Climate change in the news (Jan 18 - Jan 22, 2010)
The World Region
There is a self-interested economic logic that often holds true for political questions relating to climate change. As reflected in the poll of public attitudes toward climate change commissioned by the WDR and published last month, citizens of the poorest countries—those most vulnerable to the physical impacts of climate change—are much more likely to rate climate change as “very serious” than are citizens of high-income countries, who possibly perceive themselves as less vulnerable. The shares ranking climate change as a very serious problem were: U.S. 31%, Japan 38%, and France 43%, in contrast to Senegal 72%, Kenya 75%, and Bangladesh 85%.
Yet, while the livelihoods of a fisherman in Senegal, a pastoralist in Kenya, and a rice farmer in Bangladesh’s delta might be the most immediately vulnerable to climate change, it’s worth noting that the assets of an insurance company on the U.S.’s Gulf Coast, a real estate investor in Japan, and a champagne-producing giant in France are vulnerable too.
As my colleague Mike Toman noted recently, Geoffrey Heal of Columbia University said the following in a recent blog post:
"neither costs nor capital requirement will prevent us from decarbonising the electricity supply. The real obstacle to doing this largely with renewables is our current inability to store power, and as long as we cannot store power we will need to use non-renewable sources like nuclear and coal with carbon capture and storage."
However, this view does not factor in future technological innovation, which I think is very significant.
The IEA Energy Technology Perspective projected that renewable energy could contribute around 50% of the power mix by 2050 under their Blue Scenario to achieve a 450 ppm world. Many other global leading energy/climate scenarios have the same projections, including those from Shell. Of renewable energy resources, geothermal, hydro, and biomass can provide base-load power. Indeed, solar and wind are intermittent.
|Photo © iStockPhoto.com|
With only about 36 hours left before the curtain falls on the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, forests have so far been one of the few bright spots. The Parties to the UNFCCC agree on the basic premise that the forests of developing nations ought to play a significant role in a future climate change regime. The activities that would be implemented, monitored and incentivized in a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol are referred to as 'REDD+', which includes reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserving forests, sustainably managing forests and enhancing forest carbon stocks (code for things like re-vegetation and reforestation).
The three-page framework text on REDD+ likely to be agreed upon in Copenhagen is good. It covers aspects such as the scope of activities, reporting and safeguards. The need to respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples is included, which is a marked improvement from Poznan last year when the U.S. received the Fossil of the Day award from Climate Action Network for opposing this inclusion, or Bali two years ago when the launch of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility triggered a protest by some civil society groups. Some sticky points remain, including the details of how to link subnational monitoring and implementation with that at the national level. But, as of Thursday mid-day, the number of brackets in the REDD+ text was significantly lower than in the general text on climate finance.
- The number and diversity of countries participating in the convention process may simply be unmanageable.
- The increasing focus on climate change may have come at the expense of other important concerns. A commonly heard statement is that climate change is “sucking the air” out of everything else. Thus the amazing range of interest groups attempting to label themselves as climate victims or solutions, from groups based on gender, religion, diet, geography, etc.
- The media was incredibly frustrated by the complexity of the issues and lack of transparency in the meetings. The process does not lend itself to simple headlines. Consequently the focus on good visual events – especially demonstrations and police activity – seemed totally disproportionate to anything observed.
- No matter how many times I’ve done climate meetings, I always forget how exhausting they become and how good it feels to be going home!
|Polar Bear spokesman delivers climate message, Copenhagen. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC||Media frenzy when police move student demonstrators inside Bella Center. Photo ©Alan Miller/ IFC|
So how long do we have to wait to see climate impacts? We know that scientists, economists, and politicians confront this question routinely, giving rise to much debate. Our recent multicountry poll shows that people around the world already have their own answer. Particularly in developing countries, ordinary people believe that climate change is damaging them—now.
Urgency: how soon will the effects of climate change be felt?
In 8 of the 15 countries, a majority of the public thinks climate change is substantially harming their fellow citizens now. Some of the largest majorities on this question appeared among people in the low-income countries: in Kenya 88 percent think people in their country are being harmed now, in Vietnam 86 percent, and in Senegal 75 percent. In both China (71 percent) and India (59 percent) large majorities believe that impacts are being felt now.
On the other hand, in five countries, less than half the public thinks that climate change is affecting their country negatively now: Russia (27 percent), the US (34 percent), Indonesia (39 percent), Iran (42 percent), and France (47 percent).
In Peru, innovative forest fire management prevents the risk of more fires with rising temperatures. In Kenya, communities share experiences with multi-pronged approaches to managing climate risk, combining indigenous knowledge with modern technologies. In India, women and youth use reality-show methods to tell of climate options. In the Philippines, a mangrove restoration initiative helps improve livelihoods during storms now, and protects against longer-term climate change impacts.
These are just some of the examples of the “100 ideas to save the planet” that I encountered as a juror for this year’s Development Marketplace, which focused on innovative solutions for climate change. Development Marketplace is an annual competitive grant program that identifies and funds innovative, early-stage development projects that have high potential for replication and development impact.
Of these one hundred great ideas, 26 winners were announced today in three categories—Resilience of Indigenous Peoples Communities to Climate Risks; Climate Risk Management with Multiple Benefits; and Climate Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management. Each winner receives a grant of up to $200,000 to implement their project over two years.
You can read more about the winners in these categories (and also about how this global competition works and who funds it) on the Development Marketplace website and follow the conversation on the Development Marketplace blog. For many of the winners, it was a long journey to Washington DC to compete for the grants.