Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
NASA scientist wrong to dismiss Copenhagen ta -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

SHANE MCLEOD: There's a new split in the climate change debate after a top NASA scientist expressed
hope the Copenhagen summit would fail.

James Hansen said any agreement to emerge from the meeting would be so deeply flawed it would be
better to start again.

It was Dr Hansen who helped to alert the world to global warming.

The environmentalist Tim Flannery says this time James Hansen has made the wrong call.

Brendan Trembath reports.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: For 20 years Dr James Hansen has called for urgent action to tackle climate
change. He's a hero of environmentalists.

But this time he's made the wrong call says the award winning Australian environmentalist Dr Tim

TIM FLANNERY: I strongly disagree with James Hansen on this.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In the Guardian newspaper Dr Hansen trashes the Copenhagen climate change talks,
just days away. He says any agreement likely to emerge from the negotiations would be so deeply
flawed that it would be better for future generations to start again from scratch.

Dr Flannery argues though that nations have to start somewhere.

TIM FLANNERY: I think that we're on track to achieve something quite significant at Copenhagen and
you know, we can't just build the perfect system overnight and we should never let the perfect be
the enemy of the good.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Is this a big loss to your cause, given this is the man who helped put global
warming, the concept, on the map? He warned the world about it.

TIM FLANNERY: Look I don't believe this is a big loss. There will always be disagreement on these

James Hansen is one of the world's greatest climate scientists. In terms of climate politics and
climate policy though there are other people whose views I listen to in that area as well.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Dr James Hansen opposes the US President Barack Obama's plan for a cap and trade
system. If adopted, polluters would have to meet set air quality goals. They could only exceed
these goals by buying permits, traded like wool or wheat or some other commodity.

Tim Flannery again:

TIM FLANNERY: The cap and trade bill that we need is just so essential for the international
negotiations. Sure it's not the whole solution but without a cap and without assessing overall
emissions of a nation, how are we ever to have a treaty?

We have to be able to see transparently what the other nations are offering and cap and trade
really offers us the best way of doing that and the clearest way of doing that.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Dr Tim Flannery might disagree this time with Dr James Hansen but the US
scientist still has a following.

Professor Will Steffen is the executive director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian
National University.

WILL STEFFEN: Well I can certainly sympathise with Jim's sense of frustration and urgency. I think
what he's expressing is we need to get on with deep and effective emission reductions very fast and
that is a critical point.

However I'm not so pessimistic about Copenhagen. I think Copenhagen is an important step but it is
a step on a longer process and it's facing some difficult issues.

One of the most difficult issues it's facing is the so-called equity issue in that the wealthy
countries, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries basically are
largely responsible for the climate change we see now. By far most of the CO2 that's up there now
has been a result of OECD emissions.

But then we have the emerging economies like China who are now becoming large emitters. And then we
have the very poor nations who are still very, very small emitters but are copping most of the

We need to get through that impasse around the so-called equity issues and come up with a
differentiated but fair and effective way of reducing emissions. I think if we can make progress on
that issue at Copenhagen it will indeed have been a success.

But like Jim I share the concern that we need to grab the sense of urgency and even if we don't get
a very effective final solution at Copenhagen we've got to move very fast within the next year to
secure that.

We've been fiddling around for 20 years now and the problem is just about getting out of hand.

SHANE MCLEOD: Professor Will Steffen from the Climate Change Institute ending that report by
Brendan Trembath.