World Already Teetering on Tipping Points for Abrupt Climate Change
Report Calls for Early Warning Systems to Anticipate Changes
Cutting short-lived climate pollutants is most effective way to slow warming in near term
Washington, DC, 4 December – The world is already beginning to pass tipping points for abrupt, catastrophic, and irreversible changes to the global climate according to a new 200-page report released yesterday by the US National Academy of Sciences. Abrupt climate change, unlike gradual changes such as steadily increasing global temperatures, can cause rapid changes to physical, biological, and human systems in a matter of years or decades, far too fast for humans to properly adapt. The report found that some projected tipping points such as the melting of arctic permafrost, are unlikely to occur in this century, others such as the collapse of Arctic summer sea-ice are already underway and accelerating. The report concludes that while large uncertainties still remain, the world is not doing enough to prepare and anticipate for these types of threats, and calls for more research and the development of an early warning system that could give humanity a few critical years to prepare for the worst impacts of abrupt climate change.
“This should be a wakeup call for the world,” stated Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “No amount of continued warming can be considered safe when we have no idea when we’ll pass these thresholds for irreversible and abrupt climate change. The best way to slow down warming, particularly in the critically vulnerable Arctic is to cut black carbon soot and other short-lived climate pollutants, including methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFCs.” Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
Montreal Protocol Success Slowed Global Warming
Slow down in global warming linked to phase out of CFCs and methane reductions
Washington DC, 11 November, 2013 - Scientists using sophisticated statistical methods show in a paper in Nature Geoscience that the successful phase out of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, by the Montreal Protocol slowed climate change, contributing to a lower rate of global warming since the early 1990s. The paper by Francisco Estrada and others analyzed temperature data, together with trends in emissions of greenhouse gases including CFCs, methane, and carbon dioxide. They identified other human causes of the pauses in warming, including reductions in methane emissions from changes in agricultural practices, the Great Depression, and World War I and II.
“The statistical analysis confirms that the Montreal Protocol is not only the world’s most successful environmental treaty, but also the most successful climate treaty,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “The treaty not only solved the world’s first great threat to the global atmosphere—the destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer—it also has solved a significant part of climate change, as the same chemicals that destroy the ozone layer are also powerful greenhouse gases.”The Estrada paper concludes that “reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are effective in slowing the rate of warming in the short term.” Read more from IGSD Press Release here.
Cutting Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Critical for Protecting Earth’s Snow and Ice-Covered Regions
Washington DC, 3 November 2013 – Cutting short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) can significantly reduce warming in vulnerable ice and snow covered areas of the world such as the Arctic and Himalayas, known as the cryosphere, while saving millions of lives and protecting ecosystems, according to a new scientific study released today.
The report by the World Bank and the International Climate Cryosphere Initiative calculates the impacts of climate change in cryosphere regions around the globe including the Arctic, Himalayas, Andes and East Africa, and describes which actions – in addition to cuts in carbon dioxide emissions – can slow these changes. The cryosphere regions are warming at more than twice the global average rate, which increases melting and sea-level rise, and increases the risk of self-amplifying feedbacks that could trigger abrupt and catastrophic climate change.
“Fast cuts in CO2 emissions are necessary to stabilize long-term temperatures, but in the near term, we can cut the rate of climate change in half by cutting black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and HFC refrigerants. Reducing these climate pollutants is the only way to protect the world’s vulnerable people and places in the near term,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development.
By protecting glaciers and snow pack, SLCP reductions could cut the near-term projected decrease in the Amazon River flow by as much as half. Cutting SLCPs could also prevent up to half a meter or more of sea-level rise by 2050, according to earlier research. Read more from IGSD Press Release here.
Nature Editorial says cutting HFCs under Montreal Protocol is acid test for multilateralism
“Two years ago, Nature chided a handful of countries for blocking the path forwards [to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol], chiefly China, India and Brazil. Today, we are left with one major holdout: India. As the latest negotiations over the future of the Montreal Protocol wrapped up in Bangkok on 25 October, India found itself increasingly isolated, and rightly so..”
“The fact that India is on the losing side of this debate makes its renewed intransigence all the more galling. But there is hope: after the September G20 meeting, Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agreed to launch negotiations over the issue.”
“At stake in the Montreal Protocol talks is not just the future of one treaty, but also our legitimately shaken confidence in multilateralism. If the world cannot agree on something as simple as this, what hope is there of meaningful cooperation on the difficult issues that lie ahead?” Read the Nature Editorial here.
Steady March Towards Action on Reducing HFCs Under Montreal Protocol
Led by African and small island states, nations near consensus on bringing HFCs into Ozone Treaty
Bangkok, 25 October 2013—The Parties to the Montreal Protocol continued their steady march towards phasing down hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) under that treaty this week in Bangkok by reconvening the Discussion Group on HFC Management and broadening its mandate to consider the recent international agreements calling for the treaty to phase down HFCs, including the agreement by the G-20 nations and six observer states last month in St. Petersburg, Russia. Although India and Saudi Arabia blocked attempts to open formal discussions on two proposals to address HFCs—one by Micronesia, Morocco and the Maldives, the other by Canada, Mexico and the United States—the groundswell of support for using the Montreal Protocol to undertake the global phase down of HFCs called for in the Rio + 20 outcome last year and reiterated in recent high-level agreements continues to build.
“The writing is clearly on the wall,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “A few countries are still trying to delay the final agreement, but it’s now clear this is a losing strategy and that the Montreal Protocol will be used to phase down HFCs.”
The 25th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol that took place in Bangkok this week comes one month after G-20 leaders announced support for initiatives that are complementary to efforts under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs, while retaining HFCs within the scope of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol for controlling emissions. Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here, and from Editorial in Nature here.
India Moves a Step Closer to Cutting HFCs Under Montreal Protocol
Agrees at White House Today to Immediately Convene Discussion
Accounting and Reporting Would Remain Under UNFCCC
Washington DC, 27 September 2013 - Today Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India took another step forward in climate protection by agreeing with President Obama that India would immediately convene discussions of phasing down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.
"It's increasingly obvious that we need to cut HFCs under the Montreal Protocol," said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. "It's the biggest, fastest, and cheapest piece of climate mitigation available to the world today. Cutting HFCs can avoid up to 0.5°C in global warming by the end of the century."
The relevant paragraph from the joint statement from President Obama and Prime Minister Singh follows:
"The two leaders agreed to immediately convene the India-U.S. Task Force on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to discuss, inter alia, multilateral approaches that include using the expertise and the institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the consumption and production of HFCs, based on economically-viable and technically feasible alternatives, and include HFCs within the scope of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol for accounting and reporting of emissions...." Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
G-20 countries join US and China to support phasing down HFCs under Montreal Protocol
US and China agree to launch formal negotiations on HFC phase-down under Montreal Protocol
Climate optimism resurrected by Obama, Xi, other G20 Leaders
St. Petersburg, 6 September 2013 - Today President Obama negotiated two separate agreements, one with the G-20 and one with China, to phase down the super greenhouse gasses called hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The G-20 Leaders Declaration announced support for initiatives that are complementary to efforts under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, including using the expertise and institutions of the Montreal Protocol to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs.
“The G-20 agreement leaves little if any opposition to the HFC amendment,” stated IGSD President Durwood Zaelke. "This is the biggest climate prize available to the world in the next few years, providing mitigation equivalent to 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050 and avoiding up to nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.5 Celsius) in warming by 2100. It also will help build the momentum we need to negotiate a strong climate treaty in 2015 to go into effect in 2020,” added Zaelke. “Climate optimism was resurrected today by President Obama, President Xi, and the other G-20 leaders.”
The announcement comes on the heels of an agreement reached earlier in the day between the U.S. and China to open formal negotiations on the details of the amendment to phase down HFCs under the Montreal Protocol. The agreement took place on the margins of the G-20 Summit and builds on an earlier agreement between President Xi Jinping and President Obama. Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
Obama gains allies for de-funding coal plants, expanding cuts in short-lived pollutants
Focus on heads of government critical for fast, near-term mitigation in Arctic, elsewhere
Leader focus also critical for success with UN climate treaty in 2015
Washington DC, 5 September 2013—During his visit to Sweden yesterday, President Obama gained allies in his effort to stop coal plants when the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden agreed to join the U.S. “in ending public financing for new coal-fired power plants overseas, except in rare circumstances.” The leaders also agreed “to secure the support of other countries and multilateral development banks to adopt similar policies,” and “to continue their work, in all appropriate channels, to reduce the use of domestic fossil fuel subsidies globally.”
The leaders also agreed to “intensify our efforts” to reduce short-lived climate pollutants—HFCs, methane, tropospheric ozone, and black carbon, and re-committed “to protecting the Arctic environment, … [and to] pursue opportunities in future Arctic Council meetings and other international fora to…reduce emissions of black carbon in the Arctic region, as agreed upon in the Kiruna Declaration.”
“Reducing the short-lived climate pollutants can cut the rate of global warming by half and Arctic warming by two-thirds,” said IGSD President Durwood Zaelke, “and offers the best opportunity for protecting the Arctic and other vulnerable places and peoples.”
“Agreement by heads of government is critical for fast mitigation under existing laws and institutions, starting with the Montreal Protocol and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition,” said Zaelke. “It’s also critical for building the confidence of the leaders to negotiate an effective UN climate agreement in 2015 to go into effect by 2020.” Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
Montreal Protocol Endorsed for Fast Climate Mitigation
World’s most effective environmental treaty asked to do more for climate
Goal is HFC phase-down, benefit is 100 Gt CO2-eq by 2050
Washington DC, 3 September 2013 – Efforts to phase down super greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, received a boost when country partners in the Climate & Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, now numbering 33 plus the European Commission, agreed to “work toward a phasedown in the production and consumption of HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.” The country partners also agreed at their High Level Assembly in Oslo, Norway to “adopt domestic approaches to encourage climate-friendly HFC alternative technologies” and to “work with international standards organizations to revise their standards to include climate-friendly HFC alternatives.”
“Success with HFCs under the Montreal Protocol is the single biggest opportunity for near-term mitigation—capable of avoiding the equivalent of 100 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2050 and avoiding up to 0.5°C of warming by 2100,” said IGSD President Durwood Zaelke. “It also is critical for building the confidence world leaders need to negotiate a strong UN climate treaty by 2015 to go into effect by 2020.”
The World Bank, a Coalition member, announced that it would set up a “pay-for-performance” fund to reduce methane, another short-lived climate pollutant, along with black carbon and tropospheric ozone, as well as methane and HFCs. In addition, the Coalition commissioned a review of strategies to increase funding for project to reduce black carbon emissions, a strategy already underway in the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation, a regional development and new member of the Coalition. Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.
Black carbon, methane debate: how much will be cut automatically as the world gets richer?
A new study conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) calculates that 0.16°C of additional climate warming can be avoided by 2050, even after policymakers implement all “economically attractive” methane and black carbon reductions. Earlier studies by UNEP/WMO and others calculated that as much as 0.5°C of additional warming could by avoided by mid-century using a package of 16 carefully targeted policy measures. “These two studies compare apples to oranges,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute of Governance & Sustainable Development, “with the new study assuming most of the benefit of reducing methane and black carbon will occur automatically, and the UNEP/WMO study assuming that policy action will be needed, an assumption that unfortunately is much more realistic.” For example, aggressive pollution control policies were needed over the past several decades to clean up air pollution in the U.S. and Europe, according to Drew Shindell of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and a lead author of the UNEP/WMO study. "It doesn't happen automatically."
In the new PNNL study, the “question is really, assuming a world where everything economically attractive has already happened, and a good deal of air pollution controls have been put into place, what extra benefit can you get by targeting these short-lived climate]pollutants?" stated Shindell. The PNNL study also observes that a comprehensive climate policy would be best. “The study is of course correct on this point, but as we struggle to achieve a comprehensive climate policy to go into effect by 2020, it’s critical to reduce short-lived climate pollutants as fast as we can and whenever we can, using existing technologies and existing laws and institutions,” Zaelke added. “Success here will build political momentum for the more comprehensive climate policy, while also slowing climate change.”
Vice President Biden Keeps HFCs at Top of US Geopolitical Agenda During India Visit
Montreal Protocol HFC amendment presents biggest near-term mitigation opportunity
Washington DC, 25 July 2013 - During his visit to India this week Vice President Joe Biden continued the Administration’s full court press on the HFC amendment under the Montreal Protocol, originally proposed by the US, Canada, and Mexico, and separately by the Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco, and the Maldives. Following a meeting with Prime Minister Singh, Vice President Bidengave a speech at the Bombay Stock Exchange24 July about the need for both the US and India to address the problem of climate change. Biden stated, "One thing we can do together right now is address pollutants called hydrofluorocarbons, HFCs." He added, "Well, HFCs found in air conditioners and other products make an outsized contribution to climate change.I hope that India will join the United States, China and more than 100 other countries to work within the Montreal Protocols to phase down the production and consumption of HFCs."
In addition to providing the biggest, fastest, cheapest, and most secure climate mitigation available in the near-term, phasing down HFC under the Montreal Protocol will also providepolitical momentum for a successful COP 21 in Paris in 2015 when the UNFCC isscheduledto conclude a climate treaty to go into effect by 2020. "To get thispoliticalmomentum, it is essential that we wrap up the HFC amendment this yearor early next year at an extraordinary meeting," said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. Read more from IGSD’s Press Release here.