„You cannot negotiate with nature“: Leading scientists on COP18 in Doha

11/26/2012 - Media worldwide asked leading scientists of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) for comments and interviews on the world climate summit COP18 that started today in Doha, Qatar. Despite the widespread scepticism that the meeting of representatives of nearly 200 states will achieve much progress, PIK’s director Hans Joachim Schellnhuber stressed that much is at stake for the international community if global warming goes on unabated. “You cannot negotiate with nature,” Schellnhuber told the Chinese news agency Xinhua. “While we are quarreling, nature will just march on."
„You cannot negotiate with nature“: Leading scientists on COP18 in Doha
Opening of the world climate summit by the host country Qatar, H.E. Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, President for COP 18. Photo: Sallie Shatz

In interviews with the two leading German weeklies Schellnhuber highlighted that global decision-makers should recognize the dire realities of climate change impacts. “It’s worth fighting for each tenth of a degree,” he said in Die Zeit. Before, he had pointed out in Der Spiegel that the European Union could easily achieve a reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions of 30 percent by 2020 relative to 1990, instead of the 20 percent it has committed to. He also outlined the risks that humankind is facing in the main news show of German public service TV, “Tagesthemen”.

If states want to bring down greenhouse-gas emissions, they have to establish and enhance emissions-trading systems or CO2-taxation, PIK's chief economist Ottmar Edenhofer said in the lead story on page one and in an interview of Tuesday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. These instruments could become “a new factor for state finances”; charging harmful emissions would obviously make more sense than charging productive investments, consumption, or work income. It could help especially developing countries to build up infrastructure. “The scarcity of the 21st century is not the one of fossil fuels, but the limited disposal space (for CO2) in our atmosphere, the oceans, and forests,” Edenhofer told the economic weekly Wirtschaftswoche in another interview.

The transformation of Germany's energy system could become a "story of success", closely watched by many other countries, Brigitte Knopf said in the Guardian (UK). Still, “if the prices keep increasing, this might undermine the acceptance of the Energiewende,” she points out. Knopf is head of the group Energy Strategies Europe and Germany. Assessments of seal-level rise by Stefan Rahmstorf, co-chair of the research domain Earth System Analyses, got quoted in pre-Doha reports of many media, amongst them Süddeutsche Zeitung. This major climate change impact might have been previously underestimated.

“While progress is needed on the level of the world climate summits, this should not be an excuse for anybody to just wait and see,“ Rahmstorf’s colleague Wolfgang Lucht said in NDR radio. “Frontrunners are needed.”

Weblink to the COP 18 global climate summit