Contention city

cindy.jpgOne of Hot Topic’s regular readers, the estimable Cindy Baxter, is in the Greenpeace team in Bonn keeping a weather eye on the latest round of negotiations to find a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Here’s her first guest blog: an insider’s view of events so far.

Bryan’s quoted Stern’s speech at length — I won’t bang on about it, but it’s still worth a mention. Stern’s not known for his charisma — the rumours going round here are that Obama’s speechwriter may have been involved. It was certainly in that league. Pressed all the right buttons.

After so many years of witnessing the Bush delegation’s wrecking ball, it was quite a moment to hear the US say:   “You will not hear anyone on my team cast doubt upon or downplay the threat of global climate change. The science is clear, and the threat is real. The facts on the ground are outstripping the worst case scenarios. The costs of inaction—or inadequate actions—are unacceptable.”

It brought extended applause from the whole room; an audible sigh of relief. Some were in tears.

We Kiwis noted with glee the reference to anyone planning a high carbon economy being “losers” — wondering what Mr Brownlee thinks about that.

Yet on a more sober note, Waxman’s bill in Congress, released today, is a mixed bag. Sure, 7-8% by 2020 (at 1990 levels) is better than Obama’s 0% – but certainly nowhere near what we need from the US. The offsetting provisions (2bn US tons) would mean the fossil fuel industry could continue to pump out C02 for the next 20 years. But it’s early days and there may be another, better bill tabled before long.

Meanwhile back in Bonn, as Stern wowed his new fans, Bush’s former climate delegation leader Harlan Watson (originally recommended by ExxonMobil to work with the Bushies on climate) sat on the balcony of the plenary, headphones on, pretending he was typing. He’s here with a US congressional delegation, working for Republican sceptic Sensenbrenner. Why don’t I find that surprising?

He may have been coaching the OPECs. My top quote of the week so far was from Kuwait: “Let’s get real. We all need C02”.  

Meanwhile the whole negotiations go along at a snail-like pace. Have they made progress? Not yet. Are they likely to? Debatable. The developed world’s focus seems to be on process – anything that means they can avoid the hard discussion on narrowing down the Chair’s proposal to resemble anything like the negotiating text that needs to be legally tabled by 17 June if we want to get a deal in Copenhagen.

The developing world is, meanwhile, still waiting for the action they were promised in – erm – 1992…


Down down

New Scientist has posted this remarkable footage of a camera being lowered down a moulin in Greenland, and reveals that Konrad Steffen’s team, moulin explorers extraordinaire, are inventing a new extreme sport:

Later this year, the team will be boldly going where no researchers have gone before. Under the guidance of expert climbers, they plan to descend deep into a moulin in person. They will leave temperature and flow sensors along the way, so they can track how the tunnel changes throughout the year.

Steffen’s team also released hundreds of special rubber ducks into moulins, but none have yet appeared at the edge of the ice sheet. He fears they may have been ground to pieces by the moving ice. More at the Guardian.


The sound of failure/It’s dark… Is it always this dark?

Mackenzie.jpgForgive me this riff on impermanence. Last Sunday morning, my little group of middle-aged winos and winemakers (plus a professor or two) left the lodge in Martin’s Bay and crossed a serene Hollyford River on a jetboat. We walked along the edge of the bush on the spit, looking at Maori middens, layering in sand dunes, native plants and the succession from pingao to rimu, pondering the most recent ice age — which carved out the Hollyford valley — and the potential for rising seas to change this wonderful example of coastal ecology. Eventually we arrived at the site of the Mackenzie homestead – built in the 1870s by hardy settlers determined to make their lives in this wet and wild corner of what was then a new land to Europeans. All that remains is the stone fireplace, overgrown with grass, the vague outline of the walls, and some imported trees — the gums are doing very well. I pondered the lives of the settlers in the Hollyford and the scratches they left on the landscape, while New Zealand and the world grasped at bigger issues…

Continue reading “The sound of failure/It’s dark… Is it always this dark?”