Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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  1. I’m really unimpressed with OpenLeft’s reading of the cables. It’s like they skimmed the Guardian articles and then threw their skimming into some overarching narrative about The Global Hegemon. You can’t talk about U.S. culpability without talking about the culpability of a great segment of the rest of the world. Here were the basic facts on the ground before Copenhagen:

    1) EU and Alba countries wanted Kyoto-style mandatory reductions. Alba countries, then as now, were threatening boycotts of treaties that didn’t include mandatory reductions. The Alba approach, to me, is the only sensible approach out there: boycott and derail the process in the hopes of starting from scratch. That said, the U.S. and Europe would need to financially support green industry in Latin America.
    2) The BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India, China), possibly with the exception of Brazil, wanted no mandatory limits on emissions, period.
    3) Saudi Arabia’s official position is that global warming doesn’t exist.
    4) Japan doesn’t even want agreements on voluntary reductions.
    5) Another major sticking point is wealth transfer: to adequately deal with climate change, there would need to be a major (and unprecedented) transfer of wealth from Europe, etc.
    6) Copenhagen was deliberately sabotaged by the release of the “Climategate” emails.

    The accords that the U.S. ultimately got passed were a band-aid. The U.S. falls on the bad side of the spectrum – their policy, whether official or not, is to support measures that may help to mitigate carbon emissions (although probably not), but that do not tie countries to specific targets. But you also have to realize that the “bad side of the spectrum,” and often a worse side, is the position occupied by almost every entity with the ability to reduce global emissions in a significant manner. The EU, and possibly Brazil (although it’s hard to tell), may be the only exception to that rule.

    One area – and this only gets mentioned sporadically – that the U.S. is really leading a reactionary front is in the question of per capita vs. total emissions. The question should be about per capita emissions, no matter what. If reducing emissions would mean a reduction in consumption levels, then those who consume the most can best afford such a reduction. Treating a nation as a single entity that can lower or raise total emissions at will seems like a piece of naiveté that the U.S. would never permit when it comes to its own interests. In a perfect world, climate treaties would be sliding-scale agreements, whereby those who emit the most per capita would agree to lower their emissions by the greatest percent. (Let’s pretend that domestic insurrection isn’t a factor here).


    December 7, 2010 at 11:52 am

  2. The Alba countries wanted to prove that climate negotiations couldn’t work in the hopes of derailing the process and started over. Well, they proved that climate negotiations couldn’t work…

    Provocation aside, I agree with basically everything you just said. The positions of all of these countries (ALBA aside) seem like they’re coming from a completely different planet, with a different history and different physical laws.


    December 7, 2010 at 11:59 am

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