Monday, November 30, 2009

On to Copenhagen

On December 7th, 192 nations will convene in Copenhagen, Denmark as the culmination of a process that officially began in 1992. The meeting name “COP 15” is shorthand for the 15th meeting of the ”Conference of Parties” to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The agreement was ratified by 192 nations. The U.S. took the lead by being the first industrialized country to ratify a treaty on climate change when Pres. George H.W. Bush signed the agreement on October 13, 1992.

At the time, there was wide agreement that multiple threats posed by changing climatic conditions could truly only be addressed by international cooperation with developed countries taking the lead. As described by the UN: “The Convention on Climate Change sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. It recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 as an attempt to implementing meaningful restrictions on the most obvious industrial drivers of a changing climate, greenhouse gases such as CO2 and methane. While the 1992 UNFCCC encouraged party nations to stabilize or reduce greenhouse gas emissions, countries signing onto the Kyoto Protocol committed to making these changes. While the U.S. in 1992 was the first industrialized nation to ratify the UNFCCC, it was the only major industrialized nation never to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the many shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol, it was widely seen as only an interim agreement with the culmination of this long-negotiation process to come in the 2009 Copenhagen meetings. Yet, on the verge of Copenhagen there is a dissonance between the insistent warnings of climate scientists about the dangers of climate change and the intransigence of critical nations such as the U.S., China and India to agree on any meaningful means to address these problems.

As representatives of the Association of American Geographers, we will have the opportunity to sit in on the deliberations over the next few weeks in Copenhagen. It is our intent not only to report back what we see and hear but also to discuss some of the science and policy issues being debated at these meetings and how they might affect the U.S., our home institutions, and research in Geography. It is our sincere hope that this site initiates productive and civil conversation and debate and in that spirit, we look forward to your comments and thoughts on our posts. Whatever results from the Copenhagen meetings, in the end it is sure to influence environmental politics, management and the ways in which we all perceive and interact with the world around us.


  1. Great. Hope "climate gate" doesn't overshadow this.

  2. Thanks for the updates. Reallty appreciated here.

  3. Looking forward to the reports on this..

  4. Hi Mark and Mike, enjoy over there and thanks for keeping us posted. I look forward to hearing what you are hearing about developing countries' adaptation strategies, and what they are using for generating models. Is MAGICC/SCENGEN widely used, or what else can I recommend to colleagues in Vietnam? Also please let me know about anything you hear related to climate change in Vietnam, and pass on any recommended contact email. Thanks, take care. Joe


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