Delegates came home upbeat from the Cancún climate talks, although the Copenhagen Accord texts were hardly altered by the Cancún Agreements. Were there good reasons for optimism? Or were the “rounds of cheering and applause,” “at times near euphoria,” psychological symptoms of something else?

Adrian Macey says it’s far too soon to analyse the meaning and import of Cancún. Mr Macey is a highly regarded diplomat. I am a lowly blogger: a marginally less considered, cautious breed. Here goes:

Macey and some of his fellow delegates, including New Zealand’s climate change ambassador Jo Tyndall, addressed a public lecture on Wednesday lunchtime, fresh off the plane from Cancún. Macey will now chair the Kyoto Protocol negotiating track, as it attempts to forge a second commitment for the period post-2012.

They felt progress had been achieved. Macey said the climate talks had exceeded his expectations on most counts. The Cancún Agreement texts, by apparent contrast, seem little altered since Copenhagen, and this report might as well have been dusted off from a year ago.

Expectations were exceeded because they were so low.

Macey described Copenhagen’s legacy. The Accord could not be brought within the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as a matter of legal form. There was residual bitterness amongst parties about the Copenhagen process, and a resulting lack of trust. There were real doubts about whether the UN was capable of responding multi-laterally to the problem of climate change. The Copenhagen Accord had been undermined in 2010, by changes to the text.

So, the close resemblance of the Cancún and Copenhagen texts was significant progress, given what had happened in the meantime, and the hurdles to be overcome. The legal form of the Cancún Agreements is now correct: two formal decisions of the conference of the parties, one under each climate change treaty — the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

On the commitment to cap global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, while this and the pledges to 2020 have stayed the same, the texts do not close off the possibility of greater ambition, in fact they refer to it. “Strengthening ambition” language in the texts picks up on the UNEP ‘Emissions Gap’ report, and a forthcoming ‘Closing the Gap’ report. The global 2 degrees goal is retained, plus a prospect of review, with 2050 pledges to follow.

The real significance of Cancún, said Jo Tyndall, is that for the first time, it’s a global solution. It was heralded by the presiding Mexican minister as a “new era of international co-operation on climate change”. Until now, the onus has been on Kyoto Protocol parties and Annex 1 parties, which excludes the US and China: these parties, Tyndall said, are responsible for only 27% of global emissions.

Developing countries were encouraged by new finance arrangements, for a green climate fund. The expectation for a single new treaty would still be differentiated outcomes, as under Kyoto and the UNFCCC, for developed and developing countries.

The future of the Kyoto Protocol was an important part of the negotiations. There is, as yet, no second commitment period. For developing countries in particular, this was their bottom line: no second commitment period, no result. In Macey’s terms, the Cancún Agreements therefore offer “constructive ambiguity” on this point. The texts have “been finessed”.

Because, if Cancún had failed, the diplomatic future for these talks would have been in real doubt. With a new narrative of success, faith in the UN to deal with these big multi-lateral issues has, allegedly, been restored.

Allegedly, and arguably, because faith in the UN to deal meaningfully with climate change — to do enough about it fast enough — may not have been restored at all. There was some byplay with Bolivia. The Cancún texts were adopted, overriding Bolivia’s explicit objections, and debate about what was meant by ‘consensus’ in UN parlance: did it mean unanimity, or a majority? Could one country hold to ransom 192 others?

Bolivia, cast as the bad guy here, said that the texts were not strong enough. The pledges were too loose; it is doubted they will be effective in stabilising greenhouse gas emissions at a level sustainable for human and other life. Also, with no guarantee of a second Kyoto commitment period, there are fears developed countries could eventually wriggle out of this loophole, evading the Protocol’s binding emissions reduction commitments.

Process-wise, Bolivia called it a worse outcome than Copenhagen where “there was respect for the rule on consensus. The [Copenhagen] Presidency did not have the gall to hammer through a decision … This is an unhappy conclusion.”

The “imperfect” nature of the texts was also noted by a number of other countries.

According to our delegates, though, it was important to remember at Cancún that ‘the perfect is the enemy of the good’. 193 countries all knew, if not this, then nothing. Since nobody was prepared to countenance nothing, all bar one were prepared to set aside their differences and make this step along the way — and it is only a step along the way, not the end of the discussion.

There were, said Macey, two three-minute standing ovations for the Cancún Presidency and her tough handling. According to one report, there was at times “an atmosphere of near euphoria”. We are “trying to make sense of the Cancún agreement and the rounds of cheering and applause that accompanied it” wrote another.

Assuming these diplomatic types are not given to mass hysteria, you have to conclude that progress, in diplomatic terms, was indeed made, against mighty odds; and that this was an outpouring of relief in recognition of its importance.

But it is progress in environmental terms that Bolivia, and others, are worried about.

Compared to what the science demands, Cancún was a disappointment at best.

On Wednesday in Parliament, Kennedy Graham for the Greens invited Bill English’s comments on “the independent analysis done by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research that the emission reductions agreed to at Cancún will probably result in global warming of 3.2 degrees Celsius”. English replied (my emphasis):

The Cancún process represents a credible attempt by countries that are, by and large, badly affected by the global financial crisis, and therefore pretty aware of the costs of any policy to their populations, to do their best to get some common agreement that may allow for reduction in pollution, with some effect on global warming.

At the lecture I attended, none of the delegates wanted to address a similar sort of question — Macey, in particular, with an eye on his new role, declined — except this slightly testy offering from one of them: you seem to suggest it’s simple, he said, and it’s not. Not simple, the other guy replied, but it is urgent. The planet is what it is, and it doesn’t compromise.

It was as if, in a room full of blind people, someone had said, “look! it’s an elephant!”.

Comments (50)

by nommopilot on December 17, 2010
nommopilot

arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh!!!!!!!!!

these people!!!

by Mark Wilson on December 17, 2010
Mark Wilson

Cancun couldn't, didn't and never intended to.

I defy anyone to read the texts and seriously suggest that anything of substance was decided.

More millions of words and meaningless posturing.

The only honest response is to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

By the time the left accepts that nothing substantive is going to be done we will have lost a huge amount of time that should have been spent of getting prepared.

Why do the left insist on having their head in the sand?

by Andrew Geddis on December 17, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"By the time the left accepts that nothing substantive is going to be done we will have lost a huge amount of time that should have been spent of getting prepared."

Sigh. Look at this speech from Nick Smith. On the website of the "Bluegreens - a National Party advisory group". In which he says: "It will come as no surprise to you that tackling climate change is the New Zealand Government’s number one environmental priority."

So, either:

(1) Nick Smith, his National Government and the Bluegreens are all of "the left", in which case Mark's categorisaton becomes so disconnected to actual, real world politics as to be meaningless; or,

(2) People's views on whether or not climate change can/cannot be avoided/ameliorated have nothing to do with the right/left divide.

In either case, Mark's attempt to use "the left" as some sort of general pejorative fails once again.

(Oh - now witness how Mark completely ignores the evidence presented in this response and carries on regardless - which is why he isn't a very good commentator on this site, and so regularly gets taken out of play.)

by Claire Browning on December 17, 2010
Claire Browning

Wrong again, Mark. Cancun was the perfect venue: its texts are all about what we can do, as opposed to what we must.

Mic - what people? If you mean the diplomats, that would be very unfair. They only represent, and facilitate. They have to cut the cloth they're given. I have little doubt that whatever gains were made at Cancun all came down to diplomacy. The blame for the failures lies somewhere else entirely.

by Claire Browning on December 17, 2010
Claire Browning

Look at this speech from Nick Smith. On the website of the "Bluegreens - a National Party advisory group". In which he says: "It will come as no surprise to you that tackling climate change is the New Zealand Government’s number one environmental priority."

Y-eeees. And on the matter of "millions of words and meaningless posturing", once you understand that this is their number one environmental priority - and then look at what is being done to give effect to the priority - suddenly a whole lot else about other environment and conservation 'priorities' becomes quite obvious, really.

by Mark Wilson on December 17, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew - ah - "So, either:"

I am with Claire on this one - he's a poli so of course he will say something PC with absolutely no intention to follow through - who (except you) would expect anything else?

Can anyone point out any specific action at Cancun by any substantial country that will result in any meaningful reduction of gasses? Or any of the other talk fests / holidays in the sun?

No? - gee what a surprise.

by Andrew Geddis on December 17, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Not the point, Mark. Whether or not Nick Smith honestly believes that Cancun will actually limit future climate change is irrelevant. What is relevant is that he's a right-winger who at least claims to think it is important to take steps to stop climate change. Hence falsifying your claim that only "the left" are worried about this sort of thing.

So, once again, your claims are proven wrong by some easily available empirical evidence and the application of a bit of elementary logic. Does it ever get boring being so consistent?

by Kyle Matthews on December 17, 2010
Kyle Matthews

(2) People's views on whether or not climate change can/cannot be avoided/ameliorated have nothing to do with the right/left divide.

I wonder if there's any quantitative analysis of that, maybe tied to voting patterns, in NZ. Are left-wingers more likely to believe in AGW than right-wingers? I suspect yes, but both groups overwhelmingly believe.

I think the left-right split is more along best ways to address the issue, though even there left and right wing break down - a lot of left-wingers argue for user-pays in environmental issues for example. A lot of right-wingers seem to expect the state to pay, which really is a reversal.

by Mark Wilson on December 17, 2010
Mark Wilson

Sorry Andrew but read this again - your analysis is clearly wrong -  

What is relevant is that he's a right-winger who at least claims to think it is important to take steps to stop climate change. Hence falsifying your claim that only "the left" are worried about this sort of thing.             So, once again, your claims are proven wrong by some easily available empirical evidence and the application of a bit of elementary logic. Does it ever get boring being so consistent?

If Smith only "claims" to be worried that negates "Hence falsifying your claim that only "the left" are worried about this sort of thing."            

Read it again - your elementary logic is illogical.

And I have never said that only the left is worried - what I have consistently said is logical, correct and proved by empirical evidence - nothing of substance will be done on climate change so we should plan for the results. And everything that has happened to date supports me.

This is an important issue which should be debated - the left refuse to do this - why waste money on a fait accompli when we could be spending it on remedial action.

With the greatest respect, and I mean that seriously, and I do respect your undoubted intellect but you really need to stop putting words in other people's mouths - it's not logical.

by stuart munro on December 17, 2010
stuart munro

But Mark, the price of your wriggle room is claiming that Dr Smith is simply a liar. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the right - with friends like you in fact, they'd need no enemies.

by Andrew Geddis on December 17, 2010
Andrew Geddis

No, Mark ... you go back and look at what you've said. Your initial claim was that there is no point trying to stop climate change occuring (because this is a futile endeavour), and so we all would be far better off finding ways to adapt to the inevitable. This is a perfectly arguable position (but by no means universally held ... check out what uber-"wealth creator" Bill Gates is doing to try and stop climate change happening ... his having made it in "the real world" surely earns him respect from you?).

What you then go on to say is that the reason that we are not all busy adapting for the inevitable is because "the left" refuses to accept that climate change cannot be stopped, and so is wasting time on the issue ("with its head in the sand"). I've then pointed out to you that it isn't just "the left" who are taking action with the goal of stopping climate change - or, at least, are involved (whether honestly or not, cynically or genuinely) in the global processes that claim to have that as its goal. Hence, there are both "lefties" and "righties" at Cancun, and both "lefties" and "righties" are "taking action" outside those fora ... as evidenced here, and here.

Now, I can't see how your position is vindicated by saying something like "only the left genuinely believes climate change can be stopped ... some on the right may say that and take part in the charade, but they really know the score". Motivations don't matter here, only actions do - that was your original point ("The only honest response is to prepare for the impacts of climate change").

Hence, you can whinge about me "putting words in other people's mouths", but all I'm doing is responding to exactly what you said. If you didn't mean what you said ... well, that's your problem.

There is a deeper point here, too. You actually have a good point to make. But you insist, as usual, in wrapping it so deep in frankly juvenile insults about the purported positions held by "the left" that it gets completely lost. Which is sadly typical of your contributions on this site - which again is a shame, because a voice from the right that was interested in debating ideas rather than throwing poo would be a really nice thing to have.

by Mark Wilson on December 17, 2010
Mark Wilson

But there are no "actions" being taken - certainly not substantive and effective ones.

That's the point!

And I am entitled to mock when people won't accept that reality -

"nothing of substance will be done on climate change so we should plan for the results. And everything that has (not) happened to date supports me.

Can anyone point out any specific action at Cancun by any substantial country that will result in any meaningful reduction of gasses? Or any of the other talk fests / holidays in the sun?"

Bill Gates is a genius but even geniuses are not right all the time. His inability to recognise and destroy the threat that Jobs represented is proof of that. He is as powerless as I or any other citizen in the face of an absolute refusal by China, the USA and India to make effective change and without those 3 the rest is meaningless.

The Republicans will never accept the concept of climate change let alone make the politically suicidal changes required. And lets not even consider the Tea Party lunatics response. Obama is clearly another political eunuch like Jimmy Carter who has handed the country back to the GOP. So that is the end of that.

India is without question the most disorganised country possible short of a failed state status. The Government has almost zero control over what is going on inside India and any promise they make re climate change is unenforceable and undeliverable. As an aside India is an interesting example of one of the few cases where it almost seems as a reversal of the entropy principle - it is in a massively chaotic state which should fly apart but somehow staggers along. 

The Chinese leadership is way more vulnerable than is generally realized - 300 million people with a first world lifestyle and a billion with third world conditions. 17,000  officially recognised riots last year alone - who knows how many in reality. They can halt the more egregious and visible pollution because it is caused by the little guys but anything that would make a real difference seriously endangers their power so that is a no go area.

If even the leaders of a fascist / communist state like China are not in a strong enough position to make the tough decisions that are required then democratic states have no chance.

I am entitled to say that the left are naive in believing that there is any possibility of change and there is only one serious option and that is to prepare for the changes coming.

I very much doubt that there are many on the right who seriously believe that climate change can be modified but of course they will pay lip service to the concept when there is advantage to be gained from doing so.

After all, the right believe knowing what is going to happen is the only thing and arguing about what should happen when it is not going to is irrelevant.

by Andrew Geddis on December 18, 2010
Andrew Geddis

So - "the right" are even more to blame here because they know what is going to happen, yet are failing to take the requisite steps (i.e. preparing to meet an inevitably changing world?) Which is better - to be stupid yet well-intentioned ("the left") or wise yet continuing to engage in activities you know to be pointless at the expense of actions that would actually be good ("the right")?

Unless, of course, you can point to a set of actions in preparation for the inevitable that only "the right" are taking? Can you? Have you any actual, you know, evidence for what you are saying here?

by Mark Wilson on December 18, 2010
Mark Wilson

Sorry Andrew but you miss the point.

Which is better - to be stupid yet well-intentioned ("the left") or wise yet continuing to engage in activities you know to be pointless at the expense of actions that would actually be good ("the right")?

"Better" is not important - being correct about what is going to happen is.

The evidence is irrefutable - all the talk fests so far have achieved nothing that will have a serious impact on climate change. It would be ill advised for the right to actually openly acknowledge nothing useful is going to happen. Who needs the resulting lefty protests and interminable whinging?

The rational response is to continue to make money  with the current system so they can reinvest in the amerlorating technology that will be needed in the future.   

by Andrew Geddis on December 18, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"It would be ill advised for the right to actually openly acknowledge nothing useful is going to happen."

Why? Being yelled at by "the left" hardly stops "the right" arguing its corner/taking the actions they think best in any other area of life. I think this is a bit of an ex post facto explanation ...

"The rational response is to continue to make money  with the current system so they can reinvest in the amerlorating technology that will be needed in the future."

Assuming, of course, that (i) such technology will be available, (ii) within the time fame left for adaptation. And the idea that the world economy will just keep chugging along as is even as the (literal) climate it operates in changes rapidly and is - how shall we say this - optimistic. One might even marvel at the idealism and basic faith in progress that this view exhibits ... kind of like "the left's" trust in global political solutions.

Further, why is it "rational" to rely on technology to fix the problem of adaptation in the future, yet mistaken to invest in technology to stop the problem happening at all (or, at least ameliorate it) a la Bill Gates?

by Mark Wilson on December 18, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew I guess at the end of the day it is a philosophical viewpoint.

1 - The big 3 will not change for the reasons given above.

2 - Therefore it is impossible to halt or significantly alter climate change.

Now you either agree with that or you don't.

The right as a rule firmly believe in 1 and 2. 

So assuming that we as a species are not going to die out (and if we are then this is all moot), and it should be kept in mind that far less technologically advanced humans than us survived climate change before - i.e. the middle ages ice age, then the people and nations who adapt will prosper and the rest won't. So what else is new?

The world economy has never "just kept chugging along". The only constant in economies is change - adapt or die. 

Climate change is inevitable and those countries who damage their economies in a futile effort to prevent it will be eaten by those who don't, in particular by the big 3.

Why should the weak and / or stupid prosper?

Darwinism always wins! And so it should!

by Claire Browning on December 18, 2010
Claire Browning

The world economy has never "just kept chugging along". The only constant in economies is change - adapt or die.

Sure. And at the end of the day, that is exactly what those at the so-called "talkfests" (and those of us backing them) are trying to achieve. We would just rather do it sooner than later.

You, on the other hand, seem to be clinging like a bit of a drowning man to the comforting spar of the status quo: "It would be ill advised for the right to actually openly acknowledge nothing useful is going to happen ..." and "The rational response is to continue to make money  with the current system ...".

So, to go back to the beginning of this thread, who is it with their heads buried in the sand, wasting huge amounts of time?

Why should the weak and / or stupid prosper? Darwinism always wins! And so it should!

I think, finally, we are coming to the point. In significant part, it's the already weak that will suffer most from the effects of climate change, which suits your world view just fine.

What do you think will be the likely impacts of 3-6 degrees' global warming (to which the strong and smart among us ought to be adapting)?

You may be interested in some reported comments from Lord Stern, at the parallel World Climate Summit in Cancun. Reportedly, he said that anyone who wanted to see the shape of the sixth industrial revolution, should look at China's - yes, China's - 12th 5-year plan. All Europe needed to do, he said, was try to keep up, and those two large blocks will go a long way towards the necessary adaptation. By implication, he was saying, if the US doesn't pull finger, it is going to be left behind. The clean tech and clean finance industries, too, are said to be "just starting to get on with it", on their own initiative.

I wonder what sort of a 'wealth creator' you are, Mark. Isn't it all supposed to be about market signals, and commercial edge, and so on? 

I wonder, too, if your "philosophy" is just another species of climate denial.

by Mark Wilson on December 18, 2010
Mark Wilson

Oh dear - if the world was run for the benefit of the weak and stupid we would be still living in caves. And that wouldn't be much use to the stupid and weak would it?

And in regard to "In significant part, it's the already weak that will suffer most from the effects of climate change, which suits your world view just fine."        There is a big difference between saying something is going to happen and agreeing with it. Thousands globally will be killed in car crashes today - I assume you are not suggesting that my saying that means I support that.

As to who is most advanced in the clean tech etc industries the US is way in front of China and will stay that way. China is always overestimated and the US is always underestimated. The latter is because the left hate the US to the point of blinding themselves. 

Lord Stern's opinion is irrelevant - this is not an argument about whether or not climate change is real - it should be about only one issue - will the big 3 make the huge changes in their economy that would be required from ALL 3 if there was to be useful change. For the specific reasons given previously this will not happen. 

I cannot see how any other point is in any way relevant. Unless someone is silly enough to argue that the big 3 will make the change then all the rest is mush.

That is the difference between left and right - the left waste time on arguing against fait accompli while the right deal with reality.

by Simon on December 18, 2010
Simon

Claire,

I was quietly dismayed by the narrative given by Adrian Macey and Jo Tyndall and their fellow climate-o-crats. The tone of the narrative; "converging ad-hoc working group tracks", "finessing texts", "the perfect is the enemy of the good" (except when negotiating reduced deforestation liabilities for NZ), and "laying constructive foundations for future binding agreements". These are well-crafted messaging but really they are just rationalisations for 17 years of virtually no progress in the UNFCCC process.

The narrative may have made sense after the UNCED Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, but to be repeated annually after each Conference of the Partys?

It turns out I am not the only person thinking that. My late father, Robin Johnson, provided this perspective on Rio 1992 to his fellow economists (http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/johnso14/rwmj1992j.html) "The aim of this convention (UNFCCC) was to outline a set of general principles and obligations for international cooperation. Subsequent negotiations were to produce specific targets and quantitative restrictions on greenhouse gases...negotiations had already moved into detail of specific actions required, but disagreement on these issues had not been resolved."

and

"In the end, the non-binding language was adopted to get all major nations to sign the convention...Agreement also had to be reached on the control of emissions of other greenhouse gases, financial aid to developing countries; conditions to be attached to any such aid; payments to developing countries whose forests serve as global carbon "sinks"; and the terms by which environmentally sound technologies were to be made available to developing countries."
In other words, all the same important binding details not in the Cancun Agreements and yet again deffered to later summits.

Here's Gregg Easterbrook saying something similar and comparing Obama's post Copenhagen speech in 2009 to George Bush Snr's post Rio speeech in 1992.(http://blogs.reuters.com/gregg-easterbrook/2010/12/01/what-we-should-be-...)

Its hard to disagree with Easterbrooks conclusion: "Nearly two decades after Rio, nothing has changed in the international legal status of greenhouse gases, which are all but unregulated; nothing has changed in the United States, which does not regulate greenhouse gases.." and,

"Going-through-the-motions of international gatherings that accomplish nothing other than a luxurious week of travel for climate-o-crats are part of the problem".

Last night I picked up my copy of "Storms of my Grandchildren" by James Hansen. On the first page of the preface, Hansen writes something that sums up Adrian Macey's narrative; the "vast disparity between Government words and reality", and "expressing concern about global warming...while taking no actions to actually stabilize climate". I wish I had asked Macey for a response on that viewpoint.

by Andrew Geddis on December 18, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"Oh dear - if the world was run for the benefit of the weak and stupid we would be still living in caves. And that wouldn't be much use to the stupid and weak would it?"

Or possibly not.

"As to who is most advanced in the clean tech etc industries the US is way in front of China and will stay that way."

Or, alternatively, not.

"That is the difference between left and right - the left waste time on arguing against fait accompli while the right deal with reality."

Which you've yet to demonstrate in any way whatsoever. So, let's put it in very, very simple terms. How is "the right" dealing with the reality of climate change in a way that is different to "the left"? One piece of evidence. Go on. Just one simple, solitary piece of evidence above and beyond Mark Wilson's say-so.

by Mark Wilson on December 18, 2010
Mark Wilson

Oh dear of dear oh dear. Very illogical indeed Andrew.

How is "the right" dealing with the reality of climate change in a way that is different to "the left"?

The right has no intention of dealing with the reality of climate chnage. Which is my whole point. As a general rule they don't believe in tilting at windmills.

The whole point of my argument, which is supported by the constant complaints from the left, is that the difference is that the right aren't dealing with climate change while the left are. Read any lefty article on climate change and the right are criticised for doing little or nothing. Is a 100 million articles more than one?

Very illogical indeed.

by Andrew Geddis on December 18, 2010
Andrew Geddis

From your very first comment on this thread: "By the time the left accepts that nothing substantive is going to be done we will have lost a huge amount of time that should have been spent of getting prepared."

From your last comment: "The right has no intention of dealing with the reality of climate chnage."

You are no longer even worth talking to.

by Mark Wilson on December 18, 2010
Mark Wilson

You misinterpreted my initial comment - should have been spent getting prepared for inevitable climate change as nothing will be done to prevent it happening.

All my comments following that support the correct interpretation.

And I am right which is your real beef.

by Andrew Geddis on December 18, 2010
Andrew Geddis

No, Mark. I completely understood your statement. It's just you start by lambasting "the left" for not taking the correct course of action ... preparing for the inevitable ... and then go on to say that "the right" are doing (or, rather, are not doing) exactly the same thing. Which is what happens in virtually every comments thread you engage on. Hence, not worth talking to.

by Mark Wilson on December 18, 2010
Mark Wilson

Sorry but you are being clearly illogical.

1 - I lambaste the left for not accepting that nothing will be done about climate change so they should plan for the results of the change (but they won't).

2 - Then I talk about how the right is not going to waste time and money trying to stop climate change but will plan for the result of that change. 

I have just had two very smart people read this thread (they have not seen it before) and without any prompting they agree that I have been consistent in my writing and you have misunderstood. Try it yourself - it will be confirmed you are wrong in this case. 

by Andrew Geddis on December 18, 2010
Andrew Geddis

Well, I've just had three even smarter people read this thread, and they all agree I'm right. So I win.

See you the next time you want your hat handed to you.

by Mark Wilson on December 18, 2010
Mark Wilson

If a student of yours provided a response like that yopu would fail them. Where's your answer to 1 and 2?

by Andrew Rudolph on December 19, 2010
Andrew Rudolph

I felt compelled to jump in at this point because I agree with Mark about how we should be planning for the inevitable rise in global temperatures.

I do however disagree with his premise that only the 'right' are making any meaningful preparations - other than of course making sure they're fine and to hell with the rest of us - As a 'leftie' I think both sides have been equally useless, and that all these 'talkfests' are exactly that.

When Climate Change happens both sides will be able to say "We tried... Oh dear, how sad, nevermind...."

And just one philosophical thought to leave you with....

"If a 'leftie' were to prepare for Inevitable Climate Change to occur, they'd be considered a 'tin-foil hat nutjob'. If a 'rightie' were to prepare for it they'd be called 'pragmatic and far-sighted."

 

by Rab McDowell on December 19, 2010
Rab McDowell

Most of the above debate appears to be predicated on the assumption that whether the climate changes or not is dependent on how much CO2 we put into the air.


The climate has always changed and will continue to do so. The questions for us are (1) whether the increasing amounts of CO2 we are putting into the air is influencing that and to what degree and (2) can and should we do anything about it.


In regard to (1) While there have always been those who deny that the CO2 is having an affect there is also an increasing number of genuine sceptics who are having doubts about the science of it all and an increasing number of people who see it as less of an issue than they once did. That is going to make the task for those who believe that we need to address (2) increasingly more difficult.


In regard to (2) the talks and the intent of those who attend Copenhagen/Cancun etc appear disconnected from the reality. The reality is; Most undeveloped and developing nations desperately want to increase their standard of living. There is a strong linkage between standard of living and energy consumption. For most of the world, particularly the developing world, energy means coal. For all the promotion and subsidisation of sustainable or renewable energy forms the amount of energy produced from coal consumption is going up faster than the increase in renewables.  It is increasing considerably faster, not in percentage terms but in absolute terms and, if you think CO2 is the problem, then that is what counts.


Cancun may have finished with “an atmosphere of near euphoria” but the reality when those delegates get back home is going to be considerably colder (if I can use that word). We can continue to rail against the world in our corner of the Pacific but we need to reflect that Malthus had been found to be wrong time and time again and, going on the past, the chances are not high that he will be right this time.

by Claire Browning on December 20, 2010
Claire Browning

If a student of yours provided a response like that yopu would fail them. Where's your answer to 1 and 2?

But Mark, where are your answers to any of my questions?

You may have been struggling to grasp their relevance. Let me explain.

You told us on this other thread last week that you are interested in "a [sic] actual achievable goal and process for getting there". Given that, I'm interested in exploring how your adaptation policy, as laid out on the thread so far, is likely to work.

So, as propounded by you, it would be economically damaging to do anything too much or at all in the meantime, since (contrary to evidence, but let's set that to one side for the minute) the 'big 3' are not. We should, instead, make money from the current system for as long as possible.

All well and good, for discussion purposes. However, the later global emissions peak, either

  1. the faster they would need to subsequently decline, to stabilse atmospheric GHG at a manageable level, or
  2. the higher the resulting level of atmospheric GHG will be, at some point reaching a level where it would simply not be possible any longer to adapt within acceptable parameters (including politically acceptable).

This is why I asked you: "What do you think will be the likely impacts of 3-6 degrees' global warming (to which the strong and smart among us ought to be adapting)?"

And bear in mind that you really need to be focusing your reply on the impacts closer to the 6 degree end of the range or indeed higher, given your other preferences for / assumptions about a delayed response. This goes to the feasibility of your proposal. Can it work, in other words?

And in regard to "In significant part, it's the already weak that will suffer most from the effects of climate change, which suits your world view just fine."        There is a big difference between saying something is going to happen and agreeing with it. Thousands globally will be killed in car crashes today - I assume you are not suggesting that my saying that means I support that.

Well, you assume wrong. I was certainly suggesting that you support this, either explicitly or implicitly.

Explicitly, based on the part I had already quoted (above the comment you in turn quoted), where you said (my emphasis):  "Why should the weak and / or stupid prosper? Darwinism always wins! And so it should!".

And implicitly, based on your repeated assertions that it is "the right" who simply get on in the world and do what needs to be done while "the left's" function in the world is to complain -- yet in this instance, you are instead spending your Saturday evenings tapping out facile complaints here on Pundit, and arguing for "The rational response [which] is to continue to make money  with the current system ..." for as long as possible.

Lord Stern's opinion is irrelevant - this is not an argument about whether or not climate change is real - it should be about only one issue - will the big 3 make the huge changes in their economy that would be required from ALL 3 if there was to be useful change.

And that's exactly the matter he was commenting on, which is why I mentioned it. For your benefit, here it is again:

"You may be interested in some reported comments from Lord Stern, at the parallel World Climate Summit in Cancun. Reportedly, he said that anyone who wanted to see the shape of the sixth industrial revolution, should look at China's - yes, China's - 12th 5-year plan. All Europe needed to do, he said, was try to keep up, and those two large blocks will go a long way towards the necessary adaptation. By implication, he was saying, if the US doesn't pull finger, it is going to be left behind. The clean tech and clean finance industries, too, are said to be 'just starting to get on with it', on their own initiative."

by Mark Wilson on December 20, 2010
Mark Wilson

OK here we go -

Lord Stern is naive in the extreme if he seriously thinks the Chinese government means what they say - if he is dumb enough to believe that he is an ideal candidate to sell Big Ben to! But then he is a scientist so he is as gullible as hell. There is no evidence at all that China has made or will make the massive changes required. At the same time they are making a few well publicised Eco friendly gestures they are building many more coal fired power stations and according to Wikipedia they increased their coal usage in 2010 to  3.2 billion tons of coal and will greatly increase their mining in 2011. The fact is that China is now the world's worst polluter of greenhouse gases and India is nearly as bad and also getting worse. And you have to hand it to China and India - to be worse than the USA is a big effort by any-one's standards.

So I am sorry but the big 3 are getting worse not better and I defy anyone to show any real evidence that they will actually seriously reduce their pollution levels in the future. Yes they will pay lip service to the concept but they do not have the power or the will to do so - they may reduce the rate of increase but increase it they will.

As to " "Why should the weak and / or stupid prosper? Darwinism always wins! And so it should!".

If people want the weak and dumb to be looked after then they must reward the smart and the strong. All of recorded history shows that interference in that process reduces the wealth available to look after the weak and dumb. Where are the people from the previous communist states voting for communism if that is not so ? "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." This truly is the left's bedrock philosophy and hasn't that worked out well!

A world run by the weak and dumb would be back in the dark ages. And they would last for all of 30 seconds before it was taken off them.

"where are your answers to any of my questions?"

In the view of most of the right nothing will stop climate change. So any question that pertains to that not being correct cannot be answered.

As to the 6% temperature effects - they will be drastic - no doubt about it. But unless someone can supply credible proof that the big 3 are being less cynical than usual (and you have to admit that would entail a delicious irony - the left proving the big 3 are less cynical than usual - and that is exactly what the idiot savant Stern is arguing.) 

The effects of 6% will be massive but so was the middle age ice age but they survived and so will the prepared now. The others - not so much. And with spectacular irony the back to nature greenies will be the first to go - how sad never mind.

High tech will be the way to go - super strong buildings - huge sea walls - serious self defence forces - a can do attitude in the face of adversity - let me see - which country does that remind me of - that's right - the good old USA!   

One of the most generous habits of the left is the underestimation of the right's intellect and in particular the USA's ruling elite's intellect. I wonder how long it will take the left to wake up to the fact that a 6% increase in temperature will hammer low tech big population countries - now I wonder who that would be????  And the countries with the highest tech and biggest armed forces will do the best. Now I wonder who that will be????

And the big American think tanks (right wing of course - the left are too poor to have really big ones with lots of money to buy the best minds and the most powerful political connections - think Dick Cheney) would never have realised that the US of A will deal with the chaos better than anyone and that China and India will get more and more bogged down in trying to save large chunks of their populations. If the world thought that the US had too much power in the 20th century wait until they see them after climate change kicks in. This is a serious point - it is pretty dumb to think that the best educated (where are most of the world's best universities) and richest people in the world (who pay the most for the best brains in the world) are too stupid to plan for the future. And amazingly they like being number one in the world and are keen to keep it that way.

As to "Saturday evenings tapping out facile complaints here on Pundit"  - if you are on a plane it's hard to go for a jog! Plus I am sure you agree that mocking Andrew is surely God's work? And one women's facile comment is many others brilliant analysis. (If only my modesty didn't hold me back). 

by Andin on December 21, 2010
Andin

Are you still hanging around Mark? Boy that says a lot for the tolerance of the good people of this site. I see there's no point trying to rebut anything you say, 'cause you obviously didn't evolve ears for listening. I'm wondering what function those wonderfully delicate listening bones perform on your person, must be something to do with your hair. Or do you keep little treats in there for later.

"As to " "Why should the weak and / or stupid prosper? Darwinism always wins! And so it should!"."

You dont know much about evolution do you. Nature doesn't much care about physical prowess or intelligent quotients, if it fits its niche it survives. Really this kind of statement just makes you sound like a proto-fascist.

" 6% increase in temperature will hammer low tech big population countries "

Such an increase will hammer everyone even your beloved US of A. But Im wondering where you got this 6% from, as I read it as 6 degrees.

Anyway I cant be bothered  you are so ill-informed and swinging wildly and missing, your arguments littered with phantoms of your own lurid imagination. Its just depressing you actually think you are actually making a worthwhile contribution  any debate.

 

 

by Andrew Geddis on December 21, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"But then [Lord Stern] is a scientist so he is as gullible as hell."

No he isn't. He's an economist.

"I defy anyone to show any real evidence that they will actually seriously reduce their pollution levels in the future."

I defy you to show any real evidence on anything at all ... but most especially that your magic technology will be able to solve everything in the future (whilst, of course, being unable to do anything to prevent the problem in the present ... that moron Bill Gates' views notwithstanding).

"High tech will be the way to go - super strong buildings - huge sea walls - serious self defence forces - a can do attitude in the face of adversity - let me see - which country does that remind me of - that's right - the good old USA!"

You mean every city in the USA will be as well protected against extreme weather events as New Orleans was? Well then, that's just peachy.

"One of the most generous habits of the left is the underestimation of the right's intellect ..."

Well - we can only go on the evidence of what you present us with, Mark.

"Plus I am sure you agree that mocking Andrew is surely God's work?"

I'm sure it is. When do you plan to start?

by Claire Browning on December 21, 2010
Claire Browning

"But then [Lord Stern] is a scientist so he is as gullible as hell."

No he isn't. He's an economist.

What Andrew said. Jeesh.

a can do attitude in the face of adversity ...

You mean, like yours? Or more like Lord Stern's ... and the delegates at Cancun ... and the "back to nature greenies", who keep on keeping on trying to engage, futile though it may be?

Nature doesn't much care about physical prowess or intelligent quotients, if it fits its niche it survives.

He's counting on it.

by Claire Browning on December 21, 2010
Claire Browning

"I defy anyone to show any real evidence that they will actually seriously reduce their pollution levels in the future ..."

And Mark: whether they will actually seriously reduce their pollution levels enough is moot (just as it is for the developed world), but China in particular will actually seriously try.

That they are now the world's worst polluter is old news (a year old, since mid-2009 from memory); ditto their parallel coal-mining and -firing activities. Nor am I denying their cynicism, in fact, my whole argument from NZ's point of view about brand and positioning is based on it.

I have no doubt China has spotted climate change as its biggest opportunity to reposition itself, and will look to exploit it, at the expense of USA and whoever else including NZ.

However, that is not at all the same thing as your assumption that China will do nothing in response.

If the 12th five-year plan is not enough evidence for you (said to be on track to implementation), check out their land-buying ventures.

I suggest to you that China's assessment of the relative costs and benefits of adaptation in different ways at different times is rather more clear-eyed than your own. As you say yourself, it would be massively affected by denying the problem and deferring action, and it knows it.

It's because China perceives both the opportunity and the risk, that it will at least try to defy your prediction of its future: getting "more and more bogged down in trying to save large chunks of their populations ...".

by stuart munro on December 21, 2010
stuart munro

 "Why should the weak and / or stupid prosper?"

It's an interesting question, but the fact is that they do. It was not your tall athletic gauls with Conan-on-steroids physiques that lorded it over the mediterranean and southern europe for half an age, but nasty dwarfish Romans.

It isn't the Greens, with well thought out and costed economic policies, nor Labour, who at least in government had an occasional positive result, but the rightwing nutbars who get to run us $22 billion into debt in a single year. And you know, you micturate away $10 billion here and $10 billion there, pretty soon you're talking serious money.

Why indeed do the weak and stupid prosper? And how can we be rid of these apallingly stupid non-performing SOBs?

by Mark Wilson on December 21, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andin - oh diddums!

"Its just depressing you actually think you are actually making a worthwhile contribution  any debate."      Can't handle someone who doesn't reinforce your    views?                                            

 Nature doesn't much care about physical prowess or intelligent (sic) quotients, if it fits its niche it survives.

Oh dear - I could care less about physical prowess - I have no idea where that came from but it wasn't from me. But as we are talking about humans here I go with Darwin that IQ is key. 

Andrew and Claire - fair cop on the scientist / economist bit - mind you no one has to insult the stupidity of most economists - it's a given in all jurisdictions known to man. And what does an economist know about climate change?

I do like "I'm sure it is. When do you plan to start?"       I will try to do better.

Of course the US will have huge problems with the result of 6 degrees warming but from their point of view as long as China get hammered more it's well worth it.

But according to the Greenies nothing useful will be achieved unless all of the big 3 co-operate - can't see the GOP and the tea baggers agreeing to do diddly squat, can you? So if China can see the US taking advantage it's to late for them. 

And frankly I would aways bet on the US think tanks having a way better track record given their intellectual fire power (think Nobel prize winners) than anyone in NZ (yes including me).

Sorry Stuart - the Romans were smarter and better educated which is why they dealt to the Gauls - my point exactly.

As to the weak and stupid I have no desire to get rid of them - my point is that they will be less weak and less stupid if they are not made generationally benefit dependent as the left has in NZ over the last 60 years. Of course I must admit that the dumber and weaker they get thanks to the left's process the easier it  makes to herd them.

by Andrew Geddis on December 21, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"... fair cop on the scientist / economist bit - mind you no one has to insult the stupidity of most economists - it's a given in all jurisdictions known to man. And what does an economist know about climate change?"

So - scientists too gullable, economists too unsciency (and stupid), lefties too head-sandy ... only one single commentator on an obscure NZ blogsite has the right view of the issue. Come on down, Mark Wilson!!!

"Of course the US will have huge problems with the result of 6 degrees warming but from their point of view as long as China get hammered more it's well worth it."

Climate change as mutually assured destruction. Better hot than red!

"...can't see the GOP and the tea baggers agreeing to do diddly squat..."

I almost wondered if you had made a joke there, Mark. Consciously, I mean.

"Sorry Stuart - the Romans were smarter and better educated which is why they dealt to the Gauls - my point exactly."

Until they became dumber and less educated than the Visigoths, right?

 

by Claire Browning on December 22, 2010
Claire Browning

I almost wondered if you had made a joke there, Mark.

That is NSFW.

It ought to be snipped.

by Andrew Geddis on December 22, 2010
Andrew Geddis

"That is NSFW."

Are you implying, Claire, that our good readers would be using their employer's time to follow this by now pretty petty bickering session? I'm shocked! Shocked!!

by Claire Browning on December 22, 2010
Claire Browning

No. Of course not. I think it might have been more of an observation ... 

by Mark Wilson on December 22, 2010
Mark Wilson

Andrew I have never claimed to omniscience - 99% correct undoubtedly.

Time will decide who is right but you have to admit it is ironic with the right arguing that nothing of consequence will be done by the big 3 and the left arguing that they are not as cynical as the right thinks!

So we will see - with the window of opportunity to actually make a significant difference closing fast (or so the left would have it) all will be revealed over the next few years.

by stuart munro on December 22, 2010
stuart munro

the Romans were smarter and better educated which is why they dealt to the Gauls

And the Greeks were smarter and better educated than the Romans, but still succumbed to them. Ware historicism.

by Andin on December 22, 2010
Andin

"Can't handle someone who doesn't reinforce your  views?"

If you think I can't handle your "views" as you rather gloriously name them. You are stupider than I thought.

" But as we are talking about humans here I go with Darwin that IQ is key."

Your just making this up arent you.  .|..

 

 

 

by Claire Browning on December 22, 2010
Claire Browning

Time will decide who is right but you have to admit it is ironic with the right arguing that nothing of consequence will be done by the big 3 and the left arguing that they are not as cynical as the right thinks!

Oh FFS, Mark. Who on "the left" is arguing this? Go on, name names.

My argument, anyway, was to agree that cynicism is a factor; but to disagree with your assumption that this equates to doing nothing.

And why on earth is it ironic? "The right", or you, or whoever, simply argues that nothing of consequence will be done by others, because they wish to keep doing nothing of consequence themselves.

by Claire Browning on December 22, 2010
Claire Browning

Also, please ask Santa for a 'Johnny One Note' redub.

by stuart munro on December 22, 2010
stuart munro

I go with Darwin that IQ is key.

Your just making this up arent you...

Yes he is. IQ dates from 1912 and Darwin died thirty years before. Also Darwin explicitly excluded humans from his arguments in Origin. Huxley was not quite so discerning however. Mark has probably read Dawkins, poor fellow, without reading Stove's Darwinian Fairytales. Very funny.

by Petone on December 22, 2010
Petone

I agree with MW on quite a few points, particularly that the big 3 aren't likely to curb their emissions anytime soon.  China is promising to make its economy more energy-efficient, but AFAIK is not promising to actually reduce emissions, let alone commit and allow monitoring by an external agency.

There's some minor points I don't agree with, like US intellectual fire-power..eg "it is pretty dumb to think that the best educated (where are most of the world's best universities) and richest people in the world (who pay the most for the best brains in the world) are too stupid to plan for the future". 
Whatever we may think, their planning for the future seems to have exported all their industry to china, addicted them to oil they can't produce, bogged them down in unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, created a rapacious financial class that manufactured the GFC, created the world's least efficient health system, etc etc.  Let's say "Could do better" for the report card.

But there are some really major points that are very suspect:

The first is the assumption is that if gobal warming is going to happen anyway, it's not worth trying to stop it.  There is absolutely no science behind this assumption.  All projections of impacts are all considerably worse the higher the temperature gets.  If we can't stop at 2 degrees, it's still worth fighting to stop at 3, or 4, or whatever. And it's a lot easier to stop at a low number than a high number, due to positive feedback loops like methane emissions from permafrost.  So it's worth fighting now, rather than waiting to see what happens and then trying to turn back the clock.

The second is that it won't be a big deal, eg no worse than the middle-ages ice-age.  There is no science behind this assumption either. The latest science is extremely sobering, eg this recent drought analysis shows that the US (along with most of the bread-baskets that feed the world) could be in a very bad state, and worse-off than China, only 20 years from now. 
This other analysis.. same blogger but different science.. from several US government agencies synthesising "a summary of an enormous amount of work by a very large number of scientists",  comes up with roughly similar projections of the US turning into a dust-bowl.
This analysis by wet-bulb temperature is quite different again and not necessarily in agreement, but the point is there is a not-that-small chance that things could get a whole lot worse.

I totally agree that sod-all of substance is happening at the moment, but to avoid the above, adaptation is not going to be enough. And getting away from this absurd left / right stuff is a required step along the way.

by stuart munro on December 24, 2010
stuart munro

There is some nice background here

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