Framing science badly misses the point

May 26, 2007 at 7:25 am | Posted in America, Britain, Climate change, G8, Germany, UK, US | Leave a comment

We can’t put the global future of our children at risk because of the narrow-mindedness of individual negotiating partners.”

Sigmar Gabriel, Environment Minister, Germany ~ as quoted in today’s Guardian Environment article:

US rejects all proposals on climate change

U.S. climate change policies that are always ‘relative to the economy’, and policy priorities that rank economic policy above all others, combined with arrogance in dealing with others and selfishness, indicated by unashamedly ignoring the concerns and needs of others, are at the root of this rejection and significantly complicate our climate challenge.

The U.S. policy on climate change affects the real world by guiding decisions. Once you have read the policy, you can see how easy it is to maintain business-as-usual (with token gestures around the edges), retain control, remain independent, and reject others’ proposals on climate change. What is the policy?

From the U.S. Department of State website:

Global Climate Change

Fact Sheet: (2007) html | pdf

leads with:

President Bush is firmly committed to taking action on climate change at home and abroad. Climate change is a serious, long-term challenge that requires an effective, sustainable response. The United States is implementing a comprehensive policy that employs ambitious near term domestic measures to address climate change; we are also making unequaled investments in climate change science and technology in the United States and around the world.

Internationally, the United States believes the most effective way to address climate change is through a broader development agenda that encourages development and deployment of clean energy technologies and global collaboration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and cut air pollution while ensuring continued economic growth. Our initiatives include a wide array of action-orientated partnerships, which rely on voluntary and practical measures to reduce greenhouse gas intensity, encourage private sector participation, and introduce cleaner technologies.”

Brochure: (2006) html | pdf

U.S. Global Climate Change Policy

President Bush committed the United States to an ambitious climate change strategy that will reduce domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions relative to the size of the American economy. The United States will achieve this goal by cutting its GHG intensity — how much it emits per unit of economic activity — by 18% over the next 10 years. This strategy will set America on a path to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, and — as the science justifies — to stop, and then reverse that growth. The President’s policy also continues the United States’ leadership role in supporting vital climate change research, laying the groundwork for future action by investing in science, technology, and institutions. In addition, the United States’ strategy emphasizes international cooperation and promotes working with other nations to develop an efficient and coordinated response to global climate change. In taking prudent environmental action at home and abroad, the United States is advancing a pro-growth, pro-development approach to addressing this important global challenge.

“America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.”

President Bush, State of the Union Message, 2007

For the complete text of these remarks, please see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/01/20070123-2.html

Framing science, and framing it badly or ‘without taking into account the audience’, is a diversion from the main story: we need to know exactly who is so determined to gain the whole world at the expense of ruining it in the process. This policy makes no sense.

The argument that scientists need to frame their explanations of climate science for the common man are missing the point: policymakers choose to make policy as they wish. Facts are not necessary to back up their decisions, though those that suit their aims can be used to pacify, placate and reassure those rational types who still like to think facts are being taken into account. Facts that contradict goals and desires are simply ignored. This has been practised for decades.

US rejects all proposals on climate change

· Embarrassment for Blair as G8 draft covered in red ink
· Little hope of any deal at summit in two weeks

John Vidal, environment editor
Saturday May 26, 2007
The Guardian

The US has rejected any prospect of a deal on climate change at the G8 summit in Germany next month, according to a leaked document.

Despite Tony Blair’s declaration on Thursday that Washington would sign up to “at least the beginnings” of action to cut carbon emissions, a note attached to a draft document circulated by Germany says the US is “fundamentally opposed” to the proposals.

The note, written in red ink, says the deal “runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple ‘red lines’ in terms of what we simply cannot agree to“.

This document is called FINAL but we never agreed to any of the climate language present in the document … We have tried to ‘tread lightly’ but there is only so far we can go given our fundamental opposition to the German position,” it says.

The tone is blunt, with whole pages of the draft crossed out and even the mildest statements about confirming previous agreements rejected. “The proposals within the sections titled ‘Fighting Climate Change’ and ‘Carbon Markets’ are fundamentally incompatible with the President’s approach to climate change,” says another red-ink comment.

This is embarrassing for Mr Blair, who said on Thursday with some confidence that the US was moderating its position on climate change as the summit approached. Before visiting the White House this month, the prime minister suggested that he was close to persuading George Bush to accept the establishment of carbon trading schemes, one of five main proposals drawn up ahead of the G8. But Washington rejected the sections on carbon trading, saying to back trading schemes would imply acceptance of emission caps.

A diplomatic source said the German EU presidency and the US government appeared now so far apart it was hard to see how negotiators could reach anything other than a meaningless agreement in Heiligendamm in just under two weeks.

As well as cutting global emissions, Germany had stated in its draft that it wanted agreement to curb the rise in average temperatures this century to 2C and raise energy efficiency in power and transport by 20% by 2020. Both positions are compatible with policies in California and other US states, which have set their own targets and timetables.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, this week suggested that there was little hope of a deal. She said preliminary talks at the EU-Russia summit and in meetings with G8 members had been “difficult”.

The director of Greenpeace, John Sauven, said the leaked document proved Britain had failed to influence the US. “Despite his protestations to the contrary Tony Blair’s efforts to persuade George Bush of the importance of tackling climate change have singularly failed,” he said.

The scene is set for a showdown between the US and other G8 countries who want early action on climate change. Germany’s environment minister, Sigmar Gabriel, said the country was prepared to block decisions on other issues unless the US and other G8 members made concessions on the environment. “America doesn’t want to commit to firm goals. We can’t put the global future of our children at risk because of the narrow-mindedness of individual negotiating partners.”

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