The new executive order is signed and the repealing of the Obama Clean Energy Policy is a reminder that denial of climate change impact leaves more than a sobering influence on the fate of the Paris Climate Change Accord; or so it seems.
WMO, World Meteorological Organization, which is head quartered in Geneva, on the contrary has warned in their latest report, which came out on 21st March that the “world is experiencing record warming, with the past three years being the hottest recorded, rising carbon-dioxide levels, an alarming drop in Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, and severe droughts in southern and eastern Africa and Central America.”
It goes on to say, “This report confirms that the year 2016 was the warmest on record – a remarkable 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial period, which is 0.06 °C above the previous record set in 2015. This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
“Globally averaged sea surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year,” he said.
“With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident,” said Mr Taalas.”
Denial of these impacts on the environment is one but allowing non-clean coal production to be restarted in America is a completely different matter. The earlier Clean Energy Plan sought to put curbs on coal mining in America that worked through capping of carbon and green-house gas emissions by the energy utilities. In fact new coal mining permits were stopped and new land leases for coal mining also saw an exit in the last two years.
But perhaps the exit of coal was more driven by economics than by climate change imperatives. The rise of shale gas and the simultaneous lowering of oil and gas prices made coal production completely uneconomical.
Now by allowing the coal production to restart this economics gets even more lopsided as the marginal cost of new production of coal would need to compete with the marginal cost of shale gas. No miner would be able to compete till this economics works to the advantage.
However the current coal prices offer some room, how long this will last would depend on supply and demand as well.
The coal guzzling industries have slowly and steadily switched over to natural gas and renewables. It needs to be seen how some of them see benefits of restarts.
All of this will take time to pan out, till then debate will shift to long term impact of this on the Paris Accord itself, which was largely led by U.S.
As an example, this does not augur well but on the contrary most other nations have not stated their intentions of going back on their promises so far.
The economics of clean energy is irreversible; every industry must future proof its business model for a world that is not intent on endangering its future at the expense of current ease.
Paris Accord will stand the test of time, but it will be economics at the end that will rule, as always.