Toyota to Show New Lexus Dedicated Hybrid at Detroit Show
Solid-State Ethanol Fermentation Using Dry Sweet Sorghum Stalk Particles with Active Dry Yeast

“Nature Does Not Provide Bailouts”: Tällberg Provocation Calls for Complete Decarbonization of Industrialized Countries by 2050

by Jack Rosebro

The Tällberg Foundation has released a discussion paper[1] that proposes a global greenhouse gas emission reduction target of 90% along with a target of 100% “domestic, at-source” reductions coming from industrialized countries by the year 2050, with the objective of avoiding many of the more unpredictable potential effects of climate change.

The paper, or “Tällberg Provocation”, anticipates that if industrialized countries are to attain complete decarbonization by 2050, they will need to cut domestic greenhouse gas production by as much as half while offsetting another quarter of domestic GHGs with emissions reductions elsewhere by 2020.

“The main purpose of this Provocation is to challenge the widespread perception that nations are dealing effectively with climate change when, in fact, almost nothing is happening yet at the global scale.”
—Ekman, Rockström, and Wijkman

Acknowledging that the international financial crisis has shuttled many environmental goals to the sidelines, the authors of the paper—Bo Ekman, Johan Rockström, and Anders Wijkman of the Tällberg Foundation— nevertheless caution that “nature does not provide bailouts”, and argue that current climate change negotiations are not adequately structured to produce meaningful progress toward the mitigation of-or adaptation to-likely long-term effects of climate change.

The Tällberg Provocation presents four imperatives for climate change leaders:

  • Climate change must be considered in the larger context of deteriorating global ecosystems that function as carbon sinks;

  • Climate change negotiations and greenhouse gas reduction targets must reflect current science, including the acceleration of the effects of warming and the risk of triggering tipping elements;

  • Only partial effectiveness of climate change solutions is possible if ethics and equity are not incorporated into those solutions; and

  • Post-2012 climate change negotiations will be dependent on global governance and cooperation, as well as attention to market failures and ineffective enforcement of environmental standards.

Models of economic growth which inadvertently encourage environmental degradation are seen by the authors of the Provocation as market failures. Succeeding models of both economic growth and environmental stewardship will have to be flexible and adaptable.

While we agree there is an urgent need for ambitious targets of emissions reductions over the long term,” write Ekman, Rockström, and Wijkman, “it would be premature to lock the world for an extended period of time into static objectives based on an incomplete understanding of the complex problems we face. Negotiators are not dealing with a mechanical system, but with dynamic interactive natural systems in continuous flux.

At The Point Of No Return

With one year left in scheduled negotiations to produce a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, decision-makers’ options have narrowed considerably, placing them “at the point of no return” with regard to climate policy. The Provocation suggests that despite this, currently proposed emissions reduction mechanisms—many of which are intended to limit average global temperature increases to the popularly accepted threshold of no more than 2º C—may no longer be capable of producing such reductions, and that the 2º C target may be functioning as an illusory policy panacea for reductions which may already be unattainable at the current rate of progress.

That sentiment echoes recent findings from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. Earlier this year, the Royal Society published a paper from Tyndall researchers Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows[2] which compared proposed GHG emissions reduction strategies to the results that such strategies were designed to achieve, in the context of scientific findings which were either not incorporated in the scenarios presented in last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, or were published after the report itself.

Given the reluctance, at virtually all levels, to openly engage with the unprecedented scale of both current emissions and their associated growth rates,” the researchers noted, “even an optimistic interpretation of the current framing of climate change implies that stabilization much below 650 ppmv [parts per million, by volume] CO2e [CO2 equivalent] is improbable.” According to the IPCC, CO2-equivalent concentrations of 650 ppmv are likely to produce an average 3.2 to 4.0º C (5.7 to 7.2º F) rise in Earth’s surface temperatures.

The State of Climate Change Negotiations

“If, during the next two decades, transition economies, such as China, India and Brazil, and newly industrializing nations across Africa and elsewhere are not to have their economic growth stifled, their emissions of CO2e will inevitably rise. Given any meaningful global emission caps, the implications of this for the industrialized nations are bleak.”
—Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows,
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

The Bali climate change negotiations of 2007 opened and ended with calls for a 50% reduction of manmade greenhouse gas production, compared to 2000 levels, by 2050. The European Union, Japan, and Canada endorsed the target in principle, on the condition that it would be agreed to by a significant number of countries. A range of corporations and NGOs have also supported the halving of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas production by mid-century.

However, the “50% by 2050” target is the smallest amount of reduction believed to be capable of limiting warming to no more than 2º C, as reported in last year’s Fourth Assessment Report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).[3]

Global greenhouse gas emissions scenarios are typically as dependent on the peaking of emissions as they are on the subsequent trajectory of decline, and by the time climate change negotiations were taken up last month in Poznań, discussions had largely shifted to focus on the peaking of global GHG emissions by 2020 or so. According to the Fourth Assessment Report, a realistic 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 would first require stabilization at 350 to 450 ppm CO2 (445 to 490 ppm CO2 equivalent) by 2000 at the earliest and 2015 at the latest.

CO2 levels at Mauna Loa, Hawai’i ranged between 383 and 389 ppm in 2008, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.[4]

The rhetoric of 2º C is subverting a meaningful, open and empirically informed dialogue on climate change,” contend Anderson and Bows. “While it may be argued that 2º C provides a reasonable guide to the appropriate scale of mitigation, it is a dangerously misleading basis for informing the adaptation agenda.

Such discussions are further complicated by increasing concerns over the fragility of potential tipping elements— large ecological systems which are deteriorating, yet for which science has no methodology to predict the likelihood of collapse or the systematic feedback effects of that collapse. While the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report acknowledged that “the broader range of models now available suggests stronger climate-carbon cycle feedbacks”, the potential effects of those feedbacks, including those arising from tipping elements, are not included in the report. The Fourth Assessment Report acknowledges that as a result of such omissions, “emission reductions to meet a particular stabilization level reported in the mitigation studies... might be underestimated.[3]

Late last year, Tipping Elements in the Earth’s Climate System,[5] a research paper published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, advocated a shift in focus from timeframe (tipping points) to source (tipping elements), and presented a short list of ecosystems of concern, including melting Arctic sea ice, dieback of the Amazonian and boreal forests, and collapse of the Indian summer monsoon. (Earlier post.)

Deterioration of many tipping elements appear to have accelerated in recent years; in October, researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States reported significantly elevated levels of atmospheric methane in 2007 at all AGAGE and CSIRO measurement sites for the first time in almost a decade[6] (earlier post). Sites are located in American Samoa, Antarctica, Australia, Barbados, California, Canada, Hawai’i, Ireland, and Tasmania.

“Without a deliberate and intensive effort from all nations to place development onto a path that will not destroy the environment, eliminating poverty will tip many natural systems beyond stability, beginning with climate.”
— Ekman, Rockström, and Wijkman

The Provocation also takes up the issue of feedbacks in the context of biodiversity, stressing that “climate change must be addressed within the wider challenge of preserving the capacity of global ecosystems to continue to function as sinks for greenhouse gases, and avoid ecosystem feedbacks that accelerate global warming,” noting that while social and financial disasters can often be reversed in due time, the mechanisms to “reverse a planetary crisis” are lacking. The report cites an interim report on the economic costs of ecosystem degradation, released by the European Commission in June[7] (earlier post), which concluded that current markets have a “defective economic compass” that is not equipped to properly value natural resources that are crucial to human life, even when those resources are in decline.

Climate Change and Leadership

Anderson and Bows conclude that a CO2 stabilization target of 450 ppmv is “no longer a viable stabilization concentration,” advising that “in the absence of an almost immediate step change in mitigation (away from the current trend of 3% annual emission growth), adaptation would be much better guided by stabilization at 650 ppmv CO2e (i.e. approx. 4º C).

However, a 650 ppmv CO2 stabilization target may itself be a best-case scenario: “...even this level of stabilization assumes rapid success in curtailing deforestation, an early reversal of current trends in non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions and urgent decarbonization of the global energy system.

Taking estimated feedback processes into account, the Tyndall researchers find that:

  • If emissions peak in 2015, stabilization at 450 ppmv CO2e requires subsequent annual reductions of 4% in CO2e and 6.5% in energy and process emissions.

  • If emissions peak in 2020, stabilization at 550 ppmv CO2e requires subsequent annual reductions of 6% in CO2e and 9% in energy and process emissions.

  • If emissions peak in 2020, stabilization at 650 ppmv CO2e requires subsequent annual reductions of 3% in CO2e and 3.5% in energy and process emissions.

Ultimately, Ekman, Rockström, and Wijkman see the current financial crisis as well as the long-term environmental crisis as “the result of an economic policy framework that stimulates immediate value creation at a level far beyond the assets (or capital) available,” whether the capital is wealth-based or resource-based.

The Provocation concludes that “policy solutions... will remain abstractions as long as nations do not come together to agree on a plan that reflects the magnitude of the problem and which is supported by the most rigorous of compliance measures.

The Tällberg Foundation will take up the issues of the Provocation at its annual forum in Sweden next summer.

[1] Bo Ekman, Johan Rockström, and Anders Wijkman, Grasping the climate crisis, December 2008
[2] Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows: Reframing the climate change challenge in light of post-2000 emission trends. In Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 2008
[3] IPCC, Fourth Assessment Report - Synthesis Report, 2007
[4] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide: Mauna Loa, 26 December 2008
[5] Lenton et al.: Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system, 12 February 2008. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[6] Rigby et al., Renewed growth of atmospheric methane. 20 November 2008. In Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 35
[7] Pavan Sukhdev et al., The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB). European Commission, May 2008



This is a confusing article predicting all sort of big problems for mankind, yet proposing no real solutions. We can see that this is just madscientists using science to put us in the sink of having a guilty conciense while protecting the richs, big-oil. If we want to stop polution while maintaining activities we should just adopt hydrogen powered mechanical devises like trucks, cars, heating, ships, farm machineries, motorcycles, buses, electrical generation, etc.

These dates said by these folks are just there to protect theirs jobs, they predict for how long they can be incompetants without result to their studies. In this cases 50 years of saying nothing good, maybe one of this scientist have a son of 15 years old, so 15 plus 50 make 65 when he will take his pension plant with a lifetime access to a subsidized gas-mask paid by the state.

Willy Bio

And where will all this magical hydrogen come from, my good and dear friend a.b.?


a.b. Huh?

What the article tells us is this campaign has self destructed by virtue of bad science and attacks on innocent scientists. Hopefully a lesson has been learned. You cannot force an agenda on a people no matter how altruistic it may appear. Human beings will evaluate their energy problems and build an agenda based on the voices of many - not a few, religious social devolutionists.

This group has lost all credibility - the result of hubris on the same scale as that which they attacked.


Do your comments sugest there is no longer /ever as a problem or that the "group " I presume you mean the Tallberg Foundation this time or any other that subscribe to the general 'concern' theories (and there are many) are a bunch of "**".

I for one don't really care for these personal opinions about the messenger. How about a meaningful response to the subject if you have anything to add?

You choose to play the man not the subject.Although the general direction of your comments is never consistent. It is very common to read these complaints of 'attacks' on innocents, bad science and credibility loss accompanied by attacks on invisible persons, no science and claims of infallible credibility.

I would suggest that if one were to take the "greenhouse" ? climate change? or what ever the particular issue you have out of the equation, we will be left with the rest of the picture unchanged compared to how it looked when included.
The point there is that there is no no loss of credibility or change of direction required if components of the general understanding are found wanting.
As no one is claiming to know the future, there are still unknown aspects to climate change - that we all know. This is why so many are reflecting and including this aspect in their area of study or interest.

Nearly every area of endeavour has this issue included in reference.

If not not for climate change the naysayers would not even have a soapbox (that anyone really wants to hear.)


The Talberg Foundation clowns have let the cat out of the bag by stating:

"Post-2012 climate change negotiations will be dependent on global governance..."

In other words the sky is falling unless nations sign over their sovereignty to a one world government dictatorship.

Who voted for these clowns in the first place?

John Taylor

Those who think that global warming is just a joke, and their money is worth more ... are in for a rude shock if they get their way and destroy the earths Eco system.

We have an alternative that will not only save the Eco system but also provide huge opportunity for everyone to make huge amounts of money.

Renewable energy is the future, but I wonder if the world will be destroyed before this is accepted.



I think the world is finally aware of the urgent importance to energy independence. And renewability. That the global warming campaign brought this to the fore has been a good thing. That it was abused by special interests, greatly exaggerated and used to bludgeon dissenting points of view - has been shameful.

Renewable energy is indeed the future and though it has come about at political cost - it is in fact here. The challenge now is to make nations understand that a sustainable world is one that has far less opportunity to tear itself apart over energy resources.

All in all, though mistakes have been made, human awareness of the terrible importance of energy has never been greater. For this, I at least am grateful.



When the "messenger" becomes indistinguishable from the "message" - it is time to call their guff. Not only has the entire AGW episode severely tainted the green movement - it has made everything coming from their mouths suspicious. Total loss of credibility.

AGW is a failed political agenda driven by cult-like religious fanatics - and THEY have become their message. Read Marshall McLuan and pay what you owe.


If 90% is a good, Who will be the next to propose reducing Carbon output to BELOW ZERO?

I Volunteer. The GCC Foundation, (me) Proposes the World reduce Carbon Output by minus 1,000,000% by not 2050, but rather the day after tomorrow, instead. After all, We want to appear to have a reasonable implementation Schedule.

It is rather aggressive. But it will allow us to attack and condemn, as a malicious, evil person wishing to kill us all, anyone if he so much as proposes two days after tomorrow as a completion schedule.

See we know how the Green PR game is played. Besides it will make a basis for a great fund raising appeal for contributions from the gullible Greenies, (and trustees of Stupid Foundations).

That way the World will have to manufacture Coal, and put it back in all the coal mines, that ever were, to be completed by the day after tomorrow. Will that be enough ???

Now, where do I proceed to pass GO, to collect my $200 hundred (thousand) dollars, and my NOBEL Peace Prize?

What utter Bilge!!


History of energy has been always the same, when wood became scarce, coal was then discovered and it commanded the production of energy, even when there is still a lot of coal in the world a new technology based in oil erased many uses of it,same will happen with oil and electricity (cheap, easy to store and easy to use everywhere not in central grid depend networks) but for achieving that more techies are needed, we don´t need oil to be exhausted (coal is an example), 2050 carbon free industrial world is a reasonable idea which will be copy in the rest of the world few decades later.


Like dogs returning to their own vomit, the climate change deniers flock to any public website which expresses recognition of the dangers of anthropogenic climate change in order to expel their ill-informed (and poorly spelt) bile.

My question to ExDemo, Reel$$, Mannstein and others who surf these sites is, will you expose yourselves to a public flogging if your views are unequivocally proven to be mendacious cant and wildly overblown hyperbole? I'll happily expose myself to a flogging for supporting what you call 'propaganda' if it is inded demonstrated to be incorrect and exaggerated.

Somehow I doubt that you have a similar level of courage attached to your own supposed convictions.

The comments to this entry are closed.