A new approach to making climate treaties work

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Why can't global leaders agree on a broad, effective climate change pact? More than 20 years after they began, international negotiations based on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change have resulted in only one legally binding treaty. That agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, has not been ratified by the United States, historically the world's largest carbon emitter.


The path from futility to progress likely lies in the way that  agreements are designed, according to a new study co-authored by Kenneth Scheve, a political science professor affiliated with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and a senior fellow with the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Affairs.

The study found that architects of  treaties can significantly increase public support – even among those who generally oppose international climate cooperation – by adopting features that resonate with norms of reciprocity and distributional fairness, such as maximizing country participation and including enforcement mechanisms. The findings were published online July 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Written By: Rob Jordan
continue to source article at phys.org

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  1. This is useful, but clearly what we need are leaders who are prepared to convince the public of a need to something. Waiting for the public to fully get on board is to wait until it is undeniable that it is happening. That threshold is fairly high and will be too late and much more costly. Some leaders please.

    • In reply to #1 by Reckless Monkey:

      This is useful, but clearly what we need are leaders who are prepared to convince the public of a need to something. Waiting for the public to fully get on board is to wait until it is undeniable that it is happening. That threshold is fairly high and will be too late and much more costly. Some leaders please.

      The penny is starting to drop in some places!
      As was pointed out in the Nat. Geog articles I linked here:-
      http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/8/22/ipcc-surer-than-ever-about-human-caused-climate-change#comment-box-16,
      the decision to carry on burning “cheap coal”, is the decision to spend a fortune on building flood defences and abandoning infrastructure!

      • In reply to #3 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #1 by Reckless Monkey:

        This is useful, but clearly what we need are leaders who are prepared to convince the public of a need to something. Waiting for the public to fully get on board is to wait until it is undeniable that it is happening. That threshold is fairly high and will be too…

        Thanks for the link Alan4discussion,

        We just spend over 20 billion on roads and infrastructure that were ruined in the floods a few years back in Queensland Australia, we lost pretty much our entire food crop for the season over the Eastern Seaboard of Australia, food prices went up getting to Brisbane has become a pain in the arse as there is a huge amount of road works slowing traffic. But shortly after it happened the government was full steam ahead helping repair the damage to the coal mines and rail lines that carry it so we could keep digging the stuff out of the ground and flogging it off overseas. Irony somewhat lost. As I think the world biggest or second biggest exporter of coal in the world I also get grumpy whenever our politicians say If we don’t sell it someone else will. Yes but if the market is restricted by one of the worlds biggest exporters shutting shop what will happen to the prices?

        I hope you are right but don’t expect Australia to be fully on board anytime soon. Our soon to be new PM has promised to kill the carbon tax when he gets in.

        • In reply to #15 by Reckless Monkey:

          I hope you are right but don’t expect Australia to be fully on board anytime soon. Our soon to be new PM has promised to kill the carbon tax when he gets in.

          It is pretty ridiculous when you think of the potential Australia has for its own clean industries based on solar thermal electrical generation.

          http://breakingenergy.com/2013/04/03/concentrated-solar-power-tower-technology-hits-milestone/

          http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/A-Climb-Up-the-SolarReserve-Solar-Power-Tower

          • In reply to #16 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #15 by Reckless Monkey:

            I hope you are right but don’t expect Australia to be fully on board anytime soon. Our soon to be new PM has promised to kill the carbon tax when he gets in.

            It is pretty ridiculous when you think of the potential Australia has for its own clean industries based…

            Our likely PM said that climate change is crap. That’s the calibre of leader we will probably have after September. The prospect is very worrying.

          • In reply to #18 by phil rimmer:

            Professor Mark Diesendorf of UNSW is the go to guy on renewables in Australia. He claims the Howard Government sought to delay renewables until carbon capture could catch up.

            Carbon capture was never anything more than a temporary prevarication measure. There is no long term basis for carbon capture as a credible solution. Underground CO2 is at some point going to leak out and poison seas or breathing life on land. It is also likely in the presence of water, to turn carbonates into soluble bi-carbonates and dissolve its way out.

            On August 21, 1986, possibly as the result of a landslide, Lake Nyos suddenly emitted a large cloud of CO2, which suffocated 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock in nearby towns and villages.[2] Though not completely unprecedented, it was the first known large-scale asphyxiation caused by a natural event. To prevent a recurrence, a degassing tube that siphons water from the bottom layers of water to the top allowing the carbon dioxide to leak in safe quantities was installed in 2001, and two additional tubes were installed in 2011.

            Obviously if CO2 has to be released to make pressurised storage safe, that negates the point of carbon capture.

          • In reply to #19 by Alan4discussion:

            In reply to #18 by phil rimmer:

            Carbon capture was never anything more than a temporary prevarication measure. There is no…

            Completely agreed.

          • In reply to #18 by phil rimmer:

            Here he shows renewables are already feasible at 100% use if the costs of carbon are factored in.

            http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/another-myth-busted-on-the-road-to-100-renewable-electricity-52178

            Hi Phil,

            I think when we talk about world leadership, we should not forget Brazil – which admittedly has good hydro-electric resources and is now investing in additional coastal wind farms to cover the dry season!

            http://www2.apexbrasil.com.br/en/invest-in-brazil/why-invest-in-brazil/energy

            With one of the cleanest and most renewable mixes in the world, Brazil has a safe and diversified energy supply.

            Brazil has invested in the diversification of its energy mix, which is recognized as one of the cleanest and most renewable mixes in the world. Currently, 46 percent of Brazilian energy is comprised of renewable resources, which is much higher than the world average of 13 percent. As Brazil advances in offshore deep water oil and gas exploration, the country continues to increase investment in the construction of hydroelectric plants and bioenergy production – particularly ethanol from sugarcane, biodiesel – and the use of biomass for power generation.

            In the last three decades, the country prevented 800 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere due to the use of ethanol as a gasoline substitute, or a mixture of both. In Brazil, more than 90 percent of electricity is generated from renewable resources, particularly water, and there is still significant hydroelectric potential to be explored.

          • In reply to #23 by Alan4discussion:

            Brazil…

            Their success is not inconsiderable. Some of its hydro and most of its ethanol production are a little eco-compromised, though. It will be nice when the latter migrates to biomass and they put in place green gas production for their livestock waste.

            Huge fan as I am of many renewable resources (Wind and solar PV can do most of the heavy lifting energy wise), Negawatts (energy efficiency) are/is still the very best investment in terms of CO2 relieved and kWh “created” per dollar of investment. The more we look for energy efficiency savings the more we can still find…its why I chose to be in that part of the the business. I have seen some astonishing plans for integration of manufacturing businesses, food production, living spaces and renewables that could net percentage energy efficiencies for most of the processes involved into the nineties, dramatically dropping the cost of the renewables infrastructure.

            The real bottleneck I see is creating government and business organisational capabilities to arrange such high levels of integration in a proper market economy. What is needed is policy that favours cash stream businesses and an economic sector happy to invest long term in the countries infrastructure, an infrastructure valued at two to three times its current value.

            We have all the technology we need. What we lack are the economic visionaries to design, sell the idea of and build the financial sector needed

          • In reply to #24 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #23 by Alan4discussion:

            Brazil…

            Their success is not inconsiderable. Some of its hydro and most of its ethanol production are a little eco-compromised, though. It will be nice when the latter migrates to biomass and they put in place green gas production for their livestock waste.

            There are certainly local environmental issues with biofluel production and building hydroelectric dams. There are similar concerns with Chinese hydro schemes.

            Where the local conditions are suitable (tide races between islands, or in fijords) , I would prefer tidal tubines (the deep water type rather than barrages are more environmentally friendly) to hydro systems, but with CO2 emissions still escalating, we may need everything we’ve got – including eco-buildings, ground heat-storage etc.

        • In reply to #15 by Reckless Monkey:

          But shortly after it happened the government was full steam ahead helping repair the damage to the coal mines and rail lines that carry it so we could keep digging the stuff out of the ground and flogging it off overseas. Irony somewhat lost. As I think the world biggest or second biggest exporter of coal in the world I also get grumpy whenever our politicians say If we don’t sell it someone else will.

          ..

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World-energy-consumption
          Fossil fuels are dominant in the global energy mix, supported by $523 billion subsidies in 2011, up almost 30% on 2010 and six times more than subsidies to renewables.

          ..And deniers shout about subsidies to renewables and “bankrupting the economy” by diverting investment away from obsolete pollution and into clean energy!

  2. Some times you can over analyze a problem. The rest of the world needs to face the fact that the US is not going to be a leader on climate change, we are going to be one of the last ones to address the problem. And you can make all the convoluted academic reasons you want and say its because of our pioneer spirit or innate distrust of government etc. but the simple reason is our populace has lots of illiterate morons who elect illiterate morons to represent their illiterate moron head in the sand point of view.

    The only way that will change is when the rest of the world starts treating the US as the pariah it should be treated as when it comes to climate issues. Start using all those free trade agreements we used to love to impose sanctions on us to make us pay for the additional harm to the environment our failure to ratify these treaties will cause.

    But the alternative — to try and craft treaties that will be acceptable to the idiots in charge of the US — will simply water down such treaties to be next to useless and most likely they still won’t be ratified here anyway.

    On climate change the world has to view the US the way an abused woman needs to look at her spouse. Stop thinking it is something you are doing wrong or that you can change him by just acceding to more of his irrational desires and realize he’s just a jerk and won’t stop being a jerk until he really feels the consequences of his jerkiness.

  3. One way to advance the “cause” and relevant treaties would be to stop using polar bears as symbols of the perceived threats of climate change. Polar bears are thriving, at least in Arctic Canada/W Greenland. For those who only believe what’s been published in the peer-reviewed literature, see e.g.. PEACOCK, E., et al. 2013. Population ecology of polar bears in Davis Strait, Canada and Greenland. Journal of Wildlife Management 77:463–476.

  4. In reply to #6 by aroundtown:

    “You appear to be utilizing data that is glaringly inaccurate and I hope you can breakaway from whatever source is providing this to you.”

    I find this ironic, as people alarmed by climate change (like you seem to be) unquestioningly support peer-reviewed literature like the paper I cited, and reject just about every other kind of source. Just to prevent a litany of rebuttals though, my comment was not about the scientific basis for AGW, nor about the peer-review process. Simply about marketing based on a misleading symbol… That’s all for me folks.

    • In reply to #6 by parotia:

      I find this ironic, as people alarmed by climate change (like you seem to be) unquestioningly support peer-reviewed literature like the paper I cited,

      You will see that shortly after you wrote this comment and before you posted it I criticised your link as cherry-picking selected data. So much for “unquestioningly support “!

      and reject just about every other kind of source.

      There is a lot of junk demial and deception around from sources which do nor have any scientific integrity. Some of us know how to recognise these.

      As you demonstrated here http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/8/22/ipcc-surer-than-ever-about-human-caused-climate-change#comment-box-13 – that you were incapable of following the connections between burning billions of tons of coal, increased atmospheric CO2, the greenhouse effect, and man-made rising temperatures, – A very basic level of climate science -
      I am not surprised that you are unable to distinguish peer-reviewed studies with integrity, from denialist pseudo-science garbage, or cherry-picked misrepresentations!

      Just to prevent a litany of rebuttals though, my comment was not about the scientific basis for AGW, nor about the peer-review process.

      Really strange, when you just made a silly assertion about “unquestioningly support [of] peer-reviewed literature”!

  5. Polar bear status, distribution &; population
    The status of polar bear populations has been assessed at both national and international level, and 7 of 19 of the World’s polar bear sub-populations are found to be declining in number, with trends in two linked to reductions in sea ice.

    Biodiversity – Status and Trends of Polar Bears (2011)

    If you examine the map on the link, it shows the Davis Strait in SW Greenland as one of the (green) areas where polar bear populations have not reduced.

    Cherry picked areas do not reflect the big picture.

    The data on massive reductions in the volumes of the Greenland ice sheets and Arctic sea-ice are being mapped by multiple measuring techniques, although denialists have a record of cherry-picking local areas where local conditions such as an increase in local snowfall in a warmer wetter climate cause anomalies.

    http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/greenland-slide.html

    10.19.06 – Greenland’s massive ice sheet has lost nearly 100 gigatons of ice annually recently, much of it in low-elevation regions along the continent’s southeastern coast, including the southern tip (pictured here). Credit: NASA MODIS Land Rapid Response Team

    Using a novel technique that reveals regional changes in the weight of the massive ice sheet across the entire continent, scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., report that Greenland’s low coastal regions lost 155 gigatons (41 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2003 and 2005 from excess melting and icebergs, while the high-elevation interior gained 54 gigatons (14 cubic miles) annually from excess snowfall.

    This information is not new. It has been plotted for several years.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/What-CO2-level-would-cause-Greenland-ice-sheet-collapse.html

  6. @ Red Dog:.” but the simple reason is our populace has lots of illiterate morons who elect illiterate morons to represent their illiterate moron head in the sand point of view”.
    This applies to a large degree to the situation in Canada as well. Up here the progressive segment of the population refers to the phenomenon as “the dictatorship of the minority” because of serious defects in our electoral system – it is very sad !

  7. In reply to #12 by Smill:

    In reply to Red Dog, post 2. Your ‘simple reason’ is just about you.

    I agree with you. As Sam Harris points out in his book on Free Will illiterate morons can’t help being illiterate morons. its not my job to judge them, its the job of people like me to try and educate them and we’ve obviously been doing a terrible job so far. I’ll try harder in the future.

    • In reply to #13 by Red Dog:

      In reply to #12 by Smill:

      In reply to Red Dog, post 2. Your ‘simple reason’ is just about you.

      I agree with you. As Sam Harris points out in his book on Free Will illiterate morons can’t help being illiterate morons. its not my job to judge them, its the job of people like me to try and educate…

      Education is right, but Americans have the same average IQ as the rest of the western world and cannot be any more moronic in the strict sense. BUT they do have a unique culture, which perversely is almost anti-culture in its championing of the individual.
      I find it fascinating that the current home of libertarianism, the place where people feel most entitled to their own opinion and profess the strongest that no mother is going to tell them what to think or do and is prepared to pack the heat necessary to make it so, the land of the free, is the home of the brainwashed.

      A failure to understand the risks of a maximally free-market culture and the virtues of a (democratically) more structured culture is in some sense a part of the problem. Individualism will need to be reined in a tad. Experts exist and are to be valued.

      The US leads with this crisis and others will follow. Suspicion of governments and experts must be assuaged somehow. The education needed first is that of governments not the people. In my view we must win the war for an absolute transparency of the state, no matter how it may risk the short term diplomatic engagements with other countries. Only once the state can lead the way in transparency might trust be restored.

      Maximally transparent societies are essential to encourage maximally free citizens to cede some of their thinking to experts. Exemplary and demonstrable moral standing is required of every officer of the state and academic institution. The challenges are enormous.

      Far far better education is ultimately needed for all. An educated populace will make far better demands of its civil servants. (This latter is a far better term for all partaking in government, politicians included. The idea of “being in power” must go.)

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