State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

SESSION I: CLIMATE CHANGE – What Would It Take to Complete the Climate Deal?

Credit: Eileen Barroso
Credit: Eileen Barroso

Hans Vestberg reveals shocking stats

Update | 8:48 a.m.

Hans Vestberg, President and CEO, Ericsson takes the stage after Jeff Sachs and reveals some astounding statistics. Today, 4.6 people have mobile phones. Half a billion people have broadband. On the Chinese New Year 23 billion SMS were sent. In the upcoming years it’s predicted that 6-7 billion people will have mobile phones and 3 billion people will have broadband. Hans goes on to predict that using broadband can reduce 15-20% of CO2 emissions.

Introducing Matthew Bishop

Update | 8:53 a.m.

Sachs returns to the stage to introduce Matthew Bishop, American Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief, The Economist.  He speaks about the power of The Economist to reach virtually every national finance ministers around the world.  In his introduction, Sachs describes Bishop as a great academic and a friend to the Earth Institute.  After summarizing Bishop’s recent literary career, he thanks Bishop and The Economist before relinquishing the stage.

Matthew Bishop: Philanthrocapitalism

Update | 8:55 a.m.

Matthew Bishop, The Economist, takes the stage and raises the question: how do we revise a spirit of internationalism? How can we partner between philanthropy and capital, how do we see philanthrocapitalism?

Transported around the world

Update | 9:05 a.m.

Riz Khan, Host of the Riz Khan Show, Al Jazeera English takes the stage. We’re now hearing from speakers from Beijing, Nairobi, London and Riz remarks that “it’s refreshing to discuss the state of the planet instead of state of the economy.” Via the big screen on stage we are transported to Tshingua University in China and then zoom into The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi. We next pan over to Nairobi to UNEP and finally into London to the Economist headquarters. It’s the first time the three of us have seen this many leaders around the world brought together using modern technology. Many of these leaders ask “what will it take to complete a climate deal?”

Climate change: the issue is not science.

Update | 9:15 a.m.

Now Matthew Bishop returns to the stage. We start the Climate Change Panel along with Wallace S. Broecker, Mark Cane, Johan Rockström. Mark Cane, Professor of Earth and Climate Sciences, applied physics and mathematics at Columbia University, asserts that the issue is not the science. The world is warming, GHG is going up, and there is an unacceptable risk for the future because of this uncertainty. People won’t act until something catastrophic will happen. Hopefully people can learn to be smarter than that.

What actions should we take on climate change?

Update | 9:20am

Regarding climate change adaptation and mitigation: Broecker argues that we should capture and store CO2. And that we need to start spending more money, money to the scale of tens of millions of dollars, not billions on experiments. Cane asserts that we need to be working towards alternative energy and that this country needs to rebuild its power grid. Rockström says that we should support countries that want to go ahead with alternative energy.

Climate change experts from China weigh in

Update | 9:25 a.m.

Live from China, climate change experts weigh in. The overall theme of discussion is that there is too much talk and not enough action, commitment, or innovation. A key problem is that 80% of population is entering urbanization and industrialization, creating unprecedented changes. Now we are left with the question: cow do we confront the consequences that this urbanization will bring to the environment?

China brings roars from the crowd

Update | 9:30 a.m.

Qi Ye takes a moment to congratulate the US on health care reform. Roars from the crowd! Points raised and questions asked: China emits 1/4 emission of US emissions (per capita) and will not peak emissions before the US. Is it time for China to set more targets? What role will civil society play in China? What is the role for democracy? Are people skeptical about climate change in China? How do we channel electricity to where it’s needed?

Role of democracy in climate change, US bogged down by debate?

Update | 9:35 a.m.

Qi Ye addresses the question of the role of democracy in climate change legislation, asserting that it’s hard to get something passed in the US because the democratic system is broken and not working effectively. In China the government is staying focused on the job and not getting bogged down by the debate. We need to consider how we can get an international deal to address climate change and specifically how could we make it happen.

How will China measure its progress in CO2 emissions?

Update | 9:36 a.m.

Riz Khan is taking questions from online: How does China plan to measure its progress to reducing carbon emissions? Qi Ye responds that China has been seriously engaged in climate change accords since 1994 and has embraced standard scientific measurements for accessing changes in CO2 emissions.

US not leading, what will happen?

Update | 9:37 a.m.

Other panelists point out that what really matters is the response after the measurements are taken.  A hot topic is carbon tax. Others reflect skeptically on how far the rest of world will go toward climate change without the US taking a lead while acknowledging the importance of not being too US-centric.

More talk on China & US leadership in climate change leg

Update | 9:38 a.m.

Back to NY. Bishop states that China is looking for US to lead and that they are waiting for US to make targets before they will take action. Cane adds that the world still looks to US for leadership, whether we want it or not. Broecker adds in that it will be very difficult to get a carbon bill pass and that China has much greater capacity to do take action but that they will ultimately wait for the US to lead. Perhaps we need to turn the table and have China lead this?

Technology transfer needs to be central in climate change policy

Update | 9:50 a.m.

Lively discussion on the role of technology in climate change and in general policy. Key points: technology transfer needs to be region specific, given a central role in policy.

Emissions from developing countries: India speaks

Update | 9:51 a.m.

We zoom into New Delhi and take some questions from the web:  “Because a large amount of emissions over the next 20 years will come from developing countries do developing countries like India need to do a part by reducing their emissions?” Jyoti Parikh responds that we are currently in the growth stage. Huge numbers of the Indian population don’t have energy so we will need to get those individuals on board. At the same time we will and are doing a lot to reduce the impact of our energy use per unit.

More from New Delhi: We need trust in science, IPCC

Update | 9:52 a.m.

More from New Delhi. Nitin Desai, Former UN Under-Secretary-General, speaks about how China has been progressive in setting its unilateral targets. India has done something similar and a strong leadership force behind national action is necessary. We need a better democratic process for public goods and are currently facing a crisis of trust. We must trust in the science. We need trust in the UN, IPCC. Trust between the small and large countries. Trust b/w the North and South. The EU and US can play a role by making bold statements on where they stand.

The role of low cost tech

Update | 9:53 a.m.

Jyoti Parikh, Executive Director, Integrated Research and Action for Development asks how you manage the inspirations of developing countries when is carbon budget is so limited? Technology needs to be location specific and very cost effective. In India, 700million have no access to electricity. The way forward is low cost tech.

Climate change negotiations different than ozone depletion

Update | 10:00a.m.

Nitin Desai speaks further on how both China and India are being very proactive. The corporate sector in India is pushing for green technologies- like solar tech. The government needs to facilitate the speed at which tech can be developed. Back in New York Cane states that whatever tech we come up might lead to new problems. At the same time we have to remember that it’s problematic to compare climate change negotiations with those around ozone depletion. Those negotiations were so successful because there were real concerns around cancer and because chemical companies had a solution.

Broecker predicts resurgence of nuclear technology

Update | 10:04 a.m.

Broecker predicts that we will see resurgence of nuclear technology. The main problem is time; we are going far too slow. Rockstrom speaks about how solar panels in N. African can cover all of Europe electricity needs, but for our development needs – India and China – the US will have to reduce emissions 100% by 2020. Discussions on equity need to be brought forward. We can use sustainable agriculture to capture carbon dioxide.

And then there was the email hacking…

Update | 10:05 a.m.

Bishop raises the issue of the email hacking and asserts that we need to get the climate change options out there to the public. Cane responds that it is no coincidence that the email hacking happened right before Copenhagen. We will never make the science so perfect that it will be never be unquestionable. Scientists aren’t necessarily the right people to communicate the messages of climate change. We need other folks to help us with that message, and unfortunately it might still take a real immediate crisis to get it.  Cane goes on to say that he doesn’t know what it will take people to change their minds – probably a crisis or cancer with ozone layer.

A new perspective from NYC  🙂

Update |10:17 a.m.

Laughter in the crowd as our moderator asks audience members wishing to ask questions to state their name and where they are from.  He hoped that the information would help us gain perspective.  The first questions came from John of New York – a very unique perspective indeed!

HSH Prince Albert of Monaco: world leader in environment protection

Update | 10:31 a.m.

Sachs introduces HSH Prince Albert of Monaco., a world leader in environment protection, a leading scientific personality, and the motivator of many expeditions such as to the North Pole and Antarctica. We will be hearing about HSH’s work and about the foundation.

Monaco and electric cars

Update | 10:33 a.m.

We’re welcomed to Monaco by HSH live from a trade show. For nearly 20 years, they have encouraged electric vehicles in the principality. Ultimately, tech needs a context, demand, economic and moral drive to foster its development and HSH states that we are at the dawn of major changes. Electric cars are as old as internal combustible engine, the dream has continued through history quietly and has been eclipsed by fossil fuels believed to be non depleted for a long time. But now we know the reality, there is depletion and cost. People no longer believe that sustainable growth can depend on fossil fuel alone.

HSH: our growth paradigms need an overhaul

Update | 10:40 a.m.

We continue to listen to HSH. Monaco promoted electric vehicles in 1990s. And at the time, there were a lot of skeptics claiming that it would ever take off. However, in barely 20 years, a tech advance has triggered advances in Monaco’s economy. Over the past 20 years, our world has seen many changes in energy, economics, and an environmental crisis. HSH calls for an in-depth review of our growth models and asserts that the paradigm in which our progress has been made needs an overhaul. The car could not be seen as just a part of manufacturing. It should seen as a part of our society.

Electric car, a good bet

Update | 10:43 a.m.

Back to Sachs who responds and compliments HSH that he bet exactly right in 1990 with the electric car. This year we will see phasing in of electrical vehicles. We would like HSM to hear more about HSM foundation.

Protection of biodiversity is at the forefront

Update | 10:50 a.m.

Back to HSH. Protection of biodiversity is at the forefront. The implication of climate change became clear that states cannot achieve everything of their own. Success can only be achieved with different stakeholders involved. And for this reason HSH wanted his foundation to be an effective, flexible platform to support different players and raising awareness. HSH continues: biodiversity requires us to think in a unselfish manner away from short-term interests in order to safeguard species. In order to incorporate biodiversity in the long run we need to think about the economic viability.

Break time, coffee time

Update | 10:58 a.m.

It’s Break time! Time for some coffee. Again, we are Eric, Stephanie, and Jaclyn from the Masters in Development Practice Program at Columbia University. Thanks for staying with us!

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14 years ago

Great post
The climate science community, by and large, has concluded that humans have intervened in the system in a way that will lead to climate change. But that is their story.

You can argue about how much effect the carbon in the atmosphere will have on the system and what we should do about it