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Scientists target Canada over climate change: Prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies

Scientists target Canada over climate change

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Damian Carrington, Thursday 26 November 2009 22.54 GMT
Article history
Prominent campaigners, politicians and scientists have called for Canada to be suspended from the Commonwealth over its climate change policies.
The coalition's demand came before this weekend's Commonwealth heads of government summit in Trinidad and Tobago, at which global warming will top the agenda, and next month's UN climate conference in Copenhagen. Despite criticism of Canada's environmental policies, the prime minister, Stephen Harper, is to attend the Copenhagen summit. His spokesman said today: "We will be attending the Copenhagen meeting … a critical mass of world leaders will be attending."
Canada's per capita greenhouse gas emissions are among the world's highest and it will not meet the cut required under the Kyoto protocol: by 2007 its emissions were 34% above its reduction target. It is exploiting its vast tar sands reserves to produce oil, a process said to cause at least three times the emissions of conventional oil extraction.
The coalition claims Canada is contributing to droughts, floods and sea level rises in Commonwealth countries such as Bangladesh, the Maldives and Mozambique. Clare Short, the former international development secretary, said: "Countries that fail to help [tackle global warming] should be suspended from membership, as are those that breach human rights."
The World Development Movement, the Polaris Institute in Canada and Greenpeace are among the organisations supporting the plan. Saleemul Huq, a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said: "If the Commonwealth is serious about holding its members to account, then threatening the lives of millions of people in developing countries should lead to the suspension of Canada's membership immediately."
Canada's environment department refused to comment on the call for it to be suspended.
The Commonwealth comprises 53 states representing 2 billion people. In the past it has suspended Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa for electoral or human rights reasons. Speaking earlier this week, its secretary general, Kamalesh Sharma, said: "I would like to think that our definition of serious violations could embrace much more than it does now."


Carbon newsclip: International Perspectives ahead of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen

This is a week or so old, but still relevant as a backgrounder to what might happen in Copenhagen


Dear colleague,


Please find below a link to today's webinar: Breaking the Climate Deadlock: International Perspectives ahead of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen


This is a recording of the webinar – both the audio and presentation slides – so as always if you missed it, you didn't miss out.


A summary report will be circulated shortly.


Best wishes




Thurstan Wright


Direct: +44 (0)20 7960 2715 | Switch: +44 (0)20 7960 2970 | Fax: +44 (0)20 7960 2971
The Tower Building (3rd Floor) | York Road | LONDON SE1 7NX |  United Kingdom

Skype ID: thurstan.wright


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Carbon newsclips for 26 November 2009: Where countries stand on carbon cuts ahead of Copenhagen; focus on Canadian and US policy; banking and airline making some moves to carbon cuts and offsets

Coming up to Copenhagen, where do countries stand on proposed carbon cuts? And what will the impact of those cuts be?

Climate Negotiating Positions Of Top Emitters
Date: 19-Nov-09

Russia toughened on Wednesday its goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, saying it would target a 25 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020 compared with a 10-15 percent pledge previously.
Following are the negotiating positions of the top greenhouse gas emitters before a U.N. meeting in Copenhagen in December due to agree a new global climate deal.
1) CHINA (annual emissions of greenhouse gases: 6.8 billion tonnes, 5.5 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - President Hu Jintao promised that China would cut its carbon dioxide emissions per dollar of economic output by a "notable margin" by 2020 compared with 2005. The "carbon intensity" goal is the first measurable curb on national emissions in China. Hu reiterated a promise that China would try to raise the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 15 percent by 2020.
* Demands - China wants developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 and to promise far more aid and green technology.
2) UNITED STATES (6.4 billion tonnes, 21.2 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - President Barack Obama wants to cut U.S. emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, a 17 percent cut from 2005 levels, and to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
* Obama says he wants an accord in Copenhagen that covers all the issues and that has "immediate operational effect.
Legislation to cut emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels had been approved by a Senate Committee but people few think it can become law before the Copenhagen talks.
* Finance - The United States says a "dramatic increase" is needed in funds to help developing nations.
* Demands - "We cannot meet this challenge unless all the largest emitters of greenhouse gas pollution act together," Obama said.
3) EUROPEAN UNION (5.03 billion tonnes, 10.2 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - EU leaders agreed in December 2008 to cut emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and by 30 percent if other developed nations follow suit.
* Finance - EU leaders have agreed that developing nations will need about 100 billion euros ($147 billion) a year by 2020 to help them curb emissions and adapt to changes such as floods or heatwaves. As an advance payment, they suggest 5-7 billion a year between 2010 and 2012.
* Demands - The EU wants developing nations to curb the rise of their emissions by 15 to 30 percent below a trajectory of "business as usual" by 2020.
4) RUSSIA (1.7 billion tonnes, 11.9 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - Cut greenhouse gases by 22-25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. That means a rise from now -- emissions were 34 percent below 1990 levels in 2007.
5) INDIA (1.4 billion tonnes, 1.2 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - India is prepared to quantify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions it could cut with domestic actions, but will not accept internationally binding targets, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said. [ID:nDEL381436]. India has said its per capita emissions will never rise to match those of developed nations.
* Demands - Like China, India wants rich nations to cut emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020. But Ramesh signaled room to compromise: "It's a negotiation. We've given a number of 40 percent but one has to be realistic.
6) JAPAN (1.4 billion tonnes, 11.0 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - Cut Japan's emissions by 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 if Copenhagen agrees an ambitious deal.
* Finance - Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama told the United Nations that Tokyo would also step up aid.
7) SOUTH KOREA (142 million tonnes, 2.9 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - Cut emissions by 30 percent below "business as usual" levels by 2020, which is equivalent to a 4 percent cut from 2005 levels.
8) BRAZIL (111 million tonnes, 0.6 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - Will cut its emissions by between 36.1 percent and 38.9 percent from projected 2020 levels, representing a 20 percent cut below 2005 levels.
9) INDONESIA (100 million tonnes, 0.4 tonnes per capita)
* Emissions - Aims to cut emissions by 26 percent by 2020 below "business as usual" levels.
Taking CO2 from deforestation into account, Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

As nations haggle over carbon cuts, measurement is tough

Reuters, 9 November 2009 - Targets and trust. These are at the heart of a tougher new global climate pact possibly just weeks away.

The bigger the pledged emissions cuts or reductions in growth in carbon dioxide pollution, the greater the need to prove nations meet those targets and curb the pace of climate change.

And proof of emissions reductions over time will help unlock billions of dollars in climate funds for poor nations.

The problem, though, is that it is not yet possible to independently monitor a country's greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) from burning fossil fuels or deforestation.

"Our system is not good enough right now to be able finger one country versus another. I think the density of observations needs to be cranked up two orders of magnitude," said Pieter Tans of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Boulder, Colorado.

Rich nations, he said, weren't going to hand over possibly hundreds of billions of dollars to poorer nations to help green their economies purely on trust.

Which is why measurement, reporting and auditing of nations' greenhouse gas emissions is a key focus of marathon U.N. climate talks. The world body hopes the negotiations will lead to agreement on a tougher climate pact from 2013 during a meeting in Copenhagen next month.

Rich nations are under pressure from the developing world to sign up to emissions cuts of 25-40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and funnel billions in aid and green technology to the poor.

Big developing nations are also under pressure to curb the pace of their emissions growth. China, India, Indonesia and Brazil are among the world's top carbon polluters.

"If there's no objective system to check lines of success, people are going to claim more than they can deliver. It's natural," said Tans, of NOAA's Earth Systems Research Laboratory.


Rich nations such as Australia and the United States have developed reliable reporting methods on energy use and fossil fuel emissions, said Pep Canadell of the Global Carbon Project. Accuracy for developing countries was often not as good.

"You have huge variability. And of course the issue is let's check on some of the developing countries. That's where it gets the most difficult because the reporting is not that accurate," he said, adding that until recently, China's emissions from burning coal, oil and gas were under-reported by 20 percent.

NOAA runs a global network that tests air samples for a variety of greenhouse gases to build a picture of how their concentrations change over time. Carbon dioxide levels are approaching 390 parts per million (ppm) compared with about 280 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution.

If CO2 rises to 450ppm, the U.N. climate panel says the planet is likely to warm by at least two degrees Celsius.

Dozens of countries also send greenhouse gas measurement data to the World Meteorological Agency's World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases. Such measurements can give annual and seasonal pictures of carbon emissions.

But scientists say we are at least a decade or two away from a monitoring system than can accurately reveal national and regional emissions from fossil fuels or from deforestation and other land use changes.

A global network will also need to take into account the huge amount of carbon dioxide produced and absorbed naturally via so-called sources and sinks.

Trees and oceans soak up CO2, while burning or rotting vegetation can release it. Winds distribute the gas around the globe, and how this occurs is still not fully understood and is only poorly simulated in complex computer models.

"It's seemed to me for a long time that there's been a huge disconnect between the types of emissions trading and associated verification that might be necessary, that's being considered, and what we can actually measure," said Britton Stephens of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder.

"People have wondered where the CO2 that we're emitting is going and we've been able to tell that in rough numbers that half is staying in the atmosphere. Of the half that is leaving the atmosphere, half of that is going to the terrestrial land plants and the other half is ending up in the oceans," he said.


And that is where the real puzzle begins.

Because CO2 is shifted around by the atmosphere, scientists need powerful computers to simulate the movement of air around the globe and to crunch all the data from an army of CO2 monitoring sites on the ground, in the air, and in space.

More accurate measurement and models, which for example could show how much CO2 is absorbed by forests and oceans, could give investors more confidence when putting money into large carbon offset schemes.

Computer models, though, were years away from proving accurate. "As everyone knows from complaining about weather forecasts, the atmospheric models are far from perfect," Stephens said.

Current carbon measurement techniques are complex and time-consuming, although a new generation of measuring equipment using lasers promises much faster and more accurate results and could form the backbone of a greatly enhanced global system.

Scientists also need to disentangle natural CO2 from fossil fuel emissions.

Fossil fuels, being buried underground for millions of years, are free of very rare carbon-14 isotopes so it is relatively easy to track emissions from burning oil and coal in the atmosphere by analysing air samples. New instruments are also set to make this even easier.

Better and more accurate satellite-based measurements are another key part of the puzzle. At present, only Japan's GOSAT measures CO2 from space, giving data on the gas's concentrations in a narrow column of air.

But the readings can't accurately reveal the CO2 concentration at the surface where the gas is produced and partially absorbed, nor how the winds are shifting it around.

"I think satellites have a chance of being extremely useful only if we have quite an extensive system of both ground based and in-situ measurements through the atmosphere," said Tans of NOAA.

Remote sensing of forests via satellites was also crucial, said Canadell.

Calculating exactly how much CO2 and other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are released when forests burn or are cleared is critical but this, too, remains an imprecise science.

For example, a study published this month in Nature Geoscience says deforestation is responsible for 12 percent of mankind's total greenhouse gas emissions, instead of previous U.N. estimates of about 17 percent. But the authors note the figure will vary from year to year.

"We don't have a system yet which we're reporting annually exactly what's happening with deforestation and degradation. Second, we have little information on these forests of how much carbon there is. What's the biomass of these forests?"

Canadell said a future monitoring system would need to marry supercomputers and many different monitoring tools.

"What we are going to see is a multiplicity of approaches."

Trust was a key driver for investment in the network.

"It's not just giving money away making sure people are doing the right thing," he said referring to steps to cut emissions.

"It's just we're committing a lot domestically and I want make sure the rest of the folks are doing the same. Otherwise, I'm putting myself at a disadvantage."

(Editing by Megan Goldin)

Green with envy

The Economist, November 21, 2009 - The tension between free trade and capping emissions

STATEMENTS by Barack Obama on his travels through Asia have lowered expectations that December's global summit on climate change in Copenhagen will lead to binding cuts in carbon emissions. The urgency of dealing with climate change means that many countries are drawing up national policies to limit emissions. Yet in a globalised world, where production is increasingly mobile across national borders, some worry that there is a fundamental tension between the effectiveness of such policies and a commitment to open trade.

These carbon-reduction policies, such as America's proposed cap-and-trade scheme, typically put a price on carbon in the hope that this will force producers to bear the costs that their activities impose on the climate. But if different countries cut emissions by different amounts, as is likely, then the price of carbon will vary across nations. If so, manufacturers in countries with tighter environmental rules will face added costs which foreign competitors do not. This could in turn prompt them to relocate some of their production to "carbon havens", where the cost of polluting is lower. If enough production emigrates, global emissions might even increase.

The likely scale of relocations may be overstated. A new study* by economists at the World Bank and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think-tank in Washington, DC, finds that some production would migrate, but that the net increase in emissions in poor countries would be small.

Just as bananas are best grown in warmer places, imposing a higher carbon price does not compel German manufacturers of capital goods to decamp to China. Also, the increased output of some energy-intensive goods in poorer countries draws some productive resources away from other industries there. Overall, the authors find that if Europe and America were to reduce emissions by 17% from their 2005 levels by 2020, the additional increase in developing-country emissions would be only 1%. Global emissions would still be almost 10% lower than if nothing had been done. So rising global emissions due to carbon leakage are hardly as big a worry as some make them out to be.

That has not stopped many from proposing taxes that would penalise exports from countries that benefit from low carbon prices. From the point of view of countries with stricter environmental rules, it is easy to see why. According to the study, to reduce its emissions by 17% America would have to cut its exports of energy-intensive goods, such as steel, by 12% and its production of such goods by 4%. Domestic producers of energy-intensive goods, on whom much of the burden of adjustment will fall, will demand some form of compensation or protection. No wonder the climate bill passed by the House of Representatives in America has a provision for taxing imports from countries that have laxer rules on emissions. Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, has proposed that Europe adopt a similar strategy, arguing that not to do so would amount to "massive aid to relocations".

It would be best for trade (and only marginally costly for the environment) if there were no carbon-based tax adjustments. But assuming they were put in place, what might be their effect? That in turn depends on the nitty-gritty: would they be based on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted when making an equivalent good at home, or on the amount actually emitted to make the imported good? The latter would penalise developing countries, because they tend to use much more carbon-intensive technologies. So, if making an American car produced ten tonnes of carbon dioxide, taxed at $60 per tonne, then the tax on a foreign-made car arriving in America would only be $600. But if the tariff were based on the carbon dioxide emitted in the process of making a car in China, it could be double that.

A tax based on the carbon footprint of imports, the authors reckon, would certainly benefit America's energy-intensive industries, which otherwise bear the full cost of plans to reduce emissions. Their output would fall by only 2.5%, instead of 4%. The trouble is, developing countries would be whacked, since their exports would become markedly less competitive. China's manufacturing exports would decline by a staggering 21% and India's by 16%. The border tax adjustment would amount to a prohibitive tariff of 26% on China's exports and 20% on India's. No wonder that Chinese officials warned angrily of trade wars if border taxes were imposed. A tax based on the carbon footprint of domestic production would be much more benign in its trade effects, reducing China's and India's exports by around 3%.

From a global perspective, the case for a trade tax to reduce emissions is weak. But the politics of shrinking dirty industries in rich countries could well mean that such taxes will be imposed anyway. In the long run this climate protectionism could hurt not only trade but also the environment. Trade promotes the adoption of newer, cleaner technology from rich countries by developing ones, improving the techniques of production in poorer countries gradually over time.

And all countries may find that the inevitable changes in weather patterns due to human activity will mean that meeting varied food needs domestically will become even more difficult. Open markets in agriculture, in particular, will be even more crucial in a world plagued by a changing (and more uncertain) climate than they are now. Keeping trade going will therefore help countries adapt to climate change. The risk is that border taxes are erected to protect energy-intensive industries in the rich world, badly hurting trade—and doing little to help the environment.

Case study: Canada

It seems Canada is of three minds -- do nothing (Federal government), do something but not sure exactly how much of it (Opposition), or set up the "toughest" targets in North America (Quebec)

Canada Delays GHG Emissions Regs, Russia Ups Emissions Cuts
Posted By Environmental Leader On November 19, 2009 @ 9:01 am In ClimateEmissionsFeatureGlobalGovernmentPolicy & LawU.S. | No Comments
emissions6Add Canada to a growing list of countries that want to wait until a global climate deal is struck and the United States decides how it will regulate emissions before they regulate their own greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this week, New Zealand made [1] a similar announcement. There also appears to be some widespread discussion over whether the U.S. will bring more countries to the climate-deal table.

Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice says it will be difficult to regulate domestic emissions until other countries, particularly the U.S., decide how they will deal with climate change, reports Google News [2] (via The Canadian Press).

Regulations in Canada were originally scheduled to come into force by January 2010, but draft regulations haven't even been published, reports The Canadian Press.

Leaders at the recent Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore agreed [1] there will be no final deal in Copenhagen, and talks will continue next year, reports The Canadian Press.

Like a few other countries including France, Canada places part of the blame on the U.S.

Prentice said in the article that the situation is complicated by the uncertainty over whether or not the U.S. Senate will pass a cap-and-trade system and set national greenhouse gas limits.

However, two key Senators said the Senate's failure to approve climate legislation should not be blamed for a failure to reach a global agreement at UN talks in Copenhagen, reports the New York Times [3].

Democrat Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee told the New York Times because of global negotiations every country is preparing its own set of domestic policies that will be subject to international verification.

Nigel Purvis, a former State Department climate negotiator who now runs the consulting group Climate Advisers, said in the article that the international community would like a clear answer from the U.S.

Karen Harbert, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy, suggests international climate negotiations should stop focusing on whether the United States passes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions, reports the New York Times. She said in the article it's risky to believe that if the U.S. goes first China, India and other large-emitting countries will follow with binding commitments.

Both China and India have consistently stated [4] that they will not set carbon targets.

Meanwhile, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev has increased the country's GHG emissions reduction target from 15 percent to 20 to 25 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, reports Google News [5] (via AFP).

Russia plans to meet the new goal by improving the energy efficiency at Russian factories by 40 percent, according to the article.

Russia's decision is said to put additional pressure on heavily-polluting countries such as the U.S. and China, reports AFP.

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Québec unveils its 2020 GHG emission reduction goal
Source: GLOBE-Net
Nov. 24, 2009
Québec Premier Jean Charest and Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks, Line Beauchamp, has unveiled Québec's target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by the year 2020. By targeting a 20% reduction below 1990 levels, Québec has set a goal similar to the target established by the European Union thus becoming a leader in the fight against climate change.
The Premier acknowledged that achieving this target will require an additional commitment on the part of Quebecers.
'It is a very ambitious target for the government, given that 48% of Québec's total energy currently comes from renewable energy sources. We currently hold the best GHG emissions record in Canada, which is approximately eleven tons per capita, half of the Canadian average.'
'With a -20% target by 2020, Québec will have the smallest level of emissions per capita in North America. The industrial  sector has also made enormous strides with an over 7% emissions reduction in 2006, compared to 1990 levels, despite the fact that Québec's GDP increased 41% over the same period. For Québec, achieving this target is therefore a sound plan for a sustainable future that everyone will be urged to endorse,' added the Premier.
In a statement issued with the announcement, the province noted the reduction target will show flexibility from one economic activity sector to another in accordance with the reduction potential of each in terms of international competitiveness, available technology and required transition measures.
The statement notes Québec has the resources necessary to make the shift towards an economy less dependent on fossil fuels. It has abundant sources of renewable energy, a strong potential for technological innovation and the province is home to a number of international corporations specialized in mass transit manufacturing.
Given that the transportation sector accounts for 40% of Québec's GHG emissions, the government has already implemented a number of reduction initiatives in this sector.
By 2020, additional major investments will be required to improve the availability of mass transit options and encourage increased use of intermodal transportation of goods. The upcoming introduction of a GHG emission standard for light-duty vehicles, equivalent to the California standard, will mean significant vehicle energy performance improvements throughout the province.
Québec is also building on the rapid progress of electric vehicle technologies to encourage use of electric vehicles in the province and develop Québec's expertise in this future sector.
Achieving the goal depends on introducing a greenhouse gas cap and trade system in 2012. In June 2009, the province's National Assembly passed legislation for climate change, through which it will contribute to implementing the largest GHG cap and trade system in North America, currently being developed with partners of the Western Climate Initiative.
Premier Charest said these actions will set the stage for a flourishing green economy by the year 2020 and will gradually reduce Québec's economic dependence on foreign oil. It will also soften the economic impact of the anticipated oil crisis in the decades to come and improve Québec's trade balance.
The Premier had a strong message for the federal government when he unveiled the Québec's position. Quoted in a Globe and Mail article he said at a news conference after his announcement 'There's the threat of economic reprisals if we don't follow the path being set in Copenhagen. This is real, this is not fiction. ... Our economy rest on exports and on natural resources. For us, the consequences would be very serious.'
The Premier will co-chair the Third Leaders Summit in Copenhagen along with South Australia Premier Mike Rann. See GLOBE-Net article.
'Through this ambitious target, Québec is showing its partners and the international community that it is fully committed to assuming its share of responsibility. By continuing to demonstrate strong leadership, we hope to change the position of the federal government leading up to the Copenhagen Conference,' Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks Line Beauchamp.

Ignatieff says Canada should set up cap-and-trade system before U.S.

(CP) – 1 hour ago
QUEBEC — Canada must create a cap-and-trade system that's compatible with the U.S. plan to reduce greenhouse gases - even if no U.S. system actually exists.
That was the position laid out Thursday by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
But even as the Liberal leader was outlining a variety of green policies in a wide-ranging speech, his chief rival swooped in to steal his thunder.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper let it be known - right in the middle of Ignatieff's speech - that he would attend the global conference at Copenhagen alongside U.S. President Barack Obama.
Ignatieff was in the middle of telling a Quebec audience that he favoured a cap-and-trade system in which companies would make money by going green, and polluters would need to pay.
Ignatieff said he hoped such a plan would fit into a global system, and work in conjunction with any plan set up in the U.S.
But he said Canada should go ahead and create the system even before the Americans have established theirs.
Ignatieff also said he favoured using the stricter baseline year of 1990, favoured by most developed countries and the backbone of the international Kyoto accord, to calculate emissions cuts - while the Harper government prefers using 2006.
Ignatieff said his plan would benefit provinces, like Quebec and Manitoba, that have already been working over the last decade and a half to reduce their emissions.
He joked that even the oil industry is ahead of the Harper government on the need for a green economy.
Ignatieff said the centrepiece of his environmental plan would be a cap-and-trade system - where companies must buy credits if they pass a certain emissions level while greener companies collect credits for under-polluting.
"The Canadian system must be equitable across all regions of the country," said the prepared text of Ignatieff's speech.
"It must not penalize those who have already taken the lead. It must cover all of Canada's industries, with no exceptions.
"It must also be compatible with an eventual cap-and-trade system in the United States. But that does not mean - and this is key - that we have to wait for Washington before we move forward."
Ignatieff also laid down a number of other markers in his wide-ranging speech on the environment.
He said he wanted to quadruple the amount of renewable energy used in Canada by 2017 - Canada's 150th birthday. He said Ottawa should invest more heavily in solar, wind and geothermal energy.
He also said Canada should adopt the toughest vehicle-emissions standards on the continent.
He also wants Canada to be a better steward of the Arctic, and to lay down rules about what other countries can do there.
"We will defend Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage in all the councils of the world, especially as it becomes a more viable shortcut between Europe and Asia," Ignatieff said.
"We need to set the rules for using the Northwest Passage, in agreements that account not only for its fragile environment, but also for the many dangers faced by those who navigate it.
"Finally - because the Arctic, one of the planet's most fragile ecosystems, is sure to get busier - we will establish clear rules about what can and cannot be done in the Arctic, where, by whom, and how."

Case Study: The US
The Unites States also has a Federal/ State gap. As with car emissions standards, California leads the way

Increasingly, U.S. is odd nation out in climate plans

The International Herald Tribune, November 21, 2009 Saturday - With less than three weeks remaining before negotiators gather in Copenhagen to hammer out a global response to climate change, a rapid-fire succession of countries are unveiling national plans that serve as opening bids for reining in heat-trapping emissions.

''The list of what is on the table is rather long,'' said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the sponsor of the meeting, which runs from Dec. 7 to 18 in Copenhagen.

But, speaking at the United Nations headquarters on Thursday, he seized on the latest pledges to take aim at the United States, which has not yet played its hand.

''We now have offers of targets from all industrialized countries except the United States,'' Mr. de Boer said. He emphasized that he was looking to the United States for ''a numerical midterm target and commitment to financial support.''

''This is essential, and I believe this can be done,'' he said.

In an interview, Todd Stern, the chief climate negotiator for the United States, said the administration of President Barack Obama was trying to decide whether to release a proposal in the coming days.

''What we are looking at is whether we feel that we can put down a number that would be provisional in effect, contingent on getting our legislation done,'' he said. ''Our inclination is to try to do that, but we want to be smart about it.''

He noted that bills pending in Congress involved cuts of around 17 percent in emissions by 2020, increasing to much deeper cuts by 2030.

The United States has the highest per capita emissions in the world. China has the largest emissions over all and has also refrained from setting a specific emissions reduction target, although as a developing country it would not be required to do so under the current outlines of the treaty that is being proposed.

If neither China nor the United States made a commitment, the national plans of lesser emitters would have little practical effect.

Although the United Nations no longer believes that the Copenhagen meeting can come up with a binding treaty to control emissions this year, the event is viewed as a crucial forum for nations to demonstrate a commitment to addressing global warming and its potential impact.

This week, South Korea said it would cut emissions by 30 percent from ''business as usual'' by 2020. Russia's president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, said his country would try to reduce emissions by 25 percent by then, instead of 15 percent as announced earlier. Last week, Brazil promised reductions of about 40 percent below current projections by 2020.

The recent announcements are a mix of aspirations, good intentions and negotiating tactics. In most cases there is no certainty that the targets are politically or scientifically plausible. Still, they are a rough harbinger of the potential shape of future agreements and conflicts.

United Nations officials have said they hope that the richest industrialized nations will promise to reduce their emissions to meet negotiated individual targets. For developing nations, the hope is that they will commit to reducing their future emissions to levels below those that would accrue if they took no action. The poorest nations would get money and technological assistance to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

Many nations have based their new offers on that model. While some of the pledges are conditioned on reaching a binding international agreement, some countries, like South Korea, have said they will act whether the world did or did not.

South Korea, whose emissions nearly doubled from 1990 to 2005, said it would cut emissions by investing in energy-efficient buildings and transportation, developing new green industries and changing patterns of consumption.

''Our industry is really energy-intensive, so this is very ambitious,'' Kim Sang-hyup, South Korea's secretary to the president for national future and vision, said in a phone interview from Seoul. He noted that the president and cabinet ministers had made the pledge in a building with the thermostat set low, and while wearing thermal underwear.

Last week, Brazil said it would offer to reduce its emissions by 38 to 42 percent from current projections for 2020. About half of that reduction would result from slowing deforestation in the Amazon. Forests are a crucial force in absorbing carbon dioxide.

The government described its action as a ''political gesture'' to show its good faith.

But it is in many ways easier for developing countries and so-called industrializing countries, like South Korea and Brazil, to put forth offers because they are under far less pressure to commit themselves formally under an agreement.

The industrialized countries - counted as those that were already industrialized when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 1992 - have the more concrete task of committing to specific reductions.

Despite the steady stream of new pledges, representatives of many of the world's poorest countries have expressed frustration over a recent decision by world leaders to defer a binding agreement until next year.

''This is a major setback - we should not pretend otherwise,'' Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, Sudan's United Nations representative, said Thursday, speaking for a coalition of developing nations.

Obama to attend summit but cuts plan disappoints
By Fiona Harvey in London and Anna Fifield in Washington
Published: November 26 2009 02:00 | Last updated: November 26 2009 02:00

Barack Obama, US president, has thrown his weight behind a deal on climate change by announcing he will attend next month's Copenhagen conference with a pledge for a 17 per cent cut in US emissions.
His move lifts one of the final obstacles to a deal, as other developed countries have already announced their targets to cut emissions by 2020. It was less ambitious, however, than targets from most other wealthy nations and fell short of environmental groups' hopes.
The biggest outstanding issue is now how much money rich countries will provide to poor countries to combat climate change. A senior US official told the Financial Times that the administration was not yet able to quantify any financial commitment.
The US leader has also created a quandary by deciding to attend the early stages of the two-week conference from December 9, more than a week before 76 other world leaders arrive on December 17.
"It will be hugely disappointing if he just turns up in the first week and then disappears," said one official. Another senior official described the timing as "awkward".
"It shows the US is still to one side of the debate - not fully engaged in it," said Henry Derwent, chief executive of the International Emissions Trading Association and former UK special envoy on climate change. "I don't think [other leaders] will enjoy the prospect of not being able to share the limelight with the US president." Greenpeace said it was "the right city, wrong date" and showed Mr Obama was "just not taking this issue seriously".
Some analysts suspect Mr Obama is seeking to gain credit for any success at the summit while being able to distance himself from any failure, but others said it boosted the prospects for a deal.
"We really need a target [on emissions] and financial commitment [to provide help for poor countries] - the earlier the better," said Yvo de Boer, the top United Nations official on climate change. "If he comes in the first week to announce that, it would be a major boost."
He said a 17 per cent target on cutting emissions - provisional on legislation being passed by the Senate next year - would "help pave the way for a successful outcome".
José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, welcomed Mr Obama's decision and hoped other leaders would follow. The Chinese and Indian leaders are the most high-profile yet to confirm their attendance.
Environmental groups said Mr Obama's target, based on 2005 emissions levels, was insufficient. The European Union has pledged to cut emissions by 20 per cent compared with 1990 levels. Using 1990 as a baseline, the US target represents only about a 3 per cent cut.
But Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House official now with the National Commission on Energy Policy, said the target - set out in a cap-and-trade bill passed by the House of Representatives - should satisfy other countries. "The US cannot negotiate beyond the emissions limits in congressional legislation without undermining support for the pending Senate bill," he said.
China and the US are the world's top two emitters, accounting for about 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas output. Beijing is thought to be preparing to make a statement this week on its position.
Additional reporting by Joshua Chaffin in Brussels

California Drafts its Own Cap-and-Trade Plan
Posted By Environmental Leader On November 25, 2009 @ 3:14 am In Carbon FinanceCarbon Finance & OffsetsCarbon Offsets/RECsClimateEmissionsFeatureGovernmentPolicy & LawU.S. | 1 Comment
emissions7The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has issued a preliminary draft [1] (PDF) of the nation's first cap-and-trade program to control greenhouse (GHG) emissions, which is likely to influence federal regulations, reports the Los Angeles Times' Greenspace blog [2].

The carbon scheme would cap emissions of large emitters including power plants, refineries, cement plants and other big factories at 15 percent below today's levels by 2020, and allow companies to buy and sell emissions allowances to meet their goal, according to the article. The scheme would also allow limited use of high-quality offsets outside of capped sectors to cover a portion of the overall emissions reductions, according to CARB [3].

The cap-and-trade could deliver the state between $2 billion to $4 billion per year in revenue, depending on the market value of carbon and the auction plan for allowances, reports the LA blog.

CARB is required to adopt [4] the cap-and-trade regulation by January 1, 2011. The rule will go into effect January 1, 2012.

The cap-and-trade scheme is part of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32), which established [5] regulatory and market mechanisms for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Other environmental initiatives enacted by the Governor include the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) that requires [6] fuel providers to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels sold in the state, and an executive order directing CARB to adopt [7] regulations increasing California's Renewable Portfolio Standard from 20 to 33 percent by 2020.

The price of gasoline could rise by 8 cents a gallon under the cap-and-trade scheme but the air board hasn't decided whether to bring fuel deliverers under the cap in 2012 or in 2015, according to the LA Times blog.

CARB says California is working with six other western states and four Canadian provinces through the Western Climate Initiative [8] (WCI) to establish a regional cap-and-trade program that may deliver GHG emission reductions at costs lower than a California-only program.

California is also going with unconventional ways to limit emissions. On Nov. 18, California became [9] the first state in the country to institute its own standards on energy efficiency of televisions sold within its borders. New TVs sold there must show reduced electricity consumption of 33 percent by 2011 and 49 percent by 2013

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...and it appears the provate sector is moving along, slowly but surely

BMO, TD Bank spur launch of emissions fund
By Tara Perkins and Shawn McCarthy
From Monday's Globe and Mail

Backers think project will help develop environmental finance sector

A first-of-its-kind voluntary emissions reduction fund for large Canadian corporations is getting off the ground after securing Bank of Montreal andToronto-Dominion Bank as initial investors.

The fund, which is being launched by Greening Greater Toronto, will buy carbon offset credits from green projects around the country and pass those credits on to the companies that invest in it.

Its managers and backers say they think the project will contribute to the development of an environmental finance sector in Canada, as lawyers, accountants, fund managers and bankers wrap their heads around the dollar side of carbon credits.

The fund is for voluntary investors in the sense that it's aimed at companies that are not required by regulations to reduce their carbon emissions.

"It's not impossible for an industrial emitter to invest in this, but most industrial emitters figure that they've got carbon emission regulations coming at them, and - while we have a couple discussions under way - we don't think that's going to be a big area for us," said Gerry Rocchi, the CEO of Green Power Action, which was chosen to manage the fund. "They're waiting to see what the regulations look like."

How the fund works
  • Investors in the fund are looking for carbon credits to offset their own environmental foot print.
  • They invest their money in the fund, which then invests it in green projects in return for the credits that those projects produce.
  • For example, if the fund invests in a solar project that produces X credits, then the fund's investors apply those credits to their own emissions.
  • The goal for the investors is to become carbon neutral, rather than to earn money.

TD has committed $3-million of capital over 5 years, while Bank of Montreal has committed $10-million. Both banks have stated voluntary plans to become carbon neutral, with BMO chief executive officer Bill Downe having committed to make his bank's operations carbon neutral around the world by 2010.

"Our goal, realistically, is that we'd like to see this fund reach $50-million in capital," said Mr. Rocchi, who was the CEO of Barclays Global Investors Canada from 1997 to 2004. "We think it can do a lot more than that, we think there are lots of projects it can fund, but it would be a great success to get to that level."

The carbon offset market is just developing. "You'll see in the so-called compliance space, when the carbon regulations start, the numbers will be much higher," Mr. Rocchi said. "Eventually, there will be funds like this for individuals."

Several companies have launched carbon funds in the past, but Ottawa's delay in regulating emissions has driven them out of business.

However, Western Canada is seeing a growing market for offsets - credits generated by emission reduction projects. In Alberta, the only province to impose regulations on industry, companies can purchase offsets to meet their regulatory emission limits. The British Columbia government is sponsoring the B.C. Carbon Trust, which buys credits from projects for the purpose of reducing the provincial government's own carbon footprint.

But across North America, the voluntary market has been hammered by regulatory delays and the recession.

Several Canadian firms, including Potash Corp., Domtar Corp. and Manitoba Hydro, have joined the Chicago Climate Exchange, a voluntary market that allows companies to buy and sell offset credits. Carbon credits that were selling for $8 a ton a year ago on the Chicago Exchange are now fetching a price of 35 cents per ton.

Typically, industrial companies have traded carbon credits as a way of gaining experience in the market, to prepare themselves for the day that they face regulation. Increasingly, banks and retailers are wading into the voluntary market as they seek to reduce their carbon footprint and demonstrate good corporate citizenship. (Emission caps are expected to impose limits only on major emitters, such as power plants, chemical factories and oil sands upgraders.)

Environment Minister Jim Prentice released broad guidelines for Canada's offset market that will be part of a national cap-and-trade system, primarily projects that reduce emissions in forestry and agricultural practices, as well as municipal waste handling. Under the federal plan - as in Alberta and B.C. - project originators will have to meet standards and be certified to have their offsets accepted.

Mr. Prentice says Ottawa won't release final regulations on the cap-and-trade program until the United States has decided how it will proceed. The U.S. Senate is currently studying a climate bill, similar to one passed by the House of Representatives, but the Senate is not expected to vote on the highly controversial legislation until well into the new year.

The fund being backed by TD and Bank of Montreal has been structured as a limited partnership for tax purposes, and so it's only being sold to domestic companies.

Unlike most investment funds, the companies that put their money in it won't see a net asset value or rate of return. Rather, their money will be used to fund projects that will deliver them with carbon offset credits. "We are trying to deliver them a steady stream of credits, the same amount each year," Mr. Rocchi said.

Projects could be anything from putting new windows or heating systems into the schools within a particular school board to landfill gas firing.

The fund is currently in negotiations with a number of projects and intends to begin buying credits within a month.

"The types of credits we're buying, some of them will comply in the [regulation-based] compliance system, and some of them won't," Mr. Rocchi said. "They're high-quality credits, at least as high quality as what will be in the federal system, but as a small project they may not want to bother going through all the registration steps as an example."

Karen Clarke-Whistler, TD's chief environmental officer, said that the implementation of the fund should help in the broader development of Canada's carbon offsets market because the regulatory framework is still only in draft form.

"While we certainly don't have carbon regulation yet, at the federal level we do see that we have a lot of reason to be preparing for it," she said.

"Part of what we're collectively building here is the infrastructure and the backbone for the green economy," Mr. Rocchi said.

Airline Industry Agrees To Carbon Reduction
Oxford Analytica
 11.11.09, 6:00 AM ET

The global air transport industry--airlines, aircraft manufacturers and airport operators--has pledged to reduce carbon emissions. This comes in advance of the Copenhagen climate conference in December and is an attempt to pre-empt more immediate and stringent measures designed to curb air travel, in particular extension of the E.U. carbon-trading scheme to air operators.

IATA blueprint. The airline industry escaped inclusion in the Kyoto protocol, but increasingly intense attacks from green groups, especially in the U.K., have forced the industry to think about concessions. The new pledge is based on an International Air Transport Association (IATA) blueprint:

--IATA plans to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050, compared with 2005 levels.

--It makes aviation-industry growth carbon-neutral by 2020.

--It plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5% per year over the next decade.

--It plans to submit a carbon trading scheme to the UN by November 2010.

These targets exceed several national goals, but would exempt airlines from the existing E.U. carbon-trading regime and would permit them to join the global market.

Airline concerns. Extending the E.U. carbon-trading regime has been attacked as unworkable and expensive by the industry. Such a move would be legally challenged by non-E.U. carriers that fly into the E.U., which would be forced to join the scheme.

The E.U. scheme would add about $13 to the ticket price for the average short-haul flight and more than $60 for a long-haul ticket. British Airways estimates the total cost of the IATA global alternative to the airline industry at nearly $5 billion per year. This cost would be passed on to passengers through higher fares. IATA member airlines are expected to sustain losses of $11 billion this year, and carbon trading would further aggravate their financial situation.

Reforms. In the long term, the industry is looking largely to technological solutions to meet its carbon targets:

--New planes. These solutions will be sought first with a new generation of airliners, such as the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787. The former will carry more passengers with less overall emissions per head; the latter promises a 30% overall cut in carbon use. However, this will not start to have a significant impact on airline fleets before 2015. More importantly, with no narrow-bodied equivalent due to be launched before 2020, the effects will be limited to long-haul flights, leaving the bulk of air travel reliant on current technologies until 2030.

--Airplane parts. This helps to explain the 2050 deadline proposed by the IATA scheme. By then, the industry hopes to see a range of more radical technological solutions, including new body shapes, emissions-optimized engines, even greater use of light-weight materials to cut fuel burn, as well as the widespread use of sustainable bio-fuels as an alternative to kerosene.

--Government support. The development of greener aviation technology is attracting government support. NASA's 2010 budget, now before Congress, allocates $60 million per year to an environmentally responsible aviation program. The E.U. has committed $2.2 billion to the seven-year 'Clean Sky' initiative.

--Airspace management. The air transport industry is also putting pressure on governments, especially in Europe, to reform airspace management. Current air traffic control procedures and military-restricted airspace add substantially to fuel burn by forcing aircraft to take detours and create delays. The rapid adoption of the 'Single European Sky' proposal would cut current carbon usage by 12%. Similar efficiencies would come from global systems using precision-approach technology--satellite-based technology that feeds positional data directly into aircraft navigation systems. However, governments remain reluctant to concede control over airspace and to accept civil-military integration.

Outlook. Having long escaped carbon controls, the global airline industry will face increasingly stringent measures to cap its emissions. Even the industry's own preferred option would increase the cost of air travel. At worst, the historic pattern of air transport growth could slow down with effects on airline revenues and the demand for new aircraft.

To read an extended version of this article, log on to Oxford Analytica's Web site.

Green newsclips for 26 November 2009: Green buildings, valuing ecosystems, green innovation.. and McDonalds is changing the background colour of its logo to green (!) in Europe. Have we reached a tipping point?

All new buildings to be 'near-zero-energy' by 2020

ENDS Europe Daily, 18 November 2009 - EU governments and MEPs struck a political deal on Tuesday on plans to revise the 2002 energy performance of buildings directive that will force all new buildings constructed after 2020 to consume "near-zero-energy".

Near-zero-energy buildings are defined under the agreement as constructions that have "a very high energy performance". Any energy that they use should come "to a very large extent" from renewable sources generated "either on-site or nearby".

Public authorities will have to lead the way by ensuring that all new buildings they own or occupy after 2018 meet the near-zero-energy standard. Agreement on the targets was a victory for MEPs, as governments had dismissed the goals as being "unrealistic" when first proposed by the European Parliament.

MEPs were less successful in their attempts to force governments to upgrade the efficiency of existing buildings. Governments agreed to "develop policies and take measures such as targets" to transform existing buildings into near-zero-energy buildings when they are refurbished.

The council rejected a proposal to immediately scrap a 1,000 square metre threshold above which existing buildings undergoing major refurbishment must meet minimum national efficiency standards. Parliament sources told ENDS the deadline for scrapping the threshold had been delayed until June 2013, if not later.

There was agreement on a new EU-wide methodology for setting national efficiency requirements on building components such as roofs and windows. But the details will only be agreed later through the EU's comitology procedure. Member states will be exempted from applying the methodology under certain circumstances.

MEPs failed in their bid to secure new cash to fund efficiency improvements in existing buildings. Instead governments will simply have to produce a list of measures and instruments to support the law's implementation. By 2011 the European Commission must say whether additional EU funding is needed.

The deal is expected to be formally approved by EU energy ministers on the opening day of the Copenhagen climate summit on 7 December. On Wednesday the Swedish presidency said the agreement sent a strong signal ahead of the climate talks that the EU "can move from words to action on climate".

Efficient buildings industry association EuroACE said Tuesday's agreement had strengthened the commission's original proposals. But Green MEP Claude Turmes said the EU had "missed an opportunity to boost the renovation of existing structures".

Can you have prosperity without growth?

ClimateWire, 17 November 2009 - Efforts to combat climate change will remain hobbled because of the failure of the economic system to give the planet's environment a value and actions that harm it a cost. Such a cost may violate the belief in unremitting consumption that many economists and businesspeople (and more than a few consumers) hold, but the absence of a price on carbon emissions is a situation that needs needs to be fixed urgently.

That, broadly, is the analysis of two provocative new books on the climate change crisis, its causes and some potential cures. Both of them want to tailor some of the basic notions of Economics 101 to make a better fit with moves to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Tim Jackson's book "Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet" is the bolder of the two. Jackson, economics commissioner on the U.K. government's Sustainable Development Commission advisory body, argues that the whole economic model is broken and in need of replacement. "The existing economic model is unsustainable. We cannot afford the economic output that we currently have," he asserted earlier this month at the launch of his book.

At the more pragmatic end of the scale is Dieter Helm, professor of energy policy at Oxford University and head of the academic panel of advisers to the United Kingdom's environment department. He calls for a thorough overhaul of the economic model that puts all its faith in gross domestic product and ignores asset values -- particularly ecological assets.

Is there something gross about gross domestic product?

"We need to look at net national product, not gross national product," he told E&E in an interview to launch his book, "The Economics and Politics of Climate Change." "We must take an asset-based view so that you include depreciation of those assets."

"It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong," he said. "GDP is precisely wrong."

Jackson argues that one of the main problems with the current setup is that ever-increasing personal consumption gives the individual a social status that is utterly unrelated to its environmental cost.

Breaking that link and substituting it with a system that gives value to family, health and happiness, among other things, he argues, is at the core of the revolutionary economic rethink he proposes.

"Prosperity consists of our ability to flourish as human beings -- within the ecological limits of our finite planet," he writes. "The challenge for our society is to create the conditions under which this is possible. It is the most urgent task of our times."

Jackson believes that just as the financial crisis exposed the fundamental unsustainability of the financial system, so the climate crisis has revealed the basic contradictions of an economic system that relentlessly pursues growth regardless of cost. He thinks the two are inextricably linked.

"Prosperity today means nothing if it undermines the conditions on which prosperity tomorrow depends. And the single biggest message from the financial meltdown of 2008 is that tomorrow is already here," Jackson writes, deploring what he calls the "iron cage" of consumerism."

Concealing the true cost of climate efforts may weaken them

His theory is that new economic variables must be brought into the equation -- notably to reflect energy and resource dependency and carbon limits and to give value to ecosystem services and stocks of natural capital. He wants to incentivize more ecological investments -- an area currently not fully supported by the financial markets, as they tend to give too low a rate of return than that offered by more classical investments.

"A better and fairer social logic lies within our grasp. Neither ecological limits nor human nature constrain the possibilities here: only our capacity to believe in and work for change," he concludes.

Helm, on the other hand, says the major factor holding back progress on tackling the climate crisis is that politicians have tried to sell the idea that action will be relatively cheap.

If governments told the truth about the level of cost and scale of effort needed, then people would start to take it seriously, he said. "If you tell people the truth rather than lying to them they will eventually come round. Lying about the cost of decarbonising our economy has got us into the mess we are in today where we are going nowhere fast," Helm said.

Nicholas Stern, the former U.K. government chief economist whose seminal 2006 work on the economic costs of climate change was the first detailed work on the subject, calculated then that taking action now would cost about 1 percent of GDP -- a figure he later doubled -- as against up to 25 percent if there were a significant delay.

Helm has always rejected the lower figures -- something he repeats in his new book, which he both contributed to and edited with Oxford University colleague Cameron Hepburn -- although he does back Stern's conclusions on the need for action now rather than later.

Is the West responsible for part of China's emissions?

Helm called for actions to start immediately, with something like a carbon tax to start the process rolling, followed by a series of incremental steps. "That is a good starting point. It is very pragmatic. It is a very good idea to do this piecemeal. No asset pricing, no environmental pricing. But start now," he said. "We are a long way from where we need to be, so we need to start very soon."

Helm was also among the first economists to raise the thorny issue of so-called embedded carbon, whereby importing nations fail to account for the carbon content of the goods they buy from abroad, despite the fact that in the past they would have made those products themselves and therefore have included their emissions in the national total.

China is a particular case in point. Some estimates suggest that up to one-quarter of China's carbon emissions come from goods exported to places like the United States and Europe.

"I am keen that we treat China's emissions as our own. I am quite optimistic that we eventually will," he said.

In the book, Helm insists that there must be a new international institution created to oversee any new climate change deal, much like the World Trade Organization regulates global commerce.

"The United Nations is too cumbersome, and national politics and distrust make any other body suspect," he said in the interview.

Invest in nature today, save trillions tomorrow: study

AFP, 13 November 2009 - Investing billions today to protect threatened ecosystems and dwindling biodiversity would reap trillions in savings over the long haul, according to a UN-backed report issued Friday.

More than a billion of Earth's poorest denizens depend directly on coral reefs, forests, mangroves, aquifers and other forms of "natural capital" to eke out a living.

Unless world leaders take swift action to halt the accelerating depletion of these resources, the result could be hunger, conflict and environment refugees, the study warned.

"Recognising and rewarding the value delivered to society by the natural environment must become a policy priority," said Pavan Sukdev, who headed The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) paper released in Brussels.

Governments have an economic interest in providing tax and other incentives to spur a switch from short-term profits through exploitation to long-term stewardship of natural resources, the report argued.

An annual investment of some 45 billion dollars in expanding protected areas -- on land and at sea -- would secure benefits of the order of four or five trillion dollars per year over a period of decades, said Sukhdev.

One case cited described the replanting last year of nearly 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of mangroves in southern Vietnam. The initiative cost about one million dollars, but will save annual expenditures on dyke maintenance of well over seven million dollars.

"Whereas climate change is a global issue with local ramifications, biodiversity is a collection of local issues," Sukhdev said in an interview with AFP.

Such examples could -- and should -- be multiplied thousands of times over, he said.

With less than a month before the Copenhagen climate summit tasked with forging a vital accord on climate change, carving out a major place in the deal for forests is cited as the most urgent of 10 recommendations.

Tropical forests in particular can play a double role in reducing the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

"Deforestation accounts for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions," making it a critical target for emissions cuts, Sukhdev said.

"But forests are also today's biggest mitigation engine because they are capturing 15 percent of the total carbon dioxide we emit," he added.

Expanding that capacity to soak up dangerous CO2 should also be an integral part of any climate agreement, he argued.

After unsustainable use of land and oceans, climate change is the second major driver of biodiversity loss and the withering of so-called "ecosystem services" that humans wring from nature.

Earlier this year G20 nations vowed to keep global average temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial times.

But for some ecosystems that may be too little too late.

Tropical coral reefs sustain half a billion people worldwide but are already in a downward spiral after an increase of less than 1.0 C (1.8 F), say marine biologists.

"Five hundred million people who will have to be looked after. What are you going to do if -- more likely 'when' -- that problem hits you?" asked Sukhdev.

Another priority should be scrapping subsidies that drive economic activity that damages the environment, the report said.

The most obvious target are those for fossil fuels. "Between price and production subsidies, there's something like 240-300 billion dollars worth every year," Sukhdev said.

The TEEB report, supported by the UN Environment Programme, was launched by the European Commission in 2007 after G8 and major emerging economies called for a global study on the economics of biodiversity.

The final synthesis report will be completed in October 2010.

European patent office to study green innovation, 6 November 2009 - The European Patent Office (EPO) has embarked on a detailed study to map the growth in eco-innovation since the introduction of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. The move comes ahead of the next month's UN climate summit in Copenhagen and as major industry players line up behind green technology.

Business leaders are pinning their hopes on green innovation as a solution to the twin problems of climate change and the financial crisis. However, hard data in this area is scarce, making it difficult to quantify the true extent of Europe's eco-innovation sector.

This will change in April next year when the EPO publishes early results of a major project looking at the growth in new patents for environmentally sound technologies.

The study will also look at how the green patent landscape has evolved since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and examine how companies have responded to incentives and policy signals.

An EPO spokesperson said the report was originally planned to coincide with the Copenhagen conference but it is now expected to be unveiled in time for a 2010 conference, hosted by the Spanish EU Presidency, on innovation in the renewable energy sector.

Raw data from the EPO shows that patent applications for environmental technologies indicate rapid growth. In the ten years from 1998, patent applications for new energy innovations grew by an average of 6% per year.

Wind power, fuel cells, solar thermal and photovoltaic energy technologies have shown the strongest growth since the late 1990s.

The US, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands are leading the way with the highest number of innovations in the new energy sector, with companies such as General ElectricSiemens and Nissan having made the most patent applications.

PPPs could be central to 'eco-innovation'

Greater links between the public and private sector could become a hallmark of Europe's emerging green industry, according to political and industry leaders who gathered in Brussels for a seminar on eco-innovation, hosted by the Lisbon Council.

Marcel Haag, head of unit with the strategic objective of solidarity at the secretariat-general of the European Commission, said the public and private sectors will have to work hand-in-hand to bring about innovations. "This cannot be delivered by the public sector alone or by the private sector alone," he said.

Haag said climate change and innovation will be key priorities for the new European Commission. He cited the bloc's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), which puts a price on carbon, as a potential driver of future innovation. However, Haag sought to temper expectations by adding that the EU can only act where Community intervention adds real value.

The intellectual property regime is a major bottleneck to encouraging innovation, he said, adding that progress on this perennial problem is a priority for the EU.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) will also help drive future green technologies, he said, pointing to the Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) and the European economic recovery plan, which provides for several PPPs in areas like electric transportation.

"We are currently looking at how we can get more mileage from PPPs through better coordination between stakeholders and simplification of the JTIs. which are very complex," Haag said.

However, Tom Barrett, a director at the European Investment Bank (EIB), warned that PPPs are not always the right solution. He said they can be complex instruments and can even become an obstacle to securing public support for major projects.

Barrett stressed the importance of understanding why some PPPs worked well and why others had proven less successful.

Industry big guns line up behind greentech

A-list tech industry giants, including GooglePhilips and IBM, have thrown their weight – and financial muscle – behind the push for greener technologies.

Harry Verhaar, senior director of climate change and energy at Philips, said energy savings from lighting and improved insulation will help cut Europe's carbon footprint while generating huge numbers of jobs.

"Energy technology is the next economic wave," he said, adding that the US, China and South Korea are already investing heavily in green energy.

Verhaar said lighting accounts for 19% of global efficiency consumption and the technology used in this sector is hugely inefficient.

€120 billion can be saved by using more efficient lighting and this will mean fewer power plants are needed. Further savings can be found by improving Europe's building stock, as 99% of buildings need to be renovated, according to Verhaar. He said France, for example, would have to renovate 1,000 homes per day until 2050 in order to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.

"This is not a sacrifice. It will bring employment, comfort and lower bills," he said.


Benjamin Kott , manager of green business Europe at Google , said getting information to the public will help effect changes in behaviour. Google and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are working to visualise climate data on Google Earth ahead of the Copenhagen summit.

"We need to get information to consumers about their carbon budget, as well as details of how to address their carbon footprint and information on funding schemes in their area," he said.

Kott added that Google has radically reduced its own footprint and claimed that its data centres are now the most efficient in the world. The company is investing €50 million in next-generation renewables, he said.

Antonio Pires Santos , managing director of energy and utilities at IBM Europe , said his company had reduced its carbon footprint by 40% compared to 1990 levels, and it hopes for a further 12% reduction.

"As a corporation, we need to set an example," he said.

IBM estimates that for every €1 it spends on energy efficiency, it gets €2 in return. Pires Santos said improved technology and greater intelligence means the tools to cut emissions are there, but added that "the battle will be won or lost in the cities".

IBM is working with several public authorities to bring about eco-efficiencies, including collaborations with the Rotterdam Port Authority and the government of Malta on smarter uses of water.

He said an eco-economy will emerge from this period of financial turmoil, adding that eco-innovations must add real value in order to effect change.

David Wortmann , vice-president and director of strategic planning Europe at First Solar, warned that society is "driving into a system conflict" and needs to choose which route to follow. He said policymakers need to help address the uncertainty.

Next steps

  • By spring 2010 : European Commission to publish European Innovation Act.
  • April 2010 : EPO to publish early results of a major project looking at the growth in new patents for environmentally sound technologies.


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Big investors push SEC to make companies disclose climate risks

ClimateWire, 23 November 2009 - Institutional investors managing more than $1 trillion in assets have asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to spell out the climate-related financial risks corporations should disclose on their financial forms.

U.S. and Canadian fund managers signing onto the petition included the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS); top state financial officers in Oregon, North Carolina, Connecticut, Maryland, New York and Florida; British Columbia Investment Management Corp.; the Laborers' International Union of North America; and Pax World Management Corp.

Their chief complaint is that the SEC requires public companies to disclose "material risks" to investors, but the agency has offered no guidance for reporting financial risks tied to global warming. The investor groups say there is a panoply of climate-related issues affecting long-term corporate finances, including a pending batch of greenhouse gas reporting requirements from U.S. EPA, worsening environmental conditions and the prospect that Congress will mandate reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

"Many companies haven't examined these risks," said CalPERS CEO Anne Stausboll in a statement. "The SEC should strengthen and enforce its current requirements so investors' decisions fully account for climate change's financial effects."

N.Y. forces disclosure

Companies and the SEC have faced increasing pressure from shareholder groups, regulators and state attorneys general asking for more public disclosure of climate-related risks. On Thursday, the office of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a settlement with AES Corp. that requires the utility giant to tell investors more about risks posed by climate change. Arlington, Va.-based AES owns 34 power plants in North America and is one of the biggest electricity companies in the world.

Under that agreement, AES must disclose in its 10-K SEC filings risks from "present and probable" climate-related regulations and legislation, litigation and the physical impact global warming could have on utility assets. The state reached similar settlements with power provider Dynegy Inc. and Xcel Energy last fall.

AES also agreed to a number of other disclosures, including turning over data on carbon emissions and disclosing information about projected emissions increases because of planned coal-fired power plants and the company's strategies for cutting and managing those emissions.

"As efforts to curb climate change continue," Cuomo said, "it is important that the investing public know the financial risks of companies that produce large quantities of global warming pollution."

Issue gains momentum within SEC

Cuomo subpoenaed five companies last year to determine whether their efforts to build new coal-fired generation posed risks that were not disclosed to investors, including litigation and costs of regulatory compliance.

This issue might be ripe for SEC action. The SEC in late October ruled that investors can directly call on public companies to describe climate-related risks. The SEC staff bulletin reversed a Bush administration policy of tossing out climate change-related resolutions. Now, investors can force boards of insurance companies, banks and industrial giants to respond to concerns expressed in annual corporate proxy proposals about emissions, regulations, rising commodity prices, property damage and long-term costs.

In the petition filed early today, the investor groups emphasized that EPA has taken concrete steps on the carbon emissions front that will affect corporate bottom lines. "Regulatory limits on global warming pollution are a known trend that is gaining momentum," the petition said.

EPA has finalized a mandatory greenhouse gas reporting rule that starting in 2010 will require major emitters to report those emissions. That data collection is the building block for any future cap-and-trade program that requires reductions over time. "When EPA's reporting rule takes effect, no corporation that emits substantial amounts of greenhouse gases can say it does not have the data to undertake the analysis that investors have increasingly sought," said the petition.

The large institutional investors also pointed to EPA's proposed "endangerment finding," which could open the door to comprehensive greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act. In addition, they said, EPA and the U.S. Transportation Department have proposed emissions standards for cars and trucks, a step up from previous efforts to increase fuel economy standards. In addition, states are putting programs in place to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

EU on track to meet Kyoto targets, 12 November 2009 - Latest estimates show that the EU is set to overshoot its collective emission reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol, the European Commission said yesterday (12 November).

A progress report released by the European Environment Agency (EEA) foresees a 13% drop in greenhouse gas emissions below levels in a chosen base year, most often 1990. This would go beyond the collective 8% target of the 15 countries that were EU members at the time of the Kyoto Protocol signature in 1997.

In addition, ten of the twelve member states that joined the Union since the Protocol came into being have since signed up to individual commitments, except for Malta and Cyprus. The report expects that all EU countries except for Austria will meet their individual targets.

The EEA estimates that emissions from the 15 'old' member states fell to 6.2% below Kyoto base-year levels last year. For the entire 27-member bloc, the cuts would amount to 13.6%. But these figures are boosted by diminished industrial activity due to the financial crisis.

Nevertheless, the EU-15 countries will fall short of the Kyoto targets without new policies and offset credits. The EEA estimates that existing policies and measures for the 2008-2012 commitment period will only account for 6.9% of the total reduction.

By 2010, the EU policies that will deliver the largest savings are expected to come from the EU's emissions trading scheme and the Renewable Energy Directive, according to the report.

In addition, 10 of the EU-15 countries are planning to offset some of their emissions by buying credits through the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms, it said. Further reductions will be achieved from planned afforestation schemes and by preventing deforestation.

The Commission argues that the strong projections will give the EU an upper hand in UN negotiations on the post-Kyoto treaty, during which developing countries are becoming increasingly impatient with the lack of clear commitments from rich countries.

"With the EU climate and energy package adopted earlier this year, we have already put in place the key measures to reduce our emissions much further to at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. No other region of the world has yet done this," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. The EU has pledged to upgrade this target to 30% if others make comparable commitments.

However, countries like the US, Canada, Australia and Japan are still far from meeting even their Kyoto targets as they negotiate a new climate deal.

Leaders urged to turn up in Copenhagen

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said yesterday that he will attend global climate talks in Copenhagen in December and urged world leaders to do the same.

"I will be going to Copenhagen," Barroso told reporters. "There is a clear role for leadership at the highest level if we are to arrive at an agreement in Copenhagen. I very much hope that all leaders are able to come."

The two-week meeting aims to find a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, the United Nations' main anti-climate change tool which expires in 2012. Preparatory talks have become deadlocked, largely because the United States remains vague on emissions cuts and financial contributions for poor countries hit by climate change.

US President Barack Obama has said he will attend Copenhagen if doing so would provide the necessary impetus to clinch a deal.



UK firms fail to take climate risk seriously: study
Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:30am EST

LONDON (Reuters) - British companies are failing to take the strategic implications of climate change seriously and are missing out on investment opportunities, a study sponsored by three major UK investors said Monday.

Firms are addressing the impact of major climate-linked events, but are neglecting to manage incremental changes or extend their focus into supply chains, raw materials or logistics, the study found.

The report comes as climate change takes center stage ahead of a key conference in Copenhagen next month, where world leaders are expected to lay the groundwork, if not finalize the details, for a successor to the Kyoto treaty.

The study -- issued by Henderson Global Investors, Insight Investment and the universities pension scheme, USS -- found that companies were still adopting a wait-and-see attitude in the hope of a definitive public policy response of the kind now looking fragile for Copenhagen.

"We were left with the impression, with the notable exception of the water sector, that climate change adaptation is not yet recognized as a strategic issue warranting board-level attention and oversight," said the study, conducted with consultant Acclimatise.

"We noted that companies continue to see climate change primarily in terms of downside. However, from an investment perspective, climate change may also present opportunities," the investors said.

Investment opportunities may come through investments in companies such as construction firms which build flood defenses or producers of sun/rain resistant building cladding, they said.

McD's in Germany Trades Red for Green In Logo
Posted By Environmental Leader On November 24, 2009 @ 12:23 am In FeatureFood & BeverageGreen MarketingStrategy & Leadership | 2 Comments
mcd's logo2The iconic Golden Arches aren't going anywhere, but McDonald's restaurants in Germany are switching the background in signs from red to green.

The move coincides with McDonald's trying to improve its image and clarify the company's "responsibility and relationship with natural resources," said Holger Beeck, deputy chief of McDonald's in Germany, in an article in Der Spiegel [1].

All 40 new restaurants opening in Germany next year will adhere to the new color scheme, and by the end of the year more than 100 locations will sport the new look, which includes a stone and natural wood facade.

Nearly 2.6 million people eat at McDonald's in Germany every day.

What starts in Germany may be exported to other nations, too.

"This is not only a German initiative but a Europewide initiative," Martin Nowicki, McDonald's Germany spokesman, told The Associated Press [2].

Earlier this year, McDonald's unveiled [3] 10 prototype "green" restaurant locations.

Article printed from Environmental Leader:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] Der Spiegel:,1518,662863,00.html
[2] The Associated Press:
[3] unveiled:

How to Avoid Illegal Forest Products Explained in New Brochure

Geneva, 19 November 2009 - Have your forest products been legally produced? The complicated issues around illegal logging and trade are explained in a new brochure prepared by the World Resources Institute in cooperation with theWorld Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The brochure ( 250 kb) is a response to recent changes in the European Union and the United States, which require verification that imported or traded forest products have been legally produced.

"It is important to understand whether wood or paper-based products have been legally produced," said James Griffiths, managing director of the WBCSD's work on the sustainable forest products industry. "The WBCSD supports efforts to reduce or eliminate illegal logging and forest products trade as these cause unfair competition with legal suppliers. As well, they undermine customer confidence in industry performance and the use of wood and paper products."

Between 8% and 10% of global wood production is estimated to be illegal, and though most illegal produced wood is used domestically, a significant amount still enters international markets as finished products or raw materials.

International logging occurs in some countries where corruption and weak governance are problems. International trade is one of the few sources of sufficient influence to create the political will to make improvements.

The brochure provides a list of resources (insert link) to help identify legal products. Further information can be obtained from the Sustainable Procurement of Wood and Paper-based Products: Guide and Resource Kit.



Green newsclips for November 26, 2009 - Catastrophe edition

If you don't like to read very bad news, skip this email. This past week saw an avalanche of terrifying predictions-- essentially, the most pessimistic predictions were perhaps not pessimistic enough: warming is even worse than we thought it would be just a few years ago.

World on course for catastrophic 6° rise, reveal scientists
By Steve Connor and Michael McCarthy
Fast-rising carbon emissions mean that worst-case predictions for climate change are coming true

The world is now firmly on course for the worst-case scenario in terms of climate change, with average global temperatures rising by up to 6C by the end of the century, leading scientists said yesterday. Such a rise - which would be much higher nearer the poles - would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation.

We are headed for it, the scientists said, because the carbon dioxide emissions from industry, transport and deforestation which are responsible for warming the atmosphere have increased dramatically since 2002, in a way which no one anticipated, and are now running at treble the annual rate of the 1990s.

This means that the most extreme scenario envisaged in the last report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published in 2007, is now the one for which society is set, according to the 31 researchers from seven countries involved in the Global Carbon Project.

Although the 6C rise and its potential disastrous effects have been speculated upon before, this is the first time that scientists have said that society is now on a path to meet it.

Their chilling and remarkable prediction throws into sharp relief the importance of next month's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, where the world community will come together to try to construct a new agreement to bring the warming under control.

For the past month there has been a lowering of expectations about the conference, not least because the US may not be ready to commit itself to cuts in its emissions. But yesterday President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China issued a joint communiqué after a meeting in Beijing, which reignited hopes that a serious deal might be possible after all.

It cannot come too soon, to judge by the results of the Global Carbon Project study, led by Professor Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia and the British Antarctic Survey, which found that there has been a 29 per cent increase in global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel between 2000 and 2008, the last year for which figures are available.

On average, the researchers found, there was an annual increase in emissions of just over 3 per cent during the period, compared with an annual increase of 1 per cent between 1990 and 2000. Almost all of the increase this decade occurred after 2000 and resulted from the boom in the Chinese economy. The researchers predict a small decrease this year due to the recession, but further increases from 2010.

In total, CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have increased by 41 per cent between 1990 and 2008, yet global emissions in 1990 are the reference level set by the Kyoto Protocol, which countries are trying to fall below in terms of their own emissions.

The 6C rise now being anticipated is in stark contrast to the C rise at which all international climate policy, including that of Britain and the EU, hopes to stabilise the warming - two degrees being seen as the threshold of climate change which is dangerous for society and the natural world.

The study by Professor Le Quéré and her team, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, envisages a far higher figure. "We're at the top end of the IPCC scenario," she said.

Professor Le Quéré said that Copenhagen was the last chance of coming to a global agreement that would curb carbon-dioxide emissions on a time-course that would hopefully stabilise temperature rises to within the danger threshold. "The Copenhagen conference next month is in my opinion the last chance to stabilise climate at C above pre-industrial levels in a smooth and organised way," she said.

"If the agreement is too weak, or the commitments not respected, it is not 2.5C or 3C we will get: it's 5C or 6C - that is the path we're on. The timescales here are extremely tight for what is needed to stabilise the climate at C," she said.

Meanwhile, the scientists have for the first time detected a failure of the Earth's natural ability to absorb man-made carbon dioxide released into the air.

They found significant evidence that more man-made CO2 is staying in the atmosphere to exacerbate the greenhouse effect because the natural "carbon sinks" that have absorbed it over previous decades on land and sea are beginning to fail, possibly as a result of rising global temperatures.

The amount of CO2 that has remained in the atmosphere as a result has increased from about 40 per cent in 1990 to 45 per cent in 2008. This suggests that the sinks are beginning to fail, they said.

Professor Le Quéré emphasised that there are still many uncertainties over carbon sinks, such as the ability of the oceans to absorb dissolved CO2, but all the evidence suggests that there is now a cycle of "positive feedbacks", whereby rising carbon dioxide emissions are leading to rising temperatures and a corresponding rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

"Our understanding at the moment in the computer models we have used - and they are state of the art - suggests that carbon-cycle climate feedback has already kicked in," she said.

"These models, if you project them on into the century, show quite large feedbacks, with climate amplifying global warming by between 5 per cent and 30 per cent. There are still large uncertainties, but this is carbon-cycle climate feedback that has already started," she said.

The study also found that, for the first time since the 1960s, the burning of coal has overtaken the burning of oil as the major source of carbon-dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuels.

Much of this coal was burned by China in producing goods sold to the West - the scientists estimate that 45 per cent of Chinese emissions resulted from making products traded overseas.

It is clear that China, having overtaken the US as the world's biggest carbon emitter, must be central to any new climate deal, and so the communiqué from the Chinese and US leaders issued yesterday was widely seized on as a sign that progress may be possible in the Danish capital next month.

Presidents Hu and Obama specifically said an accord should include emission-reduction targets for rich nations, and a declaration of action plans to ease greenhouse-gas emissions in developing countries - key elements in any deal.

6C rise: The consequences

If two degrees is generally accepted as the threshold of dangerous climate change, it is clear that a rise of six degrees in global average temperatures must be very dangerous indeed, writes Michael McCarthy. Just how dangerous was signalled in 2007 by the science writer Mark Lynas, who combed all the available scientific research to construct a picture of a world with temperatures three times higher than the danger limit.

His verdict was that a rise in temperatures of this magnitude "would catapult the planet into an extreme greenhouse state not seen for nearly 100 million years, when dinosaurs grazed on polar rainforests and deserts reached into the heart of Europe".

He said: "It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles."

Very few species could adapt in time to the abruptness of the transition, he suggested. "With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean.

"As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.

"The British Isles, indeed, might become one of the most desirable pieces of real estate on the planet. But, with a couple of billion people knocking on our door, things might quickly turn rather ugly."

Warming's impacts worsened since Kyoto
Since 1997, climate change has accelerated beyond the grimmest warnings
The Associated Press
updated 3:15 p.m. CT, Sun., Nov . 22, 2009

WASHINGTON - Since the 1997 international accord to fight global warming, climate change has worsened and accelerated — beyond some of the grimmest of warnings made back then.

As the world has talked for a dozen years about what to do next, new ship passages opened through the once frozen summer sea ice of the Arctic. In Greenland and Antarctica, ice sheets have lost trillions of tons of ice. Mountain glaciers in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa are shrinking faster than before.

And it's not just the frozen parts of the world that have felt the heat in the dozen years leading up to next month's climate summit in Copenhagen:

  • The world's oceans have risen by about an inch and a half.
  • Droughts and wildfires have turned more severe worldwide, from the U.S. West to Australia to the Sahel desert of North Africa.
  • Species now in trouble because of changing climate include, not just the lumbering polar bear which has become a symbol of global warming, but also fragile butterflies, colorful frogs and entire stands of North American pine forests.
  • Temperatures over the past 12 years are 0.4 of a degree warmer than the dozen years leading up to 1997.

    Even the gloomiest climate models back in the 1990s didn't forecast results quite this bad so fast.

    "The latest science is telling us we are in more trouble than we thought," said Janos Pasztor, climate adviser to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

    Meeting in Copenhagen next month
    And here's why: Since an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas pollution was signed in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, the level of carbon dioxide in the air has increased 6.5 percent. Officials from across the world will convene in Copenhagen next month to seek a follow-up pact, one that President Barack Obama says "has immediate operational effect ... an important step forward in the effort to rally the world around a solution."

    The last effort didn't quite get the anticipated results.

    From 1997 to 2008, world carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have increased 31 percent; U.S. emissions of this greenhouse gas rose 3.7 percent. Emissions from China, now the biggest producer of this pollution, have more than doubled in that time period. When the U.S. Senate balked at the accord and President George W. Bush withdrew from it, that meant that the top three carbon polluters — the U.S., China and India — were not part of the pact's emission reductions. Developing countries were not covered by the Kyoto Protocol and that is a major issue in Copenhagen.

    And the effects of greenhouse gases are more powerful and happening sooner than predicted, scientists said.

    "Back in 1997, the impacts (of climate change) were underestimated; the rate of change has been faster," said Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for global change research at the U.S. Geological Survey.

    That last part alarms former Vice President Al Gore, who helped broker a last-minute deal in Kyoto.

    "By far the most serious differences that we've had is an acceleration of the crisis itself," Gore said in an interview this month with The Associated Press.

    'The problem is in everyone's face'
    In 1997, global warming was an issue for climate scientists, environmentalists and policy wonks. Now biologists, lawyers, economists, engineers, insurance analysts, risk managers, disaster professionals, commodity traders, nutritionists, ethicists and even psychologists are working on global warming.

    "We've come from a time in 1997 where this was some abstract problem working its way around scientific circles to now when the problem is in everyone's face," said Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria climate scientist.

    The changes in the last 12 years that have the scientists most alarmed are happening in the Arctic with melting summer sea ice and around the world with the loss of key land-based ice masses. It's all happening far faster than predicted.

    Back in 1997 "nobody in their wildest expectations," would have forecast the dramatic sudden loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic that started about five years ago, Weaver said. From 1993 to 1997, sea ice would shrink on average in the summer to about 2.7 million square miles. The average for the last five years is less than 2 million square miles. What's been lost is the size of Alaska.

    Antarctica had a slight increase in sea ice, mostly because of the cooling effect of the ozone hole, according to the British Antarctic Survey. At the same time, large chunks of ice shelves — adding up to the size of Delaware — came off the Antarctic peninsula.

    While melting Arctic ocean ice doesn't raise sea levels, the melting of giant land-based ice sheets and glaciers that drain into the seas do. Those are shrinking dramatically at both poles.

    Trillions of tons of ice lost
    Measurements show that since 2000, Greenland has lost more than 1.5 trillion tons of ice, while Antarctica has lost about 1 trillion tons since 2002, according to two scientific studies published this fall. In multiple reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports, scientists didn't anticipate ice sheet loss in Antarctica, Weaver said. And the rate of those losses is accelerating, so that Greenland's ice sheets are melting twice as fast now as they were just seven years ago, increasing sea level rise.

    Worldwide glaciers are shrinking three times faster than in the 1970s and the average glacier has lost 25 feet of ice since 1997, said Michael Zemp, a researcher at World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich.

    "Glaciers are a good climate indicator," Zemp said. "What we see is an accelerated loss of ice."

    Also, permafrost — the frozen northern ground that oil pipelines are built upon and which traps the potent greenhouse gas methane — is thawing at an alarming rate, Burkett said.

    Another new post-1997 impact of global warming has scientists very concerned. The oceans are getting more acidic because more of the carbon dioxide in the air is being absorbed into the water. That causes acidification, an issue that didn't even merit a name until the past few years.

    More acidic water harms coral, oysters and plankton and ultimately threatens the ocean food chain, biologists say.

    In 1997, "there was no interest in plants and animals" and how they are hampered by climate change, said Stanford University biologist Terry Root. Now scientists are talking about which species can be saved from extinction and which are goners. The polar bear became the first species put on the federal list of threatened species and the small rabbit-like American pika may be joining it.

    Millions of acres damaged
    More than 37 million acres of Canadian and U.S. pine forests have been damaged by beetles that don't die in warmer winters. And in the U.S. West, the average number of acres burned per fire has more than doubled.

    The Colorado River reservoirs, major water suppliers for the U.S. West, were nearly full in 1999, but by 2007 half the water was gone after the region endured the worst multiyear drought in 100 years of record-keeping.

    Insurance losses and blackouts have soared and experts say global warming is partly to blame. The number of major U.S. weather-related blackouts from 2004-2008 were more than seven times higher than from 1993-1997, said Evan Mills, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

    "The message on the science is that we know a lot more than we did in 1997 and it's all negative," said Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "Things are much worse than the models predicted."

    Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Melting Arctic: Forget polar bears, worry about humans
23 November 2009 by Alun Anderson
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At risk (Image: Alun Anderson)
At risk (Image: Alun Anderson)
Gallery: A final warning from the Arctic
WHEN I was a postdoc, I was often short of money and used to earn a little extra cash by telling fortunes using a pack of 15th-century tarot cards. Like other practitioners, I was always praying that one card would not appear. It shows a grinning skeleton carrying a giant scythe standing above a field littered with severed heads. It is card number 13, Death, and few customers reward you generously after they encounter it.
Although I know the card well, I was still surprised when an image of it popped into my mind out on the Arctic seas, in the middle of a large field of broken ice floes some 1200 kilometres from the North Pole. I was in a ship that was cruising slowly off the long, low, snow-streaked island of Svenskeøya on the eastern side of Svalbard, researching a book about the Arctic.
In the far distance, a female polar bear was watching us. It was a mark of her great self-confidence that she immediately decided that our 100-metre-long ship might be worth hunting. She intercepted us quickly and tried to climb on board.
The side of the ship proved a little too high, so after half an hour of nibbling the ship's bow and scratching its sides, she tried a different strategy. She lay down on the edge of a nearby ice floe, gave a long yawn, folded her paws under her chin and apparently fell asleep. There was just something suspicious about her cocked ears.
Patient "still hunting" at the edge of an ice floe is the polar bear's number one technique for catching seals. A bear may sit or stand like this for an hour or more, utterly still but alert, until a seal surfaces for air. Then there is a flurry of bloody action. Knowing this, I was not much inclined to climb down onto the ice to take a close-up photograph, beautiful though she was.
Not long ago, tourists on ships passing through this region would amuse themselves by shooting polar bears. But since the 1970s, the Norwegian government has been protecting bears here with such seriousness that locals joke: "You are better off shooting a man than a bear - the authorities will investigate you less thoroughly."
That security no doubt helped give this female the swagger to hunt a large ship. Even so, she eventually grew bored, stood up and strolled off out to sea across a vast patchwork of broken ice floes, some not much bigger than herself. Her exit left me feeling sad. I already knew from the work of the US Geological Survey (USGS) that her grand-cubs may well be the last polar bears to live here. In 2008, the USGS combined models of the future state of the Arctic ice with what was known about the life of bears. Polar bears are utterly dependent on ice as a platform to hunt seals. As the Arctic summer ice disappears, the hunting period is growing shorter and breeding success is falling. Sometimes these days there is too much water to swim back to land and bears drown.
The bleak conclusion of one USGS model was "extirpation by 2050" for the bears of Svalbard. A few areas did better, but only in the frozen channels among the northerly Canadian islands might bears survive as rulers of the ice until the end of the century. These are grim forecasts but they are also conservative because they are based on models that aren't keeping up with the terrible speed of the ice's collapse.
In the far north, the biggest and fastest change to our planet ever caused by human activity is under way. As the Earth warms, more and more of the frozen Arctic seas are melting away. Each winter, the ice grows until it covers an area more than one and a half times as great as the US. In summer, that ice used to melt to half the winter area. Now, after a catastrophic collapse in 2007, close to two-thirds of the ice is vanishing. Compared with a decade earlier, the Arctic is losing an extra area of ice each summer six times as large as California. Estimates of when the ice will completely disappear each summer now range from 2013 to 2050.
Other charismatic Arctic beasts will also struggle. After the bear, the narwhal is most at risk. Off the coast of northern Greenland in 2008 I had the good fortune to see narwhal surface among the ice. For a brief moment, three improbably long spiral horns broke through the water and waved above the sea like magic wands. One animal twisted around and, for a second, his grey, wet body glistened in the low sunlight. Then all three dived and were gone.
Under threat, too, will be the walrus, so recently recovered from mass commercial hunting, the white beluga whale and the bowhead whale, which is still only slowly gaining numbers after centuries of slaughter. All use ice to rest, hide or feed.
Hearing this, you might think it is obvious why the image of Death came to my mind. But it is not so simple. Although I always found it hard to reassure anxious customers, the real meaning of the card is transformation. A death is an ending and a new beginning, and that is what I was seeing as I travelled round the Arctic.
A great transformation is under way. The change from ice to water is an end for many familiar creatures but, in a wider sense, it is not an end. The Arctic is being reborn as a sea that is more similar to southerly seas. Whales, fish, birds and plankton that are more at home in warmer waters are already invading the Arctic. Off the coast of Alaska, for example, pollock are moving north, bringing also the salmon that feed on them. This is the beginning of a new Arctic ecosystem that is forming as the old Arctic dies. As yet, we cannot see the exact shape of the new world, or how many of its older inhabitants will hang on in remote, icier spots. But we can guess who will be its new ruler, the top predator which will topple the polar bear from its throne.
We cannot see the exact shape of the new Arctic but we can guess its new ruler
Already, in the far north, I have seen pods of killer whales. These animals have a tail fin that makes it hard for them to surface where there is much thick ice. The disappearance of the ice is increasingly exposing the beluga, narwhal and bowhead to this ferocious predator. In some parts of the Arctic, beluga whale, known as the canary of the sea for their constant chattering, have fallen silent. Killer whales are close and are listening out for prey.
In purely biological terms, the new Arctic will be more productive than the old, because there is more water, open to sunlight for longer, with more plankton growing in it, and more food supports more life. The first signs are already there. After the sudden collapse of the sea ice in 2007, a satellite-borne sensor, measuring the water's "greenness", showed that the total productivity of the Arctic seas leapt by 40 per cent. That is a big increase.
Louis Fortier, a marine biologist at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, explained it like this: "If you look at it simply from the point of view of biological productivity, that will increase as the ice disappears. It's just that the life there, the specialists which we are all fond of, like the polar bear, the walrus and some other species which we have in our unconscious mind, are going to get into trouble."
Is there comfort in knowing that polar bears hunting on ice will be replaced by killer whales swimming in a warmer, more productive sea? For me, the answer is "not much", but it will be the consequence of what we have done to Earth. And looking at the changes to the Arctic as a transformation does lead to a larger thought. For too long, too many fruitless efforts to combat climate change have been billed as "Saving the Planet". Right now, in the last week or two before the climate negotiations at Copenhagen, there are few signs of dramatic action. Perhaps that is because the message is wrong. As the changes in the Arctic show, the planet continues. Species come and species go. The planet does not need saving, even from us.
Species come, species go. The planet does not need saving, even from us
Far better that the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is portrayed as simple self-interest; that we focus on the coming losses of agricultural production, the droughts, the mass migrations and political instability that will follow rapid climate change. Political will might be better stiffened by listening to generals rather than to environmentalists. As a former head of the US Central Command, Anthony Zinni, explained, if we don't pay the price to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, "we will pay the price later in military terms".
Then we might turn again to the far north, not to worry about bears, but in fear of the Arctic's revenge (New Scientist, 28 March, p 32). For millions of years, the brilliant white ice around the North Pole has reflected the summer sunlight back into space, helping cool the planet. As the ice turns sea dark and soaks up the sun, global warming will really take off. Already the signs are there: in areas where the sea ice has gone, summer temperatures are between 3 °C and 5 °C higher than the average of the previous 20 years.
As the differences in temperature between the Arctic and the equator lessen, the weather and rain patterns all over the northern hemisphere are altering. As the new Arctic sea heats up, a pool of warm air is spreading across the nearby lands. Shrubs and trees are creeping north across the tundra. Dark vegetation soaks up more heat and the warming gains pace. Methane is bubbling from tundra lakes and shallow shelf seas as the permafrost at their bottoms thaws and micro-organisms digest their carbon.
Elsewhere, the top layer of permafrost is rotting away. It contains enough carbon to more than double the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, taking us back to an era when temperatures were more than 7 °C higher than they are now.
Of course, the carbon will not be released all at once. Instead, the Arctic will favour a long, slow revenge, spread over hundreds of years. As well as this, with the same painful slowness, the melting ice caps will make sea levels rise perhaps a metre this century and then every century for a thousand years. Once these changes really get going, they will be unstoppable.
If these thoughts don't make people wake up, then we really are in deep trouble. As it happens, there's a tarot card for those who can't change, which was just as unpopular as Death with my customers. It is number 15: "blind abandonment to self-destructive materialism".
Its symbol is the Devil.                  
Gallery: A final warning from the Arctic
Alun Anderson is a consultant (and former editor-in-chief and publishing director) at New Scientist, with a background as a research biologist. He is a board member of US This essay draws on his book After the Ice: Life, death and politics in the new Arctic, published next week by Virgin Books in the UK, and by HarperCollins-Smithsonian in the US

Oceans' Ability to Absorb CO2 May be Diminishing, New Study Says
Yale Environment 360Published on Tags November 20th, 2009 by Yale Environment 360 
Posted in Tags Climate ChangeTags Environment 

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Southern OceanA study of the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the world's oceans from 1765 to the present shows that as humanity pumps more CO2 into the atmosphere, the capacity of the world's oceans to continue absorbing carbon appears to be decreasing.

Researchers from Columbia University and NASA estimate that since 2000, the proportion of fossil-fuel emissions absorbed by the oceans may have declined by as much as 10 percent. In effect, researchers say that industrial activity has been producing so much C02 since 1950 that the oceans are slowly becoming saturated with the gas.

"The more carbon dioxide you put in, the more acidic the ocean becomes, reducing its ability to hold CO2," said lead researcher Samar Khatiwala, an oceanographer at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The study, published in the journal Nature, estimated that the oceans currently hold about 150 tons of industrial carbon — a third more than in the 1990s.

The researchers used data on ocean chemistry, salinity, temperature, and other measures to calculate the amount of industrial carbon in the ocean for the past 245 years.

The study showed that the land may now being absorbing more carbon than it is producing, perhaps because higher atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing the rate of photosynthesis.

Climate Change Quickens, Seas Feared Up 2 meters
Date: 25-Nov-09
 Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

Climate Change Quickens, Seas Feared Up 2 meters Photo: Reuters
Waves are seen as Typhoon Krosa hits Taiwan in the eastern county of Hualian October 6, 2007.
Photo: Reuters

OSLO - Global warming is happening faster than expected and at worst could raise sea levels by up to 2 meters (6-1/2 ft) by 2100, a group of scientists said on Tuesday in a warning to next month's U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen.
In what they called a "Copenhagen Diagnosis," updating findings in a broader 2007 U.N. climate report, 26 experts urged action to cap rising world greenhouse gas emissions by 2015 or 2020 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
"Climate change is accelerating beyond expectations," a joint statement said, pointing to factors including a retreat of Arctic sea ice in summer and melting of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica.
"Accounting for ice-sheets and glaciers, global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100, with a rise of up to 2 meters considered an upper limit," it said. Ocean levels would keep on rising after 2100 and "several meters of sea level rise must be expected over the next few centuries."
Many of the authors were on the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 foresaw a sea level rise of 18-59 cms (7-24 inches) by 2100 but did not take account of a possible accelerating melt of Greenland and Antarctica.
Coastal cities from Buenos Aires to New York, island states such as Tuvalu in the Pacific or coasts of Bangladesh or China would be highly vulnerable to rising seas.
"This is a final scientific call for the climate negotiators from 192 countries who must embark on the climate protection train in Copenhagen," Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said in a statement.
Copenhagen will host a December 7-18 meeting meant to come up with a new U.N. plan to succeed the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012. But a full legal treaty seems out of reach and talks are likely to be extended into 2010.
"Delay in action risks irreversible damage," the researchers wrote in the 64-page report, pointing to a feared runaway thaw of ice sheets or possible abrupt disruptions to the Amazon rainforest or the West African Monsoon.
The researchers said global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels were almost 40 percent higher in 2008 than in 1990.
"Carbon dioxide emissions cannot be allowed to continue to rise if humanity intends to limit the risk of unacceptable climate change," said Richard Somerville of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California.
In a respite, the International Energy Agency has said emissions will fall by up to 3 percent in 2009 due to recession.
The report said world temperatures had been rising by an average of 0.19 Celsius a decade over the past 25 years and that the warming trend was intact, even though the hottest year since records began in the mid-19th century was 1998.
"There have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend," it said. A strong, natural El Nino weather event in the Pacific pushed up temperatures in 1998.

Arctic Ice Volume Lowest Ever As Globe Warms: U.N.
Date: 24-Nov-09
 Robert Evans

Arctic Ice Volume Lowest Ever As Globe Warms: U.N. Photo: Gary Hershorn
The sun beats down on the haze shrouded skyline of New York across the Hudson River from Hoboken, New Jersey in this August 3, 2006 file photo. This year will be the coolest since 1997 but still the tenth hottest in a temperature record dating back 150 ye
Photo: Gary Hershorn

GENEVA - Ice volume around the Arctic region hit the lowest level ever recorded this year as climate extremes brought death and devastation to many parts of the world, the U.N. weather agency WMO said on Tuesday.
Although the world's average temperature in 2008 was, at 14.3 degrees Celsius (57.7 degrees Fahrenheit), by a fraction of a degree the coolest so far this century, the direction toward a warmer climate remained steady, it reported.
"What is happening in the Arctic is one of the key indicators of global warming," Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said. "The overall trend is still upwards."
A report presented by Jarraud at a news conference showed Arctic ice cover dropping to its second lowest extent during this year's melt season since satellite measuring began in 1979.
However, the Geneva-based agency said, "because ice was thinner in 2008, overall ice volume was less than in any other year." It added: "The season strongly reinforced the 30-year downward trend in the extent of Arctic Sea ice."
The dramatic collapse of a quarter of ancient ice shelves on Canada's Ellesmere Island in the north of the Arctic Ocean added to earlier meltdowns, reducing cover in the region from 9,000 square km (3,500 sq miles) a century ago to just 1,000 sq kms.
The WMO said the slight slowdown in warming this year, an increase of 0.31C over the 14C of the base period 1961-90, against an average 0.43C for 2001-2007, was due to a moderate-to-strong La Nina in the Pacific in late 2007.
"This decade is almost 0.2 degrees (Celsius) warmer compared to the previous decade. We have to look at it in that way, comparing decades not years," Peter Stott, a climate scientist at Britain's Hadley Center, which provided data for the WMO report, told Reuters in London.
La Nina is a periodic weather pattern that develops when Pacific sea water cools. It alternates irregularly with the related El Nino -- when the Pacific warms up -- and both affect the climate all round the world.
The WMO report was based on statistics and analyses compiled by weather services among its 188 member countries and specialist research institutions, including government-backed bodies in the United States and Britain.
"Climate extremes, including devastating floods, severe and persistent droughts, snow storms, heat waves and cold waves were recorded in many parts of the world," the agency said. In many of these, hundreds or even thousands of people died.
Among the disasters was Cyclone Nargis, which killed some 78,000 in Myanmar's southern delta region in early May. In the western Atlantic and Caribbean there were 16 major tropical storms, eight of which developed into hurricanes.
In an average year, there are 11 storms of which six become hurricanes and two become major hurricanes. In 2008, five major hurricanes developed, and for the first time on record six tropical storms in a row made landfall in the United States.
The WMO says the 10 hottest years since global records were first kept in 1850 have all been since 1997, with the warmest at 14.79 C in 2005. Countries have been struggling for years to reach agreement on how to halt the trend.
This month a two-week meeting of leaders in Poznan, Poland, called to prepare a treaty for late 2009 seemed to falter amid rows between rich and poor nations and what some climate campaigners say was lack of will to get things done.
-- Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn and Michael Szabo in London
(Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Michael Roddy)

Global warming dangers 'alarming'

Three UK groups studying climate change have issued a strong statement about the dangers of failing to cut emissions of greenhouse gases across the world.

The Royal Society, Met Office, and Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc) say the science of climate change is more alarming than ever.

They say the 2007 UK floods, 2003 heatwave in Europe and recent droughts were consistent with emerging patterns.

Their comments came ahead of crunch UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month.

'Loss of wildlife'

In a statement calling for action to cut carbon emissions, institutions said evidence for "dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change" was growing.

Global carbon dioxide levels have continued to rise, Arctic summer ice cover was lower in 2007 and 2008 than in the previous few decades, and the last decade has been the warmest on average for 150 years.

HAVE YOUR SAY The best thing we could do is to prepare for the worst. Build better flood defences in vulnerable areas Lee, Bracknell

Persistent drought in Australia and rising sea levels in the Maldives were further indicators of possible future patterns, they said.

They argue that without action there will be much larger changes in the coming decades, with the UK seeing higher food prices, ill health, more flooding and rising sea levels.

Known or probable damage across the world includes ocean acidification, loss of rainforests, degradation of ecosystems and desertification, they said.

In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world faced more droughts, floods, loss of wildlife, rising seas and refugees.

But Professor Julia Slingo, chief scientist of the Met Office, Professor Alan Thorpe, Nerc's chief executive, and Lord Rees, president of the Royal Society, said cutting emissions could substantially limit the severity of climate change.

Copenhagen summit

Prof Slingo told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the importance of the statement was that "it emphasises that whilst global mean temperature changes may not sound very large, the regional consequences of those are very great indeed".

She said: "As the inter-governmental panel on climate change stated very clearly in 2007, without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we can likely, very likely, expect a world of increasing droughts, floods, species loss, rising seas [and] displaced human populations.

"What this statement says very clearly is that some of those things, whilst we can't directly attribute them at the moment to global warming, are beginning to happen."

Meanwhile, a White House official has said the US will announce a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before next month's Copenhagen summit.

President Barack Obama has not yet decided whether to attend.

Green newsclips for November 26th - emailgate, part 2

Oops, I forgot to include one important link in my previous newsclipping on "emailgate" (also called "climategate", and, even more colourfully, "swifthack"). Here is the link -- and if you read only one thing about this story, this page should be it:

The SwiftHack Scandal: What You Need to Know

For your convenience, the following 8 headings each links to the corresponding section of this post:

The scientific consensus on climate change remains strong.
The impacts of catastrophic climate change continue to rear their ugly head.
Hacking into private computer files is illegal. 
All of the emails were taken out of context.
The story is being pushed by far-right conspiracy theorists.
Scientists are human beings and they talk frankly amongst themselves.
Statements from Scientists.
Pieces of General Interest.

1. The scientific consensus that humans are responsible for climate change — and that we must stabilize concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases at 350 parts per million — remains overwhelming. This latest cybercrime and the private emails it revealed do nothing whatsoever to change that.

In the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a report released on Tuesday, dozens of leading climate scientists came to the following conclusions:
Recent global temperatures demonstrate human-based warming: Over the past 25 years temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.190C per decade, in every good agreement with predictions based on greenhouse gas increases. Even over the past ten years, despite a decrease in solar forcing, the trend continues to be one of warming. Natural, short- term fluctuations are occurring as usual but there have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend.

Acceleration of melting of ice-sheets, glaciers and ice-caps: A wide array of satellite and ice measurements now demonstrate beyond doubt that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheets are losing mass at an increasing rate. Melting of glaciers and ice-caps in other parts of the world has also accelerated since 1990.

Rapid Arctic sea-ice decline: Summer-time melting of Arctic sea-ice has accelerated far beyond the expectations of climate models. This area of sea-ice melt during 2007-2009 was about 40% greater than the average prediction from IPCC AR4 climate models.

Current sea-level rise underestimates: Satellites show great global average sea-level rise (3.4 mm/yr over the past 15 years) to be 80% above past IPCC predictions. This acceleration in sea-level rise is consistent with a doubling in contribution from melting of glaciers, ice caps and the Greenland and West-Antarctic ice-sheets.

This is in line with the most recent assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which in 2007 declared that global warming is unequivical and that human behavior is 'very likely' the key driver.

For a more comprehensive look at the scientific consensus on climate change, visit this Union of Concerned Scientists resource page.

Several blogs have made variations of this point.

Chris Mooney at the Intersection observes that these emails don't actually imply anything substantive about climate science:
Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that all of the worst and most damning interpretations of these exposed emails are accurate. I don't think this is remotely true, but let's assume it.

Even if this is the case, it does not prove the following:

1) The scientists whose emails have been revealed are representative of or somehow a proxy for every other climate scientist on the planet.

2) The studies that have been called into questions based on the emails (e.g., that old chestnut the "hockey stick") are somehow the foundations of our concern about global warming, and those concerns stand or fall based on those studies.

Neither one of these is true, which is why I can say confidently that "ClimateGate" is overblown–and which is why I've never been impressed by systematic attacks on the "hockey stick." Even if that study falls, we still have global warming on our hands, and it's still human caused.

Physicist Spencer Weart notes that this is part of a broader trend, in which rather than dealing with uncertainties climate scientists are increasingly forced to respond to criticisms leveled at established science, criticisms which are largely based on ignorance:
Back around 2000 leading climate scientists talked to each other mostly about their science–debating one another's data and analysis and negotiating travel, collaboration and other administration–and a little bit about policy. As time passed they have had to spend more and more of their time answering criticism of the scientific results already established, criticism mostly based on ignorance, fallacious reasoning, and even deliberately deceptive claims. Still more recently they have had to spend far too much of their time defending their personal reputations against ignorant or slanderous attacks.

Nate Silver points out that, in the most controversial email, the scientist in question was not, as deniers have been screamingattempting to manipulate the data:
But let's be clear: Jones is talking to his colleagues about making a prettier picture out of his data, andnot about manipulating the data itself. Again, I'm not trying to excuse what he did — we make a lot of charts here and 538 and make every effort to ensure that they fairly and accurately reflect the underlying data (in addition to being aesthetically appealing.) I wish everybody would abide by that standard.

Still: I don't know how you get from some scientist having sexed up a graph in East Anglia ten years ago to The Final Nail In The Coffin of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Anyone who comes to that connection has more screws loose than the Space Shuttle Challenger. And yet that's literally what some of these bloggers are saying!

Incidentally, 2009 is shaping up to be the 5th warmist year on record.

2. Physics doesn't care about hacked emails and conspiracy theories. The impacts of catastrophic climate change continue to rear their ugly head.

The impacts of climate change are not limited to computer models and projections. Consider the following domestic examples from recent weeks:
"2009 continues to climb up the rainiest-years-ever chart" in Illinois. This year's rainfall in Peoria of 49.34 inches — 50 percent above normal — has already exceeded the total of 2008, itself 25 percent above normal. With only six more inches of precipitation, 2009 will break the record rainfall set in 1990.

Similarly, the September 21st flood in Atlanta, Georgia "was worse than what's statistically projected to happen once every 100 years — even worse than every 500 years." It was "extremely rare", "epic" and so "stunning", the U.S. Geological Survey says the "flood has defied its attempts to define it."

Meanwhile, internationally, the United Kingdom is experiencing 1,000 year floods, Australia is being ravaged by a record heat wave and uncontrollable wildfires and arctic sea ice reached record lows just last week.

Matt Dernoga has more along these lines:
A few e-mails of out thousands sent by a few scientists out of thousands taken out of context by global warming deniers does not come within a light year of collapsing all of the scientific research, data, and current events that point to a warming planet caused by greenhouse gas emissions.  It's why record highs of outnumbered record lows by an ever increasing ratio, which reached 2:1 in the last decade.  It's why NASA recently reported the hottest June to October on record.  It's why every each decade isconsiderably hotter than the last, and why ocean surface temperatures are the warmest on record.  It's why declassified US spy satellites show the impact of warming on our ice caps, and East Antarctica is losing ice mass.  Increased wildfires and pine bark beetles moving North.  Australia being pushed to the breaking point by drought.  That's all happening now.

Alex Steffen at WorldChanging rightly notes that the real scandal is that all of this serves as a distraction from the very real challenge of dealing with climate change.

3. Hacking into private computer files is illegal.  Posting their contents publicly is highly unethical. The entire process is an intentional effort to intimidate scientists.

I'm not up-to-date on British law, but the hack was at bare minimum a violation of the Computer Misuse Act of 1990. I'm sure there are newer laws on the books, but suffice it to say, hacking a University computer for private emails and data is illegal and unethical. The University of East Anglia certainly considers it illegal, and a criminal investigation is underway.

Perhaps more importantly, this is an intentional attempt to interfere with the efforts of scientists doing important work. Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, writing at Dot Earth, explains:
this is a criminal act of vandalism and of harassment of a group of scientists that are only going about their business doing science. It represents a whole new escalation in the war on climate scientists who are only trying to get at the truth. Think — this was a very concerted and sophisticated hacker attack.

I don't think Jones' emails had any personally compromising data in them, but that was just luck; this illegal act of cyber-terrorism against a climate scientist (and I don't think that's too strong a word) is ominous and frightening. What next? Deliberate monkeying with data on servers? Insertion of bugs into climate models? Or at the next level, since the forces of darkness have moved to illegal operations, will we all have to get bodyguards to do climate science?

Kevin Grandia is trying to track the guilty party down. He notes that, given the files that were included, the culprit was someone who knew exactly what they were looking for:
The folder of information contains over 3,800 separate files and it is clear that someone has taken a lot of time to pull together what they thought would be the most damaging. This is not the work of a hacker, unless that hacker is extremely well-versed in climate science, and specifically the conspiracy theories of the climate denial movement.

This package of stolen data and emails would have taken hundreds of hours to compile and someone out there knows exactly how all this went down.

Anyone ethically challenged enough to hack into private files or distribute their contents publicly is likely to have also nefariously edited the files.

4. The emails in question were taken out of context, and they don't mean what deniers claim they mean.

Out of thousands and thousands of emails that were hacked, the climate change denying conspiracy theorists have only managed to identify a few that they consider to be incriminating. The supposedly incriminating emails are in fact, at worst, merely embarrassing.

One of the scientists over at RealClimate explains:
More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to 'get rid of the MWP', no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no 'marching orders' from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords.

One of the gotcha emails, which has generated the 'hide the decline', does not mean what deniers are claiming:
No doubt, instances of cherry-picked and poorly-worded "gotcha" phrases will be pulled out of context. One example is worth mentioning quickly. Phil Jones in discussing the presentation of temperature reconstructions stated that "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline." The paper in question is the Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) Nature paper on the original multiproxy temperature reconstruction, and the 'trick' is just to plot the instrumental records along with reconstruction so that the context of the recent warming is clear. Scientists often use the term "trick" to refer to a "a good way to deal with a problem", rather than something that is "secret", and so there is nothing problematic in this at all. As for the 'decline', it is well known that Keith Briffa's maximum latewood tree ring density proxy diverges from the temperature records after 1960 (this is more commonly known as the "divergence problem"–see e.g. the recent discussion in this paper) and has been discussed in the literature since Briffa et al in Nature in 1998 (Nature, 391, 678-682). Those authors have always recommend not using the post 1960 part of their reconstruction, and so while 'hiding' is probably a poor choice of words (since it is 'hidden' in plain sight), not using the data in the plot is completely appropriate, as is further research to understand why this happens.

This RealClimate post explains the context behind some of the other supposedly controversial emails.

Phil Jones, director of the Climate Research Unit, notes that an email of his has been taken completely out of context.

Brian Angliss at Scholars and Rogues explains that some of this can be chalked up to how scientists talk:
I work in electrical engineering where I use words and phrases that, taken out of context, could be misinterpreted as nefarious by people who are ignorant of the context or who have an axe to grind. For example, I regularly talk about "fiddling with" or "twiddling" the data, "faking out" something, "messing around with" testing, and so on. In the first case, I'm analyzing the data to see if I can make it make sense or if I can extract the signal from the noise. In the second case, I'm often forced to force a piece of electronics into a specific mode manually so I can test it and verify some other function, or I use the phrase to provide artificial test data for calibration and/or verification that my electronics are working correctly. And in the third case, it usually involves trying to deduce whether a problem is caused by the electronic board I;m testing or by the equipment that is doing the testing.

For a technical discussion of the true meaning of the 'hide the decline' email, see this post at Skeptical Science.

Greenfyre made a similar point here.

Greenfyre also notes:
The edited bits we are getting can sound bad, but the actually say absolutely nothing. Stripped of context they could suggest all kinds of unethical behaviour … or nothing at all.

As I pointed out above, it is actually pretty incredible that out of thousands of emails the conspiracy theorists were only able to identify a few they consider to be damning.

Kevin Grandia wonders what would be uncovered if thousands of emails from the Conservative Enterprise Institute or Exxon Mobile were released in a similar manner:
Think for a millisecond about how juicy the news might be if someone hacked the CEI computer, finding a way to track funding and listening in on the conversations that have occurred between Ebells and his collaborators at Exxon, Ford and the Bush Whitehouse.

Hand over, say, six months of email communications beginning in 2003 around the time the Whitehouse asked you to sue it (yes, the Whitehouse asked you to sue the Whitehouse) to help block climate legislation. Then we'll have a serious talk about who's credible.

Kevin's colleague at DeSmogBlog, Richard Littlemore, adds:
As a stunning amount of email traffic on this issue currently seems to be coming from uberDenier Marc Morano, why doesn't the former aide to Okalahoma Senator and Republican Denier-in-Chief James Inhofe volunteer to share his correspondence?

Kevin suggested a six-month supply from CEI. I reckon the last six days from Morano might significantly advance the question of who's credible on this issue. It might even show who hacked Hadley.

5. This story is being pushed by the exact same crazies who have been behind many other conspiracy theories and blatantly false smear campaigns.

Quickly moving through the right-wing propaganda network, this story immediately popped up in all of the familiar spots: industry-funded conservative think tanks, conservative and global warming denier blogs, talk radio blowhards, the Drudge Report and Glenn Beck / Fox News. When all of these folks latch onto a story with such force, it is a good indication that the story is false (see: the Van Jones smearing and the $1761 clean energy bill lie).

Brad Johnson at The Wonk Room has a good early roundup of denier reactions.

Marc Morano, who has been leading the charge, was the originator of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth smear campaign against John Kerry. His site, Climate Depot, has been the hub of activity around the hacked emails.

This excellent post at explains:
The coordinator of is Marc Morano, a libertarian right self publicist and former aid to the outspoken denier Senator Inhofe, who has been seeking to become a kingpin in the climate denial industry. Marc Morano is not new to this kind of dirty fighting. According to the investigative site Source Watch, Morano, whilst working as a journalist for the right wing Cybercast News Service, was the first source in May 2004 of the smear campaign against John Kerry that later became known the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Although different in context and content, there are marked similarities between the Swift Boat campaign and the hacking of the UEA e-mails. Both were sophisticated strategies to undermine trust. Both identified trust and integrity as a major strength of the opponent and then played carefully chosen story lines to undermine them. At the very least the UEA e-mail campaign is an application of dirty political tactics to climate change campaigning.

Here are some of the other crazed conspiracy theorists who are leading the efforts to push this story:

Rabid conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck is all over this story.

Leader of the Republican party and certifiable nutjob Rush Limbaugh is claiming that this proves global warming is 'made up.'

Matt Drudge, as of November 25th, was pushing the story with the following headlines at the top of his site:

Senator Inhofe, the most laughed at person in the United States Senate, has been huffing and puffing about this all week. He is now preparing an investigation and threatening scientists and Federal agencies. Taylor Marsh hasmore on Inhofe's crazy antics and his role in all of this. Crooks and Liars has a video clip of Senator Inhofe making a fool of himself by calling for a probe of the hacked emails. Here is a video of Senator Inhofe being seriously questioned by a CNBC reporter:

Congressman Darrell Issa, who was largely responsible for the smear campaign against Acorn, is now trying to pin this 'scandal' on White House Science Advisor John Holdren. For his part, Holdren tells Issa and other deniers to bring it on:
"I'm happy to stand by my contribution to this exchange. I think anybody who reads what I wrote in its entirety will find it a serious and balanced treatment of the question of 'burden of proof' in situations where science germane to public policy is in dispute."

Other crazies who are pushing this include Superfreak Stephen Dubner and Senator David Vitter.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which gets considerable funding from polluting industries, is pushing this story as hard as they can. Tim Lambert at Deltoid points out that the CEI intends to sue Gavin Schmidt of Real Climate for… doing such a great job debunking the SwiftHack story.

A. Siegel has more on how all of this is a nefarious conspiracy.

Media Matters debunks some of the crazy claims put forth by the Drudge Report and the Washington Times.

6. Scientists are human beings and they talk frankly amongst themselves.

Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists explains:
Climate science contrarians are using the release of e-mails from several top scientists to attack climate science. Unfortunately for these conspiracy theorists, what the e-mails show are simply scientists at work, grappling with key issues, and displaying the full range of emotions and motivations characteristic of any urgent endeavor. Any suggestions that these e-mails will affect public and policymakers' understanding of climate science give far too much credence to blog chatter and boastful spin from groups opposed to addressing climate change.

"We should keep in mind that our understanding of climate science is based not on private correspondence, but on the rigorous accumulation, testing and synthesis of knowledge often represented in the dry and factual prose of peer-reviewed literature. The scientific community is united in calling on U.S. policymakers to recognize that emissions of heat-trapping gases must be dramatically reduced if we are to avoid the worst consequences of human-induced climate change.

Chris Mooney adds:
Global warming deniers are having a field day, because in some of the emails, the scientists are acting like, you know, people. They are also acting like scientists under fire, which is what they were and are.

Of course, none of this is at all relevant to the climate issue today. It's a nasty, ugly sideshow. The science of climate change doesn't stand or fall based upon what a few scientists said in emails they always thought would remain private.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing explains further:
A huge amount of email from the East Anglia Climate Research Unit was hacked and released onto the web, causing much rejoicing from the climate change denialists. They read through the corpus of email and found that the scientists working on climate change often have substantive disagreements with one another, which they debate vigorously in email, and cited this as evidence of a conspiracy to cover up dissent and present a scientific consensus on climate change.

Futurismic's Tom Marcinko does a great job of putting this in context, rounding up several links to other good commentators around the web. In a nutshell: science is about the advancement of competing theories and the evaluation of these theories in light of evidence. The East Anglia Climate Research Unit's scientists disagreed in some particulars, and used peer-review to resolve them (and continue to do so).

Statements from Scientists

Prof Trevor Davies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit:
The publication of a selection of stolen data is the latest example of a sustained and, in some instances, a vexatious campaign which may have been designed to distract from reasoned debate about the nature of the urgent action which world governments must consider to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change. We are committed to furthering this debate despite being faced with difficult circumstances related to a criminal breach of our security systems and our concern to protect colleagues from the more extreme behaviour of some who have responded in irrational and unpleasant ways to the publication of personal information.

Professor Phil Jones, Head of the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia:
In the frenzy of the past few days, the most vital issue is being overshadowed: we face enormous challenges ahead if we are to continue to live on this planet.

One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks.

That the world is warming is based on a range of sources: not only temperature records but other indicators such as sea level rise, glacier retreat and less Arctic sea ice.

Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Center in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them.

Richard Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography:
We're facing an effort by special interests who are trying to confuse the public.

Michael Mann, co-author of the Copenhagen Diagnosis and lead author of the UN IPCC Third Assessment Report:
What they've done is search through stolen personal emails—confidential between colleagues who often speak in a language they understand and is often foreign to the outside world. Suddenly, all these are subject to cherry picking. They've turned "something innocent into something nefarious.

Michael Mann addresses several of the emails specifically here.

Thomas Crowley, professor of geosciences and director of the Scottish Alliance for Geosciences and the Environment at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland:
To sum, it doesn't reflect badly at all – it reflects badly on the people who are so desperate to discredit global warming that they will unhesitatingly seize on a figure of speech, take it out of context, blow it all out of proportion (notice how quickly the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] got in on this?) and use it for their own predetermined purpose. Now that's real dishonesty!

Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:
This private communication in no way damages the credibility of the AR4 findings.

The entire report writing process of the IPCC is subjected to extensive and repeated review by experts as well as governments," he added in a written statement to Reuters.

There is, therefore, no possibility of exclusion of any contrarian views, if they have been published in established journals or other publications which are peer reviewed.

Pieces of General Interest

These are pieces that are worth reading but don't necessarily fit into one of the headings above. As new key takeaways emerge some of these may be moved into those sections.

The Lessons of "ClimateGate"

Newtongate: the final nail in the coffin of Renaissance and Enlightenment 'thinking'

Skeptics Exaggerating Science Scandal to Derail Copenhagen Climate Talks

No, BBC was not sent the stolen emails

How Important Are Those Stolen Climate E-mails?

More Insight on Those Leaked Climate Change Emails

"ClimateGate" and the Biased Conservative Media

The Great Climate Change Scandal of 2009

And Now For A Moment of Thanksgiving Sanity Regarding the Stolen "Climate Change" Emails

Let's look at one of the illegally hacked emails in more detail — the one by NCAR's Kevin Trenberth on "where the heck is global warming?"

ANALYSIS-Hacked climate e-mails awkward, not game changer

The Real Scandal in the Hacked Climate Change e-mails Controversy

Water management newsclips for 26 November 2009: US using less water than 35 years ago; Arab countries likely to be hard hit by climate-change induced water scarcity

United States Using Less Water than 35 Years Ago
Assistant Secretary Castle Gives Atlantic Water Summit Keynote Address
WASHINGTON, D.C.--The United States is using less water than during the peak years of 1975 and 1980, according to water use estimates for 2005. Despite a 30 percent population increase during the past 25 years, overall water use has remained fairly stable according to a new U.S. Geological Survey report.
Assistant Secretary of the Interior Anne Castle announced the report, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005, as part of her keynote speech today at the Atlantic Water Summit in the National Press Club.
The report shows that in 2005 Americans used 410 billion gallons per day, slightly less than in 2000. The declines are attributed to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems and alternative technologies at power plants. Water withdrawals for public supply have increased steadily since 1950--when USGS began the series of five-year trend reports--along with the population that depends on these supplies.
"The importance of this type of data to the American public cannot be exaggerated," said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. "The Department of the Interior provides the nation with the best source of information about national and regional trends in water withdrawals. This information is invaluable in ensuring future water supplies and finding new technologies and efficiencies to conserve water."
Nearly half (49 percent) of the 410 billion gallons per day used by Americans was for producing electricity at thermoelectric power plants. Irrigation accounted for 31 percent and public supply 11 percent of the total. The remaining 9 percent of the water was for self-supplied industrial, livestock, aquaculture, mining and rural domestic uses.
"Because electricity generation and irrigation together accounted for a massive 80 percent of our water use in 2005, the improvements in efficiency and technology give us hope for the future," Castle said. "The report also underscores the importance of recognizing the limits of the drinking water supplies on which our growing population depends. While public-supply withdrawals have continued to increase overall, per capita use has decreased in many States during recent decades. 
"These are just a few examples of why, if we want to understand and address the nation's current water issues and prepare to answer future water questions, we need the data provided in this report," Castle noted.

The series of reports provides information valuable to states and water suppliers because the water-use estimates are broken down by state, source, and category of water use. California, for example, is one of four states—joining Texas, Idaho, and Florida — that accounted for more than one-fourth of all fresh and saline water withdrawn in the United States in 2005. More than half (53 percent) of the total withdrawals of 45,700 Mgal/d in California were for irrigation, and 28 percent were for thermoelectric power.
The largest uses of fresh surface water were power generation and irrigation, and the states with the largest fresh surface-water uses were California, Texas, Idaho and Illinois. The largest use of fresh groundwater was irrigation, and the states with the largest fresh groundwater uses were California, Texas, Nebraska and Arkansas. 

The majority of irrigation withdrawals and irrigated acres are in the Western states, but significant increases in irrigation have occurred in some Southeastern states. Irrigation application rates have decreased steadily from 1950 to 2005. This decline is attributable to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems.

The average amount of water withdrawn to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity in the United States has decreased steadily from 1950 to 2005. This change is attributable to an increase in the number of power plants that use alternatives to once-through cooling. 

Since 1950, the USGS has compiled water use information by state in cooperation with state, local and other federal agencies and organizations. The information reflects withdrawals from the nation's rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries and aquifers for major uses.

The full report is available at Additional water use information is available at

Climate Change To Hit Water-Scarce Arab World Hard
Date: 26-Nov-09
 Dina Zayed

Climate Change To Hit Water-Scarce Arab World Hard Photo: Marko Djurica
A boy rides a horse in front of the Great Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, October 12, 2009.
Photo: Marko Djurica

CAIRO - Climate change is likely to hit the water-starved Arab world harder than many other parts of the globe and threatens to slash agricultural output in the area, U.N. and Arab League officials said.
Arab governments have shown more awareness of the issue but need to cooperate further to improve research and policies to protect vulnerable groups, including women who could bear the burden of adapting to increased water scarcity, they said.
"Climate change will be critical for the Arab world because this region in particular already suffers from poverty, widespread aridity, water scarcity and social marginalization," said Sima Bahous, Deputy Secretary General for Social Development in the Arab League.
Fifteen percent of people in the Arab world already have limited or no access to potable water, the officials said, speaking on Tuesday at the launch in Cairo of the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) report on climate change.
The report was released worldwide on November 18, ahead of U.N. climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.
UNFPA Regional Director for Arab States Hafedh Chekir said that, while 80 percent of Arab world water consumption was for agriculture, climate change induced scarcity was expected to cut food production by half in the region.
Henrietta Aswad, regional communication adviser for UNFPA, said more cooperation between the Arab League, UNFPA, and Arab non-governmental entities was needed to help governments draw up appropriate policies.
"Awareness in the Arab region is getting better at this point and governments are aware of the impact of climate change," she said.
"Yet more studies and data need to be conducted to basically have a better assessment of the real impact especially on vulnerable groups in the region," she added.
The UNFPA report did not outline specific policies for the region but said policies should focus on women, children and the elderly because these groups were likely to carry a bigger burden of adapting to water scarcity and climate change.
It said the disproportionate burden on women can create "a cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality."
Chekir said Egypt, where most of the 77 million population are crammed into Nile Valley and low lying Delta, could be one of the world's countries worst effected by climate change.
A previous U.N. study said 8 million people could be displaced by a one meter rise in sea levels flooding the Delta, a major agricultural production area. Egypt is already the world's biggest wheat importer.
"We want to integrate the human element into environmental policy making," Chekir said.
The report said slower population growth would help build social resilience to the impact of climate change and would help reduce green-house gas emissions in future.
(Editing by Edmund Blair)

Alternative Energy newsclips for 29 November 2009`: Alternative energy is going to be very expensive..... no, make that very cheap. Um, what?

I suppose if we knew the answer we'd be rich. Of course, in this debate, the IEA is working uphill, as its credibility has been under fire lately, most notably for overly optimistic outlook on future oil availability.


IEA warns of huge cost for energy 'revolution'

AFP, 10 November 2009 - The economic crisis gives the world a chance for a low-carbon "revolution" to ensure energy supplies and fight global warming, but it will cost a huge chunk of worldwide output, the IEA warns.

"The scale and breadth of the energy challenge is enormous -- far greater than many people realise," the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday.

"But it can and must be met," it said. "The time to act has arrived."

The language from the usually staid agency, a branch of the OECD in Paris, amounted to an alarm call on the state of the world in terms of energy supplies and the threat of "disastrous climate change."

The IEA laid out the dangers, and its declaration for action, in its World Energy Outlook which falls this year shortly before a landmark international conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December.

The IEA is the energy arm of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a policy powerhouse for the 30 leading industrialised countries.

If governments do not change their policies, there will be "alarming" consequences for energy security, and almost certainly "massive climate change and irreparable damage to the planet."

The agency estimated that even existing policies to ensure supplies to meet "inexorable" growth of demand and combat green-house gas damage would cost 26 trillion dollars (17.3 trillion euros) in real, or inflation adjusted, dollars for capital investment by 2030.

This cumulative bill was equivalent to 1.1 trillion dollars or 1.4 percent of world economic output per year, on average.

The power sector needed 53 percent of the total and more than half of the global figure was needed in developing countries.

But under its best-case hypothesis of greenhouse gases being limited to an increasingly accepted target of 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide, there would be an additional investment bill of 10.5 trillion dollars.

Of this extra amount, 45 percent was needed in the sector of transportation.

The total implied investment cost, in dollars valued in 2008 terms, is therefore about 36.5 trillion dollars over about 20 years.

The IEA said: "The recession, by curbing the growth in greenhouse-gas emissions, has made the task of transforming the energy sector easier by giving us an unprecedented, yet relatively narrow, window of opportunity."

The focus should be on investment in low-carbon technology, but "energy investment worldwide has plunged over the past year," the IEA said.

The IEA forecast that the oil price, excluding the effects of inflation, would be 100 dollars a barrel in 2020 and 115 dollars in 2030, saying oil demand would rise by one percent per year.

Global demand would rise from 85 million barrels per day in 2008 to 105 mbd in 2030, assuming that the negotiations in Copenhagen did not result in immediate big changes in energy policies, the IEA said.

The average oil price this year would be about 60 dollars per barrel against a background of weak economic activity.

The price would then rise with economic recovery to 115 dollars a barrel in 20 years' time in constant dollar valuations, meaning after stripping out the effect of inflation, the agency said.

In the last 12 months there had been "enormous upheavals in energy markets" but "the challenges of transforming the global energy system remain urgent and daunting."

Depending on how governments reacted to the challenges, falling investment would have far-reaching and potentially serious effects on "energy security, climate change and energy poverty," it warned.

There was therefore a risk of a supply shortage which "could lead to a renewed surge in prices in a few years down the line."

It said: "The financial crisis has cast a shadow over whether all the energy investment needed to meet growing energy needs can be mobilised."

But referring to the Copenhagen conference and the 450 parts-per-million target, it also declared:

"With a new international climate policy agreement, a comprehensive and rapid transformation in the way we produce, transport and use energy -- a veritable low-carbon revolution -- could put the world onto this 450-ppm trajectory."

This would put the world onto a "truly sustainable energy path."

Renewable energy costs drop in '09, solar halved

Reuters, 23 November 2009 - Solar energy costs will drop by half in 2009 while other low-carbon technology costs will see their pre-subsidy costs drop by 10-20 percent, renewable energy analysts said on Monday.

Prices for renewable energy equipment, including wind turbines and solar panels, fell this year, but they were offset by higher financing costs in the wake of the global economic slowdown, New Energy Finance said in a quarterly research note.

"As capital markets loosen up and equipment prices continue their decline, we will see the levelised costs decline, finishing the year 10 percent below the end of last year across the board and far more than that in solar," said Michael Liebreich, London-based New Energy Finance's chairman and CEO.

Levelised costs for solar energy, or the lifetime cost per kilowatt hour before government subsidies, will drop this year, with thin-film solar power generation rates falling to as low as $3 per watt, the report said.

Chinese and European solar power companies were upbeat about next year, saying last week that demand for clean energy systems was rebounding after a dismal 2009.

Wind turbines have dropped to their lowest level in several years, shedding 18-20 percent of their cost in 2009, New Energy Finance said, adding that equipment prices could be offset by higher construction costs as developers build in deeper waters.

Geothermal energy rates also eased as low oil prices caused many drilling rigs to sit idle, meaning more equipment was available.

Geothermal uses underground hot water and steam to spin turbines and generate electricity.

New Energy Finance said drilling costs, having dropped by nearly 50 percent earlier this year, recovered somewhat alongside oil prices in the third quarter. The U.S., Europe, China and South Korea lead global renewable energy spending plans after committing about $500 billion to push 'green' technologies under wider plans to stimulate their own economies. (Reporting by Michael Szabo; Editing by William Hardy)

Climate fears may cool oil demand, but prognosis is still on gloomy side

The International Herald Tribune, November 12, 2009 Thursday - The International Energy Agency has reduced its forecast for oil consumption, citing slowing demand because of the economic crisis and increasing use of alternative energy sources.

As the world heads for tough negotiations over a global climate deal next month, an influential forecasting agency has said that current energy policies are not sustainable and that a vast transformation of energy use is required to fend off the worst consequences of global warming.

In the absence of a global deal to limit the emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, energy consumption will soar over the next decades. That would result in a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, according to the International Energy Agency, an adviser to industrialized nations that is based in Paris.

''Continuing on today's energy path, without any change in government policy, would mean rapidly increasing dependence on fossil fuels, with alarming consequences for climate change and energy security,'' the agency says in a report that was issued Tuesday.

The warning is contained in the annual World Energy Outlook, a 698-page publication that focuses this year on policies needed to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide.

A part of the report was released last month as a map for policy makers considering how to make significant reductions. Government officials from about 190 nations will meet next month in Copenhagen to try to hammer out an international deal to replace the agreement known as the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

But international negotiators have signaled that an agreement is unlikely to be reached this year in the absence of a broad consensus on how to share the costs of switching to lower-carbon technologies and fuels.

The recession, the energy agency said, offers an opportunity to make big strides in lowering emissions. As a result of reduced economic activity this year, global emissions are expected to fall as much as 3 percent, the steepest decline in 40 years.

Without a new global agreement, carbon emissions will rise by 40 percent by 2030, the agency said. More than half of that growth will come from China alone, with the rest coming from other developing nations. The agency's forecasts are based on the assumption of no changes in energy policy from governments.

Global electricity demand, for example, would rise 76 percent by 2030, requiring the addition of five times as much production capacity as exists today in the United States. Much of that would come from burning coal; its share of the global energy mix would grow by 2 percentage points to reach 44 percent in 2030.

The recession, which has slowed the growth in demand and allowed governments to introduce energy-saving programs, provides some breathing room.

As a result of some of these policies, like stricter fuel economy standards for cars, the energy agency has reduced its forecast for oil demand in coming years.

Forecasters now expect global oil consumption to grow 1 percent a year in the next two decades, reaching 105 million barrels a day by 2030, from 85 million barrels a day in 2008.

That estimate is lower than the forecast last year for 2030 of 106 million barrels a day. It is also well below the 120 million barrels a day that the energy agency projected a few years ago.

If the world agreed on stringent emissions limits, oil demand would reach just 89 million barrels a day by 2030, the agency said. That would represent a modest increase of four million barrels a day over consumption levels today.

As economies recover, energy demand will rise. After two years of declines because of the recession, government forecasters in the United States projected Tuesday that global oil consumption would rise again next year.

The Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy, projected that oil demand would grow by 1.26 million barrels a day in 2010, almost entirely because of a rebound in demand from developing nations. Oil consumption in the developed world will rise by only 100,000 barrels a day next year, the agency estimated.

The recession not only has reduced energy demand this year, it also has curbed investments in new supplies.

In the oil and natural gas sector, most companies have announced cutbacks in capital spending, as well as project delays and cancellations, the International Energy Agency said. It estimated that investment budgets for 2009 had been cut by about 19 percent compared with last year, a drop of more than $90 billion.

The cost of reducing carbon emissions would be high - through energy efficiency, more investments in renewable power, electric vehicles, expansion of nuclear power and building carbon capture and storage technology.

But for each year of delay in an agreement, the world will eventually have to spend an additional $500 billion to cut emissions, the agency said.

Fossil Fuel Emissions Rose 29% since 2000
Posted By Environmental Leader On November 19, 2009 @ 9:42 am In Carbon CaptureCarbon FootprintCarbon ManagementEmissionsGlobalReportingResearch & Technology | No Comments
CarbonProjectCO2Emissionsreport [1] (PDF) by scientists shows that emissions are outpacing the ability of ocean and land carbon sinks to soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They are concerned that if natural sinks can't keep pace with the increased CO2 emission then the impacts of global warming will accelerate over the next century.

A recent study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature concluded [2] that marine ecosystems including seagrass meadows, mangroves and salt marshes have a much greater capacity to trap carbon than land carbon sinks such as forests, and should be protected.

Two NOAA [3] scientists were among a team of 31 who contributed to the Global Carbon Project report and the recent article,Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide [4], published in Nature Geosciences.

The team created a global CO2 budget from 1959 to 2008. Researchers say over this time period an average of 43 percent of each year's CO2 emissions remained in the atmosphere with a spike in global CO2 emissions from 2000 and 2008. This study also took into consideration emissions from changing land use, such as deforestation, logging and cultivation of cropland soils.

The study finds [5] (PDF) that CO2 emissions have increased by 29 percent between 2000 and 2008 primarily due to increased manufacturing in developing countries and use of coal as fuel source. Coal is now the largest fossil-fuel source of CO2 emissions, according to the study, with over 90 percent of the growth in coal emissions from China and India.

Researchers also estimate that the amount of carbon dioxide that remains in the atmosphere and contributes to greenhouse warming has increased from 40 percent to 45 percent of emissions between 1959 and 2008.

Click here [6] for key findings of the study.

Article printed from Environmental Leader:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:
[1] report:
[2] concluded:
[3] NOAA:
[4] Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide:
[5] finds:
[6] here:

Green newsclips - "emailgate" special edition

In case you have not heard, an email server was hacked into a few days ago, and 10 years' worth of emails sent between climate scientists were posted on the Internet. Sceptics claim that some emails prove that scientists are hiding the truth and that climate change is not happening. The scientists fire back that the quotes are taken out of context and the results speak for themselves -- climate change is happening and it is dangerous, more than ever.

I suspect this episode won't change anyone's mind, but will succeed in polarising the debate further. That's unfortunate. But I hope I won't be sending you more on this story -- it's a disheartening spectacle.

A vitriolic climate
Published: November 23 2009 20:33 | Last updated: November 23 2009 20:33

The debate over climate change is becoming more vitriolic by the week. The latest clash focuses on thousands of e-mails and documents, extracted by hackers from computers at the University of East Anglia, one of Britain's leading climate research centres.
Some sceptics see the electronic correspondence between UEA researchers and colleagues in the US as evidence of a vast conspiracy to overstate the scientific case for global warming and suppress contrary findings. Some scientists have defended the e-mails as legitimate private discourse of the sort that takes place in many research fields – and accused the sceptics of character assassination by quoting them out of context.
The most important point to make about the leaked correspondence is that it does not undermine the scientific case for cutting emissions of carbon dioxide to fight climate change, which is growing more rather than less compelling. None of the e-mails seized on by sceptics shows manipulation of the science itself.
What they do show, apart from some unfortunate personal remarks, is an excessive concern with presentation of their data – and a rather naive frustration that influential sections of public opinion fail to grasp what is to climatologists the self-evident need for urgent action against global warming.
Scientists must realise that they will not become popular by telling people to make big, expensive changes in their lifestyles to save the world from climate catastrophe. And they must not react to unpopularity by closing ranks against a hostile world or by feeling obliged to campaign for the cause.
Although the dividing line between research and campaigning can be hard to distinguish, scientists must try to respect it. Their value rests above all in the ability to provide evidence as objectively as possible. Politicians, businesses and environmental groups can then pick up the scientific evidence and base policies on it.
In the run-up to next month's Copenhagen conference we can expect more vitriol from both sides – from some of the more aggressive green groups as well as from the increasingly bold ranks of the sceptics. Whatever the provocation, scientists must continue calmly and openly to spell out the evidence for the climate change that is already happening, from polar melting to more intense tropical rainfall, and to issue predictions for the future based on their best computer models.

Hacked Climate Emails Called A "Smear Campaign"
Date: 26-Nov-09
 Stacy Feldman, SolveClimate

Three leading scientists who on Tuesday released a report documenting the accelerating pace of climate change said the scandal that erupted last week over hacked emails from climate scientists is nothing more than a "smear campaign" aimed at sabotaging December climate talks in Copenhagen.
"We're facing an effort by special interests who are trying to confuse the public," said Richard Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a lead author of the UN IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
Dissenters see action to slow global warming as "a threat," he said.
The comments were made in a conference call for reporters.
The scientists-Somerville, Michael Mann of Penn State and Eric Steig of University of Washington-were supposed to be discussing their new report, the Copenhagen Diagnosis, a dismal update of the UN IPCC's 2007 climate data by 26 scientists from eight nations.
Instead they spent much of the time diffusing the hacker controversy, known in the media as "Climate Gate."
The scandal began on November 20, when an unknown hacker stole at least 169 megabytes of emails from computers at the prominent Climate Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia and put them online for the world to see.
CRU is considered one of the world's leading institutions concerned with human-caused global warming. The leaked emails contain private correspondence on climate science dating back to 1996.
Skeptics of global warming say these messages are filled with evidence of manipulated data from lead authors of the UN's highly influential IPCC reports.
U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma, pictured here), a climate skeptic, said he would launch an inquiry into UN climate change research in response.
In an interview with the Washington Times radio show, Inhofe explained the investigation would look into "the way cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not."
CRU Vice-Chancellor of Research Trevor Davies responded in an official statement:
"There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation."
Michael Mann, co-author of the Copenhagen Diagnosis and lead author of the UN IPCC Third Assessment Report, blamed skeptics for taking the personal emails out of context.
"What they've done is search through stolen personal emails-confidential between colleagues who often speak in a language they understand and is often foreign to the outside world. Suddenly, all these are subject to cherry picking," he said.
They've turned "something innocent into something nefarious," Mann added.
The vital point being left out, he said, is that "regardless of how cherry-picked," there is "absolutely nothing in any of the emails that calls into the question the deep level of consensus of climate change."
This is a "smear campaign to distract the public," said Mann. "Those opposed to climate action, simply don't have the science on their side," he added.
Professor Davies called the stolen data "the latest example of a sustained and, in some instances, a vexatious campaign" designed "to distract from reasoned debate" about urgent action governments must take to reverse climate change.
According to Somerville, the comments in the emails "have nothing to do with the scientific case" for climate change.
It is "desperate" to launch this right before Copenhagen, Eric Steig, co-author of the Copenhagen Diagnosis, said on the call.
Sen. Inhofe, meanwhile, lauded the timing of the incident.
"The interesting part of this is it's happening right before Copenhagen. And, so, the timing couldn't be better. Whoever is on the ball in Great Britain, their timing was good," he said.
Science Can't Silence Skeptics, Still
The fallout from the scandal is putting some of the world's leading climate scientists on the defensive and underlining the influence of skeptics, even as the case for human-caused warming gets stronger.
According to the Copenhagen Diagnosis report, climate change has rapidly accelerated beyond all previous predictions and humans are to blame.
The findings are a synthesis of 200 peer-reviewed papers that continued to pour in from all over the world after the UN IPCC issued its 2007 analysis. Somerville described the report as an "authoritative assessment" of the newest climate change data.
The results reveal that global warming emissions in 2008 were nearly 40 percent higher than those in 1990. Further, sea level rise is 80 percent above past IPCC predictions.
If 2 degree Celsius warming is to be avoided-the point at which catastrophic damage is predicted to occur-fossil fuel emissions must peak between 2015 and 2020, "and then decline rapidly," the authors warn.
"There's an urgency to this that is not politically or ideological driven," said Somerville. This is "objective scientific reality," he added, and we're "running out of time," to stop the problem.
In a statement released on Tuesday, three of the UK's leading science organizations-the Met Office, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Royal Society-issued an unusually strong statement in advance of Copenhagen. They wrote:
The scientific evidence which underpins calls for action at Copenhagen is very strong. Without co-ordinated international action on greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts on climate and civilization could be severe.

E-mail tirade boosts the sceptics' cause
By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent
Published: November 24 2009 02:00 | Last updated: November 24 2009 02:00

Climate change sceptics have been emboldened to press their case in the countdown to the Copen-hagen talks after seizing on a clutch of private e-mails sent to and from climate change experts which they allege show scientists plotting to manipulate data and hurling abuse at their sceptical peers.
The exchanges, written by British and US scientists at the UK's University of East Anglia, debate data and whether details should be released. They allegedly also include abusive language aimed at climate change sceptics.
The e-mails were illegally taken from the university's servers and elements -published on a number of websites.
The matter is being investigated by the university in conjunction with the police.
One e-mail from Phil Jones at UEA to several climate scientists spoke of using a "trick" to hide "the decline" of temperatures.
It is not clear from the context what he means exactly but sceptics claimed that it showed scientists were concealing temperature data that appeared to run contrary to the idea of global warming.
Prof Jones said the "trick" e-mail "caused a great deal of ill-informed comment" and had been taken out of context.
"The word 'trick' was used colloquially as in 'a clever thing to do'. It is ludicrous to suggest it refers to anything untoward," he said.
In other e-mails, one scientist expressed anger at a journal that had questioned his work, while another threatened to "beat the crap out of" a prominent -scien-tist who takes a -sceptical view of global warming.
Sceptics hailed the e-mails as the "smoking gun" they had been looking for, proving that climate change scientists were engaged in dubious practices and personal attacks on their opponents, as well as failing to give out certain data on request.
Myron Ebell, director of global warming and international environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a US free-market think-tank, said the e-mail exchanges were a "scandal that has knocked down the global warming house of cards".
Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, called for a thorough investigation into the matters raised by the e-mails.
He said: "The selective disclosure and dissemination of the messages has created the impression of impropriety, and the only way of clearing the air now would be through a rigorous investigation . . . There needs to be an assurance that these e-mail messages have not revealed inappropriate conduct in the preparation of journal articles and in dealing with requests from other resear-chers for access to data."
He was more sympathetic about the e-mails railing against sceptics, saying climate researchers had been the target of "an aggressive campaign by so-called 'sceptics' over a number of years".
The leak came as climate change sceptics step up their campaign before the Copenhagen summit, beginning in less than a fortnight.
Some climate change experts moved to discount the damage done, arguing that the language used against sceptics amounted to little more than the normal banter used on e-mail among colleagues, and that the basics of climate change science were not called into question by the e-mails.
John Burrows at the UK's Centre for Ecology & Hydrology said: "The peer- review process was created to try to avoid conspiracies on an issue . . . The current discussion is a perfect example that, while it doesn't always look perfect, an open debate, backed up by peer review, is what science is all about."
But Prof Burrows said the scientific consensus that global warming was happening and attributable in large part to human actions was "established" fact and not called into question by the e-mails.
Stephan Harrison, of Exeter University, agreed: "Irrespective of what may or may not have been said in some private e-mails, this doesn't change the physical properties of carbon -dioxide, and doesn't change the fact that human activity is warming the planet.
"There's a lot of politics in all of this debate, but it is the science that has to drive policy," added Prof -Harrison.