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Dec. 11 2009 - 5:45 am | 16 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Who’s up to old tricks in Copenhagen? The Saudis

Mohammad Al-Sabban has led Saudi's climate change team for years.

Mohammad Al-Sabban has led Saudi's climate change team for years. (Courtesy of IndyACT/Brianna)

For years, Saudi climate change teams had one move: They denied the science. Then, as world leaders began to accept the fact that people cause climate change, the Saudi strategy shifted. If the world is going to move away from oil AND require that we reduce our emissions, they reasoned, then top countries should pay us to go green.

It was an astounding gambit — the idea that one of the wealthiest countries in the world should get billions of dollars to reduce carbon emissions. But it was just that: a gambit.

The Saudi climate team — led for years by Mohammad Al-Sabban — has only one real strategy: do anything to stymie reform. Like U.S. senators who demand that 1,000-page bills be read aloud, the Saudi strategy has been one of obstruction, delay, and obfuscation.

And the so-called “climategate” release of emails, suggesting that some scientists suppressed research that humans don’t cause climate change, certainly hasn’t helped. Now the Saudis can mostly ditch the pay-up routine and are back to the old deny-the-science game.

But as my wife reported on NPR yesterday, the game might be up. With heavyweights China and India — part of the “G-77 plus China” group of developing nations — signing on for genuine reform, it looks at last like Saudi is no longer in a position of power.

There will be more fancy footwork ahead, but no matter how deep into overtime we go, the final score has at last become clear.

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    About Me

    Since graduating from Deep Springs College, I've written and edited for magazines (Rolling Stone, The Atlantic Monthly), newspapers (The Village Voice, The National), and websites (NPR.org, SixBillion.org). In the summer of 2007, I packed a bag and walked from New York to New Orleans, a trek that took five months, three pairs of shoes, and a couple thousand miles. These days, I live in Saudi Arabia with my wife, Kelly McEvers, who covers the region for National Public Radio.

    See my profile »
    Followers: 41
    Contributor Since: August 2009
    Location:Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

    What I'm Up To

    The Review

    I’m a regular contributor to The Review, which Reihan Salam calls a “younger, radder” New York Review of Books.

    Past pieces include:
    -”Down in the floods,” something in Saudi Arabia may have changed
    -”Checkpoint Qatif,”among Saudi’s Shiite minority
    -”Excursion into the desert,” in which my landlord pulls a gun.
    -”You’ll never walk alone,” a night of soccer in sweltering Riyadh.
    -”Get on the bus,” a story of public transport in Riyadh.
    -”Saudi Arabia’s got talent,” from the nation’s first-ever open TV auditions