New paper questions Paris Agreement’s dubious temperature limits

The Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 during the COP21 climate conference stipulates that the increase in the global average temperature is to be kept well below 2°C above “pre-industrial levels” and that efforts are pursued to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above “pre-industrial levels.”

Closer inspection of the treaty text, however, reveals that the term “pre-industrial levels” is nowhere defined in this epochal UN-document, that has meanwhile been ratified by 170 Parties.

This is particularly odd because the “pre-industrial” temperatures of the past 10,000 years have varied quite significantly, as meticulously documented by hundreds of paleoclimate studies.

Puzzled by this apparent gap in the Agreement, Fritz Vahrenholt went out and researched the history of the temperature limit definition.

The former renewable energy manager and current head of the German Wildlife Foundation were surprised to find that the initial description of this important climate goal dates back to the mid-1970s, proposed by an economist, by the name of William Nordhaus.

Nordhaus’ idea was as simple as effective: He looked at the maximum temperatures recorded during the past several hundred thousand years and warned that this natural range should not be exceeded in the future.

Two decades later, in 1995, the German Advisory Council for Global Change further refined this concept, but kept Nordhaus’ original idea of a tolerable ‘temperature window’.

Vahrenholt: “Unfortunately this important palaeoclimatological perspective was lost in subsequent key papers on the subject that paved the way to the Paris Agreement.

Reports by the World Bank and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2014 and 2015 narrowed their view to the last 200 years which does not do justice to the enormous natural temperature fluctuations on a multi-millennial perspective.”

In order to better understand the complex pre-industrial temperature history of the past, Vahrenholt teamed up with Sebastian Lüning, a professional resources geologist who in his spare time works on paleo-climatological studies with the Switzerland-based Institute for Hydrography, Geoecology and Climate Sciences.

Lüning researched the literature and integrated the Paris Agreement 2.0°C and 1.5°C temperature limits into the climate development of the past 2000, 10,000 and 120,000 years.

Lüning: “Comparing the modern warming to reference levels at the end of the Little Ice Age about 150 years ago does not really make much sense because this period represents one of the coldest times of the past 10,000 years. The choice of a baseline near the lower extreme of a variable parameter is uncommon in science.

The temperature level that was reached during the interval 1940-1970 may serve as a better reference level because it appears to roughly correspond to the average pre-industrial temperature of the past two millennia.”

On an even longer time scale, it is found that current temperatures have not yet even exceeded the warmest temperatures of a natural warm phase that globally occurred some 7000 years ago, the so-called ‘Holocene Thermal Maximum’.

Nevertheless, the two researchers caution that the upper ceiling of the 2°C limit is not affected by this, because it is represented by the even warmer climate of the last Interglacial, some 120,000 years ago.

The 2°C limit, therefore, remains valid, especially because sea level was 5-7 m higher than today during this time, which would have serious consequences for modern life if repeated today.

The study that was published on 12 December 2017 in the journal ‘frontiers in Earth Science’ reminds policymakers, scientists and the public that the “pre-industrial” times cited in the Paris Agreement involve a dynamic alternation of warm and cold phases which need to be viewed in context.

The Little Ice Age that ended around 1850 AD does not represent a suitable reference level for the 20th and early 21st-century warming as it fails basic scientific baseline criteria.

Paper:

Lüning, S., F. Vahrenholt (2017): Paleoclimatological context and reference level of the 2°C and 1.5°C Paris Agreement long-term temperature limits. Frontiers in Earth Science, 12 December 2017, doi: 10.3389/feart.2017.00104

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Comments (8)

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    I still would like to see it snow real hard and leave Al Bore snowbound in his vast estate the same for Leonardo DiCaprio and Laurie David Robert Kennedy Jr and just about all the rest of the Eco-Wackos

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    Amber

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    Very simply a cool climate is a killing climate . The Climate – Con
    Cartel would nothing more than a means to eliminate people , those being older ,sick and poor as part of their natural selection process . Fuel poverty is legalized mass murder and a vehicle to enrich government as well as grant seeking business promoters .

  • Avatar

    rakooi

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    Who the hell is planning on shutting off our sources of energy???
    Dirty Killing COAL is dying on its own accord.
    SOLAR, WIND & Nat. Gas are far CHEAPER than COAL….
    FAR CLEANER than COAL !
    And there is plenty of storage in the Grid to balance this transition.

    • Avatar

      David Lewis

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      RAKOOI, you continue to make the serious mistake of lumping natural gas with solar and wind energy. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. It is natural gas that has been out competing coal.

      Solar and wind energy are very expensive as can be seen in Germany, the UK, and Southern Australia. Nobody may be planning to shut off the energy, but tell that to the 330,000 households in Germany who have had their power cut off because they can’t afford the cost of electric bills made so high by using renewable energy. In Southern Australia there is major concern about the reliability of their power now that they heavily use renewables.

      You may have just used one word when you meant another, but there is no storage capacity on the US grid. That would be something like using batteries for when the grid was low on power.

  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    A lawyer I once knew had his favorite legal contract displaced on the wall behind his desk. The contract read, “I owe you one calf.” There was no indication of who “I” was, or who “you” was, or when the payment was due. For the Paris Treaty to make this kind of mistake showed just how incompetent the authors are.

    The article suggested 1940 as a base line but that was neither pre-industrial not to mention it was at the end of a thirty year warming period.

    Since there is no date nor temperature defined as “pre-industrial” each nation can then decide for themselves. This aliens nicely with the fact that most are backing off on measures to reduce emissions. The medieval warm period and roman warm period are both pre-industrial and would make a nice reference for the countries that are smart enough to back off on reducing emissions.

  • Avatar

    Amber

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    Excellent point David Lewis . I think what they mean is the time before humans really started to improve life expectance and the quality of life for billions.
    It’s plain now that this is not and was not about humans adjusting the earth’s thermostat it is about an agenda to transfer political power and accelerate wealth transfer . Will the middle class even exist in 50 years ?
    The Paris Pledge is weaker than Kyoto and we all know what a smashing success that was . The conferences will continue though, that we can count on .

  • Avatar

    Sonnyhill

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    The latest slumber fest in Paris was dubbed One Planet. What they really want is One Planet One Government. They’re failing . The EuroZone is fraying. Trade agreements are being renegotiated or torn up. No one can tame China. Countries are reluctant to surrender their sovereignty. That’s why the Paris Accord is so lame.
    World leaders is a misnomer. They represent their countries, like Trump.

  • Avatar

    Al Shelton

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    The Alarmists continue to believe that CO2 controls global warming. hence climate.
    They are either woefully ignorant or liars.

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