Post Conference Thoughts – Altruistic Hubris
The COP15 was certainly a worthwhile experience all-around for me personally. Before I left I was incredibly skeptical that anything positive would come out of the conference. I left the conference not only skeptical but also angry and fearful; angry that just about any group with an agenda used climate change as an impetus for promoting their cause and fearful that in this environment something would actually be drafted.
Well something was in fact drafted and that was the Copenhagen Accord, a pretty short document about 5 pages total. After reading this document a certain phrase came to mind, altruistic hubris. I say altruistic because I try not to doubt the intentions of individuals or organizational bodies especially ones I have no immediate personal relationship with and also the people I did meet overwhelmingly seem to be there for the positive reasons. The arrogance, however, is evident simply in the wording with phrases like “…with a view to reduce global emissions so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.” Just to take a step back, this language is one of management of the global temperature, a role I think no one or body should be in charge of. Of course the counterpoint is that we have already “controlled our climate through emissions” so we have to do something. I agree to the extent that we necessarily should reduce emissions but temperature is a marker of increased emissions and not a necessary consequence. What if we do go above 2C, can we wholly attribute the gradual 2C rise solely to anthropogenic emissions? If not (because climate attribution ultimately comes down to probabilities not absolutes), then does it make sense to hold temperatures below 2C? So when documents are drafted describing the necessity for controlling global temperatures this should give us pause at the arrogance of understanding of the climate system. The issue is emissions, in my humble opinion, and that is what should be the focus not the language of geo-engineering global temperatures at all.
Apart from the outcomes and documents, of course the thing that made the conference truly enjoyable in the end was hanging out with the Michigan delegation.