Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Final Thought: Copenhagen 2009

The recent negotiations in Copenhagen to strategize a global treaty to mitigate global climate change can be seen as a success or a failure, depending on one's expectations. If the outcome of Copenhagen is any indicator, the world is evidently not going to come together to create the kinds of controls that would be necessary to get to the goal fo 350 parts per thousand of atmospheric CO2 by 2050. (That is the level that climate scientists such as James Hansen have suggested is necessary to maintain the existing climate system to which humanity has become culturally adapted.) The current process of international cooperative action is simply to slow for that.

On the other hand, though talk does not equal action, leaders across the world, including the U.S. and China, agreed to a system of verifications and aid to poorer countries dealing with climate change. Few countries are willing to be the first to accept limits that would impact their economic success, and limits are meaningless unless the largest emitters of CO2 participate and unless emissions can be verified. As slow as the international process may be, these steps forward were essential before we can expect action from most nations. From this perspective, the rest of the Copenhagen negotiations was not what it may do directly for decreasing emissions, but for the role it may play in future agreements to take action -- it is a building block of the foundation of international cooperation.

--Dr. Rob Ross, Associate Director for Outreach at the Paleontological Research Instiution

Friday, December 18, 2009

Obama in Copenhagen

As leaders are working late into the night to try to come up with an agreement of sorts in Copenhagen, many people are unimpressed with President Obama's speech on the matter. In some cases, the disappointment is understood: President Obama did not encourage Congress to pass climate legislation in his talk, and many would argue that an international stage would be the place to do that. In other cases, like explaining to developing nations that some plan is better than no plan and will bring people closer together on climate change, perhaps the disappointment is less acceptable. After all, won't an imperfect deal help us to lower emissions? Even if it doesn't reach goals suggested? Or should more be done?

Read the article here, and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Copenhagen: Hopenhagen or Constipagen?

With negotiations in progress at the UNFCCC and world leaders arriving in Copenhagen in hopes of finding a common ground, protesters outside are being controlled by one of the largest police forces ever seen in Copenhagen. Protesters have taken to calling Copenhagen "Constipagen" instead of "Hopenhagen" because talks and lines are moving so slowly.

Some leaders are remain hopeful that a pact can be reached, but others, and certainly those outside protesting, are less optimistic. NPR and Bloomberg both have excellent reviews of the process going on.

I'm certainly going to remain hopeful that something significant can be accomplished in Copenhagen. We're in the holiday season, folks, so let's send some hopeful thoughts out to President Obama and other world leaders in "Hopenhagen."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More News from Copenhagen

Negotiations are currently underway to create some sort of international agreement about carbon emissions at the UNFCCC. It is hoped that most of the nitty gritty parts of the negotiations will be finished by the time that international leaders begin arriving later this week.

Here's an article on some of the most intense deliberations. I certainly hope they can be resolved.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Carbon Emission Giants

The United States is no longer the largest emitter of carbon dioxide; China is now emitting more. posted a fantastic interactive global map highlighting the world's biggest carbon emitters today, predictions for what countries will be emitting in 2030, and those areas with the biggest % increase. The most fascinating part of this tool is that you can look at emissions per region or per human, or look at the regional increase in population.

With an estimated 20,000 people gathered in Copenhagen, these sorts of posts are extremely apropos. Thanks, NPR!

Check it out, here!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

'Climategate' addressed in Copenhagen

If you haven't heard of 'Climategate,' then please consider these posts simply informed perspective of the science of climate change. But if you have heard of the climate skeptics who hacked scientists emails in order to "prove" that anthropogenic (human-made) climate change is a fallacy, I'd like to point you to a couple of scientific rebuttals.

First, watch Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, speak out in Copenhagen at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change against the media frenzy that is 'climategate.'

Then, check out an enlightening YouTube video that brings to light that scientific and statistical terminology has a different meaning (re: trick), and that proxy data from tree rings is not the same as data from the instrumented record (re: hide the decline).

Finally, another scientists' blog that discusses the findings and truth behind "climate-gate."

PRI accepts the scientific consensus of the IPCC that humans are contributing to the warming of this planet through the combustion of carbon dioxide through fossil fuel use, among many other contributors like deforestation and land use.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2000-2009 warmest decade on record

Even as an expected 9,000 (or more) people gather in Copenhagen for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, scientists are publishing more evidence on human-made climate change. The World Meteorological Organization announced yesterday that, when the ball drops this New Years Eve, we will just have ended the warmest decade in the instrumented record.

Further, the United States Geological Survey newsroom highlighted a study published in Nature GeoSciences yesterday that discusses the possibility that scientists may have undercalculated the sensitivity of our climate system to carbon dioxide. This is because models are based on long term trends and averages. In the article, scientists looked at a short interval of time with rapid change in relation to carbon dioxide, and saw that climate was more sensitive to the gas than models predicted. Read the release, with a link to the article, here.

PRI scientists will have an ear to the ground today, and all this week, watching for updates from Copenhagen. We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, December 7, 2009


As many of you know, today marks the first day of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Because PRI supports the IPCC finding that climate change is human-caused, and because we support education efforts on the science behind global climate change, we are closely following the events happening in Copenhagen.

I'd like to highlight a couple of the exciting things that have happened today with respect to climate change.

First, this morning there was a piece on NPR about American feelings on climate change. For the last few years, fewer Americans each year accept the science behind climate change. Listen to the piece here.

Second, the Environmental Protection Agency just published their decision to declare carbon dioxide a health hazard. Read about its implications to both US regulation and President Obama's visit to Copenhagen here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

NIMBYism and Wind Power

When it comes to alternative energy sources, including natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear, everyone is supportive until the source comes to their town. This is the idea of NIMBYism, or Not In My BackYard. One of the main reasons for the contention is that homeowners are concerned that these new technologies will leave marks on their region that lower their property values. However, the Departmnt of Energy just responded that property values have not been affected in areas where windfarms have been activated. This is certainly good news for homeowners, environmentalists, and alternative energy entrepreneurs alike! Read the article here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Countertop Composter

I came across this great video about "countertop" composting...I had no idea that you could be a composter in a small space!

I live in a town home community hear in Ithaca, NY and we own our home, but we don't own the outside space. We have no private yard to start a compost pile so this video was an eye opener for me:

If you want to learn more about where you can drop off your food scraps if you choose to freeze your compost or have a countertop bucket check out this resource in Tompkins County: Recycling and Solid Waste.