough but hardly revelatory.          A decision is being taken and as the maths gets more complicated,
                                                                we shouldn’t ignore the rounding.

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