Monthly Archives: December 2009

Before I left…some Danish in Denmark

Before I left for New Haven, I needed to do it.

So Alice, Claire, and I headed out on a cold Wednesday morning to the best Danish bakery in town. To get there, you have to go across a bridge, walk down the stairs, turn around, and walk along winding roads that feel like you’re in Central Park. Along the way, we met an older man who told us about his time in Qatar.

Of course, he was headed to the same bakery, too, for his daily dose of bread. We three went crazy and just bought tons of things. I bought some focaccia, five different types of pastries, and some tea cookies to bring back. The rhubarb Danish was out of this world. Yum. It reminded me of the days over the summer when I made strawberry-rhubarb crisp using Grace’s Dorie Greenspan cookbook. Dorie knows what’s good.


Connie Hedegaard resigns as COP president

but will remain on board as a special advisor???  More to come.

But tonight we begin in Copenhagen…

“I don’t know if that’s a boycott.  That may have just been lunch.”

“Could it be a bigger hoax than the female orgasm???”

“On the other hand, it gets cold in winter and scientists are PAID”

Todd Stern, debunking myths

Press briefing by Todd Stern – Special Envoy for Climate Change and Head of the United States Delegation

Comments on the US mitigation commitment:

Reduction proposal submitted around 17% below 2005 levels in 2020, with upgrades to 30% below 2005 in 2025 and 42% by 2030.

–> there is considerable frustration that the US hasn’t been using 1990 levels as a benchmark, but consider that 30% in 2025 and 42% in 2030 are equivalent to 18% and 30%, respectfully, for 1990.

Stern responds to criticism that the US has been outdone by the EU in these commitments: EU 20% reduction against 1990 levels is equivalent to 13% against 2005, so less than what the US is putting down.

Also, a good question from member of press: Q: “China has pledged to reduce its carbon intensity.  The US has said that it wants all pledges to be verifiable.  Carbon intensity has two components.  There’s the carbon emissions – that seems reasonably straightforward, you can count the coal plants.  But if you want to measure GDP, how do you do an external audit that people believe of a country’s GDP?

A: … “that nicely encapsulates the reason why we think that there ought to be some measure of international consultation or review or dialogue or whatever the term is, with respect to any transparency report that a country puts in, whether it’s China or anybody else, so that quesitons can be asked.  And, how – in the US can you audit?  that’s kind of outside my particular range of expertise.  But it’s a question that I think underscores the need to be able to ask questions, understand assumptions behind numbers and things like that.

–> anyone else have an answer to this?

(going to press Thurs.)

On behalf of President Obama, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced in Copenhagen Monday the launch of a new Renewables and Energy Efficiency Deployment Initiative (Climate REDI) as a “quick start” initiative for the broad technical and financial mechanisms of an international climate agreement.  Secretary Chu also welcomed progress under the Major Economies Forum for Climate and Energy (MEF), inviting counterparts in MEF and other countries to a first-ever Clean Energy Ministerial in Washington next year.

Cramped alongside the meeting room with press and other onlookers, I was brushed aside by secret service as Chu and energy ministers from Italy, India, and Australia were hurried into the briefing.  In moments like this, the COP15 Climate Conference lives up to its representation in the mainstream press as nothing more than a high-profile shouting match over “factual” science, controversial forebodings and arbitrary commitments.

It is different, however, when you’re close enough to the politics to be pushed out of the way.  You see them roll their eyes, wipe their brows, check their blackberries, and begin to question the humanity of entrusting so few individuals with such imperative decisions.

The U.S. presence here is reassuringly strong, and high-profile appearances are expected every day this week by members of Obama’s cabinet.  Destabilizing to Copenhagen skeptics is the compelling rhetoric emanating from Chu, a Nobel laureate, who speaks in largely technical and less wistfully emotive terms than Obama, when he must frustratingly tailor climate science to a global audience.

Climate politics is unique in that credible science is unavoidably manipulated towards discursive ends.  The U.S. media center at COP15 is particularly geared towards bringing American scientific research to the global forefront.  To clear space for Chu’s speech, for instance, a team of staffers hurried to move the elaborate demonstration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of meteorological modeling, involving an enormous spherical display of real-time global storm patterns.  Chu, himself, was speaking a foreign language to probably half his audience of press and politicians as he explained ion-pool energy storage and jet-engine-inspired turbine research.  From what I’ve seen, Chu and the Department of Energy are not going to dumb down the scientific realities facing decisionmakers just so that they are more easily discussed over dinner.

But the next day, Secretary Chu was on a plane back to Washington.  Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, made his own speech on Tuesday afternoon as part of the back-to-back strategy of U.S. delegators in laying the groundwork for Obama’s appearance on Friday.  Needless to say, I won’t be standing anywhere nearby for that speech, which will be attended by over a hundred heads of state expected in Copenhagen for the final days of negotiations.

The difficulty for me is in reconciling that a strong American presence encounters a delicate balance of global perspectives, especially significant resentment towards our disproportional contribution to global emissions.  With blinders on, one is easily convinced that our scientists will live up to a history of life-changing innovation and provide American homes and businesses with the necessary tools for a carbon neutral future.  The reality of conference proceedings, however, is that the most convincing stance, such as that of American scientific consensus, often has limited political voice.

Pause for Applause…Al Gore and his Farmer Joke

Al Gore is actually a funny man. Alice and I are listening to him right now. A man just told me, “I’ve heard [the joke] before but when Al Gore’s telling it, you can hear it 50 times over.”

His joke to come. Meanwhile, enjoy a few pictures.

Alice and I before the event

Al Gore speaking on climate change

Updated 5:50 pm (Danish time): Here’s the joke:

A farmer was in court because he was suing a driver who had hit his car.

The defendant’s lawyer asked the farmer, “Did you or did you not say that you were ‘fine’ after the accident.”

The farmer said, “It’s not that simple.I was taking my cow in the back of my truck.”

The lawyer said, “Please don’t waste the court’s time with a long, complicated story. Just answer yes or no.”

The farm said, “Well, this fellow ran me over… I was on one side and my cow was on the other. The cop came and said boy, he’s suffering, and shot my cow between the eyes…Then the cop came up to me and asked me how I was doing…I said I was fine.”

– Snigdha

A good overview…

It’s surreal to be at COP15 and searching for news online about what’s happening in the conference negotiations. Of course, there are a million things going on at once and you can’t follow everything, but at the same time negotiations could stop or there could be an amazing breakthrough and we might not find out for an hour or two at least. Craziness.

On that note, here’s a good overview of where things stand right now from the NY Times.