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IPCC: The Worst Can Still Be Avoided

Tito Drago, Inter Press Service
MADRID – Climate change is not inexorable, if measures are adopted immediately, said scientists and government officials as the 27th session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began Monday in Spain.

The meeting in the Mediterranean city of Valencia, which will end Saturday, has drawn hundreds of experts from some 130 countries. Participants were welcomed by an enormous 400 square metre banner hung up on the outside of the building by international environmental watchdog Greenpeace, reading “Warning: Save the Climate Now”.

Javier González, with the Spanish NGO Ecologistas en Acción, told IPS that there is not much to study and discuss, because it is already clear what must be done: “the only solution is to reduce consumption of energy and other resources that are consumed at obscene levels.”

“Some segments of society in the countries of the developing South and practically everyone in the industrialised North consume unnecessary things: excessive packaging and advertising mailers for products, excessive gasoline in countries where cars habitually carry just one person, the lights on day and night unnecessarily, homes with several TV sets, etc, etc,” he said.

“In Europe we are used to seeing people throw practically new home appliances in the garbage because as soon as something goes wrong, they are not fixed but are instead simply replaced, just as it is hard to find cars over six or seven years old on the road,” said the activist.
(12 November 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.
change impacts.

Between a Reef and a Hard Place

Stephen Leahy, Inter Press Service
Coral reefs face certain extinction in a few decades unless there are unprecedented reductions in carbon emissions, leading Australian scientists warn.

Corals around the world may be nothing but rubble before a child born today turns 30 years old, and almost certainly before they’re 50.

The reason? Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere are turning the oceans acidic far faster than previously observed.

“It isn’t just the coral reefs which are affected. A large part of the plankton in the Southern Ocean, the coccolithophorids, are also affected,” said Malcolm McCulloch, an environmental research scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra.
(12 November 2007)

UN panel to set new path on climate at meeting

James Kanter, International Herald Tribune
PARIS: Delegations and scientists from about 140 nations meet Monday in Valencia, Spain, and are expected to draft a report that could increase pressure on countries like the United States and China to make binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

This meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations network of scientists that shared the Nobel Peace Prize this year with former Vice President Al Gore, is being held a month before UN climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, where governments will formally begin efforts to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.

The UN panel held a similar meeting in 1996, pushing governments into supporting the Kyoto Protocol the following year, so UN officials say they hope that this week’s report could prompt a similar breakthrough.

“This report is the most scientifically convincing of any yet when it comes to the urgency of climate change,” said John Hay, a spokesman for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is based in Bonn and oversaw negotiations that led to the Kyoto Protocol. “The report is an essential trigger for the launch of negotiations for a global climate agreement or set of agreements.”
(11 November 2007)

Carbon sequestration and the precautionary principle

Peter Montague, Gristmill
In response to a relentless stream of bad news about global warming, a cluster of major industries has formed a loose partnership with big environmental groups, prestigious universities, philanthropic foundations, and the U.S. federal government — all promoting a technical quick-fix for global warming called “carbon sequestration.”

“Carbon sequestration” is a plan to capture and bury as much as 10 trillion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide deep in the ground, hoping it will stay there forever. (A ton is 2,000 pounds; a metric tonne is 2,200 pounds; ten trillion is 10,000,000,000,000.) Though the plan has not yet received any substantial publicity, it is very far along.

The purpose of the plan is to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). A carbon sequestration program would capture the gas, turn it into a liquid, transport it through a network of pipelines, and pump it into the ground, intending for it to stay buried forever.

From an industrial perspective, carbon sequestration seems like a winning strategy.

… many common-sense questions remain:

* Given that there are many good alternatives, why would humans accept even a “very, very small” risk of making their only home uninhabitable?
* Given that the stakes are exceptionally high, shouldn’t we approach this with a little humility and ask, “What if the experts are wrong? What if they are fallible and haven’t thought of everything? What if their understanding is imperfect?” After all, geology has never been a predictive science, and humans have no experience burying lethal hazards in the ground expecting them to remain there in perpetuity.
* Since everyone alive today — and all their children and their children’s children far into the future — could be affected, shouldn’t we have a vigorous international debate on the wisdom of carbon sequestration versus alternative ways of powering human economies? Don’t we have an obligation to develop a broad international consensus before proceeding — especially among the nations most likely to be harmed if carbon sequestration fails? [4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
* And finally, given the exceedingly high stakes, the irreversible nature of carbon sequestration, and the substantial and irreducible uncertainties involved, isn’t this a decision that cries out for application of the precautionary principle?

Guest essay from Peter Montague, executive director of the Environmental Research Foundation.
(12 November 2007)

World body warns over ocean ‘fertilisation’ to fix climate change

Countries gathered under an international accord on maritime pollution have warned against offbeat experiments to tackle climate change by sowing the sea with chemicals to help soak up airborne carbon dioxide (CO2).

Parties to the London Convention and London Protocol declared that they hold authority over such experiments, and “large-scale operations” of this kind “are currently not justified,” according to a statement issued on Monday.

Several controversial experiments have been carried out or are being planned to “fertilise” areas of the sea with iron or urea to see whether this encourages the growth of plankton.
(12 November 2007)
Related from AFP: Global warming: Oceans could absorb far more CO2, says study.

Spain shown perils of climate change

Paul Hamilos, Guardian
It’s an apocalyptic view of the future, a stark warning to Spain of what the country could look like if action is not taken to reduce the effects of climate change.

The warning comes in a book, Photoclima, launched this week by Greenpeace in which images of some of Spain’s most emblematic places have been altered to show what they could look like in the future. Using statistics from the UN panel on climate change and a touch of digital makeup Greenpeace hopes to scare Spain into taking action.

We see the Ebro river in Zaragoza as a dried-up riverbed in 2070, by which time the fields of Valencia, which have provided Spain with oranges for centuries, will have all but disappeared. Perhaps the most dramatic image is that of La Manga de Mar Menor in Murcia, where hotels and apartment blocks abut the Mediterranean. In a few decades, according to Greenpeace, most of this will be underwater.
(10 November 2007)
Photo gallery: Spain: Landscapes in a changed climate.

The great Australian walkabout

Peter Ker and Stephen Moynihan, AAP via The Age
HOUSANDS gathered across Australia yesterday to protest against government inaction on climate change — by walking.

But it was no Sunday afternoon walk in the park for the Labor Party’s would-be environment minister, Peter Garrett, who was booed in Sydney.

The minister himself, Malcolm Turnbull, avoided the boos by not turning up, citing Remembrance Day duties.

More than 50 walks were held throughout the country, with as many as 50,000 people walking in Melbourne, 30,000 in Sydney, and tens of thousands taking part in more than 50 cities and towns.

Mr Garrett, the former Midnight Oil star, received anything but a rock star reception. In these days of Garrett-endorsed pulp mills, yesterday’s Walk Against Warming in Sydney’s Domain posed an uncomfortable challenge.

The solution? Operation Protect Peter. The troops came prepared for battle, dressed in white Kevin07 T-shirts and bearing identical Labor Party signs on the end of long sticks. They flocked to one corner of the Domain, where Mr Garrett would make his entrance, creating a 50-metre train of supporters behind the tall bald man.

When Mr Garrett rose to speak, chants of “no coal” and “no pulp mill” echoed in the background. Once he was safely offstage, a host of Labor MPs and candidates — including frontbenchers Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek — flocked around Mr Garrett like human sandbags.
(12 November 2007)
Suggested by contributor Phil Hart.