Re-post original creation date 2009
As the climate summit continues, many hail Copenhagen Denmark as a place that got it right when it comes to saving the environment, proof that green alternatives can work. Activists and leaders point to it as a model for the world of how countries can change for the health of us all. However while Copenhagen works for Copenhagen and the rest of Demark; its policies and ideas cannot simply be exported all across the globe. For instance the 28% tax on gas-powered vehicles would never take hold in America; people would call it highway robbery. It is surprising that it has worked at all in Denmark as they have long only had the choice between it and bicycles. The taxes placed on gasoline would not be tolerated either; people would see it as a ploy to make money, as another form of government control in a nation that holds sacred the rights of its people. Taxes on extra energy use and the almost obsessive compulsive drive toward the reduction of individual consumption would be seen in the same light, at the same time wealthier individuals would simply pay the money to use things as they wished.
The Denmark model still has bigger issues than public perception of conservation or government policies; on many practical levels the models would not work for countries, like the US, with large populated landmasses. The whole of Denmark is roughly the size of Minnesota, so in discussing replacement of traditional gas stations with electric outlets designed for cars to be able to plug in and charge or battery exchange stations for long cross country trips, they are talking both less dollars in replacement of technology and less exchange stations needed. Many people in Copenhagen bike to work, school stores, that becoming the primary mode of transportation other than public transit systems; however biking, and the other popular alternative walking, presents problems. Not just in terms of out of shape Americans not physically healthy enough to pull it off, but in terms of weather extremes, hot and cold that make it next to impossible to bike or walk even the majority of the time. In Copenhagen it is done only April through October; persons interviewed for a PBS special leading up to the climate summit said nothing about what they do the rest of the year. Other obstacles in America or major cities worldwide are walking becomes dangerous with so many cars on the road; America cannot afford the daunting infrastructure changes necessary to make things safer for pedestrians. Walking and biking also make you more of a target for crime, ripe for the picking when it comes to theft and assault.
Other issues that come with this model are evident by the peoples feelings already exhibited in Denmark; no one wants those eye sore wind turbines near them, turbines responsible for much of their clean energy. Another hurdle lies in the source of that energy. Demark has the advantage of the wind off the North sea; places like Canada that have attempted to use solar energy find both a lack of sunny days and improper installation of such panels can leave people with no hot water or similar energy bills as before. Regions are going to have to find their own source of clean energy; solar in places with a lot of sun, wind in places with a lot of that, geothermal for those who have it; one model is just not something you can export. Neither is the technology that makes each of those alternatives functional for people and their needs.
Needs of the people come into play in a verity of areas on this particular subject; looking at Copenhagen you might see bikers in business suites; in America you could not come to work with so called helmet head, wind swept, with creases in your suite (all from being on a bike). You would look decidedly unprofessional. The couple interviewed for the PBS special on living in an environmentally conscience nation, detailed going to see family hours away they took a bike, to take a train, to walk 20 minutes to visit the mans mother, all with a baby in tow. Americans are forever looking for ways to simplify their lives; they would never agree to such a system when you can simply get in your car and go. Further Denmark is fairly flat country; many counties have rugged terrain two lane roads, places not suitable for walking and even more dangerous for biking. This is especially true with infants and young children. Something not addressed in the special are those individuals with disabilities, those who cannot walk or bike to their destinations, trains and pubic transit systems designed for the able bodied who can walk or bike from subway to work, school or errand. Adopting the ideas in Denmark would make things harder on the disadvantaged as well as the host of problems detailed to this point.
Returning to the climate summit, while small countries and island nations are pleading to be heard in regards to rising sea levels and destruction of everything from sacred ground to homes, the debate over the facts of climate change rages on. E-mail correspondence found from some of the top climate experts has all but killed US political capital on the issue. Content of the e-mails detail discussions among experts of findings in various studies showcasing numbers that indicate the earth’s temperature has not risen, some indicating a decline in temperature leaving experts both puzzled and wanting to keep a lid on those discoveries. Experts and congressional leaders in favor of climate legislation are quick to point out the e-mails do not change the science of climate change, yet if what a congressional representative from Texas, speaking on C-span says is true, it might. This representative claims that in collecting data, some temperature readings were taken from the surface, the lower atmosphere and the upper atmosphere then compared as if it all came from the same place. The representative astutely saying it doesn’t work that way.
Unfortunately for protesters in Denmark and champions of changing attitudes toward the environment, things like these e-mails and the representatives revealing comments fuel long held skepticism. Skepticism based on everything from climate debunkers who report a possible misestimation of the pervious thickness of polar icecaps to ordinary people in parts of the US wondering where summer was. Many in the general public see what they call hysteria over climate change as a way for the government and others to make money; others wonder if some of the new green technologies, such as wind turbines, really do change the weather on the ground, an early theory dismissed in later years. Unrecognized theories for erratic weather patters, rising temps include solar flares; lung fungus, not climate crisis, blamed for the plight of the honeybee. Critics of the US cap and trade legislation have their own beef with climate alarmists; contention surrounds what the public thinks it will get out of this new legislation. They are quick to point out that this legislation will not save the earth or their grandkids, as many scientists feel it is much to late for that; they tell us instead it is likely to cost people money and the fragile economy jobs.
With the pleading protests of indigenous peoples in Copenhagen, it shines a spotlight on what are being called climate refugees, those groups of people being displaced by climate change; much of what they want wealthier nations to do for them and what those nations want to do is fueled by the notion that industrialized nations are to blame for what is happening. No one can argue that it would be profoundly foolish for nations of cars, computers, and fossil fuels to tell nations of bicycles, living off the land, no electricity and fires for heating and cooking they have to change how they live. Yet there are still peoples becoming climate refugees. Yes we can try to prevent any more from suffering the same fate; however, if some of the lesser known science is correct, man may have little to do with what is happening and may not be capable of doing anything to stop it. And plans created on a sense of guilt will foster resentment not change.
Lastly, considering the possibility that some of the debunking theories could be true, public skepticism justified, one is left to wonder if the changes made in Copenhagen Denmark are worth the time and money spent, if they ever will be. And as developed, industrial nations battle over emissions standards, greener vehicles and all climate related components, the question still remains what really will work? Does it really need to? Is the climate really in crisis or simply changing, evolving?