GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman expressed skepticism about the science on climate change, so now all GOP candidates are on the record as doubting either that the planet is clearly warming, or that people are responsible for most of the warming.
Of all the GOP candidates, Huntsman had been the most supportive of action on climate change: in 2007, as governor of Utah, he signed up his state for a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions.
There has been an increase in climate skepticism in the past year and a growing reluctance to say anything about climate, especially among Republicans. The turning point—argued the National Journal’s cover story, “Heads in the Sand“—was the 2010 Supreme Court decision that lifted restrictions on campaign spending and boosted so-called super political action committees (super PACs) that can take unlimited funds.
The deniers haven’t won yet, though, argued Bill Chameides of Duke University. Most Americans accept the basics of climate change, more investment went into green energy than fossil fuels in 2010, and some of the biggest energy companies—such as ExxonMobil—affirm that climate change is real.
Little Agreement in Durban
As the United Nations climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, come near their close, there is little hope of coming to an agreement. The executive director of the International Energy Agency said the lack of progress is a “cause for concern,” and urged countries: “Don’t wait for a global deal. Act now.”
China showed signs of softening its stance on a climate agreement, saying it may “shoulder responsibilities” for cutting emissions, as long as it is not held to the same standards as richer countries—a move an Oxfam climate campaigner called “really encouraging.”
Meanwhile, a new study reported greenhouse emissions from the developing world have surpassed those of the developed world (using the Kyoto Protocol’s definitions for each group)—and it happened much earlier than expected.
The president of the Worldwatch Institute, Robert Engelman, proposed a “shadow climate regime”—an alternative approach that erases divisions between developed and developing countries as well as caps on emissions, and taxes all emissions, regardless of where they originate.
Because of the slow progress on climate treaties, scientists have been looking increasingly at geoengineering—global schemes for cooling the planet—and a collaboration between Britain’s Royal Society and two other groups called for more research into these methods.
Nuclear Decline, Stormy Rise of Renewables
The world’s nuclear power dropped in 2011, as plants were knocked out by Japan’s tsunami, shut down, or those under construction canceled or postponed. The International Energy Agency (IEA), in its recent World Energy Outlook, detailed how the world might get by in a scenario with declining nuclear power, but said meeting the climate change targets under discussion at Durban would require “heroic achievements in the deployment of emerging low-carbon technologies,” in particular for countries like Japan.
China’s wind and solar capacity will soar in the next decade, adding the equivalent of 180 nuclear power plants, the IEA forecast.
The growth of China’s solar industry has been a source of contention with America, leading the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to launch an investigation into China’s support for its solar industry. The ruling said U.S. companies had been harmed by China’s policies, but China’s Commerce Ministry argued the reaction smacks of protectionism. The ITC voted to continue its investigation.
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday for National Geographic’s News Watch by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.