Saturday, June 30, 2007

Dem Debaters Don’t Dwell on Global Warming

Nobody expected global warming to be a main topic at the recent debate by Democratic presidential candidates held at Howard University but in retrospect it seems surprising that so little was said about it. Major problems such as the war in Iraq, an inadequate health care system, inequalities in education were, and discrimination against blacks were addressed in depth but global warming was not. It is particularly surprising that none of the debaters mentioned global warming when the topic turned to helping Africa. The reports on climate change indicate that the adverse consequences will be felt most severely in Africa and Asia, particularly among the poor with Africa seemingly in line to take the hardest hit. Not even, Mike Gravel, the former senator from Alaska, who seemed to stray quite far from the more conventional views did not say anything about how global warming needs to be addressed to prevent catastrophe in Africa. If Al Gore had been one of the debaters it is hard to imagine that global warming would have gotten so little attention. At least next Saturday at the Live Earth concerts he will have his chance to tell everyone about the need to fight global warming to save Africa and all of the other continents.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

China Zips Past the US as Number One Carbon Dioxide Emitter

After all the speculation about when China would pass the US in emissions of carbon dioxide, this year, or in 2008, or later, it turns out that China has already attained the dubious distinction as the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide according to an article in the Guardian. It was the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency which came up with this surprising finding. The calculations show that China actually outdid the US in carbon dioxide emissions last year by a whopping 8%. A scientist from the agency in the Netherlands said that the difference in carbon dioxide emissions between China and the US was so great in 2006 that almost surely China also took the lead as the number one greenhouse gas emitter. There it is, we have a new champ. Of course on a per capita basis China isn’t close to the US in pumping out greenhouse gases. The US quadruples China. No contest. Now that the China has passed the US in carbon dioxide emissions the prognosticators can turn their attention to India. In what year will India pass the US? Let the guessing begin.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Carbon Offsets Are Offsetting More Guilt than Carbon

An investigative report in the Guardian continues to strip away the claims about the benefis that have been touted for carbon offsets. According to the report very little carbon has actually been offset for two reasons:

“First, these schemes are unregulated and wide open to fraud.”

“Second…even the most well-intentioned schemes suffer from basic weaknesses in the idea of carbon offsetting - an idea which flows not from environmentalists and climate scientists trying to design a way to reverse global warming but from politicians and business executives trying to meet the demands for action while preserving the commercial status quo.”

It seems likely that no matter how little is actually accomplished by carbon offsets people will continue to buy offsets because it makes one feel like one is doing something about global warming. The main contribution of carbon offsets might be to make money for both those who are honest and have the best intentions and those who are ethically challenged and simply out to make a quick buck. There are of course many other methods available to fight global warming but whether they will be employed in time on a wide enough basis seems at the moment very uncertain.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

China and India Say No Thank You to G8 Climate Deal

According to an article on the website both China and India have rejected the G8 climate change deal in which it was inferred that when negotiations on specifics of greenhouse gas reductions take place developing countries would be included. Responses from leaders in China and India imply that these two highly populated countries expect to work more in tandem on climate change and want the developed countries to go first. The developed countries should have already gone first. The potential threat of global warming was well understood in the 1980s and became more clear in the early 1990s with the first report was issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The US should have taken the lead back then, but instead did nothing. So here we are in 2007 with China and India, now with booming economies that are churning out greenhouse gases at an alarming rate, saying that the developed countries should take the lead and the developed countries saying that the developing countries must be included. Basically we seem to have a circle of statements going nowhere.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Validity of Kyoto Carbon Savings Questioned

A report in the Guardian says that “The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is supposed to offset greenhouse gases emitted in the developed world by selling carbon credits from elsewhere, has been contaminated by gross incompetence, rule-breaking and possible fraud by companies in the developing world….” The CDM is one of the main ways being used by countries trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to reach the targets set under the Kyoto Protocol. According to the Guardian report UN paperwork indicated the following:

Most of the concern is around the crucial CDM test of "additionality" - proof that a project is delivering cuts in greenhouse gases that would not otherwise have happened. In an unpublished report, one of the CDM board's expert advisers, Axel Michaelowa, examined all 52 Indian projects which had been registered up to May 2006 and found that a third of them failed this additionality test.
Mr Michaelowa found evidence of projects supplying false information which was then accepted by the companies who were supposed to check it. In one case cited in the report, he accuses an Indian company of making statements which were "blatantly false". Despite his protests, that scheme was approved.

There are enough obstacles to achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions on a scale sufficient to prevent catastrophic climate change without integrity being a major problem. Add concerns about integrity of the process and hopes for success grow that much dimmer. Maybe the first step in solving the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions should be figuring out a way to reduce human greed. Bring on the psychologists.