As weather gets more
extreme, some back off
greenhouse gas promises
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is hosting the Warsaw talks.
FOR THOSE CONCERNED with climate change – which should be everyone – the past few weeks have seen a number of disconcerting contradictions.
Since the late October anniversary of Superstorm Sandy – one of the worst on record in the U.S. – the headlines have been dominated by yet another “worst case” weather event: Tyhoon Haiyan.
The world is on track for another top-10 event: 2013 will be in the top 10 of the hottest years ever recorded, all of which have come since 1998.
Meanwhile, the world’s third largest economy, Japan, drastically scaled back its emissions reduction targets beyond zero, and another country, Australia, started repeal of its carbon tax.
Something is not right with this picture.
THE CONTRADICTIONS ON climate change were brought into sharp focus over the weekend with the report in the Observer in the UK Climate change pledges: rich nations face fury over moves to renege.
“Developing nations have launched an impassioned attack on the failure of the world’s richest countries to live up to their climate change pledges in the wake of the disaster in the Philippines,” reported John Vidal from Warsaw
The Observer story about the fury at climate change talks in Warsaw this weekend. Click image to enlarge.
“With more than 3,600 people now believed to have been killed by Typhoon Haiyan, moves by several major economies to backtrack on commitments over carbon emissions have put the world’s poorest and most wealthy states on a collision course, on the eve of crucial high-level talks at a summit of world powers.”
According to the report, recent decisions by the governments of Australia, Japan and Canada to downgrade their efforts over emissions believed to cause climate change have caused panic among those states most affected by global warming, who fear others will follow as they rearrange their priorities.
The extreme weather events couldn’t come at a better time to focus the attention as participants from about 190 nations gathered in Warsaw to lay the groundwork for a treaty that would come into force in 2020 requiring all countries to limit carbon emissions.
But the announcement this week by Japan is causing grave concern. It was reported by the Washington Post in Activists at UN climate change meeting criticize Japan’s move regarding its emissions target
“Japan’s decision to drastically scale back its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions could hurt efforts to craft a global deal to fight climate change, delegates at U.N. talks said Friday.
“The new target approved by the Japanese Cabinet calls for reducing emissions by 3.8 percent from their 2005 level by 2020.”
The change was forced by the virtual shutdown of the country’s nuclear power industry since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
“The new target represents a 3 percent increase over 1990 emissions,” the Post reported.
The Washington Post reported on Japan’s decision to scale back emissions goals. Click image to enlarge.
“Given Japan’s status as the world’s third largest economy and fifth largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the decision to back away from the more ambitious target could be a significant setback for efforts to reach a new global climate agreement in 2015.”
On the other side of the globe from Warsaw, the death and devastation from Typhoon Haiyan is just beginning to be tabulated. After a week of headline grabbing coverage showing widespread destruction from 200-mile-per-hour winds and a massive storm surge, The New York Times summarized the situation on Saturday in
Relief Proceeds Slowly in Philippines, Where a Death Toll Remains Unclear.
Keith Bradsher And Austin Ramzy report:
“Tacloban might have been hit hardest by the typhoon. But mile after mile of homes and businesses in towns and villages up and down the east-central coast of the Philippines were destroyed as well.
“Fast-moving walls of seawater gutted the ground floors of houses [in neighboring Tanauan] as the storm surge reached the ceilings. Powerful winds shattered practically every upstairs window and tore away roofs, sending them flying through the night.”
The devastation has been well documented, but the casualties not so much.
The New York Times story on the devastation caused by the typhoon that smashed into the Philippines. Click image to enlarge.
“At a news briefing at United Nations headquarters in New York, … Ted Chaiban, the director of emergency programs at Unicef, said 13 million people had been affected by the typhoon, including five million children. They said the pace of emergency aid arrival was steadily improving.”
News of the typhoon dominated front pages for almost a week, and served as a bookend, perhaps, to the previous week’s coverage of the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.
In a pictorial portrait in The New York Times of the 2012 disaster A Prosaic View of Hurricane Sandy we learn:
“Hurricane Sandy killed more than 40 people in New York City alone and wreaked billions of dollars in destruction. The waters eventually receded, but the damage to the city’s infrastructure — and psyche — lingered.
“But, a year after the storm, there still exists an anxiety that perhaps Sandy was not a hundred-year storm, but a harbinger of a future where global warming and rising tides will regularly threaten the city.”
Indeed, it should be.
We have reported many times on recent similar weather events, and concluded Extreme weather here to stay: The future is now.
Droughts, floods, hurricanes and typhoons are becoming more common and more severe. While scientists cannot tie any single storm to a warming planet, the pattern is clear.
That is why the thinly reported news item from down under makes so little sense. On Nov. 13, BBC news reported in Australia carbon tax: Abbott introduces repeal bill that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has begun steps to scrap the carbon tax, introducing a repeal bill at the first meeting of the new parliament.
“Mr Abbott, who was elected in September, had made revoking the controversial tax an election pledge,” the BBC said.
“He intends to replace the tax with a Direct Action plan, where industries will be paid to reduce emissions.”
The climate change debate is seemingly full of contradictions. But should we believe our own eyes and ears or the pontifications of the so-called climate “skeptics”?
Nations seem to be slipping into complacency about climate change. They are doing so despite a growing body of irrefutable evidence that points to man-made causation.
If these trends are not reversed, we are all in serious trouble, far sooner than anyone has yet imagined.
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