November 12, 2013

UN Climate conference (COP 19) begins in the Eye of the Storm

Super Typhoon Yolanda has rolled across the Philippines last weekend, a densely populated chain of islands in the eastern Pacific, taking the lives of between five and six thousand people, leaving millions homeless. Meteorological statisticians argued this weekend whether Yolanda’s wind speeds might have broken World records with gusts of 390Km per hour being reported by the Japanese meteorological service. The same statisticians have however, reached a solid consensus working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) who released their fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change (AR5) over the last few weeks. The AR5 report can be downloaded from the IPCC site .

AR5 describes the results of the last six years of research on changes to the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere. It details the consequences on the planet’s weather and particularly on the planet's oceans. Rajendra Pachauri, IPCC chairman and Nobel Laureate, described the damage done by humans to the planet’s environment as “five minutes to midnight” indicating that there might still be some time to avoid even more severe catastrophes by changing tack. 

Gavin Schmidt, climatologist at the US space agency’s NASA Goddard Institute noted: “What matters is this decade is warmer than the last decade, and that decade was warmer than the decade before. The planet is warming. The reason it’s warming is because we are pumping increasing amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” In his presentation in Warsaw at COP 19 Rajendra Pachauri noted: “The atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years." adding "The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have increased".

Satellite photography revealed the Yolanda super-typhoon as a large swirling white dot 800Km. in diameter. Yolanda caused large storm surges as it touched land in the Philippine islands exacerbating problems in coastal zones where coastal populations are already experiencing issues with rising sea levels. As the statisticians argue over the numbers of human lives lost, economic reductions in GDP, or wind speed records; the debate on the central cause of human-induced climate change has ended. AR5 has told us that the burning of carbon-rich fossil fuels being the principle cause (accounting for 57% of the damage to our atmosphere).

The AR5 report pointed out that some human and animal populations on the planet are already suffering catastrophic climate change and warned that by failing to reduce the burning of fossilized carbon this situation will get very much worse. Natural Gas, Petroleum and, most particularly Coal, are clearly the culprits, but in COP19 the active presence of powerful industrial, agricultural, mining and military (government) lobbies intent on preventing (or at least slowing down) the use of fossil energy has been cited by climate activists in the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

These lobbies must believe that "growth" imperatives obviate a reduction in global energy consumption. They apparently regard low-lying island populations (including those in the Philippines where entire islands have been washed into the sea this weekend) as collateral damage necessary to fuel economic growth. 

Former Bolivian negotiator at the COP Pablo Solon stated that "Only through action is it possible to break the inaction of the UNFCCC.” The Philippine Climate Change commissioner Naderev (Yeb) Saño seems to agree. He delivered a powerful speech at the opening of the COP 19 in Warsaw on November 11th 2013. Speaking on behalf of 100 Million Philippians, and in particular for those who have lost their lives to the super-typhoon Yolanda (a storm that Saño described as “the strongest typhoon in modern history”) Mr Saño described the UNFCC process as a “farce.” He stated: "These last two days there are moments when I feel like I should rally behind the climate advocates […] selfless people who fight coal, expose themselves to freezing temperatures or block oil pipelines". "We can not solve climate change when we seek to spew more emissions", he said. Mr. Saño described the situation in his hometown where his own brother was "gathering bodies of the dead with his own two hands". His brother, Mr. Saño added, had not eaten for three days so the Phillipine Climate Commissioner declared that he too would go on hunger strike "until there is a real ambition on climate action in accordance with the principles we have […] upheld"

Link to video of edited speech at COP-19 Feb 11th 2013

Posted by Tony Phillips at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)