Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Who Makes Policy if Not the Policy Maker?

Scientists are to keep out of the policy arena, because that's the job of policy makers, right? They have it covered, right?

Not really. Kofi Annan makes that clear in an op-ed in the Washingto Post.

He's not in charge of anything anymore except a group called "The Elders" (sounds like something from The Hunger Games). But he's had a lot of experience and ought to have some insight into what will work in the real world, right?

So what are his proposals? Nothing new or specific at all:
What is needed to prevent this catastrophe has been established. Global temperature rises must be limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This means turning away from fossil fuels and accelerating the deployment of affordable renewable energies, for instance by setting an internationally agreed price for carbon. The way forward must be to meet the timetable for a robust, universal and legally binding agreement on climate change next year, under which every country commits to phasing down greenhouse gas emissions.
His piece is just another appeal for the world to get serious about climate change, to come together to find a solution to the problem, by "raising their sights — and shrugging off the restraints imposed by vested interests and short-term political considerations — they can also inspire hope, rebuild trust and mobilize action across society."

Easy-peasy! -- as my 6-year old niece says.

Maybe Annan has spent too much time in a world where all he has to do is write a memo and things get done, or too much time writing high-level pap that it isn't intended to get anything done and doesn't really care if it doesn't. But does the world really need another article pointing out the need to address climate change, without addressing how that is to come about in the real world?

A Dot Earth commenter named Christopher Yaun has it right:
No politician has the expertise. No scientist, no corporate CEO or lawyer, no banker or investor, no five star general, no religious figure has the expertise to lead us from this challenge.

Popular TV and radio personalities speak into a microphone and their opinions echo from many millions of loudspeakers. Captains of industry voice their opinions through broadcast, lobby organizations and congress, financed by corporate profits and protected from disclosure by public laws that prevent even the NSA from probing their source. Experts on driving public opinion. Experts on building media empires and celebrity. Experts on protecting engines of corporate profit. These are not experts and yet their voices have been loud an effective.

Only the citizen has the expertise to lay foundations that will prepare us for the climate changes and global warming that will task our children.

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