Friday, February 1, 2008

To "Out-Davos" Davos

What do world leaders do after they have expended an inordinate about of time and money (not to mention carbon emissions) on a boondoggle in the Swiss Alps that does little more than give people a chance to tell stories to make each other feel better? The obvious answer is that they organize another boondoggle; and, to maintain the consumption level of time, money, and carbon emissions, they hold it at the University of Hawaii. As far as I am concerned, at least after reading Audrey McAvoy's report for Associated Press, this is about the only way we can view this week's conference on climate change. After two days of closed-door talks (at least the World Economic Forum allowed more open press coverage), a news conference was held at which French delegate Brice LaLonde declared, "We're happy the position of the United States is changing;" but the "fine print" of McAvoy's report did not provide any substantive grounds for this assertion.

I have always enjoyed Mark Twain's little aphorism about music education in the barnyard: "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of time, and it annoys the pig." As far as I can tell, getting the United States to commit to taking substantive action to address the climate crisis is not that different from teaching a pig to sing; and, since this particular pig happens (by mixing metaphors) to be the big bully in the playground, all the other kids seem to have decided that annoying the pig is a really bad idea. (Besides, it did not much effect in Bali, as long as we are compiling a litany of meetings that waste time, money, and carbon emissions.) I suppose those "other kids" are also willing to wait another year, under the assumption that the bully will then be gone; but, regardless of the outcome of the November election, can we really expect change from the new Administration? Think in terms of the following question: How much has climate control been discussed in the endless chain of debates we have been enduring?

For my money the only thing that made the Hawaii conference a more tolerable gathering than the World Economic Forum is that it had fewer delegates in jeopardy of being charged with war crimes.

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