Climate Survival Means Anticipating and Adapting

Alberto Cesar AraujoBy Stephen Leahy


Imagine being able to know months in advance when and where floods or droughts may occur.

That is what over 150 countries participating in the third World Climate Conference, which concluded last Friday in Geneva, pledged to achieve through the creation of a Global Framework for Climate Services.

Today is a landmark day for making climate services available to all people,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), convener of the conference, told over 2,000 climate scientists, sectoral experts and decision-makers.

“Climate services” is the long-distance cousin to weather services or weather forecasting. New technology and better climate science has opened the window to very long range forecasting of climate events like droughts weeks and months in advance.

This year, scientists were able to anticipate unprecedented flooding of the Red River Valley in the United States Midwest months in advance, enabling local communities to prepare and avoid the worst consequences, said Jane Lubchenko, a noted ecologist, administrator of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and head of the U.S. delegation.

“Imagine farmers able to determine what to plant and where, based on drought forecasts three to five years in the future, or coastal communities able to plan for sea level rise and storm intensity,” Lubchenco told IPS.

The proposed Global Framework for Climate Services will “strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services”.

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The Arctic — The Earth’s Freezer — Is Defrosting With Dire Results

Iceberg in Glacier Strait, Nunavut, Canada, Image credit- Sandy Briggs.By Stephen Leahy


The rapidly warming Arctic region is destabilising Earth’s climate in ways science is just beginning to comprehend.

The entire world is being affected, and without urgent action to cut emissions, a too-warm Arctic could trigger catastrophic, irreversible climate change, top scientists say in a report released Wednesday in Geneva.

“It is crucial to know the full consequences of the Arctic warming, and this is an unprecedented review of the latest science,” said Martin Sommerkorn, an Arctic researcher and senior climate change advisor to World Wildlife Fund International.

“Simply put, if we do not keep the Arctic cold enough, people across the world will suffer the effects,” Sommerkorn told IPS.

Sea level rise of more than one metre, flooding affecting one quarter of the world’s population, and extreme global weather changes are on the way at the current pace of unchecked carbon emissions, the “Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications” report warns.

A warming Arctic has far wider and more serious consequences than previously believed based on the latest science of the past three years, including the very recent research from International Polar Year 2008-2009.

“There is a large potential that a warming Arctic will make climate change far worse,” said Sommerkorn, who acted as editor of the report written by 10 of the world’s leading climate scientists. Continue reading

Ozone Treaty May Hold Key to Halting Climate Change

moonlit cactus - peruBy Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Aug 25 (IPS)

Will the world take the easy step to phase out “super” greenhouse gases – hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – using the existing Montreal Protocol ozone treaty?

Doing so would be equivalent to preventing the release of 118 to 224 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, according to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency.

That’s vitally important.

The latest science shows humanity cannot put more than another 700 billion tonnes into the atmosphere over the next 40 years without risking dangerous climate change. At current rates of carbon emissions, that limit will be exceeded in half that time.

“An HFC phase-down under the Montreal Protocol will do far more for climate protection than the Kyoto Protocol has accomplished in its entire history or than Copenhagen will achieve in the next decade,” said Samuel LaBudde, senior U.S. climate campaigner for the non-profit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

“And it will do so at a fraction of the cost of securing reductions in other sectors and much faster as well,” LaBudde told IPS.

The leaders of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico committed to “work together under the Montreal Protocol to phase down the use of HFCs” earlier this month at the North American Summit in Guadalajara, Mexico. This follows a similar commitment made by G8 leaders in July.

Primarily used in refrigerators and air conditioners, HFCs are the standard replacement chemicals for those that were thinning the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere. Although HFCs pose no ozone risks, they typically have a global warming potential hundreds or even many thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2), hence the “super greenhouse gas” label.

The number of the world’s estimated 1.5 -1.8 billion refrigerators, 1.1 billion home and 400 million mobile (auto) air conditioners is expected to grow dramatically as developing nations like China and India modernise and increase use of HFCs.

A July study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that such a skyrocketing use of HFCs will have a significant impact on the climate at projected growth rates by 2050, negating much of future efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

“Phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is a brilliant strategy,” said Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, an international environmental NGO.

“This is the treaty that never fails to deliver. It’s already phased out 96 chemicals by 97 percent, and it’s ready to tackle these super greenhouse gases,” Zaelke said in a release.

Two small island nations, the Federated States of Micronesia and Mauritius, were the first to campaign to amend the Montreal Protocol to tackle HFCs at a July meeting of signatories. Ironically, under the Protocol, richer countries provide financing to poor countries to replace ozone-destroying refrigerants with HFCs.

Many country delegates felt it is the responsibility of the Montreal Protocol to prevent the further commercialisation and prolific use of HFCs even though it is not an ozone-depleting chemical.

“The support of North American leaders is appreciated,” said Ambassador Yosiwo George from the Federated States of Micronesia. The tiny Pacific island nation is threatened by rising sea levels from global warming and is advocating for a 90 percent HFC phase out by 2030.

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