Friday, 4 April 2014

The impacts of climate change are “severe, pervasive and irreversible” says the latest assessment from the IPCC.

Following on from the International Panel on Climate Change's report, the New Economics Forum asks the question:

Energy round-up: a climate change wake-up call?

Photo credit:   Bryan Burke

Three things you shouldn't miss this week

  1. The global impact of climate change in recent decades: 

    Source: IPCC
  2. Export Stupidity – on a net basis, the US actually has no oil or gas to export.
  3. Stormy weather leads to record levels of renewable electricity - renewables generated almost 18 per cent of the UK's electricity in the last three months of 2013, with high wind speeds ramping up wind generation.
The impacts of climate change are “severe, pervasive and irreversible” says the latest assessment from the IPCC. Global energy policy is directly responsible for growing risks around water and food security, species loss, ocean acidification and violent conflict. In the words of US Secretary of State John Kerry, the cost of inaction is “catastrophic”.
But despite the unequivocal warnings, current economic priorities continue to trump global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The IMF estimates that poor countries need $100 billion to offset the effects of climate change, yet this figure was removed from the policymakers’ IPCC summary at the last minute due to lobbying by richer nations afraid of footing the bill. Oil and gas giant Exxon Mobil thinks it has nothing to worry about: in a report to shareholders the company claimed emissions reductions of 80 percent by 2050 were "highly unlikely", and denied any of its reserves would end up as unburnable ‘stranded assets’.
This contradiction is also apparent in UK energy policy. On the one hand the Prime Minister sees climate change as man-made and “one of the most serious threats that this country and this world faces”, while on the other the possibility of a new fossil fuel boom based on shale gas appears to be politically irresistible. The latest argument for fracking is greater energy independence from Russia – David Cameron described tensions over Ukraine as a “wake up call” and sees fracking as a “duty”.
Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, in the light of the Ukraine crisis, was high on the agenda during President Obama's visit to Europe last week. The President was supportive of the possibility of lifting US oil and gas export restrictions, in place since the 1970s. His support was however linked to the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal currently under negotiation between the US and the EU, a deal which aims to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. There are serious concerns that, if approved, such a deal could weaken European environmental regulations, while also handing corporations greater power to challenge national governments over measures including climate legislation and fracking regulations. 
Back in the UK, some communities are taking matters into their own hands. Balcombe has become a symbol of the movement against fracking and last week the residents of this small Sussex village went from resisting an imposed centralised energy system to taking action for a positive alternative. A new clean-energy co-operative, REPOWERBalcombe, aims to build enough community-owned solar power to match the electricity needs of all 760 homes in the village within 2 years. There’s a choice to be made, and Balcombe is making it.
Energy round-up: a climate change wake-up call? | new economics foundation

From the Rural Information Network:

Briefing 1950 
Climate Change 2013 - the science 


Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased. Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system. Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. 

This paper is taken from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, “Climate Change 2013 - the physical science basis, Headline Statements from the Summary for Policymakers”


And from The Nation magazine:

By the Way, Your Home Is On Fire

Smoke rises out of factories in Thailand’s Chonburi province. (AP Photo/Sukree Sukplang)
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.
How do you convince someone who is stubbornly avoiding looking at the flames that the house is on fire?
An extraordinary new report tells us that ninety corporations and states are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all the carbon emissions that have changed our climate and our world since 1751. Chevron alone is responsible for 3.52 percent of that total, ExxonMobil for 3.22 percent and BP for 2.24 percent. China since 1751 is responsible for 8.56 percent—less, that is, than those three  petroleum giants. It’s true that they produced that energy, rather than (for the most part) consuming it, but at this point we need to address the producers.
The most terrifying thing about the study by Richard Heede of Climate Mitigation Services in Colorado, and the chart of his data that Duncan Clark and Kiln, a data-visualization firm, made for the Guardian is that 63 percent of all human-generated carbon emissions have been produced in  the past 25 years; that is, nearly two-thirds have been emitted since the first warnings were sounded about what was then called “global warming” and the need to stop or scale back. 
It’s important to note, as so many have, that it’s we in the global north and the rich countries for whom most of that fuel has been burned. And it’s important to note as well (though fewer have) that, according to the opinion polls, a majority of individuals north and south, even in our own oil empire, are willing to change in response to this grim fact. It’s the giant energy corporations and the governments in their thrall (when they’re not outright oil regimes) that are stalling and refusing, as we saw when a meaningful climate compact was sabotaged in Copenhagen in late 2009. Copenhagen: Things Fall Apart and an Uncertain Future Looms by Bill McKibben: Yale Environment 360; How Companies Anonymously Influence Climate Policy | Oil Change International
The most stunning thing about that chart illustrating Heede’s study is that it makes what can seem like an overwhelming and amorphous problem specific and addressable: here are the ninety top entities pumping carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere. With its own list of the 200 biggest fossil fuel corporations, the divestment movement is doing something similar. Next comes the hard part: getting universities, cities, states, pension funds and other financial entities to actually divest. They often like to suggest that it’s an impossible or crazy or wildly difficult and risky move, though fund managers shuffle their funds around all the time for other reasons.
The curious thing about fossil fuel divestment is that many highly qualified financial analysts and, as of last week, the British parliament’s environmental audit committee suggest that such investments are volatile, unsafe and could crash in the fairly near future. They focus on the much discussed carbon bubble and its potential for creating stranded assets. So there’s a strong argument for divestment simply as a matter of fiscal (rather than planetary) prudence.

See also:
Futures Forum: The national press and the IPCC report... and Climate Change
Futures Forum: "In fact, climate forecasts are actually outperforming many of the key economic forecasts cited by government departments and journalists."
Futures Forum: Fracking: the contradictory messages coming out of governments
Futures Forum: Balcombe: making a community self-sufficient in electricity

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