Saturday, 29 September 2007

The greening of Bush

Reposted from:

Tony Juniper

The greening of Bush

The US climate change summit is a clear attempt to undermine UN talks and a deliberate move to wreck our last chance to avoid disaster.

September 28, 2007 3:00 PM

President George Bush today embarks on the second of his two-day climate change summit to which he has invited a group of "major emitters", including not only large industrialised country polluters, but also large developing countries such as China and India.

The plan, he says, is to stage a series of top-level talks that will feed into UN talks later this year and beyond, to develop a new consensus of what the shape of a new global deal could look like.

A huge shift in US policy; finally an emphasis on the real challenge of the 21st century; the world saved? Sadly not I fear, or at least not yet.

Far from signalling a fundamental change of heart, to many eyes the meeting is just the latest phase in the Administration campaign to block orchestrated international action on global warming.
Environmental campaigners, including my colleagues from Friends of the Earth USA, will today demonstrate outside the meeting in Washington DC to mark the apparent change of direction from Bush with the slogan "wrong turn".

From the start of his presidency, Bush put in place anti-environmental policies on everything from protected areas to pollution control.

The star in the crown for the old "free"-market corporate ideologues was, however, his deep opposition to taking action on climate change.

In 2001 he loudly announced how he would never allow the USA to implement the Kyoto Protocol, or indeed anything like it. He objected to official internationally-agreed targets and timetables that set out who would reduce pollution by what amount by when. He also believed that the fact that India and China and others didn't have binding reduction targets was unfair (despite the per capita emissions of these countries' mainly poverty-stricken citizens being only a tiny fraction of his own wasteful population).

It was even worse than this though. Not only did he reject the logic of the Kyoto-style policy response,

he even disputed that there was a problem. The science was not proven he said, it was too early to make a clear conclusion, and therefore there was no need to act.
Backed up and influenced by corporate interests, including companies such as Exxon and lobby groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute,
Bush resisted the scientific information coming from all sides, including an increasing number of US scientists. That science has said with increasing certainty and confidence there was a major threat and urgent action was warranted.

Tony Blair saw this as the first hurdle to getting US participation and during the early stages of his G8 presidency in 2005 focused on persuading the Administration that they had to face facts and accept the science. There were grudging moves from Washington, leading more recently to a fuller acceptance of the scale of the problem.

On the back of the recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and because of intense diplomatic pressure not only from the UK but also Germany and others, Bush was forced to move. He was also forced to shift his views because of changes at home.

Not only had be become isolated internationally, he was more and more alone at home. States, city leaders, his own scientists, the public, even the religious right, a big part of his power base, had moved and called for action. Katrina was an additional and very practical demonstration of what his denial meant and was a further rallying point for pressure.

By 2007 it was all too much and Bush had to signal a change of heart, and on the science he has now done that, with officials from his Administration setting out the potentially dire consequences of inaction.
Fundamentally, however, his position remains the same: no targets, no timetables, every country does what it wants, and let's rely on technology, remains his core message.

Posing the false choice between technology and targets is a familiar Bush ploy, and again it is on the table at this meeting. In reality though without both we can't do either. Targets are needed to force technology, while technology is essential for meeting targets. And if we are to do enough emissions reductions in time, then we need a clear science-based route forward that is the basis for the international agreement. This is the real challenge, not as Bush seeks to do in putting blind faith in voluntary moves toward an unspecified role for technology (some of which won't work anyway - such as nuclear and over-reliance on biofuels).

The UN climate talks in Bali later this year must set the scene for the industrialised countries collectively agreeing a new round of emissions reductions to come into effect in 2012.
It will need to be a round of talks leading to more Kyoto-style reductions. And that is what Bush does not want: hence today's meeting. By starting up a parallel track with talks about voluntary approaches to technology, he hopes to draw energy out of the UN and to undermine the prospects of new targets being agreed.
He has been forced to move on the science, but his basic position has not changed.

He is also playing a domestic game. Should the Republicans lose the presidency (as looks increasingly likely), then the Democrats will certainly improve US policy on climate change. The more he can do to block them, even after he has gone, the better. By setting in place a weak framework at home as well as undermining international target setting, he can leave the US well behind the pack and thus protect the backward-looking corporate interests who wrote his policy in the first place.
The US could be a world leader in a rapid shift toward a low-carbon future, but not with the present policy and leadership.

Today's meeting is a transparent attempt to undermine UN talks and as such amounts to a deliberate move to wreck humanity's collective last chance to avoid disaster. The sooner he is gone the better.

Bush seeks flexible CO2 targets

reposted from:

Bush seeks flexible CO2 targets
US President George W Bush at the Washington climate forum
Mr Bush said the US was taking the climate change issue seriously
US President George W Bush has said every country must set its own targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Correspondents say Mr Bush's comments, at a meeting of the top 16 polluting nations, suggest the US may not agree to any internationally-binding cuts.

He also said combating climate change should not hinder economic growth.

Critics say

the US position could dilute attempts to reach a global agreement through the UN, ahead of the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

Mr Bush, who shortly after taking office in 2001 said he would not submit the protocol to Congress for ratification, has opposed mandatory cuts.

He has instead championed voluntary approaches - echoed by China and India.

'New approach'

Addressing the US-sponsored forum on

energy security and climate change, Mr Bush said the two issues were "the great challenges of our time" which the US was taking seriously.

Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technology to achieve results that are measurable and environmentally effective
US President George W Bush

He urged the participants to jointly set a long-term goal for reducing the CO2 emissions that were causing the climate to heat up.

"By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem. And by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it," Mr Bush said.

He proposed to hold a summit next summer to finalise the goal and other key elements of what he described as "a new international approach" on CO2 gases.

Mr Bush also said such measures would help "advance negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change".

'Clean technologies'

But he stressed that it was possible to cut emissions without harming economies.

File photograph of a car exhaust
Activists want the US to take the lead in solving the climate crisis

"Our guiding principle is clear - we must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people," he said.

He said developing clean energy technologies was the key to success, adding that the global demand for energy was expected to increase by 50% by 2030.

The president announced a new international clean technology fund to help developing countries take advantage of new greener methods of generating energy.

But Mr Bush again hinted that the US would not commit itself to mandatory CO2 cuts, despite growing pressure by some of the forum's participants.

"Each nation must decide for itself the right mix of tools and technology to achieve results that are measurable and environmentally effective," Mr Bush said.

The top UN climate official, Yvo de Boer, said he believed the discussions at the conference could feed back into the UN process.

Mr de Boer said it was crucial that industrialised nations committed to an approach that went "well beyond present efforts, given their historic responsibilities and economic capabilities".

Teams from Australia, Brazil, Britain, Canada, the EU, France, Germany, Japan, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Russia and the US were taking part in the Washington forum.

The meeting was called by the US as a precursor to UN talks in Indonesia in December, which will seek to launch a successor to the Kyoto Protocol.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Lovelock urges ocean climate fix

reposted from:

Lovelock urges ocean climate fix
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Salps occur in great swarms

Two of Britain's leading environmental thinkers say it is time to develop a quick technical fix for climate change.

Writing in the journal Nature, Science Museum head Chris Rapley and Gaia theorist James Lovelock suggest looking at boosting ocean take-up of CO2.

Their idea, already being investigated by a US firm, involves huge flotillas of vertical pipes in the tropical seas.

The two scientists say they doubt that existing plans for curbing carbon emissions can work quickly enough.

The stakes are terribly high
James Lovelock

"We are taking the very strong line that we are not going to save the planet by the regular approaches like the Kyoto Protocol or renewable energy," Professor Lovelock told BBC News.

"What we have to do is to look at it in a systems sense, or a Gaian sense, and see if it's curable by direct action."

Natural cycles

Professor Rapley, who has just moved to head up the Science Museum from a similar post at the British Antarctic survey, said the two men developed the ocean pipes concept during country walks in James Lovelock's beloved Devon.

It's worth investigating these kinds of ideas, but premature to start deploying them
Ken Caldeira

Unbeknown to them, a US company, Atmocean, had already begun trials of a very similar technology.

Floating pipes reaching down from the top of the ocean into colder water below move up and down with the swell.

As the pipe moves down, cold water flows up and out onto the ocean surface. A simple valve blocks any downward flow when the pipe is moving upwards.

Colder water is more "productive" - it contains more life, and so in principle can absorb more carbon.

One of the life-forms that might benefit, Atmocean believes, is the salp, a tiny tube which excretes carbon in its solid faecal pellets, which descend to the ocean floor, perhaps storing the carbon away for millennia.

Atmocean CEO Phil Kithil has calculated that deploying about 134 million pipes could potentially sequester about one-third of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities each year. But he acknowledges that research is in the early stages.

Gray whale. Image: Geoff Shester
The scheme could pose problems for marine creatures such as whales
"There is much yet to be learned," he told BBC News. "We need not only to move towards the final design and size (of the pipes), but also to characterise the ecological effects.

"The problem we would be most concerned about would be acidification. We're bringing up higher levels of CO2 along with the nutrients, so it all has to be analysed as to the net carbon balance and the net carbon flux."

Atmocean deployed experimental tubes earlier this year and gathered engineering data. The pipes brought cold water to the surface from a depth of 200m, but no research has yet been done on whether this approach has any net impact on greenhouse gas levels.

The company says a further advantage of cooling surface waters in regions such as the Gulf of Mexico could be a reduction in the number of hurricanes, which need warm water in order to form.

And Professors Lovelock and Rapley suggest that the ocean pipes could also stimulate growth of algae that produce dimethyl sulphide (DMS), a chemical which helps clouds form above the ocean, reflecting sunlight away from the Earth's surface and bringing a further cooling.

Ethical fix

In recent years, scientists have developed a wide range of technical "geo-engineering" ideas for curbing global warming.

Seeding the ocean with iron filings to stimulate plankton growth, putting sunshades in space, and firing sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere from a giant cannon have all been proposed; the iron filings idea has been extensively tested.

But the whole idea of pursuing these "technical fixes" is controversial.

Chris Rapley.  Image: BBC
There's evidence that the Earth's response to climate change might be going faster than people have predicted
Chris Rapley

"One has to understand what the consequences of doing these things are," commented Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University in California, who has published a number of analyses of geo-engineering technologies.

"There are scientific questions of safety and efficacy; then there are the broader ethical, social and political dimensions, and one of the most disturbing is that if people start getting the idea that technical fixes are available and cheaper than curbing carbon emissions, then people might start relying on them as an alternative to curbing emissions.

"So I think it's worth investigating these kinds of ideas, but premature to start deploying them."

Chris Rapley does not believe ideas like the ocean pipes are complete answers to man-made global warming, but may buy time while society develops a more comprehensive response.

"It's encouraging to see how much serious effort is going into technical attempts to reduce carbon emissions, and the renewed commitment to finding an international agreement," he said.

"But in the meantime, there's evidence that the Earth's response to climate change might be going faster than people have predicted. The dramatic loss of ice in the Arctic, for example, poses a serious concern for the northern hemisphere climate."

High stakes

Professor Rapley said the letter to Nature, one of the world's most prestigious scientific journals, was intended to get people thinking about the concept of technical fixes rather than just to advocate ocean pipes.

"If you think of how the science community has organised itself," he said, "with the World Climate Research Programme, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, International Polar Year and so on - you've got all this intensive interdisciplinary collaboration figuring out what Earth systems are up to and figuring out how they work, but we don't have a similar network working across the entire piece as to what we can actually do to mitigate and adapt."

Faecal pellets (Madin/WHOI)
Salp pellets take carbon to the floor of the ocean
He said there was a need for some sort of global collaboration to explore potential climate-fixing technologies.

"Geo-engineering is one of the types of thing that are worth investigating," opined Ken Caldeira, "and yes, the amount of effort going into thinking of innovative solutions is far too little.

"If we can generate 100 ideas, and 97 are bad and we land up with 3 good ones, then the whole thing will have been worthwhile; so I applaud Lovelock and Rapley for thinking along these lines."

He observed that human emissions of greenhouse gases are bringing huge changes to natural ecosystems anyway, so there was nothing morally difficult in principle about deliberately altering the same natural ecosystems to curb climatic change.

But changing patterns of ocean life could potentially have major consequences for marine species. Whales that feed on krill, for example, could find their favourite food displaced by salps.

These would all have to be investigated, James Lovelock acknowledged.

But, he said, it is time to start. "There may be all sorts of ecological consequences, but the stakes are terribly high."

Pump graphic
1. Buoy: Helps hold the pump in position
2. Pump: James Lovelock believes the tubes would be about 100m long to access deep cold water, and 10m wide; Phil Kithil thinks 200m long and 3m wide could be optimum
3. Valve: Could be at the top or bottom of the pipe; top perhaps preferable for maintenance. Water is drawn through the open valve on wave down slopes; no external power needed
4. Cold water: On wave up slopes, cool water spills out of the pump
5. Pump sites: Locations could also be chosen to reduce hurricane risk by cooling surface waters

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Firms sign up for carbon rating

reposted from:

Firms sign up for carbon rating
Power station
The UK is striving to cut CO2 emissions by 20% before 2020
Nine leading companies including Coca-Cola and Cadbury have signed up to a scheme to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of certain products.

They will measure the ecological impact of each product from the sourcing of raw materials through to disposal.

Halifax, Muller and the makers of Andrex toilet tissue are also involved.

The firms will use a draft product standard which is being developed by the government, Carbon Trust and BSI British Standards.

Cadbury Schweppes will be calculating the embodied greenhouse gas emissions during the life cycle of a Dairy Milk bar, while Coca-Cola will consider the carbon footprint of both a sparkling and still drink from its product range.

Kimberly-Clark intends to measure the environmental impact of Andrex Toilet Tissue and Huggies nappies.

Low carbon Britain

The remaining companies and their products are:

  • Aggregate Industries - Hard landscaping products (paving stones etc)
  • The Co-operative Group - 200g and 400g punnet strawberries
  • Halifax - Halifax Web Saver account
  • Marshalls - Hard landscaping products (paving stones etc)

  • Muller Dairy (UK) Limited - One type of yoghurt
  • Scottish & Newcastle - Fosters lager and Bulmers cider

Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock said it was encouraging that so many top companies were "stepping up to the plate" on the issue of climate change.

"The take-up from business of the Carbon Trust's scheme shows that there's real appetite and willingness to firstly understand, and secondly to reduce the impact that their products have on our planet."

Tom Delay, chief executive of the government-funded Carbon Trust, said consumers were demanding more information on the climate change impact of products.

"The unprecedented level of interest we have had in this initiative makes me confident that by working with manufacturers and producers to reduce indirect carbon emissions, we can move the UK another step closer to a low carbon economy," he said.

'Complex task'

Alex Cole, Cadbury's corporate responsibility director, said the company had already been looking at its carbon footprint.

"Whether it's British cows producing fresh milk or Ghanaian farmers growing cocoa, there's a whole bunch of activities that go into making a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk," he said.

"This process is helping us understand where our greatest energy impacts are - so we can bring them down as part of our Purple Goes Green project to do our bit for climate change".

Paul Smith, from Coca-Cola Enterprises Europe, said understanding the overall footprint of individual products will be a "complex task" requiring a detailed analysis of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions across its life cycle.

"We are delighted to work in partnership with the Carbon Trust to undertake this task and hope to be able to support the proposed methodology and identify cost effective opportunities to reduce emissions generated across our supply chain," he added.

Earlier this year,

Carbon Trust launched the carbon reduction label with Walkers
, Boots, and drinks makers Innocent.

It states the emissions of their products and a commitment to reduce their product's emissions over a two year period.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Scientific American - the Physical Science behind Climate Change

Full 10 page article - download (pdf) by Scientific American August 2007

Great summary of the IPCC recent reports.

■ Scientists are confident that humans have interfered with the climate and that further human-induced climate change is on the way.
■ The principal driver of recent climate change is greenhouse gas emissions from human
activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels.
■ The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change places the probability that
global warming has been caused by human activities at greater than 90 percent. The previous report, published in 2001, put the probability at higher than 66 percent.
■ Although further changes in the world’s climate are now inevitable, the future, particularly in the longer term, remains largely in our hands—the magnitude of expected change depends on what humans choose to do about greenhouse gas emissions.
—The Editors