Climate change: the vision thing

July 9, 2008

pollution.jpgLeaders of the G8 and the world’s developing nations have agreed a “shared vision” on fighting climate change — but long-standing differences have prevented them agreeing on any specific targets.

The G8 on its own favours a halving of harmful emissions by 2050 but industrialising nations like China and India will not sign up to that goal, arguing that their primary commitment is to improve the living standards of their people.

Without them on board, the U.S. will not ratify any agreement to cut its own emissions.

The “vision” declaration has been hailed by G8 leaders as a useful step ahead of 2009 when they will return to the issue and when America will have a new president with a greater mandate to take action.

But green groups are scornful. The WWF’s Global Climate Initiative calls it “pretty pathetic.”

Should world leaders be trying harder, or have fears of climate change have been overstated?

What’s your view?

10 comments

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Without clean coal, it is unfeasible to cut world emissions substancially:

“The vast majority of new power stations in China and India will be coal-fired; not “may be coal-fired”; will be. So developing carbon capture and storage technology is not optional, it is literally of the essence.” –”Breaking the Climate Deadlock,” Tony Blair, June 26, 2008

But:

Vaclav Smil, an energy expert at the University of Manitoba, has estimated that capturing and burying just 10 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted over a year from coal-fire plants at current rates would require moving volumes of compressed carbon dioxide greater than the total annual flow of oil worldwide — a massive undertaking requiring decades and trillions of dollars. “Beware of the scale,” he stressed.”

The Indian Prime Minister said yesterday that it was more important for his country to bring its people out of poverty than to reduce CO2 emissions.

Quite right too. It’s far more important and urgent to deal with present actual problems than potential future problems.

As Global Warming has effectively failed to materialize for the past ten years, isn’t it time to have another look at those scary computer scenarios and question why they don’t seem to be able to deliver a catastrophe after all?

The G7 have the onerous responsibility to safeguard the people of the world: to provide a stable environment where people can live and thrive without fear of war, hunger or disease. To many countries these problems are a daily fact of life and what is more, they are solvable.

There is no excuse to not do the things which we can do and that will make us stronger to deal with the things in the future which we are unpredictable.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

And to think;- the Human Race had so much potential! I suspect we too will soon become extinct. The cause? politics! Not exactly a grand epitaph, is it?

Posted by Andrew C | Report as abusive

Actually, the key is still technology. We are so limited by the current barriers of lacking effective CO2 capture and storage methods. The true challenge comes down to when the technology advances could be achieved.

Tim’s claim that “Global Warming has effectively failed to materialize for the past ten years” is ridiculous; the World Meteorological Organization has shown that the 11 hottest years on record happened in the last 13 years. The extent of the summer Arctic ice cap has been shrinking steadily over that time. Global warming — and other effects of CO2 emissions, such as ocean acidification — is visible in the data; where has Tim been looking?

India’s and China’s concern for the standard of living for their people is understandable, but continued high carbon emissions will ultimately deal all of us a standard of living below that which China and India enjoy now. We all need to take a longer view, or we’ll have a shorter future.

Posted by Karl | Report as abusive

The main climate reporting stations: Hadley, GISS, RSS and UAH report no significant warming since 1998 which was an exceptional ‘El Nino’ year. The trend line is effectively flat to falling slightly. What is more, The Liebniz Institute in a paper published in ‘Nature’ this May predicted no further significant warming until 2015-2020.

It really is time to admit that the AGW/CO2 hypothesis is looking a bit shaky and just get on with dealing with the real problems facing humanity.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

Tim, data from four specific locations does nothing to refute the data collected by hundreds of stations throughout the world. Everyone understands that there will be regional variations.

What does the Liebniz Institute paper predict for after 2020? If it’s like the assessments used by the UK, it predicts accelerated warming after that time. The polar regions can provide a temporary buffer to warming, by absorbing the heat required to melt the ice (see “heat of crystallization”).

And you’ve said nothing about the warming-unrelated effects of CO2 emissions.

Posted by Karl | Report as abusive

Karl – The four institutes (the Goddard Institute, Hadley Research Centre, University of Alabama and Remote Sensing Systems) I quoted are responsible for collecting global data, the first two use surface stations and the second two use satellite data. These global data sets are used by the IPCC.

You can look up the Liebniz Institute (Keenleyside et al.) paper for yourself if you want to delve further.

As already stated: Other computer models (GCMs) have failed to predict the current ten year level trend so how can they possibly predict what may happen in 50 years time?

And for “warming-unrelated effects of CO2″, I suspect you’re referring to the latest scare i.e. ‘ocean acidification’. A misnomer if ever there was as the oceans are alkaline (av. ph c8.1 IIRC) so not much scope for doom-mongering there! I’m not about to do the sums for how much carbonic acid is required to alter the ph of the oceans by a significant amount. If you’re so concerned, you can do it.

CO2 is the basis of life on Earth. Without it we would not be here.

Posted by Tim | Report as abusive

Odd… The Goddard Institute seems to be full of news of global warming occurring within the last ten years. Check the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis, among other data sets.

The Met Office Hadley Centre climate monitoring data sets do seem to show a levelling off of temperature increases over the last few years, but this is a minor event in a larger long-term upward trend.

Which data sets have you looked at?

Haven’t found U of A’s data sets on-line yet.

Yes, I am referring to ocean acidification. Look up “acidification” — it means lowering the pH, not necessarily forcing it to less than 7. Changes to the pH affect the rates of calcium shell formation in microscopic and macroscopic animals.

CO2 is one of the bases of life on earth. But the curent species of life on Earth have adapted to a specific balance of atmospheric and oceanic chemistry. While we can adapt eventually to a different balance, the changes we are provoking are happening very quickly in evolutionary terms.

Posted by Karl | Report as abusive

You know what; I think I’ll just advise anyone still reading this to check out the Goddard Institute, the Met Office Hadley Centre, and Remote Sensing Systems. U of A, too, if you can find their data. These sites and the data they present do more to pop Tim’s balloon than anything I could say.

See y’all.

Posted by Karl | Report as abusive