Flying into Doha yesterday for the next round of international climate negotiations, landing in what seems to be a pile of white sand in the middle of nowhere, with high rise buildings sticking out of it. Is this where we’re going to stop climate change?
In a word, no. Not by a long shot. These talks, the 18th conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed in 1992, will not stop climate change.
For me, the last few weeks have seen a number of “things we could only have dreamed of” moments. Back in 1991 when we were negotiating the UNFCCC, the meetings were peppered with almost daily International Chamber of Commerce press conferences where the likes of climate cranks Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels and Richard Lindzen questioned the science. Big business and global institutions either ignored the issue – or were working to stop any agreement. Continue reading “Things we could only have dreamed of – and all that sand”
The New Zealand government has announced that the country will not join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (CP2), but will instead make voluntary commitments within the Kyoto framework [Herald, NBR]. Climate change minister Tim Groser presented this move as:
…aligning [NZ’s] climate change efforts with developed and developing countries which collectively are responsible for 85% of global emissions. This includes the United States, Japan, China, India, Canada, Brazil, Russia and many other major economies.
To put it another way, New Zealand has chosen to abandon the 36 countries already signed up for CP2 — which runs from 2013 to 2020 — and instead aligns itself with the world’s worst polluters. Ironically, Groser rejected CP2 on the same day that Australia, only recently equipped with a meaningful carbon emission reduction scheme, announced it would sign up. The move completes the National-led government’s programme of gutting and dismembering the climate policies it inherited from the last Labour-led government when it took power in 2008.
Continue reading “Don’t worry Kyoto (National’s Only Looking Out For Its Friends)”
MP Nick Smith in a NZ Herald opinion piece this week uses the fracking debate to advance the cause of fossil fuel mining. He claims that fracking is important in the development of geothermal energy and then moves seamlessly to the notion that we are desperately in need of unconventional natural gas in order to save us from falling back on coal, which we will otherwise “inevitably burn”. In defending fracking he manages to nicely couple the fossil fuel natural gas with a renewable energy source, geothermal.
It’s not my purpose to argue here about fracking as a technology. What is dismaying about Smith’s article is the complacency with which he advances the cause of natural gas. Writing enthusiastically of the huge unconventional shale gas resources in the US, he claims gas emits one-third the greenhouse gas emissions of coal. I know its emissions are lower, but it was news to me that they were as low as that. I could find no source to substantiate that figure. A little over half is the best figure I have been able to locate, and there are big questions about methane leakage in the fracking process. However let that pass. The real issue is the unrestrained pursuit of unconventional fossil fuels, which as James Hansen has reminded us often enough will mean game over for the climate.
Continue reading “Nick Smith: another fossil fuel fail”
The International Energy Agency (IEA) continues to plug the energy transformation necessary if we are to have any hope of staying within a 2oC rise in global temperature. This month has seen the publication of Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 (ETP 2012) in which they explain the technologies and behaviours that according to the press release “will revolutionise the entire energy system and unlock tremendous economic benefits between now and 2050”. My references to the book’s content in what follows are derived from the executive summary. (The book is priced.)
ETP 2012 argues that the technologies we already possess are adequate to the task of cutting emissions drastically if used in an integrated way. The resultant overhaul of the world’s energy system by 2050 will not come cheap. Considerable extra investment money will be needed, $36 trillion by their calculation. But that is genuine investment, not cost, and moreover investment with an excellent return of $100 trillion in savings through the reduced use of fossil fuel. Investing in clean energy makes excellent economic sense at the same time as assisting in the mitigation of climate change.
Continue reading “Still time for the energy revolution”
Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency (IEA) said at Reuters’ Global Energy & Environment Summit this month that the door for a 2 degree Celsius target is about to be closed and closed forever. That’s a serious statement, but one which has been backed up in recent days by a news release from the IEA announcing that their preliminary estimates show that in 2011 global carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel combustion reached a record high of 31.6 gigatonnes (Gt).
This represents an increase of 1.0 Gt on 2010, or 3.2%. Coal accounted for 45% of total energy-related CO2 emissions in 2011, followed by oil (35%) and natural gas (20%).
The 450 Scenario of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2011, which sets out an energy pathway consistent with a 50% chance of limiting the increase in the average global temperature to 2°C, requires CO2 emissions to peak at 32.6 Gt no later than 2017, i.e. just 1.0 Gt above 2011 levels. The 450 Scenario sees a decoupling of CO2 emissions from global GDP, but much still needs to be done to reach that goal as the rate of growth in CO2 emissions in 2011 exceeded that of global GDP.
Not surprisingly Birol repeats his warning: “The new data provide further evidence that the door to a 2°C trajectory is about to close.”
Continue reading “IEA: emissions up, 2ºC target looking unlikely”