Climate Feedback

Shaping the Kyoto successor

Olive Heffernan

The latest news from the G8 Summit meetings in Heiligendamm, Germany is that leaders of G8 nations have agreed to a ‘compromise deal’ to tackle climate change. According to the BBC, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that

’nations have agreed that CO2 emissions must first be stopped and then followed by substantial reductions.’

Although Merkel pushed for a mandatory 50% slash in carbon emissions by mid century, no specific emissions reductions targets have been agreed. Leaders have purportedly said they will negotiate the successor to the Kyoto Protocol within a UN framework. If true, this in itself would be an achievement, as the US recently announced its refusal to participate in global post-2012 negotiations scheduled for the end of the year. Without a consensus on mandatory global emissions reductions, however, today’s compromise deal may be worth little. The need for effective emissions caps is simply the first of numerous contentious issues to be hammered out in determining a global post-Kyoto pact, as reported by Amanda Leigh Haag on Nature Reports: Climate Change, launched today.

Launching in the midst of the G8 climate talks, the site has kicked off with a strong focus on climate policy, emissions reductions, carbon storage and offsetting, as well as covering climate science in research highlights, news and views and in the Journal Club. In our main feature, Amanda takes an in-depth looks at how the Kyoto Protocol has fared thus far – its major triumphs and downfalls. Perhaps the most prominent disappointments have been the failure of some nations to meet what seemed to be modest emissions reduction targets at the outset, and the backtracking of the US on their commitments in 2001. As well as bringing the US back on board, key issues beyond 2012 will include persuading countries such China, India and Brazil to take bold steps to reduce emissions in the next phase, assisting developing nations to adapt to climate change, and avoiding further deforestation, to name but a few.

While some believe that a global extension of the European Trading Scheme is what is needed for mandatory and aggressive reduction of emissions, others are not convinced. In a Commentary, also published today on Nature Reports: Climate Change, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, argues against ‘an unwieldy global emissions permit system that would be virtually impossible to negotiate and even harder to police’. Yet, despite the considerable global efforts needed to reduce emissions, avoiding dangerous climate change is both practically and economically achievable, says Sachs, if we use a targeted approach aimed at specific sectors.

Sachs urges society to use a ‘workable strategy’ to mitigate climate change, rather than arguing endlessly about perfect efficiency and perfect justice in controlling carbon emissions. While the absolute costs of global emissions abatement are likely to be significant –on the order of $2 trillion per year by 2050 or at most 1% of the world’s income – they will be manageable within a much larger and richer world economy, he maintains. He warns that

‘the longer the world waits to begin serious emissions abatement, the more rapid — and more costly — the transition to a low-emissions global regime will be.’

What is certain is that the compromise deal reached today needs a solid and workable strategy behind it, in whatever form that takes, in order to reduce increasing global levels of greenhouse gases. For more on this, read the above Feature and Commentary for free on Nature Reports: Climate Change. View our homepage and current issue for further content and more about the site. Join in the discussions and let us know what you think!

Olive Heffernan

News Editor

Nature Reports: Climate Change


  1. Report this comment

    John Nethery said:

    The term “Climate Change Denier” says more about the ignorance of the Greens than it does of the climate change rationalists. Climate change is unquestionably a normal part of Earth’s history and is a cyclical process. Scientific argument is not about the reality of climate change, but whether or not humans are contributing. Temperature increase in the past clearly correlated with carbon dioxide increase. Indeed the basic scientific question that separates the UN IPCC from the climate change rationalists is whether a rise in CO2 concentration induces a rise in temperature, or whether the reverse is true. What caused this cyclical pattern of CO2 and temperature rise and fall in the past long before humans could possibly have an impact?

    Ice core studies, backed by geological evidence, have demonstrated a 100,000 year cyclical pattern of cold Ice Ages and warm Interglacials now extrapolated back some 800,000 years. When viewed graphically these data show a “saw tooth” pattern with repeated 85,000 year cooling trends followed by sharp 15,000 year warming trends. Superimposed on this long term trend are shorter term and less pronounced cooling and warming cycles. Temperature difference between the Ice Age troughs and the Interglacial peaks was consistent at around 10 degrees and CO2 would vary from 180 ppmv to 300 ppmv. The critical point of this pattern is that the past Interglacial peaks are all about 2 degrees warmer than today. Furthermore the peak of our current Interglacial occurred 6000 to 8000 years ago, when the temperature was about 2 degrees warmer than now, and incidently sea level at that time was 2 metres higher than today. So although we are currently on a short term warming trend following the Little Ice Age from 1500 AD to 1850 AD, we are in fact on a longer term cooling trend towards the next Ice Age.

    Rationalists argue that climate cycles are controlled by a combination of orbital and sunspot activity variations, both of which vary the heat reaching Earth. Ice core data show that increase in CO2 actually follows temperature rise. The IPCC concluded that orbital wobbles initially provoked temperature increase, which then provoked CO2 increase, which in turn provoked further temperature rise, and so on and so on. This model is not logical as it would result in irreversible runaway temperature and CO2 increase. Clearly this did not happen in the past as some more powerful forcing agent would stop the rise and provoke cooling and CO2 decrease. Clearly therefore carbon dioxide is not the driver of climate change.

    I have always been a strong advocate for the elimination of atmospheric pollution. My point of disagreement with the political Greenhouse Push is that carbon dioxide and methane are not pollution, they are both invisible gases and are part of the essential Carbon Cycle. Every breath we take we exhale carbon dioxide. Incidently Professor Tim Flannery has exhorted us all to reduce our Greenhouse Gas emissions to zero. Is he suggesting that we all stop breathing?

    John Nethery

    1 Eastern Street,


    Queensland 4871

  2. Report this comment

    James Nethery said:

    Hi John

    As strange as it seems I have a cousin in Vancouver

    who is in the same game as you.

    If you google Bryan Nethery

    Vancouver BC Canada you will find him.


    James Nethery

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