It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Is Copenhagen Irrelevant?

Is the Copenhagen COP meeting irrelevant? Australian climate professor Barry Brook thinks so.

He concludes:

So, this is the pragmatic reality check: the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference is worthless, and we just shouldn’t care. It could never be any other way.

The hard fact is that there’ll be no gain until we’ve felt the pain, until we really know that we have our collective ’skin in the game’. For all our intellect and wisdom, we’re still evolved, instinctive animals, and we respond best to obvious, in-our-face threats. It seems we need a new Pearl Harbor, our next Thermopylae. I seriously doubt there’ll ever be a global price on carbon (or a meaningful one in any individual country) — by the time we truly understand why this was (in hindsight) necessary, it’ll be a useless gesture, because there’ll be the imperative for much more drastic action than any ‘economic instrument’ could possibly deliver.

Yet, mine is patently not a ‘doomer’ vision. ... I don’t accept the argument that a peaking oil supply will cause our society to collapse. Yes, it will help force our hand, but it ain’t gonna be our undoing — we’re way too resilient and ingenious for that — at least when the pressure is on. If society realises that it has to build 10,000 nuclear power plants in a period of 20 years, then it’ll do it (as others have pointed out, things happened incredibly fast in the early years of nuclear power — the first 15 years saw a staggering rate of technical development). We’ll find the way to make it happen — of that I have little doubt. ...

In the meantime, it’s up to people like you and me to work hard to try to concertina the length of time between the current fallow age of procrastination, and the coming age of action.

Follow the link to find out why.

3 comments:

keith said...

"The hard fact is that there’ll be no gain until we’ve felt the pain, until we really know that we have our collective ’skin in the game’. For all our intellect and wisdom, we’re still evolved, instinctive animals, and we respond best to obvious, in-our-face threats."

So do you agree with this? And if so, do you believe that journalists have the capacity (if they did everything you would like them to) to change this "hard fact."?

Michael Tobis said...

I've always thought it was the most likely outcome, yet I've always hoped for much better, and I try to work for that.

Until we change, there's always more carbon in the pipeline and more heating from the carbon that's there. The longer we wait the harder it will bite. Essentially we are waiting to get maimed in the hopes that at that point we'll be able to get it together to avoid dying altogether. It's not a very smart strategy.

I hope some cap gets put on carbon even if it's modest. It will send a useful signal to people in a position to invest in alternative technologies. Still it's pretty clear that the near-term response is going to be inadequate at best.

I don't know about whether "journalists" as the field is presently constituted could have done much better. I could imagine a world in which professional communicators would have been more correct and more effective, but that obviously isn't the world we've seen.

Perhaps something will change for the better in the dramatic changes enveloping journalism.

Martin said...

keith, same here. It sounds disgustingly realistic.