Search Results for Tag: UNFCCC
Polar Ice at UN Bonn Climate Talks
The delegates to the UN climate meeting currently taking place here in Bonn are receiving an urgent appeal from polar scientists to cut emissions to slow polar ice melt and give low-lying coastal regions more time to adapt to rising sea levels.
I was very interested to hear about a side-event being held here this evening, at which the authors of this year’s key studies on developments in the Antarctic will be explaining the connections between melting polar ice and climate change impacts like rising seas, affecting regions as diverse as small island states, Bangladesh or Florida in the USA.
I interviewed Anders Levermann from PIK, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research and Pam Pearson, Director of ICCI, the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, both in Bonn for the event.
The ICCI decided to bring the cryosphere into the Bonn talks to sensitize delegates to the dramatic developments in the Antarctic in particular, says Pearson. Ice Blog readers (and I was so delighted to hear Pam herself is one!) will remember posts earlier this year on melting in the East and West Antarctic. I also covered these in articles for DW. The shocking thing is that the Antarctic, even East Antarctica, which was until relatively recently considered so cold it had to be safe from global warming, is already being affected by climate change. The papers on the West Antarctic even described the melt trend as “irreversible”.
“We have entered an era of irreversible climate change”.
Today, Anders Levermann, author of the East Antarctic paper and one of the world’s leading Antarctic researchers, told me “we have entered a new era of climate change, witnessed the tipping of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and this is irreversible”.
That should really shock people into action, you would think. But climate negotiations are moving, as one of the experts said to me at the meeting “at a glacial pace”. As we can see in Antarctica, though, and Greenland and other regions, those glaciers are speeding up. Maybe there is hope for the climate talks yet!
The announcements by the USA and China on possible emissions cuts have brought a new “buzz” to the Bonn conference. The fact that the key emitters could finally be getting the message and preparing to move, with the impacts of climate change hitting their own countries, has to be a positive signal. Pearson confirmed to me that people in the sunshine state of Florida, where she lives, had become more aware of the importance of melting ice caps with increasing floods and storms.
As Levermann says, Antarctica and Greenland have a huge potential to raise sea level further than previously anticipated. He was lead author on the IPCC report chapter on sea level rise. The latest IPCC report factored in some of the likely impacts from melting ice in these regions for the first time. Of course the latest research was not yet included. For the 21st century forecast, this will not make a lot of difference, says Levermann. But the fact that this irreversible Antarctic melt is now underway will make a big difference to coming generations.
There are those who dispute whether the warming of the ocean, which is causing the Antarctic melt (unlike the surface melt on Greenland) is man-made. Levermann does not rule out natural variation as a possible influence. But ultimately, he says, that is irrelevant. Greenhouse gas emissions and so human interference are warming the planet, and any further warming, whatever the cause, will speed up ice melt. So cutting emissions is the way to slow it down and, Pearson adds, gives people time to adapt to rising seas.
The combination of models based on the principles of physics, using a higher resolution than ever before, and evidence from ice cores showing what happened in the past, make for a high degree of certainty about these ice developments, says Levermann.
“The level of warming will determine the rate with which we discharge West Antarctica, and we can still prevent the tipping of East Antarctica”, the cryosphere experts told us here in Bonn.
That is a huge responsibility. Here’s hoping the message will make it into the hearts and minds of those negotiating the future of the earth’s climate and the governments they represent.
DateJune 13, 2014 | 2:34 pm
Why conferences like Warsaw won’t save the Arctic!
No wonder the ngos walked out in disgust. The latest UN climate conference has strengthened my feeling that these mega-events are not going to lead to the emissions reductions we need to protect the polar ice and the world climate.
Typhoon Haiyan and its devasting effects on the Philippines was a fine warning of what the world could be facing if we are not able to put the brakes on climate change. The newest IPCC report provides impressive evidence of the need for swift and effective action to combat climate change. Otherwise, the world will have to cope with more frequent and severe extreme weather events, rising seas, floods and droughts. The World Bank and the UN have set the alarm bells ringing. We have to reduce emissions by around 85% by 2050 to keep global temperature rise to the two-degree Celsius limit. The International Energy Agency says that would mean leaving 80% of our remaining fossil fuels in the ground.
Climate sinners hosting
Unfortunately the track laid out for the conference in Poland was heading in another direction from the start. Fossil energy providers and huge energy consumers like the steel and car industry were sponsoring the event. The host country Poland is and plans to remain a coal country. So far, Warsaw has blocked more ambitious emissions targets in the EU. The fact that a coal summit was held in Poland during the climate negotiations was clearly demonstrative – and verges on the cynical. The sacking of the Polish environment minister who was chairing the talks shows a lack of respect for the meeting and the issue of climate change itself.
Climate politics: no leadership in sight
But the failure of the conference was not just Poland’s fault. CO2 emissions are continuing to rise globally, and the conference delegates did not have much in their luggage to do anything about it. It was far too little in the way of commitment to binding emissions reductions or to creating an effective and well-funded compensation mechanism for developing countries. The poorest countries, which are already struggling to cope with unpredictable climate patterns, droughts and flooding, went home disappointed and frustrated – once again.
The EU was unable to agree on tighter emissions targets ahead of the conference. Germany, long considered a leader in the field, is currently putting the brakes on its own renewable energy revolution by shifting financial incentives. Japan, Canada and Australia, all took a step backwards. And in spite of some progress at home, the major emitters China and the USA were unlikely to make any substantial announcements.
No progress on a new climate agreement
The Warsaw conference was supposed to come up with an effective timetable to lead to a new international climate agreement, scheduled to be set up in 2015 and implemented in 2020. Instead, it seems countries are playing for time and putting off any binding commitments. The vague document agreed at the very last minute contains no firm deadline for emissions pledges – which will not be binding anyway. The window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Decades of negotiations have produced little in the way of results. Every year without a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions reduces the prospect of keeping to the “two degree” target. Existing pledges fall way short of what is required. The “business as usual” trajectory is heading for a temperature rise of at least four degrees Celsius.
Once more, the UN climate conference has shown its inability to protect the world from the dangers of rapidly progressing climate change. Aside from the annual mega-meetings, which are in danger of disintegrating into mere token events, there are still signs of hope. China, for instance, is making considerable progress on energy issues, although the country refuses to accept internationally binding targets. Climate protection has to become part of daily politics and business in industrialised and emerging countries. Politicians must be prepared to abandon short-term advantages in favour of a long-term perspective, which would guarantee the future for coming generations through a sustainable low-carbon economy. The means turning away from oil and coal, developing renewable energies, ensuring a high price for carbon and providing adequate finance to protect developing nations from climate change caused by past emissions of the industrialised world.
DateNovember 23, 2013 | 5:53 pm