What are the Countries at the Climate Conference Thinking? Oops! There’s an Assumption.

Imagine that you are morbidly obese and that you are diabetic. You go to the doctor and she tells you what medications to take and what surgeries are available. But she never mentions what you can do stop and eventually reverse your symptoms. No mention of cutting calories, good nutrition, exercise or any of the other healthful habits that could stop the downward spiral or even reverse the problem.

Such a physician would be an unqualified failure at her job. Such is the 194-nation international conference going on right now in Durban, South Africa. The conference is the doctor, but it’s dealing only with the symptoms, not the cause of the problem. According to the Associated Press, the conference has reached the stage where real negotions take place. It’s called backroom negotiations. Big polluters like the United States, China and so-called emerging nations feel each other out.

Durban environmental conferencedemonstrators –           Photo courtesy Greenpeace

Most treaty accords don’t take place in public. The palaver part of the conference in which diplomats make public statements of intention took place last week. The Kyoto Protocol will expire next year. Under that 1997 agreement, nations committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Hah!

The task now is to keep Kyoto alive. The European Union is making an effort to get major climate offenders to agree to binding pollution goals in exchange for the EU’s renewing its own commitments under the Kyoto Protocols. The EU – get a load of this – wants a commitment to begin negotiations now that would conclude within four years. The terms of that treaty would take effect five years later, in 2020. This would be one case where the numbers 2020 would indicate shortsightedness.

The doctor in this instance does not seem to discuss – nay,
is apparently not even aware of – the causes of the patient’s illness. Even if we become ever more efficient per capita in our use of polluting energy, we are still growing, adding another billion people to the world’s  opulation by about 2025. Combine that with the growth of consumer societies that increasingly guzzle energy while we continue to destroy oxygen-producing forest land to accommodate grazing livestock, and we wonder how the Durban conference could possibly lead to reduced air pollution.

According to AP report, an EU delegate said that European delegates left disappointed after a private meeting with the Chinese. “Despite public declarations it would participate in a legally binding agreement in the future, China unequivocally told the EU it not accept binding targets for itself, said the delegate, speaking on conditions of anonymity.”

It is not within the purview of this blog to go into the intricacies of international political and diplomatic negotiations. But simply put, China wants firm commitments from the industrialized world, including financial and technological aid to poor countries, before it commits. The U.S. wants equal commitments from all nations to curb pollution. Japan and Russia, despite their declining populations – as well as Canada – have rejected Kyoto’s second commitment period, which will begin in 2013.

The George W. Bush administration withdrew the from the Kyoto accords in 2001. Rumors are circulating in Durban that Canada, too, may withdraw from Kyoto.

Alas, there is no doctor to tell these nations that they are too fat, that they are consuming too much and that they must go on a diet; a
reproduction diet. Instead of menu planning, nations need family planning. And they need to consume fewer calories. If the nations of the world don’t invest in energy efficiency and cut the fat, they will be compelled to suffer the consequences of healthcare bills they cannot pay.

The dilemma is that, if nations can’t agree on something as essential as not destroying our earthly home, how could we ever reach accord on limiting our reproductive “rights”? There are certainly enough of us, but we seem hell bent on driving future generations into a world they didn’t create but one they will have to pay for, in more ways than one.



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