Copenhagen: what else?
Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:
Copenhagen has center stage for a couple of weeks – for good or ill, right? — hosting the international conference on climate change. I resist those who say that the planet lives or dies by Copenhagen. If that’s the case, get ready for death.
But it’s not the case. It is one step, and the significance of it is yet to be seen. Certainly the days leading up to it seemed to indicate that the most reluctant nations are finally getting the message — the US, China, India, for example — all making modest pledges to do something (Obama -> reducing CO2 emissions by 17% below 2005 levels, a trifle, really, and 83% by 2050, though how he is going to do that or what he proposes to do that, is far from clear and as yet has no real political support). But so far all those somethings don’t amount to much, or nearly enough. Meanwhile, the rich western post-industrial societies that created the crisis and built their economies off of it, are also not yet prepared to meet the demands of poorer countries who think their efforts to cut emissions should be subsidized by the wealthy.
Another word for this is – justice.
My NY Times reading on this today was interesting. First there is Andrew Revkin’s good reporting on the climate change conference and the impact of the so-called email scandal – the theft of thousands of emails of climate scientists at the Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia in England. Supposedly these emails prove that the science that purports proof of human-induced global warming is a fraud. Actually, the emails indicate nothing of the kind, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to Fox News or Sen. Imhofe or Rep. Sensenbrenner. I doubt they’ve read the thousands of pages, but some have and see no fraud.
In any case, here’s Revkin’s good article today, written with John Broder:
Then I was intrigued by accompanying Opinion pieces today, one from Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, whose writings on economics I always appreciate, and the other from doomsday climate scientist James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, one of our most brilliant in this matter.
Why intrigued? Because the economist argues enthusiastically for a cap-and-trade system to cut emissions, and the scientist argues vigorously that this won’t work.
I don’t trust the market, and I find it woeful that we will try to create one that makes profits for private industry out of our attempts to cut CO2 emissions. Hansen’s approach is one we support – a tax on carbon right from the starting point of its production, then putting the funds generated into programs of mitigation and adaptation. His approach has the added incentive of being quick enough, if fully and effectively implemented, to keep up with the nature of the escalating threat with the least amount of future suffering. Carbon is quickly reduced because it becomes expensive while alternatives become priced in a way that is competitive with and then ultimately cheaper than fossil fuels.
So, let’s keep all those folks at the conference in our thoughts these days. And keep the heat on the House and Senate. Don’t let the deniers dominate this national conversation. More people in this country doubt global warming science than as recently as 5 years ago. Our voices are needed to drown out the deniers with a good dose of truth and a measure of urgency.
In the end, Copenhagen won’t decide the fate of the planet, though the cost of failure would be pretty terrible. But in the end, the fate of the planet still depends on creating cultures and movements around the world willing to do what needs to be done to salvage the atmosphere in which we live and move and have our being – to scale down the industrial way of life drastically, and to share the sacrifice equitably and compassionately.