inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #76 of 132: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 29 Dec 09 08:27
    
Given the cost of tackling global warming, I'm pretty convinced we'll
let it slide.  People in general and politicians in particular have
pretty short time horizons, and "we're pretty sure something really bad
is going to happen many years from now" is not an argument designed to
galvanize the human race.  

It is true that when the economic stakes are relatively small, we can
occasionally take dramatic action in time to avert total catastrophe
(banning the taking of whales, for example - although Japan, Iceland,
and Norway would probably get back to it in a New York minute if they
could).

I'm not utterly misanthropic and pessimistic, but I think the most
likely outcome is that some degree of climate change will join the
ever-growing list of human-caused environmental problems confronting us
(and our descendants) in the next few centuries.  When all is said and
done, the planet will adapt.  I think humans will survive, but that
current population levels will prove to be unsustainable and will end
up being much smaller, one way or another.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #77 of 132: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Tue 29 Dec 09 09:39
    
"climategate" buzz

It's fascinating that the human "theft" of arguments over the debated
cause-and-effect of climate change has received more "buzz" than the
non-debatable melting of the polar ice cap.  "Climategate" is a
peculiar, but telling, choice of terms at the forefront of this
argument.  It says to me that the human political machinery linked to
an economic status quo is far more powerful than any collective will to
change human behavior in the face of irrefutable planetary change. 

In other words, by borrowing from the politically-charged term
"Watergate", our focus is easily redirected toward the ugly noise of
politics-as-usual.  Watergate and Climategate, as terms, shed more
light on sordid behavior (theft to steal an election/theft to steal a
critical debate) than they do about the larger concern itself (the
democratic process/the sustainability of our planet/species).  The
interest of the industrialists who want no governmental constraints is
not to be underestimated.  There will be future obfuscations thwarting
political resolve as well.    

The media is the gateway to the "buzz".  With Nixon resurrected from
the dead, this word that was chosen to frame the debate seems to be
impacting the outcome of any political resolve. Ironically, the term
"Climategate" is a subtle reframing of the issue in a way that makes
actual behavioral (political) change less likely in the short term. 
(An odd sort of cause-and-effect that, likewise, isn't provable).  

 I am likewise betting that it will take actual catastrophe for the
human will to galvanize on this issue. 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #78 of 132: Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Tue 29 Dec 09 09:52
    
A certain kind of catastrophe, though. Catastrophes that bear on
People Who Aren't Like Us don't seem to move hearts, minds and
governments. Witness New Orleans after Katrina, Southeast Asia after
the tsunami. Sure, individuals and some organizations were greatly
moved and mobilized in those two instances, but I've got no confidence
that if similar catastrophes struck both those places again, the
government response would be much different than it was earlier.   
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #79 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 29 Dec 09 10:02
    
Well, one important thing to keep in mind is that politicians are
largely uninvolved in the "bread and butter" aspects of the climate
treaty process.  Those are mostly conducted by diplomats and their
teams -- the delegates.

So there are some layers of institutional padding between them, and
what the elected officials and appointees have to deal with on a
quotidian basis when some newly cooked-up controversy comes along.

That said, Copenhagen offered up a great demonstration of how things
can turn on a dime when the highest-level officials DO arrive on the
scene, as when Hillary Clinton showed up on Thursday to offer US
support for a USD 100bn climate finance fund.  

The conditions: the major developing economies must acquiesce to
transparency and monitoring of their emissions cuts, and the nations
receiving the aid must allow outside monitoring and evaluation of how
and how well the money is spent. (Part of the US position all along,
but heretofore without much carrot attached.)

Clinton's dramatic announcement addressed a key demand of the G77
group of developing nation.  It jerked the conference back to life.
(One of my tweets around that time was to observe that the atmosphere
in the Bella Center became something like, "Hei!  We can haz klimat
deal?")

Aside from the ethical considerations, I imagine the goal and possible
effect of that was to begin the process of prying the G77 apart from
China, India and Brazil in the negotiations.  And don't doubt for a
second that she was paving the way for Obama's arrival the next day.

The UNFCCC exists to deal politically with climate change, not to
debate its existence.  The rest of the world is pretty much over that
debate, while the US continues to take it seriously.

So, if releasing the hacked emails didn't directly effect Copenhagen,
why do it?  

I want to emphasize that this is all educated guesswork, but my answer
would be: to revive fear, uncertainty and doubt about the reality of
global warming in the American polity; chill support for US involvement
in global action; and lower public support for a climate bill in 2010.


Here are two known facts:  There are trillions of dollars of profit at
stake here for fossil energy interests, which have backed climate
disinfo campaigns in the US for over a decade. 

Now look at the order of events: 

- Hacked emails purporting to debunk climate science are revealed to
world in November. (They don't do any such thing, but willfully
ignorant or cynical readings of them are used to bolster wingnuttery in
the usual quarters: Climate Depot, Watt's Up With That, the Office of
Sen. James Inhofe, the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, etc.)

- Obama goes to Copenhagen in mid-December.  Returns with a weak,
inconclusive political statement in lieu of a climate deal.

- Story goes into circulation this week that there's a "revolt" among
Democratic senators to try and push the climate legislation out to
2011, or to kill cap and trade.  This supposedly shocking dissension
comes from lawmakers who are already known opponents of the
carbon-control aspects of the proposed bills, and are allies of fossil
energy interests. 

To the best of my present knowledge, fossil energy money is not behind
 either phenomenon.

But if someone, someday, uncovers that it was, that won't shock me.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #80 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 29 Dec 09 10:03
    
whoops, two slips; I was addressing jonl's post directly.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #81 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 29 Dec 09 10:17
    
Jacques: 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 [but] 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?

---

Obama initially planned to time his visit to his trip to Oslo. IIRC,
around the end of November, India and China made some noises about
limiting their emissions.  And some of the Annex II nations were
talking more firmly about coughing up climate finance money.  

So the White House announced that there seemed to be some momentum
toward productive talks, and Obama's schedule changed.

Now that I've been to the COP, it's clearer to me that had Obama
dropped in during the first week, rather than coming for the more
critical talks at the end, it would have been a pretty significant slap
in the face of the UNFCCC, the EU nations, Japan, and maybe the UN
itself.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #82 of 132: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Tue 29 Dec 09 10:38
    
Emily, how confident are you that the developed nations will live up to
their $100 billion pledge and that China, India etc. will allow genuine
emissions monitoring? My impression is that it's a lot easier to make
these promises at conference time than to live up to them afterwards.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #83 of 132: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Tue 29 Dec 09 11:33
    
I suspect we're likely to see those pledges either reneged, forgotten,
or re-labled as previously promised grants. Even though we surely
could afford it, the sense is that the economy is bad and ecological
problems can be put off for the future.

Of course, sooner or later the cost of not fixing the problem is going
to seriously outweigh the cost of actually taking action. 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #84 of 132: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Tue 29 Dec 09 13:00
    
Gary, i have not called anyone names here, your post is way
over-the-top. And the only doubts being expressed by serious climate
scientists are about the rate of onset of the serious effects, not
about whether global warming is caused by human activity. That's
settled, man. As far as the "suicide" remark, those exact words were
being used by delegates from Africa and island nations to describe the
acceptance of a 2C rise. Do you even notice how people from those
nations are reacting? Your doubts about whether human activity is the
cause is one way to mark you as an American, as the US is about the
only place where such doubts are taken seriously. 
To the others posting since Gary: good discussion.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #85 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Tue 29 Dec 09 14:35
    
I didn't find Gary's post over the top.  Just saying.

Acknowledging how science works, the nature of knowledge, is not the
same thing as expressing "doubts about whether human activity is the
cause" of climate change.

jstrahl, you really seem intent on bashing...someone.  Is it me?  Do
you get that we have no fundamental disagreements about the likely
direction of global warming?  Or is that "likely" just too infuriating
for you to think it through?

ANYway...

The countermove to that Politico article and its progeny begins:

The Hill: “Dozens of Democrats want to move a climate change bill,
including centrists” 

http://bit.ly/8svVDQ
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #86 of 132: Steven McGarity (sundog) Tue 29 Dec 09 16:20
    
I do hope also that some sort of carbon reduction plan is in the works
for completion early in 2010. It seems like a win-win when wrapped in
with green industrial development projects. Interesting Hill article.
Thanks. One thing I have been considering recently is how to include
the climate and energy issues in a greater environmental understanding.
We are, it seems to me, at great risk far sooner than climate change
from environmental degradation both on land and in the seas. I know for
example the ocean does more CO2 stabilization than any forests on
land. And yet we are busy killing it. We seem to not be aware enough of
the issues. To me it is all of a single cloth. I don't see how we can
break out climate problems say and disregard everything else that is
putting life on earth as we know it in jeopardy. All that said I was at
my VA clinic today and a old fellow walked in stamping his feet to
clear the snow and say. "Hey, how about this global warming." Somehow
we need to figure out a plain folks way to sell these issues.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #87 of 132: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Tue 29 Dec 09 20:39
    
Part of the problem, I think, is that no political system I know of,
certainly not the American one, rewards politicians for thinking
long-term. In the U.S. they're used to thinking in the very short run,
which is to say, until the next election. Of course, this inability to
act according to our long-term interests (particularly when that is at
the expense of short-term interests) is built into not just our
political systems but humans in general. 

So's who's most alarmed by climate change?— those nations most
immediately threatened by it, such as the island countries and
Bangladesh. China, on the other hand, faces the melting of the glaciers
that feeds its rivers, but that's a few decades off, and in the
meantime its leaders are more concerned about making sure the country's
economy continues to churn out cars and furniture and cashmere
sweaters. In the U.S. it's much the same— the understanding of climate
change for most people is still largely intellectual and abstract, not
as much of a crisis as, say, the weak economy or an aspiring
airplane-exploder.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #88 of 132: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Tue 29 Dec 09 20:42
    
I'm afraid that <mcdee> is right in his post <76>.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #89 of 132: Jennifer Powell (jnfr) Tue 29 Dec 09 20:43
    
Slippage by <jacques>, who is also right.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #90 of 132: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Tue 29 Dec 09 21:32
    
Emily, the "over the top" remark was aimed at what Gary said about me
calling people all sorts of names. And he did express doubts about
global warming being caused by human activity or even if it is whether
it's harmful. 
Bashing you? Why would i have said "good discussion" in regards to all
the posts after Gary's if my intent was to bash you??
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #91 of 132: Linda Castellani (castle) Wed 30 Dec 09 17:02
    

Please don't feed the troll.  This discussion is too interesting to be 
derailed.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #92 of 132: Jacques Leslie (jacques) Wed 30 Dec 09 19:16
    
Emily, given the strong appointments (Chu, Holdren) involving climate
change that Obama made a year ago, did you get any sense of dissension
within American ranks over our tepid negotiating position in
Copenhagen? Surely those who agree with McKibben that 350 ppm is the
upper limit of tolerable carbon emissions can't be pleased with the
Administration's stance.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #93 of 132: Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 30 Dec 09 21:38
    
Emily, out of curiosity, did the Danes make a point of letting the
participants know that, while they are a small European nation, melting
Greenland is actually a territorial part of Denmark? 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #94 of 132: Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Thu 31 Dec 09 14:22
    
http://www.culturechange.org/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=583
&Itemid=1

Albert Bates, of Global Ecovillage, well-known author on climate and
ecology, on Copenhagen conference, which he went to. 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #95 of 132: What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Fri 1 Jan 10 08:26
    
Thanks for the pointer, jstrahl.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #96 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 1 Jan 10 10:10
    
> Emily, given the strong appointments (Chu, Holdren) involving
climate
change that Obama made a year ago, did you get any sense of dissension
within American ranks over our tepid negotiating position in
Copenhagen? 

I didn't have any direct contacts within the delegation, so I don't
know the answer to that firsthand.  My guess would be that they were
wholly professional when on the record, because that is the kind of
person from the State Department who speaks on the record and makes it
all the way to an international negotiations meeting.

I do know one of the TckTckTck campaign's "trackers" who does/did get
to know the delegation: Ben Jervey.  The impression I got from him was
that there was no overt distress about the "tepid negotiating
position," in the sense that it didn't change in response to NGO
positions around 350 degrees, extent of carbon cuts, etc.

Here's that interview:

http://blogs.oxfamamerica.org/index.php/2009/12/28/negotiator-trackers-open-up
-mysteries-of-climate-talks/
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #97 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 1 Jan 10 10:36
    
Albert Bates makes so many suppositions in that piece that I can't
read it as a piece of reporting. It's an understandable expression of
frustration, but he's drawing all his conclusions from secondary
reporting.  He's also picking and choosing the stories that mesh with
his worldview, which seems to be predominantly about President Obama
letting him down.

Beyond that I'll shut up about it, since Mr. Bates did not come by
personally to post his questions or opinions.  
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #98 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 1 Jan 10 10:40
    
>Emily, how confident are you that the developed nations will live up
to their $100 billion pledge and that China, India etc. will allow
genuine emissions monitoring? My impression is that it's a lot easier
to make these promises at conference time than to live up to them
afterwards.


Well, as the song says, "Same as it ever was."  Isn't this sort of
promise always easier to make than to keep?

More informatively, someone noted above that the rich nations might
use already-allocated aid funding to cover climate finance.  This very
issue is of big concern to some of the developing nations and their
advocates, like Oxfam International, who want all of it to be new
funding, not redirected from other programs.
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #99 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 1 Jan 10 11:21
    
As for the Danes and Greenland, I don't have a ton of insight into
that.  I didn't see or hear all that much about Greenland during the
COP; maybe more of that was going on in the interstitial events leading
up COP15 -- the talks in Barcelona, Bangkok, etc. 

The Danish government was making "average Danes" available to
reporters who wanted to do interviews, and there was at least one
Greenlander among them.  But I wasn't doing that kind of very general
human-interest reporting.

In a sense, my view of what happened at the talks was very colored by
what my actual assignments were.  So much is going on on so many
tracks. If I go to the next conference, probably I'll find it easier to
take more in from different directions.

Perhaps I should explain how I came to be covering Copenhagen: 

Back in October, I'd been offered expenses from a particular party to
blog from both Barcelona and Copenhagen.  But the terms were not
suitable from a journalistic pov: the editorial emphasis was about
advocacy first, reporting a far second.  So I declined.  

By mid-November, I had no COP15 assignment in hand, and didn't expect
to go.  

Then Oxfam America called.  They knew me and my work from the
September UN Climate Summit and the Pittsburgh G20: Oxfam co-sponsored
the ClimateVoice and G20Voice projects to diversify coverage of these
sorts of high-level global confabs, and I was part of those groups of
bloggers/reporters.  (Grist and Change.org carried my coverage.)

Oxfam America offered to pay my expenses to go to COP15, to focus on
covering the humanitarian impacts of climate change. Editorial
involvement in how I wrote my pieces would be extremely limited, they
said, and I'd be free to file original work for other outlets as well.

In addition to whatever else I saw fit to cover, Oxfam America
effectively assigned me to interview and write about the "climate
witnesses" -- men and women from places around the world where the
impacts of climate change are already changing the environment and
destroying their ways of life. 

Oxfam has been sponsoring these individuals to come and speak at
various climate events around the world.  

These editorial terms seemed wholesome enough from a professional pov
to accept. Special access to the climate witnesses offered a
particularly attractive opportunity to write about people and issues
that were would be otherwise under-reported during the talks.  

It's really a textbook example of how independent reporter/bloggers
often manage to get to events like this.  

It's not particularly "traditional." But imagine it had been called
the "Oxfam America Fellowship for Reporting on the Human Impacts of
Global Warming." Then everyone would congratulate me for landing it. 
  
inkwell.vue.372 : Emily Gertz, From the Climate Talks in Copenhagen
permalink #100 of 132: Emily J. Gertz (emilyg) Fri 1 Jan 10 11:22
    
[[She said a little defensively.]]
  

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