The UN World Climate Summit begins this Monday, November 28 in Durban, South Africa, and runs through December 9.
Even after the most dire reports on the rapid progression of climate change were released this month by the IPCC and International Energy Agency (IEA), saying the link between human emissions and climate change is certain, and that the world has 5 years to act … few people expect the session to result in much.
The same old issues are getting in the way. The US, until recently the world’s biggest polluter, has refused to sign binding commitments, which holds back other developed nations like Canada, Russia and Japan. Even though China is "developing," as the world’s top polluter, it should sign on too, they say.
Developed nations insist that developing countries do their fair share, especially China and India, and developing countries want the US and other advanced economies to do much more and to pay for the developing world to catch up.
About 200 nations will meet in Durban to make progress on addressing global warming, but the goal is no longer on creating an enforceable world treaty.
Hopes for that are dashed and it’s widely expected that the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012, will not be renewed.
At the Copenhagen summit in 2009, followed by Cancun in 2010, most nations made pledges on the amount of greenhouse gases they would reduce, by when, but so far they are voluntary, and most fall far short of what’s needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Nations agreed to create a Green Climate Fund to provide $100 billion a year to poor nations by 2020 to protect tropical forests and share clean energy technologies. That fund has yet to be implemented.
There must be a "bold change of policy direction or the world will lock itself into an insecure, inefficient and high-carbon energy system," says the IEA.
"If we do not have an international agreement whose effect is put in place by 2017, then the door will be closed forever," IEA Chief Economist Fatih Birol warns today.
The IPCC report urges countries to develop disaster management plans to adapt to the certainty of ever more frequent, intense extreme weather events.
The Good News: Emerging Signs of Hope?
We are beginning to see frameworks arising in some parts of the world that have great potential, such as Australia’s passage of a carbon tax, more aggressive fuel economy standards in the US, and China’s increasingly potent five year plans.
None of these go far enough or fast enough, but it is a start. And once things really do start, they could quickly hit critical mass. Europe is progressing on its targets – the only region of the world to set appropriate, binding targets.
Although the industry is hitting some bumps in the road, renewable energy is growing at an extraordinary pace, with investments rising 30% to $243 billion last year. It’s now an established industry and isn’t going away.
What’s On Tap in Durban:
The devil is in the details because nations are no longer that far apart in what they want.
They’ve made pledges to cut emissions by when. The final step (other than increasing those numbers to where they need to be) is to develop ways to measure whether nations are keeping their promises and how to hold them accountable.
And the Green Climate Fund needs to be implemented.
There’s been progress this year on ways to improve transparency and to develop the Green Climate Fund.
There’s plenty of evidence that 50% of warming is caused by non-CO2 gases, black carbon and aerosols, which could much more easily be eliminated, postponing the worst effects of climate change for decades, and greatly slowing Arctic ice melt, while the world gets on track.
Why not focus on getting an agreement on just this?
Democrats Urge Clinton
53 House Democrats sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging her to take an "ambitious" position at the meeting. The letter also went to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
While they say hopes for a binding new treaty have faded, they see a chance to make progress on the Green Climate Fund.
The fund should ensure "meaningful participation of women, affected communities and civil society, including on the Fund’s board," they write.
And it should support innovative approaches to generate new and additional public and private finance to help developing countries confront the climate crisis, including mechanisms in the shipping and aviation sectors.
Then There’s ClimateGate 2.0
It’s not surprising that ClimateGate, which is partly responsible for derailing the Copenhagen Summit, is back right before the Durban meeting.
The world looked at Copenhagen as the place where the deal would finally be sealed. But then, thousands of hacked emails hit the press, raising questions about the scientific integrity behind climate change, which resulted in a media frenzy focused on that, rather than the subject at hand.
Now, they’re back with freshly hacked emails, they say, but in fact they’ve revived the same set that derailed Copenhagen. Those emails were the subject of intense scrutiny – the conclusion was scientists did not manipulate data to support their findings.
Myron Ebell, a climate-change skeptic who works for conservative think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the new emails provide "strong evidence that a small group of scientists centered around East Anglia were engaged in a conspiracy to provide a scientifically misleading assessment of the case for catastrophic global warming."
But Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania State University scientist who wrote or received some of the e-mails, says they show the opposite: they demonstrate that climate science is a vigorous enterprise where scientists are free to argue about their conclusions.
Conservative group CFACT Executive Director Craig Rucker says, "The release of these emails is yet another major setback for alarmists who are hyping fears over climate change in order to exercise influence over ever-increasing segments of the U.S. and world economy."
"The real agenda of the climate radicals is to promote massively expanded government regulation worldwide, at the expense of jobs creation and economic growth. The policies they advocate will do the greatest harm to the world’s poorest people and ensure that citizens of developing nations have no chance at true freedom and prosperity," says Rucker.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) wants U.S. intelligence officials to find the hacker(s). "This is clearly an attempt to sabotage the international climate talks for a second time, and there has not been enough attention paid to who is responsible for these illegal acts."
"If this happened surrounding nuclear arms talks, we would have the full force of the Western world’s intelligence community pursuing the perpetrators. And yet, with the stability of our climate hanging in the balance with these international climate treaty negotiations, these hackers and their supporters are still on the loose. It is time to bring them to justice."
Here’s the Durban website:
I know there is a huge temptation for us in the ‘Sustainability’ Business to just accept the talking points because they seem to reinforce our ‘market’. As a professional in the field of Sustainable Design I make it my business to get the full story on environmental issues that relate to me and my clients instead of just being part of the AGW hysteria. We try very hard to avoid politicizing our stance on sustainability. Sustainability is definitely about energy,water and resource efficiency and health. But it won’t succeed in the long term by declaring CO2 and cook stoves to be bringing on the end of the world. When you say “there is plenty of evidence that 50% of [global] warming is caused by…” you need to be able to back that up with real science not just UNEP politics mascarading as science. The reason there is a quickly fading interest in ‘Global Warming’ is not because the oil industry has paid everyone off (I haven’t gotten my check yet) but because enough have read the careful work by scientists like Richard Lindzen of MIT and the CERN Solar Radiation Study and many others and are backing off of supporting the UN hype. What’s good for Business is a solid understanding of what leads to real sustainability and its not taxing Carbon or taking Himalayan cook stoves away from Himalayans. Please at least present a balanced dialog for your readers so we can all look respectable when this blows over!
Jim, this article presents quotes from leading climate change researchers and contrasts them with quotes from conservatives whose do have political goals. Click on the link about black carbon and you’ll see there is plenty of scientific evidence for making the statement. The EU has called for eliminating these climate forcers as have many other groups based on the clear, undisputable evidence. And no one is taking cook stoves away – they are being replaced by solar cook stoves and in many cases, solar electricity. There is consensus among 99.9% of the scientific community that the severe weather patterns the world is experiencing are exactly what climate models have predicted, but still some people prefer to focus only on the handful of scientists that still dispute the vast majority. We should be past questioning whether climate change is happening by now – as every country except the US is – move with all haste to a green economy.