As the global climate talks in Copenhagen reach a climax, there is a chorus of agreement from world leaders on the gravity of the global warming crisis, but a tangle of disagreement on how best to iron out an agreement .
The talks continued as President Obama headed to Denmark to address the summit Friday, the last day of the gathering.
Take, for example, the tensions at play when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- with negotiations stalled -- announced the U.S. would, after all, join an international relief fund aimed at providing $100 billion a year by the year 2020 to help the poorest and most vulnerable nations deal with the advancing impacts of global warming.
"We have now reached a critical juncture in these negotiations," Clinton declared forthrightly to an enormous hall here packed with journalists from around the world. "The United States is prepared to work with other countries toward a goal of jointly mobilizing $100 billion a year to address the climate change needs of developing countries."
But there was a condition -- part of a major sticking point that has spurred constant reports in the last days of this climate summit that there might be no agreement.
The U.S. would join in the fund, said Clinton, only if the global agreement included transparency in verifying every country's promised emissions cuts.
It was a clear reference to China, reported for days to be refusing to allow outside monitoring. One the other hand, there is the near total agreement on the gravity or the emergency at hand. It is a kind of agreement never seen before.
Agreement on Gravity of the Climate Crisis
One after another, 130 heads of state and government, arriving in the final days of this summit, have taken the podium, each describing the same thing: a planet already degrading quickly under rapidly rising heat:
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared, "Nobody can honestly deny that without common action, rising sea levels can wipe whole nations from the map." Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, sober and dignified, said, "We face the nightmare of humanity becoming the species that dies out just as a parasite does as it devours its host."
"We cannot let down the world," he said, "we cannot let down our children. We are here, and we are responsible for the future of this world."
Global Climate Agreement at 'Critical Juncture'
The litany of presidents and prime ministers giving their various views -- all describing the same sorts of attacks on Earth's life support system -- continued through the day and into the night.
Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd asserted that "Climate change is no respecter of persons, it is no respecter of cultures, it is no respecter of nations, its consequences are vast."
Then he offered specific depredations already underway in different regions of the world. "Whether it is the washing away of villages in Tuvalu ... whether it is the 30 million people of the most vulnerable in the world in low lying areas of Bangladesh... the melting of the glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau... whether it is the Chinese peasants dealing with unprecedented drought in the North China Plain, or the destructions of arable farmland in sub-Saharan Africa -- or in our own country, the destruction of one of the wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef."
Different Variations of the Same Global Threat
Each head of state or government has his or her own way of telling their fellow world leaders that they get it -- that they all now have the same view, that the scientists have been borne out, and that the clock has run out, that agreement on a common global battle has to come now, and that the children would condemn us all if the agreement fails.
For weeks, observers have said it unlikely Obama, who arrives here Friday, and 130 other world leaders would all agree to travel to this summit without strong assurance of a deal.
As the on-again-off-again negotiations lurched into the night, many of the negotiators were found in side rooms scattered around this immense convention center -- which is now coated with a layer of new fallen snow.
News also filtered to journalists working late of high-level, but private, dinners in different precincts of Denmark's capital city.
Many negotiators, working on details of wording for some sort of global political agreement, expected they might get little -- or no -- sleep before Obama arrives.
World leaders have long called for America to take the lead against global warming -- and have taken heart from Obama's insistence, from the moment he took office, on giving it highest priority.
But at the last hour, despite so much agreement on the severity of global warming, it's still not clear what kind of a deal would be ready for him to sign.