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WWF: Little hope for climate protection

Solar surprises raise questions for climate models
Paris (AFP) Oct 6, 2010 - Scientists found that a decline in the Sun's activity did not lead as expected to a cooling of the Earth, a surprise finding that could have repercussions for computer models on climate change. The Sun's activity is known to wax and wane over 11-year cycles, which means that in theory the amount of radiation reaching Earth declines during the "waning" phase. The new study was carried out between 2004 and 2007 during a solar waning phase. The amount of energy in the ultraviolet part of the energy spectrum fell, the researchers found.

But, contrary to expectation, radiation in the visible part of the energy spectrum increased, rather than declined, which caused a warming effect. The investigation, based mainly on satellite data, is important because of a debate over how far global warming is attributable to Man or to natural causes. Climatologists say that warming is overwhelmingly due to man-made greenhouse gases -- invisible carbon emissions from coal, gas and coal that linger in the atmosphere and trap solar heat. But a vocal lobby of sceptics say that this is flawed or alarmist, and point out that Earth has known periods of cooling and warming that are due to variations in the Sun's output. "These results are challenging what we thought we knew about the Sun's effect on our climate," said lead author Joanna Haigh, a professor at Imperial College London where she is also a member of the Grantham Institute for Climate change. "However, they only show us a snapshot of the Sun's activity and its behaviour over the three years of our study could be an anomaly."

Insisting on caution, Haigh said that if the Sun turned out to have a warming effect during the "waning" part of the cycle, it might also turn out to have a cooling effect during the "waxing" part of the cycle. In that case, greenhouse gases would be more to blame than thought for the perceptible rise in global temperatures over the past century. "We cannot jump to any conclusions based on what we have found during this comparatively short period," Haigh said. "We need to carry out further studies to explore the Sun's activity, and the patterns that we have uncovered, on longer timescales." The study is published in Nature, the weekly British science journal.
by Stefan Nicola
Berlin (UPI) Oct 6, 2010
Worldwide pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are falling far short of what's needed to avoid catastrophic climate change, environmental group WWF warned Wednesday, urging negotiators meeting in China to reverse that trend.

Under current policy settings, emissions could be "up to nearly one-third more in 2020 than the trend needed to avoid" dangerous climate change, WWF said in a report compiled based on its forecasts and latest national reduction pledges.

WWF says the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a yearly output of 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2020 to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. Instead, nations are on track to emit up to 53.6 billion tons of CO2 per year.

"It's clear that some countries are facing up to the necessary transformations of their economies but other countries have failed to endorse this new trend speedily and are risking the safety and prosperity of all," Gordon Shepherd, the head of WWF's Global Climate Initiative, said in a statement.

He added that negotiators from 177 nations meeting until Saturday for U.N.-mandated climate talks in Tianjin, China, should work to "see at least some indications of this trend changing."

Global climate negotiations have been deadlocked since the failed meeting in Copenhagen late last year, when leaders jetting to Denmark couldn't agree on concrete emissions reduction targets or a way to measure them.

The summit culminated in the publication of the so-called Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding declaration agreed between the United States, China, Brazil and South Africa after larger negotiations had broken down.

Developing nations have since resisted a legally binding treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012, because they claim rich nations that have benefited from emitting during the past decades should shoulder more of the burden. Industrialized countries argue the developing nations need to commit to concrete reduction targets to enable a global effort.

The European Commission this year backtracked on a plan to unilaterally boost the bloc's greenhouse gas emissions reduction target from 20 percent to 30 percent -- likely also because other nations, including China and the United States, the world's top two emitters, haven't committed to similarly ambitious targets.

The Tianjin talks, the final meeting before a major U.N. summit this December in Cancun, Mexico, have focused on financial pledges for climate mitigation schemes instead of concrete emissions reduction targets that remain too controversial to be agreed upon.

Officials from climate heavyweights, including the United States and the European Union, have in the past weeks suggested they might seek channels outside the U.N. process to tackle climate change.

Few observers expect a binding agreement to emerge from the Cancun meeting. Susanne Droege, climate expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a Berlin think tank, revealed that not even a workable negotiation text has been drafted yet.

"Ninety percent of the time, negotiators are locked in procedural talks and that can be very frustrating," Droege told United Press International in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Cancun will be all about not promising too much."

earlier related report
Emissions targets urged for rich nations
Tianjin, China (UPI) Oct 6, 2010 - China has urged developed nations to improve carbon emissions targets.

"The emissions reductions goals of developed countries should be dramatically increased," said China's chief negotiator Su Wei Tuesday during international climate negotiations in Tianjin.

"We can't discuss other elements and not discuss emissions reductions. It's unavoidable."

Some 3,100 delegates from 194 nations gathered in Tianjin, the final meeting prior to the U.N. climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico, in November and December.

Su's remarks came ahead of a WWF study released Wednesday at the climate talks, also recommending that industrialized nations set emission reductions targets.

The study, "Plugging the Gap," indicates that global emission levels are on track to reach 47.9 gigatons-53.6 gigatons by 2020 -- well more than the 40 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent budget suggested by scientists to limit rising temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius.

"While it is clear that some countries are waking up to the transformations they will need to make to create a low-carbon economy, other countries have failed to grasp the need for deep carbon reductions now, and are risking the safety and prosperity of all as a result," said Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF United Kingdom, The Guardian newspaper reports.

"The climate talks in Tianjin need to see at least some indications that this trend is changing," he said.

WWF says that governments can decrease the "gigaton gap" by transforming carbon-intensive economies in the developed world and financially supporting climate change action in the developing world.

Establishing science-based emission reduction targets in industrialized countries, the study shows, has the potential to stop up to 4.3 gigatons per year from being emitted to the atmosphere.

The paper concludes that it is possible to stay within the 2020 carbon budget but only if industrialized nations deliver more ambitious emissions reductions policies and increase efforts to help developing countries curb their emissions growth.

Xie Zhenhua, China's top climate change official and vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission said Wednesday that the country's greenhouse gas emissions are unlikely to peak before its per capita gross domestic product reaches $40,000, state-run news agency Xinhua reports.

China, the world's top emitter of greenhouse gases, now has a per capita GDP of slightly more than $3,000.

"We will try to get passed the peak of emissions as early as possible but this also hinges on how much money the developed nations will offer and what technology they will transfer as required by the international protocols," Xie said.

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Solar surprises raise questions for climate models
Paris (AFP) Oct 6, 2010
Scientists found that a decline in the Sun's activity did not lead as expected to a cooling of the Earth, a surprise finding that could have repercussions for computer models on climate change. The Sun's activity is known to wax and wane over 11-year cycles, which means that in theory the amount of radiation reaching Earth declines during the "waning" phase. The new study was carried out ... read more

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