Climate change: Address at seminar in Ankara
Professor Ahmet Acar
Ladies and gentlemen
I am grateful for having this opportunity to address the issue of climate change. I am also very pleased to meet representatives, both professors and students, from the highly esteemed Middle East Technical University in Ankara. Thank you so much for hosting this event. Drawing on the expertise of this university and other well qualified partners, we must seek to find solutions to the critical challenges we are facing.
(picture of polar bear)
My own engagement in the issue has been strengthened since I had the opportunity to visit the Arctic region in June. The development in the polar areas reflects how serious the situation actually is. I will come back to this later in my speech, but for now – let me leave you with this picture from the Norwegian island Svalbard, taken in June. The polar bear is one of the species that is likely to lose its natural habitat if we don’t take our responsibility on the issue of climate change.
New technologies to reduce CO2 emissions are critical both to Turkey and Norway. The technological journey towards effective use of renewable energy sources has begun, but we are still far from any satisfactory solution. The engagement of Turkey, and all of us, in this field is vital. We have to ensure that new generations can enjoy decent living standards, while at the same time ensuring environmentally sound use of resources, and clean air and water. This may be the biggest challenge that mankind has ever faced. But it may also be the greatest opportunity we have ever had to solve something together. It could be the greatest global team-building exercise in history if we handle it right.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) many parts of the world will become warmer in the years ahead. There will be more frequent drought, flooding and extreme weather, which will put pressure on food production and infrastructure. Many plant and animal species will be lost. The sea level will continue to rise, making it more difficult or even impossible to live on the coast in many places.
The findings of the IPCC are a strong call for concerted global action. There is an urgent need to make a shift towards low-emission societies. We must adapt to the climate change that is already affecting lives and livelihoods all over the world. Communities must be made more resilient to climate change, and we must pay special attention to the poor, who will be hardest hit and who lack the resources to protect themselves.
The UN issued an evaluation on the Millennium Development Goals this autumn. The importance of climate change has become more apparent since these goals were set only 8 years ago. Tackling climate change is a prerequisite for ending extreme poverty.
The build-up of greenhouse gases must not be allowed to reach a level where the Earth’s climate becomes unpredictable and dangerous. According to the IPCC, this means that the average global temperature rise must not exceed 2 degrees above the pre-industrial level. Global greenhouse gas emissions must be cut by 50–85% between 2000 and 2050. Emissions must peak no later than 2015.
Recent observations indicate that the IPCC’s predictions may even be on the conservative side, and that it may have underestimated the speed of change. According to the report World Energy Outlook 2008, launched by the International Energy Agency two weeks ago, the world could experience an eventual global temperature increase of up to 6 degrees. The Arctic sea ice has already retreated to a record low. 2008 was the first year that both the north eastern and the north western passages were open.
(picture of map)
Norway is a polar nation. Our cultural identity is closely linked to the polar region. We are acutely aware that the Arctic is warming at almost twice the global average rate. This is one of the regions where the impacts of global warming are strongest and most apparent, with important regional as well as global effects. The Arctic is providing a window on global warming, and Norway is seeking to use this to raise international awareness about the impacts of climate change.
This summer we went to see for ourselves.
(picture of the 3 CP at the ship)
This is Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden - and myself. We are all patrons of the International Polar Year in our respective countries.
(picture of lecture/learning situation)
On board the scientific ship Oden we had the opportunity to learn a lot about the region from leading experts on the Arctic area.
The vulnerable Arctic environment is changing. Indigenous peoples are finding it harder to sustain their traditional way of life as the Arctic flora and fauna begin to change. The migration patterns of fish stocks are being affected, which may have major effects on commercial fisheries. As the ice melts, navigation periods are lengthened, new shipping routes open, and new areas are gradually becoming accessible for the exploitation of petroleum and other natural resources.
(picture of 3 CP on the ice, in thermo suits).
Here we are doing cutting edge research.
Changes in the Arctic have far-reaching global effects. As polar ice and snow melt, surfaces become darker. White surfaces reflect heat from the sun back into the atmosphere, whereas dark surfaces absorb the heat, leading to further global warming. The permafrost is melting, leading to further greenhouse gas emissions. This is a self-reinforcing and accelerating process. We do not fully understand what regional and global impacts these processes will have.
How can we act to slow down or stop these processes? I am convinced that powerful leadership and conscious living by us all as individuals can influence the course of events.
Norway is working towards a comprehensive and ambitious climate regime after the first commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol. In Norway’s view, it is essential for the world to agree on a comprehensive and far-reaching global response to climate change at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009.
Technology, your chosen area of interest, is also an important part of the answer to the challenges facing us. Different forms of renewable energy, based on existing as well as new technology, will replace and supplement fossil fuels. I am looking forward to hearing more about these possibilities in this seminar.
Like other developed countries, Norway uses a great deal of energy. In Norway’s case, a large proportion of this is electricity, mainly generated by hydropower. Norway is seeking to increase the use of renewable energy and to promote energy efficiency.
This morning I had the pleasure of opening a hydropower seminar which aims to increase Turkish–Norwegian cooperation in this field.
State-of-the-art technology can be used to reduce carbon emission in various ways: It is now possible to remove carbon, CO2, from natural gas at the time of production. This technology is also relevant for removing carbon dioxide from power generation from coal, which I can imagine will be a key issue for Turkey in the future.
Carbon capture and storage in industry and power generation could bring about as much as 20–28% of the necessary reductions in CO2 emissions. It could therefore play a crucial role in mitigating climate change.
As the world’s third largest oil and gas exporting nation, Norway feels a special responsibility to develop Carbon capture and storage technologies. Norway has considerable experience of safe separation and storage of CO2. Since 1996, Norway has been separating one million tonnes of CO2 per year from the gas flow from the offshore Sleipner field. We are storing it in geological formations 1000 metres under the seabed. However, the costs of carbon capture and storage are still high. The main challenge is to develop commercially viable technology that can be used in various types of power plants, and to deal with other sources of emissions worldwide.
No matter what we do to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases today, we will still have to adapt to climate change. Adequate and predictable funding is essential to meet adaptation needs. Norway is pushing for a global financial architecture that can generate sufficient funds and ensure that the most vulnerable countries are not forgotten. Adaptation must be integrated into countries’ development plans and into international development assistance.
Norway would like to be a constructive partner enabling developing countries to adapt to climate change. Emissions from deforestation in developing countries account for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Norwegian Government has therefore established the International Climate and Forest Initiative. We would like these emissions to be regulated in a new climate regime.
Climate change is closely related to human welfare and security – as illustrated by the award of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC and Al Gore.
(picture of small people on the ice)
Human beings might seem small compared to the vastness of nature. But we are changing the nature’s balance with consequences for ourselves and the generation to come.
Representatives of leading Norwegian research centres that focus on climate issues will present their views here today. I am confident they will provide useful insight and a good basis for further discussion and reflection.
Many of you are students of technology. You will have to deal with climate issues in your future careers, and in your private lives. I hope the seminar today will help clarify the challenges we are facing and how we can make this challenge the greatest global team building exercise in history.