Al Gore, IPCC Share Nobel Peace Prize 2007

The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize has been jointly awarded to environmental activist and former US vice-president Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body whose regular assessment reports present the research results of thousands of climate scientists around the world.

In announcing its decision, the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Mr Gore and the IPCC for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.

The committee acknowledged Mr Gore as “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted”, while the IPCC has “created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming”.

Mr Gore wrote on his web site that he was deeply honored to receive the award. “We face a true planetary emergency,” he said. “The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.”

He said he would donate his share of the $1.5 million prize money to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization committed to persuading people around the world that climate change is urgent and solvable.

Having won an Academy Award earlier this year for his climate science documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Mr Gore has long been considered the frontrunner to win the Nobel prize.

IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri said the honor belonged to the thousands of scientists around the world whose research results contributed to consensus documents developed through the IPCC’s rigorous scientific assessment process.

He also said the IPCC’s work is unique because each consensus document “undergoes the scrutiny of government representatives and therefore is accepted by governments”, which increases the likelihood that effective policies will be implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Mr Gore and the IPCC clocks a black eye for the Bush administration, which has until recently dismissed the scientific consensus on climate change, watered down the global warming reports of US government scientists and refused to set limits on carbon emissions in the US. In 2001, President Bush walked away from the Kyoto Protocol.

Last month, after addressing a White House-sponsored climate change conference in Washington, Mr Bush was criticized for undermining UN efforts to kick-start a post-Kyoto global agreement, misrepresenting his administration’s record on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and lecturing other nations on climate science that they had long accepted.

Yet Nobel committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes denied that the award was intended to criticize any government. “A peace prize is never a criticism of anything. A peace prize is a positive message and support to all those champions of peace in the world,” he told the Associated Press.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that President Bush is “happy” for Mr Gore, but has no plans to call him to offer congratulations. Mr Gore is the second Democrat to win the Nobel Peace Prize since Mr Bush became President. In 2002, the award went to former President Jimmy Carter.

Mr Gore’s critics and climate change skeptics were out in force to decry the award.

“Al Gore doesn’t understand the science behind climate change or he deliberately misrepresents it,” Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute told Reuters. The free market think tank rejects the scientific consensus on climate change – its web site accuses climate scientists of “alarmism”, protests that the media makes it difficult for “climate realists” to get a fair hearing, and states that “there is no consensus about the causes, effects or future rate of global warming”.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus, another climate change skeptic, said the relationship between Mr Gore’s work and world peace was “unclear and indistinct”. In a recent op-ed piece published in the Financial Times, Mr Klaus quoted science fiction author Michael Crichton and accused climate scientists of being anti-freedom and anti-economic development.

The Nobel Peace Committee said in its announcement that climate change posed a clear and significant threat to world peace in the form of “increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states … Action is necessary now, before climate change moves beyond man’s control.”

Mr Mjoes added, “We wish to put world climate on the agenda in connection with peace.”

Meanwhile, in the lead up to the announcement of Mr Gore’s award, a UK high court rejected an attempt by political activist Stuart Dimmock to legally ban the showing of Mr Gore’s climate science documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, in British schools.

In his judgement, Justice Burton said that “Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.” However, he said the science remained unclear on nine points made in the film, and decided the film could be shown to students only if they were given notes addressing these points.

In response, analyses published by New Scientist and climate science blogs have challenged the judgement as scientifically unsound and have defended Mr Gore’s presentation of the science in the film.

Washington Climate Change Conference: Undermining the UN?

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opened a two-day conference on climate change in Washington DC on Thursday, insisting that the meeting was not intended to undermine the United Nations’ efforts to forge a new global framework for mandatory cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and defending the Bush administration’s record on climate change.

“We come together today because we agree that climate change is a real problem — and that human beings are contributing to it,” she said in her opening speech. “I want to stress that the United States takes climate change very seriously.”

Among the delegates were officials from Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia and South Africa – who combined account for 90 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change representatives from the European Union and the United Nations were also in attendance.

“The purpose of this gathering … is to ensure that all of us are working pragmatically toward a common purpose, to contribute to a new international framework for addressing climate change beyond Kyoto and to help all nations fulfill their responsibilities under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,” said Dr Rice. “The United States supports the goals of that event.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the day-long Framework Convention on Climate Change in New York on Monday to help accelerate the global response to global warming and to build momentum for the major climate change summit to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia. Officials from over 150 nations gathered to discuss strategies for mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses in an effort to develop a blueprint for an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

But on Thursday, Dr Rice stressed that individual “nations should tackle climate change in the ways that they deem best” – marking the Bush administration’s long-standing resistance to mandatory emissions caps articulated by UN protocols.

This approach has been rejected as inadequate to meet the challenges of global warming by most US allies in Europe and around the world. On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel used her address to the UN General Assembly to make clear that individual approaches could “never replace” a binding global UN framework.

“Any contribution from individual or groups of states is welcome,” said Dr Merkel. “However I would like to add most emphatically that such contributions can only complement a post-Kyoto agreement under the auspices of the United Nations. They can never replace it.” She called for global greenhouse gas emissions to be halved by the year 2050.

Defending the progress made under the Bush administration’s approach, which advocates individual voluntary targets, Dr Rice cited “new mandates on renewable fuels and appliance efficiency” in the US and said that “President Bush is working to reduce our gasoline consumption by up to 20 percent in ten years, and to cut greenhouse gases through aggressive new mandatory standards for alternative fuels and improved vehicle efficiency.”

However, the Washington Post was quick to point out on Thursday that the Bush administration had done little to promote these much-touted initiatives and in some cases had strenuously opposed them. In one case, the administration’s repeated delays to set improved energy-efficiency standards for 22 appliances led to a court battle with the Natural Resources Defense Council; under a settlement reached in 2006, the Energy Department is now finalizing these standards. In a separate lawsuit, the NRDC managed to overturn the White House’s previous reversal of strict efficiency standards for air conditioners.

President Bush’s recent endorsement of improved gasoline mileage for cars in the US – announced during his 2007 State of the Union Address – is also some considerable way from being introduced as regulation. And although the Bush administration has voiced support for renewable portfolio standards, which would require utilities to use set levels of renewable energy, it opposes the adoption of nationwide standards.

In December 2006, the US Supreme Court heard its first case dealing with climate change when the state of Massachusetts (and eleven other states, three cities and environmental groups) challenged the US Environmental Protection Agency’s refusal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The EPA maintained that it had no authority or obligation to regulate the emissions and that the science of climate change was “uncertain” – based on a 2001 National Academy of Sciences/National Research Counsel report entitled Climate Change Science.

In that case, the scientists who authored the report hit back with an amicus brief which stated that the EPA has misrepresented their findings. “The science of climate change indicates that it is virtually certain that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities cause global climate changes, endangering human health and welfare,” stated the brief. “There was and is sufficient scientific evidence to enable the EPA to make a determination under the Clean Air Act that greenhouse gas emissions may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”

The Supreme Court recently handed down its decision that the EPA has the authority and responsibility to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

IPCC: Mitigation of Climate Change Summary

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Working Group III report on Friday in Bangkok titled “Mitigation of Climate Change”, which focuses on scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of mitigating climate change.

The report builds on the two previous IPCC reports released this year which confirmed that climate change is “very likely” the result of human activity, and that global warming is already adversely affecting human, animal and plant life.

The Working Group III study identifies the most effective technologies and policies to combat climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the cost of implementing the recommended changes.

Here are the report’s key points, at a glance:

1.         GHG Emission Trends

Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions increased 70% between 1970 and 2004 (24% between 1990 and 2004). Carbon dioxide emissions accounted for 77% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions in 2004, mostly from the energy supply sector. Emissions will continue to increase by 25-90% to the year 2030, with approximately 75% of the projected increase from developing nations.

2.        Mitigation in the short and medium term

Mitigation of global GHG emissions is necessary to offset the growth of emissions or reduce emissions below current levels. A number of currently available mitigation technologies have been identified by sector:

Energy Supply – improved supply and distribution efficiency; fuel switching from coal to gas; nuclear power; renewable heat and power (hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and bioenergy); combined heat and power; early applications of Carbon Capture and Storage

Transport – more fuel efficient vehicles; hybrid vehicles; cleaner diesel vehicles; biofuels; modal shifts from road transport to rail and public transport systems; non-motorized transport (cycling, walking); land-use and transport planning

Buildings – efficient lighting and daylighting; more efficient electrical appliances and heating and cooling devices; improved cook stoves, improved insulation ; passive and active solar design for heating and cooling; alternative refrigeration fluids, recovery and recycle of fluorinated gases

Industry – more efficient end-use electrical equipment; heat and power recovery; material recycling and substitution; control of non-carbon dioxide gas emissions; also a wide array of process-specific technologies

Agriculture – improved crop and grazing land management to increase soil carbon storage; restoration of cultivated peaty soils and degraded lands; improved rice cultivation techniques and livestock and manure management to reduce methane emissions; improved nitrogen fertilizer application techniques to reduce nitrous oxide emissions; dedicated energy crops to replace fossil fuel use; improved energy efficiency

Forestry/forests – afforestation; reforestation; forest management; reduced deforestation; harvested wood product management; use of forestry products for bioenergy to replace fossil fuel use

Waste – landfill methane recovery; waste incineration with energy recovery; composting of organic waste; controlled waste water treatment; recycling and waste minimization

Estimated global costs in the year 2030 have been calculated for least-cost trajectories for a range of stabilization levels from 445-710 CO2 parts per million.

Benefits that may offset mitigation costs include increased energy security, increased agricultural production and reduced pressure on natural ecosystems.

3.        Mitigation in the long term (after 2030)

Mitigation efforts over the next 20-30 years will determine humanity’s ability to achieve lower stabilization levels and avoid the worst affects of climate change.

Lower stabilization levels are best achieved through a system of appropriate and effective incentives for the development, acquisition, deployment and diffusion of technologies and for addressing related barriers.

Economic costs of more rapid emission reductions now need to be balanced against the corresponding medium-term and long-term climate risks of delay.

4.        Policies, measures and instruments to mitigate climate change

National strategies can create incentives for action, and can be evaluated using four main criteria: environmental effectiveness, cost effectiveness, distributional effects (including equity) and institutional feasibility.

The following strategies have been demonstrated as environmentally effective:

Energy Supply

  • reduction of fossil fuel subsidies
  • taxes or carbon charges on fossil fuels
  • feed-in tariffs for renewable energy technologies
  • renewable energy obligations
  • producer subsidies

Transport

  • mandatory fuel economy, biofuel blending and CO2 standards for road transport
  • taxes on vehicle purchase, registration, use and motor fuels, road and parking pricing
  • influence mobility needs through land use regulations and infrastructure planning
  • investment in attractive public transport facilities and non-motorized forms of transport

Buildings

  • appliance standards and labeling
  • building codes and certification
  • demand-side management programs
  • public sector leadership programs, including procurement
  • incentives for energy service companies

Industry

  • provision of benchmark information
  • performance standards
  • subsidies, tax credits
  •  tradable permits
  •  voluntary agreements

Agriculture

  •  improved land management
  •  maintenance of soil carbon content
  •  efficient use of fertilizers and irrigation

Forestry/forests

  •  increase forest area (at the national and international levels)
  •  reduce deforestation
  •  maintain and manage forests
  •  land use regulation and enforcement

Waste Management

  •  improved waste and wastewater management
  •  renewable energy incentives or obligations
  •  waste management regulations

Government support through financial contributions, tax credits, standard setting and market creation is important for effective technology development, innovation and deployment. Transfer of technology to developing countries depends on enabling conditions and financing.

5.        Sustainable development and climate change mitigation

Implementation of sustainable development policies can make a major contribution to climate change mitigation. However, there will be multiple barriers and resources will need to be allocated to assist adaptation.

Decisions concerning macroeconomic policy, agricultural policy, multilateral development bank lending, insurance practices, electricity market reform, energy security and forest conservation can potentially significantly reduce emissions.

Making development more sustainable can enhance both mitigative and adaptive capacity to substantially reduce emissions and vulnerability to climate change.

IPCC AR4 Working Group 3:  http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg3/en/contents.html

Hurricane Forecaster Rejects Human-Induced Global Warming as ‘Foolishness’

The 2007 National Hurricane Conference ended in New Orleans on April 6 with its principal speaker unleashing a fiery indictment of climate change science, the mainstream media and former Vice-President and environmental activist Al Gore.

On the same day that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report, professor of atmospheric science William Gray, a hurricane forecaster at Colorado State University, dismissed the scientific consensus that global warming is a real problem, that it is caused by human activity and that it will lead to more intense storms like Hurricane Katrina.

His speech made headlines around the world and overshadowed a week of courses and workshops on advances in disaster management, public preparedness education and emergency communication systems.

“You’ve heard a lot of foolishness over the last couple years,” said Dr Gray. “I think the whole human-induced greenhouse gas thing is a red herring … I see climate change as due to the ocean circulation pattern.” He believes the earth has been in a natural warming cycle for 30 years owing to fluctuations in ocean currents and that temperatures will cool down in another five to ten years as the currents shift again.

He singled out Mr Gore as a “gross alarmist” and said: “He’s one of these guys that preaches the end of the world type of things. I think he’s doing a great disservice and he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Yet the latter charge is one that Dr Gray has had to increasingly defend because his theories on climate change have isolated him in the scientific community. He no longer receives government grants to conduct his research, and his views are rejected by the overwhelming majority of his peers. His conference speeches are notable for their quotes from Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and science fiction author Michael Crichton, while lacking in references to scientific research.

Critics have said that Dr Gray has not allowed his claims about global warming to be evaluated by the scientific community.  Dr Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology, told the Palm Beach Post that the merits of scientific theories must be tested by being published in leading journals such as Science and Nature, yet “I have not seen any refereed publications written by Bill Gray on this topic during the last few years. Research scientists conduct their exchange of ideas in the peer-reviewed literature and at professional conferences, not through the media.”

Dr Gray also took aim at the news media for reporting the IPCC’s findings, and suggested that the scientific consensus only gets coverage because it “makes a hell of a good story”. On the other hand, media ethics experts insist that it is incumbent on journalists to report evidence-based scientific findings while treating untested fringe theories with caution, which is especially important when science meets politics.

Journalist and author Chris Mooney, who has written extensively on science in politics, has argued in the Columbia Journalism Review that “… scientific consensus can be expected to hold up under scrutiny precisely because it was reached through a lengthy and rigorous process of professional skepticism and criticism. At the very least, journalists covering science-based policy debates should familiarize themselves with this professional proving ground, learn what it says about the relative merits of competing claims, and balance their reports accordingly.”

Politics Watered Down IPCC Climate Report: Scientists

Some scientists who helped produce the latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have said that the science was watered down to appease government representatives involved in approving the final draft of the report.

Even in its softened version, Friday’s report forecasts scenarios over the coming decades that many find unthinkable: three billion people without adequate water supply, agriculture and forests decimated around the globe, melted glaciers and ice sheets, one-third of the world’s species driven to extinction and major global regions ravaged by floods, violent storms and storm surges. The report also forecasts an unprecedented environmental refugee crisis as major populations get displaced.

The report confirmed that the hardest-hit nations will be poor developing countries who lack the resources to adapt to climate change, not the industrialized economies who have produced the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions that led to the crisis. Poor regions within wealthy countries may also be left more vulnerable to climate change.

The future of New Orleans, which was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, may well depend upon federal assistance to construct Category 5 levees and restore the marshlands along Louisiana’s southern coastline.

Owing to the gravity of the findings, and the urgent need for governments to take action, some scientists have found the political interference unacceptable.

“The science got hijacked by the political bureaucrats at the late stage of the game,” said John Walsh, professor of climate change and chief scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ International Arctic Research Center, who co-authored the report’s chapter on polar regions and vowed never to help produce another IPCC report.

The IPCC reports are consensus documents written by the world’s leading climate scientists, yet every effort is made to convince governments around the world to adopt the reports prior to their release. This political reconciliation process has resulted in a softening of some of the scientific findings as drafts are finalized.

Yet other scientists argue that the right balance was struck between science and politics, and that getting governments on-side before the document’s release bolsters the ability of the report to get policy makers to take action to combat climate change.

Joel Smith, former deputy of the US Environmental Protection Agency told the PBS NewsHour, “The report is actually adopted by the governments that participated in this meeting line by line. So they get to work with us on the science. So they can’t just simply say, ‘It is a report of the scientists,’ and walk away from it. They have bought into it.”

Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, agreed with Mr Smith that the political process led to a more effective result. He also emphasized that scientists retained the right of veto.

“It’s informative,” said Professor Oppenheimer on NewsHour. “It lays out for governments, what are the vulnerabilities? Where are there going to be changes that they have to get prepared to be ready to adapt to? Where are there changes to society, like in agriculture or health, that are so threatening, that they ought to cut emissions in order to avoid those sorts of changes?”

In May, the next report of the IPCC will recommend policies and economic measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While the scientific community is all but universally united behind the IPCC consensus, there will almost certainly be further political wrangling before the recommendations are implemented in some countries, including the United States.

Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), former chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and now its ranking Republican, told Fox News, “The IPCC process more closely resembles a Democrat or Republican Party convention platform battle over the specific wording of an issue plank, not a scientific process.” He added, “the latest IPCC summary will surely spawn another round of media alarmism and hype.” Senator Inhofe once famously labeled climate change “the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people”.

Yet the new head of the environment committee, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), hit back: “This powerful report confirms the very real dangers that global warming poses for us all.” Senator Boxer has held six hearings on climate change since taking over the helm in January and has now invited the Bush administration to respond to last week’s US Supreme Court decision that the EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases. It is not yet clear how the Bush administration will respond.

The Bush administration, which has been accused of routinely censoring climate change reports produced by US government scientists, has so far maintained that it will not cap greenhouse gas emissions and will not participate in the Kyoto Protocol. President Bush walked away from the protocol in 2001, saying that it would “wreck” the US economy and was unfair because it did not impose stringent enough controls on developing countries.

Meanwhile, the House Science and Technology Committee will also hold a hearing on April 17 to review the IPCC’s findings. Committee chair Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) said the report packed a “powerful and sobering message” and that governments need to act now to reduce the vulnerability of their most at-risk communities.

“For the first time, the world’s top scientists are able to confidently attribute changes in a wide variety of ecosystems in all parts of the world to human-induced global warming,” said Mr Gordon in a statement. “We can neutralize some of the impact by better adapting our society to these changes. We should identify our vulnerable communities and begin working to reduce these vulnerabilities.”

IPCC: Global Warming Highway to Extinction

Climate change is paving a “highway to extinction” which could see billions of people perish from hunger, malnutrition, disease, extreme weather events, heat-induced stress and lack of drinkable water by the year 2050, according to the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change due to be released in Belgium next Friday.

Climate scientist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in British Columbia told the Associated Press that the report maps out the consequences of climate change degree by degree, as temperatures rise. He said this presents a clear “highway to extinction, but on this highway there are many turnoffs. This is showing you where the road is heading. The road is heading toward extinction.”

Dr Weaver is one of the lead authors of the first IPCC report, issued in February. That report confirmed the strong scientific consensus that climate change is real and is caused by human activity related to greenhouse gas emissions.

If the global temperature rose by 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) up to 1.7 billion people would not have enough water. Infectious diseases and allergenic pollens would also substantially increase, and amphibians would begin to go extinct.

A further increase of 1 degree Celsius would see one-third of the world’s species approach extinction and at least 2 billion people facing death as a result of hunger, malnutrition, disease, extreme weather events, heat-induced stress and lack of drinkable water. Life on the planet would reach this threshold by the year 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions were not reduced substantially.

A further doubling of temperatures would see one-fifth of the world’s population affected by catastrophic flooding, up to 3.2 billion people facing extreme water shortages, and major extinctions around the globe.

Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Environment Program, told Reuters that “We are talking about a potentially catastrophic set of developments.” He believes the public, governments and businesses now realize that the substantive debate is over and that there is overwhelming consensus on climate change in the scientific community.

“We’ve passed the tipping point,” he said. “It’s no longer about whether climate change is happening – but about how we deal with it.” The next report of the IPCC, due out in October 2007, will assess the range of options for limiting greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise mitigating climate change.

Reports of the IPCC draw on the research of 2,500 climate scientists and reviewers. Only conclusions and projections beyond dispute make it into the final drafts of the reports, which are then signed off by more than 120 governments.

A draft of the current IPCC report has been circulated to major media organizations and lists a range of potential climate change related consequences including:

  • vast tracts of low-lying nations, island-states and coastlines around the world being swallowed by rising sea levels;
  • powerful heat waves recurring across the United States;
  • Australia’s Great Barrier Reef being destroyed; and
  • agricultural production plummeting world-wide (after a brief boost in Russia, Canada, New Zealand and Scandinavia).

Despite the dire warnings contained in this second report of the IPCC, scientists remain optimistic that humanity will act on climate change.

Oceanographer James McCarthy of Harvard University, one of the key authors of the current report, is one such optimist. “The worst stuff is not going to happen because we can’t be that stupid,” he told Reuters. “Not that I think the projections aren’t that good, but because we can’t be that stupid.”

IPCC Report, Climate Change and Political Heat

As world leaders and policy makers begin to consider the implications of the report of the UN Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change, details have emerged regarding the behind-the-scenes political maneuvering that took place as the IPCC finalized its conclusions. The political fallout of the report is now beginning to divide the world more sharply into countries willing to commit to agreements to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and polluters who remain resistant to change.  

The IPCC concluded that it is very likely (90% certain) that the build up of heat-trapping GHG emissions is responsible for irreversible global warming. Temperatures will continue to rise by 3.2 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, which will cause sea level rises of 7 to 23 inches – or 21 feet, if Greenland’s ice sheets melt – and more intense tropical storms and hurricanes. Other predictions include hotter days, warmer nights and extended droughts. Climate change is expected to create hundreds of millions of permanently displaced refugees. 

After the IPCC report’s release on Friday, French President Jacques Chirac called for a new world environmental body to co-ordinate efforts to mitigate climate change through binding agreements to reduce GHG emissions, among other methods. He also suggested that the agreements should be enforced and violators punished.  

“Now is not the time for half measures,” said Mr Chirac. “We are in truth on the historical doorstep of the irreversible.” Forty-five (mainly European) nations so far have expressed interest in joining the new group, although not the highest GHG emitters – the US, China and India. President Chirac suggested that such countries could face a carbon tax on exports if they continue to refuse to cap their emissions.

The politics of climate change is by no means limited to governments. One think tank with close ties to the Bush administration has offered scientists $10,000 to attack the IPCC report. The American Enterprise Institute, the ExxonMobile-funded think tank who provided the ideological basis for the US invasion of Iraq, has sent letters to scientists offering payment to those who undermine the report. The AEI’s letter claims that the IPCC is “resistant to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by the analytical work”.  

However, this view does not seem supported by the intensive review process of the IPCC. In keeping with the objective to provide a consensus document on climate change for policy makers, the six-yearly reports are developed through a transparent and inclusive process. This year’s report included 800 contributors whose research was scrutinized by over 2,500 scientific reviewers before being subjected to political review. Governments around the world, including the US, were given early drafts of the report and invited to submit their comments. They also later dispatched delegations to Paris during the weeks leading up to the report’s release. A total of 113 countries signed off on the final document before its release on Friday. 

Predictably, representatives of the world’s major GHG emitters pushed for softer language in the report, while developing nations who stand to be most adversely affected by climate change pushed for stronger language that clearly states the causes and implications of climate change. Indonesia and Africa, for example, are expected to lose thousands of islands to rising sea levels within the next few decades.  

Although the US approved the document in the end, the Bush administration criticized the IPCC report on the grounds that it “tends to overstate or focus on the negative effects of climate change.” The US lobbied hard for the language of the report to be watered down to minimize the role of GHG emissions in climate change and the role of global warming in changes such as the intensification of hurricanes. The US also objects to the IPCC’s position that one of the fundamental weaknesses of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol has been its non-ratification by major GHG emitters such as the US. The Bush administration withdrew from Kyoto in 2001, citing the lack of limits for developing economies such as China and India, also major GHG polluters. 

On Friday, the Bush administration played down the status of the US as the world’s No. 1 polluter, responsible for 25% of all GHG emissions. “We are a small contributor when you look at the rest of the world,” said US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. He confirmed that President Bush remains opposed to capping emissions in the US. 

Meanwhile, the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, called for a summit to encourage world leaders to collaborate efforts to address global warming. He said, “The findings leave no doubt as to the dangers that mankind is facing and must be acted upon without delay.” 

Most climate change scientists agree that the worst-case, long-term scenarios can only be avoided if strong action is taken soon.

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