Skepticism, Climate-Gate and Copenhagen

Posted on December 11, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , |

In the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate conference which kicked off this past Monday, there was a lot of buzz about what has come to be known as “climate-gate”. 

Shortly before the conference, hackers released of files and emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in which some scientists questioned particular data and talked about preventing the publicaiton of colleague’s papers that may have presented altnernative viewpoints. Climate change skeptics took this data and ran with it, with everyone from Sarah Palin, to Saudi Arabia citing it as evidence that human induced climate change is a hoax.  The scientific community has vocalized its opposition to this claim and as Andrew Revkin and John Broder from the NYtimes GreenInc blog explain:

“In recent days, an array of scientists and policy makers have said that nothing so far disclosed — the correspondence and documents include references by prominent climate scientists to deleting potentially embarrassing e-mail messages, keeping papers by competing scientists from publication and making adjustments in research data — undercuts decades of peer-reviewed science.”

Still, these attempts to fix the did little to fuel the drama of climate-gate in Copenhagen. As the NY times reports, a group of prominent climate skeptics met at the city during the climate summit. Here are a couple quotes from that meeting:

“Carbon dioxide is only a good thing…More carbon dioxide means more warmth, and more crops, which means more people can be fed. That doesn’t bother me at all” –Phillip Foster, author of While the Earth Endures: Creation, Cosmology and Climate Change

I wonder if Mr. Foster thinks rising sea level and increasingly severe weather patterns are also going to help us humans lead better lives…or maybe he’s just choosing to ignore some key data. How could such a stickler for scientific truths do such a thing?

“They [scientific majority who supports the hypothesis that climate change is human induced] have brainwashed the broader population into believing that they are right…and now we see and hear that they are not right, and that convinces me that it is good that we are here…Also, I hate windmills.”  –Claus Castenskiold, retired gentleman farmer.

I know my personal vendetta against windmills has also led me to question human induced climate change at times…

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Copenhagen Coverage…

Posted on December 8, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

In case you missed it, the Copenhagen UN Climate Talks (COP-15) kicked off yesterday. Union of Concerned Scientists has some great coverage of the summit including videos of what’s going on in the negotiations and background info on the talks and climate policy in general.

The UCS site can also help you contact your Senator and urge them to take action on climate…as Mike Tidwell suggested.

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Stop going green to stop climate change?

Posted on December 6, 2009. Filed under: Events, Recommendations | Tags: , , |

Mike Tidwell, executive director of CCAN, had an interesting and counter-intuitive at first glance piece in the Outlook section of the Post today. In it, he advocated that small green actions like replacing lightbulbs, or buying recycled wrapping paper are only giving people a false sense of progress against climate change, but in reality doing very little to address the problem. He urged people to stop “going green” altogether and instead put their time and energy towards fighting for real policy actions to create a legally binding response to climate change. He compared climate change to civil rights–indicating that voluntary measures are not enough and that laws need to change in order to create real progress. Even though integration was not flawless once it was required by law, it happened and the country moved forward:

“After many decades of public denial and inaction, the civil rights movement helped Americans to see Southern apartheid in moral terms. From there, the movement succeeded by working toward legal change. Segregation was phased out rapidly only because it was phased out through the law. These statutes didn’t erase racial prejudice from every American heart overnight. But through them, our country made staggering progress. Just consider who occupies the White House today.”

On the eve of the Copenhagen climate talks, Tidwell also points out that strong US leadership will drive the rest of the world to address this issue as well, and hints at his disappointment with President Obama’s current, “leadership from behind” on this issue.

Tidwell will be chatting on the Washington Post’s site about his piece tomorrow at 11AM, and its likely his opinions are bound to elicit various reactions from readers.

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Is there hope for Copenhagen?

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

Copenhagen 2009The UN Climate Change Conference (COP-15), a huge milestone for international climate change policy, is fast approaching. But will this much anticipated conference yield any concrete results? The buzz this weekend suggested that it would not.

Recent statements by world leaders, including President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, attempt to soften expectations for the outcome of the meeting, framing it is a “stepping stone” to an eventual agreement rather than the birthplace of a binding international framework to replace Kyoto.

By calling the meeting a “stepping stone”, Secretary Clinton falls in the camp that believes international climate change policy will be like international trade policy–evolving rounds of agreements and negotiations without a concrete endpoint. The contrast to this evolving framework is an international treaty, like the Montreal Protocol, which addressed ozone depleting substances and was negotiated in the late 1980s.

At a side meeting during the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore this weekend, the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Lokke Rasmussen indicated that it was unrealistic to expect a legally binding agreement out of the impending summit and that perhaps a more feasible goal was a politically binding promise to establish a treaty at a later meeting. According to Rasmussen, this would be, “one agreement, two steps”

So what does this mean for climate change policy? Its certainly a dissapointment for many climate change activists that were hoping to get a solid committment from the meeting. But was this ever a realistic expectation? As Andrew Revkin puts it in NY Times DotEarth Blog,

“Finding a common framework for action acceptable to 200-plus countries with variegated vulnerabilities, fuel choices, political systems and histories of emissions remains a daunting task.”

Clearly, the fact that a global agreement on climate change is going to be very difficult to reach, is not news in any way. Still, over the last year, there were many positive signs that encouraged many that an agreement would be possible. First of all, the new American President cared about climate change and appointed Todd Stern, a seasoned and informed climate envoy to represent the country in negotiations. A year ago, it seemed as though the US was ready to take the lead in the international climate policy and make an agreement happen. And Europeans were starting not to see us only as SUV driving, air conditioning- loving, fast food eaters.

And now? The European climate negotiators once again see the US as the obstacle to any progress on climate change. As the chief Spanish negotiator commented,

“There’s a certain level of frustration in seeing that not all countries share (the) vision.”

Its a tough time for a climate change agreement. In the US, record unemployment rates, a flailing economy, and the struggle for health care reform are dominating the scene, not leaving much energy for climate change. And without the US, there is no prospect for a global agreement. Still, domestic climate change legislation has passed the house and has been introduced in the Senate, despite other legislative priorities.

So Copenhagen may not be the meeting where a binding international agreement is negotiated, but it could be a constructive part of a continuing effort to find a solution to climate change.

Don’t give up hope just yet.

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Why did leaders from the Maldives decide to hold Saturday’s cabinet meeting underwater?

Posted on October 19, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , |

Image from NYTimes

Image from NYTimes

From NYT DotEarth Blog…

On Saturday, the President, Vice President, Cabinet Secretary and 11 ministers of the Maldives, donned their scuba gear and dove underwater to hold a meeting in order to draw attention to human-induced  climate change and its threat to the low lying island chain. With a population that has doubled in the last 25 years, the Maldives have little land to sacrifice to flooding and storm surges that will be exacerbated by any rise in sea-level. At the underwater meating, officials signed a decleration calling all nations to reduce their Greenhouse Gas emissions.

When this meeting was planned in March, President Mohamed Nasheed took the lead by annoucing the Maldives’ goal to become the first carbon neutral country and switch to 100% renewable energy within 10 years. In a March op-ed published in The Observer, Nasheed declared:

“In a grotesque Faustian pact, we have done a deal with the carbon devil: for untold fossil fuel consumption in our lifetime, we are trading our children’s place in an earthly paradise. Today, the Maldives will opt out of that pact…Going green might cost a lot but refusing to act now will cost us the Earth.”

The Maldives’ plan to move to carbon neutrality includes hundreds of windmills, solar panels on residential rooftops, and a coconut husk biomass power plant. GreenInc reports that this ambitous plan will cost about $110 million/year, a substantial sum for a small country with a tourist and fishing based economy. But leaders from the Maldives were optimistic that the investment is worth it and will pay for itself by alleviating the nation’s dependence on imported oil. However, with the global recession and low oil prices, the plan is not as financially viable as it was originally considered. Last month, the Maldives announced a plan to impose a $3/day tax on tourists to raise money for its climate mitigation efforts.

Unfortunately, even if the Maldives were to completely eliminate their greenhouse gas emissions and become carbon neutral, it would not make a huge impact in the overall picture because their total emissions are such a small piece of the puzzle. However, hopefully, the energetic leadership of the Maldives on the climate issue is a positive step towards Copenhagen and will inspire other vulnerable and culpable countries think creatively about cutting their carbon footprints and breaking the deal with the “carbon devil”

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