Climate Feedback

Countdown to Copenhagen

Keith Kloor

If all the maneuvering in advance of Copenhagen is beginning to resemble a high-stakes poker game, then the European Union has thrown its cards down on the table this week. As the Guardian reported:

“The EU negotiating position offers to slash greenhouse gas emissions by between 80-95% by 2050 and to deepen cuts from 20 to 30% by 2020 if other world powers sign up for similar action.”

That’s a pretty big if, especially in the case of the United States, since the U.S. official position is that it won’t commit to any targets until its Congress passes a climate change bill that is now in the senate. “Without such a commitment,” the New York Times writes, “other nations are loath to make their own pledges.”

Except the EU, that is. There’s still plenty of deal-making happening on the sidelines, though. For example, the border between China and India may be heating up over competing land claims, but that hasn’t stopped the two countries from inking a deal to cooperate on energy and climate issues ahead of Copenhagen.

As Keith Johnson over at the WSJ’s Environmental Capitol notes:

“The battle over the Senate climate bill starts in earnest today, with more details on the Kerry-Boxer bill, fresh economic analysis from the EPA, and a speech by President Obama backing the measure.”

Greens are thus wringing their hands over a new Pew Research Center poll that finds:

“There has been a sharp decline over the past year in the percentage of Americans who say there is solid evidence that global temperatures are rising. And fewer also see global warming as a very serious problem – 35% say that today, down from 44% in April 2008.” Andrew Kohut, the director of the Pew Research center, tells AP that the poll’s results probably reflect the bleak economic landscape:

“The priority that people give to pollution and environmental concerns and a whole host of other issues is down because of the economy and because of the focus on other things.”

Still, as Grist observes, there is a sliver lining:

“There were two small (and puzzling) bits of consolation in the poll: many respondents support limiting greenhouse-gas emissions, and many want the U.S. to join an international climate-change plan.”

That’s precisely why people should look at the poll in a larger context, Roger Pielke, Jr., argues, in his analysis of the data:

“One reason to stop focusing on what people think about the science of climate change is that a majority of the public supports action on emissions as well as international cooperation on climate change. The policy challenge is thus to design policies that can be effective given the strong political support that has existed on this topic for some time. The realities are that support is about as strong as it is likely to be, and really hasn’t changed much over a decade or longer.”

Ironically, the Poll came out a day after 18 scientific organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Congress, reaffirming “the multiple independent lines of evidence” for climate change:

“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”


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