Will Year of Climate Extremes End Without Progress on Tackling Climate Change?

By Stephen Leahy*

CANCÚN, Mexico, Nov 29, 2010 (IPS/TerraViva)

This year will likely be the warmest ever recorded, with soaring ocean temperatures resulting in a near record die-off of tropical corals, extreme heat and drought in Russia and massive flooding in Pakistan – all signs that climate change has taken hold.

But despite the ever more compelling science regarding the urgency and risks of climate change and growing public support for action, representatives from nearly 200 countries meeting here in Cancún for the next two weeks are unlikely to produce a new binding agreement.

At best, matters such as forestry, climate finance and mitigation commitments will be further developed in the faint hope that the next big meeting in South Africa might produce some kind of deal.

“Carbon emissions continue to climb despite the economic recession and yet I have never seen such low expectations for a COP (Conference of the Parties),” said Richard Somerville, an eminent climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

“The science is quite compelling regarding the need for urgent action. We don’t have another five years to reach an agreement,” Somerville told TerraViva.

In 2009, Somerville and others co-authored an update on the latest climate science called ‘The Copenhagen Diagnosis’ which concluded that global carbon emissions had to peak and begin to decline before 2020 to have any hope of keeping global warming to less than 2.0 degrees C.

However, the negotiators in Cancún will mostly not be acting on the science but on their national interests as directed by their political leadership, who largely do not understand climate change, he said.

“Developed countries think they can adapt to warmer temperatures. I don’t see how we can keep warming below 2.0 degrees C.,” Somerville said.
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