TAG | Inhofe
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein
Can climate models embolden the imagination enough to push us through political stalemates?
We are getting reports that the COP talks are in disarray. Many experts hedged before the conference and foresaw far less progress on the treaty than we need, and it seems like the outcome will in fact be disappointing. But who knows for sure? Backroom deals could be forged and surprise us all. Visiting Copenhagen, Secretary Clinton just alluded to the U.S. staking the kind of financial commitment that would be the keystone to an ambitious deal in Copenhagen. REDD might be launched in earnest (it is unclear whether a deal is nearly completed or faltering due to a lack of up-front cash from the developed nations), no insignificant thing given that deforestation and degradation, along with changes in soil characteristics, account for 17-20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and many other cascading losses to ecosystem services. As ministers and heads of state arrive at the Bella Center to drafts of choppy, diluted text, many of us outside of the sessions—especially, I’m guessing, all the NGO observers left out in the cold, unmoving lines after some impressive mismanagement on the part of the conference organizers—return to questioning whether high-level collective action is possible on a problem that is not yet immediate (though many claim otherwise) and whose effects will be disproportionately felt among the global poor.
It is no mystery that most of us don’t perceive the climate problem as an immediate one that touches our personal lives—that’s because in many circumstances, it is not. I pay relatively little to fill my oil tank, which I need to do because, yes, it still gets cold in winter (the north wind blew right through me on the Eastern Prom in Portland, Maine this morning!), and a relatively small rise in temperature will not affect my ability to secure water or food: my income is sufficient to buy water and food, and I assume it will be sufficient in years to come even if water becomes more expensive due to scarcity and food prices skyrocket due to global changes in agricultural production and increased demand from a much larger population (but let’s try to remember that there are many out there who rely on staple crops to feed their families and who don’t have disposable incomes to purchase food during shortages; and about the rapidly growing urban populations who need jobs and income to purchase food). Throw in rigorous (ahem!) and pervasive “contrarian” arguments like Hannity’s, “It’s snowing in Houston,” some faith in our ability to engineer our way out of trouble when real trouble actually manifests—a faith fed in many cases, again, by cautious skepticism of model projections—and the need for sizeable up-front costs on the part of the developed world, and we’re left with a very shaky foundation on which to build a meaningful international treaty.
At COP, we are banking on some serious cooperative efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases so that a problem illustrated in model projections will not occur. If we do act decisively, later everyone will ask, “Was it really going to happen, anyway?” And we’ll respond that the models said so and, well, at least we modernized our economies, created millions of jobs, and now produce energy from renewable sources – at home. If we do not act decisively, Homo sapiens, “thinking man”, might have some serious regrets. (more…)
As a person with interests ranging from the funding of micro-finance projects to restore rain-forests, to the emerging studies of emergy and water footprints, to the engendering of climate change as an issue to display the imbalance of risk posed by global warming onto women, I am beyond thrilled to be going to COP15.
Coming from a communication background, I am eager to see how people who are in complete denial of climate change(like Senator Inhofe from Oklahoma) will respond to meeting citizens of Arctic regions, Maldives, or Seychelles who are already in climate adaptation mode.
Actually being in Copenhagen allows for the opportunity to document the differences between on the ground blogging and eyewitness accounts versus the corporate media coverage of the conference proceedings. I have never been to a conference with state-level implications, let alone one which will decide global policy for years to come.
This will be a return trip to Copenhagen for me, having spent 5 days in Denmark in May during a month-long traveling course here at Alma College. While studying renewable and alternative energy related issues in Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom, we visited with engineers, academics, government officials, and even an organic farmer in England working to make their countries more sustainable. While in Copenhagen, we met with graduate students and professors at Danish Technical University who were working on making both fuel cell and wind powered cars, an engineer at DONG Energy working on testing coal burning technology reaching close to 50% efficiency, and an official from the Danish Energy Agency working on setting Denmark’s own ambitious emission targets. It was an eye opening experience, though this trip promises to open them beyond what I can possibly imagine sitting in a computer lab in Alma, Michigan, waiting for my plane to leave DTW.