Posts Tagged ‘climate change’

John Kerry: US ‘cannot afford truculent child president

November 16, 2018

Former US secretary of state criticises Trump’s failure to attend Armistice Day ceremony

America cannot afford “a truculent child president” if it is to fulfil its global leadership role, the former US secretary of state John Kerry said on Thursday as he lambasted Donald Trump for failing to attend a key Armistice Day commemoration ceremony in Paris at the weekend.

Kerry is visiting the UK to promote his book and will be speaking at a Guardian Live event in London on Thursday night.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Kerry spoke of “a dearth of a leadership on a global basis” adding: “Every country is feeling the pressure of this nationalistic populist and in some cases very frightening rightwing advance.”

He said: “I was appalled that rain drops prevented the president from going to pay honour to those that died in rain, gas, snow and mud. That was the reason he came to Paris.”

Trump refused to attend the rain-swept ceremony citing concerns that his helicopter could not fly due to the weather, and his belief that if he travelled by car, the Paris traffic would be severely disrupted.

Kerry said: “People are tired of the embarrassment of what took place in Paris in the last few days. We cannot have a truculent child president. We need something serious.”

Despite his personal criticism of Trump, Kerry urged his party to avoid becoming so obsessed with Trump that they call for his impeachment. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives should do whatever is appropriate, he explained, but he said: “the Democrats should not even be talking about impeachment right now. We should be talking about the alternatives that might make life better for the people in our country.”

He highlighted climate change, saying in 30 years of political activity he had “never seen evidence mounting so powerfully as it is today about the urgency of action, but it is not happening on a global basis. Scientists have just said if we do not get our act together in the next 12 years we are in for a serious catastrophe”.

He also called for a global cyber-agreement on a similar scale to the deal restricting nuclear weapons.

Speaking on the UK Brexit debate, he said: “Suffice it to say both President Obama and myself, as secretary of state, came here to Britain before the referendum and we both were remainers”. When asked if he supported a second referendum, he replied: “I said President Obama and I were, and are, remainers”.

He said the most recent midterm elections had made a powerful statement.

“We had, for the first time in history, more than 100 million people – 113 million people vote in the midterm elections. We had seven mid-governorships flip to the Democratic party, six legislatures and the largest number of Democratic Congress people elected since Watergate, which took place two months after Richard Nixon resigned.”

He also rebutted the often-repeated claim that wherever Trump campaigned he won, saying Trump lost in Montana, Nevada and Arizona.

He said he had not ruled out standing as the Democratic candidate for the presidency, but said he was not “actively running round” to secure the nomination, saying as many as 20 to 25 names were being bandied around in what he described as a “mish-mash”. The only specific names he mentioned were former vice president Joe Biden and the former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, but added there was a lot of talent in the party.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/nov/15/john-kerry-trump-america-truculent-president

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Australia revamps Pacific strategy as China looms

November 8, 2018

With an eye on China’s growing role in the Pacific, Australia on Thursday announced Aus$3 billion in financial enticements to boost its presence in the region, accompanied by a series of security and political initiatives.

Image result for australia, china, flags

Beijing is piling investment into the Pacific, sending ever more fishing vessels deeper into its waters and reportedly mulling the construction of a military base on Vanuatu.

© AFP/File | Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to boost Australia’s engagement in the Pacific

Faced with this increasing Chinese influence, Prime Minister Scott Morrison vowed to take Australia’s engagement “to a new level.”

“We want to work with our Pacific Islands partners to build a Pacific region that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically,” Morrison said as he prepares for a major Asian-Pacific summit in Port Moresby next week.

He underscored a series of security, economic and diplomatic initiatives, including the donation of patrol boats and the development of a joint military base in Papua New Guinea.

The centerpiece however is cold hard cash — much sought after by poverty-hit countries in the region — with Morrison announcing a Aus$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) fund”to significantly boost Australia’s support for infrastructure development in Pacific countries and Timor-Leste”.

He also announced a further Aus$1 billion for export financing to support investments in the region.

Morrison’s government has been preoccupied by domestic infighting and has diverged politically from Pacific Island nations threatened by rising waters, by questioning climate change.

Australia has long been a major political player in much of the south and west Pacific, but has lost ground with China ploughing massive investment into the region as part of its “Belt and Road” initiative.

Although the Pacific islands are small in size, and a less vital waterway for trade than the contested South China Sea, their exclusive economic zones make up a massive proportion of the world’s maritime assets.

And the region has become increasingly important as Beijing has signalled its intent to develop a “Blue Water” navy that can project Chinese power far beyond its coastal waters.

The Chinese authorities have also been keen to harness natural resources from hardwood to nickel and have — with notable success — tried to entice countries in the region to drop recognition of Taiwan, isolating its cross-strait foe.

The number of Chinese fishing vessels operating in the tuna-rich waters of the Pacific has also increased from 244 in 2010 to over 600, according to data from Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Without mentioning China by name, Morrison — whose foreign minister is in Beijing this week — hailed common values with island nations and said he would expand Australia’s diplomatic footprint to “every member country of the Pacific Islands Forum”.

Australian media reported that Morrison will continue his charm offensive at the Asia-Pacific summit in Port Moresby, where he will host leaders for a barbecue.

He will have competition from Xi Jinping, who is also expected to meet a host of regional leaders when he attends the summit.

US president Donald Trump will not attend, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his stead.

AFP

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Energy industry scores victories in US midterm elections

November 7, 2018

Voters reject proposed carbon tax in Washington and oil production curbs in Colorado

By Ed Crooks in New York

The US oil and gas industry scored important victories in the midterm elections, defeating proposals for what would have been the country’s first-ever carbon tax in Washington state and new restrictions on production in Colorado.

Overall, the election results were favourable for the US renewable energy industry, which will receive a boost from Democrat victories in several key races for governor, including in Nevada, New Mexico and Maine.

Much of US energy policy is set at the state level, and control of governorships and legislatures can have significant effects on critical regulations and tax incentives.

There were setbacks for the oil industry, including new offshore drilling restrictions in Florida and failure to repeal a petrol tax increase in California However, oil companies were successful in fending off threats in two high-profile votes.

One of the most watched ballot propositions on Tuesday was Washington state’s revived attempt to introduce a carbon tax, an idea that was put forward by a bipartisan campaign backed by leading companies, including ExxonMobil, as way for the US to address climate change.

Image result for ExxonMobil, photos

The plan faced strong opposition from oil companies with refineries in the state, including BP. By early Wednesday morning it seemed clear that it had failed. The Western States Petroleum Association, backed by oil companies and business groups, raised $31.6m to fight the measure, a record for the state. It said its members believed that climate change should be addressed at national and international levels.

“State-level policy in Washington would have a negligible impact on mitigating climate change but could have a significant negative impact on our state’s businesses,” it warned. There was another important victory for the industry in Colorado, which is the fifth-largest oil producer and sixth-largest gas producer in the US.

Proposition 112 would have forced all new wells drilled and brought into production to be set back at least 2,500 feet from occupied buildings, a rule the industry said would “devastate” the state’s economy.

By early Wednesday the proposal was poised for defeat.

Chip Rimer, chairman of the board of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association and a senior vice-president at Noble Energy, said: “We appreciate our fellow Coloradans’ support for responsible energy development. This measure was an extreme proposal that would have had devastating impacts across the state on jobs, education and numerous other programs important to each of us.”

The oil industry, however, had a setback in Florida, where voters approved a strange hybrid amendment to its constitution banning both offshore drilling and the use of ecigarettes in the workplace.

That vote formalises the state’s long-entrenched resistance to offshore exploration. The Trump administration has suggested the state’s waters could be among the areas it wants to open up for oil and gas development, but Ron DeSantis, Florida’s new Republican governor, has opposed the idea, despite his support for the president.

Recommended Markets Insight Michael Mackenzie Congressional gridlock?

Financial markets are fine with it In California, voters rejected a Republican plan to repeal a recently passed petrol tax. Proposition 6 would have reversed a 2017 increase to fuel taxes and vehicle fees in the state that Republican opponents said were levied without voters’ permission. Opponents said it would deprive funding for infrastructure and transit projects in the state.

Meanwhile the renewable energy industry made gains in some states. In Nevada, a measure opening up the electricity market to greater competition, which had been opposed by environmental groups, was defeated, while a proposed constitutional amendment compelling utilities to source 50 per cent of the electricity from renewables by 2030 was on course for success. The amendment now has to be backed again in another vote in 2020 to take effect.

Beyond ballot measures, the renewable energy industry could stand to benefit from Democrat victories in several key races for governor. Nevada was one of several states where control of the governorship passed from a Republican to a Democrat, with implications for energy policy.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, the new governor of New Mexico, has backed sourcing 50 per cent of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030, while JB Pritzker, who won in Illinois, has talked about putting the state on track to use 100 per cent “clean energy” from renewable sources by 2050.

Many of these new Democratic governors are also expected to join the states fighting against President Donald Trump’s attempts to weaken environmental regulations, including his plan to make future vehicle fuel economy and emissions standards less stringent than the rules put in place by the Obama administration.

https://www.ft.com/content/63b68420-e288-11e8-a6e5-792428919cee

Asia coal plants worrying for climate targets: IEA

October 31, 2018

Coal-fired power plants operating and under construction in Asia pose a threat to achieving the goal of halting global warming, the head of the International Energy Agency told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

The coal burning plants would “lock in the emissions trajectory of the world, full stop,” IEA chief Fatih Birol told the newspaper in an interview.

Last year, greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector — which account for about three-quarters of the total — rose after three years of holding steady. They are expected to increase again this year.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change sounded the alarm bell earlier this month that the increase in global temperatures needs to be held to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) to avoid disastrous weather changes.

To have at least a 50/50 chance of staying under the 1.5 C cap without overshooting the mark, the world must, by 2050, become “carbon neutral”, it said in a report.

© AFP | Coal-fired power plants on line or planned in Asia threaten efforts to curb emissions blamed for global warming, the IEA head says

That implies that emissions from conventional power plants must soon be offset by taking an equal amount of carbon out of the atmosphere.

While wind and solar power production has now become cheaper than conventional plants to build and operate, once an investment has been made in a power plant the financial calculus is often to keep it running.

Electricity production from coal rose by four percent last year in China, and by 13 percent in India, according to IEA figures.

“How we are going to deal with this problem is for me the nerve centre of the climate change debate today,” Birol told the Financial Times.

AFP

‘For the Pacific it’s always about cash’: Australian Environment Minister in diplomatic incident over climate change

October 17, 2018

Environment Minister Melissa Price has been accused of offending a key Pacific leader by declaring the region was “always” seeking cash from Australia, sparking a political dispute over her alleged remarks at a Canberra restaurant on Tuesday night.

Image result for Environment Minister Melissa Price, photos

Environment Minister Melissa Price

Ms Price is said to have told former Kiribati president Anote Tong, a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, that she had her “chequebook” ready to deal with his demands for cash.

The minister’s office has declared the account to be “completely untrue” but the contested exchange triggered a rebuke over the minister’s treatment of a key friend of Australia in the Pacific.

Image result for Kiribati president Anote Tong, photos

Former Kiribati president Anote Tong

Ms Price told Parliament she “100 per cent disagreed” with the account of her remarks to Mr Tong.

Mr Tong, who led Kiribati from 2003 to 2016, was dining with Labor senator Pat Dodson, Edmund Rice Centre director Phil Glendenning and Oxfam climate change expert Simon Bradshaw at La Rustica restaurant in the Canberra suburb of Kingston and was introduced to Ms Price, who was dining with staff close by.

Mr Glendenning told Fairfax Media that Ms Price discussed a possible meeting with Mr Tong and then made a remark about demands for cash.

Ms Price asked Mr Tong why he was in Canberra and was told by Senator Dodson that the former Kiribati leader was in Australia to talk about climate change and was hoping to have a meeting with her.

“Is it about the cash?” Ms Price replied, according to Mr Glendenning.

“It’s always about the cash. I’ve got my chequebook over there. How much do you want?”

A spokesman for Ms Price denied this account and said the minister told Mr Tong that Australia cared very deeply about the Pacific, before suggesting they set up a meeting at some point.

Senator Dodson wrote to Ms Price on Wednesday to criticise the “discourteous and offensive behaviour” and to ask her to apologise to Mr Tong.

In his letter, Senator Dodson relayed his account of the words the minister spoke.

“I know why you’re here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific it’s always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?” she is alleged to have said in the account Senator Dodson set out in his letter.

Senator Dodson noted in his letter that there were four people at his table with Mr Tong.

“They were all shocked and embarrassed,” he wrote.

“You should be aware that president Tong is a well-known international figure, close to president Obama and other world leaders, especially on [issues affecting] our Pacific region,” Senator Dodson wrote.

“He is globally known as an advocate for action on climate change. He is a Nobel Prize nominee and was the leader of his nation for over a decade. He deserves an apology.”

Senator Dodson also sent this letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Ms Price told question time she was very concerned at the way the remarks had been relayed in Senator Dodson’s letter, given she had considered the West Australian senator to be a friend.

“Some friend, I have to say,” Ms Price said in Parliament.

“I’m very concerned that president Tong has been offended in any way.

“I have spoken to Senator Dodson today and asked him if he was able to provide me with a contact number for president Tong because I 100 per cent disagree with what he has said was the conversation.

“What I did say was that the Pacific is a very good friend and neighbour to Australia. In fact that’s exactly what I said to president Tong last night.”

Ms Price responded again after question time, telling Fairfax Media that she was disturbed by a “completely inaccurate” representation of the conversation.

“I approached Senator Dodson’s table to greet him and his dinner guests, and we had a very cordial and relaxed conversation,” Ms Price said.

“Former president Tong and I discussed the prospect of meeting officially at some point in the future. At no point did I make the sort of comments Senator Dodson is alleging.

“I have spoken to Senator Dodson to convey that I unequivocally dispute the version events described in his letter addressed to me. I spoke to former president Tong a short time ago and he thanked me for reaching out to him.”

Fairfax Media has sought comment from Mr Tong.

Speaking to Fairfax Media after question time, Mr Glendenning stood by his account of the conversation and the account from Senator Dodson.

“Senator Dodson’s letter is 100 per cent accurate. I was at the table and I can confirm that,” Mr Glendenning said.

“It is very unfortunate. Anote Tong is a serious global figure and a world leader on climate change.”

Mr Glendenning is president of the Refugee Council of Australia and a human rights advocate who has been director of the Edmund Rice Centre since 1996. The federal government made him a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day honours last year.

The government has offended Pacific leaders in the past, with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton caught on camera joking about rising sea levels after a visit to the region.

Fairfax Media was told that Mr Tong responded to Ms Price by saying it was “nice to meet you” but he later described the exchange as unfortunate.

Mr Tong is said to have rolled his eyes and told his friends he was not in Canberra for a cheque.

Senator Dodson wrote to Ms Price on Wednesday to criticise the “discourteous and offensive behaviour” and to ask her to apologise to Mr Tong.

In his letter, Senator Dodson relayed his account of the words the minister spoke.

“I know why you’re here. It is for the cash. For the Pacific it’s always about the cash. I have my chequebook here. How much do you want?” she is alleged to have said in the account Senator Dodson set out in his letter.

Senator Dodson noted in his letter that there were four people at his table with Mr Tong.

“They were all shocked and embarrassed,” he wrote.

“You should be aware that president Tong is a well-known international figure, close to president Obama and other world leaders, especially on [issues affecting] our Pacific region,” Senator Dodson wrote.

“He is globally known as an advocate for action on climate change. He is a Nobel Prize nominee and was the leader of his nation for over a decade. He deserves an apology.”

Senator Dodson also sent this letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Ms Price told question time she was very concerned at the way the remarks had been relayed in Senator Dodson’s letter, given she had considered the West Australian senator to be a friend.

“Some friend, I have to say,” Ms Price said in Parliament.

“I’m very concerned that president Tong has been offended in any way.

“I have spoken to Senator Dodson today and asked him if he was able to provide me with a contact number for president Tong because I 100 per cent disagree with what he has said was the conversation.

“What I did say was that the Pacific is a very good friend and neighbour to Australia. In fact that’s exactly what I said to president Tong last night.”

Ms Price responded again after question time, telling Fairfax Media that she was disturbed by a “completely inaccurate” representation of the conversation.

“I approached Senator Dodson’s table to greet him and his dinner guests, and we had a very cordial and relaxed conversation,” Ms Price said.

“Former president Tong and I discussed the prospect of meeting officially at some point in the future. At no point did I make the sort of comments Senator Dodson is alleging.

“I have spoken to Senator Dodson to convey that I unequivocally dispute the version events described in his letter addressed to me. I spoke to former president Tong a short time ago and he thanked me for reaching out to him.”

Fairfax Media has sought comment from Mr Tong.

Speaking to Fairfax Media after question time, Mr Glendenning stood by his account of the conversation and the account from Senator Dodson.

“Senator Dodson’s letter is 100 per cent accurate. I was at the table and I can confirm that,” Mr Glendenning said.

“It is very unfortunate. Anote Tong is a serious global figure and a world leader on climate change.”

Mr Glendenning is president of the Refugee Council of Australia and a human rights advocate who has been director of the Edmund Rice Centre since 1996. The federal government made him a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Australia Day honours last year.

The government has offended Pacific leaders in the past, with Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton caught on camera joking about rising sea levels after a visit to the region.

“Time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door,” Mr Dutton said in September 2015.

Mr Tong strongly criticised those remarks and said Mr Dutton should “search his own soul” about his arrogance.

“What kind of a person is he? As long as there is this kind of attitude, this kind of arrogance in any position of leadership, we will continue to have a lot of tension,” Mr Tong said at the time.

Queensland Liberal National Senator Ian Macdonald last month also claimed Pacific countries were always seeking money to deal with climate change.

“They might be Pacific Islanders, but there’s no doubting their wisdom and their ability to extract a dollar where they see it,” Senator Macdonald told the Senate.

The federal government is increasingly anxious about rising Chinese influence in the Pacific and has tried to assure regional leaders that it will keep its commitments on climate change.

Asked 10 days ago if Australia should withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change, Mr Morrison named alliances in the Pacific as a key reason for staying in the global compact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“The question really is what is to be gained by that, other than people questioning Australia’s commitments and international agreements we’ve entered into,” Mr Morrison said.

“In particular, those in the region in the Pacific, this is a very important commitment that we’ve made.”

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/for-the-pacific-it-s-always-about-cash-environment-minister-in-diplomatic-incident-over-climate-change-20181017-p50a6b.html

UN warns of ‘perfect storm’ of hunger, climate change

October 16, 2018

A potent combination of hunger, climate change and man-made conflicts are creating a “perfect storm”, the head of the UN’s food arm warned Tuesday in a call to action on World Food Day.

“You’ve got a nightmare, the perfect storm heading your way,” David Beasley, World Food Programme (WFP) chief, said in a speech in Rome, where the United Nations’ food agencies are headquartered.

The UN aims to achieve a Zero Hunger world by 2030, but faces three obstacles: conflicts, climate change and an economic slowdown.

Beasley said the battle was an urgent one. “Children are dying at a rate of every five to ten seconds” from hunger or malnutrition, he said.

© AFP/File | Beasley warned of a ‘perfect storm’ of hunger, climate change and man-made conflicts

Food is being wasted both during the production process and in people’s kitchens.

“The answer is not in Rome alone, it’s in your homes. What are you going to do about it?” he asked.

It is not a problem wealthier countries can simply ignore, for it has a knock-on effect on them in terms of the migration crisis.

“For every one percent increase in hunger, there’s a two percent increase in migration,” Beasley said.

Some 821 million people, or one of every nine people on the planet, suffered from hunger last year, marking the third consecutive annual increase, according to the UN’s latest hunger report.

An estimated 155 million children under five years old are chronically malnourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), while micronutrient deficiencies, dubbed the “hidden hunger”, affects over two billion people worldwide.

At the same time, over 600 million people are obese.

The costs to society of the “global pandemic” of obesity are enormous — as expensive as armed conflicts and smoking, FAO head Jose Graziano da Silva said.

“International solidarity appears to be cooling,” warned Pope Francis in a speech delivered by a Vatican representative.

He warned institutions leading the fight against hunger not to “study the roots of (poor people’s) misery” and merely respond with “impressive publications destined only to enlarge library catalogues”.

“When it is a question of effectively confronting the causes of hunger, grandiose declarations” are not enough, he said.

“The struggle against hunger urgently demands generous financing, the abolition of trade barriers and, above all, greater resilience in the face of climate change, economic crises and warfare.”

AFP

Merkel’s conservatives, Social Democrats slump as Greens surge

October 12, 2018

A combined low of 41 percent has emerged in a survey for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. Her conservatives and coalition Social Democrats polled 26 and 15 percent respectively. Up to second place are the Greens.

    
Berlin PK Merkel Seeehofer Nahles Neu (picture-alliance/AP/M. Sohn)Latest survey delivers further shocks for Merkel, Seehofer and Nahles, with Greens and AfD vying for second place

Germany’s regular Deutschlandtrend charted eroding support for Merkel’s conservatives and especially her Social Democrat (SPD) partners Thursday, three days ahead of a shakedown regional election in southern Bavaria state.

Compared to a September survey, Germany’s three governing parties, comprising Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), Bavarian conservatives and SPD, each lost three percent compared with last month, recording a below-majority 41 percent.

Surging to second place on 17 percent were the Greens, who in Bavaria also look set to finish second behind a sagging Christian Social Union (CSU) — Merkel’s sister party led by federal interior minister Horst Seehofer. The Greens also eclipsed the SPD.

The Greens already share regional governance in Baden-Württemberg, and in the state of Hesse, where a regional assembly election also takes place on 28 October.

Social Democrats behind AfD

Thursday’s Deutschlandtrend, a sampling of 1008 voters by the pollster Infratest dimap for the public broadcaster ARD, put the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) on 16 percent nationwide.

Read moreSeptember’s survey shows surge by far-right AfD

Trailing on 15 percent were the Social Democrats, led by their Bundestag leader and SPD chairperson Andrea Nahles, which decades ago polled twice as much.

Standing level at 10 percent was the opposition ex-communist Left party alongside the pro-business Free Democrat liberals (FDP).

Merkel and Nahles’ SPD renewed coalition bonds in March, despite SPD misgivings, after the collapse last December of a bid to form a CDU-CSU coalition with the FDP and Greens — in the wake of Germany’s September 2017 federal election.

Thursday’s Deutschlandtrend showed voters further dismayed over the six-month-old federal cabinet’s performance, with 56 percent blaming Merkel and 31 percent convinced that hardliner Seehofer bore responsibility.
Only two percent blamed the SPD’s Nahles.

Infografik D-Trend Current government situation EN

Although half of voters surveyed endorsed cabinet on security policy and a third on asylum policy, three-quarters (76 percent) told Infratest they were generally dissatisfied with the work of the Merkel-led grand coalition, otherwise known as the GroKo [Grandkoalition].

On specific issues, Merkel’s cabinet likewise scored poorly. Government handling of Germany’s diesel scandal earned Merkel’s cabinet a 82-percent disapproval percentage.

Infografik D-Trend Satisfaction with government policy EN

Similarly, voters recorded 79-percent disapproval over cabinet’s handling of Germany’s bid to create affordable housing amid rising rental and purchase prices.

And, 74 percent said cabinet was deficient on climate change policy, with most of the view that saving the climate outweighed traditional coal extraction, exemplified by protests in recent weeks over a forest clearance stalled at the Hambach lignite open-cast mine in North Rhine-Westphalia state.

ipj/rc (dpa, Reuters, epd)

https://www.dw.com/en/merkels-conservatives-social-democrats-slump-as-greens-surge/a-45854652

IPCC 1.5 degree report points to high stakes of climate inaction

October 8, 2018

The UN’s scientific body on climate change says the world could still stay below 1.5 degrees of warming. Although impacts at 2 degrees are likely to be more serious than anticipated, political action remains elusive.

    
A gentoo penguin stands before a glacial face on Trinity Island, Antarctica

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a highly anticipated report that reveals a glimpse of Earth half a degree Celsius warmer than it is today; and outlines what we must do to keep the global temperature from rising any higher.

With the 2015 Paris Agreement, the word committed to keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and preferably below 1.5 degrees.

According to the report released early Monday, the difference between these two goals is far more profound than the diminutive difference suggests, and would potentially spare hundreds of millions of people from poverty.

At 1.5 degrees we can expect to see an ice-free Arctic summer once a century, according to the report. At 2 degrees, that risk shoots up to once every decade.

Under the 2-degree scenario, sea level rise is expected to be 10 centimeters (4 inches) higher than under the 1.5-degree scenario.

Human-caused climate change has already warmed the world by around 1 degree Celsius, and the IPCC stresses how we are already seeing devastating consequences, particularly in the form of extreme weather.

And then there are the coral reefs. Over past years, global warming has ravaged the oceans’ richest ecosystems, with bleaching events across the tropics. At 1.5 degrees, the IPCC reports says, we can expect to lose between 70 and 90 percent of our reefs. But 2 degrees of warming would see them virtually wiped out — a loss of at least 99 percent.

Time to adapt

“Even at 1.5 global warming, the poorest people in the Global South will be impacted heavily. Sea level rise and the dying of corals have a huge impact on food security,” Sabine Minninger of aid organization Bread for the World told DW.

Read more: Sea level rise is real and accelerating

Minninger has seen first-hand the impacts of climate change on some of the most vulnerable places in the world, including on low-lying island nations like Fiji and Tuvalu, where communities are already being forced to take drastic action — reinforcing coastlines, changing how they grow food and relocating entire villages.

The IPCC report stresses that while global warming of 1.5 degrees will still entail huge risks, particularly to the world’s poorest people, such communities would have a better opportunity to adapt than under 2-degree warming.

“The difference of this half degree will make a huge difference for whether people can keep their home or not,” Minninger said. “Whether they lose their livelihoods, their land rights, their home, their identity, their culture — or not.”

Call to action

Currently, commitments made by countries under the Paris Agreement are expected to increase global temperatures by around 3 degrees Celsius.

The report says that in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, we would need to cut global emissions 45 percent by 2030 (compared to 2010 levels), and bring them to net zero by 2050.

For climate action groups, the implications are clear.

“We still can attain 1.5, but the window is closing,” Hoda Baraka of 350.org told DW. “To get there, we must keep all fossil fuels in the ground.”

Read more: 1.5C degree goal ‘extremely unlikely’ – IPCC

IPCC scientists are also explicit that we will need to do much, much more on climate protection to attain the 1.5-degree limit.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society,” the IPCC said in a press release.

The report details such changes in energy production, land use, building, transport, industry, and cities, as well as how we produce and consume food.

Old-growth tree is cut down in Hambach ForestReforestation has vast potential to store atmospheric carbon

Technical challenges

The scenarios set out in the report also rely on so-called “negative emissions” to achieve both the 1.5- and 2-degree goals.

This means removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, using technology such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) — which has so far only been used on a small scale and with mixed results — and by restoring forests, which naturally absorb CO2, over immense areas of the planet.

Glen Peters, research director at the Center for International Climate Research, points out that even the 2-degree goal has been controversial due to its heavy reliance on removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“In a 2-degree scenario, in many cases you’re already hitting land constraints,” Peters told DW. With limited room to upscale negative emissions, the IPCC’s strategies for the tougher target of 1.5 degrees focus more on emitting fewer greenhouse gases in the first place.

1.5 degrees infographic

Yet Peters says the technical challenges pale in comparison with the political task ahead, particularly when you look at the current political landscape, with leaders like US President Donald Trump in office.

Read more: Nations backslide on climate protection promises

Political will

Engineers can figure out how to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, Peters said. “It’s a lot harder to get rid of Trump — or to get India or Brazil, say, to prioritize climate over everything else.”

Stephen Cornelius, chief advisor on climate change for WWF, says the difference between the possible and the impossible boils down to political will.

“We need to push governments, so they know this is important, so that they have that mandate to act,” he told DW.

Read more: Global day of protests over climate change

The IPCC policy summary also examines to what extent the changes we need to make come in conflict with development and poverty eradication. It admits there are some possible trade-offs, but stresses that for the most part, what’s good for the planet is also good for people.

“Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to 2 degrees Celsius could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society,” the IPCC wrote.

https://www.dw.com/en/ipcc-15-degree-report-points-to-high-stakes-of-climate-inaction/a-45791882

Related:

UN warns paradigm shift needed to avert global climate chaos

October 8, 2018

Avoiding global climate chaos will require a major transformation of society and the world economy that is “unprecedented in scale,” the UN said Monday in a landmark report that warns time is running out to avert disaster.

Earth’s surface has warmed one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) — enough to lift oceans and unleash a crescendo of deadly storms, floods and droughts — and is on track toward an unliveable 3C or 4C rise.

At current levels of greenhouse gas emissions, we could pass the 1.5C marker as early as 2030, and no later than mid-century, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) reported with “high confidence”.

“The next few years are probably the most important in human history,” Debra Roberts, head of the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department in Durban, South Africa, and an IPCC co-chair, told AFP.

© AFP | UN experts warn time is running out to stave off climate disaster

A Summary for Policymakers of the 400-page tome underscores how quickly global warming has outstripped humanity’s attempt to tame it, and outlines paradigm-shift options for avoiding the worst ravages of a climate-addled future.

Before the Paris Agreement was inked in 2015, nearly a decade of scientific research rested on the assumption that 2C was the guardrail for a climate-safe world.

The IPCC report, however, shows that global warming impacts have come sooner and hit harder than predicted.

– Pay now or pay later –

“Things that scientists have been saying would happen further in the future are happening now,” Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, told AFP.

To have at least a 50/50 chance of staying under the 1.5C cap without overshooting the mark, the world must, by 2050, become “carbon neutral,” according to the report.

“That means every tonne of CO2 we put into the atmosphere will have to be balanced by a tonne of CO2 taken out,” said lead coordinating author Myles Allen, head of the University of Oxford’s Climate Research Programme.

Drawing from more than 6,000 recent scientific studies, the report laid out four “illustrative” pathways to that goal.

The most ambitious would see a radical drawdown in energy consumption coupled with a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and a swift decline in CO2 emissions starting in 2020. It would also avoid an “overshoot” of the 1.5C threshold.

A contrasting “pay later” scenario compensates for a high-consumption lifestyles and continued use of fossil fuels with a temporary breaching of the 1.5C ceiling.

It depends heavily on the use of biofuels. But the scheme would need to plant an area twice the size of India in biofuel crops, and assumes that some 1,200 billion tonnes of CO2 — 30 years’ worth of emissions at current rates — can be safely socked away underground.

“Is it fair for the next generation to pay to take the CO2 out of the atmosphere that we are now putting into it?”, asked Allen. “We have to start having that debate.”

– ‘Hail of silver bullets’ –

The stakes are especially high for small island states, developing nations in the tropics, and countries with densely-populated delta regions already suffering from rising seas.

“We have only the slimmest of opportunities remaining to avoid unthinkable damage to the climate system that supports life as we know it,” said Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator at UN climate talks for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

“Historians will look back at these findings as one of the defining moments in the course of human affairs.”

Limiting global warming to 1.5C comes with a hefty price tag: some $2.4 trillion (2.1 trillion euros) of investments in the global energy system every year between 2016 and 2035, or about 2.5 percent of world GDP.

That amount, however, must be weighed against the even steeper cost of inaction, the report says.

The path to a climate-safe world has become a tightrope, and will require an unprecedented marshalling of human ingenuity, the authors said.

“The problem isn’t going to be solved with a silver bullet,” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute, told AFP.

“We need a hail of silver bullets.”

The IPCC report was timed to feed into the December UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, where world leaders will be under pressure to ramp up national carbon-cutting pledges which — even if fulfilled — would yield and 3C world.

The week-long meeting in Incheon, South Korea — already deep into overtime — deadlocked on Saturday when oil giant Saudi Arabia demanded the deletion of a passage noting the need for global CO2 emissions to decline “well before 2030”.

The report was approved by consensus as soon as the Saudis backed down, participants to the meeting told AFP.

Concerns that the United States would seek to obstruct the process proved unfounded.

The Trump administration has dismantled emissions reduction policies domestically, and vowed to ditch the Paris treaty.

AFP

S. Arabia threatens to block key UN climate report: sources

October 6, 2018

Oil giant Saudi Arabia is seeking to block adoption of a key UN climate change report unless a passage highlighting the inadequacy of national carbon-cutting pledges is removed or altered, multiple sources told AFP.

Already in overtime, a meeting of the 195-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Incheon, South Korea is vetting a major report that traces pathways for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Most of these scenarios involve a sharp reduction in the use of fossil fuels — Saudi Arabia’s key export.

“We are very concerned that a single country is threatening to hold up adoption of the IPCC Special Report if scientific findings are not changed or deleted according to its demands,” said an informed observer who asked not to be named.

© AFP | The 195-nation Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is vetting a major report that traces pathways for limiting global warming

The source, along with two other persons with direct knowledge of the situation, identified the country as Saudi Arabia.

“This has become a battle between Saudi Arabia, a rich oil producer, and small island states threatened with extinction,” said another participant at the meeting who also requested anonymity.

“The report hangs in the balance,” the meeting’s chair said Saturday — a day after talks were due to end — before convening an emergency huddle of the IPCC’s half-dozen vice chairs, according to someone in the room.

A email to Saudi officials seeking comment was not answered, and delegates at the closed-door meeting were not accessible.

– ‘Running interference’ –

The underlying 500-page report being reviewed in Incheon — based on 6,000 peer reviewed studies — is a collaborative effort of the world’s top climate scientists.

Under the IPCC’s consensus rules, all countries must sign off on the language of a 20-page Summary for Policymakers, designed to provide leaders with objective, science-based information.

At issue is a passage in the summary stating that voluntary national commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, annexed to the 2015 Paris climate treaty, will fail to limit warming to 1.5C.

The pledges would at best yield a 3C world by century’s end, far above the 2C cap mandated by the Paris Agreement.

These so-called “nationally determined contributions” run from 2020 to 2030 for most countries, including Saudi Arabia, and to 2025 for a few others.

The passage goes on to note that capping global warming under 1.5C “can only be achieved if global CO2 emissions start to decline well before 2030.”

As a consequence, scientists and climate activists have called on countries to ratchet up their carbon-cutting pledges as soon as possible.

In case of an impasse, the chairs of an IPCC meeting can override an objection from one or a few countries, recording the objection in a footnote.

“It’s quite rare that a government will be willing to have their name on the bottom of the page with an asterisk,” Jonathan Lynn, head of communications for the IPCC, said last week.

“We do everything we can to avoid it.”

Saudi Arabia has a long track record of raising questions and objections within UN climate forums.

During the week-long talks in Incheon, “the Saudis have been running interference across the board, on main and minor issues,” a participant in the meeting said.

AFP