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With Copenhagen Summit Approaching, Leading Polluters US and China Undercut Hopes of Substantial Pollution Cuts

Has the UN climate summit in New York just set the stage for disappointment in Copenhagen?

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ANJALI KAMAT: Andrew Revkin from the New York Times , I want to bring you back into the conversation. Can you talk about also why is Copenhagen so important?

ANDREW REVKIN: Well, if I could briefly just resonate on this point on the blog lately, I've moved, over twenty years, from covering just the pure science -- you know, how much CO2 gives you how much warming, all that stuff -- to what causes change or not. And there's been this phrase that's repeated. It's on the blog right now, my piece out of the summit. It's called "blah, blah, blah, bang." We have this tendency in human nature, with a looming, slow-drip problem like global warming, even in the face of these incremental changes, most of which are in places we don't pay a lot of attention to, while we're insulated ourselves, to let things slide until we get hammered. And the hammer has not fallen yet in any way that has been that kind of wake-up call.

Robert Brulle, who's this sociologist, on the blog, sort of deconstructing us, shrinking us, you know, he says we're really -- and he points to the activist community, too, and said, you know, this isn't just about lobbying within the Beltway. If you don't have this kind of social awakening, in the absence of the big slam from nature, we're not really going to do stuff. And so, what I've said, I asked on the blog again, are we still in this "blah, blah, blah, bang" kind of situation? Can we grow out of that? And it's not clear yet.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Copenhagen having no carbon emissions standards, no requirements, no -- that it's all dropped, the mandates?

ANDREW REVKIN: Well, India -- the reality is, it was really articulated, interestingly enough, by the Bush administration, that, you know, what we've got to deal with here is an incredibly variegated set of nearly 200 countries, with these entrenched blocs -- the have-nots, the haves, the have-too-muches, the getting-enough folks -- and you're never going to have an agreement.

In fact, this has been articulated very clearly lately by Tim Wirth of the UN Foundation and others, that in Copenhagen, the most likely scenario is for sort of a package of fairly modest agreements on specific things like forests or technology sharing, but the big, heavy lift of having a global cap and sort of a Kyoto-style system after --

AMY GOODMAN: Because Kyoto is expiring.

ANDREW REVKIN: Kyoto is expiring, and the next thing won't be like Kyoto. It'll be something different. That seems to be what everyone is forecasting, meaning not a mandatory ceiling for the globe under which everybody plays nice and trades, and people make money and cut emissions. It's not going to -- the chances of that coming out within even a few years beyond Kyoto are mixed.

ANJALI KAMAT: And where does that leave the billions of climate refugees?

ANDREW REVKIN: Well, one of the issues that there's some hope for an actual concrete commitment in Copenhagen is for actual money to flow to countries with climate vulnerability. It's, as you see, Africa -- the African Union, Ethiopia, they said they're going to walk out if there isn't sign of that. And if you look back at -- for twenty years, I've been covering this since the '80s, the first climate treaty in 1992, there were commitments to give poor countries adaptation money. And it never happened in any meaningful way. So if that doesn't happen -- that's a starting point, I think -- for that will likely come.

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