10,000 attendees set an example at the Cancún shindig

“Global warming is now such a serious threat to mankind that climate change experts are calling for Second World War-style rationing in rich countries to bring down carbon emissions,” environment correspondent, Louise Gray wrote in Britain’s Telegraph under the headline, “Cancun climate change summit: scientists call for rationing in developed world

Apparently a fair number of scientific papers have been published by Britain’s Royal Society saying that temperatures might rise as much as 4C (7.2F) by 2060. And to prevent that, at least one expert thinks World War II-style rationing would be a good idea.

Prof Anderson insisted that halting growth in the rich world does not necessarily mean a recession or a worse lifestyle, it just means making adjustments in everyday life such as using public transport and wearing a sweater rather than turning on the heating.

“I am not saying we have to go back to living in caves,” he said. “Our emissions were a lot less ten years ago and we got by okay then.”

So, the approximately 10,000 delegates to the Cancún shindig aka COP 16 [the 16th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change], while not meeting or staying in caves, have tightened their belts in solidarity:

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The blind chasing after the blind in Cancún

Image credit: Freefoto.com

Briggs over at William M. Briggs, “statistician to the stars,” has a delightfully damning post about Cornell’s delegation to the shindig aka COP 16 [the 16th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Cancún.

According to The Cornell Daily Sun, “A delegation of Cornell researchers will join the fight against climate change Monday in the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.” Eighteen students, plus Three Cornell professors — Prof. Antonio Bento, applied economics and management, Prof. Johannes Lehmann, soil sciences, Prof. Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell’s Global Labor Institute will comprise the Cornell delegation. The faculty members “will give formal presentations to the COP 16 on issues ranging from cap-and-trade offsets, sustainable agriculture and organized labor.”

According to the Daily Sun,

“The third research group will offer information “on how to avoid carbon dioxide losses from soils that would contribute to global warming, and how to increase organic carbon in soils that will be a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide,” Lehmann said in an e-mail.

Lehmann, who will present in two “side events” meant to inform the delegates, expressed hope that his scientific research would affect the diplomatic bargaining.”

To which Briggs points out:

[I]f you begin to muse on soil physics, you’ll have missed the meat, which is that Lehmann, the only scientist in the group, is being shunted off onto a “side event”, which is “meant to inform the delegates.” Lehmann said, “The presentations by scientists are attended by negotiators that will hopefully be better informed through the material. Often, negotiators are directly interacting with presenters to deepen their knowledge.”

The Daily Sun’s article reports:

At the COP 16 , Bento will present a theoretical and computational model of a cap-and-trade model in the United States. In a cap-and-trade program, the government sets pollution caps and firms may purchase and trade carbon credits.

And Briggs notes:

Bento and team “will present a theoretical and computational model of a cap-and-trade model”, which—do I need to say this?—is based on output from climate models. A model of a model of a model. Put another way: an approximation of a surmise of a guess. What could go wrong?

Read the whole post  here: Cornell’s Cancun Climate Conference Crew. It’s worth it to marvel at the UNFCC process.

Background:
The United Nations Climate Change Conference is to be held in Cancún,
Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010. What is it supposed to do?

According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCC) website, the conference ” encompasses the sixteenth Conference
of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as
the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), as well as the
thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation
(SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice
(SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session
of the AWG-LCA. To discuss future commitments for industrialized
countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties
serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)
established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working
Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto
Protocol (AWG-KP). In Copenhagen, at its fifth session, the CMP
requested the AWG-KP to deliver the results of its work for adoption by
CMP 6 in Cancun.”

Got that? Well according to the UNFCC’s fact sheet, “Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty — the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global
warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.
More recently, a number of nations approved an addition to the treaty:
the Kyoto Protocol [the US congress did not ratify it] , which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the climate change process, particularly the COP, the subsidiary bodies and their Bureau.”

“The negotiating process on climate change revolves around the sessions of
the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP), which meets every
year to review the implementation of the Convention. The COP adopts
decisions and resolutions, published in reports of the COP.  Successive
decisions taken by the COP make up a detailed set of rules for practical
and effective implementation of the Convention.”

“Thousands of participants including government representatives and observer organizations have attended previous climate change conferences.  The sessions in Bali attracted over 10,000 participants, including some 3,500 government officials, over 5,800 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and nearly 1,500 accredited members of the media.”

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Leaving on a jet plane

Image credit: freefoto.com

According to PR Newswire there is an “initiative to promote aviation biofuel development in the Pacific Northwest” that “will include an analysis of potential biomass sources that are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, including algae, agriculturally based oilseeds such as camelina [wildflax], wood byproducts and others.”

Because biomass sources absorb carbon dioxide while growing and can have higher energy content than fossil-based fuel, their increased efficiency and use as aviation biofuel could potentially save millions of tons of aviation greenhouse gas emissions.
Air travel currently generates approximately 2 percent of man-made carbon emissions, and the industry has set aggressive goals to lower its carbon footprint, including the use of aviation biofuel when it becomes available.

According to a recent post on Scientific American, the airline industry conducted a number of test flights in 2008 and 2009:

“[C]ommercial airlines have flown four successful test flights using a variety of biofuel-jet fuel blends. Boeing was involved in all four flights, including a Virgin Atlantic flight using a coconut- and babassu-derived biofuel blend; an Air New Zealand flight using a jatropha-derived biofuel blend; a Continental Airlines flight using a blend of algae- and jatropha-derived biofuel; and a Japan Airlines flight using an algae-, jatropha- and camelina-derived biofuel blend…[And, Air New Zealand reported] that using a 50 percent blend of biofuel with traditional jet A-1 fuel can improve fuel efficiency by more than 1 percent.”

Now using fuel efficiently should be sufficient reason to consider a change. Yet, everything now gets pushed through the funnel of one’s carbon footprint and climate change.

So, natural sources put 210 billion metric tons (98.5 per cent) of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere comes from natural sources in the world’s carbon cycle, and people add 3.2 billion metric tons (1.5 per cent) to the total (source: John Christy at University of Alabama, Huntsville). And, air travel accounts for 2 percent of human-caused carbon emissions.  So, if we grounded all air travel, instead of 213.2 billion metric tons of CO2 going into the atmosphere (natural + man-made), the atmosphere would receive only 213.136 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, the difference is .064 billion metric tons. A 1 percent improvement in fuel efficiency for the total air industry would then mean (if my math is correct) instead of 213.2 billion metric tons of CO2, the total would be  213.19936.

Again, if the fuel is more efficient and less expensive, do it. Otherwise, it appears at first (and second and third) blush to make more sense for us to grow food or fiber, rather than fuel, in the ground.


 

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