According to the Nobel Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “about one meter high and rising.” The group of scientists met in Copenhagen this week and revised their previous estimate for global warming induced sea-level rise, saying the sea could rise one meter by 2100. This is worse than they thought two years ago.
The previous IPCC assessment report, published in 2007, projected a sea level rise of “only” 18 to 59 centimeters by 2100. Copenhagen’s speakers stated today that the 2007 numerical models did not fully represent either outlet glaciers or their interactions with the ocean.
“Even the IPCC said that they didn’t take some factors into consideration because they lacked the data,” Katherine Richardson, vice dean of the University of Copenhagen’s faculty of science, noted in an interview.
“Now we have the data, and it seems very clear that sea level rise by 2100 will be greater than the IPCC’s prediction, and also that the rate of increase after 2100 will be faster than it will be before 2100. We are at the very least in the worst-case scenario of the IPCC. There’s no good news there.”
Meanwhile, IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri spake the inconvenient truth when he noted that the United States is likely to proceed only incrementally toward carbon reductions. “He [Obama] is not going to say by 2020 I’m going to reduce emissions by 30%. He’ll have a revolution on his hands. He has to do it step by step.” Says The Guardian: “Pachauri’s remarks echo those of Todd Stern, the US president’s new chief climate negotiator, who said last week that it was ‘not possible’ for the US to aim for 25-40% cuts by 2020.”
The S-G offers what at first seems to be a rather common sensical, if candid, critique of the difficulties at the intersection between national politics and international climate change.
Ban Ki-moon said the situation had been compounded by the global financial downturn that was making it more difficult for the political leadership to take unpopular decisions.
“Their first priority maybe (is) to get elected first of all, whatever maybe the case,” Ban told a conference on sustainable development in New Delhi.
“But they must overcome and look beyond this personal political leadership. They have to demonstrate their leadership as a global leader.
This is true; it is much easier to make politically expedient domestic decisions, particularly in times of financial struggle and/or when elections approach, than to make decisions that concern all of humanity, the entire globe, and future generations. The Bangladeshis who would lose their homes to sea rises, for example, or even the Floridians suffering from an increase in hurricanes in 2050, do not make particularly powerful constituencies in the United States in 2009.
Yet Ban’s implied missive — for leaders to ignore political reality in order to take a more daring global view — cannot possibly be the entire solution, at least if we want to merge the realities of politicking with the scale of the need to address climate change. Rather, the key will be to play to both choruses at once — to convince domestic audiences that they have an equal stake in halting emissions, that they will be the ones to feel the pernicious effects of global warming, and, most importantly, that addressing the economic crisis with an eye toward the environment is the only way to solve the problem. Rather than look to outdated patchwork solutions that seek a quick fix through pollution, leaders need to appeal to constituents to harness green technology, create green jobs, and promote other “green” solutions that take on both the environment and the economy, with both practicality and vision.
In case you missed it while sprinting to the bathroom during last night’s nail-biter, this is the GE ad touting the smart grid that aired during the Super Bowl last night. It’s savvy marketing on their part, attaching their name in such a public venue to a technology that (hopefully) will get a lot of media play this year. UN Dispatch will be closely following the issue. Need to get caught up?
More and more Americans are paying attention to the new evidence and fresh warnings from scientists. There is a much broader consensus on the need for action than there was when President George H.W. Bush negotiated – and the Senate ratified – the Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and much stronger support for action than when we completed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
The elements that I believe are key to a successful agreement in Copenhagen include:
• Strong targets and timetables from industrialized countries and differentiated but binding commitments from developing countries that put the entire world under a system with one commitment: to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollutants that cause the climate crisis;
• The inclusion of deforestation, which alone accounts for twenty percent of the emissions that cause global warming;
• The addition of sinks including those from soils, principally from farmlands and grazing lands with appropriate methodologies and accounting. Farmers and ranchers in the U.S. and around the world need to know that they can be part of the solution;
• The assurance that developing countries will have access to mechanisms and resources that will help them adapt to the worst impacts of the climate crisis and technologies to solve the problem; and,
• A strong compliance and verification regime.
The road to Copenhagen is not easy, but we have traversed this ground before. We have negotiated the Montreal Protocol, a treaty to protect the ozone layer, and strengthened it to the point where we have banned most of the major substances that create the ozone hole over Antarctica. And we did it with bipartisan support. President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill joined hands to lead the way. [emphases mine]
An item in today’s Washington Post rams home the disastrous inevitability of the massive effects of global warming.
Greenhouse gas levels currently expected by mid-century will produce devastating long-term droughts and a sea-level rise that will persist for 1,000 years regardless of how well the world curbs future emissions of carbon dioxide, an international team of scientists reported yesterday.
This lede is somewhat deceptive, however — not for the immensity of the crisis that it forecasts, but for the subtle implication that inaction will be as effective as action in preparing for these devastating global changes. The scientists’ findings are a warning cry, certainly: carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere longer than other greenhouse gases, and is “more like nuclear waste than acid rain,” they caution. But the study also emphasizes the importance of not delaying in halting our current carbon emissions, lest the sea rises of the future be even higher, the droughts more pronounced, and the repercussions of our fecklessness even more deadly. The money quote, from the study’s senior scientist: “The more time that we take to make decisions about carbon dioxide, the more irreversible climate change we’ll be locked into.” So there’s irreversible, and then there’s irreversible.
If President Obama’s early sign of support for a California emissions regulation that his predecessor subverted is any indication, then he understands the imperative of immediate U.S. leadership in the fight against climate change. And with Al Gore testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject tomorrow, Congress does not seem to be waiting to take action either.
Without such initiative, those iconic emperor penguins of the Antarctic, according to the scientists, will go marching right into extinction within the next century.
As if we needed yet more evidence that our globe is getting warmer, the UN World Meteorological Organization announced that 2008 was among the 10 ten warmest years on record. From the UN News Center.
The year 2008 is likely to rank as the 10th warmest year on record since the beginning of the instrumental climate records in 1850, although the global average temperature was slightly lower than previous years of the 21st century, according to the United Nations meteorological agency.
The combined sea-surface and land-surface air temperature for 2008 is estimated at 0.31 degrees Celsius (C) or 0.56 Fahrenheit (F), above the 1961-1990 annual average of 14C, or 57.2F, while the Arctic Sea ice volume during the melt season was its lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.
These seemingly small shifts in the average global temperature has major effects on our planet. To wit:
A remarkable occurrence in 2008 was the dramatic disappearance of nearly one-quarter of the massive ancient ice shelves on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. Ice 70 metres thick, which a century ago covered 9,000 square kilometres, has shrunk to just 1,000 square kilometres today, underscoring the 30-year downward trend in Arctic sea ice.
The WMO has more.
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.