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62 responses to “Durban update”

  1. Peter

    I have been watching the webcast on the UNFCCC website. The ‘informal stocktaking’ plenary that comes before the closing plenary has been adjourned for a little while so that some over the key delegates can have a ‘huddle’ to resolve a few issues. There is a draft document here to establish an Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action. This will be a process to develop a “protocol, another legal instrument or a legal outcome” but this wording is a bit contentious (hence the huddle).

    Interestingly, there is some divergence of views about the role of legal bindingness within developing countries; and within developed countries.

    It seems that there will most probably be a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol, which almost certainly will not include commitments from Japan, Russia, or Canada. Instead of being an 8-year period (to 2020), it will probably be a 5-year period (to 2017).

  2. John D

    There is this touching idea out there that rich countries like the US can afford to clean up their act and subsidize the rest of the world at the same time. The reality is that the US is suffering from an unsustainable trade deficit already and is in no condition to subsidize the rest of the world. In addition, the rise of China in the solar PV field means that a push to clean up US power generation would, if anything, make the trade deficit worse.
    It may be comforting to be all self righteous about the US and other rich countries but it might actually help if we looked what is going on in these countries and what would help them achieve real cuts without causing too much damage.
    It may actually help if the free trade rules were suspended for climate action. If this happened, climate action would become a logical tool for countries like the US to both reduce emissions and stimulate the economy.

  3. Peter

    The Durban conference has wrapped up. It has agreed on a second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol; a process for establishing a legal framework for all countries to reduce emissions; the establishment of the Green Climate Fund to finance the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to the impacts of the climate change for developing countries; and a continuation of the work on long term cooperative action. This builds on the significant achievements that were made last year at Cancun.

  4. Lefty E

    The extension of Kyoto is somehting of an achievement – otherwise Ill wait for a good review article over the next few days. Doesnt look too promising in the meantime – but I have a feeling that key states acting so nakedly in narrow fossil fuel interests will become increasingly unsustainable over the mid-term. The US will get isolated here before too long by the looks.

    Why we didnt sign on the Kyoto extension is beyond explanation. I hope Im wrong there but it doesnt seem we have.

  5. smssiva

    This is how The Hindu a respected news paper in India summed it up.

    A United Nations climate conference reached a hard-fought agreement early Sunday on a complex and far-reaching programme meant to set a new course for the global fight against climate change for the coming decades.

    The 194-party conference agreed to start negotiations on a new accord that would put all countries under the same legal regime enforcing commitments to control greenhouse gases. It would take effect by 2020 at the latest.

    The deal also set up the bodies that will collect, govern and distribute tens of billions of dollars a year to poor countries to help them adapt to changing climate conditions and to move toward low-carbon economic growth.

    Currently, only industrial countries have legally binding emissions targets under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Those commitments expire next year, but they will be extended for another five years under the accord adopted Sunday.

    The breakthrough capped 13 days of hectic negotiations that ran a day and a half over schedule, including two round-the-clock days that left negotiators bleary-eyed and stumbling with words. Delegates were seen nodding off in the final plenary session, despite the high drama, barely constrained emotions and uncertainty whether the talks would end in triumph or total collapse.

    The nearly fatal issue involved the legal nature of the accord that will govern carbon emissions by the turn of the next decade.

    A plan put forward by the European Union sought strong language that would bind all countries equally to carry out their emissions commitments.

    India led the objectors, saying it wanted a less rigorous option. Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan argued that the EU proposal undermined the 20-year-old principle that developing countries have less responsibility than the industrial nations that caused the global warming problem through 200 years of pollution. “The equity of burden-sharing cannot be shifted,” she said.

    The debate ran past midnight and grew increasingly tense as speakers lined up almost evenly on one side or the other. Conference president Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is South Africa’s Foreign Minister, called a recess and told the EU and Indian delegates to put their heads together and come up with a compromise formula.

    Coming after weeks of unsuccessful effort to resolve the issue, Ms. Nkoana-Mashabane gave Ms. Natarajan and European Commissioner Connie Hedegaard 10 minutes to find a solution, with hundreds of delegates milling around them.

  6. Ginja

    This seems a much better outcome than expected.

    Someone from a right-wing think-tank – I think it was the IPA – wrote an opinion piece recently gloating about the likely demise of the CDM and the havoc this would create for the Gillard Government’s carbon targets.

    Thankfully reason seems to have prevailed – and another right-wing think-tanker has turned out to be wrong.

    An extra bit of good news for the Gillard Government.

  7. Incurious & Unread


    That is a really interesting graph showing emissions by country. If you look at China, its per capita emissions are now similar in magnitude to some EU countries such as UK and Italy. Given the rate of growth of China, it cannot be long before they overtake those Europeans. So, leaving aside the “legacy” issue, there is a strong equity argument that China (but not India) should soon become subject to binding targets.

    On the legacy issue, I would be very interested in any graphs or data you can dig out to show per capita legacy emissions by country; both to date and projected for, say, 2020. I agree that contributions to the Green Fund should be based on legacy emissions. I don’t think it is feasible for emissions target to be based on that legacy, though.

  8. jumpy

    Excuse my ignorance, but how many countries, legally bound by the first Kyoto failed to meet their obligations?
    And if there were any, what were the the penalties?

  9. Lefty E

    OK, this does look rather better than I Initially thought http://www.theage.com.au/environment/big-emitters-vow-action-on-climate-change-20111211-1opgw.html

    Im concerned about the 2020 start date, but the agreement on a legal mechanism, the continuation of a reduced Kyoto in the meantime, and some other sundries (like the adaptation money) makes it look a lot better than Copenhagen ended up.

    I agree with Brian – we have to stop allowing China to pretend they are the same as India – theyre not even in the same ballpark.

    On Kyoto though – as now conceived it seems to be an interim continuation while the wider deal is stitched, not a separate track. So given that, and the domestic politics, Im still no closer to understanding why we arent onboard. The EU etc – as I understand it – will join the wider track when it happens.

  10. Ginja

    The world at least hasn’t gone backwards since Kyoto and perhaps has made some modest progress.

    In any event, this isn’t a good outcome for Tony Abbott and the rest of the usual suspects.

  11. pablo

    By 2020 when all this climate accountability should be registering, atmospheric C02 will have moved from a current 390ppm to somewhere between 420 and 430 ppm on a BAU basis. Fugitive methane emissions from all this coal seam and shale gas exploration suggest a higher figure.
    I’m not hopeful son of Kyoto has the balls…

  12. D.B. Valentine

    I thought benign genocide was going to be the best option at Durban #Cop17 #fail #endofdays

  13. John D

    The effort gining into climate action is growing. For example, this year is the first year when investment in clean electricity exceeded investment in dirty electricity. Funny thing, very little of this had anything to do with the Kyoto agreement. In many cases, it took place in countries where the government was reluctant to support climate action.
    So perhaps it might make sense toask why this growth in climate action did take place and what stopped climate action growing faster.
    If we have answers to these questions something like the Durban conference may be far more productive.

  14. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Ha Ha Ha.

    @16 – the only thing that has slowed down global CO2 emmissions has been the GFC.

    China is going to keep in doing what it is doing – they are playing the useful idiots like a philharmonc orchestra.

  15. Helen

    D.B. Valentine, would you like to clarify that please. Do you think “benign genocide” is a good thing? And if so do you think your comment is appropriate for publication in this forum?

    (“Benign Genocide” is a term coined by people in Pacific nations to describe what will happen if we do nothing about climate. I think it’s a poor neologism – “passive” rather than “benign” would suit better I think, but YMMV.)

  16. Fran Barlow

    I agree Helen. I don’t see how genocide can ever be described as ‘benign’. There is a more common term — benign neglect meaning harm caused through mistakes of omission and indifference rather than through witting policy. Presumably, this is how the above term came to someone’s mind — but genocide is such a high order crime that I think some other term is needed.

    That said, I’m not sure genocide is the right term for what is going on here with climate policy. “Ecocide” may be better, but I don’t see this as anyone’s conscious attempt to prejudice the life chances of the poor — much as it will have that consequence.

    Certainly, it’s fair to characterise global policy settings as the result of criminally reckless and self-serving conduct by the major emitters, most especially, the wealthy major emitters, and in this sense one can see the parallel with the manner of dealing with indigenes under occupation by privileged colonisers, but one should not draw too long a bow on this, IMO.

  17. Helen

    I just want to be a bit indulgent and say how proud I am of my 20 y.o. niece who holds some kind of position with the AYCC – Australian Youth Climate Coalition. At only 19 she spoke at the Cancun conference and this year she was/is in Durban. We saw her photo in the Grauniad as one of the activists protesting at (as I interpret it) the lack of political will to act decisively and soon on climate change. She is so young and has already done so much. OK, that’s enough of the personal stuff.

  18. Fran Barlow

    Well done her Helen. It’s a pity there aren’t more such folk. I met another passionate and articulate woman own in Melbourne this year in April at the climate action summit who had been active on climate issues and had been to Cancun. She was very impressive indeed and IIRC, around your daughter’s age.

  19. John D

    The Mauna Loa data set showed the current annual CO2 reading at about 392ppm after adjusting for seasonal factors. (It reached 394ppm last norther summer) In the last decade the reading rose by 20.4 ppm.
    On these figures we will reach the magic 450 ppm by 2040. Unless something dramatic happens we will get their sooner because the rate of increase is growing.
    Keep in mind that, if we are not to exceed 450 ppm at some time in the future emission rates once we reach 450 ppm will have to be limited to the rate at which natural processes can handle the CO2 produced.

    Now tell me the Durban result was OK.

  20. John D

    Business Spectator was pretty scathing about the Durban agreement:

    The question remains, as it has since the ‘Earth Summit’ of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, whether anything can be achieved at any time that makes any kind of difference to global warming.

    There were 194 countries represented in Durban over the weekend. I’d say the only thing that so many different national interests would be able to agree on in a few days is that the sun will rise tomorrow, and even then a few of them would have to be bought off.

    The basic problem is that 20 years ago the world was a very different place. Tiananmen Square had just happened and China was 10 years away from joining the World Trade Organisation. It was clearly a poor, developing country, as was India.

    As a result, the original 1992 treaty excluded China from the “economies in transition” included in Annex 1. These were mainly the eastern European countries and Baltic States emerging from the USSR. Annex 2 was a sub-set of Annex 1, consisting of what were then the 23 richest countries in the world, including such pillars of economic strength as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Iceland…..
    As time goes on, the idea that Europe, America and Japan can, or should, pay the others $US100 billion a year to help them deal with climate change will seem more and more preposterous.

    Couldn’t agree more.
    The climate and financial crisis need to be treated as a whole, not something separate. We also need to have a hard think about how the way the WTO works is damaging both these things and blocking some potential win/wins for big emitters that are struggling at the moment.

  21. Occam's Blunt Razor

    “Now we can stop talking about talking and start talking about tackling climate change.”

    I have some land in West Fremantle I would like to sell you. Uninterrupted ocean views.

  22. jumpy

    I think that whatever success we had in Durban we can thank the EU, the African states the least developed countries and the small island states. They are the ones most aware of the science and the urgency.

    What the….?

  23. alfred venison

    dear Brian
    i expect bitumen sands product is soon going to become more expensive to sell to certain markets, like yurp. i just hope they slug ’em hard as hell with a punative tax on all canadian energy products. and not just the bitumen sands, the hole f*cking portfolio. also, i think china’s hugely hypocritical about bitumen sands development. having recently invested big time in alberta & south american bitumen sands projects, i don’t expect them to put a brake on their own investments or their investment partners, but i’d be pleased as punch to be proven wrong on that one. i look to yurp, not china, to punish canada for this sick cynical manoeuvre. but, knowing harper and the harper-ites, the reaction will be to pull up the draw bridge and cosy up closer to fortress america, who’ll restore the keystone pipeline after the election (whoever wins) and buy all the bitumen sands oil alberta’s got under the guise of “ethical oil”; “business as usual” under the rubic of “ethical oil”. they love it, self-delusion. sigh. gasp.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  24. Ginja

    OBR: explain to me why an affluent country like Australia shouldn’t be in the front of the pack taking action on climate change.

    China is actually doing a great deal on climate change. There are 7 carbon trading projects being initiated and China is beginning to purchase a great deal of hydroelectricity from Russia, to say nothing of its large renewables industry. For a country still dragging itself out of poverty, it’s pretty impressive. Now what excuse does a first world country like Australia have for not introducing a modest carbon trading plan?

    But Australia should move on global warming because it is in our own national interest. The sooner Australia moves to more efficient infrastructure – such as smart grids – the better. Building less efficient energy infrastructure now just means we will have to rip it up later.

    P.S. Are people like John Hewson and Greg Hunt useful idiots, too? Or is it only lefties like me?

  25. alfred venison

    dear Ginja
    i’m happy to acknowledge china is doing more than many credit it with, but i’d be more impressed with china if they for example paid alberta to leave the bitumen sands in the ground undeveloped instead of investing to fast track its developement in alberta and south america.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  26. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @34 – Ginja – you either haven’t been around here long or haven’t been paying attention. Fortunately i am in a good mood so i’ll dash off a few lines rather than make you search for my previous remarks.

    There are three issues to be considered – the science, the politics and the economics.

    The science. Personally, I am not convinced that we understand the dynamic system that is climate well enough to make the assertions and predictions that are being made about man’s influence on the climate. That said, if you really believe the science is on the money then basically we are rooted. Global emmissions are already past the tipping points and current and future emmissions for the next few decades wont be slowed and therefore we are doubly rooted. The only good spending is on adaption and making the economy strong enough to generate the funds for adaption expenditure.

    The politics. Yes, you can bang on about white man’s guilt and we caused it, but the fact is you gotta win the argument and most western democracies that vote for their governments don’t want to be shafted. Also, the developing world, led by China and India, want and need economic development. A key part of economic development is cheap, ubundant, reliable electricity and the best source of that now and into the future (ask Gillard et al) is coal fired power stations. Yes, china is doing some lovely green window dressing but look at their current and forecast growth in CO2 emmissions. It’s not wht they say that matters – it’s what they do. All that the EU action has done so far is transfer emmissions from the EU to China and other cheap producers. Would China be doing what it is if it where a democracy?

    The economics. Basically I have already covered this in the points above, which isn’t suprising, given the interelated subjects, but the facts are that apart from hydro (which has it’s own many limitations), the alternatives don’t work without massive subsidies. The countries contributing most to the growth in CO2 emmissions now and into the future can’t afford the flights of fancy of western nations.

    An effective global agreement has to be economically, environmentally and politcally effective. The UN can’t stop us killing each other on a regular basis and the WTO can’t get an effective agreement together how many years after Doha? You really think that an effective climate change agreement can be reached? China is playing the Green movement like a philharmonic. (How’s Tibet working for you at the moment?)

    Australia is economically sandbagging itself for no measurable benefit to either the Australian or Global climate. The Green Emporers have no clothes.

  27. jumpy

    OBR, do we know where and when the next climate conference will be?

    If it hasn’t been decided yet, I nominate Mt Isa.

  28. Fran Barlow

    OBR said:

    Personally, I am not convinced that we understand the dynamic system that is climate well enough to make the assertions and predictions that are being made about man’s influence on the climate. {my emphasis}

    “We” is sometimes used loosely to mean “the community in general” but in this context that usage would be absurd. One might as well wonder whether “we” understand the Higgs Boson well enough to make sense of today’s announcements, or the engineering of passenger jets well enough to decide which are safe, or the issues in management of breast cancer well enough to decide when surgical intervention is indicated. “We”, the general community, absolutely don’t. “We” the adequately qualified in relation to matters germane to understanding the drivers of climate community of scientists does appear to understand it well enough to make inferences of use to policy makers. You have no business speaking on behalf of this latter community. If you were entitled to speak on their behalf, you’d be publishing in the field. Your “we” is thus dishonest.

    Worse yet, your challenge doesn’t even meet the test of intellectual parsimony to which your nym alludes.

  29. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @37 – why so salubrious? – perhaps Coober Pedy or Blackstone.

    I jest – perhaps a more realistic challenge – have the next meeting in a city that isn’t an internationally desirable travel location.

  30. alfred venison

    dear Brian
    justin, trudeau’s, pierre’s son & liberal mp, spits the dummy & calls canadian environment minister a “piece of shit.” then apologizes:-
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  31. Lefty E

    I think one thing that’s clear the issue cant be left to states alone. They’re too hopeless at this, and too eaily snared by ludicrous short term notions of national interest, which generally come in a brown paper bag with moolah from dead loss fossill industries of the past.

    A citizens climate assembly needs to meet on the same schedule as the UNFCCC process.

  32. Lefty E

    Mind you, looks like we’re screwed anyway: http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/shock-as-retreat-of-arctic-sea-ice-releases-deadly-greenhouse-gas-6276134.html

    One consolation will be the looks on the faces of our leaders as the public realises the true depth of shit we’re in – and just how grey, mediocre, corrupt & compromised they were.

  33. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Fran @38 – was my use of the word “we” the only issue you had with my post?

  34. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @42 – yes – a Citizens’ Assembly, just like the ALP’s. What a good idea. That worked so well.

  35. tssk

    Left E, as I alluded to in the other thread once the shit hits the fan all the naysayers will attack the scientists.

    “You guys are the experts. Why didn’t you warn us?”

  36. Mercurius

    It’s all well expressed and civilly put, but OBR @ 36 is just giving a roundabout reprisal of the conservative catch-cry ‘things can’t be different because they are the way they are’.

    The arguments presented transpose almost isometrically onto any anti-progressive cause in history — “women can’t get the vote or work in management and we can’t stop taking slaves from Africa, because I have a realistic view of science, politics and economics, in contrast to you dreamers…”

  37. Fran Barlow

    OBR asked:

    Fran @38 – was my use of the word “we” the only issue you had with my post?

    No, but it pointed to the fundamental problem with your post. You couldn’t have said “I” without sounding sillier. Nor can you point to any community with the standing to comment on the science who shares your ostensible reservations.

    To make the claims you make about the efficacy and relative utility of adaptation versus mitigation strategies, you’d have to have some models that you accepted and which were robust but again, since you reject the underlying science and the policy suite proceeding from it, you have no basis for claiming that adaptation would be a better response, if one accepts the science.

    In short, your post was a case of figuratively piling Pelion upon Ossa, without the slightest hope of storming Olympus.

  38. Ginja

    OBR: those insrutable orientals – you just can’t trust ’em!

    I’m willing to make a bet with you that Treasury’s modelling on this is correct and that the effect of the government’s carbon price on the economy is modest and less than the introduction of the GST. If Australians get shafted, it won’t be by much. Tony Abbott will soon have to explain why his apocalypse hasn’t arrived. I’m also willing to bet that the carbon price will be effective.

    The problem with discussions about what to do about carbon pollution is that a lot of people suddenly think they’re geniuses. I’m nowhere near being a genius, but luckily I’ve always had the ability to spot cranks a mile off. I’ll always give an expert the benefit of the doubt over a conspiracy theorist.

    Alfred Venison: that’s a good question to ask the Canadians, surely they have the ability to say no in these matters.

  39. Occam's Blunt Razor

    @48 – isn’t that lovely – now I am the equivalent of a misogynist slave trader – I impressed you avoided Godwin’s Law.

    @49 – there is no need to model mitigation versus adaption when it is clear that mitigation isn’t working – Kyoto has failed, the EU’s token efforts have failed, and global emmissions are rising at an accelerating rate (and yet global temps have stalled for the last ten years and climate scientists can’t explain why).

    @50 Ginja – that would be the Treasury modelling that they won’t even release the assumptions for, let alone the model?

  40. alfred venison

    dear Ginja
    i’d ask the canucks but they have fingers in their ears & are going “wah, wah, wah, can’t hear you, its the bulldozers, see?”

    europe is discussing slapping a surcharge on bitumen sands oil from alberta to discourage use of it among its members. great start.

    true to form, the uk policy is to frustrate these discussions, in the interest of boosting bp’s business in alberta. typical.

    a couple of weeks ago someone here posted links to articles reporting china buying up a canadian company with 15% or so stake in the bitumen sands as well as boosting their investment in bitumen sand projects in south america.

    rainforests have been “bought” in the interest of preserving them from logging. I just wonder if someone might “buy up” the bitumen sands to keep them from being developed.

    i am pleased with china’s hydro from russia & their mass-production of solar for domestic use, but saddened that china’s enlightenment doesn’t appear to extend to discouraging bitumen sands oil production; in fact they look like encouraging it. and should the yanks not want it (unlikely in my opinion) the feeling in alberta presently is stuff the yanks, build a (hugely unpopular) pipeline to the coast, and sell it all to china. so, sadly, it seems a case of, “on the one hand, on the other hand”, with china and its enlightened self-interest extending to all the sources of its energy needs.

    now that there is no treaty (kyoto) pressure on canada against the development of the bitumen sands, i fear the worst about it, that is that it will be developed and sold either to the yanks or china. for the money.
    yours sincerely
    alfred vension

  41. Fran Barlow

    OBR said:

    there is no need to model mitigation versus adaption when it is clear that mitigation isn’t working – Kyoto has failed

    That’s simply wrong all over the place. While mitigation efforts to date have been halting, patchy and inadequate, mitigation is improving. The low-hanging fruit, so to speak, is still there. Humanity can still hope for a ramp up of efforts over the next decade, and if that occurs, it will be because instead of adopting your attitude, the people of the world pressed their governments to press hard. It might well be that these efforts will not occur early enough and/or on the scale needed to avoid a series of horrible disasters, and may not even avert catastrophic damage to ecosystem services, but if we do nothing, that “may not” almost certainly becomes a “will not”. No adaptation that we could conceivably plan and implement would then be cost effective. There would be too much chaos for us to even model what would be worthwhile with anything like confidence. The world would be too different a place. It’s much easier to model adaptive measures if the changes are more modest. Mitigation is therefore not, as deniers sometimes imply, an alternative to adaptation, but simply Plan A, undertaken in part to make adaptation plausible.

    and global emissions are rising at an accelerating rate (and yet global temps have stalled for the last ten years and climate scientists can’t explain why).

    Again, this is simply wrong. Yes, emissions are rising at an accelerating rate, but without action, that rate would be greater yet. Global temperature rises have not stalled — this last decade remains both above the 30-year mean and the hottest since temperature records began being formally taken, not withstanding the noise from more than one La Nina. That will be why climate scientists ‘can’t explain why temps have stalled’ — because they haven’t.

    It’s regrettable that this has to be restated so frequently. Your post underlines why you are in no fit position to comment sensibly on this matter.

  42. Ginja

    Yes, because every genius with an inflated sense of their own abilities would say they had picked it to pieces – and most of them would be wrong. I’d be the last person to say the treasury gets everything right, but apparently they predicted the cost effects of the GST with impressive accuracy.

    We’ll see in about a year’s time anyway.

    Maybe I’m a traditionalist, but I think people – like scientists – who have slaved away to earn a Ph.D should be given more credence than someone at the pub who has done internet “research”. But we live in strange times – we now even have a former PM (supposedly conservative) goading children to disrupt lessons and challenge the authority of teachers on these questions.

  43. Ginja

    Alfred venison: sorry I missed that post.

    Yes, but surely these are all decisions made by Canadians. I would suggest the blame lies with the provincial or federal government, not the Chinese.

    If Canadians are silly enough to ruin their environment for short-term gain they have no one to blame but themselves.

  44. Lefty E

    I mean a global citizens climate assembly – to run parallel. I believe it will highlight the illegitimacy of all governments who come there to represent sectional industrial interests, rather than their own citzenry.

    They need to be made aware that we dont consider govts who stonewall on the clearest possible interests of their population to be acting with our authority.

  45. Occam's Blunt Razor

    Ginja – I’ve got a Finance degree and financially have lived and died on economic forecasts – I know how inaccurate they can be.

  46. Ginja

    That explains it!

  47. jumpy

    OBR, Inconthevable, are you suggesting that when “bedrock institutions” agree on something, they can still be open to scrutiny ?

    What, even in Medicine ? or Physics?

    I can see a Nobel in store for a radical thinker like you.

    Thats how they get em ya know.

  48. Tim Macknay

    But we live in strange times – we now even have a former PM (supposedly conservative) goading children to disrupt lessons and challenge the authority of teachers on these questions.

    Once someone’s read Plimer’s new book they can add another column to this table.

  49. alfred venison

    dear Ginja
    i understand & concur, in so far as it is ultimately solely the business of alberta & the canadian feds whether to develop this resource & how.

    but its not just the canadian environment that stands to be polluted. if this project gets going full-tilt like they envisage, it will become one of, if not the most, carbon polluting resource projects on the planet. so stopping it, or arresting its development to full scale exploitation, is in everyone’s interest. this is the motivation behind the european initiative to tax the product punitively to discourage its use by members.

    i agree its far fetched to suggest applying, without qualification, the model used for preserving rainforests in poor countries to deferring an energy resource mega-project in a rich country. that’s clearly not realistic and is proffered here for its suggestive value.

    given that canada does not have treaty (kyoto) constraints on its decisions,then other countries are justified in what ever measures they take to constrain canadian decisions. i read the european initiative in this light.

    so canada’s out and china’s still in kyoto, but china has no kyoto mechanisms to flog canada with. china is rightly critical of canada for withdrawing from kyoto, but encourages & invests in the full scale exploitation of the bitumen sands nevertheless. impressed as i am with china’s efforts, i’d be more impressed if they took a page out of the european song book, and told alberta/canada that, should this project get going big-time, they, china, will not be buying the product, or will buy it only after slapping a punitive tax on it.

    as you say, the decision to develop the resource is ultimately alberta/canada’s. but that decision is contingent on decisions of the buyers, too. and i’d like to see buyer price signals, a la europe, from china. instead i see china buying into the development of the product. but maybe now that canada’s withdrawn from kyoto, china will become pissed off enough to send a price singnal, maybe by disinvesting a bit and/or making a declaration or two about whether or not it’ll buy the product whenever its offered.
    yours sincerely
    alfred venison

  50. Mercurius

    @48 – isn’t that lovely – now I am the equivalent of a misogynist slave trader – I impressed you avoided Godwin’s Law.

    Nup, my comment was directed to the arguments, not to you. It’s not about you, dear.

    The argument you present is in the form “things can’t be different in the future because of the way things are now”. It’s an appeal-to-misery. Politics and economics are deemed to flow axiomatically from Human Nature (constructed as an immutable, pre-ordained, elemental force from which we can expect nothing better than short-sighted self-interest). It’s pure Burke.

    You can surround it with all the scientific/political/economic verbiage you like, but the core sophistry remains.

    There’s plenty of empirical evidence to support a pessimistic view of human nature (and hence politics and economics) — but there’s also plenty of empirical evidence to support a more optimistic view.

    Why you choose time and again to side with the pessimists is about you. But it’s not terribly interesting or OT for the purposes of this blog.