6 key messages from Copenhagen,

C Robb W. 444°

2,500 of the worlds scientists from 80 countries have gathered in Copenhagen to build consensus and draw conclusions about the acceleration of the degradation of the planets' climate . The full report will come out in June but they have 6 key points ready for distribution now. I found them over on World Changing.

Those of you who visit my blog regularly won't be surprised to learn that my favorite is #5 "Inaction is inexcusable". No Kidding?! Also, I especially like part of #6, "reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience;".

Meanwhile, short term thinking threatens to stall progress in Congress, read more, again, over on World Changing.

I've been trying to scan US media, ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN, for the last several days of this Copenhagen meeting and have seen nary a mention of it. I did see it on the BBC, as expected. To paraphrase one quote, "Scientists warn that worst case scenarios mentioned 2 years ago are already coming to pass." There is no shortage of Chevron ads on US media though. Please let me know if you see coverage of the Copenhagen meeting in America. On a brighter note I caught David Letterman talking to Tom Brokaw about global warming, and their individual efforts and involvement, on the tonight show.

"The scientists' six key messages are:

1) Climatic trends

Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario projections (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

2) Social disruption

The research community is providing much more information to support discussions on "dangerous climate change". Recent observations show that societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2C will be very difficult for countries to cope with, and will increase the level of climate disruption through the rest of the century.

3) Long-term strategy

Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid "dangerous climate change" regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult. Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation.

4) Equity dimensions

Climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world. An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is required for those people least capable of coping with climate change impacts, and a common but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable.

5) Inaction is inexcusable

There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches — economic, technological, behavioural, management — to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.

6) Meeting the challenge

To achieve the societal transformation required to meet the climate change challenge, we must overcome a number of significant constraints and seize critical opportunities. These include reducing inertia in social and economic systems; building on a growing public desire for governments to act on climate change; removing implicit and explicit subsidies; reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience; enabling the shifts from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society; and engaging society in the transition to norms and practices that foster sustainability.
This piece originally appeared in the Environment section of the Guardian"

1 reply

Charles M. 110°

"Inaction is inexcusable" is very easy to say, but it is not at all clear what actions should be taken and it has become very much "do something... anything". Sure we have tools but until we know what is really going on we can't actually do stuff that really fixes the problem.

There is only one action that definitely would have impact which is reduce, reduce, reduce.

Some of the tools we have are bogus because they allow us to think that we can increase, increase, increase - as we have done - and still fix any climate issues. These tools are the ones people want, but are obviously broken. These tools include carbon offsetting which just sweeps the dirt under a different rug, yet are pushed by both those that want to consume this feel-good service so they can have guilt-free airconditioning and international vacations as well as those that want to make money off it - including certain Nobel prize winners.

One big problem that I see with the Copenhagen meeting is that it is trying to build consensus. That scares me as a scientist.

Science has never been advanced by consensus and seeking consensus is a political move, not a scientific one. Once a scientist seeks consensus (s)he has become a politician, has disengaged their scientific brain..

Consensus seeking conferences rapidly degenerate into ego horse trading: I'll acknowledge your statistics if you acknowledge mine. That is not science.

Science and global warming debate parted ways a long time ago.

Written in March 2009

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