UN raises stakes in latest report on global warming; showdown set for Bali roundup

Sat, 2007-11-17 11:54Bill Miller
Bill Miller's picture

UN raises stakes in latest report on global warming; showdown set for Bali roundup

A panel of UN scientists has fired an opening salvo for world political leaders meeting next month in Bali to negotiate a successor to the Kyoto protocol.

And it’s a stern warning of what’s at stake if governments fail to take action, far stronger than three previous IPCC reports despite lively debate – highlighted by objections from the U.S., China and India – among about 130 governments who gave final approval.

The 26-page report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said warming of the climate system is “unequivocal” and governments must take action to avoid catastrophic consequences.

Governments were told that they only have a few years to avoid the “abrupt and irreversible” affects of global warming. The summit, held in Spain, heard there's still time to act - but not much.

Barring action, the report said, melting ice sheets would lead to a rapid rise in sea levels and the extinction of large numbers of species would be brought about by even moderate warming on the order of 1 to 3 degrees.

The report is the final word from the UN climate panel before leaders meet in Bali, Indonesia, next month to discuss a treaty that will replace Kyoto, which expires in 2012. It is also the first report from the panel since it was awarded the Nobel prize in October, which many scientists say emboldened them to take stronger positions.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, describing climate change as “the defining challenge of our age,” called on the U.S. and China to play “a more constructive role.” Both are signatories to Kyoto, but Washington has not ratified the treaty and China, along with India and other developing countries, is not bound by its mandatory emissions caps.

Though more alarming than its predecessors, some believe the report still understates the trajectory of global warming and its impact. The I.P.C.C.’s scientific process, which takes five years of study and writing from start to finish, cannot take into account the very latest data on climate change or economic trends, which show larger than predicted development and energy use in China.

Previous Comments

I just finished reading the report, and it is quite emphatic. I also noticed that re: the retreating Greenland ice sheet, they come very close to stating that recent observations suggest it will happen a lot faster than they anticipated. They suggest that it could happen on a cycle of centuries rather than millennia as previously stated in response to the sea level rise claim in AIT that everyone thought was so badly distorted.

So who will be speaking for Canada in Bali? How do we make sure Harper’s government gets the message?

One of the comments in the online press is as follows: “There is now broad agreement on the amplifying scale of the problem, but countries remain sharply divided on how to tackle it, fearing economic costs and loss of competitive advantage.” “Competitive advantage” is grossly overrated. What about cooperation for survival?

“competitive advantage” seems to be something the more developed / low birth rate societies value more than the less developed / high birth rate societies. Unless you think high population growth will no impact on the environment, I would think that the values that limit that growth are under-rated, not over-rated.

I’m very concerned about over population. However I am not sure that maintaining a competitive advantage necessarily leads directly to lower birth rates. As an excuse for doing less on AGW it is self-serving and could have serious consequences.

This concern about “competitive advantage” shouldn’t even enter the equation. I tend to believe this kind of thinking will only cause some governments to hesitate, just to wait and see what the “other guy” will do first.
I think this is a really bad case of “can’t see the forest for the trees”…

I’ve just been reading at the G&M that although the official death toll from Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh is about 2,300 so far, the final number is likely to be close to 10,000. The prediction in yesterday’s report that there will “likely [be an]increase in tropical cyclone intensity” will come as no surprise to the survivors picking through the wreckage of their lives. I hope it also focuses the minds of the delegates meeting in Bali next month on the vulnerability of coastal and island environments (such as Indonesia).

Competitive advantage as a strategic concept has been central to the success of the Western World.

But any student of strategy will tell you that to retain competitive advantage one needs to think long term - something which current thinking on climate change policy does not do.

For two slightly different views on the long term / short term view of global warming policy, and hence the likely outcome of the Bali summit have a look at this link: http://www.talkclimatechange.com/index.html#NewsRef300

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In less than a decade, climate change-induced sea level rise could force thousands of people to migrate from some small island developing states (SIDS), according to the executive director of the United Nations Environment Program.

The world’s 52 small island developing states (SIDS) increasingly share sea level rise and other escalating environmental threats that are further aggravated by economic insecurities, Achim Steiner added.

What makes this situation even more grievous is that the climate...

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