Last Chance…Squandered?

The Associated Press: NASA warming scientist: ‘This is the last chance’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Exactly 20 years after warning America about global warming, a top NASA scientist said the situation has gotten so bad that the world’s only hope is drastic action.

James Hansen told Congress on Monday that the world has long passed the “dangerous level” for greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and needs to get back to 1988 levels. He said Earth’s atmosphere can only stay this loaded with man-made carbon dioxide for a couple more decades without changes such as mass extinction, ecosystem collapse and dramatic sea level rises.

“We’re toast if we don’t get on a very different path,” Hansen, director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences who is sometimes called the godfather of global warming science, told The Associated Press. “This is the last chance.”

So we’ve pretty much already passed over the GW tipping point. The hope now is to try and moderate some of the effects. This has been a major push at the G8 summit in Hokaido.

Unfortunately that’s not going to happen with the present leadership. And not just the U.S. leadership, the whole G8 has problems.

The leaders of the world’s richest countries have squandered yet another opportunity to lead the global community when it comes to climate change. The G8 Summit in Japan has issued a classically vague and nonbinding statement endorsing the idea of halving carbon emissions by 2050, a goal well below the emissions cuts proposed by leaders of many of the G8 nations.

The declaration on the environment and climate change gives a lot of lip service to various “low-carbon technologies” but offers little in terms of new policy to help facilitate development and deployment.

More baffling is the way in which the statement names certain technologies and omits others. Nuclear and biofuels receive strong commendations, while wind and solar fail to get a single mention. Meanwhile clean coal technologies, including carbon capture and sequestration, are given a whole paragraph, in which there resides one of the most clearly worded assertions: “We strongly support the launching of 20 large-scale CCS demonstration projects globally by 2010, taking into account various national circumstances, with a view to beginning broad deployment of CCS by 2020.”

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The other part of the backsliding is highlighted in this NYT article.

RUSUTSU, Japan — Pledging to “move toward a low-carbon society,” leaders of the world’s richest nations vowed Tuesday to work with emerging powers to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, but did not specify whether the starting point would be current levels or 1990 levels, and refused to set a short-term target for reducing the gases that scientists agree are warming the planet.

So they can’t even decide what the baseline is, much less make any realistic, trackable goal.

The G8 is also hampered here, as China and India, the two main U.S. competitors for “Polluter of the Planet” are not represented and the U.S. won’t sign a deal without them. And they won’t sign one without the the U.S.

So we have a nice stalemate, and the water slowly gets hotter.

The frog sits, waiting for flies.