Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Climate Notes for Copenhagen

In less than a month we will complete the warmest decade in recorded history.

glacier It dawned with the warmest winter on record in the United States. And when the sun sets this New Year's Eve, the decade of the 2000s will end as the warmest ever on global temperature charts.

Warmer still, scientists say, lies ahead.

Through 10 years of global boom and bust, of breakneck change around the planet, of terrorism, war and division, all people everywhere under that warming sun faced one threat together: the buildup of greenhouse gases, the rise in temperatures, the danger of a shifting climate, of drought, weather extremes and encroaching seas, of untold damage to the world humanity has created for itself over millennia.

As the decade neared its close, the U.N. gathered presidents and premiers of almost 100 nations for a "climate summit" to take united action, to sharply cut back the burning of coal and other fossil fuels.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told them they had "a powerful opportunity to get on the right side of history" at a year-ending climate conference in Copenhagen.

Once again, however, disunity might keep the world's nations on this side of making historic decisions.

"Deep down, we know that you are not really listening," the Maldives' Mohamed Nasheed told fellow presidents at September's summit.

Nasheed's tiny homeland, a sprinkling of low-lying islands in the Indian Ocean, will be one of the earliest victims of seas rising from heat expansion and melting glaciers. On remote islets of Papua New Guinea, on Pacific atolls, on bleak Arctic shores, other coastal peoples in the 2000s were already making plans, packing up, seeking shelter.

The warming seas were growing more acid, too, from absorbing carbon dioxide, the biggest greenhouse gas in an overloaded atmosphere. Together, warmer waters and acidity will kill coral reefs and imperil other marine life - from plankton at the bottom of the food chain, to starfish and crabs, mussels and sea urchins.

Over the decade's first nine years, global temperatures averaged 0.6 degrees Celsius (1.1 degrees F) higher than the 1951-1980 average, NASA reported. And temperatures rose faster in the far north than anyplace else on Earth.

The decade's final three summers melted Arctic sea ice more than ever before in modern times. Greenland's gargantuan ice cap was pouring 3 percent more meltwater into the sea each year. Every summer's thaw reached deeper into the Arctic permafrost, threatening to unlock vast amounts of methane, a global-warming gas.

Less ice meant less sunlight reflected, more heat absorbed by the Earth. More methane escaping the tundra meant more warming, more thawing, more methane released.

At the bottom of the world, late in the decade, International Polar Year research found that Antarctica, too, was warming. Floating ice shelves fringing its coast weakened, some breaking away, allowing the glaciers behind them to push ice faster into the rising oceans.

On six continents the glaciers retreated through the 2000s, shrinking future water sources for countless millions of Indians, Chinese, South Americans. The great lakes of Africa were shrinking, too, from higher temperatures, evaporation and drought. Across the temperate zones, flowers bloomed earlier, lakes froze later, bark beetles bored their destructive way northward through warmer forests. In the Arctic, surprised Eskimos spotted the red breasts of southern robins… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

Up until this year, the US has been chief among the deniers, but at last, there’s a thaw at EPA.

greenhouse-gases After years of denial, suppression, and delay, the United States government has finally officially recognized that greenhouse gases are dangerous pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The Obama administration has slowly worked on the decision, first sent to the White House by the Environmental Protection Agency in March, then opened for months of public comment through the summer. Less than an hour after the United Nations Climate Change Conference completed its opening day in Copenhagen, Denmark, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson made the “significant climate announcement” at 1:15 pm that global warming pollution endangers the health and welfare of the American public:

This administration will not ignore science or the law any longer, nor will we avoid the responsibility we owe to our children and our grandchildren. Today, I’m proud to announce that EPA has finalized its endangerment finding on greenhouse gas pollution and is now authorized and obligated to make reasonable efforts to reduce greenhouse pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

In 1992, the United States signed an international treaty to “prevent dangerous human-induced interference with the climate system” from greenhouse gases. Seventeen years later, after the continued accumulation of greenhouse gases have decimated the world’s glaciers and Arctic ice cap, acidified the oceans, intensified hurricanes and droughts, increased smog and wildfires, and driven species to extinction, the Barack Obama administration is recognizing its legal obligation to begin regulating this deadly threat… [emphasis original]

Inserted from <Think Progress>

After such a radical turnaround, have you ever wondered what happened to the science-haters from the Bush/GOP EPA?  Here’s Rachel with the answer:


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

For eight years we had the fox running the henhouse.  While Obama is in Copenhagen, I hope he will endorse a treaty that places strict limits on greenhouse gas emissions.  Let the Republicans scream.  They will scream no matter what he does, so he might as well do it right.  When the Republicans fight ratification, let them bear the shame.

Off topic, a reader was kind enough to inform me that the videos here were overrunning their boundaries.  I has actually just started making them larger than the default, because that looked good on my screen, which is 1280 x 800.  Today I cut back to the default.  Are either this video ore the one in the previous article overrunning their boundaries for you now?  Thanks for the help.


Lisa G. said...

About friggin' time. Go Obama! Let's see some positive change for a real change.

Lisa G. said...

I love this blog - I have more fun with your commenters - they are quite wise. We're lucky to have such intelligent people on our side! Oh, and btw, TC, you are great too!

Kevin said...

But doesn't Hannity tell me that it is cold outside? I know it is December and my thermostat reads 76 degrees, but surely this is as cold, if not colder, as it ever was, right???

Why would the GOP lie to me?

Unknown said...

This was my main motivation in working for an supporting Obama in the election... his stance on climate and global warming. The healing of Mother Earth is my main politic (as it were)! Needless to say, I'm disappointed in the Copenhagen (lack of) contribution by President Obama's admin. I am disappointed deeply. I still hope to see something 'special' from his trip next week... hopeful, huh?

Good piece, TC.
I saw Maddow's piece this morning on all the old Bushies. Typical. What else did we think?

jmsjoin said...

Hey Bud!
The right is using those hi jacked e mails showing numbers have been fudged to make things look worse than they are but any idiot can see it, mane made or natural.

I am glad to see Obama's action and sick of hearing how it will cost us. The cost of doing nothing is much worse and I think Obama can make this a winner if they let him!

Mike said...

Average Patriot, the "climategate" emails aren't what the AGW deniers say it is. You can find an informed perspective on this at Greenfrye. And a semi-informed non-scientist's take on it at my blog.

jmsjoin said...

Thanks Stimpson I will check that out! I was listening to a debate about it on TV and Bill Nye the science guy said it was all designed to give the nay Sayers fuel. I am sickened they are playing this game and many will fall for it.

Jo said...

The worst blizzard in history is also blanketing most of the Midwest right this moment. That is part of climate change too.

rjs said...

Copenhagen: 1,200 Limos, 5 Hybrids, 140 Private Jets, and CO2 Equal to Alexandria VA (41,000 tons)

TomCat said...

Thanks Lisa. You're pretty great yourself. I love what you add here with your energy and wit.

Kevin, the GOP would lie, because bears crap in the woods.

Gwen, human rights is probably my biggest hot button, but environment is high on the list. I found Copenhagen a disappointment as well.

Jim, even if a few researchers did overplay their cards, this cannot compare to the years of official denial we have faced or the fact that climate change is a reality.

Thanks Stimpson!

That's absolutely correct, Josie. In recent years, Portland has been hotter in the summer and colder in the winter. Vancouver too, I imagine. Warming produces a change in weather patterns that have different effects in different places.

Excellent point, RJ. Like the bug three flying their private jets to the bailout hearings.

rjs said...

NASA climate expert hopes Copenhagen summit fails - A leading scientist who helped alert the world to the dangers of global warming said on Thursday that climate talks in Copenhagen next week were based on such flawed proposals that he hoped they failed. James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies since 1981, said attempts to forge a global deal on cutting emissions after the Kyoto treaty expires were based on a "fundamentally wrong" approach."I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it's a disaster track," he told Britain's Guardian newspaper ahead of the December 7-18 summit.Hansen is highly sceptical about a favoured measure of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, a cap-and-trade system under which a progressively stricter 'right to pollute' is exchanged in a carbon market.Instead, he has previously argued for a direct tax on fossil fuels as the only realistic way to achieve the necessary cuts.
why? Russia's Carbon Credits Seen as Barrier to Warming Curb - That was the headline of Tuesday's New York Times article by James Kanter. It turns out that the collapse of heavy industry in Russia in the 1990s has given it the world's largest stock of credits to offset carbon emissions under the Kyoto Treaty...Would Russia really dump its credits on the market and drive carbon emissions prices to zero, effectively lifting carbon emissions caps around the world?
maybe: remember, with the largest cold land mass in the world, russia would be the country to benefit most from global warming

TomCat said...

Thanks RJ. I had no idea that Russia could wreck it so easily.

rjs said...

& heres the other problem with cap & trade: Planet Worth - Goldman Sachs bets on global warming (The New Republic)
Of all the different industry groups scrambling to shape climate policy in Washington--from electric utilities to Detroit automakers--one stands out as a bit unexpected: Wall Street. Financial giants like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan have enlisted, all told, more than 100 lobbyists to roam the Capitol and influence the debate over how to curb greenhouse gases. There’s a reason for that: Any cap-and-trade bill that puts a limit on emissions and allows polluters to buy and sell permits will create a vast carbon market. That will mean new opportunities for financial firms to broker deals, package carbon offsets, or offer hedging instruments. And that, in turn, will mean profit. Little wonder that investment banks have been bulking up their carbon-trading desks in recent years.

TomCat said...

Now that doesn't surprise me at all.