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December 9th, 2015:

In Hong Kong and around the world, we all have a part to play in combating climate change

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Carbon dioxide is not the problem

Letters to the editor, December 9, 2015

When it comes to climate change, carbon pollution and the like, you are being conned. Carbon and carbon dioxide are not pollutants; they are the daily support of life on this planet. Carbon dioxide, via photosynthesis, is the earth’s major plant food. More carbon dioxide means more trees and more food. Unelected bureaucrats at the European Union and United Nations, in their efforts to demonise and reduce carbon dioxide, promoted diesel cars across the EU zone to meet carbon emission targets. It was successful in reducing carbon dioxide by 15 per cent. The bankrupt EU then boasted to the world how “environmentally friendly” it was. However, this EU/UN effort to reduce carbon emissions made things much worse for humans and the environment. Cancerous nitrogen dioxide emissions increased over 150 per cent and particulate matter increased by over 300 per cent.

To improve air quality and health in Hong Kong and the rest of China, all efforts need to be geared at reducing criteria air pollutants, namely: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter (both PM2.5 and PM10), and sulfur dioxide. When it comes to global warming, the EU and UN are up to their old tricks again, ignoring 4.53 billion years of evidence that the climate is driven by solar activity and not by carbon emissions. They are brainwashing people into believing carbon dioxide is bad when in reality carbon dioxide is good, as it provides more food, via photosynthesis, to feed a growing population. Reducing carbon dioxide will not improve air quality; reducing criteria air pollutants will.

Further, reducing carbon emissions is irrelevant to climate. Genuine climate scientists know this and have accordingly resigned from the UN puppet organisation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calling it a political not scientific body. Hong Kong and the rest of China should reject international agreements and focus on the very real problems at home, namely reducing air pollution, reducing toxins in products and reducing electronic waste. Not a single dollar of tax payers’ money should be wasted in trying to reduce carbon dioxide. For those individuals that think carbon dioxide is a problem; stop driving, stop flying, stop bombing other countries, and stop sending your kids for an overseas education – hypocrisy should not be tolerated. Dr Robert Hanson, Tseung Kwan O

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Hong Kong Population Facts

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2015 may be the warmest on record, but heat waves will only intensify unless we act now

Gabriel Lau says research focusing on East Asia, North America and Europe shows that hot weather is likely to become more frequent and severe without action to address global warming, and coastal cities like Hong Kong will not be immune

The UN’s meteorological agency says the global average surface temperature in 2015 is likely to be the warmest on record. The Hong Kong Observatory believes this year will be the city’s warmest since records began in 1884. In India, a severe heat wave claimed the lives of more than 2,500 people in May. And, three months ago, Hong Kong experienced its hottest day on record.

The message is clear. Despite fluctuations, on a long-term scale, global temperatures are unquestionably rising. Hong Kong is beginning to feel the wrath of summer heat and the gradual blurring of the seasons.

Global warming is not a bluff. It poses an imminent threat. It is imperative that action is taken immediately to avert possible disaster on a global scale

Many scientific studies have concluded that this year’s sporadic weather pattern is not an aberration but a direct result of the sustained warming of our climate. The consequences are more than just the discomfort brought by hotter days. The extreme weather conditions experienced in many parts of the world may be linked to sustained climate change.

As a climate scientist, my current research on heat waves in East Asia (and two of my earlier studies focusing on North America and Europe) suggests that unless we act responsibly now, hot weather will prevail and intensify. Heat waves will not only become more frequent, but will last longer and be more severe. Coastal cities like Hong Kong will also be affected.

In 2012 and 2014, I collaborated with colleagues at the US Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and the Chinese University of Hong Kong on two separate studies on extreme weather events in North America and Europe. This year, the research procedure and projections were repeated for East Asia.

These studies point to a consistent trend: as we head towards the end of this century, there are likely to be more than twice as many heat waves each year; and each is likely to last up to twice as long. These changes are equally likely in East Asia, Europe and North America.

In reaching our projections, we are already assuming that global-warming-contributing emissions will be reduced by half of the current level by 2080. Even with these efforts, the average global temperature will rise by about 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. If our energy consumption grows at current rates, the increase in emissions could easily push the temperature up by as much as 4 degrees, with even more extreme weather events.

Our most recent study suggests that if nothing is done to cut carbon emissions, the increasingly frequent severe heat waves that result would destroy crops in several sectors of East and Southeast Asia, causing widespread food shortages in the region. Hong Kong is unlikely to be spared. Temperatures of up to 40 degrees for several consecutive days in the summer could occur.

It is imperative that action is taken immediately to avert possible disaster on a global scale. A target of limiting the global temperature rise to 2 degrees by 2100 may look challenging, but it is achievable. What is crucial is a willingness on the part of the international community to cooperate, and reduce carbon emissions responsibly.

The Paris climate conference is an important platform, albeit a protracted process, for countries to set realistic and tangible targets, and to arrive at a set of policies and a collaboration framework. Individual governments need to play their part and adopt environmentally conscious development strategies.

In Hong Kong, certain policies could bring environmental benefits; emission reduction measures are the obvious choice. If energy consumption cannot be reduced significantly, a cleaner fuel mix should be pursued using natural gas and renewable energy, along with the promotion of green-building practises.

Intelligent city planning policies that allow better air circulation at street level would reduce the “heat island effect”, and the reliance on air conditioning. Encouraging mass transit travel would cut the number of private cars on the road, and the amount of emissions generated.

Small changes count. A switch to energy-saving appliances will save money and reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Even cutting meat consumption can make a difference.

Global warming is not a bluff. It poses an imminent threat. Unchecked greenhouse gas emissions will accelerate global warming with dire consequences. The heat waves that are closely linked to rising temperatures will become more frequent, more severe and last longer. Governments need to take the Paris meeting seriously – and act now for the sake of the next generation.

Professor Gabriel Lau Ngar-cheung is AXA professor of geography and resource management in the Faculty of Social Science, and director of the Institute of Environment, Energy and Sustainability, at Chinese University of Hong Kong

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Cities launch five-year vision to tackle climate change

Ahead of national government commitments, cities around the world are taking unprecedented action to cut carbon emissions and build resilient societies.

Cities across the world representing almost a fifth of the global population have launched a five-year vision to scale up actions to tackle climate change.

This five-year vision, led by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will include building the resilience of vulnerable cities as well as improving capital flows to finance low-carbon infrastructure projects, among others.

Speaking at the launch of the vision at the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) Focus on Cities event on Tuesday, Al Gore, former vice president of the United States and climate advocate, said that cities and subnational governments “are playing a critical role in bringing a solution to the climate crisis”.

They are “essential for enabling us to move from negotiation to implementation”, in order to achieve a global target of cutting emissions to prevent dangerous climate change, he said.

“Everyone knows the subnational governments have moved out faster than the national governments”, he told a packed room of 200 at Le Bourget, Paris, where the United Nations climate change summit talks are being held this week.

This LPAA vision will enable the world to make even faster progress, he said. “What’s happening here in Paris is a reaching of critical mass among governors and subnational leaders, who are comparing notes and in some cases outdoing each other on ever more ambitious and impressive commitments”, Gore added.

Also speaking at the launch, Segolene Royal, French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, said the vision will be finalised by next year, along with the signatories to the declaration.

The vision outlines four objectives, namely:

  • Increasing the number of cities and regions deciding to implement an Action Plan and climate objectives;
  • Building resilience in the greatest number of cities and regions, with particular attention to vulnerable populations;
  • Improving project preparation and climate planning to ensure increased financial flows to the territories, but also accelerate the deployment of innovative economic and financial tools;
  • Supporting multi-partnership initiatives between different levels of governance.

The LPAA is a joint initiative by the Peruvian and French presidencies of the UN meetings – known as COP – which aims to mobilise robust actions towards low carbon and resilient societies.

In a statement, the UN said subnational authorities now make up the largest group contributing climate commitments into the UN’s Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) database, an online portal that functions as a central clearinghouse on climate-related commitments by all entities other than national governments.

As urban areas are responsible for half of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they are crucial in meeting the internationally agreed goal to keep the global average temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius.

“This presents both a challenge and an opportunity to lock new urban expansion into a new development model towards climate-resilient and low-carbon societies at large scale, leap frogging the old patterns of urban life for a growing population,” said the UNFCCC.

Government negotiators from around the world are racing against the clock to finalise a universal agreement to tackle climate change by the end of the UN meeting on Friday.

While there are still key differences to be ironed out, the atmosphere has generally been optimistic.

Gore told the audience: “Every great moral cause in the history of humanity has been met with a series of ‘Nos’ with fierce resistance, but after the last ‘No’, when people realize that the fundamental choice is between what is right and wrong, then comes a ‘Yes’.”

“We’re at that point in Paris, and one of the reasons we’re at this point is because of the subnational leaders who are taking much bolder, faster, meaningful action which is changing the course of human civilization.”