A Climate Blocking Pattern

By Keith Kloor | July 21, 2011 10:46 am

Last week, this provocative interview with Sir David King, who the Guardian calls “one of the most respected figures in climate change policy,” seemed to register not more than a blip. That’s too bad, because here’s some of what he said:

I can’t see the Kyoto protocol making any headway – there are enough blocks in place, especially from the US and China, that it is wholly unlikely that it will go on. We need to be pragmatic…If you say only a full [legally binding] treaty is any good, we will still be arguing about it in 20 years.

Now let’s go to this story in today’s NYT:

The persistent inability of the United Nations to forge international consensus on climate change issues was on display Wednesday, as Security Council members disagreed over whether they should address possible instability provoked by problems like rising sea levels or competition over water resources.

When will leading climate pundits and climate negotiators get beyond all the  politics and noise and just admit that another kind of persistent blocking pattern is the major reason why international climate policy is forever stalled?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, climate policy
  • grypo

    Moneyed interests:


  • Sashka

    I am really annoyed when people tie competition over water resources to AGW instead of population growth.

  • Keith Kloor

    Look, you don’t need to convince me that “moneyed interests” corrupt politics and policies–across the board. There’s always been ample evidence of that, in all spheres.

    But I could also point out that major elements within the business community have gotten behind the climate change cause in the last 5-10 years, especially during the run-up to Copenhagen, and that still didn’t make a difference.

    I also think it’s worth distinguishing between the obstacles to domestic U.S. climate policy and those at the international level. 

  • Ed Forbes

    “…persistent blocking pattern is the major reason why international climate policy is forever stalled?..”

    Stalled?….you say this like it is a bad thing

    Sounds like a bit a sanity to me

  • D. Robinson

    Re  #1 – Seriously, ALEC, Koch brothers Exxon are just more cogs in the machine.  There’s lost of money driving green investment / legislation too.
    “Global Investments in Green Energy Up Nearly a third to $211 BILLION”  
    “Exxon Sinks $600M into Algae-Based Biofuels In Major Strategy Shift”
    Goldman Sachs $3 billion since 2005 invested in green energy
    GE (NBC anyone?) $6 billion invested in green energy
    George Soros $1 billion 
    Green Energy Means Work for Lobbyists
    “Environmental policy is not driven by tree-hugging activists, earnest liberal bloggers, or ecologically minded citizens. Instead, it flows from the lobbyists and executives of well-connected multinational corporations”


    So, is it your contention that any company investing in and lobbying for alternative energy must be honest, philanthropic and beyond reproach?


  • intrepid_wanders

    Not to mention the double talk and confusion of the message…

    Even if the CAGW sensitivity were 10deg/2XCO2, I would trust natural negative feedbacks to magically appear before I would trust ANY of the proposed solutions presented by these politicians.  They just want other peoples money and trillions of it.  Kyoto is dead and rightfully so.  

    Reliance on energy security with unreliable solar and wind is really the root cause for energy policy failure.  If not, why isn’t Germany shifting to their “mainstay” of wind and solar instead of replacement of nuclear with coal?


  • kdk33


    Green energy is likely the most lucrative rent seeking exercise in human history.

    Exxon/Mobil and those other evil oil companies make possible every aspect of our modern lives, to include our life expectancies (albeit at a profit; which, if you have a 401K, benefits you as well).

    Are there any other boogeymen you need to mention?

  • grypo

    I accidentally derailed this thread.  That was supposed to be a link for the discussion of reasons for delay on action in “The Zombified State of Climate Communication” thread, so it makes sense there.  The money on either side in influencing legislation is complicated.  It’s not apples to apples money.  This gets back to the Nesbit paper and what I thought was an overconfident conclusion about money due to imprecise analysis.  But it’s a boring issue on its own.  Only of interest in context.

  • Pascvaks

    Climatology and AGW were dissapated and absorbed.  The scientists need to withdraw back into the academic wallpaper.  The zealots and anarchists need to find another issue to boil their blood to fever temps. The investors and politicians have already moved on to more “important” matters and only pay lip service to anyone “pushing” them back into the cooling fray.

    The science remains part of the human store of knowledge and dedicated researchers will continue to add to it. 

    The King is dead. 

    Long live the King. 

  • grypo

    Ok, so sorry about derailing this, so back to the topic, which I think is an important one, obviously.  This King approach, while surely to entice some of the big emitters back to the table, will definitely force others away.  There is a block of about 40-50 poorer nations that are gaining strength, not by economic force, but by holding strong on important issues.  These small emitters are also the most likely to be effected by climate change first, as they are more fragile politically and economics. This is an ethical dilemma, one that has to be sorted out before moving off strict agreements

    King’s main message is abandoning perfect to get good.  I agree, but the good is only good if effective.  What is the offer? Adjustments to Kyoto?  Abandoning Kyoto?  This is where the market can have effect.  If large market countries like China and the US punish each other through carbon tariffs, I believe that is the missing piece to replacing Kyoto style emissions agreements.  IOW, if China cuts and the US doesn’t, US has to pay for it in international trade agreements.


    Take a look.  Where is everybody?  

    I’ll just add that framing this as abandoning Kyoto is not going to appease the block of nations that need the help of large emitters now.    There needs to be something for them to agree too.  It’s more complicated then just telling Greenpeace to step aside.  Concessions should take place on both sides.

  • grypo

    I need to attach the link to King’s proposal deals with the poorer nations problem.  I’ll try without linking the http


    If Keith isn’t able to get the security issues with the new blog software fixed, here is a short version of my stuck post:

    Sorry for derailing.  I agree with King’s assessment for the most part.  Greenpeace isn’t the only issue to resolve.   must deal with ethical issues from the strong alignment of poorer nations.  Market solutions and tariffs can replace Kyoto-style strict binding international agreemenrts to reduce carbon.  This gives nations leeway to to negotiate on better and more sovereign terms.

    [The blog software issues are resolved. But posts with more than one link (and sometimes with just one) will still need to be moderated.//KK]]


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at http://www.keithkloor.com/

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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