The Protocol that came in from the Cold

The Montreal conference was a big deal not because it marked a turn in the climate war (we’re still losing) but because it may, if we we are very lucky, make a turn possible. The Bush people came to throw gravel in the gears, but they were unsuccesful, and perhaps even humilitated. (Can you be humiliated if you don’t notice) Even more importantly, the future is now, finally, on the official negotiating agenda.

For the details, see this review essay, written by the climate team at the Wuppertal Insitute. It’s the single best summary of COPMOP1 and its significance that we’ve seen. They leave out the rubber ducks though.

High Stakes: Designing emissions pathways to reduce the risk of dangerous climate change

High Stakes is a contribution to the intensifying debate over precaution and long-term objectives. This is because it shows, by way of fairly robust but quite transparent risk calculations, that even if we could orchestrate an extremely steep and nearly immediate decline in global emissions, we would still face a risk on the order of 10-20% or more of exceeding the 2C threshold, the most broadly endorsed “precautionary” target.

The report was published by the Institute of Public Policy Research

Download the report as pdf

A Stern Talking To

This, of course, is a link to the the Stern Review, the UK government report on climate change economics that, we may all devoutly hope, marks the end of the pretense that sober economic analysis justifies further delay before launching serious attempts at mitigation. It also marks a low point — if such is possible — in the careers of the barking dogs we know as “climate skeptics.” Particularly notable was the “industry spokeman” who dismissed the report — by a former World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President! — as “fun with numbers.”

Bark they may, but the caravan has moved on.

Living Planet 2006

Regular readers of this site will be excused if they think it’s all climate, all the time. And, in truth, we really do think that climate plays a special, decisive role in the environmental crisis. But as this latest from the Global Footprint Network makes gruesomely clear, the larger story is also moving on to its inevitble denouement. Particularly notable in 2006’s report is the attention to national disaggregation — humanity is no longer being treated as a single monolithic group. So that a visit to this report will reward you with maps like this one, which you won’t find at your local Rand McNally.

(larger version of this map target here)

McKibben's Warning

You gotta give it to Bill McKibben: he has political instincts! So if you missed this little piece, here’s your second chance. It’ll give you nice snapshots to both the Waxman and Jeffords bills (the ones we need to support for all we’re worth) and it wraps these pointers in the simple honest truth. Now that national climate legislation is inevitable, “the temptation will be to simply pass something, most likely the “feeble” McCain-Lieberman bill. In fact:

“If the Democrats manage to pick up one or both houses of Congress in November’s election, there will be a real chance to actually pass a law. That’s an opportunity. And that’s also an enormous danger, because if we lock into the wrong plan now, it may be years before we revisit the issue again. And years are what we don’t have.”

Gore's Big Speech

One wag called this speech the “lost reel” of An Inconvenient Truth. Whatever you want to call it, you have to admit that Gore’s invocation of the “Nuclear Freeze” movement, and his call for a carbon emissions freeze, were pleasing to the ear. But the real news, at least as far as we’re concerned, was in Gore’s Big Rhetorical Climax, where he stepped out of the climate sandbox and made the connections:

“In rising to meet this challenge, we too will find self-renewal and transcendence and a new capacity for vision to see other crises in our time that cry out for solutions: 20 million HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa alone, civil wars fought by children, genocides and famines, the rape and pillage of our oceans and forests, an extinction crisis that threatens the web of life, and tens of millions of our fellow humans dying every year from easily preventable diseases. And, by rising to meet the climate crisis, we will find the vision and moral authority to see them not as political problems but as moral imperatives.”

That’s the hope all right.

Trouble in Europe

As everyone who has been following the European Emissions Trading System no doubt already knows, there’s trouble brewing. The problem is that, rather than auction off the permits, or allocate them on the basis of some rational set of equity principles, the folks in Brussels have engineered a “dysfunctional” system in which emissions permits go to the powerful, on the basis of past emissions or, uh, power.

The result, as all climate newhounds know, is a glut of allocations (hot air) and a drop in the price of carbon in Europe from the already low level of 30 Euros a ton to even lower, deep discount, bad-joke levels. Which you can read about in this admirably brief and direct report from a think tank called Open Europe.

None of this would be so bad if it was just a sign of birthing pains. But rumors indicate that the EU is not rising to the occasion, and that the next round of allocations won’t be much smaller. Cross your fingers, and hope that “European Leadership” has a bit of wind left in its sails

Hey Look! Another EcoEquity!

We have, for most of our institutional lifetime, worked to find justice in the unpromising fields of the global climate debate. The Ella Baker Center in Oakland California searches in the even more unpromising lands of urban America. But hey, we couldn’t be more friendly to Ella Baker, or to its Green Job Corp initiative. Or for that matter to its notion of the “Three Es” — which would be Equity. Economy, and Environment.

China and "Our Oil"

Have you noticed the new fashion for China Bashing If you haven’t, be assured that the drums are beating. The underlying story here is, as always, complex, though it sure seems to have a lot of do with US dreams of a new cold war, and even of Containing China. Or, if you indulge in the coarser varieties of business journalism, it’s the story of China (and India) taking “our oil.”

In this context, check out the Energy Information Administration’s reference projections for future oil consumption. Click here for the PDF or, if you have Excel installed, here. The numbers are pretty amusing. For one thing they show total global oil consumption rising from 78.2 million barrels a day in 2002 to 119.2 million barrels a day in 2025, which, by the way, is not going to happen. But they also show that increased US consumption in that brief period will be 7.6 million barrels a day, while China’s will be 9.

Think about that in per-capita terms and you’ll get the joke.

Justice and Honesty in New Orleans

New Orleans still has more to teach us, and this little piece by Melissa Harris Lacewell, author of Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought is a good place to look for another lesson. Faced with a haphazard (if not willfully incompetent) reconstruction that’s leaving the city’s poor black community in even more precarious straits than it suffered before the storm, Lacewell calls for a “restoration” that really is designed to make the victims whole.

There will be more hurricanes, more relocations, more — let’s face it — climate refugees. It’s time, as the “adaptation” debate heats up, to think more viscerally. And a bit of effort spent mining these same veins is just what’s needed.