Joseph Keller, quizzical mathematician from Stanford university, figured out what makes a girl-joggers’s ponytail swing from side to side. We need him now to make us understand Climate Math where commitment Sums do not add.
A brilliant and amusing mathematician of our times, Joseph Keller, was known for his playful indulgence in mathematical explanations of everyday puzzling facts. For example, he mathematically enlightened why the ponytail of female jogger swings from side to side and not in any other way.
Joseph Keller died recently but he probably would have stumbled over the most significant numerical question of the recent times: Why the condition for Entry into Force ( EF) of the Paris Climate Agreement has embedded the cryptic numerical prerequisite of “at least 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of the global emissions” must ratify the agreement”.
There indeed is no pure mathematical logic to this prerequisite. This condition is transplanted into the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015 from the 18-year-old Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol stated that it would enter into force on the 90th day after the date on which not less than 55 Parties to the Convention, incorporating Parties included in annexure I (developed nations) which accounted for at least 55 per cent of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the developed countries.
During the transplantation of this condition into the Paris Climate Agreement, the countries made some historic , welcome and fudgy improvements.
Historic, because the voluntary commitments made for GHG reductions — called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) — by each and every country are now, and for the first time in the 25 years of the history of the international climate convention, global in nature, without distinction between developed or industrialized and developing countries.
Welcome, because the time between fulfilling the ‘55-55’ conditions globally and the entry into force of the agreement is reduced from 90 days to 30 days — probably a baby step to demonstrate urgency.
Fudgy, because while Kyoto Protocol clearly spelled out year 1990 as the baseline for measuring the percentage of carbon dioxide emissions of the country as part of 55 per cent of GHG emissions, the Paris Agreement will use the latest GHG emissions communicated by the country to the Secretariat of United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). That would make the global baseline fudgy because countries would report their emissions in different years.
Interestingly the year of latest communication of GHGs emissions by 195 countries varied to a great degree. For 16 countries it is 1994, for 38 countries it is 2013 and for the rest it is in between. India’s latest communication is for 2000, the USA’s for 2013 and China’s for 2005. The base line of important condition for entry into force is, therefore, embedded into the assorted stack of apples, oranges and even mangoes.
The fudgy logic, however, did not deter the determination of the countries to get the Paris Agreement operational with amazingly good speed. The maximum time period provided in the agreement for entry into force till 2020 for the entry into force may now prove to be redundant. The Paris Climate Agreement entered into force on 4 the November 2016 in less than one year after its signature, It was a massive achievement, given that it took eight years for the Kyoto protocol,”
So, how does this 55-55 math add up from now on?
China’s share is 20.09 per cent, the US, 17.89 per cent, EU 10 percent, Russia 7.53 per cent India 4.1 per cent, Japan 3.79 per cent, Brazil 2.48 per cent Australia 1.46 per cent, Canada 1.95 per cent Mexico (1.7 per cent) and South Africa (1.85 per cent) make more than 55 per cent emissions but only add to 37 countries. By 4th November small countries , mainly small island countries whose existence is under threat due to sea level rise made to 55 countries.
Climate-math reached the finishing line, but sums are far from additions! The hartd part has started after the entry into force. That the time to reflect on the sum total of real and urgent climate actions.
The Paris Agreement very rightly highlights that countries need not wait to operationalize it. The singularly important and foremost action indicated in it is to jump-start the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C by continuing the efforts by the developed countries to meet the commitments under the Kyoto Protocol, whose life has been extended from 2012 to 2020 as per the Doha Amendment. The legally binding commitments taken by the developed countries under Kyoto would have to continue till the extended deadline. This is many times ignored , but critical part of the Paris Climate Agreement and the demonstration of the commitment by the developed countries. Kyoto Protocol included the legaly binding commitment by the developed countries only. For developing countries there were voluntary commitment.
Pre-2020 actions are at the heart of the Doha Amendment that pins down the developed countries to their binding commitments for reduction in emission of GHGs undertaken under the Kyoto Protocol and their contributions towards the Green Climate Fund established in 2010 for climate-actions in developing countries.
As of now, of the 37 developed countries with binding commitments under Kyoto, only seven have ratified the Doha Amendment that has not yet entered into force. Total of 130 countries have ratified Doha Amendment where as 144 countries are needed to ratify before It eneters into force. Canada, Japan and Russia have clearly stated that they would not ratify the Doha Amendment and will not take any continued commitment under Kyoto before 2020. Canada was committed under Kyoto to cutting its greenhouse emissions to six per cent below 1990 levels by 2012, but in 2009, emissions were 17 per cent higher than in 1990. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol.
Another commitment by the developed countries , which is yet to be demonstrated ( and pending for a decade) is their contribution to The Green Climate Fund set up in 2009. Its target was to contribute $30 billion from 2010 to 2012 by the developed countries to help developing countries for action on climate, reaching up to $100 billion per year by 2020. The total funding contributed by the developed countries as of now is little more than $10 billion.
Obviously, the climate-sums are not adding up as regards past commitments and definitely not in tandem with the enthusiasm demonstrated by the countries in ratifying the for the Paris Climate agreement. We indeed need Joseph Keller, quizzical mathematician , to make us understand these numbers which seem to be moving like the ponies of the girls jogging in the park, where as their heads move in different way. He had famously commented about how he tackles his restless curiosity into practical and often playful enigmas. How does he do it? He said : “First of all, I have to understand the phenomenon; so that limits me right away”. Unfortunately , we are yet to understand the phenomenon. END