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Wording climate change policy no easy task

by Eve Savory, CBCNews.ca

It’s a task to give pause. First, visualize thousands of peer-reviewed studies on climate change, already boiled down to three massive volumes and their summaries.

Your job is to sum up the whole thing in just five pages. And do it in layman’s language.

That’s the chore facing scientists and policy-makers from the world’s governments this week in Valencia, Spain. The document will be the basis for the next global negotiations on climate change.

The work they are doing is the final leg of the 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC – the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change. Three summary reports, five years in the making, on the science, on the impacts, and what we can do about it have already been released.

Now, scientists and government policy makers have gathered in Valencia to negotiate - line by line and sometimes word by word - a synthesis report. Those scant five pages will be the basis of the next global political step on climate change, the step that follows the Kyoto Protocol.

John Stone, vice-chair of one of the three IPCC groups, on the phone from Valencia said he hopes governments will take the report seriously, and begin in earnest to negotiate the next step.

"The science is getting stronger and stronger and stronger, that the imperative for governments to act is getting stronger and stronger and stronger."

Stone, an adjunct research professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University, says the difficulty is that the synthesis report has to be acceptable to each of 130+ governments. "This will be public property, and the people hopefully will hold their governments to account. So those governments are going to be very careful with what is written."
Canada, he says, has been "very constructive."

Stone says the conclusions the Valencia delegates are trying to sum up are very clear. Climate change is unequivocal. Temperature changes are very likely due to human influence, we are seeing the impacts already, they will get greater, and we have the tools to act.

He says you won't see the word "threat" in the report. But he will use it.

"The scientific question about is this real or not has been settled. And it is legitimately a threat. It’s a threat to our civilizations, our humanity,our ecosystems and the like, and only a fool walks away from a threat."

The report is to be finished by the end of the week, and what promises to be two weeks of extraordinarily sensitive and complicated negotiations will begin December 3rd, in Bali.

For more, read Beyond Kyoto: What to expect as nations meet over next steps

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Comments

Dave

How dare you imply the science is settled. Climate change has been occurring for hundreds of thousands of years. Just because some enviro-nuts flew over the ice cap and saw some ice melting the governments in the world have to act now and impose carbon taxes. And what about the media? You never report both sides. I guess it's more exciting to discuss Armageddon than to imply that climate changes are natural.

Posted November 15, 2007 10:55 AM

Beaconsfield Ray

More hot air to accentuate "global warming".

If you want to save the planet, you go ahead and live in a cave. I most certainly won't change my life and you can't make me. Do and say what you will, "global warming" is a natural planetary event, and an insignificant species called homo sapiens can do little, if anything at all, to change or influence it.

Simple continuation of the BS junk science form the KKK (Krazy Kyoto Krusaders)

Posted November 15, 2007 12:05 PM

Ken Kernaghan

Calgary

I consider the work of the scientists in the IPCC to be challenging. Instead of being able to write a clear statement of what the evidence and information available appears most likely to mean, they are likely being guided by their political overseers to write a document that, though it must be fact based, stretches the factual statements to the limits of scientific acceptability.

Scientists know that few things in science are ever “certainties”. Now they also know that every statement in the IPCC document qualifying the un-“certainty” will be used by those not wishing to give up the way of life, and path to wealth, they have grown accustomed to. The “lack of certainty” will be used, along with attempts to discredit the IPCC, to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the voters. The voters targeted are in the nations that could force the selfish opportunists out of their fortunate lifestyle by demanding that their nation act to dramatically reduce its contribution to global warming. Every year that action is delayed, and every softening of the action to be taken, is a victory for those who would rather not change.

The scientists try to prove their case with scientifically supportable information. The opportunists benefiting from the current state-of-affairs will do everything they can, without the bother of relying on scientifically supportable information, to delay or diminish the action that nations of people choose to take.

It will take significant action by all nations, not just offers by nations to do what they feel they can. Reliance on charitable individuals, or nations, to attempt to make a difference while the selfish ramp up their impact as they please, is not an option.

I hope there are enough caring and considerate people, willing to accept what the science is indicating and willing to demand that their nation dramatically reduce its contribution to global warming.

Posted November 16, 2007 12:19 AM

peter jort

John Stone says,
“only a fool walks away from a threat”.
problem is,
politicians have proven themselves to be fools.

Posted November 16, 2007 01:22 AM

Ken Kernaghan

Calgary

I wish to clarify what I meant in my in my previous post.

When I commented on the unacceptability of the selfish ramping up their impacts I was not referring to increased emissions from developing nations or poor people. I was referring to those who have wealthy lifestyles today because of excessive CO2 emissions, and other human activities, that are contributing to global warming. This includes the wealthy in the developing nations and would exclude the poor in developed nations.

Also, though a selfish person who continues to increase their personal share of the total global human impact is the target of my comment, anyone who continues to have a personal share of the human impacts which is higher than a per-capita share of the total acceptable global human impacts on global warming is a potential problem.

However, believing that the free-market is wonderful at sorting out priorities among those things with monetary value all we need to do is put an appropriate monetary value on those things that contribute to global warming.

Anyone with a personal global warming impact that is lower that the acceptable global per-capita level should be financially rewarded by those who have the wealth and choose to continue to live and prosper in a manner that results in a higher than acceptable personal impact.

Human activities that contribute to global warming but produce the highest value should be the activities that continue. Human activities that contribute to global warming but are of marginal financial benefit would be the ones to be curtailed.

However we accomplish the correction of human activity on the planet, the poor should not have their circumstances made worse.

Posted November 17, 2007 10:23 AM

Tim Bryson

To Dave and Ray...

Your reponses are childish in the extreme..."you can't make me"??

In actual fact, the science is pretty clear cut and is based on 1000's of studies that are able to separate out the natural from the man-made.

As for the media, they have been decidedly biased over the past decade in that they have given the climate change denial industry equal footing when there was little on which to base these denials.

One final question: on what scientific basis do you make your claims that its all such hogwash?

Posted November 17, 2007 11:08 PM

Sara

People like "Dave" and "Beaconsfield Ray" who don't think the science is settled or accurate have obviously been reading the majority of so-called news articles which cast doubt on the peer-reviewed conclusions published by qualified scientists. Check out "Balance as Bias; global warming and the US pretige press" by Boykoff & Boykoff, Global Environmental Exchange 2004, Vol 14: 125 - 136. During the period from 1993 to 2003, there were 928 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals dealing with climate change, and that 0% of them expressed doubt about human causes of climate change. Meanwhile, between 1990 and 2004, from a randomly chosen sample consisting of 18% of the articles that appeared in major newspapers between 1990 and 2004, there were 636 articles about global warming -- and 53% of them expressed doubt as to the human causes of global warming. Ammunition for the short-sighted fools and corporations who profit in the short term from activites contributing to climate change.
People protest about the cost of curbing climate change -- but who would pay the cost? Mainly those who can well afford it. Who will pay the cost of NOT addresing climate change? Every living thing on this planet. I agree with Ken Kernaghan's comments, and Peter Jort's.

Posted November 18, 2007 12:48 PM

Garet

Winnipeg

Sara, I'd like to point out the Kyoto things, where none of the results were able to be reproduced in laboratory conditions. When science is becoming more political, it's easy to change a number here or there to get the resluts that you want, not the results that are true.

Not even 30 years ago, scientists were convinced that emissions from cars was leading to global COOLING.

I think it's terrible that you get "those" people who drive hybrids, and look down their noses at people who drive less efficient cars, with bigger engines. I know I can't afford a hybrid, and wouldn't buy one if I could. The fact that people think that they're helping by doing slightly less "damage" to the environment is sickening.

Global warming is happening. Sure. But it's also been shown that it's by 1 or 2 degrees every century. Not a big deal. It's not going to cause a mass extinction of anything.

Posted November 19, 2007 12:05 PM

Bruce

Calgary

Garet, et al, if there is evidence that global warming won't actually cause any adverse effects, i.e., is "harmless", please adduce it. This is a democratic society and you have the right of free speach. Use it to make your argument, or have a scientist explain it. I suggest to you that neither you nor your proxy can show that global warming is harmless.

Please dispense with the arguments that an experiment that cannot be repeated is scientifically invalid and that global warming, as a theory, is invalid because it cannot therefore be proved. Please dispense with the arguments that the science is invalid because of the politicization of the science.

That is sophistry. Next you will be telling us the Sun and solar system revolve around the earth - as was once believed when the truth did not mesh with dogma.

Posted November 21, 2007 02:54 PM

Matthew Hall

Stratford

The denial of the seriousness of climate change is ridiculous. The balance of scientific evidence supports that climate change is a big problem. Any search of peer-reviewed scientific reports will tell you that.
What interest would people generally have to deny climate change? A lot. No one wants to have their way of life threatened.
What interest would scientists have in making up climate change threats? Not a heck of a lot. Independent scientific studies can be trusted a lot further than other sources.
Why would anyone make up global warming? It's real.

Posted November 23, 2007 11:07 PM

Garet

Winnipeg

Bruce, I'm not sure if you know this, but the whole basis of science is repeatability. That's why Kyoto is bull. You can't use unreproducable lab conditions and experiments to prove something. You might as well guess at the results at that point.

The fact that politicians give an agenda to this "science" also makes relults meaning less.

Where in my post did I use the word "harmless"? You'd think with your linguistic prowess, although lacking any substance behind the words, you'd be able to read my simple words.

Posted December 5, 2007 12:18 PM

Garet

Winnipeg

We know it's real. I can't see anyone in their right mind claiming it's not real. But, whether it's a big problem, and even whether it's man made are still up in the air. Don't get ahead of scientists just because you've heard the propaganda by everyone from vegetarians to socialists to politicians. Everyone with an agenda will have you believe the world is ending. But, for the past 10 thousand years the world has been warming up.

Also, remember this, it's 1-2 degrees per century. Maybe in 1000 years, if the world hasn't started a cooling cycle, we will be in trouble.

Posted December 5, 2007 12:23 PM

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