Mother Jones CopenPrimer

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Anyone looking to understand the intricacies and implications of the Copenhagen climate summit would be well advised to start with David Corn’s introduction on MotherJones.com.

These meetings are generally filled with two kinds of people:

1. professional bureaucrats and NGO hangers-on who are so steeped in the process that they seem to speak a foreign and completely unintelligible language; and

2. Climate dilettantes who drop in to these events infrequently and struggle to understand even the most elemental aspects of the complicated architecture of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Corn, the Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones, seems to have spent enough time paying attention that he understands many of the finer points, and yet he has not forgotten how to speak a version of English that the uninitiated can still understand.

I’m inclined to make one observation on his analysis, though. He sets out many of the challenges facing the assembled countries with accuracy and clarity, but he concludes that the principal roadblock to a deal is a lack of trust among countries. That’s true as far as it goes. But I think he might also have noted the unbridled self interest that badly colors the positions of so many of the countries. Canada doesn’t want to bind itself to a climate deal because it wants to continue exploiting its oil resources without restriction. The U.S. doesn’t want to sacrifice its wealth and privilege or compromise its absolute sovereignty. And China and India want to continue their explosive growth – to lift their people out of poverty.

Of course, the island states are self-interested, as well. They don’t want to  drown in a sea that is rising on a tide of global greed and self-delusion.

Theirs seems to be the interest that we should most respect. They are not trying to squeeze the last drop of profit out of a poisonous fuel source. They are trying to survive. Why on earth should they trust people who would put oil profits ahead of their interest?

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