The leaders and delegates of 192 nations are meeting for two weeks, starting today, in Copenhagen to discuss the world's response to global warming. This is the 15th meeting on the subject, and it won't be the last, since world leaders have already agreed not to agree on any binding agreements. But that doesn't mean the conference is meaningless. Grist has put together a good list of factors to watch, which you'll find below, along with some chatter from TDG ... Or just skip the international mumbo jumbo altogether and see the four things you can actually do.
Developed (industrialized) countries created most of global-warming polluting over the past century, so by how much will they cut their emissions? President Obama announced the goal of reducing carbon emissions 17% by 2020, more-or-less consistent with a bill passed by the House and set for debate in the Senate.
How will developing nations avoid the mistakes the industrialized world made over the last century? Ideally, by "leapfrogging" over outdated technologies like coal-fired power and moving straight to cleaner sources. That will cost money how much and from whom must be hashed out.
Dude, it's already happening
Climate change has already worsened droughts, malaria and freak storms. The most severe effects will fall on the Global South, and it will cost up to $100 billion a year to help these countries adapt. How will wealthier countries share that cost?
China and India's pollution contribution (got a ring to it, yeah?) has been light until the last few decades. Now it's skyrocketing, as they build new power plants (mostly coal) to meet the growing demand of their increasingly middle-class economies. (China is now the No. 1 polluter, on a per-ton basis, having surpassed the U.S., which still leads the world in per capita pollution.) China and India say helping their citizens rise out of poverty is priority No. 1, but a global deal can't work unless they agree to develop in a sustainable way.
Meeting strong targets by 2050 is generally understood to be a crucial goal. But climate scientists say we must that we make progress much sooner. Will there be "mid-term" targets for 2020 as well?
Trees are natural CO2 vacuums, and it makes perfect sense to preserve the forests we have especially the carbon-rich tropical ones concentrated in Brazil and Indonesia. Lots of folks are optimistic about the REDD program (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) that would pay such countries to protect their forests. But were the protected trees going to be razed anyway? And who checks that they remain protected? Details, details.
Capping and Trading
(Dont go away this is the last one!) It works like this: The international community agrees that only X amount of CO2 can be emitted into the atmosphere each year. Each country is then allotted an amount its industries can emit, and that amount declines by a small bit each year. Countries and companies can choose to emit their allotments, or sell portions of them to other countries or companies. Sounds crazy, right? But this kind of scheme was used to get the acid-rain problem under control in the United States more than a decade ago, and it's used today to control smog. And the economy continued to grow, even as it polluted less.
See more of Grist's coverage of the Copenhagen climate talks.
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