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It's a NO to Copenhagen (Amended)

by Frank Schnittger Sun Nov 15th, 2009 at 05:50:17 PM EST

(Cross posted from climatechange.thinkaboutit.eu and amended in response to a comment by Migeru below)

All prospects of a substantial, legally binding agreement in Copenhagen have now been buried at the Asia-Pacific Summit with Obama and the other leaders accepting that no agreement is possible in the remaining time available.  Thus not even Greenpeace's fears of a "greenwash" have been realised: there will be nothing to show for all the effort put in to date.

The prime minister of Denmark, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the UN-sponsored climate conference's chairman, is currently engaged in damage limitation, and seeking to rescue some sort of non legal but "politically binding" or operational agreement from the ruins of the process, but the omens are not good:


Major setback to possibility of climate change deal - The Irish Times - Sun, Nov 15, 2009

Asia-Pacific leaders say it will not be possible to reach a climate change deal ahead of the UN conference in Copenhagen.

US president Barack Obama and other world leaders agreed in Singapore today that next month's much-anticipated climate change summit will be merely a way station, not the once hoped-for end point, in the search for a worldwide global warming treaty.

The 192-nation climate conference beginning in three weeks in Copenhagen had originally been intended to produce a new global climate-change treaty. Hopes for that have dimmed lately. But comments by Mr Obama and fellow leaders at a hastily arranged breakfast meeting on the sidelines of a two-day Asia-Pacific summit served to put the final nail in any remaining expectations for the December summit.

"There was an assessment by the leaders that it is unrealistic to expect a full internationally, legally binding agreement could be negotiated between now and Copenhagen which starts in 22 days," said Michael Froman, President Obama's deputy national security adviser for international economic matters.

The prime minister of Denmark, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, the UN-sponsored climate conference's chairman, flew overnight to Singapore to present a proposal to the leaders to instead make the Copenhagen goal a matter of crafting a "politically binding" agreement, in hopes of rescuing some future for the struggling process.

A fully binding legal agreement would be left to a second meeting next year in Mexico City, Mr Froman said.

President Obama backed the approach, cautioning the group not to let the "perfect be the enemy of the good," Froman said. Addressing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum later, President Obama talked of the need to limit greenhouse-gas emissions "in Copenhagen and beyond."

Mr Froman said the Danish proposal would call for Copenhagen to produce "operational impact," but he did not explain how that would work or to what it would apply.

A major bill dealing with energy and climate in the US, a domestic priority of President Obama's, is bogged down in the US Senate with scant hope it would be completed by next month, giving the American president little to show in Copenhagen.

The oil and coal industries are powerful lobbies in the US and the Republican party seems to be embracing climate change denial along with its creationist religious dogmas.  The cap and trade bill in the Senate will be even more difficult to pass than the health care reforms currently making their tortuously slow progress through the US congressional legislative process.

I can understand the Republicans wishing to deny Obama a victory on key elements of his programme, but what is it about the Earth as a finite resource they do not understand?  The US frontiers man myth about man discovering ever increasing vistas to conquer and exploit died a death quite a long time ago, but the Republican establishment and their base seem to have entered a Disneyland where more resources can be magicked up from nowhere.

The impotence of the third world - particularly Africa - where the earlier and most devastating effects of climate change are being felt has never been more clearly demonstrated.  Perhaps it is the world economic crises which has changed priorities and made incumbent Governments nervous about anything which appears to increase costs or impact on relative competitiveness in the short term.

However it is far removed from the soaring rhetoric of the early Obama speeches and the "can do" attitude which allowed Kennedy to promise to put a man on the moon within 10 years. Perhaps Obama will make some dramatic proposal on those lines in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech - or in a subsequent appearance in Copenhagen - and then challenge other Governments to follow suit.

It will be quite some time before any Treaty arising from such a proposal can be negotiated, and even longer before it is ratified by sufficient countries to come into force.  That should give Obama ample time to challenge the US Senate to ratify the Treaty - which it must before Obama can sign it on behalf of the US.

What we are seeing now may be the early manoeuvres in the blame game - who is going to be blamed if no agreement is reached?  Right now it will be Obama and the US Senate who will be seen to be holding things up - but another rhetorical flight by Obama containing dramatic proposals could shift the onus of matching his proposals to other countries - and ultimately - to the US Senate.

So why might the Senate ratify a far reaching treaty when it cannot currently progress its own rather limited proposals?  

Firstly, by agreeing to Climate legislation now, the US is forfeiting whatever bargaining leverage it might have with other countries in the final negotiations.  The US contribution will be known in advance - and might even be available if other countries make no concessions and no Treaty is agreed. By making any proposal explicitly contingent on other countries following suit, Obama is not conceding anything at this stage.

However, once a Treaty has been agreed, it will be clear what everyone has put on the table, and it will be possible to calculate the short and long term costs and benefits of the Treaty for all concerned.  A US failure to ratify the Treaty at that point will not only be a PR disaster for the US, but it could result in all the other signatories putting their concessions on ice.  The US Senate will then be directly responsible for the failure to conclude any new Treaty and the gathering storm of climatic consequences around the world.

Ratifying of a Global Treaty agreed by nearly 200 nations is a different proposition to negotiating and agreeing legislation in response to domestic electoral and industry interests alone. Also, by then, the US health reforms will hopefully have completed their tortuous progress through Congress and the Senate will be able to focus on other business.

The problem with this strategy is that as the mid-terms get closer, his bed-wetting moderate wing of the party will get ever more jittery in the face of organised hostile industry led lobbying and advertising campaigns.  Just how high up the Obama priority list is Climate Change?  We may be about to find out.

Display:
We don't need the Americans. We don't even need the Europeans, when push really comes to shove. We need the Chinese and the Russians. The Chinese because they can use their power over the US$ exchange rate to enforce import quotas on the Americans ("if you import more than so-and-so many tons of fossil fuels, you'll have to start paying for it in Mexican Pesos"), and Russia because they're the biggest source of fossil fuels for Europe.

Having Europe would make it less painful, and having the US would make it easier. But ultimately, those who have the BTUs and the factories have the power.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 16th, 2009 at 09:09:39 AM EST
European Tribune - It's a NO to Copenhagen
A major bill dealing with energy and climate in the US, a domestic priority of President Obama's, is bogged down in the US Senate with scant hope it would be completed by next month, giving the American president little to show in Copenhagen.
I don't understand why Obama needs to be able to go to Copenhagen with a climate bill already passed in the Senate. Doesn't he have the authority to negotiate a Treaty anyway? Then he needs to take the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

Even if he got a climate bill he would still have to get the Senate to ratify the international treaty, which they might still not do. Also, if the US goes to the conference with the climate bill already agreed, doesn't the US lose some bargaining power with, say, China? If you have already committed to something you cannot bargain on that commitment (which is why the EU is irrelevant - but at least we're not too guilty).

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 16th, 2009 at 09:19:57 AM EST
A very good point, and one I should have made in the Diary.  I've not entirely lost hope for Copenhagen for exactly the reason you cite.  I think the game plan at the moment may be to reduce expectations on the part of those who don't think they have to concede much for a treaty and those who think they can gain a lot without conceding much.  It also established Obama's credentials as a hard-ball negotiator for his domestic critics.

We could still see a dramatic last minute breakthrough in Copenhagen - and with Obama making concessions which are not even contained in the current bill struggling to gain any traction in Congress.  The Senate (and Senate alone?) will then be asked to ratify a Treaty which will be an explicit test of loyalty to Obama and any failure to do so will have quantifiable downsides in the shape of the Treaty not coming into force and all other concessions made by other players coming off the table.

Obama could use his Nobel acceptance speech to make a Man on the moon in ten years type of stretching commitment for the US - IF the other major players come on board, and let the blame fall on others if they fail to do so.  He will then only seek to ratify the Treaty in the Senate if other key Nations have signed up and the US- once again - is coming to be seen as the roadblock.

This has the advantage - for Obama - of putting the requirement for Senate ratification off for several months, at least, enabling him to deal with Healthcare and other contentious legislative issues first - and hopefully build momentum for his administration.

The problem with this strategy is that as the mid-terms get closer, his bed-wetting moderate wing of the party will get ever more jittery in the face of organised hostile industry led lobbying and advertising campaigns.

Somehow I'm still not convinced climate change is a tier 1 issue for Obama - one he would stake his Presidency on - unlike Healthcare, Guantanamo, Iraq, and perhaps Afghanistan.  In fact, at the moment, it is unclear he has any tier 1 priorities other than staying in office... but let's not get too cynical and negative just yet!

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 16th, 2009 at 10:53:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I've not entirely lost hope for Copenhagen for exactly the reason you cite.
I have, because despite the fact that Obama has the authority to negotiate as President he has already declared at the end of the Assia-Pacific summit, alongside the Chinese President, that there is no time to negotiate a binding agreement before Copenhagen and they will give themselves another year.

Blaming the Senate is a useful misdirection. The fact that it is also transparent makes me suspect Obama's commitment to achieving results.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 16th, 2009 at 11:23:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
at the moment, it is unclear he has any tier 1 priorities other than staying in office... but let's not get too cynical and negative just yet!
No, that would be unserious.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 16th, 2009 at 11:24:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not like any of all this hot air matters anyways. It's just a way for politicians to show off.

Some things are apparent.

  1. As long as there are people not living at a western standard of living who have figured out about economic growth, energy consumption will grow.

  2. Climate change caused by CO2 emissions, even if the models are correct (which I doubt) is no problem as there aren't enough fossil fuels anyway.

  3. If climate change actually were a problem, a handful of really simple regulations would swiftly resolve the issue (a ban on new fossil power plants or heating systems, government loan guarantees for the rest). Net cost for the consumer: zero (at worst).

As none of this is done, one can easily draw the conclusion, just like with the Darfur issue, that no one important really cares. But going to big conferences to talk about treaties is both nice, provides photo-ops, and distracts the media from the real issues.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 01:18:25 AM EST
  1. A western standard and style of living problably isn't sustainable for the west, never mind achievable for those who haven't achieved it yet.

  2. Whether the reason is climate change or peak oil - we have to move away from carbon based energy sources anyway.

  3. Climate change isn't a problem for most people in the short term - and politics is notoriously self-interested and short term by its nature.  Lifestyle changes is the very last thing people will agree to because they feel it invades their privacy or "freedom". People and nations are competing against each other on costs and productivity - thus none want to accept the additional short term effect on costs or productivity that tackling climate change may entail in the short term.

Thus climate change is an extremely difficult challenge to tackle on a concerted global basis.  The early victims are all in powerless regions of the globe.  The rich and powerful can insulate themselves from those changes anyway.  Thus I am full of admiration for those leaders who do try to address the problem seriously - at significant risk to their short-term political careers.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 08:57:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What is achievable and sustainable with 40% of the ecological footprint of "The West"? What is "standard" and what is "style" of living? What is a luxury? How fast can a transition take place before people perceive it traumatically? Lifestyle is encouraged and incentivated by the state and the large corporations by means of tax policy, product design and price decisions. It is the narrative that is used to sell the changes that matters.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 09:13:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All good questions.  People tend to take the status quo for granted, so, for example, if you are used to having a car in a rural area, losing that car can be traumatic, whilst replacing it with a much more efficient smaller, diesel or electric car may not be.

So taxation, pricing, design innovations, marketing narratives etc. can all have a major influences but run into major "consumer resistance" if a major adjustment in consumer lifestyle is required.  Yes people will accept major changes, especially over time, but that is where politics and education gets much harder.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 09:24:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See, for instance, the late rdf's How Big Would a Steady-State US Economy Be? (October 10, 2006)
Thus, a fully sustainable society will have to consume no more than it can grow and will have to recycle non-renewable raw materials. If controlled fusion could ever be made to work then we could exist at a slightly higher level of material wealth, but the need to recycle raw materials would still be an issue.

So, a sustainable US society would be about 10-15% of its present size. At this level people would have about the same wealth as those in present Bulgaria. Obviously, a big change from McMansions, but not the end of civilization either.

I'll leave to another day discussions of how to achieve this peacefully, what people would do in such a reduced economy and how social services would be financed.

Another discussion that we had elsewhere is that reducing output to 10%/15% of its present value would lead to a very different place than simply looking around at the places that now have an output in that range. The reason is that you start out from a higher technological level and better infrastructure.

My figure of 40% above is based on the estimates I've seen that the global ecological footprint is about 2.5 Earths (this, from memory - might be a different number).

So, how "poor" is "sustainable". I claim it need not be poor at all, as long as it's a managed transition. If we get there by means of a war or some other disaster it will be a much poorer place than it needs to be.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 10:27:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
  1. What is a "western standard and style of living"? I've dabbled previously in trying to get a hold on that definition just for muself - yet I've come to realise a very large spectre exists in the answer to the above question, widely varying per audience.

  2. Although counter-intuitive, establishing policies for mitigating anthropogenic climate change is a different beast than establishing policies for carbon-free energy production. Yes, there is overlap, but these are different starting points, and different angles to consider.

  3. Finally, a touch of anecodetal despair: A month or so there was (another) newspaper special on people whose work, in some way, aim to address climate change issues. What struck me was that, while every interviewee agreed on the importance of addressing climate change effects, not one of them had even remotely considered to introduce significant lifestyle changes. The basic argument was: they could not do their job otherwise.

In short: climate change isn't even a problem for those who made it their job to care...
by Nomad on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 11:09:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nomad:
What is a "western standard and style of living"? I've dabbled previously in trying to get a hold on that definition just for muself - yet I've come to realise a very large spectre exists in the answer to the above question, widely varying per audience.
Rescuing another comment thread from 3 years ago...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 11:44:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Western standard of living. Comfortable home with power, clean and hot water, appliances (stove, TV, computer, fridge, freezer, shower, access to washing machine etc), a family car, a month of vacation each year. Something like that. Until everyone who wants this and isn't fucked up (subsaharan Africa) gets it, there will be no stopping economic growth and growth in energy consumption.

Thankfully there is a more or less unlimited amount of energy out there at reasonable costs (liquid fuel is another matter). I predict we will burn all the oil, gas and coal and then we'll switch over to nukes and wind.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 12:09:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Packing Light for a Long Journey (June 13th, 2007
An epistolatory dialogue between Nomad and DeAnander

...

The first three are actually enshrined as a basic human rights. The most amazing discovery that ended up on my own little list, personally, was the shower. In our western, increasingly sanitised world, either the longing to be clean has become strong enough that we, as a people, feel uncomfortable after not having washed for a certain amount of time or considerable exertion -- or we might have evolved from sea-bathing fish-eating apes after all.  Nothing, not even brilliantly clear Swedish lakes or burbling streamlets from which we'd drink and fill our bottles, could mitigate this urge. Hot, steaming showers were precious items for all -- no exception.

(My emphasis)

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 01:44:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Water engineering is not that resource demanding. For example:

Minoan civilization - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Streets were drained and water and sewer facilities were available to the upper class, through clay pipes.

The need to have hot showers is very cultural. A 17th century european would not have understood the need to bath all the time.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 12:45:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a shower every month whether I need it or not.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 05:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to mention (maybe) Skara Brae in Scotland, around 3000-2500 BC.
A remarkably sophisticated drainage system was incorporated into the village's design - which may have included an early form of toilet facilities.
When I visited it, around 20 years ago, the guide liked pointing out that this was more advanced than some places in England today...
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 02:17:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have a car or TV set. Does that mean I don't have a Western standard of living?

a month of vacation

You just ruled out the U.S. A least you didn't rub it in by including healthcare.

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 02:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have a car either, because I'm a student. But people who have jobs and want cars have them. Choosing not to have a car in spite of affording one doesn't exclude you from living at a high standard of living. Likewise with a TV.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 03:10:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm getting rid of my car next Spring. I've been slowly getting my clients to understand that 90% of our work together can be done online. It is really only major briefings that require my physical presence. I also have studio work (I do perhaps a couple of voiceovers a week), but I have also set this up to record professionally in my home office.

I do have a TV but it is only connected to a DVD, and is on perhaps 6 hours a week max. when I watch movies etc.

Flying is down to about 2 or 3 times a year - mostly to visit UK family and friends. Intercity in Finland is easy by train or express bus.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 03:48:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What about "relationship building"?  In Ireland most real business is still done on the proverbial golf course.  Formal meetings are for show.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 05:49:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Have you and I ever met F2F? No. Do you and I have a relationship? Yes, of a sort. Business relationships are going to change in the future. I do a lot of business with people I've never met F2F - although there is almost always an 'intermediary' - a colleague in common who can vouch for both sides.

But I do go infrequently to industry events and conferences, and that is where I mostly  rekindle relationships. Saturday, for instance I'm at a 25 person dinner for IT tyros mostly in the online game industry - that kind of event, typically, will produce a couple of projects for me. I suppose in Finland that reputation is still a mighty powerful attribute because so much business is done on a handshake. It is not the golf course short cuts and inside information that people are after, but reliability and know-how.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 09:35:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was referring more to the mutual trust building that your "intermediary" colleagues facilitate.  My concern would be that after a few years of almost exclusively online working there will be fewer and fewer common r/w intermediaries available to facilitate trusting relationships.  Nearly all business relationships will become "virtual" and it is so much harder to tell the charlatans when you don't have eye contact, body language, social and verbal linguistic cues to work off.

The parallel I would draw is with marketing.  In small communities where everyone knows everyone else you don't need brands as a proxy for quality.  You know the supplier, their skills, attitudes and track record.  In a huge urban community you only have the barest symbolic cues to go on - and it is precisely these that the "science" of marketing seeks to manipulate.

So a product/service comes with all the "emotional values" and apparent qualities that you are looking for, but it reality is a piece of crap.  It was just that their marketing department knew what you would be looking for (as indicators of quality) and manufactured false cues and "emotions" to make you think you were getting what you were looking for.

And the beauty of the process is that many think that the product/service was great (even when it was actually crap) because they can't admit to themselves that they'd been had. (ref. US Republican politics -  which are brilliant at persuading people that they have exactly what the electorate want - give them the opposite - and then afterwards persuade people that they actually got what they originally wanted...)

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 11:54:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It comes down - again - to good faith business vs predatory business.

The Anglo model values predation and total dominance and sees them as primary goals, over and above any other consideration - including product quality, sustainability, employee, customer and partner relationships, and ethical standing.

In the Anglo model, marketing is valuable because it enforces dominance over culture and consumers, and  dominance over creative talent - that might be wasting its time making art, instead of selling sneakers.

The Euro model shares some of the same aims, but tends to be slightly more relaxed about diversity and experimentation. I think Europeans are also more cynical about corporate aims, and find it harder to derive their identify from them.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 12:04:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
The Euro model shares some of the same aims, but tends to be slightly more relaxed about diversity and experimentation. I think Europeans are also more cynical about corporate aims, and find it harder to derive their identify from them.

yes i think that's true, -continentally- speaking.

which might suggest the anglo model to be one that is au fond naive, if naive makes a polarity with cynicism.

which in turn might stem from the 'entitlement of empire'...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 01:43:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WHile I was a student in California I discovered that by just renting a car when I needed one I could drive a new (less than 2 years, less than 30 thousand miles) clean, tuned, fully insured car for a fraction of the cost of owning and insuring an old piece of crap. Owning a car is uneconomic, compared to car sharing. People own cars for the status, just like plasma TVs.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 04:24:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But people are also ready to pay a very large amount of money to have a car "on-call", that is, available to them whenever they get some fancy to go somewhere, like just taking your car and driving somewhere, maybe to take your family to the lake, or just hop in during the weekend and explore the countryside.

Our former socdem PM, Göran Persson, once said something like the mass ownership of cars is the greatest freedom reform ever for the working class. I certainly understand what he meant. Before the advent of the car, most people had never traveled further than the distance they could walk or ride in a day or two.

And no, before you say it, this certainly doesn't mean that commuting in a car is the ideal way to go to work in an urban area.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 12:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Having a car "on call" can easily be solved having a dense enough network of pick-up/drop-off points for rental cars. In the US this is the case, when I lived in Riverside, a town of 250,000 (but a County seat, nevertheless, and in LA's Metro area) I had at least three car rental companies available, one of them within walking distance. In Europe you have to go to inaccessible places, often warehouse areas in the vicinity of airports, to rent a car. Though already three years ago I started seeing advertisements for carsharing companies in London with a large number of delivery points. Something like vélib but for cars.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 04:40:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Still pretty hard, especially if you live in the countryside. Most of the time mass transit is not an option.

Car rental are all but impossible a lot of the time, like on weekends, evenings or whatever. On top of that you have the hassle of actually getting to the place where they rent the car. The extra time spent getting to the rental with the family, renting it, and then doing the same thing when you come back, probably means that nine times out of ten you'll cancel that trip to the lake instead.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 12:22:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh and btw, onlye three cities in Sweden have a population of 250.000 or more. I'm not living in one of them.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 12:23:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was talking about 250,000 people in the LA metro area. Average height of construction: 2 floors.

The city was larger than Madrid in Area, despite being 15-20 times smaller in population.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 12:33:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The city is sustainable.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 12:31:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
  To me, the answer is not only "Yes, it absolutely means that," but that I suspect that the fact that you have neither (personal?) automobile nor television is positively related to your routinely doing other things which are,  from the point of view of the impact upon the natural enivronment's health and well-being, significantly less harmful than the opposite of such practices.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge
by proximity1 on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 10:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
Western standard of living. Comfortable home with power, clean and hot water, appliances (stove, TV, computer, fridge, freezer, shower, access to washing machine etc), a family car, a month of vacation each year. Something like that

So the universal norm is the present standard of living in Sweden. And if this is achieved people will be content and not strive for a mansion, a private jet and a pony? Karl Marx also believed that the standard of comfortable living in his time was universal and once achieved people could work about an hour a day and spend the rest with art and philosophy.

I do not think it is reasonable to assume that todays standards are tomorrows. Either we are dumb as yeast and demands will rise until we overshoot and crash (limited planet), or we have as a global society the option to modify what we perceive as a decent standard, and modify it to a level where it is sustainable.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Nov 19th, 2009 at 12:55:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, not at all. With the exception of the computer most people in Sweden had an adequate standard of living thirty years ago. No one, I say no one, will stop striving until they have at least that, the planet be damned.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 05:55:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maslov's hierarchy of needs?  The problem I see - in western capitalism, at least, is that there seems to be no end to the greed.  Those of have a car want two or the latest sports model.  Those who have a million want two.  I see no evidence of a natural plateauing of ambition once some pre-determined level has been met.  Expectations keep rising.  It's only in old age that people seem to scale back their ambitions.  We seem to need some Malthusian catastrophe to put a lid on the process.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 01:20:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah well, that's people for you. We can think about what to do about that when everyone on the planet lives at least at an adequate standard of living. Until that, it'll all just be hand-wringing anyway.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Nov 20th, 2009 at 02:26:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Starvid:
when everyone on the planet lives at least at an adequate standard of living.

Will never happen - so it is a null hypothesis

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Nov 21st, 2009 at 09:11:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You might be right, and if so then all the debate will never be more than hand-wringing. I don't see why everyone can't live in a reasonable way - it's mainly about designing infastrucuture systems - so we'll just have to wait and see.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 02:39:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't see why everyone can't live in a reasonable way

'Reasonable' is culturally determined. Therefore it would in principle be possible to live in a reasonable way at widely different standards of living. You propose what is reasonable to you given what you know and the culture you live in.

However, because humans are bastards they tend to create unequal social organizations. While some societies are relatively egalitarian, the historical evidence is that it is possible for a culture to survive for a long time even if a substantial number of people have an 'unreasonably low' standard of living. Then there's both ex-post-facto cultural justifications for some people's misery, as well as individual adaptation to their living conditions.

Recall

Easy credit prevented things coming to a head earlier, but they would have and for the same reason - people will consume the culturally-determined "necessaries of life" whether or not this entails living above their means

Project Gutenberg: Wealth of Nations

Consumable commodities are either necessaries or luxuries.

By necessaries I understand, not only the commodities which are indispensibly necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably, though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty, which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person, of either sex, would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France, they are necessaries neither to men nor to women; the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend, not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people. All other things I call luxuries, without meaning, by this appellation, to throw the smallest degree of reproach upon the temperate use of them. Beer and ale, for example, in Great Britain, and wine, even in the wine countries, I call luxuries. A man of any rank may, without any reproach, abstain totally from tasting such liquors. Nature does not render them necessary for the support of life; and custom nowhere renders it indecent to live without them.

Paraphrasing, you could argue "easy energy prevented things from coming to a head earlier, but they would have and for the same reason - people will consume the culturaly-determined "necessaries of life" whether or not this entails living above their environmental means.

The necessary change is cultural as well as political.


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 03:10:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Indeed, but with the advent and mass distribution of mass media, people in poor nations have been informed about the immense quality of life in the developed world, and hence their preferences have already changed. History shows that any solution based on creating a new kind of people always fail. People do change their behaviour, but not because poiticians tell them to but because the world around them change. Banking on changing peoples preferences instead of changing the world is just another way of stating surrender.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Nov 23rd, 2009 at 03:11:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I recall being absolutely appalled when travelling in Mozambique, where for the first time I saw the characteristic swollen bellies of kids with Kwashiorkor - starvation.

One night I went to a pub owned by a South African.  I saw a group of guys drinking whiskey and marvelled (to the owner) at how people could afford Whisky.  "It's not only that", he said.  "It has to be an expensive brand of whisky that they have seen advertised and associated with an affluent western lifestyle.  I have cases of cheaper Bell's whisky in the storeroom I can't shift.  They want the Johnny Walker.  It's the same with motorbikes or other branded goods.  It has to be the expensive European/US brand rather than local produce. Branded Coca-Cola sells for three times the price of local fizz."

So yes, the greater the deprivation, the greater the captivation by the symbols of affluence and an affluent lifestyle.  The problem is that I see this as both unattainable and unsustainable for the planet as a whole, and the people who have the most often don't seem to become any less greedy for more as a consequence.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Nov 23rd, 2009 at 08:31:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
People do change their behaviour, but not because poiticians tell them to but because the world around them change.

Recent history shows that massive, unrelenting propaganda works.

At the moment, we have an entire advertising industry whose entire raison d'etre is creating and disseminating massive, unrelenting propaganda in favour of expanding consumption. On the other side, we have a few NGOs and a couple of activists who run anti-consumption propaganda on a shoestring budget. It hardly seems improbable that a properly funded, properly engineered anti-consumption propaganda campaign could meet with success.

It has been done before: During the serious shooting wars of the 19th and 20th centuries, governments would actively encourage thrift in order to conserve productive capacity for the war effort. I will leave it to historians to judge the effectiveness of those campaigns, but the precedent for government(-sponsored) anti-consumption propaganda is there.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Nov 23rd, 2009 at 02:26:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's not what a null hypothesis means.

You mean "a false premise". Maybe you could use void instead of null. Was this possibly a cross-over from the legal expression null and void?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Nov 22nd, 2009 at 02:56:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]


notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 01:25:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru uses Google™</advertisement>

And now we return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 01:39:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Googleru™
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 02:03:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah yes, but you know the right questions to ask - a Googleguru?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Nov 17th, 2009 at 02:06:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The "interesting part" in current chess is that computer-aided humans are still better that computers by themselves...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 02:13:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, I appreciate being compared to Kasparov...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 04:25:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
CHESS; Anand Overwhelms Karpov In a Computer-Aided Match - The New York Times
Kasparov played only to a 3-3 tie match with the Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov, a disappointing result for the champion indicating that the computer diminished his usually great play.


notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 05:54:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was thinking more about
''Advanced Chess,'' invented and named by Garry Kasparov, is the extension of a traditional consultation game, with the exception that in place of human collaborators, the human adversaries are each teamed with a computer.


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 06:03:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My point was that you and your friend Google get on so much better together than Gary and his machine.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 08:48:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not necessarily the case, as the NTY infers, that Kasparov's game was hindered by the use of the computer. Another possible inference is that Topalov and Anand get along better with their computers than Kasparov and Karpov, even if Kasparov and Karpov are helped and not hindered by theirs. After all, Topalov and Anand are much younger than the two K's.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 09:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'Get along better' is an interesting way of putting it.

I might have said 'are better at using'.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Nov 18th, 2009 at 12:07:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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