The Challenge of Climate Change

With the Copenhagen Conference scheduled to begin Monday, climate change is squarely on the international political scene. But while lots of people are talking about it—and despite claims of the United Nations’ top climate official—few are optimistic that any real progress will be made in Copenhagen. Alex Evans at Global Dashboard has gone so far as to outline the ways in which Copenhagen might fail, classifying the failures as: Bali #2, the Bad Deal, the Car Crash, the Multilateral Zombie, and Death By Diplomacy. The likelihood of a good deal is remote. In a post to Project Syndicate, former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev is already encouraging the international community to think about how to move forward from Copenhagen, describing the current political standoff (and the failure to agree on a new climate change convention to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012) as a game of Russian roulette.

The timing of Copenhagen is clearly less than ideal, following shortly on the heels of the embarrassing publication of emails suggesting climate scientists were manipulating charts to make them look more dramatic before publication (critics have termed this “Climategate.”) The release, while hardly rising to the level of scandal that it has been afforded, nevertheless offered climate skeptics ammunition with which to engage an uniformed public. (The issue even reached Jon Stewart’s Daily Show last week). And this is too bad, because climate change is clearly a major concern for international politics. From the emerging tensions between the United States and Canada over who controls the emerging Arctic sea lanes to the concerns over the impact of climate change on conflict in Africa, climate change is likely to be a (perhaps the) major driver of global politics in the near future. And while the international community debates who should bear the cost of addressing the challenge of climate change mitigation, the costs of not addressing climate change continue to mount.

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