The G8 leaders are already deadlocked over climate change. As The New York Times reports today, “the world’s major industrial nations and newly emerging powers failed to agree on specific cuts in heat-trapping gases by 2050, undercutting an effort to build a global consensus to fight climate change…”

Have any of these people read the latest Copenhagen Synthesis Report …

Recent observations show that greenhouse gas emissions and many aspects of the climate are changing near the upper boundary of the IPCC range of projections. Many key climate indicators are already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which contemporary society and economy have developed and thrived.

These indicators include global mean surface temperature, sea level rise, global ocean temperature, Arctic sea ice extent, ocean acidification, and extreme climatic events. With unabated emissions, many trends in climate will likely accelerate, leading to an increasing risk of abrupt or irreversible climatic shifts.

And …

The scientific evidence today overwhelmingly indicates that allowing the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities to continue unchecked constitutes a significant threat to the well-being and continued development of contemporary society.

And …

The risks, scales and uncertainties associated with climate change are enormous and there is a significant probability of a devastating outcome at the global scale.

If that’s not enough to inspire some consensus, perhaps the delegates should go back and read the recent US Government report documenting extreme climate changes, such as:

  • In Alaska, winter temperatures have increased a stunning 6.3 degrees F in the last 50 years
  • In the northeastern U.S., winter temperatures have increased by 4 degrees F since 1970;
  • In the Pacific Northwest, the depth of the Cascade Mountain snowpack on April 1 has declined by 25 percent over the last half century;
  • Spring runoff from the Cascades now occurs nearly a month earlier than 50 years ago;
  • Like many regions, the Southeast will experience both more intense downpours ­ in large part because of more water evaporating from warmer oceans ­ and longer periods of drought. Already in the Southeast, average autumn precipitation is up 30 percent since 1901, while areas experiencing moderate to severe spring and summer drought have expanded 12 to 14 percent since the mid-1970s.
  • The Southeast is especially prone to hurricanes, which are expected to get more powerful (but not necessarily more frequent) by century’s end. By itself, that would inevitably cause more destruction, but the threat will be made worse by rising sea levels.
  • In the Midwest ­ a region far from the moderating influence of oceans ­ heat waves have been more frequent in recent decades. Heavy downpours now come twice as often as they did a century ago.
  • In the past 30 years alone, temperatures in the Southwest, ­already the hottest part of the U.S,­ have averaged 1.5 degrees F higher than the 1960 to 1979 baseline.

Despite this evidence, the chances for success of the December Copenhagen meeting, and at the G8 this week, are already being jeopardised, by two major factors:

First, the scale and efficiency of the proposed emission cuts are insufficient to avert runaway global warming. The cumulative long-residence nature of carbon dioxide; which, combined with methane, is reaching 450 ppm CO2-equivalent and rising at about 2 ppm/year, implies the atmosphere is close to conditions of about 500 ppm CO2 at which the Antarctic ice sheet began to form some 34 million years ago.

The US Congress bill would slash carbon emissions produced by utilities, manufacturers and other companies by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, but some Democratic senators from states that produce coal, a major emitter of carbon dioxide — would have a hard time supporting the climate change bill.

In Australia, barring objections from instant climate “experts” such as Family First’s Steve Fielding, declaring “Climate change is not dangerous“, a conditional emission cut target for 2020 is proposed at 25 percent relative to 2000.

Second, a powerful coalition of fossil fuel vested interests, rupture-welcoming fundamentalists, right wing ideologues and sections of the media have combined to obfuscate the issue and sow doubt, recruiting self-proclaimed instant “experts” in both the US Congress and the Australian Senate.

The yawning chasm between climate projections, including the likelihood of tipping points and human inertia, is only widening.