Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bali is worse than Kyoto

“After 11 days of negotiations, governments have come up with a compromise deal that could even lead to emission increases. The highly compromised political deal is largely attributable to the position of the United States, which was heavily influenced by fossil fuel and automobile industry interests. The failure to reach agreement led to the talks spilling over into an all-night session.”

These are extracts from a press release by Friends of the Earth. So what? Well it was published on December 11 - I mean to say, December 11 1997. The US had just put a wrecking ball through the Kyoto protocol. George Bush was innocent; he was busy executing prisoners in Texas. Its climate negotiators were led by Albert Arnold Gore.

The European Union had asked for greenhouse gas cuts of 15% by 2010. Gore’s team drove them down to 5.2% by 2012. Then the Americans did something worse: they destroyed the whole agreement.
Most of the other governments insisted that the cuts be made at home. But Gore demanded a series of loopholes big enough to drive a Hummer through. The rich nations, he said, should be allowed to buy their cuts from other countries. When he won, the protocol created an exuberant global market in fake emissions cuts. The western nations could buy “hot air” from the former Soviet Union. Because the cuts were made against emissions in 1990, and because industry in that bloc had subsequently collapsed, the former Soviet Union countries would pass well below the bar. Gore’s scam allowed them to sell the gases they weren’t producing to other nations. He also insisted that rich nations could buy nominal cuts from poor ones. Entrepreneurs in India and China have made billions by building factories whose primary purpose is to produce greenhouse gases, so that carbon traders in the rich world will pay to clean them up.

The result of this sabotage is that the market for low-carbon technologies has remained moribund. Without an assured high value for carbon cuts, without any certainty that government policies will be sustained, companies have continued to invest in the safe commercial prospects offered by fossil fuels rather than gamble on a market without an obvious floor.

By ensuring that the rich nations would not make real cuts, Gore also guaranteed that the poor ones scoffed when we asked them to do as we don’t. When George Bush announced, in 2001, that he would not ratify the Kyoto protocol, the world cursed and stamped its foot. But his intransigence affected only the US. Gore’s team ruined it for everyone.

The destructive power of the American delegation is not the only thing that hasn’t changed. After the Kyoto protocol was agreed, the then British environment secretary, John Prescott, announced: “This is a truly historic deal which will help curb the problems of climate change. For the first time it commits developed countries to make legally binding cuts in their emissions.” Ten years later, the current environment secretary, Hilary Benn, told us that “this is an historic breakthrough and a huge step forward. For the first time ever, all the world’s nations have agreed to negotiate on a deal to tackle dangerous climate change.” Do these people have a chip inserted?

In both cases, the US demanded terms that appeared impossible for the other nations to accept. Before Kyoto, the other negotiators flatly rejected Gore’s proposals for emissions trading. So his team threatened to sink the talks. The other nations capitulated, but the US still held out on technicalities until the very last moment, when it suddenly appeared to concede. In 1997 and in 2007 it got the best of both worlds: it wrecked the treaty and was praised for saving it.

Hilary Benn is an idiot. Our diplomats are suckers. American negotiators have pulled the same trick twice, and for the second time our governments have fallen for it.

There are still two years to go, but so far the new agreement is even worse than the Kyoto protocol. It contains no targets and no dates. A new set of guidelines also agreed at Bali extend and strengthen the worst of Gore’s trading scams, the clean development mechanism. Benn and the other dupes are cheering and waving their hats as the train leaves the station at last, having failed to notice that it is travelling in the wrong direction.

Although Gore does a better job of governing now he is out of office, he was no George Bush. He wanted a strong, binding and meaningful protocol, but American politics had made it impossible. In July 1997, the Senate had voted 95-0 to sink any treaty which failed to treat developing countries in the same way as it treated the rich ones. Though they knew this was impossible for developing countries to accept, all the Democrats lined up with all the Republicans. The Clinton administration had proposed a compromise: instead of binding commitments for the developing nations, Gore would demand emissions trading. But even when he succeeded, he announced that “we will not submit this agreement for ratification [in the Senate] until key developing nations participate”. Clinton could thus avoid an unwinnable war.

So why, regardless of the character of its leaders, does the US act this way? Because, like several other modern democracies, it is subject to two great corrupting forces. I have written before about the role of the corporate media - particularly in the US - in downplaying the threat of climate change and demonising anyone who tries to address it. I won’t bore you with it again, except to remark that at 3pm eastern standard time on Saturday, there were 20 news items on the front page of the Fox News website. The climate deal came 20th, after “Bikini-wearing stewardesses sell calendar for charity” and “Florida store sells ‘Santa Hates You’ T-shirt”.

Let us consider instead the other great source of corruption: campaign finance. The Senate rejects effective action on climate change because its members are bought and bound by the companies that stand to lose. When you study the tables showing who gives what to whom, you are struck by two things.

One is the quantity. Since 1990, the energy and natural resources sector - mostly coal, oil, gas, logging and agribusiness - has given $418m to federal politicians in the US. Transport companies have given $355m. The other is the width: the undiscriminating nature of this munificence. The big polluters favour the Republicans, but most of them also fund Democrats. During the 2000 presidential campaign, oil and gas companies lavished money on Bush, but they also gave Gore $142,000, while transport companies gave him $347,000. The whole US political system is in hock to people who put their profits ahead of the biosphere.

So don’t believe all this nonsense about waiting for the next president to sort it out. This is a much bigger problem than George Bush. Yes, he is viscerally opposed to tackling climate change. But viscera don’t have much to do with it. Until the American people confront their political funding system, their politicians will keep speaking from the pocket, not the gut

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Climate Racism

The Bali Climate Change Conference has ended in a FARCE due to the US veto of greenhouse gas emission targets for developed countries. The Bush US position - in clear opposition to the IPCC, the world's scientists, Green groups, Developing nations and the EU - was backed by climate criminal, climate racist, climate terrorist neo-Bush-ite Rudd Australia, Bush-ite Harper Canada and other climate criminal US allies such as Bush-ite Japan and US satrap and carbon dioxide (CO2) polluter extraordinaire Saudi Arabia .

Before analysing this further, we should define some TERMS that must surely become part of the global lexicon for the FEW DECADES LEFT of the World as we know it.

“Climate change” refers to the warming of the planet due to anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas pollution. As summarized by the 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment report (for a Summary of the Summary of the IPCC Synthesis Report see: ) the world is on track for an IPCC “worst case scenario” Category VI scenario (and current global Greenhouse gas, GHG, pollution EXCEEDS that specified in this worst-case scenario) involving stabilization at 660-790 ppm CO2 (twice today’s level of 379 ppm) , 4.9-6.1 degrees centigrade temperature rise above the pre-industrial (4-5 degrees above today’s) and 1.0-3.7 metres sea level above pre-industrial sea level or about 0.8-3.5 metres above today’s).

“Climate stress” refers to the biological consequences reality that the world has already warmed about 1 degree Centigrade above the pre-industrial average but with some areas being markedly hotter than this already (the Indian Ocean has warmed about 2 degrees centigrade on average in the last 40 years). Climate stress is manifested in relation to human societies and with animals and plants in ecosystems around the world (e.g. changes to polar bear habitats, coral bleaching, polar drift of vegetation, pole-ward drift of phytoplankton, susceptibility to mega-fires, drought etc).

“Climate racism” refers to the extraordinary, “might is right”, entrenched disparity in “per capita greenhouse gas pollution” between the “colonial” Anglo-Celtic countries of the US, Canada and Australia and the countries of the developing world (for a very detailed analysis see the US EnergyInformationAdministration,USEIA: ). Thus in 2004 “annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution” in tonnes CO2/person was 19.2 (for Australia; 40 if you include Australia’s coal exports), 19.7 (the US), 18.4 (Canada), 4.2 (the World), 3.6 (China), 1.0 ( India) and 0.25 (for Bangladesh) (see “War on Terra, Climate Criminals”: ).

The worst offenders (the US, Canada and Australia) successfully blocked Scientist and EU demands at Bali for definite “25-40% reductions by 2020” targets and argued for constraints on developing countries. The de facto position of these climate racist countries is that they somehow have a “right” to pollute with annual per capita CO2 pollution up to 160 times that of Third world countries such as Bangladesh but that developing countries must be constrained.

“Climate terrorism” refers to “might is right” imposition of deadly consequences on the weak by powerful “state terrorist” countries such as Australia, Canada and the US in ruthless prosecution of the selfish, political and economic interests of a tiny minority of their nationals. Already 16 million people due avoidably each year on Spaceship Earth (10 million being infants) (see “Body Count. Global avoidable mortality since 1950” , G.M. Polya, Melbourne, 2007: and with the world’s #1 state terrorist, Bush America, in charge of the flight deck. Several billion people already suffer malnourishment and US-driven global warming will exacerbate this situation and contribute the deaths of hundreds of millions this century.

“Climate genocide” refers to the horrendous consequences of the ongoing “climate stress”, “climate racism”, “climate criminality” and “climate terrorism”- estimated at hundreds of millions of excess (avoidable) deaths this century. Thus just read the views of Professor David King, Chief Scientific Adviser of the UK, published in 2004 in the prestigious US scientific journal Science(Science 9 January 2004:Vol. 303. no. 5655, pp. 176 – 177; see “Climate change Science: adapt, mitigate or ignore”:

“Climate criminal” refers to those who act to increase global warming (“climate change”) in greedy and immoral self-interest in disregard of the health and lives of others, whether at an international or national level. Of course this is an international criminality because everyone on the planet shares the same finite atmosphere.

“Terracide” refers to killing of the living systems of the Planet Earth, Terra. (for an artistic attempt to address this see my HUGE paintings “Terra”: and “Apocalypse Now”: ).

The US and its climate racist, climate terrorist, climate criminal allies Australia and Canada are seriously threatening the World with man-made climate change and the most vulnerable countries are those of the Developing World, and in particular mega-delta Developing countries such as Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Burma, Nigeria, Egypt, India and Pakistan (see: “Climate Criminals & Climate genocide. Anglo-Celtia threatens final Bengal Holocaust”: ).

Data from the US Energy Information Administration (see: ) shows that domestic fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution by climate racist, climate criminal, climate terrorist Australia, US and Canada has CLIMBED at a roughly constant rate in the quarter century period 1984-2007 – despite the pleas of scientists and 4 (FOUR) successive and increasingly pessimistic Assessment Reports by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (1PCC) in the period 1990-2007 (see: ).
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (see: ) shows that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is roughly linear with time at a constant rate of increase of 2.5 ppm per year. This is already having an impact on ecosystems and human societies around the world – including climate criminal countries the US, Canada and Australia. Thus, as shown by Hurricane Katrina, deltaic Louisiana – like deltaic Bangladesh - is acutely susceptible to the global warming consequences of hurricanes and storm surges. Canada is experiencing worsening vegetation, snow cover and other ecosystem changes.

Climate criminal Australia is also “fouling its own nest”. An important study published in December 2007 in the prestigious US scientific journal Science – the top world scientific journal – says that coral reefs cannot survive in the warmer and more acid ocean conditions obtaining at too high atmospheric CO2 concentrations. At concentrations of greater 450 ppm coral reefs are seriously ill and at greater than 500 ppm they are doomed (see: ). The key tipping point for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef will come at 450 ppm CO2 – on present trends in only 27 years’ time (in 2034). Yet the greedy, irresponsible US lackey and climate racist Murdochracy Rudd Australia is still proceeding "business as usual" in relation to its world #1 coal exports and its world #1 developed country per capita greenhouse gas pollution (see "Australian Labor Victorious - but not green enough": and “Climate criminal Australia and climate genocide”: ).
Bali has clearly demonstrated that the world's top developed country “annual per capita CO2 polluters” – Australia, the US and Canada - will simply NOT act now, just as they have failed to act for a quarter of a century. There has been NO RESPONSE YET, in terms of actual CO2 pollution mitigation by these climate criminal countries, to the mounting crisis over the last quarter of a century - examination of the data provided by the US EIA shows their CO2 pollution STILL rising inexorably .

At the Bali Conference these same climate criminal, climate racist, climate terrorist Anglo countries that refuse to limit THEIR CO2 pollution nevertheless wanted to impose targets on developing countries with VASTLY LOWER annual per capita fossil fuel-derived CO2 pollution e.g. (2004 figures) China (5 times lower), India (20 times lower) and Bangladesh (80 times lower) (see “War on Terra, Climate Criminals. “Terra painting”: ).

The politicians have FAILED at Bali. Bali was a FARCE. The World at Bali failed to take the advice of the US, the world’s #1 terrorist state, specifically “do not negotiate with terrorists”. But what can countries outside the Bush Climate Criminal Club DO? What can decent citizens of Bush US, Bush-ite Canada and neo-Bush-ite Australia DO to save the Planet?

The tragedy of what is happening is that the science, technology and economics all say that we CAN ACT NOW and, furthermore, we can make a PROFIT out of acting now (see: and ). Indeed recent advances in solar energy are set to dramatically lower the cost of photovoltaic (PV)-based electricity generation, enabling Man to very cheaply tap into the solar energy hitting the earth each day that is TEN THOUSAND TIMES MORE than we need (see ”Solar energy and the end of war”: ).

The WORLD must URGENTLY ACT NOW by applying Sanctions, Boycotts, Green Tariffs and Reparations Demands against the chief climate racist, climate criminal, climate terrorist, climate genocidal countries Australia, US, and Canada that are acutely threatening the world with ecosystem collapse, climate genocide and indeed an all-encompassing Terracide.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bali Climate Change Conference ends without much hope

The UN-sponsored climate change conference held on the Indonesian island of Bali ended on the weekend without any agreement on combatting global warming other than vague generalities. A last-minute, face-saving communiqué was issued but, at the insistence of the Bush administration and its allies, it made no mention of specific carbon emission reduction targets. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had recommended a cut in carbon emissions of 25 to 40 percent in the advanced industrial countries by 2020 and a total world emissions reduction of 50 percent by 2050.

More than 10,000 delegates, lobbyists, scientists and bureaucrats from 180 countries participated in the Bali conference. The event was the first of a series of international summits scheduled over the next two years, which are to determine a successor agreement to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol due to expire in 2012. All of those present paid lip service to the need for concerted action to avert a global environmental calamity, but each national delegation was primarily concerned to defend its own narrow economic interests.

Deep divisions between the major powers dominated the conference. The European powers, together with China, India and other emerging industrial countries, pressed for the inclusion of a reference to the IPCC emission targets in the final statement. The Bush administration—which never ratified Kyoto and has adamantly refused to agree to binding carbon cuts—led a bloc of countries including Japan, Canada, and Australia, which rejected this and also demanded that so-called developing countries be issued emission targets. (These countries are currently exempt under Kyoto.)

In the end, the Bali statement attempted to fudge all the disputed issues. After acknowledging that evidence of climate change was “unequivocal” and that “deep cuts in global emissions will be required”, conference delegates endorsed “quantified emission limitation and reduction objectives” for developed countries without specifying any targets. The question of whether undeveloped economies would be assigned emissions targets was similarly left unanswered. Delegates agreed that “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” should be developed for China, India, Brazil and the other emerging industrial countries, “supported by technology and enabled by financing and capacity-building”. Exactly what will be done—particularly relating to the transfer of technology and finance from the advanced capitalist countries—remains unclear and is subject to further negotiation between the participating countries.

Even this very limited statement was in doubt. The conference was supposed to finish on Friday, but in the absence of an agreement, the reportedly acrimonious talks continued well into the weekend. Only after all reference to specific emissions targets was dropped did Washington sign on. Even at the last minute, US delegates threatened to halt everything because they were dissatisfied with a minor amendment included by India regarding the transfer of “green” technologies to developing countries. Other delegates loudly booed the American team, which then withdrew its opposition to the amendment in the face of this hostility.

Sections of the US and international media presented the decision as a significant shift and even a “u-turn” on Washington’s part. Several members of the European delegation claimed the final communiqué was a victory on the grounds that the Bush administration signed on to the “road map” that would lead to a new agreement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Shortly after the end of the conference, the White House released a statement that reiterated Bush’s long standing positions and made clear that the Bali statement changed nothing.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had earlier issued clear cut warnings of the grave and immediate threat posed by global warming. More than 200 climate scientists involved in the IPCC research issued an open letter to the Bali delegates pleading for urgent action. “The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now far exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years, and it is rising very quickly due to human activity,” the letter explained. “If this trend is not halted soon, many millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms, our coasts will be threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction.”

Washington has again drawn international condemnation for its position on climate change. Ever since coming to office, the Bush administration has sought to protect the interests of its close allies in the US oil industry by playing down the scientific evidence for climate change and refusing to ratify the Kyoto protocol. American intransigence has allowed the European powers to posture as serious advocates for the world’s environment. However, the stance of Europeans is driven just as much by short-term economic self-interest.

The EU based its preferred targets on the IPCC report, which itself is outdated, relying on an assessment of scientific studies published only up to mid-2006. Additional evidence released in recent months indicates that climate change is far more advanced than was previously realised and requires far greater emissions cuts. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than even the worst-case IPCC scenarios forecast. While carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.1 percent a year from 1990-1999, they grew by more than 3 percent from 2000 to 2004. This enormous increase, which testifies to the failure of the Kyoto Protocol to address the climate change crisis, threatens to trigger irreversible climate change “multipliers”.

One of these potential multipliers is the melting of the Arctic ice cap, which is proceeding far more rapidly than the IPCC realised. Scientists this week warned that Arctic ice could completely melt during summer as soon as 2013. Recent studies have established that the melting of the polar ice caps is not a gradual, linear process but instead flips from one state to another as temperature increases lead to a qualitative transformation in the structure of polar ice sheets. Scientists from NASA, Colombia University and the University of California published a paper in May showing that when temperatures rose to 2-3 degrees Celsius above today’s level, 3.5 million years ago, sea levels rose by 25 metres. The study concluded by warning that the Earth was in “imminent peril” and stated that without major emissions cuts, “devastating sea-level rise will inevitably occur”. This process, should it ever occur, will only compound the problem of global warming. An absence of polar ice means that heat previously reflected back into space will be absorbed by the world’s earth and oceans, leading to a cycle of further heat absorption and warming.

The precise level of emission cuts required to prevent dangerous global warming is not known. One scientific study published this year in the Geophysical Research Letters journal concluded that even with a 90 percent cut in global emissions by 2050, the generally agreed threshold of tolerable global warming—a 2 degree Celsius rise above pre-industrial level—would eventually be broken. Some scientists have warned that what is required is nothing less than the immediate transition to a “decarbonised” world economy.

None of the major delegations to the Bali conference raised this possibility. That the European powers stuck with the outdated emission reduction recommendations points to the fact that their position was not driven by genuine concern for the environment. Their real agenda is that of securing the long-term future of the $US30 billion Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and maintaining Europe’s domination of the world carbon commodity trade.

A joint communiqué issued by more than 150 mostly British and European companies before the Bali conference underscored the enormous economic interests at stake. The statement—signed by executives of companies including Shell, Allianz, HSBC Bank, KPMG, British Airways and Lloyds Bank—demanded the establishment of emission reduction targets, including a 50 percent cut by 2050. The “shift to a low-carbon economy will create significant business opportunities,” the corporate chiefs declared. “New markets for low carbon technologies and products, worth billions of dollars, will be created if the world acts on the scale required ... we believe that tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy.”

The European ETS has emerged as the most lucrative of all the so-called free market mechanisms developed through the Kyoto Protocol. The ETS has done nothing to significantly reduce emissions in Europe, but it has spawned an enormous international market in carbon investment and speculation. Carbon trading involves businesses being allocated emissions “credits” which can be sold to other corporate polluters if their carbon output falls under their allotted “cap”. All the world’s leading banks and financial institutions are now involved in various forms of carbon investment and speculation.

“More than $US60 billion changed hands in the global carbon market this year, double the trade of last year and up from just $US400 million three years ago,” an article in last Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald titled “Bali’s Business Bonanza” explained. “Analysts estimate the market could be worth $US1 trillion within the next 10 years. By 2030, according to some carbon bulls, it may even be the biggest commodity market in the world, overtaking crude oil.”
The carbon market has rapidly developed into a vast international racket, with an array of subsidiary corporate industries and services. Their representatives played a prominent role in the Bali discussions. The largest single lobby group at the conference was the International Emissions Trading Association, which constituted 7.5 percent of the nearly 4,500 registered non-governmental organisation delegates. More than twice as many carbon trading operatives were present than representatives for the World Wide Fund for Nature and Greenpeace combined.

The carbon trading industry received a major boost through the Bali conference, primarily due to the efforts of the EU delegation. In one of the few concrete measures agreed at the meeting, deforestation will now be tied to the European ETS. A new scheme known as “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” (REDD) will allow Europe’s corporate polluters to maintain existing operations, even if they emit more than their allotted cap, provided that they buy additional carbon credits through schemes to supposedly prevent deforestation in undeveloped countries. The plan, which is modelled on the corruption-riddled Clean Development Mechanism, will almost certainly fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or halt deforestation. It will, however, generate further profits for the international carbon market. Analysts estimate that carbon credits worth $US10 billion a year could be generated through the REDD scheme in Indonesia alone.

The European powers expect that the enormous profits on offer will lead to a significant shift in the US after Bush leaves office. A similar process in Australia culminated in the Labor government’s ratification of Kyoto. Just as Australian big business repudiated the Howard government’s intransigent stance, so powerful sections of corporate America have concluded that Bush has favoured the fossil fuel industry at the expense of their broader interests. Earlier this year the US Climate Action Partnership—comprised of major corporations including Alcoa, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Dow Chemical, General Electric, and Rio Tinto—issued a “call to action” to the US president and congress, demanding the establishment of a national carbon trading market based on clear emission targets. The three leading Democratic presidential candidates—Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama—have all pledged to set up a US carbon-trading scheme, as has Republican challenger John McCain. Other Republicans are yet to make their position clear.

None of the piecemeal and pro-market schemes advanced by the major capitalist powers can resolve the climate change crisis. The entire framework within which the Kyoto and post-Kyoto negotiations have proceeded testifies to the anarchic and anachronistic character of the capitalist system. While the present epoch is marked by the ever-closer integration of the world economy, official discussion on potential solutions to climate change remains posed in terms of national emissions targets.

This has inevitably led to absurdities. If, for example, an American transnational corporation is emitting copious greenhouse gases in a factory located in Mexico, which country is credited with the emissions? Under Kyoto the answer is Mexico. Or if Australian mining companies export enormous supplies of coal, a fossil fuel, to China for electricity generation, which country is held responsible for the resulting carbon combustion? Under Kyoto—China. And what about the emissions generated by international travel? Should ships and planes transporting people and goods add to the tally of national emissions for the country of departure or of origin? Under Kyoto, these emissions are classed as “orphan emissions” and not attributed to any country.

To achieve the reduction in required global carbon emissions, nothing less than the complete reorganisation of the world economy is necessary. An internationally coordinated economic plan is needed involving the complete restructuring of the world’s industrial and agricultural sectors, as well as the reorganisation of energy generation, transportation, and urban planning. As the outcome of the Bali conference again demonstrated, this is impossible under the present capitalist order in which the priority is the short-term profits of the corporate elite at the expense of the social needs of the majority and the long-term viability of the planet as a whole.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Climate Change Conference at Bali

The United Nations Conference on Climate Change under way since Dec. 3 on the tropical Indonesian island of Bali has oscillated between optimism and quiet reserve.

The 12-day event is a thermometer of the success or failure of a strategic anti-global warming treaty that should emerge in two years. But the forecast is confidential.

The four issues at the core of the talks are the mitigation of climate change, adaptation to the changes caused by rising temperatures, technology transfer from the rich countries to poor, and incentives to fight against deforestation.

But other problems, which are not on the main agenda, are simmering on the sidelines of the Bali meet, and many of the planet's inhabitants are suffering those problems firsthand.

There are 25 million "climate refugees" in the world who are not recognised by an international law that only protects those who are fleeing war or political, religious or ethnic persecution, according to Bodil Ceballos, parliamentarian from Sweden's Green Party.

"In denying for so long that climate change exists, the world has not wanted to see the consequences either. In Sweden there is talk that eventually we will have climate refugees from Europe's Mediterranean countries if we don't stop using fossil fuels soon," she said in an interview for this article.

The thrashing that the Sidr cyclone gave Bangladesh on Nov. 15 left more than 4,000 people dead and more than seven million homeless, many of whom are now facing a food crisis. This is a fate that could befall the inhabitants of many places, such as islands and coastal lowlands, which are the most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The natural beauty of Bali helps reinforce the optimistic tone accompanying the new government in Australia as it finally ratified the Kyoto Protocol, leaving the United States alone in its rejection of the international treaty that requires industrialised countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse-effect gases.

The George W. Bush government was left even more isolated when a U.S. Senate committee voted in favour of a bill to establish obligatory limits on emissions of greenhouse gases.

Thousands of government delegates from more than 180 countries, as well as experts and activists, are participating in the 13th Conference of Parties (COP13) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and in the third meeting of parties to the Kyoto Protocol.

But the governmental negotiations are taking place behind closed doors with the goal of establishing an agenda for achieving in 2009 an obligatory agreement for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when the Protocol signed in the Japanese city of Kyoto in 1997 expires. It was many years before enough countries had ratified the Protocol to make it take effect, in 2005. Meanwhile, the effects of warming temperatures began to multiply. That is why it is essential that progress is made at this meeting towards a new framework to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, said Mike Shanahan, of the International Institute for Environment and Development, in a press statement in Bali.

The industrialised nations that are party to Kyoto are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 to an average of five percent below 1990 levels. The debate under way now follows two paths: how to reach an agreement that includes the United States, which is responsible for more than 20 percent of emissions, and what kind of obligations should be taken on by the big developing countries China, India and Brazil.

Although Bali will not produce a signed treaty for the coming decades, many eyes are on the "road map" to come out of the discussions of the Ad Hoc Working Group (AWG) of the Kyoto Protocol, entrusted, among other things, with establishing a range of emissions reductions that the wealthy nations must adopt.

WWF and other environmental organisations hope the AWG will uphold an informal decision adopted earlier this year in Vienna: by 2020 the industrialised countries should reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

That would be the minimum threshold for attempting to prevent global average temperatures from rising two degrees Celsius more this century and unleashing natural disasters, warns the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

This was the year of the global climate. The Nobel Peace Prize went to the IPCC, whose latest reports determined beyond any doubt that human activities play a large role in the climate changes already occurring.

The "Bali road map" is the focus of work to be done at the next Conference of Parties, to meet in two years in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Yvo de Boer, executive director of the Secretariat of the Convention on Climate Change, urged the participants to act with responsibility. De Boer stressed that the world is on a "catastrophic path", and that the scientific community has sent policy-makers a clear message: climate change can be stopped, and by acting now we can prevent many of the disastrous impacts of global warming.

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