Time is running out: the Doha climate talks must put an end to excuses

From The Guardian  UKhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/25/doha-climate-talks-end-to-excuses

The evidence of climate change is clearer than ever. The poor countries have done everything asked of them. Now the rich nations must face their responsibilities


The Guardian, Sunday 25 November 2012

Last month was the 333rd consecutive month that global temperatures were above the 20th century average, and 2012 will almost certainly be the hottest ever recorded in the US. Hurricanes, heatwaves, wildfires and droughts blistered farmlands and ruined crops from Kansas to Assam, and Britain has had its wettest summer and driest spring to date. Nigeria, China and much of India and Australia have all had their worst floods in decades. In September the Arctic sea ice cover shrank 50% below the 1979-2000 average.

In a world where climate extremes come faster than ever, the World Bank has found common ground with Greenpeace. Last week, even as the World Meteorological Organisation reported that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had reached a record 394ppm, the bank warned that the world is on course for a 4C temperature rise which will consign most people to a very different and much less liveable world, and which will inevitably wreck economies and hopes of development.

The UN, too, estimated greenhouse gas emissions to be 14% above where they need to be to hold temperatures to a manageable 2C rise. The biggest corporations, including oil companies like Shell, want governments to introduce a carbon price and to seriously address climate change. Even Saudi Arabia and the oil exporters of Opec are considering levying a carbon tax to give to the UN fund that helps poor countries adapt to climate change.

Evidence of global warming mounts both on the ground and in science, but in the bubble world of international climate diplomacy, little happens. Countries have become less and less able to collectively address the crisis unfolding around them. When UN talks fell apart in Copenhagen in 2009, world leaders claimed they could cobble together a new binding agreement to cut emissions within six months. That became a year, then two years, and now the rich countries tell a bemused public that it will be 2015 at the earliest before a final agreement will be reached. Trillions of dollars can be found to bail out banks in a few months, but the world’s most experienced negotiators cannot find a way to get Americans, the British or anyone to just turn down the air conditioning or lag their roofs to reduce the amount of energy they use.

So what is the point of the massive UN climate talks which start on Mondaytoday in Doha, one of the most energy-profligate cities on Earth? Negotiators from 194 countries are meeting in an atmosphere of mutual mistrust. They are divided and frustrated, and know their political masters mostly seek only painfully slow progress. We already know rich countries will refuse to commit to any further cuts in emissions or to provide more money, just as we know the poor will try to cling to the few global climate agreements reached between nations years ago. There will be fights, tantrums, and righteous anger from the non-government observers and world media.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/25/doha-climate-talks-end-to-excuses

See also The New York Times:  Rising Seas, Vanishing Coastlines 

Make a point of checking out the media display that is at:  http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/11/24/opinion/sunday/what-could-disappear.html?ref=sunday

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