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‘Game over’ for climate stabilization, Part II

Failed negotiations by the “super committee” toward solving a declared fiscal crisis in government, rising poverty among children, young people’s revolt against inequality and lack of fair opportunity as expressed in “occupation” encampments — these and other matters have seemed among big news stories in recent weeks.
Another crisis, of far greater complexity and danger, has not been similarly headlined in the news.
In Durban, South Africa, the world’s political leaders are gathered this week for a United Nations conference on climate change.
They hope for agreement on extension of the international (Kyoto) climate treaty, or alternative mechanisms for effectively lowering the greenhause gas emissions which are the cause of global warming.
The Kyoto treaty, signed in 1997 and ratified by all major industrial countries except the United States, set binding targets for reducing global-warming pollution from developed nations but is set to expire in 2012.
As long ago as 1992, the leaders of almost all countries around the world committed themselves to work to prevent a “dangerous disruption of the global climate system.”
Yet the pollutant emissions have remained high and weather disasters they spawn become more costly.
In the U.S. alone, floods and violent storms, drought, fires and other extreme-weather manifestations took many lives and caused $50 billion in economic damages in 2010.
That year, the main greenhause gases reached record emission levels, per a Department of Energy report.
Claims of the scientists’ alarm notes and harm predictions being exaggerated, or of global warming being a “hoax,” are unfounded.
Indeed, the International Energy Agency, founded in 1973 by the industrial nations to develop common strategies for dealing with the oil crisis, released its annual World Energy Outlook in November.
Its findings, as interpreted by the Union of Concerned Scientists “could not be more sobering.”
A continuation of our current, rapidly growing energy consumption and carbon emissions, even over the short time span ahead of another half-decade, it notes, “could lock in potentially catastrophic global warming.”
The IEA warns that, “if we don’t change direction now on how we use energy we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum for safety, [and] the door will be closed forever.”
Deep cuts in energy use and carbon emissions can be achieved, however, as experts have convincingly shown, through ramping up efficiency.
It alone, the IEA projects, could account for half of the reductions needed to keep the world on the safe side of run-away climate change.
Efficiency and clean-energy technology (such as solar heating and electricity generation) save consumers money and bring valuable health benefits for people, as well.
The IEA’s Outlook report, the Union of Concerned Scientists notes, is “just the latest in a long series of analyses that show that tackling climate change is feasible and affordable. And that the most expensive thing we can do is nothing.”
One heartily wishes greater negotiating success on combating climate change, to the world leaders assembled in Durban, than the congressional committee could muster.