Friday, February 5th, 2010
Friday, December 18th, 2009 was one of the saddest days of my career. The Copenhagen Climate Conference had ended with a non-binding Copenhagen Accord. And no one knew what it meant. When I returned to the negotiating center, it was as empty as the Copenhagen Accord. The NGO and government leaders had abandoned the center. And the accord’s emission reduction commitments were blank.
On January 31st, we got to see what the pledges are. The small island nation of the Maldives has committed to 100% mitigation by 2020. The Maldives foreign minister announced, “The Maldives’ submission of its mitigation action is voluntary and unconditional…The Maldives looks forward to its mitigation action being registered and publicly available.” That’s leadership.
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
Not much in terms of effective policy came out of the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, or COP15. In fact, the best that can probably be said is that nations agreed to disagree; poor ones unwilling to take on carbon emission reductions that would stunt their industrial growth, and rich ones unwilling to take the blame for emissions that have, to date, caused most of the problems and benefited rich nations most of all.
To highlight this ambivalence, on January 26 Yvo de Boer, United Nation’s senior climate change official, noted that governments could either comply with proposed emissions limits by the deadline, or later if they preferred – a paradox that has led many to ask what the purpose of the deadline was?
Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
In a report to Congress, the U.S. military for the first time is warning that the effects of climate change may cause or exacerbate future global conflicts and complicate U.S. missions worldwide.
In its regular Quadrennial Defense Review, the Defense Department warns that the effects of a warming world, including increased poverty, hunger and disease, could further weaken fragile governments and perhaps provoke mass migrations.
Monday, February 1st, 2010
This is the second book review of Stewart Brand’s new book “Whole Earth Discipline” posted on CleanTechies. Read the first review by Todd Woody here.
When James Lovelock, Edward O. Wilson and Ian McEwan jostle to praise a book I assume it will be worth attention. Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto doesn’t disappoint. The title echoes the Whole Earth Catalogue which he founded over forty years ago as an ambitious reference aid for skills, tools and products useful to a self-sustainable lifestyle.
Times have changed and Brand has changed with them. Climate change has become a clear and present danger. He has become more of a pragmatist, though no less of an environmentalist. His pragmatism leads him to regard with favour three factors which put him to some extent at odds with others in the environmental movement. The three are urbanisation, nuclear power and genetic engineering, and part of the purpose of the book is to urge the Green-inclined to consider how the three may now be considered significant contributions to facing up to climate change.
Thursday, January 28th, 2010
President Obama called on Congress to pass climate and energy legislation that would include the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants, more offshore oil drilling along the U.S. coast, and increased funding for developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency.
But the president made no mention in his State of the Union speech of controversial legislation to impose a price and a cap on carbon emissions. By backing away from cap-and-trade legislation that already has been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, Obama signaled his willingness to work with Republicans to pass a scaled-back version of climate and energy legislation this year.
Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Concern about global warming among U.S. adults has dropped significantly, a new poll says, with fewer than 50 percent of Americans saying they are “somewhat” or “very worried” — a 13 percent decrease from a poll taken in October 2008.
The percentage of Americans who believe global warming is occurring fell 14 percent to 57 percent, and the percentage who think global warming is caused primarily by human activities fell 10 percent to 47 percent, according to the poll funded by the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed new ozone standards to protect health and environmental values. These standards will apply to the lower atmosphere, to the air we breathe. In the upper atmosphere, ozone is good.
The “hole” in the ozone layer over Antarctica has worried scientists for years since ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.
According to research at the University of Leeds, the hole in the ozone layer is now steadily closing. This is a concern, since its repair could actually increase warming in the southern hemisphere, the scientists at Leeds conclude.
Friday, January 22nd, 2010
One of the most promising, yet also most frustrating, aspects of dealing with climate change is how the noise (the static) of the debate makes it difficult for the majority of people to understand the power of the “No Regrets” strategy opportunity and promise.
The concept of a “No Regrets” strategy has been around for decades. For example, this 1991 New York Times article on a National Academies of Science report was entitled Economic Scene: The ‘No Regrets’ Greenhouse Fix
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf are notable climate scientists. They are also excellent communicators of the science to the general reader, as is apparent in their new book The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change. The authors seek to provide an accessible and readable account of the “treasure trove” of the IPCC reports.
They distinguish their work sharply from the Summaries for Policy Makers officially provided by the IPCC, which are negotiated between government representatives and exclude much of what scientists think and write in the full report.
But while they draw heavily on the latest IPCC report and feature many of its informative graphs and tables, they also refer to new findings since the 2006 cut-off date for the report, and draw attention to weaknesses they sometimes see in the report.
Most of the book deals with global climate science, the focus of IPCC Working Group I, with subsequent brief attention given to the impacts of climate change (Working Group II) and to mitigation (Working Group III). (more…)
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Economy versus the Environment. This is a slogan for many when they consider the challenges of dealing with Climate Change and the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In 2007, McKinsey issued Reducing US Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost? that provided a a significant contribution to this discussion. McKinsey’s conclusion: at an “affordable” cost of well below $50 per ton, in aggregate, the United States can meet necessary 2030 targets for GHG emission reductions. All-in-all, this was quite good news for those advocating acting to deal with Climate Change.
There was (and is) reason why the original study and McKinsey’s continuing work in this arena have been widely discussed / cited over the past two years. And, variants of the graphic on cost abatement have shown up in briefing after briefing, article after article, book after book. Good news.
Or, well, is it? McKinsey’s work provides significant data that addressing the environment will have economic cost. Even if a low number, with many actions providing economic benefit, the McKinsey work has a serious underlying thematic: it will cost to address climate change.