Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other stars of the international global warming action movement -- if you want to call it, and them, that -- will be in New York this week, as three important conferences in the U.S. focus on climate change. Top officials from 150 nations will meet Monday in New York, in a preliminary United Nations convention that aims to build momentum for a post-Kyoto Protocol international agreement on global warming.
The meeting is seen as a key meeting, as the world readies for meetings in December in Bali. It is the largest meeting of world leaders -- 70 heads of state are expected to attend -- ever convened on climate change. "Bali must advance a negotiating agenda to combat climate change on all fronts, including adaptation, mitigation, clean technologies, deforestation and resource mobilization," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on the U.N. Web site. "Bali must be the political response to the recent scientific reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. All countries must do what they can to reach agreement by 2009, and to have it in force by the expiry of the current Kyoto Protocol commitment period in 2012."
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if no action is taken on greenhouse gases, the Earth's temperature could rise by 8.1 degrees or more. The Arctic and Antarctic regions both show unprecedented levels of melting that exceed even U.N. projections. The U.N. has predicted that extreme and deadly floods and heat waves -- such as those that the world experienced this year across the world -- will become more common. Drinking water supplies may dwindle, while salt water from the sea rises. "We cannot go on this way for long," Mr. Ban said, addressing a recent session of the UN General Assembly.
"We cannot continue with business as usual. The time has come for decisive action on a global scale." Also this week in New York, the Clinton Global Initiative will meet, focusing on climate change among a handful of other issues. Later in the week in Washington, D.C., President Bush will convene a meeting with some of the leaders of the nations responsible for the most greenhouse gas pollution, including Australia and China. Those meetings are viewed with both hope and skepticism -- hope because Bush has lately changed course and now aims to be a leader on climate change action and because it includes developing nations like China, but skepticism because the U.S. talks are happening outside of the U.N. framework.
Kyoto was seen as a first step in the global effort to curb global warming, but it wasn't a huge success. Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continued to rise, and not only from countries -- like the United States and Australia -- that did not sign the treaty. Many industrialized signatories did not meet their targets, and industrializing nations increased emissions dramatically.
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