Monday, November 30, 2009

Jared Diamond on Envrionmental Collapse

This is an excellent lecture from Jared Diamond about the history of states collapsing due to environmental stress. Short summary: its not simple!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stimson Center Video on the Mekong

Via the New Security Beat, I cam across this excellent video from the Stimson Center about the implications of building new dams across the Mekong River.

Mekong Tipping Point from Henry L. Stimson Center on Vimeo.

Richard Cronin, who has a starring role in the video, is the author of a new article in Survival: Mekong Dams and the Perils of Peace (sub. required). While the video focuses more on the implications of the dams for fisheries, the aticle focuses on the debates between the nations that share the Mekong. There is an important climate component to this as well. Although the river is not dependent upon glacial melt for the majority of its flow (6% according to the WWF), during the dry season, this glacial runoff is important.

The European Model for Climate Change

I have a new article up in the December-January issue of Survival. Its for subscribers only, but non-subscribers can read the first 500 words here.

This is a review essay of David Buchan’s book: Energy and Climate Change: Europe at the Crossroads (a steal at 25 pounds!). My argument is that Buchan’s book should be used as an instruction manual. Policymakers looking to set up aggressive action on climate change – either at the international or the domestic level – should learn from the mistakes and the successes of the EU. Though they’ve had their difficulties and false starts over the past decade in setting up an effective regime, Europe has finally succeeded in creating a climate policy that will allow it to meet its Kyoto targets.

For other important views on climate change in this month’s Survival, I’d suggest reading “Climate Change and Copenhagen: Many Paths Forward” by Paula Dobriansky and Vaughan Turekian.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

REDD: Forest Conservation as a key part of Copenhagen

Yesterday, IISS intern Isabella Santoro went to an event at the Center for Global Development on the UN-REDD program. Below is her report about it.

Yesterday, 18 November, the Center for Global Development hosted a seminar titled “Financing Forest Conservation to Combat Global Warming: Keys to Success at Copenhagen.” The event featured eight guest speakers. They focused on the impact of deforestation on global warming, including potential solutions to the problem, examples of successes, and areas of failure.

Deforestation accounts for roughly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire global transportation sector, second only to the energy sector. For some countries, especially major emitters like Indonesia and Brazil, deforestation is the primary form of carbon emissions.

At Bali in 2007, diplomats in the UNFCCC proposed the United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (UN-REDD) as a cost-effective and reliable measure to confront deforestation and climate change. The purpose of REDD is to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, so that more affluent countries such as the United States and other Western powers can provide a monetary incentive for developing countries to protect their forests as valuable carbon sinks. REDD has not yet been implemented, but it is expected to be part of an agreed framework that comes out of Copenhagen next month.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Return to Yesterday's Post

I need to update my comments in yesterday's blog post. There have been two comments, each of which I should address in turn.

First, unintentionally mischaracterized Bernard Finel's take on the question of how climate causes conflict. Most of what he writes about in the post is the important point that anybody can cherry-pick information, using different dates to get the results they're looking for. The more important point, that climate change doesn't necessarily cause conflict, I agree with Dr. Finel about. I quote him below.
"The point isn’t that climate change causes conflict anyway. The point is that
climate change is likely to exacerbate existing conflicts. The end of the Cold
War was clearly a more significant influence on trends in conflict than climate
change has been thus far."

Suffice it to say, I agree with that statement. I must have I gotten caught up with arguing about the quoted material, and did not complete my thought process when composing yesterday's post. I hope that this corrects the record.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Again: Be careful when saying climate causes conflict

The Flash Point Blog has a recent post asking: Is conflict declining, even as global warming occurs? This is yet another example of oversimplifying the question. They cite James Carafano (a scholar from the Heritage Institute) as saying that conflict is going down while climate change is occuring.

I think Carafano and the American Security Project are is looking at this is in a way that is just too simple. No political scientist would ever claim that there is a direct 1-to-1 causational relationship with something that is as complicated as the causes of conflict. Clearly there are many things that lead to conflict, like economic dislocation, religious differences, class conflicts, or others. In science terms, there is more than one independent variable in this equation. However, climate change and environmental security is part of the equation. In fact, it is rightly called a ‘multiplier’ that can exacerbate all the other parts of the equation.

So, to say that climate change won’t cause conflict isn’t true, just like like saying that climate change will cause conflicts is also too simplistic. I’ve written about this before.

Also, its interesting to note that Carafano apparantly is conceeding that climate change is happening, by saying that ‘things have been getting better’ even as climate change happens.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Greenland Melting Faster

A new study (subscription required) in Science shows that the ice sheets of Greenland are melting at a fast and accelerating rate. This is yet another example of how the latest science is showing that the effects of climate change are moving faster than even the worst-case scenarios of the IPCC's 2007 consensus report.

The report, based on satellite observations, states that the Greenland ice sheet lost approximately 1500 gigatons of ice mass from 2000-2008. This is about 0.46 millimeters per year of global sea level rise. And, the rate of loss is increasing. Since 2006, high summer melt rates have increased Greenland ice sheet mass loss to 273 gigatons per year (0.75 millimeters per year of equivalent sea level rise).

Importantly, this article appears to resolve much of the uncertainty about how much the ice sheet is melting. The article used two independent methods, one based on observations and the other on remote gravity measurements made by satellites. By getting these two approaches to agree, we can get a clearer, more precise view of what is actually happening. I have said before that policymakers are asking for better science. Unfortunately, its not pretty.

Whether we can keep the Greenland ice sheet intact will be an important factor in keeping Bangladesh, the Maldives, or New York above rising sea levels. The water contained in these ice sheets could account for 7 meters of sea level rise.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What I'm listening to: Climate Wars

The Canadian Radio Network, CBC, has run a radio series, titled "Climate Wars" with IISS friend Gwynne Dyer as the host. I've only stumbled across this today, and am only through the first episode of the series. So far, I can attest that its a very strong and interesting program. He was able to get very strong interviews that read as a 'who's who' of imporant players in the climate security argument, including John Holdren and others.

I can't link directly to the radio program, but you can listen to it through the CBC's website, here.

A Little Humor

It always helps to be able to laugh about things like rising sea levels flooding New York:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Formidable Opponent - Global Warming With Al Gore
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

When did Al Gore get funny?