Almost totally ignored by the US media, the UN Conference on Climate Change now taking place in Durban, South Africa is heading toward a very disappointing end.  The conference is yet another effort to formulate an agreement to follow on the Kyoto Accord, due to end in 2012, that seeks to reduce emissions that cause the “greenhouse effect” that in turn produce “global warming” that leads to “climate change” .”  Whew, quite a litany but that is the entire chain of causes and effects involved.

The main obstacle now appears to be China, which is opposed to emisson controls that might slow its extraordinary economic growth. While there is plenty of evidence that global warming is causing climate change and plenty of data on how climate change may affect the the planet and mankind, there appears to be too little material on how taking measures to influence these changes will affect economic output.  the Chinese are not prepared to cut emissions if these cuts will cause intolerabled  losses to their economy.  In the absence of data on how much each emission reduction meaure or other action to take will reduce economic output, the Chinese will resist adopting these measures. 

The USA’s approach is to not accept measures to reduce emissions unless the now largest emitting countries, e.g. China and India, are subject to similar demands.  The forces for stemming climate change are facing a classic dilemma, adopt rules that the Chinese will not accept or adopt rules that the US will not accept, i.e. give “poorer” countries a pass. 

The only idea now postulated that has some potential for success is a plan to engage in work that would lead to a new accord by 2020.  I doubt the crowd calling for controlling climate change now will embrace this proposal.  But it may be the only game in town.