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The Guardian’s Editorial

Filed under: — eric @ 8 December 2009

The following editorial was published today by 56 newspapers around the world in 20 languages including Chinese, Arabic and Russian. The text was drafted by a Guardian team during more than a month of consultations with editors from more than 20 of the papers involved. Like The Guardian most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. The Guardian, the editorial is free to reproduce under Creative Commons.

RealClimate takes no formal position on the statements made in the editorial.


Copenhagen climate change conference: Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation

Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

But the politicians in Copenhagen can and must agree the essential elements of a fair and effective deal and, crucially, a firm timetable for turning it into a treaty. Next June’s UN climate meeting in Bonn should be their deadline. As one negotiator put it: “We can go into extra time but we can’t afford a replay.”

At the deal’s heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided — and how we will share a newly precious resource: the trillion or so tonnes of carbon that we can emit before the mercury rises to dangerous levels.

Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

Developing countries can point out they did not cause the bulk of the problem, and also that the poorest regions of the world will be hardest hit. But they will increasingly contribute to warming, and must thus pledge meaningful and quantifiable action of their own. Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions. The architecture of a future treaty must also be pinned down – with rigorous multilateral monitoring, fair rewards for protecting forests, and the credible assessment of “exported emissions” so that the burden can eventually be more equitably shared between those who produce polluting products and those who consume them. And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

But the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

Overcoming climate change will take a triumph of optimism over pessimism, of vision over short-sightedness, of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature”.

It is in that spirit that 56 newspapers from around the world have united behind this editorial. If we, with such different national and political perspectives, can agree on what must be done then surely our leaders can too.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.


663 Responses to “The Guardian’s Editorial”

  1. 1
    PaulS says:

    “RealClimate takes no formal position on the statements made in the editorial.”

    People read this site to understand the science behind the issue. RC seems to have no problem calling out deniers. Please fact-check the scientific claims here: if they are accurate based on the best science, say so (maybe refs too?). If they are extreme – in either direction – tell us. I think there are many out here hoping that RC can be a balanced source of information.

  2. 2
    Matt says:

    Fairy nuff. So what’s RC’s informal position on these statements?

  3. 3
    Dan L. says:

    Alas for my country, the USA, which leads the world in anti-science propaganda, greenwashing and obfuscation.

    The figurehead of American denialism, Sen. James Inhofe, is bringing his execrable self and his bag of disinformation to Copenhagen, there to flaunt the disgrace of America before the world. I hope, at least, that the news organizations represented there will forebear from giving him a stage to spout his lies.

  4. 4
    John MacQueen says:

    Only 56?

  5. 5

    As a residential plumber and flow-charting systems theorist,

    see here: http://www.youtube.com/leearnold

    I think alarm is in order, but not enough to scare the kids. I go against the editorial in the fourth-from-last paragraph: Competition should actually be a big part of it, and we can surely use cap and trade (or carbon taxes for that matter) to send price signals to give more favor to alternate energy and to future innovations to start competing. The efficiency argument is immaterial, because the economic models can’t do “human creativity,” which should be their most important factor. We know that the history of Western technology has been to do things without thinking about natural ecosystems — but this is not an incurable feature of rationality, and now we are always on guard for that. With the combination of materials science, computation, and nanotechnology that stretches before us, we ought to be able to get to non-carbon energy easily. Or else find a way to soak it up real fast and turn it back into gasoline. We certainly ought to take different routes, which the price signals now before Copenhagen would encourage. It took NASA only ten years to fulfill JFK’s dream of getting to the moon. Guess what? We’ll do all this, rather easily.

  6. 6
    DVG says:

    Humanity need not fear the catastrophe warned of by this editorial. After all, thanks to Paul Erlich’s similar warnings and those of others before and since, most of us are already dead.

    Seriously, one of the greatest problems AGW zealots face in their propoganda campaign is that at some point, the general population gets used to apocalyptic predictions coming and going (whether by a biblical return, the year 2000, exhaustion of world resources, meteor collisions, ice age, etc.) The destruction that apparently seems so obvious in the present inevitably turns out to be not so obvious after all (sometimes even downright silly) after some years have passed. And so we — some of us older ones at least — take all Armageddon warnings with a lot of salt.

    And in present case, it has now also become known that some regarded as core members among the AGW zealots actually realize they are “not close to balancing the energy budget,” their public statements notwithstanding. Still, apocalyptic fervor dies hard.

    Congratulations to RealClimate for at least not taking a “formal position” on statemetns made in this editorial warning of yet one more destruction scenario.

  7. 7
    Kamal says:

    Let me first say that I’m an honest person with a degree from MIT. I have no interest in anything but the truth, but so far I have not seen convincing evidence that AGW is going to increase global temp over 2 degrees celsius.

    I see the “mass of evidence” for AGW as no more convincing than the evidence for WMD in Iraq. When Rumsfeld said “We know where they are”, I thought “Why don’t you send the inspectors to get them”.

    When you say “The science is complex but the facts are clear”, I say “give me a 10 year prediction of global temp if you understand the climate”. From what I’ve seen of the science this is not possible, which is why these predictions do not exist.

    When AGW researchers can make falsifiable predictions, then I will be perfectly willing to believe what they say. If there are some falsifiable predictions then by all means bring them to my attention.

    [Response: I guess "what you've seen of the science" doesn't include chapter 1 of the IPCC report, Figure 1.1, page number 98, which shows temperature trends predicted in previous IPCC reports and subsequently realized. MIT... ha! Glad you didn't say University of Chicago. David]

  8. 8

    [I can't tell whether this comment already went through:-]

    As a residential plumber and flow-charting systems theorist,

    see here: http://www.youtube.com/leearnold

    I think alarm is in order, but not enough to scare the kids. I go against the editorial in the fourth-from-last paragraph: Competition should actually be a big part of it, and we can surely use cap and trade (or carbon taxes for that matter) to send price signals to give more favor to alternate energy and to future innovations to start competing. The efficiency argument is immaterial, because the economic models can’t do “human creativity,” which should be their most important factor. We know that the history of Western technology has been to do things without thinking about natural ecosystems — but this is not an incurable feature of rationality, and now we are always on guard for that. With the combination of materials science, computation, and nanotechnology that stretches before us, we ought to be able to get to non-carbon energy easily. Or else find a way to soak it up real fast and turn it back into gasoline. We certainly ought to take different routes, which the price signals now before Copenhagen would encourage. It took NASA only ten years to fulfill JFK’s dream of getting to the moon. Guess what? We’ll do all this, rather easily.

  9. 9
    tamino says:

    I take a formal position on the statements made in the editorial:

    Complete support.

  10. 10
    David B. Benson says:

    Alas, only the Miami Herald in the USA…

  11. 11
    Mark Gibb says:

    The attitude and outlook of this editorial are the source of the poison in the debate over AGW. The debate is not about science, it is about politics.

    The politics of the AGW side is collectivist and tyrannical in its outlook. It can only imagine massively centralized government solutions to any problem. It has no awareness that human society is a dynamic, churning cauldron of individuals that have the capacity to solve problems through voluntary exchange with one another.

    The editorial is filled with the normal hysterical hyperbole that is so common on that side that is tiresome and has been neutered from overuse.

    “Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet” This is speculation for the purpose of fearmongering.

    “and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc” This statement is laughable. The price movements of those commodities had nothing whatever to do with AGW. What they did have to do with were government interference in the operations of the markets for those commodities.

    “our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days” Pure hubris.

    “would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea” This is a slow process, and people can and will adapt. They have done that for many millenia before these power-mad politicians decided to adapt for them.

    And the kicker, and the point of all this:

    “Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.”

    Translation: we will reduce your standard of living by empowering hordes of bureaucrats to control almost every aspect of the economy, for your own good. Sickening.

  12. 12
    Ed says:

    As a student of Phil Jones, I have watched the events following the CRU hack more closely than most. The situation of climate scientists reminds me of another group of earth scientists who are occasionally thrust into the spotlight.

    When a volcano begins to smoke and quake, the volcanologist is called from his little office at the university and asked ‘When is it going to blow? When do we call the evacuation?’ and he has to answer. Evacuate too early and the houses near the volcano get looted and their owners lose everything, evacuate too late and people lose their lives as well as their possessions. The problem is that nobody knows when the volcano is going to erupt. The scientific study of volcanoes and their behaviour allows you to make an educated guess at best, but that is all. The volcanologist is under a duty to know his or her subject, to have investigated the different views and evidence on how to predict volcanic eruptions. But, more than that, they have a deep obligation to speak up if they think the volcano is going to blow and the politicians are ignoring their advice.

    Back to climate scientists. They hold knowledge about important risks to our current way of life and the ecosystems of the planet. They are under an obligation, therefore, not just to do their job – the research and experiments which extend our knowledge – but also to speak up loud and clear in the public domain concerning the risks humanity faces from a changing climate. And this is the tricky bit, because the public domain is not an empty void. People already carry strongly held opinions – but it makes no difference to the task that falls to the scientists – they must still speak out.

    Thank you to the Guardian and othe newspapers for speaking with one voice. And thank you to Gavin and Eric and the RC contributors. I am a long-time reader.

  13. 13
    paulina says:

    I believe that seeing how the global community can come together–as on October 24, and as with this editorial–makes it easier for us to see that it’s possible to “solve” the problem of dangerous human interference with climate.

    Public opinion research suggests that–for some people–seeing the possibility of solutions at the scale of the problem may, in effect, be a prerequisite for a general understanding of the basics of the science.

    Therefore, I consider the act of pointing to this global coming together–as done in this RC post–a very practical kind of science outreach.

  14. 14
    Sloop says:

    If the rest of the world demands their engagement and leadership, perhaps China and the U.S. will join up.

    Regardless of the cretins’ howls, folks are listening closely to the urgent warnings, . . . and many many more are beginning to get it.

  15. 15
    Le Messurier says:

    “The UN Copenhagen climate talks are in disarray today after developing countries reacted furiously to leaked documents that show world leaders will next week be asked to sign an agreement that hands more power to rich countries and sidelines the UN’s role in all future climate change negotiations.”
    So says the Guardian. Now why would we trust the large nations to tell us citizens openly and honestly what needs to be done about global warming when they are conspiring behind the backs of the “have not” nations? No one in the Copenhagen meeting is to be trusted.

  16. 16
    Russell Seitz says:

    Whoever wrote this critically , and temporally, challenged manifesto deserves great credit should Copenhagen crash and burn.

  17. 17
    Rob Bradley says:

    Why doesn’t this statement bring up the problems of analytic failure (defining the “problem”) and government failure (addressing the “problem”).

    All there is is market failure from unregulated CO2 emissions. Critics call such perfect knowledge, no transaction costs as “nirvana economics”.

    Where’s the real-world multi-disciplinary analysis, in other words?

  18. 18
    Fred Magyar says:

    Unfortunately humans aren’t any smarter than yeast in a vat. Without addressing population overshoot there is no way we can mitigate anthropogenic climate change…

    http://i289.photobucket.com/albums/ll225/Fmagyar/ExponentialFunction2.jpg

  19. 19
  20. 20
    Alw says:

    Realclimate has no comment on the statements made in this? Is realcimate publishing this and the scientific statements in it or not? Are the scientific statements in this piece correct in realclimate’s opinion?

  21. 21
    Sean says:

    According to this study, when long-term changes in vegetation and land ice are included in climate models, the results are more accurate and indicate a higher CO2 sensitivity than previous estimates.

    “Earth’s temperature more sensitive to carbon dioxide than previously thought”
    http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2009/6738.html

  22. 22
    eric says:

    My apologies to those whose comments may have disappeared. I hit ‘comments off’ accidentally, and some may have been lost to hyperspace. I saw some good comments in there! Please re-send them.

    Eric

  23. 23
    David B. Benson says:

    Kamal (7) — then you will have no trouble reading climatolgist David Archer’s “Understanding the Forecast”, indeed now available as a series of lectures on video:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/an-offering/
    and if you want more about climatology, try Ray Pierrehumbert’s
    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/ClimateBook/ClimateBook.html

    Now in the 1979 Charney et al. NAS/NRC report on CO2 and climate,
    http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12181&page=1
    some predictions were made; these are coming true. Another way is to consider projecting the trend from the latter part of the previous century onto this one:
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/riddle-me-this/

    Do note how well this all hangs together. It should, be basically just thermodynamics and the radiative properties of CO2 and water vapor.

    For a historical account of it all, please do read “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart, first link in the “science Links” section of the sidebar.

  24. 24
    Donald Oats says:

    And Australia didn’t seem to be on the list, not that I’m too surprised, given the daily barrage of unscience we are treated to in the self-proclaimed organs of enlightenment, the newspapers of the Murdoch press.

  25. 25
    Kaosium says:

    I’ve been reading this site for some time in an attempt to gain knowledge and formulate an informed opinion, but one thing squicks me about many of the participant’s comments. I am referring to the liberal use of the term ‘denier’ to indicate people who disagree with any element of the AGW consensus. Very uncool, it makes whoever says it look like a kooky fanatic. Is this necessary, and does it serve the cause in any way?

    I suspect some forget that whatever they say reflects not on the person targeted, but upon [i]the one who actually says it.[/i] Being as they did say it and all. Calling someone a ‘denier’ in this debate is tantamount to revealing you’re an arrogant twit who thinks anyone who disagrees with you is both stupid and evil. Even if that is true, you should never want to come off that way, it definitely hurts both your case and your cause to someone non-committed. Instead of marginalizing your ‘enemies’ it marginalizes your argument and suggests you’re an intolerant git no one would want to agree with anyway. If you are indeed correct, that’s the last thing you would want to be doing.

    What you say denigrates not who you think it does, it only reflects onto you.

    [Response: On the other hand, "skeptic" is clearly wrong, and since I see deceptive arguments used by "that side" whatever you call it, denier seems more apropos to me than skeptic. David the intolerant git]

  26. 26
    Thomas says:

    I’m afraid Mark at 11 has some valid points about the political brain. I work at a high end engineering applications software outfit, and we have several hardcore denialists. Now these folks are just as technically capable of running the thought experiment/ model construction which would demonstrate the greenhouse effect as anyone at this site. Yet the political/ideological parts of their brains instantly recognize that the result attacks their ideology, which is that anything that supports the possibility of a greater government role in the economy, is not only wrong, but possitivly fraudulent. They would rather believe in the deliberate fraud in support of a new world order takeover, then admit the possibility that any sort of tragedy of the commons problem could exist. Our political brains are massively more influential than our analytic brains. Getting even highly intelligent people with PhDs in a technical area to put the search for truth first, and the service of ideology second just doesn’t seem to be possible. The same thing applies to related areas that challenge the “no government is the best government” meme. Peak Oil, impossible, it will never run out, it is being created all the time. The concept that a free unfettered market will solve everything and anything wrong is the result of government meddling is simply unshakable.

  27. 27
    EL says:

    I’ll offer a criticism…

    “Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.”

    I cite bullshit here. What about India, China, and Brazil? In fact, most nations have increased pollution, and some have a lot higher growth rate on CO2 output than America. None of these nations are lining up to combat climate change; instead, they want America to pay them off, and others want exception from CO2 output altogether.

    “Rich nations like to point to the arithmetic truth that there can be no solution until developing giants such as China take more radical steps than they have so far. But the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850.”

    Other nations bought cars, planes, farm equipment, food, IT, and other items from the developed nations. Every nation on the planet has generated CO2 emissions either directly or indirectly. Although some nations played a passive role, they still played a role.

    “Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it. ”

    The goal should not be a decrease in power consumption; instead, it should be an increase in other technologies with a phase out of old technologies. The only meaningful way to accomplish this goal is to invest in research and development with renewable energy sources as the target. Materials and processes need to be found that can replace the rare earth materials required by renewable technologies. Until these materials are found, renewable technologies will remain expensive, and they will be limited in scalability. In addition, the phase out of fossil fuel technologies will require developed nations to enter into a development process. During the development process, these nations will need to produce additional CO2 output in order to power the transition between the two technologies. Unless the transition between technologies is handled carefully, it could cause severe economic harm. I would also put forth the argument that the human population corresponds with power consumption. If power consumption is steeply cut, the world may lose its ability to support its population.

    “And fairness requires that the burden placed on individual developed countries should take into account their ability to bear it; for instance newer EU members, often much poorer than “old Europe”, must not suffer more than their richer partners.”

    The ideology that the world should suffer to fix the problem is tainted and jaded. A large number of scientists have done a fine job in identifying the problem of global warming, but they have done a very poor job in recommending solutions, and they have done an even poorer job of taking responsibility for global warming. Scientists hold the ultimate responsibility for the global warming problem. The absolute lack of consideration for consequences on behalf of the scientific community has created many large and dangerous problems including global warming. Even as the world faces global warming, scientists are quick to rush to any quick fix without any consideration for its consequences.

    The call for sympathy to support the Copenhagen agenda is lacking. The poor people are the group which gets hurt the worse by the current agenda. The current solution, in a basic nutshell, is for the poor to be cut off from energy consumption. All the while, scientists are declaring that they are doing the poor people a favor. The poor will freeze to death in the winter so that they will be saved from some predicted threat in a chaotic system that scientists have modeled. The current agenda is absolutely foolish and rash. The current agenda calls for the return of “old Europe” ideas of the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate.

  28. 28
    Brett says:

    Though both fell short of what some had hoped for, the recent commitments to emissions targets by the world’s biggest polluters, the United States and China, were important steps in the right direction.

    Man, they must be desperate for good news. China promised to mildly reduce its “carbon intensity” (meaning the amount of carbon dioxide it emits compared to its gdp growth), which is largely useless; if they grow 9% a year but emissions “only” grow by 8%, then they’ve reduced their carbon intensity. It’s the same thing that people were criticizing Bush for at the beginning of his presidency.

    Social justice demands that the industrialised world digs deep into its pockets and pledges cash to help poorer countries adapt to climate change, and clean technologies to enable them to grow economically without growing their emissions.

    At a time when most of those countries’ citizens are worried about foreign competition, you want them to effectively pledge to give the less-developed world all the benefits of the developed world’s research for none of the price? That’s not going to happen at any large level.

    To be honest, I don’t see why the Developed Nations don’t have more bargaining power on this. After all, we have the money to adapt, meaning that we could theoretically let things slide further if it came to that.

  29. 29
    Lyle says:

    RE #8 you have it exactly its not going to be the end of the world. The black death killed between 30 and 60% of europes population and society survived there. (In fact for a while everyone was richer since the physical store of goods was still there). To much alarmism puts one in the Y2k camp, the various religious camps that predicted the end of the world etc. Yes things would not be great, it would be a rough time but humanity would muddle thru. The marketing of the policy changes needed has been atrocious. Instead of providing good answers to “whats in it for me” they predict the end of the world. This does not sell, and you have to sell. Many don’t really care about the distant future figuring they are going to be dead. How many refuse to vote for school funds because they have no kids in school? It is percieved that the elite have decided what is good for the masses and the masses never take this well.

  30. 30
    David Alan says:

    What happened to the concensus on climate change?
    Is debating this still considered ridiculous by Al Gore?
    Is it at all necessary to give one whit what a sceptic thinks?
    I have been told the science is settled for over 4 years.
    I have been told to scoff and ridicule sceptics by my peers.
    I have watched television my whole life and have come to view it as the only real source for truth and facts.
    Television supports climate change. Everything is green. Even the peacock on NBC. Obama supports reducing CO2 emissions. Politicians have introduced a Cap and Trade bill before the Senate.

    Would someone please tell me why nothing is getting done then.
    If everything I’ve been told is true, why do we listen to the rants of Republicans and Pseudo-Scientists.
    If Liberals and Greenpeace and WWF have all this power and control over politics, science and mainstream media, why is nothing getting done?

    Its enough to make one go mad.

    Leaked e-mails taint the global warming cause. The Circle of Commitment threaten the validity of transparency. Copenhagen looks more and more like a bust. Public perception and support for AGW is at its lowest point ever. Even Obama’s approval rating has hit historic lows.
    And this is the best that Liberal minded environmentalists have to offer, a Op-ed piece?
    Alarm me. Scare me. Share to the world that if we don’t act now, all is doomed.
    I am not at all comfortable with these turn of events.
    And I can’t figure out why no one can tell me why.

    Unless of course none of what I’ve been told is true. Maybe there isn’t a crisis. Maybe there might be some truth that AGW has been overstated. Maybe that I’ve been lied to. Maybe Obama has been lied to. Maybe, just maybe, there might actually be a conspiracy to cook the data and feign ignorance to the contrary.
    I want answers. I want proof. I want transparency regarding everything I’ve been told.
    I’m tired of the name calling, the cencorship the skulduggery.

    I want the damn truth.

    Have I come to the right place to have my questions answered?

  31. 31
    gary thompson says:

    i’ve taken the CRU avg monthly temperatures and graphed then vs. the mauna loa CO2 measurements since 1970. If CO2 is the reason for the temperature rise then why have we seen temperatures stabilize since 1998 while CO2 keeps increasing?

    [Response: Have you read anything on the subject?!]

  32. 32
    John says:

    It is too little and too late. This should have been on front pages months ago. What pressure will this bring on the political actors who are now in Copenhagen or about to go there?

  33. 33
    J says:

    If the dire predictions of AGW were proven, there’d be no question or debate except about how to prepare or adjust. They just aren’t proven.

  34. 34
    CraigM says:

    Fred Magyar #18: I agree with you 100%. I’ll continue to try to keep my footprint smaller, but mainly I’m along for the ride in this test-tube we call Earth.

  35. 35

    When the solution can only be achieved by the combined political will of every major government on the planet, then the chances of that solution being agreed, sufficient to solve the problem, and implemented within the required time-frames are not good. I would go so far as to say that it won’t happen. At best, all I can see happening in Copenhagen is that there will be some kind of aspirational target and perhaps a timetable for future talks.

    Mark Gibb in #11 makes the comment: “It has no awareness that human society is a dynamic, churning cauldron of individuals that have the capacity to solve problems through voluntary exchange with one another.”

    The big problem with that statement is that it is reactive. The major problems confronting humanity which required a global response are few and far between. WW2 is about as close as we’ve been – 60 million deaths, the entire continent of Europe practically levelled, massive displacement of populations, the start of the Cold War and civil wars in China and Korea, and a rapid period of decolonisation in Africa, the Middle East and Asia as a result of the economic ravages of war. Not a cheery prospect and, if we hit a temperature increase of 4-7 degrees around 2100 as the Copenhagen Consensus document suggests, being reactive is not a choice that we are going to have. Being reactive will mean a different planet and one that is only going to be capable of supporting a small fraction of the population that it currently does.

    Basic risk management would suggest that being proactive is the only chance that we have to avoid the worst possible consequences.

  36. 36
    Sandra Kay says:

    Don’t supppose you want to see this;

    http://www.copenhagenclimatechallenge.org/

  37. 37
    Timothy Chase says:

    Given my own personal political views I may not agree with every line written in this essay. However, I find the document to be a breath of sanity, something that I had more or less given up hope of seeing in print in any newspaper, let alone the Guardian and the other 55 papers in which it was evidently printed.

    There are times when one must join together, despite political differences, either to defeat a great enemy or an even greater threat. What we face now may not be a threaten the survival of our species, but it may very well bring to its knees the achievement of modern civilization.

    At this point in our history, however briefly and if only with respect to this one issue, we must learn to transcend political ideology. The future of of our modern world is at stake. The author of this document has clearly seen this and with equal clarity given voice to their vision.

    For what it is worth this document has my endorsement.

  38. 38
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Translation: we will reduce your standard of living by empowering hordes of bureaucrats to control almost every aspect of the economy, for your own good. Sickening.” – 11

    Since you have proven yourself unable to rationally control your consumption, your consumption will now be controlled.

    The domestication of Man continues…

  39. 39
    Timothy Chase says:

    CORRECTION

    In the second paragraph, “What we face now may not be a threaten” should be “What we face now may not threaten…”

    My apologies. Three hours sleep. The cats and my schedule kept me up last night. About time for me to go to bed.

  40. 40
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “When you say “The science is complex but the facts are clear”, I say “give me a 10 year prediction of global temp if you understand the climate”.” – 7

    In other words you will not believe climatologists until climate models start predicting the weather.

    Isn’t that Kookie?

  41. 41
    Marco says:

    @Sandra Kay:
    It should tell you enough that they allowed a signature from Ian Plimer. The trained geologist who has been claiming volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans for years, despite being corrected time after time after time.
    This is the level of science of many of the signatories.

  42. 42
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Would someone please tell me why nothing is getting done then.

    Think about the species you’re dealing with here. This is how it’s done–ineptly, too late, after far too long, incompetently, with tragic losses. And those are the successes.

    What’s the biggest cooperative effort to date? How about the ocean fisheries.

    “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” — Joni Mitchell

    Historical baselines for large marine animals
    Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 24, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 254-262

    “… Here we review the diversity of approaches used and resulting patterns of historical changes in large marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. Across 256 reviewed records, exploited populations declined 89% from historical abundance levels (range: 11–100%). In
    many cases, long-term fluctuations are related to climate variation, rapid declines to overexploitation and recent recoveries to conservation measures. These emerging historical patterns offer new insights into past ecosystems, and provide important context for contemporary ocean management.
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2008.12.004

    http://scienceblogs.com/deepseanews/2008/08/this_post_might_make_you_cry.php
    http://scienceblogs.com/deepseanews/jackson%282008%29.jpg
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/08/08/0802812105.abstract?etoc

    And with facts like that, there are still actual members of our species who deny the problem.

    Now we’re dealing with an even bigger problem, in the early stages of it. Look at our record.

  43. 43
    ccpo says:

    Comment by Lyle — 8 December 2009 @ 11:39 PM

    To much alarmism puts one in the Y2k camp, the various religious camps that predicted the end of the world etc.

    Lyle, you need to think this through a bit. The second, the religious groups, are what we have as anti-AGW people. They are almost completely led by conservative, christian, business groups. And their religious end time stuff is exactly the same as AGW denial: both rely on rhetoric, belief, ideology and fraud.

    That you equate those things with Y2K issues is extremely interesting. I worked for a mainframe software company in the early 2000s. The amount of work, cooperation and preparation that went into making sure Y2K was a non-event was HUGE.

    I agree with you (sarcasm). That is exactly the same situation that we have now. We need to work very, very hard to manage this problem.

    If the dire predictions of AGW were proven, there’d be no question or debate except about how to prepare or adjust. They just aren’t proven.

    Comment by J — 9 December 2009 @ 12:01 AM

    Please try to speak honestly. First, climate scenarios are not predictions. Why attempt to conflate them? Second, this is about risk assessment, not certainty.

    And people wonder why some of us have such a poor opinion of denialists. Are we supposed to respect constant distortion and dishonesty?

  44. 44
    Anne van der Bom says:

    Martin Gibb,
    8 December 2009 at 6:18 PM

    The debate is not about science, it is about politics.

    Thanks for pointing out the obvious. Had you not noticed that POLITICIANS convene in Copenhagen to talk POLICY?

  45. 45
    Gilles says:

    Guys, there is something I don’t really understand in all that stuff. We are supposed to limit our consumption of fossiles to protect “our prosperity and security.” ? but …heeem … our prosperity is ENTIRELY due to the use of fossiles. I don’t know any place or any time approaching our “prosperity” without fossiles ! never, nowhere ! it’s not only power generation, but fabrication of steel, cement, all metals, fertilizers, pesticids, plastics, insulators, glues, elastomers , medicines,and so on, that require fossiles !! go to Africa and try to develop them without fossiles, just for fun !

    just try to plot ANY indicator of welfare as a function of CO2 production per capita and consider the result during some minutes …

    http://graphs.gapminder.org/world

    so you’re saying : we must protect our prosperity by cutting off (eventually ENTIRELY) its main source ? come on … ! are you kidding ?

    as I can judge, our “prosperity” will disappear ANYWAY with the depletion of fossiles, and THAT will be a real problem, much more real that the fractions of degrees you are fighting for.

  46. 46
    Anne van der Bom says:

    J
    9 December 2009 at 12:01 AM

    If the dire predictions of AGW were proven, there’d be no question or debate except about how to prepare or adjust. They just aren’t proven.

    There is only 1 way to prove a prediction: wait until it happens.

    Smart humans do not try to prove the prediction, but prevent it.

  47. 47
    James Killen says:

    #33 @J
    “If the dire predictions of AGW were proven, there’d be no question or debate except about how to prepare or adjust. They just aren’t proven.”

    “Predictions” are proven when they eventuate. By the time the predictions are proven it will be far too late to prepare and adjustment will not be pleasant.

  48. 48
    Kelvin Wayne says:

    Interesting that so many newspapers from many parts of the world can, as one, state this problem so well and yet make the same fundamental error our politicians are committing at every turn. Once again it is not mentioned that without putting a halt to the world’s growing human population burden all of our other actions will accomplish nothing. Decreasing the carbon dioxide footprint per person while continuing to grow in numbers is not a solution. Is it a fundamental human flaw that those with power in politics, religion, or information control are blind to the dangers of our own reproductive abilities? Is it necessary to ignore this issue to retain power?

  49. 49
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “Is it at all necessary to give one whit what a sceptic thinks?” – 30

    Has it actually occurred to you that nature doesn’t care how you demand that it must operate?

    The undertone of every denialist argument is that the laws of nature can’t be, because

    a. My taxes are too high.
    b. My taxes will increase.
    c. My ability to destroy nature will be reduced.
    d. The free market has failed, but can never fail.
    e. I fear change.
    f. The end times are upon us.

    g. I hate the messenger – Al Gore.

    To which I respond…. Nature doesn’t care what skeptics think, and neither does any other rational person.

  50. 50
    Hugh Laue says:

    I fully support this editorial except for “emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data”. Denialists have “suggested” that the emails demonstrate this – the actual evidence, as has been explained by RC and others, when the context is understood, does not suggest supression at all.
    I came to Realclimate about 18 months ago, I think, looking for answers to “skeptic” views being published in South Africa that “there is no evidence for CO2 causing global warming”. Gavin kindly pointed out that I should read the IPCC report – I knew about it but had been too lazy to look at it. I guess I was wanting an easy yes-no answer. I followed the advice, my eyes were opened (I am a scientist and could understand). In a few hours of further reading and with RC,s links I quickly realised that there are no true skeptics regarding AGW. An “honest scientist” (see comment #7 “I’m an honest person”) does a proper literature survey prior to undertaking any research or doing a review. To profess skepticism of AGW theory is like professing skepticism of HIV/Aids link or tobacco smoking/cancer link – only AGW theory is more solid (not everyone exposed to HIV will get aids, not every tobacco smoker will get cancer).
    The FACT is that the overwhelming evidence is that AGW is scientifically TRUE and the consequences, if no action is taken, will be bad, very bad or potentially catastrophic. Therefore, from a risk management perspective, should we bet on AGW being FALSE and take no action (think of how certain you need to be that it is false before taking this bet) or bet on it being TRUE and take urgent action? Clearly the credible authority (IPCC) gives it very high probability of being true – logically that means urgent action now.
    “The science is unsettled” is always true for any theory. For AGW the uncertainty (mainly in climate sensitivity to forcings) is cause for even greater concern (it may be much worse than the worst projections) and is the very reason why we must NOT explore that uncertainty through actual experiment (i.e. inaction on CO2 emissions control). Denialists, read http://www.gregcraven.org for a great analysis on looking at climate change from a risk management point of view.
    So we have the FACT of AGW and the logical conclusion (i.e. the risk of catastrophic cliamte change) is that the world MUST start NOW in reducing CO2 emissions.
    HOW to reduce CO2 emissions is where the politics comes in.
    So, from my own experience, if you come to RC looking for and understanding of science of AGW you will find it by searching and studying the archives and the links. It’s huge. The IPCC report is the best place to start, in my opinion.
    And if you spend enough time on this site you can, through the comments, learn about the paucity of understanding and refusal to learn even the basics of AGW as shown by the denialists. They seem to always follow the same fallacious logic – I don’t like the political implications of what needs to be done if AGW is true and therefore I’ll believe it can’t be true and look for every scrap of “evidence” that supports my belief (I will ignore the credibility of this evidence – if it’s printed somewhere it must be true) and everything that supports AGW (the overwhelming scientific evidence) is a worldwide conspiracy/ the peer review process is broken/ the scientific journals have been infiltrated by alarmists/climatolgists X, Y and Z are dishonest/fraudulent whatever. It’s always someone else to blame. EL #27 is symptomatic of this confused view. Scientists made the H-bomb a reality, politicians and the military implemented its use on Nagasaki. If anything is sickening this dishonest and unethical denialist political agenda.

    Thank you Gavin and the RC team – you have demonstrated that you are honorable, a reliable source of well reasoned information, and have well beyond the call of duty (as conventionally defined) by setting up this site. Sticking patiently with the science, and that includes pointing out the risks of some of the geo-engineering “solutions” being proposed, is what makes your site so valuable.
    Your patience is admirable. It’s demonstration of virtue in a world where virtue is sorely lacking.
    And while about it, thanks to Hank Roberts for his patient teaching on how to find out things for oneself.


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