The White House signalled on Monday it could wait until 2010 for major climate change legislation to move through the U.S. Congress as long as it fulfilled President Barack Obama's criteria for tackling global warming. When asked when the president wished to see movement on a climate bill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs left a time frame wide open.
"If we had significant legislation that began to address climate change ... whether that's this year or next year I think both of us would agree that that's a big change that we would welcome," Gibbs said, referring to the president. He said the bill would have to allow the United States to spend even more money investing in alternative energies to ensure the country was not adding to the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Obama has spent the first month of his young administration focusing on lifting the United States out of a deep recession. He has put forward proposals to shore up the financial industry and stem home foreclosures while promising action on health care reform. Though investing in renewable energy is a key part of Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill, the administration has kept quiet about its other environmental goals for this year.
Greenie emissions plan for Australia set to be scuppered
The Federal Government's emissions trading scheme is heading for defeat in the Senate before it is even debated as independent Nick Xenophon and the Nationals' Barnaby Joyce rule out supporting the policy even with amendments. Senator Xenophon, who passed the Government's $42 billion stimulus package only after winning $1 billion in measures for the Murray-Darling Basin, told The Age he would vote against the scheme in its present form. But Senator Xenophon said he would not trade his vote for more money for the Murray-Darling or other programs, because he has fundamental problems with the design of the scheme.
Instead, Senator Xenophon is backing an alternative cap-and-trade program based on a Canadian model, which has been previously ruled out by Climate Change Minister Penny Wong. Senator Wong said in a speech on Friday that the Government would not delay nor change the details of its proposed cap-and-trade system.
If Senator Xenophon votes against the scheme, the Government will have to get the Opposition's support to pass it. However, Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce believes "there are not enough amendments" to fix the scheme, and indicated the Nationals would reject the scheme outright. Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull is still waiting on economic research scheduled to be delivered this week before determining the Liberal Party's position.
Senator Joyce told The Age "it didn't matter" what the Coalition policy would be because he would be asked to vote on the Government's proposal. "And I cannot back it because it will throw people out of their jobs and their homes and do incredible damage to the Australian economy," he said.
Senior Liberal sources said yesterday there was disagreement in the joint party room on what policy the Opposition should take, with support from many members of the Liberal back bench to vote against the Government's scheme outright rather than seeking to amend it.
An industry source close to the Liberal Party said "they (the Coalition) have no policy really, but they have made a decision to get on the front foot after the disaster that was last week and so they are talking about climate change probably more than they would like at this moment".
Mr Turnbull and environment spokesman Greg Hunt indicated yesterday that the Opposition would present policies that contain emissions cuts greater than the 5 to 15 per cent range by 2020 announced by the Government last year, but would not say if they would support an emissions trading scheme. Mr Turnbull is backing a range of other emissions reduction programs such as biochar offsets, energy efficiency in buildings and international forestation measures, which can be implemented into an emissions trading scheme or run as independent programs. The Liberals and the Greens are proposing a Senate inquiry to replace the House of Representatives inquiry that Treasurer Wayne Swan shut down on Thursday.
The Greens have proposed 13 terms of reference for the inquiry, including investigation into the adequacy of the Rudd Government's 2020 targets. But the Coalition and Greens, who need to join forces to establish the Senate inquiry, last night had not agreed to the terms. The Government is expected to release draft legislation for the emissions scheme this week.
FORGET KYOTO II: WHY CHINA WILL NEVER ACCEPT BINDING EMISSIONS CUTS
Because those they sell their stuff to are the ones really responsible for the emissions
The full extent of the west's responsibility for Chinese emissions of greenhouse gases has been revealed by a new study. The report shows that half of the recent rise in China's carbon dioxide pollution was caused by the manufacturing of goods for other countries - particularly developed nations such as the UK. Last year, China officially overtook the US as the world's biggest CO2 emitter. But the new research shows that around a third of all Chinese carbon emissions are the result of producing goods for export.
The research, due to be published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, underlines "off-shored emissions" as a key unresolved issue in the run up to this year's crucial Copenhagen summit, at which world leaders will attempt to thrash out a deal to replace the Kyoto protocol.
Developing countries are under pressure to commit to binding emissions cuts in Copenhagen. But China is resistant, partly because it does not accept responsibility for the emissions involved in producing goods for foreign markets.
Under Kyoto, emissions are allocated to the country where they are produced. By these rules, the UK can claim to have reduced emissions by about 18% since 1990 - more than sufficient to meet its Kyoto target. But research published last year by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) suggests that, once imports, exports and international transport are accounted for, the real change for the UK has been a rise in emissions of more than 20%.
China, as the world's biggest export manufacturer, is key to explaining this kind of discrepancy. According to Glen Peters, one of the authors of the new report at Oslo's Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, around 9% of total Chinese emissions are now the result of manufacturing goods for the US, and around 6% are from producing goods for Europe. Academics and campaigners increasingly say responsibility for these emissions lies with the consumer countries.
Dieter Helm, professor of economics at Oxford University, said "focusing on consumption rather than production of emissions is the only intellectually and ethically sound solution. We've simply outsourced our production. If you add foreign manufacturing emissions to the transport emissions of bringing things from abroad, and you consider the lower energy efficiency and greater use of coal in China, then the result is hugely significant."
By contrast, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc), argues that these "embedded emissions" in Chinese-produced goods are "not the UK's emissions; the UK calculates and reports its emissions according to the internationally agreed criteria set out by the UN." However, Decc admitted to the Guardian that "the footprint associated with the UK's consumption has risen".
AL GORE RETRACTS ON DISASTER-WARMING CLAIM
Leading to a VERY interesting question
Andy Revkin at the New York Times asked Al Gore's office for their comments on Gore's use of data from CRED in Belgium in recent versions of his talk to illustrate the impacts of human-caused climate change on disasters. In response, Gore's office has said that they will pull the slide, as it does not have a scientific foundation.
Kudos to Al Gore who has demonstrated a commitment to scientific accuracy in his presentation. However there are still some issues with their response. Here is how Gore's office responded to Revkin as related at Dot Earth (please visit their site for embedded links):
"I can confirm that historically, we used Munich Re and Swiss Re data for the slide show. This can be confirmed using a hard copy of An Inconvenient Truth. (It is cited if you cannot recall from the film which is now several years old!). We became aware of the CRED database from its use by Charles Blow in the New York Times (May 31, 2008). So, it's a very new addition.
We have found that Munich Re and other insurers and their science experts have made the attribution. I'm referring you particularly to their floods section/report [link, link] Both of these were published in a series entitled "Weather catastrophes and climate change-Is there still hope for us."
We appreciate that you have pointed out the issues with the CRED database and will make the switch back to the data we used previously to ensure that there is no confusion either with regards to the data or attribution.
As to climate change and its impacts on storms and floods, the IPCC and NOAA among many other top scientific groups have indicated that climate change will result in more extreme weather events, including heat waves, wildfires, storms and floods. As the result of briefings from top scientists, Vice President Gore believes that we are beginning to see evidence of that now.
Switching from the CRED dataset to Munich Re (and Swiss Re) data does not solve the basic problem. As we found in an expert workshop organized in 2006 with Munich Re - The Munich Re dataset has exactly the same problems as the CRED dataset. Attribution of the role of greenhouse gas driven climate change in the increasing economic costs of disasters has yet to occur. So using a different dataset does not address the underlying problem. So when Al Gore's office says . . .
We have found that Munich Re and other insurers and their science experts have made the attribution.
. . . they are either cherry picking the selective views of a few people or simply mistaken. The scientific workshop that I co-organized with Peter Hoeppe of Munich Re concluded the following, with unanimous agreement among participants (PDF):
"Because of issues related to data quality, the stochastic nature of extreme event impacts, length of time series, and various societal factors present in the disaster loss record, it is still not possible to determine the portion of the increase in damages that might be attributed to climate change due to GHG emissions.
We also published this view in Science: Bouwer, L.M., Crompton, R.P., Faust, E., H”ppe, P., and Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. Confronting Disaster Losses, Science, Vol. 318, November 2, p. 753. (PDF).
So while Gore's office was right to pull the CRED information from their talk as lacking a scientific basis, the continuing reliance on data from Munich Re does not solve the basic issue, which is that attribution of the increasing toll of disasters to human-caused climate change remains speculative at best and not supported by science. To the contrary, increasing societal exposure and growing wealth in vulnerable locations are the overwhelming drivers of the increasing losses, a conclusion well supported by many studies. Here is a test to see how far Gore is willing to go in maintaining standards of accuracy in his talk.
Now that Gore has admitted that including the slide based on CRED data was a mistake, it raises a more fundamental question: How could it be that Al Gore presented obviously misleading information before a large audience of the world's best scientists, which was then amplified in a press release by AAAS, and none of these scientists spoke up?
DIVIDED BRITISH GREENS: CLIMATE ANGST TRUMPS NUCLEAR HYSTERIA
Britain must build new nuclear power stations if it is to meet climate change targets, according to leading environmentalists.
It is the first time the green lobby has decided to embrace the technology after years of opposition. Campaigners have traditionally been against nuclear power because of the fear of proliferation of weapons and the problem of disposing of waste. However with Britain facing a major energy crisis in the next few years - as coal-fired power stations and old nuclear power stations close down - and with the UK Government committed to cutting greenhouse gases by 80 per cent by 2050, many in the environmental movement are changing their minds. They argue that while nuclear power still has problems, climate change is a greater threat and that nuclear is a better option for keeping the lights on than building new coal-fired power stations.
The four leading environmentalists who have come out in favour of nuclear power are Stephen Tindale, former director of Greenpeace; Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury, the chairman of the Environment Agency; Mark Lynas, author of the Royal Society's science book of the year, and Chris Goodall, a Green Party activist and prospective parliamentary candidate. Mr Tindale, who described his turn-around as a "religious conversion", said many more in the environment movement think "nuclear power is not ideal but it's better than climate change".
Around 10 power stations could be built in the UK in the next 30 years. The Government is currently consulting on sites that might be suitable for new nuclear stations and companies have expressed interest in starting to build in 2013, with the first plants coming on stream in 2018.
However environmental groups remained adamant that nuclear power can't solve the problem of climate change. Greenpeace argue that even if new nuclear stations are built it will not stop countries like China and India burning huge amounts of coal and the only way to reduce the threat of climate change is to improve efficiency and revolutionise energy generation with cheap and green renewables.
A spokesman for Greenpeace said: "Imagine if the billions wasted on the nuclear industry had been spent instead on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Then we'd really be matching our big problems with big solutions."
Big sharks right in Sydney harbour -- thanks to the Greenies
All sharks are now "protected" species in Australia
When we arrived about 10.45am Justin handed over one of the frigate mackerel his clients had just caught. With its blood red, oily flesh it was perfect shark bait. We did not use berley - mashed fish flesh, called chum in the US, and designed to attract sharks. Al rigged a stout gamefishing rod and reel filled with about a kilometre of 24kg strength line, attached a wire trace and smallish hook, and cast out a fillet of the frigate. Around us the little tuna - looking like lime green bullets - continued to feed, sometimes spearing half out of the water in their enthusiasm for their own tiny prey. The rod and reel are more at home chasing giant fish in the deep, many kilometres out to sea. But we were 10-15m from shore and our depth sounder read just 8m of flat bottom, with a drop-off to deeper water nearby.
Maybe 15 minutes later we knew something else besides frigate mackerel was out hunting. A bloke fishing in a tinny next to us cruised by and said: "I think I just saw a decent shark, just over in the really shallow water" as he pointed to the sandy shores less than 2m deep. Builders on shore, with the advantage of elevation enabling them to look deep into the water, waved and kept pointing to the same spot.
Within half an hour a brown shadow slid past the stern. About 1.8m long, it had the shape and colour of a bull shark. We also missed two tentative bites from what were most likely sharks. They do not always smash their prey and can be delicate feeders. Then, after only an hour drifting with the outgoing tide, and with Clifton Gardens' netted swimming enclosure a few hundred metres away, the fillet of frigate was swallowed. Line poured from the reel. "This is a shark, and it's a pretty big one," said Al.
The shark headed into the shipping channel, unstoppable. Half an hour after hook-up and the shark was still moving westwards, forcing us to motor at up to 10km/h. An hour after hook-up the shark appeared to be aiming for Garden Island, where navy diver Paul de Gelder was attacked on January 11. We manoeuvred our boat to try to force the shark towards the surface. Nothing seemed to be working until, finally, it swam into shallower water and began to tire.
An hour and a half after hook-up, with little warning, it gave up and could be led boatside. It made one last surge, a thick, broad, tan-coloured head breaching the surface, snow white teeth flashing in the sun, cream belly glowing, tail slapping the water. "It's a bloody big bull shark!" Al shouted.
Just as we were about to put a NSW Fisheries gamefish tag into its shoulders the shark's teeth overcame the wire trace and it was gone, leaving an upwelling of boiling water 2m across. We called it as a bull shark between 2.7m and 3m long. NSW Fisheries scientists will study photos of the shark. State Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald told The Daily Telegraph yesterday: "It is of a similar size to the one involved in the attack on the diver."
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