Convening from 19-23 October 2015, the Bonn Climate Change Conference was the last in a series of meetings under the UNFCCC in preparation for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21), scheduled to take place in November-December 2015, in Paris, France.
In their scenario note ADP.2015.7.InformalNote), ADP Co-Chairs Ahmed Djoghlaf (Algeria) and Daniel Reifsnyder (US) identified the objective of the session as intensifying the pace of text-based negotiations among Parties, with a view to preparing the draft Paris climate package for presentation at the opening of COP 21.
At the end of the week-long meeting, Parties issued two non-papers, one containing draft agreement text and draft decision text related to the agreement (workstream 1 of ADP’s mandate) and the other containing draft decision text related to pre-2020 ambition (workstream 2).
The full and best reporting of what went on in Bonn can be found at: mail.google.com/mail/u/1/#search…
Summary of the Bonn Climate Change Conference, 19-23 October 2015, Bonn, Germany.
Going over the Summary it becomes clear – if it was not before – that there will be no UN document ready for the Paris meeting and that UN bickering will continue – be assured that some Arab State will find space to bash Israel. All what the UN can do is to bring the problem to the public’s attention, and it is left to the public to push their governments to make a commitment, that is in those countries where a public opinion counts.
Paris COP 21 of the UNFCCC will not be a wash. This thanks to the fact that over 150 countries have already presented their commitments to act on Climate Change. Take for instance the US where by now commitments from companies that are joining the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, bringing the total number of US companies that have signed onto the pledge to 81. Together, these companies have operations in all 50 US states, employ over nine million people, represent more than US$3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over US$5 trillion.
And yes, in the EU, Japan, Brazil there are similarly industry commitments – pushed by the public. In China and India as well, the public pushes for government action on pollution of any kind and this includes a better understanding of Climate Change disasters.
In a more general way see the The International Energy Agency’s evaluation of the situation:
The IEA’s “Energy and Climate Change: World Energy Outlook” tells us that full implementation of the intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by mid-October would decouple power sector emissions from electricity demand but would still lead to an average global temperature increase of around 2.7°C, which falls short of the declared “major course correction necessary” to stay below an average global temperature rise of 2°C.
The Outlook Special Briefing for COP21′ analyzes INDCs submitted by more than 150 countries, accounting for close to 90% of global energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and assesses in particular their energy sector-related impacts.
According to the briefing, given that energy production and use account for two-thirds of global GHG emissions, “actions in the energy sector can make or break efforts to achieve the world’s agreed climate goal” of staying below a 2°C temperature rise.
The briefing examines what the energy sector will look like globally in 2030 if all INDCs are fully implemented, and whether this will place the energy sector on a path consistent with the 2°C goal.
If implemented, the INDCs will lead to an improvement of global energy intensity at a rate almost three times faster than the rate since 2000. Emissions will either plateau or decline by 2030 in countries accounting for more than half of global economic activity at present. Of new electricity generation through 2030, 70% will be low-carbon.
The IEA estimates that the full implementation of the INDCs will require US$13.5 trillion in investments in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies through 2030.
And excerpted from a bright blogger for Huffington Post (UK):
Over the past three decades annual climate talks under the United Nations banner have become part of the Zeitgeist of a large movement. They draw government officials, think tanks, civil society, journalists and the occasional hipsters into negotiations over which ride trillions of dollars and our future well-being on Earth.
Expect a lot of drama at the next instalment, taking place in Paris in late November – early December.
Heads of state will make grandiose pronouncements.
Negotiators from 190 countries will huddle, whisper, argue over words for days and bargain in stuffy rooms in a style that would make bazaar traders proud.
Civil society will push for strong outcomes, prod for more climate finance, demonstrate occasionally (a welcome activity in Paris), express anger followed by frustration before going home let down again.
The press and the public will turn an inattentive, occasional eye to the 45,000 people gathered in Paris, then turn their attention away.
The private sector, two-thirds of global GDP and employment, will be largely absent (it is not formally represented in the negotiations) and mostly ignore the whole thing.
At the end, governments will cobble together a weak agreement to set emission reduction targets. Some will declare a major win, others will accurately note that we need to do much, much more. Then everyone will go home in time for the Christmas holidays and most of COP21, as the Paris UN gathering is known, will be forgotten.
Deeply buried in this cacophony are two emerging themes with the potential to significantly impact the private sector.
National Low Carbon Business Plans
A Paris climate agreement, no matter how wobbly, will involve more than 150 countries publishing mini business plans for their economy describing what each will do to help limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. In typical UN jargon, these low-carbon business plans are known as INDCs, short for “intended nationally determined contribution.”
The INDCs are the driving force of COP21 and will become the development pathway for all countries. Weak and general at first, they will become stronger and more detailed over time.
Two major consequences will follow.
First, multi-trillion dollar investment opportunities for the private sector will be clearly delineated, while others, far from where the country is heading, should be avoided.
For example, India’s business plan shows it wants to increase its clean energy generation capacity from 36 GW today to a whopping 320 GW by 2030. Similarly, China wants an extra 775 GW of renewables by 2030, on top of its existing 425 GW, the US wants to add an extra 179 GW and the EU another 380 GW.
Taken together, that’s double the world’s current renewable energy installed capacity (excluding hydropower) in investment potential, all of which comes with strong institutional support now that it is anchored in an INDC.
Second, the breadth of these INDCs means that within a few years, all finance will be climate finance; and all bonds will be green bonds.
We already know the commitments in Paris are nowhere near enough: The US, Europe, and China alone use up the world’s entire carbon budget by 2030. Therefore it’s reasonable to expect that they will get tougher, tighter and more precise with time because countries will be under increasing pressure to deliver, as climate change hits all of us harder and harder.
Post-2020 (the INDCs will most probably be reviewed in five year cycles), there is therefore likely to be a “wall of shame” hitting anyone who invests in non-INDC compatible, non-climate friendly technologies. In fact perhaps we will see “black bonds” emerge, highlighting investments that are increasingly unacceptable and at risk of being stranded because of their high emissions.
INDCs will make green investments even more mainstream than they are today and ensure that dirty investments are avoided on a long-term scale.
Loss and Damage
“Loss and damage,” another major theme in Paris, could have enormous financial consequences.
“Loss and damage” refers to the need to account for the impact of climate change, for example on a small island nation losing territory because of sea level rise. An element of climate negotiations for several years, its significance could be enormous for insurance companies, reinsurers, financial analysts and the markets.
Governments will continue to argue whether loss and damage is a euphemism for liability and compensation. Richer nations will end up ensuring that the answer is vague, and that therefore they can’t be held liable and won’t have to pay compensation.
However, the door is likely to be kept open for clever lawyers to use the “loss and damage” aspects of a climate change agreement to launch claims against companies: Victims of climate change will aggressively try to go after corporate polluters for compensation, particularly the likes of Exxon, Shell and BP who have known about climate change for decades but either buried the evidence or ignored it to accumulate profits at the expense of our collective health and well-being.
The results of these claims could be shocking for many. The Dutch proved earlier this year that climate liability lawsuits can stand up in courts.
The business and the financial world will be markedly absent from Paris, but should closely monitor the evolution of INDCs and of “loss and damage” in Paris. These could upend how they currently do business.
From the above, we conclude that COP 21 of the UNFCCC in Paris will have picked up from where COP 15 of Copenhagen left the Climate Change issue. Copenhagen was where the Kyoto stillborn Protocol was buried by Obama bringing for the first time the Chinese on board, now it will be the Obama-Xi alliance that will bring most true Nations on board. And let us not forget Pope Francis and the ethics of “we are the creation’s wardens.” This resonates very well with much of the public and helps the businesses that will move green.
We will not go to the opening of the Paris meeting, but will be there for the end – this so me can evaluate the outcome which promises to have practical value.
We liked the following because we like Obama’s intervention on Climate Change where he decided to go to China in order to engage them in tackling the issue – something that follows Nixon & Kissinger in their opening up of China.
Los Angeles Op-Ed
Niall Ferguson: Think Kissinger was the heartless grandmaster of realpolitik? What about Obama?
October 26, 2015
PHOTO: Henry A. Kissinger–then President Nixon’s National Security Adviser–stands with Le Duc Tho, a member of Hanoi’s Politburo, outside a suburban Paris house in June, 1973.
Most Americans still think of Barack Obama as a foreign policy idealist. That is certainly how he presents himself: Just replay the tape of his recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
Some argue, he said, “for a return to the rules that applied for most of human history … the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.”
The president said he would much rather “work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law.” He prefers “resolving disputes through international law, not the law of force.”
Yet that speech ended oddly. Having berated both Russia and Iran for their misdeeds, Obama invited them to work with him to resolve the Syrian civil war. “Realism,” he concluded, “dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL.”
Wait — realism? Isn’t that the hard-nosed — not to say amoral — approach to foreign policy commonly associated with Henry Kissinger?
Having spent much of the last decade writing a life of Kissinger, I no longer think of the former secretary of State as the heartless grandmaster of realpolitik. (That’s a caricature.) But after reading countless critiques of his record, not least the late Christopher Hitchens’ influential “Trial of Henry Kissinger,” I also find myself asking another question: Where are the equivalent critiques of Obama?
Hitchens’ case against Kissinger, which is as grandiloquent as it is thinly documented, can be summed up as follows: He was implicated in the killing of civilians through the bombing of Cambodia and North Vietnam. He failed to prevent massacres in Bangladesh and East Timor. He fomented a military coup in Chile. Also on Hitchens’ charge sheet: the wiretapping of colleagues.
In history, no two cases are alike. The Cold War is over. The technology of the 2010s is a lot more sophisticated than the technology of the 1970s. Still, this president’s record makes one itch to read “The Trial of Barack Obama.”
Take the administration’s enthusiastic use of drones, a key feature of Obama’s shift from counterinsurgency to counter-terrorism. According to figures from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone strikes authorized by the Obama administration have killed 3,570 to 5,763 people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan, of whom 400 to 912 were civilians and at least 82 were children.
And those are just the strikes by unmanned aircraft. The Oct. 3 attack on an Afghan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders is a reminder that U.S. pilots also stand accused of killing civilians, not only in Afghanistan but also (since August 2014) in Iraq and Syria. One estimate puts the civilian victims of the U.S.-led air war against Islamic State at 450.
This is a lawyerly administration, so it insists on the legality of its actions, even when drones kill U.S. citizens. But not everyone is convinced. In the words of Amnesty International, “U.S. drone strike policy appears to allow extrajudicial executions in violation of the right to life, virtually anywhere in the world.”
Critics such as Hitchens also hold Kissinger accountable for lives lost as an indirect result of U.S. policy. So what about the number of lives lost as an indirect result of Obama’s policy in the Middle East, where he helped topple a dictator in Libya but failed to do so in Syria? Estimates vary, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights puts the death toll of the Syrian civil war at 330,000, of whom nearly 112,000 have been civilians.
And let’s not forget Egypt, where Abdel Fattah Sisi has restored a military dictatorship. In 2013, Sisi’s first year in power, Egyptian courts handed out 464 death sentences. This year former President Mohamed Morsi — democratically elected in June 2012 and overthrown 13 months later — was sentenced to hang, along with more than 90 other Muslim Brotherhood members. Yet Obama restored U.S. military aid to Egypt in March. Help me out here: In what way does Gen. Sisi differ from Gen. Pinochet?
As for wiretapping, there really is no contest. Kissinger is said to have bugged 13 government officials and four reporters. Edward Snowden’s revelations make it clear that Obama is in a different league. On his watch, the National Security Agency collected not only the metadata of phone calls by 120 million Verizon subscribers but also — thanks to the PRISM surveillance program — the content of email, voice, text and video chats of an unknown number of Americans. Between April 2011 and March 2012, according to an internal NSA audit leaked by Snowden, there were 2,776 breaches of the rules supposedly governing surveillance of citizens and foreigners in the U.S.
There is disenchantment with Obama’s foreign policy these days. In recent polls, nearly half of Americans (49.3%) disapprove of it, compared with fewer than 38% who approve. I suspect, however, that many disapprove for the wrong reasons. The president is widely seen, especially on the right, as weak. In my view, his strategy is flawed, but there is no doubting his ruthlessness when it comes to executing it.
As Hitchens surely would observe if he were still around, a great many liberals today apply a double standard when they judge the foreign policies of Nobel Peace Prize laureates Henry Kissinger and Barack Obama. If you think Kissinger didn’t deserve his Nobel, then neither did Obama.
Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard University and senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He is the author, most recently, of “Kissinger 1923-1968: The Idealist.”
In the run-up to Paris2015 Kevin Rudd of the New York based Asia Society argues that “U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris,” Lord Nicholas Stern said that there will be a complete change in what the planet will look like in 100 years from now, and Christiana Figueres said that what countries have prepared for Paris is insufficient, but she hopes that in those 100 coming years they will be more forthcoming.
On August 28, 2015 – on CNN International’s Amanpour – Kevin Rudd, the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) President, discussed the effects of climate change – with Lord Nicholas Stern, chairman of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and international climate policy, with Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Noting that projected levels of greenhouse gas emissions would cause average temperatures to rise by three-and-a-half to four degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, Lord Stern said “that is very dangerous territory” that the planet hasn’t seen “for around three million years,” since the end of the last Ice Age.
“These kinds of temperature increases are just enormous and would rewrite where we could live, where the rivers are, where the seashores are, what the weather is like,” said Lord Stern.
The poorest areas of the world would be “hit strongest and earliest,” he added. “Probably most of Southern Europe would look like the Sahara Desert.”
Figueres said that countries’ national climate change plans, which governments have been announcing ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris this December, will fall short of “where we should be, according to science, to be on the two degree [temperature increase] pathway.”
The resulting gap “will not be filled in Paris,” Figueres said. “It will not be filled in January.”
She noted that the Paris climate agreement “is being constructed, actually, as a progressive effort over a certain period of timeframes, during which countries need, and will be able to, because of increased technology and further capital flows … increase their contribution to the solution.”
Video: Kevin Rudd discusses climate change with Lord Nicholas Stern and Christiana Figueres on CNN International’s Amanpour.
Kevin Rudd on CNBC: Don’t Confuse the Chinese Stock Market with Overall Economy Kevin Rudd in the New York Times: U.S., China, and India Must Lead Together for a Climate Deal in Paris
THE UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 5, 2015
Ms. Christiana Figueres – the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC will end her contract at the end of this year after the conclusion of the Paris 2015 meeting – having guided the organization through all this preparatory years. It is being suggested that her candidacy be submitted for the 2016 selection process for next UN Secretary-General position. She would be the best informed person to lead the UN in the crucial 2017-2026 period when Climate Change and Sustainability become main UN topics under the incoming title from Paris – “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.
UN climate chief: No such thing as ideal pace for pre-Paris talks
UN climate chief Christiana Figueres countered criticism that preliminary talks for a Paris climate treaty were moving too slowly. “There is no such thing as an objective [ideal] pace of negotiations that everyone can agree on”, she said at a press conference Friday after a round of talks in Bonn.
BBC – Science & Environment
Islamic call on rich countries to end fossil fuel use.
By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News
But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.
“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!
“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”
The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.
Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.
“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.
The Islamic Climate Declaration says that the world’s 1.6bn Muslims have a religious duty to fight climate change.
It urges politicians to agree a new treaty to limit global warming to 2C, “or preferably 1.5 degrees.”
The Declaration asks Muslims, in the words of the Koran, “not to strut arrogantly on the Earth”.
The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth
Fazlun Khalid, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science
Drafted at an international symposium in Istanbul, the Declaration calls for “all people, leaders and businesses …to commit to 100% renewable energy”.
It also argues for increased financial support for communities vulnerable to climate change.
The main focus though is on “well-off nations and oil-producing states,” who are urged to lead the way in phasing out greenhouse gases, no later than the middle of this century.
The Declaration calls on the rich countries, to recognise their “moral obligation to reduce consumption so that the poor may benefit from what is left of the Earth’s non-renewable resources”.
“People need to be told and politicians need to stop misleading their people, in telling them they can go on increasing their standards of living for ever and ever and ever,” Fazlun Khalid, a long time Islamic environmentalist involved in drawing up the Declaration, told BBC News.
“Someone should be articulating this because it’s an impossibility, they can’t do it – And this applies not just to Muslim countries.”
The call has been supported by religious leaders including the Grand Muftis of Uganda and Lebanon, the president of Indonesia’s major body of religious scholars as well as environmental groups and government officials from Morocco and Turkey.
But critics have argued that the Declaration is not truly representative of Islam with some of the biggest Islamic nations not taking an active part in supporting the call.
“Are all Islamic countries represented? I’d say no to that – that’s the honest answer,” said Fazlun Khalid. “There is a huge amount of lethargy – we are not set up like other churches, there is no Islamic pope!
“The Declaration is like a trigger – to say, wake up wherever you are, wake up and take care of the Earth.”
The Declaration comes in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment and climate change, which was seen as a significant call for Catholics to engage on the issue of global warming.
Catholic leaders have praised the Islamic Declaration as a positive step.
“It is with great joy and in a spirit of solidarity that I express to you the promise of the Catholic Church to pray for the success of your initiative and her desire to work with you in the future to care for our common home and thus to glorify the God who created us,” said Cardinal Peter Turkson, who helped the Pope draft his encyclical.
The authors of the Declaration say that it will be available in mosques and madrassas around the world.
They hope that it will influence political leaders in Muslim countries to become more fully involved in global attempts to deliver a new treaty on climate change, expected to be signed in Paris in December.
While around 50 countries have so far posted their plans for curbing climate change ahead of the meeting in Paris, very few Muslim countries have been among them.
I asked Fazlun Khalid if religious divisions between Muslims were a bigger issue at present than climate change.
“In spite of their differences we want Muslims to wake up and think and realise that this is a problem that affects every inch of this planet, in spite of their differences, under their feet something is happening, a deep plate shift in the Earth’s crust,” he said.
“In spite of our differences we have to take this on, as the major issue affecting the whole of the human world.”
2015 is on track to be the hottest year in recorded history, and this December hundreds of world governments will meet in Paris to try to strike a global climate agreement. It will be the biggest gathering of its kind since 2009, and it’s potentially a big deal for our global movement.
In Paris our governments are supposed to agree on a shared target for climate action, based on the national plans governments have been putting together all year — but the numbers just aren’t adding up. Everything being discussed will allow too many communities that have polluted the least to be devastated by floods, rising sea levels and other disasters.
This has the makings of a global failure of ambition — at a moment when renewable energy is becoming a revolutionary economic force that could power a just transition away from fossil fuels. Join us in telling world leaders to keep fossil fuels underground and finance a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Our movement has grown tremendously — and it shows every time a new leader stands up to declare we must keep fossil fuels under ground, or a university, church or pension fund divests from fossil fuels. The problem is the power of the fossil fuel industry.
The Paris negotiations could potentially send a signal that world governments are serious about keeping fossil fuels in the ground. If they fail, it will embolden the fossil fuel industry and expose more communities to toxic extraction and climate disasters.
The solutions are obvious: we need to stop digging up and burning fossil fuels, start building renewable energy everywhere we can, and make sure communities on the front lines of climate change have the resources they need to respond to the crisis.
This could be a turning point — if we push for it. Join our global call for action to world governments, telling them to commit to keeping at least 80% of fossil fuels underground, and financing a just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The time for feeling powerless in the face of climate chaos is over. No matter what happens in the negotiating halls, we must build power to hold them accountable to the principles of justice and science.
After many months of consultation with our global network, here is the plan for what I call “The Road Through Paris”: the plan to grow our movement and hold world leaders accountable to the action we need.
First, in September we will launch a global framework to grow the movement before and after the Paris talks. On September 10th, Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and others will be joined by global movement leaders in New York City to lay out our vision for the road ahead. Then on September 26th communities across the globe will hold workshops to plan for the coming months of action. After that, I think we’ll see several months of escalating activity as communities drive the message home that we can’t wait for action.
The talks in Paris start on November 30th, and run for 2 weeks. But before the talks start, the world will stand together in a weekend of global action, paired with an enormous march in the streets of Paris. During the talks, 350′s team on the ground will do their best to help keep you in the loop on the most important developments. And when the talks wrap up, we’re planning a big action in Paris on December 12th to make sure the people — not the politicians — have the last word.
But most importantly, we won’t stop there. I want you to mark your calendars for the month of April in 2016. That’s when we will mobilize in a global wave of action unlike any we’ve seen before. Not one big march in one city, not a scattering of local actions — but rather a wave of historic national and continent-wide mobilizations targeting the fossil fuel projects that must be kept in the ground, and backing the energy solutions that will take their place.
In the 6 years 350.org has been around, this is the most ambitious plan we’ve ever proposed. But ambition is what is called for, along with courage, faith in each other and the readiness to respond when disaster strikes, plans change, or politicians fail to lead.
We are nearer than ever to the changes we’ve been fighting to see. I hope to stand with you in the coming months to see them through.
Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill barring fines for dead lawns during drought.
By Melanie Mason
July 13, 2015, The Los Angeles Times.
Cities and counties will no longer be able to impose fines on residents for unsightly brown lawns while the state is in a drought, under a bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday afternoon.
The measure, by Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-Rialto) prohibits local governments from issuing fines for violations of “lawn maintenance” ordinances when the governor has declared a state of emergency due to drought conditions.
Cheryl Brown has said she’s aware of a number of cities, including Glendale, Upland and San Bernardino, that have levied fines or issued warnings to residents who allowed their lawns to go brown.
The measure is the most recent effort by the Legislature to encourage homeowners to let their lawns “fade to gold.” Last year, Brown signed a measure that barred homeowners’ associations from punishing their residents for unwatered lawns.
With California now in its fourth year of drought, the governor has called for strict conservation efforts, including requiring urban areas to cut their water use by 25%.
This month, state officials announced that residential water used dropped by 29% in May.
Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.
With western Europe sweltering in a record-breaking heat wave, climate scientists are meeting in Paris this week for what is regarded as the last major climate science conference before the key COP 21 in Paris at the end of this year.
“Our Common Future under Climate Change” wants to be “solutions-focused,” but starts off with a resumé of the state of science as a basis.
Permafrost ‘carbon bomb’ unlikely, but worries over northern thaw persist
Outlook for September Arctic sea ice tilts toward small reduction from last year
One of the topics on the wide agenda is, of course, the cryosphere, with scientists reporting on rapid changes in the Arctic ice and permafrost, and worrying developments in the Antarctic.
As conference after conference works to prepare a new World Climate Agreement, to take effect in 2020, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI) is concerned that the INDCSs, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, i.e. the climate action countries propose to take are not in line with keeping global warming to the internationally set target of a maximum 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Scientists tell us this itself would already have major impacts on the world’s ice and snow.
Climate pledges way too low
Pam Pearson, the founder and director of ICCI, told journalists during a recent visit to Bonn her indication of INDCS so far was that they are ”somewhere between 3.8 and 4.2 degrees” Celsius.
Pearson and her colleagues are working hard to make the scientific evidence on climate changes in our ice and snow regions accessible and “must-reads” for the politicians and others who are preparing to negotiate the new agreement at the Paris talks at the end of the year, to replace the Kyoto protocol. She was here in Bonn at the last round of UN preparatory climate talks last month, holding a side event and briefing media and negotiators.
Pearson was part of the original Kyoto Protocol negotiating team. She is a former U.S. diplomat with 20 years’ experience of working on global issues, including climate change. She says she resigned in 2006 in protest over changes to U.S. development policies, especially related to environmental and global issues programs. From 2007 to2009, she worked from Sweden with a variety of organizations and Arctic governments to bring attention to the potential benefit of reductions in short-lived climate forcers to the Arctic climate, culminating in Arctic Council ministerial-level action in the Tromsø Declaration of 2009.
Pearson founded ICCI immediately after COP 15 to bring greater attention and policy focus to the “rapid and markedly similar changes occurring to cryosphere regions throughout the globe” and their importance for the global climate system.
IPCC reports already out of date! At the briefing in Bonn a couple of weeks ago, she said:
“Certainly through AR5, (the 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC) the science is available to feed into the negotiations. But I think what we see as a cryosphere organization, participating as civil society in the negotiations – and I think also, very importantly, what the IPCC scientists see — is a lack of understanding of the urgency of slowing down these processes and the fact that they are irreversible. This is not like air or water pollution, where if you clean it up it will go back to the way it was before. It cannot go back to the way it was before and I think that is the most important aspect that still has not made its way into the negotiations”.
Scientists taking part in the event organized by the ICCI in Bonn stressed that a lot of major developments relating especially to Antarctica and to permafrost in the northern hemisphere was not available in time for that IPCC report. This means the scientific basis of AR5 is already way out of date, and that it does not include very recent important occurrences.
Sea ice in decline
Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg heads a research group focusing on sea ice and rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic.
He told journalists in Bonn: “Over the last 10 years or so we’ve roughly seen a fifty percent loss of Arctic sea ice area, so this ice is currently retreating very, very rapidly. In the Antarctic, some people are talking about the increase of sea ice. Just to put things into perspective: there is a slight increase, but it’s nothing compared to the very rapid loss that we’ve seen in the Arctic.“
The slight increase in sea ice in the Antarctic is certainly not an indicator that could disprove climate warming, as some of a skeptical persuasion would like to have us believe.
“In the Antarctic, the changes in sea ice are locally very different. We have an increase in some areas and a decrease in other areas. This increase in one area of the southern ocean is largely driven by changes in the surface pressure field. So the winds are blowing stronger off shore in the Antarctic, pushing the ice out onto the ocean, and this is why we have more sea ice now than we used to have in the past. Our understanding currently says that these changes in the wind field are currently driven by anthropogenic changes of the climate system,“ said Notz.
He stresses that as far as the Arctic is concerned, the loss of sea ice is very clearly linked to the increase in CO2. The more CO2 we have in the atmosphere, the less sea ice we have in the Arctic.
Changing the face of the planet
Notz stresses the speed with which humankind is currently changing the face of the earth:
“Currently in the Arctic, a complete landscape is disappearing. It’s a landscape that has been around for thousands of years, and it’s a landscape our generation is currently removing from the planet, possibly for a very long time. I think culturally, that’s a very big change we are seeing.”
At the same time, he says the decline in the Arctic sea ice could be seen as a very clear warning sign:
“Temperature evolution of the planet for the past 50 thousand years or so shows that for the past 10 thousand years or so, climate on the planet has been extremely stable. And the loss of sea ice in the Arctic might be an indication that we are ending this period of a very stable climate in the Arctic just now. This might be the very first, very clear sign of a very clear change in the climatic conditions, like nothing we’ve seen in the past 10,000 years since we’ve had our cultures as humans.”
Simulations indicate that Arctic summer sea ice might be gone by the middle of this century. But Notz stresses that we can still influence this:
“The future sea ice loss both in the Arctic and the Antarctic depends on future CO2 emissions. A rapid loss of Arctic summer sea ice in this decade is possible but unlikely. Only a very rapid reduction of CO2 might allow for the survival of Arctic summer sea ice beyond this century.”
Antarctic ice not eternal
Whereas until very recently the Antarctic ice was regarded as safe from climate warming, research in the last few years has indicated that even in that area, some possibly irreversible processes are underway. This relates to land ice rather than sea ice.
Ricarda Winckelmann is a scientist with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact research (PIK). She told journalists and climate negotiators at the Bonn talks that Antarctica could be regarded as the “sea level giant.. The global sea level would rise by 5 meters (16.4 feet) if West Antarctica’s ice sheet melted completely, 50 meters (164 feet) for the East Antarctic ice sheet.
“Over the past years, a couple of regions in Antarctica have really caught our attention. There are four hotspots. They have all changed rapidly. There have been a number of dynamic changes in these regions, but they all have something in common, and that is that they bear the possibility of a dynamic instability. Some of them have actually crossed that threshold, some of them might cross it in the near future. But they all underlie the same mechanism. That is called the marine ice sheet instability. It’s based on the fact that the bottom topography has a certain shape, and it’s a purely mechanical, self-enforcing mechanism. So it’s sort of driving itself. If you have a retreat of a certain region that undergoes this mechanism, it means you cannot stop it. “
The hotspots she refers to are the Amundsen Basin in West Antarctica, comprising the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the fastest glaciers in Antarctica:
“It has been shown in a number of studies last year that it actually has tipped. Meaning it has crossed that threshold, and is now undergoing irreversible change. So all of these glaciers will drain into the ocean and we will lose a volume that is equivalent to about a meter (3.3 feet) of global sea level. The question is how fast this is going to happen.”
Next comes the Antarctic peninsula, where very recent research has indicated that warm water is reaching the ice shelves, leading to melting and dynamic thinning.
Even in East Antarctica, which was long considered virtually immune to climate change, Winckelmann and her colleagues have found signs that this same mechanism might be at work, for instance with Totten Glacier:
“There is a very recent publication from this year, showing that (…) this could possibly undergo the same instability mechanism. Totten Glacier currently has the largest thinning rate in East Antarctica. And it contains as much volume as the entire West Antarctic ice sheet put together. So it’s 3.5 meters’ (11.5 feet) worth of global sea level rise, if this region tips,” says the Potsdam expert.
Pulling the plug?
The other problematic area is the Wilkes Basin.
“We found that there is something called an ice plug, and if you pull it, you trigger this instability mechanism, and lose the entire drainage basin. What’s really striking is that this ice plug is comparably small, with a sea-level equivalent of less than 80 millimeters (3.15 inches). But if you lose that ice plug, you will get self-sustained sea level rise over a long period of time, of three to four meters,” or 9.8 feet to 13 feet.
This research is all so new that it was not included in the last IPCC assessment:
“We’ve known that this dynamic mechanism exists for a long time, it was first proposed in the 1970s. But the observation that something like this is actually happening right now is new,” Winckelmann stresses.
Clearly, this is key information when it comes to bringing home the urgent need for rapid climate action.
Pam Pearson stresses that these changes in themselves have a feedback effect, and have an impact on the climate:
“The cryosphere is changing a lot more quickly than other parts of the world. The main focus for Paris is that these regions are moving from showing climate change, being indicators of climate change, to beginning to drive climate change, and the risks of those dynamics beginning to overwhelm anthropogenic impacts on these particular areas is growing as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere goes up, as the temperature rises.”
Climate factor: permafrost
This applies in particular to the effect of thawing permafrost. Susan Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center is co-author of a landmark study published in Nature in April. She also joined the ICCI event in Bonn:
“Carbon has been accumulating in permafrost for tens of thousands of years. The amount of carbon currently stored in permafrost is about twice as much as in the atmosphere. So our current estimate is 1,500 billion tons of carbon permanently frozen and locked away in permafrost. So you can imagine, as that permafrost thaws and even a portion of that gets released into the atmosphere, that this may lead to a significant increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”
The study was conducted by an international permafrost network. “The goal is to put our current understanding of the processes in permafrost regions into global climate models. The current IPCC reports don’t include greenhouse gas emissions as a result of permafrost thaw,” says Natali.
Permafrost regions make up some 25 percent of the northern hemisphere land area. The scientists say between 30 percent and 70 percent of it could be lost by 2100, depending on the amount of temperature rise. There is still a lot of uncertainty over how much carbon could be released, but Winckelmann and her colleagues think thawing permafrost could release as much carbon into the atmosphere by 2100 as the US, the world’s second biggest emitter, is currently emitting.
The time for action is now
“The thing to keep in mind is that the action we take now in terms of our fossil fuel emissions is going to have a significant impact on how much permafrost is lost and in turn how much carbon is released from permafrost. There is some uncertainty, but we know permafrost carbon losses will be substantial, they will be irreversible on a human-relevant time frame, and these emissions of GHGs from permafrost need to be accounted for if we want to meet our global emissions targets,” says Winckelmann.
The challenge is to convince politicians today to act now, in the interests of the future. Pearson and her colleagues are working to have a synthesis of what scientists have found to date accessible to and understandable for the negotiators who will be at COP21 in Paris in December.
In terms of an outcome, she says first of all we need higher ambition now, in the pledges being made by different countries. The lower the temperature rise, the less the risk of further dynamic change processes being set off in the cryosphere. The other key factor is to make sure there is flexibility to up the targets on a regular basis, without being tied to a long negotiating process. The current agreement draft envisages five year reviews.
“There are a number of cryosphere scientists who actually expect these kinds of signals from cryosphere to multiply, and that there may be some dramatic developments just over the next three to five years, that may finally spur some action,” Pearson says.
Here’s hoping the UN negotiators will not wait for further catastrophic evidence before committing to an effective new climate treaty at the end of this year.
——————– This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.
Food for thought paper on a possible Technology Facilitation Mechanism
Revised Proposal for themes for Interactive Dialogues during the Post-2015 United Nations Summit (revision 3)
Prepared for — Post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations | 18 – 22 May 2015
Discussion Paper on Follow-up and Review of the Post-2015 Development Agenda
Preliminary Impressions on Follow-up and review by the co-facilitators
Preliminary Programme of Side Events (Post-2015, Follow-up and review)
The CIVICUS organization headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, is helping continue the UN unending debates that seem now
intended to pass that 2015 deadline and just roll on theses debates so that no real action is showing up on the horizon.
Why in God’s name – or Nature’s name – these debate clubs do not finally say the obvious – WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN EFFORT FOR SUSTAINABILITY – that is Social, Economic and Environmental SUSTAINABILITY for Planet Earth and its People. As simple as that !!!
Climate change and security: here’s the analysis, when’s the action?
Dan Smith 22 April 2015
We have moved beyond the tired old controversy about whether climate change causes armed conflict. The new discussion must look to compound risks: where climate change, arbitrary governance and lawlessness interact.
Last week’s communiqué from the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Lübeck included a statement on climate change and security. In welcoming a report, A New Climate for Peace, to which my organization International Alert contributed, the communiqué moves the issue forward and declares it to be worthy of high level political attention. Unfortunately, what is to be done is not so clear.
Climate change and insecurity
A New Climate for Peace, of which I am one of the co-authors, is a joint project of the Berlin-based think tank Adelphi, International Alert, the Wilson Center in Washington, DC, and the European Union Institute for Security Studies. The full report comes out in May.
The core message is that climate change is having a multi-faceted impact on many states, societies and communities. It exerts a pressure they cannot tolerate for long. Compound risks emerge as the impact of climate change interacts with other political, social and economic problems. Climate change makes it hard to build resilience in the state or even in local communities, while the fragility of the state makes it hard to adapt to the impact of climate change. To address this problem, a new approach is needed integrating sectors that are currently separate, energised by clear political leadership to develop international cooperation, based on dialogue about a shared challenge and shared goals.
This is not a rehash of positions in the tired old controversy about whether climate change causes armed conflict. With this report, presented to the German Foreign Minister, and with the G7 Foreign Ministers’ welcome for it the next day, it is possible to say that the debate has decisively moved on.
The issue, if we want some jargon, is human security and insecurity. A background of armed conflict or weak governance or political instability – or all in combination – in short, a situation of fragility is not conducive for building resilience against the negative impact of climate change. Likewise, the pressure of climate change makes the tasks of reconciliation, managing conflicts non-violently and building a peaceful state even harder than they are in the absence of that pressure.
The report – 150 pages long in final draft – pulls together the best recent research and adds the results of its own inquiries in vulnerable countries. It collates the evidence and focuses on seven compound risks:
Local resource competition can lead, as pressure on natural resources increases, to instability and even violent conflict in the absence of effective dispute resolution.
Livelihood insecurity is a likely result of climate change in some regions, which could push people to migrate or turn to illegal sources of income.
Extreme weather events and disasters will exacerbate all the challenges of fragility and can increase people’s vulnerability and grievances, especially in conflict-affected situations.
Volatility in the prices and availability of food, arising because climate variability disrupts food production, have well documented effects on the likelihood of protests, instability, and civil conflict.
Transboundary water sharing is a source of either cooperation or tension, but as competition sharpens due to increasing demand and declining availability and quality of water, the balance of probability tilts towards increased tension and conflict.
Sea-level rise and coastal degradation will threaten the viability of low-lying areas, with the potential for social disruption and displacement, while disagreements over maritime boundaries and ocean resources may increase.
The unintended effects of climate policies are a further source of risk that will increase if climate adaptation and mitigation policies are more br oadly implemented without due care and attention to consequences and negative spin-offs.
Responding to risk
The best and, long term, the sustainable way to diminish the threat posed by these climate-fragility risks is to slow down climate change by reducing carbon emissions. That’s the task for December’s climate summit in Paris – formally, the 21st Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. But changes to the climate are already underway, so there has to be a separate and additional response to climate-fragility risks, starting now and carried through for – in the best case – some decades at least.
Three key sectors require action – climate change adaptation, development and humanitarian aid, and peacebuilding. But single sector action won’t work against compound risk. Virtually by definition, integrated approaches are necessary. Further, the problem faced does not respect national boundaries and is in any case too big and too complex for a single government to handle, so the response needs also to be internationally cooperative and coordinated.
A response to the vicious cycle contained in each of the seven climate-fragility risks will not work if it relies on responding to each crisis as it arrives. What people in the hardest hit countries need is assistance in mounting and implementing a long-term and sustained preventive response. That’s how we move from managing crises to avoiding them.
The current menu of action
A New Climate for Peace looks at the current international policy architecture for addressing the compound risks. There is plenty of activity but:
Climate change adaptation plans rarely address fragility and conflict comprehensively.
Development and humanitarian aid does not routinely take account of the need for climate-proofing and still has problems absorbing conflict sensitivity.
Peacebuilding similarly tends to leave climate change aside as somebody else’s problem.
What needs to be done
Many things can and should be done. It is not hard to identify them. The report insists that it will only happen if there is strong and clear political leadership. With the G7 governments in mind, it identifies entry points for developing a coordinated, integrated approach:
Within G7 member governments, remember that integration begins at home and make climate-fragility risks a central foreign policy priority.
Improve coordination among G7 members by coming together for a new dialogue.
Set the global resilience agenda by bringing the new integrated approach to global and multilateral discussions and institutions.
Extend the dialogue by listening to and working with a wide range of actors, including in countries affected by fragility.
And to embody this new approach, as areas in which it could be implemented, the report identifies five action areas:
Strengthening global risk assessment by covering all aspects and making the results available and accessible;
Improving food security to minimise food price crises, thus minimising their conflict consequences;
Improving disaster risk reduction by absorbing conflict sensitivity into planning and training;
Checking and strengthening the institutions and agreements that can help settle transboundary water disputes;
Recalibrating development strategies and international development assistance so as to give greater priority to building local resilience.
But where to start?
There is, then, no real difficulty in identifying what action to take and how to do it. The likely objection to the list of action areas is only that it is incomplete. The challenge is, how to start?
Here is what the G7 communiqué says:
“We therefore welcome the external study, commissioned by the G7 Foreign Ministries in 2014 and now submitted to us under the title “An New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks” …
“We agree on the need to better understand, identify, monitor and address the compound risks associated with climate change and fragility…
“We have decided to set up and task a working group with evaluating the study’s recommendations up to the end of 2015 in order for it to report back to us regarding possible implementation in time for our meeting in 2016.”
Start here – we’ve been invited to
It is not exactly a clarion call for path breaking action. It lacks the necessary political juice. But it is an open invitation to keep pressing.
The first part of the case – that there is a major global problem – has now been made and is grounded in solid evidence. With this, virtually as a corollary, goes the second part of the case: business as usual is not an option, change is needed.
The third part of the case – there are many things that can usefully be done to alleviate and manage the compound climate-fragility risks – has also been made.
It is the fourth part of the case – now is the time – that has to be made and has to persuade. Let’s get to it.
This piece was originally posted on Dan’s blog on 22 April 2015.
Here’s how far we’ve come in just a couple of years: One of the world’s most respected and influential news organizations —
the Guardian Media Group — announced Wednesday that it will divest from fossil fuels.
The move follows the launch of The Guardian‘s own climate change campaign, in partnership with 350.org, to press two of the world’s largest charitable foundations to stop investing in oil, coal and gas companies.
The chairman of the Guardian Media Group called the move a “hard-nosed business decision” that is justified on both ethical and financial grounds. I couldn’t agree more.
It was also the second billion-dollar divestment commitment in just two days: Syracuse University in New York also ditched fossil fuels this week, demonstrating once again that cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry is both feasible and responsible.
Now is the time to increase the pressure on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust — two of the world’s largest charities, and both explicitly dedicated to global health — to do the same.
Can you help us reach 200,000 signatures this week?
Add your name to the petition calling on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust to stop investing in the climate crisis.
The Guardian Media Group is leading by example by divesting its entire £800 million (aka $1.2 billion) fund from fossil fuels and committing to invest in socially responsible alternatives instead. You can watch a video and find out more about The Guardian decision here.
When the roll of honor for action on climate change is someday called, I believe The Guardian’s name will be high on the list. They’ve taken a bold step in joining the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground, both through their journalism and their own investments.
As Alan Rusbridger, their editor-in-chief said: “What was a trickle is becoming a river and will, I suspect, become a flood.”
Let’s make sure The Guardian’s divestment commitment sends a strong signal to other foundations—as well as universities, cities, states, churches and any institution that holds money and is dedicated to the public good—to get on the right side of history too.
+35 # Barbara K 2015-04-04 13:08
That is great news. Time to stop making the oil barons wealthier and support solar and wind energy for the sake of the planet, and us. Thank you “The Guardian”.
+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2015-04-04 18:00
Hydrogen? By product of combustion – water!
+22 # Corvette-Bob 2015-04-04 15:13
Fossil fuel is in a death spiral, the only question is whether or not it will take us with it.
-13 # brycenuc 2015-04-04 15:44
Divestment won’t phase the fossil fuel industry. They are well aware that global economy depends on it.
+12 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:50 Just because the fossil fuel is dominant now, does not mean that it cannot be replaced with a better source of energy. Wars have been fought to have the oil. It is time for the world to turn away from dependence on fossil fuels. We can dig and frack until it all runs out. The sun is there for everyone and will be always.
+3 # seeuingoa 2015-04-04 16:26
thank you for always stating the obvious.
+8 # Littlebird 2015-04-04 17:41
Thank you Guardian! It takes a few to start the ball rolling. The Green Way is the right way to go to save our planet and to stop the oil barons from their pursuit of their rule over the earth from dependence on oil. There will be plenty of job growth from energy from the sun because of needing solar power panels and the expertise to develop solar power plants to get it to the people. Thomas Edison knew about the power of solar energy and wanted to see it developed in his time. Power from the sun and water will be here for us as long as the earth exists, not so for fossil fuels. Go Green!
+3 # rhgreen 2015-04-04 19:31
That’s great news, but pardon me from being a bit cynical and pointing out that with the fall in oil prices it’s a good time to be doing it out of self-interest, anyway.
+3 # Eliza D 2015-04-04 20:31
Mr. McKibben is a real hero of the grassroots environmental movement. He has few politicians with any power on his or our side. Now is the time for us to support Green and Third parties and turn around this do-nothing, stuck-in-the-tw entieth century government of ours. If Costa Rica could run their electric grid on renewable energy since the new year, the US could make a good run at attaining 50% renewables in two years. The folks who are sick and having their farms torn up by fracking are about as happy about that “clean energy” as the families of the dozens killed in the NYC gas explosion this past week.
From: Beyt Tikkun Synagogue shul at tikkun.org via mail.salsalabs.net- this comes from Oakland, California and shows the Jewish way of love for Planet Earth and all Creation. You do not have to be religious to see this – and we are not religious.
SEDER FOR THE EARTH & CLIMATE MARCH.
*When: Saturday, February 07 2015 @ 11:00 AM – - 12:00PM
No rain: Frank Ogawa Plaza nr. the Rotuda near the 15th & Broadway entry to the Plaza
In case of Rain: 685 14th Street (the Unitarian Church
We davven the morning service first at Rabbi Lerner’s home from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. then go to Frank Ogawa Plaza at Broadway and 15th street in Downtown Oakland to set up for a short (one hour) Tu B’shvat Seder.
If you can get there by 10:30 a.m. to help us set up, that would be sweet.
We will have a few tables and a few chairs in the alley way near the Rotunda on the other side of the plaza from City Hall, assuming it isn’t raining heavily. Please bring a chair to sit on it if you can, and something delicious to nosh, or just come–we’ll have fruit and grape juice for the seder if you tell us you are coming BEFORE Friday 10 a.m. Feb. 6th so we can buy enough!! But if you haven’t done so, come anyway, but get there by 11 a.m. (which requires that you also give yourself at least 15-20 minutes to park if you come by car–there are big parking structures down there around 11 th and 12th streets–but environmentally best to come via the BART).
Rain is predicted but we have no way of knowing whether that is going to be like the heavy rain expected for Friday, or a much lighter rain that won’t be a big deal.
If the rain in heavy, the 1st Unitarian Church of Oakland, at 685 14th street, has graciously agreed to let us hold the seder in their building in their Wendte Hall (NOT the main sanctuary, where something else is happening).
After the Seder we will march up to where the march is happening (a mere four blocks away), and meet up with our already-drenched allies for the march. Be sure to bring clothing and umbrellas just in case.
Please let us know that you plan to attend and please spread the word to your non-Jewish friends as well–The Seder for the Earth is free and a wonderful way to begin the environmental march that will begin at noon at the same place.
TIKKUN IS PART OF THE NETWORK OF SPIRITUAL PROGRESSIVES (NSP) – they like to talk of “rEVOLution” for how to EVOLVE into a a decent world. Their kind of true revolution comes about with a little “r” with large “EVOL” so there is no blood-shedding. spiritualprogressives.org/newsite…
Can Bolivia Chart a Sustainable Path Away From Capitalism?
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 on Truthout – By Chris Williams and Marcela Olivera, Truthout | News Analysis
FOR THE FULL ARTICLE PLEASE GO TO: truth-out.org/news/item/28778-can…
I will post here some excerpts of this very interesting and long article – this with my thinking of the latest changes in Greece
and wondering if rhetoric is true change and how can Greece fare in a capitalist world with management outside its borders but vested interests residing also in the country itself. Will there be a Greek Pachamama in Europe’s future? Will the Tsipris Greece be the Morales of an ALBA Charge of anti-capitalist rhetoric in Europe?
Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.
The number of conflicts over natural resource extraction and refining, road building and pipeline construction, and forest and water use have all steadily grown under Morales.
Ruthless extraction of Bolivia’s bountiful natural resources has concentrated the natural and social wealth of the country in a small group at the top of society, and exposed Bolivians to an extreme degree of imperial intrigue and attempted subjugation.
In stark contrast to monoculture farming, several hundred different varieties of potato are grown in the Bolivian Andes, as a resilient subsistence food by 200,000 small-scale farmers.
With the melting of the Andean mountains ice and climate change farmers no longer know how community can grow food because “it now rains at all different times, and it’s drier for longer. This place did not used to be as hot as it is now.”
Higher average temperatures will lead to an increase in evaporation, causing soils to dry out. In turn, drier soils will increase erosion and loss of topsoil, an effect that will be compounded by two other effects of a warmer climate.
But for all of Morales’ rhetorical championing of “buen vivir,” Gudynas believes that the MAS government instead operates more along the lines of a new form of Keynesian neoliberalism, or what he calls “neo-extractivismo.”
And despite a change in official rhetoric, and some welcome redistribution of wealth, Morales’ policies are practically the same as his predecessors’ with respect to natural resource extraction.
“We have lost an opportunity for something based on our self-organization and self-management.”
“The people do not decide; the government decides. Despite the constitution guaranteeing rights for indigenous people and Mother Earth, those policies are not implemented; they are just words.”
As through so much of its history, the small Andean nation of Bolivia sits at the center of a whirlwind of political, social and climatological questions. Arguably, no other country thus far in the 21st century raises the question of an “exit strategy” from neoliberal capitalism more concretely, and with greater possibility and hope, than Bolivia. That hope is expressed specifically in the ruling party, MAS, or Movement Toward Socialism. The country’s leader, former coca farmer and union organizer Evo Morales – South America’s first indigenous leader since pre-colonial times – was overwhelmingly elected to his third term of office in 2014. Morales has broadly popularized the Quechua term pachamama, which denotes a full commitment to ecological sustainability, and public hopes remain high that he’ll guide the country toward realizing that principle.
Bolivia has seen impressive and consistent economic growth since Morales’ first election victory in 2006, including the establishment of government programs to alleviate poverty and attain the social equity goals promised in his campaign. However, this growth has primarily rested on an expanded and intensified exploitation of the country’s natural resources, principally from fossil fuel production, mining, and the growth of large-scale, mono-crop agriculture and manufacturing.
This economic growth has also created what the Bolivian non-governmental organization CEDLA (Centro de Estudios Para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario) calls the rise of a new bourgeoisie comprised of Santa Cruz agriculture producers, traders from the west of the country and small mining producers. The Bolivian government also believes that a new class is emerging, and will become Bolivia’s new dominant group. Carlos Arce, researcher from CEDLA, says in an article in the Bolivian press:
A new type of entrepreneur has emerged from the popular classes. These emerging strata are mostly traders and are also present in the cooperative sectors, especially in mining. This new type of entrepreneur saves more and has a more austere mentality, in the classical Weberian sense. Within the state, representatives of this strata interface with middle-class intellectuals and other sectors of society, seeking to build alliances with small urban and rural producers that respond to the prerogatives of the market.
The so-called “plural economy” institutionalized by the government recognizes the state, communitarian, private and cooperative forms of economic organization. It also puts the state in direct control of the plans for economic development. In other words, the Bolivian people are the owners of the natural resources, but it is the state that administers and industrializes these natural resources.
In Arce’s view, the government exalts this new “emerging bourgeoisie.” The government’s program of a plural economy “facilitates the alliance of these market-driven sectors with key sectors of international capital. This opens the door to transnational corporations and makes permanent their presence.”
In December 2014, the Financial Times reported on the rise of a new indigenous bourgeoisie in El Alto, less constrained by older cultural ties of thrift, and striving for greater wealth, more ostentatious luxury buildings and opulent traditional clothing.
On the other hand, while many journalists and analysts have focused on the accomplishments of the Morales’ government, few have looked at the state of the labor force, unions and labor conditions. Research by local organizations shows that finding secure employment has become very difficult. According to the Bolivian Labor Ministry’s own data just 30 percent of the labor force in Bolivia has a secure and formal job, with almost 70 percent working in the informal sector. These workers have no employment security, which makes people more dependent on welfare protections and programs that have become more elaborate and extensive in recent years.
Bolivia’s geography is very diverse: The verdant and tropical Amazonian lowlands give way to the austere beauty of the highlands and snow-capped peaks of the Andes that ring the capital, La Paz. Bolivian elevations range from 130 to 6,000 meters above sea level dividing the country into three distinct geographical areas: the high plateau, the Andean valleys and the eastern lowlands.
Given all of these factors, Bolivia offers a case study on the impact of climate change, people’s resistance to exploitation and racist oppression, and the potential for genuine change from below.
Much of that resistance was formed in response to centuries of relentless extraction of the country’s minerals, semi-precious and precious metals, and guano. Following the privatization of Bolivia’s public airline, train system and electric utility, in 1999, the government sold the water and sanitation system of Cochabamba to a transnational consortium. Over the following five months, mass demonstrations and violent confrontations with the police and military forced the government to cancel the contract and keep the water supply in public hands. This popular struggle for public control of water became recognized worldwide as the Cochabamba Water War.
Marcela Olivera is a water commons organizer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. After graduating from the Catholic University in Cochabamba, Bolivia, Marcela worked for four years in Cochabamba as the key international liaison for the Coalition for the Defense of Water and Life, the organization that fought and defeated water privatization in Bolivia. Since 2004, she has been developing and consolidating an inter-American citizens’ network on water justice named Red VIDA.
Chris Williams is an environmental activist and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist Ecological Crisis. He is chairman of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute and adjunct professor at Pace University in the department of chemistry and physical science. His writings have appeared in Z Magazine, Green Left Weekly, Alternet, CommonDreams, ClimateandCapitalism.com, Counterpunch, The Indypendent, Dissident Voice, International Socialist Review, Truthout, Socialist Worker and ZNet. He reported from Fukushima and was a Lannan writer-in-residence in Marfa, Texas. He recently was awarded a Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship.
Denmark considers phasing out coal by 2025 in big green shift.
From Alister Doyle of Reuters – November 3, 2014
Denmark should ban coal use by 2025 to make the Nordic nation a leader in fighting global warming, adding to green measures ranging from wind energy to bicycle power, Denmark’s climate minister said on Saturday.
Denmark has already taken big steps to break reliance on high-polluting coal – wind turbines are set to generate more than half of all electricity by 2020 and 41 percent of people in Copenhagen cycle to work or school, higher than in Amsterdam.
“The cost (of phasing out coal) would not be significant,” Climate, Energy and Building Minister Helveg Petersen told Reuters of a proposal he made this week to bring forward a planned phase-out of all coal use to 2025 from 2030.
His ministry is studying details of how it would work before unveiling a formal plan. Denmark imports about 6 million tonnes a year of coal on world markets, currently from Russia, so a ban would coincidentally cut dependence on Moscow for energy.
The Danish Energy Association, representing energy firms, said a faster phase-out of coal would bring risks that wind turbines could not meet demand on calm days. Coal now generates about a third of Danish electricity.
“There will be a bill to pay,” said Anders Stouge, deputy head of the association. Petersen said that some coal-fired plants could shift to burning wood as a backup. Denmark often gets high marks for its work to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which fell 25 percent from 1990 to 2012, among the steepest falls of any EU nation. It is aiming for a 40 percent cut from 1990 by 2020, matching the EU’s goal for 2030.
A report by the WWF conservation group said Denmark was a global leader on climate and energy. Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace said Denmark’s plans ultimately to phase out use of fossil fuels by 2050 “is the direction for all countries”.
Even though Denmark’s greenhouse gas emissions are falling sharply, however, the heavy dependence on coal means per capita emissions of 9.25 tonnes in 2012 were still above the European Union average of 8.98.
Copenhagen has won awards as the world’s greenest capital -glass trophies are on show in the mayor’s office in ornate City Hall to reward a cleanup that means, for instance, that people can swim in the formerly polluted harbor in summertime.
Mayor Frank Jensen said a shift from burning coal in homes and buildings was originally to encourage workers to live in the city, rather than commute and pay local taxes elsewhere.
Mayors had to create livable cities, he told Reuters. “You soon come to the green agenda because families want to have a green city,” he said. Copenhagen’s cycle lanes, for instance, have expanded to 350 kms (220 miles).
Other mayors often say they cannot match Copenhagen’s biking success because their cities are hillier than the flat Danish capital, he said. But they forget that it rains and snows a lot in Denmark. “My wife cycles every day,” he said.
The more general news from Copenhagen said:
Climate change fight affordable, cut emissions to zero by 2100: U.N.
Governments can keep climate change in check at manageable costs but will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2100 to limit risks of irreversible damage, a U.N. report said on Sunday.
The 40-page synthesis, summing up 5,000 pages of work by 800 scientists already published since September 2013, said global warming was now causing more heat extremes, downpours, acidifying the oceans and pushing up sea levels.
“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message. Leaders must act, time is not on our side,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in presenting the report in Copenhagen that is meant to guide global climate policy-making.
With fast action, climate change could be kept in check at manageable costs, he said, referring to a U.N. goal of limiting average temperature rises to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times. Temperatures are already up 0.85 C (1.4F).
The study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), approved by more than 120 governments, will be the main handbook for negotiators of a U.N. deal to combat global warming due at a summit in Paris in December 2015.
To get a good chance of staying below 2C, the report’s scenarios show that world emissions would have to fall by between 40 and 70 percent by 2050 from current levels and to “near zero or below in 2100″.
Below zero would require extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – for instance by planting forests that soak up carbon as they grow or by burying emissions from power plants that burn wood or other biomass.
To cut emissions, the report points to options including energy efficiency, renewable energies from wind to solar power, nuclear energy or coal-fired power plants where carbon dioxide is stripped from the exhaust fumes and buried underground.
But carbon capture and storage (CCS) is expensive and little tested. Last month, Canada’s Saskatchewan Power opened the world’s first big CCS unit at a coal-fired power plant after a C$1.35 billion ($1.21 billion) retrofit.
“With CCS it’s entirely possible that fossil fuels can be used on a large scale,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said. In most scenarios, the report says “fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out almost entirely by 2100″.
Without extra efforts to cut emissions, “warming by the end of the 21st century will bring high risks of severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts globally,” the IPCC said.
“Irreversible” could mean, for instance, a runaway melt of Greenland’s vast ice sheets that could swamp coastal regions and cities or disruptions to monsoons vital for growing food.
“The cost of inaction will be horrendously higher than the cost of action,” Pachauri said.
Deep cuts in emissions would reduce global growth in consumption of goods and services, the economic yardstick used by the IPCC, by just 0.06 percentage point a year below annual projected growth of 1.6 to 3.0 percent, it said.
So far, major emitters are far from curbs on emissions on a scale outlined by the IPCC. China, the United States and the European Union are top emitters.
John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, said the report was “yet another wake-up call to the global community that we must act together swiftly and aggressively in order to stem climate change.”
“We must safeguard the world for future generations by striking a new climate deal in Paris next year,” British Secretary of State for Climate and Energy Ed Davey said.
Environmental groups welcomed the report, including its focus on zero emissions. “This is no longer about dividing up the pie. You need to get to zero. At some stage there is no pie left for anyone,” said Kaisa Kosonen of Greenpeace.
The report also says that it is at least 95 percent sure that manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, rather than natural variations in the climate, are the main cause of warming since 1950, up from 90 percent in a previous assessment in 2007.
Power to Denmark – they do not talk Clean Coal But No Coal. Please note this higher note then the one proposed by Engineer Pachauri of the IPCC
This December 10th, International Human Rights Day, the city of Lima will see a huge Global People’s March in defense of Mother Earth “Let’s change the system, not the climate”.
Do not hesitate in joining the preparatory action of November 10th and the big event on December 10th from your own community and follow the mobilizations on our live social hub
Seven Central Themes of The People’s Summit in Lima, Peru – the real COP20 of the UNFCCC:
A seventh theme “Women and the Sustainability of Life” has been incorporated into the Summit.
The official e-mail is cumbredelospuebloscop20 at gmail.com.
Depending on the specific communication or requirement of information, you can send an email to:
General information, Logistics, Communications, International topics.
¡Cambiemos el sistema,
No el clima!
To remind you of all of the themes are:
1. Civilization Change and Development Models;
2. Global Warming and Climate Change;
4. Food Sovereignty and Security;
5. Sustainable Land Management;
6. Finance, Technology Transfer, and Knowledge Exchange;
7. Women and the Sustainability of Life.
10th of November: preparing a preliminary day of global action – Let’s change the System, not the Climate!
This November 10th, with only 30 days until the “Global People’s March in defense of Mother Earth”, we are using the hashtag #YoMarcho10D #IMarch10D as a call to action on the road to the People’s Summit. We invite everyone who wants to take action to take a photo with phrases like “#YoMarcho10D #IMarch10D to change the system not the climate,” or otherwise allude to the process of struggle that is coming.
Eastern countries (of the EU) oppose EU climate goals.
The EUObserver, By Peter Teffer, .October 2, 2014
Brussels – With only three weeks to go before the European Council is to make a final decision on new climate goals for 2030, six Central and Eastern European countries have declared their opposition to the proposed targets.
In an effort to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, the European Commission proposed in January 2014 several targets for 2030.
Greenhouse gas emissions should be 40 percent lower; the market share of renewable energy should be 27 percent and energy efficiency should be improved by 30 percent.
In March and June, the European Council failed to agree on the commission’s proposal. When the EU government leaders meet again on 23 and 24 October in Brussels, they hope to reach a “final decision on the new climate and energy policy framework”.
However, the ministers and deputy ministers for environment of six Central and Eastern European countries, declared on Tuesday (September 30) their opposition to binding targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The six countries are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania.
The six ask for a framework that “reflects different regional needs and circumstances”. The energy mix differs greatly among member states and reaching the targets will be easier for some than others.
The EU share of renewable energy consumption was 14.1 percent in 2012, according to Eurostat, but that average conceals regional differences.
Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic are below that average, with shares between 9.6 and 11.2 percent. Most of the six rely heavily on coal, which is one of the energy sources that emits the most carbon dioxide.
The question then is, which targets will be binding for the whole of EU, and which for each individual member state.
A group of 13 mostly western and northern European states, called the Green Growth Group, is in favour of a binding greenhouse gas target of 40 percent for member states.
But in March it said the “Council should agree on a binding EU renewables energy target which should not be translated into binding national targets by the EU, leaving greater flexibility for Member States to develop their own renewable energy strategies.”
Wednesday October 1, 2014, after all those UN Member States’ Heads have left New York, the UN was still closed to the NGOs – supposedly for security reasons – the guards say this will hold on until next week – so it will be three weeks without “Civil Society” at the UN except for the handful handpicked by the UN itself. So much if you had any illusion that the UNSG hullabaloo about the enlargement of his entourage to include Civil Society in his deliberations was intended to lead to the new post-2015 world. Oh yes – we posted the harmless poem that was touted as the Civil Society contribution to the deliberations by that handful of participants.
Now we find that Grist publishes the analyses of the pure fact that the UN can in effect not aim at true results, and that it can only at best paint fake blue onto a heavy clouded sky – so please just know that you are being had and understand the reasons why. But also do not give up to despair – this because you are right in what you are fighting for and can rxpect that the truth will break through because it does make even economic sense. If allowed in some countries it will lead to alliances of States so it spreads eventually outside the UN that at best could then be used to bless the results.
Grist Daily posed 2014,today, October 14 2014, the question – “Is there any hope for international climate talks?”
A binding international treaty with firm emission limits just isn’t happening. Now attention is turning to a bottom-up, “pledge and review” strategy. Can it work?
By David Roberts
I don’t write very often about international climate talks because it’s super-depressing and nothing ever changes. Which I guess characterizes most things I write about, but something about climate talks in particular really drains the spirit. Nonetheless! Let’s take a fresh look at the landscape.
The original idea behind the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks was simple. Climate change is a classic tragedy of the commons. When emitting greenhouse gases, a country gets all the economic benefit but only a tiny fraction of the harm; conversely, when mitigating emissions, a country pays all the cost but receives only a tiny fraction of the benefit. I wrote about this in a recent post and Harvard’s Robert Stavins sums it up nicely in a recent op-ed:
“Greenhouse gases mix globally in the atmosphere, and so damages are spread around the world, regardless of where the gases were emitted. Thus, any country taking action incurs the costs, but the benefits are distributed globally. This presents a classic free-rider problem: It is in the economic self-interest of virtually no country to take unilateral action, and each can reap the benefits of any countries that do act. This is why international cooperation is essential.”
This has always been the logic of UNFCCC talks: burden sharing. Determine the proper way to distribute the load, and then sign a binding treaty to insure that all countries do their appointed part.
The same logic that yields the need for international cooperation, however, has made it virtually impossible to achieve in practice. Turns out national governments don’t like burdens! So the dispute over how to properly divide the burden between developed and developing countries has been as endless as it has been intractable. Early on in the UNFCCC process, developing countries like China and India were effectively exempted from the obligation to reduce emissions. What the U.S. and Europe have wanted ever since is to ditch the (arguably outmoded) developed vs. developing dichotomy, acknowledge that China et al. are going to be major sources of emissions growth this century, and sign a treaty in which all countries, including China, commit to binding targets. China disagrees, as do India and all the other countries that have so far escaped targets.
The result has been stalemate. And despite feverish hopes in the run-up to each new meeting (“last chance!”), nothing has happened to dislodge that dynamic. Yet the 2015 climate negotiations in Paris are supposed to be all about a “binding treaty.” What to do?
In many quarters, a comprehensive, binding treaty with national and global carbon targets is the holy grail. But its pursuit has led to nothing but a cycle of high hopes and crushing disappointment. There is very little hope of such a treaty in Paris, or maybe ever. What’s more, the focus on burden sharing has made the meetings a defensive, angst-ridden affair, everyone blaming everyone else while trying to minimize their own responsibility.
Most of the world’s major emitters agree that collective action on climate change is badly needed. Yet the meetings meant to facilitate such action produced little of it. Something had to change.
The idea that’s gained traction since the 2009 talks in Copenhagen is that it’s time to abandon the “burden sharing” frame altogether, give up on a binding treaty, and shift to a regime known as “pledge and review,” in which countries pledge specific policies and reductions and agree to have those policies and reductions internationally verified. Rather than being forced to accept a target, every country is simply asked to put on record what it is willing to contribute. Peer pressure and economic competition are supposed to do the rest. This is more or less what came out of Copenhagen, and Durban in 2011, and what will likely come out of Paris in 2015.
Those pledges are unlikely to add up to what’s needed to avoid 2 degrees C of warming, the stated international goal, any time soon. An outfit called Climate Interactive is tracking the pledges and adding them up; so far, they leave us on a path to exceed 4 degrees, which would be a disaster. But as John Podesta told Jeff Goodell (in the latter’s must-read story on China and climate), “If we wait until we have a binding international agreement that actually puts us on track for 2 C, we’ll hit 2 C before we get an agreement. But we have to get started if we hope to get to the destination.” Fred Pearce has a nice rundown of this general line of thinking here. It also finds clear expression in a recent op-ed from retired senators Tim Wirth and Tom Daschle.
Wirth has been working in and around international climate talks for as long as they’ve been going on. When I talked to him about pledge-and-review, he grew most animated when discussing the sheer torpor of the UNFCCC talks. “Everybody’s so depressed by the whole thing,” he said. “It’s a problem, it really is. They need a shot of energy! They need some enthusiasm! They need a new framework! Any time you run into a political dead end, you gotta change the rules. This is a way of changing the rules.”
Wirth says pledge-and-review has a chance of working because the economics have shifted and clean energy investment is increasingly in countries’ self-interest. He cites the recent New Climate Economy research project led by Nicholas Stern. Nations competing to outdo each other in these vast new markets could spark a “race to the top,” a sense of energy and progress that has been sorely missing. “We’re not saying we’re in the best of all possible worlds, by any means,” Wirth said, “but if we do it relatively soon, it’s going to end up being in everyone’s best interests.”
Wirth has a close eye on this November’s APEC meetings, where Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are likely to discuss climate change (among other things). A substantial bilateral agreement on climate would bring momentum into Paris, giving, Wirth laughed, “the U.S. a chance to hide behind China’s skirts and China a chance to hide behind the U.S.’s skirts. That’s important politically.” The U.S. and China being the world’s two largest markets, other countries would be pulled along. “The U.S./China relationship is so much more important than anything else in the world,” Wirth said.
Whatever the prospects of a race to the top, there remains the question of climate justice — what to do about those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, who did little to cause the problem. Wirth points to the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to transfer money from the developed to the developing world. But the nature of those funds is in hot dispute. In their piece, Wirth and Daschle write:
Finance is the final key to a global deal. At Copenhagen in 2009, the United States memorably pledged that developed countries would mobilize $100 billion a year in climate change assistance for the rest of the world by 2020. At a time of fiscal retrenchment in the West, the chance of that pledge being met in the form of additional development assistance is approximately zero. The pledge is eminently achievable, however, in the context of global energy investment, which has an annual flow a dozen times as large as the amount pledged in Copenhagen.
And when I talked to Wirth, that’s what he emphasized: opportunities to channel private investment money to developing countries. It appears that the climate fund is primarily going to consist in such investments.
But where does this leave the world’s poorest countries and low-lying islands? There’s a lot of adaptation to be done in those areas and not all of it is going to be a profit opportunity. Will the fund end up being just another instance of what Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism,” wherein wealthy westerners descend on countries reeling from misfortune and treat them as business opportunities to exploit?
The reason climate-justice advocates have always relied on the UNFCCC framework is that it’s the only venue in which the claims of vulnerable nations are guaranteed a hearing. If the meetings become nothing more than a forum for mutually advantageous bilateral and multilateral dealmaking, where is the pressure to do right by the vulnerable, much less any kind of guarantee?
I’ve never heard a good answer to that question. I sure don’t have one. But we return again to an ineluctable fact: The chances of the U.S. Senate ratifying a binding climate treaty are nil. The chances of it ratifying one that is also supported unanimously by all 195 or so countries of the UNFCCC are even niller. So what else is there to do?
“The building blocks approach, bottom up, is the only way to go,” says Wirth. “We’re not going to get a top-down agreement. So you gotta go the other direction.”
So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?
SundayReview | The New York Times Editorial – A Group Shout on Climate Change.
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD – Sunday September 27, 2014 – That is one week since the Sunday September 22, 2014 PEOPLE’s CLIMATE MARCH and the September 23, 2014 one day – UNSG Ban Ki-moon Climate-topics UN display.
The marchers and mayors, the ministers and presidents, have come and gone. So what is the verdict on Climate Week, the summit meeting on global warming convened by the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, in New York?
The meeting was not intended to reach a global agreement or to extract tangible commitments from individual nations to reduce the greenhouse gases that are changing the world’s ecosystems and could well spin out of control. Its purpose was to build momentum for a new global deal to be completed in December 2015, in Paris.
In that respect …… it clearly moved the ball forward, not so much in the official speeches but on the streets and in the meeting rooms where corporate leaders, investors, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and state and local officials pressed the case for stronger action.
It was important to put climate change back on the radar screen of world leaders, whose last effort to strike a deal, in Copenhagen five years ago, ended in acrimonious disaster. President Obama, for one, was as eloquent as he has ever been on the subject: “For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week — terrorism, instability, inequality, disease — there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”
But most of the positive energy at this gathering came from people closer to the ground, like the 300,000 activists who marched last Sunday. They included mayors like New York’s Michael Bloomberg and his successor, Bill de Blasio, who both spoke of the critical role that cities can play in reducing emissions. They included governors like California’s Jerry Brown, who is justly proud of his state’s pathbreaking efforts to control automobile and power plant pollution. And they included institutions like Bank of America, which said it would invest in renewable energy, and companies like Kellogg and Nestle, which pledged to help stem the destruction of tropical forests by changing the way they buy commodities like soybeans and palm oil.
Underlying all these declarations was a palpable conviction that tackling climate change could be an opportunity and not a burden, that the way to approach the task of harnessing greenhouse gas emissions was not to ask how much it would cost but how much nations stood to gain by investing in new technologies and energy efficiency.
This burst of activity comes at a crucial time. A tracking initiative called the Global Carbon Project recently reported that greenhouse gas emissions jumped 2.3 percent in 2013, mainly because of big increases in China and India. This means it is becoming increasingly difficult to limit global warming to an upper boundary of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (the long touted 2 degrees Celsius limit) above pre-industrial levels. Beyond that point, scientists say, a world already suffering from disappearing glaciers, rising seas and persistent droughts could face even more alarming consequences.
Avoiding such a fate is going to require a revolution in the way the world produces and consumes energy, which clearly has to involve national governments, no matter how much commitment there is on the streets and in the boardrooms. The odds are long that a legally binding treaty will emerge from Paris. Congress is unlikely to ratify one anyway. The smart money now is on a softer agreement that brings all the big polluters on board with national emissions caps, and there are reasons for hope that this can be done.
Mr. Obama is in a much stronger leadership position than he was at Copenhagen, having engineered a huge increase in automobile fuel efficiency and proposed rules that will greatly reduce the United States’ reliance on dirty coal. The Chinese, in part because their own air is so dirty, have been investing heavily in alternative energy sources like wind and solar, and they are giving serious consideration to a national cap on coal consumption. The cooperation of these two countries could by itself create the conditions for a breakthrough agreement. But what might really do the trick — if Climate Week is any guide — is the emergence of a growing bottom-up movement for change.
Copenhagen was the COP 15 (Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP9 of UNFCCC – and those who follow our website will realize that we stopped counting after Copenhagen even though this year’s end of the year’s meeting will be already the 20th meeting – or COP20 of the UNFCCC – and it will be held in Lima, Peru. We have no intention of opening a new page for this meeting either – but we are optimistic nevertheless that we will be in much better shape when we go to COP21 of the UNFCCC in Paris – December 2015.
With the 70th celebration of the UN and the need to do something to mark this date – we believe that a more responsive Climate Change reduction path will be fleshed out by that time.
The People’s March of last Sunday will then be remembered as the People’s expression that they demand action from those that sit at UN’s New York Headquarters in what they see as seats of the Global management. Also, please note the fact that even the UN has recognized by now that the Assembly of Governments will not reach the needed consensus to create true action – it will be rather the involvement of Civil Society, and business – led by scientists, economic and social developers and plain people that care for their environment – ethical and mass leaders from he line – that will do it.
Bi-annual conferences on “Drylands, Deserts and Desertification” (DDD), are one of the largest international academic forums on desertification. They take place at Ben Gurion University of the Negev – BGU’s Sede Boqer campus.
Three hundred to five hundred people from around the world have come to learn practical lessons and make connections to bring back to their home countries.
The fifth DDD conference is scheduled for November 17-20, 2014.
The United Nations defined desertification as potentially the most threatening ecosystem change impacting livelihoods at the global scale; based on the total number of people threatened by desertification, this ranks among the greatest contemporary environmental problems.
Developed as a result of the 1992 Rio Summit, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has brought attention to the phenomenon of land degradation called “desertification” when it occurs in drylands, as the most vulnerable ecosystems. Fifteen years after coming into force, the UNCCD was increasingly recognized as an instrument which can make an important contribution to the achievement of sustainable development and poverty reduction. The Committee of Science and Technology (CST – United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), provides information and advice on scientific and technological matters relating to combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought to the UNCCD’s Conference of the Parties (COP).
The uniting theme of the 2014 conference is “Healthy Lands – Healthy People” which encompasses a variety of aspects relating to Drylands, Deserts and Desertification, including natural sciences, social sciences, planning and policy issues.
Sessions with the following themes are already confirmed to be held during the conference:
• Afforestation in Drylands • AgroEcology • Architecture and City Planning in Drylands and Arid Areas • Carbon Footprint • Climate Change, Desertification and Society in the Ancient Near East: Lessons from the Past Desertification in Mongolia and China • Drip Irrigation (main theme of Desert Agriculture this year) • Deserts and Drylands in Ancient Literature and Archeology • Dryland Landscapes as Pattern-forming Systems: Modeling and Analysis • Ecohydrology of Dryland Landscapes • Economic Development in the Drylands • Environmental Education • Geological Aspects of Deserts and Desertification • GIS Applications for Dryland Studies • Green Building in Extreme Climates • Healthy Buildings • Hydrology in Drylands • Kidron River Restoration • Media and Environment • Mathematical Aspects of Desertification and Restoration • NGO Perspectives on Dryland Development • Nutritional and Food Security • On-site Waste Collection and Treatment • Public Health and Life in Deserts and Drylands • Remote Sensing • Society and Technology • Soil and Land Restoration • Water Policy in Drylands • Women and Economic Change in Rural-Arid Lands.
Additional specialized themes will be announced shortly. Some themes may be united with others.
An important part of the discussions will be The Economics of Land Degradation, and this connects to the developing science of the impact of man induced climate change.
First Google, then Yelp and Facebook…but where’s eBay?
Tell eBay: Quit ALEC today!
Google is dumping the Koch-fueled American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an extremist group that pushes legislation like forcing public schools to teach climate denial.
The announcement comes on the heels of the People’s Climate March where more than 400,000 people hit the streets of New York City for a clean energy future and after you helped send 100,000 messages to Google asking them to stop funding ALEC. It’s clear our work is paying off.
But we can’t stop now! eBay is still funding these climate deniers. Tell them to join Google and the 50 other corporations that have quit ALEC.
America’s technological innovators have sent a message loud and clear: groups that promote a climate denying agenda have no place in the 21st century.
Just the other day, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt told National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show that “The people who oppose [climate change] are really hurting our children and grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying.”
Google, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, and Microsoft have all stopped funding ALEC. Tell eBay it’s time to join the exodus. Help us send 30,000 messages to John Donahoe, eBay’s CEO, today.
Thanks for all you do to protect the environment. Together we are showing ALEC and the Koch brothers that America won’t stand for its climate denying agenda any longer!
In it together,
P.S. Five signatures are even more powerful than one — after you take action, be sure to forward this alert to your friends, family, and colleagues!
Momentum is building in our fight against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Just this week, tech leaders like Google, Microsoft, and Yelp have announced their withdrawal from the shadowy corporate lobby, but AOL and Yahoo! are still financing ALEC’s backroom dealing.
Tell AOL and Yahoo! to cut their ties with ALEC and publicly separate from the organization.
Here’s our message to Yahoo and AOL:
Google Chairman Eric Schmidt had this to say about ALEC and its work on Monday: “Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. And so we should not be aligned with such people—they’re just, they’re just literally lying.”
What’s more, ALEC calls itself a charity, allowing its corporate members to deduct payments to ALEC on their tax returns. That’s right, ALEC lets corporate lobbyists write legislation behind closed doors, then sticks you with the bill! Nobody wants to associate with such shady behavior, which is why ALEC’s corporate sponsors are leaving by the dozens.
Sign our petition today and tell Yahoo and AOL to follow suit! We’ll deliver your message to their D.C. offices next Tuesday.
Thanks for all you do,
and the rest of the team at Common Cause
THE LATEST NEWS = YAHOO PULLED OUT = AOL DID NOT PULL OUT YET !!
AMERICANS appear to be undergoing a significant psychological shift in our relation to global warming. I call this shift a climate “swerve,” borrowing the term used recently by the Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt to describe a major historical change in consciousness that is neither predictable nor orderly.
The first thing to say about this swerve is that we are far from clear about just what it is and how it might work. But we can make some beginning observations which suggest, in Bob Dylan’s words, that “something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is.” Experience, economics and ethics are coalescing in new and important ways. Each can be examined as a continuation of my work comparing nuclear and climate threats.
The experiential part has to do with a drumbeat of climate-related disasters around the world, all actively reported by the news media: hurricanes and tornadoes, droughts and wildfires, extreme heat waves and equally extreme cold, rising sea levels and floods. Even when people have doubts about the causal relationship of global warming to these episodes, they cannot help being psychologically affected. Of great importance is the growing recognition that the danger encompasses the entire earth and its inhabitants. We are all vulnerable.
This sense of the climate threat is represented in public opinion polls and attitude studies. A recent Yale survey, for instance, concluded that “Americans’ certainty that the earth is warming has increased over the past three years,” and “those who think global warming is not happening have become substantially less sure of their position.”
Falsification and denial, while still all too extensive, have come to require more defensive psychic energy and political chicanery.
But polls don’t fully capture the complex collective process occurring.
The most important experiential change has to do with global warming and time. Responding to the climate threat — in contrast to the nuclear threat, whose immediate and grotesque destructiveness was recorded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki — has been inhibited by the difficulty of imagining catastrophic future events. But climate-related disasters and intense media images are hitting us now, and providing partial models for a devastating climate future.
At the same time, economic concerns about fossil fuels have raised the issue of value. There is a wonderfully evocative term, “stranded assets,” to characterize the oil, coal and gas reserves that are still in the ground. Trillions of dollars in assets could remain “stranded” there. If we are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sustaining the human habitat, between 60 percent and 80 percent of those assets must remain in the ground, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative, an organization that analyzes carbon investment risk. In contrast, renewable energy sources, which only recently have achieved the status of big business, are taking on increasing value, in terms of returns for investors, long-term energy savings and relative harmlessness to surrounding communities.
Pragmatic institutions like insurance companies and the American military have been confronting the consequences of climate change for some time. But now, a number of leading financial authorities are raising questions about the viability of the holdings of giant carbon-based fuel corporations. In a world fueled by oil and coal, it is a truly stunning event when investors are warned that the market may end up devaluing those assets. We are beginning to see a bandwagon effect in which the overall viability of fossil-fuel economics is being questioned.
Can we continue to value, and thereby make use of, the very materials most deeply implicated in what could be the demise of the human habitat? It is a bit like the old Jack Benny joke, in which an armed robber offers a choice, “Your money or your life!” And Benny responds, “I’m thinking it over.” We are beginning to “think over” such choices on a larger scale.
This takes us to the swerve-related significance of ethics. Our reflections on stranded assets reveal our deepest contradictions. Oil and coal company executives focus on the maximum use of their product in order to serve the interests of shareholders, rather than the humane, universal ethics we require to protect the earth. We may well speak of those shareholder-dominated principles as “stranded ethics,” which are better left buried but at present are all too active above ground.
Such ethical contradictions are by no means entirely new in historical experience. Consider the scientists, engineers and strategists in the United States and the Soviet Union who understood their duty as creating, and possibly using, nuclear weapons that could destroy much of the earth. Their conscience could be bound up with a frequently amorphous ethic of “national security.” Over the course of my work I have come to the realization that it is very difficult to endanger or kill large numbers of people except with a claim to virtue.
The climate swerve is mostly a matter of deepening awareness. When exploring the nuclear threat I distinguished between fragmentary awareness, consisting of images that come and go but remain tangential, and formed awareness, which is more structured, part of a narrative that can be the basis for individual and collective action.
In the 1980s there was a profound worldwide shift from fragmentary awareness to formed awareness in response to the potential for a nuclear holocaust. Millions of people were affected by that “nuclear swerve.” And even if it is diminished today, the nuclear swerve could well have helped prevent the use of nuclear weapons.
With both the nuclear and climate threats, the swerve in awareness has had a crucial ethical component. People came to feel that it was deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to engage in nuclear war, and are coming to an awareness that it is deeply wrong, perhaps evil, to destroy our habitat and create a legacy of suffering for our children and grandchildren.
Social movements in general are energized by this kind of ethical passion, which enables people to experience the more active knowledge associated with formed awareness. That was the case in the movement against nuclear weapons. Emotions related to individual conscience were pooled into a shared narrative by enormous numbers of people.
In earlier movements there needed to be an overall theme, even a phrase, that could rally people of highly divergent political and intellectual backgrounds. The idea of a “nuclear freeze” mobilized millions of people with the simple and clear demand that the United States and the Soviet Union freeze the testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons.
Could the climate swerve come to include a “climate freeze,” defined by a transnational demand for cutting back on carbon emissions in steps that could be systematically outlined?
With or without such a rallying phrase, the climate swerve provides no guarantees of more reasonable collective behavior. But with human energies that are experiential, economic and ethical it could at least provide — and may already be providing — the psychological substrate for action on behalf of our vulnerable habitat and the human future.
Robert Jay Lifton is a psychiatrist and the author of “Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima,” and a memoir, “Witness to an Extreme Century.”
A version of this op-ed appears in print on August 24, 2014, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: The Climate Swerve.