Mitigation implications of midcentury targets that preserve long-term climate policy options (pdf), PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0903797106, Brian C. O’Neill et al.
Midcentury targets have been proposed as a guide to climate change policy that can link long-term goals to shorter-term actions. However no explicit mitigation analyses have been carried out of the relationship between midcentury conditions and longer-term outcomes. Here we use an integrated assessment modeling framework with a detailed representation of the energy sector to examine the dependence of climate change outcomes in 2100 on emissions levels, atmospheric concentrations, and technology characteristics in 2050. We find that midcentury conditions are crucial determinants of longer-term climate outcomes, and we identify feasibility thresholds describing conditions that must be met by midcentury to keep particular long-term options open. For example, to preserve the technical feasibility of a 50% likelihood of keeping global average temperature at < 2 °C above preindustrial in 2100, global emissions must be reduced by about 20% below 2000 levels by 2050. Results are sensitive to several assumptions, including the nature of future socio-economic development. In a scenario with high demand for energy and land, being below 2 °C with 50% likelihood requires a 50% reduction in emissions below 2000 levels by 2050, which is only barely feasible with known technologies in that scenario. Results suggest that a greater focus on midcentury targets could facilitate the development of policies that preserve potentially desirable long-term options.
Reducing abrupt climate change risk using the Montreal Protocol and other regulatory actions to complement cuts in CO2 emissions , doi: 10.1073/pnas.0902568106
Current emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) have already committed the planet to an increase in average surface temperature by the end of the century that may be above the critical threshold for tipping elements of the climate system into abrupt change with potentially irreversible and unmanageable consequences. This would mean that the climate system is close to entering if not already within the zone of ‘‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’’ (DAI). Scientific and policy literature refers to the need for ‘‘early,’’ ‘‘urgent,’’ ‘‘rapid,’’ and ‘‘fast-action’’ mitigation to help avoid DAI and abrupt climate changes. We define ‘‘fast-action’’ to include regulatory measures that can begin within 2–3 years, be substantially implemented in 5–10 years, and produce a climate response within decades. We discuss strategies for short-lived non-CO2 GHGs and particles, where existing agreements can be used to accomplish mitigation objectives. Policy makers can amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) with high global warming potential. Other fast-action strategies can reduce emissions of black carbon particles and precursor gases that lead to ozone formation in the lower atmosphere, and increase biosequestration, including through biochar. These and other fastaction strategies may reduce the risk of abrupt climate change in the next few decades by complementing cuts in CO2 emissions.
Environmental Research Letters: Tripping points: barriers and bargaining chips on the road to Copenhagen (html) (pdf)
Environ. Res. Lett. 4 (July-September 2009) 034003, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/4/3/034003
This letter aims to help scholars and practitioners alike prepare for the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009, by providing a bird’s eye view of the increasingly complex terrain of the global climate negotiations. It identifies and explains the most important and contentious `tripping points’ for reaching any agreement on a post-2012 framework, by explaining the primary barriers among countries to reaching consensus and the bargaining chips that countries may draw upon to get there. Namely, the letter details the contours of the ongoing debates on: developed and developing country mitigation; reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD); technology transfer; adaptation; and finance.
National Security Network: Climate Change is a National Security Priority
Denying the existence of climate change isn’t just ignorant, it’s dangerous. Climate change is happening with profound implications for the national security of the United States. National security experts, retired military officials, and many prominent conservatives are in agreement that climate change poses a threat to our way of life, to the global order, and even to how we keep ourselves secure. Last week John Warner, former Republican Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, pleaded with his former colleagues to take action: “On the battlefield, we never wait until we have 100 percent certainty or wait for the conditions to be 100 percent ideal. We have to act when we have enough information to act. And I think the information we have is clear. Again, I emphasize, the U.S. cannot and should not wait for other countries to take the lead.”After eight years of denial and dithering by President Bush, the Obama administration has bipartisan support for its efforts to revive international climate negotiations. But to forge an international agreement that comprehensively tackles climate change, the United States must lead by example. The House of Representatives recently took a hugely important step in passing climate change legislation, but the legislation now looks to be bogged down in the Senate. If the impact on our way of life and the generations that follow us isn’t enough, Senators should recognize that their inaction has dangerous consequences for our national security. …
PNAS: Sharing global CO2 emission reductions among one billion high emitters
We present a framework for allocating a global carbon reduction target among nations, in which the concept of “common but differentiated responsibilities” refers to the emissions of individuals instead of nations. We use the income distribution of a country to estimate how its fossil fuel CO2 emissions are distributed among its citizens, from which we build up a global CO2 distribution. We then propose a simple rule to derive a universal cap on global individual emissions and find corresponding limits on national aggregate emissions from this cap. All of the world’s high CO2-emitting individuals are treated the same, regardless of where they live. Any future global emission goal (target and time frame) can be converted into national reduction targets, which are determined by “Business as Usual” projections of national carbon emissions and in-country income distributions. For example, reducing projected global emissions in 2030 by 13 GtCO2 would require the engagement of 1.13 billion high emitters, roughly equally distributed in 4 regions: the U.S., the OECD minus the U.S., China, and the non-OECD minus China. We also modify our methodology to place a floor on emissions of the world’s lowest CO2 emitters and demonstrate that climate mitigation and alleviation of extreme poverty are largely decoupled.
Just months before world leaders are scheduled to meet to devise a new international treaty on climate change, a research team led by Princeton University scientists has developed a new way of dividing responsibility for carbon emissions among countries.
The approach is so fair, according to its creators, that they are hoping it will win the support of both developed and developing nations, whose leaders have been at odds for years over perceived inequalities in previous proposals. …
The lead authors on the paper are physicist Shoibal Chakravarty and economist Massimo Tavoni, both research scholars at the Princeton Environmental Institute, which is the University’s interdisciplinary center for environmental research, education and outreach. …
“Most of the world’s emissions come disproportionately from the wealthy citizens of the world, irrespective of their nationality,” Chakravarty said, noting that many emissions come from lifestyles that involve airplane flights, car use and the heating and cooling of large homes. “We estimate that in 2008, half of the world’s emissions came from just 700 million people.” …
The work is part of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, which is based at Princeton. Launched in 2000, the project has produced new practical approaches to managing the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. The initiative is aimed at supporting fundamental scientific, technological and environmental research that would lead to safe, effective and affordable solutions to climate change. …
G8 Conference, L’Aquila, Italy
The G8 (plus 5) conference held in L’Aquila Italy set a goal of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, to be achieved by having the G8 reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, with a global goal of 50%. Unfortunately, they defined no baseline, leaving the reduction goals open to a wide range of interpretation and implementation. It had been a goal of the Kyoto accord to use a base of 1990 but several countries, including Canada, regard the 80% goal as “aspirational”. The Canadian government has set a goal of 70% from a 2006 base; the nationwide increase in emissions rose by 26% between 1990 and 2006.
Nature magazine published a study on 30 April 2009 which emphasizes the urgent need for emission cuts beyond what is likely to emerge given the L’Aquila “aspirational” goal.
Nature: Greenhouse-gas emission targets for limiting global warming to 2 °C , doi:10.1038/nature08017
More than 100 countries have adopted a global warming limit of 2 °C or below (relative to pre-industrial levels) as a guiding principle for mitigation efforts to reduce climate change risks, impacts and damages. However, the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions corresponding to a specified maximum warming are poorly known owing to uncertainties in the carbon cycle and the climate response. Here we provide a comprehensive probabilistic analysis aimed at quantifying GHG emission budgets for the 2000–50 period that would limit warming throughout the twenty-first century to below 2 °C, based on a combination of published distributions of climate system properties and observational constraints. We show that, for the chosen class of emission scenarios, both cumulative emissions up to 2050 and emission levels in 2050 are robust indicators of the probability that twenty-first century warming will not exceed 2 °C relative to pre-industrial temperatures. Limiting cumulative CO2 emissions over 2000–50 to 1,000 Gt CO2 yields a 25% probability of warming exceeding 2 °C—and a limit of 1,440 Gt CO2 yields a 50% probability—given a representative estimate of the distribution of climate system properties. As known 2000–06 CO2 emissions were 234 Gt CO2, less than half the proven economically recoverable oil, gas and coal reserves can still be emitted up to 2050 to achieve such a goal. Recent G8 Communiques envisage halved global GHG emissions by 2050, for which we estimate a 12–45% probability of exceeding 2 °C—assuming 1990 as emission base year and a range of published climate sensitivity distributions. Emissions levels in 2020 are a less robust indicator, but for the scenarios considered, the probability of exceeding 2 °C rises to 53–87% if global GHG emissions are still more than 25% above 2000 levels in 2020.
North America owes the world much more than it has done so far to address climate change. The two most developed North-American countries, United States and Canada, are responsible for about one third of the manmade CO2 emitted since the beginning of the industrialized era. Today they have the highest per capita carbon emissions. Yet they have no comprehensive national climate plan, no carbon pricing system in place.
… Three years away from the 2012 Kyoto deadline, Canada’s emissions are well above target. Canada has no effective carbon regulations yet. The government’s announced target is to reduce emissions by 20% from 2006 levels by 2020 – the equivalent of a 3% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. As weak as this target is, the government failed to present a credible plan to reach it. Every independent expert says that the government’s plan is much too weak to reach its own target.
… The Canadian government’s policy proposals would set emission prices much too low to induce significant reductions in emissions from oil sands extraction, the fastest-growing Canadian source of GHGs. The fossil fuels industry was responsible for 42% of Canada’s emissions growth between 1990 and 2006, and this trend is forecasted to increase in the coming years, especially because of oil sands expansion.
… The Conservative Federal government, which has been adamant in its opposition to a carbon tax, was also re-elected last fall, forming a minority government. One factor in their election was their unrelenting attack campaign against the green fiscal reform that was being proposed by the opposing Liberal Party – which I led at the time (this green reform, which was supported by leading Canadian economists and environmentalists, would have established a carbon tax on fossil fuels and redistributed the revenue to cut federal income taxes by 10%).
Stéphane Dion, member of Canada’s Parliament, former Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, of Official Languages and of the Environment.
Open letter to the Prime Minister and Leader of the opposition
Subject: Don’t leave Canada behind
The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada
The Right Honourable Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Opposition
Subject: Don’t leave Canada behind
Dear Prime Minister, Dear Leader of the Opposition
U.S. President Barack Obama is taking advantage of the current financial crisis to push his country forward in new directions by greatly boosting funding to scientific research and education as a means to jump start innovation in a new economy. The scope of his vision is stunning, including an increase of more than $15 billion in scientific research, and a promise to double the funding for education in the next 10 years. For more details, see
Our government has also tried to stimulate the research / university sector in Canada, wishing to take important initiatives. At the heart of the plan is a $2 billion dollars infrastructure fund for shovel-ready renovation projects in post-secondary institutions, a fund that was actively solicited by university presidents. There is also an additional $750 million for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and $87.5 million over three years for doctoral scholarships. While these funding announcements are surely welcome, we would like to share our concerns as to the potential effect of some of these decisions, in particular in view of the bold and visionary course taken by the Obama administration south of the border. …
The letter goes on to recommend more effective action and is signed by 2038 Ph.D. scientists. There are also replies from the Liberal and NDP party leaders.
An extract from the Center for Strategic & International Studies
In August 2007, a Russian adventurer descended 4,300 meters under the thinning ice of th North Pole to plant a titanium flag, claiming some 1.2 million square kilometers of the Arctic for mother Russia. Not to be outdone, the Prime Minister of Canada stated his intention to boost his nation’s military presence in the Arctic, with the stakes raised by the recent discovery that the icy Northwest Passage has become navigable for the first time in recorded history. Across the globe, the spreading desertification in the Darfur region has been compounding the tensions between nomadic herders and agrarian farmers, providing the environmental backdrop for genocide. In Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated countries in the world, the risk of coastal flooding is growing and could leave some 30 million people searching for higher ground in a nation already plagued by political violence and a growing trend toward Islamist extremism. Neighboring India is already building a wall along its border with Bangladesh. More hopefully, the award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a clear recognition that global warming poses not only environmental hazards but profound risks to planetary peace and stability as well.
“Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World” (pdf, Nov. 2008) is the fourth unclassified report prepared by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) in recent years that takes a long-term view of the future. It offers a fresh look at how key global trends might develop over the next 15 years to influence world events. …
Unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion more people, will put pressure on resources—particularly energy, food, and water—raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply. …
Climate change is expected to exacerbate resource scarcities. Although the impact of climate change will vary by region, a number of regions will begin to suffer harmful effects, particularly water scarcity and loss of agricultural production. Regional differences in agricultural production are likely to become more pronounced over time with declines disproportionately concentrated in developing countries, particularly those in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural losses are expected to mount with substantial impacts forecast by most economists by late this century. For many developing countries, decreased agricultural output will be devastating because agriculture accounts for a large share of their economies and many of their citizens live close to subsistence levels.
Expecting a more aggressive approach, they offer advice to the McCain and Obama campaigns. – Christian Science Monitor 2008-08-12
Bush quietly passes dozens of new rules, StraightGoods.ca, 2008-12-08
Lame duck president opens protected areas to drilling, guts Clean Air Act, as he leaves.
As the world community meets in Poland this week to find solutions to the climate crisis, the George W Bush White House is chaining the United States’ tiller to prevent a change of course by President-elect Barack Obama by passing new anti-environmental rules and regulations at a furious pace. …
President-elect Obama has said he wants to reduce US emissions of greenhouse gases to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them by an additional 80 percent by 2050. Most environmental groups favour tougher targets, originally recommended by 2,000-plus scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which would see the US reduce its emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 by the year 2020.
However, there is broad agreement that the solution to the country’s current economic crisis is to rapidly move towards a green economy powered by clean energy, said Frances Beinecke, executive director of the Natural Resources Defence Council.
“We can solve three problems at once — the economy, energy security and the environment,” Beinecke told IPS.
Five million new jobs can be created with investments in energy efficiency and renewable power generation. Introducing a carbon cap-and-trade system will generate the funds for investments in energy efficiency retrofits of buildings and clean energy sources like wind and solar, she said.
The Obama administration is working on an economic stimulus package that is rumoured to exceed 500 billion dollars, and environmentalists expect that there will be a big green component with massive investment in mass transit, improving the country’s antiquated energy infrastructure and more, said Beinecke.
The Western Climate Initiative is a collaboration which was launched in February 2007 by the Governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington to develop regional strategies to address climate change. WCI is identifying, evaluating and implementing collective and cooperative ways to reduce greenhouse gases in the region. In the spring of 2007, the Governor of Utah and the Premiers of British Columbia and Manitoba joined the Initiative. Montana joined in January, 2008 and Quebec moved from Observer to Partner status in April, 2008. Other US and Mexican states and Canadian provinces have joined as observers. For a map showing Partners and Observers click here.
Ontario joins Western Climate Initative as full Partner. For press release click here. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty requested formal membership on July 17th. With Ontario’s participation, WCI now represents approximately 73% of Canada’s economy and 20% of America’s economy. Ontario had been participating as an observer since August 2007.
Visit the climate change site of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment here.
The politicization of science is the manipulation of science for political gain. It occurs when government, business, or interest groups use legal or economic pressure to influence the findings of scientific research or the way the it is disseminated, reported or interpreted. Historically, these groups have conducted various campaigns to promote their interests in defiance of scientific consensus, and in an effort to manipulate public policy.
Dick Cheney Censors Testimony (CNN Video 2008-07-08)
Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An Investigation into the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science (Union of Concerned Scientists 2004)
SciAm: Drill for Natural Gas, Pollute Water
The natural gas industry refuses to reveal what is in the mixture of chemicals used to drill for the fossil fuel.
In July a hydrologist dropped a plastic sampling pipe 300 feet down a water well in rural Sublette County, Wy. and pulled up a load of brown oily water with a foul smell. Tests showed it contained benzene, a chemical believed to cause aplastic anemia and leukemia, in a concentration 1,500 times the level safe for people.
The results sent shockwaves through the energy industry and state and federal regulatory agencies. Sublette County is the home of one of the nation’s largest natural gas fields, and many of its 6,000 wells have undergone a process pioneered by Halliburton called hydraulic fracturing, which shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals several miles underground to break apart rock and release the gas. The process has been considered safe since a 2004 study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that it posed no risk to drinking water. After that study, Congress even exempted hydraulic fracturing from the Safe Drinking Water Act. Today fracturing is used in 9 out of 10 natural gas wells in the United States.
Over the last few years, however, a series of contamination incidents have raised questions about that EPA study and ignited a debate over whether the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing may threaten the nation’s increasingly precious drinking water supply. …
Remember Halliburton? Vice-President Dick Cheney was its CEO until he resigned just before the 2000 election. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about that:
In recent years the company has become the object of several controversies involving the 2003 Iraq War and the company’s ties to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney retired from the company during the 2000 U.S. presidential election campaign with a severance package worth $36 million. As of 2004, he had received $398,548 in deferred compensation from Halliburton while Vice President. Some commentators have speculated on a possible conflict of interest from Cheney receiving deferred compensation and stock options from Halliburton.
2011-01-05 Scientific American, Reuters
BP, firms made risky decisions before spill: report
BP and its partners made a series of cost-cutting decisions that ultimately contributed to the oil spill that ravaged the Gulf of Mexico coast over the summer, the White House oil spill commission said on Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – BP and its partners made a series of cost-cutting decisions that ultimately contributed to the oil spill that ravaged the Gulf of Mexico coast over the summer, the White House oil spill commission said on Wednesday.
In its final report on the causes of the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, the commission said BP and its collaborators on the doomed Macondo well had lacked a system to ensure their actions were safe.
“Whether purposeful or not, many of the decisions that BP, Halliburton, and Transocean made that increased the risk of the Macondo blowout clearly saved those companies significant time (and money),” the report said.
Nature Reports Climate Change: Squaring up to reality
Published online: 29 May 2008 | doi:10.1038/climate.2008.50
We have lost ten years talking about climate change but not acting on it. Meanwhile, evidence from the IPCC indicates that the problem is bigger than we thought. A curious optimism — the belief that we can find a way to fully avoid all the serious threats illustrated above — pervades the political arenas of the G8 summit and UN climate meetings. This is false optimism, and it is obscuring reality. The sooner we recognize this delusion, confront the challenge and implement both stringent emissions cuts and major adaptation efforts, the less will be the damage that we and our children will have to live with.
Since this was published, there is evidence that changes are happening much more rapidly than the IPCC projected; we may be headed to dangerous “tipping points”. See
Scientific American: Global Warming: Beyond the Tipping Point
Climatologist James Hansen of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies warns that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels above 350 parts per million—lower than current readings—may trigger catastrophic rises in sea level.
Jim Hansen is the ‘grandfather of climate change’ and one of the world’s leading climatologists. In this rare interview in New York, he explains why President Obama’s administration is the last chance to avoid flooded cities, species extinction and climate catastrophe
The Arctic is under siege as never before.
The Russians send submarines deep below the North Pole. The Americans dispatch surveillance planes to monitor new threats in the north. And Canada is now forced to scramble to defend territories it has ignored for too long.
Canadian scientists are now joining the soldiers on the front lines of this new frontier, as they race to chart Canada’s Arctic claims under the looming deadline of an international treaty. The Battle for Arctic takes you from the far reaches of the North Pole to the waters of Alaska for a look into a struggle for sovereignty that could change the very face of Canada. …
2009-01-19, 2009-01-28, 2009-02-02
CBC “Ideas”: Climate Wars
Global warming is moving much more quickly than scientists thought it would. Even if the biggest current and prospective emitters – the United States, China and India – were to slam on the brakes today, the earth would continue to heat up for decades. At best, we may be able to slow things down and deal with the consequences, without social and political breakdown. Gwynne Dyer examines several radical short- and medium-term measures now being considered – all of them controversial.
2009-03-24 – Embassy of India, Washington DC
Address by Mr. Shyam Saran Special Envoy of the Prime Minister for Climate Change at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC on India’s Climate Change Initiatives: Strategies for a Greener Future
… irrespective of what may or may not emerge from the ongoing multilateral negotiations on Climate Change, India is committed to an ambitious National Action Plan on Climate Change, covering both Mitigation and Adaptation. The eight National Missions which comprise the Plan, are currently in the final stages of elaboration, and taken together, will constitute India’s strategy for ecologically sustainable development. A key element of this strategy is to bring about a strategic shift in the country’s production and consumption processes currently based on fossil fuels, to renewable sources of energy. The co-benefit is enhancement of the country’s energy security. We believe that the US has a similar approach and its ambitious Renewable Energy Initiative offers many opportunities for our two countries to work together, building up the success of the Indo-US Civil Nuclear agreement and the positive experience of collaboration in several energy and environment related areas. It is our hope that the 15th COP in Copenhagen will deliver a fair and equitable, but also an ambitious outcome based on the UNFCCC and the Bali Action Plan. India is prepared to work together with the US towards this objective. This will provide a supportive global environment for not only the successful implementation of our Action Plan but to enable its significant scaling up. However, the bilateral track with the US has been and will continue to be a productive avenue for both our countries to meet the twin challenges of Climate Change and energy security.