U.N. Climate Talks Open In Qatar Amid Low Expectations

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 26 2012 1:17 PM

U.N. Climate Talks Open in Qatar—but No One's Expecting a Breakthrough

156959730
South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 18th U.N. Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar, on Monday

Photo by Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images.

This week in stories likely to be overshadowed in the United States by the fiscal cliff, football, online shopping, the holidays, and any other untold number of topics: climate change.

That's nothing new, of course, but it's worth pointing out given the U.N.'s latest round of climate talks began in Doha, Qatar, on Monday morning. The international negotiations are likely to generate few headlines in the United States, something that is partly because the climate/energy conversation at home has been swallowed whole by the the current focus on the budget, and partly because, well, the talks themselves have never really come close to producing the type of breakthrough that would be needed to curb global greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say are warming the planet.

Advertisement

Three years ago in Copenhagen, for example, negotiators failed to agree on a climate change treaty despite an 11th-hour appearance by President Obama. Last year, the most negotiators could come together on was an agreement to try again for one by 2015—which would then in theory go into effect in 2020.

As the Associated Press explains, with a major agreement seemingly still out of reach, this year's talks are going to focus instead on getting together a stopgap extension of the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 treaty that the United States never signed on to that is set to expire next month.

At the current talks, the United States is already taking some heat for the Bush administration's decision to pull out from the Kyoto Protocol and the nation's larger reluctance to make a major climate commitment in the years that followed. Here's what the American delegate Jonathan Pershing said in defense (via the AP):

"Those who don't follow what the U.S. is doing may not be informed of the scale and extent of the effort, but it's enormous ... It doesn't mean enough is being done. It's clear the global community, and that includes us, has to do more if we are going to succeed at avoiding the damages projected in a warming world."

As the Guardian notes, global emissions are still climbing overall despite the reduction of emissions by many of those countries following the Kyoto Protocol. In other words, such an agreement doesn't really work unless enough countries sign on to it. And as the failure of the Copenhagen treaty illustrated, a more meaningful climate change agreement would have to tackle the tensions between developing and developed nations. Bjørn Lomborg goes into that tension in more detail in his summary of last year's talks.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.