Category Archives: Climate

Earth Hour

On Saturday, turn off your lights and other electricity bits and pieces for one hour. The Irish event runs from 8pm to 9pm. Read a book by candlelight or maybe go for a walk. Abu Dhabi isn’t involved but I’ve signed up anyway – join me here (even though the website’s font can’t used extended characters, so my name is totally FUBAR).

Hat tip to Emilie.

The UN fails again

As reported by Bloomberg:

China, India and other developing countries probably won’t be required to take on legally binding commitments to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions under a new climate-change treaty, a United Nations official said today…

The U.S. has refused to join the 1997 Kyoto accord in part because China and other rapidly emerging economies aren’t required under the treaty to make the same pollution cuts as industrialized nations. The U.S. and China are the world’s largest emitters of global warming pollution.

China and other developing countries say they shouldn’t be required to meet the same standard as developed countries because they are in the early stages of trying to fuel economic growth to pull billions of people out of poverty. The European Union and environmentalists agree, though they say they want to see stronger efforts from the countries in a new climate accord.

You see the vicious circle? “We won’t do it because they won’t do it”. Somebody needs to take the lead. One EU negotiator has gone so far as to say China need not make carbon cut commitments, but rather improve energy efficiency. Shouldn’t the two go hand in hand? China is building a coal power plant per week — energy efficiency will not remove the harmful environmental effect of that much burning fossil fuel.

Am I being unfairly bitter, or do I have a point?

Movement on Kyoto

Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the US the only major industrialised nation yet to agree to the climate treaty.

The endorsement was approved by the first executive council meeting of Australia’s new Labor government this morning, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said in a statement on the Labor Party’s Web site. Australia will become a full member of the Kyoto Protocol by the end of March, he said.

Rudd promised to make climate change a priority for his government, and I’m delighted with the drive he’s shown so far.

Australia’s target under the Kyoto accord is to limit growth in greenhouse gas emissions to an 8 percent increase above 1990 levels over the 2008-2012 period. The country is “tracking within 1 percentage point” of meeting that target, then-environment minister Malcolm Turnbull said in May. Australia is one of only three industrialized nations signed up to the accord that are allowed to increase emissions from 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The Labor government will do “everything in its power” to help the nation meet its Kyoto obligations, Rudd said. This will include setting a target to cut emissions by 60 percent on 2000 levels by 2050, starting a national emissions trading system by 2020 and setting a target for 20 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources such as the sun and wind by 2020, he said.

The timing couldn’t be better, as delegates from around the world are meeting in Bali to hammer out the successor to Kyoto, which expires in 2012. If it puts pressure on the US to sign up — though this might only happen under the next administration — so much the better. And the more major nations on board, the more likely developing countries such as China will join too.

That's it, we're screwed

From the Associated Press:

The Earth is hurtling toward a warmer climate at a quickening pace, a Nobel-winning U.N. scientific panel said in a landmark report released Saturday, warning of inevitable human suffering and the threat of extinction for some species.

As early as 2020, 75 million to 250 million people in Africa will suffer water shortages, residents of Asia’s megacities will be at great risk of river and coastal flooding, Europeans can expect extensive species loss, and North Americans will experience longer and hotter heat waves and greater competition for water, the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says.

The potential impact of global warming is “so severe and so sweeping that only urgent, global action will do,” Ban told the IPCC after it issued its fourth and final report this year…

The report is important because it is adopted by consensus, meaning countries accept the underlying science and cannot disavow its conclusions. While it does not commit governments to a specific course of action, it provides a common scientific baseline for the political talks [in Bali next month].

Maybe I’ll soon have to change the name of this blog to Tiny Underwater-Yet-Arid Planet.

Al Gore, man of peace


I’m glad Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have won the Nobel peace prize.

In a statement, Gore said he was “deeply honored,” adding that “the climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”

During its announcement, the Nobel committee cited the winners “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.

Although arguments exist against human activity being the catalyst for the planet’s warming, there is a 90% chance that we’re the cause. It is not too late to make a difference, even if we have to live with some significant climate changes.

That Gore won reflects how seriously the environmental movement is being taken. As Lewis Smith notes:

Ten years ago the idea that the world was warming up, with potentially disastrous consequences, was still hugely contested.

People who installed energy-saving lightbulbs or put on another jumper instead of turning up the thermostat were dismissed as part of the tree-hugging fringe movement.

But the science of climate change has advanced enormously in the past decade and gradually the sceptics have been silenced as their objections were answered.

Sceptics still exist, and many of them have good points to make, but it is they who have been pushed to the fringe of political and scientific debate.

The IPCC has made progress because of its scientific roots. It has amassed and analysed evidence that makes it nigh impossible to ignore the affect our activity is having on the planet. It and Gore have highlighted ways of adapting to and nullifying this impact.

Earlier this week, a judge ruled that Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was broadly accurate despite nine significant errors. The ruling, which determined if the film could be shown in schools, said “the ‘apocalyptic vision’ presented in the film was politically partisan and not an impartial analysis of the science of climate change”.

Yes, it’s a political film. Yes, it is biased toward one point of view. But it is not wrong just because of this — it’s purpose is to raise awareness and inspire action. Because the judge backed the film’s central message, it can be show provided there are accompanying materials to balance Gore’s view.

Let us all hope it continues to have a positive impact on our attitude toward our planet.

Postscript: Daniel Drezner has noted a curious passage in the press release, which states that Gore “is probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted”. Drezner wonders if the sentence would make more sense were the word “worldwide” replaced by “American”.