Tuesday, September 23, 2014

World leaders gather at UN summit to talk climate

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Today, leaders from across the world, as well as leaders from some of the world's top corporations, are gathering in New York City to talk about climate change.

The summit is a prelude to talks that'll take place next year in Paris. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convened today's summit and "has asked these leaders to bring bold announcements and actions to the summit that will reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will for a meaningful legal agreement in 2015," says the event's webpage.

The calls to action have already begun. Rajendra K. Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has released his remarks. His points should be familiar to anyone who has followed the IPCC's reports over the past year: climate change is here, human influence on the climate is clear, and world leaders need to act now to avert the worst effects.

"We are told that limiting climate change will be too expensive," Pachauri said. "It will not. But wait until you get the bill for inaction. There are costs of taking action – but they are nothing compared to the cost of inaction."

The notion that there are costs for failing to act on climate isn't new, but it is gaining traction. Earlier this year, a group of business leaders — including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson — published a report laying out some of the potential costs of inaction.

But some important global leaders are conspicuously absent from today's conference, including Russian President Vladimir Putin (Russia has a massive oil and gas industry). The Washington Post has an interesting article on the absences and the message they send.

The article also notes that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is sending a representative to the summit. It also notes that Harper is relatively skeptical about climate change, though it doesn't mention Canada's massive tar sands oil fields. Tar sands oil is more carbon-intensive than conventionally extracted oil.

In a 2012 op-ed in the New York Times, leading climate scientist James Hansen, who is now retired from his job at NASA, said that allowing Canada to proceed with developing the tar sands "will be game over for the climate." 

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