Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Changing the climate change convention

NewScientist.com reports from the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi.

According to Yvo de Boer, head of the conference secretariat,
the conference ha[s] four main tasks: establishing the adaptation fund, finding ways to improve the sharing of low-carbon energy technologies, continuing discussions on what emissions targets to set after the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012; and developing carbon trading.
The adaptation fund would provide financial assistance for the world's poorest countries, hoping to buy coastal protection, drought-resistant crops and aid to ecological refugees for some of the most vulnerable victims of climate change. It bears repeating: disaster is never natural.

The Nairobi conference hopes to reform the existing Clean Development Mechanism for carbon trading, established by the Kyoto Protocol. The CDM credits companies in industrialized countries to gain "carbon credits" by exporting emission-reducing technology to poorer countries. The New Scientist describes projects such as wind power in India and methane emission reduction from landfills in Brazil. India and Brazil, however, are hardly the world's poorest countries. According to its critics, CDM merely chases money in rapidly developing countries.

The Nairobi conference may also consider Brazil's plan to allow countries to benefit from protecting existing rainforests. The Kyoto Protocol directs most of its incentives toward the planting of new forests; this treaty's failure to provide incentives for protecting existing forests does not contribute significantly to reducing the estimated one-fifth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere attributable to deforestation.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: 'disaster is never natural.' I would agree with this but it is disconcerting to think how many people have a hard time wrapping their minds around that proposition. Some time ago Amartya Sen, in Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), convincingly demonstrated that, at least in the modern era, famines should not be construed as natural phenomena framed in Malthusian Darwinian terms (with apologies especially to Darwin) in a way that removes human culpability for same. Nonetheless, many people persist in the belief that famines are Nature's (or God's) way of population control. Similarly, the existence of hunger in our time is clearly unconscionable hence inexcusable (see, for instance, Jean Dreze, Amartya Sen and Athar Hussain, eds., The Political Economy of Hunger: Selected Essays, 1995, and Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action, 1989), yet many remain recalcitrant, preferring, for myriad reasons (states of denial, wishful thinking, sheer perversity, appalling ignorance, insufficiently developed ethical sense, what have you), to see hunger, again, in 'naturalistic' terms, as yet one more instance of nature's 'winnowing' process.

I'm beginning to think that, in the end, we're dealing here with questions of motivation, hence moral psychology, and thus no amount of compelling social scientific data, however indispensable as a necessary condition, will suffice to turn the tide.... I'm more than a bit curious what other readers (you too Jim!) think about this.

11/07/2006 9:06 AM  

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