Why Copenhagen will fail and why that doesn’t matter


There will probably be some kind of agreement at Copenhagen. It’s hard to imagine all those world leaders walking away without one. However I’m not spending anytime at all wondering what the result will be. Why? Because it just doesn’t matter.

You see we’re not ready to fix climate change, not yet. We have not accepted the scale of the problem. Nor have we established the political conditions necessary to fix the problem when we do. However Copenhagen does signify the shift between two eras and if you watch carefully you can see the new world emerging. That is the interesting thing happening at Copenhagen.

But before I move on to that, let me go back, because most of you are probably stuck on my statement that the result at Copenhagen doesn’t matter. Isn’t this the most important meeting in history? Surely failure here will set us back a decade? Surely having a global agreement of any type would be an important first step? No, no and no. Here’s why.

Firstly, it was always going to be a failure because the pass mark set in this important test for civilisation is actually at a level that indicates failure. The correct pass mark is simple. We need to deliver a safe climate; a climate in which we can have a reasonable chance of running an economy that can feed, house and clothe 7 – 9 billion people. As my favourite climate strategist Winston Churchill said:

It is no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”

The science is very straightforward on what is necessary. The 450ppm CO2 concentration limit, which is the best possible result Copenhagen is aiming for, would give us a 50% chance of not passing 2 degrees of warming. Even reaching 2 degrees would almost certainly see the loss of the Great Barrier Reef, the melting of most of the world’s sea-ice, a number of island countries ceasing to exist and shifts in climate and water supplies that will lead to war, refugees and global food crises. This is all considered to be relatively manageable! The logic of that conclusion aside, what we also know is that going beyond 2 degrees takes us into system breakdown territory and quite possibility into unmanageable consequences. We then risk civilisation’s collapse.

So the best we can possibly hope for in Copenhagen is a target of 450ppm, which gives us a 50% chance of widespread global ecological damage, geopolitical instability and massive human suffering – that would be the good result under that plan. The other 50% chance is of a civilisation-threatening crisis. So 450ppm is failure, pure and simple. And besides the likelihood of a strong global agreement to a 450ppm target is miniscule anyway. We’re not even ready for that level of failure.

Nevertheless, Copenhagen is fascinating because all the ingredients for change are emerging and can be clearly observed. As I argued in the One Degree War paper I wrote with Jorgen Randers, we will soon wake up to what is needed and get to work. Here’s my top 4 trends we’re seeing in Copenhagen that tell us where we’ll go when we are ready.

No one is in charge. The US no longer rules the world. China knows it and Obama knows it. While it remains the world’s dominant military power, you can’t shoot CO2 emissions, making that power useless against this problem. China is on the rise and this week a China/US deal is the likely first step if we’re to have any deal at all.  That however is just the beginning of a massive geopolitical power shift, because China and the US are only 50% of global emissions. We are moving to a world we’re we act together or go down together. There is no alternative that will work and that is a seriously transformational and beneficial shift.

Angry Islanders. Like a scene from the 1976 movie Network, a group of island states is yelling at the world “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more”. They’ve woken up to the reality their countries are literally underwater at around 450ppm. They are angry, articulate and thanks to the modern connected world we’re going to hear a lot more from them. This is the world’s conscience and they’re telling us loud and clear “your cars and coal are killing my country.” It’s like an invisible army slowing destroying them, every building, every farm, every business. The significance here is not the islanders but the idea : those who caused the pollution will be held to account by the victims of it. This means global justice is firmly on the table.

The science won, the sceptics lost. Despite the media’s fascination with the scientific debate no-one with any power or sense is questioning the science any more. In the end facts rule and that’s why the Angry Islanders are saying 350ppm is the right target. We should now completely ignore the sceptics and let them whip themselves into a frenzy of self-delusion as they fade into being crazy old men (yes men, how many prominent women sceptics have you heard from?)

A dot com boom on steroids with military support. Winning or losing is a choice and China is now clearly winning the green energy race. The USA is shifting on climate because they know they’re losing and they hate that. India is chasing China’s tail and South Korea and many others are closing in. This will be an exciting time as governments increasingly panic about the targets they have agreed to and act to mobilise the market like never before. HSBC says this will be a $2 trillion per annum market by 2020.

So whether we get a political agreement in Copenhagen or not just doesn’t matter. But if you want to see the future then take good look for a taste of what’s to come. You see we will, certainly and inevitably, wake up. Not yet, but soon. Then the fun really begins.

42 thoughts on “Why Copenhagen will fail and why that doesn’t matter

  1. Thank you Paul. Clear and real! I am so on board with this, as you know. Until we fully accept what is so, nothing can really change. And yes, let the fun begin.
    Love Lornaxx

  2. Jack Gilding

    Paul. Thanks for this, thought provoking as ever. While you may well be right in the sense that any agreement by governments by this Friday is not going to solve the problem, I think it important not to treat the event as irrelevant. We should use every opportunity the meeting and those organising around it presents to send a clear message to our ‘leaders’ that they need to do a lot more, which is why I just signed the petition at

  3. Ahhh Paul,
    I hear your frustration and reliance on the science that correctly paints this picture of gloom. And while I see the ’cause countries’ need to be accountable, they are also companies run by people, individuals who live in many different communities. But many are getting in touch with their conscious mind, rather than just their temporal thinking. This leads to a greater connection with our heart – so that the mind which is only a receiver of energy (information) is now beginning to have a partner – the originator of ‘the true way it is’ – our heart. Rather than dismissing this as some spiritual hocus pocus, look at the energy shift from green to sustainable, from linear to full cycle capitalism, from profit being the only worthwhile bottom line to the triple bottom line etc. And in Copenhagen itself we have world leaders saying it’s time to stop pointing the finger and start working on solution that benefit all. There is amongst it all a rise in ‘heart’ not just mind speak.
    And this I feel is emerging across the planet – where energetically the will of the heart is on the rise and the way we communicate is responding – it crosses religion, national borders and culture so that in-truth the way we are and
    the way we act has no separation. I would present this change, this movement in peoples consciousness, is the non scientific addition to the climate change equation that will set a new course of greater global awareness of who we are and what we’re doing. And… take responsibility for our actions so that they benefit another, instead of just thinking about ‘me’.
    Too idealistic? Not really, it is already happening and peoples values will continue to change as we have seen the old ways of living are no longer sustainable and that they have given us what? Better lives, better health, better living, better housing? For some, but there is a more spherical view to our life emerging that encompasses not only wealth but joy, harmony, stillness and….love, as important to our quality of life. If we could imagine for a moment, what the energy shift would be globally, without anger, would it make a difference? Everything is energy and even science can measure the heat emitting from a person when they are angry or frustrated – it is greater than when they are joyful for instance – sure we need to look at the way we live and I believe this includes each one of us taking responsibility – if we don’t support that which hurts us, it will disappear at best, reduce at worst.

    By being more in rhythm with ourselves we can contribute to a greater oneness of purpose in everything we do.

    Best to you,


  4. Warren Bolton

    Don’t be overly confident that we will overcome. There is absolutely nothing in the genes of humans expressed through our behaviour over the previous millions of years to support such confidence. While our species has the capacity to produce brilliant specimens, our history shows that as a group we always enforce mediocrity, and our capacity to endure as a species has been entirely delivered at the hands of the self-interest gene segment.

    The only speculation, that is left for entertainment is how long, 50,100 200, somewhere in that range

  5. One positive coming out of Copenhagen is that at least the leaders of the world’s nations will hopefully be up to speed on the issues and the urgency, even if the required action has not yet been undertaken. Consider it a crash course on the climate change issue for our political leaders.

    That said, only when people realise that we can not leave our destiny up to our leaders will we be on the right path. “When the people lead, the leaders have to follow” – Ben Harper.

  6. Rodolphe

    Gday Paul

    I fully agree with what you are writing. Many people have the same vision, including here in France. So it is quite frightening that such a huge “mountain size” international meeting would deliver only a “mouse” eg under necessary level outcomes.
    When will the world leaders organize again such a big meeting to declare war to climate change, provided we cannot afford a climatic pearl harbour?

  7. Chris

    I agree with your main point however Copenhagen is a process (not just an outcome or lack of) that is necessary prequel to the ‘2018’ solution scenario you write about or indeed any other hopeful scenario. By reflecting the new geo political reality it makes these changes real and forms the next given in the next negotiation. The conference is a mirror in which we see ourselves globally all at once and learn by failure and lies that paradoxically the current process of deceit and obfuscation is dead. That realization plus as you say the evermounting evidence of climate change is what will compell change in 2018 or whenever (hopefully sooner). As such whatever the outcome Copenhagen is an important prelude to healing I think..

  8. Wilf


    Although the mutuality of the climate conundrum is now starting to sink into the frontal lobes of the big powerbrokers, there still appears to be little recognition of the deep interconnectedness, scale, momentum and acceleration of the crises unfolding.

    In other safety critical systems where the probability of catastrophic failure is low but the consequences are dire(aviation, nuclear power generation etc) we would be listening to the experts whose entire careers have been focused on understanding limits, thresholds, tipping points, sub-system interactions etc and taking swift and decisive action…ground the fleet, power down the reactor! In such environments we design in serious safety margins. Pity we aren’t taking the same approach with our planetary systems! Is it OK to take the “She’ll be right – we’ll sort it all out later” approach?

    It still has me puzzled why most people can’t see our planetary operating conditions as a safety critical system and recognise the need to act? I imagine that almost every leader would have flown in their presidential jet to Copenhagen. Would they have ever considerd the complex technical and operational safety systems that underpin air travel.? No! It is taken for granted…just like our planetary support systems it seems.



  9. Dear Paul,


    When you say: “I have been finding myself strangely disconnected from all the focus on Copenhagen”, that sounds like it could be approaching the ‘witness’ state that precedes meditation.

    It’s a space that can take you out of what Jungians call the various ‘selves’ that normally run our lives, into a state of awareness where we can watch the reality of what’s happening from way above, without having to be involved in it.

    That’s exactly what we all need to do before we will be ready to actually face what has to be done to deal with this crisis.

    With a bit of luck, what you’ve written here may help to induct your readers also into that state of consciousness and from that place, start their process.

    I tend to agree with you that it doesn’t matter what happens at COP15. The world is approaching this issue by assembling teams of negotiators. They forget that we can’t negotiate with ‘Mother Nature’.

    It’s not about ‘doing a deal’. But that’s all that negotiators know how to do.

    But neither will we solve this issue with teams of meditators, nor priests from faith based religions either – although they too have a role.

    What we need is a smallish team of wise leaders, who understand and accept the science and can bridge the gap between consciousness and the real politik.

    Together, they’ll need to work out an approach in principle that we can all live with – and be allowed to do that work on their own, without their ‘minders’ involvement.

    And we’ll just have to see if the world has provided us with enough of such people right now to do the job and, if they do, whether enough of the rest of us have reached a state of consciousness where we can accept what we then have to do.

    Love your letters, they each help to lift us on to the next level in this process.

    All the best ……../Chris

  10. Geez mate! You’re lucky!..I’m so bluddy over this I can’t even bring myself to write anything at all. It’s just so embarrassing. Nearly as embarrassing as Rockets…:-P

    I have to tell you though…I liked your intro email better ;-P. Not in the sense of the crafting of your article, which is as always excellent, but in terms of sayin’ it how it is for you. I can as a blogger, relate to the nagging of one’s inner editor and diplomat as they jostle for air-time, often resulting in a spot of editorial Photoshopping to round off the sharp edges…so I’ll say it for both of us mate: I just really don’t care!…about what comes out of Copenhagen. Cue the Alien Invasion…maybe that’ll be enough to end the ‘who pays for what’ crap!

    That said, if I didn’t care deeply about people and the world, I wouldn’t be so bluddy angry, ashamed and bored.

    What really scares me about it is that so many people are still buying into the current mind-set, paradigm/s, political processes, economic rationales etc, etc, ad nauseum….Geez, even Einstein has been quoted as saying “Problems can’t be solved within the mind-set that created them “. Oh! I forgot, we pay scientists to create jobs, not to listen to what they learn, right? :-)

    I can remember some years ago when I was studying toward one of my Permaculture Design Consultancy thingies, the one with a focus on Designing for Catastrophe Prevention; there was this staggering statistic that I read on the then UN Disaster website (I can’t find a reference for it at the moment so I’m working from memory). It referred to a global data-set regarding deaths in disasters in the ‘civilised’ parts of the world over a 50 year period up until about 1990. Somewhere in the vicinity of 85% of disaster fatalities were people who were waiting to be rescued.

    What this said to me was that a vast majority of people had become so dependent on ‘institutions’, that they wouldn’t walk out their front doors to save themselves. My mentor in my Permaculture Studies was an ex-Fireman…he concurred with this observation from his own experience. Copenhagen for me appears to be a very thick lens that is only magnifying this unfortunate observation.

    I’ve been bangin’ on here about the shapes of thoughts and mindsets and stuff, obviously in some vain hope that preaching to the converted is going to achieve something beyond allowing me to feel that I’m at least still hanging on to some semblance of sanity (Don’t answer that one please mate…it’s a pretty thin thread ;-)

    Anyway, I reckon if nothing else the religions should be pretty happy. Copenhagen has got to be unassailable evidence for the existence of God…because it’s a bluddy miracle we’ve managed to do what we’ve done and last this long.

    All of that said, I have no doubt at all that humanity will survive pretty much anything…the question is, will it be by design or by accident?

    I’m with you in hoping that it’s by design…anything else is just giving up…and I’m an old Midnight Oil fan…I just can’t do that :-)

    Thanks for the fresh air mate :-)

    Stephen G

    PS Random thoughts of late. In policy and official documentation, I reckon we could ditch the term ‘outcomes’ and use ‘consequences’. We could replace ‘projects’ with ‘ideas’ (i.e. Idea Management as opposed to the long worn out and industrialised Project Management).

    And I reckon Rob Hopkins (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/rob_hopkins_transition_to_a_world_without_oil.html), is right. The term ‘Sustainability’ is about as worn out as ‘Project Management’ and ‘Outcomes’. It could be well replaced by ‘Resilience’.

    And we might consider Willie Smits (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/willie_smits_restores_a_rainforest.html), use of the term ‘Recipe’ instead of ‘Design’…at least in some applications.

  11. Dear Sir

    Our Chairman, DK Matai, has read your piece and would like to get in touch in regard to the ATCA 5000. We would like to circulate your piece to the distinguished group.

    ATCA is a philanthropic expert initiative founded in 2001 to resolve complex global challenges through collective Socratic dialogue and joint executive action to build a wisdom based global economy. Adhering to the doctrine of non-violence, ATCA addresses asymmetric threats and social opportunities arising from climate chaos and the environment; radical poverty and microfinance; geo-politics and energy; organised crime & extremism; advanced technologies — bio, info, nano, robo & AI; demographic skews and resource shortages; pandemics; financial systems and systemic risk; as well as transhumanism and ethics. Present membership of ATCA is by invitation only and has over 5,000 distinguished members from over 120 countries: including 1,000 Parliamentarians; 1,500 Chairmen and CEOs of corporations; 1,000 Heads of NGOs; 750 Directors at Academic Centres of Excellence; 500 Inventors and Original thinkers; as well as 250 Editors-in-Chief of major media.

    Best wishes


    Joanna Pond
    Chairman’s Office

  12. Your 1 degree warplan posits some unknown trigger for the wake-up. I have a hunch it may be in the realm of online communications/e-democracy. Once enough of us are connected with a sufficient degree of trust, the political elite become (almost) irrelevant. We decide it’s time to change, they do what we say.

  13. Sean Kidney

    I generally agree – the agreement will not be anywhere near enough, although it will give some useful signals for recalcitrant business, especially in the US and China – i.e. you seriously have to plan for carbon prices now.

    The Stockholm Environment Institute briefing this week was a pretty chilling reminder about how 2° is just too high a target, it actually needs to 1° and 350ppm. (At least Tuvalu got this on the media agenda.)

    Even if we did get a serious deal, the time lag for impacts to be felt would mean we’d miss our short window to get emissions down. My view is our best short term hope is to turn mitigation into a profit-feeding trough and hope we can raise enough private debt because of the money to be made over the long term, with a carbon price a nice bonus if and when it happens. I do like your war paper a lot, but think that motivational force is 5-8 years off, by which time it may be too late.

    But I disagree with you on one thing: whatever the Agreement, the conference marks the beginning of a new global discourse of cooperation. The extent to which nations (numbers of Heads of State) are coming together to discuss something hard and real in the full glare of galvanising global civil society activism starts us on a road. COPs will begin to be the new global forum of import, eclipsing the WTO and the G20 (which will now be seen merely as the big nations caucusing ahead of COPs). COP15 may not give us an Agreement that matters that much, but I do think it will provide the mechanism for us to work through the ghastly challenges we’re going to face with environmental crisis, migration of people’s, and probably wars.

    On your other interesting points:

    – The US is no longer in charge. The financial crisis was the thing that sorted this out. We will now see a quick transition to a different reserve currency for the world – my pick is Special Drawing Rights (renamed we hope!) – with profound implications for the US’s ability to finance military adventurism in the world.

    – I do like your point about the science having won. I think I agree; perhaps we are seeing the dying phases of pre-Enlightenment anti-intellectualism as a force in the world. That will mean fewer anti-intellectual leaders like Bush and Howard … I hope.

    – I also agree that the Green Energy race will be the next boom – for those countries choosing to participate (and pity those that don’t). It will, eventually, see energy prices drop substantially from where they are now, kicking off further booms. If we can use it to also push through a new generation of energy related productivity enhancements, then it will prove a lasting step-up in world economic wealth (technology productivity gains being the primary driver, after cheap energy, of wealth). As long as that wealth can be enjoyed in ways that don’t involve cannibalising resources and dirtying our nest, I reckon we have a good chance.

  14. Very nice piece, Paul.

    I think of the emergence you talk about as our transition into what I’ve been calling the Metricene (my term), the time that follows Crutzen’s Anthropocene. Anthropocene = time period when we’re affecting the environment. Metricene = time period when our past actions have already altered the environment so much that we have no choice but to (attempt to) control it explicitly.

    The increasing awareness that we’ve created one heck of a mess, and what that in turn implies for our future actions, is coming in stages and happening slower than needed. There are currently two gaps we have to deal with: The first is the gap between what the environment is doing in response to this huge and (by geological time frames) sudden injection of CO2 and what scientists know. This is why we’re seeing so many “X is happening quicker than we thought” stories over the last few years; we’re still behind the curve on the basic science. (That’s in no way meant to be a criticism of climate scientists. It’s simply an observation that our emissions outpaced scientific progress.)

    The second gap is between what scientists and even dedicated amateurs know about what’s going on and what (most) politicians and (nearly all) mainstream consumers and voters know. We still live in a world, at least here in the US, where people think that “going green” by changing their light bulbs and driving a hybrid car are enough to “save the planet”, or at least meet their obligation to “do something”. That mind set will have to change dramatically if voters are to support the needed public policy changes.

  15. I like the angle but I I think it does matter a lot what happens in Copenhagen. For the developing countries that are right now experiencing the physical impact of climate change, they want to know that the world is capable of doing something effective. For business, a strong political statement from Copenhagen, while not the legally binding treaty that gives optimum certainty, will give a strong investment signal. (Business groups articulated this very clearly at the World Business Council of Sustainabel Development meeting.)

    In the words of Gordon Brown, ‘if we can’t get an agreement here people will think we are not capable of getting an agreement at all’.

    It is tempting to feel disillusioned with and dismissive of the process which really seems far too unwieldy to cut through the complexity. But failure at Copenhagen will entrench a feeling of hoplessness; a wasted emotion that will only waste more time that we don’t have.

    People have accepted the reality of climate change and they know what needs to be done. The really hard bit now, and what’s holding things up, is countries’ divergent views about the compromises needed to equitably share the pain (costs imposed on economies by emission reduction regulation) and the gain (investment in the new green economy). If the negotiators can’t deliver this compromise then its going to be up to the world leaders who are very aware that they have a considerable amount of capital tied up in this issue and don’t want to go home empty handed.

  16. Paul, thanks for writing on this. My colleagues and I at the Breakthrough Institute recently wrote a large report on the clean energy race called “Rising Tigers, Sleeping Giant,” which is the first to comprehensively benchmark the competitive positions of the United States and key Asian challengers:


    We find that if the United States hopes to compete for new clean energy industries, it must close the widening gap between government investments in the United States and Asia’s clean tech tigers and provide more robust support for U.S. clean tech research and innovation, manufacturing, and domestic market demand. Overall, it seems to me that the gathering clean energy race has the potential to motivate more clean-tech investment than just about any other factor in the world.

    Teryn Norris
    Senior Advisor, Breakthrough Institute

  17. Paul
    Have been waiting for your reality report to come in and thought it an extraordinary piece of writing, though depressing. Your view that there is an emerging force for real change is hopeful – how it can come together in the time needed is a mystery. I agree that the mega-drama is about to begin.

  18. Thoughtful as usual, Paul. I certainly agree that Copenhagen’s significance has been over-hyped. There is a surreal aspect to the meeting — almost as if some want to be able to say they were there on the day appocalypse was sealed. But I disagree with the notion that the meeting doesn’t matter, and that this meeting (and those attached to it to sort out the all-important detail) can’t set us back another decade. To my mind, that is the great risk here — that the targets and timetables, policy and financial infrastructure decided here will indeed set us back many more years. Once locked in–especially a carbon market full of loopholes, it will be very difficult to unravel. So, yes, there is no prospect that Copenhagen will take us in the right direction because as you say it’s definition of success is failure, but no, it does matter because it can take us further in the wrong direction and leave some whopping big obstacles in the path back. Cheers, Guy P.

  19. James

    Hi Paul,

    We need a 12 step program or something to that effect. Copenhagen is a good representation of where the world is at in 2009 regarding action to reduce the effects of anthropogenic climate change. Where is it at? For the most part in denial of the issue, still gorging on a post war banquet of goods mostly now bought on credit, while trying to enforce the old North-South system of exclusivity to the benefits of the world economy. Remember there are still large cohorts of market purists for whom the idea of ‘trickle down’ is in no way diminished by their recent government bail-outs.

    The reality of Copenhagen is that it is a un-reality. The venue has become a fortress actively excluding citizens. The world leaders of the North and China over the next couple of days will do there best to avoid any solutions that may be hard to sell in their domestic territory. They will inevitably produce some sort of document; a few will endorse it with grand speeches upholding the dignity of man and our ability to transcend and adapt. This will not amount to solutions on the ground. It will not stop island nations from needing to invest in aircraft carriers or cruising yachts! It will not stop the water or temperatures from rising.

    So like any good substance abuse group part of the world needs to accept addiction as a prerequisite for any form of action to enable substantial long term benefits to occur. Can we do this fast enough to minimise some of the negative effects of our maximisation of resource gluttony? Maybe my son will be able to provide an answer, though I worry that for him choices will be constrained by our lack of action now. And who knows what world his offspring will inhabit and what actions will be permitted in their future.

    Maybe through global inaction there will be developed the precursors for citizen action?

  20. Kimberley

    Thanks Paul,

    Until we see 20,000 santas marching in the streets because the north pole has melted and santa has no home the general mums and dads of the world won’t engage…..when they have their kids telling them that they’re devastated that they’ll get no presents ’cause Santa has nowhere to make them they might start to engage.

  21. Rachel benmayor

    Hi Paul and all, Thanks for your great articles. You speak my language. I had the same thoughts about Copenhagen. Of course I do my psyberactivism and have sent as many emails as i could but I have been long in despair about what the powers that be would eventually decide upon. I am still gobsmaked at the incredible apathy and denial of climate change. However I always like to hear what you say as even tho I think the future is grim for so many people on the planet, these are very interesting times we live in. I am an eternal optimist and I plan my future and the future of my children and community with renewed hope. Thanks,

  22. Robert Care

    Spot on. I wondered what it was – seeing the circus at Copenhagen and feeling nothing. You are right. A game of lose-lose. Soon we will be ready to work together but it won’t be the current bunch who don’t yet get it. Unfortunately this means both major parties in our fair land. Sad isn’t it.

  23. Janet Rice

    Thanks Paul – you have encapsulated my thoughts very nicely. The big question of course is how long it will be before the world collectively is ready for serious action and how much damage will have been done and how many lives will have been lost before that happens. I’m in denial about that – it hurts too much to think about it, so meanwhile the unrealistic optimist in me keeps on campaigning for change.

  24. John Collee

    Agree with most of that
    As an experiment in global democracy Copenhagen is a mess – predictably so because no democracy can function with 190 parties and most of these “parties” dont represent the will of their constituents, who therefore have to gatecrash dressed as yaks.
    I wonder if one of the spin offs will be that we are forced to invent a most sensible style of global parliament along the federal or Westminster model.
    As you say America and China still think we’re operating the old style of global feudalism where the person controlling the most money or weapons is ruler and everyone does their bidding. The leaked danish document was an expression of that which is why it provoked such outrage.
    We need to stop large countries voting as blocks and allow regions to be represented. The regions would coalesc into multinational “parties” and that would give us a manageable two or three party global government. I can imagine a coalition which includes Holland, Tuvalu, Kerala and California versus a Coalition which includes Canada, Saudi Arabia, Texas and West Australia. The party with the most votes gets to decide global climate policy.
    I know who I’d vote for.

  25. Rick Humphries


    Seems to me you’ve resorted to looking for the silver bullet. Faced with a diabolically complex problem there is always this tendency. By any measure reducing GHG emissions is a vastly complex task – the redesign of global energy consumption and production patterns, the need to revolutionise agriculture, a global shift away from consumption to sustainable production and a more equitable distribution of global wealth – to name a few initiatives. Are you seriously suggesting a massive investment in renewables is the answer?

    C’mon, the opportunity for severely perverse outcomes to emerge from an ad hoc, technology led market response is extremely high if not certain. Renewables in and of themselves cannot solve the problem. For starters you need biosequestration to remove a significant percentage of the anthropogenic carbon currently in the atmosphere if we are to get close to a 350ppm ceiling.

    One dynamic that is now right out in the open at Copenhagen is the nexus between solving this issue and the distribution of global wealth. I suspect that a sole reliance on the market and technological investment will see the further concentration of wealth amongst a small cabal of nations that have the capital, the entrepeneurial capacity and culture and the institutional framework to capitalise on this revolution. I can’t see Mali or Tuvalu capturing a lot of the action.

    No doubt we’ll speak soon.


  26. Andrew


    While I am prepared to place trust in the findings of the IPCC, I am very wary of statements that are too dismissive – or insulting – of alternative scientific opinions. I would venture that most ‘skeptics’ are not crazed or deluded.

    Skepticism is an important part of the development of scientific understanding. Divergent views need to be developed, expressed, and challenged through peer-reviewed journal articles. That is how dissenting or consensus views will be proved right or wrong in the course of time.

    Those of us that are prepared to develop progress in relation to climate change may do a disservice to the cause to which we ascribe should our approach be to ‘backhand’ views that diverge from our own without due consideration for their merit – particularly as those views are often based on highly technical issues which non-specialists are unlikely to be qualified to judge.



  27. Paul Gilding

    Andrew: Yes, I could have been more careful with my language. I agree with you about science and scepticism, I often write on the importance of that. I just don’t count most of the people who engage in the media around the contrarian views as being sceptics in that sense but are rather ideological denialists. There is much to debate in the science, and that debate is worthy as you suggest, but using it as an argument against action is dangerous.

  28. Dear Andrew,

    If what you have said isn’t a ‘backhand’ to all ‘non-specialists’, I don’t know what is.

    You might give some thought to being less concerned about being ‘special’ and/or qualified and a bit more concerned with communicating with ‘non-specialists’, especially in their own ‘non-specialised’ milieu…there are after all a few of us ‘non-specialists’ out here mate, and many of us (e.g. politicians), are for better or worse, the decision makers.

    If one blatantly obvious truth has emerged out of all of this Climate Change stuff, it is that even science is not immune to Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle (http://www.jstor.org/pss/1176157). The fact that science is subject to ‘vested interest’, interpretation and that there is any debate at all about rigorous science, puts it’s very method in question…and isn’t that what the debates are usually about?

    Oh yes I know it does the best it can with what it’s got…but don”t we all mate?

    Oh! And it might be useful for you to learn that the only qualification required to judge is existence…the fact that one’s judgement may be adequately informed or not is relative. Even science must admit that.

    I also find it fairly offensive that you are willing to come in here and stand on your ‘specialised’ pulpit, but unwilling to identify yourself.

    Skepticism and dissension may be important and even necessary to scientific understanding, as well as understanding in general…but ‘overstanding’ with arrogance and elitism are hardly conducive.

    If ‘specialists’ were less judgmental about what ‘non-specialists’ are or are not qualified to understand, then more science might find its way into the community and everyone might learn a bit more a bit quicker.

    Bad form mate…


    Stephen G
    Aggravated ‘non-specialist’ Judge

  29. Mike Greenacre

    Thanks Paul,
    Your paper on ‘Why Copenhagen will fail and why that doesn’t matter’ brings me back to the education of our children. This is where a change in values and ideals really has to occur, so every household is committed to reducing CO2 emissions and the concept of and reality of sustainability. Governments will have to be ‘bullied into it’ by their voters. However, too little has been done by our government-run media and education systems to allow this to occur in time. The consciousness of ‘youth’ is almost ruled by computer and mobile phone technology. What chance of change does that leave us?

  30. Paul:

    Leadership, Anger, Belief & Appropriate Response, and More than Market Forces…

    These are the ingredients that will make the World to shift, one person at a time, then a village, small kingdom, a metro, a state, a country, a region, and a continent, whether small, medium or large.

    Without leadership, certainly, there will be no one in charge. The current global governance system is merely a bunch of representatives malingering as industrious and mindful thought leaders, whom I even doubt that they are able to string a paragraph of appropriate response to what they ‘see’ as indisputable scientific evidence. I am sure they are doing all this, in the name of respect for ‘unique’ conditions and economic reasons for each member country; all I read is self-interest, and being locked-in into current economic cycle that has brought us to where we are as the earth(lings).

    Knowing what the issues are is not enough, and any measure of belief is against appropriate response. It is for that reason that I do not believe those who masquarade as leaders, do not really believe in the real truth around 2 degrees, and 350ppm. If they did, and would be not just angry, they would be mad as hell, at those who are failing to lead their countries into the required kind of action that meets the scientific evidence head-on.

    It is the market forces that brought us to where we are, globally, and not only on climate change, but on the current global economic meltdown as well. Market forces alone, are unfortunately inadequate to drive the required change in investment choices, ROI on green economies (sustainable energy being one of the components). At an individual level, there will have to be, as mentioned in earlier responses, a shift in our consumption patterns, value systems, and level of anger and action directed at effecting the required changes at all levels of existence.

    I am angry enough to delay my sleep by a few minutes to write this response, and do MORE 3650 times in the next decade to 2020.

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