By a twist of chance, I somehow missed the much talked about UN draft text yesterday afternoon, so I’m a little late to this. A number of bloggers have referred to it as a secret UN analysis. Most folks are completely up in arms about it. Until more information comes out from the end of the Copenhagen Conference, I’m going to exercise caution and not jump to conclusions. I’ll share what details I understand and provide my analysis of what’s gone on.
What is everybody freaking out about? Supposedly, a “leaked UN report” contained info on cuts offered at Copenhagen and what those cuts would mean for total GHG pollution amounts and associated warming. It shows a gap of up to 4.2 gigatonnes of carbon emissions below the required 2020 level of 44Gt, that is , the level currently thought to be required to stay below a global 2C rise. That 2C rise has been cited as being critical to keeping catastrophic climate change at bay. Below that rise, we should be “okay”; above it, we will face severe climatic consequences.
Here is what I’ve been able to piece together: the leaked report is, in fact, an analysis of cuts offered by various countries before the Copenhagen Conference even began. It therefore served as a guide as to what the starting point was and to draw attention to the need for every country to put forth a stronger proposal so that the global effect would come in under the 44Gt of carbon and remain under 2C warming. As I’ve written these past two weeks, there have been very few substantial improvements in any kind of offer from any country. The collection of pledges prior to Copenhagen indicate a 3C warming. Is that reason for concern? Absolutely – it’s why I’ve been writing about this subject in greater and greater detail. It’s interesting that the number is just now becoming a subject worthy of the media’s attention when it’s been out there for years now.
On a related note, I don’t consider the lack of substantial improvements these past two weeks to be a failure of Copenhagen. Negotiators at a Conference can’t compel a country to agree to new proposals. Case in point is the U.S. Despite President Obama’s pledge to reduce CO2 emissions by 4% of 1990 levels by 2020, which is a part of the U.S. House’s legislation, H.R. 2454, the U.S. Senate has yet to consider their own version of climate legislation in their full chamber. U.S. negotiators could pledge to the rest of the world whatever they wanted, but the U.S. House would have to draw up new legislation and vote on it, as would the Senate. How long would that take? Longer than the two week Copenhagen Conference, right? You get the idea. Countries went to Copenhagen with the best offers, in most cases, they were prepared to be legally bound to (still largely TBD in the U.S.). What negotiators in Copenhagen are working on, primarily, is a framework to flesh out those legal issues within the next year.
No, the reason binding agreements won’t be made at Copenhagen can largely be placed at the feet of George Bush and his denialist, science-hating “administration”. They did nothing for 8 years, despite the growing threat to the country and the planet, while developed countries in Europe lived up to their responsibilities and took action. That’s why Europe is prepared to pledge to a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020 – a much more ambitious goal than the U.S.’ paltry 4% – if the U.S. and others are prepared to boost their reduction pledges to a 20% reduction, a goal the E.U. is on pace to meet.
This is at least in part a non-story parroted by media that should know better, but doesn’t. Unfortunately, it’s one result of the media not taking the issue seriously for too long. They give ideologues equal footing with experts in the field and call it balanced reporting. In a better world, the media would be ashamed by their pathetic performance.
It doesn’t stop with the media, however. A lot of good activists and bloggers look to me at this time to have gotten swept up in the maelstrom without looking at the larger picture. These are people that should have known the difference and, for whatever reason, didn’t. Of course, my read on all of this could be wrong, in which case I’ll have to take a closer look at developments. But until the Conference closes and we hear straight from the conferees what happened, I think everybody should try to unwind a little bit.
My 17Dec2009 summary is here.
My 16Dec2009 summary is here.
My 14Dec2009 summary is here.
My 11Dec2009 summary is here.
My 10Dec2009 summary is here.
My 9Dec2009 summary is here.
My 7Dec2009 summary is here.
Cross-posted at SquareState.