Climate Feedback

Countdown to Copenhagen

Keith Kloor

Less than three weeks before more than 60 world leaders will gather in Copenhagen for a historic climate change summit, the Obama Administration is saying don’t count them out. According to the Guardian, White House officials have told reporters that President Obama will soon announce a U.S. proposed target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As the BBC notes:

“The absence of a US target has widely been seen as the single biggest obstacle to agreement at the summit.”

Until now, it’s been assumed that the U.S. couldn’t offer an emissions reduction target until its Congress passed a climate change bill, the details of which are still being worked out in various Senate committees. But as one senior White House official tells Politico:

“It would be a mistake to conclude that the international community’s failure to reach a final treaty in Copenhagen is due to a lack of domestic legislation in the United States."

Yale Environment 360 asks ten environmental leaders and climate experts to “outline what they believe can still be accomplished at Copenhagen.”

An increasing sense of urgency for international action comes today with the publication of The Copenhagen Diagnosis. The report, compiled by 26 climate researchers, is an update of the latest climate science since 2007. A number of the participating scientists have issued statements accompanying the report, among them Matthew England, joint Director of the Climate Change Research Centre of the University of NSW, Australia:

“We have already almost exceeded the safe level of emissions that would ensure a reasonably secure climate future. Within just a decade global emissions need to be declining rapidly. A binding treaty is needed urgently to ensure unilateral action among the high emitters.”

Meanwhile, researchers are attributing hotter temperatures to an increase in recent civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa. A study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) examined the period between 1980-2002 and concluded:

“We find strong historical linkages between civil war and temperature in Africa, with warmer years leading to significant increases in the likelihood of war. When combined with climate model projections of future temperature trends, this historical response to temperature suggests a roughly 54% increase in armed conflict incidence by 2030, or an additional 393,000 battle deaths if future wars are as deadly as recent wars.”

One of the paper’s researchers, from the University of California, Berkeley, expands on the findings with Scientific American:

“If temperature rises, crop yields decline and rural incomes fall, and the disadvantaged rural population becomes more likely to take up arms. Fighting for something to eat beats starving in their fields.”

Finally, much attention in recent days on the climate change front has shifted to the illegal release of over 1,000 emails and documents from The University of East Anglia. As Reuters reports: the affair, which is already being dubbed ‘climategate’ is:

“sparking outrage from climate change skeptics who say they show that the scientists were colluding on suppressing data on how humans affect climate change”.

Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the Met office, which jointly produces global temperature data with East Anglia’s climate unit, rejects the idea of any foul play. And Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change, tells Reuters:

“It shows that the process of science is not always pristine. But there’s no smoking gun in the e-mails from what I’ve seen.”


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    Stephen Thomas said:

    Perhaps this summit should be delayed until the allegations of fraud and suppression of data can be investigated.

    Looks like the science hasn’t really been settled.

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