Something 4 The Weekend

Bali continues to make headlines. The rough positions are becoming clear. China’s playing hardball – no mandatory cuts, West has to cut first and most deeply. The New York Times‘ Andy Revkin has a couple of good Bali posts on his blog: the first suggests that the IPCC may have to revise its goal for the next report – updating AR4 for the conclusion of the post-Kyoto process in 2009, while the second looks at what’s going on around the negotiations. Meanwhile, 200 scientists from around the world, coordinated by the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, issued a statement calling on the conference to aim for emissions cuts of at least 50% by 2050 [Herald, Globe & Mail (Canada)].

Meanwhile, there’s lots more below the fold (as they say on the broadsheets)….

  • Science: A paper to be published in Nature Geoscience finds that the sub-tropics have expanded 2º towards the poles – something expected to happen, but not so quickly. This could cause desert areas to move north and south, and affect storm tracks [Reuters, Sydney Morning Herald, Independent (UK), Telegraph(UK)]. New research suggests that climate and weather extremes could have a bigger impact on food crops than previously thought, an OECD study suggests that city-scale flooding could be a big problem by the 2070s, the BBC celebrates 50 years of the Keeling Curve (the atmospheric CO2 chart), and you can watch James Hansen explaining why he’s worried about the pace of climate change, and offering some solutions in a recent talk at Caltech (link via Andrew W in the comments). It includes a proposal to create two massive lakes – one based on Hudson Bay, the other in northern Russia – which would take 2m of sea level rise, and give coastal populations more time to adapt.
  • Technology: The Observer reports on a plan developed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation to build lots of solar thermal power stations in North Africa and the Middle East, and send the power to Europe, and new research finds that wind power doesn’t need lots of back-up generation. The Telegraph [UK] covers Australian work that suggests that the bacteria that live in kangaroos stomachs could be used to reduce methane emissions in cows and sheep.
  • George Monbiot runs his slide rule over the figures for prudent emissions reductions, and finds that 100% cuts may not be enough. Worse: “if our economy grows at 3% between now and 2040, we will consume in that period economic resources equivalent to all those we have consumed since humans first stood on two legs. Then, between 2040 and 2063, we must double our total consumption again.” He concludes (and I concur): “Debating these matters makes us neither saints nor communists; it shows only that we have understood the science.”
  • Fred Pearce reports on the draining of tropical peatlands in Indonesia in the Telegraph (UK): “Marcel Silvius, a tropical ecologist at Wetlands International, estimates that in south-east Asia, 130,000 square kilometres of peatland forests have already been cut down and partially drained. As a result, an average of 2 gigatonnes of CO2 is being released each year through burning and decomposition. That’s equal to 8 per cent of the total annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels – and 90 per cent of it comes from Indonesia alone.” (There’s a longer version in New Scientist)
  • Heavyweight consultancy firm McKinsey & Company released a report this week that found that the US could make huge cuts in CO2 emissions at an affordable (under $50/tonne) cost, and while the debate amongst economists about the Stern Report’s methodology continues, new work by Martin Weitzman at Harvard suggests that Stern was right, even if for the wrong readons. Good New Scientist article (behind a paywall, unfortunately), but Eli Rabett provides more details.
  • I’ll do a roundup of NZ news soon.

4 thoughts on “Something 4 The Weekend”

  1. There is a very interesting account of the process Andrew draws attention to given by Nobel Chemistry Prize winner(2000)Alan Heeger to the nobel laureates’ symposium on global sustainability held at Potsdam in October of this year. It was videoed and can be accessed at It is on the video stream for Session 2 Part 1 and Heeger’s contribution starts 57 minutes in to the session and lasts for about 20 minutes.

  2. People, Bali is bullshit. Governments are far too corrupt and jealous of one another to produce a global solution. We need innovation, optimism, opportunity and reward. None of that will come from Government’s pushing one another to the front of the queue. The only place I see anything positive happening is in green marketing but we need more robust ways of assuring it. See for more.

  3. To be honest, Peter, I think you’ve grabbed hold of the wrong end of the stick and proceeded to beat around the bush with it. Without an international framework for emissions reductions, the chances of achieving meaningful (which increasingly looks like steep) emissions reductions is vanishingly small. I agree that it won’t be easy, and I suspect the end result will be a long way from what the world actually needs, but it will at least get us all heading in the right direction.

    And just to correct one thing in your post: the world price of carbon is not set by the EU, it’s set by the price of Clean Development Credits from China.

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