Wednesday, January 22, 2014

We still don't get it on climate change

I am still a little wobbly from my encounter with the local concerned citizens on climate change.  These are people who pretty much understand the science and there were some who had a rudimentary grasp on the policy implications.  But most were good-hearted people content to promote symbolic gestures that would "raise awareness" (my favorite phrase—NOT) of the problem.  For example, the local Unitarians were inviting us to come hear from a guy who had actually walked the route of the proposed XL tar sands pipeline from Alberta to Nebraska.  As someone who swore off symbolic gestures in 1970, I am pretty sure I am going to skip that one.

As regular readers of this blog can attest, I am happy to repot on actions and plans that really do address the way humans choose to power our societies.  And there are societies that have made substantial progress—Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Germany, and others.  But in much of the industrialized world, "progress" on carbon emissions means shutting down local factories and shipping them to some third-world country that is out of sight. And while such actions may solve localized problems like smog and acid rain, they do nothing to solve a planetary problem like carbon overloading of the atmosphere.

Of course, the big problem with CO2 emissions is that they are the chemical outcome of fire—something we actually need to survive.  Therefore progress on climate change means creating meaningful substitutes for fire.  People who act to stop the mechanisms for fire without proposing alternatives are really stuck on stupid.  And unfortunately, the sort of people who can actually create alternatives for fire represent a tiny minority of the human race.  The rest of us can only hope to provide them with the funding and other resources to get on with their work.

UN climate report urges quicker switch to low-carbon global economy

Emissions still increasing, according to leaked IPCC findings, with urgent action required to avert worst effects

Associated Press in New York, Thursday 16 January 2014

Delaying action on global warming will only increase the costs and reduce the options for dealing with its worst effects, according to a draft report by UN experts.

The final draft of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says global warming will continue to increase unless countries shift quickly to clean energy and cut emissions.

A leaked version circulating with media outlets and news agencies says that despite national policies and international efforts emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that are warming the planet grew 2.2% per year on average between 2000 and 2010, compared with 1.3% per year from 1970 to 2000.

The two main drivers were a sharp rise in economic growth and a steady growth in the world's population, the report said. The largest contributor to global emissions was the burning of oil and coal and the draft report says its contribution is expected to rise. Unless "explicit efforts" are made to reduce emissions, the experts warn, increased conservation and efficiency will not be enough.

With increasing demand for energy and the growing use of coal to generate electricity, the experts say emissions from the sector are projected to double or triple by 2050 from the level in 2010 unless improvements in clean energy are "significantly accelerated".

International climate negotiators agreed at the 2009 UN climate change conference in Copenhagen that global warming this century must increase by less than 2C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Scientists say that target requires atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, to stay below 530 parts per million (PPM). The level recently surpassed 400PPM.

The report said the majority of scenarios to stay below 530PPM throughout the 21st century would require reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40-70% of 2010 levels by 2050. The experts call for new patterns of investment and a transformation into a low-carbon economy.

The global total annual investment in the energy system is presently about US$1.2tn. The experts estimate that in order to stabilise the atmospheric concentration of CO2 between 430 and 530ppm investment in fossil fuels would have to decline by $30bn a year between 2010 and 2029, while investment in non-carbon producing energy sources would have to rise by $147bn a year.

The report argues many renewable energy technologies are increasingly efficient and cost-effective but need support if their market share is to increase. more

CO2 emissions are being 'outsourced' by rich countries to rising economies

Greenhouse gas output of China and elsewhere is increased by making goods that are then used in the US and Europe

Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Guardian, Sunday 19 January 2014

Outsourcing of emissions comes in the form of electronic devices such as smartphones, cheap clothes and other goods manufactured in China and other rising economies but consumed in the US and Europe.

A draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, obtained by the Guardian, says emissions of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases warming the planet grew twice as fast in the first decade of the 21st century as they did during the previous three decades.

Much of that rise was due to the burning of coal, the report says. And much of that coal was used to power factories in China and other rising economies that produce goods for US and European consumers, the draft adds.

Since 2000, annual carbon dioxide emissions for China and the other rising economies have more than doubled to nearly 14 gigatonnes a year, according to the draft report. But about 2 GT a year of that was produced making goods for export.

The picture is similar for other rising economies producing goods for export, the report finds.

"A growing share of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in developing countries is released in the production of goods and services exported, notably from upper-middle-income countries to high-income countries," the report says.

Other middle income countries, with smaller exports, saw a more gradual rise in emissions. For the poorest countries in the world, however, emissions have flatlined since 1990.

Factories in China and other rising economies now produce more carbon pollution than industries in America and Europe.
"A growing share of global emissions is released in the manufacture of products that are traded across international borders," the draft says.

The newly wealthy elites of China, India and Brazil are flying more, buying more cars and otherwise fuelling the consumption that is driving climate change.

But their per capita greenhouse gas emissions are still below those in America and Europe – a gap that China and India regularly cite at climate talks to deflect pressure to cut emissions.

In addition, a large and growing share of the carbon pollution attributed to China and those rising economies was generated in the production of goods that ended up in America and Europe.

The outsourcing of those emissions has skewed efforts to account for all global emissions, which typically was conducted on a national basis. Those accounting efforts are no longer accurate, according to analysts.

"If we are just looking at our national inventory to understand the emissions trends, it is just not telling the full picture of our impacts," said Cynthia Cummis, an expert on greenhouse gas accounting at the World Resources Institute. "We need to understand the full life cycle of all the goods and services that we are purchasing and selling."

There is now growing debate about how to assign responsibility for emissions generated producing goods that were made in one country but ultimately destined for another.

"The consumers that are importing those goods have some responsibility for those goods that are happening outside of our boundaries," Cummis said.

The 29-page draft, a summary for policy makers, was dated 17 December. An edited version is due to be published in Germany in April.

The report is the third in a series by the IPCC, summing up the state of the climate crisis since 2007 and prospects for solutions. The first part was released in September. It is stark about the chances of avoiding dangerous climate change – especially if deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are pushed back beyond 2030.

Temperatures have already risen by 0.8C since the dawning of the industrial age, the report says.

Unless there are deep cuts in emissions – up to 70% of current levels by 2050 – or a near-quadrupling of renewable energy, governments may have to fall back increasingly on experimental technologies for sucking carbon dioxide from the air to avoid dangerous warming, the report says. more

1 comment:

  1. Jonathan,
    I don't mind your harsh criticism of what we tried to do on Saturday. I admit we still have so far to go. But for one who has tried to move the Minnesota legislature and my local Utility Co-Ops to consider a feed in tariff policy to move us more quickly toward renewables and establish the kind of local economic shift we need, I am also encouraged by small movements in as you say 'raising awareness.' Moving the Titanic may have been easier. Today for some reason I pulled my 1981 copy of Jeremy Rifkin's "Entropy" which he begins by saying, "Hope is the feeling that what is desired is possible . . . " I guess I am still there. Hoping that we can in some way meet the challenges that we are faced with. I don't know what else to believe in. I know over the years of our friendship my gifts of understanding this problem are not as great as yours and I know there needs to be so much more done, but simply doing nothing I can't abide. So I keep doing what ever I can to get others to join me to make even little steps forward.
    - David Bly