CSW director Rick Piltz interview on UN Climate Summit: “We’re very far from where we need to be”

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“I do think it’s important to have these heads of government address the world and acknowledge the seriousness of the climate change problem,” Climate Science Watch director Rick Piltz told Al Jazeera English TV in a September 22 interview.  President Obama hasn’t really spoken too much about climate change impacts, potentially disastrous impacts, and he did that today…[But] if you pay close attention to what the leading climate scientists are saying about the implications of the trajectory that we’re on right now, and the great distance between that and what the political world is translating into policy, we’re very far from where we need to be.”  See Details for full text.

The September 22 interview on Al Jazeera English TV in their Washington, DC studio, followed this news clip on the UN Climate Summit held that day – Obama Issues Climate Warning.

We note this morning that Al Jazeera English, like the New York Times, features coverage of climate change and in particular the UN Climate Summit on the front page of its website.  On the other hand, CNN, CNN International, BBC World News, and the Washington Post do not.

Interviewer:  Rick Piltz joins us now.  He’s the director and founder of Climate Science Watch, a public interest and advocacy project.

Q:  On the face of it, the US President talks unequivocally about the dangers of climate change, the Chinese appear to be willing to make significant cuts in their carbon dioxide output.  Things are on track, aren’t they?

A: Well, things certainly sounded good at the UN Climate Summit today. They talked the talk, now we’ll have to see if they’ll walk the walk.  But I do think it’s important to have these heads of government address the world and acknowledge the seriousness of the climate change problem.  President Obama hasn’t really spoken too much about climate change impacts, potentially disastrous impacts, and he did that today. 

Q:  So why is there a note of skepticism in your voice, when we did hear the right noises, didn’t we, in the UN General Assembly?

A:  Right, but for an international agreement you have to nail down numbers and timetables and agreements.  President Obama acknowledged the need to provide financial and technical assistance to poor countries that are going to be vulnerable to some of the most damaging climate change impacts, but on the other hand the United States hasn’t really pledged any specific amount of money or created any particular…

Q:  But are they in the pipeline at least?  Was this speech a harbinger of actual money, actual projects actually occurring?

A:  I think there’s a very, very long way to go on this.  President Obama is also constrained by US domestic politics, which are very polarized right now.  And with the economic situation, to go to the US public and talk about transferring large amounts money for development assistance is a tough political sell.  So I appreciate the constraints he is dealing with, but it makes it very difficult to see a solution…

Q:  But what about the green budget?  What about the campaign trail, we heard all about actual ways to get the economy moving, he did make the connection, it’s actually green technology that will get the economy moving,  what about all that talk?

A:  Well he talked about it today and it’s one of the best things, I think, about this administration.

Q:  But what’s in there, are there any projects, is there anything happening as carbon dioxide levels increase? 

A:  In the US, the administration has started to put money in the direction of a clean energy transition.  But we are very dug into the fossil fuel economy, coal for electricity, and the stranglehold of oil on the transportation system worldwide.

Q:  It’s not very good for Copenhagen, I mean the big Summit that is coming up? 

A:  It’s a little bit difficult for me to imagine that they will arrive at a good final agreement there.  I think today is a step forward when you have this high-level statement of commitment.  If they give marching orders to their negotiators, they can make something happen.

Q: But knowing what you do about the dangers of climate change, knowing about all the research that you have, if you weren’t constrained by the etiquette of a television studio, wouldn’t you be screaming right now about what’s going on?  This looks pretty bad doesn’t it?  I mean, are we all doomed? 

A:  I hate to say we’re doomed, I really hate to do that, but if you pay close attention to what the leading climate scientists are saying about the implications of the trajectory that we’re on right now, and the great distance between that and what the political world is translating into policy, we’re very far from where we need to be.  We need to see more credibility and more integrity and more effectiveness in how the political leaders are using that scientific evidence in policymaking.

Interviewer: Rick Piltz, thank you very much.

Rick:  Thank you.

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