|UND climate change expert shares global warming news|
Renowned University of North Dakota climate scientist Andrei Kirilenko says the 11th hour international global warming accord paves the way for measurable action to stem the effects of human-generated greenhouse gases.
This agreement at a global UN-sponsored meeting in Bali came only after the Bush Administration and China relented and chose to go with the flow of world scientific consensus to take substantial action on climate change, Kirilenko notes.
“Twenty countries signed a resolution that clears the way for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012,” says Kirilenko, an associate professor of aerospace sciences of Earth System Science and Policy.
Kirilenko says we’re now much closer to the radical steps that everyone will have to take to cut greenhouse gas emissions —- mostly from the transportation use of fossil fuels —- to slow the human impacts on the global climate system.
“It is possible that the Bali meeting has finally terminated the indecisive period of fruitless attempts to reach an international agreement on the climate change problem,” says Kirilenko, a key co-author of this year’s report from the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which, along with former U.S. vice president Al Gore, received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
“Throughout my scientific career, I have been working on the problem of providing quantitative forecasts of environmental change, especially in relation to human impacts,” says Kirilenko. However, despite unequivocal evidence of global warming and climate change, Kirilenko notes, the United States officially has been reluctant to push for major greenhouse (GHG) reductions. Therefore, Washington’s new stance at the Bali meeting is a key event in changing global action on climate change.
“It was the first major international event to negotiate the future post-Kyoto treaty,” and it could not have happened effectively without U.S. and Chinese participation, he says.
Kirilenko says that it’s hard to emit CO2 in large quantities without detection. For example, he says, “we can compute CO2 emissions from the amount and efficiency of a country’s power, or electricity, generation. Such computations will give you right away and fairly precisely what that country’s emissions are.”
The big problem is that CO2 is a gas with a very long residence period in the atmosphere.
“The entire turnover of naturally occurring CO2 is relatively fast and pretty balanced. However, the sink, or flow, back into the biosphere or the ocean of the CO2 that we add into the atmosphere takes hundreds of years,” he explains. “Moreover, even though we’re adding this CO2 into the atmosphere today, the actual climate change impacts from these additions won’t be apparent for 20 to 30 years, which means that the effects of today’s emissions are beyond the borders of our normal human thinking in terms of time frames.”
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet, but the new agreement reached in Bali is a significant and very optimistic step in the right direction, Kirilenko says.
For more information about Kirilenko, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, and a UND Faculty Q&A with Kirilenko, check out the following UND Web sites:
http://www.und.edu/instruct/kirilenko/ (Kirilenko’s home page)
http://www.und.edu/faculty_qa/06082007.html (UND Faculty Q&A with Kirilenko)
http://www2.und.edu/our/uletter/print_article.php?uletterID=3156 (Nobel Prize story)
http://www.und.edu/faculty_qa/web_assets/AndreiKirilenko.wav (Kirilenko audio clip)