Copenhagen Climate Summit Ends – What Did They Accomplish?

The Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other heads of delegation present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen,… Have agreed on this Copenhagen Accord which is operational immediately.” And so ends the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

Long Beach port and oil island - major source of pollution for LA BasinBut what did the participants agree to? Was it substantial enough to make a difference? Did they silence the skeptics? Will Sarah Palin finally believe Alaska is melting into the North Pacific?

German Chancellor Angela Merkel defends the Copenhagen climate summit. In an interview with the German news source Bild am Sonntag Merkel stated “Copenhagen is a first step toward a new world climate order – no more, but also no less. Anyone who just badmouths Copenhagen now is engaging in the business of those who are applying the brakes rather than moving forward.”

The climate conference ended Saturday with 192 participating nations walking away with the “Copenhagen Accord,” a deal brokered between China, South Africa, India, Brazil and the US.

The “Accord” can really be brought into one statement:

To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change.

How the global community gets to that objective resulted in a non-binding acknowledgement that doesn’t set hard numbers on reducing carbon emissions, specific timelines, or penalties on violators.

It does agree to provide $30bn in funding for poor countries to the “adverse effects of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures” from next year (2010) to 2012, and $100bn a year after 2020.

The “Accord” not cites carbon emissions as an issue, but also deforestation.

We recognize the crucial role of reducing emission from deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests and agree on the need to provide positive incentives to such actions through the immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.

Oddly, or maybe not, China (as the world’s largest source of carbon emissions and greenhouse gas) applauded the “Accord.” Maybe the “non-binding” nature of the “Accord” gave China some relief, or maybe China has simply accepted their role and responsibility in providing global leadership in reducing harmful toxins into our environment.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi of China believes the Copenhagen Summit produced “significant and positive” results. “Developing and developed countries are very different in their historical emissions responsibilities and current emissions levels, and in their basic national characteristics and development stages,” Yang said in a statement. “Therefore, they should shoulder different responsibilities and obligations in fighting climate change.” (Xinhua)

President Barack Obama stated “a meaningful and unprecedented breakthrough” was made in Copenhagen. “All major economies have come together to accept their responsibility to take action to confront the threat of climate change.” (from Press Conference in Copenhagen)

But there are skeptics

No event is perfect. When you get representatives from 192 nations in a room, teamwork is probably a fantasy none of us should harbor. A small island nation may wish to defend their island from rising oceans, where an oil-producing country may want to defend their industry.

Communist and socialist countries may have an agenda, religious leaders an agenda, democracies an agenda, and superpowers an agenda. So as expected, not everybody walked away from the conference with warm words for the “Accord.”

  • Venezuala – International thought leader Hugo Chavez stated “If it’s to go and waste time, it’s better I don’t go,” he said. “If everything is already cooked up by the big [nations], then forget it.”
  • Bolivia – Bolivian President Evo Morales called for the creation of an actual climate justice tribunal. The Global North, Morales said, should indemnify poor nations for the ravages of climate change.
  • Ethiopia – Director General of the Ethiopian Environment Protection Agency, Dr Tewolde Birhan Gebre-Egziabher
    beleives Africa is already suffering, and likely to suffer more from climate change, but contributes very little to climate change.
  • Nepal – Prime Minister Madhav Kumar highlighted his concern of the “seriousness of the problem of climate change” particularly for the least developed and vulnerable countries. He adds that Nepal urges special focus on the impact of global warming on the Himalayas, in Nepal and elsewhere.
  • UK – Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said “If leading countries hold out against something like ‘legally binding’ or against the 2050 target of 50 per cent reductions in carbon emissions – which was held out against by countries like China – you are not going to get the agreement you want.” (COPS15 )

And so on.

The important thing to remember…

The important thing to remember is that we, as a planet, were able to get 192 nations together to agree on one important point – climate change is occurring, and human bei9ngs are part of the problem. If we do not get control over global warming, our planet will not be able to support life in the longer term.

Every media source in the world focused attention on the issue for the better part of two weeks. Even Fox News, acrimonious as they are, provided a lot of coverage. Regardless of polls stating the roller-coaster of public opinion on global warming vs. job loss, 90% or more of the global population will now at least look at a bus spewing black clouds of exhaust into the air, deforestation, and thousands of 2-stroke motor scooters crowding streets as something that is not healthy for the planet.

Regardless of which side of the debate you fall, the result is your position will now need defense – defense that it is not destructive to the planet, defense a Hummer/2 used to buy beer in a West Virginia country town is your inherent right as an American, or defense that every energy-related decision should include an environmental impact question.

Prior articles in this series:

A Cold, Wet Blanket of Politics Covers the Copenhagen Climate Summit

The headlines say it all… “Further commitment needed to break negotiation deadlock.” The rich nations vs. the poor nations. Industrialists vs. environmentalists. And at the end A Very Polluted Planetof the day, looking out over the Pacific Ocean towards Catalina Island from Long Beach, the dense brown sludge of polluted air is a constant reminder we are dumping horrifying amounts of human waste into the oceans and air.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says “world policymakers do not have to choose between a clean environment and economic growth.” Schwarzenegger believes people worried about climate change should pay more attention to companies, universities and “ordinary folks” and not put so much emphasis on a multinational consensus. (AP)

If you listen to the entrepreneurs and innovators in Silicon Valley, they would tend to agree with Governor Schwarzenegger. Green tech is becoming a big business, and, at least in California, you cannot discuss any new technology or construction project without at least some acknowledgement of environmental impact. Damn the politics, the investment community and innovator community is laying some serious right brain on developing environmentally friendly products and technology.

If you listen to the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leadership podcast series about half the speakers in the series focus on environmental opportunities and responsibilities. And the politics of green rarely find their way into the discussion. People inherently want to be responsible global citizens, developing a future that is both profitable, as well as friendly to the future of our planet.

The Politics of Copenhagen

As of Tuesday, United Nations negotiators have failed to agree on the financial aid that the US, Japan and other developed nations will give to the developing world to cope with climate change, Bloomberg reports, referring to a draft document. “The Copenhagen climate conference is in the grip of a serious deadlock,” the Guardian concludes in a feature.(COPS15)

Developing Nations Want Wealthy nations to Pay the Global Cleanup BillThe developing world believes wealthier nations are responsible and accountable for bearing the cost of reducing carbon emissions. In fact, the African delegation to COPS 15 walked out for a brief period to protest the reluctance of wealthier nations to accept financial burdens to assist African nations.

They may have a point. Africa generates a fraction of the carbon emissions spewed into the atmosphere by the United States, Europe, Russia, India, and China. If you do believe in the global warming and other environmental impacts of carbon emissions, then Africa may indeed be on a climate “death row” created by the wealthy nations. The UK publication “The Mirror” provided a couple interesting statistics just related to the Copenhagen Conference:

The Copenhagen climate talks will generate carbon emissions equivalent to the annual output of 660,000 Ethiopians or 2,300 Americans, Denmark revealed yesterday. Despite efforts to limit the impact of the conference , delegates, journalists, activists from almost 200 countries have gathered creating 46,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The climate has stimulated considerable debate on both the merits and demerits of climate change theory. One publication might offer the fact Vikings farmed in Greenland in ancient times, reinforcing global warming is a natural cycle the planet goes through every couple hundred years. Al Gore will argue the polar ice cap will be gone within a decade. Sarah Palin mocks the entire discussion, advising us that we should concentrate on drilling for more oil off the coast of California.

At the end of the day, it is becoming very clear the ultimate agenda of climate change discussion comes back to money. Money to advance economies, money to pay for building an environmentally friendly world, money to go towards more immediate problems – such as clean water, HIV, and malaria.

Most Scientists Agree the Planet is in Trouble

It is hard to ignore the fact glaciers are shrinking, water levels are rising, storms in the pacific and other locations are becoming more violent, and desertification is encroaching The Industrial World Creates Carbonfurther into the grasslands and forested areas than ever before. Politicians and industrialists may argue that a rise of one or two degrees (cel) in ocean temperatures is not a big problem. “Who cares,… it’s just a couple degrees.”

Scientists are concerned with the short, mid, and long term impacts of global warming. Less water in the continental interiors means less food. Less food means more competition for food and other life sustaining resources.

Like the Internet, Innovation will Occur, in Spite of the Politicians

During the late 1980s and early 1990s the Internet grew fast. Like Facebook and Twitter, it is hard to keep a good idea suppressed for too long. While the government supported initial development of Internet technologies, it was ultimately the universities and innovators who built the world’s network-of-networks – in spite of governments spending most of their time worrying about telephone and cable deregulation. When they woke up from the hangover of the national monopoly telecom carrier meltdown, the Internet was already making the old telephony network irrelevant.

So let the politicians debate. It is good, because if nothing else, it does add visibility and awareness to the topic. Regardless of the pros or cons of the debate, over the past couple years every American has been exposed to the topic of energy and environmental awareness. We are all forming opinions, and we all have some level of basis for discussion. And we all know it is better to use good discipline in our energy consumption. All baby steps, but good baby steps towards individual accountability in protecting our environment (and saving money!).

Copenhagen will conclude their summit on Friday. The debate will continue. Innovators will keep their sleeves rolled up, and with luck will continue to develop better ideas and visions of a greener future.

Sarah Palin Makes it Official – Climate Change is a Fraud

Coastal areas in Vietnam see a rise of 20cm in the past 50 years, increases in the frequency and intensity of typhoons, and a rise in temperature of .5C degrees. As water levels rise in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, and Malaysia, Air pollution in Los Angelesnearly one third of the world’s population seeks relocation inland to escape the encroaching ocean. The World Bank claims global population is growing at 1.7% annually, further escalating the refugee problem.

In an interview with NPR (National Public Radio), retired Marine General Anthony Zinni expressed a concern that such conditions could plunge the world, and of course the United States, into conflict. “We will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.” General Zinni, participating in a panel of retired military leaders further contributed findings:

Climate Change (related to national and international security)

1. Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America’s national security.

2. Climate change acts increases the potential instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world.

3. Projected climate change will boost tensions even in stable regions.

4. Climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges.

 Now that is something for us to consider, far beyond the impact of climate change on the environment, there is a consensus climate change could result in increased terrorism, or war resulting from the impact of refuges escaping their homeland (due to loss of land mass, loss of rain/fresh water, desertification, etc).

It’s about Natural, Cyclical Environmental Trends…

Former Gov. Palin, in her 9 Dec 2009 OP-ED in the Washington Post claims:

“But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can’t say with assurance that man’s activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs.” Palin

Not everybody agrees with her analysis, and her opinions have prompted heated discussion throughout the political, environmental, and international community.

Al Gore, former Vice President and Presidential candidate commented on the reality of CO2, greenhouse effect, global warming, and Sarah Palin’s editorial by stating “It’s a principle in physics. It’s like gravity. It exists.”

“Our representatives in Copenhagen should remember that good environmental policymaking is about weighing real-world costs and benefits — not pursuing a political agenda. That’s not to say I deny the reality of some changes in climate — far from it. I saw the impact of changing weather patterns firsthand while serving as governor of our only Arctic state. I was one of the first governors to create a subcabinet to deal specifically with the issue and to recommend common-sense policies to respond to the coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and retreating sea ice that affect Alaska’s communities and infrastructure.” Palin

We need to fully understand the correlation between Alaska’s coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, and retreating sea ice and General Zinni’s concerns that such impact on a global scale could plunge the world into a period of violence.

And not everybody agrees with Gov. Palin’s concerns on the impact of becoming environmentally responsible on the economy.

There is also the risk of rising sea level and increasing temperatures. A recently released report from the Asian Developing Bank (ADB) shows that South East Asia is likely to suffer more from climate change than elsewhere in the world. There will be considerable economic costs too, with a projected 7-8 per cent lost in GDP, unless climate change is addressed. (Simon Tay, Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs)

The Washington Post added a poll following the Palin OP-ED asking readers “Do you view Sarah Palin as a credible commentator on climate change?” 83% said “no.” When asked if she would participate in a debate with Al Gore on climate change, she was not too excited, saying in an interview with ThinkProgress.ORG “I’ll get clobbered because, you know, they don’t want to listen to the facts,” believe that any debate would heavily favor Gore’s position. No doubt.

Target 350 – Status 389

According to reports published at the Copenhagen Climate Summit (COPS15) the world now has an average atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 389 parts per million. This is the highest in the earth’s recorded history. Most of the world’s scientists and scientific organizations believe the upper limit for CO2 is 350ppm, which is obviously breached.

Scientists claim that we are adding 2ppm to the atmosphere every year, which will result in a global temperature of potentially 4 degrees (F) by the end of the century, which could further result in ocean levels rising nearly 2 meters (by the end of the century). 6 ft?

Goodbye Miami. Goodbye Long Beach. Goodbye Miyako Jima (Okinawa).

Believe what You Will – But Understand the Issue

Maybe you believe this is not a problem, and is a normal global cycle. Maybe you believe the amount of CO2 going into the air is a very unhealthy thing for living creatures. Maybe you believe half the island nations will disappear within 15 years.

But it is time to put a stake in the ground and study the issue. Let the democrats in the US run with the issue, and it might cost you something in your quality of life. Let the republicans run with the issue and you may float away with your lungs melting.

However given the emotions attached to this issue, you cannot avoid the topic.

John Savageau, Long Beach

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