Saturday, December 26, 2009

After Copenhagen: Five decade climate forecast unchanged

Way back on December 13, as the Copenhagen conference was just getting rolling,  I posted our "Green Light Crystal Ball," where I outlined four possible outcomes of the talks, two likely, two unlikely. My mother taught me never to boast, but you know what?  We pretty much nailed it.  Which may be one reason why this blogger, who I've never met, recently called the Green Light Dhaba, "the clearest blog I have found explaining COP 15 issues." 


So rather re-write a whole new analysis of what went wrong, let's start with those predictions.  I'll keep this short, so you'll still have time to check out our Winter Subscription Drive down at the bottom of this page!  

For more  the background and definition of the terms used, you'll have to go read our original post.  Here are the possibilities, as I outlined them on December 13:
1. We agree to talk more later: The SINKING countries might sink the deal, saying on principal that weak action is the same as no action.  Or the EMERGING countries might sink the deal, saying we can't agree to binding cuts in actual emissions.  The US could sink the deal by continuing to agree to do nothing much. To save face, there would be a press release and everyone would agree to look at their calendars and set up more talks.  
Bottom line: the world would keep warming.


2. A grand, weak compromise: Everyone agrees to non-binding and fairly easy and/or flexible targets. This would allow RICH countries and USA to claim they did something without holding them to really serious action.  The SINKING countries would likely get some direct financial aid as the price for their support.  The EMERGING countries would get little financial aid, but would get "flexibility" to keep growing emissions. 
Bottom line: the world would keep warming.


3.  A stronger compromise that leaves out the US.  This would involve more stringent reduction targets for the RICH countries and tougher emission intensity target for EMERGING countries.   Unlikely, but who knows?   
Bottom line: the world would keep warming, but not so fast.



4. North Vs. South: The EMERGING and SINKING countries take a stand and demand real, strong cuts by the RICH countries and the USA--at least 40 percent by 2020.  This would fail, but it might set the stage for what needs to happen.  Very unlikely, since, in different ways, India and China are too tied to the USA and RICH countries to be ready for more than a rhetorical fight right now. 
Short term bottom line: the world would keep warming. 
Long term bottom line: things get interesting.

So what happened?  Basically, the first possibility suggested won out ("We agree to talk more later").  However, it was dressed up as number 2 ("a  grand, weak compromise").   USA and a subset of the EMERGING group (AKA BASIC) that included India, Brazil, South Africa and China, agreed to a "deal" which will actually require them to do nothing! On top of that, many worry that it will undermine the Kyoto Protocol, which is legally binding.  

Most of other RICH countries (including the EU) went along with the American-BASIC "deal", in some cases enthusiastically, in some cases reluctantly. Many EMERGING countries supported the BASIC position, but it was not unanimous; one subset of EMERGING countries, along with some SINKING countries opposed the deal, which was cooked up in last minute, secret meetings.


OK, so why did it happen?  Well, if you want an in-depth analysis, you can find a million on-line. (I'd start with this one, which says a lot in not too many words). I argued on Thursday that recent remarks made by Mr. Jairam Ramesh make it clear our own leadership was interested mainly in protecting our right to business-as-usual development.  Some version of this was probably at play in the other BASIC countries.  The charitable interpretation of Mr. Obama is that he felt he would be unable to get any real deal through the US Congress, but still wanted to look like a leader on the issue.  

One suspects that most of the other countries that went along with this deal, which was little more than nice-sounding words, did so either because they didn't want to have the conference look like an utter failure, or they didn't want a real deal in the first place, or they just didn't want to rock the boat too much.  Who can really say?  

Actually, plenty of people are trying to sort it all out.  But in spite of the fact that a few voices, both big and small, are trying to put a bright face on the "Copenhagen Accord", most of the world sees it as a failure.  Which is a good thing.  To have a do-nothing political statement accepted as a success would lull too many people into a false sense of security. No, the problem hasn't been solved and the long term forecast remains: more warming!


Now, in case you haven't seen it--or haven't had a chance to read it--we'll flash back to our Winter Subscription Drive!  It's all free.  So grab a free feed, spread the word, claim your prize!



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If you are new to the Green Light Dhaba, take a minute to check out out our top dozen posts of 2009, at the bottom of this page. In addition to in-depth coverage of the anniversary  of the Bhopal disaster and the Copenhagen fiasco, you'll find all kinds of things you normally don't see on an environmental blog.  Schools, space flight, atomic bombs, and ceiling fans are just a few of the topics we've covered--always from an uncompromisingly green point of view.

Unlike a real world newspaper, we can't afford TV advertisements or posters at bus stops. We're doing well so far, but we know we can do better.  And without a lot of real readers, what's the point of working so hard to produce first-rate environmental writing? 


We do have one great advantage over other media: our subscriptions are free! And just for fun, we are offering some really great virtual prizes this week.  No, you won't get an ipod or even a coffee mug.  But we guarantee you won't be disappointed!  And really, what do you have to lose?


Here are our three levels of support and the prizes that correspond to each:


1.  Green Light Subscriber:
  • Subscribers subscribe to our feed through some kind of blog reading machine, like blogger, google reader or whatever.  You can grab a feed at the top left of our page or here.  There are probably other ways to do this, and we'll trust you to figure those out.  Once you've got our feed, you simply let us know you've done it so we can send you your prize! (Instructions below).
  •  The Subscriber Prize Package includes: links to three hilarious videos and one serious essay--all on the politics of food!   
2. Green Light Supporter:
  •  Supporters are people who not only subscribe to the Green Light Dhaba but they do something  to help us grow our readership.  This might include posting a link on Facebook or twitter; blogrolling us; or sending around a link to friends by email.  Being a supporter could also includes publicly following us through Google or Networked blogs (you can do that to the left of this post).  It's up to you how much you do!
  • The Supporter Prize Package includes everything in the subscriber package, plus links to two more hilarious videos that deal with important geopolitical and environmental issues. We'll also send links to a few poems that every green should read.
3.  Green Star Club!
  • Green Star Club members really go the extra mile.  This might include a shout out in a blog or magazine; it would also cover anyone who hung a greenlightdhaba.org banner from a flyover at rush hour.  Use your imagination if you want to get into this exclusive group. To get an idea of this might look like, you can take a look at what others have said about the Green Light Dhaba:  Verveonline;   Known TurfAnindita SenguptaBhagwad; PlasticGraduateYuva Magazine.  (There are more, but we haven't kept good track of links.) 
  • The Green Star Club Package includes everything everyone else gets, plus we will periodically publish your name in a list of other "Green Star Club members."  Upon request, we will also provide Green Star members one "mini-guest-post" (100-500 words) at their blog on a topic of their choosing (conditions apply). 
To claim your prize
To claim your prize, you just have to drop us a line by email ( haribatti123@gmail.com ), by facebook, or in the comment section telling us what you've done.  We'll email (or FB message) your prize within 72 hours! No, we don't want your mobile phone number or your bank account details, as we are not planning to transfer $10 million from an somewhere account in Iraq to your account.  But, like we said before, you won't be disappointed!


And so this post will not be completely devoid of substance, here is our list of top dozen posts of 2009.


Green Light Dhaba's Best of 2009

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