In opening the 17th UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa yesterday, Jacob Zuma, president of the host country said that delegates must remember what is at stake.
“For most people in the developing world and Africa, climate change is a matter of life and death. Change and solutions are always possible. In these talks, states, parties, will need to look behind their national interests to find a solution for the common good and human benefit,” Zuma said at the meeting, which hosts 190 different nations attempting to come up with a global agreement to tackle climate change.
Zuma pointed to droughts in East Africa and Sudan that have led to famine and conflict, respectively, as consistent with climate change predictions. Tens-of-thousands perished in Somalia this year from a famine caused by severe drought and political failure.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC), also arrived with stern words, “We meet here at a time when greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have never been higher, when the number of livelihoods that have been dissolved by climate change impacts has never been greater and when the need for action has never been more compelling or more achievable.”
A study last week from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) found that warming from greenhouse gases rose 29 percent from 1990 to 2010, hitting a new record last year. Meanwhile, new research has warned that if nations are to keep their pledge of holding warming to 2 degrees Celsius, emissions would need to peak before 2020 and decline swiftly thereafter.
Despite the science and warnings, the US is pushing for holding-off on putting a global agreement to replace the Kyoto Treaty, which expires next year. Few observers expect a breakthrough at the summit.
Still Zuma reflected on the fact that South Africa was home to Nelson Mandela, and where Mahatma Gandhi got his start.
“Nothing is impossible in Durban over the next two weeks,” he said.
(11/28/2011) The concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere hit a new record in 2010, according to the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which found that warming from greenhouse gases rose 29 percent from 1990 to 2010. The announcement was made just a few days prior to officials meet at the 17th Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa, where expectations are low for a strong, binding agreement with a number of wealthy nations stating they expect no new agreement to take affect until 2020.
(11/13/2011) Not known for alarmism and sometimes criticized for being too optimistic, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that without bold action in the next five years the world will lock itself into high-emissions energy sources that will push climate change beyond the 2 degrees Celsius considered relatively ‘safe’ by many scientists and officials.
(11/06/2011) Global greenhouse gas emissions last year exceeded worst-case scenario predictions from just four years before, according to the US Department of Energy (DOE). A rise of 6 percent (564 million additional tons) over 2009 levels was largely driven by three nations: the US, India, and China. Emissions from burning coal jumped 8 percent overall. The new data, supported by a similar report from International Energy Agency (IEA), make it even more difficult for nations to make good on a previous pledge to hold back the world from warming over 2 degrees Celsius.