Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keeping an Eye on Copenhagen for DOD

Climate science was not really on my DOD Energy radar until the CNA report "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" appeared in 2007. Since then, while climate issues are far removed from the core missions of the day, they are beginning to inform future planning activities and global scenarios, as we'll see more clearly when the QDR 2010 is released to the public in a few months.

So along these lines, here's a dispatch from guest blogger and former Naval engineer, Vince Marshall, who's watching the Copenhagen climate summit closely:
Copenhagen: Global Climate Change Insurance for “Uninsured Motorists”
192 Global Climate Change representatives are in Copenhagen trying to hammer out policies on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. The discussions come down to a few relatively simple issues:
  • Industrialized nations believe that developing nations will add a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases as they grow and should take steps to reduce now
  • Developing nations counter with two major complaints: the industrialized nations did not do this when they were growing and, more importantly, if this is so important to wealthy nations, how about helping out the poor neighbors by giving money and technology to reduce this burden?
Both sides make strong points and the question becomes this: how important is global climate change and who should pay for mitigation? There is a great set of articles in the Dec 5 edition of The Economist on Climate Change. The editors don’t debate whether climate change exists. They simply observe that climate change mitigation should be considered an “Insurance policy”. We take out insurance policies for our vehicles and homes against fires, floods and earthquakes without a second thought. In very simple terms, Copenhagen is about industrialized nations agreeing to take out “Uninsured Motorist” policies to cover developing nations.
If governments agree that taking out an insurance policy for the entire planet is a good idea, then how much should each country be willing to spend and who should be writing the checks? This comes down to policy and the Economist describes it here.
Global Climate Change “Insurance” can be measured in percentages of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and allocated for mitigation over many decades. We can do this by getting the highest “Bang for the buck” with energy efficiencies first then deciding what the best technologies for each region are in terms of renewables. Base electrical loads using distributed nuclear, such as those from Hyperion and Toshiba should be considered in addition to wind, solar and biomass.
Most likely we will see little outcome from Copenhagen unless the 70% majority of the developing nations (135 of 192 attending) can convince the industrialized nations to transfer large amounts of money and technology to them. This may happen but will probably be on a small scale and not really enough to make a difference.
Whether you believe in human-induced climate change or not, it makes sense to pay attention to these proceedings, as the outcomes may have broad implications for DOD and the nation.
Me, I'm not sure we understand how our planet works nearly well enough to know what to do to make it better, or that we'd even collectively agree on what better means. I believe in the power of the scientific method to iteratively arrive at the truth, but when climate change became politicized (and a billion dollar business), it left the realm of science for good IMHO.

But I understand many if not most folks feel otherwise. Vince has informed me that he'll be preparing a summary post after the conference is concluded to assess what impacts, if any, DOD is likely to feel from this. Stay tuned.

"Little Mermaid at Langelinie" Photo Credit:

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