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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Bonn Climate Negotiations Predictably Go Nowhere


As I predicted last week, the climate deal negotiations held in Bonn, Germany resulted in … nothing.  Well, that’s not completely accurate.  There was plenty of bickering and diplomatic drama, but the negotiations produced nothing of substance.  Put simply, there are too many competing interests for any global-scale deal to be decided on or put into place in the next 5-10 years.  Economic growth garners more attention and too many people still incorrectly believe that scientific innovation doesn’t facilitate that growth.

The quickest way to get countries to act on the climate is to improve their peoples’ standard of living.  Pull or push the developing world up to developed-world standards and hundreds of millions more people will be able and willing to take action on anthropogenic climate change.  As the world stands now, too many people are still forced to prioritize their personal survival.  Environmental NGOs would do themselves and the world a favor by focusing efforts toward cheap, clean energy access to billions who don’t currently have it.

Additionally, interested countries need to take the lead on action and set up mechanisms that allow them to benefit as currently recalcitrant countries climb on the climate action bandwagon.  While it would be unwieldy in the mid-term, countries should consider establishing multiple climate treaties that perform various tasks, then combining those treaties at some point in the future.  Almost everyone agrees that some action is better than none.  So why should everyone shoot for the moon from the start?

Negotiators will meet again in Qatar in November of this year.  The stated goal is to have drafted something by 2015 that goes into force by 2020.  I don’t think they will succeed for the reasons I briefly discussed above in addition to ones left out of this post.  Let’s see if I’m wrong.


3 thoughts on “Bonn Climate Negotiations Predictably Go Nowhere

  1. Thanks for the report on Bonn. Unfortunately, I think your pessimism is warranted. The world is still fixated by Growthmania and in denial of the reality of Jevons Paradox, which makes me feel very uncomfortable every time a car manufacturer announces another increase in their global sales.

    Your comments about the distraction for many of merely surviving are also spot-on as, in general, we humans did not really start worrying about the environment until quite recently… I think we either have Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs or the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo to thank for that…
    “Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside, is available, a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” attributed to Sir Fred Hoyle, 1948.

    • Thanks for your insightful comments. I hadn’t heard of Jevons Paradox before, but have discussed the general topic many times. It would be useful to leverage the Paradox in support of renewable energies, I think. Or to borrow your example, cleaner, more efficient cars that can supplement energy infrastructure – we need to deploy systems that reinforce one another rather than work against each other.

      I also hadn’t heard specifically about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but it explains exactly what I was talking about. Hopefully I can remember these in the future.

      • It is a pleasure to be so self-evidently useful; I only wish all this new knowledge I had acquired over the last 18 months could help me find a new vocation or, falling that, just a job would do…

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