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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #47B

Posted on 23 November 2013 by John Hartz

  • Carbon emissions on tragic trajectory
  • Climate talks, coal and the pink lungs of Warsaw
  • Is this California's driest year oBn record?
  • Global boom in coal plants begs for carbon capture solution
  • Global warming and business reporting – can business news organizations achieve less than zero?
  • Oil's future draws blood and Gore in investment portfolios
  • On Thin Ice” at Warsaw climate talks
  • Poor countries walk out of UN climate talks
  • UN climate talks in Warsaw: what you need to know
  • Wealthy countries urged to foot bill for weather-related disasters
  • What does the science say about cyclone intensity?
  • You can have either climate justice or a climate treaty

Carbon emissions on tragic trajectory

Burning of fossil fuels added a record 36 billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere in 2013, locking in even more heating of the planet.

Global CO2 emissions are projected to rise 2.1 percent higher than 2012, the previous record high, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Global Carbon Project/a>.

Carbon Emissions on Tragic Trajectory by Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service (IPS), Nov 19, 2013

Climate talks, coal and the pink lungs of Warsaw

From the Warsaw city centre there's only one route to the precinct where the rotund cement beast that doubles as a national sports stadium is holding United Nations climate change talks.

That route is across a road bridge over the mud-brown Vistula River offering views to the south of the Siekierki coal plant that spews out about 3.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Funnelling into the stadium are 1001 members of the media, 6120 registered delegates and 4719 "observers" – UN officials, campaigners and members of other non-governmental groups.

Climate talks, coal and the pink lungs of Warsaw by Graham Readfern, Planet Oz, The Guardian, Nov 18, 2013

Global Boom in Coal Plants Begs for Carbon Capture Solution

The smoldering debate over whether coal has a future in a low-carbon world has flared up with new intensity in Warsaw, the site of this month's annual United Nations negotiations toward a global climate treaty.

With world coal use growing at a staggering pace, top climate diplomats have used the global stage to take a much more aggressive stance against the coal industry. They are demanding that companies move quickly to leverage technology to capture and bury their planet-heating emissions or risk putting the world on a dangerous and irreversible path.

In a stern address to the World Coal Association on the sidelines of the summit, Christiana Figueres, head of the UN's Climate Change Secretariat, made several demands of industry: leave "most existing reserves in the ground," shut down the dirtiest coal-fired facilities and use carbon capture and storage (CCS) on "new plants, even the most efficient."

Global boom in coal plants begs for carbon capture solution by John H. Cushman Jr., Inside Climate News, Nov 21. 2013

Global warming and business reporting – can business news organizations achieve less than zero?

Some of the most popular business news outlets are complete failures when it comes to climate reporting. If they get basic climate science this wrong, how can they be trusted on any other topic?

Recently, news outlets such as Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and CNBC have been in misinformation overdrive. It's not like it's difficult to get real scientists to speak to journalists. In spite of this, these news organizations have their so-called experts wax ineloquently on climate change, all the while displaying enormous ignorance of the actual science.

Global warming and business reporting – can business news organizations achieve less than zero? by John Abraham, Climate Consensus-the 97%, The Guardian, Nov 18, 2013

Is this California's driest year on record?

There is a growing chorus of voices asking if California is having its driest year ever. I think that is the wrong question, as I'll describe below, but without a doubt, California is in the midst of another severe drought, measured as the weighted average of precipitation around the state. Indeed, the past two years have both been very dry. 

Extreme Weather: Is This California's Driest Year on Record? by Peter H. Gleick, The Huffington post, Nov 20, 2013

Oil's future draws blood and Gore in investment portfolios

Al Gore has come a long way from the Inconvenient Truth raconteur who in 2006 extolled the “leaves rustling with the wind” and talked about boiling frogs as a metaphor for humanity in need of a "rescue."

Gore has been fighting climate change since he co-sponsored the first congressional hearings on the subject in 1976. While his essential aim hasn’t changed, his tactics and rhetoric have. Flush with cash after making $70 million in the sale of the Current TV network, Gore is buddying up to investors, working to change their minds about billion-dollar climate risks lurking in their portfolios. Gore, snubbing trees, is now a hugger of Wall Street.

“We're already seeing the impact on some carbon intensive assets -- we've seen it in Australia, we've seen it in Canada, we've seen it in the U.S.,” Gore said by phone from London on Oct. 29, a day he spent promoting a new report as chairman of Generation Asset Management, the investment firm he co-founded with David Blood. “The time has come to question how people avoid the risk.”

Oil's Future Draws Blood and Gore in Investment Portfolios by Tom Randall, Bloomberg News, Nov 18, 2013

“On Thin Ice” at Warsaw climate talks

Did you know it was the “Day of the Cryosphere” at the Warsaw climate talks COP 19 in Warsaw yesterday? If not, you might be forgiven. I haven’t seen it making the headlines in the mainstream media. That is a pity, given that what climate change is doing to our ice, snow and permafrost has repercussions for the whole planet.

The cryosphere is a term for the regions of our globe which are covered in ice and snow either seasonally or all year round, from the North Pole to Antarctica. ”Climate change is happening in the cryosphere faster and more dramatically than anywhere else on earth”, says the “International Cryosphere Climate Initiative” (ICCI). It is a network of senior policy experts and researchers working with governments and organisations to bring about initiatives to preserve as much of our ice and snow areas as possible. The group was set up in 2009 immediately after the disastrous COP 15 in Copenhagen.

“On Thin Ice” at Warsaw climate talks by Irene Quaile, Ice Blog, Deutsche Welle (DW, Nov 18, 2013

Poor countries walk out of UN climate talks

Representatives of most of the world's poor countries have walked out of increasingly fractious climate negotiations after the EU, Australia, the US and other developed countries insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events be discussed only after 2015.

The orchestrated move by the G77 and China bloc of 132 countries came during talks about "loss and damage" – how countries should respond to climate impacts that are difficult or impossible to adapt to, such as typhoon Haiyan.

Saleemul Huq, the scientist whose work on loss and damage helped put the issue of recompense on the conference agenda, said: "Discussions were going well in a spirit of co-operation, but at the end of the session on loss and damage Australia put everything agreed into brackets, so the whole debate went to waste."

Australia was accused of not taking the negotiations seriously. "They wore T-shirts and gorged on snacks throughout the negotiation. That gives some indication of the manner they are behaving in," said a spokeswoman for Climate Action Network.

Poor countries walk out of UN climate talks as compensation row rumbles on by John Vidal, The Guardian, Nov 20, 2013

UN climate talks in Warsaw: what you need to know

It is COP19 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – or, in other words, the latest round of the ongoing United Nations talks aimed at forging a new global agreement on climate change. The talks began on 11 November but the real business – the "high-level segment" in which government ministers take part – opens on Tuesday with a short session and gala dinner for the assembled dignitaries, then the ministers get down to talks on Wednesday with the aim of finishing up on Friday evening.

UN climate talks in Warsaw: what you need to know by Fiona Harvey, The Guardian, Nov 19, 2013

Wealthy countries urged to foot bill for weather-related disasters

The proposal by developing countries that their wealthier counterparts be held financially responsible for the damage incurred by extreme climate events such as typhoon Haiyan and droughts in Africa has become the most explosive issue at the UN's climate change conference in Warsaw. With neither side prepared to give way on the principle of "loss and damage", confrontation looms at the close of the talks on Friday. 

Earlier this year, governments agreed to resolve the issue of possible recompense. But with only two days of high-level negotiations remaining, positions have hardened. Some of the least developed countries have threatened to quit the talks over the situation.

Climate talks: wealthy countries urged to foot bill for weather-related disasters by John Vidal, The Guardian, Nov 19, 2013

What Does the Science Say about Cyclone Intensity?

The hurricane intensity trend in the western North Pacific (where the Philippines are located) isn’t crystal clear. One recent paper finds that over the past few decades their intensity has slightly fallen (but has grown for the planet as a whole), while others suggest it’s slightly risen, or that there are fewer but stronger hurricanes in that western North Pacific region.

However, a paper published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by MIT hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel found that future “Increases in tropical cyclone activity are most prominent in the western North Pacific.” So while we’re not certain about the trend over the past few decades, the evidence indicates that hurricanes near the Philippines will both become stronger and form more frequently in a warmer world.

Midweek Wonk: What Does the Science Say about Cyclone Intensity? by Peter Sinclair, Climate Denial Crock of the Week, Nov 20, 2013

You can have either climate justice or a climate treaty

In the wake of the devastation to the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan, a long-standing claim for “climate justice” has re-emerged with new force. Countries vulnerable to more devastation, as temperatures rise, want rich countries that have benefited from industry that produces greenhouse gas emissions to pay them reparations. Advocates argue that climate change negotiations, currently being held in Warsaw, should aim for a climate treaty that forces the climate wrongdoers to pay the climate victims. This would mean countries like Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Kenya getting money from countries like the United States so that they don’t alone bear the cost of a global carbon dioxide overload that they did little to cause. It sounds great—but such an approach would doom the prospects of a climate treaty, and the argument for it doesn’t add up.

You can have either climate justice or a climate treaty by Eric Poser, Slate, Nov 19, 2013

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Thanks for another great batch of links. The first (and many of the others) really points out how far we are from even beginning to make serious progress toward even moving toward no new growth in our already-way-too-high annual emissions. The 36 billion tonnes of CO2 emitted last year, as noted in the article, puts us on the path toward a beyond-hellish  5 degrees C above pre-industrial temps.

    Even that may be understating things, since the International Energy Agency has noted that, if you count up all the ff burning infrastructure that is being built or is well into the planning stage and add the ffs that will be burnt by them we are more likely on a path to about 6 degrees C by about 2100.

    And of course, neither of those estimates fully figures in effects of feedbacks, such as permafrost melt so well covered here...Things are looking grim indeed.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Thank you for the positive feedback about the News Roundup. Because I am not a climate science wonk like so many of my fellow SkS authors, I am pleased to contribute in my own way with this product. 

  2. The last article, from Slate, seems to me to be a bit too harsh on developing countries. Of course, countries who have wronged others are always going to be reticent about owning up to that harm, much less payinig up. Why not instead point out all the creative ways reparations could be made that would be beneficial to both?

    We readily pour hundreds of billions of dollars (or more? I lose track of these enormous sums) into the coffers of banks just because they are big and because they have massively destabilized the world economy. We also pour similarly massive sums into building elaborite systems for killing massive numbers of people.

    Surely, redirecting some fraction of these massive sums into our renewable energy industry by guaranteeing steep discounts on their products to the poorest countries would provide the kind of win-win that the author claims is crucial to successful international negotiations. We historically have subsidized the ag industry in similar ways (though in that case mostly to the ultimate detriment of developing countries) dumping massive amounts of grain on their markets to prop up prices at home.

    It looks to me like a massive and utterly universally catastrophic failure of both imagination and diplomacy that the folks in Warsaw couldn't manage to come up with some such scheme along with carefully worded diplomatic language that would satisfy all sides.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] The Warsaw talks have been extended to Sunday. The next issue of the news roundup will contain many stories about what was accomplished. 

  3. Will,

    I believe the main reason 'diplomatic' solutions for this challenge fail to have 'imagination' is that many of the people doing the talking are mainly concerned about pursuing more for 'their population' so they can get re-election of leaders by showing what they got away with. That pursuit of re-election is particularly damaging when the ones wanting election can easily promote the 'popularity of getting away with unsustainable and damaging activities'.

    It is easy to understand why a person would chose unsustainable and damaging pursuits when they do not expect to be suffering any of the consequences. This issue, like so many others, pits "short term gains of employment, profit, convenience and comfort by getting away with benefiting from unsustainable and damaging pursuits' against 'less of that easy to get short-term stuff for yourself out of consideration for others and the future generations'

    One side is a really easy sell. The popularity of benefiting from the burning of fossil fuels is enormous. That activity clearly cannot be continued forever. The entire population can't even develop to live like the most fortunate. Yet, such clearly unacceptable unsustainable activity is 'very popular'.

    Almost all the troubles and challenges we face today, including conflicts and wars, are the result of our predecessors allowing people with that selfish attitude to be successful. Our global economy is now highly dependent on unsustainable activity with the most powerful people battling to get the most for themselves for as long as they can get away with.

    One way for 'diplomatic or democratic' solutions to have the required 'imagination' is for the majority of all the populations around the world to clearly understand what has been going on and refuse to participate in or promote the 'selfish pursuit of more for themselves any way they can get away with'. Unless that happens there really is no future for humanity, but even somethig as obvious as that may not be enough to get people to accept less benefit for themselves in their moment. It is possible that the promotion of the pursuit of 'a selfish good time' and 'freedom to do as you please' will mean there will be no Earth left for the meek to inherit.

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    @ 3 One Planet

    "mainly concerned about pursuing more for 'their population' so they can get re-election of leaders by showing what they got away with. That pursuit of re-election is particularly damaging when the ones wanting election can easily promote the 'popularity of getting away with unsustainable and damaging activities'."

    For that to be true, (and I mostly agree with you) it means it's a reflection of what the voters want.  If it wasn't, they wouldnt be elected. If we are to play the blame game, lets lay it squarley at the feet of those most deserving, the voters.  Those very same voters who emit (in the Annex 1 nations) most of the Worlds CO2e.  One just has to look at the result of the recent elections in Australia.  If you are aware of the Science of AGW (and who  could not be these days) , aware of the projections showing the damage that will be caused from the your emissions and then vote to elect politicains who have no intention of a reduction of any efficacy, then who is really to "blame" ?  You're either a physcopath, a denier, or don't really care (this is not a critisism, just an observation).  Back to Australia, voting for the ALP would have simialry seen no effective reduction, as they both subscribe to a similar mantra  ...   Is it any wonder that's the path persued by politicans the World over ?  

    Apprently we need to form an orderly que to do the right thing and every nation wants to be last in the que to have a "competetive" advantage. There are a few individuals doing the rfight thing (I like to think my partner and I are,  in terms of CO2e emission we're ultra low) but the ones with the spotlight on them aren't eg Gore, Flannery, Mckibben etal are all prodigious emitters.

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  5. Trevor S @4, voters have only limited influence over the policy outcomes of elections, despite propaganda to the contrary.  The first, and most fundamental reason for this is that voters do not get to vote for policies individually.  When you go to an election, you get to vote for a candidate for your local seat and (depending on jurisdiction) perhaps also an upper house member and/or chief executive.  The candidates you are voting for will have a large number of policies, either personally, or as dictated by the policies of the party for which they stand.  Consequently, when you vote for a particular member, you do not, because you cannot vote for any one policy.  Rather you vote for a bundle of policies, some of which you may disagree with.  Further, you do not just vote for that bundle of policies, but also for the member (and their party), and hence as part of the bundle for which you vote is an estimate of the integrity, intelligence and vigour of the candidate and the administrative competence of the party.

    If this were not enough, candidates will often hide some of their policies, of simply change their policy after election.  On top of that, the voter is more or less lied to continuously by the supposedly free press, much of which considers its role in a democracy to by similar to that of Pravda in the USSR.  Even diligent citizens, therefore, must be to some extent ill informed.

    Consequently, the claim that the policy outcome of a newly elected government is "what the voters want" is simplistic, and in fact must be false in any democracy in which policies are not approved line by line by the electorate.  At best, the policy outcomes are what the voters can live with, given the range of policy and administrative alternatives.

    This is not to exonerate voters for the slow and ineffectual response to climate change.  However, the politicians and journalists who should have as their first duty the facilitating of their full accountability to the electorate, but who have instead resorted to irrational policies, faux policy debates, personality politics, and outright lies (in the case of politicians); and to false balance (at best) and in many cases outright anti AGW mitigation propaganda (in the case of journalists) bear far heavier blame.  They are betraying democracy, and with it the citizens of their nations.  Unfortunately, in the face of global warming, they are betraying future generations at the same time. 

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