Hot and Bothered

earth on fireThis title appeared today on the Economist’s report on climate change in red hot capital letters wrapped around a vulnerable-looking Earth.

I think it better sums up the report’s tone than its substance.

While the Economist points to IPCC graphs to back up its scientific facts, it totally lacks the global scientific body’s analytical nuance. Instead the report trots out more than a few blanket statements that overshoot the mark, like:

  •  the Kyoto Protocol “had achieved little and become unworkable; its passing was not much lamented”
  • COP21’s “fragmented, voluntary approach avoids the debate that had paralysed climate talks for years, about whether the burden of cutting greenhouse gases should be carried just by the rich world or spread more widely.”

In doing so, this widely read publication shows its short sightedness.  The first commitment period IMG_0876(2008-12) of the Kyoto Protocol not only achieved its overall mitigation target of 5%, but set up the kind of legal, finance, and governance structures that now surround national and international markets for carbon trading.  The last three years of ADP debate about the “Paris Package” to be adopted at COP21 in a fortnight has anything but avoided debate about CBDR (common but differentiated responsibilities), the core enviro equity principle at play in these 196-party negotiations. Anyone reading the current draft negotiation text or reading the global headlines on adaptation and finance pledges pre-COP21 can see this fact.

To be fair, the Economist takes some provocative positions that merit consideration and debate, like:

• “Paying for yet more wind turbines and solar panels is less wise than paying for research into the technologies that will replace them.”
• Mankind “will have to adapt, in part by growing crops that can tolerate heat and extreme weather, in part by abandoning the worst-affected places.”
• “More research is required on deliberately engineering the Earth’s atmosphere in order to cool the planet.”

But it would foster more serious attention to them with less cheek – and less quoting of climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg of the “Copenhagen Consensus Centre.”