Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seal the Climate Deal or Face Disaster Warns UN Secretary-General

As the countdown to the December climate meeting in Copenhagen continues, Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, issued a stern warming in Seoul, South Korea that failure to reach an agreement will result in numerous devastating consequences. Reuters reports that Ban labeled climate change as a “fundamental threat to mankind.” The UN chief is so concerned about the lack of progress in negotiations so far that he has called for a special meeting of world leaders at the UN in New York City on September 22. This week the negotiators are at it again in Bonn, Germany trying to make progress on what appears to be a negotiation going nowhere. This negotiating process has been going on for almost 2 years now and so far there has been no breakthrough to bridge the gap in demands between the developed and developing countries. The two most important countries in this process, the US and China which presently account for almost one half of global warming pollution, remain far apart with China demanding that unless the US agrees to cut its emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 it will not agree to reduce its emissions and the US saying that it cannot reduce its emissions that much but that China must agree to reduce its emissions. The next most important country, India, has been saying that it will not agree to reduce its emissions under any circumstances but on a per capita basis its emissions will not rise above those of developed countries. With the Kyoto Protocol agreement ending in 2012 there is little time left to reach an agreement, ratify it, and then begin implementation. The scientists say that global emissions need to peak by 2015 to have any realistic chance of avoiding going over the warming threshold for catastrophic climate change. Under normal economic conditions global emissions increase by about 3%-4% annually so to level off by 2015 will take some doing. The good news is that in the past the world was able to reach an agreement to fix the problem of the ozone hole. The bad news is that the problem this time appears to be infinitely more complicated than finding substitute chemicals to keep air conditioners and refrigerators running.

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