Climate Feedback

Countdown to Copenhagen

Keith Kloor

The U.S. Congressional climate bill will be tabled until next year, reports The Wall Street Journal. Says Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus:

“It’s common understanding that climate-change legislation will not be brought up on the Senate floor and pass the Senate this year.”

Just how important is the U.S. climate bill to a climate change agreement in Copenhagen? It’s everything, argues Geoffrey Lean in Grist:

“Never before has such a vital, international treaty depended so crucially on the 535 members of the U.S. Congress. Even previous environmental breakthroughs, such as the Montreal Protocol on the ozone layer or the Washington Convention on Endangered Species, were preceded by U.S. legislation. As such, the rest of the world is experiencing for the first time how its vital interests can be affected by American politics, as senators from coal or oil states object to legislation that would curb emissions from fossil fuels.”

In lieu of this, “the Obama Administration is considering endorsing a limited short-term climate pact,” reports Juliet Eilperin in the Washington Post. She writes:

“Backing an interim agreement — which would fall far short of what many European and developing nations envisioned when President Obama took office — would be an attempt to keep the U.N.-sponsored talks from being viewed a failure, say administration and congressional officials.”

Enough of all this gloomy talk, admonished European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, in a press conference yesterday. As Green Inc. reports, Dimas:

“criticized world leaders who had played down the possibility of a strong outcome at the Copenhagen meeting, suggesting they were too pessimistic.”

Meanwhile, Andrew Revkin at Dot Earth reports that “more evidence of long-term warming of the climate” comes in a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters [subscription]. According to a news release from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a partner in the study, computer projections show that warming trends will continue unabated:

“If nations continue to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases in a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario, the U.S. ratio of daily record high to record low temperatures would increase to about 20-to-1 by midcentury and 50-to-1 by 2100. The midcentury ratio could be much higher if emissions rose at an even greater pace, or it could be about 8-to-1 if emissions were reduced significantly, the model showed.”

Given the increasingly bleak projections for the world’s future climate, a new study by the UK’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers has put together a “battle plan” for tackling climate change. Tim Fox, the lead author of the report, tells the Guardian:

“The institution believes it’s time to go to war on climate change – the climate is about to attack us and it’s time for us to fight back.”

The study advises the UK government to invest in geoengineering technologies, due to the monumental task of decarbonising the world’s industrialized economies. More climate scientists appear to be coming around to this view, according to a story this week in Scientific American. Says David Keith, director of the energy and environmental systems group for the University of Calgary’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy:

“The hard reality is that doing geoengineering might be better for nature than not doing it.”

Finally, in an interview with The New Republic, Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider talks about his new book, ‘Science as a contact sport’, and among other things, what he hopes will emerge from the Copenhagen summit:

“I want us to acknowledge that we need international cooperation; that poor countries have a right to develop but cannot expect to use traditional technologies to do it or we will pollute ourselves to death; and that rich countries, which created most of the initial problem, have an obligation to help those countries leapfrog over the industrial revolution to high technology.”

“I don’t care how much we cut by 2020 in terms of percentage points below 2005, which my environmental friends have focused on as the most important thing. Instead of getting hung up on what percentage we’re going to reduce, why don’t we talk about how many tens of billions of dollars each country is going to spend every year on helping ourselves out of the problem, and what cooperative strategies we can enter into with China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico? Between our companies and their companies, we would share profits and patents.”


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