In the last decade, the term "net zero" has become ubiquitous in the climate world. It is now the default way of framing global climate goals. For years, Holly Jean Buck has been exploring the assumptions behind the narrative and their limitations. We talk about what net zero means, where it falls short, and what a better climate narrative might include.
For people wanting a real in-depth understanding of what net zero means (or should mean) I can thoroughly recommend this series of lectures by prof Myles Allen (Oxford University, IPCC author).
The final episode was today, and goes into quite a bit of detail on the specifics of net zero that need to be met to actually lead to stopping further global warming (temp increases).
Yeah, I hate "net zero" also. I'm pretty it's further distracted "normies" from the need to replace fossil fuel combustion. While we are talking about language, I prefer "replace" to "phase out," which was used extensively in this conversation. Replace implies doing something else to provide energy. Personally, I don't care about plastics for now. Let FFs be used for them, and make sure they are buried, and make sure methane is sealed from well to cracker.
In my world of energy efficient buildings, "net zero" typically means a building that has enough PV production to offset annual electric consumption. The problem there is that folks think, "OK, that's done," but somehow storage, and winter renewables are needed, since I live in a cold place.
Also, companies or cities are buying "100% renewable" PPAs from a windfarm or solar farm, which is a similar form of "net zero." The "24/7 clean score" addresses this, but won't be used until it's required.
And certainly this idea that there will be more than a small amount of "removal" is a chimera, but folks will try to get it subsidized to some extreme extent and use that to keep producing "residual" emissions.
This podcast discussion on net zero was very helpful and frustrating. Why? Because I want a public "report card" of US progress in limiting climate change. Why? Because I think it's very motivating to me and other US residents ("normies") to be able to say "Here's where the needle is on the scale. Let's move it. Let's check how much it moved. If it's not moving, let's find out why and push it." Simplistic? I suppose. As far as I can tell, the "report card(s)" are spread over the IPCC report, the ppm of CO2 currently in the atmosphere, the US "sources and sinks" report, which is only about electricity production (discussed in this podcast), the chart that shows the US peaked its emissions from power generation in 2005, an EPA report on the amount of oil and gas subsidies (I've not seen one of these), a report on how much funding has gone out to US homeowners via the IRA, the articles on the MISO region stuckness (renewable projects stuck from connecting to that Midwest portion of the US grid), and reading the entrails of the Paris accords and trying to match it up with something the US is reporting. (And the only reason I know about all these is due to Dave's hard work! Thanks, Dave! Well, and also the bit of web searching and reading I've done so far). I want to use the report card(s) to rally some US homeowners to replace their gas machines for electric and hold their representatives accountable for an upgraded US electric grid. What do y'all use as your "report card(s)" of how the US is doing? Are there new "report card(s)" coming on line soon that you are looking forward to?
"Capitalism" is not the problem, rather, the problem is our government's failure to adequately regulate our mixed economy, including its capitalist elements. Capitalism allows the accumulation of private property and allows for the exchange of property in markets. However, capitalism does not require that property may be accumulated without limit or that markets operate without regulation.
Rather than blaming the abstract concept Capitalism, we should clearly and unambiguously place blame on the inability or unwillingness of our elected representatives, Congress, to do their jobs and regulate the market.
I read “Ending Fossil Fuels” last year and found it very insightful. I’m glad you’re doing the pod with Buck.
Speaking of greenwash similar to "net zero:"
Delta Facing Lawsuit Over Carbon Neutral Claims
Delta Air Lines is facing a proposed class action lawsuit over claims of being carbon-neutral in its advertising. The lawsuit, filed in California federal court, alleges that Delta violated state consumer protection laws and engaged in unfair and fraudulent business practices by misleading consumers. Climate change campaigners have been filing similar lawsuits to challenge corporate green claims and push for a low-carbon economy.
The complaint argues that Delta's advertising as the world's first carbon-neutral airline is misleading and does not reflect its actual carbon emissions. Global airlines have committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, but critics argue that purchasing carbon offsets does not effectively reduce emissions. Sustainable aviation fuel, though more eco-friendly, constitutes only a small portion of jet fuel use. While class action lawsuits allow claims on behalf of a larger group, legal experts anticipate resistance and challenges to class certification. The complaint was filed by two California attorneys, and a similar case against KLM for alleged "greenwashing" is being heard in the Netherlands. Delta Air Lines was not immediately available for comment.
I think that the easiest thing to do is produce as much Solar and Wind power installations, with storage, as fast as we can; and do this in all States of our country. Then, all of this renewable power production will Automatically Push out burning natural gas and oil and take over as the country's power sources. No need to even worry about CDR if we move fast enough with Solar, Wind and storage (although, the demo project of CDR in San Jose, CA is still essential).
Good for you for asking the tough questions, David, through a wide angle lens. Thank you, Dr. Buck, for your work. I was impressed with your excellent and succinctly and accessibly worded responses.
This discussion about Net Zero is informative, though inconclusive & pretty discouraging. Having experienced multiple Northern California climate-driven wildfire calamities, and their emotional impact on local public awareness, I think such events are the most potent drivers of cultural adaptation. It’s climate armageddon right up “In-Your-Face!” Studies, statistics, reports, etc. really don’t capture that.
“It is highly unlikely that society would accept the degradation in global standard of living required to permanently achieve a scenario like the IEA NZE,” Exxon said on May 19, 2023. Easy for them to say.
BigOil&Gas have made some very small, limited transition moves, but are obviously still inextricably tied to their legacy exploitation business models, just like our calcified state sanctioned utility monopolies. They are exploiting climate calamities as typical short-term profit opportunities and an excuse to dodge responsibility for externalities, rather than a motivating adaptation driver.