Climate change conference outcomes

In spite of China’s resistance on some points, the latest meeting of delegates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a few hours ago agreed upon a plan for battling global warming.

The plan calls for greenhouse gases to be limited to between 445 parts per million and 650 parts per million. China had pressured for the limit to be set to a firm 650 ppm, without a lower level being mentioned, due to concerns that lower level expectations would seriously stymie their booming economy.

To achieve this goal, the cost will be .1% of global GDP; far less than what it will cost if we do nothing.

But here’s the problem – it’s become quite clear now that even at current levels, which are around  388 parts per million according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration graph below, global warming is causing major damage already. I believe that 445 parts per million, the lower end of the IPCC limit is still way too high. If the Arctic and many glaciers are melting rapidly at 388 parts per million, what will things be like by the time we get to 445?

My other concern is that now perhaps we’ll countries racing to continue to use existing carbon dioxide and methane emission intensive production processes to crank out as much as they can knowing that they will only be able to do so for a short time longer; bringing us to the 445 level even faster than anticipated.

The goal of the IPCC plan is to see that temperatures do not rise more than a few degrees global average over preindustrial age levels; which scientist say is inevitable. To do this, greenhouse gas emissions will need to be cut by between 50 and 85 percent by 2050.

Even with the couple of degree “allowable” rise, billions of people will still be affected by global warming related water shortages and up to 30% of the world’s species will face extinction.

China had also lobbied for blame to be apportioned to North America and Europe for global warming and to put the onus them to solve the issue and bear the brunt of the costs.

That may sound a little nuts given that China is the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter (and soon to become number one), but aside from our own contributions to global warming over the years, the West is also very much directly to blame for China’s emissions. Our thirst for cheap consumer goods is fueling much of production in China as is western cultural influence over the Chinese themselves.

The outcomes of this meeting are clear – we need more than to be taking small steps towards solving global warming – we need to be running to solutions. Unfortunately it appears that nuclear power is one of the solutions recommended.

I’m not an economist, but all this talk about negative effects on economy by reducing emissions more dramatically very soon has never made sense to me – haven’t these naysayers been noticing a booming “green” economy building and the consumer interest in going green? This reminds me a little of the fear of computers making huge swathes of the workforce redundant. Yes, jobs were lost, but many more were created.

Although its been repeated by many others before; it’s worthwhile continuously re-stating – without a healthy environment, there will be no economy.

Nature has never bowed down to industry or politicians. It’s been patient, has warned us repeatedly, we’ve ignored it and it’s now launching a  major counteroffensive. It’s important for we humans to realize that nature doesn’t read reports, listen to big business spin or political double talk. In the end, it will prevail on it’s own terms – with or without us.

Read more of the latest news from the IPCC.

Learn more about tracking carbon dioxide levels.