Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Archive for the ‘UNFCCC’ Category

Peak carbon by 2025 or mass extinction of species

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I have been looking back at some of my earliest posts on this blog; and have decided that now would be a good time to pull together some of the key points I have highlighted over the years – regarding anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).  I prefer the use of ‘ACD’ because it is far more accurate than more popular terms such as ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’.

Firstly, then, ACD is an observed multi-decadal reality that cannot be explained by natual causes (i.e. sunspot cycles or volcanic eruptions, etc).  See:
Comfortably numb is not good enough (3 September 2012).
The reason we keep getting double six (7 August 2012).

Secondly, climate science is not complicated or contentious, it is simply inconvenient for big business to accept.  This is why the fossil fuel industry has spent the last 50 years trying to perpetuate the myths that it is both of these things.  See:
Climate science in a nutshell – Part 1 (31 October 2011) (see also Part 2 that followed it).
Peddlers of doubt – monkeys or organ-grinders (20 Feb 2012).

Thirdly, and most importantly, the key thing to which the title of this post alludes:  Research by a team at the University of Oxford published in 2009, which I first referenced in the first month of this blog’s existence (August 2011).  This research shows that it is the total (i.e. cumulative) amount of fossilised carbon that we (have and will) put into the atmosphere that will determine the temperature change we will see over the next 50 years or so.

Myles Allen's graph of 1 trillion tonne emissions curves

Extract of paper presented at ‘4 Degrees and Beyond’ conference (2009)

As per the Climate Change By Numbers programme on BBC4 Television, climate scientists are agreed that, in order to avoid irreversible and unsurvivable changes to the Earth’s climate, humans need to avoid adding 1 trillion tonnes of fossilised carbon (1000 GtC) to the atmosphere.

It therefore strikes me now, looking again at the above graph, that limiting global cumulative emissions of fossilised carbon to 1000 GtC will only be feasible if emissions peak within the next 10 years and the later the peak the more rapid the phase-out needs to be to keep the area under the graph the same (i.e. equivalent to 1000 GtC).

Governments around the world were very slow to react to the existential threat of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa last year.  Evidence is now growing that, in taking over 25 years to take decisive action to minimise ACD, our governments have endangered the future survival of the vast majority of species on the planet (see biological and financial evidence below).

This is an avoidable tragedy.  What our governments have lacked is a public mandate to act.  I really hope this will soon emerge because, if it does not, evidence is growing that the sixth mass extinction of speies is already underway.  See:
‘Has the Earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived?’ (Nature, 471, 51–57, 3 March 2011).

That being the case, given the glacial pace at which progress has been made thus far, I think it is fair to say that humanity is rapidly running out of time to act.   Furthermore, the problem is compunded by the fact that, under pressure from government-appointed scrutineers and/or sock-puppets of the fossil fuel industry, the UN/IPCC have consistently underestimated the costs of adapting to climate change. See:
‘Assessing the costs of adaptation to climate change’ (IIED, 2009).

Now is no time for climate change scepticism

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This graph, as compiled by Dr Ed Hawkins (Reading University/Met Office), featured in an article by Damian Carrington, on the Guardian website yesterday, which highlighted the fact that:
2014 will be the warmest year in Central England for over 300 years (since records began)
(From where the above image has been copied.)

However, the article also highlights many other pertinent facts, such as:
— The whole world has had a warm year and global data, released later on Wednesday, is likely to indicate a new record.
— The likely record warmth in 2014 would end a period of relatively slow rises in global surface temperatures (which has been portrayed by climate sceptics as a halt in global warming).
— Greenhouse gases, however, continue to trap heat with over 90% of it being absorbed by the oceans.

In addition to all of this, it is worth noting that NASA has calculated that global average monthly temperatures have now been above their 20th Century average values in every month since 1985.  There is, therefore, no longer any excuse (other than ideological blindness) for being sceptical about either climate change or the reality that what is now happening is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Given the accelerating effect of all the positive feedback mechanisms we can now see (i.e. such as the melting of terrestrial ice and the release of methane from thawing permafrost), there is no longer any excuse (other than what Herman E. Daly called “growthmania”) for delaying the rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use in every context where this is now technologically possible.

In most contexts, humanity has alternatives to fossil fuels. What we seem to lack is an industrial elite willing to admit that burning all the Earth’s fossil fuels (simply because they are there) is likely to wipe out a significant proportion of all life on the planet (because climate change is now accelerating faster than many species can adapt to it).

Above all, now that historically-rare weather events of all kinds (i.e. hot, cold, wet and dry) are occurring every year, we need to stop talking about “natural climate variability” and start talking about “unnatural climate change” (and what we are all going to do about it before it is too late).

Is it too much to hope that our supposed world ‘leaders’, currently meeting at the UN’s COP20 summit in Peru, will actually stop listening to industrial propaganda (that there is no need for radical policy change); and start acting on the implications of the scientific consensus (that there is an urgent need for radical policy change)…?

See also:
A summary of the ‘Climate Departure’ research of Mora et al. (11 October 2013).

Climate change is here and now (31 March 2014).

It’s official – Arctic 30 protestors are not pirates

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As Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace International has said, this is an historic event. The actions of the Russian government two months ago – and the continuing failure of the UNFCCC to agree action to mitigate climate change – do not give confidence that humanity will avert an environmental catastophe. However, it is good that it has at least been agreed that peaceful protestors abducted at gunpoint in International waters cannot be jailed for piracy and/or hooliganism.  Here is the email I received yesterday:

——–

Dear supporter,

Today is a historic day – a day when the fundamental rights of the Arctic 30 have been upheld by an international court of law.

As you may recall, there was a hearing on November 6 at the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea. The Netherlands brought the case seeking the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its crew.

Today, just moments ago, the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea ordered the Russian Federation in a binding ruling to release the Arctic Sunrise and the 28 activists and two freelance journalists who were on board upon payment of a EUR 3.6 million bond.

ITLOS orders Russia to release Arctic 30
The Arctic 30 were detained only because they stood up and courageously took peaceful action against Arctic oil drilling and to halt the devastating impacts of climate change.

I have just come from the UN climate talks in Warsaw where governments again have failed to take action against climate change. The Arctic 30 took action and it is time that governments acted with them. It is time for the Arctic 30 to come home to their loved ones. It is time for the Arctic to be protected. 

Russia is now under an obligation to comply with the order: the Russian Constitution itself states that international law forms an integral part of the Russian legal system and Russian courts are under an obligation to implement this order. Greenpeace therefore expects Russia to respect International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, as it has done in the past.

As we keep saying, it is still not over for the Arctic 30. So this is also not over for you or me. We must continue to stand firm until all charges against the Arctic 30 are officially dropped. Thirty people stood up for 7 billion people. We must stand with them. 

Here are 30 things you can do to help us continue to make the case for the Arctic 30 and against drilling in the Arctic.

In solidarity,


Kumi Naidoo
International Executive Director
Greenpeace International

Written by Martin Lack

23 November 2013 at 11:05

How many more must die because of climate change denial?

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Warmer oceans cause more evaporation; leading to more moisture in the atmosphere more of the time.  This results in more frequent storms of greater intensity than before.  This email from Greenpeace therefore needs no further introduction from me:

—————————

Dear supporter,

These are extremely tough times for the people of the Philippines. Unfortunately, this disaster is not over yet and recovering from it will take a lot of time and resources. Nothing will make up for the lost lives though.

I often say this and unfortunately it is true on this occasion as well. It is those who are the least responsible for climate change who are getting hit the hardest by its impacts.

I received the email below from the Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Von Hernandez. It was such a powerful reminder of why we do what we do that I asked if I could share it with you. He agreed.

Please continue to show solidarity with our colleagues, their families and the Filipino people and remind our governments that every fresh investment in a fossil fuel project is a bet against our children and children’s future on this planet, as Von put it himself.

In solidarity,

Kumi Naidoo
International Executive Director
Greenpeace International
———-

Dear friends,

It is impossible to put into words the despair that millions of Filipinos are going through right now.

Days after Haiyan (Yolanda) sliced through the central islands of the Philippines, it has become horrifyingly clear that the damage wrought by the super typhoon has been colossal, the devastation absolute.

As of this writing, almost a thousand people have been officially confirmed to have lost their lives. The number of dead, however, is expected to exceed 10,000 — as more reports continue to filter in from other cities, islands and villages that were flattened by the apocalyptic winds and enormous walls of sea water that came rushing ashore.

More than 10 million people are estimated to have been displaced by this single event. Hunger, sickness and despair now stalk the most hard hit of areas, even as aid from both local and international sources started to trickle in. The President has already declared a state of national calamity.

It will probably take a few more days, maybe weeks before the total extent of this disaster can be confirmed. But for sure, this is now considered the worst natural calamity that the country has ever experienced. 

While storms and typhoons are indeed natural occurrences, the ferocious strength and destructive power delivered by this typhoon have been characterized as off the charts and beyond normal.

This is also not the first time. 

Last year, there was Bopha, which resulted in more than 600 fatalities, and before that a number of other weather aberrations too freakish even for a nation that has grown accustomed to getting more than 20 of these howlers in any given year. As if on cue, and following the template of Bopha in Doha, Haiyan also came at a time when the climate COP is taking place, this time in Warsaw.

Some of you would have already heard about the emotional opening speech delivered by the head of the Philippine delegation at the climate summit, bewailing the absence of responsible climate action at the global level and refusing to accept that the fate of Filipinos may now be irretrievably linked to a future where people are served super typhoons for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Once again, a disaster such as this one, underscores the urgency of the work we do as a global organization on climate change. 

It is in fearful anticipation of tragic scenarios such as these why our staff and activists go through great lengths, putting their life and liberty at risk, to take action at the frontlines of climate destruction — whether that’s in the forests of Sumatra or the hostile waters of the Arctic.

I would like to believe this is part of the larger narrative why 30 of our colleagues remain in detention in Russia. And it is our hope that they find courage and inspiration to endure the injustice they are going through, moving the planet away from the clear and present danger posed by runaway climate change.

We thank you all for the messages of solidarity and support you have sent our way at this time.

More importantly, I would urge you to use this moment to remind your governments that every investment in fossil fuels is an investment in death and destruction. 

The impact of new coal plants being built or new oil fields being developed — do not remain in their immediate vicinities — they translate into epic humanitarian disasters and tragedies, as we continue to witness in the Philippines.

Regards,

Von Hernandez
Executive Director
Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Written by Martin Lack

15 November 2013 at 16:30

Views of Doha

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The 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) to the UN’s Framework Convention on climate Change (UNFCCC), ended in Doha (Qatar) last weekend.  Sadly, this event was not considered newsworthy in the mainstream media in the UK.  Irrespective of the outcome of COP18, the X Factor and the tragic death of a nurse following a hoax phone call were considered far more important than the diminishing prospects for international cooperation to avert a climate catastrophe.

Back in the real world – as opposed to the sweet-smelling rose garden of our celebrity-obsessed media – the consequences of the UNFCCC’s failure to prevent continual growth in carbon dioxide emissions over the last 20 years have been reported by a wide range of bodies.  The news is not good.

Even before COP18 had ended, Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo, was on record as having told the AFP news agency:

If we make a judgment based on what we’ve seen in these negotiations so far, there is no reason to be optimistic. – Fractious Doha talks bode ill for 2020 deal, observers say

Writing for the website of the Global Travel Industry News website – let’s not talk about its carbon footprint for now – Wolfgang H. Thome (a PhD from Uganda) reported the outcome of COP18 as follows:

In spite of the writing now being clearly on the wall, and climate change projections suggesting an average rise of temperatures by 2 degrees C 40 years from now, and up to 5+ degrees C by the end of the century, the main polluters have once again succeeded to push tough decisions into the future. – Doha’s failure spells doom for Africa

A team of observers from the Center for American Progress website, introduced their summary of events as follows:

The end of this year’s UN climate summit last weekend in Doha, Qatar, marked a period of transition… to… a three-year process to create a new comprehensive climate treaty, which will be applicable to all countries and cover 100 percent of global emissions. – See here for the full briefing on the outcome.

———–

There is just one problem with the glacial speed of the UNFCCC’s progress towards a Treaty to replace the failed Kyoto Protocol – unlike glacier melting in the real world – it is not accelerating in response to the increasingly obvious warming of the planet.

With my thanks to fellow-blogger Paul Handover for alerting me to it – via his most recent post – the Yale Forum on Climate Change and The Media has reported that the renowned British climate scientist – and prominent critique of UK government policy – Professor Robert Watson, recently told a California audience that:

Fundamentally, we are not on a path toward a 2 degree world…  Average global temperatures could rise 2 to 7 degrees C by the end of the century, driving a litany of environmental change…  Therefore, we must adapt… – Forget About That 2-Degree Future

What scares me about this is that, as Clive Hamilton suggested (in Requiem for a Species), believing that we can adapt to the accelerating change that our leaders are ignoring is very probably a fanciful delusion in itself. – http://www.clivehamilton.net.au/cms/media/documents/speeches/launch_speech_for_website.pdf

We have failed to heed the warning signs and therefore, just as William Ophuls predicted (in Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity), we are currently in the process of reducing the Earth’s long-term ecological carrying capacity. Furthermore, the longer our political “leaders” take to acknowledge – and respond to – this fact, the greater the collateral damage is going to be. – http://www.greatchange.org/ophuls,ecological_scarcity.html

In the long run, unmitigated climate change is almost certainly going to cause genocide on an unprecedented scale – at least 100 times greater than the extermination of 6 million Jews by the Nazis 70 years ago. As was the case back then, an awful lot of people seem to be just standing around allowing it to happen.

Paying the price of UNFCCC failure

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Photo credit: Greenpeace International

I have been somewhat pre-occupied with the task of ending my unemployment recently.  However, I found myself pondering the above subject on my drive home from a couple of job interviews in London yesterday.

I know I have blogged about the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) before (and the Kyoto Protocol to which it led in 1997); and – in particular – how we (all human beings on this planet) are now so clearly in breach of Article 2 of the UNFCCC:

The ultimate objective of this Convention… is to achieve… the… stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.  

However, driving from London to my home in the NW of England yesterday on part of the UK’s motorway network, I was astonished to see almost every single river valley covered by floodwater.  Some parts of the UK have been very wet this year (bringing to an end a record-breaking 18-month drought).  However, on the 180-mile journey home yesterday, I was really impressed by the fact that – as the BBC have reported – this flooding is now affecting such a large part of the country.

Meteorologists and climate scientists have a phrase for what we are witnessing – it’s Global Weirding.  I believe James Hansen spoke for the majority of reputable climate scientists when, in August this year, he provided irrefutable historical statistical evidence for a reality that atmospheric physics has made inevitable:

A warming atmosphere containing more moisture more of the time will lead – and has led – to the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events of all kinds.

I think all decent human beings owe it to their children and grandchildren to face up to the facts of history; and accept the nature of reality:

So-called “climate sceptics” (i.e. those ideologically prejudiced against admitting human activity is responsible for any and all environmental degradation) have dismissed the warnings of climate scientists over several decades as attempts to justify and perpetuate research funding.  In a vain attempt to prevent having to pay for the environmental cost of its pollution, the fossil fuel industry, like the tobacco industry before it, has denied that it is the cause of the problem for decades…  They have sought to perpetuate doubt and uncertainty; and have even accused climate scientists of crying “wolf”…  However, the truth of the matter is that much more money has been spent denying science than has been spent on research and, just as it did in the morality tale, the wolf has now turned up.

What I really object to is that my children and grandchildren are going to be the main ones that have to pay the price for the shortsightedness of fossil fuel executives who have succeeded in ensuring the UNFCCC has achieved absolutely nothing.

Over the last 20 years of UNFCCC meetings, there has been a great deal of talk and very little action.  Despite Hurricane Sandy and President Obama’s fine words on the night of his re-election this month, I suspect COP18 in Doha (starting next week) will be no different:  Sadly, I think real action will only start to be taken when events like Hurricane Sandy become an annual occurrence.

Therefore, although I do not wish such things on anyone, I suspect I may look forward to concerted action becoming a reality before the end of this decade.  By then, as any decent insurance company will admit to you, it is now very likely that we will all be paying the price of the failure of the UNFCCC process.

Memo to new US President (Obama hopefully)

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Image credit: Greenpeace International

Therefore we are already in breach of Article 2 (i.e. the objective) of the UNFCCC:

“…to achieve… stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that… prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system…”

Written by Martin Lack

6 November 2012 at 16:17

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