Boondoggling

No not me, sadly :-(

RP has a nice article on and exceprting a piece by Richard Benedick on Climate Policy. One bit that struck me:

These UN mega-conferences have by now developed a predictable pattern. Considerable time is occupied by tedious problems of coordinating positions and tactics, both inside the huge national delegations and within blocs of countries such as the European Union and other regional or “like-minded” coalitions. There are the usual dire warnings– fully justifiable–of impending global catastrophe. There are trivial protocol debates and ritualistic ministerial speeches exhorting complicated and unrealistic actions. There are cultural diversions such as boat rides on the Rhine or dance performances in Marrakech. As the end nears, all-night negotiating sessions contribute to a sense of destiny. But despite the customary self-congratulatory finale, the results at Nairobi, as at preceding meetings, were embarrassingly meager. . . Part of the problem, as he sees it, is a short-term obsession with targets and timetables. The climate meetings, obsessively focused on short-term targets and timetables applying only to industrialized nations, have become trapped in a process that is unmanageable, inefficient, and impervious to serious negotiation of complex issues that have profound environmental, economic, and social implications extending over many decades into the future. . .

I added the bolding. I’ve never been to one of these things, but my impression is that another major part of the problem is that these conferences, whilst just about a waste of time, and certainly a waste of money and GHG, are nonetheless a fun boondoggle for a large pile of people. They are also a jolly useful substitute for any kind of action. Its also become pretty clear that they are never going to achieve anything, so no-one really gets blamed for them failing.

The thoughts re the comparison with Montreal are interesting, but I’m not sure how useful they are. Global warming is a much harder issue; ozone turned out to be fairly easy.

Comments

  1. #1 Steve Bloom
    2007/01/26

    Well, of course. Would Benedick be surprised to find out that the same stuff goes on at the local government level? Generally speaking, it just plain takes a whole lot of talk to result in substantial action (a process which at the local government level here in the U.S. is called obtaining “buy-in”). Put another way, does Benedick imagine that concerted international action on climate change can occur without an international conference or two? Um. That said, as long as things stand where they are with U.S. government policy, I’m perfectly willing to entertain the idea that events like the Nairobi conference can never be much more than wheel-spinning. Media coverage of them does tend to add a little useful pressure, though.

    Featuring Benedick’s article is standard-issue RP Jr.: If only they would change the mode of discussion at those conferences, progress could be made. It’s just the reverse: The mode of discussion is a consequence of the fact that progress can’t be made. All of which leads me to wonder if the advocacy of such a view by RP Jr. doesn’t amount to the “policyization” of climate science. I rather think it does.

  2. #2 Marlowe Johnson
    2007/01/26

    I’m inclined to agree with you Steve. As you know, RPjr seems to be pretty dismissive of the basic approach of KP – i.e. short term global targets — and seems to advocate smaller initiatives that focus on R&D among a coalition of the willing. While I do accept the general observation that getting binding agreements of ANY international scope where the big players stand to lose is an uphill battle, that doesn’t to me suggest that we throw in the towel and go with essentially useless voluntary agreements which amount to throwing more public money at the problem in a pork-barrel fashion in the hopes that cold fusion will come along and save us. (I won’t even go into the shell game that is adaptation vs. mitigation)

    Two basic objections with this approach. First of all the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Second, the collective budgets of the private sector dwarf the R&D budgets that governments would conceivably throw at the problem so it makes sense to set up a system where the costs are internalized. This is the basic argument that TokyoTom is making over and over again and for some reason :) Roger seems unwilling to confront it head on…

    My prediction…

    U.S. will eventually set binding targets on domestic LFE’s. It will become largely irrelevant whether or not other countries follow suit in the form of an international agreement ala KP, as the U.S./Europe/Japan will simply impose sanctions on countries that aren’t subjecting their industries to equivalent standards. Other countries will challenge under WTO and either U.S. wins, or U.S. loses — in which case it simply ignores the decision :P

  3. #3 James Annan
    2007/01/27

    Hmm…is that so different from scientists flying round the world all the time to talk about their Important Work which has Policy Implications?

    See you in Vienna, perhaps :-)

    [Ah, but we don't fly first class :-) -W]

  4. #4 Hank Roberts
    2011/12/17

    http://crosscut.com/blog/crosscut/20697/Big-news-on-climate%2C-except-in-the-papers/

    “… the International Energy Agency — the people who were right about Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent WMDs, to no avail — issued its report on future energy use. It found that current and foreseeable reduction efforts won’t come near meeting the pledge set at the 2009 Copenhagen climate set to hold average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degree Fahrenheit — once a feared, now a prayed-for outcome, that would have effects comparable to an ice age in reverse). Then, as the Durban climate summit opened, the IEA’s chief economist, Fatih Birol, issued an unusually stark warning: the planet is on track to warm by more than double the outdated “consensus” projections, by 6 degree (Celsius (10.8 degrees Fahrenheit) by century’s end, with effects to beggar the imagination….”

    [Sounds like he's gone too far over the top. 6 oC would be surprisingly high -W]

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