Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Results of the Durban Climate talks and what it means for Rochester, NY


Despite last minute negotiations at Durban Climate Change Conference for a package deal that includes resetting negotiations so that every country (presumable the US also) agrees to the same legalize, a fund to help developing countries cope, creating green technologies, and extending the Kyoto Protocol a few more years we are so going to cook. Mostly, we are going to cook because nothing substantive happened at the climate talks in the sense that the world got together and decided to bring down the greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in our atmosphere right now. That can has been kicked down the road for a number of human dysfunctional reasons, not science.

U.N. Climate Talks End With Deal for New Emissions Treaty - NYTimes.com DURBAN, South Africa — Two weeks of contentious United Nations talks over climate change concluded Sunday morning with an agreement by more than 190 nations to work toward a future treaty that would require all countries to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming. “While governments avoided disaster in Durban, they by no means responded adequately to the mounting threat of climate change,” said Alden Meyer, director of policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The decisions adopted here fall well short of what is needed.” (December 11, 2011) The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

The US dragged its feet because the Climate Change deniers in Congress wouldn’t have supported any robust measures. “The United States was a reluctant supporter, concerned about agreeing to join an international climate system that likely would find much opposition in the U.S. Congress.” 12/10/2011) Landmark Deal Approved At Climate Conference : NPR. And the greatest Climate Change denier of all was exuberant. (Lauding "Collapse of Global Warming Movement," Sen. Inhofe Tells U.N. Summit "You Are Being Ignored", 12/09/2011 Democracy Now! ) Not only that, we have in this country a political party that has leaned so extreme in its slavish devotion to laissez-faire capitalism that instead of opening a science book to find out about the scientific issues surrounding Climate Change, they would fire those we put in charge to protect our environment. Be afraid, be very afraid:

Fracking and the EPA: Two Endangered Species? ALBANY, N.Y. - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that groundwater in Wyoming had been contaminated by chemicals associated with fracking - the process used to extract natural gas and oil using pressurized water and other fluids. It was news that didn't surprise Ramsay Adams of Catskill Mountainkeeper. "We knew that they would find chemicals in groundwater. It's very significant in de-bunking the line that the industry has been using, saying that it's safe."  (December 12, 2011) Public News Service

For the Rochester, NY region the Durban Climate talks that just concluded will mean that all the Likely Changes for our region will occur and they will do so under the worst case scenario. Meaning, many of the Climate Change action studies in our state provide at least two scenarios in their studies—a scenario where we get our act together and slow down and start to reverse greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a scenario where we do nothing. We are heading for the do-nothing scenarios where things will get nasty.

This is because even if the Rochester, NY region (the Northeast) adopted the actions plans in the reports below; Climate Change will warm the entire planet:

Those who believe that the real substantive work on Climate Change has to be done on the local level—from the bottom up, not the top down-- don’t get Climate Change. It doesn’t work that way. You cannot put a drop of ink in a beaker of water and expect it not to diffuse throughout the beaker. You cannot reduce the GHG in one place and expect that place in such a dynamic system as our atmosphere to cordon it off and remain unaffected by global warming. It’s physics.

This is the point about the Climate Change talks which continue to fail year after year: Everything thing that those who do something positive to solve Climate Change will be negated the lack of world-wide agreement. Adapting to and mitigating (stopping) Climate Change must be orchestrated from the top, from a body that decides how our planet will act as one to solve a planetary problem. The wrangling over fairness, who does what, how to compensate the developing countries, and how to tax carbon emissions, are probably inherent in human nature as countries around the world negotiate and posture themselves for the best deal.

But, unlike nuclear proliferation talks, where all the cards are held by the players at the table, Climate Change talks have a player at the table with most of the cards. Mother Nature is a harsh mistress and cares not about fairness, economics, politics, or technology. She watches the Climate Change negotiations impassionedly, undisturbed by our collective tendency to dismiss the thermodynamics of the planet.

In the Rochester, NY region, as in all regions around the world, we are held hostage when the world fails to act in concert on Climate Change as our efforts will come to naught—even the specific things we do to protect our local infrastructure, and our public health. Eventually, despite all our local efforts, when the planet cooks so do we. Like no other problem humanity has even been confronted with, Climate Change will force us to combat the selfish foe inside us: the will not give up individual gains for the survival of all. Mother Nature cares not about the outcome, but we should take heed:

Durban Agreements a step towards a global agreement, but risk of exceeding 3°C-warming remains – scientists. - What's new? - Climate Action Tracker Durban—11 December 2011-- As the climate talks in Durban concluded tonight with a groundbreaking establishment of the Durban Platform to negotiate a new global agreement by 2015, scientists stated that the world continues on a pathway of over 3°C warming with likely extremely severe impacts, the Climate Action Tracker said today. The agreement in Durban to establish a new body to negotiate a global agreement (Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action) by 2015 represents a major step forward. The Climate Action Tracker scientists stated, however, that the agreement will not immediately affect the emissions outlook for 2020 and has postponed decisions on further emission reductions. They warned that catching up on this postponed action will be increasingly costly.  (December 11, 2011) Climate Action Tracker

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