Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sir John Beddington Finally Sees The Light

The [British] government’s chief scientist has dismissed hopes for a deal at this week’s United Nations climate change conference — and said Britain should start preparing for a warmer world.

Speaking before talks begin in Cancun, Mexico, Sir John Beddington told The Sunday Times: “There is very little chance of reaching a comprehensive agreement in Cancun, and it is not certain if we will get one at next year’s talks in South Africa.”

His stark prediction comes as the United Nations attempts to repair the damage caused by the near-collapse of similar negotiations in Copenhagen last year.

Beddington said it was “very unwise” to think that the UN would achieve its target of limiting global temperature rises to a maximum of 2C.

Britain, he suggested, should press for progress in the talks but should also make preparations for a world that could warm rapidly during the rest of the century.

“If we are in a situation where, over the next 10 years, those decisions are not taken then we have to think about what to do. That means we have to focus on adaptation to climate change. It would be very unwise to think that the 2C goal will happen.”

Britain has one of the best records of any country in addressing climate change, including cutting emissions and passing laws to ensure the decline continues. Beddington warned, however, that Britain and Europe could not continue to take such action alone without putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

More here

At Long Last: The Economist Adapts To Political Reality

See below:

Adapting to climate change: Facing the consequences - Global action is not going to stop climate change. The world needs to look harder at how to live with it.

ON NOVEMBER 29th representatives of countries from around the world will gather in Cancún, Mexico, for the first high-level climate talks since those in Copenhagen last December. The organisers hope the meeting in Mexico, unlike the one in Denmark, will be unshowy but solid, leading to decisions about finance, forestry and technology transfer that will leave the world better placed to do something about global warming. Incremental progress is possible, but continued deadlock is likelier. What is out of reach, as at Copenhagen, is agreement on a plausible programme for keeping climate change in check.

The world warmed by about 0.7°C in the 20th century. Every year in this century has been warmer than all but one in the last (1998, since you ask). If carbon-dioxide levels were magically to stabilise where they are now (almost 390 parts per million, 40% more than before the industrial revolution) the world would probably warm by a further half a degree or so as the ocean, which is slow to change its temperature, caught up. But CO2 levels continue to rise. Despite 20 years of climate negotiation, the world is still on an emissions trajectory that fits pretty easily into the “business as usual” scenarios drawn up by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Copenhagen accord, a non-binding document which was the best that could be salvaged from the summit, talks of trying to keep the world less than 2°C warmer than in pre-industrial times—a level that is rather arbitrarily seen as the threshold for danger. Many countries have, in signing the accord, promised actions that will or should reduce carbon emissions. In the World Energy Outlook, recently published by the International Energy Agency, an assessment of these promises forms the basis of a “new policies scenario” for the next 25 years (see chart 1). According to the IEA, the scenario puts the world on course to warm by 3.5°C by 2100. For comparison, the difference in global mean temperature between the pre-industrial age and the ice ages was about 6°C.

The IEA also looked at what it might take to hit a two-degree target; the answer, says the agency’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, is “too good to be believed”. Every signatory of the Copenhagen accord would have to hit the top of its range of commitments. That would provide a worldwide rate of decarbonisation (reduction in carbon emitted per unit of GDP) twice as large in the decade to come as in the one just past: 2.8% a year, not 1.4%. Mr Birol notes that the highest annual rate on record is 2.5%, in the wake of the first oil shock.

But for the two-degree scenario 2.8% is just the beginning; from 2020 to 2035 the rate of decarbonisation needs to double again, to 5.5%. Though they are unwilling to say it in public, the sheer improbability of such success has led many climate scientists, campaigners and policymakers to conclude that, in the words of Bob Watson, once the head of the IPCC and now the chief scientist at Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, “Two degrees is a wishful dream.”

The fight to limit global warming to easily tolerated levels is thus over. Analysts who have long worked on adaptation to climate change—finding ways to live with scarcer water, higher peak temperatures, higher sea levels and weather patterns at odds with those under which today’s settled patterns of farming developed—are starting to see their day in the uncomfortably hot sun. That such measures cannot protect everyone from all harm that climate change may bring does not mean that they should be ignored. On the contrary, they are sorely needed.


There Are Black Days Ahead For The Carbon Industry

It might seem mildly entertaining that the media's warmist groupies, led by the BBC, have been so eager to report the latest claims of James Hansen and Phil Jones – of Climategate fame – that 2010 is the hottest year in history, while inches of "global warming" cover Britain with its most extensive November snowfall in 17 years, heralding what promises to be our fourth unusually cold winter in a row. The explanation for the recent renewed spate of warmist scare stories lies, of course, in the fact that several thousand politicians, officials and lobbyists from all over the world are today arriving in the Mexican holiday resort of Cancun, where they hope to salvage a binding UN treaty from the wreckage of last December's fiasco in Copenhagen.

None of the lobbying has been more telling than a statement issued by 259 investment organisations, controlling "collective assets totalling over $15 trillion" – including major banks, insurance companies and pension funds. These are the bodies calling most stridently for "government action on climate change", because they are the ones who hope to make vast sums of money out of it. They are desperate for a treaty of the type they failed to get at Copenhagen – even more so since the collapse of the US cap and trade bill – because they see their chance of turning global warming into the most lucrative fruit machine in history dwindling by the month.

Top of their wish list is "a rapid time-frame" for implementing the UN's REDD scheme, which would enable them to make hundreds of billions of dollars by selling the CO2 locked up in the world's tropical rainforests as "carbon offsets", thus allowing firms from the developed world to continue emitting CO2. Under this scheme, for instance, environmental bodies including the WWF hope to share in the $60 billion which they estimate as the "carbon value" of the Brazilian rainforest.

But nothing better betrays their gloom about any result from Cancun than that they at least want it to give "a clear mandate" for the adoption of "a legally binding agreement" at the UN's next conference, due in South Africa next year. This year, next year, sometime… With so much money at stake, they won't give up. But as the climate scare dies, the sound of whistling in the dark grows ever louder.


Can Environmentalism Be Saved From Itself?

Mercifully, nobody will pay attention to the climate conference at Cancun next week, where a much-reduced group of delegates will go through the motions. The delusional dream of global action to combat climate change is dead. Maybe it was just a bad dream.

Just a year ago, 15,000 of the world’s leaders, diplomats, and UN officials were gearing up to descend on Copenhagen to forge a global treaty that would save the planet. The world’s media delivered massive coverage. Important newspapers printed urgent front-page calls for action, and a popular new U.S. President waded in to put his reputation on the line. The climate talks opened with a video showing a little girl’s nightmare encounter with drought, storms, eruptions, floods and other man-made climate disasters. “Please help the world,” she pleads.

After two weeks of chaos, the talks collapsed in a smouldering heap of wreckage. The only surprise was that this outcome should have come as a surprise to so many intelligent people. These people actually seemed to believe that experts and politicians have supernatural powers to predict the future and control the climate. They believed that experts know how fast temperatures will rise by when, and what the consequences will be, and that we know what to do about it. They believed that despite the recent abject failure of Kyoto (to say nothing of other well-intentioned international treaties), the nations of the world would willingly join hands and sacrifice their sovereignty in order to sign on to a vast scheme of unimaginable scope, untold cost and certain damage to their own interests.

Copenhagen was not a political breakdown. It was an intellectual breakdown so astonishing that future generations will marvel at our blind credulity. Copenhagen was a classic case of the emperor with no clothes.

Mercifully, nobody will pay attention to the climate conference at Cancun next week, where a much-reduced group of delegates will go through the motions. The delusional dream of global action to combat climate change is dead. Barack Obama’s cap-and-trade scheme is dead. Chicago’s carbon-trading market is dead. The European Union’s supposed reduction in carbon emissions has been exposed as a giant fraud. (The EU is actually responsible for 40 per cent more CO2 today than it was in 1990, if you count the goods and services it consumed as opposed to the ones that it produced.) Public interest in climate change has plunged, and the media have radically reduced their climate coverage.

The biggest loser is the environmental movement. For years, its activists neglected almost everything but climate change. They behaved as if they’d cornered the market on wisdom, truth and certainty, and they demonized anyone who dared to disagree. They got a fabulous free ride from politicians and the media, who parroted their claims like Sunday-school children reciting Scripture. No interest group in modern times has been so free from skepticism, scrutiny or simple accountability as the environmental establishment.

Perhaps some good will emerge from the wreckage. (Humility, for example.) Now that global warming has stopped sucking all the oxygen out of the room, some of those who care about the planet will turn to other – and more pressing – problems. There are plenty. Humans are encroaching everywhere on habitats and species. Don’t worry about the polar bears, which have survived hundreds of thousands of years of melting and freezing ice. Worry instead about the lions and tigers, which face extinction within our lifetime. Their problem isn’t climate change. It’s us.

A century ago, there were more than 100,000 wild tigers in Asia. Today there are just 3,200. Civilization is squeezing them, and poachers hunt them for their skin and body parts. This week, the unlikely team of Vladimir Putin and Leonardo DiCaprio headlined a 13-country tiger summit in St. Petersburg that is tackling the challenge of making live tigers worth as much as dead ones.

Then there are the lions. They’re not as scarce as tigers – yet – but their habitats are ideal for ranching, and they face increasing pressure from population growth. Or how about the bluefin tuna? This one is close to home – we catch them and sell them to Japan – and Canada is on the wrong side of the issue. If the World Wildlife Fund could whip up as much alarm over the bluefin tuna as it tried to whip up over fictitious drowning polar bears, I might even be persuaded to send them money again.

Before they were sucked into the giant vortex of global warming, environmentalists did useful things. They protested against massive Third World dams that would ruin both natural and human habitats. They warned about invasive species and diseases that could tear through our forests and wreck our water systems. They fought for national parks and greenbelts and protected areas. They talked about the big things too – such as how the world could feed another three billion people without destroying all the rain forests and running out of water. They believed in conservation – conserving this beautiful planet of ours from the worst of human despoliation – rather than false claims to scientific certainty about the future, unenforceable treaties and radical utopian social reform.

“How high a price must the world pay for green folly?” asked the thinker Walter Russell Mead. “How many years will be lost, how much credibility forfeited, how much money wasted before we have an environmental movement that has the intellectual rigour, political wisdom and mature, sober judgment needed to address the great issues we face?”

The answer is too high, too many and too much. Please grow up, people. You have important work to do.


Climate Change Is Still About Chinese Coal

The climate change conference starting in Cancun Monday is doomed to failure. Many factors contribute to this, such as a healthy skepticism about how much should be spent to remediate climate change, but one alone guarantees failure: Chinese coal production and policy.

When climate change soared up the American agenda with the election of President Obama, those not swept up in blind optimism were doubtful China could be convinced to go along. The debacle of the Copenhagen summit last year finally brought the administration and its supporters back to reality.

Prior to Copenhagen, it was already clear that Chinese coal was an insuperable obstacle to an international agreement on greenhouse gases. The past year has made the situation that much starker.

In 2000, the official figure for Chinese coal production was 880 million tons. In less than a decade, it more than tripled to 2.96 billion tons for 2009. In the first quarter of this year, coal production jumped another 28 percent. China, which was a net exporter of coal as recently as 2008, was the world’s largest importer of coal in the first three quarters of this year and far more in the way of imports are on the way.

China is spending a good deal of money on “green energy” and it is constantly praised for doing so. The praise is somewhat strange: the supposed switch from “black” to “green” has done nothing at all to stop coal: production growth was faster in 2008 than 2007, despite the financial crisis, and steady in 2009 before accelerating early this year. It very well may be that the PRC now accounts for half the world’s coal use.

This is the other facet of Chinese coal policy and is just as disturbing. “It may very well be” that China accounts for half the world’s coal use because there is no longer an easy way to know. China stopped publishing coal production figures in March, possibly because it was about to cross the threshold of half of global consumption and certainly because the coal figures are embarrassing on a number of dimensions.

The PRC has been at odds with the U.S. and other countries about monitoring and enforcement of any international environmental treaty. But how could anyone trust China to monitor itself when it is no longer even willing to provide the most basic and critical piece of information?

The answer is that no sane person could. Cancun will be as useless as Copenhagen was, and for the same principal reason: Chinese coal. This time, however, no one will be surprised.


The Wet Office! Snow and record low November temperatures follow 'mild winter prediction'

Britain is shivering in record-breaking cold weather for November despite data from the Met Office that we could be in for an unusually dry and mild winter.

Parts of the country saw the coldest November night for 25 years over the weekend as forecasters warned the big freeze is likely to continue for at least another week.

However, the Met Office indicated last month that it was probable this winter would be less harsh than the last for London, eastern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Data generated by its new £33 million supercomputer suggested average temperatures could be about 3.4F (2C) higher than last winter when heavy snow and ice paralysed Britain.

The Met Office has insisted that the data was not a forecast but rather one component of the information it provides to researchers, and should not be considered in isolation.

A Met Office spokeswoman said: "We have made it clear that this information was merely a part of the data that goes into long range forecasting.

"It's not a forecast in itself, just one element that we provide to the research community.....



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