I want to highlight a few points from the IPCC's Mitigation Report (PDF). First, even the most stringent global greenhouse gas targets can be met at a cost of a mere 0.1% of GDP per year! While the report is not explicit about when action should be taken, it does say that: In order to stabilize the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere, emissions would need to peak and decline thereafter. The lower the stabilization level, the more quickly this peak and decline would need to occur. The Center for American Progress and I have encouraged stabilizing atmospheric CO2 concentration at 450 ppm and/or a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial era. That said, according to one of the report's charts (see page 22), reductions aimed to cut emissions 85% by 2050 must be initiated before 2015. And maybe sooner. According to the IPCC: Decision-making about the appropriate level of global mitigation over time involves an iterative risk management process that includes mitigation and adaptation, taking into account actual and avoided climate change damages, co-benefits, sustainability, equity, and attitudes to risk. ... if the damage cost curve increases steeply, or contains non-linearities (e.g. vulnerability thresholds or even small probabilities of catastrophic events), earlier and more stringent mitigation is economically justified. Tucked into footnote 37 of the report, there's a brief discussion of feedbacks that could certainly, and dangerously, be categorized as a non-linear, vulnerable threshold to which we are blind. The message of the report is clear. Countries must act, and soon. We can choose to stabilize the climate and still maintain prosperous economies. But we must make a financial commitment that just hasn't materialized. We've been going backwards. The IPCC reports: Government funding in real absolute terms for most energy research programmes has been flat or declining for nearly two decades (even after the UNFCCC came into force) and is now about half of the 1980 level. At this point, that is unacceptable. The policies the IPCC has recommended have great potential and low cost. The world needs make the political and economic commitments to curb emissions. The time to act is now. This post was created for ClimateProgress.org, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Already, there are serious reservations about the final IPCC summary for policymakers, which was released today. The BBC leads the charge, noting that the economic models used to recommend mitigation policies aim to hold the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at 550 parts per million (ppm). However, more recent scientific evidence suggests, and I agree, that our policies need to keep concentrations much closer to 450 ppm.
Update [2007-5-4 15:15:3 by Tom Philpott]:Oops. I misinterpreted this bill. It’s what’s known as a “marker bill,” not intended to be voted on, just to express the opinions of the legislators. Thus its lack of a “commodity title” doesn’t mean its sponsors intend to eliminate commodity payments, as I assumed. Nevertheless, the bill contains good ideas, and remains worthy of debate. It’s just not “epochal,” as I hastily — and wishfully — wrote below. When Bush’s USDA chief Mike Johanns came out with the administration’s farm bill proposal a few months ago, many progressive observers (including Oxfam) cheered, because the …
The Center for Public Integrity continues with their massive report on the state of Superfund with a new story today on the $700 million tab that bankrupt polluters have skipped out on.
I’ve been musing a bit on two different sorts of environmentalism, and I’ve recently come across two good exemplars. First, in Orion, Curtis White argues that environmentalists are involved in a futile enterprise as long as they fight from within the system — as long as they use technoscientific, rationalist, bureaucratic language to fight problems that technoscientific, rationalist bureaucracies have wrought. We shouldn’t blame big bad corporations. We are the problem. Nothing will change until we change our fundamental worldview. Next, over on Old Man in a Cave (an interesting new blog you should check out), Fergus Brown makes a …
Don’t tell JMG!
Via Brad Plumer, this might be the most honest, good-faith argument about nuclear power I've read in the last, oh, year or so. You can read Max Schulz's pro-nuclear argument here, and then read the anti-nuclear side by Bruce Smith and Arjun Makhijani. No surprise, I come down on the anti-nuclear side myself, but at least Schulz doesn't simply ignore or refuse to acknowledge the real risks of nuclear power (waste, proliferation, costs). And in his reply at the bottom of Smith and Makhijani's piece, he makes a reasonable argument that Smith and Makhijani are soft-pedaling the costs associated with wind's intermittency.
Paul Hawken's new book Blessed Unrest is a much-needed analysis of the movement that's poised to change the world as we know it. It's a must read, (excerpted here in Orion magazine) even if you're not a self-described grassroots activist. In it, he states that "the movement to restore people and planet is now composed of over one million organizations" working toward ecological sustainability and social justice. Maybe two million. And that: By conventional definition, this is not a movement. Movements have leaders and ideologies. You join movements, study tracts, and identify yourself with a group. You read the biography of the founder(s) or listen to them perorate on tape or in person. Movements have followers, but this movement doesn't work that way. It is dispersed, inchoate, and fiercely independent. There is no manifesto or doctrine, no authority to check with. Like we witnessed with the success of Step It Up 2007, the movement can't be divided because it is composed of many small pieces, forming, gathering, and disbanding quickly as need be. The media and politicians may dismiss it as powerless, but "it has been known to bring down governments, companies, and leaders through witnessing, informing, and massing." This is one of his main conclusions:
((brightlines_include)) How climate change is handled in few key areas within the year -- particularly congressional action in 2008 and 2009 and the 2008 presidential election -- will likely set the terms of the U.S. political debate, which for all practical purposes, within the constraints of Hansen's standard and timeframe for action, will determine the outcome. Therefore, a Bright Lines plan of action must accomplish three things: polarize debate in Congress and the presidential election; strengthen the narrative now being advanced by climate scientists; and, build a climate action core and financial base. Six campaigns and programs are outlined for the critical 14 month period from April 2007- May 2008. 1. Climate Civil Defense Preparedness. The story told by congressional action in 2007-2009 will be that climate change must and can be addressed by vigorous action to cap carbon emissions and win U.S. energy independence, tempered by the necessity of not over-burdening the U.S. auto (Rep. Dingell), oil (Sen. Bingaman), and coal (Sen. Byrd) industries. There is little room to challenge this narrative, but it may be possible to add to it.