Road to Paris: Plain Talk Briefing on the UN Climate Treaty Negotiations

What:    A candid, 15 minute explanation on why the UN climate negotiations are so difficult and the likely result in Paris. Intended for a general audience.

Who:     Stephen Leahy is an independent, environmental journalist who has covered climate negotiations around the world. He is co-winner of the 2012 Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for reporting on Climate Change.

Where: Part of a public forum in Toronto June 2014 titled CLIMATE CHANGE EMERGENCY.

Thanks to Peter Biesterfeld for making the recording.

Final Update: COP 16 Cancun Climate Conference

19 Dec 2010

On reflection there was some progress at COP 16. Small island states, whose very existence is threatened, were satisfied the world is on its way to a significant climate treaty so that is something. Last year in Copenhagen, hardly anyone happy with the outcome. There is still a long and difficult road ahead. Not least because there remains a powerful and well-funded opposition to emission reductions in many countries.

In 2011 I hope to uncover more about that opposition while continuing to write about how the physical processes of climate change are not waiting for us to get our act together. Substantial changes are already underway. Changes to the global water cycle have been shown in the first global study of evapotranspiration rates as detailed in my article: “Climate Changes Herald a Future of Widespread Drought – Water Left High and Dry in Climate Talks”

The article also looks at some fairly dire drought projections for the coming decades.

For those experiencing a rough, early winter, I did the first article revealing how the melting Arctic may be bringing earlier and harsher winters to the UK, parts of Europe and North America. That story happened because of donations to help cover my costs of attending a polar science conference in Oslo were those new findings were presented. Science journalism isn’t easy or cheap to do. I was one of  few journalists in Oslo because hardly any media outlet covers travel costs any more – never mind paying a decent fee for a story. That’s why I am trying Community Supported Journalism where people support my efforts to inform people about the great issues of our time.

A warm thank you to those who sponsored some of the Cancun articles, contributing some much needed cash to help cover my costs.  Supporters names are prominently listed in the articles here. I can no longer continue to do environmental and science journalism without your help so thank you for helping out.

— Stephen

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“Do you want an economy, or a planet we can all live on? I don’t want my future compromised by inaction on climate” — 16 year old from India

Children begged world leaders to craft a new climate treaty and left Copenhagen empty-handed. Their story.

By Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN, Dec 5 2009 (IPS/TerraViva)

Young people from 44 countries are demanding that world leaders take decisive action on climate change. The time for talk is over, they declared at the end of a weeklong Children’s Climate Forum here.

“Our plates are empty due to drought. Our future is at risk, and we demand that something be done,” they wrote in a declaration titled “Our World, Our Future” signed by 164 participants aged 14 to 17 at the conclusion of the forum.

I don’t want my future compromised by inaction on climate,” said Bipra Biswambhara, 16, of India.

Biswambhara and many of her fellow delegates were “shocked to learn how many people and parts of the world are already affected by climate change”, she told TerraViva. “We youth are committed to taking action in our home communities,” she said.

“We must have pity for future generations to come,” said Mohamed Axam Maumoon, 15, of the Maldives, a low-lying chain of islands that will likely vanish under rising oceans if temperatures rise two degrees C.

Is this article of interest? It exists thanks to contributions from readers. Please click here to learn more about Community Supported Journalism.

“We are not alone, everyone is being affected,” Maumoon said. As a result there was a strong feeling of cooperation and common cause throughout the week, he said. “If we all work together we can have a bright future.” Continue reading

“We’re Here to Insert Some Reality into an Unreal Situation” — 350.org Founder Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is a U.S. journalist, writer and environmentalist and the founder of 350.org. Credit: Stephen Leahy

Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Dec 2009

Bill McKibben is a U.S. writer, environmentalist and the founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign. His first book, “The End of Nature”, was published in 1989 and is regarded as the first book written for a general audience about climate change.

350.org is credited with organising the most widespread political action in history when more than 5,200 public demonstrations were held on Oct. 24 in 181 countries. The organisation’s goal is to raise public awareness about the dangers of climate change and the need to return carbon concentrations in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm). Currently, concentrations are 387 ppm and increasing at 2.0 to 3.0 ppm per year.

Recent science suggests that a maximum of 350 ppm may be what is needed to keep overall global temperatures below 2.0 degrees C.

TERRAVIVA: Why are you here?

BILL MCKIBBEN: I wrote a book on climate change 20 years ago and you could say I’m just following the trail to its end. We’ve also brought 350 young people from all over the world to make sure negotiators hear their voice and insert a little reality into an unreal situation. Continue reading

Copenhagen’s Fantastic Bike Culture Should Be In Every City — Great Video Shows Why

Copenhagen has a fantastic bike culture — 60+ % commute to work every day plus they have a great subway system too. It is cold and wet a lot of the year but people dress for it and were frankly a hell of lot warmer than I was walking when I was there for three weeks in December while covering the climate summit.

One Saturday morning before Christmas I was amazed to see a family of four on two bikes with their groceries and a 2-metre Christmas tree happily pedaling for home . In North America we think we need a van or at least a pick up truck

This professional video shows an overview of what makes Copenhagen such a fantastic city, as seen by North-American eyes

Sadly I didn’t get a chance to ride in Copenhagen but this should be a model for other cities around the world. Copenhagen did it in 40 years and it is truly amazing. — Steve

OUR Roof is on Fire: Dangerous Climate Change is Here

It will take lot of us – probably in the streets” to make politicians face the truth, says climate scientist James Hansen.

[Dangerous climate change is already upon us say some of the best scientists we have. But political leaders — and most of the public — don’t get it. This is an attempt to close the chasm between climate reality and climate denial fantasy. I wrote this at the end of the Copenhagen Climate meetings last December thanks in part to financial contributions from readers that allowed me to do the research and interviews. — Stephen]

Our leaders do not get the scale of the problem or the rapidity of the changes.”            — Andrew Weaver, climatologist at Canada’s University of British Columbia

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

COPENHAGEN Dec 22 ,2009 (IPS/TerraViva)

The roof of our house is on fire but our leaders, our economic system and we ourselves are ignoring the alarms and continuing to add more fuel. There are no exit doors in our house; there is nowhere else to go.

Dangerous climate change is already here.

The two-week climate summit in Copenhagen came to an end with disappointing results and details that are still vague.

A ”Copenhagen Accord” was agreed by the US, China, South Africa and India by Friday night. It was unclear which other countries were willing to support it.

But coral reefs are dying, the Arctic is melting and rising sea levels threaten the homes of millions. And we’re on our way to a planet-transforming four-degree C rise in global average temperatures in as soon as 50 years.

Future generations could face an utterly transformed planet, where large areas will be seven to 14 degrees C warmer, making them uninhabitable. In this world-on-fire, the one to two metre sea level rise by 2100 will leave hundreds of millions homeless, according to the latest science presented at the “4 Degrees and Beyond, International Climate Science Conference” at the University of Oxford in September.

That’s the science-based, slap-in-the-face reality as the Copenhagen climate talks fizzle out here with little progress Friday.

Our leaders do not get the scale of the problem or the rapidity of the changes. They don’t get that it must be dealt with now,” said Andrew Weaver, a climatologist at Canada’s University of British Columbia and lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. Continue reading

Rage and the Economics of the Environment

Economist Tim Jackson, Copenhagen Dec 2009

[Rage does feel appropriate at times with the continuing mis-information regarding climate change and the IPCC. While some focus on looking for typos in 3000 page report, the real issue is an overwhelming need to bring our economic system in line with the reality that we have but one planet to live on. Economists like Tim Jackson, who I met in Copenhagen, and others are taking on this vitally important task but are getting little media attention. — Stephen]

Stephen Leahy interviews British economist TIM JACKSON*

Tim Jackson: “The climate treaty wasn’t the only thing that failed in Copenhagen.”

TORONTO, Canada, Jan 28, 2010 (Tierramérica)

“Rage is sometimes the appropriate response” to the failure of the world’s leaders to craft a new climate treaty at the Copenhagen summit, says British economist Tim Jackson.

The Copenhagen Accord, the outcome of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December, not only revealed global environmental governance as a fiction, but also demonstrated a continuing blind adherence to the mantra of economic growth, says Jackson

Professor of sustainable development and director of the Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment at Surrey University in Britain, Jackson also serves as British government advisor and economics commissioner for the Sustainable Development Commission.

In addition, Jackson is a professional playwright with numerous radio-writing credits for the BBC, based in London.

Tierramérica’s Stephen Leahy spoke with Jackson by phone about his new, controversial book “Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet”, the Copenhagen Accord and prospects for a real climate treaty, continuing a conversation they began last month in Copenhagen.

Q: Your book “Prosperity without Growth” argues that economic growth in developed countries is making people less happy and destroying the Earth itself.

A: It’s clear the continued pursuit of growth endangers the ecosystems on which we depend for long-term survival.

There is also ample evidence that increasing material wealth in developed countries is not making people any happier, but just the opposite in some countries. Beyond a certain level of income, there is no correlation of greater income with greater happiness.

Q: If the era of economic growth is over, what will take its place?

A: Wealth and prosperity need to be redefined along the lines of (1998 Nobel laureate in economics) Amartya Sen’s “capability for flourishing.” Flourishing is defined as having enough to eat, being part of a community, worthwhile employment, decent housing, access to education and medical services.

Continue reading