What happened
Representatives of 190 nations launched talks in Bali on Monday aiming to build on a “fragile understanding” and come up with a new treaty on fighting global warming by 2009. The United Nations’ top climate-change official said quick action could help reduce the threat of droughts, heatwaves, and rising seas. (Reuters in Yahoo! News)

What the commentators said
The science is clear, said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in The Washington Post (free registration). “Global warming is real, and we are the prime cause.” A third of the planet’s species could be wiped out by rising seas as the polar ice cap melts, but the “good news” is that “we can do something—more easily, and at less cost than most imagine.”

Don’t expect the Bali conference to quicken the “glacial pace” of politicians in fighting global warming, said the London Guardian in an editorial. The aim of the meeting is to come up with a successor of the 1997 Kyoto protocol, but face it: “There will be no transforming Bali protocol at the end of it, no sudden conversion of the United States to deep cuts in its own emissions and no binding agreement to cap pollution from rapidly growing economies such as China and India.”

China, India, and other developing countries were “exempted from making any commitments to reduce emissions under Kyoto,” said The New York Times in an editorial. With their industrial output booming, they “have to be part of the equation” now. “But it will be much easier to get China, India and others to adopt aggressive policies if the United States is also on board.”

The important thing is to stay flexible, said Ross McKitrick in The Christian Science Monitor. The science on global warming is constantly changing. Some scientists suspect that the sun’s magnetic field—not greenhouse gases—may be causing warming. So, in the wake of Kyoto’s failure, any tax on carbon emissions should only be allowed to rise if greenhouse gases are found to cause warming, and only in accordance with an actual rise in temperature.