Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Kyoto is not enough says UK Chief Scientist, while Australia sticks with the USA

The United Kingdom (UK) government's chief scientist, Sir David King, has warned that climate change is the most serious issue facing the world this century. He was speaking at a recent Greenpeace Business conference in London - "we are seeing extreme events which are attributable to global warming, at least in part, and these are having quite devastating effects." Australia and the USA are refusing to ratify the climate treaty.

"Kyoto is not enough. Kyoto is a beginning and it’s a good process. And what will be needed is once we’ve got the process up and running, it will need to be ratcheted up so that we can really bring emissions under control. The key problem, of course, is going to be moving into the second period, when we need to bring on board not only Australia and the United States, but also the big growing economies, China and India."

The Howard Government has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The USA and Australia are the only two western industrialised nations (1) who have refused to ratify the Protocol. Greenpeace Australia said that the Howard Government should commit to a target and road map to reduce greenhouse pollution by at least 60 percent by 2050 so that Australia will be protected from climate change.

A Greenpeace statement said: "Australia is the most vulnerable developed country to the impacts of climate change. Without significant reductions in our greenhouse pollution, we face more frequent and severe droughts and bushfires, annual coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, the potential loss of Australia's ski fields and serious damage to other important ecosystems such as the Wet Tropics."

According to the Greenpeace statement, opinion polls commissioned by Greenpeace and others consistently show that at least 75% of Australians want the Government to ratify Kyoto, irrespective of the US position.

"Once Kyoto is in place, the world will have to face the challenge of the at least 60% emissions reductions that scientists tell us are necessary," said Greenpeace Campaigns Manager Danny Kennedy. "In Australia, we must see mandated emissions reductions and clean energy targets to get us there."

"But first Mr Howard must respond to the weight of public opinion, the necessities of global business and increasing extreme weather by immediately ratifying the Kyoto Protocol and joining the international effort to tackle climate change, the greatest challenge of our age." said Kennedy.

On October 22 the Russian parliament approved the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (FOE Europe). Once approved by the upper house and President Vladimir Putin, the treaty will come into force as international law 90 days later.

Note 1: Croatia, Liechtenstein and Monaco (all with neglible emissions) - have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol, only Australia and the US have said that they will not ratify. The other three are all expected to do so. A full list of countries and their ratification status (PDF) is available.

Source:

1. Greenpeace Australia: Chief Scientist: we need immediate action on climate change
2. Greenpeace Australia: Howard leaves Australia isolated as Kyoto to become law

Global warming threatens to reverse human progress

A new report released on October 20 in London by a broad coalition of community groups says that global warming threatens to reverse human progress, and make the international targets on halving global poverty by 2015, known as the Millennium Development Goals, unattainable. The report, Up In Smoke, was launched by Dr R K Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), and is endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The coalition behind the report included: Action Aid International, Christian Aid, Columban Faith and Justice, IDS (Institute of Development Studies), ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group), IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development), Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, nef (new economics foundation), Operation Noah, Oxfam, People & Planet, RSPB, Tearfund, teri Europe, WWF, WaterAid and World Vision.

The report called on the international community to take urgent action to introduce:

* A global risk assessment of the likely costs of adaptation to climate change in poor countries
* Cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases by industrialised countries in the order of 60-80 per cent (relative to 1990 levels) by the middle of this century, far beyond the targets of the Kyoto Protocol. This is vital to stop climate change running out of control - for example by global average temperatures rising beyond 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
* Commensurate new funds and other resources made available by industrialised countries for poor country adaptation, bearing in mind that rich country subsidies to their domestic fossil fuel industries stood at $73 billion per year in the late 1990s
* Effective and efficient arrangements to respond to the increasing burden of climate-related disaster relief
* Development models based on risk reduction and incorporating community-driven coping strategies in adaptation and disaster preparedness
* Small-scale renewable energy projects promoted by governments and community groups which can help to both tackle poverty and reduce climate change if they are replicated and scaled-up. This will require political commitment and new funds from governments in all countries, and a major shift in priorities by the World Bank and other development bodies.
* Coordinated plans, from local to international levels, for relocating threatened communities with appropriate political, legal and financial resources

Download the report in full.
http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/z_sys_PublicationDetail.aspx?pid=196

Source: http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/news_upinsmoke.aspx

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Global warming fears rise with Carbon Dioxide increase


Measurements of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is worrying climate scientists. Dr Craig Wallace from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research said "If it's the start of a real trend then this potentially is very serious indeed. The time for halting climate change actually went and passed in the late 1980s. What we can do now is hopefully slow down climate change, mitigate climate change by following the precedent set by the Kyoto Climate Agreement."

A US climate scientist, Charles Keeling, has reported that for the first time, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rose by more than two parts per million for two years running, from 2000 to 2001.

He said : "The rise in the annual rate to above two parts per million for two consecutive years is a real phenomenon."

"It is possible that this is merely a reflection of natural events like previous peaks in the rate, but it is also possible that it is the beginning of a natural process unprecedented in the record." he said.(2)

The levels were measured on top of Mauna Loa in Hawaii. Between 2001 and 2002 the number of parts per million of carbon dioxide rose from 371.02 to 373.10, an increase of 2.08 over the year. Then it rose again in 2003 to 375.64, an annual increase of 2.54.

Such increases in the past have been associated with the El Nino phenomenon that periodically disrupts weather patterns in the Pacific Basin. But El Nino has not ocurred to match these recent increases.

Mr Keeling said one explanation for the rise "could be a weakening of the earth's carbon 'sinks' [oceans and forests], associated with the world warming, as part of a climate change feedback mechanism."

Peter Cox, who heads the carbon cycle group at Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, was more sceptical saying it was possible to read too much into the figures. He also pointed out that the increase in carbon dioxide was not uniform across the globe and suspected something unusual had happened in the Northern Hemisphere. He proposed that the very hot summer last year in Europe, and more forest fires may have killed off vegetation thus increasing carbon releases from the soil.(1)

Dr Piers Forster, senior research fellow of the University of Reading's Department of Meteorology, said: "If this is a rate change, of course it will be very significant. It will be of enormous concern, because it will imply that all our global warming predictions for the next hundred years or so will have to be redone." (2)

ABC London correspondent, Kirsten Aiken, interviewed Chris Jones from the UK's Hadley Centre for Climate Change for ABC Radio - AM program:

"What we think is happening is that the natural vegetation, the forests and so on, which normally absorb a certain amount of the fossil fuel emissions, have started to absorb less of that as a response to the 2003 very warm summer." said Chris Jones.

He further elaborated to Kirsten Aiken what it meant: "Well, on its own all it shows is that the natural carbon cycle has a sensitivity to climate, but the wider implication is that in the future if these warmer summers become the norm, which is what we expect in terms of global warming scenarios, then we may see a feedback where the changes in climate cause a long-term increase in carbon dioxide on top of the fossil fuel emissions, and that in itself could increase the warming in a sort of positive feedback." (3)

Kirsten Aiken also spoke to Dr Craig Wallace from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. He provided a sobering warning that the increase could mean rapid climate change is already in progress.

"It could just be a temporary blip. If it's the start of a real trend then this potentially is very serious indeed. The time for halting climate change actually went and passed in the late 1980s. What we can do now is hopefully slow down climate change, mitigate climate change by following the precedent set by the Kyoto Climate Agreement." he said.(3)

UK Director of Greenpeace, Stephen Tindall, hoped news of the increase in CO2 levels will provide the impetus for governments to tackle climate change. He singled out Australia for special mention, describing it as one of the world's biggest carbon dioxide polluters which has failed to make any real moves to address what is shaping up as the globe's greatest threat.

"We can see that politicians are slowly beginning to move, not nearly fast enough of course, but at least there is some movement. So in recent weeks we've seen Kyoto being ratified by the Russians, which means that it will finally come into force."

"We've even seen the Bush administration in the US finally accepting the science of climate change. So that begins to make the Australian Government look extremely isolated." said Stephen Tindall.(3)

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Sources:
(1) ABC Online - Carbon dioxide spike renews global warming fears
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200410/s1217958.htm

(2) The Guardian - Climate fear as carbon levels soar
http://www.guardian.co.uk/climatechange/story/0,12374,1324379,00.html

(3) ABC Radio - AM Transcript - Global warming fears heightened by carbon dioxide increase
http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2004/s1218111.htm

(4) Image from Wikipedia - Global Warming
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

Reference:
(5) The Discovery of Global Warming
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/