Filed by Erika Engelhaupt
Scientists put in their own two cents on climate policy at today’s meeting. More than 200 prominent climate scientists from around the world have signed a statement calling for negotiators in Bali to set aggressive new targets for curbing greenhouse gases.
The scientists say that a post-Kyoto treaty must be negotiated by 2009 and should aim to reduce emissions by at least 50% below 1990 levels by 2050. Global emissions must begin to decline within the next 10-15 years, they say, in order to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas levels at 450 parts per million (in CO2-equivalent concentration) and keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius. The statement and a list of scientists who signed it is available at http://www.climate.unsw.edu.au/bali/.
Leading climate experts were invited to sign the statement, according to Richard Somerville (photo above) of the University of California San Diego, who was in Bali along with scientists from Australia and the U.K. to present the statement. Somerville is a climate modeler and coordinating lead author for Working Group I of the IPCC (science and impacts). “The IPCC does not advocate policy,” he said, so this statement gave scientists a chance to give their informed opinion on policy by allowing them to speak in a private capacity.
The declaration was released at a press conference in Bali under the auspices of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Afterwards, Somerville told me that he has not interacted with the U.S. delegation in Bali.
The U.S. delegation held its own press conference soon afterward to answer general questions about the negotiations. When asked to comment on the scientists’ statement, lead U.S. negotiator Harlan Watson brushed it aside, saying “I don’t know who the scientists are who signed it.” He then emphasized that the U.S. is “fully on board” with the recent IPCC report but that the IPCC does not advocate policy. The reporter came back with the comment that this statement was signed by leading scientists and does in fact advocate policy, to which Watson replied that he would not endorse something he had not yet read.
When asked whether the delegation was influenced by today’s news that the Lieberman-Warner bill passed a vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, Watson said “We will not alter our posture here.” Asked then whether Australia’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocol changed anything for the U.S., Warner replied, “No, we’re not changing our opinion.”
It’s no surprise that the U.S. delegation is not turning on its heels at this meeting, but today’s press conferences served to underscore the sense of increasing U.S. isolation on the international climate scene.
For me, the sound of crickets has always been a lonely sound, so it seemed somehow fitting during the U.S. presentation when crickets in the plants onstage started to chirp.