The impact of rising seas prompts plea ahead of the UN climate change conference that begins on Monday in Madrid

The countries most at risk of deluge from climate chaos have issued an impassioned plea to the industrialised world ahead of crucial negotiations on the Paris agreement that start on Monday in Madrid.

We see [these talks] as the last opportunity to take decisive action, Janine Felson, deputy chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) told the Guardian.

Anything short of vastly greater commitment to emission reduction, a new climate finance goal and tangible support for disaster risk reduction will signal a willingness to accept catastrophe.

Pacific atolls and other low-lying islands are likely to be inundated if temperatures rise to more than 1.5C above preindustrial levels, while current Paris commitments put the world on track for a disastrous 3C.

We are mired in a planetary emergency of existential proportion, said the leaders of the 44 states of AOSIS, in a joint statement. The impacts are real and current for people living on small islands. This does not have to be our destiny or legacy.

While small islands are at greatest risk, rich countries were also suffering, said Clarence Samuel, lead negotiator for the Marshall Islands.

None of us are immune, he said. All month we have watched in horror as our Pacific cousins Australia have literally watched their country burn, fuelled by a climate crisis of our own making.

Timeline

Half a century of dither and denial a climate crisis timeline

Fossil fuel companies have been aware of their impact on the planet since at least the 1950s

The physicist Edward Tellertellsthe American Petroleum Institute (API) a 10% increase in CO2 will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.

Lyndon Johnsons Presidents Science Advisory Committee states that pollutants have altered on a global scale the carbon dioxide content of the air, with effects that could be deleterious from the point of view of human beings. Summarising the findings, the head of the APIwarnedthe industry: Time is running out.

Shell and BP begin funding scientific research in Britain this decade to examine climate impacts from greenhouse gases.

A recently filed lawsuit claims Exxon scientists told management in 1977 there was an overwhelming consensus that fossil fuels were responsible for atmospheric carbon dioxide increases.

An internal Exxon memo warns it is distinctly possible that CO2 emissions from the companys 50-year plan will later produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the Earths population).

The Nasa scientistJames Hansen testifies to the US Senatethat the greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now. In the US presidential campaign, George Bush Sr says: Those who think we are powerless to do anything about the greenhouse effect forget about the White House effect As president, I intend to do something about it.

Aconfidential reportprepared for Shells environmental conservation committee finds CO2 could raise temperatures by 1C to 2C over the next 40 years with changes that may be the greatest in recorded history. It urges rapid action by the energy industry. By the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even stabilise the situation, it states.

Exxon, Shell, BP and other fossil fuel companiesestablishthe Global Climate Coalition (GCC), a lobbying group that challenges the science on global warming and delays action to reduce emissions.

Exxon funds two researchers, Dr Fred Seitz and Dr Fred Singer, who dispute the mainstream consensus on climate science. Seitz and Singer were previously paid by the tobacco industry and questioned the hazards of smoking. Singer, who has denied being on the payroll of the tobacco or energy industry, has said his financial relationships do not influence his research.

Shells public information film Climate of Concern acknowledges there is a possibility of change faster than at any time since the end of the ice age, change too fast, perhaps, for life to adapt without severe dislocation.

At the Rio Earth summit, countries sign up to the worlds first international agreement to stabilise greenhouse gases and prevent dangerous manmade interference with the climate system. This establishes the UN framework convention on climate change. Bush Sr says: The US fully intends to be the pre-eminent world leader in protecting the global environment.

Two months before the Kyoto climate conference, Mobil (later merged with Exxon) takes outan ad in The New York Timestitled Reset the Alarm, which says: Lets face it: the science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil.

The US refuses to ratify the Kyoto protocol after intense opposition from oil companies and the GCC.

The US senator Jim Inhofe, whosemain donorsare in the oil and gas industry,leadsthe Climategate misinformation attack on scientists on the opening day of the crucial UN climate conference in Copenhagen, whichends in disarray.

A study by Richard Heede, published in the journal Climatic Change, reveals90 companiesare responsible for producing two-thirds of the carbon that has entered the atmosphere since the start of the industrial age in the mid-18th century.

The API removes a claim on its website that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, after an outcry.

Exxon, Chevron and BP eachdonate at least $500,000for the inauguration of Donald Trump as president.

Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of Opec, which represents Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, Iran and several other oil states, says climate campaigners are thebiggest threatto the industry and claims they are misleading the public with unscientific warnings about global warming.

Jonathan Watts,Garry BlightandPablo Gutirrez

To fulfil the Paris goals, far tougher targets on emissions are needed, while this years negotiations known as COP25, running from 2 December to 13 December will focus on technical issues such as a mechanism for trading carbon within the Paris agreement.

Resolving these technicalities will allow the UN to wrap up the Paris rulebook, setting out how to measure and achieve emissions cuts, but experts are concerned that it leaves too little time for the substantive question of targets, which under the rules must be resolved by the end of 2020.

Lord Stern of Brentford, one of the worlds leading climate economists, said: Its very important that this COP is not just tidying up, but starting [the process] of the next one. Its positive that finance ministers and central bank governors will come this year, and countries like the EU and China need to show leadership.

Under the 2015 Paris agreement, countries are supposed to set out more ambitious climate action in 2020, when current targets expire. Governments were given the five-year grace period to ratchet up their national goals.

Some countries including the UK have put in place long-term goals of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, that leaves hanging the question of 2030 targets, which are needed to keep countries on track.

Talks on the crucial matter of 2030 commitments will largely be relegated to informal meetings on the sidelines of COP25, though these are what will determine the success of the Paris agreement and the future of the climate.

There are also continuing tensions at the talks over funding to help developing economies curb emissions and cope with the consequences of climate disaster, and whether poor countries should be compensated by the rich for the loss and damage caused by global heating.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said: The worlds small window of opportunity is closing rapidly. We must urgently deploy all the tools of multilateral cooperation to make COP25 the launchpad for more climate ambition to put the world on a transformational path towards low carbon and resilience.

The talks, taking place in Madrid after the original host nation, Chile, pulled out owing to its political crisis, will also be overshadowed by US president Donald Trumps decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

The US last month formally submitted the one years notice legally required for withdrawal under the accord. The withdrawal will formally take effect the day after the next US presidential election, and just before the next UN talks in November 2020, to be hosted by the UK in Glasgow.

A US State Department spokesperson told the Guardian: The US delegation at COP25 will actively engage in negotiations to protect US interests and level the playing field for US businesses.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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