Complex Issues

December 2, 2008

December 2nd -This afternoon I am circulating through several events.  I guess my objective was to grasp the huge amount of information and opinion that was being presented, as well as the complexity of some of the issues.  It is natural for the layman to think in simplified broad concepts.  For instance, with the issue of how to decrease deforestation and forest degradation, and encourage reforestation, one is tempted to say something like, “Just pay people to not cut down trees and replace ones that have been cut.”  But think about that simplification for a moment and you start to realize how complex an issue it is.

Who is paying, where does the money come from, to whom does it go, how are results assessed, how is fairness and equity maintained so that, for instance, land barons or national governments do not subsume rights to ancestral forests of indigenous peoples’ forests and claim the financial flows.  And there are so many notions of what is fair.  This whole thread at the conference is simply referred to as REDD.  It was a concept introduced at the Bali conference last year.  By next year at this time, the decisions must be made and the mechanisms agreed to and in place.  At least there is a recognition of how our time to fix what we’ve broken is so short.  And REDD is a proposed mechanism only to reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation.  We are not talking about planting trees.  We are only talking about reducing the rate at which they are cut down.  As one presenter put it, “We are not talking about paying people to do good things, we are talking about paying bad people to do less bad things.”

Having walked up 4 flights to the meeting rooms for the NGO side events, I ducked into a couple of additional rooms.  In one of them a discussion was under way of the issue of climate ‘forcings’ in the arctic region.  Having accepted that there will be an ice free arctic in summer within a few years, what issues will arise.  Ozone hole issues will move from southern hemisphere to northern.  New shipping lanes with subject new areas of the ocean to ‘black carbon’ emissions (soot from poorly burned carbon fuels), which form a ‘forcing’ for further climate change in the area.

It is depressing that there are so many issues coming up so quickly, and the need to make and institutionalize wise decisions on such a short time frame.  But it is also hopeful that this globally distributed body of individuals is working so hard to get it right.

For the Earth – §