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The Guardian’s Editorial

Filed under: — eric @ 8 December 2009

The following editorial was published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like The Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. The Guardian, the editorial is free to reproduce under Creative Commons.

RealClimate takes no formal position on the statements made in the editorial.


Copenhagen climate change conference: Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

663 Responses to “The Guardian’s Editorial”

  1. 151
    cougar_w says:

    I’m glad RC ran the editorial: I live in the US and would not have known about this effort otherwise. I have forwarded it to my local newspaper ( the San Jose Mercury News, voice of Silicon Valley) but have no expectation of them running it or mentioning it at all.

    Our media in the US is the worst. Promoting distraction and vapid entertainment over substance. Causing more harm than any good they do.

    cougar

  2. 152
    Bernie says:

    ATHiker says:
    9 December 2009 at 3:51 PM
    Steve McIntyre lied on CNN about CRU withholding the tree ring decline from the IPPC. Third assessment mentions it Page 131 Chapter 2.

    You (and by default the moderator) have to be kidding that the tree ring divergence problem is addressed in TAR3. The page you cite says this: “There is evidence, for example, that high latitude tree-ring density variations have changed in their response to temperature in recent decades, associated with possible nonclimatic factors (Briffa et al., 1998a).” P131 That hardly says the tree data suggests the temperature goes down when the local temperatures actually goes up.

    [edit]

    [Response: Yes, it says exactly that. – gavin]

  3. 153
    Tim Jones says:

    Regarding DVD’s aspersions regarding AGW zealot’s propaganda campaign:

    Propaganda does not imply untruthful.

    Thus, if a .7ºC rise in temperature is already melting the north polar ice cap, if at least three of Antarctica’s ice shelves are disintegrating, if tundra and permafrost are melting to the point massive quantities of methane are erupting out of Siberian lakes, if Spring is appearing earlier with plants and wildlife now out of sync, if pine bark beetles destroying boreal forests because winter freezes aren’t sufficient to kill them off, if droughts are consistently reducing US western mountain’s snow packs causing water to be rationed, if glaciers worldwide are in retreat fueling alarm that summertime water from these sources will disappear, if measurable sea level rise has already been demonstrated, if Australia appears to be on fire every summer, for three years now we’ve had “exceptional” droughts in Texas, the worst it gets,
    and,
    if most of this was predicted by GCMs,
    and
    if we have already exceeded the 280 ppmv levels of CO2 recorded in Antarctic ice cores by 100 ppmv with
    ocean buffering meaning that the current level of CO2 has entrained more warming as the oceans attempt to reach equilibrium,
    and,
    if the physics of CO2 warming has been calculated beyond reasonable doubt,
    how does even keeping CO2 to 350 ppmv and warming to 2ºC keep the planet safe from dangerous climate change?

    I don’t think the Guardian goes far enough.

    The climate feedbacks such as loss of albedo and degassing of clathrates are already happening. The planet is already suffering the consequences of the trigger of burning millions of years worth of accumulation of fossil fuels. “Positive” climate feedbacks will insure that even if drastic AGHG reductions occur immediately we’re still in for serious amplification of the warming we have.

    This is not to mention how CO2 has contributed to ocean acidification with all its consequences to the marine food chain.

    The pirates can sneer at the models and the evidence and call it all just apocalyptic predictions to ensure bureaucrats rule their lives. But what all of the dissemination of effects and models are doing is insure that the answers to them become foundations for new ways of life to make sure the apocalyptic predictions don’t happen. Do anthropogenic climate change denialists stop at red lights, or is that too much bureaucratic control to be tolerated?

  4. 154
    Steve Fish says:

    David Alan — 8 December 2009 @ 11:44 PM:

    You say– “Have I come to the right place to have my questions answered?”

    You have to ask a question first.

    Steve

  5. 155
    Ike Solem says:

    “But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty.”

    I think this is a bit more on topic:

    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/12/2009121042723606163.html

    Coal-to-gasoline and tar sand deals and liquefied natural gas projects would not be able to proceed under any level of binding fossil fuel consumption targets.

    Net CO2 emissions is a ridiculous way of looking at the issue – it is far easier to measure fossil fuel consumption as well as the loss of standing biomass (deforestation).

    What the U.S. and British negotiators (and the Canadians, Saudis and other petro-state reps) are trying to do is to create the image of “doing something” while writing proposals that actually support the status quo and weaken existing agreements.

    This deceptive tactic is a step up from the denialist tactics, which can be summed up as “global warming isn’t happening” followed by “global warming is good for you.” Now, the line is that “we are taking steps to solve the problem, so you can go back to sleep, little frogs.”

    What isn’t mentioned in this article? The effective methods, namely feed-in tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, and governmental support for renewable energy research and development. Why the blind spot in this editorial?

    Well, every time I look at the Guardian I see this big Shell advertisement (NYT as well) – and what is Shell invested heavily in?

    Published Sep 21 2004 by Edmonton Sun
    Canada: Shell unveils $4B in tar sands plans

    Shell Canada outlined $4 billion worth of expansions and de-bottlenecking at its Athabasca Oil Sands Project yesterday. The work will eventually bring the project to 500,000 barrels per day in production.

    Conflicts-of-interest in media reporting and editorializing are endemic.

    So, what are some basic pointers for real progress?

    1) The developed and developing countries need to start phrasing strategies in terms of fossil fuel consumption, the main driver behind global warming.

    2) Eliminating fossil fuels from the energy mix is the top priority – and the best method is to use feed-in tariffs coupled to renewable energy portfolio standards for energy producers.

    3) The difference between developed and developing nations is that the challenge for the former is replacement of existing (and aging) coal and oil-based systems, while the developing nations often need to build energy infrastructure from scratch – and clearly, that infrastructure should be based on renewable technology.

    However, the developed countries continue to divert taxpayer funds to subsidies for fossil fuel projects – a decade ago it was the World Bank giving $4 billion to the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline, and today it is the U.S. Export-Import bank giving $3 billion to Exxon ($40 billion in profits) for a Papua New Guinea gas project.

    No similar funds have been made available for renewable energy development by U.S. and U.K. sponsored international institutions – just for fossil fuel projects. This is what needs to change, but the issue is almost entirely neglected in all of the released drafts.

  6. 156
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Both of these NPR programs, in substance and tone, were hostile to the scientists

    ‘I am outraged, and I am free to say that, because I don’t work at NPR anymore.” –Bob Edwards.

    Yeah. How can one reach ‘skeptics who get their views from talk radio’ — if at all?

  7. 157
    Hank Roberts says:

    WTF?? http://topics.npr.org/article/0cEwaBndVjg8C
    NPR’s webpage for that interview is a link to Watts?!

  8. 158
  9. 159
    Tad Boyd says:

    #123 ATHiker

    I couldn’t find mention of the decline since 1960 in the tree ring data in the text you pointed to.

    Was this the line from the IPCC tar you were indicating?

    “Furthermore, the biological response to climate forcing
    may change over time. There is evidence, for example, that high
    latitude tree-ring density variations have changed in their response
    to temperature in recent decades, associated with possible nonclimatic
    factors (Briffa et al., 1998a).”

    from

    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/pdf/TAR-02.pdf

    Thanks,

    Tad

  10. 160
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tipping points:
    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/49/20561.full

    The intro desperately needs to be reworded using everyday English; the articles seem timely.

  11. 161
    Bernie says:

    Tad:
    I found the same quote. Can you explain how it addresses what McIntyre claimed?

  12. 162
    Seth Pinto says:

    Maybe RC could do a post on “hide the decline” and the divergence problem because explanations such as “we simply threw out 30 years of bad data” are unsettling. Example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlKn0C2bQxs&feature=player_embedded

    [edit]

    [Response: See comments passim on the CRU hack threads. – gavin]

  13. 163
    Bernie says:

    Gavin:
    I assume that by your edit of my #150, you are saying that Mann did not extend the tree-ring proxy measures by smoothing using the actual temperature records thereby eliminating the divergence?

    [Response: They did not. The MBH reconstruction only went up to 1980 because of the lack of proxy data past that point and does not show a divergence. – gavin]

  14. 164
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Alan, if you have a reference for the FBI/death threats…

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 December 2009 @ 6:52 PM

    Here ya go, in case Alan misses your request.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/09/2766508.htm?section=australia

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/08/hacked-climate-emails-death-threats

    Mouth-breathers.

  15. 165
    Edward Greisch says:

    111 EL: The research has already been done. Nuclear power is by far the safest, lowest CO2 and cleanest. Nuclear fuel is plentiful and recyclable and all of the products have valuable uses if you care to find them. Rare earth elements are not required. You just have to stop fighting non-issues.
    http://clearnuclear.blogspot.com/
    http://www.cleansafeenergy.org/
    http://bravenewclimate.com/integral-fast-reactor-ifr-nuclear-power/
    http://www.ecolo.org
    http://www.comby.org/livres/livresen.htm
    http://www.comby.org/media/articles/articles.in.english/HealthPhysics-NUC-July2002.htm
    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com

  16. 166
    Edward Greisch says:

    64 Matt: I didn’t want to mention it, but we DO have policing power over small nations. If they uncooperatively build another coal fired power plant, there is always Plan B: We could bomb it.
    All it takes is a president like you know who.
    Sorry to have to mention an option I consider so highly negative, but I guess it had to be mentioned eventually. Small nations should really consider carefully. Read books by Brian Fagan and Jared Diamond.

  17. 167
    Alex G Kesaris says:

    Just want to share with you this excerpt from yesterday’s (i.e. 9 DECEMBER 2009) American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Policy Alert:

    ” The scientific community has begun to issue responses to the e-mail controversy. The AAAS Board of Directors released a statement [http://alturl.com/3jyp] on December 4. AAAS CEO Alan Leshner stated, “AAAS takes issues of scientific integrity very seriously. It is fair and appropriate to pursue answers to any allegations of impropriety. It’s important to remember, though, that the reality of climate change is based on a century of robust and well-validated science.” Twenty-five climate scientists sent an open letter [http://alturl.com/ybs7] to Congress stating, “The body of evidence that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming is overwhelming. The content of the stolen e-mails has no impact whatsoever on our overall understanding that human activity is driving dangerous levels of global warming.” “

  18. 168
    Skip Smith says:

    Yes Gavin, please explain how that quote addresses what McIntyre says.

    [Response: IPCC and everyone else who cared were fully aware of the divergence issue in the Briffa et al reconstruction – it was published in Nature, the data is here, and the caveats were mentioned in the TAR text. Thus a claim it was hidden or that IPCC was unaware of the issue is wrong. – gavin]

  19. 169
    Theo Hopkins says:

    Dear Real Climate.

    I have wanted to direct some genuinely puzzled sceptics to this site. Honest but inquiring and open minded sceptics.

    But the head story at the moment is a leader from the Guardian, a UK newspaper that its own readers recognise as the home of “whishy-washy leftie do-gooders and liberals”.

    And for some reason, in the UK, sceptics mostly read the right-leaning Daily Telegraph, so may be biased against the Guardian.

    Stick to science, Gavin. That’s what you are good at.

    :-)

  20. 170
    Forlornehope says:

    There is quite a lot of discussion here on how we can respond to climate change. There is a legitimate concern on the political right that it is being used as a Trojan horse for left oriented policies. This is certainly the case in Europe. Personally, I am of the view that people pushing these responses, as the “only” answer are more of a danger than the “denial” movement. There are two good studies on how we can decarbonise our economy without major changes to our way of life. The first is by Prof David MacKay of Cambridge University. “Sustainable Energy – without the Hot Air” is a detailed study of how the UK can respond it is available, with a subsequent addition on the following links:

    http://www.withouthotair.com
    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/book/tex/PlanC.pdf

    “Winning the Oil End Game” by Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, is a study primarily aimed at getting the US of imported energy. It does not set out to decarbonise the energy infrastructure but shows how we can get a long way towards it. It is available here:

    http://nc.rmi.org/Page.aspx?pid=269&srcid=269

    None of this is easy and it does require urgent action but it is about rebuilding infrastructure rather than society. It is also worth noting that the actual life of power stations is thirty to forty years so they have to be replaced anyway. Transport equipment and domestic appliances have to be replaced even more frequently. A low carbon infrastructure can be built as the present equipment is replaced. The cost is therefore much lower than is often presented.

  21. 171
    Jim Ryan says:

    The ‘journalist’ Melanie Philips has appeared on the BBC and is an AGW sceptic bordering on the fanatical and actually calims the planet is in a long-term cololing trend. Needless to say she has a devoted denialist community on the Spectator blogosphere. This article was posted today. Sorry graphs wouldn’t post but you can see them via the weblink.

    The smoking iceberg
    Wednesday, 9th December 2009

    [edit – go to the link for more info]

  22. 172
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    Since you have proven yourself unable to rationally control your consumption, your consumption will now be controlled.

    It’s ironic that while accusing me of being irrational, you have shown by the above statement that it is you who are irrational. Nothing in my post @ 11 contained any information about my “consumption” let alone “proved” anything about it.” – 73

    If you have already reduced your CO2 emissions by the reqiusite 80% then you wouldn’t be here whining about being forced to do it through market regulation.

    Since you are, we know that you haven’t over the last 20 years, and will not do so without compulsion. It is for this reason I write.

    “Since you have proven yourself unable to rationally control your consumption, your consumption will now be controlled.”

    Market regulation is yet another price to be paid for ignorance.

  23. 173
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “After all, thanks to Paul Erlich’s similar warnings and those of others before and since, most of us are already dead.” – 6

    Several hundred million have died from starvation since Erlich wrote his first book predicting the death of several hundred million from starvation.

    You don’t seem to know what you are complaining about.

  24. 174
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Is debating this still considered ridiculous by Al Gore?” – 30

    Al Gore knows that there is nothing to be gained by debating with the willfully ignorant or the willfully self deceiving.

    I commend him.

  25. 175
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    77.The “ClimateGate” files document that the world’s average temperature from 1998 to 2008 has NOT risen” – 77

    Actually, they do no such thing.

    But here are two questions for you. What is the temperature rise since 1997 or 1999? And why do you think that such a short time span matters when climate is defined over 20 to 30 year time scales?

  26. 176
    CM says:

    EL (#111) said “renewable technologies are not made from renewable materials; instead, they require rare earth materials like platinum, lithium, and other hard to find materials.”

    Platinum and lithium are not “rare earths”, and rare earths are generally not “rare” in the sense of being scarce in the Earth’s crust. They may be expensive to extract, though; mining has environmental impacts; and people worry about the present Chinese near-monopoly.

    Short supply of rare earths may prove an important constraint as far as it goes — battery-driven and hybrid vehicles, wind turbines, maybe wave power. But don’t extend the argument to all renewables. To warm our bones in winter there are still biofuels, solar heating, geothermal, not to mention better isolation, none of which AFAIK depends on rare earths.

  27. 177

    Lyle: I start with Gore and his huge house

    BPL: Which buys 100% wind power, has solar power installed, and has been retrofitted with serious insulation.

    But, you know what? This isn’t about Al Gore. From the point of view of the climate crisis, it doesn’t matter if Al Gore tortures puppies in his basement. What matters is whether what he’s saying about climate change is true or false, and dig this, my friend–it’s all true:

    1. The world is warming.
    2. We’re doing it.
    3. It’s the most serious threat we’ve ever had outside of nuclear war.

    Try thinking about that rather than Al Gore’s house.

  28. 178
    CM says:

    J (#104) said: “Copenhagen, Kyoto, Cap and trade will have a massive negative effect on our lives, not the least of which is government controlling every aspect of our lives.”

    Every aspect? Copenhagen will choose our books, music and dress; friends and marital partners; religious beliefs and political allegiances; education, occupations, and hobbies; and our precious bodily fluids? How insidious! But psst! — they cannot control our minds, not if we protect ourselves. May I interest you in a $299.99 tinfoil hat? Order now while stocks last — lots of people on this thread will want one.

  29. 179
    EL says:

    Copenhagen is putting the idea on the table. It is calling for the regulation of CO2 output. Some nations would be regulated to cause declining CO2 output while some nations like China are regulated to limit their CO2 output growth. Nations like America are not able to respond to such demands unless they are willing to accept severe economic implications; moreover, Copenhagen effectively hands the east a weapon to use against the west. Nations like china will behave like North Korea, and they will constantly use CO2 as a weapon to get what they want from the west.

    The renewable technologies are not ready to replace fossil fuel technology. BPL, we MUST get started dealing with the issues that are troubling renewable technologies. The rare earth materials required by these technologies limit their scalability and economic effectiveness. Copenhagen should have exclusively been about dealing with these problems. If the rare earth problems could be taken care of, we would not have to argue about anything. Economic law would force the replacement of the fossil fuel industry. But as long as rare earth materials are used, the fossil fuel industry will endure because renewable technologies will not be economically or politically viable.

    People are not being realistic. These material problems have to be taken care of before we can make any transition.

  30. 180
    Tim McDermott says:

    Edward Greisch says:
    10 December 2009 at 2:44 AM

    111 EL: The research has already been done. Nuclear power is by far the safest, lowest CO2 and cleanest. Nuclear fuel is plentiful and recyclable and all of the products have valuable uses if you care to find them.

    Business story on Uranium Energy Corp says “There’s approximately 180 million pounds of uranium used worldwide and approximately 100 to 110 million pounds produced annually. That’s been the case for the past number of years” and “The shortfall has come from above-ground supplies of inventories that had been mined 20 or 30 years ago [but] most particularly from the decommissioning of the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons,” Berol said. “The above-ground inventories are depleting and the U.S.-Russia agreement ends in 2013.”

  31. 181
    Jiminmpls says:

    109 Edward Greisch

    You are correct: All countries (and their citizens) should be held to EQUAL standards as far as allowable emissions – regardless of past contributions of GHGs or past emission levels. Reducing emissions relative to 1990 or 2005 or whatever is absurd. It allows the countries that pollute the most to continue to pollute the most. A global per capita emissions standard must be established. Any country that exceeds that standard will pay a punative carbon tax. Any country that maintains emissions below the global standard will receive compensation as a reward. It is up to each country to decide who to charge/reward their citizens. This is the only fair and apolitical solution.

  32. 182
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “111 EL: The research has already been done. Nuclear power is by far the safest, lowest CO2 and cleanest. ”

    And the most expensive.

    Nothing changes here.

    Pointless.

  33. 183
    Frank Davis says:

    Strange. This article starts out proclaiming:

    “Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation”

    but winds up saying:

    “The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation”

    See the change? It starts out to “seal” history’s judgment, but ends up weakly hoping to “shape” history’s judgment.

    The first statement is manifestly absurd. History’s judgment, decades or centuries or millennia from now, will be whatever it is. It is not within the power of anyone in the present day to “seal” the judgment of future generation, as yet unborn. They’ll make up their own minds.

    The second and final statement is manifestly obvious. Copenhagen politicians will indeed “shape” history’s judgment, simply because they will have contributed to events, and will have expressed opinions. But the same goes for this comment of mine, which will, in a slightly more modest way, also exert influence (if it’s published).

    But what does history’s judgment matter anyway? Isn’t it the judgment right now that really matters, not how the whole thing plays in some history book written 27 centuries from now. No?

  34. 184
    Alan of Oz says:

    Re #43 “That you equate those things with Y2K issues is extremely interesting. I worked for a mainframe software company in the early 2000s. The amount of work, cooperation and preparation that went into making sure Y2K was a non-event was HUGE”.

    Software engineer here, 20yrs experience, degree qualified. I spent 2yrs certifying a $100M telco system which in itself was just one of the hoops the company’s systems were forced to jump through to meet their compliance obligations. Were there some people trying to scam a buck by selling magic? – yes. Was there a serious problem? – yes.

    Most proffesionals involved in Y2K (and there were literally hundreds of thousands worldwide) were performing due dilligence wether they were aware of it or not. The legal pressure that came down on the software industry to successfully mitigate a known risk should have come down on the coal industry at least a decade ago.

  35. 185
    Forlornehope says:

    I’m going to prod people again on this. If you want to discuss the technologies for providing energy in a post carbon world study “Sustainable Energy – without the Hot Air” first. Otherwise you end up perpetuating myths and misconceptions or just displaying your ignorance or prejudice. What are my qualifications for commenting on this? Well I’m a chartered mechanical engineer of over 30 years standing and have worked in energy, automotive and aerospace industries. IMHO, for what it’s worth, Prof MacKay has got it just about right.

  36. 186
    Didactylos says:

    Completely Fed Up said:

    “Nuclear power is …” And the most expensive.

    This is a common misconception. There is a huge amount of disinformation about energy costs floating around the internet. In fact, depending on what unreferenced data you pick, you can make any energy source look bad (or good, for that matter).

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something is fishy about the idea of nuclear being massively expensive. If it is so expensive, why is it the energy source of choice in some countries? How does it compete in countries where there is a mix of energy types?

    After much hunting, I found a primary source that compares global costs and that I am inclined to trust more than anything else I could find. It is “A Review of Electricity Unit Cost Estimates” from the UK Energy Research Centre.

    Coal £32.9/MWh
    Gas £31.2/MWh
    Nuclear £32.2/MWh
    Wind £39.3/MWh

    These are full lifetime costs, including capital expenditure and decommissioning. There is some variation by country, but not really enough to justify some of the more biased estimates of costs you will find in impassioned and unsourced polemics in blogs and newspaper articles.

    You read it right: globally, nuclear is very slightly cheaper than coal. This doesn’t hold if you look at the US alone, but the US has invested nothing in nuclear energy for a very long time.

    This is why nuclear power is often presented as a short-term affordable solution to low carbon energy.

  37. 187
    Didactylos says:

    Frank Davis said:

    But what does history’s judgment matter anyway? Isn’t it the judgment right now that really matters, not how the whole thing plays in some history book written 27 centuries from now. No?

    No.

    The very reason that climate change is a major concern is that our choices now (and our mistakes of the last century) will have a severe impact over the coming centuries.

    If we increase the temperature to the point where we cannot stop the complete melting of Greenland and Antarctica, then future generations will be forced to cope with a sea rise of many tens of meters over the next millennium. Billions of people will be displaced, and the costs of mitigation will be mindblowing.

    It is these catastrophic scenarios that get labelled “alarmist”, but the deniers are missing the point. We won’t see this in our own lifetime (although we will live to see some severe effects all the same). However, even a complete cessation of emissions won’t be enough to reverse a degree of future temperature change. The amount of future temperature rise depends of how soon and how fast we reduce emissions.

  38. 188
    Dick Veldkamp says:

    #181 Same GHG ration for each person?

    The same CO2 ration for every person in the world is reasonable only if you correct for historic emissions. After all, the current problem (amount of GHG in the atmosphere) was created for 3/4 by the rich countries. Any fair solution should take this fact into account.

    To me, the most practical thing to do is that the rich pay most of the cost of reduction of emissions.

  39. 189
    Lyle says:

    Re #177 good so Gore has put his money where his mouth is. Why not publicize this more? You never hear this in the media, so if the folks wanting to take action have done the work on their house publicize it. This is to prove that they are not part of the do what I say not what I do elite. The public is quite tuned into hypocrites (since there are so many of them). Gore should mention this in his speeches and work to get the comment in news reports about what he says. (He has to know how to play the media game to get to where he is) The same is true of Lovins who had taken his house about as far as you can go on energy efficiency (but it is on the Rocky Mountain Institute web site so accessible)
    The adovcates can also talk about what it costs to do the upgrades, (likley not a lot in some cases to show there is less pain here than might be thought.
    As noted in some comments the second thing is to denounce the Malthusian enthusiasts on the Pro mitigation side, prophets of doom eventually get laughed out of society thru having to get more and more strident over time to keep attention. Telling people that the only way to save the world is to make life short and brutish and painful, may lead many to conclude lets eat drink do drugs and be merry life is just to hard to face. (Of course a lot do that already)

  40. 190
    Matt Simon says:

    I have much hope for this COP 15. I truly believe that global warming must be mitigated, since the election of Obama and serious action by Brown in the last few has demonstrated positive steps in the right direction to curb global emissions. I am also optimistic about the 30/30/30 ante by the EU to garner more support from other nations to cut their emissions. If anyone would like a insiders account to Copenhagen, I find this website that is doing daily and hourly postings. The website is http://www.chinadialogue.net/copenhagen as they have good analysis of China and the COP. I hope we see tangible and lasting results at the COP 15.

  41. 191
    Theo Hopkins says:

    Real Climate is an international forum.

    Throwing half-bricks at Al Gore looks just stupid to most people outside the US.

    And it bores.

  42. 192
    Floccina says:

    Statements like:

    [Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. ]

    [The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. ]

    [last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. ]

    [Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.]

    Are not climate science. I think that this site should try to stay closer to climate science.

    [Response: I agree, bu this was an exceptional thing — a coordinated editorial — and we thought it worth pointing out to our readers. There is much to disagree with in it — including their treatment of the CRU scandal.–eric]

  43. 193
    Paul says:

    I think this was a great effort by the Guardian. I’m no Scientist, but I saw some of the IPCC people talk at Klimforum yesterday and they made an excellent point. (Please correct me if I’m wrong)

    The meaning of the word “Trick”. I didn’t know this was a word in the science community for when you’ve found your way around something that was difficult. That sounds like a deception to normal people.

    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know that, had I not gone to that meeting. The science commmunity needs a PR machine, as currently all the people are getting their information from Newspapers, who haven’t bothered to explain the meaning of that word!

  44. 194
    dhogaza says:

    The meaning of the word “Trick”. I didn’t know this was a word in the science community for when you’ve found your way around something that was difficult. That sounds like a deception to normal people.

    I was unaware that normal people have never heard of the phrase “trick of the trade”, or other such uses. I have a sneaking suspicion that tens of thousands of denialists conveniently forgot such usages simultaneously when that single e-mail was published.

  45. 195

    EG: Nuclear power is by far the safest, lowest CO2 and cleanest.

    BPL: I think solar and wind have it beat out on both counts.

  46. 196

    For: Prof MacKay has got it just about right.

    BPL: A lot of people think he made some major errors, as I recall.

  47. 197
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “After much hunting, I found a primary source that compares global costs and that I am inclined to trust more than anything else I could find. It is “A Review of Electricity Unit Cost Estimates” from the UK Energy Research Centre.”

    And does that include the cost for recycling?

    No.

    The decomissioning?

    No.

  48. 198
    Completely Fed Up says:

    PS why are estimates needed?

  49. 199
    Tim Jones says:

    Re #189 “good so Gore has put his money where his mouth is. Why not publicize this more? You never hear this in the media, so if the folks wanting to take action have done the work on their house publicize it.”

    Okay.

    On our place in Hays County, Texas we have 6 kW of PV on the roof and a battery barn. Most of the time we’re selling power to the grid. We also have a 20,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system for the house. And a 1000 gallon system on the rainwater barn for a wildlife guzzler. Next to go on the roof is solar hot water. The house is built with 18 inch thick straw clay walls with an R factor that goes off the chart. The windows are all double paned. We spray irrigate aerobically treated effluent.

    We drive a Prius for most around town (Austin, Texas) business. We do have a 4 Runner to transport quantities of material where we need to go since we maintain a wildlife preserve, but we don’t put very many miles on it any given year. We also retrofitted ~1 kW of PV on the roof of the house in town. All our light bulbs are CF.

    So, take action. Just to stop being wasteful would be a good start.

  50. 200
    Edward Greisch says:

    177 Barton Paul Levenson: “It’s the most serious threat we’ve ever had outside of nuclear war.”
    is false. Nuclear war, even back when the USA and the USSR had 30,000 [thirty thousand] bombs EACH could not make us extinct. We were still short by a multiple of ten thousand. It takes 100 Million Megatons to make an Extinction Level Event [ELE].
    But global warming can and probably will make us humans extinct. The sun has way over 100 Million Megatons available. That is why we are doing this blog. I have listed the kill mechanisms many times. The kill mechanisms are: famine, methane fuel-air explosions and H2S gas generated by sulfur bacteria in hot oceans. H2S was a major factor in the Permian-Triassic Great Death.