The combination of a recently acquired desktop video magnifier and a kindle has for the time being restored some ease to my reading. Hence this review. I was drawn by the title The Moral Challenge of Dangerous Climate Change: Values, Poverty and Policy, since I can’t see the resistance to energy reform mounted by powerful fossil fuel interests being overcome without some kind of moral determination by a significant portion of the population. I was also attracted by the fact that the author, Darrel Moellendorf is a political and moral philosopher and I was curious to read a philosophical perspective on the climate change issue.
Although the book is intended to be accessible to readers who are not versed in the discipline of philosophy it is no light read. The discussions of the various policy issues it addresses are exhaustive and rigorous. There are no ringing calls, just appeals to humane rationality. But the conclusions are no less compelling for that.
The first week here at the climate talks in Warsaw kicked off with the super typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in a terrible tragedy, brought into the meeting by the country’s lead negotiator Seb Yano, whose fast has been joined by many from civil society. The plight of his people has been a rallying call around the world as we all look at the aftermath of this storm with horror. Is it a direct result of climate change? What we do know is that the sea surface temps were 1.5degC above normal, and that we can expect more intense cyclones as the earth’s temperature warms. But as NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth wrote:
“The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….”
As we’ve been all walking around in circles of the Polish National Stadium, trying to stay sane, looking at the images from the Philippines and the campaigning by their government to get a stronger outcome, it seems several governments have kept their eyes firmly OFF the ball, instead taking the opportunity of the occasion to walk away from their commitments. Continue reading “Welcome to the Carbon COP”
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.
Climate change minister Tim Groser has finally got around to announcing that New Zealand’s emissions reduction target for 2020 will be a 5 percent reduction on 1990 levels — a significant step back from NZ’s previous conditional commitment to make cuts in the 10 to 20 percent range. Since the Key government refused to join the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol last year, this target is being adopted under the wider UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and therefore has no penalties (or incentives) attached. Groser’s announcement claims:
The target is affordable and demonstrates that New Zealand is doing its fair share to address global climate change. In deciding this target, the Government has carefully balanced the cost to New Zealand households and businesses against taking ambitious action to tackle climate change.
This is an unconditional target to take responsibility for our emissions, and gives certainty to domestic stakeholders.
Groser also claims that the new target “compares favourably with our traditional partners’ actions” — but fails to note that it’s way out of line with UK and EU commitments to cuts of 30% and 20% over the same period.
The announcement will come as little surprise in the context of recent government actions — in particular Groser’s reckless mismanagement of the emissions trading scheme, which is now leading to huge and expensive dislocation in the forestry sector.
Further context for Groser’s approach to climate policy came in a reply to a series of questions from Green Party climate spokesman Kennedy Graham at Question Time on August 8th. Asked to reconcile sanctioning a new West Coast coal mine with climate action, Groser made himself completely clear:
We will not sacrifice everything to the altar of climate change.
Failing to take climate change seriously — by failing to cut emissions and doing nothing to encourage prudent adaptation — will sacrifice the entire country to the effects of climate change. By refusing to bite the bullet, Groser and his cabinet colleagues put easy money now ahead of our future wellbeing. Or, perhaps, any future worth having.
At the end of every UNFCCC meeting, on the last day, there’s a grand prize: the Colossal Fossil. So proud: New Zealand took top prize for the first time, shared with Canada.
For a country whose emissions are similar in scale to the Canadian tar sands, New Zealand has demonstrated exceptional blindness to scientific and political realities. Surprising many and disappointing all, New Zealand has fought hard to unseat 5-time Colossal Fossil winner, Canada, in a campaign of extreme selfishness and irresponsibility.
While New Zealand may have helped drown the talks for another year, New Zealand’s small and vulnerable Pacific neighbours should take heart that they have not been forgotten – New Zealand intends to drown them too.
I don’t think I can add much to this, except to say that for a small country, we sure manage to punch above our weight at these talks, upsetting more governments and people than is warranted for our small size. Sam from the Youth Delegation has summed it up nicely over on the youth blog. It’s all about trust.
I was going to write a light-hearted blog today, poking fun at Lord Christopher Monckton’s appearance in Doha, in his Arabic dress and antics in the plenary. But I thought about it overnight and woke this morning more angry about it than amused. Continue reading “Lost and damaged”