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SCIENCE FOR POLITICIANS – Barack Obama’s environment advisor praises recent climate report from the University of Copenhagen in exclusive interview
»The University of Copenhagen does exactly what science and the universities ought to. The report isn’t an attempt to dictate what the politicians should do. It’s politically relevant,« says Jane Lubchenco in an interview with the University Post’s Danish-language sister media Universitetsavisen.
Lubchenco is a marine ecologist and boss of the 13,000 employees in the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who survey the state of the oceans, the atmosphere and keep an eye on climate change for the USA.
She is a big cheese in the climate debate and is participating in the UN’s climate conference in December, as negotiator in the American delegation.
Thursday 12 November she was at the University of Copenhagen (U of C) to receive an honorary doctorate, and Friday she gave a lecture on how the climate will change in the USA, based on a newly released NOAA-report.
Jane Lubchenco praises the U of C for taking part in the climate debate with its Climate Lectures and reports to politicians. Not only has she read the so-called synthesis report from the U of C conference in March, she is also quite impressed with it.
The UN’s climate panel only issues reports every fifth or sixth year, so there is a need to receive up-to-date research in the intermittent periods, says Lubchenco.
»It is praiseworthy and exemplary that the University of Copenhagen takes its responsibility to share its knowledge with the public seriously,« she says.
The U of C as potential climate activist aside, it does not exactly appear that the Danish population and its elected representatives are particularly busy putting new CO2-decreasing laws into motion.
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has even stopped talking about a legally binding agreement, and his Deputy Prime Minister Lene Espersen recently confirmed at the U of C that she is not expecting the countries of the world to agree on more than a so-called political agreement.
As if to emphasise this bleak approach to the climate, the government has just opted to reward the most hated man in the world of climate activism, Bjørn Lomborg, a total of DKK 20,5 million, to be paid out in the years coming up to 2014.
What does Jane Lubchenco think about Denmark throwing approximately five million dollars in Lomborg’s direction?
»Wow. I had no idea,« she says, clearly taken aback, but adds that people have a right to their opinions. »Society shouldn’t oppress any opinions…«, and after a brief distraction she makes her point:
»Science should affect political decisions. The UN climate panel’s reports have been through a tough peer review process. That’s also the case with the U of C’s synthesis report,« says Lubchenco. »This process makes it reliable. That’s the sort of research that should influence our opinions.«
Polls indicate that the average American is not exactly a banner-waving climate activist, and the politicians are still busy tweaking the President’s Health Reform, and haven’t the time to think about rising sea levels and carbon dioxide.
The Senate will not have a collective climate opinion ready until January or February at the earliest, says Jane Lubchenco.
»The leaders of the Senate would like to have it completed. They’re frustrated that it it isn’t happening faster, but that’s the way it is,« she says, and crosses her fingers for a positive result.
The question is, then: Is a half-bad climate agreement in Copenhagen better or worse than none at all, which might at least not prevent something better from happening in the future.
What camp do you belong to?
»The realistic camp,« says Lubchenco. »COP-15 is not a vacuum. It’s a part of a greater dialogue, a process. At the climate conference in Bali two years ago, we hoped that Copenhagen would be the place that we could complete something very important, but having high expectations doesn’t make things happen by themselves,« she says, referring to the Kyoto Protocol that was not much by itself either.
»Our previous administration didn’t do a lot to solve the climate problem. Barack Obama has only been President since January. There is a lot of baggage in the USA when it comes to the climate, and we strive for what the Government, Congress and the Senate can agree on. Not just what the President wants.«