Future section

MEETINGS 2008


303rd Meeting – Tuesday, July 15th 2008  

 

Global Warming Scenarios for Thailand

A talk and presentation by Jere Locke, Marty Bergoffen and Julia Schonharl   

 

Summaries of the talks were prepared by the speakers and your convenor. 

Jere Locke (jerelocke@yahoo.com) is the Outreach Coordinator with Texas Climate Emergency Campaign, which is building coalitions of farmers, environmentalists, religious communities, labor unions and many others to address the challenge of global warming.

 

TIME FOR ACTION---OUR TIME IS RUNNING OUT

“We have at most 10 years - not 10 years to decide upon action, but 10 years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.” Since he said this in 2006 we now have only 8 years by his timetable. He has argued that the earth’s climate is nearing a crucial tipping point that, if passed, would lead to “practically a different planet.”

Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

 

“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next 2 to 3 years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the Nobel Prize with Al Gore

 

The future of this beautiful, wonderful planet and all its beings will in all likelihood be largely determined by December 2009 when the UN meets to sign the agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocols in December 2012.

An essential first step in arriving at a strong UN agreement is for the US to pass a strong, i.e. science based, bill early next year. The UN might then be more willing to sign a science based agreement when it gathers in Copenhagen. Without a strong US bill there is little chance the UN will sign an agreement that meets the challenge we face.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), comprised of the 2,500 plus UN scientists who won the Nobel Prize with Al Gore, is telling us that we have to make very significant CO2 emission cuts no later than 2015 or face catastrophic consequences. Without a strong US bill and UN agreement we will go sailing by 2015 without a notice.

This imperative for action is also seen in recent research by Dr. James Hansen. Before this research, Dr. Hansen along with the IPCC, all thought that keeping CO2 atmospheric concentration levels below 450 parts per million (ppm) was a desired goal. The world is now at 387 ppm. The pre-industrial level was 270 ppm.

However, after researching the last time the earth was at 450 ppm for an extended period of time, Dr. Hansen and eight colleagues now think that safety is no higher than 350 ppm. Recently Dr. Hansen said “if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted…… the CO2 atmospheric concentration level will need to be reduced from its current 387 ppm to at most 350 ppm …..If you leave us at 450 ppm for long enough it will probably melt almost all the world’s ice – that’s a sea level rise of 75 meters. What we have found is that the target we (i.e. Dr. Hansen, the IPCC, and environmental groups) have all been aiming for is a disaster – a guaranteed disaster.” This research is posted at www.arXiv.org. Obviously Bangkok, much of which is at or below sea level, and all the Thai coastal cities along with coastal cities everywhere in the world would be under water. (Your Convenor writes: In Thailand the Lower Central Plain is at an elevation of 2 metres above sea level and the Upper Central Plain is at 20 metres above sea level. A 75-metre rise in sea level would mean a serious curtailment to rice production in Thailand.)    

Before this recent research, the IPCC had advised us that by 2020 we must cut our carbon emissions by 25-40% under 1990 levels. This is a somewhat modest goal as it gives us just a 50/50 chance of avoiding a temperature rise of 2° Celsius over pre-industrial levels, which is runaway train territory. Many of you might want a better than 50/50 chance! 

In addition to the recommendations of scientists you should know about the tipping points. Right now global warming effects are rising gradually. Some examples of this are the recent US floods, the Myanmar cyclone, China’s winter storm, the Australian drought and the fact that the Arctic summer ice is reducing and will soon disappear, all very substantial events but just part of this gradual rise. However, if we continue to ignore the scientist’s advice at some point in the very near future nature will become a runaway train because we will have passed a point that brings on large and abrupt changes. Just a couple of these tipping points are:

*** When the Arctic summer ice disappears. A few years ago the IPCC thought this would happen by 2070; now they think it will happen in 5-10 years. Ice reflects heat back into space, but open ocean water absorbs heat, adding to the problem.

*** When the Siberian permafrost thaws it will release the equivalent in methane gas of over 70 years of present emissions. This permafrost is already beginning to thaw.

If we pass these tipping points one consequence will be the melting of the Himalayan glaciers within about 40 years, thus depriving over 40% of the world’s people of more than half their water. The Chinese government has already told its largest corporations to buy large tracts of arable land in Africa and South America. Hedge funds and the Saudis among others are now trying to buy land all over world that will remain arable.

Another consequence of a tipping point which we might have already passed is Africa losing over half its food production. A recent IPCC statement says this will happen by 2020. African people will see both their food production halved and China and maybe other countries trying to take over their remaining fertile land.

There is, however, room for hope as various national studies have shown us that we can make cuts of up to 100% by 2050 with just present technology and no nuclear power plants.

There is also hope as far as the coming US bill in that Senator Obama supports 80% cuts by 2050, an IPCC recommendation. Even John McCain has broken with Bush’s horrendous record, although his proposed cuts aren’t adequate. 

Probably even more important is that Al Gore recently came out for the US generating 100% of its electricity with just renewables (no coal or nukes) by 2018, just 10 years from now. The press release announcing this had a quote from Senator Obama praising Gore for his leadership without going so far as to agree with the 100% cut goal. However, given that Obama’s quote was probably prearranged by Gore this is a very good sign that he will be strong on global warming if not on other issues like Iraq, Palestine, etc.

Another area of hope is that this transition to a new renewable energy economy will create tens of millions of new jobs in a time of global economic downturn. Every building in every city will need to be inspected, its substandard glass replaced and its ducts wrapped with insulation, among other improvements. Energy efficiency is the quickest and cheapest way to get the first emission cuts. You can imagine for yourself the workforce it will take to accomplish just this task in the area where you live.

At the same time, we will need to start the process of replacing oil and coal with wind, solar, wave and other renewable energy sources. This new renewable energy economy will create millions of other jobs.

We have a choice. We can either mobilize quickly like we did for WW II or witness mounting calamities. The time for dawdling has passed. Good people need to step forward during the coming months to help solve this challenge or all the world’s peoples face a nightmarish future.

 

Marty Bergoffen (mbergoffen@gmail.com ) then gave a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his talk. Marty had attended the Climate Justice Conference at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, on July 12-14 2008

Climate Justice is the notion that impending climate change requires immediate, radical action, and that these actions must minimize harm to the most vulnerable. This includes indigenous people, women, farmers and fishers, etc., all of whom depend upon their natural environment for livelihoods and therefore face significant and dire threats from climate change. Business as Usual is no longer a viable option.

The conference had over 140 people attending from around the world, including 16 from Chiang Mai.

Topics discussed

Carbon Trading - allows companies to buy and sell the right to pollute the air.

Opposition to this because it provides more profits to polluters, and allows Northern industrial countries to avoid their obligation to reduce emissions at the expense of poorer countries.

Forests – REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)

Provides money to countries that are destroying forests to stop them doing so.

Opposed because it is unfair to countries like Thailand, who have already stopped logging (in theory) and will therefore be penalized for their forethought, while rewarding countries like Indonesia that are rampant with logging corruption.

Gender, Indigenous People, and Climate Justice

Women and indigenous people are responsible for providing food, water and other livelihood requirements, and are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

International Finance Institutions

(World Bank, Asia Development Bank, et al.)

They are continuing to fund fossil fuel development, and so are complicit in pushing climate change forward.

International Trade

(World Trade Organization)

The WTO will allow countries and companies to challenge climate change laws as barriers to trade. This must be overcome immediately.

Tourism

Transport, especially flying, tends to be a highly energy intensive, so contributes to climate change. Julia will talk more about this issue.

India and China

Many similarities (size and development level) and differences (democracy v. dictatorship), but both have similar outlooks on efforts to stop climate change (US and Europe have first responsibility to reduce emissions).

Many synergies for local NGO’s to explore.

Green Development Rights

A framework for distributing costs and obligations of emissions reductions. The US and Europe will have to pay more because they are able to and continue to pollute most heavily.

Coastal Communities and Fishers

Especially vulnerable to climate change, as seen by Hurricane Nargis. Need special efforts at adaptation and mitigation.

Agrofuels (Industrial)

Global push for agrofuels like ethanol and palm oil is hurting food farmers.

Land appropriation and forced growing of species like jatropha are rampant.

 

What you can do in Chiang Mai RIGHT NOW

·        Work to stop field and forest burning, especially in February-April.

·        Use cars less, get rid of diesel Songthaew. Use a bicycle instead.

·        Fly much less, especially to Bangkok – take a train or bus.

·        Be aware of responsible tourism – Julia will have more.

·        Plant Trees and Prevent deforestation (unnecessary CO2 release).

·        Educate yourself and friends.

Websites:

www.climatecrisis.net

http://www.focusweb.org/climatechange/   

www.ecotonline.org

Engage politicians and decision makers; write letters to politicians and newspapers.

This is a real crisis and demands immediate radical action.

The discussion items from the Climate Justice Conference are a good place to start.

Sign Up to Join Chiang Mai Climate Justice

 

Julia Schonharl (julia@ecotonline.org) then talked about the adverse impact that tourism has on climate change.

This summary of her talk was prepared by your Convenor

Global climate change is probably the most severe environmental threat in the 21st Century and will affect the lives of people around the world – access to water, food production, health and the environment. This is currently a top issue for policymakers worldwide and tourism is fast becoming an important element in their considerations. Climate represents a key resource for tourism and climate related risks in the form of changing weather patterns and extreme adverse conditions can have a serious impact on travel patterns. The tourism industry itself, however, is a significant contributor to climate change by generating greenhouse gas emissions through traveler’s consumption of transport services, in particular air transport, the high per capita consumption of energy - air conditioning, heating and lighting, poor energy efficiency - waste management, and water consumption in tourist establishments, and the serious negative environmental impacts. The aviation industry poses the biggest threat because it is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases, growing at a rate of 5% per annum and contributing to 3% of global emissions. Long-haul international flights emitting greenhouse gases at high cruising altitudes add substantially to climate change effects. Air travel is a heavily subsidized boom industry. The massive expansion and building of new airports; in Thailand the new Suvarnabhumi Airport, and at Chiang Mai Airport the proposed extension to the runway to accommodate bigger aircraft, the launch and expansion of budget and short-haul airlines and routes; Thailand has seen a rapid growth in recent years in the number of budget airlines and new routes, and infrastructure heavy tourism projects are celebrated as progress, at least by the companies’ stockholders. Carbon offsetting, emission trading, carbon neutral travel and green certificates are nothing more than ‘greenwash solutions’ proposed by the UNWTO to support its ‘less travel is bad, business as usual’ position.

The tourism industry must make an authentic response to the climate change crisis by implementing measures to change the current forms of mass tourism to significantly reduce the industry’s climate change footprint.

 

Your Convenor writes: After an informative and thought provoking presentation by the three speakers, I, and I’m sure many people in the audience, came away with the thought that I will probably witness in my lifetime climate changes that I’d previously thought I’d never live to see.

 

 

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