As World Warms, Climate Talks Get Another GoIndonesia
Charles J. Hanley
New York. The last time the world warmed, 120,000 years ago, the Cancun coastline was swamped by a 2.1-meter rise in sea level within a few decades. A week from now, at that Mexican resort destination, frustrated negotiators will once again try to head off a new global deluge.
The disappointment of Copenhagen — the failure of the annual UN conference to produce a climate agreement last year in the Danish capital — has raised doubts about whether the long-running, 194-nation talks can ever agree on a legally binding treaty for reining in global warming.
“It’s clear after Copenhagen that the UN process is ‘on probation,”’ acknowledged Alden Meyer of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, a veteran observer and supporter of the process.
Even the Mexican hosts of the Nov. 29-Dec. 10 UN conference question whether “it is the best way to work — with 194 countries,” as Mexico’s environment secretary, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, put it.
“We must be really open and sincere. Do we need to make an evolution to a new methodology?” Elvira asked in an interview.
The core failure has been in finding a consensus formula for mandatory reductions in countries’ emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, byproducts of power plants, other industries, agriculture and automobiles.
For 13 years, the United States has refused to join the rest of the industrialized world in the Kyoto Protocol, a binding pact to curb fossil-fuel emissions by modest amounts. More recently, as China, India and other emerging economies exempted from the 1997 Kyoto pact have sharply increased emissions, they have rejected calls by the United States and others to commit to restraints.
No one expects Cancun to resolve that standoff. Instead, delegates will focus on climate financial aid, deforestation and other secondary “building blocks” to try to revive momentum toward an umbrella deal at next year’s conference in South Africa or at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 2012.
While the global talks plod along, the impacts of climate change seem to be accelerating.
The world’s warming oceans, for example, are rising at twice the 20th century’s average rate, expanding from the heat and the runoff of melting land ice, says the Geneva-based World Climate Research Program.
More ice is melting in Greenland and Antarctica than earlier thought, worried scientists report. Projections from 2007 — that seas might rise by up to 0.59 meters by 2100 — now appear too conservative.
The Yucatan peninsula once experienced how quickly warming can remake coastlines. Researchers near Cancun report that waters rose at least two meters in as little as 50 years during the last “interglacial,” or natural warming period between glacial, ages.
Only a binding treaty with deep reductions in carbon emissions can ensure the world will avoid the worst environmental upheavals of climate change, scientists and conservationists say. But the takeover of the US House by Republicans all but rules out US action for at least two years.
Instead, the Cancun negotiators hope at least for agreement on a “green fund” to disburse aid to developing countries to adapt to a changing climate.
El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.
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