Monday, March 23, 2009

"Opportunity for 2 degrees lost"

By GEORGE MONBIOT in the Canberra Times:

Quietly in public, loudly in private, climate scientists everywhere are saying the same thing: it's over.

The years in which more than 2degrees of global warming could have been prevented have passed, the opportunities squandered by denial and delay.

On current trajectories we'll be lucky to get away with 4degrees.

Mitigation (limiting greenhouse gas pollution) has failed, now we must adapt to what nature sends our way. If we can.

This was the repeated whisper at the climate change conference in Copenhagen earlier this month.

It is more or less what Bob Watson, the environment department's chief scientific adviser, has been telling the British government.

It is the obvious, if unspoken, conclusion of scores of scientific papers.

Recent work by scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, for instance, suggests that even global cuts of 3per cent a year, starting in 2020, could leave us with 4 degrees of warming by the end of the century.

At the moment, emissions are heading in the opposite direction at roughly the same rate.

If this continues, what does it mean? Six? Eight? Ten degrees? Who knows?

Faced with such figures, I can't blame anyone for throwing up their hands. But before you succumb to this fatalism, let me talk you through the options.

Yes, it is true mitigation has so far failed. Sabotaged by Bill Clinton, abandoned by George W. Bush, attended halfheartedly by the other rich nations, the global climate talks have so far been a total failure.

The targets they have set bear no relation to the science and are negated anyway by loopholes and false accounting.

Nations such as Britain, which is meeting its obligations under the Kyoto protocol, have succeeded only by outsourcing it's pollution to other countries....

As professor Helm says, ''there is not much in the study of human nature and indeed human biology to give support to the optimist''.

But we cannot abandon mitigation unless we have a better option, but we don't.

If you think our attempts to prevent emissions are futile, take a look at our efforts to adapt.

Germany is spending $US600million ($A871million) on a new sea wall for Hamburg and this money was committed before the news came through that sea-level rises this century could be two or three times as great as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has predicted.

The Netherlands will spend $3.19billion on dykes between now and 2015 and again, they are likely to be inadequate.

The UN suggests rich countries should be transferring between $72billion and $109billion per year to poor countries now, to help them cope with climate change.

But nothing like this is happening...

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