It seems that any meeting of human beings to engage in anything constructive will quickly be highjacked by the jocks, cheerleaders, kewl-kidz and the assorted others whose daddies bought them shiny new Beemers... while the rest of us have to cower in the corner, waiting for the approval of the "important people." We just saw that happen with "health care reform." And similarly, it seems, the Copenhagen global climate change summit seems to be going... nowhere. For those, like me, who believe in pursuing lost causes (out of boredom if nothing else) our friends at Avaaz.Org have a massive world-wide petition they think will help. Go ahead and sign it; I did. It may or may not help, but it certainly can't hurt.
I finished reading my advance copy of Dr. James Hansen's "Storms of My Grandchildren" recently. Dr. Hansen, as you might know, is regarded by many as the world's premier climate scientist. Anyway, the book has lots of technical and non-technical details, but I'll summarize it thusly: we are no longer debating the efficacy of climate models-- we now have the benefit of geological and geo-physical data and improved satellite observations so that we can say with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that we can correlate atmospheric Carbon Dioxide levels with ocean levels in prior geological time, and now, not as a matter of scientific modeling or conjecture, but now, as a matter of the best reading of actual data, we are due for a 1-2 meter ocean rise in the next 30-50 years or so, possibly accelerating if we have warmed the atmosphere to the point if the massive glaciers and ice-caps in Greenland and Antarctica have begun melting in a manner that cannot be "turned off", but we will guarantee that result if we don't act fast.
Hansen has other things to say, such as a criticism of "cap and trade" that Krugman disagrees with (and I would defer to the economist on this one), but all and all... Hansen's book certainly scared the hell out of me, and anyone paying attention should also be scared about not acting on this, and now.
And acting fast means a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, and a phase-out of existing ones. Americans, of course, behave like teenagers smoking: don't tell us about the future, man: we don't care! Well... the future is now... it is going to hit in the current lifetimes of most of us. The usual suspects (the 500-1000 spoiled people who own and run this planet) don't seem to believe that they actually live on it. But they are going to be drowned, or pounded with storms, or hit with drought or floods or whatever other chaos emerges... just like the rest of us.
Many of us will demand "technological improvements" such as
the jackalope Santa Claus perpetual motion cold fusion "clean coal", or renewables such as solar or wind to "save us"... but the "technological improvement" needed happens to be in our own mind. Humanity existed without electricity at all until less than 150 years ago; much of humanity still does. The technology needed IS PSYCHOLOGICAL, NOT TECHNOLOGICAL. The fact is, easy measures (and no, I don't mean "mini-fluorescents") of an incentive nature already exist, such as California's efficiency pricing of utilities and tight regulation of appliances being extended to everyone, or "hard caps" that cause a brown-out or black-out in your house if you use too much electricity (such as running all the lights, the tv, computer, air conditioning, washer dryer, cuisinart and cyclotron all at the same time)... are what's in order, and right now. We have to get off the mindset of "more is always better"... right f'ing NOW.
Will we? There's no evidence that the spoiled teenagers in charge (either here, in Europe, China or India) can be appealed to by reason, or by much of anything else. The smart money says "we're f'ed," because by the time short-term incentives get round to warranting action... the glaciers and ice-caps will be irretrievably melting, causing other nasty feedback loops. I hope this isn't true, but I know it is... this has been, "Global Warning."