In following media comment on the Cancun outcome, I have been philosophising about the fact that some people say the overall view has been negative, whereas I had been surprised that a lot of (German) media and even ngos were looking on the positive side. (See http://blogs.dw-world.de/ice-blog last 2 entries). There is a comment in the GUARDIAN ( www.guardian.co.uk ) by Michael Jacobs, a climate and environment expert currently at the London School of Economics. Jacobs says Cancun gives us hope. "The real danger", he says, is that pessimism becomes self-fulfilling". "Optimism", he says, "is not just an essential psychological condition; it's a vital political posture". Any views on this?
Well, yes, I expect optimism is politically vital. But that does not necessarily mean it is well-founded. I have been re-reading parts of Clive Hamilton's book Requiem for a Species, and I find that makes it hard to hope that Cancun will make much positive difference- or even that it could. Hamilton quotes Kevin Anderson, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, UK. He refers to him several times, but one quote in particular seems relevant, so here it is (p 196 in my edition [Earthscan 2010] chapter 7, The Four-degree World, about 7 pp in). Speaking at a conference in Oxford in September 2009 on Four Degrees and Beyond, "Anderson outlined the task with devastating simplicity. If developing-country emissions peak in 2030 and decline at 3% per year thereafter (where 3% is probably the maximum rate of fall consistent with continued economic growth), and developed-country emissions peak in 2015 and decline by 3% a year thereafter, then the world has a 50:50 chance of limiting warning to four degrees [Celsius]. Read that again: four degrees. In his view, we will limit warming to four degrees 'if we're lucky'" Three pp earlier Hamilton quotes Anderson as saying: "The future looks impossible." So I hope you'll forgive me my continued doubt about what Michael Jacobs (and so many others) argue. - Alex