Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Disappointment in Durban

I'm not surprised to be hearing a lot of disappointment from my colleagues and friends who are in Durban for the international climate change negotiations there.

I wanted to know more about other people's disappointment in Durban, so I Googled the words 'disappointment in durban' and actually found a Dec. 5, 2011, article with that exact title-- from the Spectator, by Matthew Sinclair.

It's just a few paragraphs summarizing the main problem with the Durban talks-- that the world's main greenhouse gas emitters aren't willing to take a strong stand on controlling emissions. Canada, Russia and Japan aren't even at the table in Durban. And, Sinclair points out, whatever is decided at Durban will likely be proclaimed a success by participating governments. Also not helpful.

I largely agree. I also think it is valuable to gather the governments who are willing to work on reducing GHG emissions to make whatever agreements they can make. However, nobody should be entertaining the thought that this is enough. And, everybody should gear up to face the impacts of failed emissions-control policies. Durban's wheel-spinning should put government planners on notice-- the impacts of climate change just got a little more real, a little more life-threatening.

I don't know much about Matthew Sinclair, but he seems to have some interesting economic points to make. He cites his August 2011 book: Let Them Eat Carbon: The Price of Failing Climate Change Policies, and How Governments and Big Business Profit From Them.
From the Amazon blurb:

Around the world companies are making billions out of the schemes governments have put in place saying they will curb global warming and protect us from the threat of climate change. There is little evidence that those policies are an efficient way to cut emissions.

It looks like his alternative to investing in expensive renewable energy projects and putting a fixed price on carbon is putting "scientists and engineers to work making it cheaper to produce low emissions energy" (from his article of this past Monday).

I found this 10-minute video of Sinclair from Aug. 2011 giving his point of view on renewable energy policy failures. He explains his economic points briefly, repeating some truths that need to be remembered, including the fact that rich countries investing in expensive renewable energy projects won't be worth it if ONLY rich countries are doing it.

While effective adaptation policy has to be local, effective greenhouse gas reduction policy by definition has to be global.

I'd like to hear more about his alternative solutions. He ends the video saying "there is a better way." I guess I'll have to get his book to find out what that is!

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