About the Copenhagen UN Conference
Posted on the 04.12.2009 by Alain Hubert
The UNCCC in Copenhagen is important in that it brings all of the partners together round the table to discuss reaching a possible common standpoint for achieving a significant reduction in greenhouse gases to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. This meeting is important because a joint solution needs to found to the question of anthropic global warming, since greenhouse gases are also distributed in less than a year throughout the lower atmosphere surrounding the planet.
It is vital for a decisive step forward to be taken in this area. Also, the industrialised nations (which are the leading culprits in the exponential rise in greenhouse gases) need to be prepared to share their environment-related technologies with emerging countries, which are hungry for energy today.
However, there is a very significant likelihood that this will not happen, because we simply have no desire to change. So, why should we think that the political leaders who represent us will have the courage and will to implement the advice that the scientific community has been giving us unanimously since the last report from the IPCC?
If we do not manage to reduce anthropic emissions by 80% between now and 2050, the very equilibrium of our societies will come under threat, because solutions will become increasingly difficult to introduce as the price of energy becomes virtually inaccessible for the majority of these people.
Please find below a very interesting article published recently by Le Monde and Stéphane Foucart about the CO2 emissions.
In 2008, emissions of CO2 beat a new record
NOTHING SEEMS to be able to reverse the trend. Not climate diplomacy and not the economic crisis. According to the annual study issued by the Global Carbon Project scientific consortium and published on Tuesday 17th November in Nature Geoscience magazine, global emissions of CO2 increased in 2008, setting a new record of almost 10 billion tons of carbon (GtC). This estimate is accurate to within 10%. At the same time, “carbon sinks” (oceans, terrestrial vegetation, etc.), which absorb a major part of anthropic carbon dioxide, became slightly less effective. Half a century ago, these sinks captured 45% of emissions; in 2008 this rate was 40%.It comes as no surprise to learn that the combustion of fossil fuels (oil, coal, gas, etc.) makes up the majority of CO2 emissions from humans, or approximately 8.7 GtC. This amount exceeds the level for the year 2000 by 29% and is 41% greater than in 1990, the reference year used for the Kyoto Protocol.
The litany of sorry figures speaks for itself. During the 1990s, human emissions of CO2 caused by fossil fuels rose by an average of 1% every year; this rate has more than tripled since 2000 to an annual average increase of 3.4%. The economic crisis had an impact on emissions in 2008, with a rise of 2%, which is lower than the average for the years since 2000. The GFC should also have a further effect in 2009. Based on the figures for world growth produced by the IMF, researchers in the consortium, which represents some twenty international laboratories, are predicting “a reduction of 2.8% of overall emissions of CO2 for 2009”. However, this figure will not be known with any accuracy until autumn 2010.
Despite the slight slowdown noted in 2008 and the drop forecast for 2009, emissions for the decade currently underway are slightly higher than the worst-case scenario put forward by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its successive reports.
According to the authors of the study, the increase in carbon dioxide emissions observed in recent years can be attributed to “a change in the main source of emissions, which is no longer oil, but coal”. In 2008, coal represented 40% of all emissions from fossil fuels, compared with 37% between 1990 and 2000. The contribution of oil fell from 41% between 1990 and 2000, to 36% in 2008.
This predominance of coal, not seen since 1968, point out the researchers, results from the rise in economic activity in China and India. For the past four years or so, developing countries not affected by the Kyoto Protocol, have seen their emissions of CO2 surpass emissions by developed nations.
However, we need to be aware of any optical illusion here. The national statistics dissected so carefully by researchers tell us something we have known for a long time: emissions from the developed countries have to a large extent moved offshore to emerging countries. “In the United Kingdom, for example, the country’s emissions fell by 5% between 1992 and 2004, whereas emissions based on goods consumed – produced partly in countries in the South – rose by 12%”, the researchers remind us.
While they head the rankings, cement-making and the combustion of fossil fuels associated with transport, producing energy and industrial activity are not the only ones to blame. Changes in the use of land also account for approximately 1.2 GtC. “In the main, this is the consequence of deforestation in tropical regions,” explains climatologist Philippe Ciais (Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science), co-author of the study. It’s a trend that is less well pinpointed by researchers who do not always have reliable national statistics in this area – unlike the figures for the consumption and production of energy, which are believed to be correct within a 10% margin for error.
So what happened to the 10 GtC or so emitted in total in 2008? The authors estimate that 40% was absorbed by terrestrial or marine ecosystems. “The carbon sink that works best is still land vegetation,” says Mr Ciais. “But the ocean is showing signs of relative weakness.” In fact, underlines the researcher, “Fifty years ago, the various carbon sinks were absorbing 45% of the CO2. This represents a 1% loss in efficiency per decade, which is quite low.” However, it is very difficult to predict how these sinks will perform in the years and decades ahead...
© Stéphane Foucart, Le Monde, 19th November 2009
Stéphane Foucart is a French journalist who covers science for Le Monde newspaper. In particular, he deals with environmental sciences, such as climatology and oceanography. In December 2008, he became caught up in a polemic with some researchers from the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), several of whom had published work in Earth and Planetary Science Letters calling into question the influence that humans are having on climate change.