The blind chasing after the blind in Cancún

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Briggs over at William M. Briggs, “statistician to the stars,” has a delightfully damning post about Cornell’s delegation to the shindig aka COP 16 [the 16th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Cancún.

According to The Cornell Daily Sun, “A delegation of Cornell researchers will join the fight against climate change Monday in the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.” Eighteen students, plus Three Cornell professors — Prof. Antonio Bento, applied economics and management, Prof. Johannes Lehmann, soil sciences, Prof. Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell’s Global Labor Institute will comprise the Cornell delegation. The faculty members “will give formal presentations to the COP 16 on issues ranging from cap-and-trade offsets, sustainable agriculture and organized labor.”

According to the Daily Sun,

“The third research group will offer information “on how to avoid carbon dioxide losses from soils that would contribute to global warming, and how to increase organic carbon in soils that will be a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide,” Lehmann said in an e-mail.

Lehmann, who will present in two “side events” meant to inform the delegates, expressed hope that his scientific research would affect the diplomatic bargaining.”

To which Briggs points out:

[I]f you begin to muse on soil physics, you’ll have missed the meat, which is that Lehmann, the only scientist in the group, is being shunted off onto a “side event”, which is “meant to inform the delegates.” Lehmann said, “The presentations by scientists are attended by negotiators that will hopefully be better informed through the material. Often, negotiators are directly interacting with presenters to deepen their knowledge.”

The Daily Sun’s article reports:

At the COP 16 , Bento will present a theoretical and computational model of a cap-and-trade model in the United States. In a cap-and-trade program, the government sets pollution caps and firms may purchase and trade carbon credits.

And Briggs notes:

Bento and team “will present a theoretical and computational model of a cap-and-trade model”, which—do I need to say this?—is based on output from climate models. A model of a model of a model. Put another way: an approximation of a surmise of a guess. What could go wrong?

Read the whole post  here: Cornell’s Cancun Climate Conference Crew. It’s worth it to marvel at the UNFCC process.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is to be held in Cancún,
Mexico, from 29 November to 10 December 2010. What is it supposed to do?

According to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCC) website, the conference ” encompasses the sixteenth Conference
of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as
the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP), as well as the
thirty-third sessions of both the Subsidiary Body for Implementation
(SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice
(SBSTA), and the fifteenth session of the AWG-KP and thirteenth session
of the AWG-LCA. To discuss future commitments for industrialized
countries under the Kyoto Protocol, the Conference of the Parties
serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP)
established a working group in December 2005 called the Ad Hoc Working
Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto
Protocol (AWG-KP). In Copenhagen, at its fifth session, the CMP
requested the AWG-KP to deliver the results of its work for adoption by
CMP 6 in Cancun.”

Got that? Well according to the UNFCC’s fact sheet, “Over a decade ago, most countries joined an international treaty — the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global
warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.
More recently, a number of nations approved an addition to the treaty:
the Kyoto Protocol [the US congress did not ratify it] , which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures. The UNFCCC secretariat supports all institutions involved in the climate change process, particularly the COP, the subsidiary bodies and their Bureau.”

“The negotiating process on climate change revolves around the sessions of
the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP), which meets every
year to review the implementation of the Convention. The COP adopts
decisions and resolutions, published in reports of the COP.  Successive
decisions taken by the COP make up a detailed set of rules for practical
and effective implementation of the Convention.”

“Thousands of participants including government representatives and observer organizations have attended previous climate change conferences.  The sessions in Bali attracted over 10,000 participants, including some 3,500 government officials, over 5,800 representatives of UN bodies and agencies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, and nearly 1,500 accredited members of the media.”

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