Monday, December 11, 2006

Don't Give up on 2 Degrees: Tory Qaulity of Life Challenge

The EU has a stated goal of keeping climate change at bellow a global average of 2 Degrees Celsius. The Conservative Party Quality of Life group seems to be trying to tie down this aspiration as policy.

There is some agreement amongst scientists and environmentalists that beyond this the rate of positive feed backs increases dramatically and the risks of wholesale climatic reconfiguration increase to become a very real threat.

Even within the EU however, there is not a realistic corresponding co2 concentration. 550pm has been used for some time but current science suggest that to maintain temperature changes bellow 2 Degrees Celsius a concentration target of 400-450ppm CO2e is required to achieve this with 90% certainty.

Many do not see this as feasible. CO2e may already be 430ppm looking at the basket of ghg's.

The Conservative party in the UK have decided that we need to work hard at achieving this goal. If we don't put in the effort then we won't know what is possible. We do not need an incrementally greater focus on climate change as just another challenge. We need to start. We need to start in the same manner that we started to fight the Germans. No mistake, this is a war, and the human stakes, the biological and the economic stakes are that high.

Fortunately, this is a war that can ultimately be won. Once we have decarbonised the economy we will have a cleaner world. Power will be distributed physically and metaphorically. Housing will be warmer, fuel poverty a thing of the past. Wars for fossil fuels will be a distant memory. We truly are at a crossroads: down one side continued conflict for dwindling oil and natural gas reserves, reliance on dirty coal and higher energy prices; down the other, renewable energy, a decarbonised transport sector, forest stewardship and just compensation, better health for millions. That sounds like true quality of life.

The conservatives state in there report that the UK governments goal of 60% cuts by 2050 is insufficient (a fair statement) and that cuts of 80% are required. Lets just make this clear, as David Milliband (Labour, Minister for the Environment)...'By 2050 practically the whole world economy besides agriculture will have to be decarbonised'. The basic goal is rapid decarbonisation as quickly and manageable as can be achieved.

In conclusion the report states that:

  • When it comes to managing the risk of serious climate instability, the politics must fit the science and not the other way round. The Quality of Life policy group believes that it is wrong to give up on the chance to limit global temperature increase to 2°C versus pre-industrial levels. Our understanding of the science tells us that the appropriate long term stabilisation target range for CO2 atmospheric concentration is 400-450ppm CO2-equivalent, rather than the 450-550ppm, cited by the Stern report.

  • Consequently we believe that the UK goal of a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050 is likely to be proved inadequate. Our policy work is therefore directed at how we can reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050, without sacrificing quality of life or competitiveness.

  • Long term aspirations are likely to be academic without a shift in the short term momentum to reduce emissions. An ambitious long term goal will therefore struggle for credibility without a statutory emissions reduction target for 2025, supported by a road map of shorter term targets. These targets should be proposed by an Independent Agency and supported by a vote in the House of Commons. A medium term target of this type is important for shaping the key investment decisions that will be taken over the next 15 years in replacing our energy generation infrastructure. Those decisions will shape our ability to meet the long term goal.

Aubrey Meyer of the Global Commons Institute had this to say about the report:

On the topic of “Getting the science right”

In one sense - getting to grips with the ‘science’ better - the paper is
very useful. It correctly takes Sir Nicholas Stern to task over 450-550
ppmv CO2 e. It points out that this concentration value of GHG in the
atmosphere is too high if we are to avoid a more than a two degrees
Celsius overall global temperature rise. The paper poses 400-450 ppmv as
the limit of what's needed. This is more realistic.

On the topic of “Getting the framework right”

In another sense – the plain logic of global time-dependent limits to
consumption - this group is fragments and all at sea. It seems to me
that despite the input of Mark Lynas, Peter Ainsworth and others, they
still aren’t doing the arithmetic. The section called “Getting the
framework right” [see below] has a good title, and some not unhelpful
exhortative remarks but no methodological content. In this area all we
get is a string of right-on sounding buzz words with no real value due
to their contradictory usage.

The “critically right” framework turns out to be words: - a “cross-party
kick-start” to a “throttle up or down” at “political” will . . . with
which we can speed up or slow down to manage the risks both locally and
globally to accommodate the two opposing trend tendencies of doing too
much too soon [fat chance] versus too little too late . . . without a
global emissions framework being mentioned once.

The sad fact seems to be this: - John Gummer, whose group is, was one of
the earliest and sharpest C&C advocates. Now, for reasons un-stated
accompanied by what can now better be described as publicly almost
foaming at the mouth, John’s anti-C&C views are damaging the chances for
competence in this ‘Quality of Life Group’.

With time running out, the “Right-Framework” part of the report avoids
the discipline of time-dependency in emissions management. This, if
anything, will only confuse and damage the cross-party consensus the
Conservative Party want to lead.

Its dead simple or we're dead, if C&C does not lead the cross-party
consensus, there will be no consensus.
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