Two weeks ago, I visited the Arctic. I saw the remains of a glacier that just a few years ago was a majestic mass of ice. It had collapsed. Not slowly melted “” collapsed. I traveled nine hours by ship from the world’s northernmost settlement to reach the polar ice rim. In just a few years, the same ship may be able to sail unimpeded all the way to the North Pole. The Arctic could be virtually ice-free by 2030.
Scientists told me their sobering findings. The Arctic is our canary in the coal mine for climate impacts that will affect us all.
I was alarmed by the rapid pace of change there. Worse still, changes in the Arctic are now accelerating global warming. Thawing permafrost is releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Melting ice in Greenland threatens to raise sea levels.
Meanwhile, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.
I am therefore all the more convinced we must act “” now.
To that end, on Sept. 22 I am convening a special summit on climate change at the United Nations for some 100 world leaders “” history’s largest-ever such gathering of heads of state and government. Their collective challenge: transform the climate crisis into an opportunity for safer, cleaner, sustainable green growth for all.
The key is Copenhagen, where governments will gather to negotiate a new global climate agreement in December.
I will have a simple message to convey to leaders: The world needs you to actively push for a fair, effective and ambitious deal in Copenhagen. Fail to act, and we will count the cost for generations to come.
Climate change is the preeminent geopolitical issue of our time. It rewrites the global equation for development, peace and prosperity. It threatens markets, economies and development gains. It can deplete food and water supplies, provoke conflict and migration, destabilize fragile societies and even topple governments.
What is needed is political will at the highest levels “” presidents and prime ministers “” that translates into rapid progress in the negotiating room. It requires more trust among nations, more imagination, ambition and cooperation.
I expect leaders to roll up their sleeves and speak with “” not past “” each other. I expect them to intensify efforts to resolve the key political issues that have so far slowed global negotiations to a glacial pace. Ironically, that expression “” until recently “” connoted slowness. But the glaciers I saw a few weeks ago in the Arctic are melting faster than human progress to preserve them.
The EU ambassador to the United States said on Thursday that any delay by the U.S. Senate that pushes action on climate into next year could subject the country to the charge that domestic politics will always trump its international commitments.
Such a move would postpone the formation of an overall U.S. climate plan until after a U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen in December, when 190 countries hope to craft a new treaty to fight greenhouse gas emissions.
“If this were to happen it would open the United States to the charge that it does not take its international commitments seriously, and that these commitments will always take second place to domestic politics,” John Bruton, the EU’s ambassador to the United States, said in a press release.
He said asking an international conference “to sit around looking out the window for months, while one chamber of the legislature of one country deals with its other business, is simply not a realistic political position.”
At a public hearing before the Iowa Utilities Board this morning, a broad coalition of Iowa citizens will call for the Iowa Utilities Board to stand up to utility pressure on climate change. Through previously submitted written comments and personal testimony at a workshop on Friday, these citizens will make the scientific, economic and personal case for why Congress should pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES).
Several of the groups submitted analyses that showed how Iowa will benefit from clean energy legislation through job growth and income in manufacturing, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Others showed that the moderate costs of the bill are miniscule compared to the threat of global climate change.
“These analyses get past the scare tactics that have been prevalent in the debate over climate change legislation,” said David Osterberg, executive director of the nonpartisan Iowa Policy Project. “Under one respected analysis, the additional cost to the average Iowa household is estimated at $4 a month, about the cost of a Big Mac and fries. That is a small cost to assure energy security for the future.”
Wally Taylor, attorney for the Sierra Club, Iowa Chapter added, “In fact, when the energy efficiency and renewable energy measures in the federal climate bill are included, the analysis projects a monthly savings of over $5 on electric bills by 2020.”
“There is so much more at stake here than minor changes in electric rates,” said Rob Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center “Clean energy can be a major driver of economic growth in Iowa, but we have to stand up to the utilities to make it happen.”
“Iowa is well-positioned to move to a clean-energy economy under this legislation. Our state is a leader in energy efficiency and wind-energy production and has vast untapped potential for clean energy development,” Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council said.
If you want to see glaciers in Glacier National Park, you had better hurry. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that within 20 years, the park will be empty of glaciers. As temperatures rise and politicians debate how to respond to climate change, the national parks already seem to be feeling the effects.
At hearings in April, Jonathan Jarvis, the Obama administration’s nominee as director of the National Park Service, called the national parks “the proverbial canary in the coal mine.” He noted that the parks are both largely undisturbed and closely monitored, so the effects of the hanging ecosystem can be more easily documented.
Recent changes at the parks are hardly encouraging. Rocky Mountain National Park is battling an unprecedented infestation of bark beetles that threatens large swaths of trees; Joshua Tree National Park is counting fewer and fewer of its namesake trees; and in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, ranger Adrianne Freeman notes that staffers have seen fewer days of snow as well as plant and animal migration to higher altitudes, where temperatures remain cool.
EU leaders on Thursday put pressure on the United States and other rich nations to provide at least five billion euros of “fast-start” money next year to help poor nations tackle climate change.
The call came as European heads of state and government held a summit in Brussels aimed at forging a joint position ahead of the G20 summit of major and developing economies in Pittsburgh next week.
“The G20 should recognise the need to fast-start international public support for addressing urgent climate financing needs in developing countries,” the EU leaders agreed in a statement.
The European Commission estimates that five to seven billion euros annually will be needed in the 2010-2012 period until a more long-term “financial architecture” is put in place, hopefully, at a UN climate conference in Copenhagen later this year.
The commission says that the annual figure needed to help developing nations combat and deal with climate change will hit 100 billion euros (147 billion dollars) per year by 2020.
“It’s time for a wake-up call to world leaders on climate,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who presided over the Brussels summit.
The United States and the rest of the world are not doing enough to tackle climate change at a time when “the world has a fever,” he said.
“We really need to step up, stop the acting and start delivering action.”
Five key Senate Democrats have asked for White House help as they try to write a piece of the global warming bill that keeps energy-intensive domestic industries from moving to developing countries that do not have their own strict environmental laws.
Sens. Evan Bayh of Indiana, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Sherrod Brown of Ohio sent a letter last Friday to President Obama’s top climate adviser requesting more information on a key section of the House-passed climate bill that deals with the most trade-sensitive industries.
In their letter, the senators requested an analysis of the House-passed provision in H.R. 2454 that gives U.S. EPA the authority to determine which trade-exposed industries are eligible for the pot of free allowances starting in 2014 that could potentially be worth tens of billions of dollars.
The senators asked the White House adviser to pull together economic modeling and international trade data from U.S. EPA, the Energy, Commerce and Treasury departments, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. They also requested a briefing for industry groups “so they can gain a fuller understanding of all the likely provisions of a cap-and-trade bill that may help their industries.”
Climate Scientists Call for Sharper Emissions Cuts (subs. req’d)
Top climate scientists, including a former chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said yesterday that world leaders must agree to ambitious short-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid “dangerous” climate change.
Holding rising global temperatures to an average of just 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels will require developed countries to cut their emissions of heat-trapping gases at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, the researchers said in an open letter organized by the World Wildlife Fund.
That’s well above the 10 to 16 percent cuts that developed countries have committed to in advance of U.N. climate negotiations later this year in Copenhagen. But much steeper cuts are required, the scientists said.
“More than 120 countries, including members of the G8, the EU, and key emerging economies such as China, South Africa and Mexico, agree that the rise in global temperature must stay well below 2° Celsius,” they wrote. “Beyond this point, climate impacts will be more severe, with the risk of crossing ‘tipping points’ with dangerous and irreversible effects.”
Forty climate scientists signed the letter, including Sir John Houghton, a former IPCC chairman and a former chairman of the U.K. Meteorological Office.
BP said Green Infra Limited purchased its subsidiary, BP Energy India Private Limited, for a total cash-free, debt-free enterprise value of about $95 million. Green Infra Limited is an independent power producer owned by funds managed by India’s leading infrastructure-focused private equity company, IDFC Private Equity.
BPEIPL owns and operates three wind farms in India with a total generating capacity of about 100 megawatts. The transaction was completed Wednesday.
BP’s decision to sell BPEIPL stemmed from a strategic review in 2008 that shifted focus on developing key wind power markets, especially the United States, as part of its future business strategy.
“We estimate that if 10 percent of the world’s power came from wind, it would cut CO2 emissions by one billion tons per year,” BP said.
The challenge, however, is to expand wind operations to form a material business that can own and operate gigawatts of installed power.
David Nicholas, a BP spokesman, told United Press International the company currently operates six wind power units in the United States and has begun construction of two more this year.