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Cancun another non event

Written By: - Date published: 7:35 am, December 13th, 2010 - 13 comments
Categories: climate change, International - Tags: , , ,

The UN climate change talks at Cancun, Mexico, are now over. On the plus side they weren’t the fiasco that Copenhagen was, and they have restored some confidence in the negotiating process. There is agreement on the need to cut emissions, and on side issues such as a fund to support vulnerable nations. On the minus, targets for reductions are still voluntary and still too low. We’re still on a catastrophic collision course with the laws of physics.

Here’s the Guardian’s summary:

Deal is reached at Cancún summit

All major economies agree to cut emissions and establish a fund to help nations most vulnerable to climate change

The UN climate change talks produced a modest deal today that for the first time commits all the major economies to reducing emissions, but not enough to meet their promise of keeping the global temperature rise to 2C.

The agreement, which took four years to negotiate, should help to prevent deforestation, promote the transfer of low-carbon technologies to developing countries and, by 2020, establish a green fund, potentially worth $100bn (£63bn) a year, to shield the more vulnerable countries from climate change.

However, governments failed to reach agreement on how far overall global emissions should be cut, and there are many loopholes for countries to avoid making the deep reductions that scientists say are needed.

Researchers from the Climate Action Tracker said the pledges would set the world on course for 3.2C warming – a catastrophe for many of the poorest countries. …

Friends of the Earth International called the agreement a slap in the face, and warned that it could still lead to a temperature rise of 5C. “In the end, all of us will be affected by the lack of ambition and political will of a small group of countries. The US, with Russia and Japan, are to blame for the lack of desperately needed greater ambition,” said Nnimmo Bassey, Friends of the Earth’s international director.

Remember that these projections of warming are if all countries actually meet their voluntary targets. Like that’s going to happen. More likely we are still to hit 6 degrees or more. Just a reminder of what that will be like:

Such a rise which would be much higher nearer the poles would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the Earth, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable and threatening the basis of human civilisation. …

[science writer Mark Lynas] said: “It would cause a mass extinction of almost all life and probably reduce humanity to a few struggling groups of embattled survivors clinging to life near the poles.”

Very few species could adapt in time to the abruptness of the transition, he suggested. “With the tropics too hot to grow crops, and the sub-tropics too dry, billions of people would find themselves in areas of the planet which are essentially uninhabitable. This would probably even include southern Europe, as the Sahara desert crosses the Mediterranean. “As the ice-caps melt, hundreds of millions will also be forced to move inland due to rapidly-rising seas. As world food supplies crash, the higher mid-latitude and sub-polar regions would become fiercely-contested refuges.

Copenhagen wasn’t enough. Cancun wasn’t enough. We’re never going to agree to do enough. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

13 comments on “Cancun another non event”

  1. Bill 1

    First time I’ve heard falling off a cliff referred to as “a bumpy ride”, ROB.

    Anyway. It’s a shame there’s no mechanism for bringing the politicians, corporate lobbyists and negotiators to trial for crimes against humanity. Seriously.

    In some countries it’s a crime to stand by and do nothing in situations where some-one is being killed or dying if you could have done something about it. Yet here we have deliberate strategies of obstructionism being applied to actions that might save our ecosystems and ecologies.

    Doing nothing isn’t simply being passive in this situation we find ourselves in. It’s active culpability. Surely.

    Thank God, that at least here in little old clean and green New Zealand, we have a plan. No passivity here.

  2. erentz 2

    Problem with that is we need to architect a clear point in time when they need to act but chose not to. We almost need the IPCC to say, “Look here, next year we’re reaching an agreement, or not, but that’s it, if you don’t agree you’ve missed your chance. Let history decide your fate.” But of course you can’t do that, and so when is the clear point where you can say they had a choice and knowingly comitted the planet to this catastrophic path. I do believe future generations will look back in absolute disgust.

    • Bill 2.1

      “…a clear point in time when they need to act but chose not to.”

      Why? If I’m standing by while somebody is being murdered, do I rationalise that I’ll do nothing at this point because that stab went to the shoulder…and not this point because the victim is obviously still alive as evinced by their screams? Do I rationalise that I couldn’t prevent their death because every time I contemplated taking action they were obviously still alive and so it’s unjust to say I was complicit in their death?

      • erentz 2.1.1

        I take your point. Seemingly in the minds of our leaders there is nothing that needs acting upon. To them its more like they’re just witnessing two people standing next to each other and doing nothing, no fight is occuring, nothing to react to.

        I doubt our children will seek justice. Assuming they find the time inbetween putting out all the fires, they’ll find that those responsible are long gone. Also I don’t think the future generations will really feel the injustice quite like the young people of today who will witness the loss over the next few decades. The future generations will have grown up in the world we give them not knowing any difference. They’ll see photos of where the shoreline used to be, and hear about how we used to have great glaciers and icecaps, summers without huge fires, or see photos of southern Europe before it became a desert, and a time when NZ had a population of only 4 million before 15 million refugees arrived from Australia and Asia arrived — but they’ll never be able to comprehend what was lost, because they’ll have never known the benign world we live in today.

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    It’s going to be Hell on Earth.

    FIFY R0B

  4. Colonial Viper 4

    Copenhagen wasn’t enough. Cancun wasn’t enough. We’re never going to agree to do enough. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

    Well if the tree population gets too dense to be healthy, a wild fire will sort it out.

  5. oscar 5

    It’s admirable that the developed nations want to help developing nations get cleaner sources of energy development to help them increase their productivity output, but your whole article is still based on faith based science. Hell on earth?

    The whole scheme is redundant given that any changes made to atmospheric levels take hundreds, nay, thousands of years to effect the planetary cycle.
    I’m as much for conserving the earth for future generations, but when the evidence is increasing that we’re rushing blindly into nothing more than ideological science, it’s somewhat concerning.
    I know we’re all made in god’s image, but since when did we start thinking we were god and able to influence the weather?
    Nah, we need to do what humans are best at. Adapating. Instead of trying to be King Canute, the discussions at COP should really be around methods of helping the displaced and the dispossessed as a result of CC.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      I’m as much for conserving the earth for future generations, but when the evidence is increasing that we’re rushing blindly into nothing more than ideological science, it’s somewhat concerning.

      And what evidence would that be?

      • Bill 5.1.1

        Carbon capture? Geo-engineering?

        Panaceas born of science fiction rather than really existing science/technology. Eg, the way the term ‘carbon capture’ is bandied about, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a tried, tested and well established field of science/technology.

        • Oscar 5.1.1.1

          Ok, here’s the first link

          Co2 Toxicity in plants

          It mentions C02 exposure at the roots, i.e underground, having no visible effect on plantlife. Which make sense given that C02 underground is coal.
          At atmospheric level, its not until we get to 10,000 ppm of CO2, that it starts adversely affecting plantlife.

          Humans can tolerate up to 8000pm of CO2 as evidenced by the toxicity level in submarines.

          HFC 134a – Hydro-fluorocarbon toxicity level

  6. END:CIV – Resist or Die

    • Second thoughts .. rubbish
      1 people are happy with what we have
      2 the planet will resemble Venus long before it looks like Earth 8,000 BC, no matter what
      3 who wants to get locked up and hated ?
      4 tptb will keep the game going long after I’m dead and buried
      5 the whales and snails are toast

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