Climate Summits—Just Talk?

“The world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades.”—U.S. President Barack Obama.

IN THE view of some scientists, planet Earth is ill. It is running a fever. According to them, the global temperature may be approaching the so-called tipping point—that delicate threshold where a slight rise in temperature may “cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures,” says the British newspaper The Guardian.

How did we get into this situation? Can it be reversed? Indeed, is it even within mankind’s ability to solve the problem of global warming—not to mention the many other major challenges confronting the human race?

Many scientists believe that human activity is a major factor, beginning with the industrial revolution and the subsequent increase in the use of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. Another factor involves rampant deforestation. Forests serve as lungs for our environment. Trees absorb some of the greenhouse gases that produce global warming. However, the cutting away of large amounts of forest results in leaving increasing amounts of these gases in our atmosphere. In order to address these problems, world leaders have convened climate summits.

The Kyoto Protocol

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, or agreement, set new goals for carbon dioxide emissions. By signing the protocol, the countries of the European Union and 37 other industrialized countries committed themselves to reducing their emissions by an average of 5 percent against 1990 levels, and this over the five-year period from 2008 to 2012.

The Kyoto Protocol, however, had some serious weaknesses. For example, the United States never ratified it. Also, larger developing countries, such as China and India, did not commit themselves to specific limits on their emissions. Yet, the United States and China alone contribute about 40 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions.

The Copenhagen Summit

The objective of the Copenhagen summit, called COP 15, was to replace the Kyoto Protocol and set new, binding goals for 2012 and beyond.* To confront climate change, representatives from 192 nations, including 119 heads of State, gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December 2009 to attend the event. COP 15 was faced with the following three primary challenges:

1. Reaching legally binding agreements. Would developed countries accept the necessary emission caps or limits, and would the major developing countries limit the growth of their emissions?

2. Financing a perpetual solution. The developing countries would need billions of dollars for many years in order to cope with the accelerating consequences of global warming and to generate environmentally clean technology.

3. Agreeing on a model for monitoring emissions. Such a model would help individual countries stay within their emission limits. It would also help to ensure that developing countries use donated funds properly.

Were these three challenges met? Negotiations ran into such serious problems that even a much less ambitious consensus seemed out of reach. Within the final hours of the conference, leaders from 28 countries hammered out a final document called the Copenhagen Accord. This accord was formally accepted with these rather bland words: “The conference . . . takes note of the Copenhagen Accord,” says Reuters news service. In other words, it was up to the individual countries to act on it.

What Next?

More conferences have been held or are planned, but skepticism runs high. “The planet will continue to cook,” said New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. All too often, short-term political and economic benefits outweigh long-term environmental factors, encouraging a business-as-usual approach. “If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money,” says Krugman. He also wrote that the action on climate change in his country was essentially killed by “the usual suspects: greed and [political] cowardice.”

Global warming seems to be much like a hurricane. Meteorologists can measure the force of a hurricane and chart its possible course with reasonable accuracy—much to the benefit of those in its path. But all the scientists, politicians, and business leaders in the world cannot stop a hurricane. It seems that the same may be true of global warming. This fact calls to mind the words found in the Bible at Jeremiah 10:23: “To earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”

Global Warming Will End—God’s Way

The Bible tells us that “the Former of the earth and the Maker of it . . . did not create it simply for nothing.” (Isaiah 45:18) The Bible also says: “The earth endures for ever.”—Ecclesiastes 1:4, The New English Bible.

Yes, God will not allow the earth to be rendered uninhabitable. Rather, he will intervene in human affairs and bring an end to failed human rule and those who have no regard for the earth. At the same time, he will preserve alive all who lead morally upright lives and sincerely want to please him. Says Proverbs 2:21, 22: “The upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”

[Footnote]

The Conference of the Parties, COP, is arranged on a regular basis by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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  A greenhouse gas is a component of the atmosphere that absorbs radiation emanating from the earth’s surface. Many of the gases emitted into the atmosphere by modern industrial processes are greenhouse gases. They include carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide. More than 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide alone is now released into our atmosphere every year. Reports indicate that since the start of the industrial age, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen by 40 percent.

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Earth: NASA/The Visible Earth (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/); Barack Obama: ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images