Climate Change: Is the Paris Conference Doomed to Fail?

By George B. Kauffman

Editor’s note: The sources for the information included herein are available in the online version of this article.

The UN Conference on Climate Change meeting at Le Bourget, France, on Nov. 30–Dec. 11 and Paris on Dec. 7–8 seems doomed to fail.

Lack of governmental interest in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested satisfaction with its performance but also reflected resistance to change in an organization prone to bureaucratic inertia.

Through the years, what has seemed to be an interminable and unsuccessful series of climate change conferences under the umbrella of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have taken place with little or no results.

The 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, COP 21 or CMP 11, will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 UNFCCC and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations of the world. Leadership of the negotiations is yet to be determined.

The forthcoming Paris conference is especially critical. The world is currently experiencing the most extreme patterns of storms, drought, wildfires and floods in recorded history. In our own state of California, unprecedented mudslides buried vehicles caught en route from Tehachapi to Bakersfield. According to Brian Tokar, director of the Institute for Social Ecology and author of Toward Climate Justice: Perspectives on the Climate Crisis and Social Change, “It is virtually certain that 2015 will be the warmest year ever recorded.”

Furthermore, although liberals have rejoiced over President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, he has backed increased oil, gas and coal production. Also, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s comments that there will be no legally binding agreement from COP 21 puts him at odds with voices around the world. Although the Pentagon warns about the dangers posed by a warming planet, many players in the corporate-military-security industrial nexus see climate change not just as a threat but as an opportunity to advance their interests.

According to former Senators Timothy E. Wirth (D– Colo.) and Thomas A. Daschle (D–S.D.), “international deal-making fundamentally hinges on assessments of self-interest by the parties involved. This seemingly obvious statement both explains the persistent failure of the global climate change negotiations and offers a pathway to success.”

House Democrats are pressing the Department of Justice to investigate if Exxon broke the law with a climate change cover-up. A new study puts a staggering figure on the amount developed countries owe the world for CO2 emissions since 1990. China is the world’s largest producer of CO2, and the United States is the second largest producer.

The chances for a successful outcome at the forthcoming Paris talks seems remote indeed.

*****

George B. Kauffman, Ph.D., chemistry professor emeritus at Fresno State and a Guggenheim Fellow, is a recipient of the American Chemical Society’s George C. Pimentel Award in Chemical Education, the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach and the Award for Research at an Undergraduate Institution, and numerous domestic and international honors. In 2002 and 2011, he was appointed a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society, respectively.

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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