Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 1 Jan 10 11:37
Emily, how do you feel about Bates's comments regarding the effect of Obama's actions on the UN negotiation process/framework? That i thought was the essence of his piece.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 1 Jan 10 11:48
I think that a) it wasn't just Obama's actions, but b) yes, possibly the UNFCCC framework is on its way to kaput. The next question might be: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Fri 1 Jan 10 14:05
Here's a piece on how the response to climate change might evolve in the absence of a Copenhagen deal. It sounds promising, but I think even under the rosiest scenario won't come close to touching the radical cuts required to rein in climate change: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/01/business/economy/01views.html?scp=1&sq=%22th e%20copenhagen%20call%20to%20arms%22&st=cse
Steven McGarity (sundog) Fri 1 Jan 10 14:41
This is another positive piece about the conference, David Doniger which I picked up at Climate Progress. He thinks it should have a positive effect on the Senate debate. "The Copenhagen climate deal that President Obama hammered out Friday night with the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa broke through years of negotiating gridlock to achieve three critical goals. First, it provides for real cuts in heat-trapping carbon pollution by all of the worlds big emitters. Second, it establishes a transparent framework for evaluating countries performance against their commitments. And third, it will start an unprecedented flow of resources to help poor and vulnerable nations cope with climate impacts, protect their forests, and adopt clean energy technologies." <http://climateprogress.org/2009/12/28/the-copenhagen-accord-a-big-step-forward /#more-16721>
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 1 Jan 10 15:41
Real cuts? Per the analysis of the UN secretariat's own people, the cuts would result in a 3C increase in the average global temperature, a downright catastrophic rise, and other analyses by climate scientists see the increase as even worse (i've posted items on both viewpoints). The "commitments" are totally unenforceable and subject to all sorts of fudging, the evaluation framework is loose, to use a generous term. And the "flow of resources", for which no hard commitments have been given, will under the best of circumstances amount to $100 billion a year, a fraction of the $500-800 billion said to be necessary. And why is the accord called an "agreement"? The conference did NOT adopt it, it merely noted it. >I think that a) it wasn't just Obama's actions, but b) yes, possibly the UNFCCC framework is on its way to kaput. The next question might be: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?< In the opinions expressed by folks from nations other than the 5 which agreed to this deal, it's a really bad thing, it represents a complete overturning of the entire existing framework for negotiations, and a freezing-out of the vast majority of the world's nations out of the process. Of course, decision-makers in the 5 members of the "in crowd" may see this as a good thing. So i suppose it depends upon the perspective.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sat 2 Jan 10 09:33
These are all nations that failed, with 24 months of lead time, to walk into the Bella Center with an agreement largely mapped out and ready for their heads-of- state to sign. So however one asseses the pros and cons of the "Copenhagen Accord," it really does not seem as if the Framework Convention on Climate Change has proven itself a good long-term vehicle for dealing with global warming. I really don't think it's impossible for nations to come to terms on even complex environmental problems. Look at the success of the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer. The major difference between Kyoto and Montreal is the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industries, afaict.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sat 2 Jan 10 10:01
<is the heavy influence of the fossil fuel industries> This, together with more centrally-controlled countries like China and India not wanting to curtail their burgeoning industrial growth, is the real "Climategate."
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sat 2 Jan 10 10:20
The powers-that-be in China and India realize that without rapid economic growth, they face social and political upheavals, the only way they have been able to keep their immensely impoverished populations in line is with the carrot of growth to get people to think better times are in their future.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sat 2 Jan 10 10:21
Should they be compelled to curtail their industrial growth? There are still millions upon millions of Chinese and Indian and Brazilian citizens living in brutal rural poverty. The argument is not about curtailing; it's about leapfrogging to low-carbon industrial growth. Which at the moment is a more expensive endeavor. And the rich nations are not exactly overflowing with generosity about transferring technologies at no or low costs, even as they make demands. If by some chance some of the early suppositions of CO2 impacts had been widely understood, back in the 19th century, and an argument arose that the US and Germany (such as it was) and the UK should curtail their industrial growth because of it...well imagine the reactions.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Sat 2 Jan 10 14:13
Yes, and flash-forward to the present, when most of us understand what the impacts of CO2 are, and we still can't be moved to help poorer countries make the transition to a low-carbon economy. We're the eat-drink-and-be-merry planet, whose tomorrow looks increasingly bleak. Right now the only half-way plausible scenario involves the emergence of new technologies to combat climate change. But I wonder whether such technologies will invariably come with unintended consequences that will neutralize their advantages. (Not to mention that the Earth faces so much other potentially crippling environmental threats such as the impending collapse of the oceans and disappearance of forests that must also be addressed.) So, Emily, any thoughts on the likelihood of new technologies that might rescue us from the worst impacts of climate change?
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sat 2 Jan 10 15:31
Some folks think it would help if we all (ie the world) didn't have an economic system which required growth in order to function, a different system would be far more capable of adjusting to the new material realities we're coming upon, such as global warming and peak oil.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 2 Jan 10 15:57
Why are international treaties important for technology transfer? China is becoming the world's largest supplier of windmills and is rapidly catching up on technology. I suspect they won't rely on treaties to catch up in other areas. It seems like the real question is who is going to invest in the R&D for inventing new technologies and proving their feasibility; once it's proven to be a promising area, it doesn't take a treaty for multiple countries to decide that it's an important business to be in.
Steven McGarity (sundog) Sat 2 Jan 10 16:26
>It seems like the real question is who is going to invest in the R&D for inventing new technologies and proving their feasibility That would be the US I hope. We have decaying infrastructure ourselves. It would be nice to leapfrog to some low-carbon industrial growth. More stimulous for green industry hopefully will be a part of any energy reduction plan in the Senate. Design needs to come into play. And education. The important thing at this point I think is to push for some Senate action, pump up green infrastructure R&D and national investment and keep the environment in the news.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 3 Jan 10 10:30
Jacques: So, Emily, any thoughts on the likelihood of new technologies that might rescue us from the worst impacts of climate change? Well, we already have plenty of proven technologies and techniques to take us over the first several hurdles. They're pretty obvious, from existing wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and passive lighting, cooling, and heating technologies, to low-energy lighting, to "green" building techniques and weatherization of existing structures, and improved energy efficiency standards and practices for appliances, industrial machinery, and cars. (I bought a new, EnergyStar-rated fridge this summer, to replace my 20-odd year old one [inherited about eight yrs ago when my parents sold their apartment]. Even with the problems within the EnergyStar ratings system, my electricity bill plummeted. This ain't rocket science.) Any nation that combines sense with political will (or authoritarian say-so -- that's you, China) is bringing on these technologies and reforms as fast as possible, combined with something like natural gas to provide steady energy. That combo could cut carbon emissions significantly while the next gen of energy technologies is developed. I'm not completely up to date on advances in nuclear technology, but my understanding is that there are some maximally safe and minimally waste-generating (and non-breeding) technologies coming on. From a purely rational standpoint, that of needing to cut carbon faster than fast, it seems to me that unless some astonishing act of globally distributed political will happens within the next 12-24 months, we'll have passed the point where we can rule out expanded use of nuclear. It's a rock/hard place thing. The problems with nuclear are a) it takes a good while to build a nuclear power plant; b) they're very expensive, and the allocations of funding typically need to outlast most political careers; and c) the nuclear industry is about as mendacious, unevenly managed, and rife with sweetheart dealings as the fossil energy industries. Nuclear policy is a major source of divisiveness in enviro advocacy circles, needless to say. If by "new technologies that might rescue us from the worst impacts of climate change," you mean geo-engineering and biotechnologies: Be afraid. Be very afraid. I agree with Jamais Cascio, aka <cascio> on The WELL, that it's all but inevitable that we're going to give them a try in coming decades. We've probably delayed too long to do things the slow and safe way, and won't want to live with the consequences; we'll think we can handle any (un)anticipated side impacts. A lot of people won't be *able* to live with the consequences, as jstrahl has noted in his hyperbolic way. (I'm trying to dig up an article from December, about Russia releasing some or other engineered organism into the wild to test its climate change mitigation powers. I suspect there will be a lot of this sort of thing in coming decades.)
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 3 Jan 10 10:33
"The problems with nuclear, ASIDE FROM THE ETERNALLY RADIOACTIVE WASTE, are..."
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 3 Jan 10 11:06
>It seems like the real question is who is going to invest in the R&D for inventing new technologies and proving their feasibility >>That would be the US I hope. I feel fairly grim about the prospects for the US to remain a global leader in innovation and industry. We're rich. Even if we're less rich in the future, we'll be less rich from the perspective of having once been over-the-top disgustingly wealthy. And we're creative. So between the two, there will still be gobs of good stuff coming out of centers like MIT and Carnegie-Mellon, a gajillion venture-capitalized energy firms, and the cooperative workspaces and studios of citizen makers and scientists. (If they don't get arrested as domestic terrorists, that is). But our political, media and civic spheres seem to be de-evolving into permanent adolescence. People who try to act and lead like grown-ups, like President Obama -- who try to govern complex problems and situations with subtlety and thoughtfulness -- get punished both immediately and eventually. I mean: Why is Dick Cheney getting a free ride in the press every time he pops up to castigate Obama for, say, taking time to think through an Afghanistan policy? Cheney was part of the administration that botched two foreign wars, brought the world's biggest economy to its knees, failed to prevent the murder of 3,000-odd Americans on US soil by terrorists, and then failed to get the guy who master-minded the plot. (You don't have to be progressive, liberal, or center to call Bush/Cheney a failed administration. You just need to be intellectually honest.) Why does the US press still take climate change skeptics seriously? It's akin to giving creationists equal time in every story about evolutionary biology. What, exactly, will be left of the US press in five or ten years? With so many beat and investigative journalists leaving or being forced out of the profession, particularly at local and regional levels, we are likely moving into one of the most phenomenal eras of corruption that the nation has ever seen.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Sun 3 Jan 10 11:47
<Should they be compelled to curtail their industrial growth? There are still millions upon millions of Chinese and Indian and Brazilian citizens living in brutal rural poverty. The argument is not about curtailing; it's about leapfrogging to low-carbon industrial growth.> <But our [American] political, media and civic spheres seem to be de-evolving into permanent adolescence.> Emily, these are your two statements from this excellent discussion that really jumped out at me. You've laid out, very succinctly, what the pragmatic/viable goal should be for humankind on this thorniest of issues. Then, as an American, you make me seriously wonder if our Nation, or at least those with the real power to affect change, are already throwing a bullying, adolescent tantrum against the needed innovation. The carrot simply needs to be monetized. In this, incentives (profits/subsidies) are always more effective than disincentives (taxes/fines). At least that's the American way.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Sun 3 Jan 10 13:32
On tech transfer, btw: The issue is less the technologies themselves (other than nuclear energy). The issues are cost, scale, and appropriateness. First, it must be noted that without a carrot, there's no incentive for rich nations to help poor nations develop. That carrot is typically return on investment. For signatories of the Kyoto accord, there's also the carrot of having such projects count toward carbon targets. Under the UNFCCC, there is a "clean development mechanism" (CDM) which is supposed to facilitate investment by industrial nations in low-carbon development in developing nations. The industrialized nations effectively get credit toward their emissions reduction mandates in return. In transferring any kind of venture across borders, international trade policies also come into play. As the Doctor might say, "It's complicated." There's also a big contingent within the developing nations, and their allies in nations like the USA, who say bringing the practices of the global North to the cultures of the global South is destined to fail. They are advocating for "appropriate technologies" that take into account the particular cultures that will be adopting them. Sometimes they are even inventing these technologies. Unfortunately, typically these Forces for Good have inadequate and intermittent funding, while projects that meet the criteria of the CDM have ready access to lots of money, comparatively speaking Sometimes, I have discovered in reporting, CDM projects displace or quash local appropriate tech projects. And then there's the issue of whether CDM actually lowers carbon emissions in the aggregate. There are a lot of gaps in the CDM process that suggest they don't. There's corrpution in implementing the projects. And there's next to no monitoring of the projects during or after development. You'll recall that one of the major planks in the US climate platform is that projects funded by that new pot of adapation and mitigation aid money be subject to international reporting and monitoring. The G77 nations were opposed to new monitoring standards, and wanted the conditions to remain the same as they have been under the Kyoto protocol.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sun 3 Jan 10 16:11
http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5929 Michael Dittmar, a nuclear physicist with CERN in Geneva and the Institute of Particle Physics of ETH Zurich, on nuclear power in its various forms and its unviablity in energy terms (aside from the issue of waste products). My first post-graduation job was in the nuclear industry (Bechtel Corp), Emily's comment on the industry, part c, is if anything an understatement. I would not trust anything coming out of it. On the topic of viability of alternative technologies, see http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/57473 This morning (1/3/10), Scoop Nisker interviewed Jerry Mander of the International Forum on Globalization (and well-known author), he spoke extensively about the recent report from IFG and the Post Carbon Institute, "Searching for a Miracle", which concludes "No combination of sustainable alternative energy systems can replace fossil fuels." A pdf of a press release is available at http://www.ifg.org/pdf/Searching_PressRelease_web10nov09.pdf A pdf of the report is at http://www.ifg.org Principal author of the report is Richard Heinberg of Post Carbon, Jerry Mander is the editor. (the release date was 11/10/09) Mander talked of the three aspects of the crisis: global warming, peak oil (and also peak coal, peak uranium), and the depletion of critical resources such as water, forests, soil and vital metals/minerals. Unlike in the press release, he also used the C word, said capitalism, which depends upon ever more growth, cannot be continued, likewise industrial society. Good presentation. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/concern-as-china-clamps-down-on-r are-earth-exports-1855387.html Cahal Milmo, 1/2/10. These rare earths are vital for "green technology", the supply of these metals is in a state of crisis.
Steven McGarity (sundog) Mon 4 Jan 10 07:56
There is plenty of doomsday to go around. The prospect that humans can destroy life as we know it on the planet looks real. It seems to be the death of a thousands cuts with a variety of tipping points. Every energy source does need to be evaluated based on total environmental footprint. Nuclear has those storage problems. A major dam may provide nearly "free" electricity while completely destroying the highly specialized salmon population, for example. Commonsense would say a wide variety of sources on the grid while moving away from megaplants. The developing world can be flooded with appropriate technology projects, heavily fuel research and development here. It should be easy to improve on charcoal, twigs or dung as a fuel source. That and water are the primary problems I see. Unless we are going to flood the new markets with cheap microwaves and wire everyone into system. Here at home weatherization is the low hanging fruit. And it works as a jobs program. Pride in that work, making life better for old and poor people. Improve their quality of life and get some efficiencies too.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Mon 4 Jan 10 08:39
My Inkwell time is winding down -- we're scheduled to wrap this up on Jan. 6. So please get your questions in about Copenhagen and related subjects! I'll take this moment to plug my outlets, thank my editors, and link to my coverage: At Oxfam America, Andrea Perera has been a very supportive editor, who helped maintain the distinctions between journalism and advocacy. Laura Rusu was my support on the ground in Copenhagen, and Vicky Rateau has been a big administrative support. My COP15 articles and slideshows, along with posts from Oxfam staffers, combined at: http://actionhub.oxfamamerica.org/index.php?utm_source=redirect&utm_medium=web &utm_campaign=climate At OnEarth, where I'll be continuing to blog as a correspondent, my editor Scott Dodd was very supportive during the talks. In addition to editing with a light and acute touch, he was upbeat about my late-night-sleep-deprived inspiration to illustrate climate change coverage with images of kittens and puppies (anything to lighten up this dire topic): http://www.onearth.org/copenhagen Our OnEarth articles were picked up by the Copenhagen News Collaborative, an aggregation of COP15 coverage from several progressive and/or environ-sci news outlets including Mother Jones, Treehugger, Discover, The Nation, The UpTake, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Grist, In These Times, and the HuffPo. Thanks go to Monika Bauerlein at Mother Jones for support in working with the collaborative: http://www.publish2.com/newsgroups/copenhagen-news-collaborative
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Mon 4 Jan 10 16:18
Thanks for being here, Emily, i had no idea inkwell has a limited time on such things.
Jacques Leslie (jacques) Mon 4 Jan 10 17:28
Emily, in the absence of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, what happens to the CDM? Does it simply continue on, or does it go out of business? Given the incredible corruption that you allude to and that I've heard lots about, its passing might not be a bad thing.
Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 5 Jan 10 06:38
Well, if Kyoto expires with nothing to replace it, then I guess the CDM as framed under the Kyoto accord goes with it. Here's a pretty good write-up of where CDM stands in the wake of Copenhagen: http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2255410/copenhagen-green- lights-plan This quote in the article is the takeaway, at least for me: "Speeding up a few bits of paperwork won't have a huge effect if investors don't know for certain what will happen when Kyoto expires in 2012," he said. "It will take 18 months to two years to get a project up and running, so what investor is going to invest in a new project when the whole mechanism could change a few months after the project is completed?" One big arena of negotiations at Copenhagen was the restructuring of the mechanisms to preserve and restore forests in the global South. That's called REDD, for "United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries." REDD is a UN program, but not under the UNFCCC (Framework Convention on Climate Change) -- it's a joint program of FAO and UNEP and UNDP. It's got facets similar to the CDM, particularly in that richer countries can fund REDD programs and get "credits" toward their own emissions. Its problems are also similar: how to accurately account for the carbon storage; how to be sure the projects actually happen and are effective; how to ensure the money gets to its intended targets. One unique facet of REDD has been attempts to struture it such that South nations have incentives to not convert forests to palm oil or other plantations. Some of the more dogged reporting on REDD that I've seen was by Robert Eshelman in The Nation. According to Eshelman, it seems that the US played a significant role in weakening the revised REDD agreement. HIs links: http://www.thenation.com/blogs/copenhagen/_by-rob
Steven McGarity (sundog) Tue 5 Jan 10 12:00
Interesting discussion. I was so happy to hear about things as they were there at Copenhagen.
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