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Monday, November 29, 2010

Edmonton to Cancún: No matter how you look at it, things are getting warmer

Today is a sobering day!

It's Monday, nearly the end of November, and 26 days until Christmas. It is also the day when die-hard Saskatchewan Roughrider fans (who are the true winners of the Grey Cup, regardless of which team triumphed on the field in yesterday's game) return to their burrows to hibernate for the winter after their final frenzied gathering of the season.

A dedicated Saskatchewan fan attempts to distract the Alouettes' defensive line in Sunday's Grey Cup game. (Credit: CTV)

Another major event, which has farther-reaching implications then even the Grey Cup, is kicking off in warmer climbs today. I am referring, of course, to the COP16/CMP6 meetings that started this morning in Cancún. Delegates from 194 nations will meet over the next two weeks to discus strategies on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and hammer out a binding international agreement.

At least that is the intention. But what are the chances that a binding deal on could come out of these talks? Canada's ruling party made clear its position on climate change action earlier in the month when Conservative senators assassinated the only meaningful piece of federal GHG legislation. As John pointed out last week, the recent mid-term elections in the US have created a climate of ignorance around climate change (and science in general), which will make it very difficult for US delegates to commit to any meaningful agreement in the near future.

Fred Pearce, who wrote an excellent what-you-need-to-know guide to the Cancún climate talks in New Scientist, suggests that the best hope for a deal is at next year's summit in South Africa. This would mean another year's delay, at a time when every year brings worse predictions of what our climate will look like if we wait longer to take action (still with me?). Last year, for example, the UK meteorological service predicted that global surface temperatures could increase 4 °C by 2060. What would this look like, you ask? Well, you're in luck, because the Royal Society just released a report which paints a vivid picture of the effects of a 4 °C increase (I'll give you a hint: it isn't pretty).

I suppose we can just sit back and hope that our leaders will do their best over the next couple of weeks to ensure that GHG's are returned to safe levels globally, or that the can at least pave the way to do so at next year's meeting. Right? Of course, when hope isn't enough, phone calls and letters don't go amiss (just saying). When all else fails, you can always resort to taking off your clothes in public (hey, it works for  Roughrider fans).

At times like these I like to quote the great Edward R Murrow in saying "Good night, and good luck!"

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