Top climate scientist wants Copenhagen to fail

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A top climate scientist said the negotiations in Copenhagen are so flawed that he wants them to fail.

"The whole approach is so fundamentally wrong that it is better to reassess the situation," James Hansen, one of the world's most respected climate scientists, told British daily The Guardian. "If it is going to be the Kyoto-type thing then (people) will spend years trying to determine exactly what that means.


"I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track because it's a disaster track," added Hansen, who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

Representatives of 192 countries have gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, for a Dec. 7-18 meeting intended to find a deal that is intended to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Officials hope the deal will include binding carbon dioxide emissions reduction commitments from the world's major emitters -- including the United States, India and China -- as well as dozens of billions of dollars in financial aid to poor nations ill-equipped to deal with a problem they did least to create.


Hansen, who has been one of the most outspoken scientists when it comes to warning politicians of the dangers related to man-made climate change, is vehemently opposed to the carbon markets proposed as a new trading scheme to introduce a clean economy.

Carbon markets allow countries and companies to buy permits to emit greenhouse gases. Those markets have already been installed as part of the Kyoto Protocol, although their real use isn't expected to flare up until leaders take further decisions at the U.N.-mandated climate summit taking place in Copenhagen.

"This is analogous to the indulgences that the Catholic Church sold in the Middle Ages," Hansen told the paper. "The bishops collected lots of money and the sinners got redemption. Both parties liked that arrangement despite its absurdity. … We've got the developed countries who want to continue more or less business as usual and then these developing countries who want money and that is what they can get through offsets" sold through the carbon markets.

He has also been critical of world leaders, who have been treating the issue like any other diplomatic conflict. For Hansen, it's much more than that, and that means there is no room for horse-trading.


"This is analogous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he told the newspaper. "On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50 percent or reduce it 40 percent."

"We don't have a leader who is able to grasp it and say what is really needed. Instead we are trying to continue business as usual," he added.

Other observers are more optimistic, as U.S. President Barack Obama recently vowed to join the important high-level gathering of leaders toward the end of the summit, and all major emitters have tabled concrete reduction proposals.

The United States is "committed to achieving the strongest possible outcome," Jonathan Pershing, U.S. deputy special envoy for climate change, said in Copenhagen.

"There is a deal to be done, and if we … continue to find common ground, we will forge an agreement that preserves our planet and strengthens our economies."

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