Way out of Climate Change? Us

Monbiot just published his take on the outcome of the Copenhagen Summit, comparing this and future climate negotiations to the orchestra on the Titanic. As the reason for failure of the summit, he singles out the non-inclusive negotiation approach of the biggest emitters (notably China and the US) used to satisfy their domestic goals and audiences.

One hundred and two poor nations called for the maximum global temperature rise to be limited not to two degrees but to 1.5. The chief negotiator for the G77 bloc complained that Africa was being asked “to sign a suicide pact, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries”.

His conclusion? What happens now

… depends on the other non-player at Copenhagen: you. For the past few years good, liberal, compassionate people […] have shaken their heads and tutted and wondered why someone doesn’t do something. Yet the number taking action has been pathetic. Demonstrations which should have brought millions onto the streets have struggled to mobilise a few thousand. As a result the political cost of the failure at Copenhagen is zero.

Is this music not to your taste sir, or madam? Perhaps you would like our little orchestra to play something louder, to drown out that horrible grinding noise.

It is up to us to take matters into or hands and start reducing our impact on our planet.

Update: a very interesting take from the closed debate on China‘s role.

cross-published on Suficiente

(Tons of) economic opportunities in emission reduction

There is so much we all could do in our respective areas and sectors. Not only would this improve our carbon footprints, but it also opens up new economic opportunities.

Consider the example of How The Dairy Industry Could be Making Electricity and Reducing Emissions: By turning methane from cow manure into electricity. Not only do farmers seizing this opportunity end up producing more energy than they need (they can sell the access to the grid), they can (potentially) also gain carbon credits from reduced emissions.

What opportunities exist in your sector or area of expertise that you have not tapped into?

Visualize the effects of climate change

Everybody is gearing up for December’s Climate Summit, COP 15, in Copenhagen starting next week. Just our governments seem to not want to deal with this reality.

A few weeks ago Google launched a site that visualizes different global warming scenarios with Google Earth:

Explore the potential impacts of climate change on our planet Earth and find out about possible solutions for adaptation and mitigation, ahead of the UN’s climate conference in Copenhagen in December COP15.

via Explore climate change in Google Earth.

Local cooperation to overcome climate change

I want to use the occasion of Blog Action Day to reflect a bit on how Elinor Ostrom’s work (this year’s Nobel in Economic Sciences) may help us deal with climate change. In short, many solutions will emerge from collective action at the local level that solve problems according to the different local conditions. One challenge will be to ensure that these local experiments and solutions will learn from each other.

Here are a few points from Lin Ostrom’s work that I think are relevant for the climate change discussions:

  1. Her work clearly refutes the Tragedy of the Commons as a myth shows that shared resources can be managed collectively.
  2. State and private property are not the only models of ownership and management for resources; for centuries local communities and small groups of forest dweller, farmers and fishers have been managing resources collectively developing at times very sophisticated management systems.
  3. The state is not always the best actor to manage shared resources – it is often better to allow for local variations and give autonomy to local groups so these can identify the best solutions for the specific context.
  4. We have to work together across disciplines and topics to see the right patterns and make the right connections to identify solutions that work.

What does that mean for climate change?

  1. It is possible to manage our shared resources (the earth’s diverse ecosystems and the atmosphere) that are crucial for our climate system to function without state control or privatizing them.
  2. New forms of ownership that transcend the private and public realm and that put the responsibility in the hands of the users (all of us) can trigger local action.
  3. While a general climate treaty will help to galvanize action across the world, governments have to be bolder to allow and support local changes and give people the chance to experiment with different ways of dealing with the challenges posed by climate change.
  4. The climate change space is still far too fragmented to come up with solutions that will be effective and have the support of a majority of societal actors. Environmental conservation, rights of local people, or business opportunities that carbon trade schemes offer do not have to be competing with one another, but they are in many cases today.

For more on Lin Ostrom’s work go to IU’s Workshop on Political Theory that she founded and still directs and the website of the International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC), of which she was the founding president.