Climate COPs

by Dr. Ricky Rood

Well, COP21 is upon us, and of course, I have made it through about half of what I intended to make it through. My original plan was to go through all the climate-change papers I could find with Exxon authors, then write a little about technology, then a list of what I see as changes in the scientific literature that make 2015 different from 2009. But, the day job and other worthwhile diversions leave me, once again, with the burnt out skeleton frames of good intentions that line my path.

So, for the record –

This is a continuation of a series preparing for The Conference of the Parties – 21 (COP21) in Paris. COP21 is the next of the annual meetings that are part of the governing body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

My theme, expressed in the first blog in the series, is how things might be different going into COP21 than they were in 2009, the time of the COP in Copenhagen.

Since the 2009 COP, when I led a University of Michigan delegation to Copenhagen, we have sent a delegation to most of the COPs. This year, we have an enthusiastic delegation with intentions of reporting back. (I hope their success with intent is better than my aforementioned success.) Jeff Masters is sponsoring a couple of the students from our department with the new name of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering (CLaSP). Of course, the murders by terrorists in Paris have added anxiety and cost to the COP. However, there has never been any real discussion that the students and faculty would not attend. I am not going, and the faculty leads are Avik Basu and Paul Edwards. There is an excellent article in the Michigan Record about the delegation. What I will say here is follow the team:

@ClimateBlue on Twitter

FB –

There is an amazing amount of material in the press and on the internet about COP21. Also, there has been some speculation about possible political “dirty tricks” – like the release of the ClimateGate emails. So far, what has been going on in U.S. climate politics has been Lamar Smith’s inquisition. Though I am sure that this causes great grief to my colleagues and friends directly involved, this anti-science effort is receiving both political and pundit push back. Perhaps it is my oft criticized gleeful optimism, but this type of tactic seems increasingly irrelevant. Of course, it could just seem a minor disturbance in our otherwise concerted effort to accelerate our decline into the Dark Ages. (Gee, folks do get out and vote in the next few months.)

There are also articles about how the commitments being made by the countries (e.g., the Parties who are conferencing) are not enough to do the job (for example, Washington Post, and a nice graphic from the New York Times). There is a new diplomatic strategy this COP, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) (from the U.N. Site). The ideas here come from the series of COPs following Copenhagen. They are a strategy to untangle some of the impossible complexity that is natural in a top-down consensus-based approach. It is more bottoms up, with sometimes bilateral agreements such as the U.S.-China climate agreement. If the 20 largest economies figure something out, that would do a lot. Here is a nice discussion of the INDC process from theWorld Resources Institute.

My understanding is that the present INDC contributions produce a few percent real reduction of emissions by 2030. Though this will not avoid dangerous climate change, we have known this to be the case for many years. Hence, no surprise, and I worry that this will be construed as hopelessness or failure. If there is a real reduction by 2030, and we have avoided that political descent to the Dark Ages, this will be an amazing achievement. (Note, once again, that reliance on intentions.)

I will stop. I am on the road, writing on an iPad, and it does cool things like replace bottoms up with ottoman. Do follow our students, and have a good Thanksgiving.


This article originally appeared on Weather Underground.  Read the original here.

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