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Will Alexander reports from Bali

Bali. Sunday 9 December 2007, Will Alexander's Memo 49/07, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Concerned scientists

I am here in Bali as a member of a group of experienced international scientists who believe that the nations of the world are being seriously misled by this whole climate change issue. As I write this memo, negotiations are taking place behind closed doors. There is a huge risk that the outcome will result in further impoverishment of hundreds of millions of people in this world. Absolutely nothing whatsoever can come out of this conference that will improve their quality of life.

This is personally upsetting. Over the years I have been an active member of two UN bodies and a number of other national and international bodies. Without exception the objective of all these bodies was to solve problems through multidisciplinary efforts. Now for the first time two ugly issues have raised their heads. The first is the elevation of environmental concerns over human welfare concerns. The second is the active, vitriolic attacks on anyone who dares challenge the views of the climate alarmists, and who questions their science. Here we have the most important scientific issue in history. Yet the scientists who propound it make deliberate attempts to silence all those who do not agree with them.

This policy stretches right through to the United Nations bodies themselves. We have been told that we are not welcome at this event. I will return to this aspect in a later memo. In this memo I will deal with items of general interest.

Conference proceedings

The conference proceedings take place at three different levels. There are the proceedings themselves where the future policies are negotiated. These are not open to the public. The second is the side events in the many lecture halls in the centre. The third is the many (about 70) exhibits in the form of stalls where the various bodies can display their material in the form of posters, pamphlets and booklets.


My particular interest during the past week was in the exhibits. I enjoyed chatting to the exhibitors who were only too glad to talk to anybody who had an interest in their material. Other fruitful discussions were over cups of coffee in the cafeterias where I spoke to several attendees from Africa in particular. I explained my concerns and left my business cards. I did not press any issues other than explaining that I was one of a growing number of conscientious scientists who were very concerned about the debatable (at the very least) scientific basis for this whole global warming/climate change issue.

I took it as a good omen that there were no exhibits by NGOs and others that had the postulated effects in subequatorial Africa as their principal concern. The nearest was a Swedish organisation that had the profile of the head of a Gemsbok on its letterhead but had no connections at all with southern Africa. There was a one-page article on the postulated effects of global warming on Namibia distributed by a European organisation. This is despite the fact that more information is available in South Africa on all aspects of climate variability than in any other country on the continent.

Another point of interest was how a number of NGOs used the linkage with climate change to get their message across and generate funding for their own programmes.

An insulting aspect of many NGOs was the assumption that we in Africa do not have the knowledge, skills or experience to solve our own problems. Their attitude is that they are missionaries who have come to save us from our sins. African nations are increasingly upset by this condescending attitude.

Broken promises

From the information that is coming out of the conference halls via the press, it is now almost certain that the principal issue that will have to be resolved is the confrontation between the developed and the developing nations. The developed nations are in a fix. If they undertake costly GGE reduction measures this will adversely affect their economic competitiveness unless the major developing nations follow suit. But the developing nations have other priorities. One way out of this situation is for the rich nations to finance large-scale mitigation and adaptation measures in the developing nations. Similar promises were made in the past but were not fulfilled.

I have been feeling down in the dumps by the overwhelming support for the global warming issue. The following extract from the daily newsletter issued by the Bali News Update published by the Third World Network put me back on my feet.

The Africa Group, represented by Nigeria, gave a sharp rebuke to developed countries for failing to live up to their commitments, especially in assisting developing countries. “Africa believes that walking into a new regime with all the present difficulties in implementing already agreed commitments is totally unacceptable. It will mean only one thing, that nothing is going to happen in the future, the suffering of our peoples continues.”

The discussion was so heated that at one stage it threatened to derail the entire Bali meeting, as one senior African diplomat put it.  

I cannot see the EU nations who have already committed themselves to undertake costly measures to reduce their own GGEs, paying additional large sums of money to African nations. It has been suggested that the UN should manage a fund specifically for this purpose. But the African nations have already insisted that the management of such a fund should be on a one nation, one vote basis and not left in the hands of the donor countries.

We will know the outcome by the end of the week.

I now have an appointment with a German radio interviewer. My trip to Bali is slowly becoming worthwhile.



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