Quoting myself (almost never a good idea):
It feels like the tide is turning on emissions. Even if the point of inflection isn’t behind us yet, we’re running out of easy to find stuff to burn, and we do at least have a set of alternatives lined up.
I wasn’t wrong, but the data shows no reason to be optimistic. The inflection point certainly isn’t behind us, and the rate of emissions growth is still rising.
The slope of the graph is the rate of increase, and you can clearly see that prior to 2004, the gradient was shallower than it is now. It’s a little confusing that the rate after 2011 reverts to the pre-2004 rate, but the point that authors are trying to make is the most positive. Given the increase in emissions since 2004, the ‘Additional’ wedge on the right is now much more will have been added to the baseline. Assuming that the world comes around, and immediately adopts the wedges plan, all be it in a now more radical form with more of the 15 wedges, it is still possible to make it to a stabilization goal by 2061.
As Realclimate puts it:
The results are not encouraging. First, and most significant, rather than decreasing the emissions rate, the lack of implementation of these strategies has been accompanied by an accelerated rate of emissions, such that annual CO2 [Sic. they mean C; CO2 output would be 30Gt CO2/yr] output is now just under 9 Gt C/yr, a 2 Gt/yr increase. Accounting for natural sequestration, this represents an increase of about 13-14 ppm CO2 over that time. But this is not the full story by any means. As Socolow notes, if we re-set the clock to 2011 and start the wedge strategy implementation now, it would now take nine wedges implemented at the proposed rate of the original seven, to accomplish the same goal (keeping emission rates constant over the next 50 years).
The thing that stops the level of CO2 in the atmosphere from spiralling out of control is the two big sinks, the oceans and terrestrial. It’s not clear to me that we have a good understanding of how much more the oceans can absorb and remain a viable ecosystem. At some point they’ll simply tip over into being a net source of emissions. No doubt the same is true for terrestrial sinks, and through temperate zone deforestation we are actively reducing its size over time.
The amount of coal mined (and presumably burned) is projected to rise until at least 2025. It seems likely that the tar sand of Alberta will be mined on a large enough scale to counteract any decrease in easily accessible crude oil – at least on a short time scale. Fracking is sucking on the last bits of natural gas… all in all i’d say that we’re showing very little inclination to ‘leave stuff in the ground’.
And, in that sense, i was very wrong. My ‘Eco Madness’ category has never felt so appropriate.