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Regional NGO Moves To Advance Caribbean Climate Interests

Indi Mclymont Lafayette

PANOS Caribbean, together with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), will today launch a two-day climate change workshop geared at helping to advance the interests of Caribbean small-island developing states.The workshop, which is to see the participation of some 12 journalists and eight artistes from the region, is being held in St Lucia, ahead of this year’s international climate talks set for Paris, France in December.

The journalists and artistes, including Jamaica’s Aaron Silk, are complemented by participants from St Lucia’s Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science, and Technology – another partner in the workshop.

“The workshop is a prep meeting for Paris, pulling together a range of stakeholders, including popular artistes and journalists with the aim to come up with a strategy to bring attention to the small island position of ‘1.5 degrees to stay alive’,” said Indi Mclymont Lafayette, country coordinator and programme director with Panos.

“We really want to ensure that if an agreement is signed in Paris, it is one that won’t mean the death of small islands in the long run,” she added.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), including CARICOM, have as far back as the Copenhagen Talks in 2009, called for a long-term goal to “limit global average temperatures to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to long-term stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations to well below 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent”.

At the time, science adviser to AOSIS Dr Al Binger predicted that given sea-level rise, residents of small island states would eventually have to ‘swim for it’.

“We need to improve our boat-building art [and] teach our kids to swim because sooner or later, we are going to have to swim for it,” he said.

Speaking more recently at the French Embassy-hosted climate change debate in Kingston this year, physicist and head of the Climate Studies Group Mona, Dr Michael Taylor, painted a grim picture for a Caribbean in a world where average global temperatures exceed 1.5 degrees.

According to Taylor, the two degrees advanced by developed country partners may prove “too much for us to deal with”, given warmer days and nights and more variable rainfall, among other impacts,now being experienced.

Meanwhile, Mclymont Lafayette said the workshop – having educated artistes about climate change and journalists on reporting on it – would seek to craft a communication plan to bring a broader set of stakeholders up to date as to what is at stake for the region.

Strategy

“We are looking at a strategy over the next few months of some of the things that could be done. [These include] the journalists to report on climate change; the artistes to use their performing platforms and media interviews to bring attention to the issues and the negotiators to work in tandem with them,” she said.

“It would be good if we could have an awareness campaign leading up to Paris and also while in Paris, have a side event that would really capture a lot of the issues and provide a gateway for hearing or having good discussions on the impacts on the islands,”Mclymont Lafayette added.

The workshop – done with co-financing from Climate Analytics, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre – forms a part of a larger Panos project for which they continue to fundraise.

That project aims promote civil society involvement in the discourse on climate change in the region, through, among other things, facilitating their participation in the upcoming Paris Talks.

Credit: Jamaica Gleaner

What’s Really Warming the World? New Study

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Methodology
NASA’s Model
Researchers who study the Earth’s climate create models to test their assumptions about the causes and trajectory of global warming. Around the world there are 28 or so research groups in more than a dozen countries who have written 61 climate models. Each takes a slightly different approach to the elements of the climate system, such as ice, oceans, or atmospheric chemistry.
The computer model that generated the results for this graphic is called “ModelE2,” and was created by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which has been a leader in climate projections for a generation. ModelE2 contains something on the order of 500,000 lines of code, and is run on a supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation in Greenbelt, Maryland.
A Global Research Project
GISS produced the results shown here in 2012, as part of its contribution to an international climate-science research initiative called the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase Five. Let’s just call it “Phase-5.”
Phase-5 is designed both to see how well models replicate known climate history and to make projections about where the world’s temperature is headed. Initial results from Phase-5 were used in the 2013 scientific tome published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
There are more than 30 different kinds of experiments included in Phase-5 research. These tests address questions like, what would happen to the Earth’s temperature if atmospheric carbon dioxide suddenly quadrupled? Or, what would the world’s climate be like through 2300 if we keep burning fossil fuels at the current rate?
Phase-5 calls for a suite of “historical” experiments. Research groups were asked to see how well they could reproduce what’s known about the climate from 1850-2005. They were also asked to estimate how the various climate factors—or “forcings”—contribute to those temperatures. That’s why this graphic stops in 2005, even though the GISS observed temperature data is up-to-date. The years 2005-2012 were not a part of the Phase-5 “historical” experiment.
A Word About Temperatures
Climate scientists tend not to report climate results in whole temperatures. Instead, they talk about how the annual temperature departs from an average, or baseline. They call these departures “anomalies.” They do this because temperature anomalies are more consistent in an area than absolute temperatures are. For example, the absolute temperature atop the Empire State Building may be different by several degrees than the absolute temperature at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. But the differences from their own averages are likely to be about the same. It means that scientists can get a better idea about temperature with fewer monitoring stations. That’s particularly useful in places where measurement is very difficult (ie, deserts).
The simulation results are aligned to the observations using the 1880-1910 average. What’s most important about these temperatures are the trends—the shape and trajectory of the line, and not any single year’s temperature.
What the Lines Show
The black “observed” line is the GISS global land and ocean temperature record, which can be found here. It starts in 1880.
The colored temperature lines are the modeled estimates that each climate factor contributes to the overall temperature. Each factor was simulated five times, with different initial conditions; each slide here shows the average of five runs. GISS researchers laid out their historical simulations in detail last year in this article. The modeled years 1850-1879 from the Phase-5 “historical” experiment are not shown because the observed data begins in 1880.
Confidence Ranges
Researchers do not expect their models to reproduce weather events or El Niño phases exactly when they happened in real life. They do expect the models to capture how the whole system behaves over long periods of time. For example, in 1998 there was a powerful El Niño, when the equatorial Pacific Ocean warms ( we’re in another one of that scale now). A simulation wouldn’t necessarily reproduce an El Niño in 1998, but it should produce a realistic number of them over the course of many years.
The temperature lines represent the average of the model’s estimates. The uncertainty bands illustrate the outer range of reasonable estimates.
In short, the temperature lines in the modeled results might not line up exactly with observations. For any year, 95% of the simulations with that forcing will lie inside the band.
Data
Acknowledgments

Many thanks to Kate Marvel and Gavin Schmidt of NASA-GISS.

Credit: Bloomberg Business

Belize Fights to Save a Crucial Barrier Reef

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

Home to the second longest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which provides jobs in fishing, tourism and other industries which feed the lifeblood of the economy, Belize has long been acutely aware of the need to protect its marine resources from both human and natural activities.

However, there has been a recent decline in the production and export of marine products including conch, lobster, and fish, even as tourism figures continue to increase.

“What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers.” — Dr. Kenrick Leslie

The decline is not helped by overfishing and the harvest of immature conch and lobster outside of the standard fishing season. But the primary reason for less conch and lobster in Belize’s waters, according to local experts, is excess ocean acidity which is making it difficult for popular crustacean species such as conch and lobster, which depend on their hard, spiny shells to survive, to grow and mature.

According to the executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), Dr. Kenrick Leslie, acidification is as important and as detrimental to the sustainability of the Barrier Reef and the ocean generally as warming of the atmosphere and other factors generally associated with climate change.

Carbon dioxide which is emitted in the atmosphere from greenhouse gases is absorbed into the ocean as carbonic acid, which interacts with the calcium present in the shells of conch and lobster to form calcium carbonate, dissolving those shells and reducing their numbers. Belize also faces continuous difficulties with coral bleaching, which has attacked several key sections of the reef in recent years.

Dr. Leslie told IPS that activities on Belize’s terrestrial land mass are also contributing to the problems under Belize’s waters. “What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers,” he noted.

To fight these new problems, there is need for more research and accurate, up to the minute data.

Last month, the European Union (EU), as part of its Global Climate Change Alliance Caribbean Support Project handed over to the government of Belize and specifically the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development for its continued usage a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) buoy based at South Water Caye off the Stann Creek District in southern Belize.

Developed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it has been adopted by the CCCCC as a centrepiece of the effort to obtain reliable data as a basis for strategies for fighting climate change.

Dr. Leslie says the CREWS system represents a leap forward in research technology on climate change. The humble buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. The data collected on atmospheric and oceanic conditions such as oceanic turbidity, levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful elements and others are monitored from the Centre’s office in Belmopan and the data sent along to international scientists who can more concretely analyse it.

The South Water Caye CREWS station is one of two in Belize; the other is located at the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI) on Calabash Caye in the Turneffe Atoll range. Other stations are located in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic, with more planned in other key areas.

According to the CEO of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), Vincent Gillet, this is an example of the kind of work that needs to be done to keep the coastal zone healthy and safeguard resources for Belize’s future generations.

A report released at the start of Coastal Awareness Week in Belize City urges greater awareness of the effects of climate change and the participation of the local managers of the coastal zone in a policy to combat those effects. Several recommendations were made, including empowering the Authority with more legislative heft, revising the land distribution policy and bringing more people into the discussion.

The report was the work of over 30 local and international scientists who contributed to and prepared it.

In receiving the CREWS equipment, the Ministry’s CEO, Dr. Adele Catzim-Sanchez, sought to remind that the problem of climate change is real and unless it is addressed, Belizeans may be contributing to their own demise.

The European Union’s Ambassador to Belize, Paola Amadei, reported that the Union may soon be able to offer even more help with the planned negotiations in Paris, France, in 2015 for a global initiative on climate change, with emphasis on smaller states. Belize already benefits from separate but concurrent projects, the latter of which aims to give Belize a sustainable development plan and specific strategy to address climate change.

In addition, Dr. Leslie is pushing for even more monitoring equipment, including current metres to study the effect of terrestrial activity such as mining and construction material gathering as well as deforestation on the sea, where the residue of such activities inevitably ends up.

Credit: IPS News Agency

The Carbon Tax Success Story

When Mark Twain wrote, “Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story,” he could have been describing Canada’s current climate policy debate. Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeatedly claims that a carbon tax would “destroy jobs and growth.” Yet the evidence from the province that actually passed such a tax – British Columbia – tells a different story.

The latest numbers from Statistics Canada show that B.C.’s policy has been a real environmental and economic success after six years. Far from a being a “job killer,” it is a world-leading example of how to tackle one of the greatest global challenges of our time: building an economy that will prosper in a carbon-constrained world.

B.C.’s tax, implemented in 2008, covers most types of fuel use and carbon emissions. It started out low ($10 per tonne of carbon dioxide), then rose gradually to the current $30 per tonne, which works out to about 7 cents per litre of gas. “Revenue-neutral” by law, the policy requires equivalent cuts to other taxes. In practice, the province has cut $760-million more in income and other taxes than needed to offset carbon tax revenue.

The result is that taxpayers are coming out ahead. B.C. now has the lowest personal income tax rate in Canada (with additional cuts benefiting low-income and rural residents) and one of the lowest corporate rates in North America. You shouldn’t need an economist and a mining entrepreneur to tell you that’s good for business and jobs.

At the same time, it’s been extraordinarily effective in tackling the root cause of carbon pollution: the burning of fossil fuels. Since the tax came in, fuel use in B.C. has dropped by 16 per cent; in the rest of Canada, it’s risen by 3 per cent (counting all fuels covered by the tax). To put that accomplishment in perspective, Canada’s Kyoto target was a 6-per-cent reduction in 20 years. And the evidence points to the carbon tax as the major driver of these B.C. gains.

Further, while some had predicted that the tax shift would hurt the province’s economy, in fact, B.C.’s GDP has slightly outperformed the rest of Canada’s since 2008.

With these impressive results, B.C.’s carbon tax has gained widespread global praise as a model for the world – from organizations such as the OECD, the World Bank and The Economist. But in the rest of Canada, it is less heralded, which is a shame. Because when you look beyond the political rhetoric and examine the facts, B.C.’s experience offers powerful, positive lessons for Canada.

In particular, it shows that Canada can be competitively ambitious in shaping a 21st century economy that internalizes the real costs of pollution. And that is important, because carbon and other emissions from burning fossil fuels impose heavy costs on us all – as B.C. knows well. The mountain pine beetle infestation, resulting from warming winters, has devastated the province’s interior forest industry, closing mills and costing thousands of jobs. Similarly, air pollution, caused mainly by burning fossil fuels, costs thousands of lives and more than $8-billion a year to Canada’s economy. These problems will only get worse if we don’t get serious about tackling the causes of carbon emissions.

B.C.’s example shows that we can do that, while also building a prosperous economy, if we use smart policies. And it’s not alone in doing so. Both Alberta and Quebec, for example, have also put a price on carbon emissions, using different policy approaches. All three provinces offer instructive, made-in-Canada lessons for spurring clean innovation, advancing energy efficiency, and preparing Canada’s economy to compete with other nations that are already making this shift.

Canada has a history of taking pragmatic, far-sighted policy action to meet global economic challenges, like free trade, deficit fighting or the financial crisis. The shift to a low-carbon economic future poses a similar challenge. With such strong evidence of how to meet it from within our own borders, it’s time to set aside the stories and act.

Ross Beaty is chairman of Pan American Silver Corp. and Alterra Power; Richard Lipsey is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University; Stewart Elgie is professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa, and chair of Sustainable Prosperity.

Credit: The Globe and Mail

From the IPCC Report: will we be able to reduce GHG emissions?

5th IPCC Report Credit : Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC

5th Assessment IPCC Report
Credit : Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC

The Fifth IPCC Assessment Report has at last been completed and made ​​public. Since April 15th  the (third) volume Mitigation of Climate Change has been made available, concluding the triad of the most awaited publication from the world of climate change science and policy at the international level. The only piece missing to complete the work of the Fifth IPCC Assessment Report on Climate Change is the Synthesis Report, the document summarizing the three volumes published in recent months, which will be approved and published in late October 2014 in Copenhagen.

The first volume confirmed human responsibility for climate change, the second outlined the impacts and risks that have and will come of it. IPCC’s third working group, of which I am one of the Vice Presidents, is trying to find solutions to the problem of future climate change through appropriate mitigation policies, namely the reduction of greenhouse gases.

Prepared by 235 authors from 57 countries, the third volume of the report integrates more than 38,000 comments received by more than 800 expert reviewers in the various stages of writing and revision, to answer this question: what can and should we do to limit climate change as much as possible in the coming decades?

The Point We Are At

One of the main messages emerging from the work is that, despite the new awareness and mitigation efforts put in place over the past decades, the emissions of greenhouse gases have increased more rapidly between 2000 and 2010 than in any other decade: the rate of emission growth of the past decade has been 2.2% per year, while in the period between 1970 and 2000 it averaged 1.3% per year. 78% of emissions derive from the use of fossil fuels and industrial processes. The forestry sector is the only one experiencing a decline in emissions, due to the reduction of deforestation and hence an increased capacity by forests to absorb carbon dioxide.

What We Can Expect 

In the absence of more mitigation efforts than at present, the emissions increase (driven by population and economic growth in developing countries and insufficiently offset by significant improvements in energy efficiency in developed countries) will lead to an increase in average global temperature in 2100 of between 3.7 and 4.8 degrees centigrade in comparison with pre-industrial levels.

It is clear that if we continue on this path we will get adrift inexorably from the so-called “2-degree” target formalized in the COP 16 negotiations in Cancun (2010): the two-degree rise in temperature over preindustrial levels is recognized internationally as the threshold not to be exceeded if we are to comply with Article 2 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which stabilizes global emissions to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” But the Fifth IPCC Report also points out that this objective has become very difficult if not almost impossible to achieve by now, in the light of the levels of concentration of greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere and expected in the coming years.

What Must Be Done And When

To close the 2-degree target gap, emissions must peak off as soon as possible and then decline by 40-70% within mid-century, reaching a total of zero in 2100. We need to act now, because any delay takes us adrift of any chance of a green transition that allows the decoupling of economic growth from the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, and significantly increases the mitigation costs. Mitigation options include actions for energy efficiency and decarbonization (renewable energy sources, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage of CO2 (CCS), bio-energy, reduction of deforestation and forest management, reduction and management of waste, carbon market, carbon taxation, reduction or removal of subsidies for fossil fuels, and overall changes in lifestyle). The IPCC report gives no recommendation for the most appropriate measures to be taken but limits itself to analyzing them all accurately, in order to provide policymakers with the tools to make informed, effective decisions.

The Ideal World

The optimal situation for dealing successfully and efficiently with the climate challenge is one in which all the countries of the world implement immediate mitigation actions, in which there is a single carbon price in a worldwide emissions market, and in which a combination of all the technological solutions and policies listed above is available and usable in all sectors (production and use of energy, industry, transport, agriculture, forestry, urban development). In this ideal world the costs of mitigation might be limited. But unfortunately this ideal world doesn’t exist….

Costs, Benefits And Investments

In an ideal world scenario of mitigation as described above, one that meets the two-degree target, the costs are estimated at between 1 and 4% of worldwide GDP in 2030 and between 2 and 6% in 2050. These are only the direct costs, which do not take into account the benefits that would result from maintaining a climate more similar to today’s, from having reduced air pollution, lower impacts on ecosystems, water and land use, as well as greater energy security. But the costs will increase rapidly if the mitigation measures are applied late, or if some of the currently available technologies (nuclear or CCS for example) were not fully applicable, or if the resources for necessary investments were not forthcoming….

For the first time, the IPCC Report also assesses the investments needed to achieve the two-degree target: in the next two decades (2010-2029) investments in clean energy production technologies will have to increase by 100%, that is redouble, while investments in fossil fuels decrease by 20%.

Also An Ethical Question

From the data presented in the report, which will be used as a scientific basis in international negotiations under the UNFCCC in the coming years, there are striking inequalities in per capita emissions of greenhouse gases: high-income countries have per capita emissions even nine times higher than those of the poorer countries. The issue of climate change is not, therefore, just an environmental issue but also a matter of economic and social equity that forces us to face the impacts that the climate challenge poses, which are more severe in the developing (and hence more vulnerable) countries. Most of the growth in emissions that has taken place since 1970 is the responsibility of the industrialized countries, associated with their economic development. The recent rise in emissions, and that foreseen for the future, is instead linked largely to the regions in the developing world, which are growing at a very rapid pace. Hence it is necessary to establish a cooperation between countries that implies an ethical, responsible commitment on the part of those that have so far contributed most to the problem, i.e. the developed countries, and a likewise ethical, responsible commitment on the part of those that in the future are destined to exceed the tolerable limit of human interference with the climate system.

Credit: International Centre for Climate Governance

New CARICOM chairman to place emphasis on climate change

PM Gonsalves flanked by PM Spencer at a high level meeting discussing the devasation in St. Vincent (CMC Photo)

PM Gonsalves flanked by PM Spencer at a high level meeting discussing the devasation in St. Vincent (CMC Photo)

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Monday he would use his six month term as chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping to deal with the deleterious effects climate change is having on the socio-economic future of the 15-member bloc.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia and Dominica are now emerging from the effects of a weather system that left a trail of death and destruction over the Christmas holidays.

Caribbean countries have also had to deal with the annual hurricane season and in many cases, like in Haiti, unseasonal rains that cause widespread devastation.

“The big issue…is global warming, climate change. We are having systems affecting us outside of the normal rainy season and the normal hurricane season,” he said making reference to the floods in April last year and the Christmas Eve rains that resulted in the deaths of nine people and hundreds of millions of dollars in damages here.

“There are lots of monies which countries talk about for adaptation and mitigation to climate change. But I haven’t seen the money yet and we have to use our diplomacy as a region and we have to be aggressive with our climate change center in Belize.

“In my term as chairman of CARICOM this is one of the issues which you will recall I said earlier on…I want dealt with during my term in a continued serious and structured way, (and it) has to deal with the deleterious effect of climate change and to get the requisite responses from the international community in relation to this matter”.

Gonsalves told a news conference that the region does not contribute “anything to these man made weather systems, these problems with putting so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“We are …on the front line,” he said, adding that “this is an issue which is big”.

Gonsalves said that efforts were now underway to stage an international donors’ conference to help the three affected islands recover and rebuild their battered infrastructures.

He said he had already received a letter from Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who is also chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), outlining plans for an international donors’ conference.

“There is a letter which Baldwin sent to me which I have reviewed and make one or two slight alterations and suggestions, but we have to prepare for a donors’ conference well, maybe in March may be in February… but we have to prepare for it well so that we can get the donors to make pledges,” he said, recalling a similar conference had taken place to help Grenada after it was battered by a recent hurricane.

“I know some of the donors came through and others did not, but at least we need to do that to lift the profile,” Gonsalves said.

The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister told reporters that an insurance scheme organized through the World Bank, to which all the Caribbean countries contribute, does not go far enough.

“To the extent that the monies you get from the Catastrophic Relief Insurance System is fairly minimal, but of course every little bit helps,” he said.

Gonsalves said he had already written to the leaders of several countries and was now  waiting to see “what kind of grant assistance we can get because we really need grants preferably.

“The World Bank will give soft loan monies, the CDB (Caribbean Development Bank) will give soft loan monies, the European Union will give grants, Venezuela will give grants, (and) Taiwan will give grants”.

CMC/kc/ir/2014

Credit: CMC
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