The annual U.N. climate talks, this year COP-17, began five days ago in Durban, South Africa. The major question this year is what we should do with the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in 2012. John Prescott, former U.K. labor minister and one of the leading delegates at the Kyoto negotiations, is calling for the Durban delegates to “stop the clocks” on the Protocol, enabling the mechanisms to continue while a new international accord is reached. The UK’s former chief scientist, Sir David King, argues that the Protocol should be abandoned and in its place should be introduced a “muscular bilateralism”, whereby nations commit to voluntary emissions reductions in cooperation with each other.
Category Archives: Environment
If you haven’t yet heard about the Keystone XL Pipeline currently under consideration by the U.S. Government, here’s a quick overview.
Canada’s tar sands are 54,826 square miles of mineral-filled sands, including a high density of a naturally occurring form of petroleum. These tar sands are the second biggest source of crude oil IN THE WORLD after Saudi Arabia (!). The U.S. government is currently considering permitting the development of a pipeline called the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport Canadian oil from the tar sands to American refineries on the Gulf Coast, primarily for export. Not only will the development of this pipeline disrupt countless eco-systems and indigenous communities in the region of the tar sands in Canada, but it will also increase the risk for severe oil spills on American territory and will endanger communities in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. Above all, to produce just one barrel of crude oil from the tar sands requires between TWO and FOUR barrels of oil. NASA’s top scientist has said that the implementation of this Pipeline would mean “essentially game over” for the climate. That $6 billion investment could do so many better things than solidifying our dependence on fossil fuels. Continue reading
Today it was decided that Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist I’ve seen speak twice at Wesleyan, is going to prison for disrupting an illegal government auction of public land to private oil and gas companies. He went to the auction, which he knew to be unlawful and inevitably destructive, pretended to be a bidder, and proceeded to jack up the prices for oil executives trying to lease government land. He won 14 bids. His actions forced the Bureau of Land Management to admit that they’d held an illegal auction and to cancel all leases (the auction was during December of 2008, a parting gift from the Bush administration to the oil industry). He essentially conducted nonviolent protest of a very creative sort.
It’s no surprise that adapting to climate change will be expensive for all nations. However, the burden on poor countries to maintain existing infrastructure will be disproportionately higher, a group of UN University economists recently stated. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) asked 19 countries to assess the cost of adapting a few sections of their economies to climate change, for example Costa Rica’s biodiversity sector. Over a period of 20 years, Namibia estimates a cost of $4 billion to reduce emissions and adapt its farming, Niger predicts $2.5 billion for farming and decreasing its dependence on firewood, and Turkmenistan estimates $7 billion to adapt its electricity and water sectors, John Vidal reports on the UK Guardian’s Poverty Matters blog. Continue reading