Barack Obama’s climate plan
President Barack Obama this week unveiled America’s most far reaching action so far on climate change by imposing stringent emissions cuts on the power sector. Orla Ryan asks Pilita Clark and Barney Jopson about the significance of the move.
Sunny Stockholm – Getty
Stockholm looks bright and brisk today, unlike some of the scientists and government officials who were heading into a large brick conference centre on the city’s waterfront at 8am this morning.
They had been working through the night until 2:30am to finalise the most comprehensive climate science report in six years for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The bulk of the report is finished, having been drafted by 259 scientists from 39 countries over the last four years, with the help of more than 600 contributing authors.
The Stockholm meeting, which started on Monday and is closed to the public and journalists, is finishing its most widely-read section: a 31-page summary for policymakers that governments have to approve before release, in consultation with some of the scientists who wrote it.
The summary is based on the larger report and its basic conclusion – that human influence on the climate caused most of the global warming recorded since 1951 – cannot change.
But the way its many findings are expressed are very much up for debate and with just one day left before the summary is due to be released on Friday morning, delegates are braced for another long night tonight. Read more
♦ Lawrence Summers made dismissive remarks about the effectiveness of quantitative easing back in April, while a senate letter by a group of Democrats backing Janet Yellen for the next Fed chair is circulating. The Washington Post’s Wonk blog asks, who would make the better chair, Yellen or Summers?
♦Pope Francis is walking the walk in Latin America, inspiring the masses, and many should be feeling uncomfortable about this, argues John-Paul Rathbone.
♦ When Wen Jiabao defined Bo Xilai as a man who wanted to repudiate China’s effort to reform its economy, open to the world and allow its citizens to experience modernity, he was getting his revenge on a family that had opposed him and his mentor Hu Yaobang.
♦ Medieval Irish chronicles might be able to expand our understanding of climate change.
♦ Abbe Smith, a professor of law and the director of the Criminal Defense & Prisoner Advocacy Clinic at Georgetown University, examines why lawyers choose to defend someone like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev or George Zimmerman.
♦ Wild card candidates for the Iranian election have confused the regime’s orchestration of the vote.
♦ Dana Milbank thinks President Obama needs to show more engagement with his presidency: “He responded as though he were just some bloke on a bar stool, getting his information from the evening news.”
♦ The Guardian reports on climate refugees in Alaska, where people are losing ground to the sea at a dangerous rate.
♦ Devastating water shortages in China are putting a brake on economic growth and stirring political discontent, but Beijing’s high-spending responses to the problem have triggered widespread criticism.
♦ Shanghaiist has photos of Gansu’s Crescent Lake Oasis, where the government had to step in to preserve the lake in the Gobi desert. Read more
The climate change talks in Doha have come to a predictably acrimonious conclusion. As well as the baffling technical, economic and scientific challenges involved, the diplomatic deadlock throws up a fascinating question of political philosophy – do the citizens of one country have responsibilities to people in other parts of the world? If so, what are they? Internationalists might respond that we should have equal obligations to all human-beings. But, as a matter of fact, that is not how practical politics or human emotions work. Most people are willing to do much more for the people who are closest to them: family and neighbours. They also usually feel more willing to help compatriots than people on the other side of the world. They might, however, feel some obligation, or desire, to help people in far-off places. But how far do those obligations stretch?
Those questions lie at the heart of a fascinating new academic enterprise, pioneered by Hakan Altinay, a Turkish academic. I come across a lot of schemes to improve the world. But Altinay’s efforts to promote the idea of a “global civics” is one do-gooding idea that might actually really do some good. Read more
Pilita Clark, the FT’s environment correspondent, gives us the lowdown on the biggest conference the UN has ever organised. Read more
By Pilita Clark and Andrew England in Durban
He was young, he was from French-speaking Senegal, and his English was excellent. But at the end of yet another briefing in English at the UN climate talks this week, he made an urgent plea. “This subject is so technical it makes it very difficult for those who speak English as a second language,” he said. “So please could we have translators at the next briefing?”
Good luck, muttered a nearby native English speaker. “We can’t understand most of it either.” Read more
Chief UN climate official Christina Figueres at the opening of the UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa. Photo Reuters
UN climate talks kick off this week in South Africa, with delegates from nearly 200 countries trying to produce a global pact that legally obliges countries to stop emitting so much carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas blamed for global warming.
The chances of success are seen as slim to zero. Read more