Increasingly, I see international collective efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions quickly and substantially to be pie-in-the-sky.  There are some extremely influential behavioral dimensions that lie at the heart of high-level, large-scale collective actions like those being negotiated in Copenhagen – becoming all the more powerful as we deal with potentially transformative policies.

I believe that the Copenhagen conference will be a deservedly high-profile event that will draw public attention to the political and economic challenges of coordinating on mitigation policies.  The emphatic voice of the physical science, however, will be muffled by what we seem to love best: gamesmanship.  Adding to the problem, the sense of urgency conveyed by the physical science is dampened by the fact that many of the projected negative impacts of climate change will manifest down the road, perhaps more acutely in poor, less politically powerful nations.  Our challenge is a moral one as much as it is a political and economic one.

In Copenhagen, I am looking forward to participating in discussions about the future of adaptation policy.  I sometimes question whether my interest in adaptation was borne largely out of my perceiving the problems on the mitigation side of things to be intractable.  Whatever the case, I love the science of livelihood development and environmental change, and see great hope in the progressive actions of some governments, aid groups, and social entrepreneurs around the world.

I will update on the meetings that I attend.  Until then, I’ll be condemning email hacking to anyone who wants to listen (and probably to those who don’t)!  Dr. Gavin Schmidt should be applauded for how he’s led the calm, courteous, and effective response to the public release of 13 years of private email correspondence among climate scientists.

Written by NICHOLAS PARKER, School of Natural Resources & Environment.

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