Day 3: The chosen few

Posted by:  Chris Kim

[Started writing this last night, just finished and posting it today] I’m still, amazingly, in the Bella Center, going on hour 13 today; I figured that if this is my last day at COP15, I’m going to make it count.

As has been covered already in this blog, severe limitations on access to the conference have been enacted.  Although rumors abounded about getting in as the week goes on (external protests supposedly caused the NGO entry line to be closed by mid-morning), David Shafie and I were lucky enough to get in around 9 AM.  Unfortunately, everyone else in our group got shut out as they arrived after we did, so it was up to David and me to represent our delegation from within the Bella Center.

We started things off at the U.S. Center, where a representative from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) gave a presentation using the amazing visual Science on a Sphere technology.  From NOAA’s website: “Science On a Sphere (SOS) is a room sized, global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary data onto a six foot diameter sphere, analogous to a giant animated globe.”  This was a great way to view changes in ocean temperatures over time as well as different pelagic (open ocean-dwelling) animal migration patterns, and carbonate saturation limits in a fully 3D surround form.

NOAA's Science on a Sphere shows sea turtle migration data; colors indicate ocean temperature gradients and shows that turtles prefer a fairly narrow temperature range which threatens to be disrupted by climate change.

Within a timeframe of about 15 minutes, I then got pictures of (and in the first two cases, with) General Wesley Clark, Dr. John Holdren, and Senator John Kerry.  Increasingly bigger names were definitely in attendance today.  General Clark told us a personal but likely well-practiced anecdote about arguing with an 11-year-old over the age of the dinosaurs, as he (the kid) had been taught that the earth was only 6000 years old, while I chatted with Dr. Holdren about folks we both know at Harvard.  Holdren, the primary science advisor to President Obama and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, has also appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and is likely one of the most public faces of science today.  His ability to communicate complex scientific concepts with patience, intelligence, and enthusiasm are in my opinion a great asset to the current administration.  More on his talk in a future post.

General Wesley Clark with me and David Shafie.

Senator John Kerry rushes by, surrounded by press and staff.

Me with John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama.

David and I went to a panel discussion in the Bellona Room, buried in the depths of the delegate offices (each country/big govt. office gets one, which acts as the center of business for all govt. officials), to hear from representatives of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the World Wildlife Foundation, the Blue Green Alliance, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, and the National Wildlife Federation about the status of climate change legislation and how NGOs can play a role in shaping it.  They were all quite savvy about how Congress operates and how to effectively lobby for science priorities (e.g. emphasizing job creation and showing how states can financially benefit).

Panel discussion on US climate change legislation held at the Bellona Room.

After that I hustled to catch the end of a Department of Transportation talk at the U.S. Center which discussed current and possibly future changes to gas mileage requirements as well as other ongoing initiatives in jet fuel R&D, hybrid and electric cars, and funding for new transportation-related improvements.  All talks at the US Center are streamed live and archived in many cases online along with the slides used during the presentation at:

From there it was off to a discussion of green jobs in the EU Center (the correlate to the US Center), then back to the US Center for John Holdren’s talk entitled “The Science of Climate Change:  What do we Know? What Can We Do?”  Then John Kerry’s talk on “The Critical Role of a Global Deal in Advancing US legislation, followed by a biofuels panel presentation by General Wesley Clark and several CEOs of different biofuel companies that regrettably felt more like an infomercial for the industry than a cogent talk.  We then attended a talk by numerous high-level UN representatives and led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.  David Shafie has covered the Kerry and Ban talks elsewhere in this blog.

UN presentation with an impressive collection of high-ranking UN officials.

Seating chart for UN panel presentation.

Grabbed some side event catering on the way to a panel presentation called “Getting into Shape for Green Growth:  Korea’s Case” which covered all of the things Korea is doing to get out ahead of green growth and technology.  Surprisingly, while Korea seems very prominent this week, and China is obviously a large force in the ongoing negotiations, Japan is relatively subdued in their presence at the conference.  Finished with more catering and hauling a bunch of chocolate, cheese and sandwiches (one of the latter donated by David) out to some of the non-violent protestors in the main hall who were pretty appreciative.  Busy day!

Nonviolent protestors inside the Bella Center (compared to the (few) violent protestors outside the Bella Center earlier that day).

I’ll break out more detail on a few of these talks separately, as this is already a pretty long post.  However, one item mentioned in a few different talks was a chart created by McKinsey called the greenhouse gas abatement cost curve, plotting abatement methods along two axes showing each method’s cost per ton of CO2 and the actual number of gigatons (109) of CO2 potentially reduced.  This allows a visual representation of the cost benefits of various approaches, showing that several will save large amounts of money while others will cost more.  I’ve included the figure here which is worth a closer look.

McKinsey greenhouse gas abatement cost curve.


3 Responses to Day 3: The chosen few

  1. Diana McCabe says:

    So is the McKinsey greenhouse gas abatement cost curve — false good news? I’ve never understood how this actually works. Maybe that’s the ding on it. Good economic theory but no practical way to get to the goals? Thanks for continuing to blog on the details I can’t get over here!

  2. Diana McCabe says:

    p.s. Love the pics with the bigwigs ….

  3. Chris Kim says:

    Maybe just to explain the cost curve a little better, at least as far as I understand it:

    The options to the left of the figure will remove relatively small amounts of CO2/year, but will actually induce cost savings over time, so are an easy thing to do and could be considered as “low-hanging fruit”; notice that switching light bulbs from incandescent to LED, which is well advertised in the US, is one of the best in terms of cost savings. Options to the right of the cost curve are those that will save huge amounts of CO2/year, but will also cost a lot, e.g. switching largely to solar/wind power, converting all cars to hybrids, etc.

    So a good future energy plan should apply a buffet of options that will allow maximize the amount of CO2 reductions for the budget allocated.

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