Monday, December 21, 2009

Why We Did Not Get A Binding Agreement At COP15

Despite some progress on funding and compliance verification, there are good reasons why we did not get a binding agreement on emissions reductions at COP15.

Although Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said Washington would help create a $100 billion a year climate aid fund by 2020, the all important issue of detailed emissions reductions remains unresolved.

China made concessions on a compliance mechanism, however, Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, negotiating on behalf of the 27-nation European Union, blamed the impasse on the Chinese for "blocking again and again.''

Much of the blame was directed towards the American President, "Obama was not very proactive. He didn't offer anything more,'' said delegate Thomas Negints, from Papua New Guinea. Negints said his country had hoped for "more on emissions, put more money on the table, take the lead.''

Obama may eventually become known as "the man who killed Copenhagen,'' said Greenpeace US Executive Director Phil Radford.

Despite the harsh words directed at Obama, the lack of domestic support tied the President's hands at COP15. A recent Washington Post article indicates that going into COP15, American support for Obama's climate change policy was at an all time low, "his approval rating on dealing with global warming crumbled at home and there is broad opposition to spending taxpayer money to encourage developing nations to curtail their energy use."

According to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, despite the plethora of good science supporting anthropomorphic climate change, only 57 percent of Americans think there is solid evidence the world is getting warmer, down 20 points in just three years. Less Americans believe humans are the cause of global warming and fewer see the situation as a serious problem. Only about a third, or 36 percent of the respondents, feel that human activities are behind the temperature increase. That's down from 47 percent in 2006.

Many people living in the Midwest and mountainous areas of the West appear to have ignored or disregarded climate change science. While a majority of people in the Northeast and on the West Coast appear to appreciate the scope of the dangers we face due to global warming.

In the US, scientific understanding seems to slow just right of center. Three-quarters of Democrats believe there is solid evidence for global warming, and nearly half believe the problem is serious. Far fewer conservative and moderate Democrats see the problem as grave. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans say there is no solid evidence of global warming, up from 31 percent in early 2007.

In a democracy it is hard for the executive or the legislature to act decisively in the absence of public support. As with the health care debate, public relations firms and lobby groups have managed to manipulate the facts and instill a sense of uncertainty and confusion in the US.

The Chinese did not kill COP15, nor did President Obama, COP15 was undermined by the ignorance of the American people.

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