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16th January 2010 | Draft

Insights for the Future from the Change of Climate in Copenhagen

The meaning of "The Meaning of Copenhagen"

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Observations (clustered)
Observations (unclustered)
Activating the blame game
Climate science and "Climategate"
Possible questions for the future
Climate change used as a fig leaf -- to conceal a more challenging issue?
Mapping the climate change context of Copenhagen


Immediately following the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Copenhagen, 2009), a number of observers have posted comments analyzing the failure of the event in relation to the hopes originally associated with it. These are listed below as a basis for identifying possible questions for the future and as a means of considering other ways of presenting such insights as a guide to future initiatives

Observations (clustered)

These include:

Observations (unclustered)

A valuable systematic set of links, grouped by date, is provided by Climate Change: The Next Generation and by the Global Policy Forum (Climate Change). The text of the actual agreement is UNFCC Copenhagen Accord (18 December 2009).

The UNFCCC has made available a set of documents following the Copenhagen Summit:

Activating the blame game

Following the Copenhagen Conference, Yvo de Boer, the head of the UN's climate change secretariat, argued that the "blame game" was not helpful (Michael Szabo, Copenhagen blame game not helpful: U.N. climate chief, Reuters, 24 December 2009).

What a curious situation. How wonderful to be convinced somebody is clearly to blame. Does it matter if it is China or Obama, or "you" (as proposed by George Monbiot)? Never "me" -- as the one dishing out the blame and having a whinge? How sad that something on which there was "global consensus" -- with regard to "the science" -- should prove to be undesirable to some. Clearly there are very bad people out there (or maybe just ignorant or selfish) who do not agree with "me" and the deal that I consider reasonable to "save the world". If only people would convert to "my faith", all would be good.

Is it not possible to take a step back from such problematic, self-serving analysis and assume that everyone is likely to have their own take and that everyone is likely to want to blame someone, as previously highlighted (Responsibility for Global Governance: Who? Where? When? How? Why? Which? What? 2008)? Failure to do so would mean that we are not in a collective learning mode. The only learning then required is on the part of those who are to blame?

How simple life can be. Just educate the people who do not agree with "me". The difficulty now is that everyone has become essentially untrustworthy and part of the problem -- especially those who claim that they are uniquely part of the solution. More fruitful might be to recognize that if one does not understand how one is part of the problem one cannot understand the nature of the solution required.

What some would have liked is a deal at any cost -- with little attention to who might be severely disadvantaged by the deal. In that respect the story of the "Danish text" says it all (John Vidal, Copenhagen climate summit in disarray after 'Danish text' leak, The Guardian, 8 December 2009).

Climate science and "Climategate"

The much-publicized incident of the hacked e-mails amongst climate change scientists, which was so influential in undermining the credibility of arguments in the Copenhagen debate, is summarized in the entry on the Climatic Research Unit hacking incident, in Wikipedia -- itself notably subject to controversy regarding manipulative editing. Other relevant documents are to be found at Climategate Document Database.

A12-part set of documents has been prepared by The Guardian (Climate wars: special investigation):

  1. Battle over climate data turned into war between scientists and sceptics
  2. How the 'climategate' scandal is bogus and based on climate sceptics' lies
  3. Hockey stick graph took pride of place in IPCC report, despite doubts
  4. Climate change debate overheated after sceptic grasped 'hockey stick'
  5. Changing weather posts in China led to accusations of scientific fraud
  6. Emails reveal strenuous efforts by climate scientists to 'censor' their critics
  7. Victory for openness as IPCC climate scientist opens up lab doors
  8. Climate scientists contradicted spirit of openness by rejecting information requests
  9. Climate scientists withheld Yamal data despite warnings from senior colleagues
  10. Search for hacker may lead police back to East Anglia's climate research unit
  11. 'Climategate' was PR disaster that could bring healthy reform of peer review
  12. Climate science emails cannot destroy argument that world is warming

Other summaries are to be found in:

To the extent that it is appropriate to assume that an objective, rational approach is still a reasonable possibility for 21st century science and governance, issues meriting consideration might include:

Possible questions for the future

A very insightful generic checklist of Innovation Dynamics: Top Forty (December 2009) was prepared by G. K. VanPatter as part of the process of Making Sense of the Copenhagen Summit. It focused on 'why most large group meetings, work sessions, working conferences produce little other than feel good vibes'. The first 5 read:

  1. Vastly different, unarticulated, unaligned expectations among participants.
  2. Lack of awareness that many types of dialogue exist.
  3. Lack of acknowledgement regarding what the default dialogue mode is.
  4. Disconnect between (serious significant) expected outcomes and (tea party-like) processes.
  5. Lack of acknowledgement that the scale of challenges facing us has changed.

The following unrelated items are however more specific to the dynamics within the pro-climate change movement:

Where are the analyses of mistakes made by all the respective parties to the climate change debate -- and the learnings to be obtained from those mistakes?

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is widely renowned for his early contribution to what was subsequently hailed as an emergent scientific methodology. As an artist, he quickly became master of topographic anatomy, drawing many studies of muscles, tendons and other visible anatomical features through dissecting human corpses -- a conventionally repugnant preoccupation for an artist. It resulted in a theoretical work on anatomy to which he contributed more than 200 drawings (published 161 years after his death) as a treatise on painting. It might be asked whether the attitude of a Leonardo is required to engage in the study -- so repugnant to conventional "science" -- of the "corpses" of international gatherings such as Copenhagen, in order to herald the emergence of a "new science" of vital relevance to understanding collective intelligence and governance processes of the future (cf End of Science: the death knell as sounded by the Royal Society, 2008).

Might it be concluded that "Copenhagen", given its ambition, could be fruitfully recognized in the terms of Gregory Bateson in concluding a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation, namely: "We are our own metaphor." (Mary Catherine Bateson. Our Own Metaphor, 1972, p.304)

Law of Repetitive Consequences
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
(George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905)
Of relevance in relation to learnings from the set of United Nations and intergovernmental summits:
Rio de Janeiro (1992), Johannesburg (2002), Doha (2001)

Climate change used as a fig leaf -- to conceal a more challenging issue?

To what extent is it appropriate to understand the climate change debate as a relatively unchallenging issue which in effect distracts attention from a more challenging underlying issue, and a more systemic perspective from which to handle crises -- as variously discussed in:

Few commented on the occasion of the Copenhagen event on the population issue:

The UN has insisted the issue does not become part of the negotiations at Copenhagen, pointing out that the population will control itself as countries develop, women become better educated and families shrink.

Does the level of denial and avoidance merit recognition as a dangerous form of 'shunning' calling for radically different approaches to debate as discussed in:

Is the climate change crisis effectively an engineered crisis, following a pattern of scare politics shared by crises over recent years (Y2K, SARS, BSE/CJD, swine flu, avian flu, foot-and-mouth, WMD, terrorism)? A possible indication of this is concern within the EU regarding the complicity of the WHO in the agenda of the pharmaceutical industry in handling the swine flu pandemic (F. William Engdahl, Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly to Investigate WHO and "Pandemic" Scandal, Global Research, 2009). A related concern, of relevance to future geoengineering proposals, is articulated by Simon Jenkins (Swine flu was as elusive as WMD: the real threat is mad scientist syndrome, The Guardian, 14 January 2010).

Is there an intention to engender a degree of confusion and lack of faith in any conventional authorities such as to justify the use of other means, as variously argued with respect to:

Is framing crises in this way a means of testing the capacity of governance and its many constituencies to frame, through misinformation, disinformation and spin, to habituate people to a mode of crisis-led governance? Is this a new means of providing a "guarantee" of the credibility of governance -- given that "fire-fighters" can only be upheld as "good"?

Mapping the climate change context of Copenhagen

David Price of Debategraph and the Global Sensemaking community enabled a mapping process to gather arguments presented at Copenhagen, in collaboration with the MIT Climate Collaboratorium team, and The Open University Cohere COP15 team, The Copenhagen Summit map team, and The Independent / Debategraph team (see David Price, ESSENCE and the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, 2009; Copenhagen Summit Map, 2009). This was hosted via The Independent (Debategraph: Copenhagen - what's happening?).

Such initiatives are exceptional with respect to international gatherings, despite the availability of technology of increasingly sophistication for decades (Complementary Knowledge Analysis / Mapping Process, 2006). A quite different approach was taken using the text analysis application Leximancer (see illustrative gallery) in various distinct experiments to generate interactive maps and reports from texts available during the the Copenhagen process. With thanks to Julia Cretchley of Leximancer, these included:

  1. Interactive concept map derived from text of existing UNFCCC treaty (see below)
  2. Interactive concept map derived from text of draft UNFCCC treaty (see below)
  3. Automatically generated report: Leximancer comparison of insights in existing and draft texts
Screenshots of Leximancer interactive concept maps
From the highest level. indicated below, users could drill down to more specific concepts access the specific texts citing them
Existing UNFCCC treaty
(click image for larger version)
Draft UNFCCC treaty
(click image for larger version)
Leximancer interactive concept maps of UNFCCC treaty Leximancer interactive concept maps of UNFCCC treaty

In a further experiment, a text by regular contributor environmental commentator George Monbiot (Clive James isn't a climate change sceptic, he's a sucker - but this may be the reason, The Guardian. 2 November 2009) together with the 869 comments it attracted, was analyzed using the web-crawler feature of the Leximancer application. As with the texts above, an interactive map was generated and made available to interested parties during the Copenhagen process. In this case the screenshots (below) indicate the kinds of detailed information extracted at various stages of any interaction by users with the facility.

Various screenshots of interactive analysis of concepts in a commentary on the pre-conference climate change process, together with the 869 comments it attracted
Screenshots of Leximancer analysis of concepts in pre-conference climate change process Screenshots of Leximancer analysis of concepts in pre-conference climate change process
Screenshots of Leximancer analysis of concepts in pre-conference climate change process Screenshots of Leximancer analysis of concepts in pre-conference climate change process Screenshots of Leximancer analysis of concepts in pre-conference climate change process

Curiously few international initiatives, if any, take formal steps to map their own discourse as a contribution to self-reflexivity and learning in order to improve upon the initiatives of the past when envisaging new initiatives. Such an approach has never been a characteristic of intergovernmental events.

It is therefore interesting to contrast this aversion to an analytical overview by the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US of the counterinsurgency (COIN) initiative in Afghanistan as represented by the PA Consulting Group. This takes the form of a map, notably publicized on behalf of McClatchy Newspapers by Dion Nissenbaum (The great Afghan spaghetti monster, Checkpoint Kabul, 20 December 2009; Graphic Shows Complexity of US Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, The Huffington Post, 22 December 2009). Coincidentally this map has been publicized over the web at the end of the Copenhagen event. It will be interesting to see whether analysis of that event gives rise to a map of equivalent detail.

In the absence (to date) of any such map for Copenhagen, as an experimental exercise it is instructive to adapt the rich analytical framework of the Afghanistan counterinsurgency analysis to climate change. The legitimacy of such an adaptation may be argued on the basis that the viability of both strategic initiatives is dependent in cybernetic systems terms on a set of interacting functions. From the perspective of general systems theory, it is to be expected that there is a degree of isomorphism between a systems analysis of the global initiative in Afghanistan and that with respect to climate change. Whatever the inadequacies of such an exercise, it may at least serve to highlight the knowledge tools used to focus initiatives on which unprecedented global resources are being expended -- given the shameful paucity of resources devoted to representing the challenges of climate change in the light of the conflicting relations between those party to that process.

Adaptation to climate change
of a representation of counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan

(click on image for larger version)
Adaptation to climate change 
of a representation of counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan
Afghanistan COIN dynamic
(clusters in original map)
Climate change COIN dynamic
(clusters in adapted map)
Population/Popular support
Infrastructure, Economy and Services
Afghanistan Security Forces (ANSF)
Crime and Narcotics
Coalition Forces and Actions
Physical Environment
Population/Popular support
Infrastructure, Economy and Services
Activist NGO Strategic Forces (ANSF)
Dissenters ("Them")
Crime and Distractions
Initiatives of Coalition of the Willful ("US")
Physical Environment

Audio: Copenhagen According To Dr Seuss
A poetic take on events at the Copenhagen summit by Marcus Brigstocke
on The Now Show podcast
(transcript posted by Jeffrey Hill, The English Blog, 21 December 2009).

The delegates came and the delegates sat
And they talked and they talked till their bums all went flat
Then a delegate said of the country he knew
"We must do something quick but just what should we do?"
So they sat again thinking and there they stayed seated
Sitting and thinking "the planet's been heated"
"I think" said a delegate there from Peru
"That we all must agree on some things we could do
Like reducing emissions at least CO2"
So they nodded and noted then vetoed and voted
And one of them stood up and suddenly quoted
"It's the science you see, that's the thing that must guide us
When the leaders all get here they're certain to chide us"
So they sat again thinking about what to think
Then decided to ponder what colour of ink
To use on the paper when they'd all agreed
To be selfless not greedy McGreedy McGreed
"But how do we choose just what colour to use?"
Said a delegate there who'd been having a snooze
"We need clear binding targets definitive action
We must all agree clearly without more distraction"
So they sat again thinking of targets for ink
But the ink in their thinking had started to stink
And they started to think that the ink was a kink
In the thinking about real things they should think
"If ze climate needs mending then zis is our chance"
Said the nuclear delegate sent there by France
"We need to agree on one thing to agree on
Something we all want a fixed guarantee on"
"Yes" said another who thought this made sense
Some value for carbon in dollars or pence
But the mention of money and thoughts of expense
Had stifled the progress and things became tense
The fella from China with a smile on his face
Said "Who put the carbon there in the first place?"
"Wasn't us" said the U.S then Europe did too
Then a silence descended and no words were spoken
Till a delegate stood up, voice nervous and broken
"Is there nothing upon which we all can decide?
Because on Wednesday my chicken laid eggs that were fried"
"We all like a sing song" said the bloke from Down Under
But then the great hall was all shouting and thunder
Policemen had entered and were wearing protesters
Who they'd beaten and flattened like bloodied sou'westers
The police had decided to downplay this crime
With prevention detention and beatings in rhyme
The Greenies who'd shouted and asked for a decision
Were now being battered with lethal precision
All sick of inaction and fed up of waiting
All tired of the endless debated placating
They'd risen up grating berating and hating
So the police had commenced the related abating
Ban Ki-moon put his head in another man's lap
And was last heard muttering something like "crap"
But the chap next to him said "It's more like it's poo"
So the great hall debated not what they should do
But how to decide between crap cack and poo
"It is poo" "It is cack" "It is crap" "We agree"
Which was written and labelled as document three
"I think if we all find one thing we agree on
Then maybe Brazil might be left with a tree on"
So they sat again thinking of trees and Brazil
And of glaciers which had retreated uphill
And they thought of the poor folks whose homes were in flood
But less of the protesters covered in blood
They pondered the species so nearly extinct
It's as if they all thought that these things might be linked
"We need a solution we need action please"
Said a lady who'd come from the sinking Maldives
The others all nodded and said it was fact
That the time must be now not to talk but to act
Then Obama arrived and said most rhetorical
"Action is action and not metaphorical"
"Wow" they all thought "he must mean arregorical [sic]"
"I love it when Barack goes all oratorical"
"But the problem I have is that Congress won't pass it
"Bugger" said Ban Ki then "sorry" then "arse it"
Then Brown said "I've got it now how does this strike you?
It's simpler when voters already dislike you"
He suggested the EU should lead from the front
So The Mail and The Telegraph  called him something very unpleasant indeed
So the delegates stared at the text with red marks on
Ignoring the gales of laughter from Clarkson
No-one was satisfied nobody won
Except the morons convinced it was really the sun
And they blew it and wasted the greatest of chances
Instead they all frolicked in diplomat dances
And decided decisively right there and then
That the best way to solve it's to meet up again
And decide on a future that's greener and greater
Not with action right now but with something else later
In a similar vein:
Sets and their Settings: from development to climate change... and beyond
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