December 20, 2009 | Ronda Jambe

The Copenhagen movie was boring, better luck with the sequel

It played out more or less as predicted. Lots of hot air, lots of divisions along usual lines: rich vs poor, the US and China staring each other down, then pretending to be moving together. And a result that we are supposed to be content with, as it is ‘just a first step’. That would be ok if we had another 50 years to dawdle, but mass extinctions, partly driven by climate change, are happening now. How many equally bad sequels must we endure?
But Tim Flannery says it’s been a good outcome, and he was on the spot. A bit of tension is necessary for the next installment, along with a suspension of disbelief. The only overriding impression that will remain in my head is the collosal arrogance of the chatter about the level of warming to set as a safe limit. The developing nations want 1.5, the rich nations say, nah, we can handle 2 degrees C. Even engaging in that sort of discussion was a tactical mistake for the developing nations, but there are diplomatic protocols that encourage lies. It’s like saying you are in control of what kind of cancer you get. As night follows day, hubris is laughing in the curtains. This assertion of control just diverts public attention from the reality of parts per million and the danger of tipping points. What precautionary principle?
But the sceptics and deniers haven’t blinked, and one can only wonder exactly what kinds of evidence would persuade them that climate change is indeed well underway and will affect their lives dramatically. No point in trotting out the analyses of the costs of climate change already. Dr Andrew Glikson has compiled those, he has done enough work in the climate change area to come to Jennifer M’s notice, I’ll leave it to them to argue over aerosols.
My concern is with leadership, and the future. Having endured yet another illustration of the lack thereof in the public sector, and in a state of near depression over the desolate dryness of the Canberra landscape, an article by Umair Haque caught my attention. He has something to do with the Harvard Business Review, and is on my latest list of straight talkers. Anything for a flicker of hope.
Haque distinguishes between leaders and builders. He says the commonplace leaders, including Obama, play the game, juggle their support, and end up just propping up 20th century organisations and institutions. They don’t build new ones. Contrast with builders like Mandela, or Yunus, of the Gareem Bank, who didn’t just critique financing, he built a new model.
Haque points out how the massive 20th century institutions are no longer fit to take us to the future. In time they will undergo the ‘creative destruction’ needed to break the impasse that exists in so many areas of our increasinly dysfunctional modern world. Haque is worth reading for this insight alone, but his pieces (I am no longer sure what the difference is between a blog and an article, if anyone knows, set me straight, but that sort of distinction is rather old too) offer a fresh viewpoint.
On Macca this morning a rural caller was thankful for 40mm of rain, ‘the best Christmas present ever’. I wonder how many in the dusty outback are so sure that long term climate change is impossible? In my bones I feel Canberra’s beauty fading, unlikely to recover in my lifetime. Will the last pollie to finish talking about how all this will be managed with so little pain for anyone please turn out the lights? And for heaven’s sake, change the film to something more credible. Inglorious basterds maybe, now that was a hoot.
Unfortunately the sequel is also predictable, and the denouement: that’s when the floods and mass extinctions impoverish us all, rich and poor. Like Berlusconi, the bad guys get a punch in the nose. I’ve read the script.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 8:02 pm | Comments (6) |
Filed under: Environment


  1. Copenhagen was always going to be difficult. But looking back on it now, it was difficult in many ways that we did not anticipate. Most “leaders” sought to satisfy their domestic political (not even economic) agendas. Too many participated in a process which inevitably led to the consolidation of money as the bottom line. How much, from whom, to whom, when. This is no ordinary problem we face. It is an issue that shapes our very future. And as far as I can tell, very few of the people in my street – or your street, I suspect – know very much at all about it. Our own leaders seem to be generating the view that we can solve it all by imposing “a great big tax” , and that means most of us are simply thinking about what we think of that, how and whether we can afford it, and what the personal impact will be. Hardly any of us have focused on what exactly is to happen to the money raised, and we have heard little beyond vague references to “compensating” those people who might not be able to afford the new price regimes. It is time for a full and frank engagement of the community, not just about plastic shopping bags, 4 wheel drive vehicles, “naughty” industries and selfish consumers. How about a complete refresh of the information available, in a manner and format that actually informs the common person?

    Comment by DRW — December 22, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

  2. agree totally, let’s have truly evidence based policy, and make sensible realistic decisions that face the facts. money is not the core issue here, it is sustainability more broadly.

    Comment by ronda jambe — December 22, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  3. There is no “great big tax”. An ETS is simply an effort to use the market to ensure efficiency in move from high emmission production/consumption to lower emmision production/consumption with compensation to ensure that the most econmically vulnerable do not bear an unfair burden from the adjustment.
    i find it curious that the Opposition is going for a completely regulatory approach that will require much higher levels of government intervention with much higher risks of inefficient outcomes.

    Comment by Doug — December 23, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  4. there is no evidence that the Opposition is sincere about cutting emissions or weaning Australia off coal as energy or exports. But then Labor doesn’t seem sincere either, as the polluters are going to be compensated way above reason. An ETS could work, if the table weren’t so slanted towards the worst polluters.

    Comment by ronda jambe — December 23, 2009 @ 7:34 pm

  5. You wonder “exactly what kinds of evidence would persuade them [sceptics] that climate change is indeed well underway and will affect their lives dramatically”. You also ‘inform’ us that “mass extinctions, partly driven by climate change, are happening now”.
    Well here is one way to persuade this sceptic. If there are mass extinctions then there must be 100’s or even 1000’s of extinctions per year. Give us the name of 10 that went the way of the dodo in 2008…or 2007…or… Not just made up numbers about actual names.
    According to the IUCN Red List less than 800 species have gone extinction in the last 500 yrs. You might call 1.5 per year a mass extinction. I call it evolution.

    Comment by mhaze — December 30, 2009 @ 6:58 am

  6. somehow I missed DRW’s sensible observation, which I totally agree with, about more accessible, meaningful information that people can respond to in positive ways.
    As for names and number of extinct species, I would have to do more digging than my satellite connection here and time allow right now. But over and over, in articles such as this one,, and
    particularly an article about a sixth mass extinction in New Scientist, 18 March 2004 by Anil Ananthaswamy, emphasise that the shape of biodiversity is changing, with unexpected consequences. Of course it is a valid view to say that this is just evolution, because by definition it is. But never discount self-interest, and I have a perhaps irrational love of the spectacular beauty and diversity of life. This goes way past my concerns about my own or my children’s futures, because we are just part of the tide.
    So your comment leads logically to the question: why care about the orangutangs?
    I have no answer to that, just a deep sense that it isn’t right. It goes back to the garden of Eden story, that if we do things knowingly, we have some sort of obligation to shape them.
    Perhaps that is a weak answer, perhaps we should all just make sure we personally live well, and watch another movie and enjoy our affluence. I do that, too, and no apologies.

    Comment by ronda jambe — December 30, 2009 @ 7:33 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.