Without Measurements the Paris Climate Accord is Meaningless

“The Paris postulate: the hidden assumption in the latest climate accord

Screen Shot EarthPosted on December 17, 2015 by William Hooke on “Living on the Real World” an American Meteorological Society Project

The article begins. with some slight formatting changes…

“Postulate (n.) something taken as self-evident or assumed without proof as a basis for reasoning. – dictionary.com

“Read the draft Paris Agreement from the 21st session of the conference of the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and you’ll find it explicit on virtually every aspect of this real-world challenge:

  • shared international intent to limit warming to 1.5– 2.00 °C;
  • reducing emissions due to deforestation and forest degradation;
  • building the mutual trust and confidence needed for collaboration and implementation;
  • anticipating and compensating for loss and damage resulting from climate change; and
  • establishing and drawing upon a number of financial instruments to cover the costs of all this.

“Each of the signatories promises to update and communicate a new, more ambitious, nationally-determined contribution every five years.

“But the document postulates – accepts as a given, without any real discussion – that Earth observations, science, and services will be available to enable all this.”

Also unspoken?

“Such observations, models, and conceptual understanding, taken together, comprise an international critical infrastructure that underpins any national or global hope of assessing progress toward these goals. To illustrate:

1. Limit warming to 1.50– 2.00 °C?

This requires detailed measurements of greenhouse gas concentrations – globally, as well as near sources and sinks, and able to assign attribution.

It assumes scientific models that capture the direct radiative impacts of these gases, accurately predict the resulting higher-order climate feedbacks, and incorporate coupled human-natural system interactions.

2. Deforestation?

This implies an ability to monitor deforestation and its opposite, afforestation, an understanding of the longer-term fates of carbon released or captured in these ways, the functions of the ecosystems that replace the forests or are replaced by them, the related implications for storage of carbon in soils, and much more.

3. Loss and damage?

This refers not simply to property loss and economic disruption, but also to environmental degradation, compromised ecosystem services, and impacts on other forms of natural capital – vital functions and capabilities that are hard to inventory and to monetize.

4. Trust and confidence, collaboration, communication?

This presupposes the existence broadly across the 200-some signatories of in-country expertise on all aspects of climate science and technology sufficient to monitor progress, establish goals, compare with other nations, etc. It also assumes an educated public in each nation, holding scientists and political leaders accountable for continuing progress.

The bottom line?

Without measurements, without science, without STEM education, sustained over decades, the Paris climate accord is meaningless.

This reality should both hearten and prompt concerns.

Read the complete article online at: http://www.livingontherealworld.org/?p=1378.


Livingontherealworld.org addresses our relationship with the real world, that is, the solid Earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and the plant and animal life that enable all human affairs.

Today, this relationship is, for most of us, largely, and rather dangerously, secondhand.

In the past, when human numbers were smaller, resource consumption per capita more limited, and when we were all rather more independent, we got by. Will that remain true in the future, when there are nearly ten billion of us, our per capita use of resources is sharply rising, social change is accelerating, and we are increasingly all interconnected and interdependent? How sustainable is our way of life today? How vulnerable is our critical infrastructure (and thus the developed world) to sudden disruption, not just locally but globally? Realistically speaking, we have only the vaguest idea.

This blog explores these subjects. The aim is contribute to a better (real) world, for ourselves and for those who follow – not through the discussions on these pages per se, but by using these as a starting point, by influencing in myriad small ways the subsequent discussions we all have through our social and professional networks, and thus having an accumulative effect.

Comments and lively discussion are welcome (see comment policy). From time to time we may also have guest contributors. (Let me know if you’re interested!) The blog is very much an exploratory effort. Posts will not conform to any preset schedule. The posts will also vary in length. By and large, these will be relatively short. The approach will tend a bit toward “the thought for the day” as opposed to anything more ambitious. Occasionally, we may take stock, summarize, or pull together a thread of thoughts extending over several posts. I have plans for exploring a set of issues in a structured way, but will feel free to digress from time to time as real-world events provide opportunities for comment. Finally, be prepared for a gradual, measured start. We need to establish a bit of ground work before moving out.

William H. Hooke

American Meteorological Society


The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Meteorological Society, its members, funding agencies, or staff. And let me add an apology in advance. There will be typos and misspellings. Proofreading is not my strong suit!