Nuclear Arms Talks Seen as Useful ‘Experiment’ for Climate Negotiations

Large multinational climate talks are going nowhere fast, two outside observers conclude, saying targeted talks involving just the largest greenhouse gas emitting countries are worth a try.

Decades of experience with international nuclear arms negotiations “could be a model” for making meaningful global progress on climate change issues.

That’s the thrust of an argument made by two long-time outside observers who say the drawn-out history of disappointing international climate change negotiations makes now an apt “time to experiment.” Try something other than the existing “cumbersome process” involving 195 negotiating parties and “a massive number of issues,” they suggest.

Time to try breaking down the issues and “diversifying negotiating venues and configurations,” policy analysts Ruth Greenspan Bell and Barry Blechman write in a February 10 posting in The Daily Climate and in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The “if you build it, they will come” model, they say, borrowing from the movie “Field of Dreams,” just isn’t paying-off. They resort to another cliché in urging a “many bites of the apple” strategy, and they see the international nuclear arms negotiations as helping show the way.

While not perfect, they write, “Overall, the strategy has been successful.” With the U.S. and the former Soviet Union controlling 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, such an approach might work with “the handful of countries that produce most greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Why wait for the entire world to be on board if a small number of negotiators can make significant progress?” they ask. “Smaller agreements have a way of creating political pressures and norms that eventually cause others to join.”

Without some experimenting with the international negotiations process, “we can never know” whether a different process might “reboot” the stalemate. “What is the justification for doing only more of the same?” they write.

Bell and Blechman with this posting join a growing number of climate-concerned observers in arguing that the large multinational international negotiations and the conventional periodic IPCC reports, while having served critical purposes over recent years, have outlived their usefulness and need to be significantly overhauled.

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