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Self-interest as a motive for halting climate change

Let me just draw your attention to some thoughts from Matthis Wackernagel from Global Footprint Network indicating that interest in our own welfare could/should/must be the factor that will bring progress in the climate negotiations. You’ll find them here

Date

November 10, 2010 | 9:51 am

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Can Cancun find the funding? UN group points the way

One of the few things that did come out of last year’s disastrous Copenhagen climate conference was a commitment by developed countries to mobilize 100 billion US$ annually by 2020 to help developing countries take measures to adapt to climate change impacts and implement new climate-friendly technologies. The proof of the pudding, as we know, always lies in the eating. And in this case the pudding still has to be mixed and set.
On Friday, a group called the AGF – a special Highl-level Advisory Group on Climate Change Finance set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in February this year – submitted its analysis to the UN. It demonstrates the feasibility of getting this public funding organised.
The next question is whether Cancun can com up with an agreement that will actually get the funds moving.
EU Commissioner Hedagaard told me in Brussels this was one of her priorities.
WWF says the AGF “provides a useful starting point for moving forward.”
“Now we look to governments to come up with the political mechanisms to get the finance actually flowing”, says Gordon Shepherd, leader of WWF’s Global Climate Initiative.
Given that there is no hope of reaching a binding post-Kyoto climate agreement at the Cancun conference, we can only hope for a package of measures to come out of the meeting which will at least take us some way towards reaching one next time round – and making some practical progress in the meantime. The developed countries have to deliver on the funding commitment.
There’s some useful background on the financing issue and the AFT on the UNEP website and on
the WWF website

Date

November 8, 2010 | 9:33 am

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Cancun: just keep the ball rolling?


This week I spent three days in Brussels at a “Climate Action Conference” organised by the European Journalism Centre and the European Commission for Climate Action, finding out about the European Union’s perspective on the Cancun climate talks (29.11-10.12.2010). It was a great opportunity to find out first-hand from the European Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard and some of the other top players in the field what the EU expects – and does not expect of the talks. It was also sobering at times –to hear their views and other experts’ assessments (from ngos, business and the media) of the EU’s position in the global climate game and, indeed, on the prospects for halting climate change in general. In a nutshell, I’d sum it up as: the Europeans have done their bit in the past and are still moving ahead, but even if they upped their targets further: without major emissions reductions from the USA and China, it would not make a lot of difference, and the 2° goal will not be reached.

Connie Hedegaard makes no bones about the fact that Cancun is unlikely to bring the binding global climate agreement the world once hoped would come out of last year’s Copenhagen talks. She says the main thing is to “keep up the momentum in the international climate negotiations”, with a view to pursuing an agreement at the next UN climate conference in South Africa. She does hope for clear decisions to halt deforestation (by improving incentives) and to make sure the fast-track financing promised at last year’s talks will actually be delivered. She talks about “cashing in on the Copenhagen Accord pledges”. You’ll be able to hear and read her views in more detail in the not-too-distant future on the Deutsche Welle Environment page and the radio programme Living Planet. On the whole, though, she seems to be keen to make sure this time round expectations of the talks are not too high. Given the overall mood, I don’t think any of us would have to worry too much about that, agreed? As British MEP Chris Davies told me at the conference, it’s hard to find anybody who’s optimistic about Cancun. Or is there anybody out there with a more positive view? (And is there any alternative?)

Clearly, the failure of the Obama administration to get their climate legislation through in the USA is a major obstacle to progress. The people at the Brussels conference with me were depressed to hear Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Insitute at Columbia University, who joined us for a video conference, say he saw absolutely no hope for a turnaround in the US position in the foreseeable future. He presented a scenario he would welcome (but which he admitted does not look overly likely) where the Chinese would take the initiative and consolidate their leading position on climate-friendly technologies and drastically reduce emissions, conscious of their country’s strong vulnerability to climate change. With the Europeans and emerging countries doing “their bit”, the USA would ultimately follow suit.
Various speakers, including Commissioner Hedegaard, noted positive signs coming out of China with regard to climate awareness and policy. Kelly Rigg, from the tcktcktck initiative, was amongst them. She was actually one of the more optimistic people at the Brussels meeting. You will find her views on what she sees as a “changing climage” with regard to awareness and willingness to act on climate change, on the tcktcktck blog.
I have to take issue with you on your blanket criticism of the media, though, Kelly. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of bad journalism of the kind you attack out there and I agree with a lot of what you say about how the situation can be distorted when the principle of always giving “the other side of the story” results in giving 50% of the coverage to a small minority of critics. But don’t forget there are plenty of journalists among us who go to great lengths to give fair, adequate and unbiased coverage to climate science and impacts around the globe. And a lot of them were listening to your speech at the Brussels meeting.

Date

October 29, 2010 | 2:22 pm

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Arctic research at Zackenberg this summer

Ice blog regulars will remember my trip to Zackenberg station last summer, in high Arctic Greenland.

(Zackenberg station summer 2009)

The ecological monitoring station has been manned for the past few summer months as usual.
I’d like to recommend a look at the blog from deputy station leader Lars Hansen.

(Lars in the field at Zackenberg summer 2009)

You will find some of his stories fascinating and his pictures are fantastic.The latest entry is all about a polar bear visiting the station on Lars’ birthday, October 7th, so very recently. Belated many happy returns Lars, you have some unusual party guests!
Blog from deputy station leader Lars Hansen

Date

October 15, 2010 | 12:39 pm

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Alpine glaciers dwindling away

I’m back! No more excuses, autumn is here and the extended summer break is definitely over.
But as expected, my trip to some of Switzerland’s beautiful alpine glaciers this summer provided some worrying evidence. Hiking in the Saastal or Saas valley, an area I first discovered in 1984 and have visited at irregular intervals since, the differences in the extent of some of the glaciers was striking.
Let me give you a few pictures. I’d like to show you some of the 1984 shots alongside, but since that was definitely the pre-digital age, they are not so easily available. And you can still see quite clearly how the glaciers are changing.


This is the area around Saas-Fee in Wallis or Valais, Switzerland. You can see the glaciers stop fairly high up. In 1984, the view was very different. Switzerland’s glaciers are melting rapidly as the earth warms.
Just over a year ago, more than 200’000 cubic metres of ice broke off the “Feegletscher”.


This is a popular walking trail above Saas Fee. The glacier to the right of the picture, used to be really close to the path.


Another shot of the retreating glacier.I have an old photo of trees against the background of white ice, taken very close to the path.


This is the “Bidergletscher”. It’s taken from a hiking trail. When we first walked this path, you could climb up to the glacier without too much effort. Now it’s high above.


This is the area around Mount Allalin, one of the impressive 4000 metre + peaks that make this area so special. Beautiful, but changing fast.


Isn’t ice beautiful? The formations here remind me of corals.


The idea of covering glaciers to protect them from summer sun seems to be quite widespread in the Alps at the moment. It seems to me like a very desperate measure. Some of the locals I talked to were not impressed. On the whole, though, people don’t seem to be as worried as you’d expect.

The average annual temperature in most areas of the Swiss apls has risen by one to two degrees over the last 100 years. A study by the University of Zürich (2006) suggest the alpine glaciers could lose 80% of their surface area if summer temperatures rise by 3 degrees.

More information on Swiss glaciers and environment

There is more information at Swiss glacier monitoring network

Date

October 13, 2010 | 1:57 pm

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