Category Archives: Copenhagen Congress

Climate Change Congress: Scientists and prime minister go head to head

By Liz Kalaugher

The cultural differences between scientists and politicians were clear at the closing session of the Copenhagen Climate Congress.  Five scientists presented their take on the key findings from the conference to Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who will host the COP delegates at the negotiations in the same Copenhagen conference centre in December.

Stefan Rahmstorf of Germany’s Potsdam Institute stressed how he sees the 2 degree target for climate change as an absolute upper limit, not just a guideline. “When politicians talk about an ambition of 2 degrees, if all goes reasonably well we get 3,” he said. “As scientists that really is an upper limit we should not cross. At 2 degrees I think we have more than a 1 in 6 chance of really bad impacts.” This morning delegates heard John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute, explain how that more than 1 in 6 chance is worse than your odds of survival when playing Russian Roulette.

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Climate Change Congress: Stern words

By Liz Kalaugher

“I realise most of you here are scientists and not economists and that is your fault,” were the first words of Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics at his plenary talk at the Copenhagen Climate Congress.

Later he laid out the pros and cons of both carbon trading and carbon tax schemes. “Don’t let anyone kid you that a tax scheme is clearly the best,” he said.

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Climate Change Congress: Can you help cut carbon emissions from aviation and shipping?

By Liz Kalaugher

Are you an expert in the carbon emissions of the transport industries? If so the University of Cambridge, UK, would like to hear from you. Terry Barker of the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR) is looking to put together two proposals for schemes to decarbonise the aviation and shipping industries in time for the climate change
negotiations in December.

Speaking at a lunchtime workshop at the Climate Change Congress in Copenhagen, Barker explained how he’s keen to bring as many different modelling approaches to bear on the problem as possible. And he’s looking to bring together representatives from each of the industries to work together with the relevant scientists, as well as representatives from government and NGOs.
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Climate Change Congress: Climate change likely to reduce tropical rainforest carbon storage

By Liz Kalaugher

Tropical rainforest currently removes about one petagramme of carbon from the atmosphere each year, a figure equivalent to around one-tenth of 2007 emissions. And most global climate models project that the rainforest’s net storage of carbon will continue or even increase as a result of carbon dioxide fertilization.

But David Hilbert of CSIRO, Australia, has found that the Australian rainforest has showed a consistent trend of lower tree mass in warmer climates. Hilbert and colleagues studied 17 sites in north-east Australia for up to 35 years. There was no trend over time, but both the growth rate and the mortality rate increased with temperature. (Recruitment rate – the growth of new trees – was independent of temperature but increased with increasing mortality). As the mortality rate increased, the basal area – the cross-sectional area at a height of 1.3 m of all trees larger than 10 cm in diameter, and an indicator of the amount of carbon stored – decreased.

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Climate Change Congress: Threshold for Greenland melt could be double previous figure

By Liz Kalaugher

Once an ice sheet starts to melt, the surface of the ice gradually decreases in altitude and becomes warmer, leading to yet more melting in a positive feedback effect. According to Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol, UK, speaking at the Copenhagen session on tipping points, that makes the process pretty much irreversible once it’s started in earnest – you’d need a very substantial cooling for the ice sheet to return.

 The complete collapse of the Greenland ice sheet would lead to around 6.5 m of sea level rise. So scientists are keen to know at what temperature melting of the ice sheet is likely to become irreversible. A few years ago Jonathan Gregory calculated this threshold at 3 degrees of temperature rise but Bamber says there are two lines of evidence that suggest
this is wrong – the past and the modelling future. “I think there are other processes in there that may be important,” he said. In the Eemian Greenland was about 5 degrees warmer than today, considerably above Gregory’s threshold, but there was still an ice sheet present (although probably about half its present volume) and it remained in place for 20,000 years. (more…)

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Climate Change Congress: Raj Pachauri heads to Yale

By Liz Kalaugher

Raj Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, is to take up a
half-time position as director of a new climate and energy institute at Yale
University, US, starting in the autumn. The announcement came at the Copenhagen
Climate Congress.

 

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Climate Change Congress: Is it all a British plot?

By Liz Kalaugher

Delegates arriving this morning were handed leaflets
headed “British climate lies will lead to genocide”. According to
Denmark’s Schiller Institute, the Copenhagen climate change congress has been
wrongly promoted as an international scientific conference and is instead part
of “the latest aggressive assault by the British Empire against the just
yearnings of the nation states and peoples of the world for economic
development”.

Speakers questioned after the first press briefing of the
day gave these views pretty short shrift, however.

“Unabated climate change will make it much harder to
eradicate poverty and beyond a certain threshold will make it impossible,”
said John Ashton of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office.

Ian Chubb of Australian National University added,
“As an Australian I think we are very good at looking for British plots
and even we can’t see one here.”

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Climate Change Congress: from art to gloom

By Liz Kalaugher

The Danish passion for design came to the fore at the
Climate Change Congress opening session this morning. Not only was there an
unusually artistic backdrop at the front of the hall – a massive cut-out
version of the conference iceberg logo – but around 2500 delegates, including
Danish royalty, were also entertained with some virtuoso recorder playing.

 Once the conference kicked off for real, however, the
outlook was more bleak. A wide range of climate and other scientists have come
together to discuss their discoveries since the IPCC report of 2007. Because of
the way that report was produced, that means any results from the last 4-5
years. In a nutshell, the news is not good.

 Carbon emissions are now at the upper bound of those
projected by the IPCC, sea level rise could well top one metre by the end of
the century, and it appears that tropical forest carbon sinks are likely to
decline as the planet warms, to name just a few.

“The good news is in the social sciences and the
human sciences,” said Katherine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen
and chair of the conference scientific steering committee. “In those
fields you will find we have a lot of tools in our toolbox, things we can do
already.”

 For once, the credit crunch is arguably good news as it’s
likely to see a slowdown in world carbon emissions. Although, according to
Terry Barker of the University of Cambridge, it could also lead to a collapse
of the European emissions trading scheme as declining demand for electricity
leads to a plummeting price for emissions credits.

 “Politicians have refocused on jobs because of the
economic crisis,” said John Ashton of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth
Office. “If we want a successful response to climate change we have to
reframe it in terms of jobs. We need to build the prospect of a low carbon
recovery.”

 The plan is for the output from the conference to feed
into the climate negotiations for the follow-on treaty to the Kyoto Protocol to
be held in the same venue in December. “We are looking for things to
happen from this conference, not just more talk,” said Ian Chubb of
Australian National University

 With that in mind, organizers will produce a 30 page long
synthesis report by June 1st while next year will see the release of a book.
What’s more, at the conference closing ceremony on Thursday, Danish prime
minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will receive a summary of a handful of key
results presented at the event. He’ll then discuss these with a panel of
leading researchers, including Dan Kammen of the University of California,
Berkeley, and Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and Political
Science. Watch this space for more.

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Coming soon: Climate Change Congress

All the news and analysis from the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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