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.

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“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

Proof of Anti-Global Warming Cabal: Fossil fuel Interests, Christian Evangelicals and the Media

Stephen Leahy interviews science historian NAOMI ORESKES

PARIS, Mar 24, 2010 (IPS)

Even though 2009 was the fifth warmest year since 1850, and 2000-09 the warmest decade ever, according to the World Meterological Organisation, surveys show that public concern about global warming in the United States and Canada has dropped sharply in the past 18 months.

Why? Because of a relentless disinformation effort from an unlikely cabal of fossil fuel interests, Christian evangelicals and the media, says Naomi Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego.

“They have managed to reopen the debate over global warming in people’s minds,” she told IPS.

Oreskes and co-author Erik Conway, a science historian at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, document similar efforts to manufacture doubt around the science on acid rain, the ozone hole, secondhand cigarette smoke, and the pesticide DDT in their just published book, “Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming”. [Tons of excellent reviews —  the “eye-opener of the year” says one reviewer.]

In 2004, Oreskes was vilified on TV, radio and in print by commentators for providing clear evidence there was in fact a scientific consensus on global climate change. Her essay in the journal Science examined all of the peer-reviewed scientific papers on climate over the previous 10 years and found none dissented with the theories that climate change was occurring and it was caused by humans. Her survey has never been successfully challenged, despite many attempts.

IPS environmental correspondent Stephen Leahy spoke to Oreskes over the phone. Excerpts of the interview follow.

Q: Where is the vehement opposition to the very idea that we need to do something about climate change?

A: Some of it is ideological, part of a long history in the United States that equates environmental regulation as going down the slippery slope to socialism. And some is religious. Christian evangelicals don’t like science in general and have found common cause with the coal industry as a way to be able to teach creationism. Obviously, the motivation of the coal industry is rather different but now these people have come together to undermine science in general.

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Continue reading

State of Denial: The Real Global Warming Fantasy

What ever happened to common sense?
(based on a true story)

By Stephen Leahy

Two guys were sitting in a bar one evening. The first one says: “Climate change is a complete hoax you know. There’s lots information on the internet proving that.”

“No it’s not” the second guy replies. “I’ve talked to dozens and dozens of climate scientists around the world and read hundreds of reports and studies.”

The first guy responds saying: “All my friends agree with me. This global warming thing was just scam to make money for Al Gore.”

“But I’ve seen the vanishing glaciers, melting Arctic ice, rising temperatures and sea levels and extreme weather events with my own eyes,” says the second.

The first guy, pauses for a few seconds and says: “Well, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. So let’s just say the jury is still out on global warming.”

The two fall silent for awhile. Finally the second asks: “Let’s say I’m driving you home and it’s foggy out. You tell me to slow down a bit because there’s a sharp curve in the road coming up. Now I’ve never been on this road before and could acknowledge you might know the road well but instead of slowing down I say: ‘you’re entitled to your opinion, but the road looks straight enough to me’ and then step on the gas.”

The first guy gets up and puts on his coat saying: “You’d have to be crazy not to slow down just in case. I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing now.”

“But we are,” says the second as the first guy walks out the door.

Even if the world’s best scientists are wrong about climate change taking action now will create new jobs, save money, clean the air and water, improve energy efficiency, boost the health of our children, reduce our dependency on big oil companies, create more sustainable communities and many more benefits to all.

So you have to wonder why people oppose this.

And should 30 years of climate research done in dozens of countries be correct, the “bonus” in taking action is keeping rising temperatures to no more than 2 degrees C hopefully ensuring our children and grandchildren have a reasonable climate system to live with.

My wish for the new decade is that common sense will come back in fashion.

Related:

Denial & Delay: Global Warming B.S. Detector Tips

Greed Stalls 21st Century Bio-Economy

Interview With One of the Last Environmental Journalists Left Standing

+4 Degrees C By 2060? Alarming But Not Alarmist

07_00_01_News_Panonoramica

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Oct 9, 2009 (IPS)

The prospect of a four-degree Celsius rise in global average temperatures in 50 years is alarming – but not alarmist, climate scientists now believe.

Eighteen months ago, no one dared imagine humanity pushing the climate beyond an additional two degrees C of heating, but rising carbon emissions and inability to agree on cuts has meant science must now consider the previously unthinkable.

“Two degrees C is already gone as a target,” said Chris West of the University of Oxford’s UK Climate Impacts Programme.

“Four degrees C is definitely possible…This is the biggest challenge in our history,” West told participants at the “4 Degrees and Beyond, International Climate Science Conference” at the University of Oxford last DeadTrees CO2 release naturalweek.

A four-degree C overall increase means a world where temperatures will be two degrees warmer in some places, 12 degrees and more in others, making them uninhabitable.

It is a world with a one- to two-metre sea level rise by 2100, leaving hundreds of millions homeless. This will head to 12 metres in the coming centuries as the Greenland and Western Antarctic ice sheets melt, according to papers presented at the conference in Oxford.

Four degrees of warming would be hotter than any time in the last 30 million years, and it could happen as soon as 2060 to 2070.

“Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it’s completely useless,” John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the conference.

Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration, but he says they chided him that his findings were “not grounded in political reality” and that “the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this”.

He had told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilising the climate around two degrees C.

China’s emissions must peak by 2020 and then go to zero by 2035 based on the current science, he added.

“Policymakers who agreed to a two-degree C goal at the G20 summit easily fool themselves about what emission cuts are needed,” Schellnhuber said.

Even with a two-degree rise, most of the world’s coral reefs will be lost, large portions of the ocean will become dead zones, mountain glaciers will largely vanish and many other ecosystems will be at risk, Schellnhuber warned. And there is the risk of reaching a tipping point where the warming rapidly accelerates. Continue reading

James Lovelock: “there will be a sudden shift to a new global climate … 5 or 6C warmer”

Lovelock_James credit Sandy Lovelock

Stephen Leahy interviews JAMES LOVELOCK the scientist who first proposed the Gaia Hypothesis

TORONTO, June 5 2009 (Tierramérica)

“When the first great climate disaster strikes, I hope we will all pull together just as if our nation were being invaded,” says British scientist James Lovelock in this exclusive Tierramérica interview.

Please throw something in the tip jar before reading on.
This is how I make my living.

As the world marksInternational Environment Day Friday, Lovelock argues that as the climate warms and the carbon content of the atmosphere soars, humanity is facing a far grimmer future that will be upon us sooner than any of the projections made by the Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change (IPCC).

A chemist, physician and biophysicist, Lovelock is one of the world’s foremost environmental scientists and founder of the Gaia Hypothesis, which describes the planet as a living organism, a complex system in which the components of the biosphere and atmosphere interact to regulate and sustain life.

Although his ideas often feed controversy, Lovelock has wide-ranging scientific credentials. As an inventor, he holds more than 50 patents, including the first devices for detecting the presence of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and pesticide residues in the environment.

He is also the author of many books. The most recent, “The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning”, was published in April. Lovelock spoke with Tierramérica’s Stephen Leahy in Toronto.

TIERRAMÉRICA: Why are you critical of the IPCC? Continue reading

Global Warming Puts Food Supplies At Risk, New Green Revolution Needed

cattle-oz-rslBy Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Apr 2 (IPS) – Don’t forget about agriculture in the upcoming global negotiations to combat climate change, experts warn. Not only is farming most at risk in an increasingly variable and tempestuous climate, it is also a major emitter of greenhouse gases.

But with the right policies in place, agriculture could both continue to feed the world and play a crucial role in solving the climate problem.

“Agriculture has been missing in the run-up talks to Copenhagen,” says Mark Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The nations of the world will meet in Copenhagen this December to hammer out a new climate treaty to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and establish a fund to help poorer countries adapt. The complex process began in 2007 at the Bali talks, continued in Poznan, Poland in 2008 and is ongoing this week in Bonn.

Agriculture accounts for about 15 percent of human emissions of GHGs, IFPRI says, although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change puts it higher at 25 percent. Much of those emissions come from developed countries that rely heavily on fossil fuels and fertilisers and raise far more methane-emitting livestock.

With climate change the world is facing reduced yields of up to 20 percent in maize and rice by the year 2050, Rosegrant told IPS. Much of that yield decline will be in the developing world, mainly because sub-tropical and tropical regions are expected to be hit hardest by significant changes in water availability and warmer temperatures.

Climate change could mean ever-rising food prices and therefore significant investments are needed in agricultural research to help countries cope with the coming changes, he says: “We’re trying to work out what the costs for adaptation in agriculture might be.” Continue reading