(by Charles Hurt, NYPost.com) COPENHAGEN — Leaders from more than 100 nations will begin gathering here this week for the world’s largest summit on climate change, with most, including President Obama, carrying pledges to cut global-warming gases.
“Never in the 17 years of climate regulations have so many different nations made so many firm pledges together,” Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ top climate official, said yesterday.
Hosted by the United Nations, the meeting’s goal is “to deliver a strong and long-term response to the challenge of climate change,” said de Boer. He predicted that the meeting would be a “turning point” in the fight against global warming.
Negotiators hope to set stiff new targets for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gasses, especially those of the leading contributors, the United States and China.
The conference also hopes to reach an agreement on how much money wealthy countries such as the United States should pay poorer countries to help deal with climate change.
Obama, who is scheduled to join the conference next week, has offered to cut US emissions by 17 percent. But that offer is expected to go up in smoke when the Senate rejects any treaty that is viewed by many as a job-killer.
As the summit approached, a poll came out yesterday showing that concern about climate change around the world has declined, especially in countries that are suffering from the economic crisis.
In North America, just 25 percent say they are “very concerned” about the human impact on climate change.
Even before the historic gathering began yesterday, climatologists were battling accusations that the science behind global warming claims has been hyped.
“For those who claim a deal in Copenhagen is impossible, they are simply wrong,” said Achim Steiner, director of the United Nations’ Environment Programs.
Also undermining efforts is the recent scandal spawned by e-mails leaked from a British university showing worried scientists plotting to silence colleagues who are skeptical about global warming.
“I think a lot of people are skeptical about this issue in any case,” de Boer told the AP yesterday. “And then when they have the feeling . . . that scientists are manipulating information in a certain direction, then of course it causes concern in a number of people to say, ‘You see, I told you so. This is not a real issue.’ “
The summit’s goal is to set a global cap of 44 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted annually by 2020. Annual emissions today total about 47 billion tons, according to UN scientists.
Advanced countries such as the United States would be forced to cut emissions by as much as 40 percent of 1990 levels over 10 years while developing countries will by required to cut emissions by as much as 30 percent of 1990 levels. With Post Wire Services
Write to Charles Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The New York Post. Visit the website at NYPost.com.
1. What do negotiators for countries around the world hope to achieve during climate talks in Copenhagen this month?
2. a) By how much has President Obama offered to cut U.S. carbon emissions?
b) Why will the President’s plan to cut carbon emissions probably not be passed by Congress?
3. How has world wide concern about the human impact on global warming changed recently?
4. a) Define hyped.
b) What do people think has been hyped?
5. How would setting caps on the amount of carbon dioxide emitted annually affect Americans?
6. Read the “Background” below the questions, and skim the websites linked to under “Resources.”
a) Do you think people who question the theory that catastrophic global warming will occur if humans don’t drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels have a legitimate argument?
b) Do you think the U.S. should pledge to drastically cut our greenhouse gas emissions? Explain your answer.
c) Ask a parent the same questions.
Global warming is an important issue to understand. The theory that man’s use of fossil fuels (burning coal, oil and gas for energy, which produces carbon dioxide, or CO2) is causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate – global warming – is believed to be true by many scientists, climatologists, citizens, the mainstream media and Hollywood celebrities, and was made popular by former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” People who believe in this theory say we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by limiting/reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use, or by purchasing offsets.
The belief that man’s activities are not causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate is held by many other scientists [see MIT’s Professor of Meteorology Dr. Richard Lindzen’s commentary in Newsweek here]. (This view is very unpopular in the media and widely condemned by those who believe man-made global warming is fact.) Those who do not believe man is causing the global temperature to rise don’t believe it is necessary to reduce the production of CO2 by reducing our use of fossil fuels or to purchase carbon offsets.
- Greenhouse gases are components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels such as coal. Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. (from wikipedia.org)
- Carbon offsetting involves paying others to remove or [contain] 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere – for example by planting trees – or by funding ‘carbon projects’ that should lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove (or ‘retire’) them through carbon trading. These practices are often used in parallel, together with energy conservation measures to minimize energy use. (from wikipedia.org)
ON GLOBAL WARMING and the KYOTO TREATY (the treaty preceding COPENHAGEN):
- The theory of global warming is that the earth’s temperature is rising due to man’s use of fossil fuels (gas, oil). It is believed that this temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment. To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
- In the Kyoto Treaty governments agreed to limit greenhouse gas emissions (reduce their use of gas and oil). They believe this will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions world-wide and will prevent global warming.
- President Clinton supported the Kyoto Treaty. President Bush did not. He said it would harm the economy and cost jobs. President Obama recently said that it would not make sense for the U.S. to sign it as it is about to end [in two years].
- The U.S. and Australia are the 2 western countries that originally did not sign the Kyoto Treaty. [Australia later signed the treaty.] Great Britain did sign on. China and India did not.
- Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair believes in the theory of global warming and was a great supporter of the Kyoto Treaty. However, in November 2005 he backed away from the Kyoto Protocol (it is assumed he recognized that many countries would not live up to their obligations under Kyoto).
- Australia’s newly elected [in 2007] Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made signing the Kyoto Treaty priority for his new government. Days after Australia’s delegation backed a plan at the climate talks in Bali to make deep cuts to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, Prime Minister Rudd said the Government would not support the target. This announcement came after the electricity industry reported that it may not be able to meet growing consumer demand and comply with the 2020 target. The expectation after Rudd unseated (conservative) John Howard last month was that Australia would suddenly be a strong advocate for carbon dioxide emissions caps that would pressure the United States to do the same. With Rudd doing this surprising about face, there were no definitive results from the conference.
Global warming is a controversial issue. Scientists today have two opposing views on global warming:
- The earth’s climate is warming as a result of human actions; an extreme change in the earth’s climate is going to occur, caused by greenhouse gas emitted by the world’s use of fossile fuels (coal, oil, gas). This temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment. Humans must drastically reduce the consumption of fossile fuels immediately. To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
Liberals generally hold this view. Check out two liberal organizations which defend this viewpoint:
Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace.
- Human activity does not affect the earth’s temperature. Burning fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil) does not cause climate change. The earth’s climate changes naturally, but not so much that it will cause a change of catastrophic proportions. An extreme change in the earth’s climate will not happen. There are natural warming and cooling trends over time. In the 1970’s a coming ice age was predicted, but now that scare has been replaced with the current global warming scare.
Conservatives generally hold this view. Two conservative organizations which support this view are:
FriendsOfScience.org and Scienceandpublicpolicy.org.
NOTE: The UN climate conference (of Dec. 2007) met in Bali to discuss global warming met strong opposition from a team of over 100 prominent international scientists, who warned the UN that attempting to control the Earth’s climate was “ultimately futile.” The scientists, many of whom are current and former UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientists, released an open letter (Dec. 13, 2007) to the UN Secretary-General questioning the scientific basis for climate fears and the UN’s so-called “solutions.”
Read the complete letter here and the list of scientists who signed the letter here.
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