Robert Manne writes: Twenty five years ago, scientists with an interest in the climate were moving towards a consensual understanding, that primarily through the burning of fossil fuels human beings were responsible for potentially catastrophic global warming. At present, at least 97% of climate scientists have reached that conclusion.
Through voluntary international cooperation, the Montreal Protocol of 1992 went a long way to solving the problem of the hole in the ozone layer. Using it as their model for the solution to the even more daunting problem of global warming, in 1997 most nations of the earth signed the Kyoto Protocol. It was eventually ratified by almost all advanced economies being asked to commit to greenhouse gas emission targets.
The one exception was the United States. And yet, since Kyoto, greenhouse gas emissions have risen very steeply. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution — is now 400 parts per million. The conference which was supposed to find a replacement for Kyoto — Copenhagen in 2009 — was a comprehensive failure. There is at present no reason to suppose that the next major international conference on which hopes now rest — Paris in 2015 — will succeed.
Virtually no one any longer believes that temperature will be able to be contained to the internationally recognised tipping point of two degrees Celsius above temperature levels at the time of the industrial revolution. Many climate scientists fear a temperature rise of four or five degrees Celsius by century’s end.
We know that if we continue to use fossil fuels as our primary energy source, the conditions of life on the earth for our own species and for others will be damaged perhaps beyond repair. And yet, eyes wide shut the nations of the earth are doing very little to avert the impending, entirely foreseeable catastrophe. [Continue reading…]