Durban Update: China Might Deal. US a Drag?

December 4, 2011

UP with Chris Hayes featured the most comprehensive discussion of the Durban climate talks I have yet seen in the media this week.
(the first segment is above, go here to see the remainder..)

He spends the segment talking with Amy Goodman, to which I say, its about damn time. Goodman has been doing some of the country’s best journalism for a dozen years or more, and I’d like to see more of her.

There’s a lot of criticism of Obama for not using the bully pulpit to push the climate change message, and I agree with that much.  I don’t jump on the bash Obama bandwagon totally, because I think that no one could have predicted the degree of pure racist hatred that’s been orchestrated against him by the Republican party, to block basically anything he would want to do, even such no-brainers as fixing roads and bridges.

Since it’s clear there is a huge overlap between racism and climate denial, we can see the problem.


Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — China this week softened its opposition to making a legally binding pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, opening the possibility for a broader international effort to fight climate change.

The nation may be willing to accept a target on carbon- dioxide emissions after 2020, Su Wei, China’s lead climate negotiator, said in an interview with Bloomberg on Nov. 29. He told Reuters yesterday adopting a goal was a “possibility.” China Daily on Dec. 2 quoted an analyst close to the government saying preparations for a pledge on carbon were being considered.

The comments suggest the government in Beijing is preparing to break a deadlock with the U.S. over which country moves first in cutting fossil fuel emissions blamed for damaging the atmosphere. Previously, China has resisted any talk of taking on a target of its own. The U.S. says it won’t make a binding promise without action from developing countries.

“We are definitely seeing some hints of softening from China on this question of whether or not they’d be willing to accept a binding commitment at some point in the future,” Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the New York- based Natural Resources Defense Council, said today in an interview in Durban, South Africa. “In the past they’ve never been willing to say the words ‘binding commitment.”

LA Times: 

When an energized U.S. delegation arrived in Copenhagen for world climate talks two years ago, environmentalists were encouraged by its willingness to tackle global warming.

In the months before Copenhagen, the House of Representatives had passed climate change legislation, and the new Obama administration had crafted an agreement with the auto industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the main contributor to global warming.

But now, halfway through a two-week round of climate talks in Durban, South Africa, that excitement has disappeared. Weakened by reversals in Congress and the ailing economy as a presidential election looms, the U.S. delegation has staked out a position that has confused and frustrated environmentalists and other nations.

Doubts have arisen about Washington’s willingness to cut emissions more substantially and its commitment to follow through on helping developing countries already battling climate change, people at the talks said.

The U.S. has shown up “empty-handed, with questions about whether it will be able to meet the emissions-reduction pledge President Obama put forward before Copenhagen,” said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The question now is whether the U.S. will facilitate progress or block it,” said David Waskow, climate change program director at Oxfam America.


The world’s poorest countries have asked that talks on a new climate deal covering all nations begin immediately.

At the UN climate summit, the Least Developed Countries bloc and small island states tabled papers saying the deal should be finalised within a year.

Many of them are vulnerable to climate impacts such as drought or inundation.

The move puts the blocs on a collision course not only with many rich nations, but also with developing world partners such as China, India and Brazil.

These three developing world giants believe talks on a new mandate should not begin now because developed nations have yet to fulfil existing commitments.

But their smaller peers believe there is no time to lose.


11 Responses to “Durban Update: China Might Deal. US a Drag?”

  1. I did a little digging into the background of a fellow arguing over at Real Climate a couple weeks ago. He had also visited a libertarian blog where global warming is thought a conspiracy to establish a one world government. He seemed friendly enough towards them, he wasn’t one of them. He was from South Africa.

    So naturally I thought of Sasol, South African Synthetic Oil Ltd.. But he didn’t work for them. Instead he is employed by Wildhorse Energy Limited, leading up their Mecsek UCG (Underground Coal Gasification) project in Hungary. Wildhorse Energy Ltd is out of Australia, but it turns out that Wildhorse Energy Limited has hired ex-Sasol experts for their UCG projects.

    More recently I noticed that Sasol and China were teaming up for a coal gasification project, but back in September 2011 Sasol got tired of waiting on Chinese bureaucracy, and while they are continuing with other projects in China, for the moment at least coal gasification isn’t among them. Sasol is, however, working coal gasification with the Tata Group in India and pursuing similar opportunities in Indonesia.

    I take an interest in Sasol. Looking at AIRS (Atmospheric InfraRed Sounder) images carbon dioxide over the globe I saw South Africa was producing a fair amount, as is Australia. Australia has large deposits of coal, but with South Africa I had initially thought the emissions were, like southern South America due to the use of fire for clearing of jungle.

    However, in the case of South Africa the emissions were (according to a NASA) due to the largest single industrial source of carbon emissions in the world. Coal gasification. South Africa had picked up Nazi technology for coal gasification in reaction to the west’s unwillingness to sell them regular oil due to Apartheid.

    In terms of carbon emissions, coal gasification is actually dirtier than the oil from the tar sands of Canada, end-to-end producing 3X as much carbon dioxide as regular oil. This will only get worse as it becomes necessary to mine less accessible, poorer quality coal. Thanks to Sasol, the technology is spreading.

  2. Martin_Lack Says:

    When it is you and Saudi Arabia versus the world it is time to start looking for your moral compass.

    Unfortunately, because the Industrial Revolution began in the UK, it is only just behind the USA in the league of culpability for climate change in terms of historical CO2/yr/person (despite having a population of about one fifth that of the US). Therefore, the UK is struggling to find its moral compass too.

    Meanwhile, because 19 years have already been wasted, I agree with the LDC and the AOSIS – we have no time to waste: If 2011 was a foretaste of what is to come, the worldwide cost of repairing physical damage done by climate change (i.e. increasingly more frequent – and more ferocious – extreme weather events) should be sufficient to convince anybody that it would be better to attempt to mitigate excessive change than just to let it wash over us (literally in the case of the AOSIS)…

    Last time I checked, the International Energy Agency was not a mouthpiece for anti-Capitalist or eco-Marxist environmental alarmism. Therefore, when they decide to publicly admit that it would be better to spend the money now rather than wait (as did Sir Nicholas Stern in 2006), I think it is time for the Fossil Fuel Lobby (FFL) to throw in the towel: As Peter Jacques has concluded(2009, p.169), continued denial is not in the public interest (although it is very clearly in the FFL’s interest – even if not that of their children and grandchildren).

  3. jpgreenword Says:

    Thank you for the video. It is quite sad how little attention this conference has been getting. Leave it to Chris Hayes!

  4. It would appear that even though China is holding off on coal liquefaction they are investing heavily in tar sands.

    Please see:

    China Digs Deeper Into Canadian Tar Sands During Durban Talks
    By Brad Johnson on Dec 3, 2011 at 9:11 am

    Likewise, it would appear that the longer we hold off on meaningful limits on carbon emissions the more deeply entrenched non-traditional fossil fuels will become in a growing number of nations.

  5. neilrieck Says:

    Conspiracy Theory:
    1) The US outsources its manufacturing to China
    2) The US wants nothing to do with reducing emissions because it will hurt profits from fossil fuel (they don’t give a damn about losing middle-class manufacturing jobs)
    3) The US tells China, “you continue to blame the west then demand bigger emission cuts from the countries who caused this problem” and “we will maintain the deadlock by requiring you to match emission reduction targets”

    Meanwhile, China has pulled ahead of the US in manufacturing renewable energy technology. The same thing happened before when GM stopped research on renewable/electric technology while their Asian-headquartered partners (Toyota/Nissan) did not.

  6. daveburton Says:

    Over 31,000 American scientists (and engineers in relevant disciplines) have signed a petition saying, “…there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide may produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

    The evidence is piling up that they are right. Google for:
    “Donald Zak” tree growth

    • greenman3610 Says:

    • Martin_Lack Says:

      Big Yawn…. The “additional CO2 in the atmosphere will be beneficial… lie has been doing the rounds for at least 15 years. It was therefore included amongst those I reviewed on my blog today, as highlighted by Paul and Anne Ehrlich in the ‘Fables about Atmosphere and Climate’ chapter of Betrayal of Science and Reason (1996).

      Unless you are going to deny that the warming is happening, climate change is going to render our most fertile soils useless because they will no longer be located in the right climatic zone. This could be a slight problem for food production because decent soils develop over 1000s of years.

      In a population of over 310 million, 31,000 is less than 0.01% of the population. However, in any case, if they have a case, they should be publishing it in a peer-reviewed journal – and hoping that no-one resigns from the editorial board afterwards….

      • daveburton Says:

        You’re citing Paul “population bomb” Ehrlich!?! No wonder you’re confused! Here’s a Paul Ehrlich quote for you:

        “In ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish.” — Paul Ehrlich, Earth Day, 1970

        Smart guy, eh? Quite a visionary!

        If you are so sure that the fact that elevated CO2 levels are beneficial to agriculture is a lie, Martin, then why don’t you get your Attorney General to go after those frauds who are selling CO2 generators to all the major greenhouse operators? After all, those CO2 generators put a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere (though quite a bit of it gets promptly removed from the atmosphere by plants, and turned into fruits and vegetables).

        There’s not a speck of evidence that “our most fertile soils” will be rendered useless for agriculture by climate change, but there is overwhelming scientific evidence that elevated CO2 is highly beneficial for agriculture.

        Why do you think that there’re more than 500x as many O2 molecules in the atmosphere as CO2 molecules, Martin? After all, CO2 is by far the more stable, less reactive molecule!

        The answer is that, in the race between plants and animals, the plants won. They’ve tugged the CO2-O2 tug-of-war rope all the way to the end. Animals are relatively scarce, compared to photosynthetic plants, and the plants have used up nearly all the CO2. The animals just can’t produce enough CO2 to keep up.

        That’s why O2 is plentiful, and CO2 is in chronically short supply, and measured in parts-per-million. The shortage of CO2 is the primary limiting factor for plant growth on the Earth.

        • Martin_Lack Says:

          Unfortunately, Dave, it is you that is woefully out-of-date. Stop cherry-picking from 1970 and read what Ehrlich had to say in 1996 (from here onwards) if you dare.

  7. Goozle Zone Says:

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    please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web…

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