Casaubon's Book

100 Billion, 3 Degrees

You’ve got to give our Secretary of State credit – she knows how to make an entrance. Show up at the door with 100 billion and people can’t look away. Of course, she didn’t promise 100 billion from the US, but to raise it collectively with some unspecified other folk by 2020, but still, it is an impressive number, and it isn’t wasn’t a bad way to get attention. That doesn’t change the fact that the rich world is still trying to blame the poor, or that the climate talks are still failing.

Meanwhile, a new UN report released confirms what we already knew – that everything presently on the table is totally insufficient:

Later in the day, reporters obtained a confidential UN analysis stating that current emissions-cut pledges now being proposed at Copenhagen would lead to a temperature rise this century of 3 degrees C (5.4 F), surpassing the 2 degree C (3.6 F) target that negotiators set as an acceptable limit to global warming. The report by the UN Climate Change Secretariat said the current emissions reductions offered by the U.S., the European Union, China, Japan, Australia, and other nations would mean pouring up to 4 billion tons more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by 2020 than the level needed to hold temperature increases to 2 C. That increased amount of CO2, coupled with significant levels of carbon dioxide emitted in later decades, would mean that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 could rise from the current 387 parts per million to roughly 550 parts per million in a century or so. Those concentrations would likely lead to a 3 C rise, the UN report said.

Look, any reduction in C02 levels is good. Abd 100 billion dollars to developing countries to preserve rainforest and replace obsolete technologies is a good idea – assuming, of course, we actually pay it (we’ve reneged before) and that such a coalition could be formed (not at all clear). But the central issue is very much not on the table – dealing with climate change as it actually exists. And it probably won’t ever be – because the kind of cuts that are required are simply inconsistent with growing economies and the fantasy of eternal wealth.

Of course, so is global warming. But enough people care more about the short term than the long – what none of the countries can do is deal with the painful reality – that our economic system is on the table. Clinton can make quite an entrance – but it is the exits that will matter in the end, and those aren’t looking so good.



  1. #1 curiousalexa
    December 18, 2009

    Why the $100B? I keep thinking “seeds and solar panels for all!”, knowing that I’m missing some obvious business problem.

  2. #2 Green Assassin Brigade
    December 18, 2009

    100 billion is simply a mythical bribe to the developing world in order for them to agree to some watered down plan in Copenhagen that will not solve the problem. If this money was all applied next year to push reforestation and forestry protection by building millions of sun ovens, efficient stoves, local power, and yes seeds, solar panels, sustainable farming training it would make a big difference in peoples lives and the climate, this is not he case however.
    This $100 billion will be printed by by 2020,(if they even bother) 10 years away and too late and will surely go to mega projects like dams, greasing palms, funneled to corrupt govs that will buy weapons and limos or funding Monsanto to design drought resistant crops that require more care, fertilzer, pesticide and money than any 3rd world farmer could afford. It’s a totaly bogus offer.

    100 billion should be spend now for what I outlined at the top plus buying up patents for green techs and distributing the rights freely to the developing world to use and adapt for local use.

  3. #3 Dan
    December 18, 2009

    Well, it looks like – surely to nobody’s great surprise – a deal has been made which even Obama admits is shit – that bit is a little surprising; surely his only creditable action in the whole sorry farce is at least not lying outrageously over how good it all is. And will the 100 bn materialise? Maybe, but on past form, you’d have to doubt it. It’s a dark, dark day.

  4. #4 Green Assassin Brigade
    December 18, 2009


    Dark day indeed. It looks like the lifeboat strategy is the only one left. Take of oneself and wait for the die off.
    It’s neither the preferable nor ethical path but quite possibly the only one we have left. sigh!!!!!

  5. #5 MarkusR
    December 18, 2009

    If this money was all applied next year to push reforestation and forestry protection by building millions of sun ovens, efficient stoves, local power, and yes seeds, solar panels, sustainable farming training

    How do you this is not the case?

  6. #6 Dan
    December 18, 2009

    Yes, that was exactly my thought. If state players are unable to come to a meaningful agreement now, how probable is it that they will do so later, when cuts are going to be much harder and the attractions of cheating or playing a deadly game of beggar-thy-neighbour become irresistibly attractive? That’s why I felt that making an agreement at Copenhagen was so important, not because some magic runaway-warming switch will now be flicked but because it was surely the easiest place to make a deal. If not now, when? So, now, either individuals everywhere pick up the baton, either by following Sharon’s lead or by directing extremely strong and extremely direct action against weak spots in the corporate/capitalist structure or … we’re left with lifeboats. And that is just a hideous though. It’s 8.20am where I am. I think I’m going to get drunk today.

  7. #7 Dan
    December 18, 2009

    Oops, my ‘yes’ was in response to GAB.

  8. #8 JJ
    December 19, 2009

    I’ve ridden a roller-coaster of emotion these past few weeks trying to reconcile some sanity with what appears to be certain disaster. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried (unethically and selfishly) reminding myself I’ll be very old by 2050 but it does little good. This is an insidious existential crisis for our species, with the relationship between quantity of resources consumed being directly proportional to our denial. I confirm this everyday of my life here in America. What are we going to do, folks? I’m at a loss.

  9. #9 GAB
    December 19, 2009


    “How do you (know) this is not the case?”

    Simple they’re government. If Obama was actually going to do it he would have offered to cut the cheque immediately not raise the money by 2020, 10 years away and in someone else adminstration, where he has no say. He’d use his own resources to guilt others to act now, not claim that the ficticious donors some time in the future will solve the funding problem. That’s like saying we are waiting for the aliens to come down and give us new clean energy tech.

    As for how they will use the money? simple, history! Governments will never do the simple, effective and rational thing when they can make a grand gesture. Sun ovens, seeds, rocket stoves, edcuation etc don’t have the glamour or potential to reward your corparate lackys that building a dam or reactor would. Plus the govs that will most need the help are disfuctional ones that will only get 10% of the money to projects the rest in generals pockets. You have to empower locals to build the tools to save themselves, not trust other govs to use the money properly.

    using local labour, I bet a single billion would create at least 50 million good sun ovens or many times that lesser quality units, but what glamour or U.S. corparate kick backs would that create?

  10. #10 Dan
    December 20, 2009

    There was an interesting post on this some time ago by John Michael Greer. He pointed out the difference in funding between fusion – an unproven technology which necessarily entails huge costs and which no one expects will yield results for decades – and a project based on converting washing-machine motors into micro-hydro units – a well established technology with very low costs which can be deployed now. Obviously enough, it’s the fusion which gets the funding.

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