Sunday, August 16, 2009

Four Months to Save The Planet, Or...?

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has said that there is less than four months to save the planet. Referring to the December negotiations in Copenhagen when the world community will seek to create global governance so as to manage climate change and develop agreements to replace Kyoto, he said that the situation is both urgent and dire. A failure to act will lead to the loss of several Pacific islands, over twenty eight million climate change refugees and further challenges to the developed and developing world.

Senator Kerry, Chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, echoes these kinds of concerns in his urging of his fellow senators to act on the climate change bill now before it. Citing pandemics, drought, an increase in natural disasters, famine, the rise in sea level and a fall in water supplies in the Middle East and Asia, he claimed that all of these had their root cause in climate change.

These statements, and others like them, are the prelude to the multilateral talks in Copenhagen. These talks already look likely to fail, with India and China not playing ball with the US and Europe on specific cuts in emissions or on a technology transfer fund to move technology quickly and at low cost from the developed world to the developing world. Australia, seen at one point as a deal maker, cannot secure its own legislation and Canada remains skeptical about the rhetoric. The US, with a climate change alarmist as President, is still struggling to pass modest legislation on emissions and is focusing instead on the economic mechanism of cap and trade – something unlikely to have any significant impact on emissions. We can expect more rhetoric, both from politicians and stealth campaigners masquerading as scientists in the next three and half months as the prospect for a significant agreement in Copenhagen receed and the likelihood of the environmental lobby being disappointed again.

They were deeply disappointed by the G8 summit held in July. Expecting a significant commitment to 2020 emissions targets and an agreement to a post-Kyoto framework, all that Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth secured was a statement that the G8 leaders agreed, in principle, that the climate should not be allowed to heat up more than 2 degrees above its current levels. No suggestion as to how temperature increases may be constrained and no commitments, other than those already made, to any new mechanisms for the management of climate change strategy.

Meanwhile, evidence is accumulating that the $78 billion spent by the US government on climate change research and mitigation technologies may not be a wise investment. Recent data shows that the IPCC projection of CO2 concentrations reaching 836 ppmv by 2100 are exaggerated and are unlikely to rise much beyond 570 by 2100; seal level is not rising at anything like the levels the IPCC projected and are in fact stable around the Maldives, Tuvalu and other Pacific islands; sea ice in the Antarctic is expanding and the sea ice in the Arctic is within normal ranges at this point in the sea ice cycle; the polar bear population is stable and large and, as a final straw, the earth continues to cool. Actual data do not follow the alarmist levels anticipated by the computer models on which the IPCC makes most of its scenario statements.

Given the economic slow-down and other factors, the G8 target of no more than a 2 degree rise in temperature is within our reach – current projections are for the global mean temperature to rise by app. 2.5 degrees by 2100, with no warming taking place for a decade and a half since 1995, this may be a pessimistic estimate. The oceans are not warming, hurricane activity is the lowest since satellite monitoring began and wind caused catastrophes in North America show no upward or downward trend since the 1950’s.

Since real data suggests that there is an exaggerated sense of alarm, fuelled by those receiving much of the $78 billion in climate change cash from the US Government and a further €100 billion from the European Union (Exxon Mobil has spent less than $2.25 million a year on climate change science, despite the claim that it is fuelling skepticism), it is likely that a failure in Copenhagen will be of little consequence, except politically. Reputations have been built on fear, but when the emperor is shown to have no clothes, fear has a habit of going away. There will be some kind of statement in Copenhagen, but it will not be the one envisaged two years ago when work on this global summit began.

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