Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The U.N. Climate Conference and Why It's Important

Representatives of 194 countries are meeting in Panama at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the last opportunity to reach a consensus on the reduction of carbon emissions before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durbin, South Africa later this year.

Conference participants must win another commitment period for reducing carbon emissions from developed countries to prevent global average temperatures from rising more than two degrees, which scientists have indicated would have catastrophic consequences for human life.

Carbon emissions must peak by 2015, according to scientists who fear that otherwise, damage from climate change will become irreversible with rising floods, droughts and other extreme weather.

The United States, currently the world's second-largest carbon emitter, was the only nation to reject the Kyoto Protocol, under the administration of President George W. Bush. The Kyoto agreement expires at the end of 2012.

The U.S. has held that it would only accept an agreement that includes all major countries. "We could consider it only if it's genuinely binding with respect to all the major players, whether developed or developing, including China and others," said Todd Stern, the top U.S. climate negotiator.

President Obama faces strong opposition on climate change from the Republican Party, many of whose members do not believe that human activity is causing rising temperatures.


Why is the U.N. Climate Conference important? 
Below are seven reasons to keep working towards an international climate agreement:
1) It's urgent
2) It will create long-term certainty for business investment
3) It will be more economically efficient for countries to do it all together
4) Collective action is needed
5) Unpopular decisions may be more palatable if other countries are taking them as well
6) Who will otherwise pay for adaptation?
7) We are morally obligated
The full article is here.

What if actions to greatly reduce carbon emissions are not taken?
A bipartisan panel of scientists, former government officials and national security experts is recommending that the U.S. government begin researching a radical fix: directly manipulating the Earth’s climate to lower the temperature. 

Examples of methods to achieve such "climate remediation" include seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles, launching giant mirrors above the earth or spewing ocean water into the air to form clouds.  

The idea of intentionally tinkering with the Earth's climate is shocking and seems potentially dangerous. As a member of the bipartisan panel said, “It should be shocking.”  

Climate remediation research is already under way in Britain, Germany and possibly other countries, as well as in the private sector. Read more about this in the NY Times.

We know that a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy is key to greatly reducing carbon emissions. A global agreement that includes the U.S. is needed to begin to deal with the scale of the problem.


Reports on the U.N. Conference:

No comments: