Introducing Otto Vogl: Breaking New Ground for Polymer Sciences

Beyond the Annual Climate Confab

bridges vol. 28, December 2010 / Pielke's Perspective

By Roger A. Pielke, Jr.

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pielke_r_new_small.jpgRoger Pielke, Jr.Woody Allen once famously said that 80 percent of life is just showing up.  A similar calculus might be applied to the global climate negotiations, the annual confab that brings together activists, politicians, and other interested parties to discuss how the world might deal with the threat of climate change.

The outcome at this year's conference in Cancun was similar to each of the previous 15 conferences - an agreement of some sort was reached, which some applauded and others criticized.  Either way, we have been told that the real global agreement lies just one year in the future.  This year's "next year" is in Durban, South Africa.  Yet a close look at what happened at Cancun, even more than the fractious Copenhagen conference the year before, provides the best evidence yet as to why a binding global agreement to reduce emissions remains a year away, and always will.
International climate negotiations have become cluttered with many issues and agendas, but at their core is the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is focused on stabilizing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases resulting from human activity, mainly the burning of fossil fuels.

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