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After Copenhagen
Demonstrators hold a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration outside the Bella Center, the venue of the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. (AP)

Demonstrators hold a picture of U.S. President Barack Obama during a demonstration outside the Bella Center, the venue of the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, early Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009. (AP)

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For 2009 anyway, the huge conference in Copenhagen was framed as the be-all and end-all of climate change intervention. The glorious moment when the world would rise and commit to act to stave off the worst of global warming.

In the event, Copenhagen almost collapsed. It took a U.S. president and a handful of other leaders to eke out a couple pages of accord.

Some now describe Copenhagen as a nearly apocalyptic failure. Others as the “get real” beginning of something good.

This hour, On Point: top environmentalists, home from Copenhagen, weighing what just happened.


Bill McKibben, writer, environmentalist, and founder of 350.org, an international climate activism campaign.  He’s scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College and author of a dozen books, most recently “The Bill McKibben Reader.” He led a rally at Klimaforum in Copenhagen with Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed. His dispatches from Copenhagen were published at Grist.

David Doniger, policy director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s climate center. He served as director of climate change policy at the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton Administration. He was part of the US delegation that negotiated the Kyoto Protocol. He attended the climate talks in Copenhagen as an official observer for the NRDC.  He wrote about it for the NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

Read the text of the Copenhagen Accord at the Washington Post.


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  • Brad

    Let the EPA regulate.

    The U.S. Senate is a dysfuntional and obtrustionist body of government. And it is corrupt. Bought and paid for.

    They are intent on destroying America so the wealthy become uber wealthy.

  • http://live.tcktcktck.org/cop15-calendar/real-talk-happy-hour Dr. Michael Dorsey

    A question for Bill McKibben,

    You mention that civil society was emerging in Copenhagen. Can you tell us about the emerging climate justice movement?

    What is the difference between the many small to medium sized grassroot groups working for climate justice and the large, pro-market advocacy groups like NRDC?

    Will justice or markets win out in the end of the day?

    What’s your opinion?

    Dr. Michael Dorsey
    Dartmouth College

  • Dayle Ann Stratton

    It appears that there were two discussions taking place at Copenhagen.

    One was the economic discussion taking place among the few developed and developing nations. This discussion got the lion’s share of attention by the media, as it has in the past.

    The other discussion was the desperate plea by nations who are already experiencing the impacts of global warming. This discussion was almost entirely ignored by the media, who seemed to see only the standoff between China and the US.

    The goal of this conference came to be seen as an agreement about slowing the *causes* of global warming. This is only half the need. The other is the fact that global warming may already have reached the point that its progress may only be mitigated even if we come to an agreement to set aside short-sighted economic arguments, and begin planning to deal with the impacts. The argument needs to be framed in terms of what we (Americans and other developed nations) will be dealing with as global warming progresses.

    An example: most people in the US live along and near the coasts. Most sewage plants, therefore, are located in areas that will be affected both by increasingly saturated soils and increased runoff as weather systems become more animated. Think of the impact on quality of life that will mean, and the costs to cities and municipalities of dealing with infrastructure costs.

    More of the argument needs to be framed in terms of these consequences, to make it relevant to people who now see it only in terms of places far away, and to the immediate possible economic consequences in their lives.

    In periods of economic and cultural change, there is always disruption (think of the change from horse and buggy to automobiles). Jobs change, the shape of people’s lives change. We adapt. And we must begin planning for changes that are already making themselves apparent.

  • The Colonel

    The EPA is also corrupt. The bureaucrats who populate these Federal agencies are former industry employees. There is a swinging door between the federal government and the industries that are regulated. The UN is also corrupt. refuse to drink the Kool-Aid.

    The science is not settled in the area of climate change and global warming. Read the papers. New data is being developed every single day. If you only read one side of the issue, you will be as biased as the Climategate clowns. Alarmists are not scientists. Those who seek to vilify the skeptics are censors, not scientists. Where there is only ideology and no critial thinking, you will have mistakes, falsehoods, scams, fraud, and chaos. Cherry picking data to support your ideology is corrosive and outrageous. Those who try to frighten people are deranged. The earth is always cooling or warming. Why is there no effort to control the greenhouse gases that are being ejected by volcanos? How about attempts to control water vapor. There is an effort to transfer wealth from the rich nations to the poor nations. Where is the fact based evidence to unambiguously demonstrate that even if CO2 is reduced to 350 ppm that the climate and temperature will be controlled? The arrogance of the alarmists is outrageous.

  • Dee

    Giving Obama credit for Copenhagen is his “Mission Accomplished” moment. Another example of the change we voted for that isn’t happening.

  • http://www.uvm.edu/~shali Saleem H. Ali

    I was also at the Copenhagen summit and considered the meeting to be productive because for once the US stood its ground regarding verification of compliance of commitments. The problem with much of international law is that there is no enforcement and it is to the credit of the Obama administration that they pushed China on compliance and verification. What’s the point of grant promises if they are not verifiable?

  • Ellen Dibble

    To the extent I am hopeful it is because the more a country is causing climate change, the more they have to lose. The rich countries are the biggest criminals.
    China has more to lose, India has more to lose, the USA has more to lose. We are interdependent.

    The tiny countries that stand to disappear may feel vulnerable and helpless, but I think soon they won’t be alone in their voicing.

  • Brad

    Jeffery Sachs says that the scenario that came out of Copenhagen of the fight between the poor developing nations who say that the rich polluting nations should pay them for past damages is a distraction.

    The United States is already committed under the 1992 agreement to reduce it’s emissions.

    So we are already breaking the law of the land.

    Therefore, let the EPA regulate already.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Jeffrey Sachs says the poor countries are being a distraction? Who pays them to demonstrate? I’m not sure I follow.

    I do think it is a distraction, though, to the extent there is absolutely no way to “pay for” what is happening to the planet. If we ruined our economic “engine” in order to pay for past offenses, the whole planet would suffer worse. The small countries need us to be strong enough to help solve this. Just as the banks are needed to fix the mess they made, and so they needed to survive, so in this case. We need to survive in order to solve this. The penalty is we have to be super tough.

  • Jim Butler

    The American Public is NOT now convinced there is a crisis. Especially since the learning of the leaked e-mails and the unconvincing arrogant explanations of the heavily subsudized envoronmentalists. These attempts to shove this down our throats will not succeed. More and more of us who are also environmentally concerned are determined to change the majority in the Congress and House because of the Gangster attitude of the White House. I’m an embarrased Democrat. We used to be gentlemen not thugs.

  • David House

    The fossil fuel industry manipulated the press, congress and the public into believing there is confusion on the science of climate change where no confusion exist. It is this misinformation that enables our congressional leaders to hide behind economic reasons as an argument to ignore real CO2 reduction efforts.

    We must expose the opposition’s methods of public manipulation. We must create a blizzard of OPED pieces supporting 350.ORG goals and debunking deniers’ stances in local markets. We must create banks of supporters to call into radio shows exposing the backing behind the skeptic arguments. We must create groups in Republican strong hold regions to counter the myth that human activity has no impact on climate change. And we must convince elected leaders from all parties and regions that they promote fossil energy agenda items at the peril of their reelection.

    And, as Bill said, we need leaders like Obama to support such action amongst those of us who are aware and willing to take on this fight.

  • Ed

    To say that Obama has not pushed forgets that he recently approved rules to allow the EPA to rule that CO2 is a health issue.

    This allows an administrative action instead of legislative action.

  • Thom Allena

    Part of the issue and certainly not the whole issue is the adversarial nature within which we approach all of our social issues, and clearly the environmental problem is a “requiem scenario”. Eg., Environmentalists v. Corporations, Science v. Politicians, etc. We each worship our own provincial “gods” (positions) and we don’t have a process where people can either speak anything truthful (without blaming) nor can really hear perspective or idea other than our own.

    Taos, NM

  • Brad

    What Jeffery Sachs is saying is don’t fall into the false trap of who pays who and how much.

    By the 1992 treaty we signed we have to reduce emissions. Bottom line.

  • Peter Lewicke

    Your guests are sadly ignorant about global warming and the greenhouse effect. CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas and the CO2 put into the atmosphere by humans has not been enough to alter global temperatures at all, because it is within the normal variation of global CO2. The climate changes that have occurred at part of the normal variation of the Earth’s climate over time.

    The cap and trade legislation that the Congress will take up after the first of the year will not do anything about global warming, but it will make some traders and energy companies a lot of money at the expense of ordinary citizens.

  • Becky

    I just wanted to share that this was the best show I have ever heard on On Point, which is normally very impressive. Your panel was excellent in speaking to this climate crisis. Thank you for this perspective. Keep up the great work.

  • Greg L

    Of course it’s not palatable to raise our taxes! What kind of spineless hypocrites would we be to accept a greater tax burden for the environment while we carry on funding the $700B war machine. Ridiculous. Why doesn’t this make it into the discussion?

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    Saving OUR Planet is everyone’s individual task.

    We can save the planet without the help from the Government. I lot private sectors or companies are doing their own thing, just like what the car manufacturers are doing. making Hybrid or fuel efficient cars.


    START NOW!!!

    I have not bought any bottled water for the past 2 months. I have been drinking purified tap water with “PUR” Filter.

  • Christine

    This is the same Christine who spoke on your show today – thank you, Tom & staff, for the opportunity.

    Just want to clarify that I am doing the things I can personally, but the majority of effect is created from commercial and industrial (including industrial agro) sources. Until they are required to conform to new standards, the little piddly bit I do here and there will make little difference.

    I will continue to buy gas-sipping cars, live in a small energy-efficient home, purchase eco-friendly clothing, and eschew plastic in all places possible, but this will do little in the face of methane-producing livestock, agro-pollution, industrial pollution, carbon emissions from the light and heavy trucking industries, and …. the lack of desire to use sustainable energy to run these industries.

    As hopeful as it might seem, waiting for industry in all it’s layers to ‘get the point’ seems to me quite irresponsible. They don’t listen to us, as evidenced by a car industry that was content to give it’s market away to those who did listen (years ago), rather than make a few ‘inconvenient’ changes that would enable all of us to contribute to a solution and support American car manufacturers. (PS – I’m tired of bailing them out for their stubbornness.)

    THAT is the inconvenient truth….and the one we are growing incredibly impatient for our elected officials to grow the ‘#*%lls to actually do something, rather than take the payoff and run.

    This is not about saving earth….it will live on long after we are gone. It is about enabling our children and grandchildren to survive here.

  • pm

    While I was exceptionally disappointed at the process and outcome of Copenhagen, yes some good things did occur. The fact that all the big polluters even came to the table, and the lesser polluters and those who are already suffering the effects of our toxic world that their voices were heard…this is cause for appreciation.
    It has become blatantly clear to me (and many) that we are basically being held hostage by polluters who have made massive profits over the decades and have become accustomed to such profit and power. The wise ones will change no matter what because they do see the greater need. Those who fight it are only doing so for their own selfish reasons…and whatever excuses they give are rationalization.
    Some have also stated, to which I wholly agree….individuals make the difference. We cannot wait for governments, companies, schools, organizations and families to get their acts together. Each individual and the choices they make counts. And the more individuals live a less polluting life….perhaps the urge to speak up will also increase.
    Two confusing issues I often see repeated really must be separated to make going forward more obvious.
    - C02 is not a pollutant
    - big shifts in climate change happen naturally.
    These are true, so the focus of debate must be what the impact has been on humans introducing massive amounts of concentrations of substances that are unnatural in nature. And that these are what destroy healthy elements (earth, water, fire (temperature), air and space), and ecosystems that all of life is dependent on.
    When we can start to separate the highly charged issues…..I feel the simplicity of the reasoning and the overwhelming evidence that supports it will allow people to shift their attitudes. Being combatant only makes people dig in deeper. We need to sharpen our skills of reasoning.

  • http://shulmandesign.net Alan Shulman

    I find these discussions, especially those connected with the presence or absence of human-caused or augmented climate change very frustrating. Some say CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas and our contribution is negligible in the overall scheme of things while others say man’s contribution is significant and sufficient to tip us toward disaster. And yet I see no citing of sources for any of the arguments. I do hear accusations however. Do we still discuss information or do we merely make pronouncements?

    Perhaps man has not significantly affected the atmosphere enough to induce climate change. But man’s record on environmental impact is none too sterling to date: Consider the damage we’ve wrought to fresh and salt water sources (the dead areas of the ocean, the poisoned rivers and lakes, food contamination and soil nutrient depletion caused by factory food production methods, the inability or unwillingness to clean up innumerable toxic sites to mention a few. Would it really be that surprising if man’s contribution to greenhouse gases were enough to cause us all a lot of trouble?

  • Lee

    Least anyone be confused by the comments accusing the panel of being ignorant of the science, I would remind them that every major scientific organizations has supported the conclusion that humans are causing the warming and this is a significant problem. Among the list of organization are the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and so on.

    As for the discussion, I would like to add a quote from Gavin Schmidt of NASA and Realclimate.org “The situation is analogous to people trying to embark on a cross-country road trip to California but they’ve started off heading to Maine instead, but instead of working out ways to turn around, they have decided to argue about where they are going to park when they get to L.A.”
    “If you ask a scientist how much more CO2 do you think we should add to the atmosphere, the answer is going to be none. All the rest is economics (and technology, and sociology, and psychology and politics etc.) ”

    The science shows that the sooner we start reducing our emissions, the more doable achieving the ultimate goal becomes.

  • pm

    Yes Lee….well said.
    I feel that the only way we can actually move forward in the direction we need to is to reduce the resistance. How shall we do this?
    We have huge polluters who are and will resist.
    We have for some reason a certain part of the population who also resists.

    Why? Maybe they don’t like change, maybe they are afraid, maybe they are incapable of seeing or realizing…lacking the faculties, I don’t know.
    I just deeply feel that we need to somehow reach these people….because a divided people makes the process far slower and hung up.

    More and more people are waking up. That is no doubt. Copenhagen was a huge step. But there’s so much more to be done by everyone.


  • Ellen Dibble

    Some people see Congress stalling, not imposing a carbon tax, hemming and hawing about cap and trade, and they think: “Those senators are wise men, and they hear from wise lobbyists; if there were a problem, they would be taking the necessary actions.”

    Congress hears those people, and a vicious circle sets up.

    What can we do? I get sort of energy-anorexic, thinking I have to reduce my energy consumption to “make up for” that of everyone else. That is “sick,” but I have learned a few things.

    Our supermarket “delivers.” Usually I shop by bicycle, but I am over 60 and can’t afford the couple hours it takes, especially in winter in New England. So I pay $6.95 and get the supermarket to deliver. They don’t offer exactly what’s at the store but pretty close. They apparently do my roving through the aisles completely free and bring it to my door at a time I specify.
    I wonder: Why don’t whole communities let the market deliver. Instead of 30,000 people making another auto trip to get that loaf of bread or the week’s groceries, there would be a few trucks stopping at every building.
    Does it cost more energy for everybody to go the place the newspaper is produced to pick up a paper, or to let someone run around with a truck (or bicycle) and drop off for everyone?

  • millard-fillmore

    I prefer to look at the issue of climate change through the lens of sustainability, rather than whether human activity will be responsible for global climate changes leading to catastrophe – which is in the future, and scientific data and models have their limits.

    Fact of the matter is that the current economies run on oil, which is a finite – and fast disappearing – source of energy. Even if there’s no climate change, we’ll still need to shift the economies to more sustainable and renewable sources of energy.

    The other point is that I don’t believe in fear-mongering, and I’ve seen a lot of it based on scanty evidence. Human societies have always gone through changes – either inflicted by nature or by other humans – and we’ve adapted to such changes, though it hasn’t always been easy. Whatever climate change throws our way (if/when it does), I’m sure we’ll find solutions, sooner or later. Yes, these changes and adaptions won’t be pretty for some, but that’s the way it is. Bursting a liver and being angry about it is not productive in any manner.

  • http://www.mylifevantage.com/longerlife jorge riveros

    Global Warming should be taught in elementary, middle,and high schools and colleges. Like in Europe where there are ahead of us americans in a 10 to 15%. So, we are behind and we need to catch up. Pitiful.

  • pm

    Great idea, Ellen!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Millard-Fillmore, the reason for busting a liver is that the climate change is cumulative, sort of like the cancers that occur 20 years after exposure. Today’s climate-threatening offenses cast their shadow elsewhere, and eventually, not next year, not right here. As I understand it, there is a lot of trouble “in the pipeline” already, and the pipeline is beyond clogged by the time you consider China’s aspirations.
    I consider the present moment much like the moment last October when the banks and the Fed saw that instant action was necessary. Huge instant action. Did we believe Hank Paulsen? We still have our doubts. But apparently economic freefall has been averted.
    Right now, do we believe McKibben? Very rich bankers (who pull the strings anyway) are not the ones perched for from the frying pan into the fire. To the contrary, they are in bed with the status quo. If methane in Canada is turning our planet into something out of a bad movie in 30 years, it doesn’t affect their bonus.
    Am I right?

  • Ellen Dibble

    PM, look up Peapod on the net. Stop & Shop is the supermarket, New England based, so far as I know. I don’t know where you live, but you can see how it’s set up.

  • http://www.mylifevantage.com/longerlife jorge riveros

    This is a country that need to fight their own internal wars and the people need to stand up. USA need to texch by example and forget about forcing something that step over free agency that is Godly or like Satan taking away the free agency by those countries that like to build armaments and destroy cities, families and communities and inocent children, and then send contractors to rebuild what their brothers destroyed. Excellent business. Let them decide their own destiny.

  • millard-fillmore

    Ellen, could you please point me to some scientific proof or theory that says we’ll avert or mitigate a climate change disaster if the CO2 levels are limited to 350 (ppm)? Our understanding of how the climate works is not perfect.

    While I’m a big proponent of Precautionary Principle, what I disagree with is the faith-based certainty displayed by many and any dismissal of skepticism by fear-mongers, which harks back to Bush’s “either you’re with us or you’re against us” attitude.

    Anyway, as I mentioned in my earlier comment, transitioning the economies to renewable sources needs to happen and will happen – it remains to be seen whether it’ll happen voluntarily or involuntarily.

  • Ellen Dibble

    It’s interesting tht you hear fear-mongering and the Bush “with us or aqainst us” in the climate discussion, and the faith-based certainty that seems the undercurrent of what is making the Congress so stuck.

    So Republican tactics are coming back to bite us this way.

    I am not the person to ask about the science. It is highly technical, advancing every day, and frightening to hear about. Although I began life as a scientific whiz, I was advised to study what I was NOT good at, which was A LOT, and I leave science to the experts.
    I have no difficulty figuring out which are the experts here. It is pretty clear why certain segments of our economy/culture are unpersuaded. See the reference to who still doesn’t believe in evolution.
    There may be fear-mongering and faith-based certainty, which I would normally veer far away from. But our enemy here is physics. I will have to defer to the scientists to explain it. Back a ways, someone cited all the big scientific organizations, national and international, who concur with the global warming position. Any of those organizations would have websites with citations. Pretty much anywhere you look, scientific causes and effects are being discussed. Dying off of biodiversity? Look to the ecologists. Increased asthma due to bad air. Increased illness due to polluted water. Less fish. More disasters. On and on and on, starting maybe about 1950 and going on at ever accelerating pace from then to now and onward.
    I defer to the scientists to explain, every one of them, from a million perspectives on changes that are in the pipeline.

  • Ellen Dibble

    By the way, Millard Fillmore, the scientific community would be terribly terribly remiss if they didn’t question and challenge every aspect of the global warming phenomenon. That is what the scientific method is. Each scientist does that in order to offer up what he or she discovers. And all the scientists together try to punch holes in every other one’s propositions. It would be a failure of the scientific community not to have decades of really desperate attempts to prove that this HIGHLY inconvenient truth were not so.
    So of course there are two sides to this.

  • Brett

    In a way, arguing about whether anthropogenic factors have contributed to co2 emissions/climate change/global warming/to what extent those factors have, if they have, contributed, etc., as a way to argue/defend/determine what actions should be taken to slow down/stop/reverse the trend of definite/likely/imminent/eventual cataclysmic destruction of our planet rendering our inhabitance nonexistent, is a distraction and an avoidance of action. On sustainability issues alone, we need to shift how we provide power/energy to humans. On tangible/irrefutable/overtly visible matters of pollution, we need to act now; and, we should have acted forty years ago in a more concerted effort when there were foreshadows of what was to come.

    We will deplete our oil and coal soon enough. I saw a commercial by a natural gas company the other day; a woman was holding her infant dughter and saying how comforted she was that she didn’t have to worry about her dughter’s future because there was enough natural gas to be pulled out of the ground to last 100 years!!! That didn’t sound very comforting to me! Are we going to wait until we have no resources left to develop renewable energy to the point where the technologies can be used in large-scale applications?

    I suppose it is a kind of example of the state of things; let’s avoid what we need to do and quibble over those components that are either incidental to the issue or have been exxaggerated or minimized so we can spend precious time/energy/resources fixating on those distractions.

  • B

    I misspelled daughter! Twice!

  • Brett

    And exaggerated! …It’s a bad spelling day! Sorry

  • I got yer twitter

    Is McKibben on suicide watch? Somebody better sit with him for awhile. Al Gore did more damage to the climate cause than anyone could have hoped for. Nopenhagen was an elaborate charade where the world was spared the confession they don’t believe any of it. Rather they sought impossible concessions which no one really believes will be met so they can go home and say, ” See? I told you so.” Oh, and you got a memo in exchange for the carbon footprint.

  • david

    Man has walked on this earth for a relatively short time. “During that time there have been 20 sudden global warmings. In most of these sudden warmings the temperatures rose by about 18 degrees over a span of 20 years. Right now the Copenhagen Clowns are freaking out over a rise of 1.5 degrees in 100 years.
    There have been about 142 mass extinctions since life began on the earth. These mass extinctions were not caused by man. They were caused by nature.”
    Hugo Chavez,paraphrasing Karl Marx, said “a ghost is stalking the streets of Copenhagen..it’s capitalism, capitalism is that ghost. Our revolution seeks to help people, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell…let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us. ” (capitalism refers to America) Chavez got a standing ovation from the assembly. Our reaction, Hillary Clinton pledged 100 Billion to help these people. What does these nations really want from America? Money, money and more money because their systems have failed under socialism. Socialism enslaves it’s people and makes it’s rulers like Hugo rich.

  • mispelled

    Bret, you usually exaggerate, no surprise there, either.

  • Louise

    Excellent blog David. One of the best that I’ve seen, ever.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Think of the planet as a python. It has eaten the human race, big as an elephant. There is a big question whether what comes out the other end is still the human race, or whether it will more resemble a lot of cockroaches. We are trying to gird ourselves for the trip to a clearer future, without destruction en route.

  • Karen

    I am wondering why we are still CLEAR-CUTTING? Here in Northern California there are still Old Growth Redwoods & Fir Trees getting clear-cut.

    If you look at a clear-cut next to an intact forest, often in the mornings there will be mist and fog raising from the forest. Nearly 20 degrees different, the clear-cut will have a beam of bright sun and heat waves sapping the life from it. It is difficult to get “shade” plants to start and grow within a clear-cut, often turning into dust and eroding as a landslide filling in the local rivers which effects our salmon runs, etc.

    Bush’s “Healthy Forest Initiative” is false information. To prevent forest fires what needs to happen is RESTORATION. Thinning shrub Oak and allowing the large diameter trees to remain which are generally inflammable. At this point the government has just used the Initiative as an excuse to help the Timber Industry to “Incidentally Take” areas of private and public forests that they were never able to enter originally because of steepness, endangered and threatened wildlife and rare plants.

    I don’t and have never driven a car. It doesn’t matter because my backyard and beyond is becoming a wasteland, slippery clay and silt where the Environment is unable to re-grow. I raise sheep and chickens, & try to keep my land thinned and heathy. I am looking forward to the day that my job exists and has funding available. Both of my parents are scientists. I feel like the next chapter is some serious REFORESTATION & RESTORATION. There are many out-of-work loggers locally ready to get back out in the woods to do what is needed once these Corporations are finished raping our county. Cutting Spruce & burning Old Growth Oaks and Madrones, hack-&-squirting herbicides does not help the economy. What about using some of these straight thick trees for flooring? Cabinets? Cottage industries is the answer to small communities. Not short lived corrupt companies like Maxxam and Simpson who will be gone once our wilderness is gone.

    Why don’t we talk about our own existing NATURE rather than only new inventions?

  • Richard Levins

    This talk of the deal at Copenhagen is absurd: there was no deal. A few big countries met behinds closed doors, their leaders spoke but didn’t stay to listen. The big achievement was the refusal of most countries to go along with that kind of take it or leave it bullying and limited themselves to “taking notice” of the empty declaration. The real news was in the streets.

  • Rational Point

    I have long thought global warming is real whether anthropogenic or not is neither here nor there in my opinion. As a species we must realize our duty of be caretakers of planet earth. This means at some point we must take control of our climate completely. We must regulate temperature and the ppm of any substance of consequence in our air water and our earth. There is little in the way of avoiding this one truth. We live in dynamic systems, these systems are rife with potential catastrophe. To defend ourselves from such catastrophe we must start climate control. 350ppm? 700ppm? Decide and then clean it up, there are ways. . .

  • killifish2007

    The physics of CO2 is well understood. In plain English, it is transparent to short wave radiation such as from the Sun and is largely opaque to the longer wavelengths that are re-radiated from the surface of the earth. The increase in CO2 has been well documented. If people are really interested, they can look up the results of reputable science on the WEB.

    The nub of the problem is that there are way more people on the planet than can be supported in the way to which they would like to become accustom. Maintaining the current human population is subsidized by the use of fossil fuels to provide fertilizer, farm labor, and transportation. China is the only country that has taken population growth seriously. India used to work on population until Indira Gandi was murdered. Fossil Fuel inputs and the “green” revolution have allowed India to become self-sufficient in the short term which has turned jungles into deserts. In the not too distant future India will have more people than China. Because of its immigration policy the U.S. has the fastest growing population in the “developed” world.

    Unfortunately trying to get people to voluntarily restrain their reproductive proclivities is going against millennia of natural selection, which favors those, that contribute the most (genes) to future generations. This is why China is the only country to make any progress on restricting population growth. Even a 1% growth rate means doubling the population every 70 years. A .5% growth rate would still double the population every 140 years.

    Cutting energy use in half and doubling the population leaves you in the same place. The world’s nations are even less interested in reducing population than they are reducing energy consumption. Given the propensity of people to choose delusion over unpleasant realities I see little likely hood that climate change will be dealt with in a timely fashion.

  • Nicholas

    Gee a failure of leadership by Obama. What a surprise! This is just another instance in a long line.

  • david

    It seems that the simple solution to this so called global warming is: reduce people and plant more trees.

  • Brett

    “mispelled” from 6:23pm:
    You misspelled “mispelled,” for one thing, and I’d be willing to bet you are really Louise; anyway, your comment has nothing to do with the topic (no surprise, there) and it is typical of your guttersniping potshots with no point, and it should be deleted.

  • Brett

    you and I can at least agree that planting more trees and people having less children could be a great place for many people to start!

  • Ellen Dibble

    Killfish, I’m saving your post in case anyone asks me to explain global warming again. Thanks. CO2 allows sun-heat in, but earth can’t sort of sweat it out. Sort of like malfunctioning kidneys; bad stuff stays in. Something like that.
    About population, that is a whole other problem. No, it is the same problem. But it the highly religiously charged aspect of the problem, and one that hits right in the heart of the family, the fear of no one to take care of one in old age, the fear of having no heir to carry on all one’s finest points.
    First you make a point so well and incisively. Then you make a point that will make most people look away — or curse. That should have been two posts, I think — maybe using two names ;>)

  • Brett

    I think you’re right regarding discussions about overpopulation/controlling population, Ellen. It is considered immoral these days to discuss what would be the right number of children for people to have as that pertains to maintaining population growth. It seemed to be more in the realm of appropriate conversation in the late ’60′s and early ’70′s. I think this is because the religious right has influenced that collective conversation starting in the late ’70′s-early ’80′s. Another big taboo in the discussion about population growth itself would be medical breakthroughs prolonging life. People get their hackles up. Maybe even beside the religious right’s political voice being louder than it once was is also the fact that we all have or have had some experience and intimacy with life-threatening illnesses and life-sustaining medical procedures, and many people have had children and feel these issues directly wag a finger a them. Without these conversation, however,all other conversations about sustainability become moot.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Brett, all right, it’s a threesome: energy/global warming; overpopulation/global degradation; extended lifespan — who takes care of whom, who pays, who gets to live to 150.

  • Matt


    It seems suspect to me that all of the mainstream solutions to manmade global warming (taxes on life, non-democratic global government, etc.), are the exact type of things one would set up if one were trying to rule the world.

  • killifish2007

    Unfortunately, the human population problem seems to be intractable. Those of us who recognize the problem and have few or no children will be increasingly marginalized by those who don’t and continue to have large families. This assumes that whether or not the propensity for large families is genetic or cultural that the lines with the highest fecundity will predominate in future generations. The only thing that would favor small families is if having large families lead to a higher mortality rate in the offspring, i.e. fewer offspring in large families actually reaching reproductive age than in small families. This is a case of evolution in action in either case. This dynamic between the number of eggs laid and the number of chicks fledged has been well documented in birds [birds lay the number of eggs that leads to maximizing the number of fledged chicks, not the maximum number they could lay]. Given the current social/political structure there appears to be no significant mortality penalty in having large families. True large families may not be able to provide the education or other amenities available to children in small families of similar means, but these are not crucial unless it leads to a corresponding difference in survivorship.

    It seems that in the end, human population will be controlled the good old fashion way, by war, pestilence and starvation. Human induced climate change will simply bring this about sooner rather than later. It provides a good rational for those of us who recognize the problem to not have any children and leave the future for the descendents of the fools and delusionals to fight over the cinders in the ashes of civilization. For those who would like an easily understood presentation on the arithmetic of population and energy, I recommend ordering a video from the University of Colorado bookstore by Prof. Albert Bartlett, titled something like Arithmetic, Population and Energy. You should be able to find it by searching on the WEB.

  • Odysseus Bostick

    I have been reading that while Carbon Dioxide is the focal point of the global warming debate, it is water vapor that contributes the greatest negative effect to the atmosphere causes the greatest increase in global warming. Another greenhouse gas is Methane and it increases temperature more efficiently than Carbon Dioxide. Increased temperature leads to more evaporation of oceanic water, adding water vapor to the atmosphere. Methane also exists in higher quantities than Carbon Dioxide.

    More importantly, methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas. It supposedly dissipates completely within the atmosphere after 10 years. On the human side, methane would be a more effective global warming gas to attempt to control because its primary human-related cause is livestock.

    Wouldn’t it be more effective to limit the cattle industry than automobiles?

Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

Nine weeks counting now to the midterm elections. We’ll look at the key races and the stakes.

Sep 2, 2014
Confederate spymaster Rose O'Neal Greenhow, pictured with her daughter "Little" Rose in Washington, D.C.'s Old Capitol Prison in 1862. (Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

True stories of daring women during the Civil War. Best-selling author Karen Abbott shares their exploits in a new book: “Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy.”

Sep 1, 2014
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) recovers a fumble by Carolina Panthers quarterback Derek Anderson (3) in the second quarter of the NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Pittsburgh. (AP)

One outspoken fan’s reluctant manifesto against football, and the big push to reform the game.

Sep 1, 2014
This Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 photo shows a mural in in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago dedicated to the history of the Pullman railcar company and the significance for its place in revolutionizing the railroad industry and its contributions to the African-American labor movement. (AP)

On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

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