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Looking Back to the Kyoto Protocol Extension

Possibly the most important climate talks in a generation have just finished in Doha, Qatar.  The climate talks were hosted by the UN and have seen an unparalleled shift in principle from some of the richest and polluting countries on the planet.  This will be remembered as the summit were for the first time, richer countries agreed that compensation should be paid to poorer countries for lost growth and productivity linked to climate change.

This is no small, fringe deal but includes over 200 countries and the Kyoto agreement is extended to 2020.  It could be easy to criticise this protocol, and many do citing the lack of genuine cuts as opposed to the high ideals.  But the reality is that Kyoto is the only game in town, it is the only vaguely legally binding agreement for reducing emissions and combating global warming.

The latest deal covers both Europe and Australia, although these areas only cause 15% of the world’s emissions. There is an urgent undertaking to update the protocol with a new treaty which bound all nations rich and poor and the expectation that will be implemented by 2015.

There were no strict financial resources allocated through this meeting, there is a suggested figure of 10 billion dollars to be spent every year in order to combat global warming.  There are still rifts within the organisations in the agreement though, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus nearly derailed the agreement by insisting on credits for their previous emissions cuts.  Fortunately the chairman restarted the meeting and swiftly bypassed all the objections by Russia, Poland and the linked states.

The key passage is referred to in the protocol as the Loss and Damage mechanism, it holds the key to bringing all countries on board.  Many envrionmentalists see this as a key watershed and a vital point in the talks.  There is more information on the meeting on the BBC website and the Iplayer application – if  you have trouble viewing the site because of your location then check this out, if you enabled a proxy server based in the UK then you should have full access.  There is also still a clip of the applause when the chair stifled the Russian led revolt – his name is Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah – ironically a former head of the OPEC oil cartel.

 

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New and Surprising Results from Cryosat

The European Cryosat mission has been focussing on analysing the sea-ice cover in the Arctic recently.  New data has been produced from the spacecraft which uses it’s radar to estimate the thickness of the ices has noticed some alarming results.  The data points at a very substantial reduction in the volume of the ice particularly during the months of Autumn.

In fact the amount has fallen nearly a third compared with the last known data on this, which was produced covering 2003-2008. The fall in levels for the winter months is not quite as dramatic however. Much of the loss seems to have occured in specific regions though, mainly on the Canada Archipelago and also some areas to the North of Greenland.   We obviously have much more data about these levels since we had the technology of satellites to measure them,   But the Cryosat report has only covered the last two years.  At the moment it would be difficult to tell if  these fluctuations are significant until there is enough data to look at the long term trends.

Cryosat was established by the European Space Agency in 2010. The satellite sends down a radar pulse towards the ice floes and then measure the results with a built in altimeter.  If you are interested in seeing a paper discussing the findings in depth you can find them on this site –http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50193/abstract, the report was compiled by Professor Lazon who unfortunately died in an accident at the beginning of the year.

The polar scientist is a big loss to the Cryosat mission as he has developed a lot of techniques to help the project work effectively.  We still don’t know exactly how the change in the ice cover might have an effect on the atmosphere and the Arctic ocean, but the Cryosat data will definitely play an important role in understanding this.

If you want to read more and keep up to date with this research there are lots of resources on the BBC website in the environmental section.  Also many of the documentaries and reports are viewable on the BBC Iplayer application.  Unfortunately you won’t be able to access these if you’re based outside the UK, although I found this useful method to allow me to watch Iplayer on my IPad.  It uses a VPN server to hide your IP address so even when I’m based in the US, it looks like my IP address is originating from the UK.

John Tallgrass

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Remember the Earth Hour Project

Last year, and you may remember on the Saturday 23rd March at 8:30pm, millions of people around the world will be recognising Earth Hour. At this time (your local time) people across the world will simply switch off their lights for an hour as a sign for concern for the environment. IT’s been growing in success, last year there were more than 6900 cities and towns which took part from New York to Ireland and across the globe. The astronauts on the International Space Station even joined in by turning down the power on their systems. This year it is hoped lots more countries will join in, new participants include Palestine and Rwanda.

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There are some famous building across the world which join in such as the Houses of Parliament and the Sydney Opera House. There are iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Brandenburg Gate and even the Empire State Building.
IS it worth it?

Well the event is primarily about raising awareness of the environmental issues facing the planet. The organisers WWF appreciate in itself it has limited effect, the benefit of turning all the lights off is cancelled out by the huge strain on electricity infrastrcture when everyone turns them back on. However it is meant to be a starting point and hope that invidiuals and governments follow up the event with making real change.
You can follow the event at their web site – http://earthhourlive.org/ which will be having regular updates.

For those who would rather watch coverage on a mainstream channel, I can recommend this method for watching UK Television over the web – http://www.uktv-online.com/. It’s quite simple and involves using a secure proxy server to route your connection through giving you the appearance of being in that country.