Global environmental challenges
from Commodity Corner:
A U.N. concession to delegates at this week's climate talks in Bonn to take off jackets and ties due to recent high temperatures may be going to some participants' heads.
Breaking the back of negotiations for a new climate pact after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 is proving hard work even though the talks' chair hopes to have a new negotiating text on the table by the end of the week.
Developing nations are still blaming the rich for global warming and the issue of who will contribute most to climate financing is still a matter for debate.
A year-end meeting in Cancun looms closer and the pressure is on to get the job done.
Yet, the acronyms being bandied around -- LULUCF, CDM, AAU, AWG-KP, AWG-LCA, REDD, to name a few -- are enough to make your head swim.
A report by a group of leading scientists that global warming is accelerating and that world sea levels could rise at worst by 2 metres by 2100* is grim reading.
But sceptics are using a flood of leaked e-mails from a British University — dubbed “Climategate” – to question the findings.
There will be a record number of side events at the United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Copenhagen next month, but one woman’s one-woman show could give the delegates, most of whom will be men, the incentive they really need to agree a new global warming treaty.
In “The Boycott“, Kathryn Blume plays Lyssa, First Lady of the United States and climate crusader. Loosely borrowing from a play from ancient Greece, Lyssa launches a nationwide sex strike to fight global warming. As the play unfolds, Lyssa is forced to take on her indifferent husband, a hostile press and a romantic rival who’s not only in bed with the President, but with the oil industry as well.
The surprise award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama just nine months into his presidency on Friday may put pressure on him to visit a 190-nation meeting on a new U.N. climate treaty in Copenhagen.
The prize will be handed over in Oslo on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of the award’s founder Alfred Nobel, and the U.N. talks will run in Copenhagen from Dec. 7-18. It takes about an hour to fly between the two Scandinavian capitals.
It sounds almost too good to be true: new technology that would be better than carbon neutral — it would be carbon negative, taking more climate-warming carbon dioxide out of the air than factories and vehicles put in. It’s called air capture technology, and Reuters took a look at some promising versions of it on October 1.
This technology is expected to help some of the world’s poorest countries capitalize on any global carbon market, which would put a price on carbon emissions and let rich companies that spew lots of carbon buy carbon credits from poor companies and countries that emit less. The least developed countries emit very little carbon now. But the way the carbon market is set up under the Kyoto Protocol, this puts them at a disadvantage. If you don’t emit a lot it’s tough to get access to financing and clean technology under the current rules.
A half-dozen fake letters, signed by people who don’t seem to exist and who work at made-up jobs, are causing a bit of buzz in the environmental world — mostly because the letters urged a Virginia congressman to vote against a cap-and-trade system to curb climate change.
The Sierra Club calls it “dirty tricks.” The Union of Concerned Scientists points out that the PR firm said to be behind the fake-letter lobbying effort has a history of working against climate legislation. Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs a House committee on energy independence and global warming, said the committee will investigate. The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville published a detailed story.
Who was president when U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose most sharply since 1990, the U.N. benchmark year for action to fight climate change?
– George W. Bush (2001-2007)
– Bill Clinton (1993-2000)
– George H.W. Bush (1990-1992)
(I’m giving presidents responsibility for the full calendar year of their inauguration in January; official U.S. data are only available until 2007)
Answer — Bill Clinton (by a long way).
Many people might have thought the worst scorecard was by George W. Bush, who gave up plans to implement the 1997 Kyoto Protocol for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, signed by the Clinton administration but never submitted to a hostile Senate for ratification.
Yachts do it. Limousines do it. Even air-conditioned mansions by the sea do it. The trappings of wealth tend to emit lots of climate-warming carbon dioxide. Which is sort of the idea behind a new strategy for sharing the burden of fighting climate change. Take a look at the Reuters story on this here.
Instead of the two-tier world envisioned by the carbon-capping Kyoto Protocol — where developed countries have the lion’s share of responsibility for cutting emissions, while developing countries including China and India have few requirements — environmental strategists from Princeton, Harvard, the Netherlands and Italy say it might be better to track the wealthy, who live in every country.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy declares “nuclear is dead”; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is taken to hospital suffering from “confetti inhalation” and “hug-related injuries” after they agree to a historic U.N. deal to curb greenhouse gases in Copenhagen.
At least that’s part of the wishful thinking behind a spoof December 19, 2009 edition of the International Herald Tribune (left) showing a beaming German Chancellor Angela Merkel flanked by Sarkozy (left) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso above the headline “heads of state agree historic climate-saving deal”.
In 2004, an economic adviser to former Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for reining in global warming would kill off the world economy like “an international Auschwitz”.
Jewish groups deplored the remarks by Andrei Illarionov (left side of photo, with Putin) as trivialising the Holocaust. And his fears seem far from justified — in 2007, the Russian economy grew by 8.1 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by just 0.3 percent. (For a story, click here).