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Recent News on Energy and the Environment 02.01.09

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Poznan Climate Summit Ends In Acrimony

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Posted by: Karl Ramjohn

Following on the news, developments & issues associated with the UNFCCC climate change summit that ended last week in Poznan, Poland …

From Earth News, – December 15, 2008

A key climate change summit has ended in acrimony after the developed world failed to agree to a new tax on industry to help poorer countries survive the droughts and floods attributed to climate change.

Read Full Article: Climate summit ends in acrimony – Telegraph

The UN talks in Poznan, Poland, that cost £23 million and produced 13,000 tonnes of carbon, were supposed to make progress on cutting world emissions and helping the poor adapt to extreme weather conditions. But in the final hours of the meeting ministers from 189 different countries had failed to come to any agreement.

The sticking point was over a controversial adaptation fund that will pump billions of pounds towards helping poorer nations adapt infrastructure, build flood defences and improve agriculture. Although the world agreed to set up the fund from next year, it could not be decided where the money will come from. It had been suggested that existing carbon markets, where heavy industries pay for the right to pollute, should be further taxed to raise the funds. The system is controversial for taxing businesses already suffering the global recession and richer countries refused to commit to the idea.

The EU and Britain said no decision could be made until it is decided how the carbon markets, that have yet to be established in the US, will function or what adaptation measures are needed. But it was no secret that countries like Russia, with heavy industries, were firmly against the scheme. In dramatic scenes developing countries like India and Colombia accused the developed world of abandoning the world’s poor. By the end of negotiations exhausted delegates were forced to shelve the issue until next year.

The conference had made progress on plans to halt deforestation, which causes one fifth of the world’s emissions and agreeing to move to the next stage of talks. However there was no agreement on how to cut greenhouse gases and environment groups criticised the EU for “watering down” its own targets to cut carbon emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. It left aid agencies frustrated at the failure of the summit and questioning the cost.

The talks, that mark the half way point between a summit in Bali last year and an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol in Copenhagen next year, had gone on for two weeks. More than 11,000 delegates took part including “climate change superstars” like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore and Bianca Jagger. The conference, that included a gala dinner serving traditional Polish cuisine, cost more than £23 million.

Related news and articles with perspectives on the conclusion / outcomes of the Poznan conference:

Carbon News and Info > Climate change news > Kyoto & climate politics > Poznan climate talks drift to a close

Recriminations over adaptation fund overshadow Poznan close – 15 Dec 2008 – BusinessGreen

Environmentalists disappointed more was not achieved – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 15, 2008

Next Climate Summit May Turn on Rich Nations’ Approach to Poor Ones –

The Hindu : Front Page : At climate change meet, rich-poor divide perceptible

euronews | Mixed results as UN climate summit wraps up

A Bird’s Eye View

Modelling civilization as “heat engine” could improve climate predictions

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Posted by: Karl Ramjohn

An interesting article from Environmental Research Web  (November 27, 2008)  on a possible conceptual approach to modelling human activities (and the built environment) and how they interact with climate systems (and the natural environment).

—>  Modelling civilization as ‘heat engine’ could improve climate predictions – environmentalresearchweb

The extremely complex process of projecting future emissions of carbon dioxide could be simplified dramatically by modelling civilization as a heat engine. That is the conclusion of an atmospheric physicist in the US, who has shown that changes in global population and standard of living correlate to variations in energy efficiency. This discovery halves the number of variables needed to make emissions forecasts and therefore should considerably improve climate predictions, he claims. 

Computer models used to predict how the Earth’s climate will change over the next century take as their input projections of future manmade emissions of carbon dioxide. These projections rely on the evolution of four variables: population; standard of living; energy productivity (or efficiency); and the “carbonization” of energy sources. When multiplied together, these tell us how much carbon dioxide will be produced at a given point in the future for a certain global population. However, the ranges of values for each of the four variables combined leads to an extremely broad spectrum of carbon dioxide-emission scenarios, which is a major source of uncertainty in climate models. 

Timothy Garrett of the University of Utah in the US believes that much of this uncertainty can be eliminated by considering humanity as if it were a heat engine (arXiv:0811.1855). Garrett’s model heat engine consists of an entity and its environment, with the two separated by a step in potential energy that enables energy to be transferred between the two. Some fraction of this transferred energy is converted into work, with the rest released beyond the environment in the form of waste heat, as required by the second law of thermodynamics.

However, the work is not done on some external task, such as moving a piston, but instead goes back to boosting the potential across the boundary separating the entity from the environment. In this way, says Garrett, the boundary “bootstraps” itself so that it can get progressively bigger and bigger, resulting in higher and higher levels of energy consumption by the entity.


Some perspectives on the science of climate change

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By: Karl Ramjohn – June 2008

“Climate” is distinguished from “weather”, in that weather is the day-to-day state of the atmosphere and environment, whereas climate is the statistical average of weather patterns over a limited region and a long period (usually, minimum 30 years). A number factors have some influence on variations in the climate in the various regions or zones of the Earth – but it must be noted that none of these changes work (or actually initiate themselves) in isolation.

The natural climatic systems of the Earth are primarily determined by a dynamic complex of linkages, synergies and interactions among the processes, components and sub-systems of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. The hydrosphere in this context includes all of the Earth’s water – oceans, rivers, lakes and the cryosphere (ice caps and snow). The main variables which characterize climate are temperature and precipitation (rainfall), humidity and cloudiness (special disturbances such as droughts and hurricances are sometimes included). These elements are in turn dependent on the meteorological variables (of weather) – such as insolation (solar radiation), wind speed and direction, ocean surface temperature, etc. To this must be added the variability of the Sun’s radiation and the Earth’s orbit, which result in an extremely complex and dynamic system.

Thus the climate system is a global complex of linkages and interactions. Inhomogeneities of all scales exist from the very large scale (e.g., 10,000 km) to the very small scale (e.g., 1 mm). This complex system is acted upon by a range of stimuli associated with the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth’s orbit around the sun. The main factors affecting climate change (natural variability) include: (1) Diurnal oscillations, due to the Earth’s rotation; (2) Tidal oscillations, due to gravitational effects of the Sun and Moon, with main periods of 12.4 hr and 24.8 hr; (3) Seasonal oscillations, due to the inclination of the equator to the ecliptic, and to changes in Sun-Earth distance; (4) Synoptic oscillations, caused by Rossby waves, with scales of 1000 km and periods of days; (5) Global oscillations with periods from weeks to months; (6) Inter-annual oscillations with periods ranging from 2 to 5 years, including El Niño/La Niña phenomena in the Pacific; and (7) Secular or long period oscillations with periods ranging from years to tens of thousands of years (the ice ages), likely due to orbital variations.

Having established the above – one of the main issues in the current debate is the possible effects of human industrial and other activities on the global climate. Despite the assertions in some quarters, anthropogenic effects are for the moment much less significant than these natural effects, the main concern being time-scales – their effects are felt within lifetimes rather than thousands of years. The critical point, is that many of the factors (“forcers” and “reactors”) in our current environment never existed in the past – many of the culprits (such as CFC) do not occur freely in nature, further to which, the rate of change of the release of naturally occurring greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) over the past 200 yr or so (since the “industrial revolution”) is unprecedented and likely a result of human activities (such as deforestation). While, it is very true that global warming and climate change are a natural process on the Earth; the main issue is that the new or additional parameters added by human activities make it very difficult to use past cycles of “Ice Ages” and “Tropical Ages” to predict what is to be expected. Even if our activities are less significant than natural variations (in the global context), they definitely are not helping the situation. Environmental changes by human activities also affect the micro-climate in which we live, on an obviously much shorter time-scale.

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Written by geoenergy

July 5, 2008 at 2:38 pm