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Climate change – bad for your health?


As the negotiations kick off in Cancun (and the opening speeches seem to repeat the message of low expectations and going for partial compromises discussed in the last blog), I’m looking at this flyer, lying on my desk . The possible impact of climate change and extreme weather events caused by climate change on health is an “in” topic in Bonn this week. The German Environment Ministry, Federal Environment agency, German Meterological Office DWD and the European Office of the WHO are holding a joint two-day symposium. I went to the opening press conference at the Ministry yesterday. There’s more information on the background and the issue of health implications here:
Extreme weather events require precautions and adaptation
Tonight I am chairing a panel discussion here at Deutsche Welle on the same topic, that\’s why the flyer is on my desk. The floods in Pakistan this year and the fires in Russia are amongst the examples being discussed of the type of extreme weather events and disasters likely to be on the increase with a changing climate. Obviously, they have an impact on human health. The spread of diseases to areas where they haven’t been prevalent before, like Dengue fever in Europe, will also be on the agenda.
The discussion is the eighth in a series called the Bonn Dialogues. The city of Bonn is active in the network of cities working to combat climate change. It’s also of course the home of the UNFCCC, now busy in Cancun. And it houses the United Nations University UNU-EHS, the IHDP, International human dimensions programme on global environment change, and the DKKV, that’s the German catastrophe prevention organisation, who are organising the conference. I’ll be interested to hear what our panelists have to say. I’ll keep you posted.

Date

November 30, 2010 | 12:59 pm

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Happy Icy New Year

Happy New Year Ice Blog readers. I have been on holiday enjoying the winter weather in Germany and the UK. A lot of people are complaining about the cold and the bad road conditions and delays on planes and trains – but I for one am happy to have a real winter. What else would you expect from the ice-blogger? Some colleagues reckon this will save me an Arctic trip…
There is a lot of talking and joking as usual about whether the extreme winter conditions will undermine the acceptance that humankind is affecting the climate.
I was interested to read in the British press today that some British newspapers have even been taking the name of Professor Mojib Latif in vain, a respected climate expert at the Leibniz Institute of Kiel University Germany – whom I have interviewed several times. Two conservative papers apparently misinterpreted his research as signalling a switch from global warming to cooling. Fortunately (i.e. in the interests of the truth and no misrepresentation) today’s edition of The Guardian puts his research into context and quotes him as affirming his strong belief in man-made global warming.Prof Latif says the cold spell is short-term “weather” and not a cooling related to ocean cooling which he describes in his work. He also compares the complexity of the climate problem to Einstein’s theory of relativity and stresses the difficulty of presenting it accurately in the media. I’ll second that, but keep doing my best.

Before I stop for today I’d like to draw your attention to a comment posted by David Scrimgeour under the last entry.
He draws attention to the question of how clean technologies are going to be trasferred across borders, and what incentives there will be for example to German companies to invest in projects in potentially risky locations. Good question, David.
I personally think companies will only go into this if they know there is a market, and a market with a future. We need clear signals from governments – which we didn’t really get in Copenhagen – but we also need to draw companies’ attention to the finance experts who say it will ultimately be cheaper to work against global warming, and to all the studies which indicate the future lies with clean technology which does not put a burden on the climate. And of course companies are ultimately interested in making a profit. Look how some energy companies have realised fossil fuels are finite and are getting into alternative renewables – to secure their future.
Any other views on this?

Date

January 12, 2010 | 3:03 pm

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Sisyphos and the climate

Apologies for blog-silence. For one reason and another I wasn’t able to blog for the last couple of weeks.
The question is – did you miss it? Or have you been reading, watching, listening to so much about climate change you are getting tired of the subject?
I am very concerned that the international community is accepting that there will be no legally binding agreement in Copenhagen. I am even more concerned that a lot of people are getting tired of the climate change topic and simply don’t care. Is there a danger of “overkill” in our media coverage? I was giving a training session to some young journalists yesterday and some of them told me about a project they were planning dealing with that very subject. They have the feeling that there is so much attention to the topic that global warming is starting to leave people cold. (Sorry!) People like me were pleased that climate change came onto the “mainstream” political and public agenda. But unless there is a big disaster – and a clear link to climatic factors – people are tending to “switch off”.
I’ve been speaking to friends in the UK about the latest floods in northern England. People are happy to blame politicians, local authorities or private companies for inadequate drainage or flood protection. Some say “it’s just nature”. But few are willing to even consider a possible link to scientists’s predictions of an increasing number of extreme weather events because of climate change.
Yvo de Boer from the UNFCCC is giving a major press conference today about the Copenhagen meeting. I don’t envy him his job. Trying to keep interest alive in view of the apparent concensus that Copenhagen will not “seal the deal” has something of the Sisyphean about it.

Date

November 25, 2009 | 9:19 am

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Shifting the Goalposts for Copenhagen?

Apologies for “blog-silence”, I’ve been on an autumn break, enjoying the “golden October” weather we’ve been having here in Germany. Not that you ever really have a break from the climate change issue these days. For one reason and another, it seems to have become an everyday issue, from people wondering whether the thick frost we’ve been having in our area is “normal” to the nature documentaries on tv and the media in general either stressing the importance of a climate deal or telling us Copenhagen won’t work anyway, given governments’s preoccupation with the financial situation.
Some of the conservation groups are suggesting the world’s politicians and influential lobby groups are actively preparing us for a failure in Copenhagen to soften the blow if no legally binding agreement is achieved.
The latest EU discussions on Copenhagen don’t exactly make me optimistic.Ultimately, it comes down to the political will to cut emissions drastically and fund adaptation programmes in the developing world. The lack of a firm commitment to figures bodes ill.
In my efforts to balance my natural optimism with observations of political reality, I find myself struggling to believe we can reduce emissions to the necessary extent. I wish somebody could give me reason to be more positive?
The UN climate secretariat has just published the official emissions figures for 2007. (There’s that frustrating time lag when it comes to publishing data). “The continuing growth of emissions from industrialised countries remains worrying, despite the expectation of a momentary dip brought about by the global recession”, says climate chief Yvo de Boer. He says (he has to, really) this underscores the need for a “comprehensive, fair and effective climate change deal in Copenhagen in December”. Too true. I wish our decision-makers would come up with the decisive action (and funding) to make it happen.

Date

October 22, 2009 | 7:29 am

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Time to Move On

Dryas, one of this region’s attractive flowers and also a source of food for Tomas’ caterpillars. I found a supply in the fridge, they’re starting to get scarce as the season progresses fast in this strong sunshine, and he puts them in glass phials with the creatures he is rearing as part of his experiments.


I found these growing down by the water, I’m not sure how to spell the name, so I’m not publishing without verifying, let’s make do with a look.
All too fast it’s my last day at Zackenberg Station. I’m the only one leaving this week, four new people are coming in. I’ve been put on standby all day, as the flight times can change at short notice. The Twin Otter coming in will be a famous one, the POF, apparently even the cover photo on one of THE books about these planes. Our logistics chief Philip is very excited about it. Its history goes right back to the Vietnam war, and it has been in many a scrape. I’ll ask the captain a bit about it later. I assume it has had a few spare parts since then.


Conditions seem idyllic, although the forecast says it’s likely to rain a little. No signs of any deterioration so far, as I sit on the bench outside the kitchen hut and catch up on my reading.
Lars and Philip keep reminding me things can change quickly up here. The plane has now radio’d it will be in at 15.26 (not a minute earlier or later!). I have everything ready. Then, at 15.10, although the sun is still shining, a wind comes up all of a sudden that is blowing things over, even chairs, and I have to beat a hasty retreat. People start running to secure anything that can blow away.

I think the little plane will never be able to land in this. Clearly I have no idea of the power of the “POF” and her Captain Jonas and his co-pilot. Although they asked me later when the storm had blown up at Zackenberg, because it had been fine until then, they come in without a problem.

The jackets are on, hoods up.

Scientific chief Lars battles the wind and makes his way to the runway.

Everyone who’s not out in the field heads towards the plane for the ritual farewell and welcoming of the new people.

The plane has landed, buffeted by the wind.

The Ice Blogger has to be photographed about to leave the station on the famous POF. I could feel it shaking in the wind as I leaned against it.

Time to say a very rushed goodbye in the excitement and off we went, two pilots, me and 3 men to be dropped off at Daneborg, the coastal military base, to be transported on further north to repair a remote hut. Daneborg will be the next stop.

Date

July 23, 2009 | 4:24 pm

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