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Geoffrey Lean's Posts

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Letter from Europe

Bordering on Chaos: Climate change melts lines drawn in ice

As climate change melts the world's glaciers, some nations must redefine their national borders. Above, the Basodino Glacier near the Swiss-Italian border.Via Wikimedia Commons Something really rather strange is happening to Switzerland, where I spent part of last week at an international conference. The mountainous country is shrinking as a result of global warming. The Italian and Swiss governments have agreed to redraw parts of the border between the two nations -- fixed in 1861, when Italy became a unified state. Climate change is increasingly emerging as a cause of changes in national boundaries, something traditionally achieved by warring armies …

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Letter from Europe

Britain’s Labour government places big bet on low-carbon future

The Science Museum is one of London's best-loved landmarks, largely because generations of children have been taken there by their parents to play with its increasingly sophisticated sets of hands-on gadgets. But it also houses the originals of some of the iconic inventions that made possible Britain's Industrial Revolution. Lord Mandelson, Britain's deputy prime minister, climate secretary Ed Miliband and Lord Adonis, the transport secretary, at the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan launch event at the London Science Museum on July 15, 2009, Courtesy UK Dept. of Energy and Climate Change via FlickrThat revolution, of course, was powered by coal, …

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Letter from Europe

Despite Ban Ki-Moon’s complaint, G8 summit produced climate progress

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) greets Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Nicolas Sarkozy at the G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy.UN Photo/Mark GartenUnlike some of his predecessors, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon seems to be a brave man, for he has had the courage to chide his most powerful paymasters for failing to do enough to combat climate change. What's more, he did so last week just as the leaders were congratulating themselves for what they had achieved when they met in L'Aquila, Italy. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it an "historic agreement." German Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was a "clear …

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Letter from Europe

Britain’s battered leader is set on saving the world

At home he is almost universally seen as a politician running out of time, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown continues to stride onto the international stage as if he were guaranteed many more years in power. He may have lost his rapport with the British public, chalked up blunder after blunder, and already faced two attempted coups by fellow Labourites in Parliament, but he continues to try to "save the world." Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown talk Monday during a pre-G8 summit in Evian, France. Both leaders support a new international accord on greenhouse gases, but Brown has gone further …

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Letter from Europe

With a melting Greenland as a backdrop, Danish minister urges climate action

The Sermeq Kujalleq glacier (also known as the Jakobshavn Glacier) near where it flows into the sea in western Greeland. The photo was taken in the summer of 2008. Scientists have recorded the glacier's rapid melt over the past decade.Courtesy kriskaer via Flickr Here's a tip for the ministers who are attending the latest of the long series of meetings preparing for the make-or-break climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December. Go visit the valley of the dogs. Yes, that's dogs, not dolls. Greenland sled dogs to be precise. For this week's meeting of 30 ministers from key countries is in …

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Letter from Europe

Britain coughs up a coal-powered climate policy

"Give me coal," Ernest Bevin, Britain's immediate post-war foreign secretary told the nation's miners 53 years ago, "and I'll give you a foreign policy." UK climate change secretary Ed MilibandWikimedia CommonsExhausted, and almost bankrupt after defeating Hitler's Reich, but still insisting on maintaining a huge army and air force to remain a world power, Britain turned to its traditional source of wealth -- the black gold that had made it an industrial nation. Now another rising British minister facing an even greater crisis -- this time a planetary one -- is effectively coining a new slogan. "Give me clean coal," …

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Letter from Europe

Raining on the climate parade

At the Bonn climate talks, environmental groups showed their displeasure with Japan's proposed carbon emissions cuts by comparing Prime Minister Aso with former U.S. president George W. Bush.Climate Action Factory via FlickrEven the skies wept last week when the latest cold front slammed into the ongoing effort to draft a new international climate treaty. The weather had been generally fine and sunny in Bonn during the early part of the two-week gathering, and participants in the talks had taken to sitting out on the terrace of the Maritim hotel and conference center to escape the atmosphere inside. Then, towards the …

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Letter from Europe

At Bonn climate talks, it’s a dialogue of the deaf

Climate protesters march in Bonn on June 6.Courtesy Oxfam Germany via Flickr BONN, Germany -- Beethoven's birthplace stands just a few stops down one of Bonn's speedy tramlines from the conference center hosting the latest session of the international climate negotiations. A modest yellow-painted house with dark green wooden shutters, it is now a museum of the legendary Ludwig's life. Tastefully scattered through its three floors are the composer's viola, his last grand piano, scores written in his own hand, and a scrawled codicil to his will laboriously committed to paper shortly before his death. But the most poignant of …

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Letter from Europe

Nicholas Stern’s heresy: conceding the West’s climate burden

Nick Stern is a relatively recent recruit to the battle against climate change, but he has rapidly become one of its most formidable champions. A former Chief Economist at the World Bank and top official at the British Treasury, Baron Stern of Brentford (to pay him due deference) is very much an establishment figure, far removed from the traditional environmental campaigner. Nicholas Stern addresses the International Scientific Conference on Climate Change last March in the Danish capital.University of Copenhagen via FlickrShort, graying, bespectacled and compact -- with a tendency to talk in academic jargon -- he is, as the Guardian …

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Letter from Europe

In Copenhagen, it’s the same old business

Actress Cate Blanchett tried to warm business leaders' hearts on the subject of global climate change.Copenhagen Climate Council If Al Gore and Ban Ki-moon weren't able to get the job done, you might have thought Cate Blanchett would saved the day. But even an impassioned and remarkably erudite speech by the Oscar-winning actress failed this week to persuade world business leaders to go beyond mere rhetoric in pushing for action on climate change. The scene was Copenhagen, the site of this December's vital negotiations on a new deal to combat global warming before it runs out of control. The event …