Environment Forum

Auxiliary verbs at 10pm and the scarcest resource – sleep

CO2tonneThe issues are global and urgent, but the bureaucracy can sometimes be mind-bogglingly slow and petty.

After a day of stalled talks, the 193 nations at UN-led climate talks finally met for a plenary to discuss one of the main drafts floating around the summit, just two days (and two hours) from the deadline for a deal.

First on the agenda – auxiliary verbs. There was a discussion of should vs shall, before an appeal from the chair.

“I would ask you to consider the most scarce resource in this room – sleep”

Her request was applauded, but the talks anyway soon plunged into a discussion of clauses and sub-clauses.

Can you trust the science?

Today we pose the question to our virtual panel of experts, “How far can we trust the science of climate change?”

Join the debate and leave your comments below.

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Bjorn Lomborg, statistician and author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist”:

The vast majority of climate scientists tell us that increases in carbon dioxide cause higher temperatures over time. We know that this will mean changes in rainfall, melting of snow and ice, a rise in sea level, and other impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans.

There is still meaningful and important work going on looking at the range of outcomes that we should expect–it is wrong to suggest that “all of the science is in”– but I think it is vital to emphasize the consensus on the most important scientific questions.

What can ordinary people do to slow climate change?

(Updates with comments from Knut Alfsen of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo (CICERO))

Today’s expert panel discusses the question, “What can ordinary people do to slow climate change?”

Join the discussion and let us know what you think.

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Gidon Eshel, physics professor at Bard College:

What can ordinary people do to slow climate change? A lot.

Which is extremely important as it appears increasingly unlikely that Obama the president will deliver  what Obama the candidate promised.

from The Great Debate:

Climate skeptic: We are winning the science battle

- Dr. Fred Singer is the President of The Science & Environmental Policy Project and Professor Emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. The views expressed are his own -

The International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) charter states that the organization’s purpose is to look for human induced climate change. The Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) does not have this problem. If we find support for human induced climate change, we say so. If we do not find support for human induced climate change, we say so. In fact, the first NIPCC report, of which I was a lead author, was called 'Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate'.

We see no evidence in the climate record that the increase in CO2, which is real, has any appreciable effect on the global temperature. IPCC relies heavily on the surface temperature data, which is distorted by a deletion of a number of surface stations. The 'best' stations were kept - the ones around temperature islands and by airports.

What about China?

(Updates with comments from Raymond Pierrehumbert, Knut Alfsen and Kim Carstensen)

HONGKONG-POLLUTION/

The world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases by geographical boundaries is China. A close second is the United States. Between the two great powers, they account for 40 percent of all carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Heading into the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, the pressure was on for China to come up with a real plan for how it would scale back its record emissions.

Sleeping next to activists in Copenhagen

There’s no concierge, no bellboy nor even a check-in counter. There’s no lobby, nor mini-bar and not even any heating. But despite the lack of amenities there was still something special about sleeping alongside 2,000 other climate change activists in an empty warehouse in an industrial section of northwest Copenhagen last night. 

It’s cold, loud and dusty. But the price is unbeatable and so is the atmosphere. CLIMATE-COPENHAGEN/You could say they were all happy campers.

There’s no charge but donations are welcome. There’s even breakfast available, a delicious porridge concoction.  And even free wireless, which is helping me get this post written.  Last night I managed to find a fairly empty corner on the cold cement floor of this drafty warehouse shortly before midnight but by the time I woke up at 7 a.m. there were hundreds more activists in sleeping bags crowded around me. They had been streaming in through the night.

The silent revolution in energy efficiency

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own —

John Kemp

Current debates about cutting energy consumption and carbon emissions often carry a strong undercurrent of asceticism.

There is an almost missionary zeal to save the planet by reverting to a simpler and more satisfying past when energy consumption was lower (or at least encourage other people to make necessary sacrifices).

But the post-war experience of the United States and other industrialized economies suggests it is possible to combine rising living standards with the same or lower energy use.

from The Great Debate:

For real results on climate, look beyond Copenhagen

-- Aron Cramer is the president and CEO of BSR, a global business network and consultancy focused on sustainability. He is also coauthor of the forthcoming book Sustainable Excellence (Rodale 2010). The views expressed are his own.  --

(Updated on December 17th to correct figure in McKinsey study in paragraph 7.)

As world leaders seem uncertain about whether a binding treaty is even possible at Copenhagen, it’s important to remember what was already clear: Twelve days in Copenhagen were never going to solve climate change anyway.

No doubt, these negotiations, now extending into 2010, are crucial. The sooner we can seal a global deal to reduce emissions, the sooner we can avoid catastrophic climate change. But as important as the treaty negotiations in Copenhagen’s Bella Centre are, even a successful outcome will be for naught if boardroom decisions and factory processes aren’t reoriented toward a low-carbon future.

The answer could be blowing in the wind

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Well into the first week of the U.N. Conference on Climate Change, the haves and have nots of the world are still divided over who should pay for the cleanup of the planet. Poor countries want rich countries to cough up more ambitious goals for emissions cuts and developing technologies.

From emerging wind and solar industries to geothermal advances, the technologies being tested for adaptability in the fight against climate change are still quite new and in some cases revolutionary.

To kick off today’s discussion, we posed the question to our panel of climate experts:  What technology could be the most successful solution to global warming?

Reporter’s video notebook: Day Four

Reuters environmental markets correspondent Gerard Wynn is at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. In this video log, he previews what to expect on the fourth day of talks.

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