Monday, September 22, 2008

Climate sceptics have their head in the sand, says the Met Office

An apparent cooling trend is exaggerated by a record high temperature in 1998 caused by El Niño, experts say

Climate change graph

Global average temperature anomaly from 1975-2007, relative to the 1961-1990 average. The black line shows the annual figure. The red line shows the trend over the full 23 years. The blue lines show the varying rate of the trend over 10 year periods. Source: The Met Office

Climate sceptics such as Nigel Lawson who argue that global warming has stopped have their "heads in the sand", according to the UK's Met Office.

A recent dip in global temperatures is down to natural changes in weather systems, a new analysis shows, and does not alter the long-term warming trend.

The office says average temperatures have continued their rising trend over the last decade, and that humans are to blame.

In a statement published on its website, it says: "Anyone who thinks global warming has stopped has their head in the sand.

"The evidence is clear, the long-term trend in global temperatures is rising, and humans are largely responsible for this rise. Global warming does not mean that each year will be warmer than the last."

The new research confirms that the world has cooled slightly since 2005, but says this is down to a weather phenomena called La Niña, when cold water rises to the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Despite this effect, the office says, 11 of the last 13 years are the warmest ever recorded.

Vicky Pope of the Met Office said the new research was in response to high-profile claims made by Lawson the former chancellor, and others that the recent cooling showed that fears of climate change are overblown, and that temperatures are unlikely to rise as high as predicted.

She said: "I think it has confused people. We got a lot of emails asking whether global warming had stopped and it prompted us to look at the data again and try and understand the situation better."

The apparent cooling trend is exaggerated by a record high temperature in 1998 caused by a separate weather event, El Niño, she said. "You could look at what happened in 1998 and say that global warming accelerated and that's not true either.

"Any statistician will tell you that you can't just draw a straight line between two points, you need to look at the underlying trend."

Despite the recent cooling, average temperatures are still rising at 0.09C per decade, the office says - down from the record 0.33C per decade measured during the 1990s.

U.S. companies see climate risk, but lack plan

rom: Timothy Gardner, Reuters


NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. companies judge climate change a risk to their business, but lag global companies in setting targets to cut emissions, according to a global survey.

"We're seeing the U.S. play catch up here, but they've got a way to go," Paul Dickinson, chief executive of the Carbon Disclosure Project, which administers the annual survey, said in an interview ahead of the formal release of the 2008 CDP survey in New York on Monday.

Dickinson said the gap demonstrates the difference between the climate culture of companies in Europe and the United States.

The European Union has had mandatory greenhouse emissions caps since 2005, while the United States, historically the world's top greenhouse gas polluter, has no federal limits on the gases blamed for warming the planet.

About 81 percent of U.S. companies responding to this year's survey, or about 255 companies, perceived climate change as a risk. Yet only 33 percent of U.S. respondents had greenhouse gas reduction targets in place.

"They are not listening to themselves," Dickinson said.

In contrast, 74 percent of global companies that responded to the survey have set emissions reduction targets.

Only 14 percent of U.S. oil and gas companies that responded disclosed greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.

One U.S. oil company, Occidental Petroleum, responded that it "does not have sufficient information to establish a cost basis for future financial risks since no regulations requiring greenhouse gas emissions controls have been implemented by governments in the areas where Occidental operates."

Dickinson said companies should be spurred by the debt-related financial crisis to determine undiscovered risk and act on it.

"If everybody is reporting a risk, but not everybody is starting to act on it, that would seem to imply things are going to change," he said.

U.S. presidential candidates Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have both said they favor regulating greenhouse gases.

Some 81 percent of European companies answered the survey's questions, while 64 percent of U.S. companies responded.

(Editing by David Gregorio)

Indigenous Groups Criticize Climate Talks

From: Ben Block, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate


As international climate negotiations move closer to including forests in the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, indigenous and traditional peoples realize they have either a lot to gain or everything to lose.

If industrialized countries are allowed to purchase the carbon rights of forests, groups from the Americas, Africa, and Asia fear their ancestral lands may be taken away. They worry that the benefactors of the carbon market will be governments or wealthy landholders, and not them.

At a time when their concerns should be at the forefront of debates, the venues for indigenous peoples to express themselves have so far been limited. They are granted observer status at United Nations climate negotiations, but they do not have voting rights - leading many to demand a stronger voice in the process.

"When you don't have recognized status, you're not existent. You're not at the table," said Kanyinke Sena, the Indigenous People of Africa Coordinating Committee's Eastern Africa representative.

Forests were not considered as carbon sinks in the Kyoto Protocol, but realization that deforestation accounts for almost 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions has led to their reconsideration. Industrialized nations may be allowed to offset their emissions by paying developing nations to protect their forests, known as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

Several indigenous groups initially opposed REDD due to their suspicion that it would be another form of Western land-grabbing. But climate negotiators say a solution would ideally benefit the traditional stewards of the world's forests through some sort of financial compensation. As awareness grows about the potential benefits for forest peoples, some indigenous leaders are shifting towards wary support. But they still emphasize that without official land rights for indigenous peoples, REDD will likely lead to further suffering.

Indigenous representatives from across the globe have joined The Forest Dialogues - a gathering of environmentalists, business leaders, financial donors, and government officials who are forming a joint policy recommendation on REDD. Their inclusion should lead to a greater presence in the REDD debate.

"This is the first time indigenous and non-indigenous groups are meeting at this type of forum," said Parshuram Tamang, the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests' climate negotiations representative and a member of the Tamang ethnic group of Nepal. "This is very important for indigenous people."

The presence of indigenous groups at the dialogues' meetings has helped shape a consensus, which although it has yet to be finalized, stresses the "fundamental importance of the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples, small forest owners, and local communities."

Participation in the dialogue meetings, held last week at the World Bank, has also provided indigenous leaders with access to a network of influential forestry officials. Leaders of the Amazon Alliance, representatives of indigenous organizations and NGOs from nine South American countries, hand-delivered a letter to World Bank President Robert Zoellick that demanded the Bank "cease its exclusion of indigenous peoples and the violation of our rights." Zoellick told them that the bank will try to work on these issues.

The alliance's letter also accused the bank of ignoring indigenous people in a REDD pilot program that was launched in July with 14 tropical nations. "I am trying to show the World Bank that indigenous people are well organized," said Juan Carlos Jintiach, the alliance's executive co-director and a member of the Shuar tribe of Ecuador. "I don't want them to ever forget us. There are not just trees there; there are human begins there now."

Despite the criticisms, the pressence of indigenous peoples at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meetings has increased recently, according to Steve Schwartman, co-director of the Environmental Defense Fund's international program. "More indigenous leaders are there participating as observers," he said. "There is much more discussion going on about it. Issues are slowly gaining visibility."

Also, the World Bank has held several workshops with indigenous leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America this year to inform them about the REDD negotiations. And the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues made climate change awareness a theme of its annual meeting in April.

But for leaders such as Tamang, being informed is not enough. "[The U.N.] should give indigenous people specialty status... because we are affected by the decision," he said. "We are the victims of climate change and we are the impact of a solution to climate change."

Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute. He can be reached at

For permission to reprint this article, please contact Julia Tier at


"Manufactured Landscapes" SEE THIS BRILLIANT MOVIE! You'll never have the same shopping experience again.