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Global warming: A new political climate for change?

Updated On: Jan 26, 2007

The human face behind global warming is not only apparent to the eyes of state leaders around the world, but making sure that it is leaving a strong imprint upon future policymaking.

The first phase of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the main international scientific body assessing climate change – scheduled to be released in Paris on February 2, will not aim to please, but to awaken sleeping giants from denial.

Written by more than 600 scientists and reviewed by another 600 experts and edited by bureaucrats from 154 countries to ensure that only indisputable points remain, the report will demonstrate that global warming is far more destructive and has an earlier impact than previously estimated in the last IPCC report issued in 2001.

According to top US climate scientist Jerry Mahlman, 'the smoking gun is definitely lying on the table as we speak…The evidence...is compelling.' Andrew Weaver, a Canadian climate scientist and study co-author, went further: 'This is not a smoking gun; climate is a battalion of intergalactic smoking missiles.'

A draft version of the report revealed that 'an increasing body of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on other aspects of climate, including sea ice, heat waves and other extremes, circulation, storm tracks and precipitation.' Elsewhere, it also reported that the world's global average temperature went up about 0.7 deg C from 1901 to 2005, and the two warmest years on record were 2005 and 1998.

A new political climate for change is in the works to address global warming. Climate change will be the watchword of the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, with Germany Chancellor and the head of the European Union, Angela Merkel, fronting the discussion involving the world’s top business and political leaders.

Spurring the mindset change is the related issue of energy security, following a recent spat between Russia and Belarus that prompted the former to cut off its oil supplies in several European countries.

Energy security and the growing international pressure to address climate change have also managed to rouse a long-time sleeping giant. US President George Bush’s State of the Union address is thus far the most frank admission of his administration, of the need to draw closer links ‘between the demands of energy security and the environment,’ said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

For his final two years in office, President Bush will aim to reduce gasoline use by 20 percent over a decade, through a nearly five-fold increase in use of home-grown fuels such as ethanol by 2017, and tighter vehicle fuel efficiency standards.

But even so, critics have reminded that Bush failed to mention climate change in his speech (focusing on reducing the United States’ oil dependency). The White House has ruled out imposing mandatory economy-wide caps on greenhouse gases, which goes against the recent alliance of 10 of the biggest US corporations with environmental groups to demand mandatory caps on greenhouse emissions, and reducing them by up to 30 per cent over the next 15 years.

The warming up to climate change should not leave Southeast Asian nations in the cold, especially with the recent barrage of climate-induced disasters gripping the region. Sombre accounting can only be made for the Philippines’ experience with Typhoon Durian, Indonesia’s (Aceh) experience with the flood tragedy proportional to the 2004 tsunami, and Malaysia’s uncontrollable deluge, just to name a few.

The year ahead can only be graver, with scientists predicting a resurgent El Nino climate trend, and the region’s 2006 experience with the transboundary haze pollution problem.

Much more needs to be done for Southeast Asian nations to venture beyond treating climate change as an energy security issue, but as a human security issue, and connect more closely to initiatives spearheaded by the international community.

Sources:

The right climate to talk about weather (The Guardian/TODAY, 23 January 2007)

Int'l climate report to say global warming here now (AP/The Straits Times, 23 January 2007)

Global warming worsening (AP/AFP/The Straits Times, 24 January 2007)

Bush forced to change tack on energy security (The Financial Times/The Straits Times, 24 January 2007)