Copenhagen in perspective

Dec 23, 2009 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

As the dust settles after the turbulent outcome of the COP-15 climate summit in Copenhagen a few things are clear:

No one is completely happy with the outcome.  Even President Obama described what he hammered out as being a “first step” and “not enough” to avoid disaster describing the Accord he worked out as the beginning of a process.

The climate change denier community (and people playing that role in the US, Europe, Israel, etc… should be very nervous about the fact they are in close alliance with Saudia Arabia) must be upset at the reaffirmation  that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced in order to avoid  dangerous global warming – a conclusion that relies upon the mountain of science showing that global warming is very real and very dangerous.

Some leading voices like Joe Romm and commentators share the “glass 2/3’s full” interpretation of the Copenhagen Accord presented by the President and applaud the fact that Accord was worked out by the U.S. and China (with Brazil, India and South Africa) and then embraced by others – seeing it as a good thing for international climate discussions and negotiations to be headed down a new path of bi-lateral discussions between large emitters and among smaller groups of nations and away from the UN structure that has been in place since the 1992 Rio Summit.  Robert Stavins at Harvard University and David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council argue that the UN process can and will continue augmented by these new side negotiations.  (Update 1/7/2010 – Robert Stavins has developed this argument even farther.)

Other important voices like Bill McKibben see this change in the process and nature of climate negotiations as a disaster – part of a complete collapse of political and moral will by a President and Administration that should know better.  A related perspective is the view that the Copenhagen outcome shows that the “the elites are not up to the job of saving the world.” Follow the links in that last piece if you want to see some really terrifying analysis of the world that we are headed to if only current pledges and agreements for emissions reductions are met.

To hear these two different interpretations collide check out McKibben and Doniger on the “On Point” public radio show on December 22, 2009.

And what Andrew Revkin calls the “Copenhagen blame game” is now a full scale global enterprise.  With British Columnist George Monbiot blaming the US (and President Obama) personally, Chinese and British officials savagely attacking each other in the press on the question of China’s role at Copenhagen and officials of the European Union laying blame on the developing nations and the US.

So what do we know and what should we (those of us not playing in the titanic global climate game) do?

The answer for CLF is clear.  We need to continue with our work to make New England, the region in which we work, a replicable model of real and affirmative change for the better.  We need to purge our electricity system of old, high emissions coal fired power plants, we need to fight to make highly efficient use of energy in homes and buildings, we need to ensure that our forests are healthy and do their many jobs, including capturing carbon out of the air, and we need to foster clean effective transit and massive deployment of renewable energy.   Our goals are right out there for all to see as is the way in which you can support our work.

Clearly there is a powerful need for global and national action to protect our climate.   And while those epic struggles play out, and we do what we can to shape the outcome, we must not waver in our resolve to advance a climate protection agenda here in our region, our states and in our communities.  We can argue about how far we have come – but it is very clear that we have far to go.

2 Responses to “Copenhagen in perspective”

  1. Barry

    We better hope the global climate change deniers are right, as it seems doubtful to me that humanity will take the steps needed to avert disaster if they are not.
    Silly to blame Obama for disappointments in the negotiations, he cannot force Congress to act, or eliminate the fossil fuel lobbyists and their friends. He has indeed at least taken some worthwhile steps at the Executive branch level.
    I think the failure of Congress to act is partly the fault of our environmental community which too often talks to itseklf about these climate issue instead of the public where support has been slipping. I hear no sign of the environmental movement on talk radio, and the letters to the editor columns are dominated by the skeptics/deniers. In even an imperfect democracy, this takes a toll.

  2. JD Webb

    Just wanted to say thanks for this