What a difference a year makes.

Not much in the context of significant changes to the Earth’s climate, of course, but it’s an entirely different thing when it comes to the public policy climate on the changing climate.

Flags photoSo reasons Canadian author and consultant Gerald Kutney, whose pessimism about progress on climate change matters sang-out loudly in his January 2014 book Carbon Politics and the Failure of the Kyoto Protocol.

Kutney wrote then about what he called “political gamesmanship.” He wrote about “popular misconceptions” and about international treaties “forged in their own world that many of us know very little about.”

Perhaps what particularly bothered Kutney at that time was the reality that under the approach being taken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, “developing nations had to be fairly represented in all aspects of their work and structure.” That emphasis on what he called “geographic balance” or “geographical representation” was politically and not scientifically driven, he wrote. Far better to focus on a few major emitting countries, he argued, saying that “requiring almost 200 nations to agree (to anything) is doomed.”

Kutney at one point in that book sited what he saw as an impermeable roadblock formed by an inability to agree on the meaning of just four words embedded in the international negotiations: “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

“For over 20 years, seasoned bureaucrats, especially those of America and China, have haggled over the meaning of these four simple words,” he wrote then. And again the outcome, in his mind, was inevitable: impasse and stalemate.

But Kutney did not place all of the blame for impasse at the door of IPCC and the world’s climate scientists. Not by a long shot.

He directed barbs in particular at what he called “the skeptics movement…a travesty of justice, not only against the scientific community but the rights of citizens in general, that is unprecedented in a democracy.”

To Kutney, the U.S. as of just over a year ago was little more than “a reluctant member of the international community in the climate change discussions….a disruptive force in the discussions.” For more than three decades, he wrote, it led to “paralysis-by-analysis” from one U.S. Executive Branch administration through the next…and the next, and so forth.

So what’s changed over the past 15 months or so to revamp Kutney’s take on climate change progress?

Plenty, he says in a recent interview comparing his attitudes now with those he held just over a year ago. He points in particular to the significance of the landmark announcement last fall by the presidents of the U.S. and China committing to long-term reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. He points also to factors such as rapidly declining costs of renewable energy options, especially solar power, and to continuing survey findings pointing to a more aware and more concerned citizenry.

Listen to Kutney elaborate in a brief interview on how and why, over the past 16 months,┬áhis views on climate progress have gone from outright despair to guarded optimism and are continuing to evolve. It would be a stretch to think he’s gone from pessimistic to optimistic or confident…but pessimistic to hopeful is beyond what he could have foreseen when his Climate Politics book was first published in early 2014.

Topics: Policy & Politics