Will Year of Climate Extremes End Without Progress on Tackling Climate Change?

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Nov 29, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

This year will likely be the warmest ever recorded, with soaring ocean temperatures resulting in a near record die-off of tropical corals, extreme heat and drought in Russia and massive flooding in Pakistan – all signs that climate change has taken hold.

But despite the ever more compelling science regarding the urgency and risks of climate change and growing public support for action, representatives from nearly 200 countries meeting here in Cancún for the next two weeks are unlikely to produce a new binding agreement.

At best, matters such as forestry, climate finance and mitigation commitments will be further developed in the faint hope that the next big meeting in South Africa might produce some kind of deal.

“Carbon emissions continue to climb despite the economic recession and yet I have never seen such low expectations for a COP (Conference of the Parties),” said Richard Somerville, an eminent climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

“The science is quite compelling regarding the need for urgent action. We don’t have another five years to reach an agreement,” Somerville told TerraViva.

In 2009, Somerville and others co-authored an update on the latest climate science called ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis’ which concluded that global carbon emissions had to peak and begin to decline before 2020 to have any hope of keeping global warming to less than 2.0 degrees C.

However, the negotiators in Cancún will mostly not be acting on the science but on their national interests as directed by their political leadership, who largely do not understand climate change, he said.

“Developed countries think they can adapt to warmer temperatures. I don’t see how we can keep warming below 2.0 degrees C.,” Somerville said.
Continue reading

Only China Can End Fossil Fuel Industry’s Iron Grip on Governments — James Hansen, Climate Scientist

In a stunning opinion piece  (pdf) NASA’s chief climate scientist James Hansen, acting a private citizen, asks China to take the lead on combating climate change. The US government is too fractured and too beholden to the fossil fuel interests to take action. “Big money” is also behind the lack of action in many other industrialized countries including Canada and Norway while they expand production of tar sands he writes.

He says China is the world’s best hope to end the rule of the world by fossil fuel interests.

Like most governments the Obama administration says climate change is a crisis, claims to have a plan and does little  to nothing. Hansen calls this “green washing”. (FYI this is a wide spread practice that most people are unaware of.)

In this picture Hansen, one the world’s most acclaimed climate scientists, is being handcuffed and arrested in front of the White House during a protest to urge the US government to end the coal industry practice of blowing off the tops of mountains to mine coal. Such practices are extremely damaging to the environment and local communities he says.

Moreover to prevent catastrophic climate change coal must stay in the ground Hansen said.

There is plenty of scientific evidence to back up that last statement. See my previous articles below — Stephen

Why Are We Looking for More Oil & Coal? We Already Have Enough to Cook the Planet 4X

Heading for +2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) Carbon Use Must Peak by 2015 Scientists Warn

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Watch This Video Before You Buy Any New Electronic Stuff

 

Consumption — buying so much stuff — is one things we have to do differently in 21st century. see Rising Wealth Spells Disaster for the Planet, Study Finds

Electronic gadgets, toys, TVs. phones, computers, IPods and so on are made of toxic and sometimes rare materials. There is lack of proper recycling programs as I have documented in several articles below. But there is an absolutely brilliant new video on all this from the Story of Stuff folks. This is best introduction to the real costs and consequences of the fact that most our electronics stuff  are actually “designed for the dump”  — Stephen.

Tsunami of E-Waste Could Swamp Developing Countries

Is Your Old TV Poisoning a Child in China? Where Your e-waste Goes

30 Million Lead-laden TVs Dumped on Poor Countries

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CANADA: A Govt Versus Its People on Climate Change

Stephen Harper, Canadian politician
Image via Wikipedia

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Nov 19, 2010 (IPS)

The Canadian public is completely at odds with its own government on climate change, a new survey revealed Friday.

A large majority of Canadians want urgent action on climate, including redirecting military expenditures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In sharp contrast, the Stephen Harper-led Conservative minority government used parliamentary trickery to kill pending legislation to reduce emissions that had already been passed by the majority of Canada’s elected representatives.

“This is a real low point in Canadian democracy,” said Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria.

“It’s an abuse of democracy like we’ve never seen before in this country,” Weaver told IPS.

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Continue reading

A Reporter’s Diary: EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE OF UN CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY FROM NAGOYA, JAPAN

NOTE: The following are excerpts from my personal notes to friends and supporters written during the heat, confusion and massive information dump of a major international conference. Often written late at night I attempted to offer some personal perspective into what was going on and what I was up to. — Stephen

Tuesday, 19 Oct – Geopolitical obstacles getting in the way

I’m here at the big UN conference on biodiversity. It’s 430 am here, the first day ended about 9 pm. It’s 12-ring cat circus like the Copenhagen climate meeting but the mood here is more positive. There are similar geopolitical obstacles getting in the way of slowing the loss of species and ecosystems. Another major difference is the lack of little public awareness of the fact that we cannot continue to shred nature’s web of life without suffering dire consequences.

I’ll try and do my bit – write 10 -12 articles over next two weeks. I wanted to thank a couple of supporters who helped out to cover some of the travel costs. I want to keep you informed of what’s going on here but these notes take a couple of hours to do.

This week is a story about an important development in Africa: In sincere efforts to make one last major attempt to transform Africa’s poverty and hunger are we imposing our worldview on Africa yet again? Bill Gates and others are donating hundreds of millions to create a New Green Revolution for Africa. This difficult and controversial story took over a week to do and wrote the final draft during my 17 hr flight here.

My other story connects the dots between extreme weather this summer and climate change. No single storm is directly attributable to CC BUT without CC it is unlikely the Russian heat wave and floods in Pakistan would have occurred. (PS those were events were two sides of the same coin)

Finally I received a number of letters, mostly positive but a couple saying I was too negative in last week’s article ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ Canada Sees Global Warming “Prosperity” Instead of Calamity’. Any organization that puts out a chart of climate impacts at 4 – 5C of global warming and fails to mention the scale of the calamity that would result is delusional or deceptive. Some take the stunningly selfish and naive view we can ‘adapt’ by turning up the AC.

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Greenest wishes, Steve


Wednesday, 20 Oct – Diversity R Us

There is an astonishing diversity of people here. Last nite I talked to an Amazonian Indian who took 10 days to get here, had wine accidentally spilled on me by a reindeer herder from Finland and found the lost passport of a Brazilian diplomat. And that is a five minute snap shot. It is a very big world with so many different people it is incredible they have all come here to try and address a common issue. That they can’t agree on what kinds of actions and how to implement should not come as a surprise.

Sunday, 24 Oct – Canada won’t play nice (yet again)

Canada is blocking agreement on a key measure to get a new international agreement to protect biodiversity here. This is not new. In recent years Canada has gone out its way to snub international UN agreements including the outright refusal to fulfill its legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Hard to believe the same government lobbied hard for a seat on the UN security council and actually expected to be rewarded.

Sadly there is no one reporting for Canadian publications to document the irony. (And as a result Canadian’s aren’t really aware of what their government is up to.) Continue reading

100 Million Suffering in World’s Toxic Hotspots – 1% of Wall Street Bonuses Would End This In a Year

Millions of kids are condemned to die or suffer severe brain damage because there is no money to clean up toxic sites and neighborhoods. One or two billion dollars would solve the problem permanently but health advocates have to beg and plead to get maybe $20-$30 million. Wall Street’s 2010 bonus and salaries are estimated to total a record-breaking $144 billion for just 36 firms according to Wall Street Journal.

Don’t you think they could donate 1 per cent of their ‘earnings’? — Stephen

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 11, 2010 (IPS)

One of the world’s biggest health threats is also one of the least recognised – more than 100 million people who literally breathe and eat toxic pollutants like lead, mercury, chromium every day, according to the first-ever detailed assessment.

By contrast, global attention and billions of dollars are focused on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which affect comparable numbers of people.

“Toxic pollution has been under the radar screen of most governments for some time,” said Stephan Robinson of Green Cross Switzerland, a group focused on environmental health, and co-author of the assessment titled “World’s Worst Pollution Problems Report 2010”.

“These pollution problems can be dealt with affordably and effectively,” Robinson told IPS.

Past clean-up projects designed by the groups range from the very low-tech, low-cost to more technical engineering projects involving soil removal at playgrounds and groundwater remediation, he said. Continue reading

Why Are We Looking for More Oil & Coal? We Already Have Enough to Cook the Planet 4X

Proven reserves of oil, gas and coal represent four times the amount of carbon that would blow through the 2-degree C climate target (which no one really thinks is ‘safe’).  Burning just one quarter of those proven reserves will bring humanity to the 50-50 point of tipping into dangerous climate change said leading climate scientists in 2009. We need a plan to phase out emissions of carbon entirely they said in my article for IPS. — Stephen

“Only a fast switch away from fossil fuels will give us a reasonable chance to avoid considerable warming,” said Malte Meinshausen, climate researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

See full article based on studies published in Nature:

Heading for +2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) Carbon Use Must Peak by 2015 Scientists Warn