Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage

Ed Miliband: China tried to hijack Copenhagen climate deal

John Vidal, the Guardian
The climate secretary, Ed Miliband, today accuses China, Sudan, Bolivia and other leftwing Latin American countries of trying to hijack the UN climate summit and “hold the world to ransom” to prevent a deal being reached.

In an article in the Guardian, Miliband says the UK will make clear to those countries holding out against a binding legal treaty that “we will not allow them to block global progress”.

“We cannot again allow negotiations on real points of substance to be hijacked in this way,” he writes in the aftermath of the UN summit in Copenhagen, which climaxed with what was widely seen as a weak accord, with no binding emissions targets, despite an unprecedented meeting of leaders.

Miliband said there must be “major reform” of the UN body overseeing the talks – the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – and on the way negotiations are conducted. He is said to be outraged that UN procedure allowed a few countries to nearly block a deal…
sent in by EB contributor Marcin Gerwin
(20 Dec 2009)

Carbon Supplicants on the Copenhagen Pilgrimage

George Marshall, Climate Change Denial blog
For many of us Brits the journey to Copenhagen has required the trials of true carbon penitence. We eschewed the £12.50 flight in favour of a far more circuitous and exhausting trawl through the Low Countries with regular tests of faith. Our Eurostar train broke down. At the Danish border we were forced to stand in the cold for hours whilst police frisked, groped and poked their way through every part of our bags and underpants.

When we got to Copenhagen we crawled between the various performance and exhibition venues like the Stations of the Cross before standing in the snow for over 3 hours – and horror stories abound of people waiting for five hours only to be told to come back the next day– for an accreditation to enter the actual COP15 holy of holies. As it set over our line of supplicants, the midwinter sun was in perfect alignment with the conference centre, a Potemkin windmill, and, on the horizon, a vast coal burning power plant.

Shivering in the dark in this slow shuffling queue I was reminded of how nightclubs will engineer a long queue outside (even when the club is half empty) to persuade people that this really must be the place to be. The UN has performed a similar stunt- deliberately offering vastly more accreditations than the venue can contain to anyone who applies including planeloads of American sophomores in various gap-experience youth delegations who mill about and perform lame stunts in Polar Bear costumes. (To be fair, there were parallel conferences and events that displayed all the freshness, vigour and inspiring vision that the official summit so clearly lacked. This was also the largest ever international gathering of climate change activists and progressive organisations and the new connections they formed will be a lasting legacy)…
(18 Dec 2009)

Review of the Year 2009: Climate change

Tony Juniper, The Independent
Despite the crippling economic crisis, green challenges remained prominent on the political and public agendas during 2009. This contrasts with previous downturns, during which the environment has been generally relegated to the “to do later” list. The reason it didn’t disappear this time is because it is ever more clear that “later” might be too late – especially in relation to the climate change challenge. Most serious politicians get this, so do many businesses. The question is can we convert this realisation into practical change?

Negotiations leading to this month’s Copenhagen climate summit were conducted with this purpose in mind. Considering the divergent national interests that exist between the nearly 200 countries involved in this most complex UN process, it is perhaps not surprising that the science-based treaty needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change is still elusive. The situation was not helped by the selective leaking of private emails from a few climate change scientists.

This action, clearly calculated to cause maximum political damage before the Copenhagen summit, gave further impetus to the campaign of a few of the so-called “sceptics”, who seek every means available to discredit what is now very clear mainstream climate science. I suspect that history will regard this little flurry as comparable to the Battle of the Bulge – a last high impact but doomed counter-attack on what is ultimately an irresistible weight of evidence that underlines the gravest threat to human wellbeing. In any event it had almost no impact on the talks…
(23 Dec 2009)

How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room

Mark Lynas, the Guardian
Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful “deal” so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.

China’s strategy was simple: block the open negotiations for two weeks, and then ensure that the closed-door deal made it look as if the west had failed the world’s poor once again. And sure enough, the aid agencies, civil society movements and environmental groups all took the bait. The failure was “the inevitable result of rich countries refusing adequately and fairly to shoulder their overwhelming responsibility”, said Christian Aid. “Rich countries have bullied developing nations,” fumed Friends of the Earth International.

All very predictable, but the complete opposite of the truth. Even George Monbiot, writing in yesterday’s Guardian, made the mistake of singly blaming Obama. But I saw Obama fighting desperately to salvage a deal, and the Chinese delegate saying “no”, over and over again. Monbiot even approvingly quoted the Sudanese delegate Lumumba Di-Aping, who denounced the Copenhagen accord as “a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”.

Sudan behaves at the talks as a puppet of China; one of a number of countries that relieves the Chinese delegation of having to fight its battles in open sessions. It was a perfect stitch-up. China gutted the deal behind the scenes, and then left its proxies to savage it in public…
(22 Dec 2009)

There’s No Negotiating With Nature

Sam Kornell, Miller-McCune
Global warming has recently been subjected to a media blitz, thanks both to the international climate conference in Copenhagen, and the controversy surrounding the online publication of filched e-mails between a number of leading climate scientists.

Lost in the clamor were two new reports, which, in their separate ways, serve to illustrate a gap that has grown up between the physics and politics of climate change. Even as polls indicate slackening concern among Americans about global warming, evidence shows that the greenhouse effect is rapidly intensifying.

The studies in question suggest the enormity of the change the planet is beginning to undergo, but they also demonstrate, by their anonymity, how difficult it seems to be for climate change to capture the public imagination.
In the last decade of climate research, the rate of global warming has consistently matched or outpaced the “worst-case” projections produced by leading climate models. And yet no matter how many studies are published revealing alarming new data, public opinion on the matter seems still to be determined by politics instead of physics.

It is worth remembering, in this light, that while we can negotiate with each other about climate change and what to do – or not do — about it, we cannot negotiate with the climate itself.

The first study was published in the journal Science in late November. Conducted by Japanese and Canadian researchers, and it concerns a seemingly obscure problem: the well-being of shellfish in the Arctic Sea. As early as 1999, scientists warned that one consequence of climate change could be the acidification of ocean water. The ocean absorbs gases from the atmosphere, and close to half of all the carbon dioxide humans have emitted since the beginning of the 19th century has been soaked up by the sea.

…But that projection may have to be sped up. Less than two weeks after the Science study was published, an ominous new report concerning the stability of Antarctic ice upended a widely held assumption in the scientific community….
(18 Dec 2009)

BC Fossil of the Decade Awards

Bill Henderson, The Mud Report
We (BC activists who recognize that climate change is an emergency requiring urgent systemic change) are proud to announce the winners of the coveted fossil of the decade award.
In the great Canadian tradition of climate change denial, obfuscation and inaction few organizations have done so much to keep British Columbians mis-educated about climate change.

As BC’s use of fossil fuels and resulting greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise even as the emerging science paints an ever clearer picture of how tragically serious and humanity threatening climate change will be for our kids and their families, we’d like to honor BC’s BIG ENGOs: David Suzuki Foundation, Pembina, BC Sustainable Energy Association, Sierra Club of BC, POWER UP/ FOREST ETHICS for:…
(20 Dec 2009)

Copenhagen’s failure belongs to Obama

Naomi Klein, the Guardian
Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone’s fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China’s fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.

There’s plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn’t use it. If Barack Obama had come to Copenhagen with a transformative and inspiring commitment to getting the US economy off fossil fuels, all the other major emitters would have stepped up. The EU, Japan, China and India had all indicated that they were willing to increase their levels of commitment, but only if the US took the lead. Instead of leading, Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the heavy emitters of the world took their cue from him.

(The “deal” that was ultimately rammed through was nothing more than a grubby pact between the world’s biggest emitters: I’ll pretend that you are doing something about climate change if you pretend that I am too. Deal? Deal.)

I understand all the arguments about not promising what he can’t deliver, about the dysfunction of the US senate, about the art of the possible. But spare me the lecture about how little power poor Obama has. No president since FDR has been handed as many opportunities to transform the US into something that doesn’t threaten the stability of life on this planet. He has refused to use each and every one of them. Let’s look at the big three.

Blown Opportunity No 1: The Stimulus Package…

…Blown Opportunity No 2: The Auto Bailouts…

…Blown Opportunity No 3: The Bank Bailouts…
(21 Dec 2009)

Clear-Cutting the Truth About Trees

Bernd Heinrich, the New York Times
THE Copenhagen climate-change summit meeting is behind us, and did not achieve what was hoped for. There was no lack of good intentions, but they generated conflicts rather than solutions, and the product was a weak agreement to disagree in the future. Forests were part of the discussion, and several things were understood: carbon dioxide is a potentially world-altering lethal pollutant, fossil fuels are the problem, biofuels are part of the solution. But exactly how to pare down the use of fossil fuels and switch to energy sources derived from plant material? That is the problem.

Biofuels are the indirect use of solar energy packaged into plants by the best solar-panel technology that has ever been invented, and it is far easier to grow green power than to build nuclear plants, dam our waterways and put windmills on our scenic mountaintops. Yet our current plans to shift to green energy — centered on so-called carbon offsets and cap-and-trade systems — are in some applications sorely misguided.

Contrary to what you might hear from energy companies and environmentally conscious celebrities, offsets don’t magically make carbon emissions disappear. Worse, relying on them to stem global warming may devastate our vital forest ecosystems.

On the industrial scale, carbon trading works like this: Limits (caps) are set on carbon emissions so that the true costs of our energy use are not just passed on to our descendants or people in some distant country. As an incentive to help the planet, savings of carbon emissions that one achieves below the designated cap can then be traded, as offsets, to another polluter who can then go over his cap by an equal amount. While carbon credits can be generated by switching to cleaner technology or nonpolluting sources in energy production, they can also be gained by unrelated steps, like planting trees, that are said to deter global warming…
(19 Dec 2009)

Doom and Gloom

Jeremy Brecher, zspace
As world leaders return from Copenhagen without an agreement that will protect the earth’s atmosphere from devastating climate change, we ordinary people are forced to confront not only what we think, but also what we feel.

When I was in elementary school in the early 1950s we had air raid drills. Sirens would sound and we would be instructed to “duck and cover” under our desks. There were plenty of jokes among the kids about our instructions. “In the event of nuclear attack bend over, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.”

Such a blasé attitude concealed the fact that I and my friends, like many of our contemporaries, took it for granted that we were likely to die in a nuclear war. I certainly never expected to live beyond twenty or at most thirty if the pattern of escalating nuclear overkill continued unabated.

A recent late-night TV show joke expressed a similarly blasé attitude about the threat of global warming:

“According to a new U.N. report, the global warming outlook is much worse than originally predicted. Which is pretty bad when they originally predicted it would destroy the planet.”…
(21 Dec 2009)

Mammals May Be Nearly Half Way Toward Mass Extinction

University of California – Berkeley, ScienceDaily
If the planet is headed for another mass extinction like the previous five, each of which wiped out more than 75 percent of all species on the planet, then North American mammals are one-fifth to one-half the way there, according to a University of California, Berkeley, and Pennsylvania State University analysis.

Many scientists warn that the perfect storm of global warming and environmental degradation — both the result of human activity is leading to a sixth mass extinction equal to the “Big Five” that have occurred over the past 450 million years, the last of which killed off the dinosaurs 68 million years ago.

Yet estimates of how dire the current loss of species is have been hampered by the inability to compare species diversity today with the past.

By combining data from three catalogs of mammal diversity in the United States between 30 million years ago and 500 years ago, UC Berkeley and Penn State researchers show that the bulk of mammal extinctions occurred within a few thousand years after the arrival of humans, with losses dropping after that. Although modern humans emerged from Africa into Europe and Asia by about 40,000 years ago, they didn’t reach North American until about 13,000 years ago, and most mammal extinctions occurred in the subsequent 1-2,000 years.
(18 Dec 2009)