We talk of ‘climate change’ …. but can – and will – humans ‘change’?

After recently viewing the dramatic – and very unscientific/’hollywood’ – movie ‘2010’, I have to ask: What IF humans continue on present course?  Now there is nore talk… but what of national and global action …?  

The United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Cancun, Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010, encompasses the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), as well as the thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session of the AWG-LCA.

To discuss future commitments for industrialized countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). In Copenhagen, at its fifth session, the CMP requested the AWG-KP to deliver the results of its work for adoption by CMP 6 in Cancun.

At its thirteenth session in Bali, the Conference of the Parties launched a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2010, in order to reach an agreed outcome and adopt a decision at its fifteenth session in Copenhagen. This process has been conducted under the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA). In Copenhagen, the COP decided to extend the mandate of the AWG-LCA to enable it to continue its work with a view to presenting the outcome to COP 16 for adoption.

http://unfccc.int/2860.php

Environmental sustainability is out the window…(!!?)… if Commission is cut

The Government is expected to axe its environmental watchdog this week as part of Whitehall budget cuts. If the Sustainable Development Commission is to be cut, it is a blow on a nunber of fronts -logic, the environment, sustainable government, indeed the concept of sustainability – are all losers!

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband: “They promised to be the greenest government ever but they’re completely betraying that promise.”

Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said: “The Sustainable Development Commission has played a crucial role in helping Government departments work together to tackle the triple threats of climate change, economic downturn and inequality – as well as keeping a critical check on progress.

Jonathon Porritt: As the former Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission from 2000-2009, I’m clearly going to be a bit biased about the Government’s decision yesterday to get rid of the Commission.

http://www.24dash.com/blogs/jonathon_porritt/2010/07/23/The-Governments-First-Green-Betrayal/

The Government is expected to axe its environmental watchdog this week as part of Whitehall budget cuts.

An announcement that the Sustainable Development Commission is to be abolished is expected tomorrow, just as the environmental and sustainability watchdog publishes its latest report outlining the savings departments could make from being greener.

The report will detail how the Government could make hundreds of millions of pounds of savings over the next Parliament by reducing transport, water use, energy waste and rubbish – savings worth many times the £3 million expenditure on the SDC.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was unable to confirm today if the arms-length body, which is jointly operated by the UK Government and devolved administrations, is to be disbanded, saying no final decision has been made.

But reports of its imminent demise have raised concerns in the Welsh Assembly, where it was last week described as playing an important role in Wales’s efforts to become greener.

The SDC has helped central government departments save the equivalent of £16 million in carbon emissions reductions and £13 million in reducing water waste.

The commission has also worked with the NHS and schools to reduce their emissions and energy use and recommended the “whole-house” green makeovers to make them more energy efficient, a policy that was adopted by all three parties before the General Election.

Its advice on whether a Severn barrage could be built sustainably also paved the way for consideration of tidal schemes in the Severn Estuary.

Greenpeace campaigner Louise Edge condemned the decision to axe the SDC as “incredibly short-sighted”.

“The commission has always given great value for money, cutting wasteful energy use across Whitehall and providing vital advice on how departments can slash their carbon emissions.

“You have to wonder about the thinking behind scrapping a £3 million body with a record of success while pushing ahead with the multibillion-pound Trident replacement, which the military doesn’t even want. This is muddled thinking,” she said.

Margaret Ounsley, head of public affairs at WWF-UK, said: “Everybody knows that we are facing a heavy deficit, and we should not be too prescriptive about how the Government deals with it.

“However, it would be the worst sort of mindless hacking from Government if we were to lose the capacity to measure and report on its moves towards meeting its own commitments to become leaner and greener.

“Shooting the watchdog does not make always make for savings.”

And Friends of the Earth’s executive director Andy Atkins said: “The Sustainable Development Commission has played a crucial role in helping Government departments work together to tackle the triple threats of climate change, economic downturn and inequality – as well as keeping a critical check on progress.

“The coalition must be held to account on its promise to be the greenest Government ever – and explain how it will continue to green Britain, saving money and creating jobs at the same time – without the Sustainable Development Commission’s expert guidance and overview.”

Shadow energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “The coalition has made some terrible decisions on the environment – scrapping the loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, shelving Labour’s plan for the Green Investment Bank.

“They promised to be the greenest government ever but they’re completely betraying that promise.”

http://www.24dash.com/news/central_government/2010-07-21-Short-sighted-Government-to-axe-Sustainable-Development-Commission

As the former Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission from 2000-2009, I’m clearly going to be a bit biased about the Government’s decision yesterday to get rid of the Commission. So I’ve been working really hard to put myself in Ministers’ shoes in terms of the ‘rationale’ they’ve advanced for this reprehensible decision. They’ve put forward four justifications:1. It will save moneyThe SDC costs the taxpayer around £4 million a year, around 50% of which come from Defra. The rest comes from the Devolved Administrations and other Whitehall Departments – all of which wanted to carry on working with the SDC. As George Monbiot has pointed out, the SDC’s advice on reducing costs through increased efficiency has already saved the Government many, many times that negligible amount, and would have gone on doing so year after year.2. Sustainable development is now mainstreamed across government.Defra Ministers are now claiming that sustainable development has been embedded in every department. In other words, no specialist capability at the centre is any longer required, simply because the Government ‘gets it’.Like hell it does. To hear Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State in Defra make such a totally fatuous claim after a few weeks in power is irritating beyond belief. She clearly knows nothing of the constant slog required (of the SDC and many other organisations) to achieve the limited traction that is all that can be laid claim to today.There’s a rich irony here. The SDC is a UK-wide body. Neither Wales nor Scotland was in favour of getting rid of the Commission, no doubt because both Countries have done an infinitely better job than Whitehall on ‘mainstreaming’ sustainable development.3. It will avoid duplicationThis is a bit trickier, simply because the SDC does a number of different things. It advises Ministers – and there are indeed lots of other people who do that. But rarely if ever from an integrated sustainable development perspective. It helps countless public sector bodies (from the Audit Commission to the Department of Education, from Local Authorities to Primary Care Trusts in the NHS) to make sense of sustainable development, and no other government body does any of that. And it scrutinises government performance on a completely independent basis across the whole sustainable development agenda – not just on climate change. And no other body does that.4. Sustainable development is too important to delegate to an external bodyIt’s worth recording Caroline Spelman’s actual words here: “Together with Chris Huhne, I am determined to take the lead role in driving the sustainable agenda across the whole of government, and I’m not willing to delegate this responsibility to an external body.”Even after nine years working with dozens of Government Ministers, I’m astonished at such utterly brazen cynicism. The only thing Mrs Spelman has done so far as Secretary of State at Defra is publish a new strategy for the Department. This has not one serious reference to sustainable development in it. Such is the depth of her concern.If Defra’s next step is to get rid of what’s left of it’s own internal Sustainable Development Unit, then it will have literally no capacity to ‘drive the sustainable agenda’ even within Defra, let alone ‘across the whole of government’. And how can you drive anything if you haven’t the first clue what it actually means? And it just got rid of the only part of the system capable of providing you with a basic primer for beginners?So let’s not beat around the bush: their justification for getting rid of the SDC is transparently vacuous, if not downright dishonest. This is an ideological decision – in other words, a decision driven by dogma not by evidence-based, rational analysis.And the only conceivable reason for allowing dogma to dominate in this way is that the Government doesn’t want anyone independently auditing its performance on sustainable development – let alone properly-resourced, indisputably expert body operating as ‘a critical friend’ on an inside track within government.I don’t suppose the Prime Minister was even consulted about such a footling little matter. But it’s clear that his advisors hadn’t the first idea about the kind of signal this dogma-driven decision sends out, ensuring that his claim that this will be the ‘greenest government ever’ is in deepest jeopardy. It’s too early to make any definitive judgement about how the Green agenda will fare under the Coalition. But it’s not encouraging. ‘Greenest ever’ has to mean something substantive. Simply smearing a sickly ideological slime over everything just won’t cut it.

Forget ‘climategate’; amid the rows, the world is still undergoing climate change!

The Telegraph blogger James Delingpole today writes:

As Andrew Bolt puts it, this scandal could well be “the greatest in modern science”. These alleged emails – supposedly exchanged by some of the most prominent scientists pushing AGW theory – suggest:

Conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of embarrassing information, organised resistance to disclosure, manipulation of data, private admissions of flaws in their public claims and much more.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100017393/climategate-the-final-nail-in-the-coffin-of-anthropogenic-global-warming/

The Guardian yesterday

The emails stolen from the University of East Anglia in November have cast an uncomfortable light on the behind-the-scenes actions of some of the most senior and respected climate scientists in the world. The affair raises serious questions about access to data and the way scientific peer review can be used to stifle dissent. But is the science of climate change fatally flawed by the climategate revelations? Absolutely not. Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet.

MY VIEW: 

MY VIEW: The blogger James Delingpole, lauded as ‘writer, journalist and broadcaster who is right about everything’, cuts into the ‘climate-gate’ as a bit of joyful attack on scientists. We uses – or more to the point, ‘misuses’ his blog, to comntinue the ‘war of words’ that has become know as ‘climate-gate’   

Re The Guardian I couldn’t agree more! The ‘climategate’ furor this week, over emails and reports,  surprised and disappointed. These unhelpful discussions – as well as distracting from the key messages – also assisted the ‘climate skeptics’ accusation that climate change was not happening. Indeed, if it was so, that predicted rates were inaccurate, and therefore the science was in question, the whole debate was also ‘hot air’.  

The reality is this: amid the rows, one truth: the world is warming.  We, as humanity in all its guises, need to take steps to change our lifestyles, through policy and behaviour, to become more sustainable – as individuals, as a society, as nations together.  

The media was fixated about emails and reports based on un-peered articles, to the extent that a hole Newsnight programme was dedicated to stirring up unnecessary and potential conflict between two scientists.  

From The Guardian article in full: 

The emails stolen from the University of East Anglia in November have cast an uncomfortable light on the behind-the-scenes actions of some of the most senior and respected climate scientists in the world. The affair raises serious questions about access to data and the way scientific peer review can be used to stifle dissent. But is the science of climate change fatally flawed by the climategate revelations? Absolutely not. Nothing uncovered in the emails destroys the argument that humans are warming the planet.

None of the 1,073 emails plus 3,587 files containing documents, raw data and computer code upsets the 200-year-old science behind the “greenhouse effect” of gases like carbon dioxide, which traps solar heat and warm the atmosphere. Nothing changes the fact that carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere thanks to human emissions from burning carbon-based fuels like coal and oil. Nor the calculations of physicists that for every square metre of the earth’s surface, 1.6 watts more energy now enters the atmosphere than leaves it.

And we know the world is warming as a result. Thousands of thermometers in areas remote from any conceivable local urban influences tell us that. The oceans are warming too. And we have the evidence of our own eyes. The great majority of the world’s glaciers are retreating, Arctic sea ice is disappearing, sea levels are rising ever faster, trees are climbing up hillsides and permafrost is melting. These are not statistical artefacts or the result of scientists cherry-picking their data.

Equally, many of the most widely publicised claims from sceptics about what is in the emails are demonstrably unfounded. There is no conspiracy to “hide the decline” in temperatures. Nor that a lack of warming in the data is a “travesty” – still less of attempts to fix the data.

But, within the narrower confines of assembling a reliable history of global temperature, the emails have done significant damage to the credibility of scientists. They show that in their desire to give the world a clear message that humans are heating the planet here and now, a group of scientists cut corners and down-play uncertainties in their calculations. Their opponents charge that they then covered their tracks by being secretive with their data and suppressing dissent.

Taken with the recent revelations about shortcomings in reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this suggests a wider problem of scientific sloppiness, but not of outright fraud. Many scientists believe their community has to own up to that, and put its house in order.

Part of the problem is secrecy in science. Climatologist Judy Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has been trying to make peace between her colleagues and the sceptics, says the various data sets connected to the famous “hockey stick” temperature graph and Phil Jones’s thermometer data sets “stand out as lacking transparency”. Science is too much of a closed shop, she says. Outsiders need to be let into the ivory towers for the good of science itself. “Einstein didn’t start his career at Princeton, but rather at a post office.” Bring on the bloggers. Maybe there’s an Einstein among them.

The doors of the labs are being opened whether scientists like it or not. The Information Commissioner’s office last week released a statement saying that the University of East Anglia had “not dealt with [FoI requests] as they should have been under the legislation”. There is evidence in the emails that some scientists at the Climatic Research Unit wanted to delete files rather than hand them over – although it is not clear whether any deliberate deletions actually happened.

Probably nobody anticipated that a law intended to unwrap state secrets might end up freeing data from scientists’ computers. But the science community now urgently needs to figure out how to respond to this altered landscape – or scientists will end up in court before long.

The need to open up science is made all the greater by the question raised in the emails about the “gold standard”, the peer review system. In many fields of research, peer review creates serious conflicts of interest in which, as the emails have revealed, senior researchers can act in a way that could have the effect of blackballing the research papers of their critics. The dangers are all the greater when, again as the emails show, the conventions of anonymity in peer review are not rigorously upheld.

Finally, “climategate” raises questions about the IPCC report-writing process, in which many of the emailers have been involved. Governments set up the IPCC 20 years ago to get scientists to speak with one voice on climate change. But often there is no clear consensus. Scientists are trained to disagree. That’s how science advances. The tensions created by the pressure to agree are clear in dozens of the emails.

One of Jones’s colleagues at the University of East Anglia, climatologist Mike Hulme, says: “Climate scientists will have to work harder to earn the warranted trust of the public – and maybe that is no bad thing.” And he thinks the IPCC may have run its course.

While science gets its house in order, we need some perspective. In the midst of a cold winter it may be hard to convince ourselves, but the world is still warming. Humanity is still to blame. And we still, urgently, need to do something about it.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/05/climate-change-hacked-emails

Geoffrey Lean, Telegraph blog

Geoffrey Lean is Britain’s longest-serving environmental correspondent, having pioneered reporting on the subject almost 40 years ago.

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/author/geoffreylean/

Does blaming China for these resources makes for easy headlines.?

‘The Independent’ reports Neodymium is one of 17 metals crucial to green technology. There’s only one snag – China produces 97% of the world’s supply. And they’re not selling.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/concern-as-china-clamps-down-on-rare-earth-exports-1855387.html

MY VIEW: How convenient it is to ‘blame’ a country eg. China , rather than seeling for alternatives sources of this resource . If these earth metals are really in such incredibly scarce supply, we should be putting high priority into resreaching for the next levelof other options. Or, as we can just blame another nation! Again!

Copenhagen was a vital step towards climate change reforms

Not Just Hot Air

While the messy chaos of the Copenhagen climate change summit should not be repeated, its successes ought not to be denied

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article6962286.ece

MY VIEW:

The Good News:  The Copenhagen Climate Conference has provided a crucial forum for discussion and debate concentrating on the ‘how’ of climate change , and not just the ‘what’ of the science. Despite the ’emails debacle’ that could so easily have helped to derail the talks, the conference has proceded with minor administrative hiccups (the chair pulling out midway). China and United States are now at least talking, even if as a result of Obama’s off-script message! The world leaders now have a better understanding of what is needed and have they have got – now the trick will be how to get to the next step!    

The Bad News: The conference had the entirely positive ending, with key ‘bridges’ – emissions cuts, monitoring of emissions and the legal nature of the deal  – that must now be crossed!

How will these bridges be built?

Can we achieve this?

Can we afford NOT to?

What do you think?   

From The Financial Times http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/38141780-ec18-11de-8070-00144feab49a,dwp_uuid=d68cb1fc-a38d-11de-a435-00144feabdc0.html

The Copenhagen climate conference ended on Saturday without unanimous agreement as the world’s biggest economies backed a limited accord that leaders said would form the basis for a future deal to tackle global warming.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, acknowledged that the outcome was “not everything we hoped for” but described it as an “essential beginning” as he brought a close to two weeks of fractious negotiations in the Danish capital.

From The Times  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6962344.ece

The United Nations climate change summit ended last night without setting any emission reduction targets.

President Obama forged a non-binding agreement with his counterparts in China, India, Brazil and South Africa but it was unclear whether all 192 countries would accept the compromise text.

Mr Obama said that a “fundamental deadlock in perspectives” had overshadowed the negotiations. He described the deal as “meaningful” but admitted that it would not be enough to prevent global warming. “We have much further to go,” he said.

Despite two years of negotiations, the key sticking points — emissions cuts, monitoring of emissions and the legal nature of the deal — all re-emerged in the final hours.

The agreement merely repeated an aspiration to keep the global temperature increase to 2C without explaining how that would be achieved. The final text also failed to mention any deadline for turning it into a binding treaty.

//

The WAVE…Will you be there?

London WAVE

The WAVE http://www.the-wave.org.uk/ , the biggest ever UK climate rally,  will provide an opportunity to show people’s view before the Copenhagen Summit.

11am – Ecumenical Service at Central Hall, Westminster, lead by Archbishop Rowan Williams.

3pm – encircle Parliament Square

Wear blue!

MY VIEW: Copenhagen, say ‘those in the know’, must be seen as a step and not a conclusion. The conference  but, however,  in my opinion be a key stepping stone towards changing the way we live and work and play. Without each and every one of us doing our bit and goverments setting decisive targets – and then reaching them – we will not only NOT achieve the outcome of living sustainably. We will instead continue down the slippery slope towards damaging our chances of looking after our very home,  Planet Earth!   

The WAVE … Will you be there?

Supporting Articles:

The 300-350 Show: Civil Society for Climate Justice
 
Just before the start of the historic UN climate talks open in Copenhagen, UK civil society will come together and encircle the Houses of Parliament. They will demand that the UK and Europe do much, much more than they have pledged so far as part of a fair and effective climate agreement in Copenhagen. We speak to the director of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition, Ashok Sinha, about The Wave and other events they have planned for December 5th, and about their policy platform. The SCC brings together over 100 organisations who have a combined membership of around 11 million people – one in six of the UK population.
Their demands include:
  • Reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations to around 350 ppmv CO2(e)
  • Global emissions peak and decline by 2015
  • UK & EU reduce emissions by 40% by 2020 with the vast majority of these reductions (preferably all of them) achieved within the UK & EU i.e. without offsets
  • Protecting forests be additional to, not instead of, these cuts
  • Industrialised countries transfer at least $160 billion annually to developing countries to fund adaptation and low-carbon development
  • UK bring in an emissions performance standard for new electricity plants that is strict enough to rule out coal power stations unless they have 100% Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) fitted from the outset
  • Test CCS on existing power plants only
  • The UK invest in a transition to a low carbon economy thus creating hundreds of thousands of green jobs
  • The UK support the renewable energy sector and investing in energy efficiency and demand reduction, in order to meet our EU renewable energy target for 2020 and decarbonise our energy sector by 2030
  • Ensure a just transition for the workforce

We end the programme with a reflection from Climate Justice hunger striker, Anna Keenan, on the state of the Climate Justice movement as Copenhagen approaches. Listen to this programme now at: www.climateradio.org

Copenhagen: the people’s summit

There is another gathering taking place in Copenhagen, running in parallel with the main conference, and that is the coming together of environmental activists from all over the world, who are flocking to Denmark to cheer the conference on, as it were, and also to give it a few sharp prods – to remind the presidents and the prime ministers doing the deciding that the situation is serious and needs an adequate response.

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/countdown-to-copenhagen-the-peoples-summit-1831098.html

Travel – home or away… Balancing the costs and benefits

The Independent  Traveller yesterday featured New Zealand – my home (see below) – with its unique wildlife as see on Last Chance to See http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/ where two British presenters enjoy other countries and we watch.

The Guardian included a special promotion on Spain’s World Heritage cities.   http://www.guardian.co.uk/spanish-tourist-board/spanish-heritage-rome-renaissance-spain.

The Independent Traveller a promoted a competition for Stonehenge  http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/best-of-the-stones-the-ancient-structures-at-stonehenge-are-truly-rocks-of-ages-1796727.htmlTnhe

My wife (Aussie) and I (NZer) arguably came to the UK from NZ as a result of wildlife safaring/travelling across East Africa and Western Europe, and we plan to visit Asia in the future. For a number of reasons, we did not travel overseas (from the UK) for more than a year, and then recently visited Athens, renowned for its World Heritage Sites including the Pathenon.

Wishing to be ‘patriotic’ and see more of the UK, we have undertaken some camping breaks in a couple of British and Welsh national parks and hoped to do so again this year, but the cost of rail travel and other things have got in the way…  

Should we concentrate on local holidays and breaks, or travel abroad to experience the nature and culture everywhere..and book with companies with green credentials and offset our carbon emissions? Or should we stay in our country and get to know it … and save the environment?

 

Weblinks

http://whc.unesco.org/ World Heritage Sites

http://www.jpmorganclimatecare.com/ Carbon offsetting

http://www.responsibletravel.com/ Travel with a green edge

http://edu-tourism.blogspot.com/ Green tourism blog

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/ausandpacific/feather-report-nature-and-nurture-in-new-zealand-1796725.html A rare flightless parrot, ancient reptiles and some of the world’s largest trees are among the wonders to be found in New Zealand’s spectacular landscapes