Paris Climate Agreement: Does it matter?

Let’s take a look at Wikipedia:

In the Paris Agreement, each country determines its own contribution it should make in order to mitigate global warming. There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date.

Huh. Well, surely there’s some money involved, right? Again from Wikipedia:

In the Paris Agreement, the developed countries reaffirmed the commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020, and agreed to continue mobilizing finance at the level of $100 billion a year until 2025.

OK, we’ve only got three years until 2020, so we’re getting some big pledges, right?

pledges

Um. I don’t think this is going well.

From what I can see, there’s not really much in here. So why does this matter? I don’t really think it does.

Let’s take a look at what the US is doing as far as CO2 emissions:

USCO2Emissions

US CO2 emissions peaked in 2005, at 5,795,162 kilotons, and after briefly going right back to that level in 2007, it has been on a downward trend, ending up at 5,186,168 kilotons in 2013, the latest year with data available. That is a decrease of 10.5% since 2005!

Even better, we’re getting more efficient with our CO2 emissions. Here’s the US CO2 emissions per capita:

USCO2EmissionsPC

The US peaked at 22.511 metric tons in 1973 (over 40 years ago!), and has been on a downward trend since then. In 2013, the CO2 emissions per capita was 16.4 metric tons, a decrease of 27.2%.

I’d say that’s pretty impressive, and should be celebrated. I think it’s pretty clear that technological innovations has allowed us to use less energy per person, while still enjoying an increasing quality of life. These technological innovations, which will happen regardless of whatever the governments of the world dictate, are what will lower CO2 emissions.

But for a country to get to the point where they can afford to use such technological innovations, they first have to grow their economy, and that means, well, burning fuel. In fact, while the CO2 emissions of high income countries has largely leveled off since 2004, the emissions of lower income countries has been increasing (and, in fact, have been increasing for a long time). Take a look:

CO2EmissionsIncome

It’s hard to tell with Low Income, but they actually experienced a 57.4% increase in CO2 emissions. Also, what’s responsible for the vast increase in Upper Middle Income’s CO2 emissions since 2002? More like, who.

I’m not going to go into the the anthropogenic climate change argument here, so I’m pretty much done. Basically, the US pulled out of a treaty that wasn’t actually ratified, the US will continue to lower their CO2 emissions, other lower income countries will raise their CO2 emissions, until they get to the point where they can lower them, and the world will not end.