Policy changes and paradigm shifts following Copenhagen

The United NationsĀ  climate conference in Copenhagen (which I attended ) was an excellent initiative, with some fairly interesting insights into the gulf between science and policy making. Following the conference, we were contacted by The Guardian newspaper to participate in a poll on global warming. The results are striking – almost 90% of climate scientists ‘do not believe political efforts to restrict global warming to 2C will succeed’, and that ‘an average rise of 4-5C by the end of this century is more likely’.

The poll of those who follow global warming most closely exposes a widening gulf between political rhetoric and scientific opinions on climate change. While policymakers and campaigners focus on the 2C target, 86% of the experts told the survey they did not think it would be achieved. A continued focus on an unrealistic 2C rise, which the EU defines as dangerous, could even undermine essential efforts to adapt to inevitable higher temperature rises in the coming decades, they warned.

The survey follows a scientific conference last month in Copenhagen, where a series of studies were presented that suggested global warming could strike harder and faster than realised.

The Guardian contacted all 1,756 people who registered to attend the conference and asked for their opinions on the likely course of global warming. Of 261 experts who responded, 200 were researchers in climate science and related fields. The rest were drawn from industry or worked in areas such as economics and social and political science.

The 261 respondents represented 26 countries and included dozens of senior figures, including laboratory directors, heads of university departments and authors of the 2007 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (Read more)

This sobering news isn’t helped by reports that Steven Chu, the US Secretary for Energy (who I blogged on back in February) has done a complete backflip on statement that coal as ‘his worst nightmare‘, and is now endorsing ‘clean coal‘ technologies. ‘Clean coal’ is a complete myth, and thankfully the US Environmental Protection Agency have passed a motion to deem 6 greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride) as ‘dangerous to the public‘, opening up legislation to regulate powerplants and the automotive industry. It will be interesting to see exactly where the Obama administration will take the United States under the new environment and climate change policies, which aim to invest $150 billion in clean energy and renewable sources.

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