Foreign Policy Blogs

"Mitigation of Climate Change"

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as I write, is finalizing its report, "Mitigation of Climate Change." (You can watch the webcast of the press conference from Bangkok when it goes online on Friday, and read the summary for policymakers and the speech from the IPCC's head.) There will be a ton of news stories, neither will we lack for analysis and spin.

What we've been hearing all week from the closed-door sessions of the scientists and governmental envoys who've been meeting to finalize the draft report is that, for one thing, China, and its partners in the developing world, are fighting strong language on the requirements for action. See this story from the "L.A. Times."  This is a replay of the recent UN Security Council debate , see my post from April 21 on this. The developing world actors, India, Brazil and China, chief among them, make the argument that the industrialized world has caused the havoc and it should bear the brunt of the costs for the solutions. I have to wonder at this, not only because the developing world but also countries like the U.S. and Australia are missing the boat, or at least the point:  opportunity abounds here, there's fruit begging to be picked and eaten. We can make money, jobs, and save the natural environment , it's been proven over and over again. Why would we want to squander the opportunity to live smarter?  Okay, there, I've gotten a little of it out of my system. (Actually, I am a pretty serious student of psychohistory and political psychology and have all sorts of thoughts regarding why societies injure themselves and others. But that's for another venue.) 

There are, of course, vital issues of costs , those to be incurred and those to be avoided by mitigating global climate change. If you look at the outline for the report, you will see that economic considerations are front and center. Sections have been written on "cost and benefit concepts," macroeconomic effects," and "economic and other generic policy instruments."  There is some very heavy economic lifting indeed in this report.

The IPCC's judgment is, in the end, a critically important factor but not the final word in any of this. There are, as has been pointed out here, many factors including national and local government actions, the role of business and finance, how science and technology are brought to bear, and public opinion for that matter. These reports this year from the IPCC are, however, a great body of information, nutrient solution for growing good policy at the international level. How the various national actors play all this out bears considerable further attention. This blog will necessarily delve into the roles that China, India, Brazil and other important developing world countries will play. Let's see how tomorrow plays out in Bangkok and pick up the thread again soon on what we are likely to see from these massively important countries.


Media Notes:

Betsy Kolbert, the eminently eloquent author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe, writing in "The New Yorker" about New York City's proposed congestion pricing plan, reports, among other things:  "The value of time lost to congestion delays in the city has been put at five billion dollars annually. When expenses like wasted fuel, lost revenue, and the increased cost of doing business are added in, that figure rises to thirteen billion dollars."

"Sierra" (from the Sierra Club, of course), has a special section in their latest issue:  "Climate Exchange."  In it, a panel of top experts and policy makers discuss where we are in grappling with the challenges of global warming. The worthies assembled by the Sierra Club include one of the founders of Sun Microsystems; one of the world's leading climatologists; Sen. Barbara Boxer, the chair of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee; as well as her senior advisor on climate change; and some others. Coverage at the website includes video clips from the panel discussion.

See this video from the BBC on HRH the Prince of Wales's "mayday" alert on the climate crisis. "The crisis of climate change is far too urgent and discussion simply isn't enough," said Britain's Prince Charles at the first May Day Business Summit on Climate Change. More than 1,000 businesses, convened by Prince Charles, made concrete commitments to reduce carbon emissions. He gave several speeches at the event. Here's the welcome, given on the first day of the summit. (Links are here also to other of Charles's speeches and articles, including on organic farming, historic preservation, and sustainable business.) Charles has been a quiet, forceful, progressive voice in Britain for years. He's also hugely influential. We don't have anyone like him in the
U.S. In any event, it's great to see him so outspoken on climate change.



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change