Monday, December 7, 2009

A preview of the politics of Copenhagen

Bill McKibben's 1989 book The End of Nature was one of the first books on climate change written for a general audience. McKibben is a distinguished and highly regarded US based writer on environmental issues and the founder of a global campaign to spread the goal of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million worldwide.

On the eve of the Copenhagen Climate Summit McKibben has a piece here in which he suggests that the Summit is, in all likelihood, going to be a disaster. He argues that the Summit's preference for the incrementalist option, dominated by a "politics- as- usual approach", threatens civilization. McKibben argues that treating climate change as just another political problem is a recipe for disaster. McKibben's article also picks up on recent events here in Australia. Here is a couple of quotes from the piece

"When it comes to global warming, however, this is precisely why we’re headed off a cliff, why the Copenhagen talks that open this week, almost no matter what happens, will be a disaster. Because climate change is not like any other issue we’ve ever dealt with.....

.....What I’m saying is: even the best politicians are treating the problem of climate change as a normal political one, where you halve the distance between various competing interests and do your best to reach some kind of consensus that doesn’t demand too much of anyone, yet reduces the political pressure for a few years -- at which time, of course, you (or possibly someone entirely different) will have to deal with it again.......

"They'll sign some kind of paper in Denmark -- that became all but certain on Friday night when Obama announced he'd jet in for the meeting's close. European leaders and some environmental groups may then call it a “qualified success,” and on we will go through more years of negotiation. In the meantime, physics will continue to operate, permafrost will continue to thaw, sea ice to melt, drought to spread.

It’s like nothing we’ve ever faced before -- and we’re facing it as if it’s just like everything else. That’s the problem".

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