Friday, December 18, 2009

Canada tagged as "Fossil of the Year" as climate summit "hangs in the balance" - CBC News

Canada is refusing to play its traditional key role as an honest international broker, keeping a low profile instead even though the Copenhagen Climate Summit "hangs in the balance". If the summit fails (in form and/or in substance), we will share part of the blame due to the Conservative Government's inaction. I fact,
"A coalition of environmental groups at the Copenhagen climate change conference gave its 'Fossil of the Year' award to Canada on Friday. "The citation called Canada 'the absolute worst country at the talks.'[...]

"Canada has been under pressure at the conference over its intention to cut greenhouse gas emissions by just 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020, when environmentalists had been calling for much steeper cuts. "The Conservative government has also not ruled out giving special breaks to oilsands companies when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions."

CBC News - World - Canada tagged as 'Fossil of the Year'
Shame! Shame!

Update: Link to Fossil of the Day Award web site explaining the reasons for the Fossil of the Year Award to Canada.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Nature Journal: Climate Science is Sound, Paranoid Interpretation Would Be Laughable If It Were Not Dangerous

There is a great editorial in the leading scientific Journal Nature, busting the myth about the significance of the the stolen emails from the University of East Anglia (UAE) Climate Research Unit (CRU):
"Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple, robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails.
  • "First, Earth's cryosphere is changing as one would expect in a warming climate. These changes include glacier retreat, thinning and areal reduction of Arctic sea ice, reductions in permafrost and accelerated loss of mass from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
  • Second, the global sea level is rising. The rise is caused in part by water pouring in from melting glaciers and ice sheets, but also by thermal expansion as the oceans warm.
  • Third, decades of biological data on blooming dates and the like suggest that spring is arriving earlier each year.
"Denialists often maintain that these changes are just a symptom of natural climate variability. But when climate modellers test this assertion by running their simulations with greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide held fixed, the results bear little resemblance to the observed warming. The strong implication is that increased greenhouse-gas emissions have played an important part in recent warming, meaning that curbing the world's voracious appetite for carbon is essential...." [bullet points added in second paragraph to improve readability].
(For more on the independent evidence supporting climate science, see my previous blog post.)

The editors of Nature also say that the
"...paranoid interpretation [of the stolen emails] would be laughable were it not for the fact that obstructionist politicians in the US Senate will probably use it next year as an excuse to stiffen their opposition to the country's much needed climate bill."
On an even more somber note, Nature's editors warn that
"...the pressures the UEA e-mailers experienced may be nothing compared with what will emerge as the United States debates a climate bill next year, and denialists use every means at their disposal to undermine trust in scientists and science."
Indeed, the stakes are very high. Trillion-dollar fossil-fuel industries and their allies are trying to keep their profit margins in the face of the biggest global push-back that they have had to face. The evidence to date shows only disinformation campaigns, computer hacking -- plus possibly break and enter and attempted trespass (the latter two allegedly happened right here in Canada). I certainly hope that this is the worst of it.

I also hope that journalists stop blindly repeating sensationalized quotes from the stolen emails, and remember the need for critical thinking, as Jim Hogan argues eloquently Desmog Blog.

Prentice "Channels" U.S. Policies on Absolute Emissions Caps, "Intensity Targets" Gone At Last

Canadian Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice is on a roll. First, he confirmed his conviction that climate science is clear and we need to reduce emissions despite the "stolen emails". Then, he told a House of Commons committee that his government is giving up the roundly criticized and notoriously ineffectual "intensity targets" approach. They are finally moving toward imposing hard caps on total greenhouse gases emissions.

The reason? Desire to harmonize Canadian rules with U.S. policies. Despite arguing earlier in 2009 that "intensity targets" and hard caps are "not mutually exclusive'', Prentice has finally conceded what the experts had been saying all along. There is no way to make these apples into oranges.

Given that the leaders of our "51st State" government are so wishy-washy on this issue, aren't we in Canada lucky to have elected Obama and a Democratic Congress to lead us at the federal level? Oh, wait...

Friday, December 04, 2009

Even Prentice Gets It - Climate Science is Clear Despite Stolen Emails, We Must Cut Emissions

Canada's federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice got something right for once:

"[The stolen email controversy] does not change the position of Canada... The science overall is relatively clear on all of this and as a conservationist and as a responsible environmental steward, Canada wants to see carbon emissions reduced." (Sun Media, via Orilia Packet & Times)

The BBC provides a timeline of the controvercy in a sidebar to this story.

Here's why Prentice is right:

"'The emails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus ... that tells us the earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity,' said ... government scientist, Jane Lubchenco. A marine biologist and climate researcher, she heads the [US] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"The emails do not negate or even deal with data from both NOAA and NASA, which keep independent climate records and show dramatic warming, Lubchenco told members of the House global warming committee."


"The chairman of the [US] Academy of Science panel, Texas A&M University atmospheric scientist Gerald North, confirmed... [that]

"'...even if Jones, Mann and others [whose emails had been stolen] had done no research at all, the world would still be warming and scientists would still be able to show it." (CP via Yahoo! Canada News)

Spencer Weart, former director of the American Institute of Physics' Center for the History of Physics who wrote The Discovery of Global Warming, said that surface temperature data (the subject of the emails) is notoriously hard to deal with. Weather stations are run by people who make mistakes -- or sometimes even move the stations, using instruments that may be off by a few degrees, in an environment that can change around the station over the years. But Weart agrees that surface climate data is not required to prove recent global warming. Studies of stalagmites in caves and temperature changes in near-surface rock layers have confirmed the trends independetly. (CBC Radio's The Current on December 3, 2009. You can listen using the player on the CBC site -- go to the player for Part 3 near the end of that page. The discussion noted above starts around 07:30).

I'll let David Suzuki have the last word for now:

"Sadly for the deniers and for all of us, the emails don't show that global warming is a grand hoax or conspiracy. They do nothing to diminish the decades of overwhelming scientific evidence that the Earth is not only warming largely because of emissions from burning fossil fuels but that it's worse than we thought. Recently, 26 scientists from Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, the U.S., and Australia released a report showing that the impacts of global warming are occurring faster and are more widespread than other reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had projected.

"The report, titled The Copenhagen Diagnosis, summarized the most recent research from around the world, which shows that Arctic sea ice is melting faster than we thought, that both Greenland and Antarctica are losing more ice than predicted, and that sea levels are rising more quickly than anticipated. The scientists conclude that the Earth could reach several 'tipping points' if we keep pumping emissions into the atmosphere at the same rate.

"The report also quashes the myth of 'global cooling' that has been 'promoted by lobby groups and picked up in some media.' The report's authors conclude that 'even the highly "cherry-picked" 11-year period starting with the warm 1998 and ending with the cold 2008 still shows a warming trend of 0.11 C per decade.'

"It's astounding that those who deny that climate change exists or that it is human-caused, either out of self-interest or ignorance, are willing to see some grand conspiracy in a handful of stolen emails but are unwilling to see the undeniably clear evidence of the impacts of climate change already occurring around the world.

"Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, world leaders are dragging their heels in the lead-up to the Copenhagen climate summit this month. As University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver notes, in abandoning the idea of reaching a binding agreement in Copenhagen, world leaders are essentially saying that they don't believe they owe anything to our children and grandchildren.

"Unfortunately, Canada has a poor record on climate change and international negotiations to address the problem. Our government argues that the economy takes precedence over the environment. It's incredibly short-sighted to think that a healthy economy can be maintained when the health of the planet is failing. And it's absurd to pin our economic hopes on extracting limited supplies of dirty fossil fuels in a world that is increasingly switching to cleaner forms of energy."

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