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Iceland’s Copenhagen goals: feasible or phoney?

Here comes my latest post on the THINK site:

So, our Minister for the Environment, Svandís Svavarsdóttir, heads off to Copenhagen today for the summit.

About a month ago, I intercepted her at the National Assembly and asked if I could ask her a couple of questions – you know, about the Assembly results and, not least, the Copenhagen summit.

She was nice enough about it, being a laid-back kind of Left-Green person and all.

But not laid back enough to want to do an interview on the spot.

Preferred it if I would come to see her down at the Ministry. Gave me her card.

Sounded good to me. Decided I could maybe use my little Flip camera, get like a live statement kind of thing.

Read the rest of it here.

MEANWHILE GLOBAL WARMING IS HERE
In all its balmy glory. Today, almost in the middle of December, we had temps of around 10°C [49F] and boy, did it RAIN. And blow hard. And it was so dark that it felt like the day never really came. Allegedly sunrise was at 11.08 [coulda fooled me] and sunset at 3.32.

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  • D_Boone December 12, 2009, 7:15 am

    Okay they say we have to get down to about 2 tonnes of green house gas/person/yr. The average in Iceland now is 7.6 tonnes…..

    Still a long way to go……

  • James December 12, 2009, 10:11 am

    “they’re committing to a 47% decrease from what it is now, c’rect me if I’m wrong”

    They’re actually committing to a 35.6% decrease from where it is now.

    Note that, for example, if you increase something by 100%, then you need decrease it by only 50% to get back where you started.

  • PeterRRRRRR December 12, 2009, 10:24 am

    Actually, since you asked, would be a 36% decrease.

    Lacking any coal-fired power generation, reducing CO2 would have to concentrate on automobiles. Sadly, at least here in the US, the only action that has shown to be effective for cars was the big spike in gas prices we had back in 2008. Woe to the politician who proposes a big tax increase for that!

  • alda December 12, 2009, 11:46 am

    OK, I’m glad I asked. I stand corrected! and should probably take a math class. 😉

  • Dave W December 12, 2009, 1:58 pm

    Does the proposed 35% reduction in emissions factor in the approximately 20% increase in population since 1990, or does it ignore this increase?

  • BRADSTREET December 12, 2009, 2:24 pm

    The Copenhagen Summit reminds me a little bit of those nuclear disarmament talks that the superpowers used to do when the cold war was on. Everybody wanted a reduction in nukes, but no-one wanted to be seen to be making themselves weaker by getting rid of their nukes first. The result was that the talks often ended up with US and USSR getting rid of a few WMDs, but still leaving enough to destroy the earth.
    Right now, everyone wants to be seen to do something, but they’re aware that reducing the amount of CO2 being produced is going to cost trillions worldwide. The poor of the civilised nations will feel the pinch, and governments know this. If one country is going to suffer, they want to make sure that all of the others are going to suffer, too. I hardly need to mention that times are hard everywhere at the moment, and politicians that are seen as helping blunt or reverse any recovery are politicians who are not going to be in power for long. The Minister for Environment is playing her cards very close to her chest, at least until she sees what everyone else at the table has. This is a game of poker.

  • James December 12, 2009, 2:37 pm

    Climate targets are just aspirational goals to facilitate policy change. The targets are based on applied science, not experimental science, and many people confuse the two to incorrectly conclude that policy change will influence global temperatures. That confusion provides a perfect foundation for approving radical policy change (similar to the idea of WMDs prior to invading Iraq), with Britain again providing dodgy dossiers.

    Regarding Iceland’s goals… Well, the UN predicts the world’s population will increase by a third to over 9 billion by 2050, so Icelanders would have a greater impact on reducing world emissions if they simply diverted the allocated funds to increase birth control provision in African countries instead. Alternatively, meet the goals by expanding the economy (eg building more aluminium smelters) and simply purchasing carbon offset derivatives instead. Cynical, moi?

  • Kris December 12, 2009, 11:47 pm

    I’m I the only one here that thinks this is a solution looking for a problem? Hasn’t the fake science been exposed?
    Additionally, I find the whole idea of limiting population growth to be bizarre. I enjoy my life. I imagine billions of others do as well. If you want to limit population growth, start with yourself! That is quick and easy way to alleviate your concerns and do something for the environment. Carbon emissions upset you. Don’t drive, ever. Period. Also, it’s easy to find a list of petroleum-based products. Don’t use them. Any of them! Ever.
    In fact, inhale freely, but don’t exhale. Exhaling is a sin.
    Be the change!

  • idunn December 13, 2009, 12:50 am

    Since Ms Svandís Svavarsdóttir didn’t have time to see you, I have some ideas.

    Since most in Iceland probably confine most of their travel near Reykjavík, how about the widespread adoption of electric vehicles? If not an SUV, the new Nissan Leaf, points the direction of what is practically possible, and coming. In lieu of this, or in addition, more use of hybrid vehicles, which even now do come in SUV format.

    Then, a favorite of mine, how about returning the forests of yore to Iceland? Green points awarded for carbon sequester, and in having forests again the citizens might even decide they rather love them. A good place to hang Christmas lights as well.

  • Joerg December 13, 2009, 7:57 am

    “MEANWHILE GLOBAL WARMING IS HERE”

    That must be local warming. In Germany it’s freezing cold and the first snow has arrived.

  • BRADSTREET December 13, 2009, 2:17 pm

    One of the problems is that the treatment of global warming in the media is taking a more and more apocalyptic slant. We’ve only got 50 days to save the planet, to quote my beloved prime-minister, and so on. Unfortunately, the current scientific evidence does not really support such an unambiguous reading. We hear a great deal about the Artic melting, but much less about the fact that the Antarctic (which contains 90% of the world ice) has been growing steadily cooler for the past 3o years. People are becoming increasingly sceptical. Whether this is right or wrong is up to you, but they are. When politicians jet all round the world in order to decide whether the rest of us need to pay more to fly, drive and eat, you can understand why people feel the way that they do.

  • Vikingisson December 13, 2009, 5:12 pm

    These summits remind me of “Middle East Peace” talks. Great gig if you can get it, lifetime job with a pension plan. blah blah blah and the beat goes on.

    Climate change or the old term global warming does not, repeat does not imply that it will be warm and you’ll never feel the cold again. There is no doubt that the climate is changing despite all the exposed shenanigans. There are opportunists and extremists on all sides but that doesn’t alter what is already happening.

    I put it down to a simple fact, pollution is bad and we’re putting more of it into the earth than the earth can clean for us. And it doesn’t matter if we’re in a climate change scenario naturally or by the hand of man, it ain’t gonna be good. I’d like my air and water clean no matter what anyone says about the future crisis or non crisis.

    High technology or not I think we’re less prepared to deal with this mess than the ancients were when it happened to them. The people that didn’t starve jumped into the long boats and moved.

    “you’re gonna need a bigger boat”
    Jaws.

  • BRADSTREET December 13, 2009, 9:53 pm

    Have you ever noticed that whenever we have these debates about Climate Change, we never agree and never come to any conclusion about what way to go forward? I suggest that we hire ourselves out as a sort of independent Global Warming Think Tank for the United Nations. We can charge several hundred thousand a year for our services and split the money between us. What do the rest of you think?

  • alda December 13, 2009, 10:44 pm

    I think Bradstreet is onto something. We can do the same for the Icelandic government on Icesave.

  • SimonBrooke December 14, 2009, 12:26 am

    @ idunn: trees grow by photosynthesizing carbon into timber, essentially. The key thing there is photosynthesizing. Trees grow enormously faster in the tropics, slower in the sub-arctic (roughly seven times faster in Ethiopia than in Scotland, to quote figures I’m sure of), because there’s so much less light energy for the trees to use. So you could cover Iceland with trees and it wouldn’t make a big impact – they’d capture carbon, but relatively slowly.

    This isn’t a reason for not restoring forest, of course. There are all sorts of good reasons for restoring forest that aren’t to do with global warming. Forests protect hillsides from erosion, slow down winds, buffer water supplies, provide shelter for livestock, provide timber for structural use and for fuel wood… the list goes on and on.

    But in Iceland (and elsewhere in the subarctic), not nearly as fast or effectively as it does in warmer parts of the world.

  • maría December 14, 2009, 12:42 am

    Can’t wait for the solstice. And I’m only in Spain. I need longer days. Although I must admit I’d like to live in a city like Reykjavík for a while, and taste its winters, and its cultural activities etc. It can’t be that bad out there in the dark can it? With all the lights in the windows… Cozy.

  • James December 14, 2009, 7:37 pm

    BRADSTREET – I suspect it’ll be impossible for a varied group to conclude on global warming for at least another 20 years! Most people view the current worthy policies (reducing pollution, etc) as more relevant to their lives than actual evidence of man-made global warming. It has become more important to try and change nature through policy targets than to understand nature. So, in this worthy political climate, experimental science is taking a very distant second place to applied science. I wonder if your think tank would focus on tedious evidence or more interesting policies…