This is a guest essay from Andrew Light, an environmental ethicist and professor of philosophy and public affairs at the University of Washington in Seattle. He attended the Bali meetings as an observer and participant in a side event. The essay comes to us from Nusa Dua, Indonesia. ----- I must admit, I clapped. I was probably among the loudest. A line in the sand. Photo: iStockphoto With the negotiations here in Bali for the U.N. conference on climate change facing an apparent intractable deadlock going into their last day, I was in a standing-room-only auditorium to hear former Vice President Al Gore address the assembled environmental community, business leaders, and state representatives. For those familiar with Gore's stump speech on global warming, and his acceptance address for the Nobel Peace Prize earlier in the week, much in his comments was familiar. One line changed all that. Cautiously hoped for by some, unanticipated by most, it changed the climate in the room considerably: "I am not a representative of my government, so I am not bound by diplomatic niceties. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. [Applause.] We all know that." With these words, Gore expressed the extreme sense of frustration most in the room had been feeling this past week over the U.S. delegation's refusal to commit to language in the Bali roadmap for cuts of 25 to 40 percent of greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by industrialized countries in the next extension of the Kyoto Protocol due to be settled in 2009. More than that, by openly criticizing the Bush administration, Gore had definitively answered those tempted to lump all Americans together on this issue -- a welcome relief for those of us who had become progressively more embarrassed by our country's position and inability to effectively explain its reasons. When offered, those reasons were simply lame. Why did the U.S. block the emissions cut goal? To avoid "prejudging" the outcome of the next treaty. In the end they won, finally getting an agreement from the E.U. for a document that will not require an outcome wherein the U.S., or any other country, embraces a goal for eventual caps on its emissions. What exactly would the 25 to 40 percent goal have prejudged? This is a difficult question to answer, especially in light of American negotiators' public praise this week of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and their recognition of the validity of the conclusions drawn in its most recent Fourth Assessment report. It can't be that cuts are needed -- only skeptics still hold that view, and the administration has renounced this position. It must be the specific figure proposed in the Bali document and the sorts of economic transformations that would be required to meet cuts in that range. It didn't need to be this way though. The stakes were actually low enough at this meeting that no hard-line brinksmanship was necessary. We could have instead showed up intent on demonstrating a more constructive role for the U.S., sending a message to the world that we are now serious on this issue. Instead, we drew an unnecessary line in the Bali sand.
After days of bitter fighting and an overtime stretch filled with twists and turns and even tears, world leaders on Saturday came to agreement on a rough roadmap for developing a new global climate treaty by 2009. The European Union had pushed for industrialized countries to commit to cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions of 25 to 40 percent by 2020, but the U.S., Canada, and Japan, among others, said no way. The final, agreed-upon text lacks specific numbers, but says that “deep cuts” in emissions are needed. The U.S. also refused to back compromise language that called on rich nations to …
Apparently they’ve reached some kind of agreement at Bali. Sounds like the last 24 hours have been a real white-knuckler: BALI, Indonesia (CNN) — The United States made a dramatic reversal Saturday, first rejecting and then accepting a compromise to set the stage for intense negotiations in the next two years aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. The U.N. climate change conference in Bali was filled with emotion and cliff-hanging anticipation on Saturday, an extra day added because of a failure to reach agreement during the scheduled sessions. The final result was a global warming pact that provides for …
Recently there have been a number of discussions concerning economic growth and global warming. Some have argued that the effort to prevent as much global warming as possible will incur unacceptable costs to the global economy in terms of growth. Others have argued that growth is causing global warming. I want to argue that neoclassical economics is badly designed to help with this debate. The two main problems, in my opinion, are that economics does not see the economy as being composed of a set of nonsubstitutable "life support" functions, to use Joshua Farley's phrase; and the neoclassical theory of economic growth is inadequate (PDF) for understanding how global warming (and most everything else) will effect growth. The problem of economic growth looms large in both the DICE model put forward by William Nordhaus, and the Stern Report, led Sir Nicholas Stern, because they both calculate the extent to which global warming and global warming mitigation will effect growth. In 1991, Stern opined that growth theory "has, however, been a popular topic for those involved in formal economic theory only for short periods, notably from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s." There is a good reason for this: neoclassical growth theory doesn't really explain economic growth.
Post by Richard Graves and Erin Condit-Bergren, U.S. youth delegation. Nusa Dua, Bali. We have been sitting outside the closed conference rooms where delegates from around the world engage in the grueling process of working out an international climate policy, line by line. Campaigners, delegates, and journalists mill about, trading rumors and whispering strategy. Everyone has been working nonstop for two whole weeks, and it all has come down to this one long session. The milling crowd reflects nothing of the nuance of the international negotiations, which will determine the future of international climate change policy. Instead, the din reveals the clanking of glasses and the milling hubbub of various national representatives, sound and fury, signifying nothing. The air may be charged, but what exactly are we all waiting for? Everyone is as edgy and nervous as an expectant father banished from the maternity room, yet there will be no agreement born today. At the moment, all we hope for is a plan to negotiate another plan. Why on earth are we here at 2:00 a.m.? We know that in the end, despite all our efforts at the conference and over the last year, the White House delegates will ignore the will of the American people and even the plight of their own children. The sad truth is that while we have done so much over the last year and won so many victories, when we try to get our own government to represent us it is like we are the nagging conscience they have grown comfortable ignoring.
The following essay is a guest post by Kari Manlove, fellows assistant at the Center for American Progress. ----- The IPCC has warned us that developing nations are poised to bear the most dramatic effects of global warming, and so far we (the world) have done practically nothing to counter or prevent that fact. But the U.N. is trying. This week in Bali, the U.N. announced that it will go carbon neutral by offsetting the operations of over 20 agencies, including the office of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. With the money collected, the U.N. will invest in an Adaptation Fund to help developing countries combat the consequences of climate change in coming decades. At its start, the fund will be worth no more than $50 million, but advocates hope that number will grow as we see increasing need for a fund of its type.
Here’s a climate-change impact you don’t think about every day: trampled walruses. When walruses get tired of swimming, they clamber onto sea ice to rest. As ice is in increasingly short supply above the Arctic Circle, walruses are huddling on shore in extremely high numbers. And as the tusky animals are liable to stampede at the appearance of a polar bear, hunter, or low-flying airplane, more than 3,000 walruses are estimated to have been trampled to death by their panicky brethren this past year. Let that be a lesson to us all. Or something.
For the last few years, James Hansen, the man who first warned Congress of global warming in testimony last century, and the man considered NASA's "top scientist" on climate questions, has been giving talks around the country asking can we avoid dangerous climate change (PDF)? But Hansen has changed his tune: no longer does he ask if we have passed the tipping points of climate change. In a press conference Thursday morning at the American Geophysical Union, he stated that we have passed several tipping points. He said scientists now know that soon the Arctic will be ice-free in the summer, that huge ice sheets will melt, and the climactic zones will shift towards the poles of the earth, among other consequences.
We've finally found someone willing to debate me: Tim Ball, a retired professor from the University of Winnipeg. The debate will be online Monday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. CST. You will be able to listen online through BlogTalkRadio's service. In fact, you can even call in during the show (see the BlogTalkRadio web site for details). You can also post questions on SciGuy Eric Berger's website. I realize that these types of events don't do much to move the climate debate forward. I'm mainly doing this to test my own ability to answer the skeptic's questions and see how I fare in this type of activity. For those who miss it live, it will be archived in mp3 format.