"We are now talking about a totally political product, with no basis in the real world or science." ... "The excess is nauseating." ... "P.T. Barnum and Chicken Little would have been proud of these people." ...
By Andrew Gilligan, Telegraph Media Group (U.K.)
Published: 10:55PM GMT 05 Dec 2009
On a normal day, Majken Friss Jorgensen, managing director of Copenhagen's biggest limousine company, says her firm has twelve vehicles on the road. During the "summit to save the world", which opens here tomorrow, she will have 200.
"We thought they were not going to have many cars, due to it being a climate convention," she says. "But it seems that somebody last week looked at the weather report."
Ms Jorgensen reckons that between her and her rivals the total number of limos in Copenhagen next week has already broken the 1,200 barrier. The French alone rang up on Thursday and ordered another 42. "We haven't got enough limos in the country to fulfil the demand," she says. "We're having to drive them in hundreds of miles from Germany and Sweden."
And the total number of electric cars or hybrids among that number? "Five," says Ms Jorgensen. "The government has some alternative fuel cars but the rest will be petrol or diesel."
The airport says it is expecting up to 140 extra private jets during the peak period alone, so far over its capacity that the planes will have to fly off to regional airports – or to Sweden – to park, returning to Copenhagen to pick up their VIP passengers.
As well 15,000 delegates and officials, 5,000 journalists and 98 world leaders, the Danish capital will be blessed by the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, Daryl Hannah, Helena Christensen, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Prince Charles. A Republican US senator, Jim Inhofe, is jetting in at the head of an anti-climate-change "Truth Squad." The top hotels – all fully booked at £650 a night – are readying their Climate Convention menus of (no doubt sustainable) scallops, foie gras and sculpted caviar wedges.
At the takeaway pizza end of the spectrum, Copenhagen's clean pavements are starting to fill with slightly less well-scrubbed protesters from all over Europe. In the city's famous anarchist commune of Christiania this morning, among the hash dealers and heavily-graffitied walls, they started their two-week "Climate Bottom Meeting," complete with a "storytelling yurt" and a "funeral of the day" for various corrupt concepts such as "economic growth".
The Danish government is cunningly spending a million kroner (£120,000) to give the protesters KlimaForum, a "parallel conference" in the magnificent DGI-byen sports centre. The hope, officials admit, is that they will work off their youthful energies on the climbing wall, state-of-the-art swimming pools and bowling alley, Just in case, however, Denmark has taken delivery of its first-ever water-cannon – one of the newspapers is running a competition to suggest names for it – plus sweeping new police powers. The authorities have been proudly showing us their new temporary prison, 360 cages in a disused brewery, housing 4,000 detainees.
And this being Scandinavia, even the prostitutes are doing their bit for the planet. The local sex workers' union – they have unions here – has announced that all its 1,400 members will give free intercourse to anyone with a climate conference delegate's pass. The term "carbon dating" just took on an entirely new meaning.
According to the organisers, the eleven-day conference, including the participants' travel, will create a total of 41,000 tonnes of "carbon dioxide equivalent", equal to the amount produced over the same period by a city the size of Middlesbrough.
The temptation, then, is to dismiss the whole thing as a ridiculous circus. Many of the participants do not really need to be here. And far from "saving the world," the world's leaders have already agreed that this conference will not produce any kind of binding deal, merely an interim statement of intent.
The politicians will bandy around grandiose targets of 80-per-cent-plus by 2050, by which time few of the leaders at Copenhagen will even be alive, let alone still in office.
The entire purpose of the climate change agenda is being questioned. Leaked emails showing key scientists conspiring to fix data that undermined their case have boosted the sceptic lobby. Australia has voted down climate change laws. Last week's unusually strident attack by the Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband, on climate change "saboteurs" reflected real fear in government that momentum is slipping away from the cause.
The interesting question is perhaps not whether the climate changers have got the science right – they probably have – but whether they have got the pitch right. And the wider public does not seem to share the urgency felt by those in Copenhagen this week.
The hot air this week will be massive, the whole proceedings eminently mockable, but it would be far too early to write off this conference as a failure.