A new climate agency

To Help Avoid Irreversible Runaway Heating
To Cut Fossil Fuel Use and CO2 Emissions
To Stabilize the Fossil Fuel Industry & Make It Accountable

BACKGROUND

James Hansen, warning Congress on heating in 1988, with co-researchers says it is now much faster than projected. This June to February have been the world’s hottest months in 120,000 years. Formally reaching 1.5oC is due this year. All of 2023 was at 1.48oC, this February at 1.77oC. The rise in ocean surface temperatures is unprecedented (101oF / 38.5oC in Florida), directly or indirectly threatening all species. 1.5oC is thought to be a likely start of irreversible runaway heating, which will ensure the rapid disappearance of human societies as we know them.

No technologies can scale up sufficiently to quickly mitigate this, even if affordable. New solar and wind are becoming more difficult and costly; they are falling behind increasing energy demand. Carbon capture does not seem economically viable; EV’s only yield small net benefits; fusion is decades away, if doable. Risky and/or costly strategies such as carbon capture, geoengineering and nuclear fusion will take between one to three decades to reach significant scale, if safe, viable and affordable.

Crunching the numbers, the sum of the current and proposed technology mitigation projects, minus the major damages currently taking place (set fires, wildfires, de-forestation, excessive gas flaring), indicates that those projects will have a negligible overall net effect within the above time frame. The evidence points to a climate emergency, requiring immediate new strategies and actions.

THE NEW AGENCY

Litus is proposing that a new international agency or division of an existing agency is established immediately, with the sole objective of avoiding irreversible runaway heating.

There seems no alternative; nothing is happening to slow heating; energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions are increasing. The climate and ocean events happening now are global and becoming more severe. The climate emergency is on the same scale as the WWII crises; that is how we should view it. Then, projects were undertaken and completed in incredibly short time frames.

We cannot count on the UN’s COP processes, well intentioned as they are. COP decisions are not binding. Since the first COP in Rio in 1992, CO2 emissions have risen by about 60% and are still rising. 2021’s COP 26 in Glasgow and November 2022’s COP 27 in Egypt, 2023’s COP 28 in Dubai look to have been similar to prior COPs: many agreements and promises having a nearly negligible effect; largely the same NGO’s, government agencies, banks, and individuals. Many countries’ long-term goals lacked credibility.COP 29 to be held in November this year, in another petro-state, does not look promising. At neither meeting were there undertakings to rapidly cut increasing emissions of CO2 and methane.

The UN Secretary General has said that “climate change is out of control”. The planet is changing so rapidly, will we recognise it even in 2030 ?

People are going to continue using fossil fuels for a long while. They are used for virtually all transport, space heating, industrial processes, and most electricity generation. For renewables to replace all this will require an unimaginable level of investment. Nuclear fusion is a long way off; it may not be affordable. Carbon capture from the air or industrial processes presently does not look commercially viable.

To give time for the various mitigation technologies to mature and properly come on stream, a new Agency could:

1. Cut fossil fuel use by imposing additional taxes while subsidising poor people, all to be ploughed back into climate mitigation and societal projects. In contrast to the volunteer COP process – still achieving modest results slowly – a rapid cutback in demand could only be achieved by new rules and their enforcement.

2. Help stabilise the fossil fuel industry away from its whip-saw instabilities, so it can provide continuous supply at predictable prices and, above all, providing mechanisms to leave unneeded resources in the ground. The industry after all is just supplying what we were asking to use. SUV sales are still increasing. Without the industry’s active cooperation, CO2 emissions cannot be significantly reduced.

Because the current global agencies are very restricted by their memberships and rules, the new agency should be much more informal, perhaps made up and run by a mixture of countries, states / provinces and cities, corporations, rich individuals and citizens.

The exploitation of the planet’s minerals and lands has been short-term, un-coordinated and harmful to its human and other occupants. Any agency could establish international Coordination Boards to husband the planet’s shrinking resources and to assemble the best mitigation technologies, with information available to all. For example, there has to be a board to license and supervise geoengineering projects; their risks / costs will impact everyone. Also one to integrate sea-level rise adaptation strategies. Near-space is a super-crowded free-for-all; a Space Board could regulate launches, as airport landing slots are. An Agricultural Board to determine that rice should only be grown in suitable regions, not in California as now ? One to quantify how much of key minerals are recoverable and to whom they should go ? One to regulate need for and location of energy- and water-hungry data centers ? An Oceans board could help prevent mining of the deep ocean seabed, a potential environmental disaster. A board to monitor the planet’s ground water resources ? One to deal with population decline and aging ?