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Carbon politics: foul ball in the 2010 season



Gerald Kutney picks out some of the highlights from his upcoming book, Carbon Politics and the Failure of the Kyoto Protocol, to be published by Routledge in January 2014. In this second of the series, he provides an overview of chapter two.

The driver for climate change legislation has been (largely) the information contained in the Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  This dependence places incredible importance on the accuracy of the information. As the AR5 has just been issued, it is appropriate to review the problems of the AR4.

The issue was not if a mistake would be made, but when. There were four fundamental weaknesses within the IPCC:

1. Scope of the literature assessment and review

2. Time pressure from the climate negotiations

3. Dilution of scientific expertise by forced regional representation

4. Lack of formal qualifications and standard operating procedures within the IPCC

Errors were bound to happen under such circumstances, which could undermine the credibility of the IPCC and derail climate change legislation. Compounding the risk, there were well-funded climate sceptics who were eager to exploit any flaws within the system. In the AR4, there had been two errors in the report of the WG II that caught media attention:

1. The area of land in the Netherlands that was below sea level

2. The rate of retreat of the Himalayan glaciers

The former became known in the popular press as ‘Nethergate’ and the latter as ‘glaciergate’.  While the problem of the Dutch sea levels was quickly explained, the glacier problem would not retreat so quickly.

The significance of this error was badly distorted by the climate sceptics; especially significant were the persecutions and propaganda by some members of the Republican party. An ironic aspect of the Republican hate campaign is its direct connections to the IPCC and the AR4.

The IPCC had been created because of the initiative of a Republican president (Ronald Reagan). Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, had been supported by the Bush administration and during the preparation of the AR4,  the American members of the IPCC had been appointed by his administration.

In addition, it was under the Bush administration that the US government officially accepted and approved the contents of the AR4.  One is astounded, then, that the IPCC and AR4 would be so vilified by many Republicans since, in many ways, it is their document.

Scepticism, of course, is a necessary part of scientific thinking. One is reminded of the great scientist Robert Boyle (1627-1691), whose famous work was called The Sceptical Chymist.  In his pioneering study, he believed in scepticism where experiments provided support for the theories of science.

But this ‘modern’ skepticism relies on rhetoric and belongs to an era that predates Boyle – the Dark Ages – when dogma determined the validity of the theories of science. Not since the days of Copernicus and Galileo, when scientists dared to claim that the Earth revolved around the sun, has a scientific theory caused so much outrage.

In the past, stubborn naysayers and rulers rejected the new scientific truths, and some scientists faced the inquisition. With climate change, the story unfolds in much the same way as politics again challenges science, especially in the US.

Sadly, the brunt of these allegations has fallen on those scholars associated with the IPCC, men and women who have freely offered their time, responding to a call by the UN to help all of humanity. For their trouble, they have been harassed and slandered by a small, but vocal, opposition.

The real problem, though, is that certain politicians have even tried to raise criminal charges against them. Does it seem right that American citizens, many internationally recognised for their contributions to science, are bullied by elected officials? At this political level, the sceptics movement is a travesty of justice, not only against the scientific community but the rights of citizens in general, that is unprecedented in a democracy.

Besides the sceptics’ distortions, a mistake had been made by the IPCC on the glaciers, which caused the UN to call for an investigation into the procedures of the IPCC, led by the prestigious InterAcademy Council (IAC). Even though the IAC had done an admirable job mapping the way forward, the IPCC failed to grasp the opportunity.

The all-encompassing nature of the crisis suggested a systemic problem within the IPCC, especially in regards to leadership.  Leadership was lacking during the AR4 process of Working Group II and completely collapsed afterwards. The major concern was not that within this massive undertaking a mistake was made, but that denial permeated throughout the senior ranks of the IPCC.

No one was responsible. And the underwhelming response to the IAC review itself just highlighted the failure of leadership within the IPCC. At the end, there were no major changes in the leadership structure despite the recommendations of the IAC report.

In the next segment of this series on chapter 3 of Carbon Politics and the Failure of the Kyoto Protocol, an analysis is presented on the intensive diplomatic discussions that led to the Kyoto Protocol, from the viewpoint of the Americans and the Chinese.

Gerald Kutney is managing director of Sixth Element Sustainable Management. His book, Carbon Politics and the Failure of the Kyoto Protocol, is being published by Routledge in January 2014. Pre-order your copy here.

Further reading:

Carbon politics: the gamesmanship of the Kyoto negotiations

Strong national action on climate change spurs on international agreements, says study

Climate change is ‘not a high priority for most politicians’

Rio+50: the long view

Global scientists call for IPCC’s reform


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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