30 January 2010

Pop Quiz -- Who Said What?

How well have you been following the climate debate?

Nature asked six climate change experts their views on the significance of the Copenhagen Accord. Before I provide the link, I've listed the experts below and a passage from each. Your job is to match the expert with the phrase. No cheating!

Feel free to enter your guesses as comments. I'll update this post with the answers after the weekend. Have fun guessing!
A- Mike Hulme, UEA
B- Jonathan Lash, WRI
C- Bill McKibben, 350.org
D- Roger Pielke, Jr., CU
E- John Shellnhuber, PIK
F- David Victor, Stanford

1 -“The US and China decided they didn't want these pesky [little] nations burdening the talks with their unreasonable demands for survival, so they cut their own pact. But in some sense, the US and China, having broken the UN process, also bought it.”

2 - “The Copenhagen Accord is a much bigger — and better — deal than many people realize.”

3- “If 'dangerous' is 2 °C, then I suspect we are toast. A lot of people will lament that, but one has to wonder whether this is not a failure of governments but rather a failure of people.”

4 - “It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. [Yet] many in the climate debate seem ready to put the Copenhagen experience out of their minds and gear up for doing it all over again in Mexico City. Insane!”

5 - “. . . we need to set near-term targets that are pragmatic and technology-based, and they should be achievable on the basis of credible social, technical and economic analysis, not aspirational targets driven by IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] science.”

6 - “. . . the many small countries were not the problem in Copenhagen; [the problem was] primarily the United States and China. If those two were willing to cooperate on climate protection then the UN system would also work fine.”
The Nature piece with the full comments from the six experts is here.


  1. Roger- I thought it would be interesting to compare the tone of the different responses.
    Yours and Mike Hulme’s are pragmatic.
    Lash’s is diplomatic, and wants to stay the course.
    As to Victor and Schnellnhuber, they remind me of Pinchot’s Maxim #4.
    “Find out in advance what the public will stand for. If it is right and they won’t stand for it, postpone action and educate them.”

    "If 'dangerous' is 2 °C, then I suspect we are toast. A lot of people will lament that, but one has to wonder whether this is not a failure of governments but rather a failure of people." David Victor
    “after almost 20 years of lofty announcements and sustainability kitsch, the meeting made brutally clear how little the respective sovereign states are willing to contribute to the well-being of humankind.” Schnellnhuber

    Calling the public, and their governments, names if they don’t agree with you is not a good way to win people over to your point of view.
    Finally, I thought it worthy of note that Bill McKibben, who is not a scientist, holds such esteem for the physical sciences. You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out that our survival depends on the capacity of plants, animals and humans to adapt to new environments -therefore the key sciences would be evolutionary biology and social sciences.

  2. Hi,

    Interesting quiz! My guesses:

    A --> 4
    B --> 2
    C --> 6
    D --> 5
    E --> 3
    F --> 1

    I don't recognize David Victor of Stanford, so his (F --> 1) could easily be wrong...which would obviously make others wrong. I could also have yours and Mike Hulme's flipped. But I'm pretty sure one of you is 5, and the other is 4.

  3. You and Mike Hulme were obvious. The rest weren't.

    Did you ever think there are just too many advisors on the government payroll with nothing to say? I wonder what they find to do all day. If they got rid of climate bods and replaced them with energy efficiency bods, or better still, research engineers then that might cure the constipation.

    I notice Obama is forcing his government to increase their own efficiency first. He can meet his targets just by removing all the useless climate hangers-on. We had 15,000 people at Bali and 20,000 at Copenhagen, yet all of them basically repeated the same one-line mantra. A single person could have done that and he could have been ignored via the internet instead.

    They might then have some spare cash for archiving the elusive raw temperature data and checking the iffy adjustment software that everything hangs from.

  4. I wonder if that #4 "Insane!" guy could lead these thinkers to new priorities.

    Instead of making climate the focus, why not just enjoy what happens with atmospheric gases as a by-product to initiatives that serve more tangile and realistic environmental and social enterprise goals?

  5. jgdes

    A few weeks ago, an interviewer representing a research group called me and asked what I, as a user of research information, wanted them to study with regard to climate change and the social sciences. I told her my fear was that we would have no economics or social science to study today's problems because the only source of funding is for climate change.
    The interviewer told me I wasn't the only one who gave that feedback. My observation is that in general, we don't seem to examine the opportunity costs of spending masses of research funding on "climate science" and not spending it on other things.
    Maybe because climate scientists are not economists and therefore lack the concept of "opportunity costs.";)

  6. Way too many people in the 'climate community' focused on the goal rather then the solutions.

  7. No. 5 for Roger as it is a balanced approach, don't know about the rest...

  8. We definitely need to ignore the fear-mongers of both thermageddon or state-control and instead talk about energy solutions for a growing and more affluent population. We'll have disagreements and biases there too but it would at least be based on problem solving.

    What we have at the moment is one group who seem to believe the god of the invisible hand will provide the answer when and if it's required while the other thinks that if we tax the alternatives then that invisible hand can be moved a bit quicker. Neither seems to consider the strong probability that there is no such hand and we need to actually enable progress to take place. I don't believe the internet for example would have just come into being without a mighty shove but once there it made it's own way. How we'd miss it if it suddenly disappeared!

    Unfortunately it's industry who need to shove this time and we consumers need to demand it. Governments can't do it because the politicians are clueless and pressure groups are just misleading them down narrow, blind alleys. We'd already have had Thorium power by now if it wasn't for pathetic cold war hawks and we'd likely have had offshore wind and onshore solar plants with battery/hydro back-up if it wasn't for the nuclear lobby's disinformation campaigns.