Saturday, December 19, 2009

Copenhagen - First assesment

The meeting has concluded in Copenhagen.  On first glance at the 'accord' that summit 'took note of' it looks to be an agreement that is actually workable. 

It sounds as though the deal was unacceptable to the G-77, the UN group of least developed countries which was being led at the negotiations by Sudan. For that reason, the UN was not in full agreement.  The G77 revolt was being pushed forward by leaders like Chavez from Venezuela and Mugabe from Zimbabwe

It seems to me that having an agreement that all the developed countries, plus the major developing countires can come together on is far more important than having agreement that every nation in the UN.  Honestly, it is not that important to have the entire world on board.  If an agreement includes all of th G20, then 80% of the world's emissions are covered.  Why should we bow to pressure from Mugabe and Chavez?  They were only orchestrating a shakedown of the US and Europe anyway, and their nation's emissions are not significant enough to warrent their ability to block. 

There seems to be little agreement on when to come back to Copenhagen for a meeting that would seal a deal.  The Copenhagen Accord will the end of the flawed UN process. But, it may also mark the beginning of a process that will actually work to reduce emissions and prevent dangerous global warming. 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen - A Test of Global Cooperation

Unfortunately, I've been too busy this week to post much about what's been going on at the COP15 in Copenhagen, but I'll just say that the outcome of this conference (still uncertain at this time, an hour after it was scheduled to finish) is very important for long-term cooperative security.

Climate change presents a true (if long-term) threat to global security, and only through collective action can the world address it.  The costs, when spread over the long term, are not insurmountable, but the political problem is who will pay?  That is what Copenhagen has been all about.  If we cannot come together as a global community to meet this challenge, it is difficult to see how we can confront the other 21st Century challenges that will also require global coordination.

If cooperation can be achieved in Copenhagen, I think there's a good chance that we can set a precedent for long-term global cooperation on many challenges, including food security, financial regulation, trade imbalances, regional security, and counterterrorism.  On the other hand, if Copenhagen fails, and the world is unable to come to any agreement on how to insure against climate change, then I think there's a good chance that the global order will gradually fray as nations move towards a more competitive - versus cooperative - framework for international relations.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Action on Security in Copenhagen - from an Unlikely Source

One of the key points about 'national security' is the defense -- and even the very existence of -- your sovereign land. On Wednesday (Dec. 9) in Copenhagen, it sounds like the group of 'Small Island States' had their time to demand forthright and agressive action on climate change.  They fear that there will be nothing they can do to defend their land if unmitigated climate change melts the ice caps and causes rising sea level. 

On moral grounds, their argument is nearly inassailble. Rising sea levels will wipe out their land, forcing their entire populations to either move or sink. 

This action is very interesting, because it shows a possible split between the small, vulnerable developing nations -- like the island states and the poorest least developed countries -- and the larger and more politically important developing nations -- like China, India, and Brazil.  The large states want to prevent a legally binding treaty that would place a tight cap on emissions (implying that they would have to cap their rapidly growing emissions).  Meanwhile, the small, poor states (with emissions so small that they don't really care about caps) are pushing for a treaty that would place tight caps on emissions and prevent dangerous climate change from threatening their very existence. 
Ian Fry, Tuvalu's delegate said: "Our future rests on the outcome of this meeting"

The Economist has a very good write-up of the action on their 'Correspondent's Diary' from Copenhagen.  The BBC has a good article on this, and their correspondent has a very enlightening blog post on the emerging split in the developing country 'G-77' group. 

After the break, click for a YouTube video of the protests from Copenhagen looking at the protests in favor of Tuvalu.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Opinions about Climate

The Op-Eds are coming fast and furious now that the Copenhagen conference has begun.  I wanted to quickly post links to a couple of important and noteworthy ones.

Tom Friedman - "Going Cheney on Climate"
Tom Friedman gives his usual clear-eyed perspective on why its in our national interest to act on climate change.  He uses the risk-aversion argument of the 'precautionary principle' (which I've said as a reason to act on climate change), as the best argument.  He then uses Dick Cheney's arguments about weapons of mass destruction to make the case that conservatives should also feel that way.  Here, I think Friedman is dead right: if the skeptics are anything less than 100% sure that climate change is not a danger and is not man made, then we still have a duty to act.  Even a 5% chance that abrupt and disruptive climate change was coming should be enough reason to act. 

Mikhail Gorbachev - "We Have a Real Emergency"
Gorbachev gives his view in the Herald Tribune that fixing climate change will go a long way towards fixing many of the problems the world faces today.  We focus too much on the short-term costs, without thinking at all about the long term threats of inaction.  Gorbachev is one of the last real statesmen of our times, and its good to see him involved. 

Sarah Palin - "Copenhagen's Political Science"
Sarah Palin decries the politicization of science by taking a political view of the science.  I'm not going to go into this very much, plenty of other people have already had a go. The number of comments (2310 when I last checked) shows that the Washington Post knows who drives controversy and internet views.  One thing to say, Ms. Palin should sit down with Senator Murkowski to talk about climate change: I think she would learn a great deal from the Ranking Member of the Senate Energy Committee. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

International Alert's Dan Smith on Climate and Conflict

I wanted to quickly link to a blog post written by Dan Smith, Secretary General of International Alert. He writes on the new Reuters climate change 'AlertNet' page. This post talks about the complexities of determining how and whether climate change can or has caused climate changes.

Also, below is an interview Smith gave with Al Jazeera's English language network. He talks about how interconnected development, conflict, and climate change really are. It is this complex web that makes it so difficult to predict conflicts from climate change.