Climate lawsuit against US Development agencies/UK Chief Scientist stalked by US fossil lobby

Climate lawsuit against US Development Agencies

The first climate lawsuit is being prepared, plaintiffs including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and a few US cities, relies on local rules to US-assisted projects abroad. This is a handy lever for environmental or human rights causes within many countries, not just within the US. Often projects have to qualify under certain criteria in order for it to either receive assistance in financing, or be underwritten by the sponsoring government.

"The lawsuit, slated to be argued in U.S. District Court in San Francisco in April, seeks to require two U.S. development agencies to conduct environmental assessments on coal, natural gas and petroleum projects they financed in developing nations, including China and Mexico.

Under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act, U.S. government agencies are required to conduct such assessments on taxpayer-funded projects in the United States."

If the case succeeds, it will leave the District Court at loggerheads with the US government over climate change.

UK's Chief Scientist hunted by American groups

According to the Independent, Sir David King has stated that he "was being followed around the world by people in the pay of vested-interest groups that want to cast doubt on the science of climate change."

"You have a group of lobbyists, some of whom are chasing me around the planet, which I'm chuffed about because it means they are worrying about what I'm saying, and these lobbyists stand up after I've given an hour's talk and say, 'There are scientists who disagree with you'," Sir David said.

"I always say, 'Which bit of the science that I've just presented to you are you challenging'? I don't get the answer."

Italians ban cars

The Associated Press reported that the Italian government banned cars in several cities for five hours (interestingly with the exception of football fans going to the game) in order to cut air pollution. "Romans and tourists alike taking advantage of a sunny day and lack of traffic for walks, bike or horseback rides" When events show people are willing to accept a breath of fresh air, perhaps there is hope for us with a larger solution.

Blair tries to de-rail EU measures on climate change, and new developments on solar

Blair attempted to undermine EU measures on climate change

The big headline in climate politics is revelations published in Sunday's Observer over Tony Blair's secret attempts to remove emissions targets from key EU documents. The British Prime Minister has always tried to portray himself as a proponent for measures tackling climate change, and has put climate change at the top of the British hosting of the G8 in Scotland this summer. However this leaves any belief in his words in tatters.

"The precise pledges that officials attempted to remove from European proposals include a lowering of carbon dioxide emissions by up to 50 per cent by 2050." The removal was blocked by other nations. This doesn't make much sense, as the UK has targets for a 60% reduction by 2050 - we are missing our 20% by 2010 target by a wide margin, the question that crosses my mind is does the government only want targets that we can change ourselves at a later date and won't have any controls or penalities imposed upon the UK by the EU if the UK miss them?

Their response was "We believed the EU should follow the path taken by the UK of undertaking
the necessary work to demonstrate that the targets at this level were both achievable and made economic sense."
This would suddenly show an unprecidented and, in my opinion, unbelievable sign of interest in other EU nations which was completely absent during the negotiations over the EU Constitution. Additionally, I'm sure said other nations are capable of deciding that for themselves.

Remarkably it was only the day before the British government tried to do this that Sir David King, the UK chief scientific advisor highly recommended changing the UK target from 60% to 80% reductions by 2050 due to the extent of melting on the Greenland ice-sheet.

Make up your own mind: original article.

Significant new developments on solar energy

Researchers at the University of Toronto have apparently developed a flexible plastic solar cell that is five times more efficient than current methods, "the film can turn 30 percent of the sun's power into usable electrical energy -- a far better performance than the 6 percent gleaned from the best plastic solar cells now in use." [Reuters / CTV] It also increases the number of applications for solar technology, particularly in portable form - as well as other non-power applications such as digital cameras that work in darkness.

According to a University of Toronto's press release this is due to the use of infrared-sensitive material - “We made particles from semiconductor crystals which were exactly two, three or four nanometres in size. The nanoparticles were so small they remained dispersed in everyday solvents just like the particles in paint,” explains Sargent. Then, they tuned the tiny nanocrystals to catch light at very long wavelengths. The result – a sprayable infrared detector." The material can even generate a low level of power in darkness from the infrared light generated from people and animals.

Discussion with Jarod Diamond

The UCLA professor who's article I added as the "link of the day" in the last post will be answering questions from the Guardian's talk page on Thursday. You can add questions right now, here.

Post-2012 meeting in May and the Thames needs a new barrier

Conclusion of the COP10 climate change conference

The end of the COP10 conference concluded with an agreement to have another several day-long meeting for May in Germany to assess activities post-2012 when the first stage of the Kyoto Protocol finishes. India - supported by China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia - insisted on a written guarantee that the deal would not lead to to the imposition of carbon reduction commitments on developing nations. The EU opposed the guarantee.

As stated previously, developing nations have had no limits imposed on them during the first stage of the protocol as each citizen produces around a tenth of the CO2 of a European citizen (or 20th of an American). However, the second stage of the protocol needs to take into account that this is going to start changing as India and China's economies become westernised as growth accelerates, and we need to ensure they do not follow our carbon-heavy path at the same time as the west making very heavy reductions in our emissions. [BBC article one and two]

The other big question is after "obstructing even anodyne proposals" at the COP10 Buenos Aires talks is how much, if at all the US will get involved in the next stage, even now that they've agreed they will be at the meeting. They are looking increasingly isolated - Saudi Arabia ratified the treaty on the 21st of December, and although Australia still will not ratify the agreement, according to Independent, is has stated "that it was prepared to negotiate its successor".

The full list of items agreed at COP10 can be found on the UNFCCC website. Most of it is in practice ground level business of the protocol.

Yesterday climate change came up in Parliament again. Margaret Becket, acknowledged that CO2 emissions rose by 1.5% between 2002-03 in the UK.

Thames Barrier

Upgrades and an addition to the Thames barrier are planned. Thames 2100, a project from the Environment Agency, believes that the current 1982 barrier should be sufficient until 2030 where it will reach a 1 in 1000 chance of bursting and flooding 1.2million homes. They believe that the barrier will then need significant strengthening, until 2100 when a second barrier will have to be created. A key finding was that if the city's existing defences were to be breached, then Westminster and other parts of central London could be 6ft deep in water within an hour. [Guardian / Times]

Universities promoting sustainable development

On the education front, the Higher Education Funding Council for England is launching a consultation document on how universities can help promote sustainable development in all their activities, "from research and teaching to waste recycling and buying green energy" according to the Guardian (the full report is available from the HEFCE website). Sadly Oxford who trailblazed in this area by buying all their energy from renewable sources a few years ago following a People and Planet campaign, are considering returning to fossil fuels after a recent price increase.

Link of the day

A comment piece by UCLA professor Jared Diamond, which starts by making describing how the link between states pre-dispositioned to environmental problems and those politically unstable is no co-incidence, then moves on to a hard hitting rebuttal of attitudes found commonly today.

2005: New location for the blog

Welcome to the new location of my blog on climate change. The new location should allow people to add the blog to their communities list rather than their friends list, and means that you won't be revealing your "friends only" posts to the author by subscribing.

The 2004 posts can still be found here. Thanks for reading!