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The Wrong Kind of Green

March 19, 2010

A really great article appear in The Nation early this month, titled “The Wrong Kind of Green.”

One of the big debates I’ve had with myself for a long time (especially while I was in Copenhagen) was about how to take a stance on political issues. Do I opt to support policies that move an inch in light of what is “politically realistic?” Or do I call for exactly what science demands and denounce anything less than that?

While I still can’t totally agree with the “System Change, Not Climate Change” argument that the author puts forth, he does bring up some good points that make me feel like I should never support anything less than what science demands: The conservatives take a position so far to the right, that they force the middle to move their way. If the left takes a centrist position in favor of some movement, that position continues to move to the right by definition.

From the article:

By pretending the broken system can work–and will work, in just a moment, after just one more Democratic win, or another, or another–the big green groups are preventing the appropriate response from concerned citizens, which is fury at the system itself. They are offering placebos to calm us down when they should be conducting and amplifying our anger at this betrayal of our safety by our politicians. The US climate bills are long-term plans: they lock us into a woefully inadequate schedule of carbon cuts all the way to 2050. So when green groups cheer them on, they are giving their approval to a path to destruction–and calling it progress.

Even within the constraints of the existing system, their approach makes for poor political tactics. As Suckling puts it, “They have an incredibly naïve political posture. Every time the Dems come out with a bill, no matter how appallingly short of the scientific requirements it is, they cheer it and say it’s great. So the politicians have zero reason to strengthen that bill. If you’ve already announced that you’ve been captured, then they don’t need to give you anything. Compare that to how the Chamber of Commerce or the fossil fuel corporations behave. They stake out a position on the far right, and they demand the center move their way. It works for them. They act like real activists, while the supposed activists stand at the back of the room and cheer at whatever bone is thrown their way.”

The one point that I slightly disagree with is whether passing some bill is better than passing none. Even if I do decide that I wouldn’t support it because it isn’t in line with science, I think there is still an argument to be made that passing the bill is the hardest part and it is easier to amend it later.

I’m sure my opinion will fluctuate on this issue for some time. For now, I’m really feeling the need to be the “left flank” and move the center more in my direction.

Update: The Nation also posted the responses from all of the “Big Greens” mentioned in the article.

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Interview about COP15 on KVAL in Eugene

January 29, 2010

Moey and I were interviewed on KVAL about our experience at COP15.

Click below to watch the video.

Watch the video
Watch the video

Daily Emerald Feature on UO Students at COP15

January 4, 2010

The Daily Emerald (the University of Oregon student newspaper) had a feature article about UO students who attended the negotiations.

Here is the full article by Anna Helland:

Last month, while stockings were being hung by the chimney with care, those in Copenhagen had hopes that a climate change agreement would soon appear.
From Dec. 7-18, during the two-week United Nations-led summit in the Danish capital, more than 100 world leaders met to discuss and take action on global climate change.

The conference aimed at creating outlines for a new treaty that would succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, which includes a set of binding emissions targets for developed nations that the U.S. never signed.

Numerous University students and faculty also attended the conference in Copenhagen, either to witness international negotiating or to observe the conference on a more
educational level.

University environmental studies student Jeremy Blanchard and political science student Charles Denson attended the convention through their work with the Cascade Climate Network, a network of students at Oregon and Washington universities dedicated to addressing climate change.

Before negotiations began, Blanchard and Denson were hesitant to invest too much hope in the results of the of conference.

“We expected this to be the next commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, and a lot of us had high expectations for this convention,” Blanchard said, so it was “sad to see global leaders setting those expectations even lower and throwing in the towel before negotiations began.”

Denson agreed.

“I hoped the U.S. would step up and meet more significant stands on climate control,”
he said.

During the conference, Blanchard and Denson communicated with youth all over the country to relay information and developments to the U.S. from their base at the conference. Blanchard took part in the rapid response team, encouraging stateside youth to call their representatives to action and to help shape public opinion. Denson worked with U.S. policy at the conference, asking questions to negotiators and department heads and organizing the youth to attend events.

The two listened to presenters such as U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, absorbing and learning everything they saw and heard.

“I had never experienced anything at this level,” Blanchard said. “I took away a great appreciation for the international negotiation process.”

University international studies student Katherine Philipson also attended the conference through the Cascade Climate Network, working closely with the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, a coalition of African organizations that promote and advocate for
climate-related development.

“It was just incredible seeing how so many countries from around the world came together for this movement,” Philipson said.

In the second week of the conference, civil society groups began receiving only limited entry into the Bella Center — the main location for the conference — because of security concerns, and throughout the next week, Danish police arrested many activists they called “protestors.”

Shangrila Joshi Wynn, a University doctoral candidate in environmental studies and geography and a Wayne Morse Center Dissertation Fellow, went to Copenhagen to conduct field work for her doctoral dissertation. Joshi Wynn said that unlike the majority of participants at the conference, her reason for attending was to observe a specific aspect of the conference.

As a representative of the Association of American Geographers and an official observer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Joshi Wynn conducted research that examined India’s participation in international climate policy negotiations and the debates that will happen in the coming months.

Because she had limited access into the Bella Center in the second half of the conference, Joshi Wynn had to learn about conference outcomes through the media and the UN’s Web site “just like anybody else who had not ventured all the way out there to be present as an
official observer,” she said.

After the two-week conference, negotiators presented the Copenhagen Accord — a 12-paragraph interim treaty — which was met with mixed reviews. Some U.S. legislators praised the accord for its projected future help in assisting the current climate bill pass through the Senate, but for others like Blanchard, Denson and Philipson, it was simply
a disappointment.

“It was far less than what most people would have liked,” Blanchard said.

“The United States didn’t step up,” Denson said. “We needed to be a leader and not wait for China to take action.”

Philipson said the results also disappointed her, but that she would look to future leadership to shape the outcome for climate change.

“I think we need to come home and change domestic politics to create better legs for our country to stand on in the international area,” Philipson said.

Joshi Wynn agreed the accord was an example of the lack of progress the conference achieved.

“The pact … is a sign that although there had been some potential for the climate negotiations to seriously confront the power imbalances between the global North and South, this was thwarted by the co-optation of some of the countries or interest groups of the global South,” Joshi Wynn said.

The Copenhagen Accord recognizes the scientific case for keeping global temperature rise to no more than two degrees Celsius, but it does not contain commitments to reduce emissions and only pledges that countries big and small must limit their emissions to
certain numbers.

Blanchard hoped the U.S. would have signed the second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, setting stronger targets for developing nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Denson had similar hopes for the U.S. to sign a legally-binding treaty with ambitious targets.

Denson said he would come back to promote climate change for the upcoming Senate vote on the climate bill and that although “some people have said that (the Copenhagen Accord) is a stepping stone in securing climate control, the problem with global warming is we won’t have time. We need to take big steps instead of baby steps.”

ahelland@dailyemerald.com

Video Review

January 3, 2010

A random collection of videos from COP15 that I wanted to document.

General

A Message to World Leaders from Global Youth

Conference of Youth

Youth at cop 15 slideshow

CCN at COP15 slideshow

CCN Update – COP15 – Day 5

Read more…

Videos from Copenhagen

January 2, 2010

Here are all of the videos that I took while in Copenhagen at COP15.

Cascade Climate Network (CCN)

CCN Update – In the Snow!

Jesse Boudart’s Speech to the CCN

Read more…

COP15 in Review

December 27, 2009

Everyone who attending the negotiations is still trying to figure out just what happened in the final hours of the negotiations and what it means as we move forward.

I wanted to document the various articles that I’ve been reading to get a better understanding of the results from COP15.

IGHIH: Understanding Copenhagen – Succinct, simple, comprehensive description of what happened.

5 Fallacies in the Coverage of the Copenhagen Accord – One of the more important articles you can read to clarify what it all means. By clarifying some misconceptions, this article gives an honest assessment of what happened without parroting the rhetoric found in most other articles.

  1. The “Copenhagen Accord” text preempted a better agreement from being adopted at COP15.
  2. The poor countries of the world rejected the Accord.
  3. The Accord came out of an undemocratic backroom deal that minimized the voice of developing nations.
  4. The Accord is a worthless “sham” and failure.
  5. Obama is to blame!

AP: Obama raced clock, chaos, comedy for climate deal – Details the final hours of the talks and the interaction between the US and China.

Copenhagen: Everyday Differences

December 24, 2009

I thought that the best way to describe how Copenhagen feels is to point out all the little parts of my day that catch my attention because they are different than my normal routine. It’s all these little things combined that give me a feel for the city.

Read on for the full list.
Read more…