Category Archives: COP Climate Congress

March 10-12, Copenhagen, Denmark.

UC Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen calls for a cost of carbon

Video of Professor Dan Kammen speaking before the Copenhagen Climate Congress (March 11, 2009), where he argues that it is more important that some mechanism of carbon cost is quickly implemented than for the world to loose more time debating over which cost mechanism is best (cap and trade, cap and dividend, or a carbon tax).

Projections for Climate Change go from Bad to Worse, Scientists Report

Report from the Copenhagen Climate Congress:
‘COPENHAGEN—Meeting 2 years after the most recent report of the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), some 2000 scientists delivered a consistent if not unequivocal message here last week on the state of Earth’s warming climate. “The worst case IPCC projections, or even worse, are being realized,” said the event’s co-chair, University of Copenhagen biological oceanographer Katherine Richardson. Emissions are soaring, projections of sea level rise are higher than expected, and climate impacts around the world are appearing with increasing frequency, she told delegates in the opening session of the 3-day meeting.’

Copenhagen Climate Congress: John Ashton

Copenhagen, Denmark March 10, 2009

Repeatedly sounded was the ‘what we have here is a failure to communicate‘ theme. John Ashton addressed this concern at a press conference at the Climate Congress:

“Words mean different things. The word ‘uncertainty’ to a politician often means, come back and tell me when you know whether this a problem or not and that’s when I’ll look into it. Uncertainty to a scientist often mean there’s a signal, but there’s an error, an uncertainty in the amplitude of that signal. We don’t know quite how big that is, it may be four and it may be six, and there are plenty of people in the political world, who are quite happy to abuse the rigor that scientists bring to the ways in which they communicate, to serve political purposes which are not necessarily those which the communicators were intending to serve. Politics is a shark infested sea in that sense. My conclusion is, the more effort that people put into understanding not just what they are trying to say, but how it will be heard, how it might be manipulated and made mischief out of, the better the communication will be. Because in the end, we need a much better sense in our society of the urgency of this problem – we haven’t begun to close the gap between what the climate tells us we need to do and what we feel we’re capable of doing.”

See the full text of John Ashton’s plenary address.

Other speakers also contributed to the ‘failure to communicate theme’, including: Professor Lord Nicolas Stern, March 12, “One of the reasons they [the economists] got it wrong is because you [the scientists] didn’t tell them loudly and clearly enough”

Professor Lord Nicolas Stern video excerpt from Copenhagen.

March 12, 2009 Copenhagen, Denmark

Excerpt from Professor Lord Nicolas Stern’s plenary address at the Climate Conference:


“This is about a choice between patterns of development which look extremely different… these are about very different kind of choices so we have to bring the right kind of economics to bear…

The third feature of this story is that it is a flow stock problem, the flows each year build up into stocks, and the stocks of greenhouse gasses trap the heat and cause the problem of climate change. That of course is a very big part of the story, and it comes directly from the simple science of the story.

But it tells us some very powerful lessons for economics as well here, it tells us the costs of delay are very big. This is not a WTO negotiotiation which if it falls apart one year you pick it up again five years later and your more or less in the same position that you were before.

If you delay this one, because its a flow stock process, the stocks build up and you start in a significantly worse position with a five or ten year delay. Now these are all very powerful lessons for economic analysis from the simple structure of the science, and those are what we have to take on board if were translating the economics into policy.”

UC Berkeley Professor Dan Kammen at the Copenhagen Climate Conference

March 12 2009. Professor Dan Kammen (left) speaks about energy efficiency and the ‘green new deal’ to a large audience and to Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (right) during a panel discussion at the closing plenary session of the Copenhagen Climate Conference.

Another excerpt from the dialogue. Here Dan Kammen links insufficient carbon emission reductions to climate injustice with associated negative consequence for the worlds poorest:

6 Key Messages: Conclusions from the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference

Key Messages from the Congress

12 March 2009

Copenhagen, Denmark: Following a successful International Scientific Congress Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges & Decisions attended by more than 2,500 delegates from nearly 80 countries, preliminary messages from the findings were delivered by the Congress’ Scientific Writing Team. The conclusions will be published into a full synthesis report June 2009. The conclusions were handed over to the Danish Prime Minister Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen today. The Danish Government will host the UN Climate Change Conference in December 2009 and will hand over the conclusions to the decision makers ahead of the Conference.

The six preliminary key messages are:

Key Message 1: Climatic Trends
Recent observations confirm that, given high rates of observed emissions, the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. These parameters include global mean surface temperature, sea-level rise, ocean and ice sheet dynamics, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. There is a significant risk that many of the trends will accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.
Key Message 2: Social disruption
The research community is providing much more information to support discussions on ‘dangerous climate change’. Recent observations show that societies are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2oC will be very difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and will increase the level of climate disruption through the rest of the century.
Key Message 3: Long-Term Strategy
Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action is required to avoid ‘dangerous climate change’ regardless of how it is defined. Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of crossing tipping points and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult. Delay in initiating effective mitigation actions increases significantly the long-term social and economic costs of both adaptation and mitigation.
Key Message 4 – Equity Dimensions
Climate change is having, and will have, strongly differential effects on people within and between countries and regions, on this generation and future generations, and on human societies and the natural world. An effective, well-funded adaptation safety net is required for those people least capable of coping with climate change impacts, and a common but differentiated mitigation strategy is needed to protect the poor and most vulnerable.
Key Message 5: Inaction is Inexcusable
There is no excuse for inaction. We already have many tools and approaches (economic, technological, behavioural, management) to deal effectively with the climate change challenge. But they must be vigorously and widely implemented to achieve the societal transformation required to decarbonise economies. A wide range of benefits will flow from a concerted effort to alter our energy economy now, including sustainable energy job growth, reductions in the health and economic costs of climate change, and the restoration of ecosystems and revitalisation of ecosystem services.
Key Message 6: Meeting the Challenge
To achieve the societal transformation required to meet the climate change challenge, we must overcome a number of significant constraints and seize critical opportunities. These include reducing inertia in social and economic systems; building on a growing public desire for governments to act on climate change; removing implicit and explicit subsidies; reducing the influence of vested interests that increase emissions and reduce resilience; enabling the shifts from ineffective governance and weak institutions to innovative leadership in government, the private sector and civil society; and engaging society in the transition to norms and practices that foster sustainability.

Copenhagen Climate Conference. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s concluding remarks

Copenhagen, Denmark. March 12, 2009

End section of a statement by Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the closing of the Copenhagen Climate Convention.

“A global agreement in Copenhegen, is not just about tackling climate change. It will constitute a new era in multilateral relations. It will be a unique occasion to construct a global solution based on mutual responsibility to act and to assist. People demand action.

Goverment must realize that it is in their interest to act. Government will fall if they fail. Politics must not be in the way of necessary solutions. The world needs better goverment.

So in conclusion, let me repeat the key messages:

  • Urgency. We must come to an agreement here in Copenhagen in December.
  • Direction. We must set a long term target.
  • Action. We must commit to short term efforts.
  • Fairness. The rich must assist the poor.
  • Opportunity. Green growth is the future.
  • Governance. If we fail to act, we fall.

Thank you.”

Copenhagen: James Hansen fields a question, calls for phase out of coal use

Copenhagen, Denmark. March 11, 2009

James Hansen fields a question during one of the many parallel sessions during the Copenhagen climate conference, a meeting aimed at consolidating the new scientific findings that have emerged since the fourth IPCC report of 2007. He recommends phasing out coal use as part of a strategy to avoid the positive feedbacks which emerge as the climate warms.

James Hansen in Copenhagen

Copenhagen Climate Conference Begins, ‘Climate Change, Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions’

Copenhagen, Denmark. March 10, 2009

Today a three day conference on climate change begins here in a drizzly and cold, yet still ‘wonderful’ Copenhagen. This event is part of the build up to the pivotal November-December COP-15 meetings which will attempt to draft a new international agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol which is due to expires in 2012.

A major goal of this conference is to present the new scientific evidence and findings since the IPCC report of 2007. Since much of that report was based on work from 2006, there are essentially three years of work to review and then present to the policy makers attending the November-December meetings.

The program of speakers and scientists, including Dr. James E. Hansen of NASA, covers a dense collection of scientific and relevant social topics ranging from ‘cryosphere, instability, seal level rise’, ‘vulnerability in carbon sinks’, to ‘sustainable urban deveolopment’. Promises to be quite an education.

Image: Copenhagen harbor Nyhavn where Hans Christian Anderson once lived.
Copenhagen harbor Nyhavn where Hans Christian Anderson once lived.