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In the wake of COP16, a number of environmental news events provide context for how the world might deal with climate change whether intentionally or not.  The question is whether negotiations themselves, while they may seem to achieve little or nothing, influence how people think about energy, especially fossil fuels, and adaptation to a new energy economy that might make a difference in terms of how we plan for climate change in the future.

Despite its poor history in developing operatives to mitigate and reduce carbon emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama is closing loads of coal power plants throughout the country, essentially replacing many of them with natural gas power plants, although the country’s energy demands could be supplemented by large renewable energy projects and microgeneration.  This appears to be good news and could finally allow the US to perhaps help encourage other countries to do the same, but this largely depends on what energy resources are available within different geographic regions.  It has been claimed by a consulting firm (The Brattle Group) that ‘…CO2 emissions could fall by 150 million tons per year, or about 7 percent of all CO2 emissions from the electric power sector’ if over 50,000 MW of coal power plants are closed.  Interestingly, the Obama administration has also sued BP over the Gulf oil disaster accusing them of violating safety regulations, but this seems in contrast to the continued funding the US government provides for deep oil well drilling, especially if its policy played a role in the disaster itself, not to mention accusations that the US government was unprepared to deal with the magnitude of the disaster by underestimating the actual flow of oil into the Gulf.  Shortly after the spill, BP was also accused of withholding information about the explosion. Read more

Despite severely cold weather in the UK and other parts of the world, 2010 is one of the top three warmest years on record. (World Meteorological Organisation)

This year is one of the warmest years on record and 2001-2010 is the warmest decade in history, according to the World Meteorological Organisation.  New developments in COP16 thus far include Japan saying it will no longer back the Kyoto Protocol beyond 2012, the first international agreement to reduce carbon emissions that was founded in Kyoto.  Although Japanese officials say that they would sign on to a new legally binding agreement with other countries that also pledge to reduce their emissions over time.  This may send the wrong message to large developing countries such as India and China who are equally if not more concerned about rich nations doing their part to combat the rise in global temperature. Read more

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.

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