Saturday, November 27, 2010

Optimism

UPDATE: Some minor changes have been made to the translation

The hit parade tonight is an interview Ottmar Edenhofer gave (in German) to the Neue Züricher Zeitung. Edenhofer is co-chair of Working Group 3 for the IPCC AR5. There is also an interview with the Süddeutscher that Eli may translate later. Sections of this are being paraded around the blogs by the denialists, well, Eli will let them explain why, but you can get a hint from the byline:

“BREAKING: UN IPCC Official Admits ‘We Redistribute World’s Wealth By Climate Policy’

By Noel Sheppard
As in many such things, it is better to RTFR completely. Edenhofer, is not exactly the most optimistic bunny in the land, but he beats by a mile Frank Fenner, one of the key players in small pox eradication, who dies the other day

Professor Fenner’s views on the environment were not cheerful. Sheer numbers and the rapacious consumption of resources, he predicted glumly, would condemn the human species to the same fate as the smallpox virus.

“Homo sapiens will become extinct, perhaps within 100 years,” he told the newspaper The Australian in June. “A lot of other animals will, too. It’s an irreversible situation. I think it’s too late.”

The full translation to English is below:
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NZZ: Mr. Edenhofer, Everyone supports a reduction of emissions to protect the climate. You now talk about "dangerous reductions of emission". What are you talking about?

Ottmar Edenhofer: Up till now prosperity and increased emissions of greenhouse gases went hand in had. Economic growth of one percent meant one percent higher emissions. It is burnt into our minds: To be rich you burn coal oil or gas. Therefore the developing countries are anxious about emission limits.

NZZ: In order to protect the climate everyone has to work together, otherwise it will not work

OE: That's easy to say. However, above all the industrial countries have a system that is almost totally dependent on fossil energy. There is no historical example and no region of the world that has uncoupled its economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions. Thus you cannot expect that India or China will find it to be a great idea. And there is worse: We are in the middle of a coal renaissance, because oil and gas have become more expensive but not coal. Developing countries are building their cities and power stations for the next seventy years as if there will be no high price for CO2 emissions in the future.

NZZ: What is new in your proposal for a global deal is the realization of how important development policies are for climate policies. Up until now many have considered developmental aid as charity.

OE: That will change immediately when emission rights are distributed globally. If that is done on a per capita basis, then Africa is the big winner, and a lot of money will flow in. That has enormous consequences for developmental policies, and it will also pose the question of how those countries can sensibly handle so much money.

NZZ: That doesn?t sound at all like the climate politics that we know

OE: Basically it is an enormous error to discuss climate politics separately from the major themes of globalization. The Climate Summit in Cancun, at the end of the month is not a climate conference, but one of the most important economic conferences since World War II. Why? Because we have 11,000 gigatons of carbon stored in the coal reserves under our feet and we can at most shove 400 gigatons into the atmosphere if we want to hold to the 2 degree limit. 11,000 to 400 there is no way to avoid it, the major fraction of the fossil reserves must stay in the ground.

NZZ: De facto that is an expropriation from the countries that have the reserves. That will lead to a completely different developmental policy than has up till now been the case.

OE: Up till now it is the industrial counties that have seized the atmosphere from the global community. But it has to be clearly stated: Climate policy will de facto redistribute the world's economic wealth. That the holders of coal and oil reserves are not exactly pleased with this is obvious. We have to free ourselves from the illusion that climate politics is environmental politics. This has almost nothing to do with environmental issues, with problems like acid rain or the ozone hole.

NZZ: In spite of this the environment is suffering from climate change- above all in the South

OE: There is much to be done concerning adaptation. And that extends far beyond classical developmental politics: In Africa climate change is going to bring a reduction in agricultural production. But that can be avoided if the efficiency of production is increased and above all, if African agriculture is integrated into the world economy. But for that to happen, a successful climate policy requires a new trade and finance politics.

NZZ: The great misunderstanding of the UN Conference in Rio in 1992 is about to recur in climate politics. The developed nations talk about the environment, the developing countries about development.

OE: It is even more complicated. In the eighties local environmental problems were a question of luxury for the developing countries. Those who are well off and drive cars, they can worry about acid rain. For China, it was all about how one could bring 600 million Chinese men and women into the middle class. If a coal burning power plant was built, or the social standards in the coal mines were low, that was irrelevant, - as it was for us in the nineteenth century.

NZZ: But the world has become smaller.

OE: Now there is something new: It is no longer about our luxuries only, our environment only. It is clear to the developing countries that the cause lies in the North and the consequences in the South. And in the industrial countries is clear, that to achieve the climate protection goal of two degrees neither technical solutions nor changes in living styles are sufficient. People in Europe have the grotesque delusion that buying in organic groceries or electric autos will solve the problem. That is arrogant, because the ecological footprint of our standard of living has increased in the past 30 years, inspite of the environmental movement.

NZZ: You say, for a successful climate policy a great amount of international cooperation is needed, but that is exactly what we do not see.

OE: I share your skepticism. But do we have an alternative? Currently there are three ideas about how one can get around such difficult cooperation. One can try dangerous experiments such as geo-engineering, one can concentrate on the construction of clean and safe energy sources, or one can trust to regional and local solution. There is however, no hint that any of these ideas will solve the problem. We must cooperate, just as such cooperation is necessary for the regulation of the financial markets.

NZZ: But differently from the financial crisis, in climate politics a country has advantages when it does not work with the others.

OE: The financial crisis was an emergency operation in the face of danger we are more cooperative. That will not happen for the climate, because there is always a question if a specific event, like a flood, was a result of the climate. But there is always the danger that individual rationality leads to collective stupidity. Therefore, the climate problem cannot be solved alone but must be handled with other problems. There have to be punishments and rewards: world wide CO2 tariffs and technology transfer

NZZ: Your new book contains much talk about ethics. Do they play a role in the climate negotiations?

OE: Ethics always plays a role when it is about power. China and Latin America always say that the historical responsibility for climate change lies with the industrial countries. This responsibility cannot be denied, but it is also a strategic argument of those countries. I would take the responsibility for the time since 1995 because since then we know what causes the increasing greenhouse effect. To push back the responsibility to the industrial revolution is not ethically justified.

NZZ: Can ethics be used to break the logjam?

OE: The book includes a parable: A wandering group, the world community, is underway in the desert. The industrial countries drink half of the water and then say magnanimously: "Let us now divide the water equally." The others reply "That does not work, you have emptied half of the water. We want now to discuss your historical responsibility." The meaning is: If we now fight about the water supply because we cannot agree about ethical principles we will die of thirst. What we need to do is search for an oasis, that is the coal free world economy. It is all about mutually searching for this oasis

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

10 comments:

William said...

Of course. That's why nobody could agree at Copenhagen - international agreements that "redistribute wealth" have in the past always favoured the already-rich countries, but now the up-and-coming powers of China, India, etc are not prepared to be pushed into subservient positions. Neither are the US or Europe prepared (yet) to give up their old "big power" privileges.

Eventually, something will have to give. Or people find another way. An interesting opinion piece by David Cameron in the UK media yesterday on just this topic, saying that the UK is prepared to "go it alone" with moving to the low carbon economy. That might just be politician-talk, but it's a hopefull sign.

Belette said...

You are title-less.

Lars Karlsson said...

Here we go:
GWPF. WUWT.

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Great. Now we can all fight over who gets more of the deck chairs on the Titanic. If we don't do something soon, we'll be fighting over who gets the biggest percentage of ZERO.

EliRabett said...

Bellette, it was two in the morning and Ms. Rabett was calling. A-Ray, thanks for inspiring the new title

Anonymous said...

I always liked the idea of a homogenized tax structure: each nation imposes its own carbon tax, equal to those of all the other nations (or, possibly, a gradated tax highest for the rich countries and lowest for the poor). That is the carbon price, and the signal to move towards a lower carbon economy. But the money raised stays within country borders. This gets away from all the arguments about who should get how many carbon credits that seems to paralyze current international climate policy...

-M

(I personally think that there _should_ be some wealth distribution in addition, for ethical/humanitarian reasons, but I don't see that tying wealth distribution to climate change helps either one advance)

frank -- Decoding SwiftHack said...

Lars Karlsson:

In somewhat unrelated news, Jeff Id throws a tantrum when I call him out for spreading baseless innuendo. And more.

-- frank

a_ray_in_dilbert_space said...

Eli,
That's me. I'm just a little f***ing ray of sunshine.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the honorable gentleman was not so much talking about "redistributing weatlh" from rich industrial countries to poor backward countries, but rather, from fossil fuel producers to everygoddamnbody else.

Admittedly the US falls in both camps, but OTOH the prospect of cutting Saudi Arabia down one notch or three should appeal more than a few conservatives.

Of course such nuances are unlikely to elicit the interest of WUWT readers.

toto-

clearscience said...

Really makes me feel quite positive today...