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I don't remember who said "sayin' it don't make it so," but no slogan more adequately captures the overarching trajectory of the UNFCCC confabs' cumulative accomplishments. To date, the single most significant achievement of the UNFCCC is what has become known as the Two-Degree Solution.
There was consensus, in 2009, that a two-degree Celsius increase in Earth's average temperature — two degrees above what the average temp was in 1850 — would constitute an unacceptably hazardous rise. Not surprisingly, the U.S. was one of the last holdouts.
A two-degree increase is the tipping point where scientists agree the polar ice caps would not only melt, which they already are, but begin to melt at a rate from which there was no turning back. Ocean levels and surf would be up on the world's coastlines and New York's subways would need to be converted to submarines.
The best consensus at the moment is we're already up 0.8°C.
Now simply agreeing on the Two-Degree Solution after nearly two decades of annual meetings may not seem like much of an accomplishment to you. And you'd be right. But even that is seen as real progress. That's because the UNFCCC operates on the principle of consensus. Any participating nation, regardless of how asinine its position may seem, can thwart any agreement.
Many "roadblocks" are cited for the lack of substantive agreement: the relative sacrifices to be made by developed and developing nations; which alternative energy sources get developed, how and how fast; who pays for third-world countries to adapt to climate change, blah, blah, blah.
Not much is expected to come out of Doha. No new emissions targets developed countries can ignore, no agreement on any changes needed to avoid that pesky 2° creep. What is possibly likely to happen is new, meaningless pledges by developed countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gasses, new meaningless promises to fund programs to help poor countries deal with climate change already happening, blah, blah, blah.
Now if this seems just the tiniest bit skeptical to you, read it in light of the recently reported data that global emissions of carbon dioxide reached a record high in 2011 and there is every likelihood 2012 will be another record year. And while you're basking in the pride of new yearly records, consider this outstanding achievement happened at the height of the global economic recession. Just imagine how much higher we might have gone had the world been firing on all cylinders.
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