WHAT'S NEW IN INES?

No.29/2001

Dateline: July 21, 2001


This is the weekly electronic information service of the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility

Editor: Tobias Damjanov, e-mail:   
INES homepages: http://inesglobal.org       http://www.inesglobal.com/
INES International Office   
INES Chair: Prof. Armin Tenner    [Please note that the first "1" in q18 is the number one, while the last "l" is an "L"]


CONTENTS of WNII No. 29/2001



MEMBERSHIP AND PROJECTS' NEWS"

Open Letter to the Delegates of COP 6 II  (Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Resumed Session)

For the conference coverage, see: http://www.iisd.ca/linkages/climate/cop6bis/

The International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES) is a network of individual professionals and organisations of professionals from all continents concerned with the socially responsible use of technology and science. During its ten years of existence, INES has been actively engaged in questions of peace and environment. In this letter we wish to bring to your attention a number of points of concern to us.

The Ethics and Science of Climate Change

Humankind is at present conducting a gigantic experiment: What will be the consequences of altering the composition of the atmosphere? Even if there are substantial uncertainties in the detailed effects of increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases, the scientific evidence of what will be the general outcome of the experiment - if allowed to continue unabated - is unambiguous. This evidence has been spelled out in e.g. the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and no further research is likely to change the general conclusions of that report.

A fundamental ethical dilemma posed by the phenomenon of climate change is that the present generation of decision makers is asked to act in response to a threat that will not seriously affect themselves, but which will have grave impact on the generations of their children and grandchildren. What morals can justify an abandonment of a principle of precaution - not to knowingly instigate irreversible changes in the conditions on the planet to the detriment of generations to come?

There are, however, areas where our scientific knowledge is at present insufficient for rational decisionmaking, and in these research should be vigorously pursued. An example is the quantitative aspects of carbon sinks and reservoirs in living material. It is thus important not to allow the use of additional sink and reservoir activities under Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol until the effects of such use is quantitatively known to a reasonable accuracy.

Climate Change as a Source of Conflicts

Climate change is likely to lead to changing patterns of precipitation, resulting in water and food shortages. This, together with rising sea levels, can result in pressures towards mass migration as well as conflicts at all levels, including outright war. Climate policy will thus become an integral part of a policy of peace and security, and conflict prevention will include mitigation of climate change effects as an important component. A policy which would ignore or postpone reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and thus amplify climate change, is highly irresponsible also from the point of view of world peace.

The Plight of the Developing Countries

Due to the long lifetimes of several greenhouse gases in the atmosphere past emissions are responsible for today's warming. The main responsibility for the problems of climate change today and for many decades to come lies squarely with the developed nations. It is quite correct that the developing countries are exempted from cutting their emissions during the first commitment period. In the long term, we favour a framework of "Contract and Converge," in which the per capita emissions of all countries progressively converge to a level which would give total global emissions that would minimise the risk of irreversible climate change. There are deep ethical questions of international equity involved here, aggravated by the fact that the poorer countries will bear the brunt of the negative impacts of climate change resulting primarily from the actions of richer nations. Mechanisms transferring resources and knowledge from developed to developing countries allowing the latter to achieve a high quality of life using less carbon intensive energy sources are mandatory.

Flexibility Mechanisms and Effects on Economy and Employment

Within a framework of Contract and Converge it would seem that the flexibility mechanisms foreseen in the Kyoto Protocol - emissions trading, joint implementation and the clean development mechanism - could be useful both for the developed and the developing countries. However, as it is clear that there is a pressing need for real emission reductions in all developed countries, and eventually these have to be far larger than stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol for the first commitment period, there must be a limit to the extent to which flexibility mechanisms can be used to offset failure to meet reduction targets.

Fears have been expressed that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would have a negative impact on economy and endanger jobs. In our view, here lies more of an opportunity than a threat. A number of studies have shown that the negative effect on economic growth of a significant programme of energy efficiency measures and renewable energy would be very small and that such a programme would increase employment. Within two decades readily exploitable oil supplies are likely to fall short of potential demand, leading to major price escalation. Those countries which have adopted vigorous programmes of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are likely to weather such price increases better than countries which have not. Thus in addition to avoiding the potentially huge costs to most countries that would result from unchecked climate change, there are other economic and strategic advantages of early action to reduce fossil fuel use.

Who will provide the leadership?

As scientists and engineers we are deeply disturbed by the possibility that the "greenhouse experiment" will be allowed to continue towards its fatal conclusion. We would have expected the countries which are mostly responsible for starting and maintaining the experiment to provide the leadership for putting an end to this irresponsible behaviour. It is our sincere hope that not all of the developed countries will abandon that responsibility and that the Kyoto Protocol will be implemented as soon as possible in large parts of the world. We know that that would be only the first, but still a very important, real step towards protecting the climate of our planet.

For the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility
Reiner Braun, Executive Director of INES


UK: Scientists for Global Responsibility Press Release on COP 6 II

Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR ) believe that human activity is having a measurable and negative impact on the climate system. SGR urges all members of the COP 6 climate negotiations to recognise this and work towards ratifying a Kyoto Protocol not weakened by loopholes.

Scientific evidence is accumulating that humanity's use of fossil fuels is adding to atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases (CO2 especially) causing detectable global warming and hence changing the global climate.   The evidence shows that CO2 levels have increased by over 30% since the industrial revolution and these levels are now at the highest they have been for the past 420,000 years and quite possibly for the past 20 million years , whilst global temperatures have increased by 0.6C over the last century. Projections for the next century show that human activities are likely to cause a temperature change of between two and ten times this size.

The effects of this change are likely to be very damaging. It is probable that there will be more severe weather events such as storms, floods and droughts. People living in coastal areas (which is a large fraction of the population) will be particularly vulnerable. Some diseases will extend their range, whilst natural ecosystems will also suffer.

Best scientific estimates suggest that most of the warming seen over the past fifty years is due to human activities . However, uncertainty still remains. Predictions of future climate behaviour can only ever be statistical estimates based on mathematical models and past events, so there are no unambiguous assurances. Our greenhouse gas emissions have in effect been a gigantic climatic experiment over the last century - and because we cannot know the consequences of this, whatever we do now is a gamble.

There is an agreed way to deal with such a gamble; the Precautionary Principle, which in part says "Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation."

There are clear threats of serious and irreversible damage and there is no full scientific certainty, so the Precautionary Principle is clearly applicable.

The US Government has rejected the main international agreement for dealing with this problem: The Kyoto Protocol. George Bush has said "...I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers" and "first things first, are the people who live in America. That's my priority." This from the head of a country which is by a large margin the biggest emitter of CO2, at 24% of the total world output with less than 5% the global population . SGR unreservedly condemns this short-sighted and selfish attitude of protecting business interests above all else held by the current United States Government.

The US Government's attitude is discouraging ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by some other countries, so hindering the start of measures that may prove to be very necessary, if not simply overdue. This protectiveness of the US towards its economy stems in part from its inability to see the commercial opportunities Kyoto can bring. These may be found as 'no regrets' opportunities , but far more significant in the long term is the enormous potential market for alternative energy sources e.g. wind and solar. The converse of this potential profit is the cost of not adapting, incurred as the damage that climate change may inflict , lost goodwill leading to lost sales and outright boycotts, and loss of market share in the exponentially growing segment of green energy.

Numerous US companies leading opposition against managing or mitigating climate change have put forward schemes which are supposed to permit 'business as usual' i.e. no cuts in polluting emissions. These can inevitably be traced back to economic concerns, usually of those same companies, for whom short-term profit is of more importance than global climate stability and the possibly great risk to human health and life. An even simpler ploy is to deny or rubbish the science behind the predictions.

SGR believes that the scientific findings from the IPCC that have been presented to COP 6 are the result of the best scientific practice currently available and should be accepted as the basis for strong action.

SGR further believes that the most effective way of managing climate change is to cut the emissions that are causing it. Large-scale reliance on new forest growth to soak up CO2 is a risky strategy due to the possibility that the forests could start to die due to, e.g., climate change. All other proposals based on ideas of climate- or geo-engineering such as CO2 disposal at sea, reflecting away extra sunlight etc. have questionable scientific merit and will at best defer the problem to future generations, at worst may exacerbate it greatly.

SGR therefore urges all parties to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and further to place the emphasis for action on cuts in polluting emissions and to reject outright any clumsy and hubristic alternative propositions of 'global technofixing.'

Two SGR delegates will attend the conference; SGR's chairman Stuart Parkinson, and Ben Matthews.

---

Scientists for Global Responsibility recognise that many citizens of the US do not share their current government's irresponsible attitude towards the environment.


Russia: Center for Arms Control, Energy and Environmental Studies

The Center's report "U.S.-Russian Relations in Nuclear Arms Reductions: Current State and Prospects" (see WNII 26/2001) is now available in English. For details, contact the editor of the study via:


SPECIAL SECTION
ON THE US MISSILE DEFENCE POLICY

Items from CDI's "NMD Update" #24

The US-based Center for Defense Information (CDI) is publishing regularly "NMD Update", an in-house subscriber list. To sign up, visit: http://www.cdi.org/hotspots/issuebrief/default.asp

"NMD Update" #24 (18 July 01) carries the following:


NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Abolition 2000 homepage: http://www.abolition2000.org  Grassroots News: http://www.napf.org/abolition2000/news/


On the current status of US nuclear weapons (Source: Nuclear Policy Project Flash, Volume 3, Number 27, July 13, 2001)

As the Bush Administration completes its nuclear posture review, the aging of those weapons and hurdles to keeping them operationally viable are emerging as key issues that will need to be addressed, writes Aviation Week & Space Technology. In the shorter term, aging deficiencies of existing warhead types are being addressed through the multi-billion dollar Stockpile Stewardship Program. In the longer term, however, some advanced and sensitive warhead types designed by the nuclear laboratories during the cold war may have to be replaced by simpler and more robust designs.


SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

2002 Johannesburg Summit: Reports from subregional meetings/roundtables


BRIEFINGS

Critiques re: UNDP 2001 Human Development Report (see WNII 28/2001) July 10, 2001 (Ottawa/Toronto/Manila)

The UN's 2001 Human Development Report "Making New Technologies Work For Human Development" presents as facts the unsubstantiated promises of the biotech industry, said the development and environmental groups Oxfam Canada and Greenpeace today. The organizations applauded, however, the UNDP's concern that intellectual property rights codified in the WTO have impeded the transfer of technology to developing countries. "Biotech will not feed the world" said Joan Summers, Manager of Programmes for Oxfam Canada, a group with more than 40 years experience fighting world hunger. "The report fails to take up proven alternatives for developing nations. Sustainable agriculture is the most efficient way forward, one that leaves control in the hands of farmers who need it most," said Summers.

"These false claims are hype - not hope - and even the developers of these products have acknowledged this fact," said Michael Khoo of Greenpeace. "Extensive studies show that the best solutions to world hunger are coming from the field, not being hatched in biotech labs." A Greenpeace co-commissioned report of more than 200 projects in developing nations shows that sustainable agriculture offers incredible advantages for the hungry to feed themselves. These projects affect 9 million farmers working on 28 million hectares.

The UNDP report claims that growing concern about biotech in poor countries is a Northern export. "This is an insult not only to hundreds of southern non-governmental groups working on this issue, but also to the majority of Southern governments, who have fought hard against industry and US attempts to prevent an International Biosafety Protocol," said Von Hernandez of Greenpeace in Southeast Asia.

"Of all agencies, the UNDP should know that complex problems of hunger and agricultural development will not be solved by technological 'silver bullets'," Hernandez added. "The real crisis is the obvious neglect of research and investment in sustainable technologies."

The drop in agricultural funding has been particularly dramatic at multilateral institutions like UNDP and the World Bank, with funding falling from $3.5 billion in 1989 to less than $500 million in 1999. The Canadian International Development Agency cut its support to agriculture by 58% over the 1990s.


INES WEB AND E-MAIL SERVICE

No new or changed addresses.
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