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Tackling Climate Change As A Policymaker? Local Does It!

| Friday May 23rd, 2008 | 0 Comments

England’s Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock unveiled the UK government’s plans for the next two years for tackling climate change, stressing a local approach. She spoke at a conference about preparing for climate change organized by the Guardian newspaper. The UK government is one to watch because it has made impressive progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and is on track to achieve almost double its Kyoto target.


Ruddock revealed a two year plan to tackle the problems with new and existing projects in regional Britain, speaking at a conference on planning for climate adaptation. The UK government believes that local authorities, regional government and devolved administrations have a vital role to play in reducing carbon emissions because they happen to manage large estates and act as community leaders.
Official government bodies called Regional Climate Change Partnerships can apply for funding for taking action to
– Develop/update regional strategies
– Landscape scale natural environment issues and biodiversity
– Economic development
– Multi-area agreements
– Innovation/specific regional opportunities
Ruddock’s announcement at the Guardian conference follows a flurry of news reports containing alarming statistics indicating that CO2 levels are much worse than assumed thus far.
At the moment, CO2 emissions have reached the highest levels in 800,000 years according to recent data published on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website. The annual mean growth rate for 2007 was 2.14 parts per million (ppm). This is a harrowing number because it’s the fourth year since 2001 that the 2ppm has been exceeded. To get an idea of proportion, check out these numbers for the previous decades. From 1970 to 2000, CO2 in the air increased way less, by about 1.5ppm annually. The problems exacerbated tremendously since 2000 as ppm numbers averaged 2.1ppm annually.
Another study recently published in Nature reconfirmed key scientific evidence that climate change is caused by human actions, a finding which had been concluded with 66-90 percent certainty in landmark February 2007 research on behalf of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC). That research document is considered the basis for the international climate negotiations.
The Nature article was authored by many of the collaborators of the groundbreaking February 2007 IPCC research. Just like the NOAA information, the study asserts that the effects of global warming are undeniable and that things are getting worse. Greenhouse gas emissions trigger changes in natural systems on all continents as well as in most oceans, the scientists say, led by Cynthia Rosenzweig of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research. Antarctica is the only territory on the globe that is not affected, the researchers say. The study derives its findings from an 150,000 more years of data compared to the IPCC’s February 2007 information. “The warming world is causing impacts on physical and biological systems attributable at the global scale,” lead author Rosenzweig was quoted as saying in the Rawstory recently.
What’s all the more convincing is that a separate article in Nature by skeptics concludes that Rosenzweig et al’s research indeed contains an overwhelming amount of undeniable evidence. The commentary, by Francis Zwiers and Gabriele Hegerl, two climatologists, focused in on the question whether climate change is a result of human actions. “The sheer number of changes” in ecological systems listed in the study outweighed the skepticism that Zwiers and Hegerl reserved for the supposedly shortish time frames of the studied data.
Most of the recent gloom and doom in newsreports includes the harrowing comment that even if we curbed all greenhouse gases today the scenario would still be desperate. That’s of course a scientific observation that people are free to make. Whilst normally I’d be loath to devote too much attention to that particular assertion at the moment I think the time is more than appropriate to postulate the fact because it so obviously has a positive effect; many people are spurred into action. (I am on eagerly on the lookout for an agency/blog which monitors the ‘triggers’ spurring people/organizations to take environmental action. If anyone knows of such a monitoring service, please let me know.) Who knows, perhaps instilling fear turns out to be hardly the issue here; instead we could be absolutely ignorant of the real horrors that lie ahead of us.
Ruddock for one pointed out at the conference on planning for climate adaptation that “even if we stopped all emissions of greenhouse gases tomorrow we would still be locked into 30 to 40 years of climate change”. And a similar comment was made by Martin Parry, co-chair of the IPCC working group on climate impacts and also a speaker at the conference. He said that “despite all the talk, the situation is getting worse. We are already seeing the impacts of climate change and the scale of those impacts will also accelerate, until we decide to do something about it.”
Incidentally, some horrors are expected to change as a result of global warming. NOAH’s Thomas Knutson published an article in Nature Geoscience asserting that greenhouse gases will not necessarily lead to an increase in the frequency with which hurricanes take place this Century. That’s good news, but nevertheless Knutson asserts that the intensity of hurricanes is likely to get worse as a result of temperature rises.
The various sounding alarm bells have reinvigorated more people’s environmental concerns, a trend that’s intensified in recent months. We’re likely going to hear a lot more about the local factor. This is absolutely essential, also in the US. Read these comments by a US blogger called ClimateFrog who believes that the local initiative for climate change is key in waking up people. In many ways the local approach appears to be making sense because it’s at this level that anyone can decide that ‘the economy’ doesn’t have to be adversely affected by climate considerations.


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