Saturday, May 26, 2007

US Fails to Embrace G8 Global Warming Proposals

The Washington Post reports that the environmental organization Greenpeace has leaked a document showing that the US is fundamentally opposed to proposals made by Germany to combat global warming which would involve timetables and targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The proposals by Germany are being made to secure an agreement at the G8 summit which will be held on June 6 to 8 in Heiligendamm, Germany. The US opposition is hardly surprising. The Bush administration has almost always seemed more interested in following its extreme conservative ideology than in solving problems. Ideological triumph appears to be its ultimate objective. The disasters of Iraq and Katrina and the looming disaster of climate change do not seem to matter. What does matter is gutting government regulations and spreading unfettered capitalism. It seems clear that we will have to wait for 2009 until any real action is taken on the international level to fight global warming, however, with the window of opportunity rapidly closing based on the latest scientific findings even that might be too late.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Has a Key Global Warming Tipping Point Already Been Passed?

An explanation by climate scientists of why carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have recently been spiking suggests that global warming is now reducing the ability of the environment to absorb carbon dioxide from human sources. An article in The Sydney Morning Herald says that scientists have been fearing that increasing temperatures could reduce carbon absorption by the environment. If this tipping point has in fact been reached, then even the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which said that reduction of carbon emissions must begin globally no later than 2015 to avoid catastrophic climate change (see previous post) may need to be revised to an even more pessimistic conclusion. The research team, which published their findings in Geophysical Research Letters, studied the spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during 2002 to 2003. The scientists found that the only explanation for the spike was that because of unusual conditions of heat and dryness plants took up less carbon dioxide that they normally do. So, is unstoppable global warming already here? Perhaps that might be the next inconvenient truth.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Only About Three Thousand Days Left to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that time is quickly running out to take effective action against global warming. According to the Guardian, “The report said global emissions must peak by 2015 for the world to have any chance of limiting the expected temperature rise to 2 C, which would still leave billions of people short of water by 2050.” That’s eight years or about 100 months or approximately 3000 days. The consequences of global warming are expected to be catastrophic if the 2 C limit is exceeded. Not much time to go from annual global increases of greenhouse gas emissions to annual reductions. Perhaps naming a specific year by which the U turn must occur will help. Nothing like a tight deadline to get people’s attention. Nevertheless, most factors point to continued increases of greenhouse gas emissions globally for decades to come: increasing populations; spreading affluence in the developing world; reluctance of the US, China, and India to agree to any mandatory cap on emissions; the abundance of coal as a cheap source of energy; the ability of large oil and coal companies to protect their profits regardless of the environmental consequences; the energy inefficiency that has been built into the way of life in the US; etc. It may still be too early to throw in the towel. The political dynamics could be changed by next US election in November of 2008. Perhaps when the election results become clear it will be time to head for the linen closet.