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Arctic landscape

Welcome to my page. This is a space to discuss issues relating to the environment.

Surely you remember it? It's the thing we thought we cared about before the recession came along.

While the downturn has meant that environment issues have slipped down the priority list, we still hear much pious blather from politicians and others about the importance of the environment, how everything is ultimately connected.

Well it is true, but not always in the way you think.

Right now negotiators are sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of the convention centre in Doha trying to inch forward global negotiations on a new climate treaty. They believe they are fully connected to the issues and are the best path to a solution to global warming.

A general view shows the logo of the 18th UN Convention on Climate Change in Doha

They will be poring over their non-papers at the Conference of the Parties (COP) in the slightly ironic setting of Qatar, one of the world's biggest exporters of fossil fuels. Especially gas.

But a few thousand km to the east, gas is also at the centre of an event that shows how the realities of climate change are very disconnected from the negotiating process.

Global warming is making the Arctic much more accessible to shipping. Very shortly, a tanker will arrive in Japan having traversed the northern sea route laden with liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Norway.

The Japanese government is desperately trying to find alternatives to nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima. They are very keen on gas, if only it could be delivered in a timely and cost-effective way.

Enter the Norwegians. A few years ago they built a gas plant at Hammerfest to process the fuel extracted from the Snow White field. They had planned on shipping it to the US, one of the world's biggest importers of LNG at the time.

But something strange happened. Thanks to the development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the US has been able to exploit a massive and hitherto unknown resource.

And the gas is having a dramatic impact on the energy and emissions landscape in the US.

And a quiet milestone was passed earlier this year when gas equalled coal as the most widely used fuel for the generation of electricity. US emissions of CO2 are now as low as they were in 1992.

In fact shale gas and the recession have helped the US to double the cuts in carbon compared to what the European Union has achieved through the Kyoto Protocol.

Meanwhile the negotiators chilling in gas-rich Qatar are unlikely to make much progress. One participant, Jennifer Morgan from the World Resources Institute told me there was likely to be more heat than light in Doha.

"It is less of a big bang COP, more of a finishing unfinished business COP- one would hope for new political signals coming in but the big decisions will be taken a ways off."

Yes there are lots of curious and ironic connections in the environment - but lots of disconnect as well.

Matt McGrath Article written by Matt McGrath Matt McGrath Environment correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Can't we start a campaign to increase CO2 emissions to counteract the risk of a new ice age?

    Actually we don't need to as CO2 is thankfully increasing as the AGW people are not succeeding in getting actual decreases.

    My firm scientific position is that temperature change on our planet is caused by small changes in solar emissions and some unpredictable huge random events like impacts/eruptions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    26.Drunken Hobo
    "0.005% increase in CO2 in the last couple of decades."

    Why you feel the need to lie in order to justify your position? Is your argument that weak?
    I stand corrected
    0.004% vol increase in 20 yrs
    0.007% vol increase in 52 years
    Suck up the CO2 on Wikipedia

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    do i detect a hint o scepticism in your first article Matt or is it just wishful thinking?

    If you are a closet denier, you do realise the true believers will jump on the fact that your bio doesn't give any hints of a background in science

    Having said that you seem to have followed the same route Richard Black, BBC World Service Enviro, to get here

    I guess we'll see over the coming months

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    welcome matt

    please take a really good look at climate sensitivity, especially the observational data

    and please, please, please give us some real investigative journalism, not cut and paste churnalism

    (wonder how many true believers will mark down this comment?)

    Mango ("denier" in charge according to some visitors here)

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Think I'll leave this site to you bible bashers


Comments 5 of 32



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