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Doha Conference: Six Degrees of Climate Bakin'

tom allen's picture

This year's international climate change conference begins tomorrow, November 26, in Doha, Qatar. With much of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol expiring in December and the world on track for a six degree Celsius (eleven Fahrenheit) temperature rise, a new climate change treaty is being negotiated to be signed in 2015 and to take effect in 2020.

As this AP article reports, progress depends on US involvement and support for the UN goal of limiting the temperature increase -- the 2C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) target -- which US special envoy Todd Stern has been wobbly on. As well, top carbon emitter China and other developing nations are fighting to avoid emissions targets, and the European Union seeks not to be a part of extending Kyoto until the new agreement takes effect.

Stern's excuse for inaction on the 2C target may sound familiar:

"It makes perfect sense on paper. The trouble is it ignores the classic lesson that politics – including international politics – is the art of the possible," Stern said in the speech. "If countries are told that, in order to reach a global goal, they must accept targets their leadership sees as contrary to their core interest in growth and development those countries are likely to say no."

I would hope that recent experience -- Hurricane Sandy, the widespread and continuing drought -- might prompt more urgency from a president who will not run again for office. Sadly, I expect Obama to continue to lead from behind and to continue to promote "the art of the possible" over the science of the necessary.

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