Posts Tagged ‘climate change’


A personal view from Copenhagen

The high level segment has started today, which means a lot of security and a lot of cameras and long queues outside the centre (some have waited for 10 hours). Access to the conference is now limited for the NGOs.

In the side events on science there is consensus that the climate is changing. Although we do not exactly know how the future climate will be, we know that it is warming and will continue to warm to potentially dangerous levels. There are potential tipping points ahead of us: We are flying blind into a wall, as a speaker phrased it. So there is no doubt: action is urgently needed and the number of people who doubt this fact is insignificant here I guess. The translation of complex science into policy is then called the 2-degree-target (not “limit” by the way).

In the side events on mitigation targets that are needed to stay well below 2 degree of warming it is clearly shown that the current pledges of the industrialized countries are not sufficient.


In the side events on transition pathways to a low-carbon-society, renewable energy and technological potential the good news is that there is a bright green future (although most say that one might have to accept carbon capture and storage and/or nuclear power). The technology is available or will most probably be in the future

In the side events on the cost of climate change mitigation the economists show that the costs would not exceed some tiny percent of the GDP, which means a delay in economical growth of only some months (which is important, if you like the idea of growing ever more).
So here is the logic: climate change can be dangerous, if we do not act now, it is feasible and we can afford it. Let’s be reasonable and “seal the deal”.

But then in the negotiation here at COP this does not seem to be known. Is this the science-policy gap? Or is it the science-general public gap? Do these people not have a conscience? How about the ethics of such behavior and the responsibility of these delegates?


As I am now closely watching the politicians act, I understand a little bit better why they do not act according to the logic laid out above: they are all under a constraint, they all represent the meaning of their government. Many of them really care (some do not). They work long days since months, the sessions last late into the night. They talk in the plenum, in contact groups, informally and bilateral, and then are consulted by the heads of state. They discuss the framework of the decision, the complex details and the shared vision. So it should work? Now again, I do not understand, because so far, the countries follow their own agendas, there is not much movement. Maybe all the Excellencies present now will make the deal, but I am not sure if it will be a/the real deal. I hope. It could be!

(Thank you to Belalonbg Jantan, chrissy575 and flikkerphotos from Flikr for their wonderful photos)


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Hurricane Bill - NASA

This week and next, intense and furious talks will take place in Copenhagen in an attempt to find a solution to the climate crisis the world is facing. To paraphrase someone from over 60 years ago “Never in the history of mankind has the welfare of so many been in the hands of so few.” And yet by all accounts the probablility of achieving a workable solution in time is very low.

Why is this when a possible solution exists and the consequences of not applying that solution are so devastatingly serious? To most people involved in the science of climate change the writing is on the wall in six foot high letters. It is essential that we in the scientific community ask ourselves why this message that seem so clear to us does not seem to be passing into the consciousness of the mainstream.

At a recent round-table discussion at the LSCE in preparation for the Copenhagen Summit Jean Jouzel presented these two tables and introduced them as the two most essential pages from the IPCC report that synopsise the problem we are facing.

The 6 IPCC Stablisation Scenarios

IPCC Scenario Categories

Indeed, to the initiated these tables do make scary reading. However to the vast majority whose self-interests lie in not understanding them, it is all too easy to obscure their meaning.

I would like to make three points about these tables and the difficulties involved in the transfer of their meaning across the human synapses into the brain.

Firstly, they refer to average global warming between 2° to 6.1°. To most people who experience twice or three times this range of temperatures during an average day how communicative is this?

Secondly, the range within each scenario is quite precise and small. For most people the defining characteristic of climate is its variability so that they have a hard time understanding the relative constancy of the average global temperature and why any, even tiny, change is cause for concern.

Finally, in the IPCC tables the ranges of emissions corresponding to the various temperature scenarios can make people feel that there is a choice. (I’ll take the 25%  reduction in CO2 emissions, thank you very much!)

Perhaps this is the simplistic view of a newcomer but I can’t help but feel that there must be a better way to communicate the problem.

Another Winston Churchill quotation seems to me to be particularly apt in this context. “The reserve of modern assertions is sometimes pushed to extremes, in which the fear of being contradicted leads the writer to strip himself of almost all sense and meaning.”

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