Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sun 27 Dec 09 00:13
Dude, i think you need to go see some good music:-)
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Sun 27 Dec 09 07:45
Meanwhile, the prospects for cap-and-trade appear to be declining in the U.S.: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1209/30984.html
Strangest I Could Find (miltloomis) Sun 27 Dec 09 11:11
Emily, jstrahl and others: Thanks for the great discussion and great links to further info on this topic. I was frustrated during the conference by the lack of meaningful coverage in the mainstream media. This is helping me catch up after a long period of dismayed disengagement. I think you are correct, Emily, in focusing on the actual political realities in the U.S. I fear that until more climatic disasters, the public and Congress will continue in a wait-and-see mode. That's just human nature, apparently. How far Mother Nature is willing to go on this remains to be seen. Whatever the Danes' organizational shortcomings, it appears they are setting a high standard environmentally, one that we'd be wise to emulate. Anyway, thanks and Happy New Year to all.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 27 Dec 09 12:24
I'm going to work through some of the comments and questions above in the next few posts. jmcarlin: 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. Danish politician and past climate & energy minister Connie Hedegaard (widely anticipated to become the future European Commissioner for the Climate) was the president of the conference. Presumably some of her credibility came from the simple truths of how Denmark has so successfully taken a low-carbon path. Some outlets (and activists) reported that it was a major blowup when Hedegaard resigned a couple days before the scheduled end of the meeting, and handed the conference chair to Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen. From what I learned, this was simply a prodcedural/diplomatic nicety, so that the country's highest elected official would be in charge during the period of the high-level meetings with other heads of state.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 27 Dec 09 12:45
>Also, do you feel like NGOs made a significant impact on the process or were they merely in the way? From the pov I understand best, that of a Western democracy, activists probably are most influential in the weeks and months running up to the meeting, when they have the best chance of influencing the politicians who set the positions that the country will bring to the COP. My impression was that once the meeting started, the NGOs were mostly effective in diversifying the content, so to speak, by holding side events exploring different issues. They seemed to put the bulk of their time into spurring press coverage of this or that opinion, development, or demand. They helped to get a lot of attention on the position of the small island nations, for instance. I know that the huge, numerous worldwide marches on the Saturday mid-way through the conference were noted by many speakers, as proof that the people of the world want action. It's arguable that the world climate action movement didn't have much impact, given how bad the proceeds of Copenhagen turned out to be. I for one would not argue that, though. Trying to turn the analytical mindset on the past year or two of climate politics, I see that there's a really remarkable up-swelling of popular awareness and activism -- and unity -- around global warming. That's a success, in civil society terms. Copenhagen turned out not to be the culmination of all that effort that the organizers were hoping for. So now they have the challenge of keeping their movements intact, engaged and optimistic. Think about how long and brutal the US Civil Rights Movement turned out to be, before the national laws changed. And how much longer before the values it espoused have became the social norm here, rather than the exception. For the climate movement, though, the awful truth may be that all this needed to be happening 5-10 years ago in order to make any real difference to the climate.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 27 Dec 09 12:50
Paula: In the end, did you think the press overreacted to street stuff? Again in terms of Western democracies (because that's what I know, and we're talking about international politics here), I think that the press always overreacts and misreports street stuff. It's the old "if it bleeds it leads" mentality. I once heard a commentator describe news coverage of activist events as "nature documentary:" Behold the wild agitator, in his natural city street environment. Look, his crazy behavior is provoking the police man to attack him! How little we understand what makes this wily creature act the way he does. That still works for me nearly 20 years later.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 27 Dec 09 12:53
jstrahl: Thus, the so-called "political reality" amounts to acquiescence to suicide. Acquiescence to fundamentally changing the conditions of life on Earth for the much worse, yep. I get a little edgy around absolute terminology like "suicide" in this context, which says a lot about why I find journalism a lot more satisfying than I did activism.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 27 Dec 09 12:55
Jacques: Given the disinterest of a good portion of the American public about climate change (and the outright denialism of another portion)... The former is frustrating. Is there just some facet of "the American character" that our polity can't get as interested in this as the British, or the Danes, or the Germans or the Japanese? The latter was bought and paid for by the oil and auto industries, and they got good value for their money.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 27 Dec 09 13:14
Regarding that Politico article, by the way, "Senate Democrats to W.H.: Drop cap-and-trade," I'd love to know how it came to be assigned. About the only thing worth taking away is the part where some senators may lose their nerve as mid-term elections approach. The rest is inside-the-Beltway maneuvering for position.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sun 27 Dec 09 13:55
Emily: for nations which are facing flooding to the point of elimination, such as the Maldives and Tuvalu, or huge devastation, like Bangladesh, i don't think "suicide" is an overstatement.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Sun 27 Dec 09 16:06
Emily, it's pretty clear that Politico likes to put a rightward spin on most of its articles, including this one. But I've seen the same story, more or less, in other publications the last couple of days. Such as: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6969108.ece
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 27 Dec 09 20:05
Read the Times article attentively, and you can perceive that next to no new reporting was done to create it. It's a rehash of the Politico story with some extra background on climate politics thrown in. It's not news that Landrieu and the other senators mentioned in these two stories are against the climate portions of the proposed legislation. So I wonder why this story has been put into circulation at this particular moment, post-Copenhagen and before Congress is back in session.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sun 27 Dec 09 21:09
This is such bunk, Obama's plan is now being made to look like "radical environmentalism" (not quoting anyone specific) by senators who are even more pro-corporate than the Obama administration. And the consequences of even a 2C rise are far worse than previously thought. http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/54721 Nature: Sea Level Rise May Exceed Worst Expectations, Rebecca Lutzy, 12/17/09. A new study by scientists from Princeton and Harvard which was released in Nature (link included) suggests even a 2°C temperature rise could cause a 6-9 meters (some 18 to 27 ft) increase in sea levels. Emissions cuts presented so far would actually amount to a 3C rise, and an article i posted previously would argue an even greater rise.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 28 Dec 09 02:49
<scribbled by stevebj Mon 28 Dec 09 03:39>
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 28 Dec 09 03:38
>>> And the consequences of even a 2C rise are far worse than previously thought. >>> Nature: Sea Level Rise May Exceed Worst Expectations, Rebecca Lutzy, 12/17/09. <<< Note the headline, <jstrahl>: *May* Exceed Worst Expectations. And note, too, the use of the word "suggests" in the first line of the article. The study's data point in a grim direction, surely, but there's still an important difference separating a suggestion from a fact.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Mon 28 Dec 09 06:44
>Obama's plan is now being made to look like "radical environmentalism" (not quoting anyone specific) by senators who are even more pro-corporate than the Obama administration. Yes, when you can't get a whole lot less radical in a capitalist economy than by establishing a market - a kind of market that's already running in Europe, and by the coalition of states in the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative here in the US. It seems like someone or a group of someones is trying to get traction on that meme in the public mind before Congress returns to session.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Mon 28 Dec 09 07:05
By "it seems like," I mean, "It's possible that..."
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 28 Dec 09 12:01
I don't think that in this case it's just a possibility:-) It's quite obvious where these senators are coming from. <stevebj>: scientists like to couch their pronouncements in terms like "may", which is always taken advantage of by AGW deniers (who populate media outlets such as your old paper, the Wall Street Journal) who like to parse every single word and jump on the slightest ambiguity. If you read the article, you'd see that their conclusions are more definitive than what you imply. And the last several years have seen the worst predictions prove to be if anything UNDER-estimates of how bad things are getting and how fast. More comes in by the day. Good sites to keep up with the changes are http://www.heatisonline.org/main.cfm and http://www.desmogblog.com (to clarify, what i say about the WSJ has nothing to do with you, Steve, i don't think you've worked for it for quite a while, right?)
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 28 Dec 09 14:03
I never worked for the WSJ. I'm a contributor to The Economist. Scientists don't "like" to couch their pronouncements in hedge words such as "may" and "suggest," it's a responsibility. Because no study is definitive and every scientist who publishes in peer-review journals knows that. Which isn't to say things aren't dire as far as climate change is concerned. But taking one study or even a small handful of studies and using them as stand-alone factual statements rather than as increments in a long process of data collection and knowledge gathering is improper use of scientific inquiry. If one published study was all that was needed to establish the truth, anyone who took LSD would have fried chromosomes.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 28 Dec 09 14:23
<stevebj> slipped in, making a point I also make in my first comment below. "scientists like to couch their pronouncements in terms like 'may'" I wouldn't say that the "like to," but that they feel they must, because they're dealing with hypotheses. This was an issue when I first wrote about global warming in 2001 (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0GER/is_2001_Summer/ai_76896207/). I was hearing that while climate scientists felt in their guts that human activity was driving climate change that could be catastrophic, as scientists they had to be clear that evidence was not conclusive, that they had not proved the case. It wasn't long before many scientists were issuing stronger statements and speaking with some urgency. I'm interested in the impact of the so-called "climategate," the emails stolen from the University of East Anglia. Wikipedia says "Climate scientists issued rebuttals and described the incident as a smear campaign, accusing the climate change sceptics of selectively quoting words and phrases out of context in an attempt to sabotage the Copenhagen global climate summit." If that's the case, was the sabotage successful?
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Mon 28 Dec 09 18:32
I don't think that "Climategate" or other denier cant has any impact whatsoever on the UN climate treaty process. As far as I can tell, no other country's political system is humoring deniers to the extent that the USA's does -- not even Canada or Australia. I don't think any press corps is giving deniers as much attention as the US press corps. In the US, uncertainty about the human origins of global warming was cultivated to keep us out of the Kyoto accord, as well as to stall domestic action to curb emissions/put a price on carbon. I know it sounds like Mulder-esque paranoia if it's not information that you've encountered before, but this has been pretty well-documented in the mainstream.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Mon 28 Dec 09 20:39
Emily, when the White House announced that Obama would go to Copenhagen at the end of the conference instead of at the beginning, there was much speculation that this meant there must be some sort of major deal in the works for Obama to take part in announcing, otherwise why would he make the shift? It turned out that there certainly was no major deal, and Obama had to go through considerable exertion to emerge with anything at all. So do you have any sense why he shifted the time of his visit?
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Tue 29 Dec 09 00:01
Steve, if you look at sites like The Heat is On (Ross Gelbspan) and Desmog Blog, you'd see what's involved here is much more than one study involved here. I've been involved for 21 years. But whatever.
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Tue 29 Dec 09 07:31
OK, I'm going to do something I've avoided doing for, I don't know, fifteen or so years, which is to respond to Jeff STrahl, who has never wanted to be confused by facts once he has made up his mind. Mostly what I'd like is for you, Jeff, to consider staying just a little in the background here, not making your argument, and all the arguments about your argument, central to this discussion. There are other people in the world and not all of us want to hear you make the same point over and over again, all the while implying that anyone who disagrees with you is either a nut job or has his head up his ass. (A Republican/Fox News/Rush tactic, I'd like to point out.)I think that this distracts from a fascinating and unusual discussion: a firsthand account from a reliable observer of an important if inconclusive attempt to do something about the problem that you are so intent on exposing. I would really appreciate it if you would not turn this forum into a trollfest. That said, and at risk of encouraging you, I'd also like to point out that no one can possibly deny that the climate is changing, at least in the relatively short term. And there are certainly widespread human activities that could cause the climate to change in the ways that it sems to be changing. Even so, no one can possibly say with one hundred percent certainty that this change is being triggered by human activity. The fact that human activity could explain a warming climate and the fact that the climate is warming make for a strong correlation, but of course there is always room for doubt. That's why scientists (some of whom undoubtedly exploit the subjunctive mood, using "may" as mere rhetoric) have jobs. Doubt is a good thing, Jeff. It makes for curiosity, thoughtfulness, humility, restraint, and, some might say, civilization itself. So maybe we're mistaken. It's happened before. Consider the certainty, promulgated by brilliant and well meaning scientists, that dogs and cats were the carriers of the Plague, which caused Londoners to kill the very animals that could ahve controlled the population of the real culprits, the rodents. Or that cholera was carried on the air, which caused Londoners two centuries later (not picking on the UK here, not on purpose) to flush more waste into the Thames, thus increasing the spread of cholera. These mistakes can lead to folly, and we have to acknowledge this. Every time you talk about something like "acquiescing to suicide," you're revealing your own hubris--and perhaps your own ideology, which may be a deep suspicion of modernity, and a sense that technological culture has led us far astray from anything like a life that works. I could be wrong about that, but I happen to hold this belief to some extent, and it is hard not to see climate change as Nature's way of confirming that we've taken the wrong path. But we could be very wrong about that. Global warming could be a random fluctuation (which wouldn't make action less urgent, but might make it less contentious), or, for all we know, it could lead to a better life on earth after the cataclysm is over. We all have to figure out what we should do in an uncertain field, and reports like Emily's--not to mention the interesting, if often disappointing ideas that people with actual power come up with--can only help us to do that. So settle down, man. We're not all ideological dupes, and you're not the last honest man. Let this discussion unfold. Don't hijack it. Please.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 29 Dec 09 07:48
We do tend to play politics and dance around the question whether there's critical action we must take now to prevent catastrophe at some undetermined point in the future. Taking action now, in this case, means taking steps that have interesting and difficult political and economic consequences. It's not surprising that there are "deniers" who prefer to believe that no action on our part will prevent catastrophe. Some believe that there will be no catastrophe, others that there will be catastrophic effects that we can't prevent, and that we'll just have to adapt. It's going to be tough to get the myriad interests and positions aligned for effective mitigation. I think the Copenhagen failure reflects this reality. I think the deniers made compelling use of the "climategate" buzz, especially in emphasizing the fact that climate data is not openly available (actual reasons here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/12/kim-cobbs-view/#more-254 7), and implying that climate scientists are hiding data that will disprove the case for anthropogenic climate change. Scientists no doubt understand that this is a rhetorical trick, but I'm surprised it had no impact among the politicians at Copenhagen.
Members: Enter the conference to participate