Copenhagen 2009: Climate heat is on.



With the die now cast for the outcomes of the United Nations agreement in Copenhagen on Dec 7th to 18th 2009,  Incoming COP15 president, Connie Hedegaard, says Failure in Copenhagen is not an option. And complexity is no excuse for complacency. There will be unlikely to be a chance again if we miss this one or postpone. To build up again the pressure to get world leaders to deliver will be impossible, so it must be done. Getting the text right and removing the square brackets to make the issues and political choices clear is the work to be done.

But  just weeks before the international conference, the United Nations signaled it was scaling back expectations of reaching agreement on a new treaty to slow global warming. Janos Pasztor, director of the secretary-general’s Climate Change Support Team, was reported last week as saying.

"it’s hard to say how far the conference will be able to go" because the U.S. Congress has not agreed on a climate bill, and industrialized nations have not agreed on targets to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions or funding to help developing countries limit their discharges.

Some years ago. I had the pleasure to meet Tony Mowbray Tony is one of those rare history making achievers along with Kay Cottee and Francis Chichester, who sailed solo around the world.

clip_image001Tony’s autographed print of his log book sits on my bookshelf to serve as a model for achievement. What makes athletes like Tony unique, is their ability to deal with complex and rapidly changing issues and make decisions for both their short and long term survival.


In 1998 Tony was one of the survivors of the ill fated Sydney to Hobart Yacht race that claimed many lives. The deteriorating climate that saw those sailors lost is high in the minds of world leaders.

Next month in Copenhagen these people will try to agree on a plan to mange the causes of climate change that threatens the very survival of the human race. This will update the expiring Kyoto protocol agreement of 1997.

Ralph Eastman’s Carbon Constrained World Reality report on March 13th on my discussion with Stian Reklev. Stian is Managing Editor of the specialist online newspaper Point Carbon. He is also an often sought after expert on the subject himself. At the time  Stian captured for me the essence what Copenhagen is all about: Namely getting agreement on 1. Emission caps 2, Who picks up the bill and 3. Adaption

Since Kyoto, there has developed more controversy on the climate issue as people learn more. Vested interests have also become stronger and more entrenched. The ability to agree and decide on a direction is vital for the next generation’s survival. But it is equally difficult to achieve. Deciding is quite unlike the lone sailor whose mission is clear. He or she can process information with speed to make very clear decisions, having prepared for all types of risks in advance. But the collective inputs to a climate management, sees interests not in all in agreement. Positions to maintain calm waters status quo, may even prevail, when it is clear to so many there is a storm  coming.

Convinced by the physical evidence, the change activists want carbon limits raised. Just re-running the 2005 documentary “An Inconvenient truth” still cannot be ignored despite opposing denouncement. And reading the daily papers tells you facts that continue to reinforce concern. This week in the New York Times it leads with a headline “Seas Grow Less Effective at Absorbing Emissions”

Governments over the last 10 years since Kyoto, have invested greatly in programs for carbon reduction schemes across the globe. This has created an industry with things like the carbon market initiatives. Hence a balance of interest groups now exist.

Not surprising, is disagreement by many scientists, whose counter arguments are often convincing. Well summarized facts and figures often lead them to say we need more proof before taking action. But what if they are wrong?

While advocates for constraint seek agreement and ways to keep the issue in the public face, the irony is much of the power still rests with those who oppose. They produce the life-giving energy we all rely on and can influence to offer us a stream alternative information. This means if Copenhagen fails they may just keep on sailing unchecked while they search of a solution at some time in the future; Which by then it may be too late.

As “Upton Sinclair” American writer and social change advocate in the early 20th century said “it is difficult to get  people to understand something when their salary depends on not understanding it” This can of course be true of all sides.

So the issues are complex and burdened with well placed facts. figures and modeled outcomes and delivered through highly credible people who argue there is no evidence to support the climate deterioration. Or if so, then there is no evidence it is caused by human activity.

Interesting too is the timing of a headline about a Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Dispute. On Tuesday a British University was reported as being hacked

A NYT report I read cited several scientists pressing the case that global warming is true.

The report also says, “Some of the correspondence recently hacked in a UK University portrays scientists as feeling under siege by the skeptics’ camp and worried that any stray comment or data glitch could be turned against them”.

Other quotes from this same report go on to say “evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument”.

The New York Times confirmed the authors or recipients of hacked email messages . The revelations are bound to inflame the public debate as hundreds of negotiators prepare to negotiate an international climate accord at meetings in Copenhagen month, and at least one scientist speculated that the timing was not coincidental.

So what do yachts and their sailors have to do with all this. Some time ago I wrote to my bother, a media professional, to seek his engagement in the debate. I also sought his opinion on climate change and how we should address it.  His edited response refers that 1998 yacht race was in context, I thought it worthy of sharing:

People can throw their hands in the air and jump on either side with that one. Global Warming and Ice Age indeed! Either way, the consequences aren’t all that palatable.

The meteorological details will always be difficult. And what modeling?

I am reminded of a three international atmospheric 3D models used to predict the weather for the 1998 Sydney to Hobart yachts. This extraordinary work deals with complex and dynamic detail but on this occasion none were right.

What was remarkable was the work a privateer who also modeled the interacting vortices, and sea temperatures etc., in the Tasman Sea and Bass Straight, being the race regions.

His radioed warning to the yachts of his prediction of a gale force wind of 90 knots, was life saving to those who got the message. They knew to sail out of the developing storm. Others, who turned back to land for safety, met steep-ling waves, which for many were fatal.

So if it’s so hard to model the climate in the space of a single day, how hard is it to model it over centuries? There is of course some convenient history to work with from the past, including that ironically stored in the Antarctic ice.

Maddening isn’t it?

Regardless of the arguments a Carbon Constrained World Reality just makes sense. But the September 2009 Bangkok UN conference of world leaders and advocates, staged to position for a smooth agreement at Copenhagen, was not encouraging.

Tony Mowbray Autographed Log book

If it needs to be said that failure in Copenhagen is not an option, clearly this it  seems it may be. So the text of arguments must be convincing and hit the mark well so delay is not in the conclusion.

As for Tony Mowbray, giving up was not an option when he faced adversity on his lonely voyage. So is the Copenhagen goal, It is too important.

Those leaders attending Copenhagen, who are determined to make the difference, and Connie Hedegaard, who heads it all up have a daunting task to meet the goals, I can only repeat what Tony Mowbray said to me when he autographed his log book for me:

Go get ’em!”


To be continued:

12 thoughts on “Copenhagen 2009: Climate heat is on.

  1. Small Business owners are largely forgotten. Thats why I only focus on them. I have experience several members of my family file bankruptcy due to small business failures. I also I suffered through 2 destroyed businesses due to failure however, in my failings I have learned some of the secrets to success. (Who can say they know it all?)
    What I like about small business owners is that they are not afraid to take huge risks and lay it all on the line. But, I agree they do need a lot of help with their marketing. I think having them go the social media and email route is not only the least expensive but its also the most effective. Thanks for the stats!


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  3. @Cornelius … This is a topic that many more knowledbale than me are covering well.
    I am just passionate about at as it impacts us all. I will continue to seek ways to move it along. There is definately more to come as the work is just beginning. Gordon

  4. In some private emails from my friends and collegues who are seeking to support those working hard for Copenhagen, many have asked me about the agenda.

    In summary this is what I got in March this year, when I met Stian Reklev Managing Editor at Point Carbon. Mr. Reklev had a very clear understanding of the main discussion points for Copenhagen. He also said “these are proving terribly difficult to get consensus on”

    The points still unchanged are:

    1. Emission caps.

    Under Kyoto, only countries defined as developed countries have actual targets. 30-something countries have emission obligations in the 2008-2012 period they must stick to: 26 of the EU countries, plus Japan, Canada (who’ll miss theirs and they don’t care), Australia, NZ, Norway, Switzerland, Russia and Ukraine. Plus Monaco and San Marino. Belarus is trying to get into this group.

    When Kyoto was negotiated in 1997 it was agreed that it would be unfair to restrict the development of poor countries by slapping emission caps on them. However, some of them have developed a lot since then and are now huge emitters. China, India, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa in particular. Developing countries now emit more than half the world’s greenhouse gases (although in historical context they are still not responsible for the climate change crisis itself, and counted per capita they are still small emitters compared to rich countries).

    So for now, rich countries want poor countries to take on mandatory emission obligations. Not as strict as their own targets, but mandatory ones in some way. Obviously, China, India etc are still reluctant to risk their economic growth by doing so, and argue that they should not take on mandatory caps as long as rich countries struggle to comply with their Kyoto targets.

    For the US and Australia, for example, it seems difficult to take on stringent targets while their biggest competitors (especially. China) can continued increasing their emissions unabated. (Australia has now ratified Kyoto, but they have an extremely easy target).

    Meanwhile, knowing that the targets under Kyoto is not at all enough to stop climate change, poor countries say rich countries must take on much stronger targets. The US emits more than 20 tonnes CO2 equivalent per capita. The corresponding number for China is 5, for India 1.5. They keep pointing their fingers at the west, demanding more action.

    2. Who picks up the bill?

    Everyone knows that if the world is to avoid climate change, developing countries must achieve sustainable growth. A huge amount of clean technology must be transferred from rich to poor countries. Many, but not all, agree that it is reasonable that rich countries pay for a significant amount of this (considering they made the mess in the first place, plus they can afford it).

    What they’re trying to do now is find a technology transfer mechanism that everyone is pleased with. That is very difficult: everyone wants to pay as little as possible.

    3. Adaptation.

    While mitigation continues to be a hugely important issue, most scientists agree that some climate change will occur regardless. Africa and Asia are predicted to suffer the most of this (Vietnam will be absolutely devastated). You probably know about the sinking pacific islands.

    So what developing countries are trying to do now is to raise more money for adaptation measures. Again, as soon as money is involved, things get very complicated.


  5. This what they are up against in the race to get ready for Copenhagen

    Turmoil in the Australian Parliament questions climate legislation Prime Minister Kevin Rudd faces the same problem as Barack Obama. Both have trouble getting climate legislation through the senate before the UN conference next month, and both need opposition votes.
    Rie Jerichow
    27/11/2009 12:20

    The Australian Labor government had hoped to have its climate legislation in place before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December. However, the carbon trade laws face bleak prospects, after the parliament delayed a final vote on the government carbon trade plan.

    The carbon scheme, central to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s promise to cut emissions by between 5 and 25 percent, needed seven opposition votes to pass the bills in the Senate.

    According to Reuters, Rudd believed that he had a deal with seven opposition parliament members, but an open revolt by climate skeptics within the opposition threw the deal into doubt, and challenged opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull, who had already survived one challenge on Wednesday. Half of his party opposed to the carbon trade plan, Bloomberg reports.

    A new opposition leader could dramatically alter the outlook for any carbon trading laws by abandoning the agreement with the government, making the Senate numbers uncertain, Reuters reports.

    The upper house Senate will return on Monday to continue the debate on the package of 11 bills.

    “We have been trying all year to get climate change legislation passed by this parliament. And we have been denied that legislation by the climate change deniers … We intend to pursue this bill. The Labor party will be back on Monday,” government Senate leader Chris Evans told parliament according to Bloomberg.

    If the proposed laws are defeated again in the Senate, Rudd may call for a snap election in early 2010. Opinion polls suggest he would win with an increased majority, Bloomberg reports.

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