Global warming or cooling?
A report on the run up to the Copenhagen Convention 2009
As the summit draws closer and leaders from across the globe are confirming their participation, pundits are alleging the forthcoming UN talks on a new greenhouse gas pact in the Danish capital will be a farce and has a become an obsession for the media
More than 60 world leaders will be flying to the 15th conference of parties (COP15) in the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen next month. The participation of several leaders greatly increases the odds that it will end in a substantive agreement, though critics are pouring scorn on the summit.
Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said he wanted delegates to put 'numbers on the table' and reach a 'concrete and binding' agreement. As formalities, the conference will take place from 7 December to 18 December. The Parties of the Convention and Observer States (Governments), the United Nations System and observer organisations are allowed to participate in the COP. In addition, accredited press is allowed to cover the proceedings of the Convention.
All the countries would be signing an accord that would, if the development goes as planned by 2050, cut the present global emission of greenhouse gases into half.
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The global warming hysteria, simultaneously, has mobilised various groups across the world – some to urge the elites into waking up and smelling the carbon while others to shout that capitalism is at an end.
For long, environmental activists have blamed the developed countries for bulk emissions and climate destabilisation – of Himalayan proportions – and have appealed to them to have an international emissions reduction agreement that is both equitable and effective in preventing apocalyptic climate change.
Apocalyptic, yes we have been hearing this adjective ceaselessly, but we have seen in recent history that the words fits more well in Hollywood blockbusters than in our everyday life. Sometimes, several socio-political stories, which doomsayer predicts are ominous has resulted in opposite consequences.
The Cold War persisted for fifty years with the anticipation of nuclear annihilation, but instead of doing more harm as was forecast, the world simply adore the show as exhibited by the Korean communists in May this year. (We do hope the nuke race must be buried like the Iraqis had hidden their WMDs from the Blackwaters, the CIAs and the IAEAs!)
Even if global warming is limbering the West and its allies up to take proactive measures, there are more important issues, such as the inclusive growth for each country in human development and technology, which need to be addressed at the international forum. But as the apocalyptic story continues, no one expects any positive outcome either from several other global bargains, say, for another twenty years from the Doha Round. The same goes with the WTO. Or for that matter, it is unlikely that poverty will be eliminated because of the Millennium Development Goals.
In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol (a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) was initially adopted and became effective only on 16 February 2005. As of November 2009, 187 states have signed and ratified the protocol.
However, there are more aspects that goes against the treaty than it goes for; the arguments generally fall into three categories: it demands too much; it achieves too little; or it is unnecessary. What is next?
Some scientists are even sceptical of the reasons behind global warming, arguing there is no evidence that Earth's surface temperature is rising due to human activity. Piers Corbyn, a leading English weatherman, sums it up: "The problem we are faced with is that the meteorological establishment and the global warming lobby research bodies which receive large funding that the scientists in them have sold their integrity."
If a doctor advised you for a surgery, you might seek a second opinion, but you'd probably ask another surgeon. However, media, with their limited knowledge of climate science and the help from pseudo-experts, has spread hesitation to take meaningful action and plan for an economic order that has been built around oil, coal and natural gas.
So don't be surprised when you read the reports on global cooling, the thickening Arctic ice or the Global Warming Conspiracy.
Back home, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh indicates India, the world's fifth-largest producer of greenhouse gases in recent years, is not going to accept any legally binding cuts on its greenhouse gas emissions. At a media conference in mid-November, Ramesh said: "It seems there is a long haul before we arrive at an international commitment that is legally binding and in which legally binding commitments are taken by the developed countries". Earlier the minister released a report the week before that says there is no conclusive evidence that climate change has caused the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, but it failed to rebut why the they are receding.
Eventually, the debates continue on the environmental cost of flying all the delegates to Copenhagen. Maybe, the talks would churn out a more nuanced dialogue about where the climate negotiations stand, but how the agreements would help in building a greener planet is still open to question.
o KAPIL ARAMBAM