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A big win for the planet, and others

December 16th, 2007

The outcome of the international climate talks in Bali has been a huge win for the planet. Given the participation of the Bush Administration, we were never going to get firm short-term targets in the agreement of this round of negotiations (except as the result of a US walkout, and a deal struck by the rest of the world). But on just about every other score, the outcome has been better than anyone could reasonably have expected, including:

* Agreement in principle on a 2050 target of halving emissions
* Agreement to negotiate a binding deal in 2009, when Bush will be gone, and short-term targets back on the table
* Agreement to provide assistance to developing countries for both mitigation and adaptation
* Agreement by China to pursue emissions-cutting actions that are “measurable, reportable and verifiable.�

There are of course, some individual winners too, of whom the most notable is undoubtedly Al Gore. His intervention, correctly blaming the US Administration for the lack of progress at the talks, and putting effective pressure on its remaining allies, the governments of Canada and Japan, made it clear that the political price for a failure would be paid by the US, and that those who backed Bush now would find themselves alone in the near future.

Kevin Rudd has also been a big winner. Until his election, Australia, as the only other significant country not to ratify Kyoto, was Bush’s most important supporter. After the switch, Australia was able to pursue a negotiating strategy which sometimes seemed to accommodating to the US, but ultimately produced an excellent outcome.

Of course, there are also some losers, who did all they could to stop this happening, and failed. But they know who they are, and there’s no need to dwell on them today.

There’ll be plenty of difficulties ahead, and plenty of hard bargaining over details. But for the first time, we can be reasonably hopeful that the people of the world will act to avoid the worst of the impending ecological catastrophe of climate change.

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  1. observa
    December 17th, 2007 at 21:24 | #1

    Oh great, typical! I’m constantly led on that signing Kyoto will be like the Dreamtime and Kyoto cap and trade will be the greatest thing since ATSIC, once that party pooper Howard’s gone, so I’m all fired up with Kevin .07 and the one percenters get brewer’s droop and can’t even get it up that far. Bush has given them a headache or something and now they need time to get in the mood, or wait for Garnaut or whatever.

    I can see this is a job for revvin’ Kevin to get them in the mood. Something right out of his party manual. Immerse them all in climate change eh Kev? Turn off all the airconditioners in the parliament, the PS offices and the universities, to really fire up all that moral energy and galvanise the intellect. No long Xmas break for them, when the planet’s at stake. Then we can send Ross out to the farms, factories, mines and building sites with his shiny new vapour detector, to measure the cost of community concern about the new policy initiative. Then when summer’s over he can head back to the unis and offices to measure all their concerns if we offered to slap up a nuke plant in order to get the aircons back on. Now I’m just a humble layman who’s not into all that digital wizardry of vapour detectors to measure the cost of community concern. Me, I’m still back at the level of wind up Bulls–t Detectors, so it’s only a layman’s hunch, when I reckon all Ross will really be checking, is whether his digital vapour detector is calibrated accurately to zero. Still, it’d be a damn good way to get cracking on those GG emissions and focus all the movers and shakers eh?

  2. jquiggin
    December 17th, 2007 at 21:50 | #2

    You’re on a roll, observa, but you’re going to roll right off the deep end if you don’t watch yourself :-)

  3. mitchell porter
    December 18th, 2007 at 01:22 | #3

    John Greenfield, could you explain what your 100-years-to-make-a-difference claim refers to, preferably with a link? And Roger Jones, could you also back up your figures?

  4. Chris O’Neill
    December 18th, 2007 at 02:35 | #4

    John Greenfield: “Linear reductions of only one factor – carbon emmissions – today will not have an ameliorative effect on the entire complex system for at least 100 years. In other words, it is largely too late simply to pull the system linearly in the opposite direction.”

    So you think we should keep pushing it in the same direction. Again, a pretty bizarre idea.

    “The real action is in leap-frogging technology.”

    So if there is no leap-frogging technology then we’re stuffed. Sounds great.

    “But it is here that I am as ignorant as any other science fiction reader.”

    Indeed.

  5. observa
    December 18th, 2007 at 08:47 | #5

    Yeah John, those old analogue BS detectors are finicky things. There’s an art to using them like teaching apprentices all about left handed screw drivers. Kevin .07 just needs to give the word and we’ll be over in a flash to open all those windows to let the fresh air in, quicker than he can finish saying … ‘and there’s carbon credits in it for the tradeys too’ ;)

  6. Roger Jones
    December 18th, 2007 at 09:05 | #6

    #55 – my figures are from a simple probabilistic model of global warming that I have built combined with recent work on emissions.

    It is based on departures from a reference emission scenario. The reference is some recent work that colleagues have done – I convert the emissions into warming curves.

    The underlying principle is faily robust, the number surprisingly robust if the climate system is assumed to be monotonic (i.e., nn tipping points between now and 2050 that later the warming path). The analysis is similar to the IPCC AR4 conclusions but this time we are using a consistent reference and policy set in recent history and short term projections (the IEA projections on Chinese and Indian steroids).

    The IPCC emission scenarios are not anchored on recent evidence and their reference and policy scenarios have different origins.

    This work is unpublished at present – the principle of low short-term gains but rapidly appreciating benefits is pretty well acknowledged amongst integrated modellers. One can quibble about the numbers but the overall conclusion is sound.

  7. Roger Jones
    December 18th, 2007 at 09:06 | #7

    Sorry – typos.

    The comment in brackets above should read “no tipping points between now and 2050 that alter the warming path”

  8. John Greenfield
    December 18th, 2007 at 13:51 | #8

    Roger Jones

    OK. This sounds good. You clearly know 1,000 times more about this than I do. So if you can direct me to some (relatively) accesible literature that will dissuade me of my “we’re all rooned anyway� fears, I would be very grateful.

  9. Chris O’Neill
    December 19th, 2007 at 01:06 | #9

    So if you can direct me to some (relatively) accesible literature that will dissuade me of my “we’re all rooned anyway� fears, I would be very grateful.

    Check out Realclimate’s Can 2°C warming be avoided. Also, don’t forget to look through Realclimate’s index for whatever you may be interested in.

  10. John Greenfield
    December 19th, 2007 at 09:11 | #10

    Chris O’Neill

    Ta. I’ll have a gander and who knows, I might be a greenie nutter.

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