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Saturday, November 14, 2015

"COP-21 is ignoring huge danger": Press Release by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group

PRESS RELEASE by the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, AMEG
November 2015

Transforming to a safer world

COP-21 is ignoring huge danger

COP-21 will not save humanity from catastrophic climate change and metres of sea level rise, if they continue to rely on IPCC assessments.

The world expects IPCC to ensure the safety of future generations, by producing realistic assessments of the dangers from climate change and by giving good advice to governments on how to deal with these dangers and prevent catastrophe.  But IPCC has absolutely failed in their obligation, under UNFCCC Article 2, to give adequate warning of the planetary emergency resulting from past and continued anthropogenic interference on two counts: excess CO2 in the atmosphere; and an Arctic soon to become seasonally free of sea ice.

Removing excess CO2

IPCC have consistently understated the dangers from global warming and ocean acidification arising from excess CO2 in the atmosphere.  A safe, sustainable target level for CO2 concentration has not been established, as required by UNFCCC Article 2; and other constraints, such as a limit on ocean acidification, rate of sea level rise and Arctic warming, have not been established either.

It is cogently argued by leading climate expert, Professor James Hansen, that the limit for CO2 should be set at 350 ppm or below.  It will require a massive effort in carbon dioxide removal to achieve this level within a few decades.  A similar limit on CO2 is required to avoid excessive ocean acidification, which, in combination with global warming, is already causing coral reefs to die.  By ignoring the dangers of ocean acidification, the whole marine food chain has been put at risk. 

IPCC has set a carbon budget of around 1000 gigatons of carbon for total allowed CO2 emissions, of which they say about half has been spent, leaving a remaining budget of less than 500 gigatons to achieve the 2 degrees target.  But other greenhouse gases together add 75% to the climate forcing from CO2.  This means that the CO2eq level is around 490 ppm.  If allowance is also made for climate forcing from black carbon and albedo loss, then it appears that the budget has already been used up.  The IPCC has failed to do the necessary calculations to establish the real position on carbon budget and what has to be achieved to have a good chance of preventing dangerous interference with the climate system, as UNFCCC require IPCC to establish.

Emissions reduction by itself will not remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While focussing on emissions reduction IPCC have been ignoring the urgency and immensity of the task to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere, which will require a revolution in agriculture, forestry and marine management to put carbon in the ground and improve food production at the same time.  Any delay in getting started on these revolutions will increase the risk of disaster in decades to come.

It is proposed that the funding of the CO2 removal initiative should come from a carbon levy on fossil fuel producers.  This would provide justice, in that the people who benefit from taking carbon out of the ground would be paying for the carbon to be returned to the ground.  The levy would be ramped up until the CO2 level starts to fall towards the target 350 ppm.

Preventing the Arctic Ocean becoming seasonally free of sea ice

But, more serious still than the problem of excess CO2, IPCC has failed to acknowledge the dangers arising from rapid Arctic warming and the rapid decline of Arctic sea ice.  The Arctic Ocean could become seasonally free of sea ice within a few years.  This rapid decline is the real “elephant in the room”.  The sea ice has provided a reflective surface to keep the Arctic cool, maintain permafrost and stabilise our planet’s temperature, sea level and climate.  Now the sea ice is declining to a much lower level, and IPCC is ignoring the implications.

Because of this glaring omission from IPCC reports, it may soon be too late to prevent the Arctic getting locked into a state of low sea ice and rapid warming, from which there will be no escape.  Continued rapid warming will inevitably lead to several absolute catastrophes for the world:

  • accelerated meltdown of the Greenland Ice Sheet to give metres of sea level rise within decades;
  • accelerated meltdown of permafrost, releasing vast quantities of the potent greenhouse gas, methane, which both accelerates the Arctic warming in a positive feedback loop and counters attempts to limit global warming to a safe level;
  • destabilisation of the planet’s climate system, giving ever worse weather extremes compounded by global warming and El Niño events.

In brief, humanity faces a planetary emergency from precipitous decline of Arctic sea ice as well as from an excess of CO2 in the atmosphere.  COP-21 must now prepare to take the necessary interventions. 

Our condemnation of IPCC assessment reports is not idle speculation or doom-mongering but based on the best available scientific evidence.  There now has to be a strenuous, focussed and determined effort to find solutions to these problems and make the necessary interventions.  Of particular urgency, the Arctic has to be cooled such as to prevent further decline of sea ice.   This is a significant engineering challenge.  Any delay risks the passing of a point of no return, whereby the challenge becomes impossible.

By facing up to the truth of the situation, means can surely be found to avoid catastrophe, using mankind’s collective intelligence, technology and vast resources. 

All nations must now work together to stave off the huge threats facing our civilisation. 

Submitted on behalf of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, 5 November 2015
By John Nissen, chair AMEG (


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