Monday, March 30, 2015

Well duh! Climate scientists help make the problem worse

In case anyone wonders why it is so easy to discredit the climate scientists, the following two stories should provide a clue.  In the first, a science writer named Eric Holthaus embarrassed everyone by suggesting that flying climate scientists around the world so they can attend climate conferences makes no sense whatsoever.  For advancing such a perfectly reasonable suggestion, poor Holthaus was almost made into a pariah.  He WAS called a "radical." (gasp!)

Once upon a time, getting everyone important on some subject into the same room was a useful thing to do.  When it took four months for a letter to reach Europe and the process of capturing facial expressions required oil paint, physical meetings made sense.  But in an era of instantaneous communication and high-def video conferencing, actual physical meetings are nothing more than the preservation of archaic traits.  And flying to a climate conference is clearly nothing more than a vivid demonstration that the participants don't understand the gravity of the problem—in which case, why are they important enough to invite to a climate conference?

In the second story, we discover that the UN is still funding the construction of coal-fired electrical generation plants.  As there is absolutely NOTHING worse for the atmosphere than burning coal, anyone remotely connected with such a decision obviously flunked climate change 101.

So the question is, who is more dangerous, the climate denying hacks working for the fossil fuel industries or the bureaucrats who profess deep concern for climate change but cannot be bothered to learn the most basic scientific issues?  Both are a profound embarrassment to humanity but in my mind, the climate "scientists" who are unwilling to forego their vacations / conferences are far worse if only because the hack deniers are so much easier to ignore.

It may be time for climate scientists to stop flying so much

Climate scientists should boost their credibility by cutting down on air travel, a new report argues


Science writer and meteorologist Eric Holthaus made headlines in 2013 when, after reading the just-released IPCC report on climate change, he vowed to never to fly again.

“As an average person that follows this issue and write about it a lot for his job,” he explained to Salon at the time, “if I don’t do something that the IPCC recommends, why would anyone else?”

He’s kept his promise, and it’s going well for him so far, but his decision to cut out one off the biggest single sources of greenhouse gas emissions, lauded by some and ridiculed by others, was almost universally seen as a radical one.

But at this late hour, should it be? More climate scientists ought to be cutting down on air travel, argues a report recently released by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. And they can start, it suggests, by no longer holding conferences.

“There was a sense for a long time that developing our understanding of how the climate works was more important in a way than what credibility the climate scientists had,” Tyndall Centre director and the report’s lead author, Corinne Le Quéré, explained to FiveThirtyEight. Obviously, that’s changed. And in a political climate where science isn’t allowed to stand on its own — and when the science comes with such a clear prescription for the need for action — it doesn’t necessarily make sense to pretend there needs to be a divide between impartial research and activism.

“There is an impression that we’re here to deliver the science and that’s our role, and everything that relates to a decision should be judged as personal,” Le Quéré said. ”I don’t share this view. I think that we have a professional image that will be judged by whether we behave in a way that’s aligned with what we say.” Plus, it would take some major ammunition away from the people who make it their mission to discredit climate scientists — and thus climate science — by any means possible.

Would the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, coupled with the strong message a no-fly policy send, be enough to make up for the lost research and collaboration opportunities? I’m no scientist, but Le Quéré argues, quite persuasively, that climatologists wouldn’t necessarily have to sacrifice one for the other:

We found that there were two particularly positive things about having conferences: one is exceptional stimulation and the other one is creating personal links of trusts. So we thought that we could develop a plan to ensure that we keep these benefits but have an alternative way to look at them. For example, we could have distributed conferences that are linked to one another via Internet connections and Web-based exchanges. And links of trust, yes, they are very important, but you don’t need to meet people regularly to do that. It’s often enough to meet people once to develop a link of trust and then to continue via Skype or via other, more carbon friendly sources.

…At the moment, you feel very marginalized if you’re not going to a conference because you don’t want to travel, but I think we have to create that space where it becomes the norm not to travel.

By 2050, as Holthaus points out, air travel could account for as much as 50 percent of the United States’ total emissions. You’d be hard-pressed to find a climate scientist who thinks that’s a promising path. more

UN green climate fund can be spent on coal-fired power generation

Rules agreed a meeting of fund’s board described by Friends of the Earth as ‘like a torture convention that does not forbid torture’

Suzanne Goldenberg US environment correspondent  29 March 2015

The UN fund to help developing countries fight climate change can be spent on coal-fired power plants – the most polluting form of electricity generation – under rules agreed at a board meeting.

The green climate fund (GCF) refused an explicit ban on fossil fuel projects at the contentious meeting in Songdo, South Korea, last week.

“It’s like a torture convention that doesn’t forbid torture,” said Karen Orenstein, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth US who was at the meeting. “Honestly it should be a no-brainer at this point.”  The argument for divesting from fossil fuels is becoming overwhelming.

The fund was set up as part of the ongoing UN climate negotiations to help developing countries finance clean energy and measures to help adapt to climate change.

Its website states: “The fund will promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

It has struggled for support, however, with industrialised countries paying only about 1% of the $10.2bn (£6.9bn) committed at the UN climate negotiations in Lima last December. The deadline for contributions is 30 April.

With no clear rules on climate finance, much of the funds can be channelled to dirty energy, campaigners say.

Japan designated $1bn in loans for coal plants in Indonesia as climate finance, according to reporting by the Associated Press. Last week Japan counted another $630m in loans for coal plants in India and Bangladesh as climate finance.

Japan claims the projects are less polluting than older coal-fired plants and so qualify as clean energy. “Japan is of the view that the promotion of high-efficiency coal-fired power plants is one of the realistic, pragmatic and effective approaches to cope with the issue of climate change,” Takako Ito, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, told AP.

Campaigners say the lack of clear rules makes a mockery of the fund. “Many people think it’s crazy that they are not going to have a no-go zone,” Orenstein said. “The fact that the GCF won’t say it is problematic both for the integrity of the fund, and also reputational risk.”

Japan, China and Saudi Arabia opposed such a ban, she said.

The board agreed to set a minimum benchmark for the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that projects must achieve, but not until 2016. Meanwhile, they will apply an “assessment scale” to the first projects, which are set to be approved in October. more

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