Worst fears have come true. The much talked about Copenhagen climate summit has produced more gas than substance. Countries remain as divided before on how to curb the growth in greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently so that the world avoids the projected disastrous climate impacts due to global warming.
The three-page face-saving accord that US President Barack Obama negotiated with the leaders of India, China, Brazil and South Africa has not satisfied the majority of the countries belonging to both the developed and developing world.
The accord supposedly makes the following three points:
A commitment from wealthy and key developing nations to limit global warming to 2C. Between $25bn and $30bn in climate funds for poorer nations over the period 2010-12, with an annual sum of $100bn envisaged by 2020. A mechanism to verify each state’s compliance with its commitment to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Obviously, the accord has failed to set a 2010 goal for reaching a binding international treaty to seal the provisions of the accord. The major lacuna of the accord is that it is voluntary.
Two years ago, at the UN climate talks held in Bali, governments agreed to start work on a new global agreement. The Copenhagen talks were supposed to mark the end of that two-year period. Almost every government attending the talks said it wanted a deal; and many contended it is necessary to have the essential ingredients in place by the time the
Kyoto Protocol’s current targets expire in 2012.
The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997, was rejected by the United States on the ground that its targets for reducing emissions applied only to a small set of countries. Only the European Union (EU) countries and Japan were its great votaries.
In fact, the EU has served as the de facto leader on climate change for the past several years, imposing a unilateral target to decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and laying out concrete measures for reaching this target. However, the EU is only responsible for 14 percent of global GHG emissions.
Be that as it may, it was expected that the Copenhagen agreement should be bigger, bolder, wider ranging and more sophisticated than the Kyoto agreement. In June, the G8 and a number of large developing countries had agreed that the average temperature rise since pre-industrial times should be limited to 2C (3.6F), although a number of countries most vulnerable to climate change, including small island states, believed that the average temperature rise should be limited to 1.5C (2.7F). But that hope has been belied.
Broadly speaking, the differences among the nations have been over the following: Who should cut emissions most? How much “green” technology should be transferred? Who should sponsor the costs and by how much? The developing countries demand that the United States and other developed countries bear the greatest responsibility in cutting emissions.
Climate Change Conundrum
What happened at Copenhagen summit is not surprising. But the political dynamics post-Copenhagen will be more interesting to observe. In the coming years leading to 2012, the spotlight will continue to fall on the US, China and India, who, going by the current trends, will account for half of the world’s carbon emissions by 2015. The debate will intensify and veer around contentious words like “commitment” Vs “mandatory”. China and India will stick as long as possible to their position of “allowance” as part of the developing countries need for economic growth and in so doing challenge any “mandatory” measures.
India will also voice for clean technology transfer in the energy sector without any riders and articulate the “per capita emission” line , which has become a principle position. It is a position well articulated. The US per capita emission is 20 tonnes, while India’s is less than one. Similarly, while China has overtaken the US as the world’s biggest polluter, its per head pollution is lower than that of the US. The ‘per head’ and ‘per capita’ emission is a necessary argument for both China and India to continue with their economic growth and stall any mandatory stipulation.
Political considerations are important to the climate change debate. Despite the realisation that the two halves of this world live in the same planet and that neither one can survive without the other, power politics will continue to reign supreme on climate change policies. For example, on the issue of carbon trading mechanism, the US strongly feels that a significant portion of emission cuts should be granted to those industrialised countries that back cleanup projects in the developing countries. The developing countries, in spite of the fact that there are safeguards in the ‘trading’ of emissions, would still be wary of the developed countries diktats. In the end, the whole issue underlines a critical fact climate change is a political issue. This when interacted with territorial dispute, conflicting views and interests on trade and differing security perception will often act as a hindrance to a collective approach on carbon emission.
Over the period of time leading to the Copenhagen summit, there emerged three loosely structured blocks of states with their own mix of concerns and actions on climate change. These blocks will continue to steer the debate. First is the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). These groups of island are living in constant fear of rising sea levels and large submergence of the coastal line. For these states articulating and pushing strongly for ecological effectiveness is critical. They also need strong
supporting partners to build an effective international constituency. The EU is the closest to supporting the Island states and in the climate change groupings have come together as one voice pushing for “ecological effectiveness”.
The second group is the OPEC and various industrialized countries who form another cluster of interest and concerns. This fossil-driven economy group has reasons to be inward looking and protectionist. The group is essentially structured around economic ramifications that climate change will bring forth and fear of an international regime putting stringent conditions on carbon emissions. This group will seek a way forward by intensifying research and development into creating carbon “sinks” to soak up carbon dioxide emissions and thereby protect the fossil-based industry. Such groups are seeking “economic effectiveness”.
The thirds group are the developing countries who will increasingly converge together on the principled position of right to develop, right to utilize resources and not be penalized.
It is the quintessential North-South debate based on a strong developing world advocacy that they are owed an incalculable ecological, social and economic debt by the industrialised developed countries. The ecological debt also includes the illegitimate appropriation of the atmosphere and the planet’s absorption capacity by the industrialised countries. They will continue to seek “social justice and equity”.
It can be observed through these groupings that interests and influences are in constant interface with climate change. As the political profile of climate change gets stronger, the impact of climate politics will intensify. Responses are invariably going to create fissures with the developing countries finding themselves, most of time, in difficult position. For example with the increase use of tropical biofuels and large-scale purchasing of forest carbon sinks can directly impact subsistence farmers and forest users off their land and livelihood. Commercial interest driven by carbon markets has the potential to create societal wedge. Such arguments are built up as a countervailing force in the political economy of climate change which is less to do with trade liberalization than resonance and power.
In the two decade or so of international understanding on climate change one has seen a primacy on “economic effectiveness” and therefore a dominance of the industrialized countries in the negotiation process. However, as the outcome of the Copenhagen summit indicates, this necessarily will not determine the future course of action on climate change.
The worldwide spread of marketised economic development (globalization) has resulted in a reconfiguration of global order. The shifts in economic power are fast translating into political and military power. A significant expression of such changes is the G5 (Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa). This non-western-non-industrialised group, widely described as the “rise of the rest” potentially challenges the economic dominance of the west, at times beating it and changing the rules along the way. The G5 can break away and regroup with other states. For example, BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which analysts at Goldman and Sachs predict , by 2050, will have a larger combined economic output than today’s G7. Even BASIC (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) can become an important forum and redefine its role based on carbon emission and developmental strategies.
With power quite diffused and the emergence of many competing states, the possibility of such groupings can become an important counterweight to the future negotiation process on climate change. Such groups, in spite of differing values pulling them apart, will be drawn by climate change interests that will push them to relationships and even political partnership.
The rules of the games are already changing in the climate change negotiation process. With such strategic shifts and consequent reconfiguration of the international order, climate change has the potential to become a centre point of convergence that may herald a new era in climate change multilateral arrangements something like the Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate, which was formulated in 2005. Members countries include Australia, China, India, Japan, Republic of Korea and the US.
The potential consequences of BASIC alliances of developing countries coalescing around carbon emissions and articulating a multilateral arrangement on restricting emission rather than reducing emission will add a new dimension to the international regime on climate change. A thrust towards a ‘south-south’ cooperation will equally gain momentum with BASIC countries coming to the forefront on climate change mitigation, nuclear energy, clean coals and renewable.
By Uttam Kumar Sinha
(The author is Research fellow at IDSA)
Their position is that developed countries created the problems of the deteriorating global environment through the modernization of their economies, and therefore should make the greatest sacrifices to correct the problems. On the other hand, developing countries still face the task of building their economies to ensure a decent lifestyle for their people. Many of these countries are still dealing with such basic problems as lack of food, lack of water and poor infrastructure.
Also, most developing countries lack the necessary technologies and financial resources to meet the emissions standards set for them. Therefore they have no choice but to continue their traditional ways of obtaining energy and traditional methods of providing for their people’s livelihoods.
A GLOBAL WARNING ON GLOBAL WARMING
Lt Col Retd Ashok Kini H
Land temperatures have increased since 1979 about twice as fast as ocean temperatures (0.25oC per decade as against 0.13oC per decade). Ocean temperatures increase more slowly than land temperatures because of the larger effective heat capacity of the oceans and because the ocean loses more heat by evaporation. The Northern Hemisphere warms faster than the Southern Hemisphere because it has more land and because it has extensive areas of seasonal snow and sea-ice cover subject to the ice-albedo feedback. Although more greenhouse gases are emitted in the Northern than Southern Hemisphere, this does not contribute to the difference in warming because the major greenhouse gases persist long enough to mix between hemispheres.
The process by which absorption and emission of infrared radiation by gases in the atmosphere warm a planet’s lower atmosphere and surface is called greenhouse effect. It was discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824 and was first investigated quantitatively by Svante Arrhenious in 1896.
Naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33oC (59oF). The major greenhouse gases are water vapour, which causes about 36-70 per cent of the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9026 per cent; methane (CH4), which causes 4 -9 per cent and ozone (O3), which causes 3-7 per cent. Clouds also affect the radiation balance, but they are composed of liquid water or ice and so are considered separately from water vapour and other gases. Global dimming, a gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earth’s surface, has partially counteracted global warming from 1960 to the present. The main cause of this dimming is aerosols produced by volcanoes and pollutants. These aerosols exert a cooling effect by increasing the reflection of incoming sunlight.
James Hansen and colleagues have proposed that the effects of the products of fossil fuel combustion–CO2 and aerosols–have largely offset one another in recent decades, so that net warming has been driven mainly by non-CO2 greenhouse gases. Variations in solar output have been the cause of past climate changes. Although solar heating is generally thought to be too small to account for a significant part of global warming in recent decades, a few studies disagree, such as a recent phenomenological analysis that indicates the contribution of solar forcing may be underestimated.
Greenhouse gases and solar forcing affect temperatures in different ways. While both increased solar activity and increased greenhouse gases are expected to warm the troposphere, an increase in solar activity should warm the stratosphere while an increase in greenhouse gases should cool the stratosphere. Observations show that temperatures in the stratosphere have been steady or cooling since 1979, when satellite measurements became available. Radiosonde (weather balloon) data from the pre-satellite era show cooling since 1958, though there is greater uncertainty in the early radiosonde record. Global warming is
the increase in the average temperature of the earth’s near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation.
Global surface temperature increased 0.74-0.18oC (1.33-0.32oF) during the last century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations resulting from human activities such as fossil fuel burning and deforestation caused most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century.
An increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts. The continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice is expected, with warming being strongest in the Arctic. Other likely effects include increases in the intensity of extreme weather events, species extinctions, and changes in agricultural yields.
If the atmosphere is warmed, the saturation vapour pressure increases, and the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere warm further; this warming causes the atmosphere to hold still more water vapour (a positive feedback), and so on until other processes stop the feedback loop. The result is a much larger greenhouse effect than that due to CO2 alone.
Warming is expected to change the distribution and type of clouds. Seen from below, clouds emit infrared radiation back to the surface, and so exert a warming effect; seen from above, clouds reflect sunlight and emit infrared radiation to space, and so exert a cooling effect. Whether the net effect is warming or cooling depends on details such as the type and altitude of the cloud. These details were poorly observed before the advent of satellite data and are difficult to represent in climate models.
Release of gases of biological origin may be affected by global warming, but research into such effects is at an early stage. Some of these gases, such as Nitrous oxide released from peat, directly affect climate. Others, such as Dimethyl sulfide released from oceans, have indirect effects. A 2001 report by the IPCC suggests that glaciers retreat, ice shelf disruption such as that of the Larsen Ice Shelf, sea level rise, changes in rainfall patterns, and increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events are attributable in part to global warming. Other expected effects include water scarcity in some regions and increased precipitation in others, changes in mountain snow pack, and some adverse health effects from warmer temperatures.
The Tibetan plateau contains the world’s third-largest store if ice. Qin Dahe, the former head of the China Meteorological Administration, said that the recent fast pace of melting and warmer temperatures will be good for agriculture and tourism in the short term, but issued a strong warning: “Temperatures are rising four times faster than elsewhere in China, and the Tibetan glaciers are retreating at a higher speed than in any other part of the world. In the short term, this will cause lakes to expand and bring floods and mudflows. In the long run, the glaciers are vital lifelines for Asian rivers, including the Indus and the Gangas. Once they vanish, water supplies in those regions will be in peril.”
According to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), economic sectors likely to face difficulties related to climate change include banks, agriculture, transport and others. Developing countries dependent upon agriculture will be particularly harmed by global warming.
The broad agreement among climate scientists is that global temperatures will continue to increase has led some nations, states, corporations and individuals to implement responses. These responses to global warming can be divided into mitigation of the causes and effects of global warming, adaptation to the changing global environment, and geo-engineering to reverse global warming.
Mitigation of global warming is accomplished through reductions in the rate of anthropogenic greenhouse gas release. Models suggest that mitigation can quickly begin to slow global warming, but that temperatures will appreciably decrease only after several centuries. The world’s primary international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the Kyoto Protocol, an amendment to the UNFCCC negotiated in 1997. The Protocol now covers more than 160 countries and over 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. As of June 2009, only the Unites States, historically the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, has refused to ratify the treaty. The treaty expires in 2012.
The future impacts of climate change, identified by the Government of India’s National Communications (NATCOM) says:
- Decreased snow cover, affecting snow-fed and glacial systems such as the Ganges and Bramhaputra. 70% of the summer flow of the Ganges comes from meltwater
- Erratic monsoon with serious effects on rain-fed agriculture, peninsular rivers, water and power supply
- Drop in wheat production by 4-5 million tones, with even a 1ºC rise in temperature
- Rising sea levels causing displacement along one of the most densely populated coastlines in the world, threatened freshwater sources and mangrove ecosystems
- Increased frequency and intensity of floods. Increased vulnerability of people in coastal, arid and semi-arid zones of the country
- Studies indicate that over 50% of India’s forests are likely to experience shift in forest types, adversely impacting associated biodiversity, regional climate dynamics as well as livelihoods based on forest products.
In other words, without help from the developed countries, they simply cannot deal with the problem of global warming. Since the developed countries have already completed this stage of their modernization without concern for its environmental impact, the developing countries feel they bear inescapable responsibility for helping those who lag behind.
As for the developed countries, they foresee that the growth of the developing countries will increase their emissions and further accelerate global warming. They especially feel that some developing countries, including China, India, Brazil and Russia, have made great progress in developing their economies and therefore should not ask for financial or technological assistance, while they should do more at cutting emissions.
In short, the main areas of disagreement are the following:
- The amount by which developed countries must cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
- How much effort developing countries should make to curb their emissions
- Procedures for monitoring and verifying each country’s emissions
- Whether countries should be legally bound to meet emission reduction targets
- The amount of money developed countries should transfer to developing countries, to help them curb emissions and adapt to the effect of climate change
- The mechanism for transferring this money, and how it should be raised
- The future of the Kyoto Protocol – whether it should be part of the Copenhagen deal, or replaced by it
- How many degrees of warming, above pre-industrial levels, should be regarded as the acceptable maximum
While each country has plenty of reasons to defend its arguments, for the most part its own national interests were foremost in the minds of the national leaders in Copenhagen. Naturally, it was the politics, rather than the environmental concerns, that dominated the show.
In the following pages, we present various dimensions of the issue…
THE OTHER VIEW
On November 10, 2009, Kenneth P. Green, a leading American scholar affiliated to American Enterprise Institute(AEI) was invited to testify before the US Senate Committee on Finance about global warming. A summary of his testimony appears below. During the course of his testimony, Former Vice President and Senator and Nobel laurite John Kerry, a leading architect of the emerging global consensus view through Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that greenhouse gas emissions will cause devastating consequences, and that there must be a limit to their emissions radical, asked Green a number of questions about the science of global warming. Some of his responses are printed here.
In a recently published article, Richard S. Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi[On the Determination of Climate Feedbacks from ERBE Data,” Geophysical Research Letters 36, no. 16 (August 2009)] use data from NASA’s Earth Radiation Budget Experiment to assess the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases. In this article, they demonstrate empirically that the climate sensitivity to a doubling of greenhouse gases is only about 0.5 degrees Celsius, one-sixth of the IPCC estimate of 3 degrees Celsius.
Another study by Roy W. Spencer and William D. Braswell[Roy W. Spencer and William D. Braswell, “Potential Biases in Feedback Diagnosis from Observations Data: A Simple Model Demonstration,”
Journal of Climate 21 (November 2008): 5,624-28.] also examines the data from NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System satellites. It concludes that “eight years of the latest NASA satellite measurements of variations in both the Earth’s radiative budget, and in lower atmospheric temperature, suggest two important conclusions related to the global warming issue. The first is that the sensitivity of the climate system is much lower than the IPCC climate models suggest; that is, the climate system is dominated by negative feedbacks.” Spencer and Braswell also conclude that “taken together, these results suggest that the IPCC’s claim that global warming is mostly man-made is, at best, premature.”
A study by Nicola Scafetta and Richard C. Willson[Nicola Scafetta and Richard C. Willson, “ACRIM-Gap and TSI Trend Issue Resolved Using a Surface Magnetic Flux TSI Proxy Model,” Geophysical Research Letters 36 (March 2009): doi:10.1029/2008GL036307.] examines data regarding changes in total solar irradiance (TSI), concluding: “This finding has evident repercussions for climate change and solar physics. Increasing TSI between 1980 and 2000 could have contributed significantly to global warming during the last three decades. . . . Current climate models . . . have assumed that the TSI did not vary significantly during the last 30 years and have therefore underestimated the solar contribution and overestimated the anthropogenic contribution to global warming.” If the warming of the last three decades has been driven by increases in solar output, it cannot also have been driven by human greenhouse gas emissions. This suggests that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have a low sensitivity value.
After studying satellite and radiosonde (weather balloon) data, John D. McLean, Chris R. de Freitas, and Robert M. Carter[John D. McLean, Chris R. de Freitas, and Robert M. Carter, “Influence of the Southern Oscillation on Tropospheric Temperature,” Journal of Geophysical Research 114 (July 2009): doi:10.1029/2008JD011637] concluded that ocean patterns dominate climate change in the tropics. They write, “Overall the results suggest that the Southern Oscillation exercises a consistently dominant influence on mean global temperature, with a maximum effect in the tropics, except for periods when equatorial volcanism causes ad hoc cooling. That mean global tropospheric temperature has for the last 50 years fallen and risen in close accord with the SOI [Southern Oscillation Index] of 5-7 months earlier shows the potential of natural forcing mechanisms to account for most of the temperature variation.”
In another study, Petr Chylek and Ulrike Lohmann[Petr Chylek and Ulrike Lohmann, “Aerosol Radiative Forcing and Climate Sensitivity Deduced from the Last Glacial Maximum to Holocene Transition,” Geophysical Research Letters 35 (February 2008), doi:10.1029/2007GL032759] “use the temperature, carbon dioxide, methane, and dust concentration record from the Vostok ice core to deduce the aerosol radiative forcing during the Last Glacial Maximum to Holocene transition and the climate sensitivity.” Their research “suggests a 95% likelihood of warming between 1.3 and 2.3 K due to doubling of atmospheric concentration of CO2.” (A degree Kelvin [K] is equal to a degree Celsius [C].) These values are considerably lower than the sensitivity values estimated by the IPCC.
In another study,[ Petr Chylek, Ulrike Lohmann, Manvendra Dubey, Micael Mishchenko, Ralph Kahn, and Atsumu Ohmura, “Limits on Climate Sensitivity Derived from Recent Satellite and Surface Observations,” Journal of Geophysical Research 112 (December 2007), doi:10.1029/2007JD008740.] the authors use satellite and surface temperature observations to study the effect of aerosols on climate and to examine climate sensitivity. They find “that the climate sensitivity is reduced by at least a factor of 2 when direct and indirect effects of decreasing aerosols are included, compared to the case where the radiative forcing is ascribed only to increases in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.”
Sherwood B. Idso[Sherwood B. Idso, “CO2-Induced Global Warming: A Skeptic’s View of Potential Climate Change,” Climate Research 10 (1998): 69-82.] reviews various “natural experiments” that can reveal how sensitive the climate is to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases and concludes: “Over the course of the past 2 decades, I have analyzed a number of natural phenomena that reveal how Earth’s near-surface air temperature responds to surface radiative perturbations. These studies all suggest that a 300 to 600 ppm [parts per million] doubling of the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration could raise the planet’s mean surface air temperature by only about 0.4°C. Even this modicum of warming may never be realized, however, for it could be negated by a number of planetary cooling forces that are intensified by warmer temperatures and by the strengthening of biological processes that are enhanced by the same rise in atmospheric CO2 concentration that drives the warming. Several of these cooling forces have individually been estimated to be of equivalent magnitude, but of opposite sign, to the typically predicted greenhouse effect of a doubling of the air’s CO2 content, which suggests to me that little net temperature change will ultimately result from the ongoing buildup of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere.”
Many other studies challenging various elements of the “consensus” that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are causing, or will cause, catastrophic climate change can be found at the website www.populartechnology.net, which boasts 450 peer-reviewed publications challenging different elements of the “climate crisis” paradigm that both Kerry and former vice president Al Gore wholeheartedly endorse.
A CLIMATE-GATE ?
A coordinated campaign to hide scientific information about climate change appears unprecedented. Could it wind up costing us trillions?
Science depends on good quality of data. It also relies on replication and sharing data. But the last couple of months have uncovered some shocking revelations. Computer hackers have obtained 160 megabytes of e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England. These e-mails, which have now been confirmed as real, involved many researchers across the globe with ideologically similar advocates around the world. They were brazenly discussing the destruction and hiding of data that did not support global warming claims. The academics here also worked closely with the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Professor Phil Jones, the head of the Climate Research Unit, and Professor Michael Mann at Pennsylvania State
University, who has been an important scientist in the climate debate, have come under particular scrutiny. Among his e-mails, Professor Jones talks to Professor Mann about the “trick of adding in the real temps to each series…to hide the decline [in temperature].” Professor Mann admitted that this was the exchange that he had and explained to the New York Times that “scientists often used the word ‘trick’ to refer to a good way to solve a problem, ‘and not something secret.'” While the New York Times apparently buys this explanation, it is hard to see the explanation for “to hide the decline.”
And there is a lot more. In another exchange, Professor Jones tells Professor Mann: “If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone” and “We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind.” Professor Jones further urges Professor Mann to join him in deleting e-mail exchanges about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s controversial assessment report: “Can you delete any e-mails you may have had with Keith re: [the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report]?” In another e-mail, Professor Jones told Professor Mann and Professor Malcolm Hughes at the University of Arizona and Raymond S. “Ray” Bradley at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst: “I’m getting hassled by a couple of people to release the CRU station temperature data. Don’t any of you three tell anybody that the UK has a Freedom of Information Act!”
Professor Jones complains to another academic: “I did get an e-mail from the FOI person here early yesterday to tell me I shouldn’t be deleting e-mails” and “IPCC is an international organization, so is above any national FOI. Even if UEA holds anything about IPCC, we are not obliged to pass it on.” We only have e-mails from Professor Jones’ institution, and, with his obvious approach to delete files; we have no idea what damaging information has been lost.
Another professor at the Climate Research Unit, Tim Osborn, discusses in e-mails how truncating a data series can hide a cooling trend that would otherwise be seen in the results. Professor Mann sent Professor Osborn an e-mail saying that the results he is sending shouldn’t be shown to others because the results support critics of global warming. Time after time the discussions refer to hiding or destroying data.
Other global warming advocates also privately acknowledge what they won’t concede publicly, that temperature changes haven’t been consistent with their models. Dr. Kevin Trenberth, the head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and prominent man-made global warming advocate, wrote in an e-mail: “The fact is we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”
There were also been discussions to silence academic journals that publish research skeptical of significant man-made global warming. Professor Mann wrote: “I think we have to stop considering ‘Climate Research’ as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal.” Other emails refer to efforts to exclude contrary views from publication in scientific journals.
This episode proves the point that over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for anyone who does not view global warming as an end-of-the-world issue to publish papers. This isn’t questionable practice, this is unethical.
The New York Times argues: “The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.” — This from the same news organization that regularly publishes classified government documents! Yet, these e-mails were covered by England’s Freedom of Information Act and should have been released when they were requested. Hiding data, destroying information, and doctoring their results raise real questions about many American academics at universities such as Pennsylvania State University, University of Arizona, and University of Massachusetts at Amherst. When at all possible available data must be shared.
Usually academic research is completely ignored by the general public but in this case proposed regulations, costing trillions of dollars, are being based on many of these claimed research results. This coordinated campaign to hide scientific information appears unprecedented.
By Upali Aparajeeta Rath
Copenhagen Is About Carbon, Not Climate
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore may have lost his bid for the U.S. presidency, but he did beat current President Barack Obama into the Nobel laureates’ club as the 2007 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of climate change awareness.
He is also on track to become a “carbon billionaire” by investing in companies that will see revenue and profits zoom as a direct consequence of the carbon-specific measures that he champions.
Watching television channels or reading the world’s major newspapers, one may be forgiven for thinking that it is the carbon generated by manufacturing and transport that is causing global warming. But such a view would be false. Actually, it is the so-called “carbon equivalents,” primarily methane, that are responsible for much of the current increases in greenhouse gases.
The human diet is an important reason why so much methane is being generated. Each kilogram of beef uses up about 10 pounds of grain, not to mention 2,500 gallons of potable water. Lamb is even more wasteful of these precious substances than beef. Livestock developed for food consume seven times more grain than the human population of the United States, for example.
There is on average about 30 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent released by every kilogram of beef consumed, even before more energy is expended in cooking the meat. This makes the world’s livestock industry a much more deadly emitter of greenhouse gases than the much-discussed transportation industry. Hence, a true carbon warrior must do more than just cancel a flight now and then and switch to videoconferencing; it would be better to switch from meat to a vegetarian diet.
Understandably, this is an aspect of global warming that Al Gore has been reluctant to touch upon, even though it has been placed at the core of climate concerns by R.K. Pachauri, who headed the U.N. Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change before relocating to Columbia University in New York. This is not surprising given the propensity for consuming meat in Al Gore’s social milieu, as opposed to the vegetarian-friendly ethos of Pachauri’s social background.
Amazingly, even as non-carbon emissions are expected to double by 2050 from their already dangerous levels, the focus at Copenhagen will only be on carbon. Of course this will translate into substantial business for nuclear and other non-coal and oil energy technologies.
In fact, the planting of trees on land and the introduction of fresh seaweed into the oceans would together ensure a much greater positive effect on the environment than the measly caps on carbon emissions being discussed at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Trees would convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, while seaweed would in like fashion increase the capacity of the oceans to absorb carbon.
At present, this capacity is nearing its saturation point, as evidenced by the accelerating extinction of soft-shelled sea creatures unable to survive in their carbon-suffused ocean habitat.
However, neither planting trees nor filling the oceans with seaweed would generate corporate profits on the scale of nuclear power plants and expensive “green” technologies.
Currently hundreds of millions of well-fed livestock, awaiting their turn at ending up on the dinner table, coexist with nearly 2 billion people living at or near starvation levels. It seems the Nobel Committee was unaware of this fact when it sanctified the “only carbon matters” stance of Al Gore with the Peace Prize.
Such a narrow approach serves an agenda that uses climate change as an excuse for protectionism by seeking to penalize countries such as India through “green” tariffs, while ignoring the huge increases in greenhouse gases caused by sports utility vehicles and meat-based lifestyles that are unsustainable for the planet.
In other words, the Copenhagen debate has been structured in such a way as to penalize the poorest on the planet and ensure the continued lifestyle of the richest surely an adequate justification for yet another Nobel Peace Prize.
In the field of nuclear energy the United States is the laggard among the developed countries, not having put up a power plant for more than three decades. However, the Obama administration is prodding India to spend US$12 billion on nuclear reactors from U.S.-based companies that would use these orders to refine their rusty technologies. Any safety lapses or other problems in the plants supplied to India would be the responsibility of the local economy and population under the liability-limiting clauses favored by the Obama administration.
And it is not just nuclear energy. A host of so-called “green technologies” are being offered by corporations in the developed world, even though far less expensive alternatives of adaptation and modernization of traditional technologies might prove more effective. At one-tenth the cost of these new technologies, countries such as India, China, Indonesia and Egypt could set up adaptation centers to create technology that meets the requirements of the poorer countries. However, such a policy alternative is unlikely to be discussed at Copenhagen
What is needed is a comprehensive evaluation of climate change that factors in both carbon and carbon equivalents. Both in Siberia and the Arctic the melting of the permafrost is resulting in high levels of greenhouse gas-producing methane being released into the atmosphere. Similar damage is being caused by livestock.
An intensive effort should be coordinated worldwide to hunt for existing technologies that provide local solutions and can be adapted for other regions. Choking off incremental industrial expansion in China or India is not going to save the planet, unless this is supplemented with programs of tree planting and seaweed seeding of the oceans; and unless the biggest per capita carbon emitters in the world switch to a more rational lifestyle.
Obama needs to speak for humanity as a whole, not only for a handful of countries and corporations, if he wants Copenhagen to be a climate summit and not just a carbon summit. Of course, the latter would see a large number of the already well-heeled smiling all the way to the bank, while the former would merely ensure that several hundred million people are rescued from starvation.
The outlook for a real climate summit is never hopeful, however, given that the organisers were holding the meeting in one of the most expensive and high per-capita carbon-emitting cities in the world, and that this did not seem to be much on their minds as they settled into their luxury suites in the Danish capital.
By MD Nalapat
ENVIRONMENTAL WISDOM IN ANCIENT INDIA
Long before ecology became the refrain of the global song at Stockholm and Rio, the ancient Indic heritage had already provided a spacious spiritual home for the environmental ethos. In the West, the term ‘ecology’ was coined only in the latter half of the 19th century from the Greek word Oikos, meaning ‘home’. But India has, throughout trackless centuries, provided an ample expanse of friendly space for an open and ongoing discourse of ideas. The Jain, Vedic and Buddhist traditions established the principles of ecological harmony centuries ago – not because the world was perceived as heading for an imminent environmental disaster or destruction, nor because of any immediate utilitarian exigency, but through its quest for spiritual and physical symbiosis, synthesized in a system of ethical awareness and moral responsibility, wrote late LM Singhvi, the eminent author and jurist. We reproduce excerpts from the essay he wrote.
The ancient sacred literature of the Vedas enshrines a holistic and poetic cosmic vision. They represent the oldest, the most carefully nurtured, the most elaborately systematized and the most lovingly preserved oral tradition in the annals of the world. Unique in their perspective of time and space, their evocative poetry is a joyous and spontaneous affirmation of life and nature.
The Vedic Hymn to the Earth, the Prithvi Sukta in Atharva Veda, is unquestionably the oldest and the most evocative environmental invocation. In it, the Vedic seer solemnly declares the enduring filial allegiance of humankind to Mother Earth: ‘Mata Bhumih Putroham Prithivyah: Earth is my mother, I am her son.’ Mother Earth is celebrated for all her natural bounties and particularly for her gifts of herbs and vegetation. Her blessings are sought for prosperity in all endeavours and fulfilment of all righteous aspirations. A covenant is made that humankind shall secure the Earth against all environmental trespass and shall never let her be oppressed. A soul-stirring prayer is sung in one of the hymns for the preservation and conservation of hills, snow-clad mountains, and all brown, black and red earth, unhurt, unsmitten, unwounded, unbroken and well defended by Indra.
The Hymn says, in prayerful thanksgiving and homage: Earth in which lie the sea, the river and other waters, in which food and cornfields have come to be, in which lives all that breathes and that moves, May she confer on us the finest of her yield. Earth, in which the waters, common to all, moving on all sides, flow unfailingly, day and night, may she pour on us milk in many streams, and endow us with lustre. May those born of thee, O Earth, be for our welfare, free from sickness and waste. Wakeful through a long life, we shall become bearers of tribute to thee. Earth, my mother, set me securely with bliss in full accord with
heaven, O wise one, uphold me in grace and splendour.
The Vedic seers regarded the Earth as ‘sacred space’ for the consecrated endeavours and aspirations of humankind and for the practice of restraint and responsibility. This affirmative view of the inviolable sacred space in human consciousness is integral to the Vedas and the Upanishads. On it rests the Vedic vision of a world filled with the purity of the spiritual environment and the sanctity of environmental spirituality and morality. Such a world can only be sustained by ‘Satyam Brhat Rtam Ugram’, the severely exacting discipline of truth, harmony and rectitude, based on a conception of cosmic and comprehensive peace as envisioned in the famous Vedic Hymn of Peace:
We invoke and imbibe Aum, the primordial sound of cosmic Harmony and pray for: Peace and Harmony in Heaven; Peace and Harmony in the Sky and on the Earth; Peace and Harmony in the Waters; Peace and Harmony in the Herbs, the Vegetation and the Forests; Peace and Harmony among the Peoples and the Rulers of the World; Peace and Harmony in Spiritual Quest and Realization; Peace and Harmony for one and all; Peace and Harmony Everywhere and in Every Thing; Peace, True and Real Peace, Let that Peace repose in my inner space, Peace of Peace, Everlasting Peace, We pray for Peace.
The ecological philosophy of Jainism, flowing from its spiritual quest, has always been central to its ethics, aesthetics, art, literature, economics and statecraft. It is virtually synonymous with the principle of Ahimsa (Non-violence) which runs through the Jain tradition like a golden thread. Lord Mahavira said: ‘There is nothing so small and subtle as the atom, nor any element so vast as space. Similarly, there is no quality of soul more subtle than non-violence and no virtue of spirit greater than reverence for life.’
Compassion and reverence for life are the sheet-anchor of the Jain quest for peace, harmony and rectitude, based on spiritual and physical symbiosis and a sense of responsibility and restraint. The term Ahimsa is stated in the negative (a = non, himsa = violence), but it is rooted in a host of positive aims and actions which have great relevance to contemporary environmental concerns. It is a principle of compassion and responsibility, which should be practised not only towards human beings, but towards all animals and nature. The Jain scriptures tell us: ‘The Arhats (Venerable ones) of the past, present and future discourse, counsel, proclaim, propound and prescribe thus in unison: Do not injure, abuse or press, enslave, insult, torment, torture and kill any creature or any living being.’
Compassion and non-violence are the basis of the ancient Jain scriptural aphorism Parasparopagraho Jivanam (all life is bound together by the mutual support of interdependence). Lord Mahavira proclaimed a profound ecological truth: ‘One who neglects or disregards the existence of earth, air, fire, water and vegetation disregards his own existence which is entwined with them.’
Humanity’s ethical responsibility
In Jain evolutionary theory all souls are equal but are bound by varying amounts of asravas (karmic particles), reflected in the type of body they inhabit. The lowest form of physical bodies, like those of trees and vegetation, have only the sense of touch, yet are able to experience pleasure and pain, and have souls. Mahavira thought that only the one who understood the grave demerit and detriment caused by the destruction of plants and trees could also understand the meaning and merit of reverence for nature. (Even metals and stones might have life in them and should not be dealt with recklessly.) Above these forms of life are micro-organisms and small animals with two, three or four senses. The highest grade of animals, and human beings, also possess
rationality and intuition. As a highly evolved form of life, human beings have a great moral responsibility in their mutual dealings and in their relationship with the rest of the universe. It is this conception of life and its eternal coherence, in which humans have an inescapable ethical responsibility, that made the Jain tradition a cradle for the creed of environmental protection and harmony.
The Jain code of conduct is profoundly ecological. Transgressions against the vow of non-violence include all forms of cruelty to animals and human beings. Many centuries ago, Jains condemned as evil the common practice of animal sacrifices to the gods. It is generally forbidden to keep animals in captivity, to whip, mutilate or overload them or to deprive them of adequate food and drink. Domestic animals may be roped, or even whipped occasionally, but always mercifully, with due consideration and without anger. Except for allowing themselves the judicious use of one-sensed life in the form of vegetables, Jains would not consciously take any life for food or sport. They are strict vegetarians, consuming neither meat, nor fish, nor eggs.
By taking the basic vows, the Jain laity endeavour to live a life of moderation and restraint and to practice a measure of abstinence and austerity. They must not procreate indiscriminately lest they overburden the universe and its resources. Regular periods of fasting for self-purification are encouraged. In their use of the Earth’s resources, Jains take their cue from ‘the bee that sucks honey in the blossoms of a tree without hurting the blossom and strengthening itself’. Wants should be reduced, desires curbed and consumption levels kept within reasonable limits. Using any resource beyond one’s needs or the misuse of any part of nature, is considered a form of theft. Indeed, the Jain faith declares unequivocally that waste and creating pollution are acts of violence. Accumulation of possessions and enjoyment for personal ends should be minimized. Wealth creation must have a philanthropic goal. Giving charitable donations and time generously for community projects is an obligation. It is this sense of social obligation that has led the Jains to found and maintain innumerable schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, lodging houses, hostels, orphanages and relief and rehabilitation camps for the handicapped, old, sick and disadvantaged, as well as hospitals for ailing birds and animals. Wealthy individuals are advised to recognize that beyond a certain point their wealth is superfluous to their needs and that they should manage the surplus as trustees for social benefit.
In The Buddhist Declaration on Nature, The Venerable Lungrig Namgyal Rinpoche, Abbot of Gyuto Tantrik University, quotes Lord Buddha Himself: ‘Because the cause was there, the consequences followed; because the cause is there, effects will follow.’ He concludes that these few words show that happiness and suffering do not simply come about by chance. A human undertaking motivated by a healthy positive attitude constitutes one of the most important causes of happiness; it is, in the final analysis, rooted in genuine unselfish compassion and loving kindness, seeking to bring about light and happiness for all sentient beings.
The interdependence of nature
Lord Buddha’s vision and speech made him unexcelled as a sage and a teacher and as the Enlightened Being who saw the interdependence of nature and taught it to the world through his religion of love, understanding and compassion and his commitment to the ideal of non-violence. Buddhism and Jainism, perhaps as much if not more than any other traditions, rejected the notion of humankind as the exclusive centre of life and existence and repudiated the selfish anthropomorphic calculus of utility to human beings for the evolution of other forms of life. As the Venerable Abbot puts it, we should be wary of justifying the right of any species to survive solely on
the basis of its usefulness to human beings.
He explains his view of the Buddhist philosophical system as one which propagates the theory of rebirth and life after birth, and shows that in the continuous birth and rebirth of sentient beings (not only on this planet but in the universe as a whole) each being is related to us, just as our own parents are related to us in this life. He points out that for all their limitations, our ancestors were aware of the need for harmony between human beings and nature; they loved their environment and revered it as a source of life and well-being. He quotes His Holiness The Dalai Lama in The Buddhist Declaration on Nature, in words which breathe and pulsate with the Lord Buddha’s ethical and ecological vision and have compelling relevance for our own time:
‘Destruction of the environment and the life depending upon it is a result of ignorance, greed and disregard for the richness of all living things. This disregard is gaining great influence. If peace does not become a reality in the world, and if the destruction of the environment continues as it does today, there is no doubt that future generations will inherit a dead world.
‘Various crises face the international community. The mass starvation of human beings and the extinction of species may not have overshadowed the great achievements in science and technology, but they have assumed equal proportions. Side by side with the exploration of outer space, there is the continuing pollution of lakes, rivers and vast parts of the oceans, out of human ignorance and misunderstanding. There is a great danger that future generations will not know the natural habitat of animals; they may not know the forests and the animals which we of this generation know to be in danger of extinction.
‘We are the generation with the awareness of a great danger. We are the ones with the responsibility and the ability to take steps of concrete action, before it is too late.’
The spiritual, ethical, individual and collective dimensions of human life constitute a continuum, encompassing the whole of the Indic heritage and transcending all segments and fragments. The Vedic, Upanishadic, Jain and Buddhist traditions perceived this and together built an enduring spiritual, intellectual and cultural foundation for an environment-friendly value system and a balanced lifestyle.
A living legacy
The value system reflected in the life and message of Mahatma Gandhi and the provisions of the republican Constitution of India of 1950 derived their spiritual and moral inspiration from the composite Indic culture. It was shared by different faith traditions and communities in India through the ages and often emulated and assimilated across the boundaries of religious affiliations. It is not only reflected in the Vedic, Upanishadic, Jain and Buddhist scriptural texts and other literature, but is part of the social ethos of these traditions and of other communities which trace their roots to them. The wide variety of sects and denominations which rose in India during the last two millennia have consistently dug and quarried from those Indic roots. The Sikh, Vaishnava and Bishnoi traditions and numerous other Bhakti denominations in mediaeval India – which give spiritual joy, comfort and guidance to millions of people in India and abroad – are fine examples.
The Indic environmental ethos declares that all aspects and phenomena of nature belong together and are bound in a physical as well as metaphysical relationship, and views life as a gift of togetherness and of mutual accommodation and assistance in a universe teeming with interdependent constituents. Agenda 21 has to be implemented with this sense of spirituality, morality and universality if religion is to play a significant role in creating and sustaining a momentum for ecological conservation in the hearts and minds of men, women and children.
The Indic approach to the environment is even today a part of the living legacy of India. That legacy often seems to be embattled and imperilled all around, and yet it is endowed with an uncanny and time-tested resilience. In that resilience, there is hope and promise for India and the rest of the world.