The White House expects a "meaningful" deal at the summit meeting that might, say observers, include a provision for richer nations to commit to $10 billion a year by 2012 to help developing countries address climate change.
There are those who think that would be just a drop in the bucket.
Richard K. Lester wrote an op-ed piece in last Saturday's Journal (The High Cost of Copenhagen.). Professor Lester is the head of the department of nuclear science and engineering at MIT. That doesn't mean he is right by any means, but he had some interesting thoughts. He addresses the idea that the US will need to reduce its carbon emissions 83% by 2050 which has been mentioned as a goal.
For that to happen, says Lester, 30,000 megawatts of new wind power would have to be added every year between now and 2050. That would be "four times what was added in 2008, a record year." Another 35,000 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity would need to be added every year and that is "100 times what was added last year - a record year for solar too." The nuclear reactor fleet would have to multiply "fivefold" and all coal fired plants would have to be retrofitted with "carbon capture and storage technology" which has yet to be demonstrated effective on a large scale. Could it be done? "Perhaps" says Lester, "though not without enormous effort."
Paul Krugman writing in the New York Times is decidedly more optimistic. The Princeton professor and Times columnist feels "cutting greenhouse gases is affordable and essential." He references "serious studies" that say we can "achieve sharp reductions in emissions with only a small impact on the economy's growth." He feels a "cap and trade" program will encourage businesses to increase their profits by burning less carbon. James Hanson, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, would take major issue with Krugman. Writing in the same paper Hanson says that "because cap and trade is enforced through the selling and trading of permits, it actually perpetuates the pollution it is supposed to eliminate."
Further, the "carbon cap would also encourage 'offsets' - alternatives to emission reductions like planting trees on degraded land" which Hansen thinks is ineffective. And if that "isn't bad enough, Wall Street (oh gee - here it comes) is poised to make billions of dollars in the 'trade part' of the cap and trade" and the profits "would be extracted from the public via increased energy prices."