November 25, 2009

Notes on a Scandal

The controversy (see also here and here) over the stolen1 emails of the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia has been tragically amusing: Amusing because of the way denialists have been huffing and puffing over something which, even in the most generous interpretation, doesn't alter the overwhelming nature of the evidence for climate change2; and tragic because that same huffing and puffing will likely further muddy the discourse on climate change in this country, which is saying something.

If you want a real scandal, however, check this out:
Large sums promised to developing countries to help them tackle climate change cannot be accounted for, a BBC investigation has found.

Rich countries pledged $410m (£247m) a year in a 2001 declaration - but it is now unclear whether the money was paid.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has accused industrialised countries of failing to keep their promise.

The EU says the money was paid out in bilateral deals, but admits it cannot provide data to prove it.
This could be really damaging -- trust between rich and poor countries is strained as it is, and the failure of the rich countries to account for the money pledged could potentially blow things up at Copenhagen, where establishing rich country aid for poor countries is a major point of contention. This is also why having a legally binding climate change treaty of some kind is so important: When you're dealing with financial transfers on the order of €100 billion a year (as the EU proposed recently), you need to have mechanisms in place to ensure that the money is going where it's intended.

1 Let's not lend to the people who broke into the CRU's email system any of the lovable moxie associated with the term "hacker," shall we? This was theft, pure and simple.
2 Though the underlying science is not affected, I agree with George Monbiot that CRU officials haven't been handling the controversy all that well.

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