If you are unwilling to lead, get out of the way!

As scientists suggested that the summer Arctic ice could melt completely as early as 2013 and the waves may be soon rolling in on the Queensland coast as the Great Barrier Reef crumbles (see also Quiggin) tempers flared in Bali.

At one point the chief UN climate negotiator, Yvo de Boer, left the room apparently in tears, but the turning point, the circuit breaker, came from the representative of PNG who looked the US representative Paula Dobriansky in the eye and told her ”If for some reason you are unwilling to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Get out of the way!” She then “reversed herself, allowing the adoption of the so-called ‘Bali Roadmap.’”

Hard on the conclusion of the talks most capitals were putting a positive spin on the outcomes. Not so the US. They issued a communiqué expressing serious concerns about the Bali deal. Considering they got most of what they were looking for at Bali, what’s the beef?

From the outset that the US had an aversion to specifics and numbers. This from Der Spiegel:

Numbers, the US negotiating team has made clear, are an anathema; head US negotiator Harlan Watson said: “Once numbers appear in the text, it predetermines outcomes and it can really drive negotiations in one direction.”

So the 2020 targets of 25-40% cuts for the developed countries were tossed out. So were on this report any reference to 2050 targets and even the need for emissions to peak in the next 10-15 years. Apparently references to the IPCC and the science were also thrown out at the behest of the USA. What’s left is a reference to the notion that “deep cuts will be required to achieve the ultimate objective” of avoiding dangerous climate change.

The final frustration was that the rich countries, including the EU, were only willing to make vague references to help and support the poor countries in the form of money and technology in return for limiting their emissions. India put forward an amendment firming up this point which the US, to comprehensive booing from the floor, rejected. The EU, to cheers, accepted it. Then it seems each developing country in turn made a speech attacking the US directly to cheers from the floor. When the PNG representative made his direct attack as detailed above the US got the point that they were fast becoming pariahs without any further prospect of any influence at all. Everyone had simply had enough. They accepted, the chair hit the desk with the gavel and declared the deal done.

What we have then is a road map with no defined destination. The Climate Institute described it as “a rough and risky road”. It’s a plan for two more years of talks with further full UNFCCC meetings in Poland in December 2008 and finally in Copenhagen in December 2009. As one poor country representative said, that much could have been achieved by email without the time and trouble of Bali. Ostensibly the US agreed to quantifiable and binding targets being set at the end of that process. The problem is that no-one trusts them. The UNFCCC would do well to move the Poland conference to February or March 2009. Better to waste a couple of months and get the Bushistas out of the way.

Strangely enough there is apparent sense in the US concerns.

Firstly, they say that cutting rich country emissions without likewise action on the part of major developing countries will not fix the problem. That’s fine, but here they seem to be calling for cuts by China, India etc rather than limits. This is problematic and won’t fly at this stage.

The second and third points relate to the need to differentiate between the larger developing country economies and the need to take into account the circumstances of each country. This looks like the bleeding obvious and it’s hard to see how this was not included in the EU approach.

The statement then asserts the primacy of economic growth and access to secure energy supplies far all countries. This is a seductive motherhood statement but implies that the planet is not threatened to the degree that we may have to inconvenience ourselves in terms of economics and consumption.

Finally they refer their willingness to participate in the necessary discussions, making particular reference to the “Major Economies Process” which is really the continuation of Bush’s bash, the first of which was in September and the next in Hawaii in January.

I think there are two problems coming out of the Bali meeting. The meeting itself did what frequently happens in difficult trade negotiations. The differences are unresolved, but a form of words is found that can be spun either way to home constituencies. Both sides live to fight another day.

The first position is the European way of regulations, rationing, the redistribution of resources to assist the needy and mandatory caps with penalties for failure. It is wrong to say that the circumstances of each nation cannot be recognised and accommodated within this approach. The EU has committed itself unilaterally to cuts of 20-40% by 2020, but within that I think you’ll find there will be provision for the emissions of some countries (eg Poland) to actually grow.

The American position is open and flexible, based on co-operation between the main players with voluntary self-imposed targets and no penalties.

The second problem is that the Americans demonstrated once again that they do not negotiate in good faith. They made some soothing noises to Angela Merkel in the G8 to fob her off. Then in Bali they tried their favourite strategy of rapidly changing stances to confuse their opponents and of springing nasty surprises at the death.

In this case at 4 am on Friday morning when the conference was due to end 13 hours later (after a bit of time for kip before breakfast) the suddenly put forward a proposed text that:

abandoned the idea of “common but differentiated responsibilities” for the developed and developing world, a key basis on which the Kyoto Protocol was founded.” (Article in the Weekend AFR).

This had to be premeditated act and curiously seems to run counter to what they were spruiking in their ‘serious concerns’ communiqué. It is typical of control freaks and bullies who can’t accept an idea that was not their own in the first place. It makes it fairly pointless to sit down with such people. If you do you need to keep counting your fingers and looking under the table. That’s what our Penny Wong had to put up with and the fact that there was a half-passable outcome is in no small measure due to her.

Incidentally Australia got off the fence and supported the 25-40% cuts. As reported at GreensBlog this may have been due to the Opposition’s Greg Hunt giving them the green light. Wonders will never cease, but we may have the prospect of considerable bipartisanship between the major parties.

I’m not entirely sure, but the 2020 targets may have survived as a ‘for instance’ in a footnote in the preamble.

Elsewhere Quiggin at Crooked Timber has the Bali outcomes as a big win for the planet, cross-posted at his own blog, and Guy at Polemica and Ken Lovell at Surfdom have their say.

My own view is that some reconsideration of targets is necessary. The 50% by 2050 and the 2020 targets were Europe’s response to the IPCC. Since then there have been worrying developments including the sudden drop in Arctic ice cover and the decline in the planet’s ability to absorb CO2 (10% this century). I’m inclined to agree with James Lovelock who said recently the stabilisation of the climate at just less than 2C warming may be possible in the modellers’ computers, but impossible in the world at large.

For example, two degrees of cooling below pre-industrial levels is likely to start the rebuilding of continental ice sheets. With a warming of 2.8C in Greenland (that happens at 1.4C for the world in general) it is thought that the Greenland ice sheet will start to seriously break up. Now we are at 0.75C with a further 0.5 system in the system. The climate changes observed now do not correspond to today’s CO2 levels but to the levels that prevailed about 30 years ago. It takes that long for the effects to play out through the system. In that time the temperature has risen about 0.6 degrees.

The rational conclusion from observations and science is that things started to become dangerously unstable about half a century ago. We need to restore the Arctic ice cap. The only study I know that has come near considering the full implications of recent research and observations is the Carbon Equity Project’s The big melt. It recommends that we should be aiming at emissions of 320 ppm CO2e and a temperature of 0.5C above pre-industrial levels.

When you think about it the difference between the last glacial maximum and an ice-free world (in summer) is only about 10C. The corresponding difference in sea levels is close to 200 metres. We are about 120 m up from 20,000 years ago with a possible 70 m or so to go. Pre-industrially we started off in the sweetest spot, the upper side of the 2C band in the middle where things were reasonably stable. It’s worth considering how we can get back there.

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Posted in environment, politics
49 comments on “If you are unwilling to lead, get out of the way!
  1. wpd says:

    Congratulations on a great post Brian.

    The politics of Bali have been fascinating with the ‘inexperienced Rudd and Wong’ as standouts.

    “but we may have the prospect of considerable bipartisanship between the major parties”

    Indeed! It would appear nevertheless, that Tuckey, and others I assume, are not pleased. I think it’s delightful they have wedged themselves.

    Are you making a submission to Garnaut?

  2. John Greenfield says:

    brian

    You seem to be up on all of this. Why is there such silence on the fact that no matter how much we reduce emmissions, it will not have even the slightest ameliorative affect over the next 100 years? Thus, shouldn’t we be devoting a hell of a lot of energy to adjusting to living in a much warmer world even during otr own lifetimes?

  3. tigtog says:

    Thanks for an elucidating summary, Brian. I’ve found it hard to keep track, and this clears a lot up for me.

  4. Paul Burns says:

    Wonderful post.
    Would countries be prepared to postpone the Poland meeting til Bush is gone? Sounds like a great idea.
    Its a start, we did ourselves proud, but, as I mentioned earlier what to do about the Imbecile. I think PNG had it right. “Get out of the way!”
    The question is, how do we do it, and how do we get the message across to the powrs that be.

  5. GregM says:

    “I think PNG had it right. “Get out of the way!” ”

    No more wanton destruction of PNG’s rainforests then?

    PNG playing a leadership role? Pigs might fly.

    Still a nice little moment of self-aggrandising hypocrisy by their representative, in the best UN tradition.

    What news of the leadership shown by the Malaysians, who are leading the charge in the destruction of PNG, and Indonesia’s and Burma’s, and Cambodia’s and the Solomon Islands’ rainforests.

  6. wpd, what’s that moronic Tuckey got to add to this debate?

  7. Vee says:

    I can’t help but wonder whether we’re praising Australia for nothing at this stage. All we did was sign a piece of paper. Then along with the rest of the world called the US out. We do that every day anyway. And can you really blame them for their self-interest?

    It was quite reasonable to assume these talks was going to result in a whole lot of nothing. To use the boiling the frog metaphor, we’re not applying it to one country at a time but globally. This means we have to bring it along even slower. However if we believe the science, we must act now or else. So if we all act now we will put a lot of noses out of joint.

    That’s the beauty of Rudd and the Garnaut report, he’s doing it all in incremental steps, he’s boiling the frog slowly. He’s doing it other areas of governance too.

    It was interesting to see diplomacy turn into a virtual wrestling match, though, with the crowd cheering and jeering at the babyfaces and well heeled respectively

  8. Paul Burns says:

    Sure, the deforestation is disastrous for greenhouse levels. And it was grandstanding. But some-one had to say it.And it worked. Sort of.
    This whole schmozzle is disastrous on every level. I fear its insoluble. I don’t believe world leaders are up to it. I’m sure they’ll stuff it up and the planet will die.Even after this conference, you can’t really say they’re trying.People have done little but talk for years. Islands will have to sink beneath the sea. There will have to be even more devastating floods, fires, drought, ice-melts, hurricanes. Economies will probably have to collapse. When they finaally stop talking and start acting it will be too late. It will all be too late and our children and grandchildren will curse us.

  9. bahnischba says:

    Thanks folks for the compliments.

    wpd, I hadn’t thought about Garnaut. Probably I should.

    Paul B re the Poland meeting, some European delegates were talking about boycotting Bush’s meeting in Hawaii in January. I’d like to see, say, the Chinese tell the US to get lost. That would be interesting!

    GregM the forests are a worry. I believe there was provision to pay poor countries to keep them standing. I don’t know much about the detail, but I understand that the Indonesian Government has been paid $12 billion to allow the loggers to rip up Kalimantan and that there won’t be much left in about 3 years time.

    Overall ‘land use change’ is said to account for about 20% of emissions worldwide. We really need to get that down to net 0% at least ASAP.

  10. bahnischba says:

    Vee, Penny Wong chaired the socalled ‘umbrella group’ of select ministers which I gather shaped the text which was presented to the whole group for agreement. I believe she ‘done good’ as coach Jack Gibson once said.

    Paul, we are going to have to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, I believe. See Robert M’s post of last April Putting the genie back in the bottle.

  11. bahnischba says:

    BTW there is documentation coming out of Bali at this site. I haven’t had time to look at it yet.

  12. […] international community doing anything effective is on the record. But Mark over at LP in Exile has a great overview with other […]

  13. philiptravers says:

    Personally,I do not believe much of anyones statements,attitudes or rhetoric there for a simple reason associated with the failure to agree and now wanting to meet again to thrash it out.And what is that!?That they want to go through it again!When you might of noticed,that even this slow ADSL is still allowing you and me to go about disagreeing about points of contention.And if any analysis of the Climate Change phenomena is profoundly Earth destructive of human habitat destructive,then surely every country has an Emergency response drill,even if the predictions are incremental.Simply whilst countries cannot agree,Australia could be parking appropriate shipping at or near endangered islands.But I guess the poison cannot be part of the solution because it is all to difficult and technological.Carbon dioxide like the so called Telstra Bandits could provide the means for human safety by converting it into really well designed ecologically referenced sea walls,because carbon dioxide as a converted gas with simple stuff like salt or baking soda and other renewable materials,waits for the workers,rather than the group panic merchants.And whilst some of the scientist who know how to do this have been rubbished,and I cannot stand their need for recognition as potential heroes,nonethebloodyless it can be done,and rapidly.I will not be changing my name by deed poll{ to Jesus Salt Baking Soda & Carbon Dioxide} just in case someone of the can do crowd,say there is no problem with that.

  14. paul walter says:

    bahnishba saves me the effort of concurring on this rarest of occasions with Greg M.
    As for the rest, the US is the kleptocracies writ large ( apart from usually installing and financing the bastards ).
    Israel ( with Palestine )is good example of the US and the world, or the Kleptocracies and their captive poplations. In its own world, it holds the cards as per weaponary, so like Marie Antoinette it adopts the Ancien Regime response of “all the reform you like, so long as it doesn’t cost us or change the status quo”.
    In short, “let them eat cake”, when there is no bread about.
    Until Wall street and its international affiliates in Frankfurt, London Tokyo and the like accept the need for change nothing substantial will happen accept for the rich and powerful finding ways to profit from it, usually in ways related to misery.

  15. John Greenfield says:

    Paul Burns

    Calling Israel “Palestine” is racist. It totally deletes the reality of the Israeli people and the legitimate state they established in 1949.

  16. hc says:

    Disappointing Bali outcome in two senses:

    1. The good parts of the US policy were rejected – the big polluters (China, India, Brazil, Indonesia) seem to only be willing to pursue ‘no regrets’ options or initiatives funded by developed countries. These countries must be substantively involved.

    The developing countries trying to get (to blackmail) developed countries to fund resolutions of their own policy failures – e.g. deforestation in Indonesia.

    2. The bad parts of US policy were left untouched including the refusal to set specific targets.

    Australia’s contribution was to ratify a vacuous treaty and make critical- sounding noises. A disappointment. Substance not gestures urgently required.

    Some good links and good arguments in this post.

  17. bjohns says:

    Personally I believe the most beneficial outcome to all this is the bipartisan support from our Government/Opposition. It’s the proverbial KY for our future climate policy.

    I was thinking about what ‘enforcement’ practices would be used against nations that don’t meet their objectives. The image of our armed forces chained to trees in a rain forest in SE Asia came to mind. Honestly, will the military be used to enforce climate policy even as a last resort? Could the next world war be about saving our environment even if it’s likely to destroy it?

  18. wpd says:

    hc re your comment:

    “the big polluters (China, India, Brazil, Indonesia)”

    What are we talking about here? Per head of population? Or what?

  19. wpd says:

    The Worst of Perth:

    “what’s that moronic Tuckey got to add to this debate”.

    It should become clear when the new Parliament resumes.

    “The Opposition has detailed its new policy which expands on the Howard government’s initiative to protect the world’s forests in order to reduce carbon emissions.

    But Liberal backbencher Wilson Tuckey has described the policy as unworkable and accused his leader Brendan Nelson of failing to consult the party room.”

    Tuckey may be ‘moronic’ (the evidence certainly points that way) but it will be Brendan Nelson who will have to deny him (and more than three times I suspect) when the new Parliament meets.

    In terms of rhyming slang ‘It is a Hunt of a problem’.

  20. frodo441 says:

    bipartisanship? you oeff’s…you had your chance in the Koto agreement but you wouldn’t work with them…then France goes ahead and detonates a Nuclear bomb just outside their waters…good luck your on your own…bozo

  21. Carl! says:

    As I briefly discuss over here, I doubt that delaying the next round of talks post November ’08 will make much of a difference. Then again, I’m new at this blogging thing 😉

    Carl!

  22. paul walter says:

    Jack/Paul B
    Calling Palestine “Israel” is racist.
    It totally deletes the reality of the Palestinian people and the state they have sort to establish against the Occupation of their homeland, backed by the West to assuage its own guilt at previous historical events in Europe. Europeans rather than Palestinians were responsible for the tragedies that befell historical Jewry and Palestine was not the Wests to give in recompense for its own shortcomings.
    PB, Jack has serial form as a Zionist apologist and this writer offers a polite suggestion that an intelligent person disregard anything he says on this topic, blinkered by the baffling bias that he is.

  23. bahnischba says:

    OK, can we leave that one there now, please, and stick to the topic of the post?

  24. Mug Punter says:

    Species come and species go.

    Civilisations rise. Civilisations fall.

    I take Jared Diamond’s point in ‘Collapse’ that the ruling elites can’t be trusted. It’s up to us as citizens. I’m hoping that Green preferences to get Labor over the line means that Labor will follow through on the climate change concerns of [Some of] the common folk.

    NSW Labor is acting as a master of ceremonies for the dark side.

    Time to bring on a week of COAG focussed on climate change.

  25. John Greenfield says:

    wpd

    What are we talking about here? Per head of population? Or what?

    Gaia is indifferent to the individual contributions of those who despoil her dominion. Similarly, Zeus does not splt his lightning bolt proportionately

  26. Paul Burns says:

    Brian,
    I agree Palestine is irrelevant to this post, but I would like to point out to Mr. Greenfield I NEVER MENTIONED PALESTINE!
    So can we get back to Climate Change please.

  27. One final point: the implication of Brian’s target is that we’ll need to artificially remove CO2 from the atmosphere, and from then on be responsible for active management of the planet’s climate.

  28. bahnischba says:

    Exactly right, Robert. We have to choose the level of carbon we want in the atmosphere, which then has a flow through to the climate. But I’d re-emphasise Lovelock’s point that climate stabilistation may not be possible at some levels of carbon.

  29. Roger Jones says:

    John Greenfield re #2.

    The ameliorative effect could be as much as 15% in 2030, 40% by 2050 if we began stabilising efforts in 2010 (based on avoided warming). That isn’t “more than a century”.

    There’ll be plenty of warming left to have to adapt to.

  30. bahnischba says:

    Thanks, Roger. In the flurry I overlooked John G’s question.

    Some of the timescales we are dealing with are a lot less than a century, but yes, we are going to have to do more on adaptation as well as mitigation and I understand that at Bali there were undertakings to shovel a bit of money in that direction for the poorer countries.

    Not that it will be much help to the people of the Carteret Islands.

    BTW Roger made a comment on the other thread that seems relevant here.

  31. bahnischba says:

    Australia’s defection to the cause of climate progress was instrumental in the Bali outcome because it left the United States friendless. Kevin Rudd played a clever and constructive hand, and Penny Wong made a deep impression on negotiators from around the world for her deft negotiating skills and extraordinary ability to get on top of the dauntingly complex issues in record time.

    From Clive Hamilton in Crikey

    Elsewhere the Toronto Star gives the Canadian Government a bollocking:

    Right up to the final hours, [Canadian Environment Minister] Baird insisted that Canada would not accept any targets unless they were imposed on poor, developing countries, as well. Seen for what it was – a cynical attempt to undermine the chances for real progress at Bali – Baird’s ploy invited scorn from all quarters, brought shame on all Canadians, and turned our country from a progressive voice on the world stage on environmental issues into an international pariah.

  32. bilb says:

    Reading this material the thought occurs to me that just maybe the White House thinks that the USA can weather all of the effects of global warming and can adapt sufficiently and so not have to change life styles. This might be the basis of their blocking moves. They may even believe that they can profit from the collapse of other countries, in like manner to those people who profit as share markets plummet.

    The other disturbing realisation is that mangrove swamps will be unlikely to be able to keep pace with rising sea levels. Mangroves are the nurseries for many types of fish and their innundation will likely see many coastal fish stocks rapidly decline. Scary.

  33. bahnischba says:

    bilb, Russia may benefit from warming and it’s one reason why they are unreliable. It seems that it was the Russians who knocked out the long term 2050 target from the text and wanted no reference to the IPCC.

    You never know what is inside the heads of the Bush administration representatives, but some of the risks that come to mind in the US from refereed papers include:

    1. Serious threat to New York from a storm surge. The threat is there now, but over time what is a once in a century risk could be once every few years. If this one happens, New Orleans will look like a Sunday school picnic.

    2. Much more irregular rainfall over the grain growing belt.

    3. Severe freshwater problems in the SW with less snow and ice-melt on the Rockies.

    4. An increase in wild fires.

    5. There are huge issues with sea-level rise around New York and Florida, for example, but there is difficulty in getting people to take that seriously

    6. There is at least one study that suggests that the sands on the prairie have been mobile in the past and could become mobile again.

    7. Hurricane frequency/intensity has been controversial, but the best information I’ve seen suggests that the frequency of severe storms has stepped up twice in the last 100 years, the last time from about 1990. But a 15 year pattern is not long enough to indicate whether the latest rise is cyclical or permanent.

    I’m sure there’s more. I haven’t said anything about species loss, for example.

  34. John Greenfield says:

    Roger Jones

    OK. This sounds good. You clearly know 1,000 times more about this than I do. So if you can direct me to some (relatively) accesible literature that will dissuade me of my “we’re all rooned anyway” fears, I would be very grateful.

    Paul Burns.

    My bad. I mean Paul Walter.

  35. Paul Burns says:

    S’Okay, JG.
    No hard feelings.

  36. paul walter says:

    In that case I disagree with you both (Burns/Greenfield- and bahnishba if he wants to hop in ).
    Reread my post #22- all of you- PLEASE, before going of half cocked at what I’m doing and saying and drawing wildly innacurate, emotive inferences out of self-interest.
    The talks at Bali will never get far because of resistance from the powerful countries and global capital. They never cede competetive advantage whilst in pursuit of their own interests. Israel and Palestine are analogous; of the point in that Israel is an example of a formation holding power refusing to allow even a little of what’s fair by other criteria, out of self interest.
    Like wise the US will not cede a techno advantage to China, or China allow itself to be weakened comparatively, unilaterally. Indonesian and Australian governments are not ceded to by big capital on logging of rainforest carbon sinks, for the same reason as to market position, quite apart from corruption/ greed issues, endogenously.
    It always comes down to the lowest common denominator, along the lines of the “tragedy of the commons”.
    So my employment of Palestine is legitimate in terms of its use as descriptive analogy.
    I did not go to specifics of above as to the Israel issue itself, for example in the citing the sort of news just last night mentioning the choking off of funds for Palestinian existance reducing its people to dire poverty; but only to illuminate on the reality that international trust must reach a higher level before nations and capital formations will relent for the good of the whole.

  37. PeterTB says:

    Not that it will be much help to the people of the Carteret Islands

    Give us a break! Next you’ll be blaming tsunamis on global warming.

  38. bahnischba says:

    Peter TB, if you have no concern for the Carteret Islanders, have a look at Bangla Desh. Or spare a thought for the Bush Family compound at Kennebunkport.

    Paul W as I understand you, you have a point. It’s a fair bet that China wants in what they call aid all the intellectual property they can lay their hands on.

  39. PeterTB says:

    if you have no concern for the Carteret Islanders

    There you go attributing base motives to me because I called you on an error of fact. You asserted, or at least implied that the Carteret Islanders are becoming a victim of global warming, when this is clearly not the case. Sea levels simply have not risen sufficiently to explain the shrinking islands.

    Do you think you have a monopoly on caring? The difference between us conservative crew and you left wing passengers is not that we care less, it’s just that our reactions are tempered by practical considerations of what can be done to address the problem.

  40. bahnischba says:

    Your reference to tsunamis was perceived by me as a bit of a smart-arse comment, Peter TB. If I mis-read you I’m sorry.

    But you haven’t demonstrated that their plight is not due to global warming simply by asserting it. I’d heard a number of reports about it on the radio which linked it to global warming.

    This report says the reason is not clear.

    You might like to read what Dr Jon Church of the CSIRO has to say about it towards the end of this item.

    Wikipedia suggests some other possible causes. The most likely explanation seems to be that it is multi-causal.

    Since the link between global warming and sea level change is well-established, it would be brave indeed to say that global warming has nothing to do with the Carterets.

  41. Tim Hollo says:

    My colleague, Oliver Woldring, who was in Bali with Christine Milne, has some thoughts on the COP posted here

  42. PeterTB says:

    You didn’t misread me. I wanted to make clear to you that there is little scientific basis for your apparent belief that the Carteret problem has anything but the tiniest foundation in global warming. Jon Church talks about a half metre rise in sea levels this century – ie by 2100, but the article doesn’t say that the rise in recent times is only 8-9mm – a tiny fraction of the relative sinking experienced at Carteret.

    The people who are reporting on this issue are being deceiptful by not making that abundantly clear to their audience, and the burden of proof in relation to this matter lies with those who assert that the problem is wholly or substantially due to global warming.

  43. bahnischba says:

    PeterTB, thankyou for finally making a substantive contribution.

    Initially you said:

    Give us a break! Next you’ll be blaming tsunamis on global warming.

    I took that as a snarky remark suggesting I was some kind of idiot and as probably denying the connection between global warming and sea level rise. My reaction was that it’s all very well for you to deny what science accepts, but spare a thought for the poor buggers out there suffering from the effects.

    Then you said that you “called me on an error of fact.” You did no such thing. I remind you that all I said was that the money promised at Bali for adaptation will be unlikely to help the Carteret Islanders. That remains true.

    I didn’t know much about the Carterets, which is why I was careful not to say too much.

    Re your comments at 43, the Wikipedia reference mentions 6.2mm per year of sea level rise in the area in recent times. Sea level rise isn’t like the water rising in a tub uniformly all over the world. The Church commentary mentions stronger currents and greater incidence of storms in the area. It seems to be the unusual events that do the damage.

    With global warming all the circulation systems in the ocean and the atmosphere have changed as a result. Complicating the issue is the notion that they are not all that stable over time as we experience it anyway.

    So the precise contribution of global warming in any weather event or change in patterns of weather or circulation systems is impossible to determine, it seems to me. With your tsunami remark you seemed to be denying the link completely.

    Through your intervention we have learned that there are probably some other things going on with the Carterets as well, for which thanks.

    BTW the 0.5m this century is a very conservative estimate. It was either Pittock or Pearman (or both) recently who said at least one metre. Hansen has said that he’ll bet $1000 to a doughnut (I think he means London to a brick) that it is nearer 5 metres than the IPCC number which is about 40 centimetres for the midpoint, and which leaves out of consideration ice sheet degradation.

  44. PeterTB says:

    PeterTB, thankyou for finally making a substantive contribution

    Again with the (backhanded) personal barbs? My initial contribution was substantive in that it rather pointedly drew your attention to the weakness of the case for global warming being responsible for the impending Carteret disaster. You need to read these articles more critically, they contain precious little science and plenty of reporter’s speculation and victims impact statements (often enough ill informed, sometimes misinformed by the reporters themselves).

    Sea level rise isn’t like the water rising in a tub uniformly all over the world

    Sure it is. There will be local variations due to tidal and other influences, but broadly ocean levels will rise uniformly. Where you have a region like the case in point experiencing an apparent rise in sea levels disproportionately greater (at least an order of magnitude) than experience elsewhere, something else is going on. The honest reporter would refer to this phenomenon as islands sinking in preference to pushing the sea level rising line.

  45. Tim Hollo says:

    PeterTB, Brian is absolutely right that sea level rise isn’t like the water rising in a tub uniformly. Don’t dismiss his points without proper research.

    One of the most fundamental points is that sea level rise is faster and greater the closer to the equator you get, for obvious physical reasons to do with the spinning of the small globe that we all inhabit. So it is incorrect to say, as you do, that “Broadly ocean levels will rise uniformly”.

    The other point worth raising is that of course there are a range of issues leading to the disappearance of the Carterets, as there are always multiple contributing factors to any ecological event (or any other event, for that matter). But don’t assume that some of the other factors aren’t also related to climate change and sea level rise.

    For example, the Carterets are eroding. This is causing more problems than sea level rise per se. Some of that erosion is due to unsustainable land management practices. But some of it is actually due to sea level rise. That’s one of the points many scientists are raising about sea level rise. For low-lying areas like the Carterets, Tuvalu and, closer to home (for me), the Eastern Shore of Hobart around Opossum Bay, erosion due to sea level rise is a huge issue.

  46. PeterTB says:

    For example, the Carterets are eroding. This is causing more problems than sea level rise per se

    My point exactly.

    I acknowledged that tidal and other influences could cause local variations, but the problem in the Carterets does not appear to be primarily related to climate change.

  47. bahnischba says:

    Thanks, Tim.

    I don’t need any lectures on how to read variuos texts, PeterTB.

    My original point, somewhat shorthanded I admit, was that many people in distress are unlikely to benefit from funds promised at Bali for adaptation. I think it’s a more important policy point than the minutiae of why the Carterets are disappearing.

    To expand a little, the funds are certain to be insufficient and people on the margins are likely to be left out. Also the rich countries have a bad track record of making promises they don’t keep.

    To get back to the minutiae, although I find the detail interesting I don’t aspire to be an expert on the matter. You don’t seem willing to take the point which Tim and I have both made that some of the factors other than sea level rise are likely to be related to climate change.

    Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got other things I’d like to spend my time on.

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