David Levy’s bleak analysis of the carbon market is complemented by recent research by Charles-Clemens Rüling, Bettina Wittneben and myself regarding climate conferences as the sites of transnational climate policy making. While climate skepticism has long accompanied climate science and the debate about anthropogenic climate change, fresh skepticism about the structure and outcomes of climate policy processes is growing among those serious about saving our climate. The Kyoto Protocol, the much quoted “only game in town” in transnational climate policy, has failed to commit large industrialized countries and major carbon emitters such as the U.S. (in its first commitment period) and Canada (in its second) to binding targets for emissions reduction; the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, a cornerstone of supposedly ambitious European climate policy, has been written off by many civil society groups as well as by the European Parliament, voting against its reform in April; controversial energy production practices such as large-scale hydro-fracking are slowly but surely becoming more accepted even in countries such as Germany, a stronghold of the green movement. Meanwhile, the detrimental effects of climate change are being felt in both developed and developing countries, exemplified by the recent flood catastrophes in Europe and India. As climate policy is crumbling away, evidence grows to show that global warming and its threat to life on our planet is fact not fiction. Why have the decades of transnational policy efforts not produced better results?
By David Levy.
A milestone on the road to catastrophic climate change was reached last Thursday, May 9th, when the Mauna Loa research center in Hawaii recorded atmospheric CO2 levels above 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time. The level during pre-industrial times was around 280 ppm, and has been rising at an accelerating pace due to burning fossil fuels and clearing forests. For the last 400,000 years or so, CO2 levels have fluctuated between about 180 ppm, at the depths of ice ages, and 280 ppm during relatively short warm periods, or interglacials (see graphic). The last time CO2 levels reached 400 ppm was at least 3 million years ago, a much warmer world where sea levels were 60-80 feet higher. Continue reading