Science vs Politics at the Edge of the North Pole

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By Stephen Leahy

NY-ÅLESUND, Svalbard, Norway, Jun 14 (IPS)

Spectacular views of mountains and glaciers here in the world’s most northerly permanent human settlement contrasted with business and political leaders’ pessimism and concern about the enormous gap between the action on climate that science deems necessary and what politics considers realistic.

“We must push beyond the politically feasible,” said Tora Aasland, Norway’s minister of research and higher education.

SN852503“Here we are at the edge of the North Pole where climate change is easier to see…How do we communicate the urgency of our situation?” Aasland asked several dozen attendees at a recent high-level symposium in Ny-Ålesund, on the western coast of Spitsbergen Island about 1,200 kilometers from the North Pole.

She emphasised that we already know what to do and how to do it, including reducing fossil fuel energy use, improving energy efficiency, and investing in new technologies like carbon capture and storage.

Taking action on climate is imperative and an ambitious international agreement is urgently needed based on what scientists say is required to stabilise the climate system, participants concluded in a final statement. However, the current series of international climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany have bogged down and are on the edge of collapse, several participants noted. Continue reading

Climate River in Full Flood

Analysis by Stephen Leahy*

Apr 2 (IPS) – Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere can be compared to a flooding river, swamping low areas at first but inevitably bursting its banks.

But unlike normal seasonal flooding, humanity is largely responsible for the crisis by burning fossil fuels.

[ *This story is part two of a four-part examination of the psychological and behavioural changes needed to dial down the temperature on our global greenhouse. Part one: Climate Change Reshaping Civilization Part three: CLIMATE CHANGE: A Vision Worth Fighting For Part four: CLIMATE CHANGE: A Game With Too Many Free Riders ]

Today, a routine drive to the supermarket adds another fraction to the CO2 in the atmosphere, trapping a little more heat. And not just for today but the next 5,000 years. That is how long it takes before the carbon dioxide we release today is finally absorbed and safely tucked away. But for 5,000 years, that carbon will trap additional heat.

If climate change were a rising river near our street, we’d all be at the dikes, filling and carting sandbags with neighbours and strangers. We’d share our food, enjoy the camaraderie and remember forever our individual and collective effort with pride and satisfaction. Continue reading