I was in Seattle last week for a very productive meeting to set goals for global marine habitat protection by 2015. It was one of those meetings that started out frustrating and looked hopeless, but was rescued by some very smart people making very tough decisions and sticking to them. By the end of the meeting, we felt like we had really accomplished something and actually succeeded in our goal.
Of course, we scheduled another meeting, but that wasn't the only outcome. From what I gather, a similarly productive time was not had in Montreal. To learn that the biggest outcome of the Climate Conference is another series of meetings to "engage in talks aimed at producing a new set of binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions that would take effect beginning in 2012," as The Washington Post reported Sunday, is pretty depressing.
Admittedly, I was unable to pay much attention to the conference after the first week -- and now I'm on jury duty, so I have limited time to assess the full range of outcomes -- but what I saw via the web casts that first week was a lot of men in dark suits spouting a lot of hot air.
One encouraging bit of news is the growing sentiment, expressed by Britain's environment secretary and also reported in the Post that "the debate is changing on the costs and benefits of climate change...There is growing recognition of the costs of not taking action and of the opportunities that come with taking action itself."
In other encouraging news, China and India have pledged to pursue voluntary emissions reductions, according to the "non-binding agreement" reached late Saturday. But Kyoto is dead, I suspect, and we should just let it go. It's now become such an emotional flint that I fear it will always get in the way of constructive dialogue. Am I wrong in this assumption?
Montreal may be a tipping point, as some attendees suggest, but what concerns me is tipping toward what? Are we just tilting at windmills that are catching more hot air?