Physics Today has just run an unusually salient history of science article, The Discovery of Rapid Climate Change, which among much else focuses on how rapidly the research community’s perception of the risks of rapid climate change is changing. Got that And note that a longer article, focusing on rapid one-way climate shifts, is available here.
If the WMO press release is too understated for your taste, try the articles that George Monbiot and John Vidal have been publishing in the Guardian recently. Particularly notable are:
* Monbiot’s Shadow of Extinction which presents evidence that the great Permian extinction may have been caused by a mere 6C degrees of climate change. (July 1st)
* Vidal’s Global Warming may be Speeding Up, which evocatively argues that this summer’s global drought/heatwave could indicate that the warming has already begun to accelerate. (Aug 6th)
* Monbiot’s With Eyes Wide Shut, which reviews some of the more terrifying of the recent science, and suggests that we are, perhaps, living in a dream. (Aug 12th) All three of these articles cite a recent workshop where top atmospheric scientists, including Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and Bert Bolin, former chairman of the IPCC, concluded that the masking effect that aerosols are having on the warming could be far greater than previously thought, and that, therefore, the IPCC’s estimate of the “high end” danger could turn out to be far too low. For more on this, see First, the Bad News in the current issue of Climate Equity Observer.
This Strategic Assessment of the Kyoto-Marrakech System was jointly prepared by an impressive list of European climate policy researchers, gathered together under the “Climate Strategies” umbrella. You’ll definitely want to start with the (mercifully short) synthesis report and then, to drill deeper, download the underlying “modules” (why not just call them papers) from the British Centre for Energy Policy and Technology. All, curiously, except Benito Muller’s “Module 4” on Framing Future Commitments, which isn’t downloadable. Instead you get it (a free PDF) by emailing www.oxfordenergy.org (at firstname.lastname@example.org), and we, actually, recommend that you do. Take a special look at page 68, where Benito lays down his notion of the “twin taboos” (one Northern; one Southern) that underlie the current impasse, and at the appended comments (starting on page 123) by Anju Sharma of India’s Centre for Science and the Environment.
The Myth, of course, is that any serious effort to control emissions is bound to bankrupt us. The reality, as shown, once again, by two authoritative studies of the McCain Lieberman proposal, is far different.
The better known of the two is the Emissions Trading to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the United States: The McCain-Lieberman Proposal, better known as “The MIT study, which showed that the per-household “welfare loss” would typically be a mere $50 to $175 in 2010, rising to about $100 to $350 per household in 2020. And this, please note, was the original McCain Lieberman proposal, before it was watered down to win more vote.
Still, that would be enough to hurt the poor, so we felt better when the Tellus Institute released its Analysis of the Climate Stewardship Act. Tellus’ analysis, while entirely consistent with the MIT study, also assumed targeted policies designed to promote efficiency and renewables, and concluded that, in fact, net savings to consumers accrue from 2013, and would reach $48 billion annually in 2020.
Keep these studies in mind the next time you hear some blowhard from the Competitive Enterprise Institute sound off about the so-called economic realities.
In this fascinating, accessible presentation, James Hansen, one of our most respected climate scientists, argues that we’re much closer to “dangerous anthropogenic interference” than the IPCC’s work would suggest: “The dominant issue in global warming, in my opinion, is sea level change and the question of how fast ice sheets can disintegrate. A large portion of the world’s people live within a few meters of sea level, with trillions of dollars of infrastructure. The need to preserve global coast lines, I suggest, sets a low ceiling on the level of global warming that would constitute DAI.” The funny thing is the Hansen is still an optimist. Or, rather, he thinks we still have time. Just. This one is a must read.
In the midst of the summer heat wave, the UN World Meteorological Organization issued an unusual press release that clearly ascribed recent extreme weather events to climate change. WMO cited record temperatures of over 40 degrees C in the South of France, a record number of tornadoes in the US, and pre-monsoon heat waves in India that were up to five degrees higher than average.
There’ve been lots of efforts to form a “blue green” labor-environment coalition in the US, but none ever looked as promising as The Apollo Alliance, which just might have legs. Apollo’s focus is on creating jobs and energy independence, two goals that would benefit tremendously from an effective drive for renewables. And Apollo’s time, clearly, is right.
To be sure, there’s almost no attention given, in the Apollo frame, to either global warming or international justice, but that’s because Apollo is shooting for the moon, not the stars. And hey, it’s a first step. For more info, check out Apollo’s media center. Amanda Griscom’s Declaration of Energy Independence, originally from Grist Magazine, is a nice place to start.
Only fifteen percent of the population lives in the high-income countries, but they use 50 percent of the world’s energy and emit 50 percent of its anthropogenic CO2. These grim figures are not unfamiliar, but they are now corroborated by a UNFCCC analysis based on the increasingly sophisticated “national communications” required by the climate treaty. (June 2003)
The UNFCCC analysis, Rich countries see higher greenhouse gas emissions, lays out the news pretty clearly: the rich world, which stabilized its greenhouse gas emissions during the 1990s, will likely see these emissions rise again by the end of the current decade. Indeed, the combined emissions of Europe, Japan, the US and other highly industrialized countries could grow by 17% between 2000 to 2010, despite domestic measures currently in place to limit them.
The US DOE Energy Information Agency recently published a rollup of 1990 to 1999 carbon emissions for most countries. As you can easily see from the tables collected on the Carbon Dioxide Emissions page, the bottom-line realities are pretty clear.
Take a look, for example, at the table named World Carbon Dioxide Emissions from the Consumption and Flaring of Fossil Fuels . It shows that China decreased its CO2 emissions by about 17 per cent from 1997 to 1999 and is now back at its 1992 emission level. It also shows that since 1990 the U.S. increased its fossil fuel related carbon emissions by 12 percent, Canada by 18 percent, Norway by 27 percent, Japan by 14 percent… You get the idea.
Go to the coal table and you’ll see the main reason why China’s emissions have dropped – it has radically reduced its subsidies for, and thus its consumption of, coal.
Quick, someone tell Washington. And while you’re at it, tell them that they have a good opportunity here to one-up the Chinese. We could not only we could not only phase out fossil fuel subsidies, we could take care of the workers who will be hurt when we do so.
John Holdren is a pretty important guy. He’s a professor of Environmental Policy at Harvard, where he directs the Program on Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, and that’s just for starters. He’s also a member of the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (or at least he was under Clinton, we haven’t checked) and he chaired its panel on Energy R&D Strategy for the Climate Change Challenge.
All of which makes it significant that Holdren publicly advocates a phased transition to a climate regime based on per-capita carbon emissions allocations …