Copenhagen Warm-Ups

by Bill Chameides | December 4th, 2009
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 4 comments

With the international climate powwow less than a week away, expectations have cooled for major progress on a climate treaty coming out of it, but hoopla, positioning, and PR wars have heated up.

Meaningful Climate Treaty Must Include the Big Polluters

China, the United States, and India are, respectively, the world’s largest, the second largest, and fourth largest emitters of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel consumption. China’s and to a lesser extent India’s emissions are growing by leaps and bounds — in this decade:

It’s hard to imagine an effective international climate agreement without significant binding commitments by these three countries.

Through much of the lead-up to Copenhagen the world had been waiting for each to announce an opening position for the negotiations to no avail. But then earlier this month, first the United States then China announced “targets.” And now, in the nick of time, India has joined in.

U.S., China and India Laggards Offer Up Modest Targets

United States – After the 2008 election, many predicted the United States would have climate legislation in hand to take to Copenhagen. Alas, that is not to be.

But President Obama apparently wanting to take something to the party announced intentions that by 2020 the United States will decrease emissions by 17 percent relative to 2005 levels. Many in the international scene were nonplussed by such a reduction, and perhaps to ameliorate any disappointment, the president also announced he would attend the summit … on his way to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

China – Following Obama’s announcement, China joined in with a target reduction of 40-45 percent by 2020. Sounds great, except that the plan is not to reduce emissions but rather to cut emissions intensity. Such a target would likely allow Chinese emissions to continue to increase, but at a slower rate.

India – As pointed out by my colleague Prasad Kasibhatla the evolution of New Delhi’s position has been curious. On December 2, 2009, the Times of India quoted Indian environmental minister Jairam Ramesh as saying, “Unlike China we are not announcing any emission caps.” But in a one-day about-face, the same Ramesh in the same Times of India reportedly announced that India would reduce its emission intensity by 20-25 percent by 2020 relative to 2005. (And by the way, in case you were wondering, the paper called Ramesh’s speech “eloquent.”)

Climate Skeptics Try to Poop Copenhagen Party

While the chances of a significant agreement coming out of Copenhagen are dim if not quite completely black, the climate skeptics are taking no chances.

The editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal — that bastion of balanced coverage on global warming —  have been aflurry.

For the past month, each Monday Bjorn Lomborg has treated readers to an op-ed providing real-life examples of why an international agreement on climate is a bad idea. In each piece Lomborg features the story of a destitute person living in the poverty-stricken developing world, who, he correctly (and rather obviously) argues, needs immediate help — shelter, clean water, food, medical attention. He also correctly argues that a climate treaty to reduce greenhouse gases over the next decades will not address these immediate needs.

Somehow in Lomborg’s equation that means we must ignore global warming. Huh?

Does one thing preclude the other? Are we only able to address one issue at a time? Should we not do research on advanced agricultural technologies or pharmaceuticals because they won’t reach application for another decade? I don’t think so.

And, surprise, surprise, this week the WSJ rolled out another op-ed by Dick Lindzen, that most famous of climate skeptics from MIT. There was nothing much new there — all the same specious arguments we have heard before. Here’s but one example.

ClimateGate Coup

But with all due respect to the journal’s power and influence, the crowning achievement in the drive to wreck the Copenhagen train was the hacking of the computers at the University of East Anglia and the pilfering and posting of thousands of e-mails by climate scientists.

While aspects of the discussions in the exchanges are troubling, their exposure by no means undercuts the vast body of evidence linking greenhouse gas emissions to global warming in my and many of my colleagues’ opinions.

But the damage in the public arena is significant and growing daily.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has indicated a forthcoming investigation into the emails. Saudi Arabia’s lead negotiator, Mohammad Al-Sabban, (wrongly) concluded, “It appears from the details of the scandal that there is no relationship whatsoever between human activities and climate change.”

It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the fallout of Climategate will not be significant at Copenhagen.

Greenies Get Into the Act

Not to be outdone by all this, the environmental movement’s left wing has weighed in with its own enemy: not the climate scientist poised with poisoned pen at the computer keyboard but the proposed solution to the global warming problem, the evil cap-and-trade system.

Check out this slick video on cap and trade by activist Annie Leonard. Using a host of half-truths and misrepresentations worthy of Dick Lindzen, Leonard trashes cap and trade suggesting that the solution is the imposition of government-like regulations that somehow enforce a “solid cap.” A nice critique of Leonard’s video can be found here.

My favorite part of the video comes when Leonard pulls out a copy of the Wall Street Journal to buttress her argument. Even the esteemed business rag, she proclaims, is against this thing, so it must be a bad idea. Never mind that her criticism identifies the problem as a purported “cap and giveaway” while the journal disparages its supposed “cap and tax” approach — opposite extremes where one gives all the allowances away and the other auctions all of them.

It’s really great to see that the extreme climate activists and the WSJ climate skeptics are united in preventing the United States-China-India axis from agreeing to their modest emissions cuts.

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  1. MattN
    Dec 8, 2009 If these alleged back room secret deals are really true, Copenhagen will not be worth the paper it’s printed on.

  2. MattN
    Dec 8, 2009

    You guys do realize reducing “emission intensity” is NOT the same thing as reducing emission output, right? I would be far happier if China would adopt some REAL pollution controls on sulfates and particulates. Those items are far, far more damaging to the envoronment than the benign CO2 molecule….

  3. Peter G
    Dec 7, 2009

    We have disagreed on cap and trade in the past. I continue to prefer the “cap and dividend” approach, which rewards low-carbon behavior far more efficiently than the current bill in Congress ever could:

  4. Mita
    Dec 6, 2009

    If you are wondering about the cause of India’s change of mind in agreeing to emissions reduction, go no further than here:

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