Analysis: On climate, the elephant that's ignored

Dec 12, 2010 By CHARLES J. HANLEY , AP Special Correspondent
A man walks next to Greenpeace activists who form the word hope as a question with their bodies, next to a giant life saver, during a demonstration near the site of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, Friday, Nov. 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Israel Leal)

(AP) -- The latest international deal on climate, reached early Saturday after hard days of bargaining, was described by exhausted delegates as a "step forward" in grappling with global warming. If they step too far, however, they're going to bump into an elephant in the room.

That would be the U.S. Republican Party, and nobody at the Cancun meetings wanted to talk about the impending Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives. It essentially rules out any new, legally binding pact requiring the U.S. and other major emitters of global warming gases to reduce their emissions.

In endless hours of speeches at the annual U.N. , the U.S. political situation was hardly mentioned, despite its crucial role in how the world will confront what the Cancun final documents called "one of the greatest challenges of our time."

Not everyone held his tongue. Seas rising from warming, and threatening their homes, got Pacific islanders talking.

Marcus Stephen, president of Nauru, spoke despairingly of "governments deadlocked because of ideological divisions." Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu's deputy prime minister, referred to the "backward politics" of one unnamed developed nation.

A U.S. friend, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, told a large gathering here, "The key thing for us is not whether the American Congress is controlled by this or that party," but that richer nations help the developing world with financial support - for sources, new seawalls, new water systems and other projects to try to stem and cope with and the droughts, floods, disease and extreme weather it portends.

"Which party" does matter, however. Many Republicans dismiss scientific evidence of human-caused warming, citing arguments by skeptics that the large majority of scientists are wrong or that the consequences of warming are overstated.

Early in the two-week conference here, four Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton demanding a freeze on about $3 billion in planned U.S. aid in 2010-2011.

The senators said some findings of the U.N.'s climate change panel "were found to be exaggerated or simply not true" and said that at a time of record U.S. budget deficits, "no American taxpayer dollars should be committed to a global climate fund based on information that is not accurate."

The leader of the protest, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, called the financing an "international climate change bailout." What will they call the long-term finance plan embraced at the Cancun conference, for $100 billion a year in U.S. and other international climate financing by 2020?

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who with Zenawi co-chaired a U.N. panel on climate financing, was asked how this U.S. opposition can be overcome.

"I believe that many things might happen in American politics in a period of 10 years," he replied.

Such long, wishful views have dominated the climate talks for two decades, as the U.S. remained outside the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the modest mandatory reductions in emissions that other industrial nations accepted.

For the world to agree on a new, all-encompassing treaty with deeper cuts to succeed Kyoto, whose targets expire in 2012, the U.S. Congress must pass legislation to cap U.S. industrial emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

"I don't think that's going to happen right away," Todd Stern, chief U.S. negotiator, said with understatement here early Saturday.

Instead, the Cancun talks, waiting for another day, focused on small steps on climate: some advances in establishing a system to compensate developing nations for protecting their forests, for example, and in setting up a global clearinghouse for "green" technology for developing nations.

Cancun's chief accomplishment was to decide to create, with details to come, a Green Climate Fund that will handle those expected tens of billions of dollars in climate support.

This slowly-slowly approach began at the climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, last year, when the U.S., China, other big emitters and some small one pledged to carry out voluntary reductions in emissions.

Some say this will be the way global warming will be addressed, not with "topdown," legally binding treaties, but with self-assigned targets, bilateral deals to help create low-carbon economies, aspirational goals set by G-20 summits. If the world busies itself with such voluntary activities, this thinking goes, it may all add up to climate protection.

But scientists do numbers better than politicians. And the latest U.N. scientific calculation shows that the current emissions-reduction pledges, even if all are fulfilled, will barely get the world halfway to keeping temperatures rising to dangerous levels. The U.S. pledge - based on executive, not congressional action - is for a mere 3 percent reduction of emissions below 1990 levels.

If too little is done, the U.N. science network foresees temperatures rising by up to 6.4 degrees Celsius (11.5 degrees F) by 2100. In a timely reminder of what's at stake, NASA reported last week that the January-November 2010 period was the warmest globally in the 131-year record.

At that rate, climate will become the elephant no one can ignore.

Explore further: Climate rhetoric faces devil in the detail at Lima talks

3.5 /5 (12 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bolivian says climate talks may commit 'ecocide'

Dec 09, 2010

(AP) -- Bolivia's President Evo Morales, addressing a U.N. climate conference with modest goals, said Thursday that governments will be committing "ecocide" if they fail to act decisively to halt global warming.

UN: Emission pledges fall short of climate target

Nov 23, 2010

(AP) -- Emissions cuts pledged by countries in a nonbinding climate accord last year fall short of what's needed to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the U.N.'s environment agency said Tuesday.

Compromise spirit at climate talks in last days

Dec 07, 2010

(AP) -- It may not last, but a spirit of compromise seems to have settled over the annual U.N. climate conference as negotiators enter its final days looking for agreements on secondary tools for coping with ...

More nations may pledge carbon limits at UN talks

Dec 06, 2010

(AP) -- More countries are expected this week to pledge specific actions to limit carbon emissions over the next decade, in what would be "very good news" for arduous negotiations on a climate change agreement, ...

UN climate meeting OKs Green Fund in new accord

Dec 11, 2010

(AP) -- A U.N. conference on Saturday adopted a modest climate deal creating a fund to help the developing world go green, though it deferred for another year the tough work of carving out deeper reductions ...

Plodding climate talks stepping up to higher level

Dec 05, 2010

(AP) -- The slow-moving U.N. talks on combating global warming took a step forward Saturday with revised proposals for a $100 billion-a-year climate aid fund and other issues for debate by the world's environment ...

Recommended for you

Gold rush an ecological disaster for Peruvian Amazon

6 hours ago

A lush expanse of Amazon rainforest known as the "Mother of God" is steadily being destroyed in Peru, with the jungle giving way to mercury-filled tailing ponds used to extract the gold hidden underground.

Australia out of step with new climate momentum

8 hours ago

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who rose to power in large part by opposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, is finding his country isolated like never before on climate change as the U.S., China ...

User comments : 21

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Titto
2.4 / 5 (17) Dec 12, 2010
Well.....Cancun just had a hundred year low record in temperatures and they talk about global warming???hehehehehehhehe This is the same Bull
Sh!t as Peak Oil and most of the world believe them!!!! This is sad man!
lengould100
2.8 / 5 (11) Dec 12, 2010
Agreed, titto, it's sad to watch you republicans struggle to figure out the difference between climate and weather.
interictal
3.8 / 5 (10) Dec 12, 2010
lengould100: I disagree. Most people like Titto can't possibly be so dense. They can't really believe what they say but spew their misinformation because they have an angenda to advance.
interictal
5 / 5 (1) Dec 12, 2010
Sorry. That's AGENDA
ormondotvos
3.5 / 5 (11) Dec 12, 2010
Let's all damn scientists, as we type on our scientifically engineered computers, ride on the planes, the cars, the internet. Let's all just cancel out all the ways we depend on the government, and consensus engineering, and science.

That way, we can prove why government should have competence qualifications, and the internet forums should have moderators.

Denial of Co2 forced climate change should get you disqualified from any policy making position.

You cling to denial like you cling to religion -- because you can't handle the reality that your self-centered adolescent behavior is ruining the world your children will get.

Non-socialized is the word you're looking for when you reflect on your behavior. You just don't care what happens as a result of your behavior.

Ain't that a shame.
deatopmg
2.7 / 5 (7) Dec 12, 2010
Sad, Sad, Sad!
No science or curiosity in these comments, just more childish, dogmatic, religious (marxist and/or AGW or whatever marxists are calling it today) innuendo. And,... both ARE faith based religions.

Eventually, most of you WILL grow up.

I guess they didn't have enough people attending to spell "wishful thinking"
Raveon
3.7 / 5 (6) Dec 12, 2010
Well.....Cancun just had a hundred year low record in temperatures and they talk about global warming???hehehehehehhehe This is the same Bull
Sh!t as Peak Oil and most of the world believe them!!!! This is sad man!


Titto, I'll say this real slow so maybe you can understand it.

G l o b a l...w a r m i n g...w i l l...s c r e w...u p...t h e...w e a t h e r
dollymop
4.6 / 5 (5) Dec 12, 2010
and here I thought the elephant in the room was going to be over population. silly me.
Wha_wha_what
4 / 5 (5) Dec 13, 2010
Global warming may fix overpopulation.

One elephant to rule them all!
Decimatus
3 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2010
Sad, Sad, Sad!
No science or curiosity in these comments, just more childish, dogmatic, religious (marxist and/or AGW or whatever marxists are calling it today) innuendo. And,... both ARE faith based religions.

Eventually, most of you WILL grow up.

I guess they didn't have enough people attending to spell "wishful thinking"


They may grow up, but there are plenty of children right behind them who are brainwashed by their dimwit parents and political ideologies.

G l o b a l...w a r m i n g...w i l l...s c r e w...u p...t h e...w e a t h e r


N o t...i n...e v e r y ...c a s e...a n d...i t...h a s...o n l y...j u s t... b e g u n...
ormondotvos
2 / 5 (3) Dec 13, 2010
Yeah, the SF Bay area should be OK We're projecting little change. And we're the ones doing all the worrying. Cause we're the parents in this human family melodrama.
MarcoB
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 13, 2010
The UK Meteorological Office's Hadley Center for Climate Studies Had-Crut data shows worldwide temperatures declining since 1998. What Global warming?
http://www.thereg...ometers/

The gould of Cancun is to create a new bureaucracy funded by cap and trade and carbon tax to dictate to every nation what they can and cannot do and how much they can grow ect. http://www.youtub...y9TsrijU

Think about this for a second, if there was such a thing and the world was really on the brink of catastrophe and the only way out is to cut co2 immediately, then why don't they make all green technologies open source, free for the world to use, free from copyright, the 1st world is going to pump money into the research and give it to everyone, how to build the factories, infrastructure, everything.

They won't, because it's about money and control, not about the environment at all.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2010
But scientists do numbers better than politicians. And the latest U.N. scientific calculation shows


Okay, of the following two organizations, which is a scientific organization: The US Government or the UN? Okay, so they are BOTH political organizations, right? So, which one funds more research? Which one actually owns hundreds of labs and hires hundreds of thousands of scientists? How many Universities has the UN built? How much funding does the UN provide for anything that doesn't come from the US, China, or the EU?

Whether they like it or not, the US has a right to decide how to spend our own money. We do more for climate research than most of the other UN countries combined. If not for the US, there wouldn't even be a UN. The very term United Nations was coined by Rosevelt and it was organized by the US State Dept.

Climate change doesn't even fall under the charter of the UN, unless you give that charter a very broad interpretation. The tail wags the dog again.
GSwift7
2.8 / 5 (4) Dec 13, 2010
The top four contributers of funding for the UN provide 54% of the funds, out of nearly two hundred members. In order from most to least, those top four are: US, Japan, Germany, UK.

Aside from climate, which isn't really part of its charter, the UN and its US/EU funding provide important things like the WHO, IAEA, peacekeeping forces, UN Security Council, World Bank, World Food Program, WMO, etc. I think the US has finally reached the point where we are starting to ask how much is enough. How much can we be expected to give? When does it become the responsibility of other countries to do something? Why does China only provide 2.7% of UN funding for example, and then have the power to block UN sanctions against Iran or North Korea?

Most Americans think the UN is a joke, which is wrong considering all the good things the UN does but isn't given credit for. The UN needs to take a deep breath and reevaluate its purpose and capabilities. Get back to its core mission of preventing WW3.
Shootist
3 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2010
Another Failed Climate Conference

by Rich Galen

According to an article on the Fast Company website, cables leaked by Wikileak.com show that none other than Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) went to China to tell the Chinese government with a wink and a nod that "Washington understood China's 'resistance to accepting mandatory targets at the United Nations Climate Conference' coming up in Copenhagen.

http://www.mullin...3-10.htm
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2010
For all you idiot naysayers go watch the movie "What in the world are they spraying" the govt has "secretly" been spraying HUGE amounts of aluminum compounds into the air...why? Aluminum makes those haze-y nastly looking clouds that come from contrails when the humidity is high enough therefore it reflects more sunlight due to more condensed water in the air. they try to trick you by getting you to believe that cloud seeding is a small project using silver iodide, a ridiculous trick, oh they aren't practicing weather modification because they would have to use a precious metal to do so, WRONG they use a chemical toxic to humans and forgot to mention it to everyone in the world. BTW this is global, soil concentrations of aluminum has gone up ~1000% in a decade.
Cave_Man
1 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2010
Another thing that doesn't make a lick of sense, why are they worried about congress, you dont even need to touch, look at or hear congress one bit to pass a law the president just needs to sign an executive order which then become GASP a LAW!!!

So for those of you that believe the way govt works, well, they really fooled you because its just a shell game where they blame congress for not passing laws when the president himself can pass an unlimited number of executive orders that are essentially LAWS!
Cave_Man
5 / 5 (1) Dec 18, 2010
Get back to its core mission of preventing WW3.

I agree so much, but common sense is a rare thing these days, people hear something and they believe it without a shred of doubt or a need to verify what they hear, thats why retards don't believe in global warming, all i can say to those dolts "Go ask the dentist what your silver amalgam fillings are made of and then try to grasp why your mind is so fractured and stuborn.
ArtflDgr
5 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2010
At that rate, climate will become the elephant no one can ignore.

At that rate, climate will become the pink elephant only the anointed can see.
Jimee
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
Deny the evidence and ignore the earth's deteriorating condition. By the way, if something is deteriorating, isn't that direct evidence that something not good is going on? Will the corporate shills win? Or will our children have a safer, cleaner planet for their children to grow up in? Hmmm.
Jimee
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
deatopmg, eventually climate deniers will accept the evidence before their eyes and learn to be honest, in addition to really growing up.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.