Monday, November 30, 2009

We Are Doomed

Kenneth Anderson asks a question: How Are the Copenhagen Talks Supposed To Overcome Collective Action Problems

Well, I do not understand how this Copenhagen conference manages to overcome the collective action failure problems that have been encountered in Kyoto and every other exercise in this area. Extremely diffuse damage from a multitude of players, now and into the future; diffuse set of actors who must act in a coordinated way; individual states being tasked to take sacrificial actions that in the short and medium term at least are bad for their individual economies and their voting citizens; consistent record of failures not just in the nature of the promises made, but in their non-fulfillment even as they stand ... on what grounds does anyone plausibly think that Copenhagen might produce a different outcome?

I’m not asking about climate science here, I’m asking about collective action problems in international law and policy. How is this exercise different from previous failures? Even if new states are persuaded to say yes on paper, on what grounds does anyone think that these commitments will be fulfilled this time, particularly given the record of Kyoto? The article linked here from the AP talks about “momentum building” and “legally binding agreements.” What does that mean and how? Legally binding to prevent defection down the road, how? This is not an attempt to get snarky, but complete puzzlement on my part. How is this different from earlier attempts?

Anderson notes that one of the concrete goals of the Copenhagen talks is the creation of a slush fund for wealthy nations to pay undeveloped/developing nations to pay them to not develop. Thank you for not smoking!

This is really what lies beneath all of the climate change hype; no one cares about the planet, they just want to get paid based on a lot of very flakey assumptions believed chiefly by the liberal arts majors and law school graduates who comprise the western political class. Not only is the science questionable, it's not even clear whether any of the proposed trillion dollar solutions will work. If we really are facing planet-wide climate Armageddon, it's hard to believe that the pitiful efforts proposed so far - buying Priuses, changing lightbulbs, banning certainh types of TV screens, etc - will do any good. I don't believe in AGW/Climate change, but if it is indeed happening, we are already doomed.

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