China and US reach emissions deal, NZ govt warned its policies are failing

Today’s news that the US and China have agreed a long term policy to reduce carbon emissions is being hailed as a “game-changer” in international climate negotiations. China has agreed to cap its emissions in 2030 — the first time it has committed to anything more than a reduction in the carbon intensity of its emissions, while the US will aim to cut emissions by 26-28% on 2005 levels by 2025, up from its current target of 17% by 2020. [BBC, Guardian, Climate Progress.] Meanwhile, NZ’s third term National government is being warned by its own civil servants that its current emissions policy settings commit the country to substantial emissions increases over the same time frame.

With the world’s two largest emitters — between them they account for 45% of total emissions — agreeing to work together for the first time, prospects for a global deal in Paris next year look brighter than before. However, the cuts on the table do not look like enough to keep the planet on a trajectory to 2 degrees of warming or less. Associate professor Peter Christoff of the University of Melbourne explains (via The Conversation):

These commitments will frame the levels of ambition required of other states at Paris next year. Climate modellers will no doubt now be rushing to determine what these new commitments, if delivered successfully, will mean for combating global warming.

The US and Chinese cuts, significant though they are, will not be enough to limit the total increase in the atmospheric carbon dioxide unless other states engage in truly radical reductions.

In other words, global emissions are likely to continue to grow, probably until 2030, which will make it impossible to hold global warming below the world’s agreed limit of 2ºC above pre-industrial levels.

In New Zealand the briefings for incoming ministers in the new government — same as the old lot, in climate relevant ministries — have been remarkably blunt in their assessment of the task the country faces. Continue reading “China and US reach emissions deal, NZ govt warned its policies are failing”

AAAS “What We Know” Initiative: Same Denial, Different Issue – From Ozone Depletion to Climate Change

Dr Mario Molina  (c)  Centro Mario Molina
Dr Mario Molina
(c) Centro Mario Molina

(Cross-posted with permission from

It must be like Groundhog Day for Mario Molina, the scientist who has presided over the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s new report and publicity drive aimed at convincing Americans about the urgency of what’s happening on climate change.

The normally reticent AAAS has taken a highly unusual step. There’s no new science in it.  Instead, it summarises “what we know” on climate science, highlighting the 97% consensus on the issue and calling for action.

Why did they do it? The AAAS says it’s becoming alarmed at the American public’s views on climate change, stating in the opening paragraphs:

 “Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement.  Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real.” Continue reading “AAAS “What We Know” Initiative: Same Denial, Different Issue – From Ozone Depletion to Climate Change”

The year the earth bit back: top climate stories of 2012

2012Amidst the blizzard of year-end roundups, here’s one you have to read in full — a joint effort put together by a diverse group of bloggers and scientists: Angela Fritz, Eli Rabett, Emilee Pierce, Greg Laden, Joe Romm, John Abraham, Laurence Lewis, Leo Hickman, Michael Mann, Michael Tobis, Paul Douglas, Scott Mandia, Scott Brophy, Stephan Lewandowsky, Tenney Naumer and yours truly. Lead author Greg Laden explains:

A group of us, all interested in climate science, put together a list of the most notable, often, most worrying, climate-related stories of the year, along with a few links that will allow you to explore the stories in more detail. We did not try to make this a “top ten” list, because it is rather silly to fit the news, or the science, or the stuff the Earth does in a given year into an arbitrary number of events. (What if we had 12 fingers, and “10” was equal to 6+6? Then there would always be 12 things, not 10, on everyone’s list. Makes no sense.) We ended up with 18 items, but note that some of these things are related to each other in a way that would allow us to lump them or split them in different ways. See this post by Joe Romm for a more integrated approach to the year’s events. Also, see what Jeff Masters did here. We only included one non-climate (but related) item to illustrate the larger number of social, cultural, and political things that happened this year. For instance, because of some of the things on this list, Americans are more likely than they were in previous years to accept the possibility that science has something to say about the Earth’s climate and the changes we have experienced or that may be in the future; journalists are starting to take a new look at their own misplaced “objective” stance as well. Also, more politicians are starting to run for office on a pro-science pro-environment platform than has been the case for quite some time.

A failing of this list is that although non-US based people contributed, and it is somewhat global in its scope, it is a bit American based. This is partly because a few of the big stories happened here this year, but also, because the underlying theme really is the realisation that climate change is not something of the future, but rather, something of the present, and key lessons learned in that important area of study happened in the American West (fires) the South and Midwest (droughts, crop failures, closing of river ways) and Northeast (Sandy). But many of the items listed here were indeed global, such as extreme heat and extreme cold caused by meteorological changes linked to warming, and of course, drought is widespread.

Continue reading “The year the earth bit back: top climate stories of 2012”

The Climate Show #30: Obama, Sandy and the rabbit

Another news special on this week’s Climate Show. With Barack Obama winning “four more years“, and the biggest Atlantic storm ever seen slamming into New Jersey, New York, and most of the northeastern USA, Glenn and Gareth chew over the details and consider the implications. With a side order of accountants PwC being gloomy, agricultural emissions, and a rabbit. (Not you, Eli).

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Continue reading “The Climate Show #30: Obama, Sandy and the rabbit”

It’s Global Warming, Stupid: telling it like it is in post-Sandy USA


Sandy was an astonishing storm1. Bloomberg Businessweek has taken the opportunity to state the obvious and create one of the great magazine covers to sell the story2. It’s worth reading the magazine’s coverage3 because the usual suspects are out there trying to deny the undeniable. Sandy was a storm made worse by the fact of climate change. We all have to live with that.

While the US mops up, and reinsurers check their cash reserves, we can be sure of one thing. The worst is yet to come — and that’s not being alarmist, just pointing out the consequences of unavoidable future warming. That’s truly alarming.

  1. See Jeff Masters for some of the reasons why. []
  2. The ageing magazine editor in me doffs his hat. []
  3. Or the parsing of it at Climate Progress. []