Fueling the slow boil? More inaction predicted on climate change


There are probably lots of colorful, entertaining ways to describe what’s happening — or not happening — at a big international meeting on climate change being held all this week in Durban, South Africa.

Some say it’s a global example of the ‘tragedy of the commons.’ Others might make analogy to that dumb frog which could jump to save itself but just sits in blissful oblivion in a warming pan of water as it is slowly being heated to a boil.

The meeting is not over, but the Guardian already says it is unlikely anything will come of it.

Despite overwhelming scientific consensus that the current pace of climate change will have disastrous consequences, political leaders seem even less willing than before to reach agreement on what to do about it.

The world’s earlier agreement — the so-called Kyoto Protocol — will expire in a few months. This treaty aimed at creating a global plant for reducing greenhouse gases was drawn at an earlier such meeting of this same gathering, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Kyoto treaty was agreed to by all nations on Earth — other than the United States, Afghanistan, Sudan and Andorra. (Yes, Andorra is a country and is perhaps best known, if known, for its dominance in the sport of roller hockey.)

Once again, many say the U.S. (one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases) appears to be doing its best to throw a monkey wrench in the efforts to reach consensus on how to prevent disastrous levels of climate change. But this time, other nations like India and China are also arguing against many of the provisions supported by the rest of the world..

It’s always good to have company. Reuters dubbed this coalition the “three big polluters” club.

Sweden Germany, Britain and are the three best countries fighting climate change, according to Inter Press. Here are a few other reports out of the meeting in Durban, which ends Friday:

NPR: Climate treaty talks target U.S., China emissions

Inter Press: Kyoto Protocol on life support

Common Dreams: World headed for 3.5 C warming

The Australian: Okay then, we’ll stop fighting climate change as well

Huffington Post: Some good news out of Durban

NOTE: I included that last link on the good news out of this meeting mostly to take note of its strained optimism:

Vested interests are hampering the negotiations and even threatening to scupper the prospects of an international agreement, which is more urgently needed than ever. Without pressure from the NGO community, there is a real danger that nothing will happen. And without some healthy cynicism, these inelegantly protracted negotiations could seriously compromise the prospect of a deal being struck in Durban….  (Yet) The fact that 194 countries are sitting around the table with the shared goal of finding a collective solution to harness global warming should be applauded.

In any case, it’s a good thing scientists recently reported discovery of a new ‘habitable’ planet very similar to Earth … in case we need a replacement. Only 600 light years away.


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.