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Cancun and News - Again:

By: Dr. Ricky Rood, 10:57 PM GMT on December 09, 2010

Cancun and News - Again:

Cancun, Conference of the Parties - 16: The Conference of the Parties (COP) are the annual meetings that are part of the governing body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We went into the Cancun meeting with far lower expectations than the 2009 meeting in Copenhagen . Much of the talk preceding the meeting was focused on small good things (A Small Good Thing, this is just a good short story.) This is, perhaps, an implicit statement that a comprehensive global agreement on climate change and reduction of emissions are just beyond our ability of collective action. Some would argue that this has been evident for some time, and it is finally emerging that we need to piece together, more effectively, bottoms-up solutions.

Like last year, there is a group of University Michigan and Alma College students at the conference. They are going and coming, and they are writing their own blogs, which appear on ClimateBlue. There are a few students and members of the Michigan Delegation who were also at last year’s meeting, providing a perspective of the two meetings. (We thank Wunderground.com for helping to sponsor the students.)

Figure 1. Cancun Climate Conference. (Photo from Kevin Reed)

In my entries from the 2009 COP meeting, I recall talking about the quiet work of the people sitting at coffee-shop tables talking about their community-based approaches to adaptation (Rood). That is, in the big storm of international politics, people dismiss their political leader’s relevance to the real world and take on the opportunities to anticipate and to prepare based on information provided by climate simulations. In short, adaptation to the consequences of climate change rises to the forefront.

The January 13, 2011 issue of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society explores the world of four degrees warming. This issue implicitly and explicitly recognizes that we are not likely to limit warming to a global average of two degrees, and that it is critical to describe this new warmer world and to plan for this new world. Here are links to the preface and the editorial accompanying this issue. At the start of the Cancun meeting there was a flurry of press coverage of reports coming from the International Livestock Research Institute. These reports fed off of looking at a world that is closer to a four degree warming, as opposed to the increasingly unrealistic world where “dangerous” climate change has been avoided. What struck me about the people looking at these adaptation problems was the thorough, serious approach, and their ability to cut a rational path through all of the political, economic, and scientific uncertainty to develop convincing strategies for problems such as – can we still grow corn in Africa? Here are a set of reports and press coverage over the past few weeks and years:

Climate variability and climate change: Impacts on Kenyan agriculture

A wonderful collection of stories on agriculture and climate change in Africa

Climate change as opportunity in Africa

Voice of America Coverage of African Climate Adaptation

Africa’s Growing Water Crisis

I respond to efforts such as the one outlined above on many levels. It is gratifying to see the use of the climate projection information in systematic and rational ways. Further, to me, this response and knowledge is being developed in Africa, and these efforts serve as examples of the increasingly deep and distributed intellectual base vested in addressing climate change. These efforts proceed while the international political clamor imagines moving towards a problem more tractable than reducing emissions – namely, who will pay, setting up international funds and ways to hand off technology (as a poor writer, I note a tone of the incredulous).

It also makes me wonder about us, here, in the United States. At last year’s meeting, in the exhibits it was not the U.S. exhibitors who had the leading technology. As I look around the world the self-organization that is taking place is not in the U.S. Here, on the national scale we argue about prosecuting climate scientists, and shoot, literally, cap and trade in political ads. I see European firms building U.S. wind technology. I sit in meetings where U.S. scientists argue about the same data provision issues they argued about in 1995, probably 1985, while Canada already has a facility to provide climate data for applications. In short, the political argument and the cultural inertia places the U.S. further and further behind in both science and technology – an issue of basic economic and societal success. (Does this only seem relevant to me? Molybdenum and test scores)

Going back to the students and the University of Michigan Delegation in Cancun – it is these students and their peers who are starting to address these problems. It is this generation who will live with the warming planet, and who will take advantage – or not – of the opportunity that is provided by climate projections. I point out some of their entries from Cancun: Climate Action Network Canada Press Conference, Moving Beyond Coors Light Solutions, Top Three Warmest Year.

Figure 2. Cancun Climate Conference – UoM Students, Sarah Katherine Pethan (SNRE) and Marisol Ramos (Ford School), point at a white square that says “United States.” (Photo from Kevin Reed)

Book of the Year: A Vast Machine I have mentioned Paul Edwards’ book A Vast Machine many times. The Economist has selected it as a Book of the Year. A quote. “Not enough intelligent, scholarly and critically minded history of contemporary science gets published, but this work, by a professor at the University of Michigan, is a nice exception on an important area.”

A Couple of Updates: Johannes Feddema sent me a note on focusing of targeted studies of land use changes in response to some of my recent blogs. (White Roofs in the Cities).

And my blog got a great write up in the Cody Enterprise.

Pakistani Flood Relief Links

Doctors Without Borders

The International Red Cross

MERLIN medical relief charity

U.S. State Department Recommended Charities

The mobile giving service mGive allows one to text the word "SWAT" to 50555. The text will result in a $10 donation to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

Portlight Disaster Relief at Wunderground.com

An impressive list of organizations

Climate Change

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.