Well, Golly!

There was much self-congratulatory back slapping going on at the close of the G-8 summit in Japan.

“Three or four years ago, President Bush was saying global warming didn’t exist. So, in relation to that, we have seen quite a lot of movement. But in relation to what’s needed, it’s way, way, off the mark.”

Max Lawson, Oxfam International

Pretty much what happened was this: The leaders present at the summit agreed that, well, golly, the world does seem to be getting a might warm; we should do something about that.

But world leaders aren’t willing or able to convince their populations that we are living in a time of environmental crisis. The United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain Russia and Japan pledged to “move toward a low-carbon society” by cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. No guidelines were set, nothing really definite, just an agreement that global warming is really happening and we should really do something about it.

The thing is, we humans have a really rotten track record when it comes to this type of thing. Since the Kyoto Protocol, which had an objective of “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,” was adopted in 1997, Japan’s, as well as the rest of the world’s, carbon emissions have actually increased.

Even if we, and I mean all of us, working together, are able to curb emissions to the level that this summit envisions, such a small reduction so late in the game will have little effect on the coming crisis. Instead of a 50% reduction by 2050, if we want to avert total ecological disaster, we need to reduce emissions 50% by 2020, and 90% by 2050.

I have little hope that this will happen.

Yvo de Boer, who heads the U.N.-led global negotiations to forge a new climate change treaty, said in an Associated Press telephone interview from his home in the Netherlands: “I don’t find the outcome very significant.” He added that the summit’s vague pledge to work toward slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 mentioned no baseline, did not appear to be legally binding and was open to vastly different interpretations.

We will continue on, as we are, wringing our hands and watching in confoundment as the world changes, as the species die, as the oceans warm and acidify, as human populations starve and civilizations disintegrate. It will happen so fast that it will take our breath away.

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