Archive for January, 2011
Blink and you’ll have missed it because it has attracted little media coverage, but 2010 was the warmest year on record. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the global average temperature in 2010 was 0.53 degrees Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, while the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has it at 0.62 degrees Celsius above the twentieth century average, making 2010 equal with 2005 as the warmest year on record.
Now just a note for those who will point out that for much of the northern hemisphere December 2010 was extremely cold and snowy: when talking of “global warming” and “climate change”, please remember the clue is in the names. Global warming means the global temperature, on average, is going up. It does not mean that there is uniform warming in all places simultaneously. Climate change means, surprisingly, that the climate is changing. This change can be experienced in many ways: warmer weather in some places, cooler weather in others, more rain and storms and extreme events (as seen in Australia and Russia in 2010). The NOAA also has 2010 as the wettest year on record, in terms of global average precipitation, by the way.
Given the continued global warming trend, it seems surprising that the top EU politicians hardly mention it any more. In particular, the EU2020 strategy seems to be becoming an excuse to put off action on climate change until later. Real action on “low-carbon growth” is now seen as something for 2030 or 2050, rather than now. In recent speeches, Jose Manuel Barroso has barely mentioned climate change. In the EU economic growth priorities for 2011, the notion of sustainable growth does not even feature. In his speech to the first 2011 session of the European Parliament, Barroso briefly welcomed the relative progress in international negotiations on climate change at Cancun (venue for the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, at the end of last year), but then promptly put it in the same bracket as EU agreement on the Eurovignette truck road charging system. Climate change is becoming, it seems, a second division policy area.
And environment commissioner Janez Potocnik is not helping, deciding in the last couple of days to put off until 2013 a review of air pollution legislation that should have happened in 2004. Part of this review would be to set 2020 targets for reductions of some pollutants. Potocnik doesn’t want to put his head above the parapet, it would seem.
But, as climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a recent debate organised by the Lisbon Council, “we’re in for some very expensive solutions if we just continue business as usual”. She wants the EU to increase its 2020 emissions reduction target from 20 percent to 30 percent compared to 1990 levels, but this idea has been on the table for a year without any real development in the discussion. Hedegaard will push it ahead of the next UN climate summit, in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this year. Its acceptance, or not, will be a major test of the EU’s resolve to try and do something about climate change.