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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.

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.

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September 13 2013


Video Friday: Misleading Claims of Arctic Sea Ice Rebound, The Daily Mail Lathers Up Deniers

Arctic sea ice minimum volume trendThe Daily Mail – Where space aliens and climate change are reported with equal knowledge and respect

There have been many claims brought to my attention this week alleging the “final nail in the coffin” of anthropogenic global warming – the same nail that’s been fumbled around by deniers and the unfortunately misled for decades now. This time around it is the venerable and almost hilariously unreliable Daily Mail and it’s claims of Now it’s Global Cooling that has gotten so many hot under the collar. The tabloid claims that Arctic sea ice has rebounded by 60 percent, proving claims of diminishing arctic ice as false.

What the Daily Mail is good at is frothing up emotions. What the Daily Mail is truly abysmal at is objective, fact-based reporting and explaining even the simplest of scientific details. Not that they’re interested in scientific details.

Regression to the mean“is a common statistical phenomenon that any extreme measurement – say a record-breaking seasonal Arctic ice minimum – is followed by a measurement closer to the average. Yes, in fact, the seasonal Arctic sea ice minimum for 2012 was approximately 1 million square miles greater (less ice cover) than for the 2013 seasonal minimum (which officially hasn’t even occurred yet). The 2012 minimum was a record-breaker in a decade of record-breakers.

That the overall trend for Arctic sea ice extent, as well thickness (as indicated in the graphic below), remains in steep decline is of little interest to the Daily Mail. What they are interested in is misleading their readers, not reporting the facts.

Variations in spring ice thickness

There is no sudden return of Arctic sea ice cap, nor has there been any “emergency meeting” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because of it – the Daily Mail made that up out of whole cloth. But alas, such publications will keep passing around that rusty nail, looking to pound it into the empty coffin of global warming.

The rest of us face reality and look for solutions.

The post Video Friday: Misleading Claims of Arctic Sea Ice Rebound, The Daily Mail Lathers Up Deniers 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 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

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.”

December 12 2011


Marathon Session at COP17 Produces the Durban Platform

The Durban Platform emerges in post-conference sessionsUnwilling to allow the two-week negotiations at the COP17 climate conference in Durban, South Africa, a marathon session lasting 36 hours beyond the scheduled end of the talks, produced the “Durban Platform”.

The document calls for all nations–developed and developing–to negotiate a treaty by 2015 to cut carbon emissions to go into effect by 2020. Nations still adhering to the Kyoto Protocol (fewer countries now that Canada have formally pulled out) will enter a second phase of commitments until the new treaty is ratified and implemented.

The Durban Platform also establishes an infrastructure to administer the global Green Fund,  an idea 1st proposed at the COP 15 climate conference in Copenhagen two years ago.

Given the diminished expectations going into COP 17, any agreement addressing the single most contentious roadblock, that between developed and developing nations, might seem like a positive outcome to the proceedings. Given the warning of the scientists and the time already lost, it may very well be too little, too late.

We will publish more information and commentary on the Durban Platform in the coming days. Following is the full text of the document and links to related articles and commentary. You can also download a pdf copy of the Durban Platform

Advance unedited version

Draft decision -/CP.17

Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action

Proposal by the President

The Conference of the Parties,

Recognizing that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties, and acknowledging that the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions,

Noting with grave concern the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Partiesí mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with having a likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C or 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels,

Recognizing that fulfilling the ultimate objective of the Convention will require strengthening the multilateral, rules-based regime under the Convention,

Noting decision X/CMP.7 [Title], Also noting decision X/CP.17 [Title],

1. Decides to extend the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention for one year in order for it to continue its work and reach the agreed outcome pursuant to decision 1/CP.13 (Bali Action Plan) through decisions adopted by the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth sessions of the Conference of the Parties, at which time the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention shall be terminated;

2. Also decides to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, through a subsidiary body under the Convention hereby established and to be known as the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action;

3. Further decides that the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action; shall start its work as a matter of urgency in the first half of 2012 and shall report to future sessions of the Conference of the Parties on the progress of its work;

4. Decides that the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action shall complete its work as early as possible but no later than 2015 in order to adopt this protocol, legal instrument or agreed outcome with legal force at the twenty-first session

of the Conference of the Parties and for it to come into effect and be implemented from 2020;

5. Also decides that the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action shall plan its work in the first half of 2012, including, inter alia, on mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, transparency of action, and support and capacity-building, drawing upon submissions from Parties and relevant technical, social and economic information and expertise;

6. Further decides that the process shall raise the level of ambition and shall be informed, inter alia, by the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the outcomes of the 2013ñ2015 review and the work of the subsidiary bodies;

7. Decides to launch a workplan on enhancing mitigation ambition to identify and to explore options for a range of actions that can close the ambition gap with a view to ensuring the highest possible mitigation efforts by all Parties;

8. Requests Parties and observer organizations to submit by 28 February 2012 their views on options and ways for further increasing the level of ambition and decides to hold an in-session workshop at the first negotiating session in 2012 to consider options and ways for increasing ambition and possible further actions.

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

October 25 2011


Berkeley Climate Study Just Proves that People Believe What They Want to Believe

global warming is real“Global warming is real,” reads the headline of an Oct. 21 article by James Delingpole on the blog of the UK’s The Telegraph newspaper, as well as another by USC Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism staff reporter Shea Huffman.

Neither Delingpole nor Huffman is referring to this website, but rather to the results of an independent, comprehensive study of global temperature change since the 1950s led by UC Berkeley physics professor and now former self-professed climate change skeptic Richard Muller.

The two articles couldn’t be more different in nature or tone, however. While Huffman’s piece is straight news reporting, Delingpole’s blog post is an editorial in which he proceeds to disparage not only the study’s science and data, but Muller’s motivations, and his being described a “climate change skeptic,” as deceiving and dishonest.

Ironically, the three-plus year Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study was funded in part by the Koch Brothers, billionaire industrialists and avowed proponents of climate change denial, noted The Christian Science Monitor in a news report.

Why all the attention?

Why has this particular study attracted so much media attention? Why is it significant in terms of climate science? And what are the research team’s main conclusions? Let’s take a look.

Well, besides being a hoped for but dashed “cause celebre” for climate change deniers and skeptics, the three-plus year study is touted as the first “non-partisan” study of climate change.

The Berkeley Earth research team conducted a study independent of the the three institutions whose climate data and models are widely relied upon by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the international climate science community.

Climate change deniers and skeptics continue to deride the means and manner in which these institutions have carried out the scientific research that underlies climate change and global warming theory.

To put it politely, much of the skepticism and denial just doesn’t hold up, nor does it do justice to or say much for the reliability or credibility of the climate science being being carried out at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the US National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or the UK Met Office’s Hadley Centre, which works with the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, but there you go.

The research scientists assembled by Muller are known as experts in the development and application of analytical methods to research situations in which data sets are fragmented and of varying, sometimes questionable, scope and quality. That’s been a point of contention that climate change skeptics and deniers have raised and continue to raise.

Regarding the scope of the data set, models and other analytical methods and techniques, Muller and team made use of previously unavailable data that they were able to gather, clean up and organize for analysis. They devised their own customized methods of analyzing it.

“The Berkeley Earth analysis is the first study to address the issue of data selection bias by using nearly all of the available data, which includes about 5 times as many station locations as were reviewed by prior groups,” commented Robert Rhode, lead scientist for Berkeley Earth.

The research team analyzed temperature data from 15 sources, in some cases going back as far as 1800. In doing so, the Berkeley Earth Study “addressed scientific concerns raised by skeptics, including the urban heat-island effect, poor station quality and the risk of data selection bias,” according to the UC Berkeley news release.

Though the most direct, it should be noted that direct temperature readings are not the only proven, reliable means of measuring past temperatures. The use of oxygen isotope analysis has been accepted as one such means for decades now, and it has been and continues to be used in longer-dated studies of climate change.

So what does & what doesn’t the research team actually conclude?

So exactly what did they conclude? To cut right to the chase, the research team found “reliable evidence of a rise in the average world land temperature of approximately 1 degree Celsius since the mid-1950s, according to the UC Berkeley news release.

Ironically, that’s right in-line with the conclusions reached independently by NOAA, NASA and the Hadley Center, which found that land temperatures increased approximately 1 degree Celsius since the 1950s.

In and of itself, that’s nothing new. It’s well-known and almost universally accepted by climate scientists and the broader scientific community that we’re living in the midst of comparatively benevolent climatic period known as an inter-glacial – a period of relatively warm average global temperatures between Ice Ages that have typically lasted around 10,000 years.

Nonetheless, the study does provide independent, “non-partisan” confirmation that we’re in the midst of a global warming trend. That, in and of itself, is of scientific significance.

Putting paid to deniers & skeptics’ claims

Furthermore, it puts paid to claims that climate change studies by NOAA, NASA, the UK’s Met Office, the IPCC and other studies from the world’s leading climate research centers are doctored, as Texas government officials working for Republican presidential candidate and former Governor Rick Perry did to suppress and deceive the public interest.

“Our biggest surprise was that the new results agreed so closely with the warming values published previously by other teams in the U.S. and U.K.,” Muller said. “This confirms that these studies were done carefully and that potential biases identified by climate change skeptics did not seriously affect their conclusions.”

Muller and his team don’t go a step further and take on the question of whether or not man-made, or anthropogenic, CO2 is a or the main cause of this warming. That’s a significant omission and difference between it and the findings of the IPCC and numerous climate scientists working on their own and/or independently of the IPCC.

So, it seems the team set out a more modest goal, which leaves something for skeptics and deniers to hang their hats on.

Image credit: CBS San Francisco

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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


May 12 2011


Renewable Energy Could Supply Most of World’s Energy Demand by 2050 – Special IPCC Report

Renewable energy could supply most of the world's power by 2050, new IPCC report saysThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation earlier this week in Abu Dhabi. Given proper policy changes and incentives from world governments, the report says, nearly 80 percent of global energy demand could be met by renewable energy sources by 2050.

The report 77 percent is the high-end, optimistic projection. On the low end is 15 percent, up only 2 percent from the current 13 percent renewables contribute to world energy demand. Key to which end of the scale becomes reality is policy measures taken:

“While the report concludes that the proportion of renewable energy will likely increase even without policies,” said the reports authors in a press release, “past experience has shown the the largest increases come with concerted policy efforts.”

Prepared by 120 scientists, the Special Report considers six of the most promising renewable energy technologies and their potential “integration into present and future energy systems.” The energy technologies include solar, wind, bioenergy (including sources such as wood scavenging in developing countries), geothermal, and ocean, notably excluding nuclear as a source of renewable energy.

The report’s authors see the growth of renewable energy, as defined in the report, far outpacing that of fossil and nuclear energy. Indeed, nearly half of new electricity generating capacity came from renewable sources between 2008 and 2009, and the pace of growth continues to rise.

The report also focuses on the potential of renewable energy sources to help spur sustainable economic growth, create jobs, and provide cheaper sources electricity to poor rural areas.

“Developing countries have an important stake in this future — this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live, yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment,” said Ramón Pichs Madruga, the report’s lead author.

Much rides on the policies governments adopt now and in the near future, but the report seeks to highlight the potential of renewable energy as a foundation for a sustainable future.

“The technical potential of renewable energy technologies exceeds the current global energy demand by a consider amount, globally, and in respect of most regions of the world,” the report concludes.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres made the following statement on the release of the IPCC report:

“This IPCC report is most significant because it underscores the irreplaceable potential of renewable energies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the lives of people around the world. In Cancun, at the end of last year, governments agreed to limit the global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius at the most. They must reach their goal by making use of renewable energy sources on a very large scale.

It is also clear that ambitious national policies and strong international cooperation are together the key to the swift and extensive deployment of renewable energies in all countries. In developing countries, which will have the largest energy generation growth, that deployment depends in large measure on appropriate finance and technology being available.

In Cancun, governments agreed on new institutions to channel both funding and technology, and governments now need to make speedy progress on those new institutions. On their side, industrialized nations need to create the right policy conditions and incentives so that the development and installation of clean energy technologies also receive a major boost in their own energy mixes.”

Sources and further reading:
Environmental Expert

Greenwire (subscription required)

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May 07 2011


PRESS ALERT: Dramatic Sea Level Rise Expected From Faster Melting of Arctic Snow and Ice

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE** Contact: Alex Viets, IGSD: +1.213.321.0911, aviets@igsd.org Dramatic Sea Level Rise Expected From Faster Melting of Arctic Snow and Ice Washington, DC, May 6, 2011 – Sea levels could rise up to 5 feet by the end of this century, driven by warming in the Arctic and the resulting melt of snow and ice, [...]

April 28 2011


Hide the Decline – Unpacking the Climategate Emails

Repeated investigations have exonerated Phil Jones, Michael Mann, and the other scientists whose emails where hacked back in 2009, yet some cling to the notion of a massive, coordinated hoax among scientists. After all, wasn’t there talk of using “tricks” and “hiding the decline?”

Peter Sinclair a.k.a. YouTube’s Greenman3610, adds some common sense and context to the discussion.

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April 11 2011


Debunking Monckton – Part Two: Correlations and Himalayan Glaciers; Quotes and Misquotes

We continue from our post last Friday featuring a video series from Potholer54 (a.k.a. Peter Sinclair). The videos take on Lord Christopher Monckton’s own unique brand of climate science misrepresentation. Like we said on Friday, don’t take our word or Potholer’s word for it. One interesting point from another video we recently featured came from climate scientist Andrew Dessler when he observed that the most uninformed people on climate science are the two extremes. For lack of better phrases, the extreme denialists and alarmists.

Call it the “Gore/Monckton” effect. Even if I tend toward Gore’s view of global warming (after all, global warming is real is the name of this blog), I don’t swallow everything Gore says whole. In fact, I’d much rather hear it from a scientist. That seems to me a reasonable approach for Monckton as well.

(Enviro News Wrap from Anders Hellum-Alexander will return next Monday)

Temperature/CO2 Correlations and Himalayan glaciers

Quotes and misquotes

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March 29 2011


United Nations Report Cautions Urban Areas to Plan for Climate Change

UN-HABITAT report: Cities and Climate ChangeCities and Climate Change – Global Report on Human Settlements, a report released this week by UN-HABITAT, warns that cities and urban centers have “become the real battle-ground in the fight against climate change and cities will neglect their role in responding to the crisis at their peril. Not just their own peril but that of the world.”

Cities occupy two percent of Earth’s land mass but contribute up to 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, says the report. Most of the world’s human population now lives in cities, and estimates are that by 2030 59 percent will live in cities. In developed countries, fully 81 percent of the population will be urbanized, and 55 percent in developing countries. Every year 67 million more people become urban dwellers, 91 percent of those in developing countries. It is this furious pace of urbanization combined with the demand for development that “poses the major threat.”

“Cities are responsible for the majority of our harmful greenhouse gases. But they are also places where the greatest efficiencies can be made. This makes it imperative that we understand the form and content of urbanization so that we can reduce our footprint,” said Joan Clos Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. “Understanding the contribution of cities to climate change will help us intervene at the local level. With better urban planning and greater citizen participation we can make our hot cities cool again.”

Determining a city’s impact on climate

The report highlights five major factors that contribute to the impact on climate change from urban centers:

  1. Geographic location: where a city is located determines energy demand for heating, cooling, and lighting.
  2. Demographics: how many people concentrated in an area determines demand for space and services.
  3. Urban form and density: compact cities are generally more efficient and have lower per capita emissions that sprawling urban metropolises.
  4. Economic activity: the major economic and business activities with a city – are their concentrations of heavy industry emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases?
  5. Average income: the wealth and consumption patterns of an urban area determine energy and resource demand.

Comparing city and national per capita greenhouse gas emissions

The report shows how per capita greenhouse gas emissions can vary between cities, even within the same country. Washington DC, for example, has relatively high emissions proportionally. With little heavy industry, the city has a small population in relation to the number of office buildings for government and support functions. By contrast, New York City’s emissions are low, per capita, for a wealthy city in a developed country, owing in part to its high population density, small dwelling size, extensive public transport system, and number of older building the rely on natural daylighting and ventilation.

A comparison of city and national per capita greenhouse gas emissions

Urban emissions by sector

Isolating urban greenhouse gas emissions by sector is a complex task but worth the effort in order to incorporate effective policies and mitigation practices into urban management and development plans. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that currently 14 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and another 17 percent from forestry. The rest comes mostly from urban based sources for the combustion of fossil fuel for electricity, transportation, cooking, and industry.

The report delineated the following breakdown of sector-by-sector emissions:

  • Transportation – 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation accounts for 23 percent of all energy related emissions.
  • Industry – 19 percent of global GHG emissions. As outlined above, emissions vary widely depending on the predominate economic activity of a particular city. In Shaghai, 90 percent of energy produced was consumed by the industrial sector between 1995 and 2005. The deepwater port town of Saldhana Bay in South Africa emits 50 tonnes of GHG per capita annually. In Prague that figure is 0.43 tonnes per capita per annum.
  • Buildings – 8 percent of global GHG emissions. The IPCC estimates that residential and commercial building emit 10.6 billion tonnes of GHG equivalent every year.
  • Waste – 3 percent of global emission.

Anthropgenic greenhouse gas emissions by sector

Cities at the forefront of climate change

Leadership on climate change action at the national and international level is modest at best, and for some key players – like, unfortunately, for the United States – almost entirely absent. It is with local municipalities that real innovation and change can occur, driving the larger international forces.

The UN-HABITAT report emphasizes that with the challenges faces cities comes “unprecedented opportunities to act and change their future.” It is within cities that the engine of change drives forward with real “nuts and bolts” technical, economic, and political power. It is within cities and urban centers that solutions are most needed, and it is within cities that solutions are born.

“City leaders are where the action is and they are better placed than national politicians to effect immediate change,” said Clos, a former mayor of Barcelona. “Depending on their national contexts and histories, city authorities can have a considerable level of influence over both greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change. Cities and citizens can make a global difference.”

A few key alliances of local municipalities joining forces to lead on climate change include:

Cities have become a great battleground for a sustainable future. Battles are won by decisive and insightful leadership. Perhaps it is in local action – cities, local governments, individuals – that the battle can be engaged, and eventually won.

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March 11 2011


Polar Ice Loss Is Accelerating, Scientists Say

The increasing ice loss means that for the first time, Greenland and Antarctica appear to be adding more to sea-level rise than the world's other reserves of ice -- primarily mountain glaciers, which are also melting because of rising temperatures.

March 10 2011


Melting Ice Sheets the Largest Contributor to Sea Level Rise

Accelerating ice melt from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will significantly impact sea level rise in the coming decadesA new study to be published this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters has found that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerating rate. The rapidly accelerating ice melt from the ice sheets is happening much sooner the models have predicted. According to the research, the ice sheets are now overtaking the ice loss from mountain glaciers and ice caps and will likely become the dominant source of global sea level rise.

That the ice sheets will eventually become the largest contributor is “not surprising,” says the report’s lead author Eric Tignot of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and UC Irvine. “They hold a lot more ice than mountain glaciers,” he said. “What is surprising is this increased contribution is already happening. If present trends continue, sea level is likely to be significantly higher than levels projected by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007.

Using two separate techniques to measure ice melt, each confirming the others data set, the 18-year-study showed that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets combined lost 36 gigatons more each year on average than the year prior. To try to wrap our heads around these numbers, one gigaton equals one billion metric tons, or more than 2.2 trillion pounds. The ice sheets lost an average of 475 gigatons of mass each year, according to the study.

Given a continuation of the rate of ice melt over the next four decades, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets could raise sea levels six inches by 2050. When combined with thermal expansion, melting glaciers and glacial ice caps, total sea level rise could be as much as one foot or more by mid-century.

The authors caution that their research, while their research is an important indication of potential sea level rise, “considerable uncertainties remain in estimating future ice loss acceleration.”

Co-author Isabella Velicogna of the California Institute of Technology and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says the most important aspect of the research is the realization of the quickening pace of sea level rise. “The point is,” she says, “it’s happening and we can’t deny it. Eventually it’s going to have an impact.”

And it may be much sooner than expected.

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Image credit: go_greener_oz, courtesy Flickr

February 23 2011


Sea Level Rise a Threat to 180 Cities in the U.S.

Rising seas due to climate change threaten 180 American citiesMiami, New Orleans, and Virginia Beach are just three of the 180 coastal cities in the United States that could be threatened with sea level rise by the end of the century, reports a new study published last week in the journal Climate Change Letters.

Previous research has looked at where ocean waters may be headed as land-based ice melts in response to the warming climate, but this latest study focuses on the impact of sea level rise in U.S. municipalities of 50,000 or more and located in the 48 contiguous states.

Hardest hit are cities along the Gulf coast and southern Atlantic seaboard if global sea level rise reaches 1 meter (3 feet), says the report, a projection well within the average of most climate model projections (which often are conservative in measuring the amount of sea level rise.)

The study’s author, Jeremy Weiss of the University of Arizona, says his research used data from the US Geological Survey to calculate precisely how much land would be lost to rising seas. In total, nine percent of land, on average, could be lost in 180 U.S. cities, with Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, and Virginia Beach taking the brunt, with over 10 percent of their land lost to ocean waters.

“In Miami, it’s not just strictly along their coastal edge,” said Weiss. “They have to worry about the issue in all directions.”

Areas like Miami are largely flat, making it more vulnerable to encroaching waters. Other cities like San Francisco (most definitely not flat), New York, and Washington D.C. face impacts, but to a lesser degree than the southeastern seaboard and Gulf coast, according to the research.

Sea level rise from climate change will range from soil erosion to total and permanent  inundation, says Weiss. The amount of damage depends on where the city is located; one reason why it will “come from all directions” for places like Miami.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates roughly a 3.6 degree  Fahrenheit increase in global temperature through the end of the century. Weiss explains that his research projections are based on a “business as usual” approach. Given the current trajectory of carbon emissions, combined with no effective international treaty for limiting those emissions is in the offing anytime soon, an increase of 8 degrees F (4.4 degrees Celsius) reflects where we are headed.

If we want to save Miami, we should get started now.

Addition source and further reading:
IPCC – Sea Level Rise, Fourth Assessment Report

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