And Thus Ends the Hottest Decade on Record . . .  

Posted by Big Gav in

TreeHugger reports that the noughties were the hottest decade since record keeping began - And Thus Ends the Hottest Decade on Record . . ..

Yup, the aughts or naughts or naughties or whatever you want to call them have been confirmed to be the hottest decade in recorded history--a full 0.2 degrees C warmer than the nineties. And now, as Joe Romm puts it, "the hottest decade begins." So were do we stand?

Yes, barring a spate of supervolcano eruptions or some sort of galactic alien cooling beam directed at earth, the '10s are almost certainly going to be even hotter than the '00s. The trend, unfortunately, is continuing interrupted (the '90s were previously the hottest on record, with temps 0.14 degrees C warmer than the '80s) thanks in part to the near complete lack of carbon emissions reductions by the world's biggest polluters. Here's looking at you, USA and China.

It is a shame that we're ending this decade, in which awareness of climate change rose to an all time high, mired in global discord on how to mitigate the threat, without a binding agreement from Copenhagen, still stuck battling big coal and oil funded climate change skeptics who'd rather protect their interests in the status quo than help forge solutions to an incoming worldwide disaster, and without any meaningful legislation in the US addressing global warming.

The Australian notes that last year was Australia's second hottest (while remaining mired in the politics of global warming) - Labor seizes on temperature figures as evidence of global warming.
AUSTRALIA had the second warmest year on record last year, the Bureau of Meterology confirmed today in a finding the Rudd government has seized on as fresh evidence of climate change.

The BOM said 2009 “will be remembered for extreme bushfires, dust-storms, lingering rainfall deficiencies, areas of flooding and record-breaking heatwaves”.

Extreme heatwaves across southern Australia during late January/early February set a new Melbourne maximum temperature record of 46.4C, new State maximum temperature records for Victoria (48.8C at Hopetoun) and Tasmania (42.2C at Scamander), and contributing to the Black Saturday bushfires.

Victoria, South Australia and NSW also recorded their warmest July-December periods on record.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said today the finding that Australia's annual mean temperature for 2009 was 0.9C above the 1961-90 average exposed Tony Abbott's false climate change claim that global warming has stopped.

George Monbiot at the Guardian says "Obama's attempt to put China in the frame for failure had its origins in the absence of American campaign finance reform" - If you want to know who's to blame for Copenhagen, look to the US Senate.
The last time global negotiations collapsed like this was in Doha, in 2001. After the trade talks fell apart, the World Trade Organisation assured delegates that there was nothing to fear: they would move to Mexico, where a deal would be done. The negotiations ran into the sand of the Mexican resort of CancĂșn, never to re-emerge. After eight years of dithering, nothing has been agreed.

When the climate talks in Copenhagen ended in failure last week, Yvo de Boer, the man in charge of the process, urged us not to worry: everything will be sorted out "in Mexico one year from now". Is Mexico the diplomatic equivalent of the Pacific garbage patch: the place where failed negotiations go to die?

De Boer might pretend that this is just a temporary hitch, but he knows what happens when talks lose momentum. A year ago I asked him what he feared most. This is what he said. "The worst-case scenario for me is that climate becomes a second WTO … Copenhagen, for me, is a very clear deadline that I think we need to meet, and I am afraid that if we don't then the process will begin to slip, and like in the trade negotiations, one deadline after the other will not be met, and we sort of become the little orchestra on the Titanic."

We can live without a new trade agreement; we can't live without a new climate agreement. One of the failings of the people who have tried to mobilise support for a climate treaty is that we have made the issue too complicated. So here is the simplest summary I can produce of why this matters.

Human beings can live in a wider range of conditions than almost any other species. But the climate of the past few thousand years has been amazingly kind to us. It has enabled us to spread into almost all regions of the world and to grow into the favourable ecological circumstances it has created. We enjoy the optimum conditions for supporting seven billion people.

A shift in global temperature reduces the range of places which can sustain human life. During the last ice age, humans were confined to low latitudes. The difference in the average global temperature between now and then was 4C. Global warming will have the opposite effect, driving people into higher latitudes, principally as water supplies diminish.

Food production at high latitudes must rise as quickly as it falls elsewhere, but this is unlikely to happen. According to the body that summarises the findings of climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the potential for global food production "is very likely to decrease above about 3C". The panel uses the phrase "very likely" to mean a probability of above 90%. Unless a strong climate deal is struck very soon, the probable outcome is a rise of 3C or more by the end of the century.

Even in higher latitudes the habitable land area will decrease as the sea level rises. The likely rise this century – probably less than a metre – is threatening only to some populations, but the process does not stop in 2100. During the previous interglacial period, about 125,000 years ago, the average global temperature was about 1.3C higher than it is today, as a result of changes in the earth's orbit around the sun.

A new paper in the scientific journal Nature shows that sea levels during that period were between 6.6 and 9.4 metres higher than today's. Once the temperature had risen, the expansion of sea water and the melting of ice caps in Greenland and Antarctica was unstoppable. I wonder whether the government of Denmark, whose atrocious management of the conference contributed to its failure, would have tried harder if its people knew that in a few hundred years they won't have a country any more.

The Business Spectator has some notes on options for global warming mitigation policy in Australia - Is that hot enough?.
In the past week alone, South Korea has announced it will launch a pilot emissions trading scheme this year, European nations have announced plans for a $30 billion renewable energy grid to link wind, solar and hydro, wave and tidal energy sources, and India has announced that its Planning Commission is to map a path to a low carbon economy. In other measures, high emission vehicles have been banned from the centres of Berlin and Hanover, and soon from the centres of 40 other German cities, and 11 US state governors have agreed on plans to introduce a low carbon fuel standard.

Australia does not seem to be in a position to follow such initiatives. The ETS that is about to be resubmitted to parliament faces the same opposition as it did pre-Christmas and the problems surrounding the renewable energy target – which have brought the renewable energy industry to a halt - are yet to be resolved.

But as we discussed in December, Australia has another weapon in its arsenal.

A report released by the government just before Christmas highlights exactly what could be done. The first review of the country’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in a decade, undertaken by Dr Allan Hawke, recommended the government introduce a 'greenhouse trigger' in the absence of an ETS.

A local wire agency report suggests that the government rejects this approach. But that’s not quite the case. It only says he sees no need for regulation because it intends to introduce an ETS. What’s left unstated is what the government would do if the ETS is not passed into law.

Dr Hawke has a suggestion: “In light of the current uncertainty about the CPRS, and the urgency in starting to tackle Australia’s carbon trajectory, the review recommends that the government implement an interim greenhouse trigger to be introduced as soon as possible by way of Regulation and to sunset upon commencement of the CPRS.

“A trigger threshold of at most 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions is recommended on the basis of prior research and previous proposals, noting that previous triggers considered by both major parties have recommended thresholds of 500,000 tonnes.

“It is intended that the trigger would capture a wide range of actions, including projects that would have a large amount of emissions released during construction, and those that would result in a large amount of emissions released during any period of operation.“

Industry bodies will be mortified. Expect them to be contacting their local (coalition) member sometime soon. An ETS, particularly one with such generous concessions to industry, is infinitely preferable to business.

Meanwhile, the argument that a carbon tax as opposed to an ETS could somehow avoid those pesky lobbyists and industry carve outs does not get much truck going by the experience of the French.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, with an eye for a possible headline of 'Sarko saves the planet' had decided to introduce a carbon tax in France to supplement the EU ETS. But the country’s Constitutional Court would not have a bar of it, and rejected it on the basis that there were too many exemptions. All the major emitters had been exempted from the tax, and only people heating their own homes or driving their own cars would have had to pay the tax.

Next stop, carbon tariffs?


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