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Is There a "Real World" Solution to Climate Talks?

By Daniel J. Graeber | Mon, 03 December 2012 22:56 | 3

The top climate official for the United Nations said she was frustrated by how far behind major economic powers were in addressing the warnings from the scientific community. World leaders gathered this week in Doha are debating the steps needed to secure a low-carbon future for developing countries while major economies address how to cut back on their own industrial emissions. The top negotiator from the United States, the world's leading economy, said talks at Doha should be based on "real world" considerations, though the bickering in the wings suggests it's the political rhetoric that's the real concern when it comes to climate talks.

Delegates from nearly 200 countries wrap up climate talks in Doha later this week. U.N.-efforts there are aimed to curbing global warming that a recent World Bank report said may be accelerating at an alarming pace. Environmental ministers in Doha said more effort is needed to keep global greenhouse emissions below the danger zone. Some countries, however, are balking at the move, saying leading economies aren't serious about setting their own thresholds.

"What gives me frustration is the fact that we are very far behind what science tells us we should be doing," said U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Last week, the World Meteorological Organization said the nine-month period ending with October was the warmest on record. The global land and ocean surface temperature, the WMO said, was about 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit (0.45°C) above what was reported for 1961-1990. The World Bank, in a 104-page report issued last month, warned that global average temperatures are on pace to climb even more "even if countries fulfill current emissions-reduction pledges."

Beijing said that, by the end of last year, alternatives to fossil fuels made up 8 percent of the country's total energy consumption. By 2020, that's expected to increase to 15 percent. A weekend report from the Global Carbon Project, however, said Chinese emissions are on the rise and make up 28 percent of the world's total CO2 pollution.

Related Article: The Myth of Fossil Fuel Abundance Hurts the Fight against Climate Change

Todd Sterns, the U.S. climate negotiator in Doha, said any new deal on climate must be based on a "real world" scenario and not some vague scenario where negotiators "draw a line down the middle of the world."

In the United States, however, some leading lawmakers are speaking out against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for pushing regulations they say are hurting the economy. EPA critics blame the White House for consistently blocking efforts to "grow our economy by producing more American-made energy."  The U.S. economy, however, is at risk because of protracted political bickering over a series of tax benefits set to expire at year's end.

China has said that, despite its vast wealth, a modest environmental regime is needed to ensure a low-carbon future is economically sustainable. With 16-percent of the global CO2 footprint, meanwhile, Sterns said any sort of major agreement at Doha would be an enormous challenge given that "there are a lot of entrenched interest" to consider. But with grain harvests in decline because of drought and storm intensity increasing because of warmer ocean temperatures, that's precisely what the environmental science community, as well as the EU's Figueres, say is needed.

"I am worried that the risks of dangerous climate change are too high on our current emissions trajectory, said Corinne Le Quere, co-author of the emissions report."We need a radical plan."

By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com

About the author

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Daniel J. Graeber
Company: Oilprice.com
Position: Senior Analyst

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Leave a comment

  • Randy on December 04 2012 said:
    "U.N.-efforts there are aimed to curbing global warming that a recent World Bank report said may be accelerating at an alarming pace."

    The World Bank? Their expertise now extends into climatology? Wow! Who'd a thought? Next I suspect we may be hearing from the concerned opinions of global warming experts at the annual used car dealer gatherings in Albuquerque. I think the boys get together next week!
  • ElMadster on December 04 2012 said:
    "But with grain harvests in decline because of drought..."


    Huh? Stats from Wikipedia for International wheat production below show a 10 yr increase of 11%...

    Country World Total
    2010 651.4
    2009 685.6
    2008 683.4
    2007 607
    2006 605.9
    2005  628.7
    2004 633.3
    2003 560.3
    2002 574.7
    2001 589.7
    2000 586.1
    1999 587.7
    1998 593.6
    1997 613.4
    1996 585.4

    Are you sure you are a "Senior Analyst"?
  • Mel Tisdale on December 05 2012 said:
    The 'real world' situation is that we are looking at a 4C temperature rise by around 2050/2060. All the graphs that I have seen clearly point in that direction. The ‘real world’ situation is that Ramstorf has just published his latest findings on sea-level rise and we are looking at around one meter rise by the end of this century, assuming that the rate stays as it is. Unfortunately, the rate is accelerating, so that one meter rise will probably be on the low side when the rate stabilises, if it ever does, of course. Just look at the mess that those that suffered at the hands of hurricane Sandy are still in and imagine what it will be like with sea-levels one meter higher or more. And don’t imagine that the sea-level is going to suddenly stop rising come the turn of the century, that amount of rise is just a waypoint on the road to hell, which is a fair description of what 4C is going make the environment feel like.

    We know that those that sit on the right of the political spectrum are not naturally brave ¬– look at their attitude to minorities, their ready acceptance of nuclear weapons, their need carry guns and so on. So it is entirely within character that they reject the fact that the planet is warming. It is frightening, after all. People go into denial all the time. Doctors will tell you of the number that refuse to believe the news that they have a terminal illness. So it is understandable that there is a large ‘climate denier’ community. The trouble, they are making it difficult for the grownups to take the action that is so desperately needed. What is really unacceptable is that the fossil fuel industry is doing its best to ensure that any action to combat climate change is reduced to a minimum. For that, those individuals responsible really should be in The Hague facing charges of committing crimes against humanity. Perhaps there will come a time when such is the case. But I doubt it.

    Let’s face it, there is an overwhelming body of evidence that we as a species are in trouble. We can actually see the effects of the change to the climate that has happened thus far and that is with only a minimal rise compared to what is coming down the pike. Take Arctic ice loss for one, or plant species shown to be migrating polewards obviously seeking cooler climes for another. While not as spectacular as migrating geese, such migration is much more meaningful.

    Yet there has only been minimal action. O.K. we have a move towards electric cars and are peppering the environment with ugly wind turbines that will be as much use as a chocolate condom in anticyclone conditions, but we are still pursuing fossil fuel power generation in all its forms. Thanks to the Greens we have not made anything like the progress that we should have made in developing the one energy source that is really going to help, namely nuclear power. Indeed, were it not for the Greens and their hand waving “We’ll all be murdered in our beds” wailing about all things nuclear, climate change would not be half the problem it is today. It is not only the fossil fuel industry that is culpable.

    It is up to the youth of today to take action. It is they who are going to suffer most the privations of climate change. We are all suffering to some extent, but the younger you are, the worse it is going to be for you in your later years. For anyone who would like some idea of where we are with the science I recommend: ‘Cabot Institute Annual Lecture 2012’ on YouTube, sponsored by Bristol University, U.K.

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