Right now, the seventeenth Conference of the Parties for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is happening in Durban, South Africa.
Expectations are low.
The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012. States that were outside Kyoto, like the United States, seem unlikely to commit to a new treaty. Those inside the treaty but with no reduction targets for greenhouse pollution, like China, seem unlikely to accept targets. Those who have simply chosen to ignore their targets, like Canada, will probably continue on that course. The states that have made real efforts under Kyoto are dispirited by the failure of the rest of the world to build on their example.
The fact that we are at the seventeenth annual conference and have not yet gotten on top of the problem is worrisome. It is as though the world’s scientists have told us that we are all on a train heading for the edge of a cliff. After all this time, we are nowhere near stopping the train. We haven’t even begun to slow down. Indeed, through behaviours like shale gas fracking and oil sands exploitation, we are investing billions of dollars in ways to make the train go faster.