“A delegation of Cornell researchers will join the fight against climate change Monday in the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.” So begins an article in the Cornell Daily Sun, the university’s student-run paper.
To repeat: this is a student-run paper and every allowance must be made for the immaturity, inexperience, and typical tendency toward enthusiasms of its writers. One does not expect nuance, or even complete correctness, in its coverage of major political events. This granted, this article encapsulates everything that is wrong with the public debate over global warming.
Or “Global Climate Change” as Schindler, the writer, put it. The event is of such moment to deserve full capitals, as if it were a personage. One cannot “fight” a common noun, but the perpetually concerned can do battle with a proper one.
Who’s going? Not I. I am only semi-attached to this august institution, so perhaps it is natural and right that my invitation has gone missing. However, no other person directly associated with matters atmospheric made the cut. Maybe they weren’t asked; or maybe they were, but had clearer heads.
We do know that the “Cornell Center for Sustainable Future — the Atkinson Center — has been working on coordinating the delegation.” You’ve got to hand it to activists: they picked the right word in sustainable. Who could be against sustainability? The amorphous nature of its definition is a tremendous advantageous in debate. Fling the word at an opponent, and he is immediately set back on his heels, too busy fending off suspicions that his motivations are purely pecuniary.
Anyway, on the sustainable Cornell bus will be “Eight undergraduates and ten graduate students” and three bosses. These are Antonio Bento, professor of Applied Economics and Management, Johannes Lehmann, professor of Soil Sciences, and Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell’s Global Labor Institute.
Bento and team “will present a theoretical and computational model of a cap-and-trade model”, which—do I need to say this?—is based on output from climate models. A model of a model of a model. Put another way: an approximation of a surmise of a guess. What could go wrong?
Sweeney—who I say truly is the man you want on your side in a negotiation—“will give a presentation on labor unions’ role in fighting climate change.” He said, “The labor unions are divided politically. There are those who see climate protection as a threat — the carbon-intensive industry.” A fascinating battle shaping up there. Will Sweeney be the one to break it to Teamsters members that their livelihood is harmful to the environment?
With lots of money to be had, it was only natural that organizations of every stripe, including unions, would want to nose around the trough. “About 200 labor organizations will attend the COP 16 and they will also have their own conference.” Mark that: their own conference, not the official one. Just being near all that cash is its own reward.
Lehmann, in a departure from the norm, will offer the meeting some research, “on how to avoid carbon dioxide losses from soils that would contribute to global warming, and how to increase organic carbon in soils that will be a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide.” Could be interesting, that.
But if you begin to muse on soil physics, you’ll have missed the meat, which is that Lehmann, the only scientist in the group, is being shunted off onto a “side event”, which is “meant to inform the delegates.” Lehmann said, “The presentations by scientists are attended by negotiators that will hopefully be better informed through the material. Often, negotiators are directly interacting with presenters to deepen their knowledge.”
Do you see? This is the “Aha!” moment, dear readers. If you didn’t have it, reread that quotation, and pause at the word “Often.” The revelation is not even that the word is not “Always”. The key is that this meeting is being run by politicians who, if they care too, which oftentimes they do not, have to go out of their way to meet with actual scientists at what is, after all, purportedly a meeting about science.
Since physics has been relegated to “side events”, it must mean that the politicos have already made up their minds. But about what? I differ in many from thinking that these land sharks have grasped the fundamentals and uncertainties of thermodynamics and are convinced “It’s worse than we thought.” Instead, they are going for the same reason the unions are: power and money.