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What’s Next After Copenhagen?

Dan Farber

A year or two ago, people expected Copenhagen to produce the equivalent of the Kyoto Protocol – a comprehensive climate roadmap for the next decade or more. It seems unlikely that the Copenhagen meeting will live up to those expectations, although there’s always the chance of a last-minute surprise.

What does seem clear, however, is that progress is being made on many fronts. Within the U.S., states like California are charging ahead, the federal courts remain active, and the Obama Administration is proposing CO2 regulations under the existing Clean Air Act. Congress is inching its way toward a federal cap-and-trade scheme, with encouraging signs of bipartisan support. Internationally, China and India are showing increased flexibility about committing to long-term mitigation efforts.

So there is reason to be optimistic looking forward, even if nothing major comes out of Copenhagen. Even if Copenhagen produces surprising breakthroughs, there will be more work to come. One way or another, Copenhagen is just one stopping point on a long road.



A year or two ago, people expected Copenhagen to produce the equivalent of the Kyoto Protocol – a comprehensive climate roadmap for the next decade or more. It seems unlikely that the Copenhagen meeting will live up to those expectations, although there’s always the chance of a last-minute surprise.

 

What does seem clear, however, is that progress is being made on many fronts. Within the U.S., states like California are charging ahead, the federal courts remain active, and the Obama Administration is proposing CO2 regulations under the existing Clean Air Act. Congress is inching its way toward a federal cap-and-trade scheme, with an encouraging potential for bipartisan support. Internationally, China and India are showing increased flexibility about committing to long-term mitigation efforts. So there is reason to be optimistic looking forward.

 

The next Conference of the Parties will be in Mexico City. It’s not too soon to start planning for that one. Whatever happens in Copenhagen, the need to mitigate climate change is not going away.

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Comments to "What’s Next After Copenhagen?":
    • Alex Fortison

      Its no longer worth pretending that climate change alarmism is a majority opinion. Both international opinion polls and actions by political leaders indicate a clear shift away from any climate priorities. The movement is desperately retreating to Kyoto.

      Whatever your preferred version of the scientific truth, it should be obvious that there is no chance whatsoever of any sort of international carbon reductions scheme ever taking hold. You can have every climatologist in the world on your side, but without the people and the politicians, you’ve got nothing.

      This leaves the believer of climate change with two options. You can uproot your life and become a farming survivalist, waiting for the Apocalypse at the IPCC’s appointed date, or you can consider the possibility that the majority is right, there is no impending apocalypse, at least not from trace amounts of an inert gas that comes out of your own lungs.

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    • Are the Kyoto mechanisms “Fit for Purpose?” How to convert poor peoples undeclared assets into private equity!

      The mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol have managed to create carbon markets which according to the World Bank2, and industry leaders will be worth billions of dollars and grow to be one of the largest markets in the future.

      Bart Chilton, a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) commissioner, and chairman of its Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee, estimates that the carbon markets could be worth $2 trillion in transaction value when the cap and trade is legislated in the US. The Carbon Markets and Investors Association (CMIA)3, an international trade association representing energy companies that finance, build, and support emission reduction projects, estimated the sector was worth US $ 126 billion in 2008. This figure is collaborated by a World Bank report on the Trends of the Carbon Markets4

      On the other hand, different research reports and models from the IPCC, and institutions like the World Bank warn that the cumulative impacts of climate change could and are adversely affecting millions globally. The poor and the least equipped to deal with the stresses in society are expected to bear the brunt from these impacts.

      In a report Shaping Climate-Resilient Development: A Framework for Decision-Making published in September 20095, Lord Nicholas Stern states that climate risk to the world’s economies and its people is real and present, and its impact on people’s lives and livelihoods will worsen rapidly if action is not taken now. The report also states that adaptation is not free, and in some instances, will require deep investment in infrastructure development. The cost for adaptation in developing countries is estimated to be between US $75-100 billion6 per year over the next 40 years.

      My full article can be accessed here: http://shalinry.org/lang/fi/photos-from-seminar-on-local-knowledge-and-climate-change/2009/10/18/

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    • World leaders will not act soon and strongly enough without extraordinary pressure from their citizens, who need to speak and act with enough force to overcome the economic interests of corporations. The time spent on life cycles and how to make entities pay for cap and trade credits (the value of which is debatable other than to Goldman Sachs) (1), is fiddling while the planet burns.

      I applaud Nazaroff and Harte for alluding to “grave risks to our economic and political systems” and “the enormous threat to civilization”, but climate change combined with depletion and destruction of the ecological resources that keep us alive — oil, natural gas, topsoil, fresh water, fisheries, forests, ocean acidification — makes collapse not just possible, but highly likely.

      Yet that’s nothing compared to the chance we will bring on another Permian level extinction event, which killed 90% of species and 99% of individual life, if we don’t cut back on greenhouse gas emissions.

      In the past few years, scientists have discovered that most of the mass extinctions in the past were global warming events (from basalt flows). Only the most recent dinosaur killing “KT” event appears to have been due to an asteroid (2).

      Peter Ward, professor of Biology and of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington, estimates “that 1,000 ppm [atmospheric carbon dioxide] will put us in lethal territory, for that figure will ensure the melting of all ice on land on our planet, which will bring on a slowing of ocean currents, followed by a greenhouse mass extinction” (3).

      James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and perhaps our most prominent climate scientist, has described a frightening forecast of how greenhouse gas emissions could cause our demise. When you combine a brighter and hotter sun than in past extinctions, plus the potential release of methane hydrates, Hansen believes we are risking the oceans boiling away and turning the earth into another Venus (4).

      The collapse of civilization is likely and the extinction of Homo sapiens is possible if we don’t take action now.

      Scientists need to speak out on the dire consequences we face, because their message is not being heard. While less than 1% of scientists deny climate change, a staggering 60% of Americans are doubters. More connection of the dots to how civilization could collapse and extinction could occur with far less subtlety are needed to communicate beyond the small population that is scientifically literate in America (5).

      Even if dire warnings don’t motivate people to change their values or take action, the inevitable sacrifices ahead may be more bearable if everyone understands the hardships we endure will enable our descendants — and species — to survive.
      It seems to me that the only way to avoid collapse and possibly extinction is to not burn the remaining coal over the next few centuries. As Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in his Senate confirmation hearing, “If the world continues to use coal the way it has been—I mean China, India, Russia—then it is a pretty bad dream.”

      China and India are building new coal plants every week. So I ask all of you – how can the increase in the use of coal be contained? I don’t believe coal sequestration is going to happen soon enough, if ever (6). The low, if not negative EROEI (energy return on energy invested) alternatives to fossil fuels in an aging oil-based and oil dependent infrastructure will inevitably result in turning to coal.

      (1) Matt Taibbi. July 13, 2009 . “The Great American Bubble Machine. From tech stocks to high gas prices, Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression and they’re about to do it again”. Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/29127316/the_great_american_bubble_machine/7.
      (2) Peter Ward. 2008. “Under a Green Sky. Global Warming, the Mass Extinctions of the Past, and What they can tell us about Our Future”. Harper.
      (3) Peter Ward. 2009. “The Medea Hypothesis”. Princeton University Press. Page 156.
      (4) Bob Holmes. October 3, 2009 . “Earth: The comeback. If our civilization collapsed in an orgy of runaway warming, could the planet recover?” NewScientist.
      (5) Functional illiteracy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_illiteracy
      (6) Liz Jackson. “The Coal Nightmare” http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2009/s2678936.htm

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