Archive for the ‘Copenhagen’ Category


de Boer Resigns

February 18, 2010

Information here.

From the Huffington Post: His departure takes effect July 1, five months before 193 nations are due to reconvene in Mexico for another attempt to reach a binding worldwide accord on controlling greenhouse gases. De Boer’s resignation adds to the uncertainty that a full treaty can be finalized there.

Uncertainty cuts both ways. Hard to say whether this improves or diminishes hopes for a binding treaty in Mexico.



February 1, 2010

Somebody buy Don Brown a red pen and a heavy-duty pair of editorial shears. Brown, associate professor of Ethics, Science and Law at Penn State University just put this lengthy disquisition up online. It’s one helluva screed. Be sure to pop some corn before you sit down for a read.

I was with Brown in Copenhagen, so we had an opportunity to talk about things. For the record, I don’t share his degree of pessimism, but there are a few things that I think we should highlight. First, I might again gently point out that his post should really be broken into several posts (each about one tenth as long as the full piece). It’s a blog, for chrissakes. Nobody has time to sit down and sift through this.

Second, I want to say that, unlike Don, I don’t think that “ethics” is a monolithic endeavor, so I’m leery of suggestions that “ethics” has any singular thing to say about the climate. I think, instead, that there are many deeply interesting ethical problems associated with climate change and that the academic ethics community really should work to address some of these issues. Where the gavel will fall, I don’t know.

Apart from that, here are a few things Brown says (this is about 3/5 of the way down):

In the lead-up to Copenhagen, ClimateEthics identified ethical criteria that any Copenhagen agreement would have to satisfy, see Minimum Ethical Criteria For All Post-Kyoto Regime Proposals: What Does Ethics Require of A Copenhagen Outcome,

In this prior analysis, ClimateEthics concluded that any proposed post-Kyoto regime must as a matter of at a minimum:

• Require sufficient greenhouse emissions reductions to assure that the international community is on a greenhouse gas emissions reduction pathway that will prevent dangerous climate change harm. This is sometimes referred to as the environmental sufficiency criteria.

• Begin to base differences among national allocations on the basis of equity and justice. This is sometimes referred to as the equity criteria.

I think we need to get clear on a few things. For one, this language of “dangerous climate change harm” is incredibly vague. I’ve been unclear on it for a long time. Are we talking about harm to the climate or harm to people due to changes in the climate? Depending on what we mean by this, we will likely have dramatically different policy outcomes.

For another, we need a lot of clarification on equity and justice criteria. I heard this refrain over and over again in Copenhagen, and I simply couldn’t ascertain what was meant by it. Are we talking about distributive justice? Equality of opportunity? Capabilities justice? Justice as fairness? Theorists want to know; and it is mighty important for us to get clear on what we mean by this.

Here’s more:

That is, any proposed post-Kyoto regime must:

• Assure that those responsible for climate change provide adequate, predictable adaptation funding to enable developing countries and in particular the most vulnerable developing countries to do what is necessary to avoid climate change damages in cases where it is possible to take action and to prevent damages, or be compensated for climate change damages in cases where it is impossible to take protective action. We will refer to this as the just adaptation criteria.

Identifying “those responsible for climate change” is, of course, no simple task, so this is one area where considerable investigation is necessary. On one hand, we’re all complicit. On another hand, some are no complicit than others. On yet a third hand — I have three hands, mofo, wanna make something of it? — maybe we can’t assign responsibility at all.

Moreover, it’s not clear why being complicit or responsible for bringing about climate change would necessarily translate into an obligation to provide “adequate, predictable adaptation funding.” I agree that maybe western developed nations should provide this funding, but it’s not clear that we should do it because we’re responsible for having brought about climate change. Not only should I help the hungry even if I am not responsible for having made them hungry, but sometimes if I have made someone hungry (by bartering for their food, say), it is not clear that I therefore owe them a debt to make them less hungry.

I hate to play grumpy ethicist, but I want to see more action from the philosophical community on these questions, so rather than take Brown’s missive as a blockbuster proclamation from Discovery, I think we can mine it for difficult questions.


Snowed Under

December 21, 2009

Given the recent snowstorms on the east coast, I’m reasonably comfortable living vicariously through my homies and taking a few days off from blogging. Even still, I probably shouldn’t let it be known that I have no idea what to make of the Copenhagen Accord. Looks like a mixed bag. Probably good for domestic policy, possibly a good sign for Boxer-Kerry (though that will depend, in part, on what happens with health care legislation), and possibly a bad sign for relations with the rest of the world. Hard to say. I’m waiting for the dust to settle before I lay out a position on this. Honestly, it’s a sort of WTF accord.


Need Brakes

December 19, 2009

Frankly, there’s waaay too much going on right now to blog intelligently about it all. Between the COP outcomes, the health care shenanigans, the end of the semester, a looming deadline for a paper I’m slated to deliver at the Eastern Division APA, and the family holiday-wind-up, my head is spinning. I sit down for minutes at my computer and don’t know where to begin.

For the time being, I thought I’d note a nice commentary on noting, written by CU-Boulder’s Kevin Doran over at CEES (Center for Energy and Environmental Security) in our law school. Kevin is one of several of CU jurists at COP, and I think his legal background offers some nice clarity to the “taking note” language.

Also worth exploring is Tom Yulsman’s schtick on REDD. More in a bit.


Light on Progress

December 17, 2009

It’s hard to sift through the cacophony of voices chiming in on the Copenhagen process, but fortunately, we have Andrew Light, heavy-hitter in the environmental philosophy community and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, to offer some clarity. I’ve known Andrew for many years now, and I have always felt that his grasp of and his breadth in the scholarly literature in philosophy was top-notch, but watching him navigate the confusion and noise in Copenhagen is really a sight to behold. Do yourselves a favor and spend the next six minutes watching this video.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


Gaia’s Fever

December 16, 2009

I can’t figure out whether to post this under false analogies, accident, or anthropomorphism, but it certainly falls under at least one (if not all) of those categories. I suspect it loses its intended effect because it is such a stretch to make the comparison. Nevertheless, here it is, allegedly from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division of Sustainable Development (though I can find no link to it on their official website).

Vodpod videos no longer available.


How Føcked Are We?

December 15, 2009

Whee. This is clever, from Grist:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Tomorrow is likely to be a big day of demonstrations and protests. Police are clamping down pretty heavily. Naomi Klein is screeching about how American politicians shouldn’t even show up. And Christiania is being raided, only to be defended by young anarchists in black hoodies.


Post-Modern Pie

December 14, 2009

Aw hell, I’ll bite.

Mike and Ted (aka S&N) just published a recent bit of cynicism in which they lob a few post-modern cream pies at COP15. They’re awfully pessimistic about the whole event, painting it more-or-less as a very elaborate case of political theater. It’s a nicely written piece, and definitely worth a read, but I’m afraid I have to disagree with its central premise.

They are right, of course, that there is a contrived element to the COP, but so it goes with almost all politics, on all issues. Anybody who’s ever been in a congressional mark-up hearing knows that this is true.

There can also be little doubt that there’s a lot of opportunism in the room. The developing nations smell opportunity, Europe smells opportunity, as do India, China, and the US. That’s true as well. In many respects, much of the discussion at COP15 is about redistributing resources to poorer nations and not so much about climate change.

Finally, as opportunism and drama make good politics, there is also little doubt that there are staged charades and shenanigans that are manifestly about creating a stink and garnering attention. There can also be little doubt that there’s a ton of theatre there. So they’re right about that.

But that doesn’t make Mike and Ted right to say that COP15 is political theater from stem to stern.

Real stuff is happening in Copenhagen, and on my read, one has to be blind to miss it.

Minimally, I was authentically moved by Copenhagen, and there’s nothing contrived about that. I suspect there are many thousands of others who were also authentically moved, or at least, maybe learned something that changed their positions either slightly or dramatically. That kind of authentic political reaction to Copenhagen ought not to be downplayed, though it is clearly not S&N’s main target.

To say that there’s nothing happening even to the top-line goal at Copenhagen strikes me as reductive to an extraordinary degree. Something is happening, even if laws emerging from Copenhagen have few teeth. When a legally-empowered representative of a nation commits that nation to doing something, that legally-empowered representative isn’t simply performing, but in performing is simultaneously forging that commitment. And that’s a big deal.

The commitments made and pronounced at Copenhagen make up a unique set of speech acts known as “performative utterances,” first discussed in the speech act theory of J.L. Austin. If the sovereign of nation X says that X will do A for the purpose of addressing CC, that’s not merely a symbolic pronouncement but also a commitment that, while not legally binding, is at least morally binding. It’s not the same sort of utterance as saying “There’s a cat on that mat.” (That’s a declarative.) It’s more like a judge pronouncing the guilt of an accused, or a justice of the peace declaring two people husband and wife. When the sovereign of X  announces their commitment, they commit themselves by virtue of that announcement. X can (and certainly will) be called to task for failing to live up to that commitment. That’s a pretty big deal.

Seems to me that the true post-modern position is the one that doesn’t accept the commitment of the prime legislator as morally binding in any way, but rather, instead, views the statements of signatories to COP15 as declaratives only. That appears to be S&N’s stance; and that’s why I disagree.


Lomborg vs. Krugman

December 13, 2009

Worth a watch. (Sorry. Can’t embed it for some reason.)



December 13, 2009

Yesterday began the first day of what I suspect will be a week of increasing protest and resistance in Copenhagen. I missed the protests, as I was on my return flight to the US. I did, however, have an opportunity to witness first hand what I think is a certain sign that things will soon get considerably more heated. Why would I say such a thing?

Suppose I were to devise a nefarious plan to stage an “nearly non-violent” “black-velvet” insurrection: nobody hurt, just lots and lots of property damage. If I were to do that, I would wish for a nearby staging ground to freely house the thousands who were joining me. If I were to do that, I’d hope to have hundreds of private rooms where we could all plan out our individual actions. If I were to do that, I would hope to have copious amounts of food that would benefit those who had come along. I would hope for no police presence in this area where the Copenhagen’s new (and extremely sketchy) pre-emptive protest law could come into effect. I would post guards to protect my high level planning committee from being spied upon. I would disallow cameras. I would have open markets for folks to congregate and get supplies. I would build camaraderie and friendship by living closely in tight quarters together. I would provide numerous gathering locations, for individual activists to bond and form working groups. I would ensure that I had hundreds of secret chambers for storage of equipment I planned to use. I would pump everybody up with raucous music, plenty of booze, and wild, drug-enhanced parties.

As it happens, Copenhagen has a near ideal staging ground for the sort of insurrection that I would plan, and it’s located halfway between downtown Copenhagen and the Bella Center.

I went to a section of town called “Christiania” on Thursday night, escorted by Søren, a long-time Danish philosopher friend of mine. Christiania is an independent free state, a long-standing social experiment nestled neatly inside the state borders of Denmark but “tolerated” by the government as independent. As social experiments go, it is enormous, spanning 85 acres. It has its own military barracks, several restaurants, many bars, an open market, hundreds of apartments, loud music, and plenty of drugs. On the night I went there, it was crawling with black blockers. The streets were alive with energy. There were oil drums burning openly in the streets, offering fire for warmth. There was a food tent. There was dancing and partying in the streets and in bars. There were punk bands blasting. And there was anticipation in the air. In all respects, it is an awesome compound.

If I were to plan an insurrection on the order of Seattle, Genoa, Montreal, Rostock, and so on, I would wish I had a staging ground like Christiania.

I will be surprised if you don’t see some heavy action in the coming days.