Wake Up And Smell The Coffee … It’s Time To Get Serious

2010 UNFCCC Climate Summit in Cancún – Smell The Coffee !

The hype is less this year … and I bet that not too many politicians will be appearing in front of the cameras at the end of this 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Summit … which is being held in Cancún, Mexico … from Monday, 29 November until Friday, 10 December 2010.

If you want to follow what’s happening closely … go to the Official UNFCCC WebSite … and check out the Daily Conference Programme, here, at this address … http://unfccc.int/conference_programme/items/5769.php


Let us not forget that the result of last year’s debacle … the 2009 Copenhagen Accord … was an unofficial, political agreement between a small number of Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and Heads of Delegation – Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC) and the USA – who attended the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, which concluded on Saturday, 19th December 2009.  Since then, many countries have made voluntary submissions, i.e. they are not legally binding, to Appendices I and II of the Copenhagen Accord.

An initial overview of the submissions made by Developed Countries, however, revealed the following about the voluntary emissions targets being undertaken …

  • they are highly conditional on the performance of other countries ;
  • they are disappointing, being well below what is required to cap the planetary temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius ;   and
  • there is no consistent emission base year … varying from 1990 and 1992, up to 2000 and 2005.

This is very far from being a signal of serious intent from Developed Countries … and is not … in any way, shape or manner … an acceptance of historical responsibilities.  It would be reasonable, therefore, to surmise that the process of achieving a global, legally binding, consensus agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets will be long and difficult.  The Climate Change Mitigation Agenda is, to put it mildly, fraught with problems … and has an unclear future in the short term.


HOWEVER … Back In The ‘Real’ World … GHG Emissions Continue To Rise !

On 24 November 2010 … the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) published its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.6: ‘The State of Greenhouse Gases in the Atmosphere Based on Global Observations through 2009′.

The WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) Programme coordinates systematic observations and analysis of atmospheric composition, including Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and other trace species.  Measurement data are reported by participating countries and archived and distributed by the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases (WDCGG) at the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Even here … it is clearly stated that there are still uncertainties …

2009 Global Observations of Greenhouse Gases (GHG’s) in the Atmosphere

24 November 2010

UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Greenhouse Gas Bulletin No.6

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (3.37 Mb)


The latest analysis of observations from the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme shows that the globally averaged mixing ratios of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) reached new highs in 2009, with CO2 at 386.8 parts per million, CH4 at 1803 ppb and N2O at 322.5 ppb.  These values are greater than those in pre-industrial times (before 1750) by 38%, 158% and 19%, respectively.

Atmospheric growth rates of CO2 and N2O in 2009 are consistent with recent years, but are lower than in 2008.

After nearly a decade of no growth, Atmospheric CH4 has increased during the past three years.  The reasons for renewed growth of Atmospheric Methane are not fully understood, but emissions from natural sources (from northern latitudes and the tropics) are considered potential causes.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Annual Greenhouse Gas Index shows that from 1990 to 2009, radiative forcing by all long-lived greenhouse gases increased by 27.5%, with CO2 accounting for nearly 80% of this increase.

The combined radiative forcing by Halocarbons is nearly double that of N2O.


Help with the Technical Terms of Climate Change ?

Give it a lash !   Try out the Encyclopaedia of Earth WebSite … an electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society.  The Encyclopaedia is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other’s work.  The articles are written in non-technical language and are useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public.


To Mitigate or Adapt ? – Prioritizing a Strategy for the Built Environment

We are already experiencing the adverse impacts of Climate Change !   And even if sufficient and appropriate Climate Mitigation Measures were succeeding … which they patently are not … the timelag between their implementation and any resulting beneficial environmental impacts is too great … half a century, at least … and full of uncertainty.

BUT … since the minimum period for a Sustainable Building in Use is 100 Years, and nothing less than a Recurrence Interval of 100 years should now be used in design calculations for events such as severe storms and flooding, or deluge rainfalls, etc … anyone involved in the design, construction, management or operation of the Built Environment must think ‘long-term’ … today !

In Dublin … buildings which are 250 or 350 years old still look remarkably good, and are well capable of fulfilling an important function within the social and economic environments of the city.  ‘Politically’ and ‘technically’, therefore, it would be more appropriate for the Built Environment if we were concerned with the Long-Term Climate Change Adaptation Agenda … rather than a problematic, Short-Term Mitigation Agenda.

In terms of a building … is there really a clear difference between measures undertaken for the purpose of mitigation and those undertaken for adaptation ?   For example, measures to incrementally improve energy efficiency and conserve energy, in accordance with short-term legally binding targets, will serve to mitigate CO2 Emissions … but the same measures will also serve to adapt the building to rapidly dwindling supplies of climate-damaging fossil fuels.

The long-term perspective exerts pressure for more radical, but necessary, actions in the short-term.

BUT … should we not already be undertaking these sorts of measures as part of the Mainstream Sustainability Agenda … in order to improve built environment resilience, prolong life cycles … and achieve social wellbeing for all ?

Generally … Climate Change Adaptation encompasses urgent and immediate short, near and long-term actions at local, national, regional and international levels to reduce the vulnerability and strengthen the resilience of the Human Environment, including ecological and social systems, institutions and economic sectors … to present and future adverse effects of climate change and the impacts of response measure implementation … in order to minimize the local threats to life, human health, livelihoods, food security, assets, amenities, ecosystems and sustainable development.

More specifically … Built Environment Climate Change Adaptation means reliably implementing policies, practices, projects and institutional reforms in the Built Environment … with the aim of reducing the adverse impacts and/or realizing the benefits directly/indirectly associated with climate change, including variability and extremes … in a manner which is compatible with Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Wake Up And Smell The Coffee … It’s Time To Get Serious !!!!




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