NZ: pushing the world to go beyond 2 degrees

head-in-the-sandNew Zealand is coming under increasing scrutiny in Lima, not least because it’s our turn to be reviewed by the UNFCCC process.

Early next week our representatives will have to defend our position and our lack of action to 190 governments in our first “multilateral assessment.”

Already, there have been some tough questions, coming especially from the EU and China. New Zealand’s answered them, but will have to more to defend itself than these carefully fudged answers.

Our negotiators have been trying to promote our position around the meeting, including a botched attempt in a science discussion yesterday, when they were interrupted halfway through a blatant PR presentation. They were told to get back to the issue at hand (science, not promotion of a country’s so-called “efforts”), after a number of governments objected to our highjacking the agenda. Continue reading “NZ: pushing the world to go beyond 2 degrees”

Welcome to the Carbon COP

The Polish National Stadium
The first week here at the climate talks in Warsaw kicked off with the super typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in a terrible tragedy, brought into the meeting by the country’s lead negotiator Seb Yano, whose fast has been joined by many from civil society. The plight of his people has been a rallying call around the world as we all look at the aftermath of this storm with horror.  Is it a direct result of climate change? What we do know is that the sea surface temps were 1.5degC above normal, and that we can expect more intense cyclones as the earth’s temperature warms.  But  as NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth wrote:
“The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….”

As we’ve been all walking around in circles of the Polish National Stadium, trying to stay sane, looking at the images from the Philippines and the campaigning by their government to get a stronger outcome, it seems several governments have kept their eyes firmly OFF the ball, instead  taking the opportunity of the occasion to walk away from their commitments. Continue reading “Welcome to the Carbon COP”

We did it and it’s going to get worse, but it’s not (yet) too late: IPCC AR5 science report summary released

Aafter all the leaks and attempted spin, the final version of the IPCC’s Summary For Policymakers of the Working Group One report on the physical science basis for our current understanding of climate change has just been released. Download the PDF from the IPCC site here. The full report will follow on Monday — a massive 3,000 page tome that summarises 9,200 scientific papers published since AR4 was released in 2007. The bottom line is clear enough:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.

The Science Media Centre asked Professor Dave Frame, Director of the NZ Climate Change Research Institute at VUW to explain the key points:

  • It is extremely likely that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature since 1950;
  • It is virtually certain that natural variability alone cannot account for the observed global warming since 1950;
  • Global mean temperatures will continue to rise over the 21st century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated;
  • The principal driver of long term warming is the total cumulative emission of CO2 over time;
  • To limit warming caused by CO2 emissions alone to be likely less than 2°C, total CO2 emissions from all anthropogenic sources would need to be limited to a cumulative budget of about one trillion tonnes of carbon, emitted as CO2, over the entire industrial era, about half of which have been emitted by 2011.

The emphasis on carbon budgets is new for this report, and makes the emissions reduction challenge we face only too clear. Here’s Fig 10 from the SPM:

The black dots on the bottom left represent historical carbon emissions up to 2010. The various coloured lines show what various emissions pathways — new for AR5 (see Skeptical Science’s explanation) — mean for global temperatures by 2100. Only the most aggressive emissions pathway — RCP 2.6, the purple line — gives us a chance of staying under a 2ºC target, but assumes that we are actually reducing atmospheric CO2 by the end of the century. It remains an uphill struggle, in other words, and the hill gets steeper the longer we leave starting out on the climb.

A big week coming: meanwhile Anglicans divest

It’s shaping up to be a big week. On Friday in Stockholm (Saturday in NZ) the IPCC will release the final version (not the one that’s been leaked to and seen by all and sundry) of the Summary for Policy Makers of the Working Group One report of their Fifth Report (AR5 — official web site here). As you might expect, the usual suspects have been lining up to try and dominate the news media — to provide a carbon friendly “frame” through which to view the IPCC’s findings. Most of it has been singularly ineffective, as Graham Readfearn noted in the Guardian, but I’ll hold my fire until the final SPM is released. Watch this space…

Meanwhile, the Anglican Diocese of Wellington voted this weekend to join their colleagues in Auckland by divesting itself of any fossil fuel investments in its portfolio. The Auckland synod at the beginning of the month took the opportunity to listen to two presentations that I think it worth drawing attention to here. First, Jim Renwick from VUW (an IPCC lead author) lays out the basic science that underlies the case for action to reduce emissions:

…then economic commentator Rod Oram explains the “carbon bubble” in market valuations of fossil fuel energy stocks, and why it would make sense to avoid that risk:

Two compelling presentations, with an obvious conclusion that the members of the Anglican church were happy to accept. We should not be investing in companies whose value depends on the burning of excessive amounts of carbon.

The Climate Show #33: Salinger, carbon carnage and recursive fury

In this week’s news-packed edition of The Climate Show we have an exclusive interview with Jim Salinger, probably New Zealand’s highest profile climate scientist, talking about extremes and the shape of things to come. John Cook discusses his new paper with Stephan Lewandowsky, Recursive fury: Conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation, which is already upsetting climate cranks around the world, plus we look at carbon bubbles, renewable energy beating coal on price, and a simply superb iPad app.

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

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Continue reading “The Climate Show #33: Salinger, carbon carnage and recursive fury”