Me neither. It reminds me of a story I linked to some time ago by a
financial guy who didn’t understand some of the language and
banter being tossed around in politics and media about the economic
meltdown. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, he said.

Okay, here are a couple. What are they negotiating in Copenhagen,
and what kinds of deals can they make on something like the
climate? Reading this WSJ piece, I realized there’s more that’s unclear here than the air.

Take this sentence, for instance:

A United Nations panel has claimed that China has been
manipulating a system under which rich countries can invest in
carbon-abatement projects in poor countries and receive carbon credits
that can be traded.

Who’s keeping track? What’s the ’system’ of trading carbon credits? And how do you know if a country is, say, cheating?

Climate diplomats prefer words such as “transparency” to
blunt terms such as “cheat.” Either way, the concern in developed
countries is that projects designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions in
poor nations aren’t really generating the promised reductions.

Debate has flared in Copenhagen…Chinese officials have called the
U.N. panel’s process of reviewing such projects opaque and unfair.

What a lot of chaos and obfuscation about something so politically and culturally ‘hot’ (no pun intended).

Lack of a robust system for monitoring countries’
emissions could hurt efforts to forge a climate treaty in two ways,
says U.S. government scientist Pieter Tans: Some countries might sign
on hoping to exploit the opacity of the current system. Others might
refuse to sign on, fearing the system will be gamed.

Governments that do agree to cut their emissions “don’t want to be
seen as having failed, so they’ll be inclined to slant their emissions
numbers somewhat,” Mr. Tans says.

But keeping tabs on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is
complicated. As greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide tend to be
distributed fairly evenly in the atmosphere, any inspection regime must
be capable of detecting small differences in countries’ emissions
levels. Many scientists say existing instruments and methods for
measuring emissions aren’t adequate to ensure compliance with a treaty.

So…….is anyone clear on this?

“You can do all the accounting you want from the bottom
up, but you also need someone standing back and examining whether
you’re getting results,” says James Butler, a climate scientist with
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth Systems
Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “There are so many ways of gaming
the system on carbon, it’s incredible.”

No, that’s one thing that’s actually credible.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....