In only its third day, COP16 in Cancun, Mexico has already been deemed to ‘fail’ or lead to ‘discussion’ and nothing more. Dr Lena Dominelli, Director of the Vulnerabilities and Resilience programme of research in IHRR, is currently attending the conference and promoting the Institute’s project on Built Infrastructure for Older People’s Care in Conditions of Climate Change (BIOPICCC). The ‘failure’ of COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark in many ways has inspired skepticism in not climate change itself, but *shock* *horror*, international political relations. The pessimism that surrounds this complex issue seems a bit over the top, especially during a time when policy implemented today could significantly impact future generations. But how to limit carbon emissions seems too complex for so many industrial and pre-industrial countries alike to agree on together in the same room.
The second leading carbon emitter, the United States, will likely not take a strong stance in cutting the country’s greenhouse gas emissions despite the progressive intentions of the Obama administration. This has been blamed primarily on a Republican victory in the House of Representatives in November. At least since the George W. Bush administration, the Republican Party has been viewed as the ‘anti-science’ party of the US banning stem cell research and ignoring or denying the pleas of scientists in the US and throughout the world that climate change is caused by humans and we need to do something about it. Much of the opposition to climate change legislation seems to stem from a misunderstanding of uncertainty in science, something that researchers have commented on since the beginning of the controversy, but few seem willing to listen:
Why is everyone so surprised when we say that climate science is uncertain? All areas of science progress through constant challenge and exploration of the boundaries of uncertainty — what is important is to be able to evaluate that uncertainty. Climate science is no different.
Dr Vicky Pope, Head of Climate Change Advice, Met Office
Perhaps what is more uncertain is whether carbon ‘cap and trade’ schemes, while relied upon heavily by the UK and other EU governments, will actually work despite promises that it will help reduce carbon emissions 34% (of 1990 levels) by 2020 in the UK.
Tomorrow in Cancun, the World Meteorological Organisation will reveal if 2010 is the hottest year on record, although it could also be cooler compared to previous years possibly due to the economic downturn. Below are two videos: one is an animation by the Met showing the increase in Global Temperature based on rising carbon emissions, the other is a talk given by James Lovelock in Barcelona who has provided some fascinating, although controversial views on human-induced climate change and in this talk argues for mitigation (finding ways to live with climate change) above all else.
The video below is of James Lovelock giving a talk in Barcelona, Catalonia (Spain) September 2010. He provides some insightful commentary on the climate problem and how we might prepare for its consequences in the future. (Note: there is an introduction in Catalan for the first 6 minutes of the video, go to 6:00 for the start of Lovelock’s’ talk).
NASA Global Surface Temperature Analysis. http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/
‘Climate Science is Uncertain.’ Dr Vicky Pope, Met Office. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climatechange/science/controversy/uncertainty.html
‘Climate talks focus on lesser goals’. http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101124/full/468488a.html?s=news_rss
’10 reasons why the Cancun talks will fail.’ http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS98388339120101130