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Will evidence and science encourage robust climate change policies?



Following the Doha climate change conference, this month news flow has focused on the 2012 track record of extreme climate conditions and their potential link to climate change.

The Bopha typhoon in the Philippines killed over 1,000 people whilst the costs of Hurricane Sandy have made 2012 the second costliest US year since 1980. The hurricane alone could have cost $100bn and the US drought which has continued to expand in December is likely to be as expensive. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the US, but temperatures hit records elsewhere as well. Europe recorded the warmest spring ever; China, Yunnan and south western Sichuan provinces experienced severe drought during winter and spring; northern Brazil witnessed its worst droughts in 50 years; and the April- October precipitation total in Australia was 31% below normal.

In addition, a study by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) showed that Antarctica is warming almost twice as fast as previously thought placing it among the fastest warming regions on Earth. These events are reminders of the urgent necessity for robust climate change policies. Hence the disappointment that the EU carbon market saga has not come to any solution yet. This year the EU carbon market has lost 30% of its value (valued at around $148bn last year by the World Bank, it would now have fallen to $100bn). There is remaining uncertainty around the withdrawal of credits to reduce the oversupply and if this plan is not passed carbon prices could fall further. This month has seen announcement that the Commission was considering giving more free permits for steelmakers with the view of supporting sectors most affected by the ETS and at risk of relocating their activities if the prices were to rise again. In the UK a decision was postponed on whether to include greenhouse gases from shipping and aeroplanes in the UK’s carbon targets – the decision was due this December but is now postponed to 2016 after the next general election.

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