Last days the most commented climate change news are the words coming from catholic church’s leader Pope Francis in a encyclica called Laudato Si. It is everywhere,
- in climate change webs it is celebrates and extensively commented: climate progress, carbon brief, skeptical science, quark soup…
- In skeptic webs it is criticized: whatupwhiththat, or this one.
- In general newspapers it is mentioned profusely. For example, New York Times has 22 news in their climate change channel last week (12-19th June), 17 are about Pope’s encyclica, including an editorial. relationship with poverty, american politics reactions, or critics to current global market. Many others like BBC, El Pais (in Spanish),… It is well described in this post.
- In Google a simple “Laudato Si” search gives 2.000.000 answers.
So,is this document a turning point in climate change? I agree with Carbon Brief‘s post that explains it is very positive and influential but just that. There are 1.2 billion Catholics in the world but the two great actors (USA and China) are not Catholic and most influential catholic states are among the “convinced” in climate change (Italy, Brazil, Spain). Even more, if this document is clear and with a lot of media attention, the opinion of catholic church with respect to climate change was not different with previous Popes. Nevertheless, in my opinion the three most positive points of the encyclica are:
- The moment is crucial. We need commitment and clear ideas in the governments and public opinion to start a way now that will avoid greater problems in 50 years. This document helps in this sense, to gain commitment. This year COP in Paris is a great opportunity to start a serious change.
- Many people in several western countries listens contradictory words about climate change, or they do not get a sense of urgency. The Pope will be a new word for them, as it is a highly respected opinion for many people and can help them inform more or get conscious about climate change. Every people’s opinion counts in this issue, at least to some extent.
- Finally Pope Francis connects the fact of the poorest with climate change. Climate change is becoming a great problem for them in many ways and this is the way it will become an humanitarian problem to the eyes of many people.
Maybe no other speech on climate change was so expected. Climate Change activists (called Climate Hawks too) were quite disappointed with Obamas first term and not so happy with seconds beginning but this speech last week, changed this point of view as explained by Joe Romm, and many others. It was even mentioned in European newspapers, and of course, by skeptics.
After one week, the positive opinions, mixed with others asking more action.
I found Obama’s speech inspiring as the great speaker he is and important considering climate change debate in USA. Clearly it is not enough for the change we need from americans from their huge CO2 emissions (three times those of China or even some European countries). It is far for explaining how to reduce the americans 18 Tons CO2 per capita to the more or less 1 Ton target, but it was a first step and no long way has been done without starting step by step. It did not explain the scope of the change needed but it attacked the weakest part of the problem: the acceptance of the problem and the need to act. And one of the virtues of americans is that they are able to act fast once they are convinced. I hope it is so. We all need that, China and USA are 40% of the emissions in current world.
COP18 talks in Doha are over and once again the results are at least unclear. Most blogs offer more rigorous analyses but they agree in the poorness of the result. Climate Progress is critical with the result, as InsideClimateNews the NYtimes is only slightly more optimistic and the skeptics are celebrating the result, so they coincide in the analysis.
Kioto protocol has been prolonged but only involving countries accounting 15% of the CO2 emissions, there are some other promising results but not very clear. So, once again, everybody agrees about the magnitude of the problem (otherwise they would not meet every year) but few countries want to be legally bounded to a worldwide treaty. This approach is not working for the moment, however, it is not the only way.
Not being legally bounded does not mean that many countries are not going to act in some way and there are many other possible agents that can get significant results as subcountry entities (California is far more advanced that the USA for example), Cities-Towns, activist groups, Households and finally families and individuals. Nevertheless, a clear international agreement would be the definitive push for every other action for this uniquely global problem, next year we will see again.
Qatar Coat of Arms, source: Wikipedia
COP18 conference held in Qatar has produced at least a first beneficial output. The government has announced an important investment to produce 1800 MW by solar power out of a total electricity capacity of 7000 MW. Even better, they will encourage particulars to produce electricity at home by small solar panels with a feed-in-tarif.
As they explained, the official reason to such a political impulse in one of the mayor producers of liquefied gas is the reduction of cost and the abundance of sun in their home. Good reasons, I suppose that holding the COP18 being the biggest emitter (mentioned in many blogs) is another one.
I hope it will become true, because we need the commitment of everyone in this big challenge of climate change, and the competitions to avoid last places in this shameful classification could help.
Xi Jinping leader, Source: Wikipedia
Maybe it’s to late to talk about Obama’s victory, but I don’t intend to be up to the fast pace of the news. Of course I got quite satisfied with USA elections results, due to the strong “drill baby drill” speech coming from Romey and more after the acceptance speech:
“We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,”
This important election was extensively covered by many climate blogs as Climate Progress, or Quark Soup. Even Pieckle Sr, usually a blog without political content, mentioned USA elections comparing them to Chinese process. And there is where I wanted to arrive, if USA elections were very important for the climate change politics due to many factors,Chinese leadership is not less and has not been covered at the same extent.
Both states are the biggest CO2 sources in the world, more than 40% of the emissions between them. And ,although far from the USA in per capita emissions China’s development has made them the leaders in this classification and it is still growing fast. It will not be possible to do something meaningful in climate change without the implication of China, so Xi Jinping¡s ideas about climate change are even more important than Obama¡s and I do not know them. Maybe, next days in COP18 we will start to see. At least I hope so.
There are many levels that matter in climate change, personal level, big international politics, national politics in the most influential countries,… but there are many other that may exert some influence, cities, towns regional governments, states in the USA…
Today there have been elections for the Basque parliament. The main idea related with climate change would be that from the elected 75 people 64 belong to parties that considered climate change real and important in their programs for those elections, it is a huge percentage. Basque government has a limited field of action in the most critical things related to climate change but this even reinforces the value of those intentions.
Will they become significant steps towards a carbon free future? I do not know but they show that in Europe climate change is not discussed, what to do or how much to do to avoid it yes, even more inside the economical and social crisis.
The conservative government in Spain is breaking records in its politics against renewable energy. The time where Obama mentioned Spain as example seems far away. After Rajoy took office one of the first energy politics by Industry minister caller Soria was to stop feed-in-tarif. Later, it went even further planning a new tax for some energy sources, for example renewables. The great driving force in Sorias speeches was “tarif-deficit“, a concept deserving a post by itself but roughly defined as the difference of accepted official prizes for energy producers and final lower retail prizes for customers. The op-ed in the local reference in the sector energias renovables considering the previous Industry minister as the worse for renewables is simply outdated.
Is this the same as could happen in USA if republicans reach the white house? I do not think iso, t is more complicated. In spanish energy policy conservatives and socialists have not been so far in last years. In fact, some progressive press has criticized solar industry, considering them conected to conservative local governments. So, in this complex but worsening history it is refreshing to find p recently divergences between governmet ministers and see them became public. It is not the first time these divergences are made public. But this time it is stronger and somehow hopeful. Just two short comments for outside observers:
1.- It would be very important to obtain a widespread support for renewables, because this gives more security to the investment. For this, it is a key factor to explain how they are more expensive now but an investment for the future (as research, which by the way is suffering the same problems due to the crisis)
2.- It is important to design renewables growth not only expecting more power demand, also and preferably expecting power demand reduction, as it is happening now in Spain. This is the only way to avoid more than 450 ppm of CO2 in our beloved atmosphere.