Too little, too late
By any objective measure the three-page Copenhagen Accord that the Conference failed to approve but simply "to take note" of has to be viewed as a lost opportunity. Despite its positive characterization by President Obama, British Prime Minister Brown, UN Secretary Moon, the Sierra Club president and others as a historic beginning, meaningful, catalyzing, a breakthrough or important first steps, this glass is not even half-full. The President certainly avoided overstatement when he acknowledged that it "will not be sufficient" and "is not a perfect agreement." However, the Accord might still put pressure on Congress to pass legislation that would give the U.S. government the authority and credible leadership that it lacked in Copenhagen.
The Accord recognizes the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius and agrees that deep cuts are required to reduce global emissions sufficient to hold the increase below that level. However, despite the voluminous science that indicates the amount and timing of reductions needed to accomplish this goal, it sets no emissions targets or timetables. These disappeared from the earlier draft. Incredibly, the Accord indicates that an assessment to be completed in 2015 would consider strengthening the goal to limiting the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, when even meeting the 2-degree goal would require the immediate and aggressive reductions that have now been postponed. Instead, empty fill-in-the-blank pages are appended where countries are expected to indicate their individual commitments to be submitted for "compilation" next year.
Now President Obama deserves some credit for working personally and intensely in Copenhagen to engage China, India, Brazil, and some other nations to craft a more substantive agreement, but this was started well inside the two-minute warning and with no points on the board. To mix my sports metaphors, I had earlier commented that the ball is in the court of the U.S. and China--together responsible for 42 percent of greenhouse gas emissions--to develop the essential framework for a global agreement. They waited too late and consequently came up with too little.
Meanwhile, notwithstanding the exaggerated email "scandal," the mounting science is unrelenting. Just this month, two scientific papers were published that concluded that sea-level rise this century is likely to be three times the IPCC projections and that even meeting the 2 degree global warming goal would commit the planet to at least a 22 foot rise in sea level within the next few centuries. Where is the needed urgency?
Posted by: vanhook99 | December 22, 2009 12:18 PM
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