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Global Effort To Stop Climate Change Stalled Again

By James Donahue

It has been proven time and time again that the worst way to get anything accomplished is to assign the task to a committee. The more members there are in that committee, the more muddled things get in the struggle to reach agreement on anything.

World leaders discovered this when they met in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 to hammer out an agreement to attempt to roll back carbon emissions from industrial facilities to 1990 levels. It was a hard-fought protocol with at least two major industrial nations, China and India left excluded. And in the end, after George W. Bush won the U. S. Presidency in 2001, his administration rejected the Kyoto Protocol.

With three of the largest carbon producing nations in the world ignoring the protocol, its effectiveness has gone almost unfelt. Climate change now is showing its fury almost everywhere in the world and there is a feeling of urgency among world leaders and scientists as they prepare for yet another United Nations sponsored meeting next month in Copenhagen.

Committees have met and talked about this looming meeting for the past two years, and hopes have been high for nations to come to terms with what has been called the “Copenhagen Treaty.” In broad terms, the treaty would call for capping industrial and automobile emissions and developing technology for a greener planet.

President Barack Obama promised U. S. cooperation with other world nations this time around. And after months of bantering, the U. S. Congress in June passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act that was the first major step toward involvement in doing the right thing.

The bill passed in the House by a narrow 219-121, with Republicans balking. The argument was the same old reasoning used by Bush . . . that forcing emission controls would hurt the American economy. To date, the bill remains bottled up in committee in the Senate and no one knows when or even if it will make its way to the president’s desk.

That is why Mr. Obama was forced to admit that time has run out to secure a legally binding climate agreement at Copenhagen. He proposed, instead, that the group accept a Danish plan to salvage something at Copenhagen and postpone the more difficult decisions on emissions levels, financing and technology transfer until next year at the earliest.

Jass Garman, a Greenpeace spokesman, posted a report in the UK Guardian this week that “the US is acting like a dead weight on the talks.”

By failing to act, Garman wrote that the US Senate is “pulling down the level of ambition so that the industrialized world has a combined offer on the table for just a 10-17 percent cut in their emissions on 1990 levels by 2020. This is despite two years ago recognizing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations that they would need to cut their emissions in the range of at least 25-40 percent to have a 50-50 chance of keeping global temperatures below two degrees of warming.”

Garman noted that the bill now bogged down in the US Senate is so weak that it offers only a 4 to 7 percent reduction, a level he said “is completely inadequate.” And the Republicans are bent on stopping even this much of a reduction.

The UK government warns that failure to act now could mean a global increase in land temperatures to 5.5 degrees Celsius above pre industrial levels. Statistics based on just a 4 degree increase would melt the ice caps, increase ocean water levels, reduce available drinking water and cause dramatic climate changes that would reduce food production in all major regions of the world.

Some of these effects already are beginning to occur. Also happening are a desertification of once viable farmlands, extreme storms and flooding in other areas, more super tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons and extreme killer cold and heat waves.  All of this could intensify if something isn’t done to reduce the human impact on the world environment.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "In every era there are only one or two moments when nations come together and reach agreements that make history, because they change the course of history. Copenhagen must be such a time. If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement in some future period can undo that choice."