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Posted on on August 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

Breaking Latest forecast suggests ‘Godzilla El Niño’ may be coming to California
By Rong-Gong Lin II

The strengthening El Niño in the Pacific Ocean has the potential to become one of the most powerful on record, as warming ocean waters surge toward the Americas, setting up a pattern that could bring once-in-a-generation storms this winter to drought-parched California.

The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday that all computer models are now predicting a strong El Niño to peak in the late fall or early winter. A host of observations have led scientists to conclude that “collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic features reflect a significant and strengthening El Niño.”

At the moment, this year’s El Niño is stronger than it was at this time of year in 1997. Areas in red and white represent the warmest sea-surface temperatures above the average. (Source: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at La Cañada Flintridge – their climatologist Bill Patzert)

To see the graphs – please go to Los Angeles Times or Rolling Stones – our source at:…

Patzert said El Niño’s signal in the ocean “right now is stronger than it was in 1997,” the summer in which the most powerful El Niño on record developed.

“Everything now is going to the right way for El Niño,” Patzert said. “If this lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”

After the strongest El Niño on record muscled up through the summer of 1997, the following winter gave Southern California double its annual rainfall and dumped double the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, an essential source of precipitation for the state’s water supply, Patzert said.

A strong El Niño can shift a subtropical jet stream that normally pours rain over the jungles of southern Mexico and Central America toward California and the southern United States.

But so much rain all at once has proved devastating to California in the past. In early 1998, storms brought widespread flooding and mudslides, causing 17 deaths and more than half a billion dollars in damage in California. Downtown L.A. got nearly a year’s worth of rain in February 1998.

The effects of this muscular El Niño – nicknamed “Bruce Lee” by one blogger for the National Weather Service – are already being felt worldwide. While a strong El Niño can bring heavy winter rains to California and the southern United States, it can also bring dry weather elsewhere in the world.

Already, El Niño is being blamed for drought conditions in parts of the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia, as occurred in 1997-98.

Drought is also persistent in Central America. Water levels are now so low in the waterways that make up the Panama Canal that officials recently announced limits on traffic through the passageway that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

El Niño also influenced the heavy rainstorms that effectively ended drought conditions in Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma.

There are a couple reasons why scientists say El Niño is gaining strength.

First, ocean temperatures west of Peru are continuing to climb. The temperatures in a benchmark location of the Pacific Ocean were 3.4 degrees above the average as of Aug. 5. That’s slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees above normal.

The mass of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is also bigger and deeper than it was at this point in 1997, Patzert said.

Second, the so-called trade winds that normally keep the ocean waters west of Peru cool — by pushing warm water further west toward Indonesia — are weakening.

That’s allowing warm water to flow eastward toward the Americas, giving El Niño more strength.

For this year’s El Niño to truly rival its 1997 counterpart, there still needs to be “a major collapse in trade winds from August to November as we saw in 1997,” Patzert said.

“We’re waiting for the big trade wind collapse,” Patzert said. “If it does, it could be stronger than 1997.”

There is a small chance such a collapse may not happen.

“There’s always a possibility these trade winds could surprise us and come back,” Patzert said.

Overall, the Climate Prediction Center forecast a greater-than-90% chance that El Niño will continue through this winter in the Northern Hemisphere, and about an 85% chance it will last into the early spring.

In California, officials have cautioned the public against imagining that El Niño will suddenly end the state’s chronic water challenges. A forecast is never a sure thing, they say.

And they also want to remind the public that California has been dry for much of the last 15 years. Even if California gets a wet winter this year, it could be followed by another severe multi-year drought.

“We certainly wouldn’t want people to think that, ‘Gee, because it’s an El Niño this year, it’s going to be wet and therefore we can stop conserving water,” Jeanine Jones, the California Department of Water Resources’ deputy drought manager, said in July.

Another problem is that the Pacific Ocean west of California is substantially warmer than it was in 1997. That could mean that though El Niño-enhanced precipitation fell as snow in early 1998, storms hitting the north could cause warm rain to fall this winter. Such a situation would not be good news “for long-term water storage in the snowpack,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at Stanford University.

Drought officials prefer snow in the mountains in the winter because it slowly melts during the spring and summer and can trickle at a gentle speed into the state’s largest reservoirs in Northern California. Too much rain all at once in the mountains in the winter can force officials to flush excess water to the ocean to keep dams from overflowing.

Swain said it’s important to keep in mind that all El Niño events are different, and just because the current El Niño has the potential to be the strongest on record “doesn’t necessarily mean that the effects in California will be the same.”

Interested in the stories shaping California? Sign up for the free Essential California newsletter >>

“A strong El Niño is very likely at this point, namely because we’ve essentially reached the threshold already, but a wet winter is never a guarantee in California,” Swain said in an email.

“I think a good way to think about it is this: There is essentially no other piece of information that is more useful in predicting California winter precipitation several months in advance than the existence of a strong El Niño event,” Swain said. “But it’s still just one piece of the puzzle. So while the likelihood of a wet winter is increasing, we still can’t rule out other outcomes.”

Updated Aug. 13, 8:10 a.m.: In another sign that El Niño is gaining strength, sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean have risen to their highest level so far this year.

That temperature increase — 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the average — was recorded Aug. 5 by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center at a benchmark location in the Pacific. That is slightly higher than it was on Aug. 6, 1997, when it was 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.


Updated Aug. 13, 9:29 a.m.: “This could be among the strongest El Niños in the historical record dating back to 1950,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.


California will soon have toughest shower head requirements in nation

Another El Niño sign: Ocean temps hit highest level of the year


Posted on on November 11th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (





Philippines blames climate change for monster typhoon.


boy at scene of devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan
Reuters/Erik De Castro


It’s hard to comprehend the scale of the disaster in the Philippines, where a massive typhoon may have killed more than 10,000 people. But climate delegates who have gathered today in Warsaw, Poland, for a fresh round of U.N. climate talks will need to do just that.


The Philippines is a densely populated, low-lying archipelago state that sits in warm Pacific Ocean waters — and warm ocean waters tend to produce vicious tropical storms. The country’s geography puts its islands in the path of frequent typhoons (typhoon is the local word — Americans call such storms hurricanes and others refer to them as cyclones). The Philippines’ low and unequally distributed national wealth, meanwhile, leaves its populace highly vulnerable to them.


And in terrible news for Filipinos, climate models show that global warming is making typhoons even more powerful.


Meteorologists have blamed a rise in water temperatures of nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit and other weather conditions last week for stirring up Typhoon Haiyan, which grew to become one of the most damaging storms in world history. Here’s a high-level account of the devastation from Reuters:

“The situation is bad, the devastation has been significant. In some cases the devastation has been total,” Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras told a news conference.

The United Nations said officials in Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm on Friday, had reported one mass grave of 300-500 bodies. More than 600,000 people were displaced by the storm across the country and some have no access to food, water, or medicine, the U.N. says. …

Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, is estimated to have destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of structures in its path.


Officials from the Philippines are blaming climate change for the ferocity of Typhoon Haiyan, and demanding that climate negotiators get serious in Warsaw.


Though climate scientists aren’t ready to attribute the blame quite so directly, there is mounting evidence that climate change is making storms like Haiyan worse.

 As we’ve explained, the oceans are absorbing much of the extra heat that’s being trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases, which is helping to stoke more powerful tropical storms. Ben Adler recently reported on the results of a study in Indonesia, just south of the Philippines, which found that local ocean waters were warming at a historically unprecedented rate.


“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness,” said Naderev “Yeb” Saño, lead negotiator for the Philippines at the climate talks. “The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw. Typhoons such as Haiyan and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.”


Saño told Responding to Climate Change how the storm had affected his family:


[Saño] spent much of Friday and Saturday wondering if his family had survived Typhoon Haiyan …

“The first message I got from my brother was short, to say he was alive,” he says. “The second was that he had been burying dead friends, relatives and strangers. He said with his own two hands he had piled up close to 40 dead people.”

Sano’s family hails from the part of the Philippines eastern seaboard where the typhoon made landfall, smashing into his father’s hometown.

“I really fear that a lot of my relatives may have suffered tremendously, if they survived at all,” he adds.


This is not the first time Saño has warned the world that it must take action to prevent super-storms from devastating his country and so many others. At the 2012 U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar, he broke down in tears during his address, linking climate change to Typhoon Bopha, which killed hundreds of people in his country late last year.

“[W]e have never had a typhoon like Bopha, which has wreaked havoc in a part of the country that has never seen a storm like this in half a century. And heartbreaking tragedies like this is not unique to the Philippines, because the whole world, especially developing countries struggling to address poverty and achieve social and human development, confront these same realities. …

I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to the leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by 7 billion people.”


We told you on Friday that climate delegates representing poor and developing countries are begging wealthy countries for financial help — not just for help in reducing their carbon emissions, but also for help in dealing with crazy weather that’s already happening. They say they can’t afford to do it alone, and many of them feel that their countries shouldn’t have to, since the rich nations of the world have pumped so much of the excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.


Rich countries have pledged to provide $100 billion in annual climate assistance starting in 2020 via the Green Climate Fund, but they’ve contributed very little so far. “We have not seen any money from the rich countries to help us to adapt,” Saño said. And some delegations in Warsaw are seeking more funding still, to compensate developing countries for the damage caused by climate disasters.


If wealthy nations don’t come through with significant funding, hopes of meaningful global climate cooperation could be doomed. And if the world doesn’t cooperate on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions will keep spiraling up, pushing global average temperatures up more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial times. That would not only mean worse typhoons for the developing world — it would mean worse hurricanes, droughts, fires, and floods in the U.S. and across the world.


John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:


Posted on on February 7th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (


China, India and climate change.

Take the lead

Emerging markets are a big part of the problem; they are essential to any solution.

Feb 2nd 2013   THE ECONOMIST FRONT PAGE ARTICLE From the print edition

Some tricky turns up ahead

Greenprint: A New Approach to Cooperation on Climate Change. By Aaditya Mattoo and Arvind Subramanian.
Centre for Global Development; 150 pages; $17.99

Buy from:

MOST books about the environment take the West as their starting point. This is understandable. For decades America was the world’s biggest polluter, contributing more to the problem than any other country, whereas Europe—at least in its politicians’ minds—has model environmental laws and holds plenty of righteous talks to negotiate new solutions.

But Europe and America are becoming supporting actors in the world’s climate-change drama. The lead players are China and India. China is the world’s largest emitter, contributing nearly a quarter of current global emissions. With India it accounted for 83% of the worldwide increase in carbon emissions in 2000-11. Though global warming began with industrialised countries it must end—if it is to end—through actions in developing ones. All the more reason to welcome “Greenprint”, the first book on climate change to concentrate on this growing part of the problem. Written by Aaditya Mattoo, an economist at the World Bank, and Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development, the book offers an unflinching look at what one might realistically expect emerging markets to do.

From an environmentalist’s point of view, India and China elicit despair. They are obsessed with growth. To fuel it, they are building ever more coal-fired power stations, a filthy form of energy. Their cities fume. Their rivers catch fire. There is not much anyone can do about it.

But an attractive quality of this book is that it goes beyond such fatalism. The West, the authors argue, has failed to mitigate global warming, so developing countries will have to take over. This is necessary, they say, because global warming will affect developing countries more than rich ones, partly because tropical and subtropical lands are more sensitive to warming than cold or temperate ones, and partly because rich people can afford better flood controls and drought-resistant seeds than poor ones.

One estimate by William Cline, an economist, found that a rise of 2.5% in global temperatures would cut agricultural productivity by 6% in America but by 38% in India. In light of their disproportionate vulnerability, emerging giants will have to push rich countries to make more environmental compromises. To make these demands credible, they themselves will have to make some changes too.

The trouble, as the authors admit, is that emissions cuts will also be costly for China and India. Messrs Mattoo and Subramanian estimate that if the two countries were to reduce emissions by 30% by 2020 (compared with doing nothing), their manufacturing output would fall by 6-7% and their manufactured exports by more than that. As still relatively poor countries, they are less able to bear the pain.

These challenges help to explain why it is so difficult for India and China to take the lead on climate change. After considering different ways to allocate emissions cuts among nations, the authors concede that the fairest approach would be to allow developing countries to consume as much energy as rich ones did during their own industrial revolutions. But if the aim is to limit the rise in global temperatures to two degrees, which most scientists think necessary, this would allow developing-country emissions to rise by 200% whereas rich-country emissions would have to fall by an amount that is politically inconceivable.

The authors supply more reasonable solutions. They reckon that China and others could and should invest more in new technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, in order to boost improvements in clean energy. They also provide a detailed and convincing case for rich countries to put a price on carbon by introducing a modest border tax on imports from developing countries.

The book does not quite provide the promised “greenprint” for developing countries to reduce emissions. But that would be a tall order. As a first stab at analysing one of the world’s most intractable problems, it provides a wealth of analysis and fuel for thought.


Posted on on December 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Quote of the day

Climate change was predicted to arrive tomorrow but it is happening today. For this reason, the moment for climate justice has arrived.

Edward Cameron, World Resources Institute and Tara Shine, Mary Robinson Foundation.

No. 20,         10 December 2012
SOUTHNEWS is a service of the South Centre to provide information and news on topical issues from a South perspective.
Visit the South Centre’s website:

Green thinking takes root in midst of desert in Doha climate talks

Are oil-rich Gulf states, once a byword for waste and excess, really now leading the world on sustainable development?

COP18 Doha : Qatar environmental policy , partnership with the Potsdam Institute

The signing of a partnership between the Qatar Foundation and the Postdam Institute for a new climate change research institute in Qatar. (Photograph: IISD)

One of the great surprises for the 15,000 negotiators and others here in Doha for the climate talks is not the breakneck speed of development in the gas-rich emirate, or the displays of wealth and the giant construction projects, but the possible dawn of reality.

Until recently, the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states were the epicentre of unsustainable global development, a byword for waste, excess and ecological irresponsibility. Their huge consumption of natural resources and flouting of nature on the back of oil and gas production shocked even hard-nosed observers of global oil wealth.

Well, we may have to change our views. From my hotel window, I can see 14 monster buildings being built, each to a much higher energy standard than the law demands in the US or most of Europe. Down the road is a new $70m (£43m) test-bed for carbon capture, the beginnings of a 200 megawatt solar power station, a $1bn photovoltaic manufacturing plant, new waste treatment plants, a pilot project to grow food in the desert with saltwater, and a fledgling construction industry with waste plastic.

Green baubles for the super-rich perhaps, but there is evidence that a real change of thinking is taking place. Schools, local authorities and mosques are now teaching about water and energy saving, and Gulf state governments are committing themselves to deeper cuts in emissions than the US or much of Europe.

Britain hopes to generate 20% of its electricity with renewables by 2030. But the Qataris will do that by 2020. Britain, with a population of more than 60 million, built about 100,000 new homes last year. Qatar, with 1.4 million people, will build a whole city to the highest green specifications for 200,000 people in not much more time.

And it’s not just Qatar. Other Gulf states are racing each other to rethink their development paths. The renewable energy world is moving to Abu Dhabi. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has invested billions of dollars in projects there, as well as in Europe and north Africa. Even Dubai, which has indulged in a 20-year construction frenzy, is aiming at 7% renewables in 12 years – similar to Belgium. Even more remarkably, Saudi Arabia, fearful of its own escalating domestic electricity needs, will meet one-third of its electricity demand from solar by 2032.

None of this would have been conceivable even a few years ago. So what has changed? One senior adviser to the Qatari government put it like this: “There is a new direction. The GCC countries all move together like a herd. A desperate search is going on to find new ways of doing things. They need to find the answer for when the oil and gas is not there. They have seen the future and now they have fire in their arse.

“But they also know that the Arab spring countries all neglected people during development. They are learning. Education, health and welfare were all neglected. Environment has risen up the agenda. In the past, it was of no interest. Now it is a global necessity. Money is not the problem.”

The thirst for what Qatar, Abu Dhabi and other oil-rich states call a new “knowledge economy” would partly explain why Qatar on Wednesday committed to set up a global climate change centre in Doha with the German Potsdam Institute. It will employ around 200 researchers and sit beside a dozen other prestigious US, British and other academic centres, including Imperial College, which is now at Doha.

The founder of the institute, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, spelled out what was at stake: “Qatar is the only true desert state in the world with no surface water and 500km of flat coastline, where temperatures are already 45C in summer. With sea level rise expected to be up to 90cm by 2100 in the Gulf region and temperatures expected to rise [by] 5-8C, this place will be unlivable [if climate change is not brought under control].”

The Gulf states’ change of direction, he suggested, is being undertaken not out of any desire to be green but sheer pragmatism. What happens here could shape all our futures, says the adviser. “The next stage of modern civilization can be blueprinted here. Qatar can be a role model for the region and the whole planet.”


Last-minute scramble for climate deal at UN talks

Negotiations continued through the night Thursday at United Nations climate talks in Doha, Qatar, with envoys trying to mesh procedure with political will. A key proposal is the annual delivery of $100 billion in aid by 2020 to pay for projects to cope with the effects of global warming. The lead negotiator from the Philippines, Naderev Saño, broke down in tears in the hall, saying, “I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. … It cannot be a way of life that we end up running always from storms.”

Above tells us that the location and hosts had no effect on the negotiators that still attempted a North-South wrangle. A waste of time so far as we are concerned.


he faithful IISD Report titled –

Doha Climate Change Conference Adopts Doha Climate Gateway –

spills out for us to see the best diplomatic slippery beans:

8 December 2012: The UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, took place from 26 November-8 December 2012, focused on ensuring the implementation of agreements reached at previous conferences. Following two weeks of negotiations, delegates adopted the package of “Doha Climate Gateway” decisions on the evening of Saturday, 8 December. The outcome includes amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to establish its second commitment period.The Doha Climate Change Conference included: the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); the eighth session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 8); the 37th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA 37) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI 37); the second part of the 17th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP 17); the second part of the 15th session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the UNFCCC (AWG-LCA 15); and the second part of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP 1).

The DOHA conference drew approximately 9,000 participants, including 4, 356 government officials, 3, 956 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations, and 683 members of the media. {much lower figures then the above upbeat report}

Having been launched at CMP 1, the AWG-KP terminated its work in Doha. The parties also agreed to terminate the AWG-LCA and negotiations under the Bali Action Plan. Key elements of the outcome also included agreement to consider loss and damage, “such as” an institutional mechanism to address loss and damage in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Other outcomes of the Conference include the adoption of: a decision on gender and climate change; and the Doha Work Programme on Convention Article 6 (education and awareness raising).

While developing countries and observers expressed disappointment with the lack of ambition in outcomes on Annex I countries’ mitigation and finance, most agreed that the conference had paved the way for a new phase, focusing on the implementation of the outcomes from negotiations under the AWG-KP and AWG-LCA, and advancing negotiations under the ADP.

[IISD RS Coverage of the Conference] [UN Press Release] [UN Secretary-General’s Statement on COP 18] [UNFCCC Press Release]

For IISD FULL REPORT – please see –…



10 December 2012


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General Welcomes Doha Climate Change Conference Outcome, But Stresses Need for Accelerated Action to Limit Rise in Global Temperature.


The following statement was issued on 8 December by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

The Secretary-General welcomes the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference that concluded today in Doha, and he congratulates Qatar for a job well done in hosting the Conference.

Doha successfully concluded the previous round of climate negotiations, paving the way to a comprehensive, legally binding agreement by 2015.

The Secretary-General believes that far more needs to be done and he calls on Governments, along with businesses, civil society and citizens, to accelerate action on the ground so that the global temperature rise can be limited to 2° C.

He said he will increase his personal involvement in efforts to raise ambition, scale-up climate financing and engage world leaders as we now move towards the global agreement in 2015.
* *** *

Will the UN Secretary General show now rhe decency to cancel the 2013 – 2014 meetings and advise the Member States to act in quiet diplomacy in preparations for a 2015 outcome?

Meeting before 2015 like the Cancun, Durban and Doha meetings – the last three yearly meetings that came after the Copenhagen COP 15 of the UNFCCC of 2009 – were nothing more then large exercises in migration that enhanced income from tourism in the host countries. Our own website has stopped listing the meetings after the Copenhagen meeting and we preferred to call them Copenhagen +1, Copenhagen +2, And now for Doha we reserved Copenhagen +3. That was because the last real step in the UNFCCC evolution happened on the way to Copenhagen when President Obama went first to Beijing and managed for the first time to get China to declare that they are indeed part of these negotiations. China then brought in India, Brazil, South Africa as well.

We are afraid that if nothing is done before the 2013 Warsaw meeting that meeting will be a waste as well. What has to happen is that the Obama II Administration steps forward with direct proposals to the other major emitters – specifically – China, India and Brazil – with or without South Africa – and seals direct agreements with them that can then become the base for multilateral negotiations. Indeed, there is no reason why one must have all nations on board.

In the past it was mainly the oil States of the Middle East that were the hindrance to an agreement – this even before one could tackle the large emerging emitters and the United States. Perhaps the Doha meeting provided the needed Climate Change education to the oil States, and thus a strong decision of President Obama and rolling over the climate deniers of the Republican oil-Lobby, could return the issue to multilateral diplomacy.


Kyoto Protocol extended in climate compromise.

Is the title of the UN Foundation’s UN WIRE of December 10, 2012.

Delegates at the United Nations climate talks that ended Saturday in Doha, Qatar, agreed to extend the Kyoto Protocol through 2020 and create a road map by 2015 to replace the pact. The world’s governments remained divided over who should pay the costs for helping the most vulnerable countries cope with the effects of climate change through 2020, when industrial nations are slated to contribute $100 billion annually from public and private sources.         Reuters (12/9), The New York Times (12/8), (12/9)


Despair after climate conference, but UN still offers hope

Sunday, December  9, 2012 final report:

* U.N. process has to accelerate before 2015

* Many leave Doha conference in despair

By Barbara Lewis and Alister Doyle

DOHA, Dec 9 (Reuters) – At the end of another lavishly-funded U.N. conference that yielded no progress on curbing greenhouse emissions, many of those most concerned about climate change are close to despair.

As thousands of delegates checked out of their air-conditioned hotel rooms in Doha to board their jets for home, some asked whether the U.N. system even made matters worse by providing cover for leaders to take no meaningful action.

Supporters say the U.N. process is still the only framework for global action. The United Nations also plays an essential role as the “central bank” for carbon trading schemes, such as the one set up by the European Union.

But unless rich and poor countries can inject urgency into their negotiations, they are heading for a diplomatic fiasco in 2015 – their next deadline for a new global deal.

“Much much more is needed if we are to save this process from being simply a process for the sake of process, a process that simply provides for talk and no action, a process that locks in the death of our nations, our people, and our children,” said Kieren Keke, foreign minister of Nauru, who fears his Pacific island state could become uninhabitable.

The conference held in Qatar – the country that produces the largest per-capita volume of greenhouse gases in the world – agreed to extend the emissions-limiting Kyoto Protocol, which would have run out within weeks.

But Canada, Russia and Japan – where the protocol was signed 15 years ago – all abandoned the agreement. The United States never ratified it in the first place, and it excludes developing countries where emissions are growing most quickly.

Delegates flew home from Doha without securing a single new pledge to cut pollution from a major emitter.

So far, U.N. climate talks have missed just about every deadline. The rich nations of the world promised two decades ago to halt their rise in greenhouse gases. They failed. Next, they promised a sequel to Kyoto by 2009. They failed again.

Now they have a 2015 deadline to get a new global, binding deal in place, to enter into force after the extension of Kyoto expires in 2020. For the first time, it would apply to rich and poor countries alike. But with the world’s nations divided over who must pay the cost, the task of reaching accord seems beyond the capabilities of the vast corps of international delegates.

Meanwhile, the world’s weather is only getting more unstable. As the Doha talks dragged on, Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines left nearly 1,000 people dead or missing.

Hurricane Sandy last month was a reminder that even rich countries are not safe from extreme weather, which scientists say will become ever more common as the world heats up.


A series of reports released during the Doha talks said the world faced the prospect of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2F) of warming, rather than the 2 degree (3.6F) limit that nations adopted in 2010 as a maximum to avoid dangerous changes.


According to the World Bank, that would mean food and water shortages, habitats wiped out, coastal communities wrecked by rising seas, deserts spreading, and droughts both more frequent and severe. Most impact would be borne by the world’s poorest.

“The alarm bells are going off all over the place,” Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said. “We are in a crisis and treating it like a process where we can dither away for ever.”

Action at ground level has had a positive impact, even as the U.N. dithers. Investment in carbon-free renewable energy hit a record $260 billion in 2011.

In the United States, the discovery of techniques to produce natural gas from shale has cut the cost of gas, which has reduced emissions from the world’s biggest polluter by replacing coal, a bigger carbon emitter, for power generation.

But although U.S. emissions – nearly a quarter of the world’s total – have fallen, for the world as a whole this year they are expected to rise by 2.6 percent, up by 58 percent since 1990. Emerging economies led by China and India account for most of the growth.

Although frustrated by days and nights of haggling, ministers still back the United Nations as part of the solution.

“It’s clear to me that this process is the only global framework we have and since this is a global problem, it has to be addressed globally,” Denmark’s Energy Minister Martin Lidegaard told Reuters.

“But obviously, this can’t stand alone. Nations can’t continue to hide behind the process. There’s a direct link between what we deliver at home and here. We desperately need to combine action by regions, municipalities, citizens with this global approach. That is becoming more and more evident.”

Negotiators say ultimately politicians – distracted by other events – need to become engaged.

“It (the environment) is no longer on the front page with the political and financial crisis. That is the reason why heads of state have to turn to this,” the European Union’s chief negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said.


The conference is an easy target for cynics – not least because it was held in Qatar, a desert kingdom that exports carbon-producing fossil fuel and uses the proceeds to fund a lavish lifestyle for many of its 2.5 million people.

A country that burns fuel to desalinate water and build golf courses in the desert seems like an odd place to talk about curtailing consumption. But supporters say bringing producers like Qatar into the consensus for change is a step forward.

Business leaders are also getting involved.

“A lot of CEOs from the region have turned up. A lot of them are talking about sustainability and resource efficiency. That’s no longer a dirty word,” said Russel Mills, global director for energy and climate policy at Dow Chemical Co.

Dow, like many other big industrial firms, keeps a close eye on U.N. carbon policy because of the United Nations’ role as “a kind of central bank” for pollution allowances.

The most developed carbon trading scheme is the European Union’s, which has lurched from crisis to crisis. The value of EU Emissions Trading Scheme permits sank to a record low this month under the burden of surplus allowances during a recession.

But other jurisdictions such as Australia, California, South Korea and even China believe they can learn from Europe’s mistakes and are developing their own emissions trading. Such schemes could be the planet’s best hope of survival, and the United Nations is likely to play a role.

“Economy-wide carbon pricing, whether carbon taxes or cap and trade, is the only approach that can conceivably achieve the targets scientists advocate,” Robert Stavins, a professor of business and government at Harvard in the United States, said.

“Also, it will be most the cost-effective and therefore in the long run the most politically-viable approach.”

Still, even with the best of intentions, U.N. diplomats are unlikely ever to deliver change at the pace scientists seek.

“Science is demanding immediate and drastic action,” Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, told Reuters. “Policy, economics and financing cannot move in drastic fashion.”


and the IRIN NEWS  Report:

IRIN – standing for Integrated Regional Information Networks – has its head office in Nairobi, Kenya, with regional desks in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Dakar, Dubai and Bangkok, covering some 70 countries. The bureaus are supported by a network of local correspondents, an increasing rarity in mainstream newsgathering today.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Snapshot of wins and losses at the Doha talks.

Talks in Doha at the futuristic Qatar National Convention Centre dragged on overtime

JOHANNESBURG, 9 December 2012 (IRIN) – Like last year’s UN climate change talks, this year’s conference in Doha culminated in an all-night session to hammer out a deal on preventing further global warming and protecting people from the effects of climate change. While some promising compromises were made, the absence of a strong commitment to slash greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable populations adapt to climate change was evident in the conference’s 39 decisions.

IRIN provides a snapshot of the three overarching themes of the decisions that came out of the 18th session of the Conference of Parties (COP18) to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and what these decisions mean for humanitarian actors.

Loss and damage

Tweeting out of the conference, one of Argentina’s negotiators said the decisions don’t feel “ground-breaking” but are “more likely saving face”. “What we got for it, only loss and damage and nothing else”, he said.

''[The] decisions don’t feel ground-breaking but are more likely saving face. What we got for it, only loss and damage and nothing else''

Poor countries, including small island states and the least developed countries, were looking for a decision to create an international mechanism to address losses and damages caused by climate change. The mechanism would open the door to possible compensation from affluent countries for poor countries facing the mounting costs of extreme climate events. It would consider both their economic and non-economic losses, and possibly explore technological interventions.

In the end, they had to settle for the possibility of this happening in the COP19 talks taking place in Poland next year. Still, the fact that the possibility of such a mechanism was mentioned in the decision at all was considered a breakthrough.

Additionally, a work programme collecting data on loss and damage caused by slow-onset disasters – such as droughts – received an extension. The programme will also consider climate change’s impact on migration patterns and displacement, as well as efforts to reduce risk.

The decisions on loss and damage echoes much of a framework proposed by a group of NGOs earlier in the conference, which had recommended focusing on the international mechanism, the work programme, and consideration of non-economic losses. But ultimately, the decisions are subject to money being made available for development of the work programme.

What it means: With the extension of the work programme, more information on possible policy approaches will be forthcoming. This will help humanitarian organizations better scale-up responses to extreme climate events, which are increasing in frequency and intensity.

But NGOs and the civil society will likely have to wait a long time for affluent countries to make firm commitments on funding, risk transfer mechanisms such as insurance, and technology to help poor countries improve their resilience to climate change. Given that money to help vulnerable populations adapt has been ad hoc and insufficient, there is little optimism for funds being made available for compensation.

Adaptation finance

In 2009, developed countries promised to provide US$30 billion by 2012 to help poor countries adapt to climate change. They also promised to provide $100 billion a year from 2020 onwards.
Developed countries reported in Doha that they had reached the $30 billion target, but this was disputed by academics and civil society.

“It is very difficult to know where that finance went and how,” said scientist Saleemul Huq of the International Institute for Environment and Development. “We need to come up with procedures for monitoring, reporting and verification of these finance figures. We need to agree on some format so that money can be tracked effectively. It hasn’t been tracked previously.”

The developed countries further indicated that, with the global recession, they are unable to make firm commitments to finance poor nations’ efforts to adapt. Instead, a decision was made to set up a work programme in 2013 to help developed countries identify ways to raise this money.

What it means: No global funding pledge has been for the interim period between 2013 and 2020. Individual pledges by five European countries – including the UK, France and Germany – have been made, but cumulatively, these fall far short of the $60 billion that developing countries had requested for the interim.

It is also not clear if the five pledges are specifically for climate change adaptation or if they are part of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) that developed countries provide to the developing world. The UNFCC requires that developed countries provide money for climate change adaptation that is additional to their ODA.

Emission cuts

The good news to emerge from the talks is that the Kyoto Protocol – a global agreement to cut emissions that was set to expire in 2012 – has been extended to 2020.

They also agreed that a roadmap to create a deal to replace the Kyoto Protocol should be ready in 2015.

But meanwhile, there are no firm commitments to take on deeper emissions cuts. And with Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia and the US opting out of the Kyoto Protocol, the protocol applies to only 15 percent of current global greenhouse gas emissions.

What it means: Scientific organization, including the UN Environment Programme have warned that failing to further cut emissions could increase global temperatures by over four degrees Celius by the turn of the century. The internationally embraced goal is to limit this warming to two degrees Celsius, but the International Energy Agency has shown that achieving this goal grows more difficult and expensive with every passing year. This means poor countries and aid agencies will have to contend with the possibility of more frequent and intense climatic events and the mounting costs associated with prevention, relief and recovery.


see also –

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


A ‘low ambition’ outcome at Doha climate change conference

By Martin Khor, Executive Director of the South Centre, Doha, 9 December 2012

The annual UN climate conference concluded in Doha last Saturday (8 December) with “low ambition” both in emission cuts by developed countries and funding for developing countries.

Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted many decisions, including on the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period in which developed countries committed to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases.

Many delegates left the conference quite relieved that they had reached agreement after days of wrangling over many issues and an anxious last 24 hours that were so contentious that most people felt a collapse was imminent.

The relief was that the multilateral climate change regime has survived yet again, although there are such deep differences and distrust among developed and developing countries.

The conflict in paradigms between these two groups of countries was very evident throughout the two weeks of the Doha negotiations, and it was only papered over superficially in the final hours to avoid an open failure.  But the differences will surface again when negotiations resume next year.

Avoidance of collapse was a poor measure of success.  In terms of progress towards real actions to tackle the climate change crisis, the Doha conference was another lost opportunity and grossly inadequate.

The conference was held at the end of a year of record extreme events.  News of typhoon in the Philippines which killed 500 and made 300,000 homeless reminded the conference participants of the reality of the climate crisis.

However, the dictates of economic competition and commercial interests unfortunately were of higher priority, especially among developed countries, which explains their low ambition in emission reduction.  They also broke their promises in the legally binding UNFCCC to provide funds and transfer technology to developing countries.

The most important result in Doha was the formal adoption of the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (2013 to 2020) to follow immediately after the first period expires on 31 December 2012.

However, the elements are weak.  With original Kyoto Protocol Parties Russia, Japan and New Zealand having decided not to join in a second commitment period, and and Canada have left the Protocol altogether, only Europe, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, and a few others (totalling 35 developed countries and countries with economies in transition) are left to make legally binding commitments in the second period.

Also, the emission cuts these countries agreed to commit to are in aggregate only 18% by 2020 below the 1990 level, compared to the 25-40% required to restrict global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

A saving factor in the Kyoto Protocol decision is the “ambition mechanism” put in by developing countries, that the countries will “revisit” their original target and increase their commitments by 2014, in line with the aggregate 25-40% reduction goal.

Also, the decision severely limited the amount of credits or surplus allowances that can be used during the second period.  These credits were accumulated in the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period by countries that cut their emissions more than the targeted level.

According to the decision, these countries cannot use or trade most of the surplus allowances as a means to avoid current emission cuts.

The most important country affected is Russia, and on Saturday it strongly objected to the way the President of the Conference, Abdullah Hamad al-Attiyah of Qatar, bulldozed through the Kyoto Protocol decision even though it and two other countries tried to object.



Just look at what happened at Doha – here something we heartily applaud:

The final “wrangling” took place in the closing plenary on Saturday afternoon between those wanting to limit the use of excess AAUs to ensure the “environmental integrity” of the emission reduction commitments put forward and those arguing that “overachievement” of commitments should not be punished by a limitation in the use of AAUs. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus attempted to block the adoption of the AWG-KP outcome during the CMP closing plenary, but the nimble COP President gaveled its adoption before appearing to notice Russia’s raised flag. A round of applause welcomed the adoption of the decision, which limits the amount of surplus AAUs that can be used and provides that only parties taking on second commitment period QELRCs can use them. Russia objected to what he said was a breach of procedure by the President, while the COP President responded he would do no more than reflect his view in the final report. This action on the part of the COP President brought back echoes of the events of Cancun when Bolivia’s objections to the adoption of the Cancun Agreement were overruled/ignored in much the same way. It also made many wonder whether this was becoming a trend in the climate negotiations; as many have repeated, consensus does not mean the right of one party to block progress.

The information comes from the IISD final analysis –



A second major criticism of the Doha decisions is the lack of funds to be provided to developing countries to take climate actions.

In 2010, the Conference of Parties in Cancun decided that developed countries would mobilize climate finance of US$100 billion a year starting in 2020; and that US$30 billion of fast track finance would be given in 2010-2012.

But there is a gap between 2013 and 2020.  Despite the demand by developing countries that there be US$60 billion by 2015, the decision adopted on Saturday does not specify any number as a commitment.  It only “encourages” countries to provide at least as much as they had in the 2010-2012 period.

The lack of a credible finance commitment led to an outcry by developing countries on the plenary floor.  This lack of funds curtails their ability to undertake actions to combat climate change, especially since they have agreed in the 2010 Cancun and 2011 Durban Conferences to take on more mitigation efforts.

The Doha conference also adopted a set of decisions under its working group on long-term cooperative action under the UNFCCC.  The developing countries were pleased with paragraphs on equity, unilateral trade measures, technology assessment and a vague reference to the effects of intellectual property.

However these decisions were very weak.  Even then the United States registered its disagreement or reservations to these decisions, after the adoption of the text, giving a foretaste of how they will continue to object to future discussions on these issues.

A positive decision made in Doha was to prepare for the setting up by next year’s Conference of an “international mechanism”  to help developing countries deal with loss and damage caused by climate change. This also resulted from intense negotiations.

Activities meanwhile will include an expert meeting and preparing technical papers on this issue.  Developing countries hope that this programme will lead to new funds being channelled to those countries suffering from flooding, drought, sea level rise and other forms of damage linked to climate change.

The Doha conference also adopted a work plan for the new working group on the Durban Platform that was set up in December 2011.  There were major fights in Doha over this, with many  developing countries insisting that mention be made that the Durban Platform will operate on the basis of equity and common and differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), the operating principle of the UNFCCC.

The final text did not mention this principle, and even the reference to the June 2012 Rio Plus 20 Summit which endorsed the equity and CBDR principle was removed at the insistence of the United States.

What remained in the text was a reference that the Durban Platform’s work will be guided by the principles of the Convention.  Even then, the United States in the final plenary placed a reservation that they reject the use of this phrase in the negotiations in the Durban Platform group. (The phrase is in the 2011 decision that established the working group – after the United States rejected any reference to explicit inclusion of “equity” or “CBDR” the final compromise was “under the Convention”.)

This reveals how much lacking in the spirit of international cooperation that the United States and some other developed countries have become.

They are no longer willing to assist the developing countries, and incredibly are even objecting to the principles of the Convention being applied to negotiations to set up a new agreement that will be under the Convention.

More than anything else, this shows the tragic paradox of the Doha conference. It succeeded in adopting many decisions and kept the functioning of the multilateral climate regime alive, but the actual substance of actions to save the planet from climate change was absent, as was a genuine commitment to support the developing countries.

Author: Marin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre. Contact:

An earlier version of this article was published in The Star of 10 December 2012.

To view other articles in SouthNews, please click here.
For more information, please contact Vicente Paolo Yu of the South Centre:
Email, or telephone +41 22 791 80 50.
The list of the Climate Change Convention Conferences of the Parties held todate:


Posted on on November 26th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The following article is written as if nothing was learned from the outcome of the June 2012 meeting in Rio de Janeiro and continues the old line of calls of transfer of funds without calling for joint projects that address increased efficiency in use of energy in order to decrease CO2 emissions.

The Huffington Post on-line today has also articles about New York City and New Jersey State following Hurricane Sandy’s visit, that should have brought home the issue of Climate Change. Those articles, and information about climate events in China, India, Brazil, Mexico, besides common information rolling out for years from Bangladesh and the Island-States, ought to be a joint inter-National starting point to the Doha deliberations.
If the subject does not start from a common basis for all of mankind – the old-rich and the new-rich as well – simply said – New York and New Jersey will just waste their resources in building separation walls from the rest of the world, and nobody will be better off by the end of this century. It is just a pipe-dream that an impoverished EU can carry the world on the shoulders of their fiscal managers.

2012 UN Climate Talks In Doha, Qatar, Face Multiple Challenges.

AP |  By Posted: 11/25/2012     Doha Climate Conference

In this Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2012 file photo, conference flags are displayed ahead of the Doha Climate Change Conference, in Doha, Qatar that starts 11/26/2012.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — As nearly 200 countries meet in oil-and-gas-rich Qatar for annual talks starting Monday, November 26, 2016, on slowing global warming, one of the main challenges will be raising climate aid for poor countries at a time when budgets are strained by financial turmoil.

Rich countries have delivered nearly $30 billion in grants and loans promised in 2009, but those commitments expire this year. And a Green Climate Fund designed to channel up to $100 billion annually to poor countries has yet to begin operating.

Borrowing a buzzword from the U.S. budget debate, Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries, including island nations for whom rising sea levels pose a threat to their existence, stand before a “climate fiscal cliff.”

“So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Creating a structure for climate financing has so far been one of the few tangible outcomes of the two-decade-old U.N. climate talks, which have failed in their main purpose: reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels.

The only binding treaty to limit such emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, expires this year, so agreeing on an extension is seen as the most urgent task by environment ministers and climate officials meeting in the Qatari capital.

However, only the European Union and a few other countries are willing to join a second commitment period with new emissions targets. And the EU’s chief negotiator, Artur Runge-Metzger, admitted that such a small group is not going to make a big difference in the fight against climate change.

“I think we cover at most 14 percent of global emissions,” he said.

The U.S. rejected Kyoto because it didn’t cover rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Some hope for stronger commitments from U.S. delegates in Doha as work begins on drafting a new global treaty that would also apply to developing countries including China, the world’s top carbon emitter. That treaty is supposed to be adopted in 2015 and take effect five years later.

Climate financing is a side issue but a controversial one that often deepens the rich-poor divide that has hampered the U.N. climate talks since their launch in 1992. Critics of the U.N. process see the climate negotiations as a cover for attempts to redistribute wealth.

Runge-Metzger said the EU is prepared to continue supporting poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate, despite the debt crisis roiling Europe. But he couldn’t promise that the EU would present any new pledges in Doha and said developing countries must present detailed “bankable programs” before they can expect any money.

Sometimes, developing countries seem to be saying, “OK give us a blank check,” he told AP.

Climate aid activists bristled at that statement, saying many developing countries have already indicated what type of programs and projects need funding.

“They need the financial and technical support from the EU and others. Yet they continue to promise ‘jam tomorrow’ whilst millions suffer today,” said Meena Raman of the Third World Network, a nonprofit group.

Countries agreed in Copenhagen in 2009 to set up the Green Climate Fund with the aim of raising $100 billion annually by 2020. They also pledged to raise $30 billion in “fast-start” climate financing by 2012.

While that short-term goal has nearly been met by countries including the EU, Japan, Australia and the U.S., Oxfam estimates that only one-third of it was new money; the rest was previously pledged aid money repackaged as climate financing.

Oxfam also found that more than half of the financing was in the form of loans rather than grants, and that financing levels are set to fall in 2013 as rich countries rein in aid budgets amid debt problems and financial instability.

Meanwhile, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere keeps going up. It has jumped 20 percent since 2000, primarily from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, according to a U.N. report released last week.

A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are on track to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) this century, compared with pre-industrial times, overshooting the 2-degree target on which the U.N. talks are based.


NJ Rebuilding Efforts ‘Throwing Money Out To Sea’?

Will NYC Build A Barrier To Protect From Surges?


UN Climate Change Conference Opens In Doha, Qatar.

AP |  By Posted: 11/26/2012 2:37
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Anticipating an onslaught of criticism from poor nations, the United States claimed “enormous” strides in reducing greenhouse emissions at the opening of U.N. climate talks Monday, despite failing to join other industrialized nations in committing to binding cuts.

The pre-emptive U.S. approach underscores one of the major showdowns expected at the two-week conference as China pushes developed countries to take an even greater role in tackling global warming.

Speaking for a coalition of developing nations known as the G77, China’s delegate, Su Wei, said rich nations should become party to an extended Kyoto Protocol — an emissions deal for some industrialized countries that the Americans long ago rejected — or at least make “comparable mitigation commitments.”

The United States rejected Kyoto because it didn’t impose any binding commitments on major developing countries such as India and China, which is now the world’s No. 1 carbon emitter.

American delegate Jonathan Pershing offered no new sweeteners to the poor countries, only reiterating what the United States has done to tackle global warming: investing heavily in clean energy, doubling fuel efficiency standards and reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. Pershing also said the United States would not increase its earlier commitment of cutting emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. It is half way to that target.

“I would suggest those who don’t follow what the U.S. is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it’s enormous,” Pershing said.

“It doesn’t mean enough is being done. It’s clear the global community, and that includes us, has to do more if we are going to succeed at avoiding the damages projected in a warming world,” Pershing added. “It is not to say we haven’t acted. We have and we have acted with enormous urgency and singular purpose.”

The battles between rich and poor nations have often undermined talks in the past decade and stymied efforts to reach a deal to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F), compared to pre-industrial times. Efforts taken in the absence of a deal to rein in emissions, reduce deforestation and promote clean technology are not getting the job done. A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are expected to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) by 2100.

Countries are hoping to build on the momentum of last year’s talks in Durban, South Africa, where nearly 200 nations agreed to restart stalled negotiations with a deadline of 2015 to adopt a new treaty and extend Kyoto between five and eight years. The problem is that only the European Union and a handful of other nations — which together account for less than 15 percent of global emissions — are willing to commit to that.

Delegates in the Qatari capital of Doha are also hoping to raise billions of dollars to help developing countries adapt to a shifting climate.

“We owe it to our people, the global citizenry. We owe it to our children to give them a safer future than what they are currently facing,” said South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who led last year’s talks in Durban.

Environmentalists fear holding the talks in Qatar — the world’s biggest per capita emitter — could slow progress. They argue that the Persian Gulf emirate has shown little interest in climate talks and has failed to reign in its lavish lifestyle and big-spending ways.

There was hope among activists that Qatar might use Monday’s opening speech to set the tone of the conference. But Abdullah Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, the president of the conference and a former Qatari oil minister, didn’t offer any voluntary emission targets or climate funding for poor nations.

“Some countries, especially the one where we are sitting, have the potential to decrease their carbon emissions. They have the highest per capita emissions, so they can do a lot,” said Wael Hmaidan, a Lebanese activist and director of the Climate Action Network.

“If nations that are poorer than Qatar, like India and Mexico, can make pledges to reduce their carbon emissions, then countries in the region, especially Qatar, should easily be able to do it. … They still haven’t proven they are serious about climate change.”

Al-Attiyah defended Qatar’s environmental record at a later news conference, insisting it was working to reduce emissions from gas flaring and its oil fields. Qatar is already doing plenty to help poor countries with financing, he said, adding that it was unfair to focus on per capita emissions.

“We should not concentrate on per capita. We should concentrate on the amount and quantity that each country produces individually,” al-Attiyah said. “The quantity is the biggest challenge, not per capita.”

The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide has jumped 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report released last week. The report also showed that there is a growing gap between what governments are doing to curb emissions and what needs to be done to protect the world from potentially dangerous levels of warming.

At the same time, many scientists say extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy’s onslaught on the U.S. East Coast, will become more frequent as the Earth warms, although it is impossible to attribute any individual event to climate change. The rash of violent weather in the U.S., including widespread droughts and a record number of wildfires this summer, has again put climate change on the radar.

“While none of these individual events are necessarily because of climate change, they are certainly consistent with what we anticipate will happen in a warming world,” Pershing said. “The combination of these events is certainly changing minds of Americans and making clear to people at home the consequences of increased growth in emissions.”

In Washington, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., urged the U.S. delegation at the talks to “heed the warnings from Sandy and other extreme weather supercharged by climate change.”

“If the United States does not aggressively pursue sharp reductions in carbon pollution following the droughts, storms and other extreme weather events we have endured, the rest of the world will doubt our sincerity to address climate change,” Markey said. “It’s time to attack the carbon problem head on, and adapt to a climate already changed for the worse.”

Many countries referenced Hurricane Sandy as a rallying cry for tough action to cap emissions, including a group of small island nations that said the monster storm may have jolted the world to recognize “that we are all in this together.”

“When the tragedies occur far away from the media spotlight, they are too often ignored or forgotten,” the island nations said in a statement.


Posted on on November 18th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Obama Resurrects Climate Change

Blown back into office by a superstorm of events, President Obama has put climate change back on his agenda—along with a sick economy. The solution to both is a clean energy future, says Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen.

17 November 2012,

Climate Change Re-elected As Political Issue.
It’s back on Obama’s agenda, along with “all of the above.”

President Obama, on election night.  (Christopher Dilts)

Life doesn’t hand you many second chances to make good on promises.

But that’s what the American public, with an assist from superstorm Sandy, has given President Obama: another 4-year opportunity to tackle climate change—the critical environmental issue of our time. He’s now talking about the issue again, after two years of near-silence, and just a few days ago spoke of “an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change.”

President Obama’s words aren’t quite as bold as those he made four years ago about attacking climate change, but they give us hope that climate change has become a politically viable issue—especially when seen in the context of the election.

One of the headlines of this election is how coal—the prime cause of man-made climate change—lost traction with voters, despite a huge influx of campaign spending by the fossil fuel industry. The industry was hoping to use coal to beat President Obama and win a Senate majority in coal states that also were swing states. In Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Montana, Democratic senators won against that onslaught of coal messaging and money. And the president won a majority in three of those states. On top of that, no senator who had voted against efforts in the Senate to strip the EPA of its ability to work on climate change ended up being punished at the polls. The coal money going into this campaign was a major effort to punish senators for voting for greenhouse gas controls and against coal and that effort failed—dramatically.

That does not mean that the prospects for major climate change legislation have changed, however. The House remains in the hands of Republicans and climate deniers.

Earthjustice will focus on defending’s what’s been done at the EPA on climate change and greenhouse gases and going to court to compel more. The unfinished business includes completing greenhouse gas pollution standards for new power plants. Getting greenhouse gas standards for existing power plants now has the prospect of getting addressed in the next couple of years. Greenhouse gas standards for oil and gas production—oil refineries, cement kilns and aviation—are in the works and we are involved in all of those issues through our legal work.

In addition, we will continue our work to retire dirty coal-fired power plants individually with dozens of those cases going on in many states.

We also are prepared to push hard for leadership from President Obama on climate change. While he has resurrected climate change as an issue, he’s also said economic growth comes first—as if we can’t have both. Moreover, we are troubled by some campaign promises he made before the votes were counted … promises to seek an “all of the above” energy policy that includes “clean” coal and oil and gas. You can’t fight climate change by investing in its causes—you must invest in its solutions.

Forceful action on climate change is a tall order, beyond what a president alone can deliver. That’s why Earthjustice will continue demanding action through the courts and advocacy on the Hill. In all ways, we will promote a clean energy future—the only solution that builds our economy while stopping the advance of climate change.


Related EARTHJUSTICE Blog Entries

by Trip Van Noppen:

Voters Tell Obama: Get To Work On Clean Energy FutureThe American people have reinvested their faith in a President who now has a second chance to put this nation on course to a prosperous future built o…

by Trip Van Noppen:

Sandy Staggers East Coast -- And Climate DeniersHurricane Sandy delivered a lot of pain when it punched into the East Coast. As I write this, a week later, the sea has retreated but the suffering r…

by Tom Turner:

The New MathBill McKibben,  who first alerted the non-scientific world to global climate change two decades ago with The End of Nature  has a new p…


Posted on on November 15th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

The New York Times Op-Ed Contributor

We Need to Retreat From the Beach.

Henning Wagenbreth
By ORRIN H. PILKEY – From Durham, N.C. – Published in the New York Times : November 14, 2012

THE DEBATE – Should New York Build Sea Gates? How can we better protect New York City from flooding?

AS ocean waters warm, the Northeast is likely to face more Sandy-like storms. And as sea levels continue to rise, the surges of these future storms will be higher and even more deadly. We can’t stop these powerful storms. But we can reduce the deaths and damage they cause.

Hurricane Sandy’s immense power, which destroyed or damaged thousands of homes, actually pushed the footprints of the barrier islands along the South Shore of Long Island and the Jersey Shore landward as the storm carried precious beach sand out to deep waters or swept it across the islands. This process of barrier-island migration toward the mainland has gone on for 10,000 years.

Yet there is already a push to rebuild homes close to the beach and bring back the shorelines to where they were. The federal government encourages this: there will be billions available to replace roads, pipelines and other infrastructure and to clean up storm debris, provide security and emergency housing. Claims to the National Flood Insurance Program could reach $7 billion. And the Army Corps of Engineers will be ready to mobilize its sand-pumping dredges, dump trucks and bulldozers to rebuild beaches washed away time and again.

But this “let’s come back stronger and better” attitude, though empowering, is the wrong approach to the increasing hazard of living close to the rising sea. Disaster will strike again. We should not simply replace all lost property and infrastructure. Instead, we need to take account of rising sea levels, intensifying storms and continuing shoreline erosion.

I understand the temptation to rebuild. My parents’ retirement home, built at 13 feet above sea level, five blocks from the shoreline in Waveland, Miss., was flooded to the ceiling during Hurricane Camille in 1969. They rebuilt it, but the house was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. (They had died by then.) Even so, rebuilding continued in Waveland.

A year after Katrina, one empty Waveland beachfront lot, on which successive houses had been wiped away by Hurricanes Camille and Katrina, was for sale for $800,000.

That is madness.

We should strongly discourage the reconstruction of destroyed or badly damaged beachfront homes in New Jersey and New York.

Some very valuable property will have to be abandoned to make the community less vulnerable to storm surges. This is tough medicine, to be sure, and taxpayers may be forced to compensate homeowners. But it should save taxpayers money in the long run by ending this cycle of repairing or rebuilding properties in the path of future storms. Surviving buildings and new construction should be elevated on pilings at least two feet above the 100-year flood level to allow future storm overwash to flow underneath. Some buildings should be moved back from the beach.

Respecting the power of these storms is not new. American Indians who occupied barrier islands during the warm months moved to the mainland during the winter storm season. In the early days of European settlement in North America, some communities restricted building to the bay sides of barrier islands to minimize damage.

In Colombia and Nigeria, where some people choose to live next to beaches to reduce exposure to malarial mosquitoes, houses are routinely built to be easily moved.

We should also understand that armoring the shoreline with sea walls will not be successful in holding back major storm surges. As experience in New Jersey and elsewhere has shown, sea walls eventually cause the loss of protective beaches. These beaches can be replaced, but only at enormous cost to taxpayers. The 21-mile stretch of beach between Sandy Hook and Barnegat Inlet in New Jersey was replenished between 1999 and 2001 at a cost of $273 million (in 2011 dollars). Future replenishment will depend on finding suitable sand on the continental shelf, where it is hard to find.

And as sea levels rise, replenishment will be required more often. In Wrightsville Beach, N.C., the beach already has been replenished more than 20 times since 1965, at a cost of nearly $543 million (in 2011 dollars). Taxpayers in at least three North Carolina communities — Carteret and Dare Counties and North Topsail Beach — have voted down tax increases to pay for these projects in the last dozen years. The attitude was: we shouldn’t have to pay for the beach. We weren’t the ones irresponsible enough to build next to an eroding shoreline.

This is not the time for a solution based purely on engineering. The Army Corps undoubtedly will be heavily involved. But as New Jersey and New York move forward, officials should seek advice from oceanographers, coastal geologists, coastal and construction engineers and others who understand the future of rising seas and their impact on barrier islands. We need more resilient development, to be sure. But we also need to begin to retreat from the ocean’s edge.

Orrin H. Pilkey is an emeritus professor of earth sciences at Duke University and a co-author of “The Rising Sea.”


Posted on on November 4th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (




Opinion in The New York Times

Deciding Where Future Disasters Will Strike.

Published: November 3, 2012

WE all have an intuitive sense of how water works: block it, and it flows elsewhere. When a storm surge hits a flood barrier, for instance, the water does not simply dissipate. It does the hydrological equivalent of a bounce, and it lands somewhere else.

Related in Opinion:

Op-Ed Contributor: Our Latest High-Water Mark (November 3, 2012)
Room for Debate: Should New York Build Sea Gates?
(November 1, 2012)

The Dutch, after years of beating back the oceans, have a way of deciding what is worth saving with a dike or sea wall, and what is not. They simply run the numbers, and if something is worth less in terms of pure euros and cents, it is more acceptable to let it be flooded. This seems entirely reasonable. But as New York begins considering coastal defenses, it should also consider the uncomfortable truth that Wall Street is worth vastly more, in dollar terms, than certain low-lying neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens — and that to save Manhattan, planners may decide to flood some other part of the city.

I think I was the only journalist who witnessed the March 2009 unveiling of some of the first proposed sea-wall designs. “Against the Deluge: Storm Surge Barriers to Protect New York City” was a conference held at N.Y.U.’s Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn, and it had the sad air of what was then an entirely lost cause. There was a single paying exhibitor — “Please visit our exhibitor,” implored the organizers — whose invention, FloodBreak, was an ingenious, self-deploying floodgate big enough to protect a garage but not at all big enough to protect Manhattan. When we lined up for the included dinner, which consisted of cold spaghetti, the man waved fliers at the passing engineers. But as I look back over my notes, I can see how prescient the conference was. A phrase I frequently scrawled is “Breezy Point.”

One speaker got a sustained ovation. He was an engineer from the Dutch company Arcadis, whose $6.5 billion design is one with which I suspect we will all soon be familiar. It is a modular wall spanning 6,000 feet across the weakest point in New York’s natural defenses, the Narrows, which separates Staten Island and Brooklyn. Its main feature is a giant swinging gate modeled on the one that protects Rotterdam, Europe’s most important port. Consisting of two steel arms, each more than twice as long as the Statue of Liberty is tall, Rotterdam’s gate is among the largest moving structures on earth. And New York’s barrier would stretch across an even larger reach of water — “an extra landmark” for the city, he said triumphantly. That’s when everyone began clapping.

The engineers in the room did not shy away from the hard truth that areas outside a Narrows barrier could see an estimated two feet of extra flooding. If a wave rebounding off the new landmark hits a wave barreling toward it, it could make for a bigger wave of the sort that neighborhoods like Arrochar and Midland Beach on Staten Island and Bath Beach and Gravesend in Brooklyn may want to start fretting about.

I attended the conference not just because I was interested in the fate of New York, my onetime home, but because I was recently back from parts of Bangladesh decimated by a cyclone. By now it is commonplace to point out that climate change is unfair, that it tends to leave the big “emitter countries” in good shape — think Russia or Canada or, until recently, America — while preying on the low-emitting, the poor, the weak, the African, the tropical. But more grossly unfair is the notion that, in lieu of serious carbon cuts, we will all simply adapt to climate change. Manhattan can and increasingly will. Rotterdam can and has. Dhaka or Chittagong or Breezy Point patently cannot. If a system of sea walls is built around New York, its estimated $10 billion price tag would be five times what rich countries have given in aid to help poorer countries prepare for a warmer world.

Whether climate change caused Sandy’s destruction is a question for scientists — and in many ways it’s a stupid question, akin to asking whether gravity is the reason an old house collapsed when it did. The global temperature can rise another 10 degrees, and the answer will always be: sorta. By deciding to adapt to climate change — a decision that has already been partly made, because significant warming is already baked into the system — we have decided to embrace a world of walls.

Some people, inevitably richer people, will be on the right side of these walls. Other people will not be — and that we might find it increasingly convenient to lose all sight of them is the change I fear the most. This is not an argument against saving New York from the next hurricane. It is, however, an argument for a response to this one that is much broader than the Narrows.

McKenzie Funk is a journalist who is writing a book on the business of climate change.


Fractured Recovery Divides the Region.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Katya Slepak carried donated supplies to her cousins’ home in the Midland Beach neighborhood of Staten Island. More Photos »

By , and
Published: November 3, 2012

The patchy recovery from Hurricane Sandy exposed a fractured region on Saturday. The lights flickered on in Manhattan neighborhoods that had been dark for days, and New York’s subways rumbled and screeched through East River tunnels again.

But in shorefront stretches of Staten Island and Queens that were all but demolished, and in broad sections of New Jersey and Long Island, gasoline was still almost impossible to come by, electricity was still lacking, temperatures were dropping and worried homeowners wondered when help would finally arrive.

Drivers in New Jersey faced 1970s-style gasoline rationing imposed by Gov. Chris Christie, while in New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the Defense Department would distribute free fuel from five mobile stations. But that effort backfired when too many people showed up.

It was a weekend of contrasts. Crowds streamed into city parks that reopened on a blindingly bright Saturday morning, while people who had been displaced by the storm said help was not coming fast enough and the desperation was growing.

David O’Connor, 44, had begun to use his living room chairs as firewood in Long Beach, N.Y., where the storm sent water surging down streets. A neighbor, Gina Braddish, a 27-year-old newlywed, was planning to siphon gas from a boat that washed into her front yard. Older people on darkened streets have been shouting for help from second-floor windows, at eye level with the buoys still trapped in trees.

“I’m looking around seeing people really down,” said Joann Bush, a social worker who lives in Coney Island. “They don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring.”

There were other contrasts: The grandstands were still in place for the New York City Marathon, even though Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had canceled the race on Friday for the first time in its 42-year history. But instead of promoting a race, Mr. Bloomberg visited the devastated neighborhoods in the Rockaway section of Queens, where he voiced concern about chilly temperatures and hypothermia. “It’s cold, and it really is critical that people stay warm, especially the elderly,” he said at a City Hall briefing, urging people to go to shelters if they did not have heat. He added, “We are committed to making sure that everybody can have a roof over their head and food in their stomachs and deal with the cold safely.”

In many places that the storm pounded in its relentless push into the Northeast, there was a profound sense of isolation, with whole towns on Long Island still cut off from basic information, supplies and electricity. People in washed-out neighborhoods said they felt increasingly desperate. “Everything involving our lives is a matter of exhaustion,” said Nancy Reardon, 45, who waited for gas for five hours on Saturday in Massapequa.

Vikki Quinn, standing amid ruined belongings in front of her flooded house in Long Beach, said she felt lost. “I just keep waiting for someone with a megaphone and a car to just tell us what to do,” she said.

Hank Arkin, 60, a photographer in Merrick, wondered how much of the damage could have been avoided. “I am screaming mad because this is an inhumane way to live in the highest property-taxed area of the entire state,” he said. “They had days of notice before the storm and nothing was done.”

Officials said they were trying to get help where it was needed. “One of the problems is that when you have lots of different agencies, it takes a while for them to get coordinated,” Mr. Bloomberg said at his briefing, adding that he understood how high the tensions were in the Rockaways. “Somebody this morning screamed at me that they could not get coffee,” he said. “Someone else screamed at me that there is nothing there, but one block away, there was a service.”

Hundreds of thousands of homes on Long Island were still without power Saturday, and frustration with the utilities, particularly Long Island Power Authority, continued to rise. “LIPA, get your act together,” Edward P. Mangano, the Nassau County executive, wrote on his Facebook page Saturday. “This response and lack of communication with customers is shameful.”

Mr. Bloomberg, too, attacked the power authority, which provides electricity to the Rockaways. “LIPA in our view has not acted aggressively enough,” the mayor said. He said the power authority had “no clear timetable” for restoring the power and that it had indicated that some homes and businesses might have to wait two weeks before the lights went back on.

“That is certainly not acceptable,” he said. “When it comes to prioritizing resources,” he said, the Rockaways “should be first in line” because the storm did so much damage there. But so far, he said, “that does not appear to be the case.” Mr. Cuomo also criticized the power authority on Saturday, as he has almost daily since the storm hit.

Mr. Cuomo said there were signs of progress. He said four subway lines that tie Manhattan to Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens — the Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7 lines — returned to life completely on Saturday morning, with four others — the D, F, J and M lines — set to begin running between Manhattan and Brooklyn by nightfall. The Q train was also expected back by the end of the day on Saturday, and the Nos. 2 and 3 trains on Sunday. But the L line remained flooded on Saturday — “wall to wall, ceiling to ceiling,” the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joseph J. Lhota, said.

Mr. Bloomberg said most public schools would reopen on Monday, only to close again on Tuesday for Election Day. He said some 65 schools would not open on Monday, some because they were being used as shelters, some because they had sustained damage in the storm. He said officials hoped that most of those schools could open Wednesday.

He said that building inspectors still had to check some 55,000 buildings in the low-lying areas that he ordered evacuated before the storm struck. He said that 8,500 buildings have been inspected and that more than 7,200 were “safe to inhabit.”

Utility crews from across the country struggled with a power network that had been battered. As they went from town to town and block to block, they trimmed trees and freed cables that had toppled in winds that approached 80 miles an hour.

Despite nonstop work, the numbers were daunting. In New Jersey, Public Service Electric and Gas still had more than 600,000 customers without power on Saturday. Hoboken remained the biggest challenge because of water damage, officials said.

Mr. Cuomo said that in New York, 60 percent of those who lost power in the storm had had it restored, but that 900,000 were still in the dark. On Long Island, where 1.2 million people lost power, about 550,000 had their power back by Saturday morning.

Mr. Cuomo also said 8 million gallons of gas had been unloaded from commercial tankers and an additional 28 million gallons would go to distribution terminals over the weekend.

In Midtown Manhattan, riggers went to work high above West 57th Street, near Carnegie Hall, where the storm broke the boom on a construction crane and left it dangling 74 stories up. They hand-cranked the boom closer to the partially completed building and planned to strap the boom to the structure. Once that was done, the surrounding streets, which had been closed since the boom snapped, could reopen — perhaps by Sunday, the mayor said.

Relief agencies poured into beleaguered neighborhoods, but so did hundreds of volunteers on their own. The narrow lanes of Midland Beach on Staten Island, which the storm slammed with particular fury, were busy. Groups of volunteers carrying brooms, rakes and shovels went from door to door, offering to pitch in with the cleanup. Others circled the blocks in pickup trucks full of food, blankets, clothes and cleaning supplies. Impromptu distribution centers piled high with food and secondhand clothes sprang up on every other corner.

“Anybody need anything?” a man shouted from a truck to a group cleaning out a house on Olympia Boulevard. A few minutes later, two women pulling rolling suitcases paused in front of the house and asked the same question. There appeared to be more volunteers offering help than residents in need.The storm’s toll in the city rose to 41, according to the police, when a 90-year-old man was found dead in his basement in Rockaway Park. He was identified as George Stathis. The police said his body was found when a cousin went to check on him.

Two patients remained in the evacuated Bellevue Hospital Center on the East Side of Manhattan on Saturday because they were too sick to be carried down the stairs, according to several people familiar with the situation. One of the patients was a 500- to 600-pound woman, and the other a man who was scheduled to have heart surgery powered by an emergency generator after the hospital lost power in the storm, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because Bellevue employees had received an e-mail threatening them with dismissal if they spoke to reporters.

Ian Michaels, a spokesman for Bellevue, said power had been restored on Saturday. He said officials hoped to transfer out the last two patients as soon as the elevators were back in service.

The authorities estimated that as many as 100,000 homes and businesses on Long Island had been destroyed or badly damaged in the storm. Sand dunes were flattened and rows of beach houses crushed. The storm’s furious flood tide created new inlets that could become permanent parts of the topography.

Redrawing the maps will take time. The cleanup is immediate, and grim. In a grocery on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island, men tried to slop out foul-smelling muck as thousands of dollars worth of food and produce lay rotting on the floor.

“Everything is damaged, everything is garbage,” said Boris Yakubov, who said he was the store owner’s brother. He was pushing a mop, trying to help clear out the mess.

Down the street, the pharmacy in the back of a store was open, but the customers had to wade through a tide of mud that remained in the front. Irina Vovnoby got her white tennis shoes dirty and wet dropping off a prescription for her mother-in-law.

“I never saw a situation like this,” she said. “This is a disaster.”

Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Residents on Michigan Ave. in Long Beach banded together to keep a lookout for looters.  More Photos »


Posted on on October 31st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

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October 31st, 2012

What Sandy says about government

By Edward Alden, CFR

Editor’s Note: Edward Alden is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Renewing America was originally published here. The views expressed are the author’s own.

Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader, is famously believed to have said that he has no wish to eliminate government, but only to “shrink it to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Americans up and down the east coast can be grateful in the wake of Hurricane Sandy that he has not yet succeeded, or they might well have drowned in their own homes.

For those who wonder just what it is our tax dollars pay for, consider just a small list of government actions before and during the storm that made it far less catastrophic than it might have been:

– The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for tracking the path of hurricanes and other storms, predicted days in advance – and with astonishing accuracy – both the path and strength of Hurricane Sandy. That gave governments throughout the region time to plan a response.

– New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered the evacuation of nearly 400,000 people from low-lying areas of the city, and set up emergency shelters. That order probably saved countless lives given the heavy flooding in Lower Manhattan that came at the peak of the storm.

– New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shut the city’s subway, rail, and commuter buses. The record storm surge led to severe flooding in seven subway stations, the worst in the system’s 100-year history. But no one was hurt in the empty stations.

– New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered the evacuation of Atlantic City and shut the region’s casinos to keep people away from the dangerous coastline.

– In neighborhoods everywhere, like my own in Maryland, county and city governments provided constant updates on road conditions, dangerous wires, downed trees, and other hazards, and advertised available shelters for those who lost power or had storm damage to their homes.

– In the aftermath, the Obama administration quickly declared the hardest hit areas of New York and New Jersey to be disaster areas, freeing up millions of federal dollars for temporary housing and repairs to homes and businesses.

This list could be much longer, but each represents a success born of planning and coordinated action to improve outcomes for large numbers of people – exactly what governments can and should be doing.

More from CNN: Is Sandy a taste of things to come?

The contrast with the failed preparation and response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is striking. In the years prior to Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana Army Corps of Engineers had identified some $18 billion in projects necessary to shore up the levees in New Orleans against hurricanes and flooding. Instead, Army Corps funding in the state was cut in half in the four years before the 2005 hurricane, with predictable consequences. Both federal and state governments failed to preposition supplies as the storm barreled in, there was little pressure on local residents to evacuate, and emergency responders took days to get to the scene after the storm to rescue the tens of thousands stranded in the city.

The vastly improved response this time around shows that governments – like private businesses – can learn from past mistakes. Governor Christie of New Jersey praised the federal government’s response to Hurricane Sandy, calling it “outstanding.”

There are some basic lessons in all this. First, we should invest in government services because we want them to be there when we are in a time of need.  Whether it’s a natural disaster that affects millions or a company closure that leaves hundreds out of work, government has the resources to help people get back on their feet and start over. Second, governments – like businesses or individuals – can learn to do things better. The preparations for Hurricane Sandy would likely have been much poorer if not for the lessons from Katrina, from Irene, and from this past summer’s “derecho” storms in Washington. Third, the effort to pit state and local governments against the federal government is mistaken; when a genuine crisis hits, we need all three working effectively and in concert.

As with all such disasters, human memory is short. Most of us will quickly forget Hurricane Sandy, move on with our lives, and grumble about high taxes. But if we keep letting them do their jobs – rather than continuing to cut them down — our governments will be busy preparing for the next time we really need them.



Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; Sandy’s Strength Due to Climate Change?

Aired October 31, 2012 – 16:00:00 ET – On CNN program AMANPOUR.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, welcome to the program. I’m Christiane Amanpour.

The devastating superstorm Sandy has finally cleared the East Coast, but the crisis she left behind is spreading fast. Here in New York City another hospital is right now in the process of being evacuated. It’s Bellevue, the city’s main public hospital. It has no power and its generator isn’t working. Seven hundred patients, including a number in critical condition, are being moved to other hospitals.

This after another major hospital, NYU, also had to evacuate during the early hours of the storm. It had no working generator at all. The city that never sleeps is heavily stressed out. All day it’s been in the grip of an epic traffic snarl.

Approximately 5 million people ride the New York City subway every day, and with that system flooded and closed, most of the people are now driving or forming huge lines for buses and ferries. At least half of New York City has no power and many people won’t get that power back for days.

How bad is it?

The U.S. Navy is now moving three amphibious landing ships toward the coast of New York and New Jersey. The Navy says it’s in case local officials need more assistance.

New York’s LaGuardia Airport remains closed. JFK and Newark have reopened, but very few flights have taken off so far.

And across the river from New York, the National Guard has arrived to help in flooded Hoboken, New Jersey. Rescue efforts have been going on there since yesterday, but there are still people trapped in their homes. President Obama is in New Jersey today. He and the Republican governor of that state, Chris Christie boarded Marine One to tour the devastated areas.

Tonight, we’ll be exploring just how it got this bad. What officials knew or should have known. But first, a look at the other stories we’re covering.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Get used to it. Sandy is the new normal.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): Scientists warn denying climate change is hazardous to your health.

And underwater, the town that gave the world Frank Sinatra, the town that was the setting for Marlon Brando “On the Waterfront.”

“TERRY MALLOY”: I could have been a contender.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Today, Hoboken, New Jersey, fights for its life.



AMANPOUR: We’ll get to that in a bit. But first, for many years, scientists have been warning of just this sort of disaster.

Eliot Spitzer was governor of New York, and he knows as well as anyone the problems associated with taking all the necessary action to prevent this kind of thing.

So, first let me ask you, Governor, you obviously had been briefed; you were prepared in your time.

Did Sandy shape up as bad as you thought? Or was it about what you thought? Was it worse?

ELIOT SPITZER, FORMER NY GOVERNOR: Worse in terms of the aftereffects. I think during the storm itself, people kind of heaved a sigh of relief and said, oh, my goodness; it was not as devastating at the moment.

But then when we could step back and look at the scope of the harm, the magnitude of the damage to the infrastructure, and it has highlighted exactly what you just said, the preparations have not been made, were not made, were not properly — investments that should have been made years ago simply have not occurred.

AMANPOUR: Well, you were governor.

SPITZER: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: Why have these investments not been made? You were warned, presumably, along with all the governors.

SPITZER: Well, there are issues that have a timeframe of one year, five years and then 20 years. And when you are told sometime in the next hundred years we will get a storm of this magnitude, it doesn’t get you to the point of decision that needs to — where you need to get in terms of investing in the infrastructure to protect the subway, the hospitals, the energy system.

We have not had a mass transit investment system in nationally out of Washington for 20 years. And so at so many levels, our politics are failing us; global warming was not mentioned in the presidential debates. And so, at many levels, there’s a crisis. As a governor of a state, should we have done more? Absolutely.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me get to that. Governor Cuomo, your successor, is being — having his daily briefings. And he has talked about an antiquated infrastructure, the never anticipated this kind of thing, and that needs to be rebuilt faster. But I’m going to play you something he said. And I was struck. And I’ll tell you what struck me. I’ll see if it struck you as well.


ANDREW CUOMO, GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: I’m hopeful that not only we’ll – – we rebuild this city and metropolitan area, but we use this as an opportunity to build it back smarter. There has been a series of extreme weather incidents. Anyone — that’s not a political statement; that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.


AMANPOUR: So, Governor, even in the direst need of New York, the governor is feeling the heat. He feels defensive, even talking about these weather patterns, even talking about this climate shift and swing.


AMANPOUR: I mean, what does that say about the atmosphere here in the United States?

SPITZER: Well, look, let me state a few things that are also facts. There was, as I said, no question about global warming during the presidential debates. There are still people — and I don’t want to make this partisan, but still people in the Republican Party who deny the existence of climate change.

The president, several years ago, President Obama did make a — take a first step in the direction of either a carbon tax or some sort of emissions policy that would have been smart, and yet it went nowhere in Congress. When he went internationally, he could not get the coalition together. We have a long way to go.

Al Gore, whom I respect enormously, he is a colleague of mine now, but where I work, he has done more to galvanize public opinion about that, but still we have so far to go before we can get tax dollars invested in the sorts of measures to save us from these consequences.

AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, you are the politician. How do you galvanize people? Is it a storm like this? Or will people just forget about it, once the clearup has happened? I mean, it’s not just the carbon tax, which obviously is needed, but this big infrastructure, you know, big storm barrage gates.

SPITZER: Look, we have Mitt Romney. And, again, I don’t want to be partisan, even though it is just a week before the presidential race — Mitt Romney and the Republican Party denying the need for government to invest in infrastructure because government didn’t build that. They want to deny that government is a necessary partner.

Now a storm like this can have sort of — can provide a metastasizing effect in terms of public opinion. So people will say, yes, this is critically necessary. Whether it is the relatively small issue of the subway system — small in the context of global issues we need to think about — or issue of a carbon tax, which is a very conservative idea in terms of economics.

We need to go to both extremes. We need to reinforce our subway system and the hospitals and the energy system and do a global tax, a carbon tax of some sort.

AMANPOUR: You had the balance books in front of you as governor of the state. How painful would it be in terms of dollars and cents, in terms of years spent, in terms of political capital spent, to get this kind of infrastructure done?

SPITZER: Here’s the problem. When I was governor, the imperative — and perhaps rightly so — was our educational system. The educational system ate up every penny of spare cash we had, because we are languishing. Folks overseas should appreciate we in the United States feel that we are not educating our kids properly.

So every spare penny we had went into improving our educational system. If you say to parents, we want to increase your taxes and then use those dollars to deal with the one in 50 possibly of a storm as opposed to putting more teachers in the classrooms; you can see the political — now I’m not justifying it. I’m explaining the dynamic that makes it so hard.

AMANPOUR: Right. But you’re also a communicator and you know that it’s no longer just one in 50. These once-in-a-lifetime, one-in-a-hundred- years storms are coming up every couple of years.

SPITZER: That’s exactly right.

AMANPOUR: And not only that, physically, the water around New York is rising faster than it has ever done.

SPITZER: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: Is there a way of communicating that to people so that they understand it?

Can you survive another one of these?

SPITZER: Unfortunately, the best way to communicate it is this storm. In other words, when you speak of things in hypotheticals, people discount the reality. After this storm, perhaps public opinion will be galvanized. We can only hope so because, you’re right. We cannot survive a succession of these storms without saying to ourselves something (inaudible). (Inaudible) Katrina in New Orleans.

AMANPOUR: And Governor, I know you’ve not wanted to be partisan, but you have blamed the Republicans. But look, even under Democratic presidents, politically it has been very, very difficult to get a sort of tipping point momentum to concentrate people’s minds. And America is the biggest polluter in the world.

Other democracies are actually getting together with climate change and trying to figure out what to do. So again —


AMANPOUR: — (inaudible) take?

SPITZER: (Inaudible) in the first half of your comment, all I can say that you’re right. And you’re right. I want — I want to be able to point the finger at Republicans, but that’s not an answer. That is finger- pointing. The Democratic Party has been better.

I look at Ed Markey, who is a friend of mine, who has crafted the Waxman-Markey bill, very important. I look at President Obama who embraced the issue of global warming. But nobody has yet made it the imperative that it should be, other than Al Gore, back when he was —

AMANPOUR: Explain the Waxman-Markey bill.

SPITZER: It would set limits and it would create a marketplace so that you could sell or buy the right to pollute.

It is the notion of several years back, that at least if you impose a cost upon pollution, then people will either avoid it or somehow transfer the burden to consumers so they will consume fewer products that pollute. It’s sort of an old-fashioned economic concept. But it is not going to happen.

AMANPOUR: Now when you look around, I mean, New York is an international hub, not just for the financial trading, not just for tourism, but also the ports, the ports taking huge amounts of goods and materiel. These ports have been devastated, I mean, cars have been destroyed, 15,000 in one port in New Jersey alone.


AMANPOUR: Can these ports recover to be the economic hub that they need to be?

SPITZER: Look, without any question, the answer for that is yes. The resilience of a city, whether it’s New Orleans or New York in particular, look, we had 9/11, which we should not forget the devastation on 9/11, what was — it’s hard to sort of —

AMANPOUR: (Inaudible).

SPITZER: This is a broader geographic area. That one was emotionally worse, of course, in terms of lives lost. That one was much worse.

But we are resilient. We will bounce back. A month from now, people will say, oh, yes. They will begin to talk about this in the past tense. In most of the city, not in the particular communities that have been utterly destroyed and in New Jersey as well. And I feel for Chris Christie and the folks across the river.

But we will bounce back and I think we will — the question is, the one you’re posing: will we respond wisely and invest so that it does not happen again? And this is an issue for London, New York, San Francisco, any city that is proximate to water.

AMANPOUR: Do you think we will respond wisely?

SPITZER: All I can say is I hope so. And I hope, again — I don’t want to be partisan. I hope that whoever’s elected president — obviously, I’m for Barack Obama — uses this as a catalyst to say to Congress and to the public, this is something we must deal with, both in terms of investment and infrastructure and the megaissue of global warming.

AMANPOUR: Do you think it’ll make a difference if Obama is elected? And you’ve tried not to be partisan. But obviously, this election is coming up. Obama today is touring with one of the most well-known Republican governors and they’re being very nice to each other.


AMANPOUR: Is this a momentum generator for the president as he goes into the election? Or is this a momentum, you know, stopper for Mitt Romney? How does this play?

SPITZER: It’s more the latter. I think the past several weeks, the politics of this has been that Mitt Romney, for reasons that are hard to get my arms around, has been on a roll since the first debate, which he clearly won. He has captured the public’s imagination and bizarrely has been the positive, affirmative voice of change and hope. How bizarre and quixotic is that?

And Barack Obama has been playing defense. This storm, I think, stopped that and got people to focus, again, the meme in the Republican Party at their convention was mocking the notion that government had built anything that mattered. I think now the public appreciates government matters.

When you see the folks showing up to rescue the elderly, when you see the policemen going down to save people at the subway system, government matters. So I think that helps Barack Obama.

But he needs to build on that in a second term. I still think he’ll win. I still think Ohio is his firewall. He will win, but he needs to use this to say to the Republican leadership, to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, guys, we must find a common ground.

AMANPOUR: He tried that the first time around. It didn’t work, not just because of the Republicans, but his techniques as well weren’t thoroughly successful.

SPITZER: I would go beyond that.


SPITZER: He caved on too many issues, but that’s OK. One learns as one goes forward.

AMANPOUR: All right. Will it be different in a second term?

SPITZER: Yes. He will be freed of some of the constraints. He won’t worry about reelection. He will be — he’s galvanized the public that is his base. He is firmer in his beliefs. I think November 7, when he wakes up a reelected president, he says, I’ve got four years now to stand up for the principles I believe in. And I think he will be a fundamentally stronger.

AMANPOUR: And do you believe — because he did try it in his first term, and he regretted not going for it, that he will do climate change in his second term?

SPITZER: I do indeed. I think he wants to be the historic president. He’s done health care. He will bring us back economically. There’s a slow, painful grind, but I think he sees climate change as something he can do.

AMANPOUR: Well, I think all our lives depend on it. And our children’s and our grandchildren’s.

SPITZER: I agree.

AMANPOUR: Governor, thank you very much for being with us.

SPITZER: Thank you for inviting me.

AMANPOUR: And despite Sandy, as we’ve been saying, there are people out there who still deny climate change. We’ve just been discussing it. And when we come back, we’ll meet a scientist who said those skeptics are literally whistling past the graveyard — their own.

But before we go to a break, another glimpse of this superstorm. Take a look at this view from Brooklyn looking towards Manhattan as the lights went out. We’ll be right back.



AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program. Superstorm Sandy is just a taste of things to come, both here in the United States and around the world. That is according to my next guest, climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. He’s been studying climate change for three decades, and is currently a geoscientist professor at Princeton University.

Welcome, thank you.


AMANPOUR: Also one of the authors of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

OPPENHEIMER: Right. That’s the U.N. agency that puts out assessments of this problem periodically.

AMANPOUR: So are you stunned by what happened? Did you, in your wildest dreams, believe that this is — this would be the result?

OPPENHEIMER: Well, sort of professionally, I knew it could happen. But until it happens to you, and hits you on the head, you don’t really fully appreciate what it’s like to be in a situation like this. I live in the area of Manhattan that’s blocked out, that’s blacked out.

I went down to the coast before the storm peaked to watch the seas rising. And even though we’ve predicted stuff like this in the past, it was a shock to me to see it.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it is a little third world, if you don’t mind me saying that, about this great city, it’s half in the dark, hundreds of thousands of people don’t have power. Did you expect that to happen?

OPPENHEIMER: Before the storm hit in its full fury, my wife asked me if we needed to worry about the electricity going out. I said, nah, you know, we don’t live in the flood zone. We’re a little higher than that. It’s not going to affect us.

Little did I realize that the utility had so many transformers and some of their substations right in the area that could be flooded. Why it’s like that, I’m not sure; possibly because the system was designed 100 years ago. That was before sea level rose by a foot, which now threatens a lot more of the city. And that’s the heart of the problem.

AMANPOUR: Well, let’s talk about this. You heard my conversation with the former governor, Eliot Spitzer, talking about what needs to be done and this sort of antiquated system, and the political will needing to be corralled to fix it and to move forward. You, though, and your fellow scientists, have been briefing and warning all sorts of officials.

OPPENHEIMER: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: What do you tell them? And then what do they tell you?

OPPENHEIMER: Well, the officials, particularly in this city, know. They’ve been hearing it for at least 20 years. We had one of these hundred-year storms in 1992, and since then, they’ve know the subway system could flood. They’ve known the power could go out.

And they — and actually laid plans for the future, which are sensitive to global warming and the threat, but they don’t have the political will to actually start moving very fast and putting anything into effect.

So they raised some of the subway station and (inaudible). But in order to make them less difficult, more difficult to flood, they made a few changes here and there, but really grappling with it, they haven’t done. But you know, in this city, we have, in the past, built infrastructure with the future in mind.

We have a glorious water supply system, which we built over the course of 150 years. People thought ahead. We can still do it.

AMANPOUR: So what does need to happen? What are the big things, big ticket items that are vital?

OPPENHEIMER: We need to make it more difficult for people to situate infrastructure right on the coast. Actually, we shouldn’t allow it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

AMANPOUR: So ban it, bring everything in from the coast?

OPPENHEIMER: (Inaudible) all new buildings should be in.

Second of all, we need to take the easy steps to prevent things like subways from getting flooded. We need to raise the entrances. We need to protect roadways and change the gratings so water doesn’t automatically go down to a low point. We need to raise the highways that are right along the coastline.

And then we need to consider the more long-term and more difficult, more expensive measures, like the possibility of doing what London did, which is build a storm barrier, which is lowered when there’s a big storm coming up and protects London from a Thames tidal surge. We got to start thinking for the long term.

AMANPOUR: How much would that cost, do you think, and how long would that take?

OPPENHEIMER: It would costs tens of billions of dollars. It would take decades to complete. But if you don’t start now, as the world warms and these storms become more frequent, we’re going to be caught out again.

So if we want to avoid having this, more of these devastating surges and having nothing to do to deal with them except run for our lives, we have to start thinking, planning and even spending right now.

AMANPOUR: Well, look at this, in our desk; we have this Arctic ice mass. This is 1980, big. It’s there still.


AMANPOUR: And now the latest picture shows, look, 2012. I mean, half if not more is gone.

OPPENHEIMER: The Arctic ice pack is very vulnerable to warming because the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the average of the planet. So this has gradually been shrinking for the last 30 years. And now it looks like Arctic ice in summer. It’ll always be there in winter, but in summer, it’s probably going to disappear during this century.

AMANPOUR: During the century?

OPPENHEIMER: During the century, maybe even during the first half of this century.

AMANPOUR: Well, so let me ask you, New York City has 520 miles of coastline. And from what I read, the sea level is rising exponentially faster.

OPPENHEIMER: Right. It’s not the Arctic ice as a whole that affects sea level, it’s just the Greenland ice sheet, this part over here. Land- based ice, as it melts, goes into the sea; it causes sea level to rise. If that happens, if this whole ice sheet goes — which we project would happen if warming exceeded a few degrees — then sea level would rise globally by about 23 feet.

This is — there’s also another chunk in Antarctica, which could contribute about 17 feet. That’s 40 feet of sea level rise. The only way New York City or many other coastal cities survive in a sea level 40 feet higher globally is if they built sea walls. That might have to happen. But this doesn’t have to necessarily occur.

We can still slow the warming and eventually stop it if we start reducing emissions today. We can prevent such catastrophes.

AMANPOUR: But we’re behind the curve.

OPPENHEIMER: We’re behind the curve. Other countries, particularly some countries in northern Europe are moving quicker than the U.S. is. But the U.S. has gradually, even quietly, starting introducing measures to cut emissions by introducing more fuel, cars with higher fuel economy and reducing, mandating reductions in emissions of the greenhouses gases from its power plants.

We need a new future, which is not based on coal and oil, but which is based on renewable energy. We have a potential bridge to that future from natural gas, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions in the short term.

AMANPOUR: I want to see if we can get that picture. It’s an animation that was actually in Al Gore’s film, in “An Inconvenient Truth,” about the worst-case scenario, Lower Manhattan being flooded.

Is that science fiction? I mean, we’ve seen the floods.


AMANPOUR: But is it science fiction to think that it will disappear? And try to tell me, try to sort of compare it to what happened in Bangladesh.

OPPENHEIMER: OK. Well, Bangladesh is kind of a worst case, because the highest point in Bangladesh at all, I think, is something like 60 feet. And most of the country is very close to sea level; storms come up there; they submerge a third of the country.

It used to be that a million people would die in a cyclone. That doesn’t happen anymore, by the way, because they’ve gotten very good at the sort of inexpensive near-term measures that we should be paying attention to.

Here in Bangladesh, they built concrete — they built concrete bunkers and they have a good early warning system. So now when a cyclone comes by that would have killed a million people, instead, it’s still terrible; a few thousands. But it’s a hundredth as many people. We can do that kind of thing here, too, and we’re not.

AMANPOUR: And does it trouble you that even the forecasting is behind the curve? I mean, they’re saying that this European model, for instance, is way more accurate than the newest forecasting. Is that true?

OPPENHEIMER: Let’s be careful. The forecasters did an amazing job on this storm. This storm followed a weird an unusual S-curve trajectory instead of the usual, from your side, coming near the coast and going out that way, it went like this. That’s very hard to predict. And the fact that the models got it almost perfectly right within a few days shows us what our science can do when we have a chance.

The problem now is that our satellites, our satellite system hasn’t been well maintained. So the models don’t have the data being input into them that they should. And we’re going to have a gap of a few years.

So the first thing that government needs to do is pay for the science, because the science (inaudible) dividends, start reducing emissions, start preparing plans to save people from these kind of disasters that are going to happen, to some extent, in any event.

AMANPOUR: Professor Oppenheimer, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

OPPENHEIMER: A pleasure to be here.

AMANPOUR: And we’ll be right back after a break.



AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, as we mentioned, directly across the river from New York City, just a short drive through the Lincoln Tunnel, Hoboken, New Jersey, is struggling to keep its head above water — literally. The National Guard has been called in to rescue thousands of residents trapped in their homes by rising waters for the past few days.

But half a century ago, this riverfront town helped shape American popular country — culture, rather. Imagine a world without Frank Sinatra.



AMANPOUR (voice-over): The iconic crooner was born in Hoboken in 1915. He dropped out of the local high school and he started singing with a group called The Hoboken Four. The rest, as we know, is history.


AMANPOUR: And now imagine that same world without Marlon Brando or his memorable performance in “On the Waterfront.” The movie was shot on the docks of Hoboken back in the 1950s.

That’s it. Thank you for joining us. Goodbye from New York.


Posted on on August 9th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

From: Maggie L. Fox, Climate Reality

Dear Pincas,
It’s hot. It’s too hot! For many of us, it’s one of the hottest summers ever. 2012 is so far the hottest year on record in the United States. It’s WAY too hot to ignore the role of manmade climate change.

Yet climate deniers continue spreading the same tired falsehoods we’ve heard over and over again. But, we’re fighting back and connecting the dots to show that climate change is happening now. And we need your help.

Last week, we took our “I’m Too Hot” campaign into Austin, Texas — where the temperature shot past 100 degrees each day and it was impossible to ignore the heat. We talked to the people we met about how the climate crisis is affecting their lives. We invited them to post messages on Twitter or Facebook using our “I’m Too Hot!” hashtag. Along with sharing some of our ice cream accompanied by climate messages, people in Austin were connecting the dots and sharing the truth about climate change.

This campaign was a success. We helped spark an urgent and necessary conversation about the reality of our changing climate. And now, with your help, we want to take our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign to more cities where the temperatures are soaring.

Help us take our “I’m Too Hot” campaign to reach more cities across America. Donate $5 today to support this important campaign.

The best way to engage people is to make the connection to what they experience every day — to bring the connections home. So we’ve created a simple, innovative campaign with a serious purpose: Helping more and more people understand how climate change impacts their everyday lives.

In Austin, one person after another told us that while they’re used to hot summers in Texas, this year is exceptional – and worrisome. As word of mouth spread, more and more people came up to us carrying on the conversation about climate change.

And the conversation spread online. Thousands of people posted to their social networks about the reality of climate change in their communities. That is leading to thousands more people who are sharing the truth about climate change and the need for us to take action without delay.

Climate change isn’t something that could happen in the future. It’s happening now, today. Globally, 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. This fact is sobering. It’s absolutely essential for all of us to grasp the reality of climate change and share the need for action with others.

And that means we need to continue our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign beyond Austin to other cities experiencing extreme heat across America.

Help us bring our “I’m Too Hot!” campaign to more cities across the country. Donate $5 today and support The Climate Reality Project.

With your help, we can make a difference!

Thanks for all you do,

Maggie L. Fox
President and CEO
The Climate Reality Project


Posted on on April 2nd, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

EU Fails To Resolve Dispute Over UN Climate Fund Seats.

Date: 02-Apr-12
Author: Nina Chestney and Charlie Dunmore from Reuters.

European Union ambassadors failed to resolve a dispute over the allocation of seats on the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF) board on Friday, possibly undermining the bloc’s credibility in international climate talks.

The EU envoys were meeting for the second time in a week to decide which European nations will be represented on the governing board. This has 12 seats for developing countries and another 12 for developed countries.

“Despite willingness to compromise and adequately share board seats, it has, unfortunately, not been possible to come to an agreement within the EU,” the EU’s Danish presidency said in a statement.

As a result, the EU will miss a March 31 deadline for making a joint proposal on board membership, and EU governments and the bloc’s executive will now have to negotiate directly with other developed countries over who gets the seats.

“For this reason, respective nominations from the group of developed country parties will be withheld until these discussions have taken place,” delaying the entire process, the Danish presidency said.

U.N. climate talks in Durban last year agreed on the design of the fund, which is aimed at channelling up to $100 billion a year to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Disputes of this kind could both slow the process towards the launch of the fund in 2013 and give other countries the impression that the EU is stalling on climate finance. “It shows that the EU unity we had in Durban has been eroded and that could damage Europe’s image in global climate change talks,” Danish presidency spokesman Jakob Alvi said.

The fund’s first board meeting is due on April 25 to 27, a U.N. spokesman said, subject to confirmation next week.

Despite the EU’s failure to reach an agreement, it should not affect the number of seats it will be allocated on the GCF board, he added.


Thirteen of the 27 EU countries had requested a board seat, to ensure they had a say in funding decisions.

A draft EU document, seen by Reuters this week, shows that EU member states and Switzerland might together be able to obtain seven full seats plus associated alternating seats between them. Denmark had proposed that Britain, Germany and France, as the likely biggest financial contributors, should hold a full seat each and share three further alternating seats with another EU country.

But an EU source involved in the discussions said Germany – backed by France – refused to share its seat with any other EU country and insisted on a permanent position on the board, ending any chance of an EU compromise.

Poland also insisted on having a full seat, and told the meeting that in the absence of a joint proposal it would put itself forward to the U.N. in a separate bid outside the EU, sources said under condition of anonymity.

Poland, which relies heavily on coal production for its energy needs, says its economy would develop much more quickly if it wasn’t for the EU’s climate policy, which aims to make coal power generation more expensive.

“(The Commission) has tried to rob us so many times before. This time around we want to wear a second jacket – just in case – and let nothing we are eligible for miss us,” a Polish government source told Reuters.


Posted on on February 11th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Eric Duchemin  –

Dear colleagues,

I am please to announce the publication of a new paper in [VertigO] on adaptation to climate

Migration and cliamte change in South America : issues
Kaenzig Raoul et Piguet Étienne

This literature overview aims to review the relationship between climate change and migration with a special focus on the Latin American continent. After a brief history of the debate raised by the relationship between the environment and migration, we identify the main environmental consequences of climate change. Aspects related to hurricanes, floods, droughts, sea level rise and melting glaciers are most specifically studied. The paper then uses historical analogies : a synthesis of the past migratory consequences of these environmental degradations allows underlining the main migratory issues related to climate change. (paper in French).


Eric Duchemin

Editor in chief,
[VertigO] – la revue électronique en sciences de l’environnement
Adjunct professor, Environmental Sciences Institute, University of Québec at Montréal


Posted on on January 31st, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (


Dr. James E. Hansen

Columbia University
Armstrong Hall
2880 Broadway
New York, NY 10025 USA

“Storms of My Grandchildren”, by James Hansen

On the webpage “Updating the Climate Science: What Path is the Real World Following?”, Drs. Makiko Sato and James Hansen update figures in the book Storms of My Grandchildren (see LA Times review and appearance on Letterman show), and present updated graphs and discussion of key quantities that help provide understanding of how climate change is developing and how effective or ineffective global actions are in affecting climate forcings and future climate change. A few errata in Storms are also provided.

Recent Communications:

Dr. Hansen periodically posts commentary on his recent papers and presentations and on other topics of interest to an e-mail list. To receive announcements of new postings, please click here.

Go to older postings

Recent Video

October 2010: Video clip for “The Million Letter March for Effective Climate Legislation” posted on YouTube.

Go to older video

Recent Presentations

August 2011: Drawing a Line in the Tar Sands: Why Stopping the Pipeline is Vital to the Future of Our Children & Our Planet:Preentation at National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Aug. 29
Download PowerPoint (7 MB)

Go to older presentations

Recent Scholarly Publications

Hansen, J., Mki. Sato, P. Kharecha, and K. von Schuckmann, 2011: Earth’s energy imbalance and implicationsAtmos. Chem. Phys.,11, 13421-13449, doi:10.5194/acp-11-13421-2011.

Go to older publications

Other Recent Publications

2010. The Price of Change. Op-ed in South China Morning Post, Nov. 3.

Go to older publications


Posted on on November 8th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

VALERIO CALZOLAIO, a journalist, ecologist, and ex-member of Italian parliament, is the author of:


He writes, as reported by Roberto Savio of IPS, from Rome, October 8, 2010:

“For the entire month of August the front pages of the world’s major daily papers gave considerable coverage of developments in the Indus Valley: monsoon rains in the north of Pakistan in late July, the flooding of rivers and tributaries, submerged land, villages, and towns, then more flooding in the centre and south of the country, the contamination of wells and aqueducts and other sources of water, inadequate international funding, flight, desperation, and anger.

Almost two thousand dead were immediately confirmed, thousands and thousands of people lost, six million left homeless, 10 million evacuated, 20 million effected in some way. They could be defined climate- or eco-refugees.

It was a disaster on a planetary scale represented in shocking photographs of the distant suffering. But alongside this story ran a range of national matters of varying importance -in Italy, for example, the story about a drop in prices of homes in Montecarlo. Now the climate refugees of the Indus have vanished from the media. For two months we have heard nothing more about the disaster, though hundreds of thousands of people remain in camps and normal life has not returned for millions of Pakistanis.

In recent weeks, however, news has arrived about another wave of climate refugees elsewhere in the world, in Indonesia, the Amazon, and the Danube in Hungary. For almost twenty years the proliferation of climate refugees has been a source of diffuse emergencies, migrants driven to leave their homes by bad choices or the mistaken behaviour of humans. In the case of climate change, they are fleeing because of actions that we are taking here.

In 2008 and 2009 the number of international “political” refugees (those who are given “refugee” status) was about 15 million; the official number of international eco-refugees was higher. The number of eco-refugees even exceeds that of internal political refugees (who remain within their country’s border). With world conferences about to be held yet again on biodiversity (Nagoya) and the climate (Cancun), in November and December, it is time the UN is provided permanently with the means to help eco-refugees and prevent the creation of more of them.

In a book now being released in Italy, I have tried to reflect on these figures and means. Whether we like it or not, hundreds of thousands of eco-refugees are arriving in Europe each year, and their numbers will only rise. Moreover it is we that are responsible for their lack of homes. They cannot stay in camps forever, not will all manage to find a home in their own country, and the sooner we recognise this the better.

I recognise that since Adam and Eve there have always been environmental and climate refugees. It is not by chance that I dedicated the first part of the book to migratory species and the archaeology of the original waves of human migration. The migration of individuals and groups of our species have always had multiple causes and environmental and climatic effects and repercussions, especially when forced, when people were driven from their homes.

In the history and evolution of homo sapiens, the other major causes of migration are war and conflict. Refugees and eco-refugees are not an invention of modernity. Today those made refugees by “political” causes -violence or persecution by institutions or human communities- are granted “refugee” status and assistance by a United Nations commission. And yet climate refugees are victims of human action, too, so shouldn’t they be given this same status? We must find a way to provide the same assistance and take the same preventive measures in the case of migration caused by contemporary human-caused climate change. The second part of my book is dedicated to this subject.

I have tried to reconstruct the infancy and adolescence of the UN system, showing who’s in charge (and how) of human rights and the right to asylum, aid, and protection from climate change. I have sought to gather together the most advanced proposals from UN agencies, scientists, and researchers to address the migration caused by rising sea levels, by the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and by the shrinking availability of water for drinking and sanitation.

Forecasts indicate that in the next two decades there will be tens of millions of new eco-refugees, especially in certain areas, headed primarily towards Europe, mostly across the Mediterranean. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports call attention to global developments that are certain to occur though they will vary in intensity according to location: rising sea level, water scarcity, and extreme weather events.

For example, according to the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), the real risk of deaths resulting from flooding has risen by 13 percent from 1990-2007 while the percentage of the world population directly effected has increased by 28 percent in that period. Moreover, on the basis of past experience and forecast models, over 75 percent of these risks will be concentrated in a handful of countries: those effected by monsoons (Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan) and China.

The risks are not the consequence of exposure and intensity alone: an island or sparsely-populated country or a small poor country risks both the life and development of entire populations for generations. Forced emigration is the near certain outcome. By 2050 the risk of becoming climate refugees as a result of these developments, even in a best case scenario, will cast its shadow over no fewer than 200 million people.”


Posted on on September 22nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Israeli-owned Ormat Technologies Inc. harnesses energy from water heated by chambers filled with molten rock deep beneath the ground. They put volcanoes or potential volcanoes to work.
The company has been operating two plants in Guatemala for three years and wants to expand but is weighing the risks of drilling more costly exploratory wells.

Reuters writes from Guatemala – “There’s a phase where you just have to drill and see,” Ormat’s representative in Guatemala, Yossi Shilon, said – The problem is that you risk a very expensive investment and are not always satisfied with the results.”

Ormat’s project is only a 20 MW station but Guatemala says the country has the potential to produce up to 1000 MW of geothermal energy, a third of projected energy needs in 2022.

Other Central American countries are already forging ahead in this emerging technology.

More than a fifth of El Salvador’s energy needs come from two geothermal plants with installed capacity of 160 MW and investigations are being carried out to build a third.

Costa Rica, which has 152 megawatts of capacity in four geothermal plants, is due to bring a fifth plant online in January 2011 and is looking into building two more.

Nicaragua generates 66 MW from geothermal energy and in the next five years plans an increase to 166 MW.

Guatemala only produces a tiny amount of its own oil and spends about $2 billion a year on imports. The aim is to save money on energy costs and join international efforts to cut green house gas emissions, issues that will be on the table at global climate change talks this November in Cancun, Mexico.

Dotted with active volcanoes, Central America is seeking to tap its unique geography to produce green energy and cut dependence on oil imports as demand for electricity outstrips supply.

Sitting above shifting tectonic plates in the Pacific basin known to cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the region has huge potential for geothermal power generated by heat stored deep in the earth.

Geothermal power plants, while expensive to build, can provide a long-term, reliable source of electricity and are considered more environmentally friendly than large hydroelectric dams that can alter a country’s topography.

Guatemala, Central America’s biggest country, aims to produces 60 percent of its energy from geothermal and hydroelectric power by 2022.

The government is offering tax breaks on equipment to set up geothermal plants and electricity regulators are requiring distributors buy greater proportions of clean energy.

Some 1,640 feet below the summit of Guatemala’s active Pacaya volcano, which exploded in May, pipes carrying steam and water at 347 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius) snake across the mountainside to one of two geothermal plants currently operating in the country.


Central America, heavily dependent on agriculture, is feeling the effects of extreme weather. Tropical Storm Agatha killed nearly 200 people in the region earlier this year.

The largely poor countries are highly reliant on hydroelectricity, the number two source of energy after oil, but environmental activists and energy experts say harnessing geothermal energy has distinct advantages over dams.

Hydroelectricity depends on rainfall and is vulnerable to hurricanes that can wash mud and debris into rivers and clog dams. Such storms are expected to increase in the frequency and intensity as the planet warms.

“With climate change there’s uncertainty over the future behavior of water resources,” said Eduardo Noboa, a renewables expert at the Latin American Energy Organization, or OLADE. “We’re going to see a vulnerability in hydroelectric systems.”

Dams, which can flood vast areas of land during their construction, are unpopular in rural areas where families rely on farming and have trouble finding arable land.

In Guatemala, hydroelectric projects have a haunted past after hundreds of Mayan villagers protesting the building of a dam on the Chixoy river were massacred by security forces in 1978 at the height of the country’s civil war.

The dam and its reservoir, which now generates around 15 percent of Guatemala’s electricity, displaced thousands of people in the country’s central highlands.

Geothermal plants by contrast are compact and companies, learning from the mistakes of the past, say they are making an effort to provide nearby towns with easy power access.


Posted on on July 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

WORLD NEWS – JULY 29, 2010…
Climate report shows Earth has heated up over 50 years.

Which in the printed Wall Street version was rechristened – “CLIMATE STUDY CITES 2000 as WARMEST DECADE.” This appropriate to the US inward look of New York, while the above title is clear better positioned for the world at large –


A new assessment concludes that the Earth has been getting warmer over the past 50 years and the past decade was the warmest on record.

The State of the Climate 2009 report, published Wednesday as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, was compiled by 300 scientists from 48 countries and drew on measures of 10 crucial climate indicators.

Seven of the indicators were rising, including air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, sea level, ocean heat and humidity. Three indicators were declining, including Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Each indicator is changing as we’d expect in a warming world,” said Peter Thorne, senior researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, a research consortium based in College Park, Md., who was involved in compiling the report.

The report’s conclusions broadly match those of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body, which published its last set of findings in 2007. The IPCC report contained some errors, which further stoked the debate about the existence, causes and effects of global warming.

The new report incorporates data from the past few years that weren’t included in the last IPCC assessment. While the IPCC report concluded that evidence for human-caused global warming was “unequivocal” and was linked to emissions of greenhouse gases, the latest report didn’t seek to address the issue.

The report “doesn’t try to make the link” between climate change and what might be causing it, said Tom Karl, an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration involved in the new assessment.

The report said, “Global average surface and lower-troposphere temperatures during the last three decades have been progressively warmer than all earlier decades, and the 2000s (2000-09) was the warmest decade in the instrumental record.” The troposphere is the lowest layer of the atmosphere.

The scientists reported that they were surprised to find Greenland’s glaciers were losing ice at an accelerating rate. They also concluded that 90% of planetary warming over the past 50 years has gone into the oceans. Most of it had accumulated in near-surface layers, home to phytoplankton, tiny plants crucial to virtually all life in the sea.

A new study has found that rising sea temperature may have had a harmful effect on global concentrations of phytoplankton over the past century.



You will also see there the Washington rot as in the following: Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in the US, formerly in charge of energy with the powerful CSIS, said the new report would not change people’s minds. “It’s clear that the scientific case for global warming alarmism is weak. The scientific case for [many of the claims] is unsound and we are finding out all the time how unsound it is.”

You will find that there was no doubt about the implication that it is humans who did it except in the words of that outspoken minority of industry lobbyists that hold power over Washington.


NOAA finds “human fingerprints” on climate

July 28th, 2010  by Fiona Harvey

A report from the NOAA in the US has found that data from ten key climate indicators all point to the same finding: the scientific evidence that our world is warming is unmistakable.

It is the first major piece of new research since the “Climategate” scandals.

It found that, relying on data from multiple sources, each indicator proved consistent with a warming world. Seven indicators are rising: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Three indicators are declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers and spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere.

Read the full report here:…

Research says climate change undeniable

By Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent

Published: July 28 2010 – print and on-line.

International scientists have injected fresh evidence into the debate over global warming, saying that climate change is “undeniable” and shows clear signs of “human fingerprints” in the first major piece of research since the “Climategate” controversy.

The research, headed by the US National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration, is based on new data not available for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 2007, the target of attacks by sceptics in recent years.

The NOAA study drew on up to 11 different indicators of climate, and found that each one pointed to a world that was warming owing to the influence of greenhouse gases, said Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring at the UK’s Met Office, one of the agencies participating.

Seven indicators were rising, he said. These were: air temperature over land, sea-surface temperature, marine air temperature, sea level, ocean heat, humidity, and tropospheric temperature in the “active-weather” layer of the atmosphere closest to the earth’s surface. Four indicators were declining: Arctic sea ice, glaciers, spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and stratospheric temperatures.

Mr Stott said: “The whole of the climate system is acting in a way consistent with the effects of greenhouse gases.” “The fingerprints are clear,” he said. “The glaringly obvious explanation for this is warming from greenhouse gases.”

Environment ThumbnailSome scientists hailed the study as a refutation of the claims made by climate sceptics during the “Climategate” saga. Those scandals involved accusations – some since proven correct – of flaws in the IPCC’s landmark 2007 report, and the release of hundreds of emails from climate scientists that appeared to show them distorting certain data.

“This confirms that while all of this [Climategate] was going on, the earth was continuing to warm. It shows that Climategate was a distraction, because it took the focus off what the science actually says,” said Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics.

But the report nonetheless remained the target of scorn for sceptics.

Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute in the US, said the new report would not change people’s minds. “It’s clear that the scientific case for global warming alarmism is weak. The scientific case for [many of the claims] is unsound and we are finding out all the time how unsound it is.”

Pat Michaels, a prominent climate sceptic, ex-professor of environmental sciences and fellow of the Cato Institute in the US, said the NOAA study and other evidence suggested that the computerised climate models had overestimated the sensitivity of the earth’s temperature to carbon dioxide. This would mean that the earth could warm a little under the influence of greenhouse gases, but not by as much as the IPCC and others have predicted.

“I think it is the lack of frankness about this that emerged with Climategate, and that seems to continue [that make people doubt the findings],” he said.

Steve Goddard, a blogger, said the conclusion that the first half of 2010 showed a record high temperature was “based on incorrect, fabricated data” because the researchers involved did not have access to much information on Arctic temperatures.

David Herro, the financier, who follows climate science as a hobby, said NOAA also “lacks credibility”.

But Jane Lubchenco, the administrator of NOAA, said the study found that the average temperature in the world had increased by 0.56° C (1° F) over the past 50 years. The rise “may seem small, but it has already altered our planet … Glaciers and sea ice are melting, heavy rainfall is intensifying, and heat waves are more common.”


Developing Nations See Cancun Climate Deal Tough.

Date: 29-Jul-10
Country: MEXICO
Author: Brian Ellsworth

Reaching a binding climate deal at the upcoming U.N. conference in Mexico will likely be difficult, delegates from a group of developing nations said on Monday, spurring further doubts about a global climate accord this year.

Environment ministers from Brazil, South Africa, India and China — known as the BASIC group — meeting in Rio de Janeiro said developed nations have not done enough to cut their own emissions or help poor countries reduce theirs.

Delays by the United States and Australia in implementing schemes to cut carbon emissions has added to gloomy sentiment about possible results from the Cancun meeting.

“If by the time we get to Cancun (U.S. senators) still have not completed the legislation then clearly we will get less than a legally binding outcome,” said Buyelwa Sonjica, South Africa’s Water and Environment Affairs minister.

“For us that is a concern, and we’re very realistic about the fact that we may not” complete a legally binding accord, she said.

BASIC nations held deliberations on Sunday and Monday about upcoming climate talks, but the representatives said those talks did not yield a specific proposal on emissions reductions to be presented at the Cancun meeting.

“I think we’re all a bit wiser after Copenhagen, our expectations for Cancun are realistic — we cannot expect any miracles,” said Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

He added that countries have failed to make good on promises for $30 billion in “fast track” financing for emissions reduction programs in poor countries.

“The single most important reason why it is going to be difficult is the inability of the developed countries to bring clarity on the financial commitments which they have undertaken in the Copenhagen Accord,” he said.

Hopes for a global treaty on cutting carbon emissions to slow global warming were dealt a heavy blow last year when rich and poor nations were unable to agree on a legally binding mechanism to reduce global carbon emissions.

More than 100 countries backed a nonbinding accord agreed in Copenhagen last year to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, but it did not spell out how this should be achieved.

The U.S. Senate on Thursday postponed an effort to pass broad legislation to combat climate change until September at the earliest, vastly reducing the possibility of such legislation being ready before the Cancun conference begins in December.

Australia has delayed a carbon emissions trading scheme until 2012 under heavy political pressure on from industries that rely heavily on coal for their energy.

The U.N.’s climate agency has detailed contingency options if the world cannot agree a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose present round expires in 2012 with no new deal in sight. {But the article does not spell them out and we wonder if they are any different from what we suggested – moving the deliberations away from the UNFCCC – to a much smaller group of Nations modeled along the lines on the evolving G20 with a united EU and a representation of AOSIS/SIDS and Highest suffering countries like Bangladesh on-board,}

Kyoto placed carbon emissions caps on nearly 40 developed countries from 2008-2012. {But Left out any responsibilities for the remaining countries including the above BRICS. Copenhagen was a success in the sense that it made it clear that the BRICS must be part of any agreement if it is going to happen – so, in this trspect, at Copenhagen there was progress – the first time since the beginning of the negotiations within UNFCCC.}


The comments in green are those made by us – the editor of

From the Wikipedia: Karen Christiana Figueres Olsen (born August 7, 1956) was appointed Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 17 May 2010, succeeding Yvo de Boer[1] [2]. She had been a member of the Costa Rican negotiating team since 1995, involved in both UNFCCC[3] and Kyoto Protocol[4] negotiations. She has contributed to the design of key climate change instruments.[5] She is a prime promoter of Latin America’s active participation in the Convention,[6] a frequent public speaker,[7] and a widely published author.[8] She won the Hero for the Planet award in 2001.[9]

For Latin America, in the BASIC group, speaks Brazil which has created for itself the image of an oil-rich country. This might create further difficulties for Ms. Figueres and we do not yet say that Brazil steaked out a final position for Cancun. In effect, the October 3, 2010 elections will have brought to the fore-front a new President for Brazil and we are yet to see his or her position.


Posted on on July 3rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

What does the number 350 mean?

350 is the most important number in the world—it’s what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Two years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million.

Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350.

Is 350 scientifically possible?

Right now, mostly because we’ve burned so much fossil fuel, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is 390 ppm—that’s way too high, and it’s why ice is melting, drought is spreading, forests are dying. To bring that number down, the first task is to stop putting more carbon into the atmosphere. That means a very fast transition to sun and wind and other renewable forms of power. If we can stop pouring more carbon into the atmosphere, then forests and oceans will slowly suck some of it out of the air and return us to safe levels.

Is 350 politically possible?

It’s very hard. It means switching off fossil fuel much more quickly than governments and corporations have been planning. But we can change that–if we mobilize the world to swift and bold climate action, and shift the world to a clean energy future.

What was the day of action in 2009?

On October 24, the International Day of Climate Action covered almost every country on earth, the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet’s history.

There were be big rallies in big cities, and incredible creative actions across the globe: mountain climbers on our highest peaks with banners, underwater demonstrations in island nations threatened by sea level rise, churches and mosques and synagogues and ashrams engaged in symbolic action, star athletes organizing mass bike rides–and hundreds upon hundreds of community events to raise awareness of the need for urgent action.

Every event highlighted the number 350–and people gathered at some point for a big group photo depicting that all important message. At, we assembled all the photos for a gigantic, global, visual petition.

The thousands of events on October 24 will drive 350 and all that it represents into the human imagination, and helped shift the political climate around climate change. Countries on the front lines of climate change are no longer willing to settle for weak efforts and half-measures. All the actions on October 24 will help our leaders realize we need a real solution that pays attention to the science.

How did this make a difference?

October 24 has finally put the focus where it needs to be: on the science and the citizens, not the special interests and the backroom deals.

People have sent in thousands of images of citizens gathering at important places around the world—from the melting peaks of Mt. Everest to the sinking beaches of the Maldives—displaying the number 350 in a creative way. staff will display these photos on the big screens in Times Square and projecting them at the UN headquarters. Those photos are appearing in newspapers large and small—the same newspapers that politicians all over the world use as a barometer of public opinion. We’re also delivering copies of the images—and the stories that go with them—to national delegates, environment ministers, and heads of state the world over.

Grassroots global action will be useful to put pressure on world leaders. Together we can remind our leaders that they need to take physical reality—and not political expediency—into account when they’re making decisions about our collective future. 350 is a clear and specific goal (unlike vague demands to “stop global warming”) that helps move politics n the direction science and justice demand. At, we make sure your voice is heard, and this debate is re-framed in time to make a difference. is an international grassroots campaign that aims to mobilize a global climate movement united by a common call to action. By spreading an understanding of the science and a shared vision for a fair policy, we will ensure that the world creates bold and equitable solutions to the climate crisis. is an independent and not-for-profit project.

What is 350?
350 is the number that leading scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Scientists measure carbon dioxide in “parts per million” (ppm), so 350ppm is the number humanity needs to get below as soon as possible to avoid runaway climate change. To get there, we need a different kind of PPM-a “people powered movement” that is made of people like you in every corner of the planet.


10/10/10 Global Work Party

Dear World,

It’s been a tough year: in North America, oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico; in Asia some of the highest temperatures ever recorded; in the Arctic, the fastest melting of sea ice ever seen; in Latin America, record rainfalls washing away whole mountainsides.

So we’re having a party.

Circle 10/10/10 on your calendar. That’s the date. The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community. We’re calling it a Global Work Party.


Posted on on June 8th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

fromMRM <>

“Conserving energy is cheaper and smarter than building power plants” (Dr. Arthur Rosenfeld).

The watt. The volt. The ohm. All electrical terms are named after famous engineers and physicists from the 18th and 19th century. Now, an acclaimed 20th century scientist is lending his name to a new unit of energy savings – the ‘Rosenfeld.’

The proposed term – a ‘Rosenfeld’ – would represent the electricity savings of 3 billion kilowatt-hours per year — the annual output of an existing 500 megawatt coal-fired power plant – and avoid generating three million metric tons of CO2 emissions. The new energy-savings measurement term was authored by 54 scientists from 26 research institutions and announced in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters.

For your leisure time reading – a clean energy monthly E-zine from India          E_mag_June_2010.pdf

MRM says:  We shall be pleased if you could send us your views/comments/suggestions to make our publication more informative and useful.


“The Rosenfeld” Named After California’s Godfather of Energy Efficiency.

With a decades-long career in energy analysis and standards, Rosenfeld is often credited with being personally responsible for billions of dollars in energy savings.

How to cut energy use, carbon? Do it – One “Rosenfeld” at a time.

Arthur Rosenfeld, who recently retired at the age of 83 after two five-year terms on the California Energy Commission, led the way in helping the state set its first-ever energy standards for household appliances and buildings. His mission as an energy-efficiency evangelist was launched in 1973 during the OPEC oil embargo … rather than rail on the oil producers, he reasoned, wouldn’t it be better if the US could find ways to stop wasting so much energy?

His impact on California’s per capita electricity consumption, which has remained flat since the mid-’70s, has long been dubbed the “Rosenfeld effect.” And he himself coined “Rosenfeld’s Law,” which asserts that the amount of energy required to produce one dollar of economic output has decreased by about 1 per cent per year since 1845.

Eighty Year Old Saved Us $800 Billion – 

Ode to Arthur H. Rosenfeld, Doctor Efficiency – Courtesy California Energy Commission

Arthur H. Rosenfeld, Ph.D. was originally appointed to the California Energy Commission by Governor Gray Davis in April 2000. The Commissioner was reappointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger January 26, 2005. The five members of the Energy Commission are appointed by the Governor to staggered five-year terms and requires Senate confirmation. By law, four of the five members of the Energy Commission have professional training in specific areas – engineering or physical science, environmental protection, economics, law, and one commissioner from the public-at-large. Commissioner Rosenfeld filled the physical science position until his retirement in January 2010.

Commissioner Rosenfeld was presiding member of the Research, Development and Demonstration Committee and the Dynamic Pricing Committee (Ad Hoc Committee); and was the second member of the Energy Efficiency Committee.

Art Rosenfeld received his Ph.D. in Physics in 1954 at the University of Chicago under Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi, and then joined the Department of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley. There he joined, and eventually oversaw, the Nobel prize-winning particle physics group of Luis Alvarez at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) until 1974. At that time, he changed his research focus to the efficient use of energy, formed the Center for Building Science at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and led it until 1994.…………


Posted on on March 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Arctic Shelf Leaking Potent Greenhouse Gas
By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 5, 2010 (IPS) – The frozen cap trapping billions of tonnes of methane under the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean is leaking and venting the powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, new research shows.

It is not known if this may be one of the first indicators of a feedback loop accelerating global warming.

Researchers estimate that eight million tonnes in annual methane emissions are being released from the shallow East Siberian Arctic Shelf, which is equivalent to all the methane released from the world’s oceans, covering 71 percent of the planet.

On a global scale of methane emissions from the land-based sources – animals, rice paddies, rotting vegetation – the newly measured emissions from the Siberian seabed are less than two percent.

“That’s still very significant,” Natalia Shakhova, a researcher at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, told IPS. “Before, it was assumed that this region had zero emissions.”

Methane concentrations measured over the oceans are currently about 0.6 to 0.7 parts per million (ppm), but they are now 1.85 in the Arctic Ocean generally, and between 2.6 and 8.2 ppm in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf, an area roughly two million square kilometres in size, said Shakhova.

Shakhova, and her University of Alaska colleague Igor Semiletov, led eight international expeditions to one of the world’s most remote and desolate regions and published their results in the Mar. 5 edition of the journal Science.

Global methane levels have risen each year since 2007 after being constant for a decade, reports Ed Dlugokencky of the Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, which is run by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“We saw an increase in CH4 (methane) growth rate in 2007 in the Arctic… but it did not increase in 2008,” Dlugokencky, an expert on atmospheric methane told IPS via email.

He suspects Siberia’s subsea emissions are not new but have been underway for some time, and he also says Shakhova’s estimate of eight million tonnes needs to be verified by other means. However, he acknowledges this study represents the first direct measurements ever done in the region and stresses the urgency for more investigation.

In the last few years, researchers have been shocked to see Arctic Ocean “on the boil” in places as gases from deep below come bubbling to the surface. Large parts of the Arctic Ocean floor along coastal areas is actually permafrost that was flooded thousands of years ago after the big melt from the last ice age.

Permafrost is frozen soil and contains very large amounts of carbon and methane. The extremely cold waters of the Arctic and its ice cover kept the subsea permafrost cold enough so it has been melting extremely slowly. Until now.

Surface temperatures over much of the Arctic landscape and the Siberian landscape, particularly in summer, have jumped six to 10 degrees C above normal in recent years. That has lead to a massive increase in the flows of the many rivers that terminate in the Arctic Ocean.

Shakhova and colleagues believe this substantial increase of warmer water into the shallow East Siberian Shelf has accelerated the melting of the subsea permafrost, in effect fracturing the frozen cap and allowing methane to escape into the atmosphere. “Our concern is that the subsea permafrost has been showing signs of destabilisation already,” she said in a release.

“If it further destabilises, the methane emissions may not be teragrammes, it would be significantly larger,” she said. A teragramme is a trillion grammes, or one million tonnes.

Methane – a greenhouse gas approximately 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide – is commonly called methane hydrates when it is frozen in permafrost or under the sea. The total volumes are unknown.

“The release to the atmosphere of only one percent of the methane assumed to be stored in shallow hydrate deposits might alter the current atmospheric burden of methane up to three to four times,” Shakhova said in a release.

“The climatic consequences of this are hard to predict,” she said.

Shakhova’s study is just one of at least a dozen others that clearly show the Arctic region is not only melting but also emitting more carbon and methane.

Permafrost spans 13 million square kilometres of the land in Alaska, Canada, Siberia and parts of Europe. A new Canadian study documented that the southernmost permafrost limit has retreated 130 kilometres over the past 50 years ago in Quebec’s James Bay region.

Another Canadian study released last year showed that the region was getting darker and absorbing more heat in the summer because of a significant shift in plant growth from grasses and lichen to larger shrubs over the past 30 years due to warmer temperatures.

A permafrost “retreat” has been observed over much of the southern fringe of the permafrost zone and could result in emissions a billion tonnes of carbon per year – human emissions are seven to eight billion tonnes – by mid-century, a University of Florida study estimated.

Without major reductions in those human emissions, mainly burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, the top two to three metres of permafrost across the entire Arctic region could thaw by the end of this century, warned a major report, “Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications”, released by the World Wildlife Fund last September.

Should that happen, the volumes of carbon and methane released could be many times higher than what is presently in the atmosphere, driving up the global average temperatures by six, eight, or even 10 degrees C. The consequences are unimaginable.

“The changes we are (currently) seeing are not entirely unexpected, they are just happening far sooner,” said Mark Serreze, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre in the U.S. state of Colorado and co-author of Arctic Climate Feedbacks report.

If the methane hydrates start to melt or large areas of permafrost “that will be very bad news for humanity”, Serreze told IPS in September.

“The world is a very small place and we have not been good stewards. Climate change is symptom of this poor stewardship,” he said.

“The way we’re going right now, I’m not optimistic that we will avoid some kind of tipping point.”


Posted on on February 11th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (


What The Snowpocalypse Tells Us About Global Warming.
by Bradford Plumer, February 10, 2010, The New Republic online

Washington D.C.’s getting slammed by record snowfall right now, which means that in addition to unplowed roads and Mad Max-style scenes at Safeway, we also have to suffer through a flurry of Al Gore jokes and Republicans snorting about how this proves global warming is all fake. I guess the prim, boring response is that a single weather event, even an extreme one, doesn’t tell us very much about long-term climate trends. But blah, blah, everyone’s heard that line before.

A more thoughtful reply comes from meteorologist Jeff Masters, who explains how massive snowstorms in the Northeast are, in fact, quite consistent with a steadily warming world:

There are two requirements for a record snow storm:

1) A near-record amount of moisture in the air (or a very slow moving storm).

2) Temperatures cold enough for snow.

It’s not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming.

According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the globe warmed 0.74°C (1.3°F) over the past 100 years. There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming, with plenty of opportunities for snow.

The more difficult ingredient for producing a record snowstorm is the requirement of near-record levels of moisture.

Global warming theory predicts that global precipitation will increase, and that heavy precipitation events–the ones most likely to cause flash flooding–will also increase. This occurs because as the climate warms, evaporation of moisture from the oceans increases, resulting in more water vapor in the air.

According to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, water vapor in the global atmosphere has increased by about 5% over the 20th century, and 4% since 1970. This extra moisture in the air will tend to produce heavier snowstorms, assuming it is cold enough to snow. Groisman et al. (2004) found a 14% increase in heavy (top 5%) and 20% increase in very heavy (top 1%) precipitation events in the U.S. over the past 100 years, though mainly in spring and summer. However, the authors did find a significant increase in winter heavy precipitation events have occurred in the Northeast U.S.

This was echoed by Changnon et al. (2006), who found, “The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.”

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting the U.S. Global Change Research Program actually predicted stronger winter storms for the Northeast, in its 2009 report on potential climate-change impacts for the United States:

Storm tracks have shifted northward over the last 50 years as evidenced by a decrease in the frequency of storms in mid-latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, while high-latitude activity has increased. There is also evidence of an increase in the intensity of storms in both the mid- and high-latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with greater confidence in the increases occurring in high latitudes (Kunkel et al., 2008). The northward shift is projected to continue, and strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more extreme wave heights.”

Now, that doesn’t mean we can definitely say that global warming caused this snow monstrosity—again, it’s too hard to attribute any single weather event to long-term climate shifts. (For instance, El Niño may be playing a bigger role right now in feeding these storms.) At most, we can say that a warming climate will create the conditions that make fierce winter storms in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic more likely. Or at least it will for awhile: If the planet keeps heating up, then at some point freezing conditions in the Northeast will become very rare, at which point snowstorms will, too But we’re not at that point—the Earth hasn’t warmed that much yet.

On the other hand, climate models do predict that snowstorms in the southernmost parts of the United States should become much rarer in the coming decades: There’s plenty of moisture down south, but freezing temperatures are likely to decrease and the jet stream is expected to shift northward. So if those regions start seeing a sustained uptick in snowfall, then something’s gone awry in climate predictions. But the blizzard in the Northeast, while miserable and incredibly disruptive, doesn’t appear whack with long-term forecasts. (That’s not exactly cheerful news for those of us who have to live here.)

Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog

Last Updated: 1:02 PM GMT on February 11, 2010.
Heavy snowfall in a warming world.

Posted by: JeffMasters on February 08, 2010

A major new winter storm is headed east over the U.S. today, and threatens to dump a foot or more of snow on Philadelphia, New York City, and surrounding regions Tuesday and Wednesday. Philadelphia is still digging out from its second top-ten snowstorm of recorded history to hit the city this winter, and the streets are going to begin looking like canyons if this week’s snowstorm adds a significant amount of snow to the incredible 28.5″ that fell during “Snowmageddon” last Friday and Saturday. Philadelphia has had two snowstorms exceeding 23″ this winter. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the return period for a 22+ inch snow storm is once every 100 years–and we’ve had two 100-year snow storms in Philadelphia this winter. It is true that if the winter pattern of jet stream location, sea surface temperatures, etc, are suitable for a 100-year storm to form, that will increase the chances for a second such storm to occur that same year, and thus the odds have having two 100-year storms the same year are not 1 in 10,000. Still, the two huge snowstorms this winter in the Mid-Atlantic are definitely a very rare event one should see only once every few hundred years, and is something that has not occurred since modern records began in 1870. The situation is similar for Baltimore and Washington D.C. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the expected return period in the Washington D.C./Baltimore region for snowstorms with more than 16 inches of snow is about once every 25 years. This one-two punch of two major Nor’easters in one winter with 16+ inches of snow is unprecedented in the historical record for the region, which goes back to the late 1800s.

Top 9 snowstorms on record for Philadelphia:

1. 30.7″, Jan 7-8, 1996
2. 28.5″, Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
3. 23.2″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
4. 21.3″, Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 21.0″, Dec 25-26, 1909
6. 19.4″, Apr 3-4, 1915
7. 18.9″, Feb 12-14, 1899
8. 16.7″, Jan 22-24, 1935
9. 15.1″, Feb 28-Mar 1, 1941

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Baltimore:

1. 28.2″, Feb 15-18, 2003
2. 26.5″, Jan 27-29, 1922
3. 24.8″, Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
4. 22.8″, Feb 11-12, 1983
5. 22.5″, Jan 7-8, 1996
6. 22.0″, Mar 29-30, 1942
7. 21.4″, Feb 11-14, 1899
8. 21.0″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 20.0″, Feb 18-19, 1979
10. 16.0″, Mar 15-18, 1892

The top 10 snowstorms on record for Washington, D.C.:

1. 28.0″, Jan 27-28, 1922
2. 20.5″, Feb 11-13, 1899
3. 18.7″, Feb 18-19, 1979
4. 17.8″ Feb 5-6, 2010 (Snowmageddon)
5. 17.1″, Jan 6-8, 1996
6. 16.7″, Feb 15-18, 2003
7. 16.6″, Feb 11-12, 1983
8. 16.4″, Dec 19-20, 2009 (Snowpocalypse)
9. 14.4″, Feb 15-16, 1958
10. 14.4″, Feb 7, 1936