Humanities two most crucial years

195 nations and 14,000 delegates just finished up the latest UN Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland.  They have said that the climate decisions that are made from now until 2020 will determine to what extent Earth remains habitable for humanity.

There is both good and bad news from the conference.  On the one hand there is desperately little time to reduce CO2 emissions enough to save a live-able earth.  On the other have there is some heartening news.

A recent article in the Guardian looks at both the good and the bad.  The article was published on Dec 17, 2018.  There is a link at the bottom of this page to the entire article.  As usual this summary is very bare bones.

Below is the summary of this Guardian article.

“Scientist after scientist told the conference that the decisions made by 2020 will determine whether global heating can be kept to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, after which the already apparent dangers of climate instability become far worse.”

“Katowice showed that the multilateral system of global decision-making is still alive, but under growing threat from fossil fuel interests and the nationalist politicians they fund.”

“Decision-making at the UN is painstakingly difficult at the best of times, because it requires a consensus among 195 nations. In Poland, 14,000 delegates took two weeks to debate the latest science and proposed policy instruments as they whittled down more than 2,800 areas of disagreement.”

This last comment sounds like a Kim Stanley Robinson theme. Robinson is one of the great science fiction writers who writes about how our world may look and feel in the future.  A main Robinson theme is that progress is astoundingly difficult but if you keep at it sometimes success will result.

One accomplishment of the conference “was a new global rulebook on emissions that requires nations to report every two years on their progress toward Paris agreement commitments to keep temperature rises to between 1.5C and 2C.”

“Several past obstacles were overcome. China accepted standards on transparency, and richer nations – particularly Germany and Norway – put their hands deeper into their pockets to provide more than $100bn (£80bn) to help poorer nations adapt. A renewed division between the developed and developing world did not materialize as feared.”

“But more fundamental obstructions also came more sharply into focus. The malign role of fossil fuel interests has often been hidden in bureaucratic language or lost in the distractions of diplomatic spats, but in Katowice there were several moments of blinding clarity. Chief among them was the alignment of the world’s top three oil-producing nations – the US, Russia and Saudi Arabia – to downplay scientific warnings about temperature rises beyond 1.5C. Soon after, an ambassador from Australia – a major coal exporter – joined Trump administration officials in a panel that promoted carbon fuels. Brazil was also accused of holding up talks with a highly contested carbon-accounting proposal that could have reshaped how emissions from the Amazon are calculated. The country’s diplomats denied this but the issue has been kicked forward and it is unlikely the incoming nationalist president Jair Bolsonaro will make life easier for the negotiations.”

“There was also more clarity as a result of the recent protests in France, which prompted policymakers to think twice about the social implications of higher fuel prices.”

“All of which suggests the next two years will be among the most fraught and crucial in the history of humanity. Investment decisions on power stations and infrastructure taken during this period will determine whether carbon emissions can be cut by the 45% needed by 2030 to give the 1.5C target a chance.”

“It would be fitting if the UK won the right to host the crucial climate summit in 2020. Done well, it would showcase how the world’s first industrialized nation is shifting away from carbon faster than almost any other. Done badly, the UK – by then probably outside the EU – will highlight the folly of shifting away away from multilateralism just when when the world needs to pull together.”


The image at the top of this page is Hedrick Pond
in Teton National Park in Wyoming.


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