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David F. Hales
President, College of the Atlantic

David F. Hales

David F. Hales is the president of the College of the Atlantic in Maine, which in 2007 became the first U.S. higher education institution to achieve carbon neutrality. ALL POSTS

Of course not, but it's not that simple...

Q: As we get closer to the United Nation's conference on climate change in Copenhagen and nations begin setting their agendas, are their goals realistic? Last week, the U.S. and China each announced their emissions target goals. Are they big enough?

At face value, neither position will do much to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations, or affect the rate at which they are increasing. The science communities in both countries as well as the policy makers in the U.S. and China know that as well as anyone else.


I speculated in an earlier note here that the recent China-U.S. head of state meeting and the discussions which laid the ground for that meeting might be signs that both countries recognize the necessity to put aside old diplomatic games.


The subsequent choreographed announcements are further indications that China and the United States might have reached the conclusion that denial and delay is no longer in the strategic interest of either country. Both are well aware of the emerging liquid fossil fuel deficit. Both are well aware of the implications for food security inherent in the convergence of fuel shortages and climate change. The intelligence communities of both are increasingly focused on the implications of this double crunch for the economic and political stability of nations around the world. Both see the threat to their national security interests.


It may well be that the announced positions of both China and the United States are but opening gambits in a new Great Game in which their interests are likely to coincide more often than not, which will inevitably entail massive expense, and which cannot be avoided. My strong suspicion is that neither has placed their final offer on the table, and that the leadership in both countries are prepared to go farther.

By David F. Hales  |  December 3, 2009; 8:58 PM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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