Japan vows big climate change cut” (BBC News, 7th September 2009)
Japan’s next leader has promised a big cut in greenhouse gas emissions, saying he will aim for a 25% reduction by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.
Democratic Party leader Yukio Hatoyama is due to take over as prime minister on 16 September, after a resounding election victory in August.
His predecessor, Taro Aso, had pledged cuts of only 8%.
Mr Hatoyama said the plan was dependent on other nations agreeing targets at December’s climate talks in Copenhagen. (Read More)
“Armed forces may be the agents of climate change” (The Age, 5th September 2009)
THE oceans are getting warmer, coral reefs are increasingly under threat, Arctic ice is dropping into the sea. July was the warmest month in 130 years of testing ocean temperatures. Who are we going to call?
The admirals and the generals. It appears that the US military is as concerned about the fate of the Earth as the man and woman on Civvy Street. And, as history has shown, what troubles the US generals troubles the rest of the world. (Read More)
“One minute to midnight for Maldives’ corals” (Minivan News, 6th September 2009)
If the experts are right, however, the Maldives’ coral reefs are in terminal decline. A UN report entitled The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity released last week in Berlin, stated the world’s coral infrastructure and accompanying biodiversity would be the first ecosystem to go due to climbing greenhouse gases.
The message is critical; the reality is grim. “Corals are the foundation of the whole ecosystem, the building blocks of the reef itself,” said Guy Stevens, a British marine biologist at Four Seasons resort. “If the reef went, the Maldives would cease to exist, the islands themselves would be eroded and washed away. Without them, there’s nothing.” (Read More)
Fisheries must be included in the ongoing discussions of how the world’s most vulnerable can adapt to climate change. The future consequences for global fisheries are uncertain, but what is certain is that there will be winners and losers, and we can bet the losers will be those who don’t have much already, says a recent policy article published in Nature by Nicholas Dulvy and Edward Allison.
Warmer and more acidic waters could result in decreased fish stocks, altered fish migration routes and loss of important fish spawning grounds. Dulvy and Allison highlight that it is the poorest coastal nations of the world that are most susceptible to climate change effects on aquatic ecosystems. People of these vulnerable countries are highly dependent on fisheries for income and food security, while having limited societal capacity to adapt to the ongoing changes:
African and southeast Asian countries are the most economically vulnerable to climate change impacts on their fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Of the 33 nations identified as being most vulnerable to climate impacts on their fisheries sectors, 19 are among the world’s least developed countries, whose inhabitants are twice as reliant on fish and fisheries for food as those of more developed nations.
The authors plea that aquatic resources, and the people dependent on them, are included in upcoming global climate treaties. More specifically, they offer some policy recommendations. For example, combined targets of emission reductions and sustainable fisheries management could be reached by reducing the overinflated global fishing fleet. Countries doing so could gain carbon credits as this action represents a legitimate mitigation activity. Furthermore, a more flexible and diversified fishing sector, which can adapt to changes in catch composition and stock abundances, should be promoted. Finally, fisheries policies should be integrated into a wider development process. For example, artisinal fishers can be provided with alternative livelihoods that lessen their dependence on fisheries, while the social-ecological resilience of vulnerable fishing communities can be promoted by improving their infrastructure, access to markets and social services.
Paul Gilding, a climate change activist and independent writer has published an astonishing piece on his blog (‘The Cockatoo Chronicles‘) on why we shouldn’t worry too much about the outcome at Copenhagen Conference in December this year:
Now the world is slowly waking up to the climate threat, passionate debates are raging around the world on climate policy – cap and trade systems vs taxes, renewables vs coal with CCS and global agreements vs national action. From the US, to China, from South Africa to Australia, policy makers are examining their options and vested interests are furiously protecting their turf.
As recently as a year ago I would have been deeply engaged by these debates, deeply concerned that we got the right reduction target, the right policy mechanism, the right strategy in place. Now I find myself watching with an almost surreal detachment, observing with interest but rarely getting excited or disappointed as the debate swings this way or that.
This is all just shadow boxing, the training session before the game really begins. What happens this year and next, even at the Copenhagen conference is of marginal significance only. What? That’s heresy! Isn’t the Copenhagen Climate conference the most critical global meeting in history, the one that will determine the future of civilisation? No, not really. Here’s why.
The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has ‘changed tack‘ from his post election promises last year in which he said that ‘failure to act on climate change could be disastrous’, and that delaying emission reductions would be “reckless and irresponsible”. Due to the global recession (and presumably other factors), local emissions trading is now halted untill 2011, and of more intrigue, greenhouse gas cuts have been upped 15% to 25% reductions by 2020. See my colleague John Quiggin‘s blog for excellent discussion of conditional & unconditional targets, and 2020 reduction levels. What is worthy of note is this excerpt from the Prime Ministers speech discussing 450ppm as the target for stabilization:
“…the Government has also listened carefully to international and environmental stakeholders committed to realising the best possible outcome at Copenhagen, which is scheduled for the end of this year, in order to achieve the best and most ambitious outcome necessary to stabilise long term greenhouse gas emissions at 450 parts per million, because applied to Australia’s own circumstances long term, that creates the best economic and environmental dividend to Australia, including as I said importantly before, providing a scientific basis for us having a real prospect of saving the Great Barrier Reef.” (Read more)
The United Nations 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.
After reading that Barack Obama may be forced to delay signing the Copenhagen climate change deal due to the scale of opposition in the US Congress, I can only conclude that ignorance and complacency in our policy makers continues to reign supreme. When will we wake up to the fact that tweaking the business-as-usual approach will do nothing to prevent the catastrophes that loom? Without a directed and massive reorganization of the way we generate energy, we are headed for disaster. Despite this, many policy makers pretend that there are good reasons for delaying action. As George Monbiot reiterates yet again, the cost of doing nothing is far less than the costs that will swamp our societies if climate change continues to run out of control.
Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it’s over. The years in which more than two degrees of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay. On current trajectories we’ll be lucky to get away with four degrees. Mitigation (limiting greenhouse gas pollution) has failed; now we must adapt to what nature sends our way. If we can.
This, at any rate, was the repeated whisper at the climate change conference in Copenhagen last week. It’s more or less what Bob Watson, the environment department’s chief scientific adviser, has been telling the British government. It is the obvious if unspoken conclusion of scores of scientific papers. Recent work by scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, for example, suggests that even global cuts of 3% a year, starting in 2020, could leave us with four degrees of warming by the end of the century. At the moment emissions are heading in the opposite direction at roughly the same rate. If this continues, what does it mean? Six? Eight? Ten degrees? Who knows?
Faced with such figures, I can’t blame anyone for throwing up his hands. But before you succumb to this fatalism, let me talk you through the options. (Read More)
The Guardian has a fascinating article on Steve Chu, the Nobel laureate physicist appointed as the Secretary for Energy under the Obama administration. Chu has been a long time advocate for alternative energy sources and nuclear power, and is a member of the Copenhagen Climate Council, established to help promote global awareness of the upcoming UN climate summit in Copenhagen later this year. Listen to the audio discussion below by Suzanne Goldberg, or click below the jump for the full article.
Steve Chu’s warning the clearest sign to date of the greening of America’s political class under Obama:
Unless there is timely action on climate change, California’s agricultural bounty could be reduced to a dust bowl and its cities disappear, Barack Obama’s energy secretary said yesterday.
The apocalyptic scenario sketched out by Steven Chu, the Nobel laureate appointed as energy secretary, was the clearest sign to date of the greening of America’s political class under the new president.
In blunt language, Chu said Americans had yet to fully understand the urgency of dealing with climate change. “I don’t think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen,” he told the Los Angeles Times in his first interview since taking the post. “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California. I don’t actually see how they can keep their cities going.”
Chu’s doomsday descriptions were seen yesterday as further evidence that, after eight years of denial under George Bush, the Obama White House recognises the severity of climate change. (Read more)