Some Call Copenhagen a Failure, but Maybe It's Just a Beginning

We have learned more about where obstacles to true co-operation, now required between countries that were sometimes at warlike odds in the past, may lie.

For example, we all know now, or at least think we do, that the Chinese are, as in the past centuries, concerned about the outside world prying too much, given how they reportedly objected to the idea of outside monitoring of their promised emissions cuts.

It may be, as some American environmental activist leaders suggest, that the chances of a strong climate bill in the U.S. Senate this spring would have been hampered if Obama had returned home with too specific a global agreement, given how the Senate doesn't much like to be forced to do something, any more than anybody else.

A Stubborn Scientific Fact

A stubborn scientific fact is now helping humanity organize itself -- that wherever the invisible heat-trapping gas CO2 is emitted, it quickly spreads out in the swirling winds around the world everywhere.

Everybody gets hurt by these emissions, so it seems appropriate to many people that everybody gets heard, and De Boer has bent over backwards to keep the climate negotiations as transparent as possible, without trying to force anyone to act.

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink," he had told reporters in a press conference halfway through the two-week summit.

Copenhagen Climate Talks: Stubborn Scientific Fact Helps Humanity Organize

One overlooked but telling sign suggesting that normally overlooked voices are being heard is to be found in the surprisingly upbeat reaction to the non-binding Copenhagen Accord that was given to reporters Saturday morning by Maldive Islands President Mohammed Nasheed.

He and other members of Alliance of Small Island States have presented an inescapable challenge to the conscience at this summit by reminding everyone that the scientists tell them many of their nations -- their worlds -- are due mostly to disappear in the coming decades as sea level rise advances and accelerates due to human induced global warming.

This is due to both the expansion of sea water as it heats up, and to new runoff from massive ice sheets melting faster at both poles.

"One Point Five to Stay Alive!" has been the chant of island-dwelling demonstrators at the approaches to the Bella Center.

An upper limit of a rise of 2 degrees Celsius (above the yearly average global temperature in pre-industrial times, around the year 1800) has been agreed for some time by most nations as a reasonable and "feasible" goal. The same 2.0 degrees Celsius is explicitly agreed on in the Copenhagen Accord.

That 2.0 Celsius above pre-industrial average temperatures of c. 1800 translates to an additional 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the current yearly average.

The Small Island State of Tuvalu declared in the great hall this morning that it could not accept the Accord.

Given all this, the Small Island States have been asking instead for an upper limit of 1.5 Celsius -- not 2.0.

But now at the very end of the new Copenhagen Accord -- in the last phrase of the final Article, Number 12 -- it says there should soon be "consideration of strengthening the long-term goal, referencing various matters by the science, including in relation to temperature rises of 1.5 degrees Celsius."

That's why Nasheed is smiling.

It's not legally binding, it's barely grammatical and not exactly specific, but it's a new beginning, and beginnings are often a little messy.

Perhaps we weren't ready yet.

And given the new global recognition here of the messy and frightening problem, there may now be more people ready to clean it up.

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