Monday, December 15, 2008

Chasm widens between science and policy

Stephen Leahy at IPS: The roof of our house is on fire while the leaders of our family sit comfortably in the living room below preoccupied with "political realities" -- that was essentially the message from 1,000 scientists from around the world along with northern indigenous leaders gathered in Quebec City for the International Arctic Change conference that concluded last weekend. "Climate change and its impacts are accelerating at unexpected rates with global consequences," delegates warned in a statement.

Presenting data from hundreds of studies and research projects detailing the Arctic region's rapid meltdown and cascading ecological impacts, participants urged governments to take "immediate measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions".

By happy coincidence, 190 governments were meeting at the same time in Poznan, Poland to do just that: reach an agreement on how much to reduce emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Except that they decided to do nothing. They couldn't even agree to help poorer nations survive the ever-worsening climate crisis by providing funds to strengthen infrastructure, build flood defences and improve agriculture.

In chance hallway encounters in Quebec City, scientists -- strictly off the record for fear of losing funding -- said climate change is happening far faster and is having much larger impacts than they ever imagined. "Climate change will be an overwhelming global tragedy without major reductions now," said one Canadian expert.

….While governments fail to get it, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 stand at 383 parts per million (ppm) and are climbing at two to three ppm per year. Pre-industrial CO2 levels averaged 270 ppm and some climate experts are calling for the need to return to below 350 ppm to truly stabilise the planet.

Victoria Falls from an old postcard

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