Monday, May 28, 2007

More on G8 summit and climate

The Associated Press has an article by David Stringer about the U.S. obstructing a climate deal from the summit. The article is based on leaked documents from the summit obtained by Greenpeace.

What are the responsible leaders trying to do?
[German Chancellor] Merkel is seeking to win agreements for a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 and bold commitments to energy efficiency strategies at the summit in Heiligendamm, on Germany's Baltic Sea coast, June 6-8.

They are also talking about a maximum temperature increase:
The draft communique also included a commitment to curb the rise in average temperatures this century to 3.6 degrees, said the environmental group Greenpeace - which has published two leaked versions of the document. Without significant efforts, the rise is estimated to rise as much as 11 degrees, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I'm glad this article mentioned the IPCC upper bound but I wish it also mentioned some of the other suggested emission targets. There's no way to judge if "50 precent below 1990 levels by 2050" is considered middle-of-the-road or conservative.

The U.S. government wants no part of this:
"The U.S. still has serious, fundamental concerns about this draft statement," the notes on the document read. "The treatment of climate change runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to."

Still (as of now) 603 days left.....

Update: Reuters covers the same story but focuses on how dumb Tony Blair looks:
Greenpeace said the U.S. stance gave the lie to confident statements by Blair that Washington's position was moderating as the summit approached.

"This shows more clearly than ever that despite his protestations to the contrary Tony Blair's efforts to persuade George Bush of the importance of tackling climate change have singularly failed," said Greenpeace director John Sauven.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Five new posts

Its been about two weeks since my last post and I had a bunch of media coverage to go through. It was too cold to sail today (please, no "where's the global warming" cracks) so I had some time to catch up on recent media coverage of a few issues. Enjoy!

20 more months of no U.S. action?

Despite the promising talk from the presidential candidates (see below) and the current Congress, there's still the matter of the current President when considering what might get done about global warming in the 20 months his administration has left.

If this article in the Washington Post (by Juliet Eilperin) is any indication: not much. The Bush administration is trying to weaken some mild language in a climate statement that is supposed to come out of a June G8 summit:
Negotiators from the United States are trying to weaken the language of a climate change declaration set to be unveiled at next month's G-8 summit of the world's leading industrial powers, according to documents obtained yesterday by The Washington Post.

A draft proposal dated April 2007 that is being debated in Bonn, Germany, this weekend by senior officials of the Group of Eight includes a pledge to limit the global temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as an agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

The United States is seeking to strike that section, the documents show.

First, reducing emissions to 50% below 1990 by 2050 (still emitting in 2050, mind you, but only at half of 1990 levels) isn't enough to limit the rise to 3.6 degrees. But hey, you gotta crawl before you can walk so I'm willing to start there. But the Bush administration isn't.

The Eilperin piece had no counter-quotes from the administration, probably because they called on Saturday (good one!).

Compare that with this article two days later from the Washington Post by Steven Mufson and Michael Fletcher about fuel efficiency. The title sounds great: "Bush Calls For Cuts In Vehicle Emissions: Agencies Ordered To Draft New Rules". But the agency is the EPA which takes a long time to do anything. You have to read the article to find this fact:
"In effect, the president asked his agency heads to share ideas and come up with a plan that is due three weeks before he leaves office," said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chairman of the new House select committee on climate change. Markey said that "will leave motor vehicle fuel economy stuck in neutral until Bush's successor takes office.

The article is appropriately negative to the administration. So why the sweetheart headline? Reporters who write the articles don't pick the headlines. Someone else usually does.

More on the G8 statement stonewalling from the Financial Times.

Spin alert: intensity reduction

This AP story about Al Gore's criticism of the Canadian government's climate plan includes this quote:
[Gore] said "intensity reduction" - which allows industries to increase their greenhouse gas outputs as they raise production - was a poll-tested phrase developed by think tanks financed by Exxon Mobil and other large polluters.

Gore also called the plan a "Fraud". But lets look at this phrase "intensity reduction". It has "reduction" in it. That sounds good. That's what we want, right?

But intensity reduction means that the rate of CO2 emitted per unit of stuff made by a factory goes down. In other words, the factory somehow becomes more efficient at emitting carbon as it does its thing (make energy or make a car). That doesn't actually reduce the amount of CO2 emitted. If the factory increases production, its emissions will go up and that's ok with this plan.

Note that intensity reduction is the only thing the Bush administration will commit to.

Cheers to the AP for not letting "intensity reduction" get in to the story without qualification.

Public and Republican presidential candidates think global warming is a problem

Remember those polls on public attitudes toward global warming? Christian Science Monitor staff writer Brad Knickerbocker wrote about them for Earth Day:
"The last six months have been the most rapid period of change in public awareness and attitudes on climate change that I've ever seen," says William Moomaw, a Tufts University climate expert and coauthor of the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN-sponsored group of scientists.

Demand for climate-change briefings he's delivered for the past five years have jumped in the past year, says Dr. Moomaw. Audiences who were once polite are now actively engaged.


More evidence of a shift in acceptance of reality is that responding to climate change, and not denying it, is something even Republican presidential candidates are doing as mentioned in this Reuters story by Deborah Zabarenko:
[John] McCain is hardly alone in his party. Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney have also staked out positions on this topic, generally pushing for alternative energy and more efficient technologies to stall the globe's warming trend.

One reason for this sea change is former Vice President Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" laying out the science behind global warming, said Eileen Claussen of the non-profit Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

This new Republican openness to discussing ways to tackle climate change may also be an indirect result of recent changes in how the White House has talked about the problem, said political scientist Cal Jillson of Southern Methodist University in Dallas said.

"Once President George W. Bush acknowledged that global warming was a problem, other Republicans were freer not to have to support the administration stance - that the science was incomplete - but now they could say on the campaign trail, 'Here's what I propose to do.'"

This shift has occurred in the last year or so, Jillson said.

More analysis along these lines appeared in MarketWatch, a business news outfit owned by Dow Jones (the same guys that own the Wall Street Journal:
Al Gore isn't running for president, but in some sense he's already won.
All the major Democratic candidates for president -- and a fair number of the Republicans, as well -- have embraced Gore's signature issue: global warming. In sharp contrast to the current occupant of the Oval Office, most of the candidates say climate change is a major challenge that the next president will have to address.

Most of the major candidates say the scientific debate is over. They agree that human activity is a major cause of the increased temperatures already seen around the globe and that immediate steps are needed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
But the policy debate is just beginning. It's one thing to diagnose the illness; it's another to prescribe the right economic and political incentives to wean the global economy away from carbon.

The article has a summary of where the candidates are on things like fuel efficiency and future emission targets.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Climate change and the U.S.

One of the conclusions of the WGII report was that poor nations of the world will suffer more from climate change because they don't have the infrastructure to deal with it. Lately, I've been hearing some smart people (at various meetings I've been to) say something that is quite different: that the U.S. and Europe will barely be affected. That appears to be a misinterpretation of the WGII report. I'm not sure how that has spread but I hope readers of this blog know better. Update: Quotes like this from the WGII panel chair Rajendra K. Pachauri in the NYTimes must be responsible:
“It’s the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit"

Note: thats worst hit, not only hit.

To help set the record straight, here are some articles about how climate change will definitely affect the U.S. and not for the better:

Associated Press (Edith Lederer) article title "Panel Says U.S. Faces Change As Climate Warms"
Chicago and Los Angeles will likely to face increasing heat waves. Severe storm surges could hit New York and Boston. And cities that rely on melting snow for water may run into serious shortages.

This commentary by George Monibot in the Guardian talks about charges of censorship from the warming crowd but also mentions that during the wrangling over the WGII SPM, this sentence was taken out: "North America is expected to experience locally severe economic damage, plus substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from climate change related events". And they don't mean only Mexico and Canada. Always remember that the IPCC process results in a very conservative, in terms of climate prediction, document.

This Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein combines the U.S. climate change and national security (see below) stories:
Roger Pulwarty, one of the federal government's top drought scientists, said states such as Arizona and Colorado, which already fight over the Colorado River basin water, will step up legal skirmishes. They may look to the Great Lakes, but water availability there will shrink, he said.

The occasion for this story was that the general's and admiral's report on climate change was issued the same day as a 67-page report on North American climate change (part of the IPCC WGII full report but I can't find it online).

The San Francisco Chronicle's Jane Kay covered the same report and reported:
Severe heat waves -- characterized by stagnant masses of warm air and consecutive nights with high minimum temperatures -- will intensify in the United States and Canada, according to the data on North America released Monday by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

More Climate Change and National Security

When I first blogged about this about a month ago, it was just an article in Le Monde and a small AP story about the U.N. But now Congress is considering the national security issues of climate change and there's been a bunch of stories about it.

Boston Globe: Article by Bryan Bender gives an overview of a Senate bill requiring the National Intelligence director to create an NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) on global warming.
The effort would include pinpointing the regions at highest risk of humanitarian suffering and assessing the likelihood of wars erupting over diminishing water and other resources.

The measure also would order the Pentagon to undertake a series of war games to determine how global climate change could affect US security, including "direct physical threats to the United States posed by extreme weather events such as hurricanes."

I have no idea what war gaming against extreme weather looks like but the first part of that quote seems like a reasonable thing to do. The article finishes with:
"What makes this interesting is the clear effort to make the politics of global warming broader," said Hamre, who is now president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There are legitimate security issues associated with this question."

This AP story covers a recent report written by retired generals and admirals which warns about how destabilizing climate change can be:
The report says that in the next 30 to 40 years there will be wars over water, increased hunger instability from worsening disease and rising sea levels and global warming-induced refugees. "The chaos that results can be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism," the 35-page report predicts.

More coverage of this report from The Financial Times.
Download the report here.

The spin on these seems to be mostly "wow! Even generals are worried about climate change." I think that's appropriate and underscores just how out-of-touch is the climate-denier crowd.

According to the Washington Post, the Director of National Intelligence agrees its a good thing to do.
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell believes it is "appropriate" for global climate change to be considered in a future National Intelligence Estimate, according to a letter he sent Wednesday to Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Joe Brewer at the Rockridge Institute (the guys who know something about framing) has a long essay on security as a progressive issue and how great a match this is with fighting global warming. Funny how this "frame" seems to have come from general's first.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Glen Beck's piece on Headline News

What's become of the Headline News Network, a CNN offshoot? When I was an undergrad, I really appreciated its format of a 30-minute newscast every half-hour, 24-hours a day. It was great for the undergrad's schedule. My roommates and I would some times leave it on for hours in the background and it was interesting to follow the ebb and flow of the top stories as they moved around within the 30-minutes.

I stopped watching HNN several years ago. Recently, they dropped the 24-hour newscast and started having prime-time shows. One of these was given to right-wing talk radio guy Glen Beck. Mr. Beck has an interesting shtick: he always mentions being a recovering alcoholic, thus separating himself from most holier-than-thou right wingers. But his "speech" is notable only for its "aren't-I-shocking" racism.

On May 2nd, Glen Beck devoted his show to global warming in an episode titled "Exposed: The Climate of Fear". Fortunately for me, MediaMatters watched it so I don't have to. Their line up of his "experts" is here and debunking of the usual mis-information is here

Should we worry about this ham-handed disinformation hour? I think not. According to the ratings, Mr. Beck had a grand total of 275,000 viewers of his show that night.

Update: Desmogblog has a take with video clips and agrees those ratings are a "crisis" for Mr. Beck....

Monday, May 07, 2007

Coverage of IPCC WGIII SPM release

Wow that's a lot of acronyms in that title. But I'm sure the savvy readers of ClimateSpin know them all by now. The Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group III report was released on Friday, May 4th. Working Group III "assesses options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change." I'll look at the coverage here and update this post during the week.

Washington Post: article by Marc Kaufman. (What happened to Juliet Eilperin who was doing all the climate coverage at the Post?) The opening paragraph echo's a lot of the coverage I've seen:
An international scientific panel for the first time yesterday put a price tag on what it would take to avoid the worst effects of global warming, concluding that the effort would be affordable and would be partially offset by economic and other benefits.

The message that doing something is, well, doable got its first real airing with coverage of this report and this article is a good example. There's the usual Bush administration negative quote in this case that the aggressive $100/ton carbon tax examined in the report is out of the question. Kaufman seems to fault the report for looking at several options without recommending any of them. But the overall tone is that we must do something and it won't be calamitous.

NYTimes: coverage by Andrew Revkin and Seth Mydans. The opening paragraph here is not as hopeful as the Post:
The world’s established and emerging powers will need to divert substantially from today’s main energy sources within a few decades, to limit centuries of rising temperatures and seas driven by the buildup of heat-trapping emissions in the air, the top body studying climate change has concluded.

"divert substantially"? That sounds hard. But the article doesn't really get in to the details of that and gets much better in its tone. I really like this quote from one of the WGIII authors: “We can no longer make the excuse that we need to wait for more science, or the excuse that we need to wait for more technologies and policy knowledge,” said Adil Najam, an author of one chapter and an associate professor of international negotiation at Tufts University. “To me,” he said, “the big message is that we now have both, and we do not need to wait any longer.”
Another high point is this explanation of the cost of delay:
The report also made clear the risks of delay, noting that emissions of greenhouse gases have risen 70 percent just since 1970, and could rise another 90 percent by 2030 if nothing is done.

Carbon dioxide is particularly important, not only because so much is produced each year — about 25 billion tons — but because much of it persists in the atmosphere, building like unpaid credit-card debt.

"unpaid credit-card debt" is a great analogy. Much better then the alliterative "procrastination penalty".

Chicago Tribune: The most positive article yet comes from Tribune foreign correspondent Laurie Goering. Here is the opening paragraph:
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which up to now has laid out some doomsday global warming scenarios, had some good news Friday: Climate change can be limited, and at what scientists said would be a reasonable price.

The title was "UN climate panel: Fix is within reach" and the sub-title was:
"A new report says humans can easily limit global warming without cooling the economy." The article is upbeat throughout, save for the typical Bush adminstration skeptic quote about "global recession". Why don't those guys have to show their work?