Monday, November 29, 2010

UK climate change secretary -- halfway to Hartwell?

Guest post by Mike Hulme

The UK energy and climate change secretary Chris Huhne was on national radio this morning speaking about Cancun etc. ...

An interesting mixture.  He could not bring himself to ditch the rhetoric of an (urgent) all-embracing legally-binding climate change UN agreement, and yet when pushed he conceded – de facto - much of the Hartwell thinking: small incremental initial steps, clean energy innovation, tackling issues on their own terms rather than as ones stitched into the fabric of climate change, etc.  It’s as if he – and others – are now trying to speak the new language, but deeply frightened to let go of the perceived safety of an outdated orthodoxy.


Roddy said...

Mike Hulme - do you know David MacKay, Huhne's Energy Adviser (I think that's his title), and author of 'Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air'?

I suspect that Huhne may have had to face more reality than he had to when the Lib Dems were in permanent righteous opposition.

Anonymous said...
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Roddy said...

Anonymous, I've posted on that very subject (well, connected anyway) at Bishop Hill today.

ingno said...

But the "Harwell thinking" are preoccupied with the question how to deal politically with the fact of AGW. But the scientific question - is there any ground for the IPCC alarmistic predictions at all? - is still an open question. Or is it not?

_Flin_ said...

@ingno: It's not. Personal viewpoint, others might disagree. Questions about the basics are mainly about the exact climate sensitivity, meaning how big specific feedbacks are.

And then, of course, to the question, what the consequence of a probable change in temperatures is. Like sea-level, icemelt, biological impacts, etc.

Which leads to economic estimates about damages and things like adaption/mitigation.

The "mankind burns fuel => CO2 => warming" is not really an issue, at least not for science. The fineprint is.

Concerning the interview: While I really welcome every step towards a sustainable use of resources and less CO2 emissions, I wonder what will happen if major players just ignore the topic and become something like Climate Cayman Islands.

Won't the big polluters and extremely energy consuming industries just settle there and continue business as usual?

@ReinerGrundmann said...

There is a good article in the Wall Street Journal by Nordhaus and Shellenberger.
They argue that while we should pursue cleaner and cheaper energy provision, "until clean energy becomes much less costly, there are relatively cheap fixes we can make to curb emissions, such as closing the most inefficient coal plants. And we should change how we look at climate-related aid to developing nations, focusing on better roads, housing, sewage and electrical systems."
The whole article is available here

ingno said...

So, the scientific question is over, settled, finito. Now we only should discuss the politics. What a pity!

Werner Krauss said...

The "global" is a strange animal. Most of us easily accept it when it is called "science" as in "it is scientific evidence that global warming is here". But the UN is not science, and they do not produce scientific results. What else is it they do? How to imagine something like a common "globe" and "humanity" without such reunions? The G20 is pretty global, but not completely global. The global needs something common to come into existence.
Maybe this sounds esoteric, but the symbolic is indispensable. When we want to save the climate, or humanity from possible negative effects of climate change, we need an idea of a common world with a common population. This imagery is still under construction, I guess. It is a necessary work in progress. I agree that binding UN commitments are maybe counter productive in terms of emission reduction and decarbonization. But the Kyoto treaty always was two-sided: it was about emission reduction (and failed), and it was of high symbolic value (and succeeded).

@ReinerGrundmann said...

the symbolic is now also failing as Japan pulls out. The country that hosted Kyoto sees no longer any meaning in a protocol that only would regulate less than 30% of emissions.

Werner Krauss said...

Reiner, I mean in retrospect, only. Kyoto was a starting point for many to become active in the energy saving business, even US American cities, for example. Kyoto was important in putting climate change on the political agenda - before, it was more of an activist or NGO thing. But I do agree - now it's all history.