Obama’s speech at the G20 meeting has included a call to nations to agree on action on climate change and offers to provide $3bn to help developing countries build defences against climate damage (see article below, text of speech not yet available). Although Obama predicted more extreme weather in the Asia Pacific region (this is inconsistent with IPCC assessments), it appears that he gave no new reason for action other than the agreement with China –“if we can agree so should everyone else”. Nor did he offer any explanation of the 16 year pause in temperatures despite the strong increase in emissions of CO2 over that period.
Unsurprisingly, the line taken by Obama was welcomed by a Queensland University audience and the ABC/SBS gave it top rating as Fairfax press undoubtedly will too. But little attempt has been made to assess the credibility of Obama’s call to action.
While he stated in the agreement with China that the US will start to reduce emissions at a faster rate to 2025, Obama will have no say after 2016 and Americans now rate policies designed to combat global warming as a low priority. In fact, Republican leaders oppose any carbon price and indicate regulatory measures to reach the proposed target in 2025 will be strenuously opposed. Obama’s polling has dropped to below 40% and, as pointed out by Peggy Noonan in the Wall St Journal, his support within the Democrat Party itself seems to be dwindling. In this situation any vetoes of Republican legislative measures to counter additional regulatory action by Obama in his last two years are likely to be reversed after he has gone.
As to the Chinese part of the agreement, whether a stated intention (ie non-binding) to start reducing CO2 emissions in 16 years time will actually happen is an open question. Its stated intention in 2009 at Copenhagen to reduce by 2020 emissions per unit of output by 40-45% appears unlikely to be achieved. Meantime, despite the supposed need for urgent reductions Chinese emissions are likely to increase by a further 25 per cent by 2030. Further, China’s stated intention to increase usage of renewables (including nuclear) to 20% is similar to what it is already doing (reportedly already 10%).
Finally, even if lower income countries were to agree to a similar non-binding agreement to the China one, that would mean no effective action to limit their growing emissions over the 16 years. In short, the US/China agreement does not offer a substantive basis for an international agreement to reduce emissions in Paris next year.
This makes it highly unlikely that the Abbott government will come under “serious pressure” to adopt policies additional to those already announced. In fact, the increasing dubiousness of the claimed connection between human activity and temperatures would justify a review of existing policies. If properly conducted such a review would help improve the polling of the government which suffers because, despite the very considerable “scientific” uncertainties, it provides no response to claims by warmists.