Last winter was cold in Europe and North America, leading those who ‘question’ climate change to accuse people like me of alarmism. However, a single event or year means little in climate terms, and Europe and North America are not, despite what their inhabitants often think, the entire globe. Now, James Hansen, the top scientist at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (and one of the first to warn world leaders of climate change, back in the 1980s) has said that the global temperature over the last 12 months reached its warmest on record. The mean surface temperature in the twelve months to April was about 0.65 of a degree Celsius (1.17 degree Fahrenheit) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean. That makes it a fraction warmer than the previous peak in 2005 (see Bloomberg businessweek: World Is at Warmest on Record, NASA’s Hansen Says (Update1)). Of course, that is still only one year, so not conclusive, but it is consistent with what the great majority of scientists now think – that the world is on a warming trend. Hansen has co-authored a paper saying precisely this.
South Asia is feeling the full effects, in the form of a heat wave, which has already killed more than 1,000 people in Pakistan and India (see Guardian.co.uk: Temperatures reach record high in Pakistan).
The quickest way to control climate change is to stop cutting down forests. The Indonesian government has said that it will put a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peat lands. In a joint statement with the Norwegian government, it said that:
“… sufficient non-forest lands exist for Indonesia to accommodate the growth of its vitally important plantation industries, a major source of livelihoods in Indonesia.”
Norway will invest $1 billion in forest conservation projects in Indonesia (see The Times of India: Indonesia puts moratorium on new forest clearing). This is part of a wider Norwegian forest initiative. Last week, 50 nations met in Oslo and agreed a global partnership aimed at speeding up the funding of $3.5bn for forest protection announced by the US, France, Britain, Japan, Norway and Australia at Copenhagen. This has now gone up to $4bn, with most of the extra money coming from Germany, and some also from Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the EU. The partnership will be administrated by the environment ministers of France, Brazil, Japan and Papua New Guinea. Norway has also agreed a Memorandum of Understanding for co-operation on climate and forest issues with Mexico (see Oslo Climate and Forest Conference: Agreement on financing and quick-start measures to protect rainforest).