There are two clocks ticking for the god-fearing climate-conscious among us. The first counts down to Copenhagen, where on December 7 representatives from 192 countries will hammer out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol: a post-2012 global climate deal aimed at curbing greenhouse gases. The second hurtles us toward disaster, a “mankind-threatening juggernaut,” the point at which atmospheric carbon dioxide exceeds a concentration of 450 parts per million. To the extent that global warming is contingent on carbon emissions, the tipping point will be determined at the UN Framework Conference for Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, the last stop on the Bali Roadmap toward what UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer has called “the most complex international agreement that history has ever seen.”
In less than ten months, the Danish capital will host as many as 15,000 ministers and officials whose challenge is to collaborate a shared vision for long-term cooperative climate action. Specifically, they will determine burden-sharing agreements based on “common but differentiated responsibilities,” and developed countries must pledge ambitious emissions reduction targets. The alternative business-as-usual approach, which is to do nothing, will shoot CO
In fact, temperatures are accelerating at such a clip that the IPCC’s 2007 report, a gathering and distillation of thousands of peer reviews submitted by hundreds of the world’s top climate experts, was outdated upon presentation. Since then, scientists have abandoned the language of numbers and data analysis in favor of urgent calls for immediate action. There are, of course, a few odd deniers, such as William Happer, professor of physics at Princeton University, who announced last week at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing that we are actually in a “CO
Obama has made it clear that slowing the climate clock is a top priority for his administration. Beginning with his environment and energy cabinet picks, the “Green Dream Team,” it’s fair to say, as Representative Lloyd Doggett did at a Ways and Means committee hearing, that “this president is committed to changing the White House into a greenhouse.” And it’s no surprise that after eight years of Bush obstructionism, Obama’s willingness to engage on warming and energy matters is being seen as a “sea change” by the international community. But if he really wants to make good on his claim to a new dawn of American leadership, the United States must at least bring the framework of a federal carbon-caps legislation to the Copenhagen table. On the other hand, putting together meaningful legislation will be difficult, especially when the de facto leader of the Republican party, Rush Limbaugh, is encouraging the spread of ideas that climate change is a conspiracy cooked up by the Chinese, the “ChiComs,” to destroy the US economy.