Environment

Reality Bites

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorOct 20, 2011 3:49 PM

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A scholar surveys "the sorry history of international climate policy" and wonders when enough will be enough:

The road from Rio to Kyoto to Bali to Copenhagen to Cancun is littered with procrastination, obfuscation, and empty promises. For example, all major countries including the United States agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which took effect in 1994, and so committed themselves to "protect the climate system for present and future generations." However, global emissions are now up more than 40 percent since 1990, and more than 17 percent in the United States. Similarly, in 2009 in Copenhagen, the global community publicly committed itself to limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. However, it left the hard question of who should do what to a subsequent national pledge system that does not get close to that target, and few have any confidence such a system will actually be implemented.

Stephen Gardiner's provocative and compelling piece appears in Yale Environment 360. On the lack of climate action, he concludes:

We seem at best paralyzed, and at worst indifferent. Put starkly, there seems little place within our grand institutions and busy lives for what may turn out to be the defining issue of our generation. Why? In my view, at the heart of the matter is the fact that humanity is in the grip of a profound ethical challenge that our current institutions and theories are ill-equipped to meet.

This is a dimension of the debate that should be taken up in full by the climate concerned, instead of incessantly shouting climate doom from the rooftops and getting suckered into an endless partisan war with climate skeptics.

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