The Research Group on the Global Future's e-mail newsletter
03.11.1999 · Research Group on the Global Future
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Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research (CAP)
The Future is something which everyone reaches at the
rate of sixty minutes and hour, whatever he does,
whoever he is.
-- C.S. Lewis --
(1) Helping Model Climate Change
(2) Assessment of the Kyoto Protocol
(3) Tough Business of Combatting Bribery
(4) Noted in Passing
(1) HELPING MODEL CLIMATE CHANGE
The serious scientists at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), Chilton, Didcot, Britain (http://www.climate-dynamics.rl.ac.uk/) have come up with a way to mobilize the PC users of the world to help model climate change. The task itself is daunting, and important. Climate models will shape the political decisions that we make about global warming, which will in turn drive much of our economic and personal life in coming years. Whether or not the German "oeko-steuer" turns out to be important for the environment, or merely a clever way for politicians to raise money, will depend on which of our climate models is correct.
As RAL notes, "In principle, climate models are simply doing a gigantic weather forecast, but there arecomplications. Climate models solve essentially the same equations as weather forecasting models, plus many more to predict slow changes in ocean currents and sea-ice. Although we don't try to resolve as much detail as the weather forecasters (which makes the climate models run faster), we are trying to make predictions over 50 to 100 years, rather than a few days or weeks. So running more than a handful of long-term climate simulations is too much even for the world's most powerful super-computers. To make matters worse, we don't just need to deal with uncertainty in the state of today's climate: even more important, for a climate forecast, is uncertainty in the climate model itself."
Their solution is to sign up individuals around the world to run climate models in the background on their PCs like screen savers. Each model will be unique, and each result a contribution to understanding the global climate. A million PC users can do much more work in a year's time than a lab of supercomputers. Their web site (http://www.climate-dynamics.rl.ac.uk/) gives details on how to register and put the power of the individual to use in collective understanding.
(2) ASSESSMENT OF THE KYOTO PROTOCOL
Estimates of the cost of implementing the Kyoto Protocol on climate change could be exaggerated by as much as 60%, according to an article in the October 7 issue of the science journal Nature (http://www.nature.com). The Kyoto Protocol allows reductions in emissions of several different greenhouse grenhouse gases to be treated as equivalent to reductions in CO2 emissions by calculating the global warming potential of each gas. Scientists from the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (http://web.mit.edu/globalchange/www/) andthe Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Massachusetts (http://www.mbl.edu/) found that a strategy for controlling global warming that looked beyond CO2 emissions to elements such as trace gases and carbon sinks "could greatly reduce the costs of fulfilling the Kyoto Protocol compared with a CO2-only strategy."
They added: "Extending the Kyoto Protocol to 2100 without more severe emissions reductions shows little difference between the two strategies in climate and ecosystem effects. Under a more stringent emissions policy, the use of global warming potentials as applied in the Kyoto Protocol leads to considerably more mitigation of climate change for multi-gas strategies than for the -- supposedly equivalent -- CO2-only control." At a time when considerable political energy is being expended to reduce CO2 emissions, it is possible that we are overlooking an important path to reducing global warming by focusing our collective efforts too narrowly.
(3) TOUGH BUSINESS OF COMBATTING BRIBERY
Money makes the world go around, and a little baksheesh works like a catalytic agent on international business. This still seems to be the philosophy many corporations use to win business and for many officials to raise their salary unconventially. This widespread mentality leads to increasing risks and costs of business, hampers economic development, reduces country credit ratings, and shortchanges public finances. Thus corruption has moved up on many governments list of priorities in recent years. Also, many companies are no longer willing to bend to public officials who abuse their office for personal gain.
Based on discussion underway since 1995, OECD countries and several non-members negotiated the 1997 Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. The Convention, which came into force on 15 February 1999, makes it a crime to offer, promise or give a bribe to a foreign public official in order to obtain or retain international business deals. So far, eighteen countries have already changed their domestic laws in accordance with the Convention.
But the international "baksheesh-business" has deep roots. Last week Transparency International (TI) published its fifth annual Corruption Perceptions Index which compares 99 countries in terms of the degree to which they are perceived to be the homes of bribe-takers. At the same time TI released its first Bribe Payers Perception Index, which ranks 19 leading exporting countries in terms of the degree to which their enterprises are perceived to be paying bribes abroad. According to TI Nigeria has the most corrupt bureaucracy, followed by Indonesia and Pakistan. Russia also appears in this study at the inglorious bottom of the ranks. Again this year, as in 1998, Denmark heads the CPI ranking with an essentially corruption-free score, followed by Finland and New Zealand.
With regard to the Bribe Payers, the TI index attests to the correct behavior of Swedish, Australian and Canadian companies; meanwhile, corporations in countries like China, South Korea, and Italiy are widely perceived as paying bribes.
Overview of the whole ranking:
Information about the activities of the OECD and its member states combatting coruption:
Links to other institutions and a "Bribery Library:"
(4) NOTED IN PASSING
The obsession with beauty
There are only a few weeks left to Christmas. One of the crassest offers of the net, which benefited from worldwide media attention and predictable political outrage, offers a form of "immaculate conception" while combining e-commerce with the growing possibilities of in vitro fertilisation. Ron Harris promises gifts to your descendants such as beauty, intelligence, or social skills which will "help your children in their quest for happiness and success." According to Harris his product could also serve the millions of infertile women from around the world and the other millions of - financially potent - men "who would like to have their genes combined with the most beautiful women."
Make up your own mind: http://www.ronsangels.com/
global_futures also offers an interactive forum. Recommendations,letters, and tips are welcomed by the editors, particularly on the topics of the digital future, biotechnology, sustainability and the new economy. Send all feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sascha Meinert, Douglas Merrill, Patrick Meyer, Juergen Turek
Research Group on the Global Future
Center for Applied Policy Research
Gschwister Scholl Institute
Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich
D-81675 Munich, Germany