This is a critical time on climate. Scientific conclusions that had seemed largely settled and backed by professional consensus are today challenged with increasing confidence. Three months after Copenhagen, the policy pathway is still hard to discern. Opinion polls show growing numbers of people think the globe is not warming, or not because of human action, or, variously, that not much can, need or should be done about it. Last week a House of Commons committee queried the state of climate science in the wake of the publication of emails to and from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit; this week a new UN review has been launched to assess the work of the Inter-govermental Panel on Climate Change.
Copenhagen is a city where people like to party. Coming into December, the city was all dressed up for a climate party with posters of green exhortation everywhere and different official and unofficial events laid on. But in the end as everybody knows, the climate conference was no party. Yet there is this terrible sense of hangover around. Political leaders, delegates, activists and journalists have reeled away from the site and the recriminations have started about who just behaved badly and who actually threw up.
Around the city there were also some particularly crude advertisements using sex to sell booze with the slogan, “Party now, Apologize later.” But that’s another way the conference was not like a party. No-one has apologised. Even though the city encouraged them. One set of posters that went up well before the conference showed world leaders in 2020 apologizing for having failed in Copenhagen in 2009: ageing Obamas, Merkels, Browns et al look down and acknowledge their fault. But there have been no apologies. Instead they have passed the blame.
Let’s try something different. Instead of blame and apology let’s take some time to discuss results, reasons and response. It’s a lengthy discussion that must start now because it’s already time to shake off that hangover. Continue reading
As thousands of negotiators, activists, diplomats, scientists, politicians and journalists start pouring into Copenhagen for the climate summit – formally said, the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – the question has been raised whether we should want them to succeed or fail. Which, of course, begs the next question: what is success at Copenhagen?
So is Copenhagen not the time to seal a new climate deal after all? Is it time for a re-think? My own view is that it’s best never to stop thinking, then you don’t have to make the effort to start up again. Continue reading
Tobin or not to bin? Gordon Brown’s apparently sudden conversion to supporting a tax on financial transactions – initially proposed by James Tobin – has, if nothing else, put new energy into the related debates about the banking sector, paying off the costs of the economic crunch, and financing basic social needs. But will it fly? And should it? There are several strong reasons why but there is a negative side that we also need to attend to. Continue reading
The Copenhagen climate conference in December is crucial for the future well being of the vast majority of humanity alive today and the billions yet to be born. Its prospects are not good, however, and it is beset by multi-layered complexities. There needs to be much more political energy going into it now in order to achieve anything that can be politely called success in three months time. Continue reading
However good the agreement that may be reached at Copenhagen in December is on reducing carbon emissions, the world is going to have to adapt to the consequences of climate change that are already feeding through the natural system. A new study will discomfort a lot of people by showing strong grounds to think the costs of adaptation will be several times higher than previously estimated. Continue reading
Two of the big issues the world faces today are how to recover from the economic crunch and how to reverse global warming and deal with climate change. On Wednesday 15 July the UK government addressed both with a major policy statement reshaping its energy policy to reduce carbon emissions. It signals a bold effort to green the economy and create several hundred thousand new jobs. The biggest risk it faces is getting politically entangled – and in this regard, the media reaction was a worry.
To assist poor countries facing the double and connected problems of climate change and violent conflict, adaptation to climate change has to be combined with peacebuilding. For this to be possible, organisations – governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental alike – that work on development, the environment and peace issues have to move out of their boxes and make more than one leap of imagination and policy so the links are visible between both problems and solutions. It is not inevitable that the Obama administration will succeed in this. Help is needed! Continue reading
Before Christmas there was some much needed good news about global warming. In the wake of a deeply uninspiring climate ‘summit’ at Poznan in Poland, we cheered up as Barrack Obama appointed people who know and care about climate change to the key science and environment positions in his soon-installed administration. It looks like he really means to bring the US into the game as a player for change and definitively quit the coalition of the unwilling, the short-sighted and the bloody-minded obscurantist. As we say in the technical jargon of the global warming debate, at bloody last.