The Writing on the Wall

It’s been a while since the last climate conference, COP8, long enough for the remorse to fade and long enough, even, for a bit of revisionist history. It’s certainly been long enough for lessons to be counted, and conclusions drawn. And, alas, they have been, with a vengeance.

If you’ve been following the climate talks, you’ll know what we mean. For while the new science demands new urgency, the negotiators can step only haltingly, if at all. With the U.S. withdrawn into its strange neo-conservative agonies, the global economy gone manic-depressive, and Kyoto’s progress stalled by Russian temporizing and, no doubt, sleazy back-room deals, no nation North or South seems much disposed to visionary leadership. The long term seems long away, and it is given to the scientists to tell us that, in fact, it is breathing down our necks. In the corridors and plenary halls, another logic rules. Realism, the usual realism of short-term, national self-interest, is the watchword. Continue reading “The Writing on the Wall”

First, the Bad News

Optimism, they all tell us, is a precondition of effective political action. And they are no doubt quite correct. Despair, after all, hardly motivates sustained political engagement. Drinking, more like it.

Optimism, unfortunately, is a problem, for enviros in particular but in fact for anyone determined to look, hard and critically, at the truth of our predicament. Few of us are able to consistently follow Antonio Gramsci’s advice, to combine “pessimism of the intellect” with “optimism of the will.” Most of the time, it seems more like a choice between one and the other. Or, even worse, a choice between paralyzing pessimism and idiot, right-wing confidence.

We, for our part, still believe that realism (the real thing, not the ersatz neo-con variety) is the best ground for an honest optimism, and in that spirit we’d like to start off this issue of Climate Equity Observer with an effort to look reality in the eye. Continue reading “First, the Bad News”

A Northern Call for Southern Leadership

The events of the last few years – 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq come immediately to mind – should prod us all to admit that our situation is deadly grim. And nothing on the climate front offers evidence to the contrary. Forget the state of the Kyoto protocol. The emerging recognition that the Earth’s climate sensitivity is likely to be quite high will generate a special breath of dread, at least in those few of us who follow such matters.

Much can be said about this. For example: it’s simply not going to be possible for the developing countries to indefinitely avoid greenhouse gas emission limitations. It’s certainly not going to be possible for them to do so while, at the same time, honestly speaking for either the good of their own peoples or the good of humanity. Yes, the US is pursuing a duplicitous and sometimes evil strategy. Yes, the Europeans are conflicted, often hypocritical, and, as they demonstrated at COP8, prone to clumsiness. But narrow conceptions of “national interests,” as they are called in the realist tradition, are also a problem in the developing world. Thus, its statesmen and ministers have thus far satisfied themselves with refusal (even of a long-overdue analysis of “the adequacy of commitments”) and with merely abstract appeals to equity. Continue reading “A Northern Call for Southern Leadership”

PetroPolitics Global Warming Backgrounder

It would be good to be past todays well-financed skepticism about global warming, good if we all already understood that, in a world rife with potentially catastrophic threatsfrom nuclear war to genetic erosionglobal warming is one of the most serious. Alas we are not. Alarmingly the skeptics (better called denialists) continue to derail the all-important political discussion of global warming by pretending that its still an unproven theory.

This backgrounder, however, will ignore them.

It will also avoid any real introduction of the science of global warming. Such introductions take time, and they are already readily available. See for example the excellent graphic overview of global warming (but not its politics) which the UN Environment Program maintains at Continue reading “PetroPolitics Global Warming Backgrounder”