Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 25 Dec 09 13:47
Emily, you "skewered" Naomi Klein, or thought you did, but you didn't even try to touch Richard Littlemore, the author of the other piece i posted, and please don't tell us he's not a journalist,he's not, he's a CLIMATE SCIENTIST. http://www.postcarbon.org/video/51255-mckibben-first-take-on-climate This is mostly Bill McKibben. I think he also has a good idea of what's going on. And http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/02/copenhagen-climate-change-ja mes-hansen James Hansen is also not a journalist, but also knows a thing or two about climate.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 25 Dec 09 16:35
Jacques, the deniers had no impact I'm aware of at the talks. They do know how to make big media splashes, don't they, though? Then again, Americans ought to know what our elected officials are doing with our tax dollars, especially when it's flying thousands of miles to do dinosaur impressions on the world stage. My friend Kate Sheppard, lately of Mother Jones, filed a couple items about the skeptics who showed at Copenhagen: "GOP Reps Regale Copenhagen with Scientific Knowledge," Dec. 18 http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2009/12/gop-delegation-regales-copenhagen-u nderstanding-science "Copenhagen's Skeptic Tank," Dec. 9 http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2009/12/skeptic-tank-runs-deep-copenhagen This was my first COP, but my understanding is that they made bigger efforts in the past to perform their schtick. Sen. Inhofe made quite a big noise at Bali, didn't he? This year, afaik, all he did was hold an ad hoc press conference in a hallway. jstrahl, please feel free at any time to express in your own words your agreement / disagreement with me, Klein, McKibben, Hansen et al. I prefer to spend my time in Inkwell talking with the people who actually show up to have conversations.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 25 Dec 09 16:38
About Bill, with whom I have a passing acquaintance, though: He's incredibly smart, and probably one of the best informed people in the world about global warming beyond the scientific community. For the past two-three years he and his team at 350.org have been doing some of the best-conceived activist work in the world on getting climate action. Arguably, they deserve a lot of the credit for building a truly grassroots climate movement, and one that's advocating positions with real scientific merit for averting the worst impacts of climate change.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 25 Dec 09 17:26
>I prefer to spend my time in Inkwell talking with the people who actually show up to have conversations.< I'm presenting a perspective which raises questions about your interpretations of the Copenhagen events. You are rating Obama highly over this, and given that the administration's people arrived in Copenhagen with offers which were an insult to most of the world, eg emissions reductions of 4% from 1990 levels by 2020, when 80% is warranted (reductions promised at Copenhagen would result in a 3C rise in global temperatures), i think your evaluation is questionable. If by conversation you mean to express agreement, then the meaning of terms is skewed.
Sam Delson (samiam) Fri 25 Dec 09 18:02
Emily can speak for herself, but I think by conversation she meant that she would be happy to respond to questions and arguments you express in your own words rather than to a series of links to articles.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 25 Dec 09 18:08
Same is correct. Now you're presenting a perspective. Before you were linking off to other people's perspectives. The US positions were one of the major problems at these talks, true. But you're assuming a lot about how I might regard the US position from moral or scientific perspectives. And where do I rate Obama highly? More to the point, though, my work is more about reporting what is and what happens, and making that intelligible to readers. I don't think Klein's yawp makes the situation more intelligible, because however high her moral ground, she displayed ignorance, or willful blindness, about the actual nature of the politics involved. She doesn't know how to get from point A, where she stands, to point B, getting what she wants. McKibben's just as angry, but he knows more, and I think he also knows how to forge a path between his particular point A (wanting 350ppm) and point B (getting 350ppm). It's significant that the US, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa jointly put their names on any climate document at all, even a crappy one. That's all I'm trying to make clear. Those numbers are mostly meaningful in relation to how binding they are. They're not binding; that document isn't a treaty. So we're not at the end game yet, politically. (Environmentally, another thing entirely, alas.) If/when the Senate acts, Obama's hand improves, and that could weaken China's influence in the next round. In my interpretation of the situation.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 25 Dec 09 21:41
>It's significant that the US, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa jointly put their names on any climate document at all, even a crappy one. That's all I'm trying to make clear.< Emily, this is the "something is better than nothing" argument, and i think it's absurd. When the "something" is total pretense, it is worse than nothing, as it's intended to make it look like something is being done when in reality it isn't. The Senate's grand action is nothing more than what Obama brought to the table,ie an absolutely worthless 4% reduction in emissions relative to 1990 by 2020, when the reality calls for FAR, FAR bigger cuts. The US and China are just two power interests who were using the climate talks as an arena in which to make each other look bad, neither one is in the least actually interested in doing what is necessary, no doubt in big part because what is actually necessary is absolutely incompatible with the continuation of the existing global economic system. That is the real politics involved. Hansen's article, by the way, is his attack on the whole notion of cap n' trade, which is also a core part of what the Senate is proceeding with, by the time the likes of Bill Nelsen and co, get finished, it will be even more meaningless than what exists. This is yet another illustration of how politics as usual are not gonna rescue us from disaster.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Fri 25 Dec 09 22:28
Emily, were the liabilities of cap-and-trade discussed much in Copenhagen? Or was that perceived as the only game in town?
descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Fri 25 Dec 09 22:39
Emily, I was very interested to read Thomas Friedman's essay on Copenhagen and Denmark. I wonder if the other delegates there paid any attention to that example or what you heard about it there, if anything. Denmark is the most energy efficient country in the E.U.; due to carbon pricing, through energy taxes, carbon taxes, the cap and trade system, strict building codes and energy labeling programs. ... Its why Denmark, with only five million people, boasts some of the leading wind, biofuel and heating, cooling and efficiency companies in the world. Energy technologies are now 11 percent of Denmarks exports. ... Where do Danish politicians get the courage to do the right things even if painful? ... http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/23/opinion/23friedman.html
descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Fri 25 Dec 09 22:40
slip - note that cap and trade is one of the pieces that makes Denmark's system work.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 25 Dec 09 23:17
Sundog asked above: > Were you able to get out among the people in the streets. I had the feeling there were some interesting things going on out there. I didn't get to just chill with Copenhageners very much, if that's what you mean. If I do something like this again in the future, though, I will try to take more time early in the doings to get out and about a little, since week one was pretty slow, and week two was frenetic. But I was there to work, you know? Touristing came second. > As well as some heavy handed reaction by the police based on reports read and the number of arrests. Unfortunately, I think some media really played up the police incidents inordinately -- which is typical of how activism is covered. There were some rough confrontations (I didn't witness much w/my own eyes, but heard from several reliable directions that the cops definitely did go overboard sometimes -- gave me flashbacks to NYC during the RNC in 2004.) But the demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, orderly, and even fun. Here's my audio slideshow from the big Saturday march: http://actionhub.oxfamamerica.org/index.php/blog/comments/sights-and-sounds-as -thousands-march-for-climate-action-in-copenhagen/ >Also, do you feel like NGOs made a significant impact on the process or were they merely in the way? I'll have to pick this one up at an earlier hour!
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 25 Dec 09 23:45
jstrahl, I think it was significant because it might be very important to getting climate and energy policy reform through the Senate, not because "something was better than nothing." Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be interpreting my observations and analysis as *approval* of what happened, because I am not flat out declaring that Copenhagen was a failure on the whole "fair, ambitious, binding" scale of achievement. C&t vs. carbon tax: Based on everything I've heard from experts in business and economics and reported since around 2005, the crucial thing to catalyzing the de-carbonization of our market economy is getting the price set on carbon. If a tax were to do it, fine, but there isn't going to be a tax. It's political kryptonite. Hansen is an excellent climate scientist. I actually do think Obama's about as willing to tackle climate change as a guy bound up in the "politically possible" can be. He's certainly not expending a ton of political capital on it so far, and he's leaving the well-articulated visionary stuff to his green team, particularly Stephen Chu at Energy. Will that change if/when the health care bill is on his desk? The EPA is steamrolling toward regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act. This is something the Bush administration blocked by every means available for several years. Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, has gotten nearly there in less than 12 months. If this is praise of Obama, well, it's praise based on the political situation at hand. By the standards of the Bush or Clinton administrations, it's a lot of progress. That's not the same thing as saying *enough* progress, enough action to stave off the worst of global warming.
Steven McGarity (sundog) Sat 26 Dec 09 08:35
(emilyg), thanks for the slide and audio show. Looks like a nice party. Wish I could have been there. I'll look forward to reading your thoughts on NGO's. This morning I am reading Bill McKibben, writing at E360. He begins by faulting the U.S. "From the beginning, the most important nations chose not to go the route of truth-telling. The Obama administration decided not long after taking office that they would barely mention 'global warming', instead confining themselves to talking about 'green jobs' and 'energy security'. Perhaps they had no choice, and it was the only way to reach the U.S. Senate well never know, because they clung to their strategy tightly. On Oct. 24, when there were world leaders from around the globe joining demonstrations, they refused to send even minor officials to take part. Instead, they continued to insist on something that scientists kept saying was untrue: The safe level of carbon in the atmosphere was 450 ppm, and their plans would keep temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) and thus avoid 'catastrophic consequences'. (Though since 0.8 degrees C had melted the Arctic, it wasnt clear how they defined catastrophe)." He went on to basically blame China for turning down one reasonable alternative after another in refusing to limit burning coal. Then we have near the end the basic insider agreement made that gave the rest of the countries little alternative but to sign on. Do you really think Copenhagen was a 'crime scene' as Kumi Naidoo from Green Peace International suggests or there is some hope there still.
Paula Span (pspan) Sat 26 Dec 09 08:52
I too wondered if the arrests and turmoil during the early demonstrations was overplayed. But there was also coverage of the tens of thousands of demonstrators who managed not to cause an issue (or to become the targets of cops causing issues), and the "unrest" meme seemed a one-day story. In the end, did you think the press overreacted to street stuff?
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sat 26 Dec 09 11:51
>Instead, they continued to insist on something that scientists kept saying was untrue: The safe level of carbon in the atmosphere was 450 ppm, and their plans would keep temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F) and thus avoid 'catastrophic consequences'. (Though since 0.8 degrees C had melted the Arctic, it wasnt clear how they defined catastrophe)." I think that the 450/2 degrees language came out of one of the big Group of * or economic minister confabs of 2009; maybe the summer meeting of the G8. The communiques issued at the end of the G-meetings are consensus documents. So if that's where those numbers became THE numbers, it's safe to assume that it's because they were the lowest common denominator of acceptable terms for everyone at the table. I feel compelled to note that *some* scientists think 450ppm is too dangerous. It's not de facto the dominant position among climatologists. It makes sense: at 380-390ppm, as Bill notes, we're already setting off a positive feedback loop of melting in the Arctic. But there's still tons of research and debate going on about just this sort of phenomenon; there's a lot we don't know. Most journalists feel compelled to make this qualification, because most scientists make this qualification. (This in a nutshell is the bane of climate change reporting.) Even so, we're conducting a planet-sized geo-engineering experiment. We're far from being able to predict all of the outcomes. And nearly all the outcomes we can predict with some degree of assurance are disastrous. Not taking effective action is akin to thinking: There's a 90% chance my house will catch on fire. But I'm not getting homeowners insurance, because there's a 10% chance it won't. >The Obama administration decided not long after taking office that they would barely mention 'global warming', instead confining themselves to talking about 'green jobs' and 'energy security'. Perhaps they had no choice, and it was the only way to reach the U.S. Senate â weâll never know, because they clung to their strategy tightly. Not just the Obama administration, but the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, believe in taking the green-jobs-and-energy-security line over the moral / ecological imperative line. Are they all wrong, and Bill McKibben is right? He might be. But also, it's the role of a person in Bill's position to push the edges of the discussion outwards, in order to reposition the middle. It's important to remember that the green-jobs-and-energy-security line did get the bill through the House. Here's a segment of an interview I did with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) during the G20 in September, about which line of argument would be more effective with Americans: Q: Some climate activists are arguing that the ethical dimension to climate change is getting lost in the economic cost-benefit analyses. Is that a case that would resonate with your voters, or voters in general? A: The ethical argument verses the economic? You know, I donât think so. Because people arenât sure whether [climate change is] real or not. I think if they were sure, then the ethical argument would be a no-brainer; of course we have to do something. But since they are uncertain, the economic argument is really the only way to approach them. It makes a compelling argument. I told a lot of my colleaguesâand some of them are in tougher situations than Iâm inâthat I really think you can go back home, and this is something that people will understand, if you take the time to sit down and explain it to them. http://www.grist.org/article/2009-09-29-pa-rep-doyle-on-getting-blue-collar- support-for-climate-bill/
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sat 26 Dec 09 12:02
Just a note to non-WELL-members: email your questions to <email@example.com>
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sat 26 Dec 09 12:06
>The Senate's grand action is nothing more than what Obama brought to the table,ie an absolutely worthless 4% reduction in emissions relative to 1990 by 2020, when the reality calls for FAR, FAR bigger cuts. It was the reverse: Obama brought the Congressional position to the table.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Sat 26 Dec 09 13:12
Great discussion, Emily. Thanks.
the Zen of wooziness and delirium (jacques) Sat 26 Dec 09 13:43
Given the disinterest of a good portion of the American public about climate change (and the outright denialism of another portion), my suspicion is that it's going to take some more Katrina-magnitude disasters to move public opinion here. One can argue that calamaties like that are unfolding every day at the poles, but they seem too remote to have any impact on most Americans.
Steven McGarity (sundog) Sat 26 Dec 09 18:05
Interesting interview with Congressman Doyle. I enjoyed that he told the CEO of US Steel "that he could either be at the table or on the menu." I spent a few years as a controller in steel, minimills, and I know green was not something anyone ever talked about in the early 2000's even though we were already facing electricity cutbacks during peak periods of usage. Price drove that at the time. Also, it certainly does seem reasonable to have building standards for energy. Looking towards the future and taking responsibility is a good start. Like your interview points out, Pittsburg can build green just as well as anything else. So can most other manufacturing centers in the U.S. I am pleased they might be starting to think that way.
descend into a fractal hell of meta-truthiness (jmcarlin) Sat 26 Dec 09 18:27
> Not just the Obama administration, but the Democratic leadership of the > House and Senate, believe in taking the green-jobs-and-energy-security line > over the moral / ecological imperative line. That works for me.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sat 26 Dec 09 20:27
First of all, the emissions cuts offered at Copenhagen would lead to a 3C rise, not a 2C rise, which is already unacceptable. http://www.guardian,co.uk/environment/2009/dec/17/un-leaked-report-copenhagen- 3c/ Second, the reality is even worse: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48791 Climate Change; Four Degrees of Devastation, Stephen Leahy, 10/9/09. *["Two degrees C is already gone as a target," said Chris West of the University of Oxford's UK Climate Impacts Programme. "Four degrees C is definitely possible...This is the biggest challenge in our history," West told participants at the "4 Degrees and Beyond, International Climate Science Conference" at the University of Oxford last week. .. Four degrees of warming would be hotter than any time in the last 30 million years, and it could happen as soon as 2060 to 2070. "Political reality must be grounded in physical reality or it's completely useless," John Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told the conference. Schellnhuber recently briefed U.S. officials from the Barack Obama administration, but he says they chided him that his findings were "not grounded in political reality" and that "the [U.S.] Senate will never agree to this". He had told them that the U.S. must reduce its emissions from its current 20 tonnes of carbon per person average to zero tonnes per person by 2020 to have an even chance of stabilising the climate around two degrees C. Thus, the so-called "political reality" amounts to acquiescence to suicide. This is what climate scientists think. The notion that there is no solid agreement on 450ppm is dangerous is totally out of synch with everything i've seen coming out of actual scientists (aside from the small group of industry-paid shills like Lindzen and Michaels). And i don't count Tom Friedman as a climate scientist:-)
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 26 Dec 09 20:35
Well, it won't be suicide, but it will surely be a really big problem, and an interesting lesson.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sat 26 Dec 09 21:15
For lots of the world, <mcdee>, it will be suicide, or rather, murder, since it will be done by a small minority of the world's population while affecting the majority.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Sat 26 Dec 09 21:20
Oh any portion of the world's population would have done it if given half a chance. I think the human record is pretty clear at this point.
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