Meeting – Tuesday, July 15th 2008
Global Warming Scenarios for Thailand
A talk and presentation by Jere Locke, Marty Bergoffen and
Summaries of the
talks were prepared by the speakers and your convenor.
Jere Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the
Outreach Coordinator with Texas Climate Emergency Campaign, which is
building coalitions of farmers, environmentalists, religious
communities, labor unions and many others to address the challenge of
TIME FOR ACTION---OUR TIME IS RUNNING OUT
“We have at most 10
years - not 10 years to decide upon action, but 10 years to alter
fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”
Since he said this in 2006 we now have only 8 years by his timetable.
He has argued that the earth’s climate is nearing a crucial
tipping point that, if passed, would lead to “practically a
Dr. James Hansen, Director of
the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
“If there’s no
action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next 2 to
3 years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
Rajendra Pachauri, chair of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which won the
Nobel Prize with Al Gore
The future of this beautiful,
wonderful planet and all its beings will in all likelihood be largely
determined by December 2009 when the UN meets to sign the agreement
that will succeed the Kyoto Protocols in December 2012.
An essential first step in
arriving at a strong UN agreement is for the US to pass a strong, i.e.
science based, bill early next year. The UN might then be more willing
to sign a science based agreement when it gathers in Copenhagen.
Without a strong US
bill there is little chance the UN will sign an agreement that meets
the challenge we face.
The Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC), comprised of the 2,500 plus UN scientists who
won the Nobel Prize with Al Gore, is telling us that we have to make
very significant CO2 emission cuts no later than 2015 or
face catastrophic consequences. Without a strong US bill and UN agreement we
will go sailing by 2015 without a notice.
This imperative for action is
also seen in recent research by Dr. James Hansen. Before this research,
Dr. Hansen along with the IPCC, all thought that
keeping CO2 atmospheric concentration levels below 450
parts per million (ppm) was a desired goal. The world is now at 387
ppm. The pre-industrial level was 270 ppm.
However, after researching the
last time the earth was at 450 ppm for an extended period of time, Dr.
Hansen and eight colleagues now think that safety is no higher than 350
ppm. Recently Dr. Hansen said “if humanity wishes to preserve a
planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which
life on earth is adapted…… the CO2 atmospheric
concentration level will need to be reduced from its current 387 ppm to
at most 350 ppm …..If you leave us at 450 ppm for long enough
it will probably melt almost all the world’s ice –
that’s a sea level rise of 75 meters. What we have found is
that the target we (i.e. Dr. Hansen, the IPCC, and environmental
groups) have all been aiming for is a disaster – a guaranteed
disaster.” This research is posted at www.arXiv.org. Obviously Bangkok, much of
which is at or below sea level, and all the Thai coastal cities along
with coastal cities everywhere in the world would be under water. (Your Convenor writes: In Thailand the Lower Central
Plain is at an elevation of 2 metres above sea level and the Upper
Central Plain is at 20 metres above sea level. A 75-metre rise in sea
level would mean a serious curtailment to rice production in Thailand.)
Before this recent research, the
IPCC had advised us that by 2020 we must cut our carbon emissions by
25-40% under 1990 levels. This is a somewhat modest goal as it gives us
just a 50/50 chance of avoiding a temperature rise of 2° Celsius
over pre-industrial levels, which is runaway train territory. Many of
you might want a better than 50/50 chance!
addition to the recommendations of scientists you should know about the
tipping points. Right now global warming effects are rising
gradually. Some examples of this are the recent US floods, the Myanmar
cyclone, China’s winter storm, the Australian drought and the
fact that the Arctic summer ice is reducing and will soon disappear,
all very substantial events but just part of this gradual rise.
However, if we continue to ignore the scientist’s advice at some
point in the very near future nature will become a runaway train
because we will have passed a point that brings on large and abrupt
changes. Just a couple of these tipping points are:
*** When the Arctic summer ice
disappears. A few years ago the IPCC thought this would happen by 2070;
now they think it will happen in 5-10 years. Ice reflects heat back
into space, but open ocean water absorbs heat, adding to the problem.
When the Siberian permafrost thaws it will release the equivalent in
methane gas of over 70 years of present emissions. This permafrost is
already beginning to thaw.
If we pass these tipping points
one consequence will be the melting of the Himalayan glaciers within
about 40 years, thus depriving over 40% of the world’s people of
more than half their water. The Chinese government has already told its
largest corporations to buy large tracts of arable land in Africa and South America. Hedge funds and the Saudis among
others are now trying to buy land all over world that will remain
Another consequence of a tipping
point which we might have already passed is Africa
losing over half its food production. A recent IPCC statement says this
will happen by 2020. African people will see both their food production
halved and China
and maybe other countries trying to take over their remaining fertile
There is, however, room for hope
as various national studies have shown us that we can make cuts of up
to 100% by 2050 with just present technology and no nuclear power
There is also hope as far as the
bill in that Senator Obama supports 80% cuts by 2050, an IPCC
recommendation. Even John McCain has broken with Bush’s
horrendous record, although his proposed cuts aren’t adequate.
Probably even more important is
that Al Gore recently came out for the US generating 100% of its
electricity with just renewables (no coal or nukes) by 2018, just 10
years from now. The press release announcing this had a quote from
Senator Obama praising Gore for his leadership without going so far as
to agree with the 100% cut goal. However, given that Obama’s
quote was probably prearranged by Gore this is a very good sign that he
will be strong on global warming if not on other issues like Iraq, Palestine, etc.
Another area of hope is that
this transition to a new renewable energy economy will create tens of
millions of new jobs in a time of global economic downturn. Every
building in every city will need to be inspected, its substandard glass
replaced and its ducts wrapped with insulation, among other
improvements. Energy efficiency is the quickest and cheapest way to get
the first emission cuts. You can imagine for yourself the workforce it
will take to accomplish just this task in the area where you live.
At the same time, we will need
to start the process of replacing oil and coal with wind, solar, wave
and other renewable energy sources. This new renewable energy economy
will create millions of other jobs.
We have a choice. We can either
mobilize quickly like we did for WW II or witness mounting calamities.
The time for dawdling has passed. Good people need to step forward
during the coming months to help solve this challenge or all the
world’s peoples face a nightmarish future.
Marty Bergoffen (email@example.com ) then
gave a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate his talk. Marty had
attended the Climate Justice Conference at Chulalongkorn
University, Bangkok, on July
Climate Justice is the notion
that impending climate change requires immediate, radical action, and
that these actions must minimize harm to the most vulnerable. This
includes indigenous people, women, farmers and fishers, etc., all of
whom depend upon their natural environment for livelihoods and
therefore face significant and dire threats from climate change.
Business as Usual is no longer a viable option.
The conference had over 140
people attending from around the world, including 16 from Chiang Mai.
Carbon Trading - allows
companies to buy and sell the right to pollute the air.
Opposition to this because it
provides more profits to polluters, and allows Northern industrial
countries to avoid their obligation to reduce emissions at the expense
of poorer countries.
Forests – REDD
(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation)
Provides money to countries that
are destroying forests to stop them doing so.
Opposed because it is unfair to
countries like Thailand, who have already stopped logging (in theory)
and will therefore be penalized for their forethought, while rewarding
countries like Indonesia that are rampant with logging corruption.
Gender, Indigenous People,
and Climate Justice
Women and indigenous people are
responsible for providing food, water and other livelihood
requirements, and are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts.
(World Bank, Asia Development
Bank, et al.)
They are continuing to fund
fossil fuel development, and so are complicit in pushing climate change
(World Trade Organization)
The WTO will allow countries and
companies to challenge climate change laws as barriers to trade. This
must be overcome immediately.
Transport, especially flying,
tends to be a highly energy intensive, so contributes to climate
change. Julia will talk more about this issue.
Many similarities (size and
development level) and differences (democracy v. dictatorship), but
both have similar outlooks on efforts to stop climate change (US and Europe have first responsibility to reduce
Many synergies for local
NGO’s to explore.
Green Development Rights
A framework for distributing
costs and obligations of emissions reductions. The US and Europe
will have to pay more because they are able to and continue to pollute
Coastal Communities and
Especially vulnerable to climate
change, as seen by Hurricane Nargis. Need special efforts at adaptation
Global push for agrofuels like
ethanol and palm oil is hurting food farmers.
Land appropriation and forced
growing of species like jatropha are rampant.
What you can do in Chiang Mai
Work to stop field
and forest burning, especially in February-April.
Use cars less, get
rid of diesel Songthaew. Use a bicycle instead.
Fly much less,
especially to Bangkok
– take a train or bus.
Be aware of
responsible tourism – Julia will have more.
Plant Trees and
Prevent deforestation (unnecessary CO2 release).
Engage politicians and decision
makers; write letters to politicians and newspapers.
This is a real crisis and
demands immediate radical action.
The discussion items from the
Climate Justice Conference are a good place to start.
Sign Up to Join Chiang Mai
Julia Schonharl (firstname.lastname@example.org) then
talked about the adverse impact that tourism has on climate change.
This summary of her
talk was prepared by your Convenor
Global climate change is
probably the most severe environmental threat in the 21st
Century and will affect the lives of people around the world –
access to water, food production, health and the environment. This is
currently a top issue for policymakers worldwide and tourism is fast
becoming an important element in their considerations. Climate
represents a key resource for tourism and climate related risks in the
form of changing weather patterns and extreme adverse conditions can
have a serious impact on travel patterns. The tourism industry itself,
however, is a significant contributor to climate change by generating
greenhouse gas emissions through traveler’s consumption of
transport services, in particular air transport, the high per capita
consumption of energy - air conditioning, heating and lighting, poor
energy efficiency - waste management, and water consumption in tourist
establishments, and the serious negative environmental impacts. The
aviation industry poses the biggest threat because it is the fastest
growing source of greenhouse gases, growing at a rate of 5% per annum
and contributing to 3% of global emissions. Long-haul international
flights emitting greenhouse gases at high cruising altitudes add
substantially to climate change effects. Air travel is a heavily
subsidized boom industry. The massive expansion and building of new
airports; in Thailand the new Suvarnabhumi Airport,
and at Chiang Mai Airport the proposed extension to the runway to
accommodate bigger aircraft, the launch and expansion of budget and
short-haul airlines and routes; Thailand has seen a rapid growth in
recent years in the number of budget airlines and new routes, and
infrastructure heavy tourism projects are celebrated as progress, at
least by the companies’ stockholders. Carbon offsetting, emission
trading, carbon neutral travel and green certificates are nothing more
than ‘greenwash solutions’ proposed by the UNWTO to support
its ‘less travel is bad, business as usual’ position.
The tourism industry must make
an authentic response to the climate change crisis by implementing
measures to change the current forms of mass tourism to significantly
reduce the industry’s climate change footprint.
writes: After an informative and thought provoking presentation by the
three speakers, I, and I’m sure many people in the audience, came
away with the thought that I will probably witness in my lifetime
climate changes that I’d previously thought I’d never live
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