Global Warming Conferences Add to Global Warming
Headline of the Day honors go to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for “More than 10,000 jet into Bali for global warming conference,” their take on an AP story by Robin McDowell. My expectations were that it was an amusing accident but it reflects the author’s intent nicely.
Never before have so many people converged to try to save the planet from global warming, with more than 10,000 jetting into this Indonesian resort island, from government ministers to Nobel laureates to drought-stricken farmers. But critics say they are contributing to the very problem they aim to solve. “Nobody denies this is an important event, but huge numbers of people are going, and their emissions are probably going to be greater than a small African country,” said Chris Goodall, author of the book “How to Live a Low-Carbon Life.”
Interest in climate change is at an all-time high after former Vice President Al Gore and a team of U.N. scientists won the Nobel Peace Prize for highlighting the dangers of rising temperatures, melting polar ice, worsening droughts and floods, and lengthening heat waves. Two big climate conferences have been held in less than a month, both in idyllic, far-flung holiday destinations — first Valencia, Spain, and now Bali. They were preceded by dozens of smaller gatherings. In Bangkok, Paris, Vienna, Washington, New York and Sydney, in Rio de Janeiro, Anchorage, Helsinki and the Indian Ocean island of Kurumba.
The pace is only expected to pick up, prompting some to ask if the issue is creating a “cure” industry as various groups claim a stake in efforts to curb global warming.
The U.N. estimates 47,000 tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants will be pumped into the atmosphere during the 12-day conference in Bali, mostly from plane flights but also from waste and electricity used by hotel air conditioners. If correct, Goodall said, that is equivalent to what a Western city of 1.5 million people, such as Marseilles, France, would emit in a day. But he believes the real figure will be twice that, more like 100,000 tons, close to what the African country of Chad churns out in a year.
There’s a certain irony here. Still, the rebuttal is not unreasonable:
No, says Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Climate Change Conference. “Wherever you held it, people would still have to travel to get there,” he said. “The question is, perhaps: Do you need to do it at all? My answer to that is yes.”
“If you don’t put the U.S., the big developing countries, the European Union around the table to craft a solution together, nothing will happen and then the prophecy of scientists in terms of rising emissions and its consequences will become a reality,” de Boer said.
Of course, one of the more obvious ways to decrease emissions without emulating Chad’s standard of living is the substitution of technologies such as videoconferencing for real-space meetings. It’s not entirely clear why these people couldn’t do that.
Image source: First Friday via Google Images.
UPDATE: Mark Leon Goldberg has some substantive thoughts on the Bali summit itself, particularly how one measures success in such endeavors.