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.

Global Warming Conferences Add to Global Warming Al Gore Plane Cartoon

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    Even if face to face was necessary (admittedly very debatable), then I would be interested in what the distribution of people attending would be. I suspect that holding the conference in Europe or the US would have at least halved the carbon foot print.

    As Glenn Reynolds put it, “I’ll start believing their is a crisis when they start acting like it is a crisis”.

  2. Tano says:

    Because the formal session, which might be videoconferenced, are not the places where real business is done. Real people, real players, sitting down for a drink, or taking a stroll together and quietly getting past the posturing and talking points, and trying to find common ground – that is how, in the real world, the ball gets moved. That should be obvious.

    Why would anyone think the carbon footprint would be lesser if the conference were held in a developed nation?

  3. John Ryan says:

    The United States delegation numbered 160 Every Republican in D.C. wanted the 2 week all expense paid trip to Bali !!

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    This entire non-issue attempted “gotcha!” reflects a genuine lack of a meeting of minds. The area of disconnect is in individual action vs. collective and institutional action. The attendees at this conference, not particularly interested in individual action, don’t see any hypocrisy whatever in their individual actions resulting in more carbon output. Anarcho-capitalists and liberatarians, seeing only the individual actions, cry “Foul!”

    The attendees at this conference are acting as though it were important. But they see the proper course of action as via collective and institutional action.

  5. jay k. says:

    it’s funny that the far right is willing to scarifice constitutional rights, lose 4000 soldiers, and spend over two trillion dollars because saddam might someday give a nuclear bomb he is incapable of having to a terrorist he has no operative relationship with. but when it comes to energy policy and stopping our dependence on middle-eastern oil and protecting the environment for our descendants, you don’t consider it a serious issue.

  6. clovis says:

    Tano says:
    Real people, real players, sitting down for a drink, or taking a stroll together and quietly getting past the posturing and talking points, and trying to find common ground – that is how, in the real world, the ball gets moved.

    It’s also how graft survives.

    Why Bali? Might as well ask why all conventions end up in Vegas or Orlando. Nothing like a destination conference to make people feel important. Had this been held in a developed country the likelihood is that there would have been representatives on the ground and no excuse for a tropical vacation.

  7. Hal says:

    I guess we could make the same analogy about Iraq. It was supposed to be a liberal democracy that would start the whole dominoes falling all over middle east, ushering in a new world order of ponies and leprachauns.

    Instead, we ended up with a massively corrupt political system filled with death squads and unspeakable torture that will (best case) result in a theocracy that’s aligned with our most hated of enemies the nuclear Iran.

    Guess the irony of the Global Warming conf causing Global Warming is more funny than a war to prevent terrorist and theocracy causing more terrorism and theocracy.

  8. Angryflower says:

    “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.”

    I think this is an excellent suggestion and would like to commend the author for their understanding of the problems we face today due to global climate change. I look forward to reading many more helpful tips on how I can help the environment; clearly something important to the author of this article.

  9. Michael says:

    Might as well ask why all conventions end up in Vegas or Orlando.

    Because these cities have convention centers large enough to hold the numerous people attending while still being able to effectively divide them into the numerous simultaneous meetings that will be held, and airports that can accomodate non-stop and international flights without having an unreasonable commute. If it was just so the delegates could visit Disney, they would be held in Kissimmee not Orlando.

  10. Michael says:

    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.

    Videoconferencing is ok for 2 or 3 simultanous feeds, but anything more than that and your internet connection will not be able to handle it. It is not currently possible for dozens or hundreds of simultaneous video streams to be sent to any one location. You would have to have a network capacity and last-time connectivity of a cable company to aggregate that many realtime feeds to that many realtime consumers.

  11. Michael says:

    last-time should be last-mile.

  12. M1EK says:

    “It’s not entirely clear why these people couldn’t do that.”

    Oh, come on. That’s the most disingenuous load of crap I’ve seen you write in quite some time. How many times do you get serious businessmen to agree to videoconference at such a large scale? Never, that’s how often. It doesn’t scale, and people at that level of ‘management’ don’t really know how to communicate in any way other than face-to-face anyways.

  13. MarkT says:

    Should we shut down all the researchers looking into solar and hydrogen power?

    After all, they work at companies that have lights, A/C, heating, computers, etc.

  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    Add to? Those who attend are global warming.

    Gee why don’t they just get on their yachts turn off the engines and sail to one of the Islands they own to have it, sh-t half of these gimps could have their slaves(i.e. mindless kook followers) row them there.

  15. Bali Villas says:

    Haha I am all with you.. They don’t do videoconference maybe because they thought that they might loose a free trip to Bali… 🙂

  16. Todd Judge says:

    This topic is not Iraq, not Republicans, etc etc etc. It is about taxpayers around the world forced to send politicians (nobody asked me if they could use my money to go there. Did they ask you?) to the farthest place from any reasonable central meeting location, which happens to be a holiday destination via jet planes, while staying in air conditioned hotels for a meeting about saving fuel and limiting carbon emissions. Pretty cut and dried. Pretty insane.

    All they had to do was get out a map and put pins identifying where participants would come from. They could find something a tad more centrally located.

    There are so many less consumptive, less polluting, less expensive options. Write your government and let them know how idiotic this is. Writing blogs is fun and easy, but, like this entry, it won’t solve anything. Hit ’em in the voting booth and let them know why. That’s all they care about.

  17. Michael says:

    All they had to do was get out a map and put pins identifying where participants would come from. They could find something a tad more centrally located.

    Such as?