Durban Climate Change Conference

U.S. Plays the Bad Guy at Climate Negotiations. Again.

Reason's science correspondent sends a fourth dispatch from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban.


Durban, South Africa—Only two more days left for the negotiators here at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to make COP-17 a "success." The United States chief climate change negotiator Todd Stern noted at a press conference that the two final days at a COP generally represent just the "mid-point" in climate negotiations.

So let's take stock of where the conference stands before the final push toward this weekend.

The Kyoto Protocol: First, I note that some of the earnest youngsters here in Durban are wandering around the conference center sporting adorable "I (heart) KP" t-shirts. Get it? They love the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. And, after all, who cannot love an arcane 21-page treaty [PDF] that requires rich countries to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 5 percent below the levels they emitted in 1990? In reality, everybody loves it—except for Japan, Canada, and Russia, who are now refusing to go on a second date with KP. Of course, the selfish and self-involved U.S. never loved KP.

Meanwhile, poor countries who would never consider making a commitment to KP, keep insisting that they will unfriend the whole United Nations climate change clique unless the rich countries (mostly Europe) agree to stay with KP for at least another five years.

Two Degrees or Bust: Global warming activists here in Durban fear that the world will become more than 2° Celsius warmer than it was in 1800, unless the world's emissions of greenhouse gases peak soon. Their lodestar on this issue is the Cancun Agreements in which COP-16 "recognizes that deep cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required…with a view to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions so as to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above preindustrial levels."

What the hell does "recognize" mean anyway? U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern was asked at a press briefing how the U.S. interprets that phrase. He replied that the U.S. looks at 2°C as an important and serious goal that guides American thinking about what ought to be done, but "that's different from seeing it as an operational cap that we must meet. It's not mandatory." On the other hand, Jo Leinen, a German Social Democratic member of the European Parliament, at a later press briefing insisted that the Cancun agreements had "decreed a limit of 2°C" on future global temperature increases that requires the world to peak its greenhouse gas emissions in this decade. In other words, the Europeans and global warming activists do regard 2°C as an obligatory operational cap.

The China Perplex: As an 8-time veteran of COPs, I feel almost nostalgic when I hear the old familiar script playing out again. The United States is the bad guy once more, denounced on all sides as an "obstacle to progress" and a "blocker." At past COPs, lots of countries found it convenient to say that they would do more if only the retrogressive Americans would agree to join in.

On the other hand, the Chinese can make mere hints about possible policy changes that provoke even the hardest bitten climate activists to swoon in ecstasies of unbounded credulity. For example, at a Climate Action Network press conference, Samantha Smith from the World Wildlife Fund International credulously declared, "China has made the first move and that is unprecedented….China is taking leadership and we need to recognize that."

What is it about leftists and authoritarian governments, especially legacy communist regimes? As I have noted before, perhaps their affection is based on the fact that environmentalists are technocratic planners at heart—and they recognize in China a kindred spirit.

What Smith was talking about is the artful (or artless) statement by chief Chinese negotiator Xie Zhenhua who made the barest hint earlier this week that China might consider some kind of "legally binding agreement" on reducing greenhouse gases sometime after 2020. He never actually said China would consider a legally binding agreement to reduce its emissions; he just said that China would sign on to an agreement that legally binds somebody or other to reduce theirs. In any case, Xie certainly could have clarified China's position with regard to a future legally binding treaty during his official presentation [PDF] to the plenary session of negotiators, but he didn't.

Xie did, however, insist, "Developed countries should face squarely their own historical responsibilities and the reality of their high per capita emissions, truly taking the lead in drastic emission reduction, and honoring their obligation and commitments regarding financial and technology transfer support to the developing countries." Translation: Rich guys keep on cutting your emissions and keep on shoveling billions of dollars in climate reparations to poor countries. Xie also made the fair point that China's priority for the foreseeable future is economic growth, reminding everyone that his country still has 128 million people living on less than a dollar per day.

While some activists remain starry-eyed over China, professional politicians and negotiators were more hardheaded. At a European Union press briefing, European parliamentarian Leinen expressed a clearer view of the current negotiations, "What is frustrating is that for the third time the conference has been hijacked by a ping-pong game between the U.S. and China." Hijacked? Well, since the two countries account for about 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, how could it be otherwise?

In any case, a Climatewire article intriguingly notes that blocking negotiations toward a legally binding treaty that doesn't include China could play well back in the United States. Bipartisan Center senior advisor Paul Bledsoe told Climatewire: "For domestic political purposes, I'm not sure the administration is at all uncomfortable being blamed by the Europeans for stalling a legally binding negotiation."

No More Partying Like It's 1992: U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern keeps making the point that the original division of countries into two groups under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol, rich ones (Annex 1 countries) that are obligated to cut their emissions and poor ones (non-Annex 1 countries) that aren't, is now absurd. As Stern more diplomatically put it, "I don't think the Kyoto architecture…is a tenable architecture for the future." Interestingly, European Climate Change Commissioner Connie Hedegaard seems to agree with the U.S. position, "The division of Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 from the early 1990s no longer reflects reality," said Hedegaard at a press briefing.

Climate Skeptics Celebrate: Representatives from the irrepressible Center for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) held a press conference at which they played an in-your-face video that featured self-described "leader in standing up against global warming alarmism" Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). In the video, Inhofe said that he was sorry that he couldn't be in Durban to celebrate "the complete collapse of the global warming movement." He gleefully added, "The only person in Washington who is talking about global warming is me." By which Inhofe meant that global warming has utterly fallen off the U.S. domestic political agenda. At least until after the 2012 election.

Note: This is the fourth daily dispatch from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban. Tomorrow the search for some kind of "success" at the Durban conference should be becoming desperate. I will be reporting from the conference until the bitter end.

Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. FIRST!

  2. “In reality, everybody loves it?except for Japan, Canada, and Russia, who are now refusing to go on a second date with KP. Of course, the selfish and self-involved U.S. never loved KP.”

    I’m regretting my username more and more.

    1. so are the rest of us…

    2. As a Canadian I think we should up the +2 degrees C to something more like +5 degrees… Wait they want to stop global warming? Fuck that! Go China I say! Burn that coal

      1. Except now they say the coal emissions cause global cooling. It will cool us before it cooks us!

  3. “the Cancun agreements had “decreed a limit of 2?C” on future global temperature increase”

    Shucks, that’s easy.
    Can we sign an agreement decreeing a limit of 30 rainy days a year? I’d like that.

    1. I’ll sign anything that gets me 30 BJ’s a year.

  4. Is this the onion.Their going to decide what the average global tenp will be in a treaty?A planet 4.5 billion years old and they know how warm (or cold if you like)it should ALWAYS be?Tlak about hubris.

    1. I think this more appropraitely falls into the mental retardation category than the hubris categaory.

    2. I’d like a word with you.

  5. U.S. climate envoy Todd Stern keeps making the point that the original division of countries into two groups under the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol, rich ones[…] and poor ones[…] is now absurd.

    “We should now work equally hard!”

    Hardy Kruger, Flight Of The Phoenix, after being caught hogging the meager water supply.

  6. Wow, extreme left-wing environuts hate America? Knock me over with a feather!

  7. This is about wealth transfer. It is making the world ‘fair’. It is Bush’s fault that we did not ratify this treaty. We should sign this and starting sending the money back to everyone we stole it from.

  8. What is it about leftists and authoritarian governments, especially legacy communist regimes? As I have noted before, perhaps their affection is based on the fact that environmentalists are technocratic planners at heart[…]

    Once the promise of job and life security could not be fulfilled (see the collapse of the Soviet Union and the numerous famines in North Korea,) the central planners have been handed the perfect excuse for central planning in a silver platter: To stem the effects of climate change, a lofty goal with set points so elusive that nobody could be able to measure progress or point out mistakes! Nothing could be better for the social control freaks!

    1. what’s ur source for this?

      1. a lofty goal

        Use the threat of violent force to save the sky….

        The absurdity of that notion speaks for itself.

        Sources? Old Mex don’t need no stinkin sources.

        1. course not. my bad

  9. Hellooooooooooooooooo

  10. EC: If you want to visit a real big echo chamber, I can highly recommend the Durban International Conference Center right about now.

  11. Sounds like a very good plan to me dude. I mean like seriously.

    1. Anona-bot, you so crazy!

  12. In punishment I recommend that the US be banned from sending any more delegates to Climate Change Conferences.

    In fact I will go further and recommend that the US be banned from all international conferences.

    That will both cut the US production of carbon gasses and save money for the US taxpayer

    1. You can do better than that! I propose the US be banned from giving monetary aid to all countries.

  13. My God, that’s a stupid fucking picture… perfect for deriding the conference, though.

  14. Wait, seriously, the European guy’s name is “Leinen”? That is awesome. His second in command must be “Stalien”.

  15. Ron what are you even saying in this piece?

    Let me tell you a story from Texas. This year we had the worst drought in recorded history. It was so bad that trees turned brown and dropped their leaves in the middle of summer. This drought will continue throughout 2012 and is expected to have long-term negative impacts on wildlife and agriculture.

    It’s already snowed this year– again– even though it’s only the first week of December. Some areas in Texas got 6″ in one day. It snowed heavily the past several years, something that never happens here.

    What does it mean? We are seeing significantly more “Extreme” weather– extreme heat, extreme drought, extreme cold, extreme snow. I’m not a scientist and certainly not a climate change expert. But I know we had almost 80 consecutive days over 100 this year and a drought so bad that our trees died. And we’re set to get more snow for the 4th year in a row (before that it had been > 20 years since a single major snow storm!).

    I don’t know what the point or message of this comment is. So I guess this has something in common with Ron’s article.

    1. Please, matt. Change your Depends, and get a little historical perspective.

      This drought is not yet anywhere near as bad as the drought of the 1950s, which went on for years.

      The last few winters are not the least bit unusual – I can remember at least half a dozen that were worse, some much worse.

      And yes, I’ve lived in Texas most of my life.

      1. My acquifer still holds some water

    2. Weather isn’t climate unless we move the goal posts and say it is.

      1. Climate is weather over time.

    3. This year we had the worst drought in recorded history.

      Here is what the IPCC says about droughts:

      Overall, multiple studies suggest that current drought and flood regimes are not unusual within the context of last 1000 years [(e.g., Cook et al., 2010; Seager et al., 2008; Graham et al., 2010)].

      When the IPCC disagrees with your climate alarmism you know you are fucked.

      1. 1) Matt is confusing weather with climate.

        2) Matt doesn’t even have the weather data accurate.

        3) I love to see Joshua trotting out IPCC data when it fits his agenda. I wonder why he thinks the proxies for drought and flood are more reliable than those for temperature.*

        *Yes, I know, it is because Climate Audit used this little excerpt in a recent post.

        1. I wonder why he thinks the proxies for drought and flood are more reliable than those for temperature.

          pretty sure Watts nailed this one here:


          Now some will argue that skeptics scoff at tree rings, and we do ? sometimes ? especially ones based on the wrong kind of tree (like the bristlecone) or ones based on small samples (like Yamal), ones with abberant statistical tricks that produce the same curve regardless of the data, and especially ones that truncate data because it doesn’t agree with thermometers placed near airconditioner outlets and in carparks.

          Michael Mann (along with the rest of his hockey stick team) is a crook because he has done crooked things, not because he holds a different view on climate change then I do. And that is why a I do not trust HIS use of proxy data for temperature reconstructions.

          1. Cute, but off topic.

            Again, the contrast is between the IPCC proxies for temperature and the IPCC proxies for drought. You can’t explain a “I don’t trust the source” argument in one case and then a “here’s the authoritative source” argument by pointing to a “I don’t trust the source” argument on another topic.

            1. oops hit submit instead of preview.

              You can’t explain a “I don’t trust the source” argument in one case and then a “here’s the authoritative source” argument in another WHEN IT IS THE EXACT SAME SOURCE, by pointing to a “I don’t trust the source” argument on another topic.

            2. New Mex you are arguing in bad faith.

              I did no go off topic one bit. Mann’s manipulation of the proxies data to produce his fraudulent temperature graph is dead on the problem.

              Also this:


              Ummm quite a few of the proxies Mann used were in fact precipitation proxies and even the collectors of the data said so…and they had no link with temperature before Mann invented one out of thin air.

              When Mann uses proxies of precipitation and incorrectly calls them temperature proxies I damn well can claim they work for drought and floods and not for temperature.

              Of course i never did that anyway…hell i didn’t even claim the IPCC’s conclusions about drought and floods were correct only that they disagree with Matt’s claims…so of course you are not only arguing in bad faith you are punching strawmen as well.

    4. Ron is saying he is an ass clown.

  16. “What is it about leftists and authoritarian governments…?”

    A correspondent for Reason Magazine is asking this question? Really?

    1. We can recalibrate your irony meter at very reasonable rates.

      1. More like facetious meter

  17. ‘Irrepressible’ indeed.

    To judge by CFACT’s banzai beach party video, some folks have been putting steroids on their astroturf.

  18. Oh yeah, the f**king Europeans give lip service to keeping the average global temperature 2 degrees C cooler, they pass resolutions and even laws to reach that goal, then as soon as they’ve done that, they ignore the resolutions and laws.

  19. slouching toward its conclusion


    I totally want to start up the Yeats debate again…

    Is the “beast” Satan or Jesus?

  20. Anthropomorphic Climate Change is the West’s Lysenko moment in the sun. Ignoring “Svensmark Effect,” and running around like insane fanatics calling those that disagree “Deniers!!” (the exclamation points are critical) can only be described as Twilight Zone as life, or the Puritanical Movement of the 21st Century.

    While Reason has a snide disregard for traditional Religious belief systems, I find little of the fanaticism found in ACC or the Statist believers of Marxists, Socialists, Democrats and Republican in theological treatises such as the Summa Theologica. Yet, fanaticism is projected on such traditional Theologians with a very broad brush, but true fanaticism can be more readily be found with much of what is called Secular Humanism or Humanistic Studies in the present and it is ignored.

    While Thomism leads us to the requirement that,”the parrhesia of faith must be matched by the boldness of reason;” we must challenging and questioning with each breath to avoid the trite consensus of the chorus .

    Challenges and questioning the faith and reason of secular humanism has become forbidden it seems. Belief in non-belief has become unquestioned and with little reason. As a result, we get its progeny like ACC.

    It seems the use of secular immunizes it from analysis, critique or reflection. The walk from Secular Humanism to ACC fanaticism seems to be a very short walk.

    Because you have brilliance in one sphere – Astrophysics or Evolutionary Biology – does not mean you will be brilliant in another, such as Theology or a Philosophy. Be cautious and wary where one treads with one’s hubris.

    ACC is a statist centric political life system really no different than Fascism, Socialism or Marxism; all claimed in the the name of the “Greater Good.” The betters need to control and lead the the rabble. Because the Soviets and Maoists called it Scientific Marxism did not make it Science. It is the same with ACC.

    One has to question and be skeptical. Maturity should bring the ability to reflect and challenge one’s precepts and beliefs based on new information and new ways to view the same old things. The traditional Theologians and Philosophers (the separation is really a distinction without reason) were tough and discipline thinkers that reasoned and challenged and worked hard to avoid lazy thinking. Today, we seem to be in an era of lazy thinking with little discipline, questioning and reasoning.

  21. “U.S. Plays the Bad Guy at Climate Negotiations. Again.”
    Ron, do you write this shit with a straight face?

  22. Where’s Tony in all this? Is he on vacation to Indonesia or something?

  23. Still a porn star and now a supermodel, she has the face ? and the body ? of an angel.

    One of the most famous models to come out of Japan in within the last 6 years, Maria Ozawa appears in bukkake films and still made the cover of FHM magazine. These are Impressive credentials for anyone, but not surprising when you see the perfect proportions of this cute little thing.

    A phenomenon on both YouTube and YouPorn – she is yin and yang, the best of two worlds. Sexy and innocent, sweet and arousing, and she loves shopping for shoes.

    Maria Ozawa is a unique Japanese icon and celebrity, in many different ways. And now she appears here, on Hegre-Art.

  24. Whatever happened to the lesbian chick who endorsed group rights for gays? She was a much more entertaining writer than Bailey. Maybe if he went to the conferences in a polar bear suit and interviewed people….

  25. I hope climate change is real. Reason magazine and it’s subhuman readers prove the point that humanity has reached a point where degeneration is so over the top, that euthanasia is the only answer. So better that the planet gets purged of this human scum, even if the rest of life goes along with it.

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