Summing up Copenhagen: what we know now

cop_logo_1_r_edited The synthesis report from the Copenhagen climate congress of scientists held in March has been released. It updates the 2007 IPCC report in the light of the latest developments in the science, and means that the UN Copenhagen conference in December will have an overview of the state of our current understanding of climate change.  

The report has six sections. The first deals with climatic trends and is blunt. Greenhouse gas emissions and many aspects of the climate are already changing near the upper boundary of the IPCC range of projections.  In the case of sea level rise the rate is even greater than indicated by the IPCC projections.  Continue reading “Summing up Copenhagen: what we know now”

Stern talking (but not Nick)

At the UNFCCC Climate Change talks currently under way in Bonn the US Envoy Todd Stern has unequivocally announced the role the US will be playing in the time ahead.  It is an extraordinary transformation. The hopes raised by Obama still look strong.

Some extracts follow. First, the opening remarks:

Continue reading “Stern talking (but not Nick)”

Telling porkies to Parliament

NZETS.jpgThe Emissions Trading Scheme Review committee has released the first batch of submissions it has received — those made by organisations and individuals who have already made their presentations to the committee. There are some heavy hitters in there: from New Zealand’s science and policy community there’s the Climate Change Centre (a joint venture between the University of Canterbury and Victoria University of Wellington, plus all the Crown Research Institutes – from NIWA to AgResearch), VUW’s Climate Change Research Institute, and GNS Science, and from the world of commerce, we have the Business Roundtable‘s “evidence”. Why the quote marks? Because the Roundtable’s submission is a fact-free farrago of nonsense.

Continue reading “Telling porkies to Parliament”

(Six) Things on my mind

copenhagen.jpg The Copenhagen climate conference — Climate change: global risks, challenges & decisions — closed yesterday, and work has now begun on producing a summary document — scheduled for publication in June. In the meantime, delegates have drawn up a preliminary list of six key messages, which were handed to the Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the closing session. They are (in full, because I think they’re important and worth reading):

  1. Climatic trends: Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts. (my emphasis)
  2. Social disruption: The research community is providing much more information to support discussions on “dangerous climate change”. Recent observations show that societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2ºC will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and will increase the level of climate disruption through the rest of the century.
  3. Long-term strategy: Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid “dangerous climate change” regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult. Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation. (my emphasis)
  4. Equity dimensions: Climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world. An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is required for those people least capable of coping with climate change impacts, and a common but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable.
  5. Inaction is inexcusable: There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches – economic, technological, behavioural, management – to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.
  6. Meeting the challenge: To achieve the societal transformation required to meet the climate change challenge, we must overcome a number of significant constraints and seize critical opportunities. These include reducing inertia in social and economic systems; building on a growing public desire for governments to act on climate change; removing implicit and explicit subsidies; reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience; enabling the shifts from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society; and engaging society in the transition to norms and practices that foster sustainability.

This seems to me a very good summary of the climate problem: it’s worse than we thought, we need to act now, and we’ve got the tools to do it. Now all we need is the willpower and the commitment. Politicians, are you listening? Inaction is inexcusable.

[Edgar Broughton]

Down down

New Scientist has posted this remarkable footage of a camera being lowered down a moulin in Greenland, and reveals that Konrad Steffen’s team, moulin explorers extraordinaire, are inventing a new extreme sport:

Later this year, the team will be boldly going where no researchers have gone before. Under the guidance of expert climbers, they plan to descend deep into a moulin in person. They will leave temperature and flow sensors along the way, so they can track how the tunnel changes throughout the year.

Steffen’s team also released hundreds of special rubber ducks into moulins, but none have yet appeared at the edge of the ice sheet. He fears they may have been ground to pieces by the moving ice. More at the Guardian.