Today's climate news

Today's climate news includes the Copenhagen conference, the EPA announcement on carbon dioxide, and more.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference began Monday, bringing together 192 nations in what is said to be the largest and most important environmental summit in history.

This afternoon, the EPA announced that carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and welfare, and that the federal agency can therefor regulate it. Here's the Monitor's report, written by Mark Clayton.

The announcement means that the EPA has finalized the "endangerment finding" initially reached in April, And it means that the agency can directly cap US carbon emissions whether Congress passes a climate bill or not.

Experts generally agree that the endangerment finding is meant to spur Congress to take action on climate, and that the EPA would prefer not to have to regulate carbon emissions directly.

Climate talks in Copenhagen also kicked off today, what The Washington Post calls "the largest climate change conference in history."

As the Monitor's Pete Spotts writes, the generally low expectations going into the meeting may not be such a bad thing.  They may put discussions on a more realistic track from the get-go.

In the meantime, several organizations have released guides and backgrounders to help people better understand the Copenhagen meeting.

Columbia University's Earth Institute has this Copenhagen Primer [PDF]. It has a timeline of Climate Change Conference Major events, from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to 1998, the hottest year in the hottest decade in the hottest century, to the projected expiration of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

It also offers graphics showing the relative contribution of major greenhouse gas emitters. By 2050, China, which surpassed the US to become the No. 1 greenhouse gas emitter in 2007, will have more than doubled emissions compared to 2005. In that same period, the emissions of Europe and the US are slated to increase by 9 and 10 percent respectively.

Ode Magazine has a special "The Solutions We Need Now" issue to coincide with the Copenhagen meeting. The issue, which has articles by Lester Brown, Al Gore, and Bill McKibben, among other progressive thinkers on climate, is freely available online for a limited time. (Users have to sign up, though.)

You remember the Carbon Counter digital billboard in New York City?  Now Deutsche Bank has released a Carbon Counter “widget” powered by MIT calculations, which can be embedded in your website or downloaded to your computer's desktop to display the running total of long-lived greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

And finally, Climate Interactive has an interactive Climate Scoreboard that allows users to visualize the impact of different climate proposals under consideration. The current climate deal, which includes few pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will lead to an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 755 parts per million by century's end. (We're currently around 385 ppm.) That means a 3.8 degree C increase (6.8 degrees F.) over pre-industrial temperatures by 2100.

For the latest from Copenhagen, check the Monitor's website daily for Pete Spotts' reports. Here's the first article and the second one.

See also our report on why public concern about climate change has declined.

Editor’s note: For more articles about the environment, see the Monitor’s main environment page, which offers information on many topics. Also, check out our Bright Green blog archive and our RSS feed.

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