The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

December 25, 2006

starling no name shiftless performance

we are speaking wires for you.
we are 'performance' and 'no name,' shiftless.
shiftless, we are 'fame.'
a tail: 'high-tale it out of here.'
goodbye. leave us alone.

this is too important to ignore - Alan

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2006 12:09:37 -0500
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: The Year the World Woke Up,,1975381,00.html
The Guardian (UK)
December 20, 2006

The year the world woke up

Climate change In 2006, the public, politicians and
industry have all shown significant signs that tackling
global warming is on the agenda after scientific
studies showed the pace of change gathering speed. John
Vidal reports

Not before time, the west awoke in 2006 to the vast
economic, political and social implications of climate
change - and twigged that it presented as many
opportunities as threats to humanity. As temperature
and rainfall records tumbled, and unseasonal, intense
heatwaves, droughts and floods struck many countries,
local and national politicians scrambled to beef up
their green policies and credentials, some businesses
found they could make a packet from trading carbon, and
a broad-based global social and ecological movement
emerged, linking climate change to social justice, as
well as to poverty and lifestyles.

Article continues A plethora of scientific reports
underpinned the global phenomenon throughout the year,
which was officially the warmest ever recorded in
Britain and the sixth warmest the world has known. It
was, globally, a tad cooler than 2005, the hottest
ever, but it continued a trend: the eight hottest years
ever recorded have been in the last 10 years.

A succession of alarming reports came out. James
Lovelock, the British scientist who devised the Gaia
theory - that living organisms affect the environment -
forecast planetary wipeout; government studies showed
that Australia, in the middle of a "1,000-year"
drought, would get even hotter and drier, and that
worldwide crop yields would decrease. The Gulf Stream,
which warms northern Europe, was found to be slowing,
the tundra to be melting faster than previously
thought, and satellite images showed that major rivers
of Africa are carrying significantly less water than
before. Monsoons were even more erratic across the
Indian sub-continent, Arctic sea ice was predicted to
disappear - along with polar bears - by 2040, and
almost all the world's glaciers, in many cases
providing water for cities, were confirmed to be in

As the decline of winter sports in Europe was being
contemplated, scientists became increasingly confident
about linking the evident warming to manmade emissions.
Others, previously quiet, spoke loudly: Sir David
Attenborough, bishops and celebrities all called on
people to make climate change the great moral issue of
our times. The few remaining contrarians in the
scientific and political establishment became
increasingly isolated.

Most serious issue

In Europe, polls showed climate change to be the second
most important issue, behind unemployment, with 93% of
people wanting action taken. Spurred by Tony Blair's
insistence that it was the "most serious issue facing
mankind", and chief scientist David King's warning that
global warming was "more dangerous than terrorism", the
Tory leader David Cameron launched an immediate and
serious pitch for the mainstream green vote with a trip
to the Arctic. Labour, worried, astutely appointed
David Miliband as the new environment secretary in
place of Margaret Beckett. Within months, he had called
for a complete rethink of national politics, saying
that the environment movement today was as significant
as the unions had been to the rise of Labour 100 years

As the political and lifestyle debate spilled into all
areas of British life, the government was criticised
for doing little. Latest UK carbon dioxide figures
showed emissions rising in 2005 to the highest level
they had ever been under Labour. Other figures showed
that UK greenhouse gas emissions fell slightly by 0.3m
tonnes to 656m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent
between 2004 and 2005, but that net emissions of C02
increased - the third consecutive annual rise.

The long-awaited climate review in March talked of
conservation and technological change, but was slammed
for its perceived timidity. Meanwhile, the Department
for Transport (DfT) was singled out for promoting a
huge growth in airport and road capacity, and Gordon
Brown was criticised for barely addressing the issue in
successive budgets.

Only the Stern review of the economics of climate
change brought the Treasury any respite. It broke fresh
intellectual ground by arguing that the presumption of
economic growth was no longer valid in view of climate
change, and that not addressing it could lead to an
economic upheaval on the scale of the 1930s'
Depression. For the first time, a figure was put on the
pollution costs of carbon emissions: £50 a tonne.

But the scale of what needed to be done was constantly
ramped up. A report from the Tyndall Centre for Climate
Change Research at Manchester University factored in
aviation and shipping emissions for the first time and
concluded that the UK needed a 90% cut in emissions,
not 60%, by 2050. At current rates, the government will
only just meet its mandatory Kyoto target of a 12% cut
in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

On a global level, the situation was found to be
worsening rapidly. Last month, the Global Carbon
Project said a record 7.9bn tonnes of carbon passed
into the atmosphere in 2005, compared with 6.8bn tonnes
in 2000. Indeed, the growth rate of CO2 emissions from
2000 to 2005 was more than 2.5% a year - in the 1990s
it was less than 1% a year. The finding parallelled
figures released by the World Meteorological
Organisation, showing that the rise in atmospheric
concentrations of CO2 had accelerated in the last few

The US went ahead with plans for over 150 new coal-
fired power plants, and China for some 550. The
International Energy Agency forecast that China's
expanding use of coal will lead it to surpass the US as
the largest emitter of CO2 by 2009. China responded by
announcing targets of 16% of all energy from renewables
by 2020.

But even as many environment groups said the world had
only a decade or more to stabilise emissions before
potential runaway climate change set in, those who
could really influence change moved slowly; 160
countries meeting in Nairobi could not even agree what
to do when the Kyoto agreement runs out in 2012.

However, the global financial community at last
stirred. Wall Street investors, insurance companies and
pension fund managers, who between them manage
trillions of dollars in assets, were pushed throughout
2006 to re-evaluate their exposure to climate change
and the risks of doing nothing. US insurance companies
found that $2 trillion in real estate was at risk from
future storms in the coastal communities of Florida

Worsening poverty

Crucially, a popular movement emerged, driving the
social and financial agenda in all developed countries.
In the UK, most large anti-poverty and development
groups finally grasped the implications of climate
change for poor countries. As partner groups in Africa,
Asia and Latin America reported that it was already
worsening poverty, some of the traditional barriers
between environment and development groups disappeared.

Meanwhile, many religions and faith groups discovered
the environment. The Church of England took steps to
reduce its footprint, and the powerful evangelical
movement in the US pressured President Bush to address
"creation care". Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Catholics,
the Greek Orthodox church and other faiths all urged
their followers to take action.

The growing concern was reflected in Britain in early
November when 20,000 people - possibly the largest
environment protest ever staged in Britain - marched in
London and elsewhere for action. Direct action groups
such as Plane Stupid emerged and anti-airport expansion
community groups began to work together. Britain's
heaviest carbon polluters were identified and 4,000
people camped outside Drax power station in Yorkshire.
Greenpeace stopped work at Didcot, and others stormed
4x4 car showrooms.

Increasing anger was directed at the government, which
appeared to be following a business-as-usual agenda
with transport, while arguing that emissions trading
would suffice. In October, Oxford University's
Environmental Change Institute warned that it would be
impossible to meet the UK's 60% carbon reduction target
by 2050 without curbing aviation growth - yet a few
weeks later the DfT backed plans to massively expand
most of Britain's airports.

By the end of the year, government was publicly more
committed than ever to addressing climate change, but
privately in semi despair at the mismatch between
intention and reality and how long it was taking to
achieve a low carbon economy.


Portside aims to provide material of interest
to people on the left that will help them to
interpret the world and to change it.

Submit via email:
Submit via the Web:
Frequently asked questions:
Account assistance:
Search the archives:

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.