Glen Peters is Research Director at Center for International Climate Research (CICERO) in Oslo. Previously he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Industrial Ecology Programme at NTNU.
Dr Peters is a worldwide authority on socio-economic drivers of emissions. He has performed pioneering work on how international trade intricately connects emission drivers in different countries. Recent work has focused on trends in carbon emissions, socio-economic drivers, and future emission pathways at the global and country level (particularly China and India). Other key research areas include emission metrics and the carbon cycle. Dr Peters is on the Scientific Steering Committee of the Global Carbon Project.
While at the University of Newcastle (Australia) he received a University Medal and Deans Medal for undergraduate performance (Mathematics/Physics) and the DH Trollope Medal for his PhD (Environmental Engineering). He has twice received the Environmental Science & Technology Best Policy Paper Award (2007, 2009).
Glen’s Google Scholar profile
Global Mitigation Curves
Glen’s Google Scholar profile
Global Mitigation Curves
Emissions – the ‘business as usual’ story is misleading (January 2020)
Michael Liebreich: Before we start, if you're enjoying these conversations, please make sure that you like or subscribe to Cleaning Up, it really helps other people to find us. Cleaning Up is brought to you by the Liebreich Foundation and the Gilardini Foundation. Hello, I'm Michael Liebreich and this is Cleaning Up. My guest today is Glen Peters, Research Director at the Cicero Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo, one of the world's experts on the past, present, and future of emissions. And a warning for regular listeners, we might mention RCP 8.5. Let's bring Glen Peters into the conversation. So, Glen, welcome to Cleaning Up.
It's great to join you. Thank you.
And Glen, it is traditional should you so wish to share a brew on Cleaning Up. It is late afternoon. I'm actually drinking, I'll confess, net zero beer because it isn't quite late enough to get the full monty. But if you if you want to join me – skål!
Skål! I'm drinking the real stuff over here, made in Norway.
Glen let's start because I've given this great preamble about how you are the world's greatest expert in the past, present and future of emissions. Let's start with you just explaining where are we headed. What's your sense of the most likely trajectory in terms of emissions? Don't get too technical in terms of gigatons, because the audience isn't too technical. But if you could translate it also into degrees centigrade, where are we? How bad is it, in your view?
Yeah, so to answer that question, I'll just take a small little step backwards and start in the 2000s… So in the 2000s, emissions were growing quite fast with the emergence of China. And then we hit 2010, after the global financial crisis in particular, and emissions really started to slow down. And if you look in the last 10 years or so emissions have sort of started to level out. We've been having discussions about well, are emissions peaking have they peaked? Maybe, maybe not. So that's a live discussion. We've had corona, we can skip over that. But you know, let's say pre-corona, we were talking about maybe emissions and peaks, and most likely carbon dioxide emissions would be flat-ish, let's say up for the next decade or two. Now, there's some nuance and some discussion about that. But more or less emissions were flattening out. And if emissions continue on that sort of path, let's say flat, maybe declining a little bit after 2050. Which would be consistent with our current policies more or less. Also, if we're raising ambition a little bit as time progresses, then we'll probably end up let's say, in the two and a half, maybe three degree range in 2100. Temperatures would still be rising, because we're not at zero emissions. But that's sort of roundabout ballpark, where we're heading two and a half or three degrees 2100 with rising temperature afterwards.
ML: And let's be very clear, that's not a good outcome for the planet. What are the some of the things that happen at two and a half to three degrees?
GP: Yeah, so that's certainly that's not a good outcome. So, I guess in terms of impacts, I'm not so good at quantifying directly into hard numbers for different temperature levels. But I think, particularly for me, coming from Australia, I often think about heats, you know, pushing the extreme heat days drying out the vegetation, things like bushfires more prolific and so on and so forth. I think for countries like Australia, again, changing rain patterns are a problem. So, maybe you get a little bit more rain overall, but the seasonal shifts may be problematic, and so on. So, it would be disruptive. And of course, sea level rise, you would certainly lose some small island states at two to two and a half degrees. Now takes time for the water to come up but particularly with a surge would probably lose some countries. So yeah, saying like that it's very sort of loose and informal, but it's a bad outcome for lots of people. Definitely.
ML: And what about okay, outside Australia, you didn't mention the Great Barrier Reef, I mean, presumably corals also we're hearing, even under one and a half degrees are very threatened. So presumably two and a half, three degrees, coral is really in trouble. But you're now in Oslo, you've been in Norway for nearly 20 years now, as I understand. So, what are some of the outcomes in Europe or Asia or elsewhere?
GP: So, yeah, I should have come straight to the Norwegian impacts actually. So, the Arctic Sea ice in summer, that would pretty much be gone. So that will have a variety of impacts. For the countries in the north. If you think Scandinavia, if the global temperature rises two degrees, then you'll probably get a four degree impact in the northern countries, that's probably the same for the UK as well. And yeah, that's going to have all sorts of impacts, social impacts, in terms of what life means in Norway, with skiing in particular. There'll be big vegetation changes in terms of vegetation starting to grow in areas that was formerly tundra, and so on and so forth. So yeah, overall, I would rather not go there and see what it was like.
ML: Well, things got very serious when you said, you know, it's gonna change skiing, then I'm like, Okay, we got to stop this. You know, that's for sure. Okay, so we're headed for two and a half to three degrees currently, on that sort of trajectory. I actually wrote something at the end of 2019, saying peak emissions are closer than we think. And here's why. It was not about the pandemic, it was about that flattening. And I think I'm probably more optimistic than most, you know, I was already saying that most likely, we would see it starting to drift off even by 2030, but only by, you know, 5% or 10%. Nothing like the numbers that we’re told we need to achieve for one and a half degrees. So, before we get to what, what needs to happen, how much uncertainty is there around these sorts of forecasts? And if you say, well, it's two and a half to three, that's already a huge range, is it not? But is that the range that we're looking at? Or does it get even worse than that?
GP: The range is very big. So, two and a half to three, it sort of sounds small in some respects. But if you think about it in terms of the carbon budget, that's cumulatively about 1,000 billion tons of CO2, which if you don't worry about that number, it's a big number. So, 1.5 degrees translates into a lot of carbon. But there's various layers of uncertainty south we divide them into different parts. There's the uncertainty in the emissions pathway, where will CO2 emissions go? There's the uncertainty in let's say, other emissions, like methane emissions, and so on. And then there's the uncertainty in the climate response. So maybe if I just start a little bit just to talk about the uncertainty in the CO2 emissions, and some of the pros and cons on either side, or the, you know, upward pressure and downward pressure, if you like. You in your blogposts, pre-corona were quite on the optimistic side, let's say, emissions, maybe down 5-10%, you know, trending downwards. Some of the challenges for that to happen are really in the developing countries, I think so if China's growing, India's growing, you might have, let's say, UK, sorry, the EU and the US trending down, but you've got emissions growing in the rest of the world. So, when you think about those different dynamics, getting emissions down in 2030, could be more challenging than we think. If you look at the nationally determined contributions, so what countries have put forward as emission pledges in the various climate agreements, negotiations, the UNFCCC, United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, just released a report which synthesizes where emissions were going based on what countries have pledged. And they said something like 16% increase by 2030. So, let's say there's some uncertainty in the emissions pathway.
ML: Is that the Paris NDCs? Or is that the ones that are being prepared for COP26 in Glasgow?
GP: This is a in preparation for Glasgow, some countries will come forward with, you know, new plans and updates and so on. So, you know, I tend to think that 16% is the worst case if you put it that way. There's also the question, that's what policies align, there's a question of where technology takes us. And maybe technology is much more ambitious than the than the policy. So, and in a climate negotiation context, countries, in a sense, rationally put forward their lowest bid. And, you know, when it comes to compliance and those sorts of issues, they've got plenty of room to move. So, I tend to think emissions growing is as a worst case, outcome or NDC, to be a worst case. But let's say if you took those uncertainties, you could, let's say be in the 2.5 to 3.5 degree territory. Of course, on the low-end side, so I was saying 2.5, but you know, if technology came along better than we thought maybe the climate was is a little less responsive than we thought then you could get down to around two degrees if things went well, which is, I guess, your optimistic view. So that's the emission side. And then on top of that, you've got the uncertainty in the climate system. What's the uncertainty in the equilibrium climate sensitivity, for example? Or what are the uncertainty in the climate, carbon cycle feedbacks, then the range gets much bigger, I'll start on the low end. Because we very rarely talk about the low-end, right? You know, in climate, when we think about a distribution, we always think about things being worse than the average. But of course, it's a distribution and things may be better than the average, if you like, or what we think is the most likely. So if the climate is less responsive than we think, then we could probably, let's say, relatively comfortably, in quotes, get to around two degrees if we were helped by the climate, in a sense, but then on the worst side, I think there's a lot of uncertainty in what that upper limit is, very hard to put a number on it, it's going to depend if you want to take, you know, what's the 1% chance or the 10% chance or so on. But let's say, a little bit playing with numbers here. But let's say, you know, maybe four degrees would be a bad outcome. If emissions were on the high end, feedbacks were on the bad end, and then, you know, you could get to the four degrees.
ML: When you accused me of optimism, and saying I'm, you know, two degrees, where I am on this, if I'm honest, is, I think that I'm always off, I'm always optimistic on the cost reductions of new technologies, once they really start to take off, you know, we've seen that with wind, we've seen it with solar, we’ve seen it batteries, but we've also seen it with all sorts of other, you know, all sorts of other technologies that will be important for the transition, and it could be high voltage DC, you know, cables, it could be, you know, smart meters, there's lots of things we'll need. And, you know, we do see the costs coming down. I don't know where I stand on the equilibrium climate sensitivity, there was this kind of flurry of news about how it was worse than we thought and it was going faster. I'm sort of prepared to be pessimistic on that maybe you'll be able to reassure me. But I do think that, you know, that we're that sort of two and a half to three, feels like where we're headed to me based on mainly the sort of, you know, a bit more policy, but a lot more technology, the fact that OECD is now actually reducing its emissions. You know, India is not building coal at the rate that China was 2000 to 2010. So, I'm sort of, I guess you can call that optimistic, but I'm not at the kind of, oh, we're at two degrees. And in fact, we don't need to worry, not at all, I am actually very concerned.
GP: Yeah. So, it's interesting that you put it that way, a little bit. So, if you go back to the sixth assessment report, so the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has a new set of reports coming out now. And the one that came out a few months ago the WG one report, which is on the physical sciences, updated the uncertainty range on the equilibrium climate sensitivity. And despite the media, and what you hear about, you know, things are worse or whatever, they narrowed the range.
ML: That's right, they sort of chopped off both the top and the bottom, didn't they? And explain, explain to our audience, what is equilibrium climate sensitivity? Because you and I both used it a couple of times already. What is it and what's the range?
GP: So, it's basically what will be the climate response, if you doubled CO2 concentrations, and it’s sort of when you expressed it that way. It's sort of a single number, which sort of wraps in how the climate response to a change in CO2 concentrations.
ML: So this is a step change, doubling. So, if we go from 280 parts per million prior to the Industrial Revolution, and we go to 560, that's the doubling. And then it's there. When everything settles down, it's how much higher the temperature is in order to purge that extra heat to space. Right?
GP: That's right, but there’s timescale question here, so how long does it take to reach equilibrium? And this is one of the debates that happens with this, you know, there's different concepts, the equilibrium climate sensitivity, the Earth system sensitivity, and because do you wait for ice sheets to respond, which might take 1000s or longer, but let's say in a period of hundreds of years…
ML: Give us the simple version. Because we've also got to then ask whether it includes feedbacks, but give us the simple version.
GP: Yeah, the simple version is over 1000s of years, let's say… I'm not sure the climate scientist may be whacking me over the head here for not phrasing it correctly. But the range for reaching equilibrium in let's say, a 1000 years. The previous report was something like median value was three degrees for a doubling with the range, I think of 2 to 4.5. And now, in the new reports, I don't remember the exact range, but I think it's about 2.5 to 4.5or something like that. So um, I’m getting in a little bit of trouble here for not remembering that number. It's a very important number, but the range is got narrower, which is the good news. And this is partly because it's observationally. constrained, they use multiple techniques to try and assess what that may be. There's different ways to assess or determine what that equilibrium climate sensitivity would be. And some of the information they use is what's known as observationally constrained. So, we, you know, we look backwards in time, how has the climate changed? What emissions have we emitted? Therefore, what can we say about this climate sensitivity? That's also a little bit problematic, because you don't have the full timescale for the sensitivity to reach equilibrium. So, it’s only one way to answer the question.
ML: Okay, but the message here is, we're getting better at this sciencing. And so we're constraining and we've got better knowledge. So but that's only one, that's only one piece. That's the equilibrium climate sensitivity. And then the feedbacks, are they? Are they included in that? Or do we then have more uncertainty on top of that range that you've just given us?
GP: So technically speaking, the feedbacks are included, yes, that will depend also on the way that is assessed. And so if you use a climate model to look at climate sensitivity, maybe the model doesn't have permafrost in it, for example. And so therefore, you may or may not be getting a permafrost feedback, or all those types of things. So some of the more uncertain feedbacks are not included, but all the big, well known feedbacks are essentially included,
ML: But now, so if we go back to the range, you know, what I said, Okay, I, I'm a kind of two and a half to three degrees believer, or that's my, not really just a belief system. It's my assessment of the science that I've read, I could see, you know, the two and a half to three. And I could see it potentially getting worse, you named four degrees, which, of course, will be utterly catastrophic for all sorts of planetary systems. But that would be based on feedback. Now, we had Johan Rockstrom on Cleaning Up episode 49. And he was brilliantly clear, as I'm sure you would expect, from Johan, about the timeframes of feedbacks. And he drew this distinction between the commitment time, the time when we could sort of light the fuse on really bad things, which, you know, he talks about, you know, decades, but the time, the impact time being centuries, and he was actually talking about 200, 300, 400, 500 years. So that four degrees that you're talking about, is that a 2100 figure? And is that plausible?
GP: Yeah, so I think of that as a 2100 figure, but it's sort of you mentioned Johan Rockstrom there. And so one part that may have been a little bit messy, let's say, may need a bit of cleaning up to use the analogy there. The podcast is the language around feedbacks and tipping points, and so on, and so forth. Because if you think about a tipping point, you think, you know, all there's a pen standing on its end that just falls over, it's like an instantaneous thing. Whereas these tipping points in the Earth system, they have been happening over hundreds, if not 1000s, of years, sometimes even longer, you know, ice sheets can take a very long time to respond to changes. So, we're not very tidy with some of that language. So when I say let's say four degrees, and I'm not putting too much confidence, it's very hand wavy, you know, when I say four degrees, but that's the temperature that we would have, let's say potentially hit in 2100. And then the temperature will keep rising afterwards. It will keep rising afterwards for two reasons because emissions aren't zero. So, it will keep rising. And the climate system hasn't yet reached equilibrium. So, you will still get some change after 2100 as the system responds.
ML: We're going to come back to why it is that there's so much sort of that many people, frankly, even in the audience will probably think that the base case is much worse than 2.5 to 3, which is already bad enough. And they will think of those 4 degrees or even 5,6,7 degrees as being business as usual. And why there's so much you know, why that has got such a strong grasp on people's, you know, sort of assessments or imagination. But first, there was this report in 2018, about 1.5 degrees. And we've had on the show, various people have talked about why the IPCC did that report, we had Christiana Figueres, and Lawrence Tubiana, who talked about how it sort of came out of the Paris Agreement said, get as close to one and a half degrees as possible. And then IPCC had to go off and write the report. And when it did, everybody suddenly woke up and said, you know, holy moly, we really want to get to one and a half degrees, right? That's my interpretation of a few episodes of cleaning up. So what do we need to do to get to one and a half degrees, what would it require doing between now and 2030 2050?
GP: It will require slamming on the brakes pretty hard. So, if you think about it, in terms of the remaining carbon budget, these sorts of concepts, which many people would have heard, and taking the words that were used in the 2018 report, basically, a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030. So let's say from today to 2030, cutting emissions in half, and then hitting zero somewhere around 2050. That's the broad stroke picture of what you need to do, which it's sort of easy to say. But when you start to think about it, what that actually means, in such a short timescale, it is rather extreme. So maybe the EU, now you can think about the EU or the US doing something like that. But when you have, let's say, India or China, for them to slam on the brakes so suddenly, to get emissions heading downwards, to hit zero around that 2050 period, is rather extreme. So it's the edge of probably at the edge of what's feasible in terms of what we could actually do.
ML: Now, Cleaning Up goes out as a podcast, and also as a YouTube channel. And because some of our audience is on YouTube, I'm very tempted to ask you to do a sort of performative dance version of your famous chart. But you'll have to do it whilst also describing it for the podcast audience because you have a chart, which illustrates how over the past 20-30 years, this challenge has become more difficult in terms of the gradients you need to achieve. So could you take us through your chart?
GP: So this is the chart where if we started mitigation in 1990, or if we started mitigation in 2000, done by my colleague, Robbie Andrew, actually.... So that, so basically, if we, yeah, I need to explain what I'm doing. If you're a slowly driving up a gentle hill, rolling hills, and you decide to go back down the hill, and you gently roll back down the hill on the other side, then if we started in 1990, that's maybe the way that we could have got to 1.5 degrees, or would have been a gentle, let's say, gentle rise in emissions with a, you know, gentle to moderate, you know, decline in emissions afterwards. If we look at the situation now, emissions have grown very strongly, actually, in the last few decades, particularly in the 2000s, when China really took off. So we're essentially we're going up a steep curve, we're going up to a peak. And if we want to get to 1.5 degrees from where we are, you have to basically reverse and go down as quick as you came up. Actually, for 1.5 degrees, you need to reduce emissions a little bit faster than we increase the emissions before. So, it's a very rapid and steep decline, completely undoing what we've done in the last 50 years.
ML: So it's kind of driving up the Rockies hitting the watershed and then going precipitously down the other side now, and that is not consistent with what you described earlier, as we're somewhere near a plateau, we may be reaching a plateau in emissions, but we are not coming straight back down anything like the speed that we went up. Now, your charts, those charts that you described, and we'll put a link into the show notes for anybody who's having trouble visualizing the difference between rolling up and rolling down and very steep up and then very steep down. What does that assume about negative emissions because the IPCC and others have come into criticism for having this kind of fiddle factor where they say, Well, you know, it wouldn't be credible to come down as steeply as maybe you would like or maybe as your charts say, and therefore, we're going to allow ourselves particularly from 2050 onwards, we're going to allow ourselves to hide behind a fig leaf of what are they, carbon removals? What are they looking at? And do you allow them? Do you sort of let them get away with it? Or do you critique that in your work?
GP: Yes, I'm popularly try and critique that, whether I'm having enough traction is a different question. But certainly, that's just to continue on the precipitous drop. And then I'm going to transition to the carbon capture and storage and also carbon dioxide removal. So just to emphasize some of the extreme nature of these scenarios, if you look at coal, coal consumption goes down about 80% by 2030. So cold completely wiped out in a decade. That's the sort of scale we're talking about in these scenarios.
ML: To hit 1.5 That's needed to hit 1.5 degrees, or to stay consistently 1.5 degrees by 2100?
GP: Yeah, or 2050, or whatever. So the point I'm trying to make here is there's a rapid short term decline in emissions in 1.5 degree scenarios, regardless of what there is on removals. But then when you start to get to 2040 2050, then you start to get to, you know, in quotes, you could say the hard to mitigate sectors, industry, long distance transport, and so on, and so forth. And most integrated assessment models find that it's more cost effective to use that language to start deploying carbon dioxide removal. So that could range from things like a forestation, growing trees to bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, known as BECCS. So, you grow biomass, you that growing, the biomass sucks carbon out of the air, then you burn that biomass that capture the carbon and then put the carbon in the ground. So you get energy, but also their carbon comes out of the atmosphere. And another technology, which is becoming increasingly discussed, is when you just suck carbon directly out of the air, direct air capture. So use a machine to suck carbon out of the air and put it in the ground. So, we can maybe come back to some of the details of those technologies later. But those technologies are used at scale in a lot of these scenarios. So just to give you an idea of the scale. So, some scenarios use around about 5 billion tons, I'll explain what that means, CO2 removal in around about 2050. And if you want to put that into terms of how many facilities you would need to build, we're getting to a situation where you will have to build a new facility, maybe a million ton year facility, average size facility, and new facility every day from now to 2050. So these are the sorts of scales that we're getting at there astronomical.
ML: And you said we can get into the details of some of those technologies. I mean, obviously planting trees, relatively cheap, BECCS bit more expensive, but direct air capture right now is $600 a ton. And I mean, the aspiration is to get to, I don't know, 150, or I don't know if anybody aspires even to get to $100 a ton. But I find that very difficult thermodynamically you know, wandering around picking up individual molecules from the air when there are 400 or 500 parts per million is going to be an expensive thing.
GP: Yeah, when you look at it, it just seems completely nuts. Why would we do this. And so, this is an important point, it shouldn't be. It's the last resort. Once you've got all the carbon out of the system that you can get out of the system. This is where those technic technologies may become useful.
ML: But then a question. You know, those integrated assessment models have us using coal. And you know, we are at some point, we're going to end up talking about some of the RCPs and some of the crazy stuff in the favorite scenarios, which I threatened we would end up talking about at some point. But you know, that those integrated assessment models and I had a long conversation on a podcast with Nico Bauer about how absurd it was, they still have coal use increasing all the way to 2100. Even in the mitigation scenarios, there's an enormous amount of coal, they're not talking about getting coal down by 80% by 2030. And in fact, most of those scenarios actually say that we're going to be using coal to liquids for transport, and the reason they do that is they're not using anything like up to date and accurate figures for the costs of clean technologies that you know, and I know and pretty much everybody else except integrated assessment model seems to figure it out are getting cheaper.
GP: Yeah, so that's so there's a few nuances to add there. So there's the difference between, maybe you don't have cold to liquids in let's say the deep mitigation scenarios, 1.5 scenarios. However, some models in the graduate, particularly integrated assessment models do use a lot of coal, even in 1.5 degrees scenario. And this leads to carbon capture and storage. So you might have a drop. And this is actually happens in quite a few scenarios, you have a drop in coal in the short term, and then you have a renaissance of coal, coal comes back, because you're deploying CCS on that pole, which I just can't figure out the narrative for that to happen.
ML: I just can't get my head around why anybody would put any credence in a scenario, which has people burning coal in 2100. And doing direct air capture, it makes absolutely categorically no sense to me.
GP: That's right. So now you're getting into the logic of some models. So it does vary by some models vary in the way they do it, start uniform, all models do this, some models get out of coal, stay on the call. One, maybe I should introduce also, we should mention briefly the IEA International Energy Agency. So they have a very prominent report, which comes out every year World Energy Outlook. Earlier this year, they also had a 1.5 degree report. And in their 1.5 degrees scenario, they depend a lot less on the scenario. So they pushed much harder on the getting emissions down across sectors. So there were less dependence on the carbon dioxide removal. They're a little bit more optimistic on direct air capture, interestingly, but among these scenarios are plotting out, they're answering the question, how could you get 1.5 degrees?
ML: I think he meant that more optimistic on CCS, carbon capture from point sources. Is that right?
GP: No, no.
ML: Okay, because you said that they're not they don't have as much carbon dioxide removal, but they are optimized optimistic on direct air capture. What's the difference there?
GP: Yeah, so just let me say there's a lot of terms that are very similar there. So just let me clarify. So in terms of so there's carbon capture and storage. So if you have a point source, then you can put that technology, say on a coal power plant and or on a steel plant or something. That's carbon capture and storage. So IEA is still using quite a bit of that less than many of the scenarios assessed in the IPCC. But it's still quite high. But in terms of carbon dioxide removal, so getting carbon out of the air. The IEA is just an energy system model. So the choices are bioenergy with carbon capture and storage or direct air capture. And compared to most IPCC scenarios, they're all more optimistic on direct air capture. Okay, if I put that around differently, they're more sceptical on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. So that's probably the best way to frame it.
ML: That make sense.
GP: Bioenergy has got lots of problems. Additional, okay.
ML: But all of these scenarios that I've got the all of the scenarios for one and a half degrees, I'm going to have to think of a nice way to put this they're all wildly implausible, are they not? From an economic and social sort of socio political perspective, they all require just the most monstrous investments and things that are not being done at all today, whether it is retiring vast amounts of coal in Asia, or Latin America, or whether it is direct air capture, or even frankly, CCS on point sources of carbon capture and storage on coal fired power stations. So I guess I should phrase that as a question to say, do you agree that these things seem very implausible?
GP: So I would say yes, but this is a very controversial stance to have, particularly in the science community, because it's sort of people interpret that as you're giving up on 1.5 degrees. Right.
ML: But the question mark is my segue, the Part B of my question, which you knew was coming was, you know, at what point and how do we need to say, look, we're going to blow through one and a half degrees, we may be able to catch up in the out decades of the century, maybe into next century. But realistically, we are not going to get there not by 2030. We're going to be off track by 2030. And we are not going to catch up by 2050. And how do we do that without giving up because frankly, two degrees probably is plausible based on your earlier comments, you know, if we think we're at two and a half to three degrees, and we both know that there are lots of technologies and lots of policy approaches that could be used to bend that curve further. So how and when do we, I don't want to say give up on one and a half. But do we admit that we're not going to get there. But we redouble to get to two degrees.
GP: So essentially, we need a reframing, I think. So a part of the problem is that we've framed the climate problem around these targets and sort of 1.5 degrees or die. And if you shift away from 1.5 degrees to something else, it's like you've given up and now it becomes well, two degrees or die. But we a better way to frame it. And IPCC actually tried this in the 1.5 degree report, there's more in increments of warming. So every, you know, 10th of a degree matters every year matters every bit that you can mitigate matters. And so I think it's very important to get out of this narrative of threshold. So we have to get emissions down as fast as we can, how fast is that? I don't know. And there's political considerations and technological situations, there's bringing along a population who may have other interests. And so let's say democracy problems, and so on and so forth. But you need to bend the curve, get emissions down as fast as you can. And hopefully, that takes us down somewhere around the two degree mark, maybe we end up better off and we get down to 1.8, or maybe a little bit worse off than 2.2. I don't know. But we have a problem with the narrative being set up as in a way that if we crossed 1.5 minutes giving up or it's too late or whatever, this is very problematic, I think. Because looking at the world where we are today and looking at the way these scenarios go down to 1.5 degrees, it's like an immediate and dramatic change in it'll be Corona-changes every year, in a sense, not that we will do it by lockdowns, but very dramatic changes, rapid changes, all countries involved, no matter how rich or poor you are, your emissions will need to go down dramatically in the very short term. And it's just not feasible. And if you say, Well, you know, we will slowly transition into this and, you know, bring emissions down in 2030. And then afterwards, well, that means it's too late for 1.5 degrees. So any delay is too late for 1.5 degrades, we're so close to that target.
ML: Right, so that steep downhill, precipitous cliff that we need to go over to get to 1.5 it's 6% or 7% reduction in emissions every year. And we've just had one year in which not even that much happened, right? In terms of the corona pandemic, we saw a decrease of was it probably 3% or 4% emissions reduction? We need to do 6% or 7%, not just one year, but nine years in a row. And, and clearly society is in no way prepared to do that. What do you what do you say to people who say we have to do that? It does not matter what other pain is felt in the economy in society in human progress. That is the overriding imperative. What do you say to them?
Yeah, I think this, again, comes down to a framing problem when we frame it in a way that sounds so dramatic. So the corona analogy is not such a helpful analogy, because Corona experience was a bad experience. It's not how we would reduce emissions by locking people up in the houses, keeping them away from their grandmother and whatever. That's not how we would mitigate. But I would sort of frame it in, in the sense of opportunities in a way and maybe examples of opportunities. This won't get us to 1.5 degrees that might make people not feel the change. And so I'll bring up examples for example, electric cars in Norway. So basically, I'm not sure the latest numbers but 70 or 80% of new car sales in Norway are electric. I heard the other day in Oslo.
ML: It's now over 90% have got a plug either pure battery or plug in hybrids.
GP: Yeah, and it's totally normal like you are if you buy petrol or diesel car in Norway, everyone thinks you're a bit cuckoo. It is so normal. Everyone has an electric car. You see them everywhere. So that's sort of one type of example but there's also examples of you know, wind and solar being deployed in areas. You know, Australia quite skeptical on the on the climate side quite slow in terms of mitigation, but you know, every other house has solar panels on the roof and said, so, you know, the transition doesn't necessarily need to be painful in that sense. But the sort of changes that I was mentioning probably not going to be fast enough 1.5 degrees…
ML:I mean, that's the challenge that you have that I have, you know, those transformations, those are transformations, the electrical system, the transport system, but they also require a lot of minerals, a lot of metals. And there is a dynamic that just says they can only go so fast. And that's the core. That's my core problem. When I say, you know, we're not going to hit, you know, what would be your guess for when do you think we will see 1.5 degree warmed year. When do you envisage that happening?
Yeah, so I'd say we'll hit 1.5, around 2030, you know, give or take, we'll probably breach it beforehand, you know, because there's variability point 0.1/0.2 degrees up down each year. But in an average sense, you know, 2030, maybe 2035, if we're, if we're lucky. But there's basically nothing we can do about that. So even if we went all 1.5 degrees in terms of mitigation, because you're still emitting CO2, and CO2 is a cumulative pollutant, even if you're going to zero in 2050, you'll emit enough carbon to put you over 1.5 degrees. So, in a sense, this is where the most scenarios take a decline type shape. So you go over 1.5 degrees, and you come back down to 1.5 degrees from above. So we're going to cross 1.5 degrees, that's almost a given.
ML: Okay, so let me recap where we've been, then. We are currently, most likely on track for two and a half to three, it could be as bad as four, although, I'd like to think we've established that's actually relatively unlikely, because actually, the really bad stuff the feedbacks tend to be slower Johan Rockstrom episode. But we could be we can't rule it out. And we're optimistic about technology, we think that we can bend the curve further, but that there is no way we're not going through one and a half degrees, perhaps in 2030, 2035. And we need to fight for every point one degrees. And it's a that's a really sobering assessment. But I think is that a fair summary of where we've got in the, in the sort of half hour so far…
GP: You could just wrap this up in 30 seconds, we didn't need to go for the half hour, that’s a good summary.
ML: But we still got more to cover a little bit more as another topic, which is, okay, that is sobering. I also think it's an incredibly inspiring call to action, because what it really says is, okay, once you've moved away from the depression of hitting one and a half, and not being able to avoid going through it, there is still so much we can do to bend that curve and to come in below, you know, Paris at the end of the day, the binding part of Paris was well below two degrees. 1.5 was aspirational. So, you could still say, well, we can still, we still got Paris as an aspiration, and a call to arms. But we've also got, I'm going to say an almost universal sense in society. And amongst a lot of people working in finance, that we are not anywhere near to, you know that we are not anywhere near to that two and a half to three degrees now, and they think that we're headed for, you know, four is an absolute given, according to them probably headed for five or seven. It's consistent with it comes from this famous RCP 8.5 scenario, which actually dominated all of the communications, and you wrote a piece in Nature magazine. So you're at the forefront of trying to kind of reset and so okay, we may not be headed for one and a half, and it may look really bad, but it is not as bad as the general public discourse and the general sort of sense out there. So give us the background, why did you write that piece? What were you trying to achieve? Or you're trying to lull us all into a false sense of security and stop people from from, you know, attempting to do anything or what were you thinking?
GP: Yeah, so I wrote that together with Zeke Hausfather, and we wrote an essentially short answer because of you. So you provoked 99% of the climate community with #RCP8.5isbollox hashtag, and that got a hefty debate going. But I think it was the time was right to have that discussion. Anyway. So, I think quite often timing It's very important and your, your sort of provocation, if I put it that way came at the right time. And I think we needed to have that discussion. So, it’s been coming for a few years. So, if you think back, going back into some of these earlier reports, you know, if I go back to the IPCC fifth assessment report, which came in in 2013 2014, there was essentially four pathways that we looked at in terms of climate, the high end, which is the RCP 8.5. And there were two in the middle, and then the low end, which is more or less a two-degree type scenario. But also in that report was the Working Group three report which had 1200 scenarios staining that range. And I think from around about that time, some people were starting to become a bit more clued up, but there was a lot more variation in what the high end could be. This high end scenario, RCP 8.5, it's a scenario which has no climate policy. So, we assume we have no climate policy into the future. It's also a scenario which assumes no climate impacts. So, we have no climate impacts into the future. So, we can go all RCP 8.5, and it's no impact in the system. And that if you look there's a quite a big range of scenarios that have no climate policy. So, there are scenarios with no climate policy, where emissions are essentially flat throughout this century. And I think this sort of nuance never really entered into the into the discussion, or the came into light. And I think, you know, in the last 10 years, we've seen emission start to potentially level out maybe that's been a peak, maybe not been a peak. But you know, we're getting we're talking about that. So there's been there's climate policy in place, and people are starting to realize this. So, there's now this this, I suppose, tension between these scenarios without climate policy, these scenarios with climate policy, and it was a good time to have that discussion. And so that's what we really wanted to get out in that article.
ML: Right. But aren't you? Aren't you still being you know, rather to charitable when you say, Oh, it was nuanced. There were these different baselines? And, you know, and this one that had, you know, emissions continuing to grow. I mean, this is a deeply implausible scenario. This is a scenario where the coal industry grows by a factor of seven or 10, between now and 2100. And as you say, you know, this is a scenario where we now know that the sea level rises, and it would quite clearly, you know, flood all of these coal fired power stations, and yet in the scenario, they keep on, you know, chugging away and pumping out their CO2, because it's the only way to get to, you know, we are we've talked about 280 parts per million, maybe doubling to 560 parts per million over some, you know, the, you know, some extended time period, RCP 8.5 is like 1200 parts per million, or the successor scenario in the current terminology, which is SSP585 1200 parts per million by 2100. I mean, it is just not happening, is it?
GP: No, it's not happening. But being on my charitable mood. There's a bit of a background, though, to why it's happening. And there's inertia in the in the research system. So, we work in the more in the mitigation space. So we're sort of looking in the direction of the good news on the mitigation side, the climate impact side, you know, they're basically taking these scenarios, putting them into their climate models. They're not really experts at these scenarios, they are just trusting that the scenarios, they've got are the good scenarios, their models take a long time to run. So, the same IP6 which is the current generation scenarios assessed in the current IPCC assessment report, those rounds were started several years ago. Huge amount of time invested into that. And so, there's a huge amount of inertia. So even if we all agree that RCP 8.5 is implausible, there is so much inertia in that system, it's going to take time to shake out,
ML: But they actually, are they not asking for, or the impacts people and the physical science people? They're actually asking for an 8.5 scenario to run their models. And so, they're actually demanding that scenario, whether it's plausible or not, are they not?
GP: Yes, that's correct. And so this goes back to decisions that were made in the last 10 or 20 years, which is the inertia point. So, in 2007, there was a meeting in the Netherlands I think, where they picked out essentially these four RCP scenarios representative concentration pathways, they also had some continuity from the previous scenarios that notice the SRES special report on emission scenarios. Some may have heard of that. So there's some continuity there. And then for the next generation the paper was published in 2016 by Brian O'Neill, where they selected out the next generation scenarios. A big component of that is continuation. So they're continuing the SRS, RCP8.5 and the new SSP585 to confuse everyone with acronyms is a continuation and that was the number one scenario, number one priority. If you're on one scenario, you run this high end scenario.
ML: Right. And so now you've been very clear and said it is not plausible. Jim Skea came on to Cleaning Up. And you know, I grilled him fairly hard as you'd expect. And he ended up saying RCP 8.5 is a world in which climate policy goes backwards, not one in which climate policy continues. And he has he admitted he listed all the things you'd have to believe about coal and etc, etc. And so it's not plausible. And yet, literally a few weeks after he was on the show, he published another paper saying scenarios are intended to be plausible descriptions in inverted commas of how the future may develop, it is not possible to say that the baseline scenarios are implausible. Now, I mean, surely, surely, it's implausible. And if we want to get the inertia out of this system, we have to say it's implausible, we are not going to a world of 1200 parts per million of CO2 by 2100. With whatever it is five to seven degrees of warming, with 8.5 watts per square metre of extra energy falling on it, we've just got to be apt, because my worry is if the science community around climate is not clear, and continues to sort of fight this rearguard action, to maintain a sense of plausibility around this absurd scenario. What it does is it makes it very easy for anybody who doesn't want to act on climate to say, it's all nonsense. You've heard of climate gate, now you've got RCP 8.5 gate, or SSP585 gate or all sorts of other things. I mean, there's worse, there are scenarios that combine bits of scenarios that don't even fit together. And that just that not just render the whole edifice of what we're working on and what climate science is building, does it not just render it so easy to attack?
GP:I would agree with you that it makes it very easy to attack, just add a few little. Yeah, sort of points to what you were saying, which I think are important to consider. So there's, you know, people don't necessarily like critiquing their colleagues and so on and so forth. So your, the Twitter discussion a few years ago, this RCP 8.5 is bollocks sort of struck a nerve, people using that scenario, and they using it for reasons that they think they can justify and get upset, and so on and so forth. But then if I go and look at the special report on 1.5 degrees, that was published in 2018, and look at the mitigation chapter, chapter two in that report, RCP 8.5 is just not relevant. It is basically not there, it's in the database. But it's when you're talking about mitigation, you're just not in that space at all. <Inaudible> I think is the community. And this is something that we tried to bring up in that article that you mentioned with Zeke Hausfather, is we're not we don't give enough attention to where we are heading. So we pluck out these scenarios, which you know, are meant to be plausible descriptions of the future or whatever. But we don't want to do the hard thing, which is trying to figure out well, where may we be going and where we're going is very important for several reasons. It's important for the impact side to understand how you may invest in impacts. But it's also important for the mitigation side, if you're a government policy maker, you want to know where are we heading? What additional policies do we need to bend the curve even further, you don't want to know, well, RCP 8.5 and therefore what policies do I do? If we're not hitting on RCP8.5? It's just such a it's an irrelevant scenario for a mitigation discussion. So this is something that I think the community has been quite poor at openly discussing and I think still is a little bit poor discussing this notion of where are we heading and using that as a starting point. So the RCP 8.5 You may consider that as an extreme high end, upper bound, high risk, you know, 1% chance outcome or whatever. And then to get that the base but that it should get the attention it deserves, which is not much attention.
ML: Right? I mean, I would argue that it's not even at the 1% just looking at what's in it. But even if that was the case, what you've actually got is, it is used as business as usual. It is positioned quite clearly in our five, which was the 2014 Assessment Report of the IPCC. It is used interchangeably with business as usual, the introduction by the great worthies wrote the introduction talk about business as usual, there are 1000s of papers. Even today, there are papers being published referring to RCP 8.5, as business as usual. And you said it, nobody wants to critique their colleagues, because you're all you're all lead authors or joint authors or some sort of authors of IPCC work. And you all know that if you actually put your foot down and said, I'm sorry, this paper may be about penguins, but it uses RCP 8.5 incorrectly, and I'm going to call it out, you know that that would cause you professional problems, don't you?
GP: Yeah, that's true. So another article that I published with Kevin Anderson, it was in Science in 2016 was a critique of the amount of carbon dioxide removal or negative emissions used in scenarios and of course, no, that pisses off most of the integrated assessment modelling community. I'd like to think that now there's a much more nuanced discussion related to carbon dioxide removal that we would still use prolifically in scenarios. It's getting a little bit more nuanced, but it's still used prolifically. So we still have problems, but it's a constant push and you have to push against the grain, which is a part of the challenge of the scientific community.
ML: But how many people in the scientific community came out when McKinsey said, and I quote, “we have chosen to focus on RCP 8.5 because the higher emission scenario it portrays enables us to assess physical risk in the absence of further decarbonization”. So, they take a scenario, which requires vast growth in carbon emissions and call it what happens in the absence of further decarbonization. And not one scientist that I know about wrote an article saying, wait a minute, this is completely out of order.
GP: Yeah, that doesn't surprise me.
ML: While I'm on this roll, if actually, it was worse than that there was a paper and I can't remember, you'll remember who it was by, there was a couple of academics and I don't know, it's perfectly okay to use RCP 8.5. Because it's the best. It tracks where we're going the best, which is a bit like saying I'm going to use a scenario where my son becomes 19 feet tall, because that best describes his growth trajectory right now age 10.
GP: Yes, yeah, so there is going to be a lot of resistance to change, because so many people have invested so much in that scenario, so much of the literature, like so, so much of the this <inaudible>, which is the repository of all the modelling runs, which is God knows terabytes and terabytes of data, a lot of those will be RCP 8.5, and now will be analyzed and studied, and so on and so forth. For the next five or 10 years, at least, until there's a new generation of scenarios, then there'll be questions about continuity and so on. But just if I slip in one thing, just to be there are some arguments to use RCP 8.5, some very specific arguments. And, you know, if you want to look at a specific behavior in your climate model, you know, how does this ocean current change or whatever, you might need to get the signal above the noise. But then when you're publishing that paper, you should not be calling it the, you know, business as usual, whatever you say, well, we needed to get a signal. So we could look at this little delicate current and say what that meant to climate. So, we had to hit it with a high forcing pathway, you know, so there are some justifications like that…
ML: I'm aware of those I'm an engineer by background and sometimes you just put a step change function through a structure or a system and then you watch what happens whether it's stable or not. My big concern, by the way, in the feedbacks literature, is if you put a forcing function that is RCP 8.5 through a system and than you say ha! There is that there are actually feedbacks. Those feedbacks may never appear at a lower step change forcing function. There's a circularity there. So that just feels like just a big problem. If you really want to understand where feedbacks might kick in. It's a bit like you know, we all know that if you turn up the heat under a pot, all the way to 10 instantly on a pot will boil over, but that doesn't actually tell you whether the pot will boil over in 10 times as long if you leave it on setting one it doesn't say anything about what happens at setting one.
GP: Yeah. So I think there's just coming back. So one problem that the scientific community got itself into, which is sort of we're seeing now is they started with Representative Concentration Pathways. And so they started in the middle of the problem, in a sense that I started with what's the concentration? And the reason I did that is because it takes so long to run the model, the models needed some pathways. And so this essentially means that the, the physical science literature and the mitigation literature, essentially, they're divided into two that they have, there's a common touch point, which is the concentration pathways, but then they go on and do their own stuff. And so, there's not enough feedback and feedback between those communities, I don't think, and there's not that much literature, in the big climate models that actually starts with emissions. So very few models feed emissions into their model, and look at carbon cycle feedbacks, look at climate feedbacks. And look at the whole way that the everything propagates through the system, it's much more costly to run on the computer, and so on and so forth. So these are a consequence of decisions made, you know, 10 years ago, as I was mentioning, and I think that it'll be quite nice to see some changes in the future on the way that those communities interact, the way scenarios are selected, and so on and so forth.
ML: I think that I mean, that's certainly right, it would be nice. My own assessment, going back to 2019, when I wrote that piece saying, peak emissions are closer than we think. And here's why. I actually wrote a sister piece, which was about the climate wars and saying that I actually thought that it would take until AR seven, which will appear in about 2026 or 2027, to stop calling, RCP 8.5 or SSP585, or the equivalent business as usual, I thought it would take that long. And I'm afraid from what I'm seeing and the number of publications that still do it. I actually think that that, sadly, tragically is right. And I guess I mean, I'll finish because we are running out of time. But I finish with a question, you know, does that not? Do you not worry that you're actually you know, part of a community that is sleepwalking through an enormous disservice to the policymaking community. I mean, I'll give you an example. The UN National Climate Assessment calculates the value of the last one which is 2017 I believe, calculates the value of action on climate as the difference between RCP 8.5 and RCP 4.5 says There you go, there's many billions, we must definitely do it. But the reality is we're actually tracking towards RCP 4.5 without doing anything. And really what we're fighting for is actually to be on, you know, a much lower a much better mitigation pathway. 2.6 1.9 whatever it's going to be. And so by amping everything up, and you know, I could also quote that some, you know, the person that lots of climate scientists, so love to hate Roger Pielke Jr. And he wrote a piece with Justin Ritchie and wrote continuing misuse of scenarios in climate research has become pervasive and consequential. So much so that we view it as one of the most significant failures of scientific integrity in the 21st century thus far. And I've got to be honest, I find it very difficult to disagree with that. Isn't that correct?
GP: Yeah, I think there's an audience question here. And there's also an ownership question as well, who owns the debates, but for me, you know, coming from the mitigation side to you know, news stories about penguins or floods or whatever, a bit of, to put one way a bit of a sideshow. Because that's not where the game is. For me, the game has moved on. And the game is about policy, and mitigation and technologies and actually doing stuff implementing stuff. And I think if I walked down to the environment ministry or the energy ministry in Oslo, they'll be thinking that way. They wouldn't be looking oh, high impacts, therefore, we need to do something they're looking at where we are, what do they need to implement to, you know, increase their ambition?
ML: Is that really correct? I mean, look at it, you've got policymakers who are… Look at the European Central Bank stress test, the bank's basis it stress test and what is effectively a derivative of SSP585 or RCP 8.5 the US National Climate Assessment, the UK risk assessment, this stuff pervades the materials that are read by policymakers who are spending money. I mean, they are deciding what to do in terms of, you know, flood protection or whatever it is. And then you have all a bit about, you know, there are people in London gluing themselves to roads, there are kids who are getting mental health issues because of this stuff. I mean, you know, I love your detachment when I'm in the mitigation business, not my problem, but that's not really. I mean, is that, isn't that just too detached?
GP: Well, you could, yes, you could make that argument. But there are really two different issues there. So on the impact side, investing in flooding, you know, walls or whatever, making the infrastructure fit for future climate or whatever. That's very different question. And probably group of people compare that not saying they're doing the right thing. But that's a different group of people to the mitigation people deciding on, you know, what's the electric car policy in Norway, or whatever country. So, there is a separation. I think. Yeah, we could probably argue about that one for a while. But just let me link it to another point, which is the representation of voices in the media. And so, if you think about the most well-known voices on climates, out in social media, for example, they're often climate impacts people, physical science people, the people that run the climate models, they're not. And so they're talking about impacts, that's their, their home, in a sense, is impacts, how's the climate respond? What are the feedbacks or whatever. That's what they know. <inaudible>. There's not many, that many high-profile voices that are fully into the mitigation side. And they're talking about mitigation, and transitions and technologies and whatever. So this comes back to the ownership point that I was mentioning. And I would argue this is not gonna happen. In reality, I would argue that we sort of need some people need to let go of the physical science impacts narrative and get more on the transition narrative. We shouldn't be like, you know, I'm saying I'm detached by detached I mean, I've walked past that I don't need to be convinced to mitigate climate change. I guess that's more of the point that I'm trying to say, I don't need to be convinced, I want to mitigate. And so that's where the debate is, for me. Whether, you know, some central bankers using bad scenarios for risk assessment of physical risk? That's a different question.
ML: None of this, none of this is to suggest we don't have a problem, right? I also want to mitigate and I and, and I, because I see the seriousness of that two and a half or three degrees or worse, and I see the opportunity to get to two degrees or better. So there's no question there. But what I also see is that, you know, in the energy community, my communities, the, you know, those emission scenarios that are out there driving the central banks, and the climate assessments and so on, they just, I mean, I'll be honest, that they're just, you know, they either don't know what's in them, because they are just too busy with their day job, or they are absolutely stunned and find it hilarious that people put any credence in them. The problem is, the reason that you even as even in your ivory tower up there in Oslo should care is that those central bankers using a daft scenario, are actually affecting your pension. And they're affecting the costs of energy. And they're affecting whether we over invest too early in adaptation. And those things have costs. And they particularly have costs for the less well off in society, that misallocation of resources on an absolutely grand scale, which is what you know, frankly, is is you know, resulting or likely to result in a, you know, that, to me, just feels like something we should be pulling together to fix. And, and it's just not, you know, I say AR7, maybe by 2026 2027. Maybe we'll get some better understanding of where we're headed and where we could go. If we were effective in applying resources.
GP: Yeah, so I'll just add on. So, if you look at the NGFS, the latest NGFS scenarios, the you'll know the acronym better than me, the greening the financial system.
ML: That's the central banks that got together for the network for greening of the financial system.
GP: So they came out with a new bunch of scenarios which have only integrated assessment models, but they're their high end current policies and or
ML: They have a high they have a high end scenario.
GP: Yeah, but the high end scenario is based on current policies. Okay. Yeah. But, but when you go to people that are interested In impacts and you speak to I don't know, the central bank or whatever, and you go to the local can city in northern Norway or whatever they want downscaled climate information that's zoomed in to their level of detail that they need. And that's available for RCP 8.5. And RCP 4.5. And so there's so much inertia in the system. So if you could quickly transition to having all that data and analysis and information, these huge databases based on something like RCP6, or 4.5, or some middle of the road scenario, then we may be able to accelerate that change, or let's say, you know, get organizations to do things differently. But there's so much inertia in the system, which also relates to the lack of data, people only going to run scenarios that were decided on five years ago, and so on and so forth. So it's a very problematic situation to be in, and we’ve not really developed tools to be able to easily update and bridge this is a part of the RCP concept that never really worked is being able to take an integrated assessment model, let's say current policy scenario, and downscale if you like the impacts of that scenario.
ML: And for those who are listening from the finance community, I mean, we are looking, we're staring down the barrel of a system that is going to force hard asset owners to look at the vulnerability of their assets, using effectively a high end scenario, an RCP 8.5 type scenario, when we already headed for 4.5. And it'd be nice if we could get to 2.6. And that's going to be that's going to be if we're not careful, that will be coded into hard regulations that people are then expected to meet. And, and I really, I worry about that, in the sense that it's just going Yeah, at best, all it will do is misinform. And at worst, it will be an enormous waste of resources as people try to harden their assets against the scenario that is not happening instead of focusing on what is happening. So it's a very realm you talk about the inertia, and you talk about scenarios from five years ago. But the fact is, these scenarios are from 20 years ago, and we're not even on when there's some fantastic analysis that shows that we're not even on the scenario, the RCP 8.5 that people still trying to use for the future. We're not even on it in the present in the energy system. We are 10-15% out, right?
GP: Yeah, that's right. The energy system, definitely in the land. Yeah, you can have a bypass, these are higher, and this updates coming, which will probably shift this off. But there's also methane and nitrous oxide, and so on and so forth. So I'm just painting a picture here. We have to be concerned about those high, you know, things not going as good as we like, but that doesn't mean things go as RCP8.5
ML: I’m going to on that. I'm going to leave you with another quotation actually, it's from Johan Rockstrom, the great planetary system scientists, who says just in case anybody thinks this is Michael's hobby horse, and he's off on it again. What Johan said on his episode, Episode 49. Everybody should listen to it. You've listened to it. I know because you wrote some a very lengthy thread on Twitter about it. But Johan says I've been criticizing RCP8.5 for a very long time, I would never use RCP 8.5 to compensate for the fact that you're unable to represent things like permafrost, I never use RCP 8.5, for anything. So I think with that, that will be my parting shot. And I'd like to leave, I'd like to leave the audience to say if you haven't understood anything of the last 20 minutes when we've talked about these scenarios and how, how grotesquely out of date they are, then, you know, start looking into it. Because when you look under the hood, it's quite extraordinary what you find. And I think I think that's fair to say I will leave the last word with you Glen have seen because, you know whether you also had that experience of sort of thinking these things must be fairly rational then looking into them and deciding that actually they're sufficiently far from reality that you had to pick up your pen with Zeke Hausfather and write to Nature.
That's right. And so just backing up Johan he's basically saying we're in a lot of trouble at two degrees. So let's get our, our butts into gear to put it politely and get mitigating and there are plenty of opportunities to end on a positive note. There's lots of tools available, lots of technologies available. And we can mitigate if we just get our butt into gear as we say
ML: On that we can definitely conclude our tour. I don't know I'm hesitant to say our tour of the human anatomy from RCP 8.5 is bollocks to getting our butts into gear. But definitely we can agree on your closing sentiment. Glen, it has been a great pleasure. Thank you so much for taking us through so much the detail of emissions past, present and hopefully not too much in the future.
GP: That was great joining you. Thank you very much.
ML: So that was Glen Peters, research director at the Cicero International Centre for Climate Research in Oslo, and expert on all things emissions.