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Do you think it's real?

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

The Group of 20 will agree to phase out fossil fuel subsidies in the "medium term," according to the most recent leaked draft of their communique. Leaders will also agree to "intensify our efforts" to reach a deal in Copenhagen at the end of the year, but, as expected, won't offer any more specific commitments on climate.

The draft cites recent data from the International Energy Agency and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that finds that cutting these subsidies alone would likely reduce greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2050. It directs the energy and finance ministers of the G20 nations to develop timelines and strategies for phasing out those subsidies:

With the Copenhagen climate conference just around the corner, China's commitment to cap its carbon intensity and Obama's lack of firm commitments dominated most of the environmental headlines from the UN summit this week. So most observers missed a promising idea floated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy: an environmental counterweight to the World Trade Organization.

"Let us create a single World Environment Organization in Copenhagen," Sarkozy said during his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. The French president used his turn at the podium to champion an idea he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had laid out for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the days leading up to the summit. A letter from the duo explained that after a climate agreement emerges from Copenhagen "a new institutional architecture will need to be set up to foster the development of international environmental law. Environmental governance must be overhauled." The letter concludes: "We must make use of the momentum provided by Copenhagen to make further progress towards the creation of a World Environmental Organization."

U.S. Army Spc. Olen Bailey stands post in a guard tower on Forward Operating Base Mizan in Zabul province, Afghanistan, Sept. 10, 2009. Bailey is assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kris Eglin.)

Today's must-reads:

Follow me! David Corn, Mother Jones' DC bureau chief, also tweets, as does awesome new MoJo blogger Kate Sheppard. So do my colleagues Daniel Schulman and Rachel Morris and our editors-in-chief, Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. Follow them, too! (The magazine's main account is @motherjones.)

News from Mother Jones and elsewhere you might have missed.

Earth to Conrad: Kent Conrad just figured out other countries have good, universal healthcare.

No Nukes: UN supports US resolution to reduce nuclear arms. [Al Jazeera]

Obama v. Fossil: Obama will go after fossil fuel subsidies at G20.

Better Beets: Beets modified to resist Monsanto pesticide blocked from market. [MSNBC]

The New Guy: The pharma ties of Sen. Kennedy's replacement, Paul Kirk, may hurt healthcare reform.

EPA Win: Sen. Murkowski's attempt to keep EPA from regulating GHGs falls flat.

Ante Up: Providing climate financing to poorer countries may headline at G20.

Bitter on Twitter: Sen. Vitter is against the Climate czar, and he's not afraid to Tweet it.

 

Clinton on Gore

It's Laura, back with a few frog-free potboilers from the rest of the crew:

1) The new Black Panthers and me: Obama's DOJ is under fire for dropping a controversial voter intimidation case. Our reporter caught the whole incident on camera.

2) Did Clinton compare Gore to Mussolini? David Corn's favorite excerpts from the Clinton bio you can't read yet.

3) Meet the spy who loved Hamas. And Hezbollah. And Iran. Just who is ex-MI6 superstar Alastair Crooke working for, anyway?

4) Rare photos from inside a (completely macrame-free) Hamas summer camp for young Palestinian boys.

Laura McClure hosts weekly podcasts and is a writer and editor for Mother Jones. Read her recent investigative feature on lifehacking gurus here.

Picture of the Day

This is a spectacular gold scabbard boss with inlaid garnets, circa 700 AD, part of a huge hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and silver discovered recently in Staffordshire:

The first scraps of gold were found in July in a farm field by Terry Herbert, an amateur metal detector who lives alone in a council flat on disability benefit, who had never before found anything more valuable than a nice rare piece of Roman horse harness. The last pieces were removed from the earth by a small army of archaeologists a fortnight ago.

....Leslie Webster, former keeper of the department of prehistory at the British Museum, who led the team of experts and has spent months poring over metalwork, described the hoard as "absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells".

....[Kevin] Leahy said he was not surprised at the find being in Staffordshire, the heartland of the "militarily aggressive and expansionist" 7th century kings of Mercia including Penda, Wulfhere and Æthelred. "This material could have been collected by any of these during their wars with Northumbria and East Anglia, or by someone whose name is lost to history. Here we are seeing history confirmed before our eyes."

More at the link.  Enjoy.

Juliet Eilperin reports in the Washington Post:

Climate researchers now predict the planet will warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the world's leaders fulfill their most ambitious climate pledges, a much faster and broader scale of climate change than forecast just two years ago, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program.

That's odd.  This is 3.5 degrees Celsius.  A couple of hours ago that same story said 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4 degrees Celsius.  But if you click on the link and read the UN report, neither of those numbers appears.  At least, not that I can find.  What's going on?

Robert Corell, who chairs the Climate Action Initiative....collaborated with climate researchers at the Vermont-based Sustainability Institute, Massachusetts-based Ventana Systems and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to do the analysis. The team has revised its estimates since the U.N. report went to press and has posted the most recent figures at ClimateInteractive.org.

The group took the upper-range targets of nearly 200 nations' climate policies — including U.S. cuts that would reduce domestic emissions 73 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, along with the European Union's pledge to reduce its emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 — and found that even under that optimistic scenario, the average global temperature is likely to warm by 6.3 degrees.

Ah.  The number comes not from the UN report, but from Robert Corell.  And it's been updated, which presumably accounts for the Post story being updated.

Except that if you go to ClimateInteractive.org, their graph still says 4 degrees Celsius.  And it seems to be based on a model called C-ROADS, not the UN report.

So color me confused.  Except for one thing: both the UN report and Corell's analysis agree that climate change is much worse than we thought even a few years ago.  Virtually every measure of warming is increasing faster than our models predicted — something that regular readers of this blog already know.  From the first chapter of the UN study:

The climate forcing arriving sooner-than-expected includes faster sea-level rise, ocean acidification, melting of Arctic sea-ice cover, warming of polar land masses, freshening in ocean currents, and shifts in circulation patterns in the atmosphere and the oceans.

....In early 2008, a team of scientists published the first detailed investigation of vulnerable Earth System components that could contain tipping points. The team introduced the term ‘tipping element’ for these vulnerable systems and accepted a definition for tipping point as “...a critical threshold at which a tiny perturbation can qualitatively alter the state or development of a system...”

The nine tipping points are below.  Three of them could happen within ten years, and two more are possible within 50.  Time to quit mucking around, folks.

UPDATE: The ClimateInteractive folks now seem to have updated their graphs to show warming of 6.3°F/3.5°C.  Graphs are here.

Hope for a major breakthrough on climate at the G20 has faded in the environmental and international NGO community, and many are dubious about what might come out of the summit Friday.

"Expectations have really fallen in the past few weeks," says Kirstine Hughes, head of the public policy and advocacy for Oxfam Great Britain. After less-than-breakthrough meetings of the G8, G20, Major Economies Forum, and the United Nations this past year, she speculates that people are now "summited out." "It's almost as if there are too many meetings, too many overlapping agendas." And there are still more questions than answers on Obama's anticipated pitch to end fossil fuel subsidies, the other major climate-related topic this week.

There may yet be signs of progress—if leaders emerge with specifics. With several major summits to go before the big climate talks this December, including two meetings of the Major Economies Forum and a meeting of finance ministers in November, solid commitments from leaders now could still lead to a deal in Copenhagen.

On financing (which Rachel Morris covered in an excellent post this morning), Hughes argues that leaders will need to come up with some dollar figures this week, even if it's only for the near-term. And any financing plan has to acknowledge the historical responsibility of developed nations for emissions, as well as their responsibility to help poorer nations transition. "If you're serious, you actually recognize that a deal needs money," says Hughes. "It's not the end of negotiations tomorrow, but if you want to get the negotiations going, you have to put some credible financial offer of some sort on the table."