An email from David Whitehouse [email@example.com]
In an exclusive extract from his new book, Nicholas Stern argues that the time for debate on climate change is well and truly over.
"More recently, others have tried to argue that the warming has stopped because 1998 (a so-called El Nino year, with warmer surface temperature of oceans) was a little warmer on average than 2007 (a La Nina year, with cooler surface temperature of oceans). This confuses cycles with trends, peaks with troughs and sea temperatures with land temperatures. Further, it ignores that the last decade was the hottest since records began and that the trend is clearly upwards. But this is the kind of nonsense that some would try to peddle. There are many more half-baked attempts to try to naysay the science, but they always unravel on careful inspection. And the same has been true of more sophisticated attempts, such as those involving changing structures of humidity in the atmosphere."
The recent hiatus in the increase of global temperatures, now no longer contended by most scientists, is nothing to do with El Nino and La Nina, and despite the hiatus nobody denied that the last decade has been warmer than previous ones.
Frankly, if this is the level of scientific rigour in Nicholas Stern's forthcoming book then it is unimpressive and lacking in any basis of critical scientific thinking. It uses cherry picking data and arguments to support a pre-determined view. It pays lip service to the notions of scientific questioning. It could have been written by Cardinal Bellarmine [Who burnt Giordano Bruno and opposed Galileo].
CLEVER CHINESE STRATEGY: CHINA DEMANDS U.S. CLIMATE BILLIONS, BINDING TARGETS
They know it won't happen but it will take the heat off them to cut their emissions. They must be having a quiet laugh to themselves
Finding money to help poor countries pay for new energy technology that doesn't contribute to global warming is the most difficult task facing negotiators as United Nations climate change talks began today, said U.S. President Barack Obama's special envoy.
Financing works "hand in glove" with establishing carbon dioxide-emissions cuts for developing countries, which will be responsible for most of the world's output of greenhouse gases in the coming decades, said Todd Stern, the chief U.S. climate negotiator. "The financing issue is extremely important in our judgment," he said. "What's vital in general is that the developing countries leapfrog the carbon intensity path, and for that they'll need help."
Delegates from 175 countries are struggling to close the gap between their positions on financing and other issues, including setting CO2 cutting goals, in Bonn this week. Obama's delegation is participating for the first time in climate talks and promises to work toward a "robust deal" when the talks wind up in Copenhagen at the end of the year. "This is a new start for the U.S. delegation and the start of a new hope to solve the problem of climate change," said Matthias Machnig, Germany's deputy environment minister, during a speech to the 2,600 delegates and participants at the start of talks today.
While Obama has pledged greater emissions cuts than his predecessor, George W. Bush, the reductions fall short of what's needed to tackle the problem, China's lead negotiator, Su Wei, said in an interview before the start of the 10-day talks in Bonn, Germany. "The U.S. has become more positive than the previous administration: I think they are going in the right direction," Su said in a telephone interview. "Still, we're waiting for very firm climate policy from the U.S., including very clear medium-term targets. All of the parties are waiting for that."
A global climate treaty to reduce CO2 emissions and replace the expiring Kyoto Protocol must focus on later targets, not just 2020 goals, said Stern. The U.S. favors slashing emissions of heat-trapping gases to 1990 levels by 2020.
America `can't wave magic wand' on climate change
Expectations of what can be achieved by the United States in fighting global warming are unrealistic, climate change negotiators from more than 170 countries have been told. Hopes raised by a new willingness in the White House to take action to control climate change must be balanced by a realisation that there are limits to what the US can do, they were told.
Todd Stern, President Obama's special envoy on climate change, moved to play down hopes as the US joined UN talks on global warming in Bonn. These are designed to smooth the path to a summit in Copenhagen in December when it is hoped that international agreement on cutting greenhouse gas emissions can be reached. "The US is going to be powerfully and fervently engaged in this process," Mr Stern said shortly before the talks started. "That doesn't mean that anyone should be thinking that the US can ride in on a white horse and make it work, because it can't. What we can do is return to the table with energy and commitment, and commitment to science and pragmatism to getting a deal that will be doable. We are all going to have to do this together. We don't have a magic wand."
Under President Bush, the US was reluctant to join international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but attitudes in the White House have altered dramatically since the inauguration of Mr Obama.
The Bonn talks are the first session of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since Mr Obama took office, and expectations of US involvement have been high. Such was the relief at the willingness of the US to act on climate change that its delegation was welcomed with applause by negotiators from other countries. The clapping became even more enthusiastic when Mr Stern said: "We are glad to be back, we want to make up for lost time, and we are seized with the urgency of the task before us. The science is clear and the threat is real. The facts are outstripping the worst-case scenarios. The costs of inaction or inadequate actions are unacceptable." [Big talk]
However, hopes that the US would use the opening of the talks to announce measures to cut its own emissions were dashed. Michael Zammit Cutajar, one of the chief UN negotiators, said that in talks before the session it was intimated that Mr Obama's Administration needed more time. "My understanding is they need some more time to get up to speed," he said. The talks in Bonn continue until April 8 and a second session will be held in June, by which time, he said, it should be clearer how much farther the US will go.
Despite the widespread welcome for the US involvement, there remain concerns that it will refuse to make deep enough cuts in emissions. President Obama has already promised to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050. While most delegates and scientists agree that the long-term target of 80 per cent matches requirements, they believe that the US needs to do better on the 2020 target if there is to be even a 50-50 chance of limiting temperature rises to 2C (3.6F).
CLIMATE COALITION FALLS APART AS EU LEADERS BACKTRACK
Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, insisted that Europe was still a global leader on climate change after a stinging attack on the EU by the campaign group World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) at the European Business Summit in Brussels today (27 March). In a testy exchange, Dimas defended EU policy after WWF said that Europe had broken its promise to developing countries and weakened its own carbon reduction targets.
Stephan Singer, director of global energy policy at WWF's European policy office and a veteran climate change campaigner, said the campaign group was "deeply disappointed" in the EU. He accused EU leaders of breaking an international agreement reached in Bali in 2007, when rich countries promised to transfer funds to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change. Last week, EU leaders agreed that they would do their "fair share" for developing countries, but did not name an amount of money. Singer said this showed that the EU had "empty hands" and was "breaking the Bali mandate".
In an especially painful attack on EU policymakers, Singer said that the US goal to stabilise emissions at 1990 levels by 2020 "on paper could be a more aggressive target" than the EU's efforts.
Visibly irritated, Dimas accused WWF of "politicking" and said that the group was "undermining our ability to negotiate in Copenhagen." He said "everyone accepts that Europe is leading the fight against climate change", adding that "other countries have not even talked about what they are going to do". And he said that the EU would be pressing the US to make comparable emission-reduction targets, going further than a commitment to "stabilise" emissions.
ECONOMISTS AND CLIMATE SCIENCE: A CRITIQUE
By David Henderson
In this paper I question the characteristic treatment of climate change issues by fellow-economists, as seen in recent articles, books and reports. The focus of the paper, however, is not on economics. My main theme is what I see as the uncritical and over-presumptive way in which these various sources have dealt with the scientific aspects of the subject.
Although I also refer to other illustrative cases, the chief specific targets of criticism are six recent and influential publications. Three of these are by leading and widely respected individual authors. They are:
* William Nordhaus's book, A Question of Balance (Nordhaus, 2008);
* Martin Weitzman's article entitled 'On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change' (Weitzman, 2009); and.
* Dieter Helm's article entitled 'Climate-Change Policy: Why Has So Little Been Achieved?' (Helm, 2008).
Alongside this trio I place two prominent large-scale officially-sponsored though independent reviews:
* The 700-page Stern Review, The Economics of Climate Change, by Nicholas (now Lord) Stern and others, commissioned by the British government and published in 2007; and
* The 600-page Garnaut Climate Change Review, authored by Ross Garnaut, commissioned by the state and territorial governments of Australia with the later participation of the Commonwealth government, and published in 2008.
Last on the list is the special chapter on climate change issues that formed part of the April 2008 issue of the IMF's twice-yearly flagship publication, World Economic Outlook.
It is an unusual procedure for an economist to criticise what fellow-economists have said, or failed to say, about a subject area which is neither his nor theirs. I therefore begin by setting the issues that I raise in the wider context of the current climate change debate.
Hour of no power INCREASES emissions
By Bjorn Lomborg
This Saturday, the World Wildlife Fund wants everybody on the planet to switch off their lights for an hour in a "global election between Earth and global warming", where switching off the lights "is a vote for Earth".
In Australia, where Earth Hour started, it evidently enjoys strong support from politicians, celebrities, corporate backers and the public. The efforts this Saturday certainly will be well-intentioned. Many of us worry about global warming and would like to be part of the solution. Unfortunately, this event - as with many public proposals on climate change - is an entirely symbolic gesture that creates the mistaken impression that there are easy, quick fixes to climate change. One provincial British newspaper wrote this week: "Saving the planet could be as easy as switching off the lights in South Tyneside, green campaigners say."
It will take more than the metropolitan borough of South Tyneside, population 152,000, to solve global warming. Even if a billion people turn off their lights this Saturday, the entire event will be equivalent to switching off China's emissions for six short seconds. In economic terms, the environmental and humanitarian benefits from the efforts of the entire developed world would add up to just $21,000.
The campaign doesn't ask anybody to do anything difficult, such as coping without heating, air-conditioning, telephones, the internet, hot food or cold drinks. Conceivably, if you or I sat in our houses watching television, with the heater and computer running, we could claim we're part of an answer to global warming, so long as the lights are switched off. The symbolism is almost perverse.
In Australia last year, Earth Hour's organisers required participating businesses to pledge to reduce their emissions by 5 per cent during the following year. This year, that requirement has been dropped. "We decided we'd actually downplay (concrete cuts)this time," the chief executive of WWF Australia told The Sunday Age. There apparently has been no accounting of whether last year's sponsors lived up to their pledge. The Sunday Age reported last week: "An analysis of the key sponsors of Earth Hour reveals that most have reported increased emissions in their most recent figures."
And it gets worse: the event could cause higher overall pollution than if we just left our lights on. When asked to extinguish electricity, people turn to candlelight. Candles seem natural, but are almost 100 times less efficient than incandescent light globes, and more than 300 times less efficient than fluorescent lights. If you use one candle for each extinguished globe, you're essentially not cutting CO2 at all, and with two candles you'll emit more CO2. Moreover, candles produce indoor air pollution 10 to 100 times the level of pollution caused by all cars, industry and electricity production.
No wonder that even committed climate campaigners are sceptical. Clive Hamilton, author of Scorcher: The Dirty Politics of Climate Change, told The Sunday Age last week that "we are well past the time for feel-good exercises aimed at raising awareness. It's like the band playing on as the Titanic sinks." He said there was a real danger that Earth Hour convinced people we were making progress on climate change when we were not. And it let business and government off the hook.
There is still no cheap replacement for the carbon that we burn. This is the reason many promises of drastic CO2 cuts remain just empty promises and why past global agreements to cut CO2 have gone unfulfilled. A meaningful solution to global warming needs to focus on research into and development of clean energy, instead of fixating on empty promises of carbon emission reductions.
It is vital to make solar and other new technology cheaper than fossil fuels quickly so we can turn off carbon energy sources for a lot longer than one hour and keep the planet running. Every country should agree to spend 0.05 per cent of its gross domestic product on low-carbon energy research and development. The total global cost would be 10 times greater than present spending, yet be 10 times less than the cost of the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emission reductions. This response to global warming is a realistic, achievable one.
Fossil fuels literally gave us an enlightenment, by lighting our world and giving us protection from the fury of the elements. It is ironic that today's pure symbolism should hark back to a darker age.
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