Climate change talks: What are the goals in Qatar? (+video)
UN talks for a new pact to curb greenhouse emissions and slow climate change are underway in Qatar. Negotiators hope to extend the Kyoto Protocol. The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide has jumped 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report released last week
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But efforts taken so far to rein in emissions, reduce deforestation and promote clean technology are not getting the job done. A recent projection by the World Bank showed temperatures are expected to increase by up to 4 degrees C (7.2 F) by 2100.Skip to next paragraph
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"Climate change is no longer some distant threat for the future, but is with us today," said Greenpeace climate campaigner Martin Kaiser, who was also at the Doha talks. "At the end of a year that has seen the impacts of climate change devastate homes and families around the world, the need for action is obvious and urgent."
Dangerous warming effects could include flooding of coastal cities and island nations, disruptions to agriculture and drinking water, the spread of diseases and the extinction of species.
Many scientists also say that extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy's onslaught on the U.S. East Coast, will become more frequent as the Earth warms, although it is impossible to attribute any individual event to climate change.
The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, is the most important climate agreement reached in the U.N. process so far. It expires this year, so negotiators in Doha will try to extend it as a stopgap measure until a wider deal can be reached.
The problem is that only the European Union and a handful of other countries - that together are behind less than 15 percent of global emissions - are willing to put down emissions targets for a second commitment period of Kyoto.
The U.S. rejected Kyoto because it didn't impose any binding commitments on major developing countries such as India and China, which is now the world's No. 1 carbon emitter. The U.S. and other Western countries insist that the firewall in the climate talks between developing and developed countries must be removed so that the new treaty can apply to all nations.
China and other developing countries want to maintain a clear division, saying climate change is mainly a legacy of Western industrialization and that their own emissions must be allowed to grow as their economies expand, lifting millions of people out of poverty.
That discord scuttled attempts to forge a climate deal in Copenhagen in 2009 and risks a relapse in Doha as talks begin on a new global deal that is supposed to be adopted in 2015 and implemented in 2020.
The rich-poor divide is also deepened by arguments over climate aid meant to help developing countries convert to cleaner energy sources and adapt their infrastructure to rising sea levels and other effects of global warming.
AP Environment Writer Michael Casey contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.