Copenhagen Climate Conference

Over 2000 scientists attended the Climate Change Congress in Copenhagen on March 10th to 12th this year. After 3 days of numerous keynote speeches and presentation as well as 58 parallel sessions, the event closed with the understanding that urgent action is needed – now. The leading scientists at the congress shall issue an Executive Summary Conclusion (or a synthesis report as it’s called) by June this year, providing further scientific recommendations to the political world in time for the COP15 congress in December this year.

The conclusions are expected to state –
– that the climate change is accelerating more rapidly and dangerously than the scientific community had expected or that the IPCC presented in it’s 2007 report.
– that’s it’s paramount and imperative for extremely urgent action on both national and global scale.
– that the 2 degree Celsius rise of global temperature is already too high and that we might have to lower the target to zero emissions already within the next 2 to 3 decades, thus between 2030 and 2040.
– that the political and especially the business world must be convinced and fully engaged in the process to achieve meaningful results before it’s too late.
– the scientists are extremely concerned about the rapidly melting Arctic ice caps and it’s wide ranging consequences, such as the foreseen release of enormous quantities of methane gases, presently captured in the permafrost of the northern hemisphere and the deep oceans. Many Arctic scientists are now predicting an Arctic Ice-free summer by somewhere between 2011 and 2015; this would increase the methane, CO2 and GHG emissions in the atmosphere well above acceptable levels; “an early Arctic melt will cause additional heating, additional greenhouse gas emissions and additional sea level rise, over and above those foreseen in existing climate models”. Consequently, many of the assumptions that have been the base for present recommendations to reduce CO2 and GHG emissions are insufficient and the world needs to undertake more severe measures and impose further restrictions than previously foreseen.

For the transport sector this would mean stepping up the development of biofuels and other sustainable energy alternatives, especially sustainable electricity from wind, solar, wave and geothermal sources including possible nuclear as well as other CO2/GHG free sources.

In addition to the present coal and other energy sources – it is estimated that the world consumes around 85 million barrels of fossil fuel per day (per day). To replace this by biofuel is almost impossible within the time frame now expected, thus before 2030 or 2040. However of the total world consumption of 85 million barrels per day, aviation consumes around 5 million barrels per day. To produce this quantity of biofuel might be possible from a mixture of 2nd generation biomasses such as algae, halophytes plants (salicornia), jatropha, camelina, waste and other non-food sources. This again would require that the terrestrial transport sector – at least for passenger vehicles and small city vans – turn to electric energy from sustainable electricity sources. This would require an urgent and massive effort to not only produce the electric vehicles required, but also develop and make available the electric infrastructure needed. Hybrid cars might be required during the transition period, but the long term strategy towards the use of sustainable energy for all terrestrial transportation – including converting all railways to electric trains – would be mandatory, including supportive government long-term policies and incentives.

Many people might say that this is not possible, nor realistic. Well, it is – and unfortunately, there might not be an alternative. The scientists are almost unanimous that we must act now and along the guidelines summarized above as well as stated in their various reports – otherwise the climate change might be irreversible and in the long term, the planets all important biodiversity as well as human survival, might well be in extreme danger.

Did I over react? Well, read some of the many reports available, such as the excellent overview issued by the Public Interest Research Centre of the UK ( pirc.info ) – and then judge for yourself!

Robert Arendal – March, 2009

Robert Arendal is a Danish environmental specialist living in Luxembourg. He is also a Goodwill Ambassador for Copenhagen.

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