Today global warming is a widely recognized fact and
human responsibility makes no doubt anymore.
Tuvalu is the earth's first sovereign nation faced with becoming totally uninhabitable within the next 50 years. Faced with this impending catastrophe, we must act now. We are ALL Tuvalu...and the clock is ticking.
Greenhouse effect is originally a natural phenomenon without which the temperature on Earth would be -18°c and… we just wouldn’t be here. Thank to it, the average atmospheric temperature is 15°c. Its mechanism is quite simple. Some gases in the atmosphere act pretty much like a car windscreen in the sun: they let the sun rays in, but prevent them from getting out and the passenger compartment/the atmosphere warms up.
These gases, called greenhouse gases, mainly are carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbures and nitrogen protoxide. Climate specialists counted 42 of them up to this day, but this is not an exhaustive list. They are released by animals, plants, and a great number of human activities.
The problem is that human activities produce way too much greenhouse gases and the atmosphere warms up abnormally. According to experts, the additional greenhouse effect is the major cause of temperature rise since the beginning of the industrial era: approximately +0,6°c in the last 100 years. Today the C02 rate in the atmosphere has never been as high in the last 650 000 years (last EPICA drilling in Antarctica). Since 1750, atmospheric CO2 increased by 31%, methane by 150% and nitrogen protoxide by 16%. The halogenous hydrocarbon concentration was multiplied by 3 over the 20 last years. To put it simply, we produced in 200 years what nature produces in 10 000 years! The consequence of this is a climate change we can observe through the worrying melting of the ice-sheet and glaciers in particular the North Pole, the ocean dilation (and therefore sea level rise), or the shortening of climate regulating phenomena cycles like the ocean currents El Nino or La Nina, the weakening of the Gulf Stream… The expected temperature rise won’t be even in every region on the planet. Land will warm up more than the average (at least +3°c); oceans will warm up slower than average; the northern hemisphere, the Arctic and Antarctica will warm up by +2°c to +4°c or maybe more around 2050.
Adapt or flee, or even disappear… Animal and vegetal species are already confronted to the effects of climate change, and whole populations are threatened with exile (Bangladesh, Brazil, Netherlands, Africa, Pacific…). However, with simple daily gestures, we can limit the consequences of climate change... save Tuvalu, as the first whole nation threatened to disappear, and therefore save us all. Our future lies in the hands of each of us.
Greenhouse gases contributions :
- C02 is responsible for 53% of the additional greenhouse effect caused by Humans
- Methane: 17%
- Halocarbures: 14%
- Nitrogen protoxide: 5%
Atmospheric Ozone resulting from a photochemical reaction between methane and Volatile Organic Compounds (not taken in account by the Kyoto Protocol) would be responsible for 13% of the global warming occurred in the last 100 years.
Rainfalls : All projections agree to say that in average, water vapour, evaporation and rainfalls should increase on a global scale. On a regional scale, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) foresees increases and reductions in precipitations at the same time. It is likely that rainfalls will increase in both summer and winter in high latitude areas. A winter precipitation rise is expected in average latitude areas in the northern hemisphere, in tropical Africa and in Antarctica. In austral Africa, Australia and Latin America, we should expect a slight reduction of winter rainfalls. (Source Radanne/Ademe)
Biodiversity : The composition and degradation of the ecosystems will evolve as species react to the new conditions generated by climate change. The habitats could deteriorate and/or break up and the species unable to adapt enough disappear
Air quality : The correlation between CO2 emissions and others pollutants emissions (sulfur dioxide, COV, CO…) leads to think that a rise in greenhouse gases will accelerate the air quality degradation. (Source Radanne/Ademe)
Desertification : Pretty much every desert is doomed to endure more heat and drought than it is today. Some organisms, already close to their limit of tolerance to heat are particularly threatened. (Source Radanne/Ademe)
Ozone Layer : Greenhouse effect and ozone layer thinning are not located in the same parts of the atmosphere. Greenhouse effect takes place in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) while ozone layer degradation takes place in the higher atmosphere (stratosphere). However, the two phenomena are connected: greenhouse gases warm up the lower atmosphere but cool down the higher atmosphere, and therefore prevent the ozone layer from regenerating. (Source Radanne/Ademe)
Glaciation : According to scientists, this period of global warming will be followed by an ice age, but this is another story...
Between 1990 and 2100, sea level rise should lie between 0,09 and 0,88 meters, with a 0,46m median. This rise rate is 2 to 4 times superior to the average rate observed during the 20th century. The main contributors to sea level rise are:
Thermal dilation of the oceans top layers due to a rise in temperature (0,11 to 0,43m). This phenomenon, already observed during the 20th century should intensify during our present century.
A 0,01 to 0,23m rise due to glaciers melting
Greenland melting (-0,02 to +0,09 m) between 1990 and 2100
Antarctica melting (-0,17 to +0,02 m) between 1990 and 2100.
By modifying the rainfalls’ level, variability and geographic distribution, climate change will intensify or create new zones of water stress and there is no doubt that a change in evaporation conditions and rain streaming will upset all the local hydrologic cycles. (Source Radanne/Ademe)
During the several trips we took, while filming conditions in Tuvalu and implementing the different steps of the “Small is Beautiful” plan, we found no tourism, no fertilizers… and the coconut trees are succumbing to erosion and salt-water infiltration, not clear-cutting. Clearly, the problem is global, not local -- far beyond the means of Tuvalu’s people to meaningfully address. Tuvalu is the first country threatened with totally disappearing under water, its 11 000 inhabitants becoming the first climatic refugees on a national scale.
In the last few years, the rise measured by the Tuvaluan marigraphs and the South Pacific Sea Level & Climate Monitoring Project 2005 ranges between 4 and 6 mm a year. An imperceptible rise… Except that with a maximum land height of 3m and high tides close to or higher than 3m, today Tuvaluans live with their feet in water every month.
Tuvalu is a coral archipelago, the islands’ base is porous: water comes up through the ground. Bubbles appear on the surface and within half an hour, the water spreads into ponds, not to say lakes. Since a few years, this phenomenon, before limited to king/Spring tides, can happen at any monthly high tide… When the big winds come, the lagoon waters become threatening and submerge the road. Only once though, in august 2002, has a set of ocean waves crossed right through South Funafuti, the main island, a long strip of land of 500 m wide maximum.
Sea level rise in Tuvalu is increased by El Nino, which cycle frequency is accelerated by climate change. This current used to be active every 6 to 7 years, and is now working every 2 or 3 years, its effect lasting for an average 18 months… At its strongest, El Nino rises the ocean level by 50 cm. It also increases the frequency of cyclones, tornados…
Sea water lies permanently under the ground surface. Tuvaluans can’t cultivate taro anymore, the traditional base of their diet. This root grows underground in freshwater swamps. Today, the few people still growing taro have to plant it 20cm into the ground as opposed to 1m in the past. To balance a lack of local production, Tuvalu imports rice, potatoes and tapioca roots. A lack of vitamins and nutritional diversity may on the long term cause important sanitary problems. Diabetes and skin diseases are already increasing.
There is no exploitable ground water anymore in Tuvalu. Rain is the main freshwater resource. With an average of 2700 to 3500 mm a year, rainfalls are irregular and heavy showers wash the ground away creating lakes after the last drop fell. Since 2003, 100% of dwellings are fitted with water tanks (study of the Asian Bank of Development, 2003). Boiling the water before drinking it uses up 14% of the electricity produced in Tuvalu.
Coconut and breadfruit trees fall down. Replanting campaigns are being implemented. The copra (coconut oil) market collapsed a few years ago and discouraged the development of new coconut plantations. Replanting helps strengthening the ground, fighting against erosion, creating carbon wells and moreover provides organic materials usable to produce compost or methane, a biogas which can be used to produced electricity or heat (biodigestors).
No more beaches. Funafuti lost most of its sandy beaches to erosion in just half a century.
The borrow pits contribute to the grounds weakening. These several meters wide holes dug by the Americans in 1942 to build 2 airstrips to fight again Japan, cover about half of the capital island’s surface. They are now filled with seawater, which emphasizes Funafuti’s vulnerability to sea level rise.
1) First discoveries and first forecasts
A FEW DATES
1827 First description of the greenhouse effect
JB Fourier describes global warming due to greenhouse effect phenomenon
1873 World Meteorological Organization
Creation of the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) in Vienna. It is the beginning of standardized observations by national services.
1895 first analysis of greenhouse effect
The Swedish chemist S Arrhenius suggests that CO2 emissions could generate an average global temperature rise by reinforcing greenhouse effect
Sir Gilbert Thomas Walker FRS (14 June 1868 - 4 November 1958) was a British physicist and statistician of the 20th Century. He is best known for his groundbreaking description of the Southern Oscillation, a major phenomenon of global climate, and for greatly advancing the study of climate in general.
1957 systematic C02 measurements
The American scientist G Plass reloads the debate about human responsibility concerning climate change. Systematic CO2 measurements start in Hawaii and Alaska
1967 First global warming forecasts
Two scientists foresee that CO2 concentration will double up until the beginning of the 21st century and an approximate 2,5°c average temperature rise.
2) First international acts
April 8th, 1968: First meeting of the "Club of Rome", a think tank gathering high level politicians, scientists, economists, civil servants, UN and industry reprensentatives from 53 countries. It's first report "The Limits to Growth" is released in 1972.
1979 first world conference on climate
Organized in Geneva by the WMO (World Meteorological Organization). Loading of an international research program, the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program, United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva (UNEP)) and the ISCU (International Council of Scientific Unions).
1988 Creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Placed under the aegis of the UNEP United Nations Environment Programme, Geneva (UNEP) and the WMO, the IPCC is in charge of the global warming problem. Its mission is to evaluate scientific data on climate change, their impact, and the possible prevention and adaptation measures.
Every 5 or 6 years, the IPCC summarizes the different research works on climate change. Its reports are considered as the official source of information on the subject.
That same year, the Toronto Conference (political forum) recommends a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emission up to 2005 and the implementation of an international tax on fossil fuel.
1989 Second World Conference on Climate
It gathers 137 countries plus the European Community, whose 12 members just committed to stabilize their CO2 emissions to the 1990 level, up to 2000. The final declaration recommends the instauration of an International Convention on climate change.
1990 Creation of the Global Environment Facility (GEF)
This financial mechanism settled by developed countries helps developing countries to fight against 4 big environmental problems, including global warming and ozone layer thinning.
1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change – Rio
Signed in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 during the Earth Summit, it is the framework of the international fight against global warming. It came into force in March 1994. Article 2 settles its objectives: to stabilize greenhouse gases concentration in the atmosphere to a level preventing dangerous anthropic disturbance of the climatic system. In annex 1, the developed countries, the transition countries and the European Union commit to stabilize their greenhouse gases emission to the 1990 emission level, from then till 2000. In annex 2, the developed countries and the European Union commit to support developing countries’ costs to honor their commitment.
The framework convention establishes several principles including:
The precautionary principle: uncertainties can not be used as an excuse to postpone the application of necessary measures, as we are facing an irreversible phenomenon.
The principle of common but differentiated responsibility: most of the fight against global warming is the responsibility of developed countries.
It also states commitments:
- The parties to the Convention commit to present national data concerning their emissions and present actions programs to reduce these emissions.
- The parties should cooperate in order to develop research program on science, technique and education.
- The parties commit to take into account the climatic evolution when defining their economic, social and environmental politics.
- The rich countries will provide the developing countries with new and additional financial resources to support their database/communication and some emissions reduction programs.
The MOP (Meeting of the Parties) is designed as the Convention supreme organ: it includes all ratifying countries, follows the implementation of the convention and reassesses the parties’ commitment according to the objectives and the latest scientific progress. The MOP meets annually and can take new commitments in the shape of protocols (e.g. the Kyoto Protocol)
3) Second Acts
1995 Berlin Mandate
In March 1995, the first Meeting of the Parties to the Climate Convention agrees on the necessity to reinforce the developed countries’ commitment. It defines quantified objectives concerning limitation and reduction of emissions, and states to establish politics and measures.
Second IPCC Report
In December 1995, the second IPCC Report confirms the human responsibility in climate change and the necessity of a preventive action, according to the precautionary principle.
1997 Third Meeting of the Parties session. Kyoto Protocol
Reinforcing of the international answer to the climatic evolution, the Kyoto protocol fixes legally constraining quantitative objectives concerning the developed countries’ emissions reductions. Through a national objective for each country, they are expected to reduce their emissions by 5,2% referring the 1990 level of emission, until 2008/2012. The protocol considers 6 main greenhouse gases (C02, CH4, N20, HFC, PFC, SF6). It insists on national politics and measures effectively reducing emissions and opens credits to the parties reducing their emissions in other countries (creation of 3 flexibility mechanisms, in particular sales and purchase of emission rights).
1998 4th Meeting of the Parties session. Buenos Aires Plan of Action
A work calendar is established with MOP 6 in November 2000 as final objective, organizing the Kyoto Protocol progressive implementation: the observance system, the emissions credits trade…
1999 5th Meeting of the Parties session in Bonn
Negotiation on the Buenos Aires Plan of Action
September 2000 Lyon, France
Meeting of the subsidiary organs of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change): this international conference prepares MOP 6 in November, which will ratify the whole greenhouse gases reduction procedure.
November 2000 MOP 6 in The Hague
2001 3rd IPCC evaluation report
June 2001 MOP6bis in Bonn
Buenos Aires Plan of Action continuation and outcome: establishment of the Kyoto Protocol implementation modalities following 4 big themes (each state implements a national measures program before turning to the Protocol mechanisms; limit to forest management for emissions reductions; creation of 3 additional financing funds for developing countries; definition of the mechanism supervising the respect of the reduction commitments)
November 2001 MOP 7 in Marrakech
Legal translation of the Bonn agreements. Beginning of the clean development mechanism.
After the political agreement in Bonn in July 2001, the 7th Meeting of the Parties translated into legal texts the rules concerning the Kyoto Protocol ratification and effective implementation. The first protocol institution is settled: the Clean Development Mechanism executive board, which is now operational.
March 4th, 2002: European ratification of Kyoto Protocol
In July 2002, France promulgated a law authoring the protocol’s ratification, but it is in July 2002 that it actually was ratified by the European Union in the name of all its members.
November 2002 MOP 8 in New Delhi
The Delhi ministerial declaration on climate change and sustainable development
Adopted in complement of the Marrakech agreement: loading of a 5 year program on education, training and public awareness rising on climate change issues; method for greenhouse gases emission accounting; technical base for the emission rights register.
Political agreement on emissions trading directive
The emissions trading directive comes into force, establishing a trading greenhouse gases emission quota system in the European Union.
December 2003 MOP 9 in Milan
Technical negotiations and ministerial segment. 3 round tables.
March, 31st: UE members publish and transmit to the EU commission their national quotas allocation plans
December 6-17: MOP 10 in Buenos Aires
4) Third acts
February 16th 2005: The Kyoto Protocol comes into force. In 1997, the members decided the protocol would come into force 90 days after ratification by at least 55 countries responsible for at least 55% of emissions. Following the United States refusal, the protocol implementation was suspended until Russia ratified it in November 2004.
Bonn (Germany) May, 16-27, 2005 – government experts seminary and 22nd session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change subsidiary organs.
Negotiations on climate start again in order to facilitate the Kyoto Protocol implementation and start the discussion on future greenhouse gases emissions reduction commitments.
The emissions quotas trade system starts in the European Union.
This proves the parties are more dedicated to honoring their commitment.
Deadline for the beginning of the official negotiations concerning the next step of commitment.
November 28th – December 9th: MOP 11 and COP/MOP1
It is a success. A dialogue between all the countries on the evolution of the multilateral system took place, and over 40 decisions were adopted consolidating the world efforts to fight against climate change.
Final press release and speech from the French President
IPCC - Assessment Report 4
Stern report on the cost of climate change
COP13 – Bali Action Plan : «a comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long-term cooperative action, now, up to and beyond 2012».
Beginning of the first commitment period regarding the Kyoto Protocol (2008-2012).
Beginning of the emissions rights trade
COP15 – The Copenhaguen Accord, a political agreement only, with no legally binding dimension nor any close link with climatic disturbance in progress. Tuvalu would not sign ; Extension of the Mandate of Bali (Bali Action Plan)
COP16 - Cancun, Analysis brief climate negotiations by Pierre Radanne
Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation , by IPCC
COP17 - Durban
COP18 - Doha
2013-2014 : IPCC - Assessment Report 5 is released
COP19 - Warsaw - Background analysis