climate conference

Climate Talks Make Progress As Skeptics, Activists Abound

As you would expect, a confab such as the Cancun Climate Conference attracts a wide range of people. There are representatives from some 190 nations, a strong contingent of students, activist groups and climate skeptics, including a Republican senator who likes to stir things up.

Oklahoma senator James Inhofe makes it a habit to visit these types of events. Last year, he showed up at a press center in Copenhagen (calling himself a "one-man truth squad") and called global warming a hoax.

He isn't physically at Cancun, but that didn't stop him from appearing via video, where, according to this report in The New York Times, he attacked "global warming alarmists" and the efforts to curtail climate change.

"Nothing is going to happen in Cancun this year and everyone knows it," The New York Times quoted him as saying. "I couldn’t be happier and poor Al Gore couldn’t be more upset."

At the other end of the spectrum and in attendance is Bill McKibben, author of the best-seller, "EAARTH." He claims global warming has already changed the planet and that bad things are on the horizon if temperatures increase.

He is quoted in this Voice of America story as saying, "The arctic is melting quickly, Russia caught on fire this summer, Pakistan drowned (in floods), the ocean is 30 percent more acid than it used to be. We are in tough shape with less than a degree of temperature increase."

Along those lines have been a litany of studies release in Cancun that are gloomy scary: the latest came out today and proclaims 2010 one of the three top hottest years on record and this decade as the hottest 10-year period ever.

That followed one on Wednesday that predicted a doubling of grain prices by 2050 if emissions follow on the current path.

So, there is incentive to press for significant results at Cancun. The Guardian issued a first-week recap - a scorecard if you will on progress so far.

Here it is in brief form.


Objective: holding emissions to a maximum temperature rise of 2C.
Progress: Little. Outlook: bleak.

Objective: Reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation, with $30 billion going to developing nations to protect and restore forests.
Progress: little. Outlook: Good.

Objective: Set up $100 billion fund by 2020 to help developing countries affected by climate change.
Progress: Good. Outlook: Outlook: Close to agreement.

Objective: To get rich countries to extend the Kyoto protocol, and state plans for emissions cuts.
Progress: Backwards; Outlook: Critical.

Objective: Countries commit to monitor, report and verify progress on emissions reduction.
Progress: China and the US say they could compromise on India proposal; Outlook: Breakthrough possible.

"The End" Is Not Good In Global Warming

By definition, "the end" is pretty final.

In a movie, there's nothing more to see. In a book, you run out of words to read. In climate change, "The End" is a little more serious: “We are facing at this moment the end of history for some of us,” a representative of the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States said at the Cancun climate conference being held in Mexico.

Antonio Lima, representative of Cape Verde and alliance vice chairman, said Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Cook Islands, Marshall Islands and Maldives are the most threatened. “All these countries are struggling to survive. They are going to drown. I have mountains in my country. I can climb. They cannot climb," Bloomberg Businessweek quoted him as saying.

Obviously, small island nations have much to lose if global warming is not restricted. Members of the alliance want temperature increases limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but representatives of the United States and European Union said they don't expect a treaty from the talks - settling instead for verifying actions to cut emissions, creating a $100 billion green fund to help finance clean energy projects and protecting forests.

The U.S. delegation, according to this account in The Guardian, is taking a firm stance on some of those issues, and has threatened to leave the talks early if developing nations don't agree.

About 190 nations are represented at the 12-day conference. Among the representatives from the United States are 40 students from Yale. They are from The School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the Yale Climate and Energy Institute and the Yale Law School - and are attending as observers and delegates, The Yale News reported.

Cancun Climate Talks Open With Space-Age Solutions

The expectations for any sort of meaningful result from the Cancun Climate Change Conference are low, but that doesn't stop talk of some high-flying measures. Really high-flying - like in space.

United Nation scientists are looking at what they call "geo-engineering" options to reverse global warming. That could include putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight or sprinkling iron in the oceans to fertilize algae and suck up CO2, according to reports in The Telegraph.. It sounds pretty futuristic, but that might be what it takes to combat the possibility of what one scientist called "catastrophic warming within the next 50 years."

Worst-case scenario studies, released Sunday, say world temperatures could climb 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by 2060, and result in an annual investment of billions of dollars to contain rising sea levels.

The goal of the conference, which representatives of some 190 countries are attending under heavy security, is to reach agreements that lead to significant investment for developing nations and green technology that helps shift away from fossil fuels. The 12-day session concludes Dec. 10. Here is a link to the conference Web site.

It didn't take long for the first fissures to appear. African nations are taking a hard stance against the European Union because they believe the more developed nations are too wishy-washy when it comes to climate change. Meanwhile, the U.S. and China are taking fire because they can't or won't commit to legally binding targets on cutting carbon, according to reports.

So, it is up to other nations to take charge without the United States, scientists said, adding that the political situation in the U.S. prevents any kind of comprehensive program out of Washington, at least in the near term, although the government did say it will adhere to an earlier pledge to cut emissions 17% by 2020.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press lists some of the impacts of global warming in this story.