Copenhagen: opening thoughts

Delegates at the opening ceremony for COP15 — the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen — had to sit through this video, so I think you should too. 😉 It’s a fitting introduction to the next couple of weeks. There are not enough hours in the day for me to be able to cover everything that’s happening, but I hope to be able to provide occasional perspective, and pointers to interesting material.

Some key issues:

  • Can the global community pull together, or is the gap between the positions of the rich world and developing nations too big to bridge?
  • If a global deal can be done, will it be able to deliver emissions reductions on the scale required to avoid damaging change?
  • Will a deal build on Kyoto, or will a new framework emerge?
  • What will all this diplomatic tussling mean for New Zealand’s interests, and what role will Nick Smith, Tim Groser and John Key play?

A lot of the underlying tensions are already emerging, as the leak of a negotiating position document — the “Danish text” agreed by key developed nations (including NZ) is causing outrage in developing countries. The Guardian spells it out:

The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN’s role in all future climate change negotiations.

The document is also being interpreted by developing countries as setting unequal limits on per capita carbon emissions for developed and developing countries in 2050; meaning that people in rich countries would be permitted to emit nearly twice as much under the proposals.

While the diplomatic games begin, commentators sharpen their pens. Bill McKibben thinks the whole thing will be a disaster:

It’s like nothing we’ve ever faced before — and we’re facing it as if it’s just like everything else. That’s the problem.

To help me keep an eye on all this, I’ll be using a number of resources. Apart from my usual array of RSS and Twitter feeds, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Guardian‘s amazingly diverse coverage (and blogs), the BBC (try the animated 800,000 years of climate history) and the COP15 web site (they provide good news coverage, and if you have the time, they’re providing live feeds to a lot of stuff). Press journalist David Williams is blogging his time at the conference, and the Science Media Centre has a page listing useful resources — aimed at the media, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there for the interested reader.

20 thoughts on “Copenhagen: opening thoughts”

  1. (For once) I kind of agree with Steve here – I don’t think the Roland Emmerich overtones are very helpful at all. But the rest of the post is excellent, I hasten to add.

  2. Sarah Palin as a climate expert! Sarah Palin suing the Federal Government for the listing the polar bear as endangered! I am lost for words in response. Good grief!

    Well, we know what role NZ diplomat Adrian Macey is to play. He is dissing low-lying vulnerable Pacific micro-states who expect some real commitments. He has described Tuvalu as “grandstanding” in asking for larger reductions in emissions. See the Stuff article; Tiny Tuvalu beaten down in climate talks. That’s an unfortunate word to use as a grandstand will be exactly what Tuvalu will need to stay above sea level if the rise in AGW is not stabilised.

  3. This video is disgusting. Lets think about the kind of political movements that have needed to use children to emphasis there message in the past………

    (because that was AGW has become when they make videos like this one, political ideology not scientific theory. Truth is self evident, it does not need pro-pro-propaganda)

    1. Methinks he doth protest too much…

      It’s a cheesy little film, to be sure, very “European” in terms of use of sentiment (were you expecting Bergman?), but hardly qualifies as propaganda. The message is “save the world for the kids”, but it doesn’t offer any prescriptions so cannot be promoting any ideology. Unless of course you define the need for action as itself ideological, which would put you right out there with the wingnuts… Surely not, R2?

  4. Wake up, R2! I believe the video is perfectly apt. I was a child through atmospheric nuclear testing and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and well remember my own nightmares of mushroom clouds rising over NZ.

    Children today have every reason to fear climate change; many of them are already suffering the consequences, and many more will have their lives stunted as a result.

    http://www.unicef.org/publications/index_42166.html
    http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/declaration-039our-world-our-future039-unicef-children039s-climate-forum-copenha/5/32365

    1. Yes, lets base global policy on the night mares our children have, that will result in sound, rational, thought out policy.

      Has it occurred to you that the nightmares children have are a result of children being the most susceptible to propaganda of the day? And nothing to do with the reality of the moment (of course some of the adult population also fall for the lies). Most people experience the world more than 5km away purely through a TV or Computer screen. So the fact they are worried does not make the problem reality.

      I can imagine the children in Soviet Russia had nightmares about about capitalists stealing their labour while their parents worried about going to the Gulag.

      Us in the rational world are worried about creating a global slush fund for corrupt third world governments in the name of preventing ‘climate change’ (that has been happening since the dawn of time). And also taxing fertiliser and animal protein at a time over a billion people still wake up hungry.

  5. What is your point, Steve?

    If there is any “thug” behind global heating, it is the fossil fuel companies for whom you perform the function of a “useful idiot”.

    “In political jargon, the term useful idiot was used to describe Soviet sympathizers in western countries and the attitude of the Soviet government towards them. The implication was that though the person in question naïvely thought themselves an ally of the Soviets or other Communists, they were actually held in contempt by them, and being cynically used.

    The term is now used more broadly to describe someone who is perceived to be manipulated by a political movement, terrorist group, hostile government, or business, whether or not the group is Communist in nature.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot

  6. My problem with the video is that it’s not clear who it’s aimed at.
    Those of us who already grasp climate change pretty well don’t need these Roland Emmerichy scenarios to persuade us any further.
    The intractable types like R2 and Steve will be alienated even further by it – just witness R2’s reaction.
    The vital group are those who are unsure, and in my view a bit more science and less emotion would have worked better here.

    1. It was from the “cultural” part of the opening ceremony, described rather well by the Economist’s correspondent:

      But on the bright side, the mayor tells the delegates, the water in Copenhagen’s harbour is clean enough to swim in. Good to know. I might need a chilly dip to wake myself up at some point.

      Frankly, Carol, R2 and SW are not the target audience, and never will be…

  7. I think there’s more to be gained from giving children a really good grounding in environmental education than in trying to reason with R2 and Steve. Plus which, it’s a lot more fun …

  8. Excellent suggestion Carol. However there is no such thing as “environmental education”. I presume you mean teaching about the natural world, it’s processes, uncertainties and its interactions with us and trade-offs. Start with teaching children a healthy scepticism of claims that rely overly on emotionalism, and whose proponents won’t divulge their data, intimidate journals who won’t agree with them, and cut out data that doesn’t support their agenda. Instead we have an education sustem saturated in environmental “indoctrination” that presents the most fevered catastrophism as recieved fact.

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