Global warming report
10/30/2006

 

[update - September 2007]

 

Arctic Ice Continues Record Melting:
Arctic Ice the Size of Florida Gone in a Week 
 

ABC News / Sept. 10, 2007

An area of Arctic sea ice the size of Florida
has melted away in just the last six days as
melting at the top of the planet continues at a record rate.

2007 has already broken the record
for the lowest amount of sea ice ever recorded, say scientists,
smashing the old record set in 2005.

Currently, there are about 1.63 million
square miles of Arctic ice, according to the National Snow and
Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. That is well below the record
of 2.05 million square miles set two summers ago and could
drop even lower before the final numbers are in.

North Pole's Ice Disappears

From September 3 to September 9, researchers say
69,000 square miles of Arctic ice disappeared, roughly
the size of the Sunshine State.

Scientists say the rate of melting in 2007
has been unprecedented, and veteran ice researchers worry the
Arctic is on track to be completely ice-free much earlier than previous
research and climate models have suggested.

"If you had asked me a few years ago
about how fast the Arctic would be ice free in summer,
I would have said somewhere between about 2070 and the turn of
the century," said scientist Mark Serreze, polar ice expert at the
NSIDC. "My view has changed. I think that an ice-free Arctic
as early as 2030 is not unreasonable."

____

 

The UK report on climate change

 

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Climate change disaster

New York Times

October 30, 2006

 


Britain warned Monday that failure to act swiftly on global warming
will have a cataclysmic effect on the global economy, and said it was
stepping up efforts to get other nations involved.

 

A long-awaited report predicted apocalyptic effects
from climate change, including droughts, flooding, famine, skyrocketing
malaria rates and the extinction of many animal species. These will
happen during the current generation if changes are not made soon, the
report said.

 

It said the costs related to climate change, if it is allowed to continue
unmitigated, could devour as much as 20 percent of the world's gross
domestic product, or GDP.

 

"The consequences for our planet are literally disastrous,"
Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain
said in a speech discussing the report, which is one of the most
comprehensive attempts yet to predict the economic impact of global
warming.

 

"This disaster is not set to happen in some science-fiction future,
many years ahead, but in our lifetime, Blair
said. "What is more, unless we act now, not some time distant but now,
these consequences, disastrous as they are, will be irreversible."

 

Success in slowing carbon emissions could
bring great savings to the world economy, possibly in the range of
$2.5 trillion a year, the report estimated. This emphasis seems aimed
at the few industrial nations, including the United States,
that have refused to sign up to initiatives like the Kyoto Protocol,
citing economic reasons.

 

President George W. Bush has called the Kyoto Protocol "
unrealistic" and its emissions targets arbitrary, arguing that
they are not good for America

because they would crimp the economy, causing layoffs and price
increases. Many American businesses resist mandatory caps on greenhouse
gas emissions.

 

The
news conference with Blair and the chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon
Brown, who hopes to succeed the prime minister, sought to reinforce the
impression that the governing Labour Party is committed to acting on
the challenge.

 

Britain intends that "the report should be
discussed as widely as possible throughout the world -
not just among governments but among international
institutions, business leaders, NGOs and civil society,"
Brown said. He also said he had appointed the former
U.S. vice president Al Gore as an adviser on environmental issues.

 

"The justification for taking prompt action now is overwhelming compared
with the long-term alternatives
,"
said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of
Concerned Scientists, an American nonprofit group. "Of course, the
question is whether that argument will have any resonance in the White
House," he said.

 

The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is about 430 parts
per million, compared with 280 before the Industrial Revolution.
Stabilizing that number between 450 and 550 could cost about 1 percent
of GDP. But failing to limit the growth to that range could cost 5
percent to 20 percent of GDP a year, the report concluded.

 

The 700-page report was compiled by Nicholas Stern, the head of the
British government's economic service and a former chief economist of the World
Bank. It evaluated a body of scientific studies of global warming from
an economic perspective.

 

If the sources of greenhouse gases continue unchecked, average temperatures
could rise by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years, the report
says. By comparison, during the last Ice Age, temperatures were just 5
degrees Celsius cooler than they are now.

 

A
2-to-3-degree increase in average temperatures could leave one-sixth of
the world's population facing floods or droughts. It could reduce crop
production in Africa enough to put several hundred million
people at risk of starvation.

 

Almost half of the world's land animals could face extinction,
the report argued. An additional degree increase after that and cities like
New York
, Tokyo, London and St. Petersburg would be at constant risk of flooding.

 

Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, a centuries-old British
scientific group that counts Isaac Newton among its former members,
said the study "should be a turning point in a debate which has pitted
short-term economic interests against long-term costs to the
environment, society and the economy."

 

Britain
produces 2 percent of the world's greenhouse gasses, but has been one
of the loudest voices on global warming and established some of the
world's most punitive taxes on carbon emissions.

 


Britain
has already met its Kyoto
emissions reductions targets, but most European nations are struggling
to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 8 percent by 2012. A UN
report issued Monday said greenhouse gas emissions of industrial
nations that are part of the UN panel on climate change increased 11
percent between 1990 and 2004.

 

Those figures do not include east and central European countries, which saw
a rapid decline in emissions during that time.

 

Joint emissions of the countries that have joined the Kyoto Protocol were
15.3 percent lower in 2004 than in 1990, but individual performance varied.

 <

 

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 <

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Global warming could devastate economy

Associated Press

October 30, 2006

 

LONDON -
Unchecked global warming will devastate the world economy on the scale of the
world wars and the Great Depression
,
a British government report said Monday, as the country launched a bid
to convince doubters that environmentalism and economic growth can
coincide.

 

Britain
hired former Vice President Al Gore, who has emerged as a powerful
environmental spokesman since his defeat in the 2000 presidential
election, to advise the government on climate change - a clear
indication of Prime Minister Tony Blair's dissatisfaction with current U.S. policy.

 

Blair, President Bush's top ally in the Iraq war, said unabated climate change would eventually cost the world
between 5 percent and 20 percent of global gross domestic product each
year. He called for "bold and decisive action" to cut carbon emissions
and stem the worst of the temperature rise.

 

"It is not in doubt that, if the science is right, the consequences for our
planet are literally disastrous," he said. "This disaster is not set to
happen in some science fiction future many years ahead, but in our
lifetime."

 

The report emphasized that global warming can only be fought with
the cooperation of major countries such as the
United States
and China, and represents a huge contrast to the Bush administration's
wait-and-see global warming policies.

 

Sir Nicholas Stern, the senior government economist who wrote the report,
said that acting now to cut greenhouse gas emissions would cost about 1
percent of global GDP each year. He recommended a "low-carbon global
economy" through measures including taxation, regulation of greenhouse
gas emissions and carbon trading.

 

"That is manageable," he said. "We can grow and be green."

 

Bush kept America - by far the biggest emitter
of carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for global warming -
out of the Kyoto international treaty to reduce greenhouse
gases, saying the pact would harm the U.S. economy.
The international agreement was reached in Kyoto
in 1997 and expires in 2012.

 

Blair made his displeasure with U.S. environmental policy
clear when he signed an agreement this year with California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to develop new technologies to
combat the problem. The measure imposed the first emissions cap in the
United States on utilities, refineries and manufacturing plants
in a bid to curb the gases that scientists blame for
warming the Earth.

 

The prime minister and the report also said that no matter
what Britain, the
United States
and Japan
do, the battle against global warming cannot succeed without deciding
when and how to control the greenhouse gas emissions by such
fast-industrializing giants as China and
India.

 

Stern's 700-page report said evidence showed "that ignoring
climate change will eventually damage economic growth."

 

"Our actions over the coming decades could create risks of major disruption
to economic and social activity, later in this century and in the next,
on a scale similar to those associated with the great wars and the
economic depression of the first half of the 20th century," he said.

 

The report said at current trends average global temperatures will rise by
3.6 to 5.4 degrees within the next 50 years or so, and the earth will
experience several degrees more of warming if emissions continue to
grow.

 

It said such warming could have effects such as melting glaciers, rising
sea levels, declining crop yields, drinking water shortages, higher
death tolls from malnutrition and heat stress, and widespread outbreaks
of malaria and dengue fever. Developing countries often would be the
hardest hit.

 

The report acknowledged that its predictions regarding GDP relied on sparse
data about high temperatures and developing countries, and placed
monetary values on human health and the environment, "which is
conceptually, ethically and empirically very difficult."

 

Treasury Chief Gordon Brown, who is expected to replace Blair as
prime minister next year, said Britain
would lead the international effort against climate change,
establishing "an economy that is both pro-growth and pro-green." He
called for Europe to cut its carbon
emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 60 percent by 2050 - and Blair's
government on Monday said it would propose a British law to that effect.

 

Under the 1997 Kyoto
accord, 35 industrialized nations committed to reducing emissions by an average
5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

 

But Britain
is one of only a handful of industrialized nations whose greenhouse gas
emissions have fallen in the last decade and a half, the United Nations
said Monday.

 

The U.N. said Germany's
emissions dropped 17 percent between 1990 and 2004, Britain<
/st1:country-region>'s by 14 percent and France's by almost 1 percent.

 

Overall,
there was a 2.4 percent rise in emissions by 41 industrialized nations
from 2000 to 2004, mostly because former Soviet-bloc countries, whose
emissions declined in their economic downturn of the 1990s, increased
emissions during the recent four-year period by 4.1 percent.

 

The British government is considering new "green taxes"
on cheap airline flights, fuel and high-emission vehicles.

 

 

____

 

 

Save the planet in 10 steps                                  

By: George Monbiot                                                                                              

October 30, 2006

 

It is a testament to the power of money that Nicholas Stern's report should have swung the argument for drastic
action, even before anyone has finished reading it. He
appears
to have demonstrated what many of us suspected: that it would cost much
less to prevent runaway climate change than to seek to live with it.

 

Useful as this finding is, I hope it doesn't mean that the debate
will now concentrate on money. The principal costs of climate change will be measured in lives,
not pounds.
As Stern reminded us today, there would be a moral imperative
to seek to prevent mass death even if the economic case did not stack up.

 

But at least almost everyone now agrees that we must act,
if not at the necessary speed.
If we're to have a high chance of preventing global temperatures from
rising by 2C (3.6F) above preindustrial levels, we need, in the rich
nations, a 90% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2030
.

 

The
greater part of the cut has to be made at the beginning of this period.
To see why, picture two graphs. One falls like a ski jump: a steep drop
followed by a shallow tail. The other falls like the trajectory of a
bullet. The area under each line represents the total volume of
greenhouse gases produced in that period. They fall to the same point
by the same date, but far more gases have been produced in the second
case, making runaway climate change more likely.

 

So how do we do it without bringing civilisation crashing down?
Here is a plan for drastic but affordable action

that the government could take. It goes much further than the proposals
discussed by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown today, for the reason that
this is what the science demands.

 

1
Set a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions based on the latest
science. The government is using outdated figures, aiming for a 60%
reduction by 2050. Even the annual 3% cut proposed in the early day
motion calling for a new climate change bill does not go far enough.
Timescale: immediately.

 

2
Use that target to set an annual carbon cap, which falls on the
ski-jump trajectory. Then use the cap to set a personal carbon ration.
Every citizen is given a free annual quota of carbon dioxide. He or she
spends it by buying gas and electricity, petrol and train and plane
tickets. If they run out, they must buy the rest from someone who has
used less than his or her quota. This accounts for about 40% of the
carbon dioxide we produce. The rest is auctioned off to companies. It's
a simpler and fairer approach than either green taxation or the EU's
emissions trading scheme, and it also provides people with a powerful
incentive to demand low-carbon technologies. Timescale: a full scheme
in place by January 2009.

 

3
Introduce a new set of building regulations, with three objectives:
A.
Imposing strict energy-efficiency requirements on all major
refurbishments costing £3,000 or more. Timescale: in force by June
2007.
B. Obliging landlords to bring their houses up to high
energy-efficiency standards before they can rent them out. Timescale:
to cover all new rentals from January 2008.
C. Ensuring that all new
homes in the UK
are built to the German passivhaus standard (which requires no heating system).
Timescale: in force by 2012.

 

4
Ban the sale of incandescent lightbulbs, patio heaters, garden
floodlights and other wasteful and unnecessary technologies. Introduce
a stiff "feebate" system for all electronic goods sold in this country.
The least efficient are taxed heavily while the most efficient receive
tax discounts. Every year the standards in each category rise.
Timescale: fully implemented by November 2007.

 

5
Redeploy the money currently earmarked for new nuclear missiles towards
a massive investment in energy generation and distribution. Two schemes
in particular require government support to make them commercially
viable: very large wind farms, many miles offshore, connected to the
grid with high-voltage, direct-current cables; and a hydrogen pipeline
network to take over from the natural gas grid as the primary means of
delivering fuel for home heating. Timescale: both programmes commence
at the end of 2007 and are completed by 2018.

 

6
Promote the development of a new national coach network. City centre
coach stations are shut down and moved to motorway junctions. Urban
public transport networks are extended to meet them. The coaches travel
on dedicated lanes and never leave the motorways. Journeys by public
transport then become as fast as journeys by car, while saving 90% of
emissions. It is self-financing, through the sale of the land now used
for coach stations. Timescale: commences in 2008; completed by 2020.

 

7
Oblige all chains of filling stations to supply leasable electric car
batteries. This provides electric cars with unlimited mileage: as the
battery runs down, you pull into a forecourt. A crane lifts it out and
drops in a fresh one. The batteries are charged overnight with surplus
electricity from offshore wind farms. Timescale: fully operational by
2011.

 

8
Abandon the road-building and road-widening programme, and spend the
money on tackling climate change. The government has earmarked £11.4bn
for new roads. It claims to be allocating just £545m a year to
"spending policies that tackle climate change". Timescale: immediately.

 

9 Freeze and then reduce UK
airport capacity. While capacity remains high there will be constant
upward pressure on any scheme the government introduces to limit
flights. We need a freeze on all new airport construction and the
introduction of a national quota for landing slots, to be reduced by
90% by 2030. Timescale: immediately.

 

10
Legislate for the closure of all out-of-town superstores, and their
replacement with a warehouse and delivery system. Shops use a
staggering amount of energy (six times as much electricity per square
metre as factories, for example), and major reductions are hard to
achieve: Tesco's "state of the art" energy-saving store at Diss in
Norfolk, has managed to cut its energy use by only 20%. Warehouses
containing the same quantity of goods use roughly 5% of the energy.
Out-of-town shops are also hardwired to the car - delivery vehicles use
70% less fuel. Timescale: fully implemented by 2012.

 

These timescales might seem extraordinarily ambitious.
They are, in contrast to the current plodding pace of change.
But when America
entered the second world war, it turned the economy around on a
sixpence. Carmakers began producing aircraft and missiles within a
year, and amphibious vehicles in 90 days, from a standing start. And
that was 65 years ago.

 

If we
want this to happen, we can make it happen. It will require more
economic intervention than we are used to, and some pretty brutal
emergency planning policies (with little time or scope for objections).
But if you believe that these are worse than mass death, then there is
something wrong with your value system.

 

Climate change is not just a moral question:
it is the moral question of the 21st century
.
There is one position even more morally culpable than denial. That is
to accept that it's happening and that its results will be
catastrophic, but to fail to take the measures needed to prevent it.