” . . . and so all the nations of the Earth came together to try to agree limits to the climate changing gases they were releasing into the atmosphere, trapping solar radiation and threatening to melt the ice caps, cause widespread droughts and floods, and potentially change the world as we know it forever.”
Flash Gordon, Thunderbirds, Doctor Who, or perhaps Bruce Willis in a spacesuit, would arrive in the final few minutes and utter a few cliched, yet heart-spun words, before saving the Earth. Hurrah !
Unfortunately, there was never much prospect of a superhero saving the day at the recent climate talks in Durban, and indeed the nations of the world were left to their own devices.
What appears to have emerged is neither as bad as many had feared, nor as good as some had hoped.
If you’re interested on whether the world has been saved from impending doom, then pick your headline:
UN Climate Conference Approves Landmark Deal – Al Jazeera
Climate Talks End: New Global Climate Change Regime from 2020 – The Times of India
Durban Deal Prevents Next Decade Emission Chaos – Russia Today
Last Minute Talks Produce ‘Historic Deal to Save the Planet’ – The Telegraph
A Deal in Durban – The Economist
Three Sleepless Nights in a Global Emergency – ABC News
Climate Deal Fails Poor People – Oxfam
The good news is that all countries (including the US, China and India) have agreed to negotiate a new round of emission cuts by 2015 resulting in a protocol with legal force (not quite ‘legally binding’). This protocol would come into force in 2020.
This is also the bad news – in a nutshell the plan to save the world is for everyone to meet again in four years and try to negotiate something then.
Whether you think this is ultimately good news or a bad news is going to depend not only on what result you wanted from Durban, but also on what you thought was achievable.
So where does this leave us ?
The models are projecting substantial increases in warming by the end of the century. If this is indeed the case, then it will be the world’s islands states, Africa and the poor and vulnerable worldwide that will suffer most – from increased frequency of extreme weather events, increasing food prices and changes to local conditions that will be difficult for people to adapt to. The Durban agreement, with little prospect of real action before 2020, seems to make this unpalatable scenario more likely.
It can be tempting to blame the increasingly vocal climate skeptic lobbying for the failure to reach a more ambitious agreement, with many citing the rise in climate skepticism among the US public, being behind the unwillingness of the current administration to sign-up for anything more ambitious. I’m not convinced by this. However vocal, the climate skeptics had no voice or influence among the delegates in the hall, all the countries present accepting the central reality of the science . . . . it seems everyone who mattered at Durban does seem to acknowledge ‘the pie’ is going to get smaller.
The real problem, it seems to me anyway, is the same as it’s ever been – human nature . . . nobody is willing to voluntarily give-up a slice of ‘their pie’ !
If we want more chance of meaningful success in controlling carbon emissions and limiting climate change at the next set of talks, then make the most of the next four years – write to everyone you can to help convince them there is a large part of the public that wants to see significant progress on climate change.
I’ve wrapped-up with a couple of impressive videos showing the beauty and fragility of the Earth . . . seemed appropriate.
Photo by NASA