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Are U.N. Global-Warming Talks Futile? Are U.N. Global-Warming Talks Futile? Are U.N. Global-Warming Talks Futile? Are U.N. Global-Warming T...

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Energy Insiders

Are U.N. Global-Warming Talks Futile?

A German coal-fired power plant. (PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Amy Harder
November 18, 2013

And if they are, what does that mean for efforts to tackle global warming?

The United Nations' big annual confab on climate change is going into its second—and traditionally high-profile and high-stakes—half in Warsaw, Poland, this week. But hopes of finding agreement on how developed nations and developing countries alike can reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions are close to nil.

In fact, ever since 2009—the year President Obama flew to Denmark and made a last-ditch effort to forge a deal—these U.N.-sponsored summits have been waning in both their relevance and their ability to get much done, especially from the perspective of U.S. policymakers.

 

Nearly all scientists agree that humans' burning of oil, natural gas, and coal is causing the Earth to warm, and they predict rising sea levels and a host of other potentially catastrophic repercussions from decades' of fossil-fuel generation. The consensus is clear among scientists and negotiators that the planet should rein in its carbon emissions, but little agreement can be found on how, exactly, to do that, and who should face most of the responsibility for doing so.

Is it time to abandon efforts to tackle global warming from the top down where major conferences convene most of the world's biggest carbon emitters? Instead, should negotiators try a bottom-up approach where each country tackles the issue in different ways?

How do Obama's recent actions pulling back U.S. support for overseas coal plants and EPA's climate-change regulations change the prospect of these international negotiations, if at all?

From the Energy Insiders

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