21 December 2009
UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
The UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is the perfect example for the phrase "a damp squib". Squibs are small explosives that are used for special effects and in the past for clearing away coal in the mines when they were sold as "Miners' Safety Squibs". In the past, squibs were not protected from moisture and so a damp squib was just an explosion that failed to detonate.
I suppose that we all expected too much from the conference; where views that are so divergent and relative powers so different were being brought together, there was probably nothing but a slim chance of agreement. The outcome, however, was not unexpected as in the end and in my heart-of-hearts I probably expected nothing much. Which is what we all got.
For me there are 2 big issues that come out of the conference - one is scientific and the other is political.
The scientific issue is that I am unconvinced that the detail of climate science is there yet and I am unsure that it ever will be. That is a big problem and will get more and more important as time goes by.
That climate change is occurring is irrefutable and that it is man made, i.e. anthropogenic, is also clear. It aslo seems clear that we are heading for a general 4-5oC rise rather than 1.5-2oC rise that the politicians seem to be kidding themselves will happen, and that hotter world looks a pretty scary place (Source: “A World 4oC Warmer”, Santa Barley, New Scientist, 3 October 2009, p 14-15).
However, the temperatures are general, global and vague and I think that this is going to be an Achilles heel for climate change protesters and scientists going forward. In the end, I, people and Governments need to know with some accuracy what is going to happen where and when? And I think until this is fleshed out more, people and Governments have wriggle room.
For example, I have been trying for ages to find on the Internet a report or simulation that shows the impact of differing levels of sea rise on areas of the world (I once saw one at The Deep in Hull which was very impressive), i.e. I know that low lying areas like the Netherlands, London, Tuvalu and Hull will become effected straight away, but what does a 10 metre rise do and what is the percentage likelihood of that? I know that the Arctic sea ice melt is irrelevant to sea level changes but how much land ice is melting from Greenland, the Antarctic and Canada, for example, per annum and what impact is that having?
And even more precisely, what will the temperature rise be in the UK when the global temperature rises by 2oC?
Or will it actually result in the temperature falling in UK as temperatures rise globally? My query here is based on the fact that our temperature should really be the same as Moscow, but because of the Gulf Stream we are kept artifically warm. But if the ice sheet on Greenland and Canada flows into the Atlantic Ocean, it could change the surface density of the ocean and switch off the great ocean conveyor belt and so plunge the UK (and the world) into a cold patch that could compensate for the general rise in global temperatures. This sudden freezing could be more devastating in the short term than a general rise in temperatures.
So more detail is needed on anticipated changes and they will need to be accurate as each error will serve to undermine the generally correct concept of climate change.
The second is the concept of sovereignty. In George Orwell's Animal Farm, there is the iconic quote:
"ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE
EQUAL THAN OTHERS"
It has been used ever since as a ironic dig at socialism and communism. However, the concept of equality, democracy and sovereignty is something that worries me; it is something that I cannot really get to grips with as to whether the way the world is run is right or wrong? It worries me that the UK is more and more being run by the EU and that the EU and the UK Governments are largely run by oligarchs over whom there is very little control. The expenses scandal and the next election may change the faces and the bums on the seats, but they will still come from the same political parties and the state apparatus will be largely unchanged and most of the regulations and legislation will stay in place.
The same goes for soverign states. Does the USA have any more legitimacy than the small island states, such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, or mini states like San Marino and Lesotho? If we are all equal then surely each country should have an equal voice, but (back to Orwell) that's clearly not the case. In other words, the world will be driven by the larger states as they have greater power in terms of cash, military might and global influence.
And how about the minority peoples who live in the areas perhaps most directly impacted by the melting of sea ice and land ice, the indigenous peoples of the Artic and elsewhere? Where were their voices? Was it but a squeak in the dark, which does not even seem to have been recorded, or maybe it never happened? Surely the Inuits, the peoples of Chukotko-Kamchatkan family, the Altaic peoples, the Uralic peoples and the Na-dene of the Artic region should be allowed to express their points of view as to climate improvement. They had their own conference in Alaska in early 2009.
Which brings me back to the UK. The parties who cobbled together the weak "Copenhagen Accord" were the USA, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. That's the political and military powerhouses within each continent who were clearly being tasked with strong-arming agreement from sovereign states within their areas of influence. This is vote rigging and gerrymandering on a global scale.
Where was Britain? Where was the EU? Clearly they are not regarded as drivers of the world going forward. Gordon Brown can hardly believe is own rhetoric in saying "A breakthrough never seen on this scale before" - I must have missed something, somewhere, unless he was talking about the coup d'etat of the UN by powers other than the UK.
It is important that Britain and the EC who are supposed to be the cradles of modern liberty ensure that any construct arising from the Copenhagen Conference does not deny the sovereign status of all nations and that it cannot be seen as modern, legalised form of global colonialism that binds everyone to the global vision of a few, hugely powerful superstates.
Small sovereign states are still sovereign states in the same way that every citizen in the UK is equal when it comes to the ballot box.
And I am not sure my, my family's or anyone else's future in relation to climate change is a bargaining chip to be negotiated by a few heads of state.