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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 29 2012


The Green Economy is the Right Solution for our Troubled Times

A Green Economy can lead us out of the troubles we now face both socially, environmentally, and economically The green economy offers a powerful solution to both a warming planet and economic volatility. There are a host of political and economic crises in the world today. The Eurozone crisis is expected to be followed by a European recession. In China we are seeing strong evidence of a slowdown and many are calling for major economic reforms. Finally, the hope and promise of the “Arab Spring’ has given way to a winter of discontent, as the Arab world suffers due to a weak economy and high unemployment.

Amidst all this economic uncertainty, global warming continues unabated. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said all 11 years of the 21st century rank among the 13 warmest. NASA noted 9 of the top 10 warmest years in its record have occurred since 2000. The La Nina effect was the warmest on record in 2011, according to data from NOAA and NASA. The increasing probability of massive flooding caused by melting Greenland and Antarctic icecaps are creating real concerns about the future of the planet.

The string of warm years in the last decade is linked to rapidly increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. In a press release, NASA wrote “Higher temperatures today are largely sustained by increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide.” As the world’s economies get stronger, energy demands will keep increasing and carbon emissions will keep rising.

As reported in a Green Energy Intelligence Report, it is predicted that by 2030, U.S. energy related CO2 emissions will amount to 6.9 billion metric tons (“MT”) under a “business-as-usual” scenario. Worldwide, energy-related CO2 emissions are projected to increase from 28.1 billion MT in 2005 to 42.3 billion MT in 2030. Together with non-energy related CO2 eq emissions (deforestation, industrial production processes, etc.), total CO2 eq emissions are projected to reach 62 giga (billion) tons (“Gt”) by 2030 (McKinsey June 2008).

The IEA’s chief economist has said that governments only have five years to avoid more than 2°C of global mean temperature rise. Extreme weather events add to the data and send an easy to read message that the time has arrived for a new economic framework. According to NOAA, there were 10 massive weather disasters in the U.S. last year, each exceeding a billion dollars. The unprecedented weather extremes include the following estimates of death and damage:

  • Hurricane Irene: 50 deaths and $7 billion
  • Upper Midwest flooding along the Missouri River: $2 billion
  • Mississippi River flooding in spring and summer: $4 billion
  • Drought and heat waves in Texas and Oklahoma: $5 billion
  • Tornadoes in the Midwest and Southeast in May: 177 deaths and $7 billion
  • Tornadoes in the Ohio Valley and Southeast in April: 32 deaths and $9 billion
  • Tornadoes in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania in April: $2 billion
  • Tornadoes in the Northeast and Midwest April 8-11: $2.2 billion
  • Tornadoes in central and southern states April 4-5: $2.3 billion
  • Blizzard in January from Chicago to the Northeast: 36 deaths and $2 billion

The costs of extreme weather are astronomical, and it is predicted they will get much worse if we do not address the anthropogenic greenhouse gases that cause climate change. We need a framework to address both the economic and environmental ills that the world is facing. We also need a means of increasing our energy supply without increasing our greenhouse gas emissions. The Green Economy offers the solutions we so desperately need.

According to a July, 2011 report from the Brookings Institution, 2.7 million Americans work at green jobs – more than work in the fossil fuel industry. The US Conference of Mayors estimates that number will almost triple by 2040.

The green jobs study by the Brookings Institute suggests the U.S. should put primary emphasis on new, technology-intensive, energy-related sectors. The study by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program is called “Sizing the Clean Economy: A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment”  The chief conclusion they came to is that the driving force behind jobs and the growth of the U.S. clean economy over the last decade has been emerging energy technologies.  This is a conclusion echoed in Google’s energy innovation report.

Green jobs are also quality jobs with median wages 13 percent higher than the average. Investment in clean energy projects yields more than three times as many jobs as investing in fossil fuels. Although the green economy is producing results now, the growth potential is staggering.

The failure of the US Congress to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation has slowed the growth of the green economy, but it is not too late. A good example of what can be done even in the absence of federal government legislation comes from a Los Angeles cleantech business incubator (LACI). The LACI approach identifies local talent, nurtures it, and helps it get to market, resulting in more jobs and a bigger green economy in Los Angeles and beyond.

A UNEP study reveals that investing in the green economy will spur growth. Contrary to conservative belief, the greening of economies is not generally a drag on growth but rather a new engine of growth and a net generator of decent jobs. The Green Economy Report is compiled by UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative. The report, called Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, recommends spending $1.3 trillion a year on the green economy.

Pavan Sukhdev, head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative said, “Governments have a central role in changing laws and policies, and in investing public money in public wealth to make the transition possible. By doing so, they can also unleash the trillions of dollars of private capital in favour of a green economy,”


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: Everything’s Cool
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December 20 2011


US Needs to Be Better Prepared for Extreme Weather, Ecological Changes Resulting from Climate Change

Ecological changes in the 21st Century

Climate change will cause changes in plant communities across nearly half the Earth’s land surface by 2100, driving conversion of nearly 40 percent of land-based ecosystems from one major ecological community type – forest, grassland or tundra – toward another, according to a new computer study conducted by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The study’s results may put what’s been a record year for US weather-related disasters in a much broader perspective. While it’s impossible to draw a causal link between any one weather event and global warming or climate change, climate change is probably increasing the intensity of some disasters, such as the Texas drought, according to experts from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Addressing attendees at a briefing on Capitol Hill, AAAS’s representatives said that regardless of cause, the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters is increasing, which is causing greater financial losses than ever. They cautioned that governments and societies need to be better prepared, according to an Insurance News Net report.

Mounting Financial Costs of Climate Change

It’s not useful to debate whether or not climate change exacerbated by humans caused or causes any particular weather event Jay Gulledge, a senior scientist at the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), told Insurance News Net, adding that statistical trends are consistent with scientists’ expectations of climate change.

Texas state climatologist and Texas A&M professor of atmospheric science John Nielsen-Gammon noted that La Niña was the triggering event for this year’s drought in Texas, which is expected to last through next summer. He added that climate change likely intensified the drought by adding about 1 degree Fahrenheit to annual average temperatures in the state. Drought as severe as this year’s could be more likely as a result of ongoing climate change, he added, although more research is needed to confirm that.

Ultimately, increasingly severe and frequent weather events pose a serious risk management problem for public officials and society, and we need to be better prepared, Gulledge said. “This is a risk problem, and we have to manage it as a risk problem,” he said at the 2 December briefing, which was entitled, Drowning and Drought: Extreme Weather Impacts on Our Economy and Society.

JPL-Caltech Climate Change Study

The parts of Earth not covered by land or desert are projected to undergo a 3o percent change in plant cover at minimum, and that means humans as well as plants and animals will need to adapt and in many cases relocate.

JPL and Cal Tech researchers, who investigated how plant life on Earth is likely to react over the next three centuries in response to rising levels of greenhouse gases, published their findings in the journal Climatic Change.

The results show rising emissions will increase ecological stress and change in Earth’s biosphere, with growing numbers of plant and animal species competing for survival. Species turnover will be significant, as some species invade areas occupied by others, according to the researchers’ report.

Besides altering plant communities, “the study predicts that climate change will disrupt the ecological balance between interdependent and often endangered plant and animal species, reduce biodiversity and adversely affect Earth’s water, energy, carbon and other element cycles,” according to JPL’s news release.

“For more than 25 years, scientists have warned of the dangers of human-induced climate change,” said Jon Bergengren, a scientist who led the study while a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech. “Our study introduces a new view of climate change, exploring the ecological implications of a few degrees of global warming. While warnings of melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other environmental changes are illustrative and important, ultimately, it’s the ecological consequences that matter most.”

Image Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

December 14 2011


Is the Agreement in Durban Enough to Contain Climate Change?

Is the deal struck in the final marathon session at COP17 producing the Durban Platform too little, too late?The participants at the U.N. sponsored COP17 climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, managed to come to an agreement on a package of measures that will eventually force all the world’s polluters to take legally binding action. One of the most significant elements of the deal concerns a replacement for the soon to expire Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto protocol is the only global warming fighting treaty we have and it was initially adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997. Although there are details that are yet to be worked out, the parties in Durban managed to craft a general agreement that would extend Kyoto for five years from January 1, 2013 until the end of 2017.

Just hours after the landmark agreement was announced in Durban, Canada officially withdrew from Kyoto prompting an Indian official to remark that Canada’s decision could jeopardize gains made at the Durban meeting.

The Canadian Conservative government’s prioritization of the tar sands made it impossible for Canada to meet its emissions targets, which made the rejection of Kyoto inevitable. While the province of Alberta applauded the decision, much of the rest of the world has criticized Canada for its decision to formally withdraw from Kyoto. China’s state news agency, Xinhua, denounced Canada’s decision as “preposterous,” calling it “an excuse to shirk responsibility.”

Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin lashed out at Canada, describing Ottawa’s decision as being “against the efforts of the international community,” and “regrettable.” “We hope Canada will face up to its responsibilities and obligations and honor its commitments and actively participate in relevant international cooperation against climate change,” Liu said in Beijing.

A spokesman for France’s foreign ministry called the move “bad news for the fight against climate change.” Japan’s Environment Minister Goshi Hosono told reporters that Canada’s withdrawal was “disappointing,” and noted that it was “indispensable that each country makes efforts” on climate change.

Graham Saul of Climate Action Network Canada said, “It’s a national disgrace. Prime Minister Harper just spat in the faces of people around the world for whom climate change is increasingly a life and death issue.”

Greenpeace Canada spokesman, Mike Hudema, said in a written statement that the Canadian Conservative government “has imposed a death sentence on many of the world’s most vulnerable populations by pulling out of Kyoto.” He said the move “destabilizes” the promise of future action on global warming. “This is a further signal that the Harper government is more concerned about protecting polluters than people.”

Ian Fry, lead negotiator for the vulnerable island nation of Tuvalu, said “it’s an act of sabotage on our future, withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol is a reckless and totally irresponsible act.”

Canada’s irresponsibility badly damages a UN climate process already weakened by divisions. Like the Republicans in the US, Canadian Conservatives use misinformation and fear mongering to sell their irresponsible governance.

To explain its decision, Canada cited the cost of meeting its obligations under Kyoto. However, they fail to factor the costs of climate change. Even the $13.6 billion it would cost to honor Kyoto in Canada is a tiny fraction of the cost of climate change, which could run as high as $91 billion a year in the country by 2050. According to the September 2011 report from the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, climate change will cost Canadians at least $5 billion a year by 2020.

The research reveals that the longer the effects of climate change are ignored, the costlier they become. ”Our modeling…shows there is a risk those costs could not be just higher, but much higher,” the report adds. “Getting global emissions down is both in Canada’s economic and environmental interest,” said David McLaughlin, president of the roundtable. In addition to increased health costs, the report estimates that global warming will lead to between five and 10 additional deaths per 100,000 people per year by 2050.

The world may not be able to afford Canada’s renunciation of Kyoto and exploitation of the tar sands. As NASA’s chief climatologist James Hansen said:

“If the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over [for containing global warming].”

As the world’s second largest emitter and as the primary consumer of tar sands oil, the U.S. is both an egregious offender and complicit in Canada’s role as a climate renegade. Even if the parties iron out the details, respect the stipulations and implement the timetables of the Durban agreement, it may not be enough.

Under the Durban Platform, a new global agreement will be negotiated by 2015 and will be implemented by 2020. The Climate Action Tracker scientists indicate that the delay and the absence of more ambitious targets make “catching up on this postponed action…increasingly costly.”

Scientists at the Climate Action Tracker said this puts the world on a path that will see “over 3°C warming with likely extremely severe impacts.”

A global temperature increase of over 3°C could destroy the Amazon rainforest, bleach coral reefs, melt Greenland ice, thaw permafrost in the arctic, and release methane hydrates from the ocean floor.

UN chief negotiator Christiana Figueres said the Durban agreement is the “critical next step,” but also admitted it is “still insufficient.”

“What remains to be done is to take more ambitious actions to reduced emissions, and until this is done we are still headed to over 3 C warming. There are still no new pledges on the table and the process agreed in Durban towards raising the ambition and increasing emission reductions is uncertain it its outcome,” Bill Hare, Director of Climate Analytics said.

The Climate Action Tracker research indicates “the global mean warming would reach about 3.5°C by 2100 with the current reduction proposals on the table. They are definitely insufficient to limit temperature increase to 2°C.”

The Durban agreement is not capable of curbing global warming within acceptable limits and Canada’s support for the tar sands over Kyoto make controlling climate change that much more unlikely.


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.

November 28 2011


COP17 in Durban South Africa Gets Underway

The COP 17 climate conference is now underway in Durban, South AfricaThe COP 17 climate conference got underway today in Durban South Africa. Reminiscent of the hype surrounding the COP 15 conference in Copenhagen in 2009, many see the Durban conference as the last chance for continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, the first commitment period of which is due to expire next year . As global carbon emissions continue to spike upwards, many see COP17 as a vital opportunity for the international community to begin to forge a meaningful global treaty to combat climate change and fund a new energy economy around the world.

We will follow the conference over the course of the next 2 weeks, and provide news and commentary as the Conference of the Parties grapple with the defining issue of our times.

Following are three videos to help familiarize readers  for what’s ahead in Durban and beyond:

American Progress Senior Fellow Andrew Light give a brief synopsis of what needs to happen in Durban:

US Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern gives a press conference on the COP17 conference at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C.:


Opening press briefing highlights from Durban: 

Press release from the UNFCCC:

Against a background of record greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, more frequent and intense extreme weather events, but also growing momentum for action to fight climate change, the UN Climate Change Conference in Durban (28 November to 9 December) kicked off today.

At the start of the conference, South African President Jacob Zuma pointed to the climate impacts in Africa as a reason for all governments to take action.

“We have experienced unusual and severe flooding in coastal areas in recent times, impacting on people directly as they lose their homes, jobs and livelihoods. Given the urgency, governments need to strive to find solutions here in Durban. Change and solutions are always possible, and Durban must take us many steps forward towards a solution that saves tomorrow today,” he said.

The newly elected President of the conference, South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, stressed that Durban would be a decisive moment for the future of the multilateral rules-based regime. ìIn Durban, we need to show the world that we are ready to tackle and solve our very real problems in a practical manner,î she said.

According to the UNís top climate change official, UNFCCC Executive Secretary
Christiana Figueres, governments can take two major, decisive steps in Durban. The first step relates to completing the most comprehensive package ever to help developing countries adapt to climate change and to limit the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions, which was decided at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun last year.

“The Technology Mechanism and the Adaptation Committee agreed in Cancun can be completed here in Durban so that they can begin benefitting people in 2012,” Ms. Figueres said. “And in Durban, the first phase of the design of the Green Climate Fund can be approved, as a major step on the road towards better supported climate action,”  she stated.

Governments can also ramp up funding towards the 100 billion USD of long-term climate finance they have already agreed to provide by 2020 and need to work out the ìwhatî and the ìhowî for a review agreed in Cancun that will assess the adequacy of a below 2 degrees Celsius temperature limit, including in relation to 1.5 degrees Celcius.

The second decisive step that can be made in Durban relates to how governments will work together to achieve their common goal of limiting the global temperature rise to a level which will prevent the worst ravages of climate change.

“This means, as a central task for Durban, answering the very important question of the future of the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time, governments will need to agree on how they want to pursue a broader framework to reduce greenhouse gases under the Climate Change Convention,” Ms. Figueres said.

Ms. Figueres drew attention to the fact that action on climate change is presently building nationally, regionally and at all levels of society, and that this positive momentum can feed into the UN climate change process.

“These negations are about securing a better future and improving the quality of life of people. The momentum for change is building, not least in developing countries. More can be achieved if governments and the private sector work in partnerships,” she said.

Together with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and South African President Jacob Zuma, the UN Climate Change secretariat will in Durban launch a ìMomentum for Changeî initiative on 6 December designed to demonstrate how the public and private sectors are already working together to fight climate change.

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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

June 03 2011


UNFCCC Chief Says Two Degrees is Not Enough

UNFCCC chief warns that 2 degree target is not enough, especially for the most vulnerable nations and regions of the worldUNFCCC executive secretary Christiana Figueres said yesterday that the generally accepted 2 degree Celsius target for limiting global warming is not enough.

“Two degrees is not enough – we should be thinking of 1.5C. If we are not headed to 1.5C we are in big, big trouble,” Figueres said at the International Trading Association’s annual Carbon Expo conference.

The statement comes on the heels of recent estimates from the International Energy Agency’s announcement that carbon emissions spiked to historic levels in 2010, casting even the 2 degree C target into serious doubt.

Figueres’ call for a tougher target comes as a surprise to some officials, fearing such a move will threaten the already fragile state of negotiations since the controversial end to the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009. The conference ended with the Copenhagen Accord, generally considered a disappointment and leaving much to be accomplished for the international community in grappling with emissions targets among nations.

Negotiations at COP15 came to a standstill on several occasions throughout the two-week conference when the Alliance of Small Island Nations forced debate on the target, insisting that a 1.5 degree C target was essential to prevent the disappearance of their island nations in the face of rising seas. The experience at COP15 widened the rift between developed and developing nations.

“I’m not saying this is going to be easy,” Figueres said. “The argument I am making is not about feasibility but an argument of social justice. We can’t have as our goal something that we already know does not guarantee the survival of low-lying states and sub-Saharan Africa.

If we already know that, in my book there is no way we can stick to the goal we know is completely unacceptable to the most exposed [countries].”

Source and further reading:

Image credit: article.wn.com

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May 31 2011


Carbon Emissions Spike to Historic High

Carbon Emissions Spike to Record Levels in 2010The International Energy Agency (IEA) released estimates on Monday showing that CO2 emissions have soared to record highs after a lull in 2009 due to the global recession. 30.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide where emitted into the atmosphere in 2010, mostly from burning fossil fuels, a rise of 1.6 gigatons over 2009 according to estimates from the IEA, and up 5 percent over 2008 emissions.

Though the drop in 2009 emissions is generally attributed to the economic downturn, but at the drop in emissions was greater than the decline of GDP, at least in the United States, suggesting that gains in efficiency might be “decoupling” energy consumption from economic growth – an essential element for future economic and environmental sustainability.

But that hope appears to be dashed with the IEA most recent emissions estimates.

Climate scientists warn that avoiding “potentially dangerous climate change” requires limiting global temperatures to within a 2 degree Celsius rise this century, something that IEA chief economist Fatih Birol says is now likely just a “nice Utopia.”

“I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions,” Birol said. “It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say.”

In the IEA’s 2010 World Energy Outlook (pdf) set a pathway to a 2 degree Celsius rise with its  450 Scenario by limiting carbon emissions to 450 parts per million through century’s end. The scenario is based on emissions targets to which nations pledge to reach only by 2020. Given the current rate of emissions, those targets could be met within as little as two years. For the targets outlined in the 450 Scenario to be met, emissions will have to rise less in the next decade than they did between 2009 and 201o. Without a change to the current trajectory, there is little choice but to shift the burden of signinifcant emissions reduction onto future generations, when it will be even more difficult to achieve under worsening climactic conditions.

“Our latest estimates are another wake-up call,”  saidBirol. “The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2ºC target is to be attained. Given the shrinking room for maneuver in 2020, unless bold and decisive decisions are made very soon, it will be extremely challenging to succeed in achieving this global goal agreed in Cancun.”

The situation is make even more difficult because much of the energy sector has already “locked in” 80 percent of its 2020 emissions from plants already in operation or currently under construction. Most of these plants will burn fossil fuels, virtually guaranteeing that 2020 targets will never be met.

Economist Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics, author of the 2006 Stern Report on climate change, warns that the latest numbers from the IEA combined with projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show a 50 percent chance that global temperature could rise by as much as 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 – double what is generally considered “safe.”

“Such warming would disrupt the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people across the planet, leading to widespread mass migration and conflict,” Stern said. “That is a risk any sane person would seek to drastically reduce.”

Birol still hangs to some hope that a climate disaster can be avoided, but the door is fast closing.

“If we have bold, decisive and urgent action, very soon, we still have a chance of succeeding,” he said.

That’s exactly what I heard nearly two years ago in Copenhagen.

Sources and further reading:
ARS Technica


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January 12 2011


CO2 Inertia Will Trigger Climate Change for Next Millennium, Study Says

New research warns of longterm effects of climate change even after emissions stopAccording to a research study just published in the journal Nature Geoscience, climate change will persist, and in some parts of the world intensify, from the increased levels of atmospheric CO2 long after humans stop burning fossil fuels – for a millennium or more, the report says.

In even a best case, real-world scenario where anthropogenic carbon emissions essentially stop by the year 2100, the consequences on climate will last throughout the next one thousand years, and in epoch-changing ways.

The seas are the great heat sink that have so far absorbed much of the heat and most of the CO2 from the atmosphere. Eventually the ocean will be able to take no more and begin to give back the heat – as decadal trends of consistently warming seas now portend. By the year 3000, if carbon emissions continue to 2100, the West Antarctic ice sheet will collapse and sea level will eventually rise by at least four meters (more than 13 feet).

Obviously, forecasting climate out 1000 years can only point to probabilities and not exact circumstance, and therefore is “an art and not a science,” as Andy Soos writes in the Environmental News Network, but the study reinforces other research, such as a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences, the concludes climate change is now irreversible “from the standpoint of a human lifetime.” In other words, we’re in it already and it where it will lead is increasingly beyond what any human intervention.

The new research adds more detailed projections of long term forecasts in different regions and the effect on specific earth system. As lead author of the report Nathan Gillett of the Environment Canada’s Centre of Modelling and Analysis said when discussing the nature of the research:

“Most of the other studies that have looked at this haven’t looked at the pattern of climate change following the cessation of emissions. Which regions are warming? Which regions are cooling? How are rainfall patterns changing?”

The study is also the first to run two scenarios for what happens after carbon emissions have ended – one for 2100 and the other for 2010. The projection for a 2010 cessation of emissions suggests that even though the climate impact will last to the year 3000, the effect could be relatively modest.

“It’s seven days past that deadline, so it’s kind of a science fiction scenario at this point,” said glaciologist and study co-author Shawn Marshall.

If carbon emissions don’t stop until 2100 – more in the realm of reality than science fiction – warming could be as much as 4 degrees Celsius, or about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, by the next millennium, almost certainly destabilizing the West Antarctic ice.

“The choices we make are sort of a multicentury legacy,” Marshall said. “The difference between 0.6-degree warming and 4-degree warming in terms of the stability of Antarctica is huge.”

Consequences of life through the ages

Clearly, the choices humanity makes now – every human being now alive – will reverberate through the next millenium. That’s not the kind of thing anyone is really equipped to deal with by nature. It is hard enough to just live our lives, care for our own, and hopefully grow old with some wisdom and dignity.

And so we can be forgiven if we chose not to think about it. Right?

Like it or not that question remains, and must now be answered.

Additional source:
ClimateWire (subscription required)

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

December 29 2010


The Best and the Worst Environmental News of 2010

The best and worst environmental stories of 2010Here is a quick review of some of the best and the worst environmental stories of 2010.


Mass Production of Electric Cars

Cars and trucks are responsible for a quarter of US carbon emissions. However, this year, both Chevrolet and Nissan were amongst a slew of car makers who launched electric vehicles. Even SUVs, crossovers, luxury cars, station wagons and hatchbacks are getting more efficient.

Social Media Activism Working for the Environment

Social media efforts succeed in pushing Nestle to reduce its palm oil deforestation footprint. Although the campaign against Nestle’s palm oil deforestation footprint began with Greenpeace, it quickly became an online grassroots movement that Nestle could not afford to ignore.

Progress at COP16

The Cancun Agreement reached at the UNFCCC talks in Cancun, Mexico put the multilateral process back on track toward a global climate framework. Some 26 individual agreements were reached in Cancun, including advances in the mechanism for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+). The accord compensates developing countries for forest protection and peatland restoration. The Cancun Agreement also saw progress on a climate finance mechanism and technology transfer to help developing economies.

Californians reject prop 23California Defeats Proposition 23 and Adopts Cap and Trade

Proposition 23 would have overturned AB32, a bill that mandates a decrease in Calilfornia’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Despite the millions spent by oil companies to support it, Californians voted to maintain the state’s climate law. The California Air Resources Board voted to adopt cap and trade regulations. As part of the cap and trade system, California signed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (RED) deals with Mexico and Brazil it is scheduled to start in 2012.

US Government Tax Credits

In 2010 many Americans took advantage of this year’s tax credits of up to $1,500 to make their homes more energy efficient. While the home energy efficiency tax credits expire this year, tax credits for solar, wind and geothermal systems remain until 2016.

First US Offshore Wind Farm

After a decade of intensive review, Massachusetts’ Cape Wind project will finally be built off the coast. This is one of the largest greenhouse gas reduction initiatives in the US. Cape Wind is expected to create enough electricity to power much of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island combined. Besides green jobs, Cape Wind will cut C02 emissions from conventional power plants by 700,000 tons annually.

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

A landmark agreement was reached in Nagoya, Japan by 193 nations on the Convention on Biological Diversity to help stave off mass extinctions of the world’s species. The agreement includes 20 measurable goals, such as restoring 15 percent of degraded lands and protecting 10 percent of marine waters by 2020. Although participation is voluntary and there are no penalties for non-compliance, there is a greater understanding of the importance of biodiversity.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (REDD)

A billion dollar agreement was signed by Indonesia and Norway to protect forests in the Southeast Asian nation, which has become the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter due to deforestation and peat lands degradation. The agreement includes provisions for monitoring, reporting, and verifying. Indonesia will establish a two-year moratorium on new forestry concessions in primary forest areas and peat lands beginning in January 2011.

Decreasing Deforestation Level

Deforestation is now estimated to account for around 10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, down from 15-18 percent a decade ago. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon fell to the lowest rate on record, putting Brazil on track to meet its targets for reducing rainforest destruction.


This year, public and private interests came together to protect wilderness in the US and even China is beginning to develop conservation planning. The Montana Legacy Project succeeded in protecting 310,000 acres of forest, rivers and lakes. China developed large-scale plans for protecting the country’s land and water resources.


BP Oil Spill

On April 20th, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded killing 11 people and for the next three months, almost 5 million barrels of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico. The ecological and economic disaster killed thousands of marine animals and endangered coral reefs and devastated beaches and marshlands. Although it was the worst oil spill of all time and the largest environmental disaster the US has ever faced, America’s dependence on fossil fuels continues unabated.

Global Warming and Extreme Weather

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2010 will be the hottest year since record keeping began in 1880. This observation is echoed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which indicated that temperatures reached record levels in several regions of the world in 2010. Climate change is behind streak of floods in Pakistan, Colombia, Venezuela and the US. Massive wildfires were spawned by a deadly heat-wave in central Russia and record drought in the Amazon. Higher temperatures also caused warmer seas leading to devastating coral bleaching. Researchers observed bleaching activity in every ocean and sea where corals live.

America’s Climate Change Ignorance

Americans are profoundly misinformed about climate change. According to a Pew study, less than a third of Americans think that climate change is a very serious problem. Only 59 percent of Americans believe there is “solid evidence” that the planet’s getting warmer at all, down from 79 percent in 2006.

Death of US Climate Bill

The Congress failed to pass climate legislation in 2010. The midterm elections gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives and eliminated the Democrats’ super-majority in the Senate, making climate legislation very unlikely for at least two years.

Species Extinction

Humans continue to cause the worst extinction since the time of the dinosaurs, species including mammals, frogs, birds, butterflies, reptiles and fish, have been lost forever.

Hungary’s Red Sludge

One million cubic meters of red sludge devastated two Hungarian villages, killing nine, and injuring approximately one hundred others. The red sludge that devastated two Hungarian villages was made of waste products from an aluminium processor. The red muck extinguished freshwater life in a number of local rivers. Even though aluminium is entirely recyclable, mining continues to cause deforestation and pollution while using large amounts of water and energy.


Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.

December 09 2010


Cancun Talks Move to All-Nighter Phase in Negotiations – Kyoto Protocol Hangs in the Balance

Climate talks in Cancun enter their final "all-nighter" phaseIntransigence prevails over fate of Kyoto Protocol

As the final days of the climate talks in Cancun come to pass, so do the obligatory all-night negotiating sessions in an attempt to pull out some progress at the COP16 climate conference – or perhaps just keep the Kyoto Protocol alive for further debate.

In a process that demands compromise across a wide gulf of competing interests in the global community, the fate of the Kyoto Protocol seems to produce the opposite – intransigence.

From the outset of the talks, Japan has held firm that it will not “associate itself with the second commitment period” of the Protocol that begins in 2012. Japanese Environmental Minister Ryu Matsumoto has stated that any binding global treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should use last year’s Copenhagen Accord (forged in last year’s COP15 end-of-conference all-nighter) and not the Kyoto Protocol:

“The Kyoto Protocol has been playing a significant role as the first step in addressing climate change,” Matsumoto told delegates in Cancun. “Japan will maintain the spirit of Kyoto. The protocol only covers 27 percent of global energy related CO2 emissions. Japan would express our serious concern that fixing such a framework. Japan will not associate itself with setting the second commitment period’’

Others see it differently. Colin Beck, U.N. ambassador from the Solomon Islands, demands that industrialized nations commit to the second round of Kyoto:

“With Kyoto there is no compromise. We’re talking about survival. Unfortunately, we’re leaving the picture of humanity behind and putting the economics up front,” said Beck.
Drowning in a sea – of acronyms

As with last year’s conference, members of the Alliance of Small Island Nations (AOSIS) has been vocal in urging others to understand the consequences of further delay on substantive action on climate change (many small island nation risk literally disappearing beneath the waves of a rising sea). Linking a another disappointing outcome in Cancun to president Obama’s failure to move legislation on climate and energy in the U.S., Tuvalu’s prime minister took a swipe at failed U.S. leadership:

“We cannot afford to be held hostage by the political backwardness of one developed country,” he said. “This is life and death, a survival issue for Tuvalu.”

The president of the small island nation of Nauru complained that the process itself was drowning in a sea of jargonistic rhetoric and acronyms:

“The Pacific has a rich cultural and linguistic tradition. Hundreds of distinct languages are spoken in homes throughout our 14 countries,” said Marcus Stephen, who leads the group of Pacific Small Island Developing States.”

“However, none of our words are quite so exotic as the ones spoken by the climate change negotiator. The people who inhabit these walls communicate in acronyms: QELROS, LULUCF, and NAMAs: letters that carry the power to determine which of our nations may thrive and which may vanish beneath the waves.”

QELROS stand for “Quantified Emissions Limitation and Reduction Objectives”
LULUCF stand for “land use, land use-change and forestry”
NAMSAs stand for “nationally appropriate mitigation actions”

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