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WikiLeaks reveals U.S. manipulated climate talks in Copenhagen

Last year, this blog spent so much time discussing the climate conference in Copenhagen, readers thought Down To Earth was in Denmark. Fast forward a year later and the end result didn’t net anything more than talk. But now, secret diplomatic cables released by the omnipotent journalist known as WikiLeaks revealed the U.S. special climate change envoy was going to withhold funds to countries like Ecuador and Bolivia, when they refused to sign on to the Copenhagen Accord and dug some dirt on nations opposed to their way of tackling global warming.

Amy Goodman interviews Guardian Environment Editor John Vidal on this fascinating story at Democracy Now. After the jump is an excerpt.

Obama: Disappointment at Copenhagen Justified

U.S. President Barack Obama, 4th left, is joined by other leaders in a multilateral meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, Denmark Friday, Dec. 18, 2009.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that disappointment over the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change summit was justified, hardening a widespread verdict that the conference had been a failure.

“I think that people are justified in being disappointed about the outcome in Copenhagen,” he said in an interview with PBS Newshour.

“What I said was essentially that rather than see a complete collapse in Copenhagen, in which nothing at all got done and would have been a huge backward step, at least we kind of held ground and there wasn’t too much backsliding from where we were.” Story here.


Twas the day before Christmas…

and all you wanted was more environmental news.
Since we will both be traveling on Sunday, we’re going to take Monday off from posting and instead give you some green news on a Thursday.  We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and if you are traveling - do so safe.  Season’s greetings from DTE!
Here are some stories you might have missed recently.

News from a place DTE is both fond and familiar with, it was announced last week in the S-R that, the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge will receive $1.5 million to purchase nearly 500 additional acres of Eastern Washington’s Channeled Scablands.  “Protecting the refuge’s water sources is one goal of buying more land,” according to Mike Rule, the refuge’s wildlife biologist.  In our experiences in Turnbull, we found it both interesting and peaceful, and recommend you checking it out for yourself.  And now there’s 500 additional acres to see.  Read more HERE. 

Pay attention local foodies and locavores.  A Year of Plenty reports about some grants and scholarships that are available for developing local food systems.  Washington’s Department of Health is offering 10 grants for local food advocates to partner with WIC offices to increase the intake of fruits and vegetables as part of the WIC program,  Quillisascut Farm in Rice, WA is offering an educational event  for those interested in starting a school garden, and the USDA is starting a project funding high tunnels (hoop houses) for farms in an effort to study the potential for increasing the supply of local food.  Read more HERE.   And for some inspiration on why caring about food matters for the environment, read this wonderful excerpt from Wendell Berry’s book “A Continuous Harmony,” that we were tipped off to by A Year of Plenty.  “We will know that no person is free except in the freedom of other persons, and that our only freedom is to know and faithfully occupy our place - a much humbler place than we have been taught to think - in the order of creation….” Read more HERE.

The gift that keeps on giving

Poor Sen. James “climate change is a hoax” Inhofe. You just make it too easy. Even though Copenhagen is over, there’s still some stories that need to be told like when the angry Oklahoman attempted to rustle up some deniers in an effort to hamstring climate talks with a so-called “truth squad.” Said goal of his truthiness was to tell world leaders the U.S. senate will never pass climate legislation. More stunning is that a sitting legislator travelled abroad to undermine the president in an international negotiation and nobody said boo. Well, not exactly…

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thank you Mr. Inhofe. You have always provided DTE with great comic relief and we expect nothing less in 2010!

Copenhagen: R.I.P.

 We pose a question to our readers: How seriously do you take climate change?

For nearly the last two weeks, we have posted daily on the Copenhagen climate summit. Videos. Commentary. Highlights, lowlights. It seemed like the antiquated notion of progress was making a comeback and then we would fall two steps back with every leaked document or another visit from a U.S. senator on a mission to sabotage the proceedings. Politics as usual.

Then came the surprising news Obama would appear on the last day. There was a fleeting optimism his visit would be a game-changing Hail Mary. A moment of truth for how America handles climate change. But coming off the schizophrenia of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize while escalating forces in Afghanistan we asked ourselves how seriously would he take climate change?

Friday Quote: Bill McKibben says Copenhagen conference is a sham

For two weeks we’ve been listening to the story of the leaked emails from East Anglia—a media tempest in an English teapot. And all the time the biggest scandal has been directly under our noses.

This afternoon at Copenhagen a document was mysteriously leaked from the UN Secretariat. It was first reported by the Guardian, and by the time it was posted online it oddly had my name scrawled all across the top. I don’t know why, because I didn’t leak it.

My suspicion, though, is that my name was there because it confirms something I’ve been writing for weeks: The cuts in emissions that countries are proposing here are nowhere near good enough to meet even their remarkably weak target of limiting temperature rise to two degrees Celsius. In fact, says the UN in this leaked report, the cuts on offer now produce a rise of at least three degrees, and a CO2 concentration of at least 550 ppm, not the 350 scientists say we need, or even the weak 450 that the U.S. supposedly supports.

In other words, this entire conference is an elaborate sham, where the organizers have known all along that they’re heading for a very different world than the one they’re supposedly creating. It’s intellectual dishonesty of a very high order, and with very high consequences.

And it’s probably come too late to derail the stage management—tomorrow Barack Obama will piously intone that he’s committed to a two degree temperature target. But he isn’t—and now he can’t even say it with a straight face.

That was Bill McKibben in Grist yesterday. We certainly didn’t see this one coming. So what gives? Leaked documents, political doublespeak, and baby steps toward a real deal—- it seems the biggest issue in Copenhagen is transparency.


Gregoire: Protests, what protests?

Gov. Chris Gregoire said today she’s checked out some energy-efficient cars while at the climate sumitt in Denmark, talked up Washington state with “green” manufacurers, had meetings with other governors and provincial premiers and spent time assuring delegates from around the world that things are happening in the United States to address climate change.

She got a chance to watch reports of the maiden flight of the Boeing 787 on Danish television, and  while she didn’t understand what the newscaster was saying, the video looked good. 

But she hasn’t seen any of the protests, which is part of the coverage  many Americans are getting seeing from the UN Climate Summit in Copenagen.

“It’s sad that’s the representations we’re left with. I have not seen any of the disruptions,” Gregoire said in a telephone press conference.

Although she’s been told Danish security is respectful of free speech rights, she described their reaction to protests as anything but: They’ll round up 700 protesters, let 699 go the next day and just cite one.

“Nothing gets started. They take immediate action,” she said.

Good afternoon from Copenhagen

Justice.  Rights.  Now we’re talking.  The kids are alright, just look at what’s happening in Copenhagen right now.  By the hundreds, the thousands - students, activists, KIDS, representatives from impoverished nations, the minority - they’re showing up everywhere and they’re voices are not being ignored.  They not only speak from experience, but they speak for the future.  Put the old people to bed - Copenhagen rocks.  Check out the cornucopia of links below.

WattHead has a guest post by Garett Brennan, Executive Director of Focus the Nation, where he recaps his experience in Copenhagen.  “Yesterday we had more than 1000 young people in orange T-shirts that say “How old will you be in 2050?” and we’ve also handed out 1000 orange scarf’s to the “older” delegates that say “survival is not negotiable.” It has created an awesome visual solidarity between generations and cultures throughout the entire Bella Center. I also thought you’d like to know that there about 500 young people here from the US Youth movement. Our presence is large and involved. Last night, we organized a wonderful event with 50 American youth and 50 Chinese youth to talk about our shared future together.”

It’s Getting Hot In Here posts about fifty young Americans who took over a climate denier conference hosted by a prominent conservative organization  -  rushing the stage and telling the live TV audience that a clean energy future is the real road to prosperity in America.  Read the report HERE and watch the video below.

Nathan Wyeth of the next billion reports from Copenhagen on what’s wrong with the orientation of the negotiations.  “As they have in previous years, the negotiations pit the world’s wealthiest 1 billion people against the 3-4 billion who have gained a some level of prosperity and are rising quickly.  Who will cut back on carbon - those who already emit a lot, or those who are emitting some and want to emit more in the future?  With the negotiations set up like this, it quickly becomes a zero-sum game.  Since the UN process relies on the commitment of the nations that constitute it, as a zero-sum game it becomes useless as a force to raise the bar towards clean and sustainable development.  Left out of this picture are the 2-3 billion people who are essentially not using modern energy.”  Read more of Wyeth’s post HERE. 

Good afternoon from Copenhagen

As day three of the UN Climate Change summit in Copenhagen wraps up, consider a little history  - precisely, a “where are we now” lesson learned since the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Kyoto, Japan in 1997.  The New York Times recently ran a feature tackling just that - the below graphic touches on the lessons learned, “including how little actual progress any nations have made towards meeting their Kyoto ‘obligations,’” as Jesse Jenkins of WattHead pointed out.  As the Times notes, “The legacy of the Kyoto Protocol is mixed.” Of the 36 wealthy nations who agreed under the 1997 treaty to cut their emissions by an average of 5% below historic 1990 levels, just 18 are on track to meet their targets, almost all of them in Europe.

More from Jesse Jenkins of WattHead in regards to the climate change summit.  In a recent post, he said, “Forget 80% by 2050 and 17% by 2020. Time to stop fixating on 450 ppm vs 350 ppm.  There’s only one number really worth the world’s attention: $10.5 trillion. That’s the additional investment required between now and 2030 to put the world’s energy system on a lower-carbon path, according to the world energy watchdog, the International Energy Agency.”  Taking a page from Cuba Gooding Jr’s book, Jenkins goes on to say that there’s only one thing he wants from the conference, and that’s “show me the money.”  Read more HERE. 

Here come the warm jets. “I will not be one of the sycophants that says climate change is the biggest problem facing the world and we need to do all these draconian things that cost jobs.” That was Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), the top Republican on, you guessed it, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, perhaps the most persistent silver-tongued skeptic on the flat-Earth circuit. Get ready: Barton is traveling to Copenhagen and vows to spoil the party. Ugh.

Also, “Climategate” —-regarding a leaked draft agreement from yesterday—-turns out to be nothing, as usual these days when lazy journalists throw “-gate” on to any headline hoping it will stick. Like Public Enemy says, don’t believe the hype. Full story HERE.

Climate crisis: The editorial heard around the world

On Monday, quite the journalism feat occurred: An editorial on Copenhagen was published by 56 newspapers in 45 countries in a single voice albeit translated in twenty different languages including Chinese, Arabic, and Russian. The London Guardian, probably the most committed newspaper to reporting on climate change, drafted the text and it took more than a month of consultations with editors from the papers involved. Most of the newspapers took it a step further: They featured it on their front page.

Below, the Copenhagen climate editorial logo.

“Given that newspapers are inherently rivalrous, proud and disputatious, viewing the world through very different national and political prisms, the prospect of getting a sizeable cross-section of them to sign up to a single text on such a momentous and divisive issue seemed like a long shot,” said Guardian Deputy Editor Ian Katz in the Colorado Independent. He said the project, carries a simple message to the politicians and negotiators gathered in Copenhagen: “If all of us who disagree about so much can agree on what must be done, then surely you can too.” Read the story behind the story HERE.

We are going to post the editorial in full after the jump. It’s a thing of beauty.

Good afternoon from Copenhagen

McKibben on Copenhagen and “climate change as just another political problem.” Author Bill McKibben weighs in on the summit, taking the big picture route through the obstacles facing a climate compromise. “What I’m saying is: even the best politicians are treating the problem of climate change as a normal political one, where you halve the distance between various competing interests and do your best to reach some kind of consensus that doesn’t demand too much of anyone, yet reduces the political pressure for a few years—at which time, of course, you (or possibly someone entirely different) will have to deal with it again.” Read HERE.

(Image courtesy of 3.bp.blogspot.com.)

Always waiting until the last minute. Sure, there’s a procrastination when dealing with climate change. It’s only natural. “It’s natural to behave irrationally.” It’s the American way. The Washington-Post has an article explaining the psychological distance on climate by putting the country on the couch. One study is from 2007 when researchers in San Diego hung four fliers on doorknobs. According to the Washington Post, “one told homeowners that they should conserve energy because it helped the environment. One said saving energy was socially responsible. One said that it saved money. The fourth said that the majority of neighbors in the community were doing it…the researchers waited and then read the meters. The houses with the fourth flier showed the most change.” One analyst concludes ads for “Hopenhagen” are ineffective, that people are unsure of what to do next, while mailers with energy tips to utility customers comparing power usage to their neighbors have produced results. And the mailers never mention climate change. Scary how that works. Full story HERE.

Activists, stunts, and protests slideshow. Treehugger has some cool scenes from the summit, including a bed-in in honor of John Lennon’s assassination anniversary. Looks like the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance made the most heartfelt demonstration, asking for stronger action from rich countries since even one degree Celsius of warming causes suffering for the African people. View HERE.



Another Green Monday

It was only a few Another Green Mondays ago when we heavily criticized President Obama for his lackadaisical approach to Copenhagen. He wouldn’t show up, in effect sending a xenophobic message to world leaders who understand the urgency of climate change. Next, we heard Obama was swinging by on his way to pick up the Nobel. Now, the story’s different. This time he’ll appear at Copenhagen on the last day, December 18th. A White House press release stated, “based on his conversations with other leaders and the progress that has already been made to give momentum to negotiations, the President believes that continued US leadership can be most productive through his participation at the end of the Copenhagen conference on December 18th rather than on December 9th. There are still outstanding issues that must be negotiated for an agreement to be reached, but this decision reflects the President’s commitment to doing all that he can to pursue a positive outcome. The United States will have representation in Copenhagen throughout the negotiating process by State Department negotiators and Cabinet officials who will highlight the great strides we have made this year towards a clean energy economy.”

This is very good news. Usually, the first days are reserved for handshakes, high-fiving, and protests. The most significant moment is at the end, and it appears a deal could be brokered. Perhaps Obama will be the closer. After all, ask any stand-up comedian, it’s not how you start but how you finish. But as the White House indicated, there has indeed been a shift in momentum despite skeptics foaming at the mouth while developing countries like India and China honor commitments. The whole world will have their eye on Copenhagen and we will too with a renewed sense of optimism, updating the site with the latest news.

Here are some stories you might’ve missed.

Copenhagen climate talks kick off

Today is the day - the day that no matter what happens, we’ll look back on as a pivotal day for the history of envrionmental issues - most notably climate change.  And what Alex Steffen so brilliant said in a recent article that appeared on World Changing, “this is what most older observers seem to refuse to understand: The world looks dramatically different if the year 2050 is one you’re likely to be alive to see. To younger people, Copenhagen isn’t some do-gooder meeting; it’s the first major battle in a war for the future. Their future. I’m in my middle years, in between the two groups, yet even I can see that this war is about to get a lot more heated—far more heated than anything we’ve seen in half a century. To younger people, this isn’t just policy, it’s personal.”

The only way we see fit to kick off these talks is to urge you to read Alex’s article - it’s hands-down one of the most intelligently written perspective on where we’re at right now that we’ve ever read.  Take it away Alex!

Photo of the Day

To highlight the negative impacts of global warming on Mount Everest, with the iconic mountain providing the backdrop, Nepal’s Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, his two deputy ministers, and twenty Cabinet ministers held a special meeting Friday - a meeting at 17,192 feet.  The cabinet, all of whom wore oxygen masks and were examined by doctors before taking a helicopter to Kalapather, next to Everest base camp,  met for twenty minutes with the intent “to get the world’s attention on the impact global warming is having on underdeveloped countries like Nepal.”  For more on the impact global warming is having on underdeveloped nations, read our post “Climate Debt” from early November. 

Another Green Monday

“More and more of us in the industrialized world are feeling a spiritual void, and coming to believe that moving away from consumerism and towards community may be an important step in recovering that nameless thing we’ve lost.” – Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gary Snyder.

The leftovers are gone. Black Friday passed relatively peacefully. And so did Buy Nothing Day. Last week’s Another Green Monday discussed the pitfalls of “greensumption,” so this edition offers a solution through The Greenwashing Index as readers think about gifts. It’s simple enough: Greenwashing is defined as the practice where a business tries to make it seem like it’s greener than it really is. The site is a place for consumers to post and rank environmental advertisements in the hope of differentiating the misleading ones from the honest.

Site Goal #1: Help consumers become more savvy about evaluating environmental marketing claims of advertisers. Site Goal #2: Hold businesses accountable to their environmental marketing claims. Site Goal #3:Stimulate the market and demand for sustainable business practices that truly reduce the impact on the environment.

“Our objective here is to push on the greenwashing issue and, by doing that, set an example for the world to see,” said Deborah Morrison, a University of Oregon professor and the site developer.

A while back we actually threw a daily tip about Larry David and water conservation to the fate of their Greenwashing index scale. Scoring a 2.91, the comments ranged from “this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen” to “makes a good case for being bald I guess?” See, they’re hard to fool—- consumers and the planet are better off for it.

But going back to the Snyder quote, check out the classic Story Of Stuff. Lasting 20-minutes, it’s a quick and informative look at production and consumption, exposing “the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.”

Here are some stories you might’ve missed…

The Goracle compares climate change deniers to birthers

As America loses its lead in green technology and causes further endangerment from delay, Al Gore stopped off in Seattle to take on the ideological deniers: “They are impervious to any intrusions of fact.”

On the same day as Gore’s visit, President Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao announced what the White House called “a far reaching package” on clean energy. (From two nations that use 40 pecent of global energy resources.) Here’s the rub: One provision is titled “21st Century Coal.” Both presidents want to develop “clean coal” and the implausible carbon capture and storage (CCS).

While DTE and The Goracle hope for honestly clean energy—solar and wind—-writer Joel Connelly says “coal may very well end up in the Christmas stockings of those who want action on climate change.”

Full story here.

Also, check the excerpt below from a Seattle Times interview with Gore where he touches on Obama thus far, Copenhagen, and the public perception of climate change.

Another Green Monday

 There’s plenty of time on climate change, right?

(Click here for larger image.)

That was the embarrassing message world leaders sent when they gave up on a binding climate agreement for the upcoming climate conference in Copenhagen. Blame it on our weak congress who can’t get strong enough legislation on greenhouse gases passed. Blame it on the disconnect between developed nations and developing ones for refusing a responsibility on emissions. While President Obama was in Singapore for APEC, Bryan Walsh analyzed the announcement thusly: “It’s fitting, then, that some of the most significant diplomatic news coming out of APEC in Singapore was an agreement not to do something.” Just more talk, more delays. In the eyes of the rest of the world we are still viewed as the primary climate obstructer, disappointing after a quote from an Obama climate envoy, Todd Stern, surfaced in preparation for Copenhagen. “We are very glad to be back, we want to make up for lost time, and we are seized with the urgency of the task before us,” he said a year ago. While the last ten months have seen an honest shift at home in climate change solutions, the IPCC was correct in calling it “an abandonment of the moral responsibility that a position of leadership on the world stage clearly implies.”

At a town hall in China, Obama made a landmark speech on universal rights to his host country. On the freedom of individual expression and censorship, he said we “don’t believe that the principles that we stand for our unique to our nation.” But on climate change, America is unique: We are unable to deal with the reality of this urgent problem.

What we talk about when we talk about climate change

We’ve sure been talking about the road to Copehagen lately and won’t slow down.

Once again, the city in Denmark will host a summit from December 7th through the 18th for negotiations on an international climate treaty. President Obama said he will only appear if there is a framework deal and his presence would seal it while German chancellor Angela Merkel threatened a no show if the U.S, China, and India didn’t make their climate positions clear. Diss.

We’re going to keep you posted with the latest news on Copenhagen. For now, check the Copenhagen voices page at the NYT for a discussion on the significance of this event.


Bicycling in Copenhagen

Welcome to the first of a collector series of posts about Copenhagen, Denmark, site of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference that will take place between December 7 and December 18 - which includes the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 5th Meeting of the Parties (COP/MOP 5) to the Kyoto Protocol.

With less than four months to go before the conference, Copenhagen has recently announced its vision to become the world’s best city for cyclists.  According to the BBC, “In Copenhagen, a third of people already cycle to work, school or university.  There are about 350km (217 miles) of cycle routes around the city. [And] Cyclists have priority over cars and pedestrians at many major junctions and traffic lights.”
“The city has worked consistently to improve things for cyclists,” said Andreas Rohl, who is in charge of the city’s cycling programme.  As the BBC report goes on, “two of the city’s main bridges have recently had a makeover to help encourage more people to cycle. One is now completely car-free, the other has been developed to include double cycle lanes on both sides. The city is planning to widen other existing cycle lanes. It is also considering congestion charging although the legal procedures to do this are not yet in place.

See more HERE.