Poland or Coaland? Climate talks about to begin in Warsaw

Will the sun rise over progress at the climate talks (is that a coal fired power station in the distance?)
Will the sun rise over progress at the climate talks (is that a coal fired power station in the distance?)

Another year, another round of climate talks.  It’s the 19th Conference of Parties to the UN Climate Convention and we’re back in Poland, the scene of an almost complete non-event in 2008, the year before Copenhagen.

It’s Eastern Europe’s turn to host another meeting, and nobody else was prepared to put their hand up, so we’re back in the land of coal, in the country that has rallied their biggest coal companies to sponsor the conference, and which is dragging the whole of the EU down to their level as they refuse to accept stronger targets.  I suspect #coaland will be a well-used hashtag by the end of this.

Usually when you come to a meeting like this, the town is full of banners and signs that a climate meeting is being hosted, but there’s not much sign of it here in Warsaw, except this rather confusing industry advertisement at the airport.

Next weekend there’s a World Coal Association conference in town, being addressed by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christian Figueres, who turned down a talk to youth at the Powershift conference in favour of talking with Big Coal.  She’s assured them it’s because she wants to “talk frankly” – let’s hope she does.

Last month the Polish hosts were caught posting a news piece heralding the melting of the Arctic as a new opportunity to explore for yet more fossil fuels.  While The YesMen (in a specacular own-goal, in my opinion) tried to claim the piece as their own, it was indeed the Polish Government’s own work. Given this government is chairing the talks, it’s not looking terribly hopeful.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, Cyclone Haiyan, the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded, has caused a terrible loss of life that’s still being counted – and major damage.  With winds at 195mph as it made landfall, it beat the 1969 record,  according to Jeff Masters’ blog.  Sea surface temperatures were up to 1.5degC above normal.

What role will the science have in these talks?  Will the IPCC’s recent working group 1 conclusions make a difference?  Figueres has already confirmed the IPCC’s carbon budget figures will not be on the agenda.

Finance for the poorest

This meeting is supposed to be the “Finance meeting” where governments are expected to make progress on committing money to the Green Climate Fund. They’ve promised $100bn a year by 2020 to help the world’s poorest countries adapt to climate change and shift to renewable energy, but so far there’s little to show for it in the fund.

And a programme to get to 2015

Governments agreed last year that this year would be when they set up the roadmap to get to a global agreement on climate to be agreed in Paris, 2015.  This should include a timetable for when they all put their increased targets on the table (early next year would be good) and that they will have a full draft negotiating text sorted out by next year, to be finalised by 2015.   But of course that 2015 agreement, even if it does get finished on time, wouldn’t come into force until 2020.  If the world does nothing except the Copenhagen pledges between now and 2020, it’s not going to be pretty. So there’s a strong call from many quarters for better 2020 targets to be put on the table as soon as possible.

How will New Zealand stack up?  During the course of the next two weeks, expect information to come out that will make it clear what New Zealand’s “fair share” of climate action actually is.  Given our walking away from Kyoto and the Ministry for the Environment’s recent admission that our emissions are set to soar, I don’t hold out much hope.

The Australians have made a spectacular start, announcing that for the first time in 16 years, no Minister will make it to the conference. Environment Minister Greg Hunt, recently famous for declaring there was no evidence of a link between climate change and bush fires (using the solid source of Wikipedia) is instead staying at home to dismantle the Australian climate legislation.  That’s a Fossil of the Day right there.

Then of course there’s the Russians.  What will they do?  Will they continue to throw their toys out of the cot about decisions being made in Doha without their agreement?  Will they actually start negotiating and be good global citizens?  (hint: releasing the 30 Greenpeace activists from the Murmansk prison would be a good start).

More to come, as it happens.   From both myself and from David Tong with the Adopt A Negotiator team.

53 thoughts on “Poland or Coaland? Climate talks about to begin in Warsaw”

  1. The conference will be the usual charade where the Americans turn up with 200 lawyers to make sure the USA’s oil and coal industries are not disadvantaged and politicians from every corner of the Earth will make pious speeches and promises and then go home and do nothing. China. India and Brazil etc want the richer long term polluting nations to clean up the mess that they have made so that they can catch up economical and the Pacific islanders will be wanting to know who is going to pay for a new country for their people.
    I suppose we must try and its worth a bit of publicity but don’t hold your breath for a silver bullet solution.

  2. Amongst it all, there is renewed caution from Jerremy Leggett in the New Scientist, about the coming fossil fuel energy crash:

    It is because of the sheer prevalence of risk blindness, overlain with the pervasiveness of oil dependency in modern economies, that I conclude system collapse is probably inevitable within a few years.

    The article is well worth a read.

      1. I heard that Mitsubishi is going to bring out a plug in hybrid version of its Outlander SUV.


        Total range is said to be 800Km or so, with the first 50 fully electric if the battery was charged at home.
        Concepts like this could really change things dramatically. The average user will get perhaps as low as 1 Liter/100km if the daily commutes are not much further than the 50Km range for sure. The price tag is said to be around $60,000 in NZ. Considering that a 10 Lit/100km SUV would consume $21,500 in fuel over a 100,000 km run in the first few years of ownership, the investment might be well placed, especially if fuel prices rise further.

    1. “To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare them to get off their ivory towers and away from the comfort of their armchairs.

      I dare them to go to the islands of the Pacific, the islands of the Caribbean and the islands of the Indian ocean and see the impacts of rising sea levels; to the mountainous regions of the Himalayas and the Andes to see communities confronting glacial floods, to the Arctic where communities grapple with the fast dwindling polar ice caps, to the large deltas of the Mekong, the Ganges, the Amazon, and the Nile where lives and livelihoods are drowned, to the hills of Central America that confronts similar monstrous hurricanes, to the vast savannas of Africa where climate change has likewise become a matter of life and death as food and water becomes scarce.

      Not to forget the massive hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern seaboard of North America. And if that is not enough, they may want to pay a visit to the Philippines…”


      1. Gareth wrote: “What role will the science have in these talks?”

        See sections 14.6.1 and 12.4.4 of WGI AR5 for what the IPCC says about tropical cyclones and climate change.

  3. I noticed this little gem this morning:


    We can’t even see New Zealand due to a massive big red dot over it.
    It doesn’t take a rock scientist to work out that if our rivers dry up, our aquifers also disappear, which brings us to desalinisation. I can imagine getting enough drinking water by desalinisation, but irrigating crops might be more of a challenge. Nothing that we clever humans couldn’t fix I am sure.

    Can anyone point me to a link showing more detailed information of our glaciers, trendlines etc.?

  4. Out of interest, why are people still going on about climate change causing hurricanes/ typhoons? The IPCC has made clear they have low confidence in a link. It looks like blatant point scoring off an unrelated tragedy.

    1. ” The IPCC has made clear they have low confidence in a link.”

      citation needed otherwise you are just talking plain bullshit!

      This link suggests strongly that your statement above is a barefaced lie:

      “”It is likely that anthropogenic influences have led to warming of extreme daily minimum and maximum temperatures at the global scale. There is medium confidence that anthropogenic influences have contributed to intensification of extreme precipitation at the global scale. It is likely that there has been an anthropogenic influence on increasing extreme coastal high water due to an increase in mean sea level.”

      The tragedy here is that your (and others like you) obfuscation of carefully worded and considered deliberations are helping to delay the implementation of desperately needed policy and action.

    2. Murray, so far the majority of the warming we have measured has affected the sub-tropical and especially northern regions where the absolute temperature change has been the highest.
      Hurricanes (Typhoons) arise in the tropics where the warming has been less – so far!
      However, and scientists will all agree: A warmer atmosphere holds more energy, in particular in form of water vapor, which returns huge amounts of energy into the system upon condensation. Warmer ocean surface waters are a significant factor. Both are the prime feeders of Hurricane energy.

      As the world is warming further, and we know that unless we act now this will go towards a 4Deg or more scenario by the second half of the century, then the enormous grief and ongoing misery and dying in the Philippines will become a regular event for lager and lager parts of the densely populated areas in the tropics. The suffering in the affected places there is far from over:

      Out of interest, why are you trying to twist the truth? What can possibly be the upside for somebody like yourself in trying to make a complete fool out of yourself in denying the consequences of our effects on Earths climate?

  5. It this what you are after Marco?

    The Financial Times reports:

    In keeping with the cautious language used in these IPCC assessments, only four of which have ever been done in the panel’s 25-year history, the table says there is “low confidence” that there will be more tropical cyclones or longer droughts between now and 2050.

    If so many scientists think hurricanes will get worse I’m surprised they didn’t put that in the report. Recent data would actually suggest fewer tropical storm events. This is clearly a case of political point scoring off other peoples unrelated tragedys. A sad time for climate science.

    1. Instead of quoting the FT, why not quote the IPCC itself?

      TS.5.8.4 Cyclones
      Projections for the 21st century indicate that it is likely that the global frequency of tropical cyclones will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged, concurrent with a likely increase in both global mean tropical cyclone maximum wind speed and rain rates (Figure TS.26). The influence of future climate change on tropical cyclones is likely to vary by region, but there is low confidence in region-specific projections. The frequency of the most intense storms will more likely than not increase substantially in some basins. More extreme precipitation near the centers of tropical cyclones making landfall are likely in North and Central America, East Africa, West, East, South and Southeast Asia as well as in Australia and many Pacific islands.

      WG1 draft, download free here.

      Since the cut-off for AR5, the literature has moved somewhat towards expecting more tropical cyclones and more intense storms as warming progresses. See this Nature article for a good summary.

      The “political point scoring”, as you put it, is being done by the people downplaying the impact of Haiyan. Watts called the coverage “overhyped” before it had even made landfall, and is still hard at work trying to make it seem not unusual. Real experts in TCs, however, recognise that Haiyan was, at landfall, one of the strongest TCs ever recorded, and had been fuelled by unusually warm water – down to great depths – in its path. In other words – just what you would expect in a warming world. See Jeff Masters (a real hurricane expert) today for more detail.

      1. It is disappointing that as usual the IPCC concentrate their analysis, on North Atlantic storms. European influence as usual. The huge buildup of heat in the largest ocean seems to go unnoticed. Is Haiyan a foretaste of the terror that will befall Asia when that heat is released?.

  6. So can someone please point me to some research that states extreme tropical storms have increased in frequency in the last say 50 years? By all accounts things have gone rather quite on the hurricane front in recently. Where is the data to support these predictions? Every storm we have now is climate change related, I’m not sure what has caused them for the last million years. For example if it was proved climate change increased storm frequency by 10% then it would be fair to blame every eleventh storm on climate change. At the moment every storm is blamed on climate change, giving the impression that they never used to exist before coal fired power stations. Sadly the dimmer folk are fooled by this propaganda.

    1. Murray – read the references people are providing you (like the section of WG1 dealing with the subject – which comes complete with hundreds of citations to the literature) and then engage with the discussion. If you don’t, you are not meeting HT’s comment policy.

  7. So we agree that hurricanes are not increasing in frequency then? Just a question on the tornado data. We’re 100% of hurricanes recorded back in the 1950’s?

    Can someone explain to me why all major storms are blamed on climate change when even if the greenys are correct, climate change would only be responsible for the increase over the baseline frequency? Are any still natural events?

    1. Read the bloody references, Murray!

      All our weather is climate change affected because it’s taking place on a planet where the oceans and atmosphere are warmer, and where the atmosphere is carrying more water vapour. Because there’s more energy in the system, extreme weather events can pack more punch. That’s what we’re seeing…

  8. I have looked at them. They don’t explain my question though. Why is climate change being blamed for something that was likely going to happen anyway? Your seeing what you want to see. A sceptic could argue that the lack of severe hurricanes to hit the US is proof that they are becoming less common. I haven’t seen a cyclone hit these fair shores in years. What is that proof of? We all know though as soon as one hits it will be more proof of climate change and we will be told that we can expect to see even worse ones in future. I know the routine, it’s the same with every weather event. It doesn’t even matter how long the weather has been completely uneventful, if a flood or drought happens its climate change at work again.

  9. I have already responded to that graph. You have also made no attempt to answer my questions. Please abide by hot topic policy and answer all questions in good faith.

    1. ” blamed for something that was likely going to happen anyway?”

      So what you are saying then is that the frequency of tornadoes in the US will continue to trend upwards – but you have no explanation for this… This is something that just happened..

      Whereas the scientific approach would be.. But I’m sorry I’m not wasting my time any longer..

  10. My question Marco was. Do we know 100% of tornados were recorded back in the 50’s? I assume that improvements in tracking and recording tornados will be contributing to this trend. No?

    1. Murray, tornadoes are significant weather events and the USA is dotted with communities that withes these. Do you seriously think the USA lacked the ability to log tornadoes in the 50ties and 60ties? Apollo 11 landed on the Moon in 68… and Radar was invented in WWII….
      Come on, you are being disingenuous.

      On Cyclones/Typhoons/Hurricanes: How about you read this summary and then below in the Guardian AND FOLLOW the links given there to the science and read these…. (I am not going to hold my breath as you told us you are not interested in looking at anything that is contrarian to your personal bias (see the other post)…!)

    2. edit (I was going to say something quite nasty!)
      Now more temperately —- if you were to read the link I referred you to in the first place Murray you would have read in the first sentence that the data presented was since “records began” ie the purposely started to record the number of tornadoes occurring Nationally – it is after all a national institution (federal).

      No the short answer to you question is obviously “NO!”

      Tornadoes are not something that happens unobserved you know.

      Yours was a very sad response to a serious situation.

  11. Bill, I’m sorry you feel threatened by what I have to say, but trying to shut down discussion is the beginning of the end for your side of the argument. If you look around the world the current trend is for rolling back green energy policy, this is not happening because you are winning the debate. Quite the opposite. Trying to refuse me the right to ask valid questions is only further undermining your position.

  12. That’s ok, I was just asking the question. The general tornado trend has been an increase. Can someone please answer my question on why every storm is now blamed on climate change? Only the difference in storm numbers should right? Yet not one ever passes with out being blamed on climate change. Seems like political point scoring to me.

    1. So getting back to your original question which as I understand it to be is:
      “How is climate change – (I prefer to call it what it is – Global Warming) related to extreme weather events?

      There have been a number of attempts by commentators here to point you to the science so I will be brief. We know that some gases are transparent solar radiation, but translucent to black body radiation (the radiation which the earth emits at night. If we increase the concentration of these gasses in the atmosphere then more of the energy that the earth would have emitted to space is trapped. Its not a great amount, currently around 2 watts per square metre, but over the whole surface of the Earth – that adds up to a considerable amount. Now we rely on these gasses to keep our planet warm, otherwise the Earth would be a giant snowball, but too much, and we head for trouble. All of this is well established physics, to deny this is to deny (as bill and others have said) the laws of physics (which although they are still subject to modification as we learn more) are about as firm a piece of knowledge as we are likely to get.
      When you increase the energy within a system, as we are doing by adding GHGs to the atmosphere and thereby trapping additional energy that would have escaped into space, you can expect changes to take place. Say you put the jug on to boil – you add energy to the system. As the water heats up the water begins to move faster and faster. And so we should not be surprised that the winds on Earth are now reaching 300+kmph in places, As Dr Masters is his description of the Typhoon described it in the link Gareth referred you to above says:

      “A remarkable warming of the sub-surface Pacific waters east of the Philippines in recent decades, due to a shift in atmospheric circulation patterns and ocean currents that began in the early 1990s, could be responsible for the rapid intensification of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Hurricanes are heat engines, which means they take heat energy out of the ocean, and convert it to kinetic energy in the form of wind. It’s well-known that tropical cyclones need surface water temperatures of at least 26.5°C (80°F) to maintain themselves, and that the warmer the water, and the deeper the warm water is, the stronger the storm can get. Deep warm water is important, since as a tropical cyclone tracks over the ocean, it stirs up cooler water from the depths, potentially reducing the intensity of the storm. When both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita exploded into Category 5 hurricanes as they crossed over a warm eddy in the Gulf of Mexico with a lot of deep, warm water, the concept of the total heat energy available to fuel a hurricane–the Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP)–became one that gained wide recognition. The Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines has the largest area of deep, warm water of anywhere on Earth, and these waters have historically fueled the highest incidence of Category 5 storms of anywhere on the planet. Super Typhoon Haiyan tracked over surface waters that were of near-average warmth, 29.5 – 30.5°C (85 – 87°F.) However, the waters at a depth of 100 meters (328 feet) beneath Haiyan during its rapid intensification phase were a huge 4 – 5°C (7 – 9°F) above average, judging by an analysis of October average ocean temperatures from the Japan Meteorological Agency (Figure 1.) As the typhoon stirred this unusually warm water to the surface, the storm was able to feed off the heat, allowing Haiyan to intensify into one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever observed.”

      So there you have it – What we are saying is simply this – adding all that extra heat to the system ( currently around 4 Hiroshima Bombs per second) is like training a boxer to deliver an even more hefty punch every time he punches and he may also up his “work rate” delivering more punches than he ever did before. Is this to ascribe to one extreme event that its “climate change related” – No it is to ascribe to every extreme event that it is likely to be more powerful and possibly more frequent than in the past because there is now far more energy in the system than was before.

        1. Argh! “all the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, into our schools, our churches and our places of recreation and amusement.[5]” (Strom Turmond, Senator USA, 1948)….

          1. Notwithstanding his segragationist beliefs, Strom Thurmond had no qualms forcing his 16-year-old black housemaid into his bed and hiding the subsequent child…

            Truly an inspiration for today’s Tea Party climate change deniers.

            1. And he got voted in over and over and over and over and over – so he must have been right! Right, ‘Murray’?

    1. Murray: Again you are making a nonsense assertion. No climate scientist blames every storm on GW. What climate science says is this: Due to GW the odds are getting stacked towards more extreme weather events. Like playing dice at the casino with a loaded dice that tip the odds in favor of the bank. Not every loss can the proven to be the direct result of the loading in the dice, but the overall outcome of a night of dice, well that will show the effect. This is exactly what climate scientists are saying. Some people extend this to say: Every Storm is blamed on AGW. This of cause is not scientifically correct to assert but if you knew you were playing with loaded dice at the casino, I am sure you would be very ready to blame each and every loss you had to the loaded dice!! Its only natural.
      We know we are loading the climate system up with energy. The ocean warming alone equates to about 4 Hiroshima bombs worth of thermal energy added every second!! This energy is affecting weather phenomena. Really it is like playing the usual odds with severe weather events, but with the added leverage of a warmer ocean to drive matters to more extreme ends.

      Here is a nice link for you. But as it may be contrarian to your views, you will not be interested I suppose to even have a look.

  13. Storm/hurricane/cyclone

    Looks like the climate brigade are running out of answers on that one. I will have to settle for your side splitting wit instead. The answer you are looking for is politics, just like every thing else climate change related.

  14. Can someone please answer my question on why every storm is now blamed on climate change? Only the difference in storm numbers should right? Yet not one ever passes with out being blamed on climate change. Seems like political point scoring to me.

    1. Can’t you read, Murray? Thomas has laid it out for you in such simple terms that even you should be able to understand.

      (Not, of course, that you seek understanding here, but just to try to engender a smidgen of doubt whilst your pollutocrat masters continue to engorge themselves on fossil fuel profits.)

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