Hans Brinker

I came accross two key recommendations of Hang Together or Separately, Oxfam International’s call to action to Copenhagen:

  • Copenhagen must deliver a fair and adequate climate deal: one that keeps global warming as far below 2°C as possible, and that reflects the historical responsibility for emissions and the economic capability of developed countries.
  • Rich countries must agree binding individual country targets that cut greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.
  • A UNFCCC Mitigation and Finance Mechanism must be established to match mitigation actions from developing countries with the required finance from rich countries – $100bn per year as an absolute minimum.
  • Rich countries must agree to provide sufficient funding for capacity-building, mitigation and adaptation, through the purchase of their Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) from the UNFCCC Mitigation and Finance Mechanism.

Assuming that they aim higher than what politicians can achieve, this is very sad news indeed.
Here’s a crash course in how to solve climate change. This is the bottom line of what humanity needs to do to fix this mess:

  1. Bring CO2 emissions to zero within a few decades
  2. Remove CO2 surplus from the atmosphere, so concentrations return to their preindustrial level
  3. Undo all damage already done by climate change and stop all processes that were set in motion by it

Phase 1 is by far the easiest to achieve, but this plan barely scratches the surface. At “$100bn per year as an absolute minimum” that’s really, really bad news. Will there be enough money left to finish off phase one and tackle phase 2 and 3?
Oxfam’s goal is to “end poverty and injustice, as part of a global movement for change”. As I stated before I doubt that solving climate change is the best way to solve poverty. But even if it is, the plan is doomed, because it doesn’t solve climate change. We are going to run into problems at some point in the future and this plan only delays the inevitable by seconds or years depending on who you ask.
I suggest we hold on to our money until someone comes up with a plan that has at least some chance of dealing with all three phases.
Look to these people for potential solutions:

  • Craig Venter joining Exxon Mobile in an attempt to create biofuels that might be orders of magnitude more effecient than what we have now.
  • George Church casually mentioning that a tiny change in the biosphere would be enough to solve our carbon dioxide surpluss
  • Google’s initiative to create clean energy cheaper than coal.
  • The British Royal Society taking Geo Engineering serious

These are all ideas that at least have some potential, albeit at considerable risk. But it just depends on bad things get whether it’s worth that risk.
Once thing they have in common is that they receive rediculously little funding. Perhaps with the exception of the first example, we are talking about millions of dollars per year at most, not hundreds of billions. So basically an ineffective solution receives 100.000 times more funding than a potentially effective solution. That annoys me.
There’s this story about Hans Brinker who saved the country by putting his finger in a dyke to stop the water. That’s Kyoto and Kopenhagen in a nutshell, only more expensive.

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