Outcome of Durban Climate Talks - Half Full, Half Empty

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Outcome of Durban Climate Talks - Half Full, Half Empty

Postby Kevin » Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:32 am

Warm words were juxtaposed between progressive supporters of a timely response to climate change, posted over the last few days, the course of public evaluations of the complex outcomes of the UN COP17 climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

Mark Hertsgaard at The Nation highlighted problems with the Durban talks, and labeled major government negotiators pretty harshly.

Durban: Where the Climate Deniers-in-Chief Ran the Show
http://www.thenation.com/signupad/16515 ... f-run-show

Andrew Light at the Center for American Progress highlighted what were wins at the Durban talks, and criticized Hertsgaard's piece pretty harshly.

Six Reasons Why the Durban Decision Matters
http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/12/1 ... ent-361849

On a close reading, I find little to argue with in Hertsgaard's piece at The Nation. It is not particularly "biased by a blind spot," and it is certainly not "remarkably uninformed."

Hertsgaard's piece simply focuses, strongly, on a different aspect of analyzing the Durban outcome than Light would apparently prefer. Hertsgaard says, "the Durban deal—if left unchanged—guarantees that we will fail to reach [the goal of meeting the 2C target]."

Indisputably true.

Light says, in essence and in contrast, that Durban includes a lot of good and important stuff people worked really hard for, including a chance (with additional future efforts) to meet the goals necessary to meet the climate change mitigation challenge. Also true.

Both of these perspectives are correct.

What is not so appropriate is Light's kitchen sink attack on Hertsgaard and his analysis.

Let's disclose at this point - since it wasn't done in the posting - that US Climate Envoy Todd Stern has multiple cross-connections with the Center for American Progress, where he worked prior to his appointment as special envoy.

I'm sorry, but this - in concert with the words and tone Light has presented - seems to resonate with an emotional cast in Light's multiple postings on the COP17 talks, where Stern is concerned, that appears to be as motivated by defense of the envoy, as by concern for public understanding.

Yes, the Durban glass came out half full, and half empty.

The half full side is right that half a glass represents real and crucial progress.

The half empty side is right that half a glass leaves us still condemned, by the content of the agreement's own provisions, to the thousand years of torture.

On balance, a rational far-sighted views of this is that the Durban talks were overall, very good work, but that they did fail in terms of meeting the actual, fact-based needs of humanity.

Todd Stern should say as much himself. And the Center for American Progress should stop attacking fundamental allies to try to spin up perceptions of the outcome.

And of course, the fundamental failure of the talks, in the sense of reaching a survival threshold, does not mean that we’re done. We will keep fighting for the deeper commitments and faster time tables that could still save the ship of Earth.

Agreeing that the Durban outcome was a half full glass, and that we need to have a full glass before 2020, are useful steps for moving onward. Can we agree on that much?
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