Scientists agree that human activity causes a rise in both average world temperatures and the occurrence of extreme weather events. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, rich countries have emitted the overwhelming share of the greenhouse gases causing the earth's atmosphere to warm. Yet the world's poor are first and hardest hit by the consequences of climate change. Many countries have already experienced deadly droughts and floods. And climate-induced natural disasters have displaced hundreds of thousands of people across the world, while global fresh water resources become increasingly scarce.
|Picture Credit: BB
Although both renewable energy alternatives and energy efficiency technologies are widely available, governments hesitate to take serious and immediate action, and continue allowing wasteful use of fossil fuels in energy consumption. Under the Kyoto protocol, countries have committed to specific emissions reduction targets by 2012. But reductions under the present protocol are far too small and the world's largest emitter, the US, remains outside the agreement. A globally coordinated response with the participation of both the US and the large fast-growing economies of China and India is necessary to prevent a disaster that will significantly reduce human well-being and could cause massive species extinction and a collapse of the global ecosystem. At the UN Climate Change Conference in Nairobi in 2006, governments agreed to begin negotiations on a successor to the Kyoto protocol in 2008.
GPF Perspective |Articles
GPF Associate Kate Porter interviews H.E. Ambassador Pablo Solón about the Cochabamba World People's Conference and the global power structures of climate governance that have historically limited democratic decision making on climate change.
Global Policy Forum and International Catholic Organizations Information Center organized a two-part event on global warming. After a screening of Al Gore's film, "An Inconvenient Truth," three panelists – Michael Renner from Worldwatch Institute, Mohammad Reza Salamat from DESA, United Nations and James Tripp, General Counsel at Environmental Defense – discussed global climate change and steps to address it.
2013 | 2012 | 2011 |2010 | 2009 |2008 | 2007 | Archived Articles
A new report published by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and Transnational Institute (TNI) highlights the web of corporate lobbying and industry capture of COP19, the yearly UN climate negotiations, taking place in Warsaw, 11-22 November 2013. The guide exposes the eleven official corporate partners of the conference, takes a look at some of the other influential Polish lobbies, and examines an extensive list of the lobby groups attending the COP. It also covers the false solutions that are being offered up by these corporate lobbies, such as shale gas, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon markets. (CEO)
As the World Meteorological Organization gathers to prepare a drought policy framework for countries to adapt and implement, there is a growing consensus that effective drought management needs to adopt a multi-sectoral approach. National policies must take into account the impacts on multiple sectors including agriculture, health, the economy, and society as well as account for strengthening capacity at the local level. Today, many countries still deal with drought in a reactive manner and policies can help effectively minimize those impacts. Drought management is considered to be similar to sustainable development as it involves the sustainable use of land, water, etc, and policy planning must adopt a similar approach. Today, drought is the most destructive natural hazard and its frequency and intensity is expected to increase in the coming decades. (IRIN)
The way international aid agencies design disaster intervention programs is criticized for largely ignoring the most valuable source of expertise-affected rural communities. Since interventions are often ad-hoc and information dissemination to isolated communities is poor, communities are unable to plan for the long term. The Partners for Resilience coalition, however, works specifically with local stakeholders to create a set of minimal standards for disaster risk reduction, enabling them to forge relationships with meteorological agencies, interpret early warning signals and communicate needs with their local governments. Meanwhile, the “ACCRA” partnership works to strengthen knowledge dissemination on climate forecasts and related shocks like food prices and population growth to local communities. These NGOs act as a model for more needs-based adaptation programs and community empowerment in future adaptation efforts. (IRIN)
Several low-lying island nations recently appealed to the UN Security Council to address the security implications of climate change as part of their agenda. Tony deBrum, representative of the Marshall Islands, expressed the need for greater political support for helping small island nations cope with existing threats such as coastal erosion, food and water shortages. Some like Russia and China do not consider the Council to be an appropriate channel for addressing climate change implications. However, climate change does raise future security concerns in terms of the economy, food security and migration as people migrating from the Marshal Islands to neighboring Australia and island countries. The Pakistani UN ambassador stressed the need for a precautionary approach in addressing this security implication, rather than ad-hoc measures. His view echoes the existing lack of political leadership needed to effectively address other environmental and social implications from climate change. (Huffington Post)
The UN is looking for ways to involve the private sector in climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Supporters of this strategy stress that business can contribute a large part of the $100 billion a year in climate finance required by 2020, as financing from governments is faltering. Currently, private sector investment focuses mostly on clean technology projects. The UN is promoting “public-private partnerships” that would also look into adaptation for countries already experiencing the effects of climate change. Critics, however, argue that such schemes obscure business practices that contribute to climate change to begin with. In addition, relying on the private sector for alternative financing does not address why governments’ declining revenues prevent them from contributing to climate finance, or why they choose to not sufficiently fund this area. (Alert Net)
The EU’s carbon market is currently suffering from an oversupply of carbon credits, which dropped in price from 30 Euros in 2008 to just 4 Euros today. Designed to incentivize industries to shift to low-emission operations, the scheme is failing to achieve emissions reductions because of these devalued carbon credits. Furthermore, while the scheme was considered as the quickest means of generating climate funds, of all participating countries only Germany has since pledged 1.8 billion Euros to the UN Green Climate Fund. Furthermore, German funding may be at risk since pledges were based on a carbon pricing of 10 Euros, which has since dropped. Repeated problems with the EU’s market-based scheme highlight the need for international support to reach an agreement on reducing carbon emissions through polluter taxes and removal of fossil fuel subsidies. (AlertNet)
As negotiations on a new global climate deal continue, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres stresses that progress post-Kyoto depends on domestic climate legislation. Governments are reluctant to take steps nationally for converting to a low carbon economy from fear of having an unfair competitive advantage compared to countries pursuing “business-as-usual”. However, creating national policies promoting alternative energy can help build support in the international community and change governments’ approach in future climate change negotiations. Yet, “clean energy” alone cannot solve climate change and efforts to address current trends in energy demands must continue at both a domestic and international level. (The Guardian)
The Green Climate Fund was launched at the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference held in Durban, South Africa. The fund is still empty although it is due to begin dispensing money in 2013 to help developing countries cope with climate change. Rich industrialized countries have failed to deliver on their financial pledges, and the issue is expected to be back on the table during the last few remaining days of the 2012 UN Climate Change Conference in Doha. Rich countries are withholding pledges to fund the Green Climate Fund to see what concessions they can get from developing countries. The outcome of the conference will not be successful if industrialized countries do not put their geopolitical interests aside. (IPS
The 2012 World Energy Outlook report provides a grave depiction of our energy future. It mainly focuses on the positive that advances in drilling technology will increase US oil production to make it the largest producer by 2020. However, it is the result of a simultaneous production decline from tradition markets like Saudi Arabia and Russia. Thus, energy security remains a key issue especially since the report predicts growth in demand. Furthermore, future increase in renewable energy will be insignificant thus continuing the dependency on fossil fuels. More importantly, the report alludes to a 3.6 °C increase in long term average global temperature even with drastic measures to curb greenhouse gases. Thus, creating resiliency on both energy projections and climate change is the current global dilemma. Focusing efforts on reducing energy demands is ultimately more favorable due to the slow increase in clean energy. (Huffington Post)
The Climate Change Conference held in Qatar this year generated a lot of comment on what Gulf states are doing about climate change. Ironically the host country itself is the highest per capita carbon emitter in the world, while the US and China remain the biggest emitters in absolute terms. Gulf governments have not signed up to binding emissions cuts under the new commitments. Some Gulf countries such as the UAE have made significant progress with renewable energy projects. But these oil exporters generally are part of the problem. (Aljazeera)
This article by Paul Rosenberg examines the points made in the report Severe Weather in North America: Perils · Risks · Insurance by the German based reinsurance company, Munich Re. This report shows that climate-related natural disasters have cost over $1 trillion in the past 20 years, a sum which is in part covered by the insurance industry. Munich Re concluded that insurance companies have a clean interest in mitigating climate change. According to Rosenberg, this shows that while the corporate media habitually frames the environment and the economy in opposition to one another, the insurance industry generally and reinsurers in particular reflect the deeper reality that the economy and the environment are deeply intertwined with one another. The number of global natural disasters is on the rise. While presenting climate change in an economic frame through a cost calculus may make policymakers more aware of the problem, it leads to a dangerous process of putting a price tag on life and the environment. Furthermore, this ignores that those disproportionately affected by climate change will not be the businesses in the North. The cost of climate change to the global south cannot be nearly as easily mitigated as in North America. (Aljazeera)
Food production represents 29 percent of the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming. Two reports released in Copenhagen by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) confirmed this. A Q&A with the authors of these reports revealed that the emissions footprint of food production involves the combined emissions of all the stages of food production (manufacture of inputs like fertilizers, agriculture itself, food distribution and sales, and managing of food waste). The reports emphasize that the impacts of climate change with regards to food security will fall disproportionately on the people in developing countries, even when these people contribute very little to the global footprint. To reduce emissions, there must be new methods of food production as well as new food consumption patterns. (IPS
Extreme weather conditions in Sri-Lanka are affecting the country’s poor and deepening their struggle against poverty and hunger. Sri Lanka is suffering from the effects of climate change, as the weather swings from flooding to droughts. Floods in the beginning of 2011 destroyed over 16,000 hectares of paddy fields and around ten percent of the early harvest and were followed by severe drought for most of 2012. This unpredictability is threatening farmers’ harvests and livelihood, increasing food and water insecurity. Flash flooding also endangers the homes of the country’s poorest, many of whom live in slums on precarious land. (IPS)
The Emissions Gap report 2012 by the UN Environment Programme was released just days ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference, currently taking place in Doha, Qatar. The report confirmed that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is growing, and that emissions levels, driven by the burning of fossil fuels, must come down by 14% by 2020 for the world to reach a pathway that could keep the global temperature rise below 2C. If a serious action plan is not drawn up at the conference by the biggest emitters, dangerous consequences such as rising sea levels inundating coastal cities, dramatic shifts in rainfall, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species will follow. (Associated Press)
This blog post by the chair of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) group at the UN climate change negotiations highlights some of the fundamental problems related to climate change negotiations. Firstly, a handful of the most developed countries contribute 42% to the global carbon emissions and suffer the least consequences. Ironically, LDCs that contribute the least are eventually the hardest hit. Secondly, in 2010 the most developed countries spent over $400bn subsidizing fossil fuel industries, but directed only $1.5bn to help developing countries adapt to a changing climate. “They gave the main contributors to human-caused climate change more than 250 times the support they offered those whom it harms most.” This article calls for adequate funding for LDCs for climate change adaptations as promised in Copenhagen in 2009. (Guardian)
A study reveals that the collapse of sardine fisheries in the south Caribbean may be linked to climate change. Overfishing and reducing levels of plankton (food source of the sardine) are believed to be the reasons behind the collapse of these fisheries by as much as 87%. Although the research is not comprehensive enough to affirm whether the climate change affecting the fisheries was caused by humans, the socio-economic consequences of long term trends in climate change cannot be discounted. (Guardian)
Hurricane Sandy has brought the topic of climate change back to the table. Although both US presidential candidates avoided speaking out about their policy for climate change during the televised debates, current events prove that it “is no longer a distant threat, but a present day danger.” The seriousness of the issue was felt by millions of Americans this week as it caused property damage amounting to billions of dollars. The aftermath of the storm shows clearly how decisions such as “dirty energy” bring “dirty weather”, and the policy stance taken by the candidates will have considerable impact on the impending election. (Guardian)
George Monbiot argues that climate models predicting average warming trends are in fact masking wide weather extremes. These extremes, like the recent droughts in the US and Russia, will be increasingly reoccurring. Climate models that ignore extreme weather events can have severe consequences. While climate change is likely to be devastating for many of the world’s poor, these conditions can threaten food production in the north.The effects of global warming in the north might result in a rapid worsening of the global food crisis. (Guardian)
As UN talks on climate change conclude in Bangkok with mixed feelings on financial commitments and an extension of the Kyoto Protocol, Oxfam’s latest report sheds light on just how big an impact climate change is predicted to have on global food prices. Even under a conservative assessment, another US drought in 2030 could see a rise in the price of maize by up to a whopping 140% on top of a predicted doubling of current prices. Similar harsh increases in the price of grains such as rice have been forecasted for Africa and South East Asia. Uncertain weather conditions, such as rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns, will put a hold on crop production and trigger a steady increase in food prices. The effect of escalating prices on the world’s poorest, who spend a majority of their household income on food, will be disproportionate. The UN Climate Change Conference in Doha in November 2012 is meant to fill the gaps in international policy response to climate change, but a favorable outcome is unlikely. (The Guardian)
As the UN meeting in Thailand aims to agree on a work plan towards signing a new climate pact in 2015, finance will be a determining factor. The pact would force all nations to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases starting in 2020. This meeting aims to reach an agreement on whether all countries should have equal goals in reducing emissions. Finance will be key in these talks. No money has been pledged for climate finance for 2013, and up to 90 percent of the finance provided in 2010-2012 consisted of pre-existing foreign aid packages. The US, Japan, and the EU will come under pressure, especially from small island states, to pledge billions of dollars a year to help the world’s poorest nations fight climate change. (Reuters)
Shortly before the deadlocked EU vote on labeling oil from Canada's tar sands as "highly polluting," Friends of the Earth Europe got hold of letters in which the Canadian government threatened the European Commission with trade sanctions if it went ahead with its plans. The Canadian government (with the coveted aid of oil lobbyists and the British government) has continually undermined efforts to combat climate change and argues that EU-labeling would be scientifically baseless. The European Commission disputes these charges and maintains, in line with scientific consensus, that "tar sands fuels are high emission fuels." In fact, according to Nasa climate scientist James Hansen, full development of the tar sands would mean "game over" for the climate. (Guardian)
DeSmogBlog, a site that keeps track of global warming misinformation campaigns, has released leaked confidential documents that expose the inner workings of the Heartland Institute – a right-libertarian organization that actively discredits established climate science. The documents reveal that the institute redirects funds from major supporters like Microsoft, Koch Industries and RJR Tobacco to influential bloggers, lobbyists and “scientists” to create an “alternative reality on climate science.” Among its now disclosed plans is a $100.000 scheme to develop a misleading curriculum on climate change for US schoolchildren. (Guardian)
Scarcely one-third of the US population believes that there is a scientific consensus on the threat of global warming and the need for urgent action on climate change. In this op-ed piece, Noam Chomsky explains why he believes this to be so. First, in 2009 US energy industries launched major campaigns casting doubts on the severity of human-induced global warming. Second, by adhering to what is referred to as ‘balanced’ reporting, US media presents the arguments of the overwhelming majority of scientists on one side and the global warming denialists on the other as if they had equal weight. If global warming is to be contained, public perception on its severity needs to change. (The New York Times Syndicate)
The US political right has campaigned fervently and, according to polls, successfully, to frame climate change as an anti-capitalist conspiracy that will lead to economic self-destruction. The right-wing’s nefarious success, notes author Naomi Klein, is ultimately not based on the exploitation of feigned scientific disagreement, but on the image of impending economic doom. The populist strategy’s success contains the unintended, yet valuable, lesson that climate change is not really about nature in the first place. It is rather about “the central fiction on which our economic model is based: that nature is limitless.” According to Klein, “the climate movement” should now take advantage of the globally vehement questioning of capitalism. We must develop a new “civilizational paradigm” that looks beyond “green products” and market-led solutions. (Pambazuka News)
A silent tragedy, outshone in the media by other news stories, has been rapidly unfolding over the past weeks in the Arctic: the rapid disappearance of the polar icecap. The long term consequences of the Arctic’s meltdown will far outlast the impact of the international debt crisis. Sea levels will rise with the melting of the Greenland Ice sheet, and global warming will be exacerbated by the loss of ice as a giant mirror to reflect solar heat back into space. The Arctic’s silent drama should serve as a warning sign for what will happen if “we” – that is, the world’s inhabitants – do not succeed in curbing down our greenhouse-gas emissions decisively. (Project Syndicate)
The UN has declared parts of Somalia to be in famine; a direct effect of the most recent drought that has taken hold of the Horn of Africa. According to journalist John Vidal, climate change is however only partly to blame for the ensuing humanitarian disaster. Decades of wars, including the US’ ‘War on Terror’, have stripped people of their assets and abilities to secure a decent standard of living. Causes of the current situation have had foreseeable consequences and now command that Britain, the EU, the US and Japan help the people of the Somali Peninsula to adapt to the changing and ever-harsher conditions, says Vidal. (The Guardian)
Despite great achievements of material welfare, existing models of economic growth and production have had devastating and lasting effects on the environment. A new UN report adamantly argues for a global transition towards a “green economy” in order to avoid further ecological destruction and secure fairer distribution of opportunity and welfare amongst countries. The idea of a “green economy” is in line with “sustainable development” yet strays from familiar ideas of economic growth and demands unprecedented levels of technological innovation, investment and global cooperation. If all goals are to be met by the set deadline of 2050, nothing short of a “fundamental technological overhaul” will be necessary. (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs)
In July 2011, over 200 academics convened at the Nature Inc. conference that focused on the consistent resort to market-led solutions for environmental problems by the world’s major governance bodies. According to the conference’s co-organizer, Bram Buescher, the promotion of “green capitalism” as an alternative to traditional capitalism is misleading and irresponsible. Buescher acknowledges the need for innovation in order to counter ecological disaster, but believes that markets are ill-equipped to process and provide the necessary information. Capitalist markets, based on inequality and championed by self-interested rent-seekers, do more harm than good. (IPS)
The European Union’s new plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the airline industry by imposing a cap-and-trade scheme on emissions from airlines flying in and out of the continent has met with intense resistance from US airlines. While the EU claims the measure will incentivize airlines to switch to more energy efficient practices and will have little impact on airline prices, US airlines claim that it will affect non-EU airlines practices even when they are outside EU airspace, violating the international sovereignty of third countries over their airspace. China has already threatened to decrease its business with EU aviation if the emissions caps are applied, proving that international climate change solutions are complicated by political and economic factors. (Associated Press)
Michael Klare, author of Blood and Oil, highlights that the global energy crisis is worsening. Since the beginning of 2011, population demonstrations across the Middle East have indirectly caused an increase in oil prices, the crisis in Japan has put the safety of nuclear power into question, droughts have reduced the amount of energy produced by hydroelectric power, and critics have challenged fracking as a means of extracting natural gas. As Klare points out, the need to obtain more energy is causing irreversible harm to the planet and contributing to climate change. (Tom's Dispatch)
The UNEP has released a report that highlights developing countries enhanced position, vis-à-vis industrialized nations, to take advantage of the green economy. UNEP policy analysts believe that the labor-intensive, low-carbon models already in place across the South are crucial for future “greening” programs. While it is true that these models are more sustainable, they are also the reason why developing countries remain much poorer, an element of the report that is overlooked. (UN News Service)
The world’s tropical forests, home to the most delicate and versatile life on the planet, are being adversely impacted by climate change. As global temperatures rise tropical rain forests are likely to see massive die off in critical species, increases in incidence of disease, and a progressive “drying out.” Because the rate of temperature change is far steeper than in past warming cycles, it remains unclear whether fragile ecosystems will have time to adapt to a warmer world. (Yale Environment 360)
The Horn of Africa is in the midst of the worse drought in 20 years. The problem is especially acute in Somalia where millions of people have been put at risk from food shortages linked to mass deaths of livestock. With no rains, this year’s harvest will suffer, further exacerbating the situation. Global climate change studies have forecast the region will become drier in the future. (New York Times)
Studies show that CO2 emissions have been ‘hidden’ through increased reliance on imported goods in developed countries. So-called embedded emissions conceal national emissions and negate carbon cuts that have been enacted in many countries. Governments in search of greenery should account for hidden emissions, and include them in policy reforms. (BBC News)
The EU has released a new transport plan which outlines a sweeping set of goals to achieve by the year 2050. The plan hopes to curb dependence on fossil fuels, while cutting carbon emissions, by moving cars that rely on petrol out of city centers, and by substituting air travel for rail at intermediate distances. This will require huge investments in infrastructure to ensure that people’s mobility is preserved. (The Independent)
The oil-bearing shrub, jatropha, is sometimes promoted as an alternative and "green" source of biofuel. A UN study in 2010 found that the shrub was useful as a bio-energy crop for cultivation by small-scale farmers. However a new report by non-governmental organizations says that planting jatropha emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, due to the clearing of forests to make room for the crop. (IRIN)
The hottest decade on record has just ended. Climate change is real. This interview with Naomi Klein discusses the polarized political debates influencing people in countries like the US, Australia and the UK. More people now believe that humans do not cause climate change. To effectively reverse the impact of climate change means changing the free trade agenda, localizing economies and implementing an energy-efficient trade system which threatens right-wing politics. People fighting for economic justice and environmental justice should work together and find solutions to the climate crisis. (Alternet)
Political leaders of the world have the power to ensure protection of the environment for future generations. In this article, the former Prime Minister of Norway, who is also the Special Envoy on Climate Change for the UN Secretary-General, suggest three approaches to ensure our long-term survival. Firstly, leaders should base policies on sound scientific knowledge. Secondly, leaders should seek global cooperation to counter the challenge of climate change. Finally, governments should aim for national and global redistribution to enable a global, sustainable and low carbon economy. (World Resources Report)
Exploitative fishing, pollution and climate change endanger coral reefs, which provide a living for more than 275 million people. A report by the World Resources Institute calls for greater protection of coral reefs to avoid their complete destruction in 50 years. Researchers say that societies most affected include those where much of the population depends on reefs for their livelihood, and those with low adaption capabilities. The South East Asian region needs the most protection, with 95% of reefs on the threatened list. (BBC)
The United Nations Environmental Programme released a report on investments that will facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy. The report found that it would cost only 2 percent of total global GDP (about $1.3 trillion) each year to transform the world economy to a clean one. The proposals include removing subsidies to firms, equal to $600 billion a year, to the largest greenhouse gas emitters. Such efforts would pioneer a new logic for future prosperity that would allow for enduring and reasonable growth for generations to come. (BBC)
Humans have caught and consumed over 65 per cent of all large fish species in the last 100 years. Experts say that this ecological imbalance will forever change the oceans, with only small fish such as sardines and anchovies thriving in future decades. Overfishing in East Asia is problematic since almost 50 percent of the increase in the world's fish consumption for food comes from that region. The UN Environment program says international organizations and governments should regulate number of fishing boats and the days they fish in order to stabilize fish populations. (The Washington Post)
The Danish shipping firm Maersk has placed an order for the largest container ships ever constructed. Maersk claims that the sheer size of the vessels will create dramatic cuts in carbon emissions because of efficiency related gains. Officials from the company claim that emissions per container will fall by half. Yet, due to their colossal size, these ships yield far more emissions than their predecessors in absolute terms, a fact notably absent from the Maersk media blitz promoting the large freighters. (The Guardian)
The Arguan Valley in Honduras is a rich agricultural center with numerous African palm plantations. Many of the palm tree farms are receiving subsidies from the UN and other international organizations, as they theoretically reduce carbon emissions. Violent clashes between peasant organizations and the landowning companies in the valley have been escalating recently as they compete for the land. (Alter Net)
The drought that struck Brazil in 2010 has caused a record number of trees to die across the Amazon. The world's largest rain forest soaks up more than one-quarter of the planet's atmospheric carbon. Scientists fear that the massive tree extinction signals a turn from "carbon sink" to "carbon source," which would accelerate global warming. Concerns are mounting that this is yet another indicator that the planet is reaching a "tipping point" in the escalation of climate change. (The Guardian)
The Republican victory in US elections last November presents a major threat to the international committee responsible for tracking climate change. Republican leaders have proposed a budget that would "defund" the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Despite overwhelming evidence suggesting that climate change poses a substantial threat to our planet, Republicans continue to refute hard science and remain in denial. (Union of Concerned Scientists)
Scientists have for years overlooked a major energy resource: wastewater. Climate change and peak-oil are driving new, innovative approaches in power generation. Wastewater has the potential to produce significant amounts of renewable energy and may play a future role in replacing fossil fuels. (Scientific American)
Biodiversity loss poses a significant threat to the planet unless immediate action is taken. COP-10 discussions have been captured by powerful corporate interests who have resolved that market-based solutions are best to fix the problem. But, market mechanisms fail to eliminate the profit motive, which is the primary driver of biodiversity loss. In order to turn the tide on this issue, an alternate economic system is required. (Z Magazine)
Changes in climate are increasing crops prices and raising concerns about global food supplies. Rising temperatures have reduced yields in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, which affecting the world's food market. This could mean still higher food prices and wider hunger. Changing weather is also affecting farmers' expectations. Martin Lorenzo, a subcontractor northern in Buenos Aires says that some farmers have not had enough rain to plant their soybean crops. Some farmers have already given up on their corn crops and allowed cattle to graze in the fields instead. (The Wall Street Journal)
At Cancún governments failed to deal with some of the most pressing challenges that global warming presents. Rich nations have promised to develop a fund by 2020 that will assist poorer countries transition towards clean technology and low-carbon economies. Questions remain about how and where these funds will come from, and how they will be distributed. (Mother Jones)
The Cancun Climate summit, COP 16, resulted in the Cancun Agreement. This accord confirmed a commitment to emissions reductions by developed and developing nations and established a climate fund, but no new funding. The Agreement also created avenues for the transfer of technology; and set up processes to try and ensure transparent reporting and monitoring. Whilst the Cancun Agreement does make progress on addressing climate change issues, the lack of ambition and commitment of key countries is unsatisfactory. Industrialized countries have already used their fair share of the world's carbon emissions - future emissions should be allocated to developing countries. (AlterNet)
UN agencies should work together to respond to the challenge of climate change. The competition for limited funds has hampered UN agencies from taking collaborative action to assist countries in developing climate change programmes. Country Director of the World Food Program in Uganda, Stanlake Samkange, says that proposals for a UN Multi-donor Fund for climate change must be approved urgently in order for funding problems to be resolved. Uganda and Ethiopia are the only two countries where the UN works with the government to address the impact of climate change. (IRIN)
Leading development and environmental specialist, Atiq Rahman, executive director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies, says that the world's poorest and most vulnerable are already paying the cost of climate change adaptation. Local communities lack key information and resources adopt the most effective strategies. Traditional knowledge about planting crops and forecasting weather is becoming inaccurate. Adaptation has limits, and one option is migration, which has serious psychological and identity effects.
Many recent natural disasters are linked to climate change. The 2010 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference has begun in Cancun, Mexico. A new emissions reduction regime as a result of the conference is unlikely. Martin Khor of the South Centre says that low expectations at these talks may be a blessing in disguise, given need for new structures on finance, technology and adaptation.
Climate change discussions in China are the last major round of negotiations before the year's main climate meeting in Cancun on November 29. The UN climate change chief is urging governments to find common ground for an agreement that will follow the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Negotiators from nearly 200 governments failed last year to agree on a new legally binding pact in Copenhagen. Governments should ensure that in Cancun, a more democratic decision making process leads to a concrete outcome which is crucially needed to curb global climate change. (Mail & Guardian Online)
The University of East Anglia has had its official report-card on the "Climategate" emails published in an independent review. Whilst the review rejects all claims of serious scientific misconduct, the university is criticized for failing to display sufficient openness in research of great public significance. The review advocates a new culture of democracy in science to include greater transparency and accountability. It also calls upon scientists, climate and otherwise, to embrace uncertainty in their research as an inevitable feature of extrapolative science. For an issue surrounded by sensationalism and political agenda, implementation of such measures could be fundamental to a more constructive global conversation about climate change.
The Global Environment Facility is the economic instrument of the UN environment conventions. But is a multilateral financial institution for the environment necessary? Does financing for the environment work? Many applaud the billions of dollars allocated for promoting sustainable technologies and new production models. However, Zoe Young, author and critic of a global climate fund, insists on good standards for all investments and responsible allocation of all public money. (TierrAmérica)
The Bolivian World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth developed the Cochabamba People's Agreement which represents, by consensus, views of more than 35,000 people from 140 countries. Embodying efforts by Bolivian leaders to shift power back to the people, this collaborative rebellion against the abuse and commoditization of nature urges concrete and verifiable climate change obligations for developed countries. By contrast, the text proposed as the basis for coming UNFCCC climate negotiations in Cancún gives no recognition to proposals of the Cochabamba People's Agreement, whilst comprehensively incorporating the Copenhagen Accord devised by just a handful of leaders.(United Nations)
In this leaked audio recording obtained by Spiegel Online, Heads of State and chief negotiators from 25 nations negotiate behind the scenes to discuss the possibility of concrete emissions reductions targets. The recording sheds light on the role individual countries played in the conference's failure. The reductions targets, the established goal of the Copenhagen climate conference, were never realized. The recording also reveals how the consensus building mechanisms of the UN process - the IPCC - was disregarded by a handful of state leaders, illustrating the stalemate between industrialized and industrializing nations. (Spiegel Online)
The US State Department has announced that Washington will withhold climate adaptation funding from countries that oppose the anti-Kyoto document known as the "Copenhagen Accord." The Accord is criticized for not doing enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or protect African countries and island states most vulnerable to climate change. This US stance on climate aid is seen as way to strong-arm poor nations to consent to a subpar international climate deal. (The Guardian)
James Henry and Brent Blackwelder propose two "modest" and "complementary" transnational taxes that would raise revenues for climate adjustment assistance to poor countries. The first would tax only wholesale foreign exchange transactions and the other a tax on private financial assets under management of commercial banks, considered "anonymous wealth." The authors account for the administrative and political feasibility of their proposed taxes, and argue that on a moral ground, such taxes reflect a polluter pays principle and as well focus on trillions of dollars that sit in off-shore banks almost entirely untaxed. (CASSE)
This report examines the growing mass of research which suggest global warming poses serious health risks to populations in the developing world, particularly in Sub - Saharan Africa. Studies suggest that children, in particular, are already dying in large numbers as a result of a warming world. Women involved in agricultural work are also severely affected. A WHO assessment of disease and climate change, suggests that warming that has occurred since the 1970s has caused more than 140,000 excess deaths annually.(BBC News)
Climate change impacts such as sea level rise, saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion manifest themselves into drivers of migration. The Carterest Islanders of Papua New Guinea may become the world’s first climate refugees as their land could be submerged as early as 2015. The International Organization for Migration estimates 200 million migrants by 2015, both internally and externally to other countries. Such displacement is difficult, especially if the areas migrants looking to settle in are facing political instability, economic or environmental hardships. Furthermore, “environmental or climate refugees” as yet do not have status under international law, particularly in cases where entire populations must resettle abroad. The difficulty lies in the means of distinguishing climate refugees from traditional refugees. While some advocate for an entirely new protocol, countries like Mali created sovereign funds to purchase land for displaced populations in India or Australia. (Policy Innovations)
Mike Davis sharply criticizes the logic behind mainstream positions on climate change – particularly the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate change will produce dramatically unequal impacts across regions and social classes. So Davis proposes adaptation strategies based on humanity’s increasingly urban setting. (countercurrents.org)
In 2007 the UN's expert panel on Climate Change asserted it was "very likely" that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035. The UN has now admitted this statement was a mistake. It appears the assertion was based on a dated and misquoted claim in The New Scientist. The flawed report raises questions about the panel's credibility - but the Vice Chairman of the panel maintains that willingness to discover and amend mistakes strengthens its credibility. (The Times.)
The Copenhagen Accord is keeping its legal ambiguity as developed countries - the Danish government in particular as the COP15 president - try hard to turn a document that is "external" to the UNFCCC into an internationally binding treaty with no aggregate targets in carbon emission reduction. This summary by South Centre elaborates on legal and political aspects of the Copenhagen Accord by warning developing countries to take at least a "wait and see" approach as rich countries have not finalized their pledges. (South Centre)
A new precedent will be set in the way global environment policy is to be negotiated. The US has announced its dissatisfaction with the way the UN managed the Copenhagen summit. Washington intends to hold smaller forums, which will include only the world's leading economies. Bolivia has now invited heads of state and members of civil society to an alternative environment meeting.
The US Military accounts for more than 80% of federal government energy consumption. Further still, the Pentagon is the single largest consumer of energy and petroleum products, using an amount greater than the aggregate consumption of 175 countries. Yet these emissions go unaccounted for. During the 1997 Kyoto negotiations the US secured a concession excluding all of its global military activities and operations with the UN and NATO from measurement or restriction. Although the US never actually ratified the Kyoto Protocol, today these exemptions have carried through to Copenhagen and the world's worst polluter of carbon dioxide goes unmonitored and unrestrained. (Global Research)
This analysis of the Copenhagen climate talks accuses world leaders of negotiating to promote their own national interests rather than seeking shared global interests. Though so much was left unresolved at Copenhagen only two intercessional meetings have been scheduled before the next UN climate change conference in Mexico, December 2010. This briefing calls for immediate action to address the shortfalls of the negotiations and for extra meetings to be scheduled in the interim period. (Oxfam International)
Global warming threatens geographical borders between countries by erasing traditional boundary markers. The Swiss-Italian alpine border has already lost some sections of ice or perennial snow and the two governments have formed a commission to find a technical solution. But not every country can solve a similar problem as peacefully as Europeans. India and Pakistan will have a serious conflict in the zone of Kashmir or the Siachen glacier. Gradual openings of major shipping lanes will also start a new dynamic and resource extraction that will pose new problems such as the international borders on the Arctic Ocean. (IPS)
Months of negotiation led finally at Copenhagen to this disappointing two and half page document, with no binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and no clear path forward. (UNFCC)
Disagreement between developed and developing countries has marked the Copenhagen climate talks. Rich countries are insisting on a new agreement that obliges both developing and developed countries to equally share the climate burden; whereas the G 77 and China argue strongly for a "two track" outcome - one for rich and one for poor countries. Presidents and Prime Ministers have arrived in Copenhagen and an agreement outlining the basics of the climate change regime is expected. (South Centre)
EU nations are planning to commit more than 2 billion euros a year to help developing countries fight climate change. Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown are trying hard to persuade smaller EU members to contribute more to global warming funding. Copenhagen negotiations intend to create a three-year climate change fund - particularly for African countries - until a legally binding treaty is signed. British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said that Copenhagen talks should pave the way for such a treaty within six months. (The Guardian)
This report by the South Centre analyzes six problematic issues of the climate change negotiations. The report underscores the need for ambitious goals in carbon emission reduction, the importance of "shared vision" among developed and developing countries and the necessity of effective and immediate policy implementation. Although the previous climate talks in Bangkok and Barcelona made it clear that no international binding treaty can be expected, the Copenhagen summit is likely to produce a serious political declaration. (South Centre)
The two most carbon polluting countries in the world are competing to lead the Copenhagen climate change talks by committing to cut carbon emissions before the summit starts. The United States, for the first time, pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020. After hearing the US's pledge, China brought forward its press statement and declared that it would cut carbon intensity by a range of 40 to 50 percent by 2020. Xie Zhenhua, the deputy of the National Development and Reform Commissions, said that "China will have to pay a high price to reach this target but Chinese people stick to their word." (Terraviva Europe)
Expectations of all kinds arise as Copenhagen climate change summit nears. Pessimists believe that rich countries, which have not achieved significant carbon emission reduction since 1997, will continue to sacrifice the environment for business profits. A minority of optimists hope that Copenhagen will mark a turning point in climate policy. Although hopes for a binding international agreement have decreased, Copenhagen summit can still contribute to long term solutions. (Canadiandimension)
Food crisis and climate change are challenging agriculture. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released a new report, which points out that farming significantly contributes to the green house gas emissions while suffering from global warming at the same time. One of the key factors to mitigate climate change and meet food demand is the restoration of organic soils. The report calls for a more holistic vision that looks beyond narrow and unsustainable solutions. (FAO)
Ban Ki-Moon and other UN officials have been urging developed countries to limit their gas emissions in order to sign a binding treaty in Copenhagen. But as the conference nears without significant progress on the issue, Ban's advisor, Janos Pazstor, says that "the most that could be expected is a nonbinding political declaration." (Reuters)
Climate negotiations are in deep trouble. Rich countries do not want to renew the Kyoto Protocol and advocate for an entirely new agreement. Many developed countries including the US want to have a national target without binding it to an international treaty. In contrast, developing countries favor a second period of the protocol in which rich countries agree to cut their emissions by 40 % by 2020. The Copenhagen conference in December is in danger of failure over this impasse. (The Star)
Xie Zhenhua of the National Development & Reform Commission of China is working on a five year plan, which for the first time will reduce China's carbon dioxide emissions. The Australian Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, is going today to Beijing to serve as a "bridge" between developed and developing countries. (Brisbanetimes)
Industrial agriculture plays a key role in the climate crisis. Agro industry heavily uses fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, which damage natural soil fertility. According to this report from GRAIN, agro industry depletes soil, which results in up to two third of the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. GRAIN sharply criticizes this highly concentrated food system and calls for a fundamental policy change and the return to small-scale and ecologically friendly farming. (GRAIN)
This Bank report discusses the consequences of climate change -- especially on developing countries. The report invites countries to act "together" in order to stabilize the warming around 2°C above preindustrial period. The report also stresses the importance of water and land management. (World Bank)
The World Bank contradicts its own report, which says that "increasing access to energy and other services using high-carbon technologies will produce more greenhouse gases, hence more climate change." The Bank is providing loans to finance coal-fired plants in India, South Africa and Botswana. The bank's chief economist defends the institution, claiming that only coal-fired plants can bring electricity to great masses in an affordable way. (Times)
German scientists suggest that a special institution, "World Climate Bank," organize and monitor the buying and selling of emissions and emission certificates. If created, the bank will allow industrialized countries to purchase emissions rights from developing countries at a particular price. Dirk Messner, director of German Development Institute, hopes that Germany will bring on the proposition in Copenhagen. (Deutsche Welle)
Activists have increasingly drawn attention to the serious effects of global warming. A small group of British Greenpeace protesters shut down a coal-fired power plant for a day, an action that eventually led to a change in UK government policy. Some hope that this kind of action will influence the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009. Hundreds of people are getting prepared to demonstrate on the streets of Copenhagen. (Tomdispatch)
Rich countries call for global responsibility on climate change. But at the same time, they fail to reach meaningful agreements on carbon emissions. Countries like Bolivia respond with calls for "environmental justice". The Climate Justice Now Network supports the idea that developed countries have to pay off their "climate debt". Rich countries must help poor countries to address climate change. (Share the World's Resources)
Tropical and sub-tropical diseases are spreading globally. Climate change has shaped new environmental conditions, in which mosquitoes and vermin move to temperate zones. The author shows how the global increase of temperatures allows a dramatic acceleration of disease transmission and incubation. Developing countries are facing the biggest threats, as their public health systems and hygiene conditions are weak and vulnerable. (IPS)
Climate change is threatening the living space of millions of people, according to a new publication by the International Organization for Migration. Rising sea levels and the loss of natural resources put people at risk. As a result, twelve Pacific Islands have called for a UN General Assembly resolution that acknowledges climate change as an important dimension of international peace and security. But nations are arguing whether climate change is a development issue - to be addressed by the General Assembly - or belongs in the Security Council. The author shows how climate change is caught up in competing human and political interests. (New York Times)
Extreme weather, water scarcity and shifting food resources threaten the health of thousands of people. The Global Humanitarian Forum has released a new report with alarming numbers of climate change victims. Severe heat waves and floods will be responsible for hunger and diseases. Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai argues that "Climate change is life or death". She supports Kofi Annan's call for urgent action and the end of weak leadership. (The Guardian)
Revisiting the "limits to growth" theory, the director of Share the World's Resources considers why political leaders are taking so little action on climate change. He identifies policymakers' protection of business interests and promotion of relentless economic expansion, as barriers to sustainable development. Rather than pursuing half hearted cap-and-trade policies and damaging bio-fuel expansion, the public must pressure governments to adopt strong measures to decrease carbon emissions by reducing overconsumption. World leaders and the global public must embrace a wider understanding of 'growth,' and not merely frame it in terms of profit.
Leaders from around the world signed a "consensus" document at the Fifth World Water Forum (WWF). Local government representatives pledge to improve water management in line with the Millennium Development Goals on water supply and sanitation. Yet critics say the WWF is too heavily influenced by multinational companies, and it promotes the privatization of water. Although the document contains guidelines and targets, the solutions will instead commoditize water, raise water costs and worsen the problems in poor countries. (Fifth World Water Forum)
The “cap-and-trade” system, to reduce gases through emissions markets, presents dangers similar to the subprime mortgage industry. Friends of the Earth predicts that financial firms will create complex financial products, which will lead to destabilizing speculative bubbles. As Washington has failed to regulate Wall Street effectively, Friends of the Earth cautions against hasty creation of carbon markets and emphasizes the need for proper oversight. (Friends of the Earth)
Researchers find that cutting down on the excessive quantities of meat consumed in our daily diets will significantly reduce the amount of harmful greenhouse gases released. Meat production requires enormous amounts of grain to feed the animals which release harmful methane gas into the atmosphere. Scientists estimate that the livestock sector accounts for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Will people change their habits and reduce their meat intake for a cleaner global environment? (Agence France Presse)
In this article, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges individuals to help stop global warming by reducing their weekly meat consumption. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, and warns that meat consumption will double by the middle of the century. The UN panel calls on governments to lead campaigns to reduce meat consumption by 60 percent by 2020.(Guardian)
G8 leaders agreed to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2050 at their July 2008 meeting in Japan. But, over 200 countries already agreed to this target when they signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Earth Summit in 1992. The BBC says, G8 leaders should take concrete steps to reduce emissions rather than restate targets and quarrel over setting a baseline year to calculate emissions. G8 countries are responsible for 62% of global carbon emissions but its leaders are "crawling forward on emissions cuts at a time when giant leaps and bounds are needed."
Scientists argue that calculations by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that sets base-year limits for international efforts to reduce climate change are inaccurate. The IPCC advocates a market-driven approach to a post-carbon world economy fueled by investments in new sustainable energy. However, large energy companies are not fulfilling their commitments to invest in alternate energy technologies due to the lack of profits in this area. The author says that richer countries must make firm commitments to reduce their carbon emissions. (TomDispatch)
Supporters of biofuels claim that the fuels allow poorer countries to cut carbon emissions and reduce their dependence on imported oil. But Oxfam says that biofuel production is not solving, but worsening the climate and energy crises. Biofuel production is also responsible for 30 percent of the increase in global food prices that has dragged 30 million people into poverty. Oxfam calls upon rich countries to dismantle subsidies for biofuels.
The UN Environment Programme outlines the negative impact of climate change in Africa. The continent is only responsible for four percent of global carbon emissions but, its people are amongst the most vulnerable. Countries like Kenya and Liberia are implementing stricter policies against exploitation of forests. However, forced migration resulting from conflict, water scarcity and food insecurity are also putting increasing pressure on the environment. The report urges richer countries to commit to reduce their carbon emissions.
The fate of the small island nation of Kiribati is in serious jeopardy. Climate change is destroying crops, causing floods, and polluting water, making the island inhabitable. But few countries have agreed to accept Kiribati refugees. Kiribati President Anote Tong urges other national leaders to look beyond short-term economic development and take action to counter climate change. For Kiribati "it's not an issue of economic growth, it's an issue of human survival." (Independent)
In this interview, physicist Vandana Shiva explains that the global economic structure is incompatible with the basic physics of the planet. Unsustainable, large-scale agriculture not only "displaces small peasants, creates poverty and bad food," but also emits a huge quantity of carbon into the atmosphere, causing climate instability. Perversely, large agribusinesses with a stranglehold of the world economy, such as Cargill and Monsanto, harvest super-profits while people starve. (AlterNet)
Concluding that immediate government action can curb greenhouse gas emissions without "substantial" economic costs, the third volume of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report outlines specific strategies to mitigate global warming. The IPCC discusses the scientific, economic, political and social aspects of both short and long term policies, focusing on affordable solutions which are compatible with international sustainable development.
This study by the Food and Agriculture Organization examines the impact of liquid biofuel production on the human right to food. The report concludes that biofuel production has impeded on the right to food by significantly contributing to higher food prices, by evicting vulnerable groups from their land in favor of concentrated ownership and plantation-style production, by reducing biodiversity and by increasing competition for water.
The bestselling author and journalist Michael Pollan points out that climate change is inherently a problem of human lifestyle and mindset. The array of services and luxuries that cheap energy has made widely available not only contribute to global warming, but also create a dependency and passivity in the public. The author argues that individuals must take action before lawmakers will do so. Small adjustments, like using more efficient light bulbs, or radical changes like growing a portion of our own food, can snowball into a collective change in lifestyles, and consequently a change in policy, legislation and technology. (New York Times)
Serious floods caused by climate change are threatening the existence of the Island of Murray and several other islands in the Torres Strait. The Torres islands constitute the most vulnerable area of Australia, but the government has not included the region in its action plan to challenge global warming. Some islanders are asking for relocation but others are determined to stay despite the uncertainty of their future. They fear that moving away may endanger their local culture. (Independent)
This article criticizes the effect of industrial agriculture on global food security. The author points out that a few large corporations have patented or genetically modified most of the plants humans rely on for their basic needs. These corporations use chemical and genetic technologies to "dominate agricultural production from seed to stomach and to profit from every bite." In addition, industrial food production exhausts Earth's basic biological support systems, and makes the planet more vulnerable to climate change. (AlterNet)
In April 2008, representatives from more than 60 countries met in Berlin to discuss the establishment of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). IRENA aims to promote the "socially desirable" options of renewable energy and to take a stand against conventional energy sources like fossil fuels and their powerful lobbyists. IRENA differs from the existing International Energy Agency (IEA) by aiming to adapt energy markets to decentralized, renewable energy sources rather than focus on central, large-scale energy supply. (Renewable Energy World)
This article accuses world leaders of being "asleep at the wheel." While policymakers subsidized biofuels in an effort to counter global warming, enormous food price increases and a consequential food crisis swept in under their "radar screens." Millions of people cannot afford essential foodstuffs, especially in countries such as Eritrea and Sierra Leone, where 85 to 88 percent of income, goes to food. (Truthout)
The second volume of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report presents specific impacts of global warming on each continent. In addition to widespread food and water shortages, the report warns of "increased deaths, disease and injury" due to "climate change-related exposures" such as heat waves, floods, and droughts. The IPCC further states that countries must begin to adapt to the "already unavoidable" consequences of global warming, especially in the most vulnerable continents – such as Africa – where "climate change could impede nations' abilities to achieve sustainable development."
This Foreign Policy In Focus article argues that consumption and capital accumulation contradict global efforts to curb climate change. World leaders talk about shifting away from fossil fuels but they avoid discussing how to change the global economic system that is driven by over-consumption. The author proposes a strategy based on the principle of "common but differentiated responsibility." Richer governments should recognize poorer nations' rights to develop and counties like China should cooperate with global efforts to reduce global warming.
This article reports on the start of the UN Climate Change talks in Bangkok, from March 31 – April 4, 2008. These talks, together with a series of subsequent meetings, should lead to a new climate change agreement in 2009, to succeed the Kyoto Protocol that expires in 2012. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change chief Yvo de Boer finds the goodwill shown during the Bangkok conference encouraging: "I take it that countries really want to get down to work rather than fight procedural wars." (Integrated Regional Information Framework)
This article argues that biofuels do not counter global warming, but actually worsen the process. Brazil's agriculture industry, in search of arable land to accommodate biofuel production, is rapidly encroaching on the Amazon. However, cutting down forests - the world's natural carbon storehouses - releases huge amounts of carbon into the biosphere. Sadly, with many governments subsidizing biofuel production, deforestation will continue unabated, leading to higher food prices, and more carbon emission. (Time)
The authors of this article commend UN initiatives on tackling climate change, but claim the organization is not doing enough. The authors urge the Security Council to take "preemptive action" on climate change. But placing climate change in the hands of the Security Council could actually hinder progress. The largest carbon emitters (China and the US) are also P-5 members and could veto any resolution suggesting a carbon cap, for instance. (Christian Science Monitor)
This article reports on the growing water crisis. One billion people worldwide do not have access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion are lacking safe sanitation. Experts say the crisis is not due to an outright lack of water, but rather a "chronic lack of funding and inadequate understanding of the need for sanitation and good hygiene at the local level." Climate change will only worsen the problem. In addition, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warns that water shortages will drive future conflicts (Inter Press Service)
This New York Times editorial discusses the human cost of the "rich world's subsidized appetite for biofuels." When it seemed that global food supply might run out in the past, food production grew to meet demand. This time it might not be so easy, with the demand for biofuels diverting food into energy for cars, rather than human beings.
This article reports on the opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Arctic vault will serve as a back up for existing seed banks and contains over 10 million specimens from "virtually every country" in the world. The Global Crop Diversity Trust, which oversaw the creation of the vault, states that it will preserve biodiversity in the face of climate change, war and natural disasters. (Daily Mail)
By converting food crops into biofuels, producers contribute to deforestation and drive up food prices. Environmentalists generally oppose biofuels and some policy makers attempt to at least limit and monitor biofuel production. But the private sector seems to throw all caution to the wind in their search for alternative sources of fuel. Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic proudly presented the first biofuel flight by a 747 jumbo jet from London to Amsterdam. (Globe and Mail)
According to GRAIN, the Global Seed Vault is not the "ultimate safety net" for biodiversity. Instead, it is part of a wider strategy making "off site storage" the single approach to preserving biodiversity. The Vault takes plant varieties away from their farmers and communities of origin and subsequently denies them access to the stored seeds. The Standard Depositor Agreement for the Vault gives right of use to a select few. GRAIN argues that farmers should control biodiversity – not the corporations that have destroyed it.
With this report, Friends of the Earth, LifeMosaic and Sawit Watch add to the discussion on biofuels by pointing out the negative human rights implications of the expanding industry. Indonesia, the world's largest producer of crude palm oil, is developing a plantation the size of "England, The Netherlands and Switzerland combined." The 60-90 million Indonesians who depend on forests for their livelihoods are literally "losing ground."
Biofuel production by the US -amongst other countries- is driving up food prices worldwide. The Earth Policy Institute expects that the US will turn 114 million tonnes of grain into fuel in 2008. Critics are calling biofuels a â€˜lose-lose strategy'. On top of driving up food prices and thus exacerbating world hunger, the production of ethanol degrades the soil and requires the use of large amounts of fuel, fertilizer, pesticides and water. (Inter Press Service)
After the 2007 biofuels craze, European governments are rethinking their generous blanket subsidies for biofuels. Biofuels are not carbon-neutral, as the processing and fertilizing of crops for biofuels also produce carbon dioxide. An EU energy policy directive restricts imports of biofuels that place additional strain on the environment. (New York Times)
In his book – Plan B 3.0 – the President of the Earth Policy Institute Lester Brown outlines "an all-out response proportionate to the threat that global warming presents to our future." One element of Brown's plan involves a "worldwide carbon tax," modeled after cigarette taxes. This article points out that Brown's proposals make use of existing technologies, suggesting that the "real battle over climate change is now political, not technological." (Time)
This editorial from the International Herald Tribune expresses disappointment in the lack of definite outcomes from the UN climate conference in Bali. The US delegation was unwilling to commit to any promises of carbon reductions and severely slowed down the negotiations. This might serve as a disincentive for other large emitters, such as China, to actively change their energy policies and effectively reduce climate change.
Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. Suggestions for solutions include global markets for greenhouse gas emissions rights or global emissions taxes. However, the author argues that in order to implement these, the world needs a new, global institution. He puts forward the idea of a global climate fund that will "manage" the atmosphere and the environment "on behalf of future generations." The fund will invest its revenues in worldwide environmental projects. (Post-Autistic Economics Review)
At the UN climate conference in Bali, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg strongly advocated for carbon taxes rather than cap-and-trade schemes as a means to reduce carbon emissions. Bloomberg said carbon trading is "vulnerable to special interests, corruption, inefficiencies." A carbon tax would more directly and efficiently reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming, as well as provide the world's governments with funds to further improve the environment. (Associated Press)
The UNDP Human Development Report 2007-2008 warns that increased global warming may reverse the progress made on poverty reduction in African countries. Global warming, if not reduced, may cause hundreds of millions of people to experience malnutrition, water scarcity and the breaking down of agricultural systems. The authors of the report urge rich countries to "demonstrate leadership" in cutting carbon emissions. (allAfrica)
The World Bank seeks to play a key role in the UN climate conference in Bali. The Bank prides itself on being a "clearing house on carbon trading" and on being committed to reducing carbon emissions through specialized energy lending programs. Critics protest the Bank's involvement given the World Bank and IMF's subsidies to the oil industry and their lack of investment in renewable energy production. (Bretton Woods Project)
The US administration claims that market forces of supply and demand will solve the problems associated with climate change. However, 2007 has seen a decrease in investment in green industries, with a larger share of money going to private security and defense companies that claim to provide protection from problems caused by global warming. Naomi Klein argues that the US prefers building fortresses to keep the problems out rather than regulating economic activity to reach a real solution. (AlterNet)
Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology have found that there is a clear link between changes in world temperatures and warfare. Both increases and decreases in temperature may cause a fall in food crop production and a subsequent rise in food price, and consequently conflict for access to resources. Future global warming is particularly worrying to the scientists. (New Scientist)
This article from the Christian Science Monitor describes how US politicians across the political spectrum promote ethanol production as a means to reduce US dependency on foreign oil. This is happening despite warnings from environmentalists and subsidy opponents that the production of ethanol is expensive and harms the environment. Further, it drives up the prices of food grains worldwide.
In preparation for the 2007 Bali follow-up to the Kyoto protocol, environmentalists and policy makers are coming up with new ideas for reducing carbon emissions. They claim that responsibility for carbon emissions should lie with the final consumers of manufactured goods. One of the problems associated with the Kyoto agreement is carbon leakage – to reduce their own emissions, rich countries outsource dirty industries to poor countries. If consumers pay for the damage caused by manufacturing their products, industries can more effectively reduce their emissions, they argue. (Wall Street Journal)
The 2007-2008 Human Development Report published by UNDP addresses the problems of global warming. The report warns that the world has only 10 years to change its course in order to be able to reverse the process of global warming. Its authors argue that the financial resources and technological capabilities to do so already exist, but countries lack the willingness to make the necessary changes.
A study by the United Nations Environment Programme claims that governments are responding too slowly and insufficiently to climate change, putting "humanity at risk." With each person in the world requiring a third more land than what the planet can supply, the world lacks the resources its population needs. The report says that rich countries must reduce their emissions by as much as 80 percent by 2050 to cut greenhouse gas emissions to half of the 1990 levels. (Guardian)
A large number of environmental activists have founded the coalition 1 Sky to influence environmental policy in Washington. The group says that climate change is the most important issue of our generation. The group hosts a series of demonstrations to convince US politicians to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2020, to ban coal-fired power plants and to create 5 million "green collar jobs". 1 Sky representatives say that government bills "must match what science says," and that Washington must stop applauding itself for its limited actions to stop climate change. (The Nation)
This Inter Press Service article highlights many of the problems associated with biofuels. Some researchers argue that biofuel production is a step in the wrong direction as it hardly reduces carbon emissions. Producing biofuels also drives up food prices and increases conflict over food resources. Governments both in the US and Europe are increasing subsidies for biofuel production, however, and critics are concerned about this trend as governments seldom phase out subsidies.
For the first time, the world faces a "battle over income distribution," writes the author of this YaleGlobal article. Climate change - through droughts, floods and temperature changes - will shift agricultural production to new areas and threaten many people's access to food. Through current carbon emissions trading systems, rich countries and powerful industries are able to place the burden of reducing emissions on poor countries, effectively hindering their industrial development. The author predicts that over the next decade, countries will fight over resources and over how to share responsibility for global warming.
This article from Focus on the Global South challenges the myth that developing countries lack concern for the environment and simply wish to grow economically in the same fashion as rich countries. National elites in poor countries may argue that their countries have yet to fill their "pollution quota" as have the rich countries, and therefore they should proceed with rapid industrialization. But, citizen campaigns against large dams in India and deforestation in Thailand and the Philippines are examples of local communities trying to overcome pressures for industrialization and advocating for a healthier environment.
Some climate change skeptics claim that the concerns about global warming are the result of media hype. Skeptics say the catch-cry of global warming is similar to the fears of "global cooling" in the 1970s. This article from the Christian Science Monitor argues that this is an unfair comparison. Those who doubt that climate change is taking place are simply resurrecting the climate cooling arguments in order to find a reason to oppose the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's warnings. While fears of climate cooling was a short-lived theory that never sat well in the scientific community, global warming is backed by sound data.
This Independent article explains how Britain can easily become the largest producer of offshore wind power. Although there has been strong public opposition to on-shore wind turbines, the public and the government give a thumbs up to offshore wind farms. Still, producers face a long time lag on their wind-energy investments due to time-consuming bureaucratic procedures. Installing a wind farm can take up to 10 years to complete, significantly obstructing the production of renewable energy sources.
This article explains how gender inequality grows when disasters occur. Climate change will have particularly strong effects in poor areas of the world, and the majority of the poor are usually women. A range of women's organizations suggest that if women were better informed of possible changes in weather patterns and forthcoming disasters, local communities would stand a larger chance of survival. They also argue that as women possess significant "generational knowledge" on local agriculture and safety, it would be extremely beneficial to include women in community decision making. (MediaGlobal)
A new study by Nobel winning chemist Paul J. Crutzen sheds light on the many disadvantages of biofuel production. The production of many biofuels release more greenhouse gases than what is saved using them, due to intensive industrial farming methods. The fertilizer often used in production of biofuels, such as rapeseed, carries a high concentration of nitrous oxide which cancels out the benefits of reduced carbon emissions. Producing biofuels also results in other side effects, such as increased food prices and rainforest degradation. The report concludes that biofuel produced from rapeseed would release between 1 and 1.7 times more greenhouse gases than regular diesel. (Reuters)
In this YaleGlobal article, the former Indian Ambassador to the UN, Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, argues that developing countries should be allowed to continue their industrial development and catch up with the developed countries, and that rich countries should bear the bulk of the costs related to climate change mitigation. While the rich countries have the financial and technological resources to make changes to lower carbon emissions, these are not available to poor countries. He argues that the poor countries too should contribute to prevent climate change, but fails to specify in what way they will be doing this.
This poll carried out for the BBC sparks great optimism on action to mitigate climate change. Carried out in 21 rich and poor countries, the poll shows that a large majority of the public in these countries believe that human activities create climate change and that major steps should be taken to prevent it. The majority believes that developing countries should reduce their carbon emission in return for financial assistance and technological support from richer countries. Only three countries support the argument that since emission per person is low in poor countries, they should not be required to reduce carbon release. In China, the largest contributor to carbon emissions, 70 percent of the urban population believe that great steps should be taken to reduce the climate change gases.
In 2005, Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, announced he would make his company more environmentally friendly and launched the "ecomagination" campaign. The campaign involves investing in "innovative solutions to environmental challenges" and in selling a range of self-proclaimed environmentally friendly products. As part of the new business strategy, Immelt also campaigned for the US government to limit carbon dioxide emissions. However, customers, employees and shareholders have opposed this shift to an environmentally friendly profile, and General Electric is still mainly dependent on the sale of oil and gas products and coal powered steam turbines. (Wall Street Journal)
To lower its trade deficit, the US should cut the consumption and import of fossil fuels, argues the author of this National Journal article. Methods to cut fuel consumption in the US are readily available and by using them, the US could lower its energy demand by 0.3 percent every year. The author argues that the US must focus on lowering the demand for energy rather than simply switching to cleaner energy technology. The US could achieve this by raising energy prices (taxes) to European levels.
The authors of this AlterNet article warn against depicting the switch from non-renewable energy sources to bio-fuels as a magic bullet in decreasing climate change. A solution must not only include better energy technologies, but reduced consumption and energy use. The most popular bio-fuel, ethanol, actually costs more energy to produce than it provides, resulting in a large net increase in emissions of greenhouse gasses. The production of bio-fuels also affects fragile ecosystems and lowers biodiversity.
Billions of people across the world might become refugees as a result of climate change. Inhabitants of Pacific islands such as Tuvalu are already preparing to move to New Zealand, while millions of people in Bangladesh are fleeing from either flooding or drought. The author argues that the world's governments and international institutions such as the UN are doing little to mitigate the climate change risks and to accommodate potential refugee populations. He also suggests that treaties protecting political refugees should include those who flee from a "deadly climate." (In These Times)
This report argues that biofuels are not the "magic elixir" in the quest for renewable energy sources. Rather, the author points to serious consequences of biofuel production, frequently overlooked as policymakers eagerly jump on the bandwagon. The report calls for moving from a focus on production, to a focus on consumption. There are no alternative energy sources to satisfy the rich world's high per capita energy consumption, so we will have to consume less. "The big question is whether this will be forced on us by economic chaos from depletion of our non-renewable resources, or by our adapting to this inevitability in a thoughtful and organized manner." (International Forum on Globalization)
Tad Patzek, a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of California Berkeley and expert on biofuels, points out that long-term biofuel production is not sustainable, in this paper presented to the OECD. He concludes that after just a few years of biofuel production, the Earth will become denuded and "hostile to human life." Patzek recommends using the planet's resources in a severely limited way, decreasing the global amount of "cars, trucks and livestock" and limiting population growth. He strongly supports the use of hybrid and electric cars recharged with solar energy, arguing that this technology is 100 times more efficient than biofuel technology.
Scientists predict that rapid climate change together with a growing world population will cause a global food crisis. Such a crisis, worsened by poor farming and deforestation, may cause conflicts over scarce resources. According to the UN, land degradation is one of the biggest environmental challenges, destabilizing societies, lowering food security and increasing poverty. Countries producing biofuels in response to energy security fears, adds to the food crisis as crops for biofuel replace food crops. (Guardian)
A UN report on Climate Change argues that in the future the easiest way to reduce climate change will be through improving "energy efficiency for power plants, cars or homes." Such an approach can help governments plan a strategy against global warming beyond the Kyoto Protocol, states Yvo de Boer, a UN Climate Change official. The study also predicts a move to renewable energies such as solar and hydropower. But critics say that the report lacks a purpose and that governments need to reduce emissions below current levels by 2030. (Reuters)
In this report to the General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Jean Ziegler evaluates the impact of biofuels on the Right to Food. Ziegler labels the "sudden, ill-conceived, rush to convert food into fuel" a "recipe for disaster." The Rapporteur calls for a five-year moratorium on biofuel production to review production technology and to create "regulatory structures to protect against negative environmental, social and human rights impacts" of biofuel production. To eradicate competition between food and fuel, Ziegler urges member states to look into the possibility of deriving biofuels solely from agricultural waste and non-food crops. Food prices would then remain stable, and both producers and consumers could benefit from biofuels.
According to documents recently made available to the public, the Bush administration repeatedly curtailed efforts by the World Bank to address the issue of global warming. The article argues that Paul Wolfowitz, the former President of the World Bank, got personally involved and removed the words "climate change" from a bank progress report and ordered the text to "shift the focus away from global warming." (Independent)
This Los Angeles Times article discusses how the World Bank disregards environmental matters such as climate change, due to the influence of its biggest supporter, the United States. Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank's strategy and operations director for sustainable development, has stated that the issue of climate change is politically very contentious and said that it will take at least two years before the World Bank includes carbon emissions in its decision-making process.
According to the United Nations weather agency extreme weather conditions such as tremendous heat in some areas and atypical snow or heavy rainfall in others have characterized 2007. Most researchers believe extreme weather events will become more common as "heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions cause global temperatures to rise." The World Meteorological Organization wants to set up an "early warning system" for severe weather conditions and improve monitoring climate change's impact in poorer countries such as India, where such extreme weather could destroy farmland, affecting agriculture and the lives of millions. (Associated Press)
An investigation carried out by ActionAid found that climate change and the deterioration of social and economic conditions in some densely populated Indian regions have made hunger worse amongst the poor and pushed people to commit suicide. The study focuses on significant changes in the weather conditions during the last four to five years which have adversely affected farming. This OneWorld article argues that, compared to 30 years ago, rainfall has now decreased immensely, and that the government has failed to respond adequately as "it has not created safeguards to protect farmers" and guarantee food security.
In danger of disappearing within 50 years due to climate change and rising sea levels, Tuvalu, one of the smallest nations in the world, seeks to turn itself into an "environmentally respectful nation" and set an example for other countries. The sea level has been increasing at twice the average global rate calculated by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Tuvalu's sustainable development projects include "new solar streetlights, composting toilets, wind projects, a biodiesel plan using coconut palm, and horticultural training to help reduce dependence on imported foods." (Inter Press Service)
This report explores the connection between human rights and climate change arguing that climate change is not "just an ecological issue" but an issue of "intergenerational equality". Global warming for example will make the sea level rise and alter weather patterns, "affecting the relations between present and future generations." The report also analyzes how climate change will worsen people's living conditions, putting their basic human rights in jeopardy. (World Economy and Development)
This report on the impact of agrofuels argues that the rush for â€˜biofuels' is already causing serious damage. Far from being sustainable, agrofuels have not shown to alleviate global warming; they actually threaten to accelerate it by destroying rainforests and other ecosystems to make way for agrofuel plantations. Additionally they compromise biodiversity, fuel human rights violations and promote an intensified industrial agriculture, encouraging the production of GM crops, and posing a serious threat to food sovereignty. (Transnational Institute)
This Guardian article argues that China needs international support to move towards a low-carbon economy as it is still too dependent on coal. Figures released by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency illustrate that in 2006 China overtook the United States as the world's biggest producer of CO2 by 8 percent. In 2005 China's emissions were 2 percent lower than US emissions. This sudden increase will pressure the world's politicians to agree on a new post Kyoto international treaty which must include China.
Arguing that the effects of climate change in developing countries "will wipe out all efforts to help the poor through commitments such as aid," G8 protestors have called for the group of eight industrial nations to take definitive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The activists underscore the link between global warming and poverty, and state that the 2007 G8 summit must address both simultaneously "for there to be real improvement in [the] living conditions" of the world's poorest people. (Inter Press Service)
In the weeks leading up to the 2007 G8 summit – where climate change will be a key issue – a series of authoritative studies have revealed a much faster rate of global warming than that predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2007 assessment. The studies warn that the IPCC's "dire forecasts" of increased drought and other natural disasters are "likely understating the threat facing the world." The Independent reports that this information will increase pressure on G8 leaders to take definitive action.
Reflecting their growing economic and political power, Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa will attend the G8 summit in Heiligendamm. Among the issues high on the summit agenda is climate change and an international agreement on environmental protection.China and India are two of the world's worst polluters, but as developing nations, they do not have to abide by the Kyoto Protocol. This Inter Press Service article points out that the European Union is pressuring them to begin using cleaner energy resources.
This Oxfam report
argues that the G8 countries owe almost US$50 billion each year to help vulnerable communities adapt to climate change. Although wealthy industrial nations are primarily responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, global warming disproportionately harms the world's poorest people "who are least able to adapt to climatic shocks."
This Red Pepper article argues that the carbon emissions trading schemes promoted by G8 countries "defer genuine climate action while generating massive profits for the largest polluters." Although climate change will likely be a key issue on the agenda of the June G8 summit, the author predicts that the meeting will fail to produce effective measures to prevent global warming.
As part of Washington's ongoing effort to undermine the June G8 summit declaration on global warming, the US intends to block all references to the urgency of climate change. This Globe and Mail article reports that the Bush administration plans to replace the declaration's call for "resolute and concerted international action" with the watered-down statement that climate change "is a long-term issue that will require a diversity of approaches."
After a "lengthy and heated debate," the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) has added climate change to its agenda. GCAP argues that this inclusion will allow discussion on the overlap between global warming and world poverty. However, many poor countries fear that the Western governments will use this as an excuse to focus on climate change and overlook GCAP's core issues, such as improved development aid, fair trade, and debt relief. (OneWorld)
Christian Aid warns that climate change will worsen an already serious migration crisis in developing countries. Based on current trends, this report predicts that large-scale development projects, environmental deterioration, and conflict – particularly over increasingly scarce natural resources – may force 1 billion people from their homes by 2050.
Global warming, food and timber exports, and the thirst for biofuels are among the biggest threats to biodiversity, reports this Inter Press Service article. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a UN-commissioned initiative to study ways to prevent environmental degradation, warns that the loss of just a few species may "result in a collapse" of the Earth's ecosystem, which could worsen the effects of climate change and diminish the global food supply.
This Chicago Tribune article highlights the problem that inhabitants of low-lying coastal areas face as a result of global climate change. The author argues that the citizens of Bangladesh – a country comprised of many islands – have already started to experience such effects as many people who live along the coast have had to move their houses several times as waters continually swallow up the land.
Environmental groups fear that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "is using outdated science" as the basis for its recommendations on the safe limit of atmospheric CO2, which more recent scientific studies put at a much lower level. The authors of the third volume of the IPCC's 2007 assessment report, which proposes specific strategies for the mitigation of climate change, have attempted to amend the policy recommendations to reflect the new data. However, delegates from China have "angrily resisted" any change, arguing that the alterations "threaten to undermine the nation's drive to tackle poverty" by forcing China to make more radical emissions cuts. (BBC)
Comparing it to the Catholic Church's sale of indulgences to offset sins, this New York Times article critiques the growing practice of carbon neutrality, whereby companies or individuals pay for projects – such as planting trees or funding renewable energy sources – to "void" their carbon emissions. Although proponents argue that carbon offsets build support and awareness of the need for sustainable environmental policies, many experts fear that offsets "suggest there's an easy way out" and will discourage consumers from fundamentally reducing their "carbon footprints."
Recent polls have found "swelling public interest in and concern about" global warming, with a majority in the US agreeing that climate change poses as much of a threat to US national security as terrorism. This Christian Science Monitor article attributes the shift in public opinion to increased media coverage, "high-profile politicians," and an influx of reports – especially those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – warning of the serious effects of global warming.
This OneWorld article reports that the United States "exacerbates poverty by contributing more to climate change than any other country." Global anti-poverty and religious leaders have therefore called on the US government "to take drastic and immediate action" to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, arguing that "the battle against climate change [is] a moral test" for the US.
For the first time, the United Nations Security Council debated the impact of climate change on global conflicts, especially over food, water, and energy shortages. Although many developing countries objected that "global warming is not an issue of international peace and security" and that the debate "infringes on the authority of other UN organs," Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon argued that climate change threatens to "transform peaceful competition into violence" and "weaken the ability of countries to resolve conflicts peacefully." (Associated Press)
This report by the Center for Naval Analyses – a group financed by the US government – finds that global climate change is a threat to US national security and should be incorporated into the country's security strategies. The report lists some of the potential effects of climate change – such as rising border tensions and increased conflicts over food and water – which could lead to "direct US military involvement." The authors conclude that the US "should commit to a stronger international role to help stabilize climate change."
Veering from its traditional agenda of preserving international peace and security, the UN Security Council plans to hold a meeting to discuss the issue of climate change. The Group of 77 and the Non-Aligned Movement have denounced this decision as evidence of the SC's "ever-increasing encroachment" on the mandates of the UN's other main bodies. Citing the UN Charter, they argue that the Council should only "come into action when there are actual threats to peace or breaches of the peace." (Inter Press Service)
Many of the scientific authors of the second volume of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report argue that objections from the United States, Saudi Arabia and China resulted in a "weakened" and "watered-down" message. Deadlocks between scientists and government negotiators in an all-night editing session almost delayed release of the report. Although the disputes were resolved, the political interference led several scientists to "vow never to take part in the process again." (Associated Press)
This BBC commentary calls for a tax on exports from wealthy countries – such as the US and Australia – that have refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol. The author argues that the tax would encourage these governments to "develop responsible climate policies" and could "redress the balance" of production costs between countries that pay for their CO2 emissions and those that "won't take climate change seriously."
For the first time, the UN Security Council has added a discussion of the "potential security ramifications" of global warming to its agenda. Although it will not produce a statement or resolution, UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the Council president for the month of April, says it is "quite likely" the discussion will lead to a UN summit in 2008 devoted solely to climate change. (Associated Press)
While wealthy countries have begun to "gird against" climate change, "poverty, geography and history" leave the world's least developed countries the most vulnerable. This New York Times article illustrates the varying abilities of countries to adapt to global warming by giving "views of the climate divide" from Malawi, Australia, India, and the Netherlands.
Many politicians and businesses hail "carbon trading" – whereby companies can buy and sell permits to pollute – as the key to limiting carbon emissions and curbing global warming. However, this Los Angeles Times article points out that this system has become "a license for big polluters to carry on business as usual," as wealthy corporations are able to purchase cheap carbon permits to offset emissions rather than shifting to more environmentally-friendly practices.
Although the world's richest countries have contributed the most toward global warming, the poorest will likely suffer the worst effects. Arguing that "catastrophes are not democratic" and will do more damage to developing countries near the equator, this New York Times
article calls on northern industrial nations to fund "adaptation" projects to lessen the impacts of climate change in "the world's most vulnerable spots."
Faced with the increasing threat of climate change, scientists have begun researching geoengineering techniques – such as "space mirrors" that deflect energy from the sun or marine algae that "sucks carbon out of the atmosphere" – to reduce global warming. However, some experts fear that people will see these "techno-fixes" as a cheaper, easier alternative to addressing the root problem of excessive pollution. (Christian Science Monitor)
The second installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) study warns that the effects of global warming may range from the "immediate threat" of food and water insecurity to "irreversible and abrupt changes such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet." The IPCC chairman argues that "more research needs to be conducted" into the economic consequences of climate change, especially in the developing countries which will likely "bear the brunt of global warming's worst effects." (Bloomberg)
This Guardian article argues that Linfen, China, "the most polluted city on earth," symbolizes "the worst side-effects ofâ€¦breakneck economic growth." Although China and India are two of the world's four biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, both maintain that they must use more energy to stimulate development. Despite the contaminated rivers, melting glaciers, rising temperatures, and increased respiratory diseases in both countries, the article reports that neither is likely to submit to binding commitments to reduce emissions unless the US – the world's "principal polluter" – first agrees to do the same.
This article for the London Review of Books traces the roots of climate change denial, which remains prevalent despite widespread scientific consensus on the reality of global warming and on its destructive potential. The author attributes this doubt to three "structural flaws": the politicization of science, its portrayal in the media, and the public's "faith-based contentment with science" – accepting it without understanding it.
This Los Angeles Times article argues that consumerism is one of the principal causes behind the growing US contribution to global warming, as the US constantly needs cheap energy to produce and transport goods. Furthermore, despite the assumption that "more is better," studies show that increased wealth over the past 50 years has had little to no effect on levels of happiness. Therefore, efforts to "rebuild broken communities" by consuming locally grown produce, using public transportation, and decreasing the emphasis on material prosperity could reduce the US impact on climate change while simultaneously improving quality of life.
This Guardian article reports that the Bush administration "ran a systematic campaign" to cast doubt over the dangers of global warming. Testimony before Congress revealed that political appointees with close ties to the White House made hundreds of "politically motivated changes to scientific reports," such as downplaying the scientific consensus on climate change, minimizing the effects of human activities on the environment, and inserting "possible benefits" of global warming.
The Carnegie Institution and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have found that warming temperatures over the past two decades have reduced major cereal grain crop production by 40 million metric tons per year. The study further "demonstrates that this decline is due to human-caused" global warming, thereby proving the "real effects" of climate change on the global food supply.
This analysis of the UN's 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report calls the document "remarkably conservative," making its conclusion – that human activity is "very likely" causing global warming – all the more surprising. Due to a slow and outdated process of deliberations which requires consensus from all member states, the IPCC's results are virtually undisputed, but lag several years behind current climate studies. However, even the cautious report recognizes that an immediate "all-out assault" is necessary to curb the dangerous effects of global warming. (New York Review of Books)
An international poll reveals "widespread agreement" that "steps should be taken to address climate change." Furthermore, a large majority of respondents classified global warming as an "important or critical" threat. However, in only three of the twelve countries surveyed – Australia, Israel, and Argentina – did a majority believe that climate change necessitates "immediate, costly measures." (World Public Opinion)
The second report this year of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that, within the next century, global warming will cause increased global food and water shortages, "mass extinction" of polar bears and other animals, and a rise in tropical diseases like malaria. Warning that "things are happeningâ€¦faster than we expected," the IPCC reports that only immediate action can prevent "major impacts on human welfare." (Associated Press)
Arguing that it poses "a threat to international security," UK diplomats may propose putting climate change on the UN Security Council agenda. In the face of "mass migrations" and "aggravated disputes" over dwindling natural resources, the UK warns that regulating climate change "is no longer a choice, it is an imperative." However, reactions from the US and other countries have so far been "less than enthusiastic." (Guardian)
Despite a "repeated commitment" to lowering carbon emissions, the US government has yet to impose formal regulations on greenhouse gases. The Bush administration's long-overdue report to the UN, while acknowledging the "persistent threat" of "human-caused warming," estimates an 11 percent increase in emissions by 2012. Nevertheless, the US "remains satisfied with voluntary measures to slow emissions." (New York Times)
In a joint study subtitled "Avoiding the unmanageable and managing the unavoidable," Sigma Xi and the United Nations Foundation
outline "innovative approaches" to both preventing and adapting to climate change. The report
calls for immediate action on several fronts, such as reducing carbon emissions, building "climate resilient cities," and increasing awareness of global warming through the UN and other multilateral institutions.
An International Herald Tribune and France 24 poll found that the majority of US and European residents agreed that politicians were failing "to address the challenge of global warming." Respondents overwhelmingly supported a tax on industrial pollution and called for "responsibility for global warming to bear a financial consequence." Environmentalists hailed the results as a step forward in combating climate change, and urged governments to take action in response to public opinion.
This Christian Science Monitor article reports that the average meat eater in the US produces 1.5 more tons of carbon dioxide per year than vegetarians. The deforestation to expand pastures and the use of energy in slaughterhouses make the meat industry "one of the most significant contributors" to climate change, causing some researchers to claim that vegetarianism may be "the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes."
Stating that "climate change is here and now," officials at the World Bank are hiring experts on adapting to global warming rather than preventing it. This Christian Science Monitor article reports that, although both tactics are necessary to prepare for climate change, many environmentalists view adaptation as the "poorer cousin" to carbon emission reductions.
Joseph Stiglitz summarizes a discussion on "global growth with responsibility" by "a diverse group of concerned citizens from around the world," including leading economists and former government officials. The resulting consensus calls for a reformed G8 process which would enable participation from all countries "to discuss informally the major issues facing the world," with a focus on the four immediate problems of climate change, global imbalances, global governance, and poverty, especially in Africa. (Initiative for Policy Dialogue)
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close ties to the Bush administration, offered scientists US$10,000 each to undermine the findings of the UN's 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. AEI promised cash and other incentives for essays that "emphasize the shortcomings" of the report, which stated that human activity is "very likely" causing global warming. (Guardian)
113 countries, including the United States, have ratified this United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report which announces that human activities are "very likely" the principle cause of global warming. The report, compiled by 2,500 scientists over a period of six years, predicts global rises in temperatures and sea levels over the next 1,000 years, causing an increased likelihood of droughts, heat waves, and other dangerous climate changes if human influence remains constant.
An investigative study published by the Union of Concerned Scientists
and the Government Accountability Project reveals "a system-wide epidemic" of political interference in the work of US federal climate scientists, with nearly half of the scientists surveyed reporting some form of government suppression of global warming research. The report
urges the federal government to end this censorship and allow scientists to freely communicate the results of climate change studies.
A study by a United Nations panel of 2,500 scientists gives a comprehensive overview of the specific dangers posed by global warming. However, leading environmentalists warn that even this "dire forecast" issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may be overly cautious. This Associated Press article argues that, because the IPCC's conclusions must be agreed upon unanimously by member states, including the United States and Saudi Arabia, its report likely underestimates the risks of climate change.
World Economic Forum founder and chief executive Klaus Schwab opened the 2007 gathering in Davos, Switzerland with an account of the "major threats to globalization," including climate change, income disparities, and political and economic instability. This Inter Press Service article reports that the meeting was quick to highlight these "global risks," but that it failed to present any serious discussion on solutions.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand of its "Doomsday Clock" two minutes forward to reflect the combined global threats of nuclear conflagration and, for the first time, climate change. The Clock, which now reads five minutes to midnight, was originally designed to represent humanity's proximity to nuclear apocalypse. Now, however, according to cosmologist Stephen Hawking, "the dangers posed by climate change are nearly as dire as those posed by nuclear weapons." (Independent)
This Inter Press Service piece argues that "over-consumption," especially in North America and Europe, is a significant cause of climate change. Countries such as China which export low-cost goods use environmentally damaging practices to keep prices down. To decrease demand for these products, consumers must become "environmentally and socially conscious," which, according to the article, entails buying less and being willing to pay more for goods that are manufactured sustainably.
The idea of funding renewable energy sources or planting trees to offset carbon emissions has become increasingly popular among corporations and consumers. However, environmentalists continue to debate the validity of this "carbon neutrality" as a way to combat climate change. Because offsetting techniques have varying degrees of effectiveness, they remain "unclear at best, and potentially fraudulent at worst." Furthermore, critics fear people will view voluntary offsets as permission to continue to pollute. (Christian Science Monitor)
Due to high carbon emissions, "air travel has become one of the fastest-growing causes of global warming," reports this Independent
article. The UK firm Climate Care seeks to offset some of that damage by using donations from travelers eager to "clear their environmental consciences." Visitors to its website can calculate carbon emissions from their flights and the cost to offset them. Climate Care then uses that money to replace high-emission technology in poor countries with more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly devices.
In order to delay action on climate change, ExxonMobil has given nearly US $16 million in funding to groups promoting "climate change contrarians." By financing these organizations, ExxonMobil seeks to cause confusion and doubt over global warming, labeling it "junk science." A new report
by the Union of Concerned Scientists
compares the oil company's disinformation tactics with those of Big Tobacco in previous decades.
This Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) brief analyses how bio- or agrofuel production infringes on The Right to Food. This human right obligates all signatories to implement a "twin-track approach to food security." Firstly, states must enable every person to feed him-or herself with dignity. Secondly, states must provide safety nets in cases where no other remedy against hunger exists. According to the FAO, countries set well-intended targets for agrofuel production but neglect the negative impact of these targets on food security.