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November 11 2013


COP 19 Opens in Warsaw With Modest Expectatations

Modest expectations set the tone for negotiations at the COP19 climate conference in WarsawToday marks the beginning of the COP19 climate talks, this year hosted in Warsaw, Poland. Expectations for ambitious progress in the coming two weeks are dampened by economic concerns, despite expression of increasing urgency from the scientific community for effective action. The the next big target for international negotiations is 2015, when the deadline for a legally-binding international climate treaty comes due for the COP21 talks in Paris, a goal set at last year’s COP18 meeting in Doha, Qatar. The terms negotiated in Paris would not begin implementation until 2020, by which time many see the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius as likely out of reach.

Given the disappointing results thus far in the United Nations climate negotiating process, especially at COP15 in Copenhagen, a more flexible approach has been advocated by climate leaders for reaching an agreement. Nonetheless, many of the same obstacles remain between industrialized and developing nations that have hobbled negotiations thus far. Given the current economic environment and the reality of the negotiating process to date, hopes are fading in some quarters that a strong deal will emerge 2015, flexible or not.

We’ll keep an eye on the progress of negotiations at COP19 over the coming two weeks. Stay tuned.

Untied Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) press release:
COP19 Opens in Warsaw

The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw began today with calls for governments to harness the strong groundswell of action on climate change across all levels of government, business and society and make real progress here towards a successful, global climate change agreement in 2015.

The newly elected President of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19/CMP9), H. E. Mr. Marcin Korolec, Poland’s Environment Minister, said in his opening address that climate change is a global problem that must be turned
further into a global opportunity. ”It’s a problem if we can’t coordinate our actions. It becomes opportunity where we can act together. One country or even a group cannot make a difference. But acting together, united as we are here, we can do it,” he said.

In her opening speech at the Warsaw National Stadium, the venue of COP 19, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, called on delegates to “win the Warsaw opportunity” in order to safeguard present and future generations.

“We must stay focused, exert maximum effort for the full time and produce a positive result, because what happens in this stadium is not a game. There are not two sides, but the whole of humanity. There are no winners and losers, we all either win or lose in the future we make for ourselves.”

Ms. Figueres pointed to the sobering realities of climate change and the rise in extreme events that climate science has long predicted, including the devastating Typhoon Haiyan that just hit the Philippines, one of the most powerful typhoons ever to make landfall.

Ms. Figueres highlighted the key areas in which COP 19 can make progress:

“We must clarify finance that enables the entire world to move towards low-carbon development. We must launch the construction of a mechanism that helps vulnerable populations to respond to the unanticipated effects of climate change. We must deliver an effective path to pre-2020 ambition, and develop further clarity for elements of the new agreement that will shape the post-2020 global climate, economic and development agendas”.

In addition, the meeting in Warsaw will focus on decisions that will make fully operational the new institutional support under the UNFCCC for developing nations in finance, adaptation and technology. These are the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee, all agreed in Cancun in 2010.

Ms. Figueres stressed the fact that the meeting in Warsaw is taking place against the background of growing awareness that climate change is real and accelerating, and the growing willingness of people, businesses and governments to take climate action, at all levels of society and policy.

“There is a groundswell of climate action. Not only for environmental reasons, but also for security, energy, economic and governance reasons. Political will and public support favour action now. A new universal climate agreement is within our reach. Agencies, development banks, investors and subnational governments are on board. The science from the IPCC is clear. Parties can lead the momentum for change and move together towards success in 2015.”

In order to showcase the growing climate leadership and contributions to the climate challenge from all sides, a Business Forum organized by the UN and the Polish host government will take place next week alongside the meeting. Cities and regions will gather for the first ever “Cities Day” that highlights their actions. And a Gender Day will showcase women’s role in meeting the climate challenge.

Also next week, the UNFCCC secretariat will showcase Momentum for Change lighthouse activities, climate action that demonstrates positive results for innovative finance, women and the urban poor.  In addition, the initiative will launch a new area that focuses on contributions by the information and technology sector to curb emissions and increase adaptive capacity to respond.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Warsaw (11 to 22 November) is currently being attended by government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media.
More than 100 Heads of State and Government and Ministers are scheduled to attend the high-level segment of the meeting, which begins on 19 November and ends with a decision-making plenary on 22 November.



The post COP 19 Opens in Warsaw With Modest Expectatations appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 07 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • With the IPCC publishing it latest findings on climate change the denial campaign has been stepped up. American and British organizations are partnering to create confusion over science that is very clear. The denial propagandists have spent a lot of time creating strategies that only a sharp and studied person can see through. Think about this, how many climate change skeptics are scientists from a relevant field of study doing current research? Very few if any. The denial side is filled with pundits, otherwise known as regular people paid money to provide non-expert (but touted as expert) opinions.
  • A Tesla electric car caught fire when a metal object pierced the 3-inch protective case to the battery. It is important to remember that cars are inherently unsafe (if less so than decades ago with improvements in safety features and designn), especially the ones driving around with gallons of highly flammable gasloline. Tesla is responding to the incident.
  • The decline of coal continues! Two plants in Pennsylvania are closing  because they are no longer profitable. This is the power of economics, you don’t need to argue with anyone because if something doesn’t make money then it stops. So, good-bye coal, and hello cheaper renewable energy.
  • The government shutdown, while ultimately ridiculous, is impacting renewable energy. Larger projects with permitting timelines and completion deadlines for government incentives are at risk of not meeting their development targets.
  • Renewable energy has become cheaper, but natural gas is still the cheapest energy source in 2013. Natural gas extraction and use is skyrocketing, but what happens when the price spikes and we are stuck on yet another dirty and expensive energy source.
  • There is a single word that sums up the argument against nuclear power: Fukushima. If an energy source carries an unacceptable risk to the environment and human health then it should not be used. The joke goes, an oil spill is a disaster, a solar spill is called a nice day.
  • Methane gas is a byproduct of materials breaking down; our landfills produce a lot of methane and now it is being sold as car fuel in California. Recapturing our waste to use it again is a very good idea.
  • Roads are pollution corridors and lots of people live right next to big roads. Ever see a home on the side of the freeway with black smudge on the outside walls, well that is the same stuff that people are breathing.

The post Enviro News Wrap: Climate Denial Propaganda; Tesla EV Catches Fire; Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

October 03 2013


Debunking Efforts to Undermine the IPCC’s Latest Climate Report

IPCC report withstand a barrage of climate denialClimate deniers began working to undermine the fifth Climate Assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) even before the first part of the report was released on September 27. A plethora of media outlets, politicians and business interests are employing a barrage of misinformation tactics to undermine the report.

A misguided article published in The Telegraph made that outlandish claim that, “There is no other evidence out there that global warming is any kind of problem. That it exists only in the imagination of the people who programme those computer models and the scientists who contribute to the theory that anthropogenic CO2 is a problem.”

Another piece of fiction was published in a The Daily Mail article which stated, “UN scientists said today they are ’95 per cent’ certain that climate change is man made, but still could not explain why the world has barely got any hotter in the last 15 years.”

Climate denying Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, proclaimed that “there has been no recorded warming since 1998″ and Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School said the report “shows that the IPCC’s predictions do not support alarmist predictions of global temperature rise.”

Contrary to statements made by The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, Cruz and Lomborg, the IPCC report clearly indicates that global temperatures have increased. Since the 1950s, each successive decade has been hotter than the last, and the 2000s were the hottest decade since modern record-keeping began in 1880. Further, the report predicts that temperatures will increase 2.7 to 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 to 4.5 Celsius) if CO2 levels are allowed to reach 560 parts per million (ppm) from pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm (we are currently above 400 ppm).

What the IPCC report said was that there was slightly less heating than predicted by the previous assessment. The reason that land temperatures have not increased as much as some models had predicted is because the oceans are absorbing the heat.

The fossil fuel industry is also working feverishly to deminish the report’s credibility including promoting the fiction of a recovery of Arctic sea ice. To illustrate the point, the UK-based Daily Mail, ran the following headline:

“And now it’s global COOLING! Return of Arctic ice cap as it grows by 29% in a year.” The article went on to say, “Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century – a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.”

What the IPCC report actually says is that the rate of ice loss is huge and growing. The Arctic Ocean is now melting at an even faster rate than predicted in the previous IPCC report. Arctic sea ice surface extent has decreased by 3.5-4.1 percent per decade (9.4-13.6 percent during summer) and it further predicts that the Arctic will be ice-free during the summer by mid-century if we continue with business as usual.

The world has lost 303 billion tons of ice from glaciers each year since 1993. It also says the speed with which Greenland’s ice sheet is melting has increased substantially with 237 billion tons of ice being lost yearly from 2002 to 2011, up from 37 billion tons per year from 1992 to 2001. Antarctica lost 162 tons of ice per year from 2002 to 2011, up from 33 billion tons annually from 1992 to 2001.

Another compilation of psuedo-scientific lies was published in a report from the Heartland Institute which is funded by the infamous oil barons the Koch brothers.

Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist and one of the contributors to the IPCC report explained that nearly every time there is a scientific paper linking human activities to climate change, the “denial-sphere” tries to undermine the research.

Media outlets have falsely claimed that global warming forecasts were “wrong.”  However, these misleading reports have been dismissed by climate scientists as “error filled,” “unsubstantiated,” “completely ridiculous” and “an embarrassment to the serious reporting of climate change elsewhere.”

The IPCC report shows evidence of clear warming trends on land and in the sea, glaciers are melting, sea ice is retreating and ocean levels are rising.

The second IPCC assessment in 1995, said that “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” The fifth assessment has made the same point but with the highest levels of confidence to date.

The IPCC report indicates that scientists are 95 percent certain that it is “extremely likely” that humans are mostly to blame for temperatures that have climbed since 1951 (up from 90 percent in the preceding report in 2007). In science, 95 percent certainty is a gold standard. Further, there is a 97 percent consensus amongst climate experts that humans are causing global warming.

An article in The Washington Examiner said, “Why does the U.N. love consensus anyway? Because it sounds authoritative,” the truth is that the U.N. IPCC report is as authoritative as it gets.

The IPCC assessments are the definitive report on climate and no amount of subterfuge should be allowed to alter that fact. The science in the IPCC report is sound and with key findings from 9,000 scientific articles, it is the largest summary of peer reviewed climate data ever published.

As explained by the former IPCC chair Robert Watson, “The observational evidence for human-caused warming is overwhelming, compelling and irrefutable.”


The post Debunking Efforts to Undermine the IPCC’s Latest Climate Report appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 30 2013


Climate Projections More Confident, Dire From IPCC

IPCC report warns of dire consequences if warming left unceckedClimate Projections More Confident, Dire From IPCC (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma Manmade global warming is rapidly transforming the planet at rates that are unprecedented in human history, from melting Arctic sea ice to heating the land and seas and contributing to extreme weather events, concluded…

The post Climate Projections More Confident, Dire From IPCC appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 26 2013


IPCC Roundup: Stories Turn to IPCC’s Purpose, Scope

IPCC Roundup: Stories Turn to IPCC’s Purpose, Scope (via Climate Central)

By Andrew Freedman Follow @afreedma We’re another day closer to the release of the first official round of documents from the gigantic new climate report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Scientists and government representatives…

The post IPCC Roundup: Stories Turn to IPCC’s Purpose, Scope appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

September 23 2013


Enviro News Wrap: Latest IPCC Report; Colorado Flood Aftermath; Coal’s Long Goodbye, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • I spent last weekend in Denver and it turned out to be a terrible time to visit. In the Boulder area floods carved out the land and roads. Gas and oil tanks were disrupted during the flood, spilling their contents. There is a fundamental problem with using dirty energy sources, in the end we spill it.
  • The newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report expands on the certainty that humans are the cause of climate change. Arguing against the theory of climate change is like arguing against the theory of evolution. Well, I guess people try to do that too.
  • The International community has yet to agree on and act out a plan to address climate change. The balance of our climate should be of interest to every country and person. Earth is on track for increasingly disruptive climate change that continues to assault the wealth and health of humans. We need to address this issue both locally and globally.
  • Global warming is not the only reason to reduce emissions of pollutants. We live and breath in our ocean of air, the atmosphere. Pollutants have a real impact on human life, illustrated by this map from NASA.
  • A lot of the oil coming out of Nigeria has been illegally siphoned off of pipelines. Besides the damage to the oil industry the process of stealing oil from pipelines is really dirty and broken pipes are just left to spill after thieves have taken their fill. We should be dependent on less destructive energy sources.
  • Google has invested a lot of money in renewable energy. The effort continues with a wind energy contract.
  • Wind-Turbine-Syndrome is a thing. I really don’t know what to think of it. Maybe its a psychosomatic reaction of people that live next to wind turbines and politically don’t like renewable energy.
  • Coal in America will have to clean up its act. The EPA is enacting new stricter rules and its a win for us and our environment. Even with these new rules coal has been on the decline due to the booming natural gas industry. Coal and gas are easy substitutes and investors are choosing gas over coal. Coal is being attacked from two fronts and this might be the beginning of the end for the industry. This is not just happening in the US, China is another large stage for the decline of coal.
  • Ever wonder how the managers of evil corporations maintain their sanity? What if they weren’t? Dirty energy companies, banks, they make huge profits off of obviously hurting people. Maybe we are being played by sociopaths.
  • A negative externality is the cost of producing a good or service that is not included in the price paid by the consumer. Unaccounted for environmental externalities are messing up our economy because it creates a false market signal with dirty energy priced low and renewable energy priced high. But, renewable energy has a lower cost to society than dirty energy.





The post Enviro News Wrap: Latest IPCC Report; Colorado Flood Aftermath; Coal’s Long Goodbye, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 23 2013


Video Friday: Greenland Ice Melt – Bellwether of Changing Climate

Scientists and Greenland Inuits confirm findings of leaked IPCC report

Due out later this year, early drafts of the Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were leaked earlier this week, confirming what scientists have been saying now for years, even decades: global warming is real. Many see little change in the IPCC’s Fifth Report from its previous assessment published in 2007, albeit with ever-increased confidence in the science and better understanding of regional climate change. One notable difference is the projection of change in the Arctic, where observations of rapid warming and melting ice portend change at a scale of which previous assessments have only hinted.

“We’ve overloaded the atmosphere with heat-trapping gas, and the rest are just details,” says climate scientist Jason Box, who has spent the past twenty years studying the Greenland ice sheet. “There are manifold ways that climate change is having impact. The Arctic is a very useful bellwether of change – and it’s ringing.”

None have heard the ringing of change more than those that have lived in the Arctic for generations. For these people climate change is a day-to-day reality that threatens a way of life.

“The only humans around the North Pole, in the Arctic are us” says Inuit leader Aqqaluk Lynge, “We have been here for thousands of years, and we tell you things are changing. And you will feel it, maybe tomorrow.”

In fact, we don’t need to wait until “tomorrow” it feel it. Climate change is here, everywhere.

Featured image credit: Andrew Davies, courtesy flickr

The post Video Friday: Greenland Ice Melt – Bellwether of Changing Climate appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

May 08 2012


UN, Indigenous Leaders Meet to Share Knowledge, Join in Climate Change Initiatives

Representatives from UN bodies have been meeting with indigenous community leaders, experts and climate scientists in a series of meeting during the last few years, the overarching aim of which is to ensure that indigenous peoples have a say in international climate negotiations and treaties, and that traditional knowledge is incorporated in a globally shared knowledge base of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, methods and tools.

The latest such meeting took place last month in Cairns, Australia, where attendees gathered for a three-day workshop entitled, “Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: Practices, Lessons Learned and Prospects.”

Case studies presented “identified current and emerging opportunities for indigenous peoples and local communities to contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon abatement and sequestration activities, including opportunities based on the provision of ecological services through application of traditional knowledge and practices,” according to a UNU-IAS news release.

Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples & Traditional Knowledge

“This meeting examined the current and potential contribution of indigenous peoples and local communities to climate change mitigation, as well as the impact on indigenous peoples and local communities of mitigation efforts,” said Govindan Parayil, Vice-Rector of the United Nations University (UNU), a co-convener of the workshop.

“What is unique about this workshop was the open dialogue between Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) authors, indigenous experts and community representatives,” continued Parayil. “We do hope it will enrich the IPCC assessment process.”

Lead authors responsible for preparing the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report participated in the workshop, discussing issues related to updating the UN IPCC’s definitive assessment of global climate change, which is due to be published in 2014. The Fifth Assessment Report is to provide the latest knowledge on the scientific, technical and socioeconomic aspects of climate change, UNU’s news release explains.

“For the Fifth Assessment Report, we are trying to consider all available human options for mitigating climate change”, said Youba Sokona, Co-Chair of the IPCC WGIII, who chaired the Cairns workshop. “The dialogue with experts and scientists on indigenous and local communities is inspiring, and we are grateful to the United Nations University to have set the stage for this dialogue.”

UNU and the IPCC organized two workshops to reach out to indigenous leaders and experts to ensure that they are included in UN processes related to climate change treaties, knowledge gathering, sharing and action program efforts. The first, which focused on adaptation and vulnerabilities, was held in Mexico City last July. The second focused on climate change mitigation, more specifically assessing the impacts such efforts have on indigenous peoples and communities, as well as identifying barriers preventing them from being directly involved and garnering benefits, according to UNU.

Indigenous people’s traditional knowledge base can be and is of great value in efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change, the UN representatives noted. Reducing emissions through fire management techniques, adopting renewable energies and engaging in resource management projects that conserve natural resources and enhance local communities’ ability to adapt to a changing climate were among the examples of traditional knowledge mentioned.

Living in comparatively marginalized, less developed areas still rich in natural resources, traditional indigenous communities are on the front lines in terms of having to mitigate and adapt to climate change. “There is a high level of interest in climate change mitigation within these communities, not least because climate change impacts on their territories and communities are likely to be both early and severe, posing a direct threat to many indigenous and marginalized societies given continuing reliance upon resource-based livelihoods,” UNU-IAS stated in its news release

*Video courtesy: UNU, IPCC

March 31 2012


What The IPCC Ignores, According To The GWPF

This series of posts (123, 4) examines the UK-registered educational charity & climate-change denying think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation GWPF. This fifth post examines one of the assertions made within GWPF Briefing Paper No1. The paper boldly claims that the findings of the UN IPCC are too narrow and that the work of “many scientists” is being ignored.

Can it be true? Is there “an alternative (scientific) view“ being overlooked by the IPCC? This would be a monumental discovery! Forget Briefing Paper No1. Let's examine those overlooked scientists.

Yet despite the importance of this assertion, Briefing Paper No1 only manages to name one of these “many scientists.” He is Syun-Ichi Akasofu whose cited paper will now be examined.

(To be truthful, the work of Akasofu has been critically examined elsewhere but not well enough to entirely dismiss it summarily within the critique of Briefing Paper No1. This fifth post is thus clearing the decks of a bit of clutter ready for an examination of Briefing Paper No1 in the next post.)

read more

March 29 2012


Closing in on Climate Tipping Points: Irreversible Climate Change, Managing the Risk and Learning to Adapt

Could the warnings be any clearer? Climate tipping points are upon us and adaptation as will as mitigation are key to grappling with global warmingIn the past days and weeks several scientific reports indicate that, even while advocating a 1.5 to 2 C degree rise in average global temperatures over the next century, we may now be at or even passed critical tipping points and heading into a world of irreversible global warming.

Earlier this month the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report warning that without more ambitious climate policies to counter the rising dominance of global fossil fuel in the energy mix, greenhouse gas emissions could rise 50 percent by 2050. By mid-century energy demand will increase by 80 percent from what it is today. But without aggressive action to adopt to more sustainable energy sources, the energy mix will look much as it does today.

“Unless the global energy mix changes, fossil fuels will supply about 85 percent of energy demand in 2050, implying a 50 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions and worsening urban air pollution,” the OECD said in its environment outlook to 2050.

The OECD report states that international climate action needs to begin in earnest by 2013. The cost of inaction far outweigh the cost of climate action, says the report, and a business-as-usual approach could lead to a reduction of global economic output of 14 percent by mid-century. Also at risk is political stability in climate and resources-stressed areas of the world as well as an increase in human suffering, much of it in the developing world.

Climate scientists this week reinforced the OECD findings, warning that we are now in a “critical decade” beyond which tipping points will likely be crossed, making irreversible dramatic climate shifts such as melting ice caps and loss of rainforest.

Indeed some of  tipping points may have already been crossed, especially for the world’s glaciers and ice caps. Oceans are now so saturated with carbon that they are now more acidic than at any time in the past 60 millions years and can’t absorb much more carbon.

“This is the critical decade,” said Will Steffen, one of the 2800 climate scientists attending the Planet Under Pressure Conference this week in London. “If we don’t get the curves turned around this decade we will cross those lines. The last 50 years have without doubt seen the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in history,” says Professor Steffen.

“Many human activities reached take-off points sometime in the 20th Century and sharply accelerated towards the end of the century. It is the scale and speed of the Great Acceleration that is truly remarkable. This has largely happened within one human lifetime.” Steffen is executive director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University.

Despite the mounting evidence and urgency of the message, the international community remain mostly stalled on climate action. The latest round of international negotiations at the COP17 conference late last year in South Africa leaves nations until 2015 to sign any binding agreement that won’t take effect until 2020 – that’s the best case scenario and clearly not enough if the world is to heed scientists’ warning.

 IPCC report on managing climate risk, learning to adapt

Where mitigation fails, adaptation must become a core strategy. Once seen by some climate activists as a “cop-out” in lieu real action, adaptation is now an inevitability, says the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), released yesterday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Evidence suggests that climate change has led to changes in climate extremes such as heat waves, record high temperatures and, in many regions, heavy precipitation in the past half century,” the IPCC said in a press release.

“Climate extremes, or even a series of non-extreme events, in combination with social vulnerabilities and exposure to risks can produce climate-related disasters,” says the SREX report.

“While some extreme weather and climate events lead to disasters, others do not. Policies to avoid, prepare for, respond to and recover from the risks of disaster can reduce the impact of these events and increase the resilience of people exposed to extreme events.”

Building resilient communities able to withstand and recover from severe storms, floods, drought, and heat waves are now a critical component in dealing with long-term climate change. Mitigation is needed to offset the most disastrous consequences of global warming, but to a large extent, the “horse has already left the barn.” Without effective adaptation policies, there is a much higher risk of catastrophic economic loss and social collapse.

“The main message from the report is that we know enough to make good decisions about managing the risks of climate-related disasters. Sometimes we take advantage of this knowledge, but many times we do not,” said Chris Field, Co-Chair of IPCC’s Working Group II, which together with Working Group I produced the report. “The challenge for the future has one dimension focused on improving the knowledge base and one on empowering good decisions, even for those situations where there is lots of uncertainty.”

We guard against many risks in our daily lives. The convergence of messages just in the past few weeks of climate scientists from across the globe serve as a clear warning that now is the time to meet the challenge of an unsustainable energy economy and climate change through cooperation and action, to both mitigate and adapt to a warming world.

Image credit: Celsias.com

March 06 2012


New Method for Measuring N2O Emissions Can Help Address Food Security, Emissions Challenges

Researchers at Australia’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have found a much more accurate means of measuring agricultural emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that’s a significant contributor to total GHG emissions. Based on “groundbreaking data” on N2O emissions from a QUT colleague, QUT Institute for Future Environments Smart Futures Fellow Professor Richard Conant’s new statistical approach improves global N2O emissions estimates by as much as 65%, according to a PhysOrg article.

It’s estimated that agriculture is responsible for some 20% of global GHG emissions, primarily due to methane emissions associated with livestock. Though less than carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, N20 emissions are a big part of that, primarily the result of N2O emissions from fertilizers.

Three-quarters of estimated global agricultural N20 emissions came from fertilizer, according to Conant, who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore as a member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“We’re providing a tool that has significantly improved the accuracy of measuring N2O,” Conant was quotes as saying. “Our hope is that this information will enable developing countries that lack detailed measurements to keep better track of N2O emissions.”

Prof. Conant’s new statistical method and estimates are based on a new N2O emissions data set compiled by fellow QUT Professor Peter Grace. Conant’s statistical approach then analyzes the proportion of fertilizer lost as N2O.

Accounting for 50% of global N2O emissions, Conant, Grace and PhD. student Aaron Beranier found that N2O emissions are greatest in the US, Europe, East Asia and Japan. Africa and the former USSR accounted for another 13%.

Efficient Fertilizer Use

Though the quantity of fertilizer used in agriculture is important, efficient use of nitrogen in fertilizer is even more important, according to Conant. Nitrogen and fertilizer use is more efficient in the US, Europe and Japan as compared to that in Africa and the former USSR, he noted, producing more food per unit.

Conant said the new statistical method can help developing countries become more efficient in producing food and enhance food security at a time when population growth, climate change and resource scarcity are placing increasing strains on both. “This latter group of countries is not using very much nitrogen on their crops, which is affecting their ability to produce food,” he said.

Developed and developing countries need to take account of externalities, such as nitrogen pollution and GHGs even as they strive to increase agricultural output, he cautioned. Simply increasing fertilizer use to meet growing food demand could accelerate N2O emissions faster than previously estimated, he warned.

A 2004 IPCC report estimated that 36 gigatons of CO2 was emitted into the atmosphere every year as compared to 3 gigatons of N2O and 4.5 gigatons of methane, the latter two being more potent than CO2.

Prof. Conant’s research paper, Regionally-differentiated estimates of cropland N2O emissions reduce uncertainty in global calculations, has been published in Global Change Biology.

February 22 2012


Evaluation shows "Faked" Heartland Climate Strategy Memo is Authentic

A line-by-line evaluation of the Climate Strategy memo, which the Heartland Institute has repeatedly denounced as a "fake" shows no “obvious and gross misstatements of fact,” as Heartland has alleged. On the contrary, the Climate Strategy document is corroborated by Heartland’s own material and/or by its allies and employees.

It also uses phrases, language and, in many cases, whole sentences that were taken directly from Heartland’s own material. Only someone who had previous access to all of that material could have prepared the Climate Strategy in its current form.

In all the circumstances – taking into account Peter Gleick’s explanation of the origin of the Heartland documents, and in direct contradiction of Heartland’s stated position – DeSmogBlog has concluded that the Climate Strategy memo is authentic. 

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February 07 2012


First Comprehensive Comparison of Climate Change Models, Simulations Begins this Week

First Comprehensive Comparative Model for Climate Change Scientific models and computer simulations from research groups around the world that span climate change impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, water supplies and health will be compared for the first time starting this week. The comprehensive analysis will be coordinated the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), according to a Eureka Alert report.

More than two dozen research groups will provide their climate change models and simulations, among them groups from Austria, China, Germany, Kenya, the Netherlands and the US. Scientists at the coordinating institutions will compare and analyze them based on a common framework, aiming to identify whether or not their results are robust, where there are uncertainties and why they are there.

Evaluating the Effect of Unfettered Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Some results, which are expected in less than 12 months, will be considered for inclusion in the development of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, which is due out in 2014.

“We want to better understand how climate impacts differ between a global warming of two degrees compared to three degrees,” Katja Frieler of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project coordinating team (ISI-MIP) was quoted as saying.

“The international community has set a target of two degrees, but unfettered emission of greenhouse gases sets the world on a path to three degrees or more. This seemingly small difference could have drastic impacts. We will examine to what extent they agree across models and quantify the uncertainty that remains.”

While comprehensive climate change impact studies have been done on the physics of climate change, climate change impacts on specific systems and sectors, and the economics of climate change mitigation and adaptation, this study will be the first to evaluate such a broad cross-section of studies, a gap in understanding climate change that needs to be filled, added Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, PIK’s director. “To address all climate impacts at once is both an ambitious and necessary intent,” he comments. “It provides an essential strengthening of the grounds for the 2014 IPCC report.”

“The time has come for this comparison,” IIASA director Pavel Kabat stated. “A multi-model cross-sectoral approach to projections of climate change impacts has not been available in the past. The ISI-MIP project is a significant and positive development in this regard. We have access to sophisticated models, vast quantities of high-quality data from many sectors and regions and an urgency to deliver a highly integrative analysis of our current knowledge about global impacts of climate change. We are confident that this project can deliver such an analysis.”

November 22 2011


Climate Negotiators Stake Out Initial Positions in Run-Up to COP17 UN Treaty Talks in Durban, South Africa

The US team participating in UN climate change talks in Durban, South Africa is resisting calls from its European counterpart and others to begin discussing a legally binding climate change-greenhouse gas emissions reduction treaty that would come into effect in 2020 and succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which has been in effect since February 16, 2005.

The US negotiating team, which is led by US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern, said that participants need a “better sense what the content would be” before deciding what the legal form of an agreement might be. The US team also wants assurances in advance that China, India and other major developing countries would be bound by the same commitments as industrialized countries, according to a ClimateWire report.

Negotiating a legally binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is only one topic on the agenda at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17), which will take place between November 28 and December 9, but it’s the central issue and no doubt the highest profile one.

High Stakes and a High Bar

Making legally binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gases – including carbon dioxide, methane, hydro-fluorocarbons (HFC), nitrous and sulfur oxides – is seen as the critical first step and linchpin for global efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Reaching an agreement on reducing man-made greenhouse gas emissions would set the broad, overarching objective and commitment for negotiations regarding financial mechanisms, international trade, technology and accelerated access to critical mitigation and adaptation technologies and intellectual property rights that are on the provisional agenda in Durban.

Analysts say the US team “is setting a high bar for even starting to talk about such a deal,” according to ClimateWire’s report. That’s dampening already low expectations that the terms of a legally binding agreement will be reached in Durban, especially given the differences and difficulties experienced at COP meetings in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun last year.

The Kyoto Protocol’s survival “hangs by a thread,” the ClimateWire report notes. Japan, Russia and Canada have come out and publicly stated that they will not submit new carbon reduction targets when the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol ends next year unless the US and major emerging economies sign on.

The EU is proposing a compromise that entails its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol’s second phase as long “as countries build a clear road map for a legally binding treaty that covers all major emitters.” Some see that being a “legal mandate signed in Durban to negotiate a deal by 2015 that could take effect by or before 2020.” Others say that a less formal agreement on a “road map” would suffice.

COP 17 will open with reports on greenhouse gas emissions in the 37 industrialized countries and the European Union that agreed to binding target emission reductions an average 5% against 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012 as laid out in the Kyoto Protocol. Participants will review these results, as well as those to do with carrying out commitments on financial mechanisms, those of the Global Environment Facility, development and transfer of technologies, capacity building and other provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.

Results so far regarding greenhouse gas emissions are discouraging. The warming effect of greenhouse gases on climate, known as radiative forcing, increased 29% from 1990 to 2010, according to the UN World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) latest report. Last week, a UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report written by more than 100 of the world’s top scientists stated that we can expect more frequent floods, droughts, heat waves, snow storms and extreme weather.

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November 09 2011


Combating the Culture of Climate Change Denial

Overcoming a culture that pits Man against natureThe failure to accept the anthropogenic origins of climate change may be partly attributable to a fallacy of modern culture. Popular culture pits us against nature which in turn undermines efforts to curtail climate change.

Man versus nature is one of seven conflicts in literary studies, it relates to the theme in literature that places a character against the forces of nature. Many disaster films and survival stories deal with the theme of man’s alienation from nature. As reflected in surveys on climate change about half of Americans are estranged from nature.

Americans are also dangerously divided on the urgency of climate change. According to a 2011 report from GfK and SC , even though the environment is an economic issue, a majority of Americans (52%) accept trading environmental protection for economic development to maintain their standard of living.

The human role in climate change is the most controversial subject of the 21st century even though the issue has been settled. Writing in WIREs Climate Change, Dr Kevin Trenberth, from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, says that the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is now so clear that the burden of proof should lie with research which seeks to disprove the human role. “Humans are changing our climate. There is no doubt whatsoever,” said Trenberth.

Almost 5 years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicated that global warming is “unequivocal”, and is “very likely” due to human activities. Since then, attempts at large scale climate regulation have failed at a number of levels.

Even the few scientists who previously resisted man-made climate change are increasingly being swayed by the overwhelming body of evidence. People like the Koch brothers work hard to resist the science supporting global warming, yet even scientists paid by this climate denying duo are finding it hard to ignore the findings of their own research.

At the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the concentration of the greenhouse gas CO2 was at 360 parts per million (ppm). In the 20 years since, it has risen to 390 ppm, and that number is continuing to grow with no end in sight.

We have not seen climate and energy legislation in the U.S. and the U.N. has failed to produce a binding emissions agreement. When combined with the imminent expiration of the Kyoto protocol at the end of 2012 it makes a bad situation worse.

Despite a sluggish global economy, the latest calculations from the U.S. Department of Energy indicate that CO2 emissions have risen sharply in 2009 and 2010.

Under these circumstances, Jochem Marotzke, the head of the German Climate Consortium, believes we are “on a course of development with CO2 emissions that makes the 2-degrees goal more and more illusory.” Politicians are not willing to face up to the realities and take action. “This reluctance will bring about fatal results,” Marotzke said.

Climate change denial is a major obstacle impeding action. According to a book written by Riley E. Dunlap, a sociology professor at Oklahoma State, and Aaron M. McCright of Michigan State, organized denial has succeeded in blocking domestic legislation. These authors have indicated that deniers make it nearly impossible to get responsible climate legislation in the U.S. This is the point they make in their book, “Climate Change Denial Machine” in a chapter titled, “Organized Climate Change Denial.”

“We have argued that because of the perceived threat posed by climate change to their interests, actors in the denial machine have strived to undermine scientific evidence documenting its reality and seriousness. Over the past two decades they have engaged in an escalating assault on climate science and scientists, and in recent years on core scientific practices, institutions and knowledge. Their success in these efforts not only threatens our capacity to understand and monitor human-induced ecological disruptions from the local to global levels (Hanson 2010), but it also weakens an essential component of societal reflexivity when the need for the latter is greater than ever.”

To succeed in auguring the major changes required it may not be enough to communicate the facts. One of the salient factors compounding climate change denial concerns the state of disconnection between humans and nature. Western culture opposes nature and is defined by consumerism and anthropocentrism. We have been brainwashed by the idea that the natural world is there for our exploitation. Pop culture reinforces the cleavage between people and the natural environment.

If we are to save the planet we need to better understand the overarching significance of nature. We need to review our propensity for over-consumption and we need to reevaluate our homocentric tendencies. In its simplest essence, we need to understand that the Earth is more than a reservoir of raw materials; it is the indispensable substrate of our lives.

We are under the illusion that man is not part of the fabric of the natural world and this is blinding people to the need for urgent action. Although we may be disconnected from nature, this detachment is a matter of choice, and connection can always be recovered.

Until we deal with the failings of a culture that pits man against nature, we will not marshal the support required to fully engage the battle against climate change.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Facebook – Earth2100

September 01 2011


Communication Fail: Why the IPCC Must Do a Heck of a Lot Better in 2013

Regular readers know I’m pretty critical of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—particularly when it comes to how this expert body communicates climate science. Basically, my view is that any organization that holds a key climate meeting in Copenhagen in winter is pretty clueless about the politics and public perception of this issue. [See Correction Below.] But even worse is that IPCC has shown far too little investment in communication or public outreach (although lately that is beginning to change), and has handled crisis communication moments—like the Himalayan glaciers flap—terribly.

Now, before I get too many ticked off emails: I know the IPCC is the leading expert source for climate science assessments, and deservedly so. I know that the scientists who volunteer to work on its reports do a heroic job. I recognize and commend all of this. But it simply isn’t enough in this day and age—and it is in the communications sphere where the IPCC’s scientific excellence simply has not been matched.

A new paper in the scientific literature that studies major scientific assessment reports, and their public impact, supports this view. The study in Climatic Change, by Brenda Ekwurzel and Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists and James McCarthy of Harvard, shows that IPCC-related scandals have received a dramatic level of press attention, coming in second only to IPCC reports themselves in media attention. Furthermore, the paper also suggests that these reports are written in technical language that is likely misinterpreted by public audiences.

The new study shows that when IPCC releases one of its rare and treasured assessment reports, it does get more coverage than other assessment reports released by, say, the National Academy of Sciences or the U.S. government. That’s very appropriate: The IPCC is, after all, the gold standard and its reports are long awaited and endlessly cited.

But consider: The IPCC related “controversy” of late 2009 and early 2010 drew about 1/3 as much total coverage as the 2007 IPCC release of its Fourth Assessment Report, and more total coverage than the release of key assessment reports by the U.S. government and National Academy of Sciences. And I would argue that even this comparison is misleading. Anyone observing politics in this country would have to concede that the IPCC “scandals” have been far more influential than the IPCC’s science, at least over the past half decade.

The new study also looks at how the IPCC communicates its findings: i.e., in technical language that’s likely to be misunderstood. For instance:

When presented with excerpted sentences from the AR4, survey respondents consistently underestimated the certainty implied by extremes, such as “very likely” (>90% probability, according to the guidelines) and “very unlikely” (<10%). Twenty-five per cent of respondents, for example, interpreted “very likely,” as in “average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years” (IPCC 2007), as meaning less than 70% probability…Thus, IPCC terminology intended to succinctly represent authors’ consensus on the range of probabilities associated with key findings may itself be a significant barrier to understanding for public and policymaker audiences.

The IPCC’s “likely/very likely” language represents a group of scientists trying to use ordinary language to quantify uncertainty. The goal has always been to be as accurate as possible—but how these word choices strike people has been a far less prominent consideration. In other words, IPCC has been communicating for scientists, rather than for audiences.

A new report shows that from 2007 to 2011, the U.S. public showed a 14 % decline in its concern about global warming. That’s a period that was kicked off by an IPCC report announcing that “most” of the global warming we’ve seen is “very likely” caused by human activities.

Which pretty much says it all.

Correction: The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, not the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, organized the Copenhagen summit. My apology for this mistake.

June 28 2011


IPCC special report on renewabe energy sources

Growth expected to continue regardless of circumstances

In May 2011, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a literature study assessment of the contribution of six major renewable energy sources (REs) to the mitigation of climate change. In the majority of the scenarios, REs are expected to become the dominant climate change mitigation option by 2030. The report ranks them ahead of improved energy efficiency, nuclear power, and fossil fuels as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS). RE growth is expected to be the strongest in developing countries.

The IPCC report is based on 164 global scenarios from 16 different large-scale integrated models. The renewables considered are bioenergy, direct solar energy, geothermal energy, hydropower, ocean energy, and wind energy.

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Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

June 18 2011


The IPCC declares Greenpeace in our time

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is packed with even more hot air than usual, says Christopher Booker

June 02 2011


Will the IPCC Be Ready to Communicate About Its Fifth Assessment Report?

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world authority on the science of climate. But at the same time, it has been increasingly beset by controversies that call into question its approach, and its preparedness, when it comes to communication.

Essentially, the IPCC releases highly technical reports, fairly infrequently, that get an initial flurry of mainstream media attention and then get attacked viciously until the next report comes out. And when attacked, IPCC has opted for an ill advised strategy of “hunkering down,” as Andrew Revkin puts it. Indeed, following “GlacierGate”—when a very real error was found in one of IPCC’s reports—IPCC came off as defensive and was very slow to admit the mistake.

Following the various “-Gates” of 2009 and 2010, a cry went out in many circles that we need to improve climate science communication. As a result, all kinds of communication innovations are now going forward, many of which are ably summarized by Revkin in a recent article in the Bulletin of the World Meteorological Organization (which was central to creating the IPCC itself in 1988).

But where does IPCC fit in the context of this innovation wave? It still seems to be dragging.<!--break--> Revkin reports the following:

As the IPCC prepares its Fifth Assessment Report, it does so with what, to my eye, appears to be an utterly inadequate budget for communicating its findings and responding in an agile way to nonstop public scrutiny facilitated by the Internet. I would love to think that the countries that created the climate panel could also contribute to boosting the panel’s capacity for transparency, responsiveness and outreach.

I made this point recently in an e-mail exchange with three leaders of the climate panel’s next assessment – the chairman, Rajendra K. Pachauri, and Thomas Stocker and Christopher Field, scientists respectively co-leading the reports on climate science and impacts.

They all agreed that more resources and a clear communications strategy are badly needed. “Despite several years of highlighting the need for effective communications and outreach, we have really made very little headway, and I know that we cannot delay action in this area much longer,” Dr. Pachauri wrote. “If we do, it would be at our own peril.”

Since Revkin wrote this, there is at least one positive sign. The IPCC just released a “Communications Strategy,” drafted at its May Abu Dhabi session, which says many of the right things. The organization will apparently be hiring a Senior Communications Manager and trying to coordinate a mechanism for rapid response. And there is much else in the document to praise—but I also note the following:

There are significant resource implications in communicating IPCC work effectively, and the Panel will require regular updates on the financial implications of implementing the strategy. 

Revkin puts it a lot more bluntly: “without more resources from the 194 countries that sponsor the effort, I see scant prospect for concrete improvement.

It appears that the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report is due out in 2013 and 2014. So basically, the IPCC has about two years to really get together a serious communications mechanism for the moment when it is going to be needed most. Let us hope that the current strategy document is only the beginning, and that dollars will follow good intentions.

The IPCC, like every scientific organization, needs to understand that the work is not over just because you’ve finished doing the science and published it. In fact, the work has only begun.

May 16 2011

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