Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 23:02 | SYDNEY
Friday 24 Sep 2021 | 23:02 | SYDNEY

RIP climate change?


Sam Roggeveen


2 February 2010 13:40

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who has just delivered a speech on the Coalition's climate change policy, can draw some comfort from this Walter Russell Mead post announcing the 'death of global warming'.

Mead clearly isn't a denialist about climate change — he probably belongs in the 'alert but not alarmed' school that also includes Bjorn Lomborg and Jim Manzi — but he has written recently on his blog about the crisis of global governance, and his death notice is really for the global warming 'movement'. Mead says this movement is dying in part because of the failure of its political strategy, which is premised heavily on a misplaced faith in international institutions:

For better or worse, the global political system isn’t capable of producing the kind of result the global warming activists want. It’s like asking a jellyfish to climb a flight of stairs; you can poke and prod all you want, you can cajole and you can threaten. But you are asking for something that you just can’t get — and at the end of the day, you won’t get it.

Inasmuch as the Rudd Government has committed itself to an internationalist route to addressing climate change, it is vulnerable to this 'jellyfish' charge.

The other reason Mead gives for the failure of the global warming movement is 'bad science', particularly the two recent embarrassing lapses by the IPCC. Mead says of the IPCC that 'enough of their product is sufficiently tainted that (it) can best serve the cause of fighting climate change by stepping out of the picture.'

It's interesting to read this about the IPCC in light of a recent Brookings/Center for International Cooperation report, 'Confronting the long crisis of globalization'. It's a long paper with a complex argument that I am yet to fully master, but it is worth noting that the authors praise the IPCC and see it as something of a model for confronting various global problems.

I don't mention this to embarrass the authors of the paper (some of whom blog at Global Dashboard and read The Interpreter), but just to note that it makes their preferred model so much harder to sell. The paper is largely devoted to addressing the global governance deficit that Mead has talked about, and makes a convincing argument that bodies modeled on the IPCC can 'build shared awareness of key risks'. It's a pity the IPCC has let them down.