Europe: The failure to tackle climate change

There are doubts about the likely success of the U.N. summit in South Africa, which met this week to craft a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol.

The stakes could not be higher, said Marcel Hänggi in the Zurich Die Wochenzeitung. The planet is warming rapidly. Scientists now believe that unless the world radically curbs emissions of greenhouse gases, the planet’s temperature will rise by 11 degrees Fahrenheit before the end of the century. In just a few decades, “southern Europe could become as inhospitable as the Sahara.” In the long term, the Greenland ice sheet will melt and the sea levels will rise by several meters, swamping millions of people who live in low-lying coastal regions. When the glaciers in the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalayas melt, the water supplies of more than a billion people will be at risk. The world faces “wars over resources, famines, and the total collapse of state structures.”

That’s why it is “absolutely imperative” that the U.N. replace the Kyoto Protocol, said the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung in an editorial. The treaty limiting greenhouse-gas emissions expires next year. But the U.N. summit intended to craft its successor, which opened in Durban, South Africa, this week, already looks like a failure. The 20,000 or so scientists, energy experts, business leaders, advocates, politicians, and bureaucrats are not expected to come up with even a rough draft of a new treaty. And “climate change has already begun,” with devastating effects for millions. Over the past few years, catastrophic floods have hit Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Thailand, and Cambodia. Droughts have parched Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the countries of western Africa. Typhoons have ravaged Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

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