Archive | Global Warming & Climate Change

Climate Change and Brazil Deforestation Hot Topics at Cop15

BRASILIA, Brazil, Dec. 11 (UPI) — Brazil has a significant role to play in the U.N. climate-change talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, particularly in the Reduced Deforestation and Degradation section.

While more than 20 different REDD plans have been proposed, a joint proposal put forward by Brazil and Norway has emerged as a front-runner.

Speaking after accepting the Nobel Peace Prize Thursday in Oslo, Norway, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “I am very impressed with the model that has been built between Norway and Brazil that allows for effective monitoring and ensures that we are making progress in avoiding deforestation of the Amazon.”

Brazil had rejected Thursday an EU proposal for a binding target to cut the rate of deforestation 50 percent by 2020, saying that it would not sign up to any binding targets until it knew how much financial support will be made available by industrialized nations.

Key issues surrounding REDD proposals include rights and safeguards for those who live in or depend on the forests; how to measure and verify claims of protection; the future of existing forest industries; and preventing mismanaging of funds.

According to the United Nations, burning or cutting trees and undergrowth is responsible for about 17 percent of worldwide emissions.

Brazil has one-third of the world’s tropical forest area. Since 2003 it has worked to slow the destruction of its forests, creating 250,000 square miles of new protected forest, arresting hundreds of illegal loggers and granting farm loans based environmental standards.

Last month Brazil pledged to reduce emissions for 2020 by 36.1 percent to 38.9 percent from current projections. Environment minister Carlos Minc said that slowing Amazon deforestation would generate about half that gain.

Existing climate policies don’t recognize REDD as an emission-reduction mechanism.

Greenpeace says REDD plans would allow countries to “green-wash” their pollution.

“REDD can’t be used as a permission to pollute,” said Paulo Adario, the organization’s Amazon campaign coordinator in Brazil, Bloomberg reports. By buying forestry credits, he said, polluters may not have an incentive to cut emissions.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is expected to join the Copenhagen climate talks next week, has cast himself as a mediator of sorts.

To bridge the emissions gap between rich and poor countries, he believes emerging countries should limit pollution and insists that developed nations help pay the bill.

“The worst thing that could happen in Copenhagen is that world society thinks its leaders aren’t taking responsibility for the seriousness of these problems,” he said, the Miami Herald reports.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Europe Pledges $3 Billion to Help Poorer Countries with Climate Change

BRUSSELS, Dec. 11 (UPI) — The European Union has promised to contribute about $3 billion starting next year to help poorer countries deal with climate change, it was announced Friday.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made the announcement in Brussels in a move aimed at improving chances of an accord next week at climate change talks in Copenhagen.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also in Brussels for a summit of EU heads of state, said France would contribute some $620 million next year to the so-called fast-start fund, designed to run until 2012.

He said that could amount to an European contribution of more than 6 billion euros — or nearly $9 billion, The New York Times said.

Poor countries are seeking a commitment from the industrialized world to provide long-term financing totaling more than $100 billion each year by the end of the next decade. They also have tried to pressure richer countries to do more to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions.

The EU executive called for rich countries around the world to put together a pool of 5 billion to 7 billion euros a year for fast-start funding. Of this, Europe should commit 500 million to 2.1 billion, it said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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U.S. President Barack Obama and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg Discuss Climate Change

OSLO, Norway, Dec. 10 (UPI) — Climate change initiatives and Afghanistan involvement were discussed Thursday by U.S. President Barack Obama and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Obama met with Stoltenberg before accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo.

“Today we have discussed the most pressing challenge of our time — climate change,” Stoltenberg said. “We need a strong political agreement” at the U.N.-backed climate change summit in Copenhagen, Denmark.

He said he also briefed Obama on the Norwegian-Mexican initiative concerning financing, “a key issue in Copenhagen. Developed countries must provide more funding for climate action in the developing world.”

The prime minister said he and Obama also talked about Afghanistan and Obama’s decision to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops there.

“I welcome the stronger and broader U.S. involvement aimed at ensuring development and stability,” Stoltenberg said, adding that Norway was committed to continuing its military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan.

He said Norway will increase its financial contribution to the Afghan national army and police, to a total of $110 million for 2010-2014.

Obama said the U.S.-Norway relationship “thrives on the basis of our common values and our shared aspirations for a better world.”

“To that end, our cooperation spans a broad range of issues, as the prime minister indicated, including building stability and security in Afghanistan and the Balkans, confronting nuclear proliferation and climate change, advancing human rights and global health.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Military, Nuclear0 Comments

Top Climate Scientist James Hansen Wants Copenhagen Climate Summit (Cop15) to Fail

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 9 (UPI) — A top climate scientist said the negotiations in Copenhagen are so flawed that he wants them to fail.

“The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation,” James Hansen, one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, told British daily The Guardian. “If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then (people) will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means.

“I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it’s a disaster track,” added Hansen, who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

Representatives of 192 countries have gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a Dec. 7-18 meeting intended to find a deal that is intended to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Officials hope the deal will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world’s major emitters — including the United States, India and China — as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations ill-equipped to deal with a problem they did least to create.

Hansen, who has been one of the most outspoken scientists when it comes to warning politicians of the dangers related to man-made climate change, is vehemently opposed to the carbon markets proposed as a new trading scheme to introduce a clean economy.

Carbon markets allow countries and companies to buy permits to emit greenhouse gases. Those markets have already been installed as part of the Kyoto Protocol, although their real use isn’t expected to flare up until leaders take further decisions at the U.N.-mandated climate summit taking place in Copenhagen.

“This is analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic Church sold in the Middle Ages,” Hansen told the paper. “The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. … We’ve got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money and that is what they can get through offsets” sold through the carbon markets.

He has also been critical of world leaders, who have been treating the issue like any other diplomatic conflict. For Hansen, it’s much more than that, and that means there is no room for horse-trading.

“This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill,” he told the newspaper. “On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can’t say let’s reduce slavery, let’s find a compromise and reduce it 50 percent or reduce it 40 percent.”

“We don’t have a leader who is able to grasp it and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual,” he added.

Other observers are more optimistic, as U.S. President Barack Obama recently vowed to join the important high-level gathering of leaders toward the end of the summit, and all major emitters have tabled concrete reduction proposals.

The United States is “committed to achieving the strongest possible outcome,” Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said in Copenhagen.

“There is a deal to be done, and if we … continue to find common ground, we will forge an agreement that preserves our planet and strengthens our economies.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Other, People1 Comment

Cop15 Climate Summit Tensions Rise with Leaked Danish Document

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 9 (UPI) — A leaked document known as the “Danish text” has increased tensions between rich and poor countries negotiating at a crucial U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen.

Developing nations have been furious at the paper, while the United Nations has been defending the paper, saying it was launched by the Danish prime minister to spark dialogue and that it is now off the table.

“This was an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations. The only formal texts in the U.N. process are the ones tabled by the Chairs of this Copenhagen conference at the behest of the parties,” said Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the top U.N. climate official.

The text proposes emissions peaks, financing from developed countries and a climate fund that oversees said financing.

Lumumba Di-Aping, the Sudanese chairman of the G77 group of 130 developing countries, said the paper undermines the negotiation process.

“Its overreaching goal is to destroy the balance of obligations between developing and industrialized Western countries,” he said Wednesday in Copenhagen. “It denies the fact that developed countries have a historical responsibility for damaging the atmosphere of this planet.”

The so-called Danish text was issued to representatives from a limited number of countries at informal consultations organized by the Danish government last Tuesday. Lumumba Di-Aping attended that session, de Boer said Wednesday in Copenhagen.

He added he didn’t see the negotiations threatened.

“A number of countries are nervous about this text because they see it as being imbalanced,” de Boer added Wednesday in Copenhagen. “But the G77 has also indicated that this conference is too important to walk away from it.”

Some 15,000 representatives from 192 countries are currently meeting in Copenhagen for a Dec. 7-18 climate conference aimed at producing a deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012.

Officials hope the deal will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world’s major emitters — including the United States, India and China — as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations ill-equipped to deal with a problem they did least to create.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Danish Climate Change Treaty Draft Angers BASIC Group

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 8 (UPI) — A draft text of a climate change treaty proposed by the Danish government reveals the split in Copenhagen between developed countries and others, officials say.

The Danish draft, published by The Guardian newspaper on its Web site Tuesday, calls for overall worldwide emissions to start dropping after 2020 and to be cut in half by 2050. Negotiators from less-developed countries and representatives of non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam say that would lock in the current inequality between Europe, Japan, the United States and other developed countries and those that have less industrial development.

The BASIC group — Brazil, South Africa, India and China — wants an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

The non-governmental organizations have also accused the Danish government of convening small working groups prior to the conference opening Monday and excluding the poorer countries, the EUobserver reported.

“The global community trusted the Danish government to host a fair and transparent process but they have betrayed that trust,” said Rahman Mehta of Action Aid India.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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World Meteorological Organization: This Decade is Warmest on Record

GENEVA, Switzerland, Dec. 8 (UPI) — The World Meteorological Organization says this decade is the warmest on record, surpassing the period spanning the 1990s.

The U.N. organization also says the year 2009 is likely to rank in the top 10 warmest on record since 1850, when instrumental climate record-keeping started.

“The current nominal ranking of 2009, which does not account for uncertainties in the annual averages, places it as the fifth-warmest year,” scientists said. “The decade of the 2000s (2000-2009) was warmer than the decade spanning the 1990s, which in turn was warmer than the 1980s.”

Officials said this year’s above-normal temperatures were recorded in most parts of the world, with only the United States and Canada experiencing cooler than average conditions. Given the current figures, officials said large parts of southern Asia and central Africa are likely to have the warmest year on record.

Meteorologists said climate extremes — including floods, severe droughts, snowstorms, heat waves and cold waves — were recorded in many regions, with extreme warm conditions more frequent and intense in southern South America, Australia and southern Asia. The Arctic sea ice extent during the melt season ranked the third lowest, after the lowest and second-lowest records set in 2007 and 2008, in that order.

Final figures for 2009 are to be published in March.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Climate Change Could Hit Mentally Ill Hard

LONDON, Dec. 7 (UPI) — Two British psychiatrists say a review of research indicates climate change will have major negative impacts on mental illness.

Dr. Lisa Page and Dr. Louise Howard of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London reviewed recent research on the mental health impact of climate change.

The review, published in Psychological Medicine, concludes the overall burden of mental disorder worldwide will increase — including adverse psychiatric outcome such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression in the aftermath of predicted natural disasters such as floods and droughts.

“Climate change is assuming center stage with the upcoming U.N. conference in Copenhagen [Denmark],” Page said in a statement. “While delegates will discuss the effects of climate change and possible responses by the international governments, we fear that the effects of climate change on mental health will be largely ignored, posing a tremendous risk to the mental health of millions of people in the not-too-distant future.”

The researchers say the potential significant negative effects will be felt most by those with pre-existing serious mental illness, including a greater number of heat-related deaths due to contributing risk factors — such as psychotropic medication, pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease, substance misuse, maladaptive coping mechanisms and poor quality housing — all highly prevalent in people with serious mental illness.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Effects Of Air Pollution, Global Warming & Climate Change, Natural Disasters0 Comments

Climate Summit Under Way in Copenhagen

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 7 (UPI) — Delegates from 192 countries have two weeks to broker a globe-saving treaty at a crucial climate conference that opened Monday in Copenhagen.

“Global warming knows no borders, it does not discriminate, it affects us all and we are here today because we are all committed to take action,” Denmark’s Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Monday at the opening ceremony in Copenhagen.

From now until Dec. 18, delegates from all over the world will try to broker a deal that is intended to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Officials hope that it will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world’s major emitters — including the United States, India and China — as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations ill-equipped to deal with a problem they did least to create.

Scientists have called for a deal that limits the temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F), a cap they say is critical to avert catastrophic damage to life on Earth.

In the weeks before the summit, politicians had warned that a binding deal might not emerge from Copenhagen, but observers are becoming increasingly optimistic because of reduction pledges recently tabled by all the major emitters.

“Negotiators now have the clearest signal ever from world leaders to craft solid proposals to implement rapid action,” said Yvo de Boer, the top U.N. climate official. “Never in 17 years of climate negotiations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges together.”

The United States has proposed a 17 percent emissions cut below 2005 levels by 2020, and a 30 percent cut by 2030. China and India also came forward with reduction pledges. All major world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have vowed to attend the summit.

“We have reached the deadline and there is no going back,” said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish minister presiding over the U.N. mandated meeting. “Copenhagen will be the city of the three C’s: Cooperation, Commitment and Consensus. Now is the time to capture the moment and conclude a truly ambitious global deal. This is our chance. If we miss this opportunity, we will not get a better one.”

The only cloud hanging over Copenhagen is a scandal linked to a hack into a climate research institute in Norwich, England.

The hackers allegedly stole e-mails indicating that the scientists might have manipulated data to downplay evidence against global warming. However, leading scientists and politicians vowed that the science showing that man-made global warming is happening — and that it’s happening faster than anticipated — is rock-solid.

That doesn’t mean the allegations of data manipulation will be swept under the carpet.

“We will certainly go into the whole lot and then we will take a position on it,” the head of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra Pachauri, told the BBC. “This is a serious issue and we will look into it in detail.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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Earth Sensitivity to CO2 is Studied

BRISTOL, England, Dec. 7 (UPI) — British scientists say the Earth might be up to 50 percent more sensitive to atmospheric carbon dioxide than has been estimated.

University of Bristol researchers, led by Dan Lunt, said their study shows components of the Earth’s climate system that vary over long timescales — such as land-ice and vegetation — have an important effect on temperature sensitivity, but such factors are often neglected in current climate models.

The researchers said they compared results from a global climate model to temperature reconstructions of the Earth’s environment 3 million years ago when global temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations were relatively high.

“We found that, given the concentrations of carbon dioxide prevailing 3 million years ago, the model originally predicted a significantly smaller temperature increase than that indicated by the reconstructions,” Lunt said. “This led us to review what was missing from the model.”

The study showed the increased temperatures indicated by the reconstructions can be explained if factors such as land-ice and vegetation are included in the model. That, the scientists said, is primarily because changes in vegetation and ice lead to more sunlight being absorbed, which in turn increases warming.

Alan Haywood, a study co-author from the University of Leeds, said the findings show studying past climates can provide important insights into how the Earth might change in the future.

The research appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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