Day 1 at the Copenhagen World Climate Meeting - Part 1

This is a special guest post by Dr. Stephen H. Schneider – Professor at Stanford University and renowned climate scientist. Read part 2 here.

The vast majority of the world’s nations and about 100 heads of state are migrating to Copenhagen for a two week meeting to hammer out a plan to protect the Earth’s climate from human use of the atmosphere as a free sewer to dump our tailpipe and smokestack wastes, and some of the products of deforestation and land degradation.

“Hammer” may indeed be the right metaphor for the verbal head banging going on among those who are demanding major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from the wealthy countries who produced most of the historic accumulated pollution. The ones pushing dramatic cuts by 2020 include small island states getting flooded out of house and home by sea level rise, or most western European states, on one side, and fossil fuel producing states and developing countries on the other side, the latter claiming they haven’t yet had their fair share of the atmosphere to dump their wastes in, refusing to take on much reductions for themselves.

The US, after two terms of Bush Administration climate change denial that virtually tied up progress in the negotiation progress, is strongly endorsing strict very long term targets—like an 80% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, but is proposing only minor cuts by 2020. The weak short term target from the US is angering those who are claiming that this will not help alleviate the planetary “climate emergency” we face. Compromise is predicted by some optimists and rejected by many pessimists.

But it is still early in the game and national posturing always dominates early phases of negotiations like this. What is mostly lost in the middle of the posturing are our children and grandchildren’s interests in a sustainable world and the viability of the plant and animal kingdoms, that had no role in creating the problem and have the least adaptive capacity.