‘Beyond Dangerous’ Climate Change

The consensus in American politics today is that there’s nothing to be gained from talking about climate change. It’s divisive, the electorate has more pressing concerns, and very little can be accomplished anyway. In response to this evolving consensus, lots of folks in the climate hawk coalition (broadly speaking) have counseled a new approach that backgrounds climate change and refocuses the discussion on innovation, energy security, and economic competitiveness.

This cannot work. At least it cannot work if we hope to avoid terrible consequences. Why not? It’s simple: If there is to be any hope of avoiding civilization-threatening climate disruption, the U.S. and other nations must act immediately and aggressively on an unprecedented scale. That means moving to emergency footing. War footing. “Hitler is on the march and our survival is at stake” footing. That simply won’t be possible unless a critical mass of people are on board. It’s not the kind of thing you can sneak in incrementally.

The Article

The Death of the Kyoto Process

A climate catastrophe descended on the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin early last week. Politicians and diplomats from around the world were attending a conference to discuss how global warming will affect the world. They examined scenarios depicting how millions of people living in coastal areas could escape flooding, what will happen to the fishing and mineral rights of island nations when they no longer exist and how China and Russia will benefit from an ice-free Arctic.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said that it intended to “openly and creatively address” the dangers of climate change. The exercise was designed to help “find new paths of international cooperation.”

But the belief that global warming can be halted through international cooperation is elusive. The Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only binding climate agreement, will soon expire. The most important means to date of compelling industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions seems likely to become a mere footnote in history.

The current CO2-reduction agreements expire at the end of 2012, and there is enormous resistance to new targets. The environment ministers and negotiators from roughly 200 countries, who will travel to Durban, South Africa at the end of November for the latest global climate conference, are a long way from breathing new life into the Kyoto process.

Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, is making the bold claim that there is “a strong desire from all sides to see a final political decision made” in Durban. But this decision will probably consist of doing without fixed agreements on CO2 reduction in the future. “The meeting in Durban could become an act of mourning,” warns Reimund Schwarze of the Climate Service Center in Hamburg, which analyzes climate policy on behalf of the German government.

The Article

Clean Energy 2030…Google Earth Engine

In 2008 Google.org proposed a plan to reduce dirty energy dependence by 2030. The plan has been updated.

The Plan

Recently, Google.org has created an app for Google Earth called ‘Google Earth Engine’ using 25 years of satellite image data to be analyzed for forest cover change in tropical forest. There plan is for the data to serve as a basis for REDD carbon market analysis.


I bring these up because – after watching America’s Congressional and Executive bodies make a mess of the discussion on both ‘paying for their already eaten pizza’ as well as future budget discussions – it seems the likelihood of our leadership being ‘leaders’ on meaningful issues is slim. It amazed me that they 1) made a crisis, 2) were unable to rationally discuss solutions, 3) …after three weeks of this ‘fiddling’… passed any budgetary decisions to a ‘commission’.

I defer energy discussions for term limit discussions. Congress should not be a career!

A Slow Start for Forest Carbon Markets

But such carbon credits have found demand only in a small, thinly traded voluntary carbon market, as countries struggle to agree on new, binding emissions cuts under U.N. climate talks.

“There is growing impatience with the multilateral process, not only from practitioners such as myself, but more importantly, from many forest countries,” said Christian del Valle, environmental markets and forestry director at BNP Paribas in London.

“Thus far the multilateral process has not delivered meaningful on-the-ground results, and forests continue to be lost because the only accessible price signal today indicates they are worth more cut down than standing,” he said.

A full U.N. climate deal could create a market through which rich, polluting countries could buy carbon credits, paying for forest protection in the process, just as they pay for clean energy projects now under the Kyoto Protocol’s existing carbon offset market, the Clean Development Mechanism.

So far, the only demand for forest carbon credits has been in the voluntary carbon market, worth $424 million last year, which lacks the binding rules of the Clean Development Mechanism.

Governments like those of Norway, Germany, Britain and the United States have pledged $6.5 billion to help poorer countries develop systems to reduce emissions from deforestation, but that is seen as only a halfway measure. Private-sector involvement will be essential.

Recent studies suggest that between $17 billion and $33 billion per year is needed to achieve a U.N. Environment Program recommendation to halve global emissions from deforestation by 2030.

“We are not going to get the scale of what we need without participation by the private sector,” said Donna Lee, who was the lead U.N. negotiator on REDD for the United States and is now a consultant for the advisory group Climate Focus.

“There is a disconnect between the understanding by countries and negotiators and the private sector of what the private sector needs in order to participate in REDD,” she said.

The Article