Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 21st 2016 Contents JANUARY 21 • 2016 www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
CLIMATE | BG23
When future genera-
tions write the his-
tory of humanity s
faltering quest to
repair Earth s climate
system, 2015 will
have its own chapter.
Nature, along with the usually fractious
family of nations, conspired to make it a land-
mark year: almost certainly the hottest on
record for the planet as a whole, and a rare
moment of unity when 195 states pledged to
curb the carbon pollution that drives global
Whether the December 12 Paris Agreement
is the key to our salvation or too-little-too-
late depends on what happens starting now,
experts and activists told AFP.
"The most compelling thing you can say
about Paris is not that it saved the planet, but
that it saved the chance of saving the planet,"
said Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots
organisation 350.org and an architect of the
worldwide movement to divest from fossil fuel
Robert Stavins, director of the Harvard Envi-
ronmental Economics Programme at the Har-
vard Kennedy School, was also chary: "We
will only be able to judge whether it is truly
a success years, perhaps decades, from now."
But whatever lies ahead, they all agree, the
last year has been a "tipping point" on climate
"Paris represented a real sea change in seri-
ousness in coming to grips with the issue,"
said Alden Meyer, a veteran climate analyst
from the Washington-based Union of Con-
cerned Scientists who has followed the UN
process for nearly three decades.
Much of that seriousness was driven by a
crescendo of deadly extreme weather and the
growing confidence of science in connecting
the dots with long-term shifts in climate.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration will likely report Wednesday
on record-breaking heat in 2015.
The 'golden spike'
They could point to the most powerful hur-
ricane ever registered; freakish, above-freezing
temperatures---if only for a day---at the North
Pole in December; or life-threatening droughts
in eastern and southern Africa.
Some of that will be chalked up to El Nino,
a natural weather pattern that creates havoc
along the tropical and southern Pacific Rim
every five or six years. But the very fact that
this El Nino is the most intense ever measured
may itself be a by-product of global warm-
Scientists reported last week that climate
change has probably pushed back the next Ice
Age by 50,000 years.
That may sound like good news, but more
than anything it is a stunning testament to
the extent to which human activity---mainly
burning fossil fuels---has played havoc with
the planet s thermostat.
Experts have also come a step closer to con-
cluding that our impact on Earth s bio-chem-
ical systems has been so massive as to justify
the christening of a new geological era.
The "golden spike", or start date, for the
Anthropocene---the "Age of Man"---will prob-
ably be the mid-20th century.
What Saleemul Huq, director of the Inter-
national Centre for Climate Change and Devel-
opment in Dhaka, calls a "greater planetary
consciousness" on climate has shown up in
business and politics as well.
In the World Economic Forum s annual sur-
vey on global risks over the coming decade,
released last week, some 750 experts put "fail-
ure of climate change mitigation and adap-
tation" at the top of the list for the first time.
"Mitigation" means cutting greenhouse gas
emissions, and "adaptation" refers to coping
with the consequences of climate change.
In third and fourth position are "water
crises" and "large-scale involuntary migra-
Record clean energy investment
In the business arena, the balance of invest-
ment is shifting away from fossil fuels and
towards renewables, Bloomberg New Energy
Finance reported recently.
Despite tumbling oil and gas prices, global
investment in clean energy reached US$329
billion (300 billion euros) in 2015, a new record,
The 2015 watershed on climate change has
crystallised a gradual shift from debate over
the reality and extent of global warming, to
a discussion on what to do about it.
"There s a huge amount of resistance and
inertia built into the system," said Huq.
"Changing the global economy is not a trivial
Much of that resistance will come from the
fossil fuel industry.
Widespread misreporting of harmful gas emissions by Chinese electricity
firms is threatening the country s attempts to rein in pollution, with government
policies aimed at generating cleaner power struggling to halt the practice.
Coal-fired power accounts for three-quarters of China s total generation
capacity and is a major source of the toxic smog that shrouded much of the
country s north last month, prompting "red alerts" in dozens of cities, including
the capital Beijing.
But the government has found it hard to impose a tougher anti-pollution
regime on the power sector, with China s energy administration describing it
as a "weak link" in efforts to tackle smog caused by gases such as sulfur diox-
ide.No official data on the extent of the problem has been released since a gov-
ernment audit in 2013 found hundreds of power firms had falsified emissions
data, although authorities have continued to name and shame individual oper-
"There is no guarantee of avoiding under-reporting (of emissions) at local
plants located far away from supervisory bodies. Coal data is very fuzzy," said
a manager with a state-owned power company, who did not want to be named
because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The manager said firms could easily exaggerate coal efficiency by manipulating
their numbers. For example, power companies that also provided heating for
local communities could overstate the amount of coal used for heat generation,
which is not subject to direct monitoring, and understate the amount used for
"Data falsification is a long-standing problem: China will not get its envi-
ronmental house in order if it does not deal with this first," said Alex Wang,
an expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. AP
2015 a 'tipping point' for
climate change: experts
False emissions reporting
undermines pollution fight
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