The World Waits, Wonders and Warms.
Paris 2015 image; Credit: © Shutterstock
Christina Figueres view from the office is of the Rhine, from Bonn. Hardly the centre of most climate problems with which she is intricately involved. The UN. climate office will undoubtedly present a global treaty on intergovernmental cooperation next week, perhaps influenced by the presence of a woman in the
hot seat. This will associate carbon emission limits with helping the worst-hit victims of warming temperatures. Every attempt at cooperation so far could be called a miserable failure. Witness Warsaw here!
So what can change the whole-earth policy this time around? Almost every year, emissions rise ominously, while the grumbling oceans seem ready to release more heat energy that they have conveniently stored within their mass for decades.
In 1992 the UNFCCC bound nations to prevent the then 356 ppm of carbon in our atmosphere from rising. It has reached 398ppm, with 450ppm the limit beyond which temperatures wlll apparently break through even a 5 oC rise this century.
Christina is Costa Rican and negotiated the much vaunted Kyoto Protocol from that countrys point of view. She thinks more of her countrys extinct golden toad (Incilius periglenes) than any of the European climatic tragedy. She is sure of herself and her potential agreement next week. The only question is how much of this good news we can squeeze out of intransigent governments and politicians.
Much preparatory work has been done by presidents and climate ministers, severely affected nations and some of our biggest polluters. They have been here before, so any newcomers will have to do their homework, and not just on Kyotos failure. The low carbon economy can already be seen in our electric cars, pipelines carrying power from Iceland or wind-up radios in less developed regions. Stringent targets are all very well, but the transfer of finance from the rich to the less-developed world has always created selfish misappropriation and the unwillingness to cooperate associated with mistrust. Green energies now seem to have the edge over much maligned fossil fuels but the lack of watertight agreement will mean recent shifts towards
maintaining the countrys energy supply or
adopting a pragmatic approach to the extraction of (slightly) greener energy sources could become avalanches of fracking, gas extraction or even coal exporting!
The Paris terrorists last week may have acted in an attempt to repeat last years atrocity, but the Parisian reaction to climate talks at this time is unlikely to be the most sympathetic. We all must express our pain and our reaction to such unfeeling terror, while ensuring that life goes on for non-terrorists. However, the French have great influence worldwide, and their work in synthesising this agreement should not be wasted.
2oC targets have flurried around the climate change world for years, so that that level of rise has become a commendable hope. It could be we have gone too far in exploiting resources. Maybe we will have to face the truth for once and accept a slightly higher figure. If the US and China, among several significant others, can actually perform their trick of abandoning fossil fuels quickly, then our grandchildren may yet observe the results of our success. 90% of emissions can be cut enough to leave us with around 2.7oC of global warming (by 2100). Such analysis has become more and more accurate with computer modelling, leading us to be able to observe the results before our grandchildren!
Now is the only time that we could actually do even better. If 90% reduction can finally be guaranteed, then there is nothing wrong with using the atmosphere of tragedy and hope to push an extra 1% onto that figure. Then ask these technologists to stick that into their calculations and let ordinary citizens observe what they can achieve in such a small but significant way. Perhaps we could lower that 2.7oC temperature just by individually trying, by involving every child and every pensioner.
After all, this is all a Midwinter Nights Dream, isnt it?
Christina Figueres believes its all down to the next 5 years. $100bn will be in the coffers of developing nations, with stringent conditions. 60% of that has been put in place, so this next week needs to ensure just 40% more and then add a little more effort, just to create complicity and the smiley faces we need. For those in richer nations, the job is even harder-we need much more commitment and even losses to make any of this work. No more Copenhagens, Rios or Kyotos!