Move to climate_change

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Scientific consensus proven to really be a consensus

The BBC has a well written comment piece on tackling climate change, which comes coupled with this hard hitting first paragraph:

"Human society is performing a remarkable and uncontrolled experiment on the Earth. Because of the combustion of coal, oil and gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are already higher than they have been for at least 430,000 years. If such activities continue, CO2 will rise to levels not seen on the Earth for 30 million years or more."

If you have a climate story, been affected by an extreme weather event, then the WWF want to know. They're looking to build a network of people with similar experiences.

The Guardian has an article on business awakening and adapting to climate change.

However, an article that closes the debate against those muddying the waters on climate change is the read of the day:

"That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change". The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position."

"Policy-makers and the media, particularly in the United States, frequently assert that climate science is highly uncertain. Some have used this as an argument against adopting strong measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, while discussing a major U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report on the risks of climate change, then-EPA administrator Christine Whitman argued, "As [the report] went through review, there was less consensus on the science and conclusions on climate change". Some corporations whose revenues might be adversely affected by controls on carbon dioxide emissions have also alleged major uncertainties in the science. Such statements suggest that there might be substantive disagreement in the scientific community about the reality of anthropogenic climate change. This is not the case."

I'm going to be busy for the next week or two, so there won't be any new posts for a little while. Please feel free to fill up the comment board with things relevant you'd like to say. In the meantime, you may also want to switch to a renewable electricity supplier who doesn't generate any greenhouse gases before the holidays start - for all the British readers it's only just one call away! do it now! Also, if you have a desktop (as opposed to a laptop) you may wish to install the Climate Prediction screen saver which adds your computing power to work on a Hadley model when you're not using it.

Have a very merry christmas!

More COP10 details, and climate lawsuits

COP10 continues unabated.

An official report released at the conference states that China's food output could be hit by 10% between 2030 and 2050, and a report from the WWF that "goes one step further than previous studies by analyzing the impact of increased extreme weather events on nature" stating that the results will be worse than previously thought.

A lot more debate over how much role the major new developing economies will have to play in the post-Kyoto cuts has been covered in the news. During the first minor cuts that were planned during the conference at Kyoto developing nations have been exempt as their per-capita output is very low. However as the director of the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists said "If India, China and Brazil replicate our pattern of fossil-intensive development, the game is over." A good article explaining where Brazil and China's CO2 comes from is here. In Brazil's case, 75% is from rainforest destruction.

The US are even less willing to look at the 2012 post-Kyoto period according to the French Press Agency: "US senior climate negotiator Harlan Watson said Friday in Buenos Aires that Washington was open to holding "informal gatherings" to discuss climate change, as long as they do not pave the way to post-Kyoto negotiations. Friends of the Earth have called for the EU to sanction the US over climate change: "[In Buenos Aires, the EU] must get rough with the United States, including threatening to introduce import taxes on energy-intensive US products as long as the US refuse to fight climate change"

BBC has a few articles on it too. This one worries that it might be a little linguistically inaccessable and go on to display fears that it's just a talking shop rather than action being taken. Another on the Hadley report I covered yesterday - although rather than just read another article about it, if you haven't already I recommend you read full report (pdf) yourself, it's quite short and easy to understand. We've also got yet another article covering the completely flawed Bjorn Lomborg argument that money is better spent on other things. I really wish the press would stop giving him more space than he deserves.

If you read one link from this entry, read this. It describes how the law is being prepared to be used against polluters by those suffering the worst effects of climate change, such as the Inuit people. In the dock could be ExxonMobil, known everywhere outside the US as Esso - the organisation at the top of the list for funding bad climate science to be used in much the same way as the tobacco companies funded bad science in an attempt to claim smoking didn't kill you. You can read more at, The Climate Justice Programme.

Hadley says by 2050 we're all cooked

Heatwaves like that in 2003, which killed 15,000 in Europe will seem "unusually cool" in 2050 according to the Met Office's world-respected Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in a brand new report.

"In its report Uncertainty, Risk and Dangerous Climate Change, to be published today at the climate talks in Buenos Aires [COP10], it estimates that average temperatures will rise by 3.5C, well above the 2C which the EU says is the limit to avoid catastrophic global warming."

"It also says that the Greenland ice sheet could disappear, ultimately raising the global sea level by 7 metres. This could proceed at the rate of 5.5mm a year, and this with the 3mm rise caused by the thermal expansion of sea water would soon put large part of Britain, including the London docklands, under threat."

Partially as a result of climate change, a quarter of bird species will likely be "functionally extinct" by the end of the century, and 14% completely so: "Given the momentum of climate change, widespread habitat loss and increasing numbers of invasive species, avian declines and extinctions are predicted to continue unabated in the near future." said the Cagan Sekercioglu of the Stanford centre for conservation biology. [Guardian]

The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) has re-released an enhanced version of its Greenhouse Gas Inventory Database. "Users will benefit from the simplified search system and faster processing time. Information about GHG data sources; frequently asked questions; predefined queries; related documents; summary graphs -- these are some of the many new features that will help user make the most of this system."


"Kyoto-Lite" seems to be the word of the day. It's a concept from the Blair-Bush "special relationship" in an attempt to make headway on the US's blank refusal to combat its 25% contribution to world greenhouse gas emissions or ratify Kyoto. "Kyoto-Lite" would "involve scientific agreement on the scale and nature of the threat, as well as an international programme to develop the technology needed for renewable energy and the reduction of carbon emissions" but wouldn't actually commit the US to making any emission reductions. [ Times / Guardian ]

Michael Crichton, author of Jurasic Park, is bringing out a new book called State of Fear. In it environmentalists plot a series of earthquakes to prove climate change exists. This stuff is really off the wall. [Guardian / Independent]</a> See, I've always had the thought that the US President having people believe there are terrorists around every corner as a more adequate topic for such a book, and most British MPs agree (article originally from the Independent).

The location of the Lewis wind farm continues to cause dispute. The RSPB and the Scottish Wildlife Trust have both spoke out against the stations now. It's a myth in most circumstances that wind farms slice up birds (it's quite rare, especially when you compare them to cars), but the construction of them in this could damage the fragile habitats in which the local bird and wildlife live. On the other hand this is potentially the world's largest on-shore wind farm, enough to power a huge 1.1m people, exactly the kind of project we need. One of those situations where there's losers either way.

Wuppertal Institute has just released a new report describing how much a lesser evil natural gas is over coal or oil. [here]

UK meets Kyoto but will miss own targets significantly

The UK will miss the 20% reductions by 2010 target it set itself, by a wide margin. It'll still meet Kyoto with ease, due to carbon savings made, a significant percentage from moving from coal to gas power stations in the 90s. Kind of in the same situation as Germany then, which is also missing its own targets, but meeting Kyoto, who had the collapsed former-soviet industry in the DDR (East) to cut its figures. If we can't make the first easy 20% of cuts by 2010, how will we make the much harder 60-80% of cuts scientists say we need thereafter?

Dr Broecker, professor of geology at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who in the 1980s identified the world-wide "conveyor belt" of ocean currents which plays a key role in regulating the planet's climate has spoken out that Kyoto will not be enough, and much more radical change will be needed as well as ensuring that the new economies in India and China must not follow our carbon heavy path: "What you guys are tinkering around with in Kyoto is just a drop in the bucket."

Also of note is a column</a> from ex-minister Robin Cook. Although I have an issue with the cooling scenario, the majority opinion that I'm aware of so far is that the gulf stream is very unlikely to stop, and any cooling caused by it slowing or moving north will only compensate to temporarily slow any temperature increases caused by global warming in NW Europe, what he does get down very effectively is that missing our own set targets is completely beyond the point. Have a read.

COP10: The United States position

COP10 still has near zero press coverage, even in the liberal press. Still, one article did manage to slip through on the BBC. This will have to do for the US position as they don't have much in the way of policy online.

Dr Watson was asked by a German journalist what had gone wrong with the American way of life to make it produce twice the emissions of European economies with similar living standards.

"Nothing went wrong in the US," he said. "We are blessed with economic growth which implies more energy use, which typically implies more emissions.

"I might say, by the way, that your sweeping statement about European reductions does not hold across the board, because there have been substantial increases in a number of countries in Europe."

So essentially, because the US is making the most money, then the US should be allowed to release 25% of the world's greenhouse gases. Hmmm. On the other hand, I came across an interesting NRDC report that states that China has managed both significant economic growth and an emissions reduction, even taking into account that China routinely fakes its figures.

On the last point he's right, some EU countries are off-target, the article quotes Portugal at 36% and Spain at 33% since 1990 levels (although I couldn't find these statistics myself - they may well be the most recent). What it doesn't say is that Portugal is allowed to increase its emissions by 27% and Spain 15% under the burdon sharing agreement between EU member states that allows lesser developed EU states to increase their emissions, and pushes the more developed to decrease. Currently both states emit significantly less CO2 than Germany or the UK. The EU is seen as a single entity and has a single target of -8% by 2008-2012 which in 1999 was at -4%.

Outright lie of the day goes to, again, US negotiator Dr.Watson:
"The Kyoto protocol was a political agreement. It was not based on science."

No, opposition to climate change, and opposition to Kyoto which is currently the only real international action against climate change, is purely political and has no scientific backing. Ask any independently funded research institute - nearly complete consensus. The only real force who argue that climate change deserves no or little action are oil-funded front institutes, a reasonable list of links you can find here. (on the subject of corporate links - "They Rule" is a very good site too)

COP10: The German position

This broadly fits in line with studies that indicate 2 degrees warmth is a likely disaster point (this article explains some of it better, using a 2.5 degree model), and is somewhat representative of the EU opinion as a whole.

"The emission reductions agreed on for industrialised countries in the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol represent a first, indispensable step in the right direction. However, in order to reach the Framework Convention's ultimate goal of preventing dangerous climate change, further steps must follow. The EU has set itself the goal of preventing an increasing in global warming of more than 2 °C compared to pre-industrialisation levels and of minimising the risk of hazardous developments such as the melting of polar ice caps or the destruction of key eco-systems. Clear progress in reducing emissions is urgently needed within the next decade if this goal is to be reached.

"International measures must be agreed on that go beyond 2012 - the end of the Protocol's first commitment period. Greater emission reductions are needed for industrialised countries, but newly industrialised and developing countries must also be gradually incorporated to a greater extent. Only then will it be possible to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and to stabilise the global climate in the long term. Scientific estimates show that greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease by around 50% worldwide by 2050. As emissions are first going to increase in developing countries, this means a reduction of around 70-90% for the industrialised countries. Germany therefore proposes that in the framework of international efforts, the EU commits itself to a 30% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 compared with 1990. Germany would then be willing to aim for a 40% reduction."


Can we make the deadline work? We have to.

Freezing duty and dodgy deniers


Brown has frozen duty on petrol (again) (Independent /Guardian). Needless to say many environmental groups aren't happy that long-term plans to combat warming are cut when subjected to short-term petrol price fluctuations. Also of note is a change in company car tax which may encourage companies to move from diesel to the more polluting petrol for their fleets.

I promise I'll try to be more international in the future with news coverage.

Self-contradicting line of the day goes to free-marketeer and Times columnist Barun Mitra:
"Indian cities are characterised by pollution caused by inefficient cars and adulterated petrol. The cost of fuel is so high that we can’t afford to buy more modern and efficient ones."

It's used as an argument to legitimise low fuel tax, but like much "logic" used to counter measures to control climate change it's so broken.

The first is the most obvious - without any kind of punitive tax on fuel people will have much less financial reason to spend more money on a more modern car with better fuel consumption. Indeed, the tax could be used to subsidise more efficient techniques and make them more affordable.

The author goes on...
"Not surprisingly, Kyoto does not sound convincing to the world’s poor. For what this present debate over climate change has done is to divert attention from the core issue of mankind — poverty."

See, now this assumes that the reader knows nothing about the way Kyoto or indeed climate change will affect developing nations and why most developing nations are its most ardent supporters.

As India is a developing nation, it is exempt from needing to make any emissions cuts. The reason for this being is that in 1999 an Indian on average relased 1.1 tonnes of carbon into the air. An American released 19.7, a British citizen 9.2 and someone residing in Germany 9.7 tonnes. We're the ones causing climate change, not China or India - yet.

Additionally India will benefit greatly, as they will be able to sell the tonnes they're not using to developed nations like Canada or Europe which will both encourage them to jump straight to clean technologies as well as provide a large amount of financial support to a nation that much needs it. Kyoto is not just an environmental bill in that respect, but also one that will lead in restructuring the global economy, and set-up the conditions for a wider provision of basic services.

But the bigger issue is that climate change will affect developing nations first. For example, a one-metre rise in sea level will result in the permanent inundation of 15%-18% of low-lying coastal areas in Bangladesh and displace 10 million people. It will be Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and other local nations that will have to support these climate refugees, while themselves have additional food, water and extreme weather problems. It will be hard for us, but for developing nations just getting off their feet, climate change will be even more deadly.