Two little nuggets

30 03 2007

Here’s some links to two youtube clips I’ve enjoyed recently courtesy of other blogs.

The first, from Growth is Madness!, celebrates human’s ape-like attributes in a rather humorous way.

The second is a very brief clip of Al Gore’s powerful closing remarks to the US Congress recently. It’s here at Ecological Economics.

Both worth a look.

How to stop them breaking CO2 promises – part 2

26 03 2007

Wikimedia - Stefan WernliA commonly raised objection to action on global warming (in the West) is that there seems no point if China continues building a new coal-fired power plant every week.  India is said to be not far behind. Their emissions are growing at an astonishing rate.

These new emerging economic giants would seem to make any action by the rest of us rather futile.  How on earth do we convince these guys to turn the ship around and start behaving themselves (assuming Aus and US join the rest of the developed world vis-a-vis emission caps).  Unfortunately it’s a little like a prisoner’s dillemma, with countries fighting to achieve economic advantage even if it means bringing the whole system crashing down.  But there is room for hope.

The way I see it there is the carrot or the stick approach.

The carrot approach would be to gently engage these countries, to share technologies, to provide funds and incentives.  Perhaps this will be enough.  The pessimist in me suspects it may not necessarily be that easy.

Fortunately we have the stick approach.  The stick approach would entail trade barriers to those countries not towing the line.  After all China and India are pursuing export-oriented growth and ultimately rely very heavily on us Westerners buying their stuff, or in the case of India, buying their services (for the most part).  We stop buying, they take a hit – a big one.

But trade barriers are an idea that we don’t mention in polite company anymore.  Free trade ideologues insist that all speed bumps to trade are bad and interfere with the efficient allocation of capital and the growth imperative of modern day market economies.  Even if this is in fact the case, there are some good reasons why unfettered free trade might do some harm, and so the debate over free trade is hotly contested by many of a green bent and certainly by critics of economic globalisation.

Nevertheless, if its enough to make the Chinese sit up and pay attention (which they already show signs of doing), we might just have to bring in such measures.  There are murmurings already.  The WTO (grrr…spit ! curse !) would likely be the referee.  It’s charter is largely about promoting trade liberalisation but the idea of subsidies is one that is useful here and one that the WTO presently considers in trade disputes.  We might consider that a country that releases masses of greenhouse gases is subsidising the cost of production of it’s goods through systematic environmental degradation.

So it will be that the recalcitrant few will be brought into the fold.

NYT attack piece on Gore discredited by climate scientists

21 03 2007

RealClimate provides an analysis of NYT journalist William Broad’s attack piece on Al Gore.

The first rule when criticizing popular science presentations for inaccuracies should be to double check any ‘facts’ you use. It is rather ironic then that William Broad’s latest piece on Al Gore plays just as loose with them as he accuses Gore of doing…….

You’ll find their review continued here.

If this is what their environment writer says, you can imagine what the business pages say..

17 03 2007

The Australian continues what Tim Lambert calls its “War on Science”.  Devoting copious column inches to the naysayers, here’s an extract.

Rebels of the Sun

March 17, 2007

IT says a lot about the complexity of climate science that we can put a man on the moon but we still can’t predict the weather beyond the next few days. The warming of the planet, and man’s contribution to this phenomenon, has become the top scientific issue of this generation.

Science by its very nature is an argument. But apparently not this one any more. Yet a minority of scientists are still lining up to challenge the accepted wisdom with their claim that global warming is being principally driven by the sun, not by human activity.The mainstream view is that an accumulation of greenhouse gases, mostly due to human activity, is trapping too much of the sun’s heat within our atmosphere. But the rebels against this dominant view suggest massive variations in the sun’s heat radiation are far more influential in warming than accumulating greenhouse gases.

….continued here.

SMH swallows appalling NYT hatchet job on Gore

15 03 2007

There must be some vested interests feeling a little threatened.

The Sydney Morning Herald lazily reprints this attack on Al Gore from the New York Times.

The article discusses a selection of scientists’ quibbles with Al Gore’s representation of climate change science.

 Unfortunately the article fails the disclose:

  1. the fact that many of those quoted are infamous climate change contrarians.
  2. the literature showing their arguments as bunkem
  3. the fact that the flow of people changing their mind on this issue is pretty much all in one direction.
  4. James Hansens’s belief that sea level rise might be far worse than IPCC reports predict.

How terrribly disappointing. Grist helps us dissect the article.

How to stop them breaking CO2 promises – part 1

13 03 2007

 Wikimedia - Stefan Wernli

 There seems to be a general agreement that to avoid dangerous climate change we need to get global CO2 emissions to at least 60% below 1990 levels by 2050.   At this level we will still see large scale extinctions and ecosystem changes but the most dire predictions of human suffering will be averted.

Knowing this, it seems that many well meaning governments at local and national levels worldwide are making pledges to achieve these targets.  Some of these promises take the form of legislation.  But how do we get there?  There are a variety of possible paths. 

We could:

a) go along merrily as we are and then panic as we get close to 2050 and bring in draconian changes to achieve a sudden and dramatic drop.

b) go along merrily as we are and quietly abandon the promises as we get closer to 2050 and realise we have no hope of making the targets.

c) set about achieving a steady predictable reduction in CO2 emissions on a year to year basis.

Clearly c) is the most desirable trajectory.  But what is needed to make governments behave themselves?  Well, the UK opposition Tory party has made some noise lately about setting a yearly target of a certain percentage reduction.  This could be legislated for and could be monitored by an independent emissions body.  Published figures would give us an idea of a government’s progress.  Should there be some extraordinary reason for not meeting targets (e.g. an exceptionally cold winter) then this could be taken into consideration and targets adjusted for the following 1-3 years to compensate for wandering off path.  Governments might be punished at the ballot box for straying.  Other sanctions might be triggered and come into force.

The federal government in Australia is oft heard telling us that despite not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, we are set to achieve our generous negotiated target of an 8% INCREASE in CO2 emissions above 1990.  There is some debate about this.  The target has been achieved largely through a reduction in land clearing, however there is dispute about the true extent of illegal land clearing in this country that goes undetected.  But lets assume that we are indeed on track.  Here is how a 3% year-on-year target would play out in Australia.

Year Emissions as % of 1990 level
2007 108
2008 105
2009 102
2010 99
2011 96
2012 93
2013 90
2012 87
2013 85
2014 82
2015 80
2016 77
2017 75
2018 73
2019 71
2020 68
2030 54
2040 40
2050 29
2100 6

Emissions (% 1990 level) =  (0.97)y x 108,    [where y = number of years after 2007]

So here we have a nice smooth drop in CO2 output.  Relative to 1990 we drop by almost a third by 2020, half by 2030 and a little over 2/3 reduction by 2050.

Certainty for business, accountability at the ballot box, the freedom to bring emissions down by diverse methods.  So what’s the hold-up?

Well,  I guess the politicians won’t voluntarily put the handcuffs on themselves.  They’ll need a big push from all of us.   Otherwise, the best of intentions can go badly off course.


Battlefield meets Top Gear

7 03 2007

Thanks Andrew for this youtube flick.  Great parody (might be one for gamers only though).