“Mr President, I ask whether - under the eye of the UN secretary general - you are going to endorse this coup d’etat against the authority of the United Nations?”
The President did, and the last minute ‘Copenhagen Accord’ was pushed through. It was a document agreed between a handful of rich nations whilst the majority of delegates talked amongst themselves.
The Sudanese were blunt in their verdict. The ‘accord’ asked “Africa to sign a suicide pact”.
It was widely reported as an Obama brokered deal. But the UK Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband was the man who stepped in at 4am to save it. He’s been something of a late night specialist over the last two weeks. On this final occasion, he was heading for bed when reports came in of a turn for the worse in the negotiations. African and South American countries were set to use their veto, leaving world leaders with nothing to sign at all.
Miliband was straight on the podium, arguing that it was far from a perfect outcome “but it is a document that will make the lives of people around this planet better because it puts into effect fast-start finance of $30bn; it puts into effect a plan for $100bn of long-term public and private finance.”
Shortly after this speech, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: “We have a deal.” The deal was that the delegates agreed to ‘take note’ of the document.
The money is far from water-tight. In fact the $100bn is a ‘goal’ rather than an obligation. And aside from the money, the Copenhagen Accord simply recognises that it would be a good idea to keep temperature increases to less than 2 degrees, but makes no mention of the emissions cuts needed to do so. A little like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting agreeing it would be a good idea not to have a drink before heading back to the pub.
By this stage in the process, few people seemed interested anyway. For the last couple of days, the talks had been knocked off the top spot on the news by advice not to give children watered down wine, and by the cold weather.
The Sunday Time’s comment piece saw Dominic Lawson have a go at former chief UK scientist David King. Even if things do get hotter, said Dominic, King’s “apparent belief that man is completely unable to adapt to a changing environment suggests that, whatever his claims as a scientist, he knows next to nothing about either human nature or history”.
What David King knows, along with most people apart from Dominic, is that our entire history has taken place during 11,000 years of remarkably stable climate. Yes there have been ice ages in the past, and the earth has been much hotter in the past, but there weren’t 7 billion people on the planet at the time. So on balance maybe we should try and avoid pushing the earth into a climatic shift that will render uninhabitable much of the land where humanity now lives, and that will destroy the agriculture on which our lives are based. If that’s not going to be a problem, can we please have his guidebook as soon as possible.
“How to feed 7 billion people with 50% less water and farmland than we now have”, by Dominic Lawson.
His piece is full of the joys of Christmas on the basis that we now have the green light for the developed and the developing world to continue to burn as much fossil fuel as we like. “Let’s toast the negotiators of Copenhagen. By failing so spectacularly, they have presented us with a wonderful Christmas present. All we have to do is open it.”
Lets open it.
As the developing world’s demand for oil and gas rises, prices will skyrocket. Ofgen, the UK energy regulator, is already predicting energy price rises of 60% as more and more people fight over fewer and fewer resources. Military budgets will go through the roof and lives will be lost as we fight over the remaining supplies. Increased coal use will add to the hundreds of thousands of people who die each year from coal related air pollution.
Unless Dominic thinks that the UEA stolen emails have reversed some basic scientific laws, massive increases of CO2 in the atmosphere will mean that more heat gets trapped and things get hotter. This will finish off melting the glaciers that provide the drinking water for millions and the irrigation water for the worlds’ two biggest producers of food - India and China. They may try and make up the difference by pumping even more water from the non-replenishable aquifers that irrigate the rest of the harvest. But these are already set to run out in 20 years or so.
As is the great aquifer that has supported the ‘bread basket’ plains of the USA. This is all bad news for the UK where 60% of our food is imported. Meanwhile, tens of millions of refugees will pour into Europe as the African deserts expand. We heard last week that the rains failed for the 6th consecutive year across much of East Africa. So maybe Dominic is so full of festive cheer because he knows that the borrowed time which Copenhagen’s failure condemned us to, is enough time for him.
“World leaders in Copenhagen seem to have forgotten that they were not negotiating numbers, they were negotiating lives,” said Dame Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive.
But Xie Zhenhua, head of China’s delegation, was defiant. “For the Chinese, this is our sovereignty and our national interest”.
The technologies for a low-carbon future are ready and waiting. A price on CO2 emissions would unleash these technologies at affordable prices within a decade.
But it seems that collectively we can’t even think a decade ahead.
So we’re left in an enclosed space with nowhere else to go, but we have decided to leave our engines running until someone else turns theirs off first.
Sleep deprivation is beginning to bite. A Times journalist reported that at 9am this morning, some microphones in the main hall were switched on and all they could hear was manic laughter. An Indian Negotiator stumbled out into the daylight. “The situation is desperate. There is no agreement on even what to call the text.”
Gordon Brown’s office had sent out a 1am tweet. “Late night haggling with 30 leaders. Tough, but we’re determined to crack it.” At 2am, Gordon told UK Climate Secretary Ed Miliband “Keep talking and I’ll see you at 6”. Ed Miliband tweeted “Haven’t slept since Wed night”.
Despite the all night talks, this morning Gordon was still trying to pull a deal together in a hotel room with Obama and 24 other leaders. Danish PM Rasmussen did his best to keep the meeting in order but as he went through outlines of an agreement, the two Chinese negotiators intervened “after every point of substance.” President Sarkozy broke ranks and had a go at the Chinese in public. “There is a lot of tension” he admitted.
Meanwhile, the rest of the delegates were listening to a series of speeches from world leaders.
Chinese Premier Wen stepped up to the platform and admitted that China has a particular difficulty with cutting carbon emissions because of its reliance on coal. But we should rest assured that “targets for cuts will be included in our long-term plans.”
Then came Brazil’s president Lula. He said he wasn’t happy about being kept up until 2am in last minute negotiations. Ed Miliband would regard that as an early night. But Lula went on to say that Brazil will spend $166 billion on reducing emissions by 38% and reducing amazon deforestation by 80%, both by 2020. He also offered to contribute to, rather than receive, climate funds destined for developing nations. He said he hoped this would help to turn the talks around. “Since I believe in God, I believe in miracles, and I want to be part of that miracle.”
It was a tough act to follow for Greece, although they were helped by a memorable introduction. The urbane Greek PM Andreas Papandreou was introduced by a stand-in chaiman as ‘Andras Papa-papa-papandroo’.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe managed to turn heads. ”I’d like to draw your attention to drug trafficking,” he said. Unexpected, but there was a climate link. ”Drug trafficking has destroyed more than two million hectares of our forest. Whenever a citizen in an industrialised nation consumes cocaine, he is destroying one of the world’s lungs”.
Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, was back again with more straight talking. He urged that doing nothing “would be tantamount to genocide by inaction.” But the people he was talking to had effectively been removed from the process. The real negotiations were happening in a hotel down the road.
Finally Obama took the floor. “This is not fiction it is science. Unchecked climate change will pose unacceptable risks to security, economy and the planet,” he said. A good start. “There is no time to waste”, he continued. “America has made our choice. We have charted our course. We will do what we say. Now its time for the nations of the world to come to a common purpose.” The problem is that the course the US has chartered involves emission reductions of less than 4% from 1990 levels and a climate catastrophe.
Friends of the Earth director Andy Atkins declared that Obama “has disappointed the whole world”.
Outside the conference centre, perhaps in preparation for rapidly rising temperatures, activists were cutting off their hair. As it fell amid the snow, Andreas Carlgren, the Swedish Environment Minister and EU team leader, was talking down the prospects of a deal. He concluded “The great victims of this is the big group of developing countries. The EU really wanted to reach out to the developing countries. That was made impossible because of the US and China.”
The US and China aren’t getting on. This evening, the Chinese PM Wen was said to be furious about Obama’s pointed reference to the US being the world’s second largest emitter. Wen has a point in that, per head, the Americans are 5 times as carbon intensive as the Chinese.
Back in the UK meanwhile, there were more words of wisdom from The Telegraph’s climate sceptic blogger James Delingpole. Today James revealed the last nail in the coffin for climate science. If the stolen emails from the UEA have left anyone in any doubt that climate change is the world’s biggest scam, he now has the final proof. Firstly, he said, it’s snowing in Copenhagen. Secondly, he quoted an article citing claims from the Institute of Economic Analysis in Moscow that the UK’s Hadley centre for climate research had manipulated Russian data.
So in one corner, we have 100 years of scientific research, the national scientific bodies of every developed nation, and daily observations of expanding desert and retreating ice, all agreed that we’re in the grip of rapid, man-made climate change. In the other corner we have some stolen emails that first appeared on Russian servers just before Copenhagen, and a new claim from the Institute of Economic Analysis in Moscow about manipulated data on the last day of Copenhagen. Quite a coincidence. Especially when you consider that Russian oil and gas account for 60 percent of government revenue as well as 60 percent of all exports.
Then there’s the source of the latest claims. The IEA Moscow says it is an organisation which ‘focuses on mutual influence of economic growth’. It’s articles only appear in Russian. Delingpole was using a posting on the climate-sceptic Icecap website. The posting came from an article attributed to an outside source on a Russian news website that states “It is not responsible for the content of outside sources”.
The Russian President Dmitry Medvedev didn’t mention it when he became the first high-level departure from Copenhagen. A Kremlin spokesman said Mr Medvedev left in order to visit to Kazakhstan.
Over in Kansas, another climate sceptic oil producer, Dick Shremmer, told his interviewer that he hoped the Copenhagen process failed. “I wouldn’t say the climate isn’t changing. But, you know, it is always changing. We once had an ice age thousands of years ago, and during that ice age where we are standing used to be covered with an ocean. I think it is something that is going to drive up the price people’s electrical bills, people’s fuel bills and I don’t see any reason for it”
Maybe one reason for it is so that where he’s standing isn’t an ocean.
Dick Shremmer’s neighbour, Oklahoma, Senator James Inhofe, has long believed that man-made climate change is “a Hollywood Hoax”. He arrived in Copenhagen today to tell the world that the president can’t deliver on his promise of a 4% cut in 1990 levels of greenhouse gases by 2020. “It’s dead. In the Senate it’s dead. Let me restate that so that nobody has any misunderstanding, there are two pieces of legislation. Both are dead.”
As the day wore on, the UN secretary general appealed for extra time, asking delegates not to leave tonight. But a golden goal looks unlikely. So far there are no overall commitments to 2020 targets for emissions reductions. The European Union’s plan to raise its pledge from a 20% to 30% cut in emissions was blocked, killing the hope of a series on increased offers from other nations. And the latest text omitted a deadline for reaching a legally binding agreement by the end of 2010. 5 days ago, Gordon Brown was saying that a 6 month delay was the maximum we could afford.
Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, lead the charge for South American states angry at the “pitiful” sums of money being offered by the developed world. “$10bn a year is a joke. The military expenditure of the US is $700bn per year. If the climate were a bank it would have been saved already.”
Writing his final piece from Copenhagen, the Guardian’s George Monibot was similarly angry.
“The interests of states and the interests of the world’s people are not the same. Often they are diametrically opposed. In this case, most rich and rapidly developing states have sought through these talks to seize as great a chunk of the atmosphere for themselves as they can – to grab bigger rights to pollute than their competitors. Corporate profits and political expediency have proved more urgent considerations than human civilisation.”
As the talks rolled on tonight, the latest draft text said there should be a review in 2016 and that the review should consider strengthening the target on global temperature to an increase of only 1.5C. But everyone knows that by then this will be impossible.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi found himself between a rock and hard place. He came out in favour of the levels of African climate change aid proposed by the EU in October. This is about 25% of what Africa says it needs to cope. It was unclear whether his change of heart stemmed from fears that the talks may end in failure and leave Africa to its fate, or because of some long and persuasive lunches from western negotiators who are attempting to break the opposition of African delegates. Awudu Mbaya, president of the Pan-African Parliamentarians Network on Climate Change, wasn’t happy. “If Prime Minister Meles wants to sell out the lives and hopes of Africans for a pittance he is welcome to, but that is not Africa’s position”.
On the other side of the world, Ian Plimer, hero of the climate sceptics, faced the music on the ABC network in Australia. He has been running for cover for several months now, after being asked to attend a public debate on his claims, but finally there was nowhere left to hide. The TV interview didn’t go well for him. He maintains that volcanoes produce more carbon dioxide than human activity. The US Geological Survey (USGS) reports that human beings produce 130 times as much CO2 as volcanoes. “Oh but that doesn’t include underwater volcanoes” said Mr Plimer. “Yes it does” said the USGS.
Back in Copenhagen, Senator Kerry jetted in yesterday to reassure the world that the US will pass climate legislation. The idea, he said, was ‘picking up support’. Better late than never. Whether the US is actually going to cut its emissions or not has been a question that has crippled the negotiations. It has allowed China and India to stall on their own commitments, and has created resentment amongst the poor countries on the sharp end of climate change. Senator Kerry also said that they would only pass legislation if China and India agreed to ‘transparency’ in the monitoring of their emissions cuts. India’s Secretary for Economic Affairs Jairam Ramesh, replied “I keep telling Americans let me have some transparency about the word transparency.” Another item for the ever growing agenda.
Here are a few more matters outstanding.
1. American negotiators were demanding that all appearances of the world “shall” be replaced by the word “should”.
2. There is no agreement on how many agreements there should be. Developing countries would like to see an extension of the existing Kyoto protocol. Industrialised countries would like to see Kyoto scrapped, or merged into a new agreement.
3. Throughout the night on Tuesday, US diplomats were on Bracket Duty again, inserting them throughout the ‘long term action plan’ text. The sheer number of brackets have blocked any further discussions of this document.
4. Nauru’s president, Marcus Stephen, demanded proper legal negotiations on the temperature target. “The science tells us that we must limit the rise in global temperature to well below 1.5C to preserve the chance of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. To accept anything less would mean the destruction of our marine ecosystems, shortages of food and water, and the relocation of our communities. Please tell me how is this practical?”
If that’s not enough to be getting on with, the world’s two most radical presidents arrived in town to try and persuade delegates to go a step further.
“The real cause of climate change is the capitalist system. If we want to save the earth then we must end that economic model. Capitalism wants to address climate change with carbon markets. We denounce those markets and the countries which promote them. It’s time to stop making money from the disgrace that they have perpetrated.”
That was the verdict of Bolivian President Evo Morales. Pointing at the rich nations, he continued,
“Our objective is to save humanity and not just half of humanity. Our objective is to reduce climate change to under 1C. Above this many islands will disappear and Africa will suffer a holocaust.”
Sadly, limiting warming to 1C would need an end to all emissions right now and billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide to be sucked from the air and stored; something that we don’t know how to do.
Morales was followed by fellow radical, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
“The total income of the 500 richest people in the world is greater than the 450m poorest living on $2 a day. We have to change direction. How long are we going to tolerate the current international economic order…If capitalism resists we have to do battle with it. If we do not, then mankind, the greatest creation in the universe, will disappear.”
However, on the basis that Socialism starts at home, Chavez has got some work to do. Interviewed for the BBC, Venezuelan shopkeeper Omaya Davila summed up her dilemma.
“Between buying myself a car and getting breast surgery, I decided on my breasts, and I think the sacrifice was worth it.”
Had she decided to buy a car, she would have found BMW, Audi and Hummer dealerships on every corner. The source of all this wealth? Oil.
Sharing a platform with the South American radicals was Prince Charles. Unsurprisingly for a Royal, he thought we needed corporate responsibility rather than revolution.
”We appear intent upon consuming the planet…..our global fisheries will collapse by 2050 and….in the last 50 years we have degraded 30 per cent of global topsoil and destroyed 30 per cent of the world’s rainforests.”
He was soon in the firing line however, when it was revealed that he’d arrived on a private jet. But then if we excluded everyone who has burned more than their fair share of fossil fuels from contributing to this debate, it would be a pretty empty room.
It was a good day for trees. Britain was making more generous contributions, this time to a fund aimed at ending deforestation. Working alongside the US and other developed nations, there was an agreement to give $3.5 billion over the next 3 years to slow the rate of forest loss. In a busy day for the UK cheque book, we also pledged £153m to the “Scaling-up Renewable Energy Programme” - a scheme focused on installing renewable energy in low income countries. To put that amount into perspective, the US is on £31m.
It was a bad day for Shell. The oil company has spent millions on advertising around Copenhagen. It’s logo, with promises of a bright, low carbon and innovative future have been unavoidable of late. But Madrid-based environmental auditing company Management & Excellence just finished its annual survey. It put Shell’s environmental credentials last of all the western firms. It’s at the bottom of the table with two Chinese oil giants and the Russian state energy company Gazprom. None of these are known for their commitment to renewable energy. Shell’s performance should come as no surprise. Long before the latest adverts ran, Jeroen van der Veer, Shell president until recently, said of wind, solar and hydrogen power: “I don’t expect them to grow much at Shell from here.”
Another day, another dose of bad environmental news. Scientist Robert Kopp of Princeton University and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research spent yesterday predicting much higher sea level rises than those outlined in the UN’s IPCC report. “Everyone’s known that the IPCC’s last numbers were underestimates” said Kopp. Combining data from historical records and current melting patterns, it seems we’re on track for an overall sea level rise of 6-9 meters, with the first 1.4m coming during the lifetime of someone born now.
Trapped between rising seas, square brackets and draft agreements, UK Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband was becoming exasperated.
“It would be a tragedy if we failed to agree because of the substance. It would be a farce if we failed to reach agreement because of the process. People will find it extraordinary that this conference that has been two years in the planning…..and with such important stakes, is at the moment being stalled on points of order.”
So it’s all eyes on President Obama to turn things around. But Democrat Edward Markey, co-author of a climate bill stuck in the Senate, said the president “is not going to go further. … The words he is going to use are the same words he has been using for the last two weeks.”
There have been some good words from the President during the last two weeks however. He visited a DIY store and said that it’s “sexy” to better insulate your home.
Cheery news of the day came from Gordon Brown, who said again that the summit could end in “deadlock”.
48 hours to go.
The wrong type of gas was the talk of town in Copenhagen. Instead of discussing CO2, attention was on the tear gas that police threw into a marquee party being held in the traditionally free and easy Christiania area. Helicopters circled overhead and party goers were left choking and baffled. As mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the Danish parliament recently gave the police the power of psychic policing - the right to arrest people who they think are about to break the law. But clearly that wasn’t enough.
Gordon Brown still plans to pack his gas mask and arrive two days earlier than planned. “The Prime Minister has reprioritised his diary” said a Downing Street spokesman. Ed Miliband, the UK Climate Change secretary has been busy trying to up the pace of the talks for several days. “It’s 4 minutes to midnight”, he said.
Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladesh premier, is flying in early too. It’s hard to imagine that his country has anymore pressing problem than this one. It’s already seeing it’s coastal developments and rice fields disappear under rising sea levels.
But it could all be in vain. The cracks are starting to show. “Developed nations won’t come to the table with real numbers. That is the main obstacle preventing progress,” said Su Wei, China’s top negotiator.
The US did come in with some numbers however. Namely a $350m (£215m) fund for clean energy technologies. “We need a game-changer like the green revolution was for agriculture,” said the US energy secretary, Stephen Chu. He then went on to reveal his game changer.
1. The US has discovered that there is the potential to make fridges, lighting and buildings more efficient.
2. The US will spend $400 million on implementing these efficiencies. This is a quarter of what Germany is already spending on doing the same thing. Germany has one third as many houses.
3. The US has discovered new ways of heating buildings by extracting the heat from water. Maybe this was unearthed in an old plumber’s manual from the Royal Festival Hall, which in 1951 became the first building to use this technology.
4. The US will make a “very big investment” in improving wind turbines. This investment will be almost as much as the US spends on fossil fuel subsidies every 2 days.
In the US, you can find amazing cutting edge climate change solutions. California has been leading the charge for years. Why has no one told the Energy Secretary?
Someone who needs no telling is Al Gore. He arrived amid much fanfare and adulation. But then he made a bad mistake. He told his listeners that there was a 75% chance the entire arctic ice cap could melt within the next 5-7 years. This wasn’t quiet what the scientist behind the report had said. Dr Maslowski didn’t want to be as specific as that. What’s daft about this is that arctic melting needs no exaggerating at all. It’s happening far faster than the worse case scenarios of 2007 predicted. But slip ups like this are meat and drink to the like of James Dellingpole, the climate sceptic writer who featured earlier in these blogs and who professes to be “right about everything”.
For him it was more evidence that meltdown talk was all a big tax-raising invention, and there is no more or less ice at the poles than natural variations can account for.
He should make sure this news gets as far as the Greenland town of Ilulissat. ”We don’t see icebergs today,” said Steen Bangsgaard, Commercial director of the Ilulisat Chamber of Commerce. ”The end of the fjord was packed with very tall icebergs and we don’t see those anymore”.
The Illulisat glacier has shrunk by 15 km in the past five years.
Which is the kind of news that lies behind the arrival of the Horsemen Of the Apocalypse, clear winner of the ‘costume of the day’ award.
Nick Griffen, the leader of the British National Party, believes the real evil horsemen are the scientists talking up global warming. It’s all a ‘hoax’ he said.
Not only that, its ‘totalitarianism’. Or so says Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, he’ll no doubt be adding to his Greenland Oil Portfolio. The ice is melting so fast that we’ll soon be able to access the vast reserves of oil that lie underneath.
On a positive note, Todd Stern, chief negotiator for the United States, was busy explaining how America’s emissions targets are more ambitious than those of Europe under 5 out of 6 criteria. Sadly for him, it’s criteria number 6, the reduction of CO2, that everyone is focused on.
Even hard and fast commitments to CO2 reductions are of concern to Friends of the Earth. They described loopholes - from excess carbon permits in the system, to lack of accounting on emissions from planes and ships - which in total mean that total emissions are almost certain to rise by 2020 even if we get an agreement. Any treaty will be “leaky as a sieve” unless these are dealt with they said.
Any treaty may be beyond us. Even the plan to end deforestation by 2030 has been placed in the dreaded square brackets, meaning that the date could be deferred. A system to identify illegal logging is now described in the text as optional, where before it was compulsory. And as yet there is no date agreed for a global peak in greenhouse emissions.
Writing in the Guardian, George Monibot was becoming reflective about the big picture.
“This is a meeting about chemicals: the greenhouse gases insulating the atmosphere. But it is also a battle between two world views. The angry men who seek to derail this agreement, have understood this better than we have. A new movement, most visible in North America and Australia, but now apparent everywhere, demands to trample on the lives of others as if this were a human right. It will not be constrained by taxes, gun laws, regulations, health and safety, especially by environmental restraints”
He also noted that nowhere at Copenhagen is there any proposal to limit the amount of fossil fuels we take out of the ground or to place a limit on prospecting for more. Earlier in the year, scientists in Nature magazine concluded that if we take out more than 40% of what’s left, it will lead to runaway global warming.
The majority of online comments on newspaper pages remain unbothered about any of this. The global warming ‘scam’ remains as popular as ever, though noone has as yet come forward to explain how or why scientists from across the globe got together to form the biggest scam in history, and why people keep forging pictures of melting glaciers, abandoned farmland and expanding deserts to back it up.
A popular comment came from someone who claimed that CO2 taxes would hold us back from the final frontier. It was our destiny to reach the stars and fossil fuels were the way to get us there. It seems a very long bet to carry on in the hope that we’ll find a way of getting 9 billion people to Mars over the next hundred years or so.
Mired in the earthly detail, Pan Jiahua, adviser to the Chinese government on climate change is adamant that China’s emissions must be allowed to rise above the developed world’s on a per capita basis.
Mr Jiahua says the rich world has built the infrastructure it needs and must now make major cuts to its emissions. But as long as China is still developing it’s emissions need to keep going up. If more than one billion Chinese end up emitting more carbon per head than Europeans, we’d better hope the intergalactic escape plan runs on time.
On Sunday the bells of Holland were ringing 350 times to mark the level of CO2 in Parts Per Million that is the ‘bottom line for humanity’ (NASA). At the same time, I was crawling off the football pitch following a head on collision with the opposition goal keeper. He put all of his weight behind a kick to my left knee. No penalty given. The medical staff are saying that could be it for me until the new year. Some spectators said I turned green, others had it down as more of a grey-white. Either way, it hurt.
Back home with a cup of tea and my leg up, I was looking at the GA facebook page. There was another comment (there have been a few), from someone called Mick, saying that we don’t need ‘pop stars’ going on about climate change, and anyway it’s probably all just an excuse to raise taxes. But the thing is Mick, you either take the view that, for reasons unknown, 1000s of scientists from all around the world have conspired together to create the biggest scam in history. Or they’re telling it like it is and we’ve got a big and urgent problem on our hands. I think the second of these is the more likely of the two, so I reckon it’s up to us to get informed and demand action because governments don’t do anything fast unless they have to. I don’t buy into the idea that anyone who writes songs has to remain silent. After that, I found lots of other comments saying ‘nice one’, so that helped the knee a bit.
At Copenhagen it’s approaching crunch time. Not that you’d know if from the weekend news, where it was hard to find mention of it. Given that potential minor disasters are usually so popular, it really should be the only headline news. There’s still a lot to be sorted out. Su Wei, China’s top negotiator, was maybe being a bit optimistic when he said that by Thursday, when the prime ministers and presidents arrive, “I hope the only question we will have for leaders is how to pronounce Copenhagen.” The question he might have to explain to his leader is why he described the massive weekend protests in Copenhagen as “constructive as it shows the interest of the general public.” Not the kind of rules that normally apply in Beijing.
A happy ending was looking less likely last night when African countries indicated their leaders would refuse to take part in the final summit unless significant progress was made on finance, targets, and levels of cuts. That covers just about the whole agenda.
One insider said we shouldn’t panic because the punctuation was looking better than it did last week. In the latest draft text, the areas of disagreement are now being marked in square rather than semi-circular brackets. Apparently this is real progress. “We are now using square brackets, which signify something solid, instead of squiggley brackets, which were far less substantial,” he explained.
Either set of brackets is of cold comfort to Jorgen Manniche. As the 69 year old’s vigil outside the danish parliament enters is 15th year, he was explaining that his original protest against the Iraq war has been extended to cover climate change. Gritting his teeth against the winter winds, he had to accept that a bit of warmth wouldn’t go amiss. “This is a tough life for me, especially in heavy rain or snow. A little more warmth would be nice,” he said. “But I only wish for local warming. I know that in the world, people are dying from heat.”
He may well get more heat than he’s bargained for if a group of negotiators from developed countries get their way. In 2007, the IPCC scientists said we need 25-40% emissions cuts relative to 1990 levels to avoid unmanegable dangers. These reductions now look unlikely. At the minute, even the most ambitious provisional offers made by all countries amount to a reduction of only 18 per cent. To deal with this shortfall, the old trick of calling for a ‘review’ has come into play. This would put back the process of deciding the full level of emissions reductions for another 6 years. It could be a catastrophic delay.
It’s not only scientists who think so. The Climate Group, an environmental group including some of the world’s biggest companies - BP, HSBC and Google amongst them - said that, even if all the provisional offers of CO2 reductions were delivered, emissions in 2020 would still be 5 billion tonnes higher than the atmosphere could safely handle. This would mean that global temperatures would rise more than 2C, with the result that “large parts of the world would become uninhabitable.”
So the question is, do you push for the CO2 reductions the science says we need immediately and rule out anything that will deliver less than that. Or do you try and get any kind of deal on the table to establish the principles and set the process rolling? This is one of the many points of difference between rich and poor nations. Go for the reductions the science says we need , and the US and others won’t agree to it. Go for anything less and a lot of the poor nations will go under or become desert.
As temperatures rise in the conference hall, things are hotting up outside too. The police have been making full use of powers recently granted by the Danish parliament to arrest anyone who they THINK is going to break the law. The result of this psychic policing has been the arrest of 1200 protestors over the weekend. A lot of them were kept handcuffed in the freezing cold for hours, with no toilets or water.
It might make more sense for the police to go and find the people doing this.
This is the scene in Indonesia where a company called Sinar Mas are preparing the way for more and more Palm Oil plantations. Sinar Mas are a key supplier to Unilever. After Greenpeace presented a dossier to Unilever over the weekend, they have agreed to stop buying Palm Oil from Sinar. A few thousand square km of trees will be saved - depending on where Unilever buy it from next time. Check your palm oil products for RSPO certification.
So a week to go, and warnings of a ‘train crash’ from African countries. Archbishop Desmond Tutu presented the chairman of the talks with a symbolic Countdown clock. Not that many were there to see it. Tempers flared outside the conference centre as thousands queued to get in. Most heard comment was “What do you mean there is no VIP queue?”. Not ones to miss an opporunity, protest groups surrounded their trapped prey, and bombarded them with evidence of the urgency of the global warming crisis.
UK Climate Change Secretary Ed Milliband was leading the calls for swift progress. ‘I think that the very clear message for negotiators and ministers is we need to get our act together and take action.’ Good luck to him. A few more staff on the door might help the negotiators and ministers to get in.
Today is my birthday, and to celebrate the UN has published the official Copenhagen guest list. It runs to 3 volumes, and includes some suitably rock and roll entries. First prize goes to “The Compensators”. Whether or not they have a Motown history remains unclear, but it’s something of a supergroup either way. George Clooney’s in it, alongside Tommy lee Jones. Sir David Attenborough is a ‘compensator’ too, presumably as MC, and so is the Bishop of London, maybe heading up the choir. To seal a record deal, they’ve also signed up Richard Benson, ‘founder of virgin unite’. Questions as to whether that’s a fairly transparent cover for Branson remain unanswered.
Another day, another EU proposal, this time a 50% cut in the rate of deforestation by 2020 and a complete halt by 2030. But Brazil said it did not want a specific target or timetable, which is a blow given that it has the biggest swath of trees in the world. The Brazilians are probably not too happy with Google either. They stepped in with a new technology that enables online, global-scale observation of changes in the earth’s forests.
Meanwhile, more than half the world’s countries pledged to only sign a deal that attempts to hold temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees. The current target is 2 degrees. They have day to day evidence on their side.
“We have two research stations, one in the pacific and one in the Caribbean. They both suggest a rise of 2 degrees is completely untenable for us,” said Dessima Williams, a diplomat speaking for island states. “Our islands are disappearing, our coral reefs are bleaching, and we are losing our fish supplies”. Tears were shed by delegates from sub-saharan Africa as they described the impact of climate change on their people.
But Chairman of the talks Yvo de Boer was dismissive. Giving the 1.5 degree target little hope of success, he summed up by saying “industrialised countries have pinned their hopes on 2 degrees.” His grumpiness might be because he’s spent the whole day trying to find the tea bags. He’s clearly vexed by the Bella Centre’s facilities, saying “it’s like moving into a new house. You do not know where the books are, you can’t find anything in the kitchen”.
The second problem in keeping temperature rises to 1.5 degrees is that it requires CO2 levels of around 350ppm (parts per million). We’re currently on about 387 and there’s no proven technology for removing CO2 from the air.
But then the subject of how much of what is in the air was coming under scrutiny yesterday. Professor Weiss has been looking into current measurements of greenhouse gases, and urged us to add ‘a few grains of salt’ to promises of accurate emissions quotas. More than a few it seems when measurements of various gases have been found to be four times higher than stated. This is a discrepancy which could be “the iceberg on which the entire conference could founder,” said Peter Goldmark, of the Environmental Defence fund.
Ominously, the Chinese and Indian delegations are resisting proposals allowing for international checks post any deal. The US favors a cheerily titled ‘sunshine policy’, under which countries wouldn’t face any serious consequences for breaching limits. This type of sunshine may warm things up more than we’d like.
The Sydney Morning Herald gave a party feel to late night climate negotiations taking place in Brussels. “EU pulls all-nighter” was how they described the discussions as to how much money Europe is going to give developing nations to tackle global warming. Unsurprisingly, the wealthy EU states are struggling to persuade the poorer ones to contribute. The largest donation on the table at the moment is from the UK, who’ve offered nearly 883 million Euros. This offer is presumably safe in the knowledge that the government can ask the Bank of England to print the money when required.
Across the Atlantic, senators from both parties have been busy redrafting a climate bill that might have a chance of getting passed. It suggests an emissions reduction of 17% percent by 2020 relative to 2005 levels, a cut so meagre that the president of brazil described the US as ”wanting to be treated like a developing nation”.
Undeterred, Obama is going for a presidential first year record, and is trying to squeeze in a 10th trip before Christmas. The good news is that this trip is to get him to Copenhagen early. On the basis that all world leaders want to be near glory and far from failure this could be taken to be a good sign. However, the guardian newspaper’s ‘hope-o-meter’ remains stuck on 2/5.
Billionaire George Soros entered the fray with a scheme to unlock the cash value of gold reserves to add to the funds available to tackle global warming. Speaking as a man who can afford to lose a dollar or two, he said, “if the choice is between cooking alive and wasting money unnecessarily i would rather waste some money”
Money is clearly no object to Max Burger, the Swedish fast food chain that has added CO2 emissions to the illuminated menu of meal packages above the counter. Max burger’s boss was straightforward about the objective.
“we want people to eat less meat”
Yesterday, the Times published an extract from a booklet I’d put together - a Condensed Version of Climate Change aimed at people like me who read the articles but felt a long way from the facts.
Following its publication, I temporarily deflected some of the venom that usually gets fired at the regular eco pundits.
The messages I received were split roughly into 3 categories.
1. You’re rubbish, you’re a musician so you don’t count, your songs are rubbish even though I haven’t even heard of you but if I had heard of you I’m sure they would be rubbish, you’re a hypocrite because you go on tour whilst telling us all this, you’re a second rate singer that doesn’t deserve a comment, but here’s a comment….etc etc
2. You’re a gullible idiot like everyone else, close minded and believing the lies you’re being fed. It’s all a natural cycle/sunspots/1500 year cycles or it’s not warming up at all.
3. You’ve haven’t thought of this, that and the other.
You’re rubbish etc. Not much to say here, apart from the hypocrite angle. Touring is a tricky one, especially in a world where music is free and gigs are the only way to make a living. However, most people commenting seemed to think that we travel like U2, with a cast of thousands and stage sets the size of small cities. It’s not quite like that, with 15 of us sharing a bus, pulling a trailer full of gear, and an ‘entourage’ (a word that came up a lot) consisting of the bus driver. So if you’re going to exclude musicians who do that from having an opinion on climate change, then you need to exclude the hundreds of thousands of business men who fly as much as we do, and probably also regular burger eaters, given the contribution to global warming from beef cattle. I suggested we let everyone discuss it now, work out a solution, then standby that solution, even if it requires lifestyle changes from local food and holidays, to virtual-only touring. Not everyone agreed.
The gullible idiot. There are two sides to this. If global warming is a scam perpetuated by scientists keen to make a buck, then it requires 1000s of researchers the world over to have conspired together to persuade the world of the need for urgent action, purely to guarantee their research budgets. I find that unlikely. Secondly, even if you decide you’re going to blame it on sunspots or natural cycles, it doesn’t alter the fact that things are getting warmer, no-one disputes that greenhouse gases trap heat, so it can’t help to put 27 billion tons of them in the atmosphere each year. And it doesn’t alter the fact that fossil fuels are running out and getting more expensive, they require us to give trillions of dollars to a handful of governments, and the air pollution alone claims hundreds of thousands of lives. So why not spend that money becoming self sufficient in our energy supplies? I kept asking that question at the end, but I think everyone had said their bit. I got no reply.
Category 3. You haven’t thought of this, that etc. There were lots of good points raised here. The annoying bit was that the article in the paper was 1/6th the length of the original booklet and a lot of things raised were issues dealt with in the full length version.
So I now understand the pain of people who get edited down, and the fact that going above the parapet on this issue requires a thick skin. Who knows what abuse must land on Al Gore’s doorstep every morning.
Meanwhile, if you’re planning to have a big night out in Holland on Saturday night, postpone it. 447 churches are going to ring their bells 350 times on Sunday, to mark the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (350ppm) we need to return to if the dutch are not going to go under. And if you’re in London tomorrow, don’t be alarmed by a 9 ton bear in Trafalgar square. Sculpted from ice, it will slowly melt as the negotiators try to finalise a deal.
More bad news for marine life. 100 european scientists released a report yesterday stating that the oceans were acidifying so fast, we are looking at mass exctinctions within decades. Not so said the meeting of climate sceptics held in Copenhagen yesterday. Lord Christopher Monckton a UK peer who used to advise Margaret Thatcher, thinks that the Copenhagen talks are part of a UN plot to install world government. If it is, it’s a plot so big it will take James Bond to foil it. Fred Singer, the climate sceptic author, raised a glass to China “Let’s all thank China for emitting more beneficial CO2. It benefits agriculture” The Chinese might not necessarily agree with this. They’re running out of water and have become a net importer of food.
Sarah Palin is right behind the sceptics though, stating yesterday that “The agenda-driven policies being pushed in Copenhagen won’t change the weather but they would change our economy for the worse.” A poll revealed that the stolen emails from the UEA have worked their magic in the US where less than 50% of people now think that climate change is man made.
Gerald Warner could smell blood. Blogging for the Telegraph, he wrote “We (I mean by “we” the sane, the scientifically informed, the defenders of freedom, the opponents of socialism and world government) must fight on to victory. We must attack, discredit, harass and, if necessary, disobey climate laws and refuse to pay AGW taxes, until this evil pseudo-religion is thrown into the dustbin of history.”
I hope he’s checked that his dustbin floats. The International Organization for Migration stated that in recent years, the “number of people affected by natural disasters has more than doubled”
Big news of the day was a leak of a Danish document proposing the outline of a new agreement which didn’t involve the UN, or the Kyoto Protocol, the only current treaty on limiting emissions. Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the Copenhagen talks, was keen to point out that “This was an informal paper ahead of the conference given to a number of people for the purposes of consultations”
Development agency representative Sol Oyuela was not so sure.
“The document should not even exist. To be working on a rival text is a kick in the teeth to the UN process that has been negotiated for so long.”
The leaked document proposed $10 billion of aid for poorer countries to adapt to climate change. “Quite good” said an Oxfam representative. “This isn’t even enough to pay for our coffins” said an official representing the 77 poorest countries.
Disapointingly, the leak showed the rich and the poor divided on the amount of emissions cuts poor countries should make, the date by which global emissions should start to fall, and how any deal should be funded. Quite a lot to sort out in 12 days.
Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organisations (WMO), a body made up of the UK Met Office and equivalents around the world, announced that this decade has been the warmest on record.
“Oh but releasing that now is an attempt to influence the negotiations” said the same people who’d been giving out stolen emails last week . “That’s right” said the WMO. The US space agency Nasa weighed in, predicting that a new global temperature record will be set “in the next one or two years”.
In a curious coincidence, Filipino Bernarditas de Castro Muller, an outspoken campaigner for the worlds poorer countries and at the centre of climate negotiations for 20 years, was left off the list of the Filipino delegation just after a visit from Hilary Clinton. She was snapped up by Sudan, who seem to be offering shelter to out of favour diplomats.
The Copenhagen mayor sent postcards to all central hotels warning summit guests not to visit Danish sex workers. The prostitutes have negotiated a solution far more effectively than anything yet achieved by the summit delegates, and are now all offering major discounts to anyone carrying the mayor’s postcards.
The EU delegation showed some journalists around their rooms at the Bella Centre, where the negotiations are taking place. In a strange twist, they have been assigned rooms which carry the names of great Swedish inventions. Their meetings move between Safety Match, Adjustable Spanner, Cream Separator or Zipper. Meanwhile, as you would expect, the US have a hi tech operations centre, and the 77 countries that make up the G77 of the worlds poorest nations have a few broom cupboards.
On the other side of the Atlantic, good old Nigel Lawson was taking place in a Canadian climate debate. The more their Tar Sands oil industry expands, the more funding there seems to be for climate sceptics to travel over there. “There has been no further global warming this century.” said Nigel, as normal. But when asked to reveal his statistical source, what it actually showed is that 8 of the 10 warmest years since record began have occurred since 2001.
Dodgy sources were the order of the day.
James Delingpole is a climate-sceptic writer and broadcaster who he says is ‘right about everything. In a debate with George Monibot, the Guardian columist, James revealed the brilliant scientific mind that can prove Global Warming science to be an elaborate, non profitable conspiracy between every national scientific institute in the developed world. He’s called Nils-Axel Morner. He proved that sea levels are actually falling, in a study that ignored all direct measurements of sea level. His former employer (he’s retired), the International Union for Quaternary Research, asked to be disassociated from any of his claims.
Nevertheless, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon felt the need to weigh in again yesterday and point out that “Nothing that has come out in the public as a result of the recent email hackings has cast doubt on the basic scientific message on climate change and that message is quite clear – that climate is changing much, much faster than we realized and we human beings are the primary cause”
Title of the day
‘Survival of the fattest’. The name given to a sculpture in Copenhagen harbour of an overweight lady justice sitting on the shoulders of a painfully think African man.
Finally, we learnt that the delegates at Copenhagen will be standing on, eating from, and looking at a variety of existing applications of biopolymer,” thanks to the efforts of biopolymer maker NatureWorks and its working partners.”
This new product seems to be a plant based way of manufacturing materials. Saving the best for last “from a polymer industry point of view”, after the conference the Belgian company will convert all the materials back “to virgin lactic acid, the building block for the Ingeo biopolymer”
Good luck to them
Amsterdam is the nearest hotel room to Copenhagen you can get. It also happens to be where I’m doing press for the new Groove Armada album. Coinciding with the climate talks is quite handy as it means I can shift the conversation to that rather than ‘where did you meet’ or ‘so, your new sound, tell me more’.
Yesterday’s opening of the summit had some good points. Gordon Brown doing his bit and pressing the EU to offer 40% emission cuts by 2020, for example, or the confirmation that all the key political leaders are actually going to turn up next week. Obama has played a shrewd hand and got CO2 classified as a danger to human health, allowing him to regulate it without relying on the Senate, where an ugly alliance of oilmen, republicans and alaskans have vowed that Barack won’t pass any legislation, even if it kills them.
On the other hand, the opening day got a bit school playground when the Chairman of the talks had to request that in future the delegates come back more quickly from their lunch.
We also heard that India’s chief negotiator and right hand man have refused to come, which isn’t a great start from the world’s 5th biggest emitter. However, if the Indian press stay at home with them, that might help the organisers of the Copenhagen media zone who are trying to fit 5000 people into 3500 places.
Day one of the talks saw the Saudi’s coming clean and saying that they doubt warming is man made. I wonder why that is. A bit shortsighted though, coming from the country that is so short of water it’s had to stop growing it’s own grain. Dubai are also sounding strangely sceptical. You would think that a country which is 2mm above sea level would want to sort things out. Having said that, their famous ski area in the 45 degree desert heat is probably not compatible with a low carbon footprint.
Meanwhile, speculation was rife as to who was behind the leak of the emails from the East Anglican research centre. Theories ranged from the Russian secret service to the Canadian tar sands oil barons. The one thing that was agreed was that the timing of the leak and the speed with which it spread around the world were not accidental.
It was a good day for the UK press. The Guardian successfully coordinated a campaign in which 56 of the worlds’ newspapers carried the same editorial urging the need for decisive climate action, a move which Alistair Campbell described as ‘surprisingly impactful’. It’s not so surprising. 56 newspapers from Shanghai to London with a joint circulation of several hundred million, all agreed on the same text. It’s unlikely that would go unnoticed.
1200 limos and 140 private planes have arrived in Copenhagen. ‘It had better be worth it’ said news presenter Jon Snow, muttering angrily about summit’s carbon footprint.
Before leaving the UK, Environment + Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband had a chat in the newsroom with Nigel Lawson. It’s hard to fathom what Nigel and Co’s agenda is. His arguments are.
1) The man on the street wouldn’t mind things a bit warmer
2) The world isn’t getting hotter at the moment so all this global warming talk is rubbish.
3) Even if it isn’t all rubbish it’s too expensive anyway.
But Nigel knows as well as anyone that;
1) If the world gets 3 degrees hotter, it doesn’t mean we get a nice suntan. It means that the planet goes into a spiral of irreversible warming which will leave it unfit for human habitation.
2) It was fully predicted by the scientific community that before the next burst of warming in 5 or 6 years time, there would be a period of static or even slightly declining temperatures. This is due to different layers of the atmosphere warming up at different rates. Even with this atmospheric breather, we’re still losing glaciers and ice 40% more quickly than the worst case scenario predicted in 2007.
3) To say the switch to renewable energies is too expensive is based on the assumption that we can carry on as we are. But Offgen, the UK energy regulator, predicts that the world’s ongoing reliance on fossil fuels will mean UK price increases of up to 60% over the next few years. These fuels are running out, and the reality of them running out has a massive impact on price long before we reach the bottom of the barrel. That’s on top of the 300 billion a year we spend subsidising fossil fuels at the moment. In contrast, an electric car charged from a windturbine runs at the equivalent of 50p a gallon.
So humanity is on the operating table in Copenhagen, with 13 days left to save it. On one side of the operating theatre there are all the worlds’ experts, united in their call that to save the patient requires decisive, immediate action.
On the other side, there are the Saudis, the Dubai delegation, Nigel, the new Canadian Oil Barons and Fox News urging us that we’re fine, we haven’t got much of temperature yet so we should go out and enjoy ourselves. And here’s a pack of cigarettes on us.
Holding the scalpel are 110 politicians who are spending too long having lunch.
Watch this space.