photo: Ann Baekken via flickr.
Considering that there remain some serious differences yet to be worked out before the COP15 climate talks (now less than two months away), including the fact that there's a good chance the US won't get around to passing a climate bill by December, there are many possible outcomes of the Copenhagen summit. Well, Reuters is presenting three scenarios that are worth considering: Background: We Have to Act Quickly
It bears repeating, the goal here is to keep global average temperature rise below 2°C and that to do global emissions have to peak by 2015-2020. The older conventional wisdom is that concentrations of CO2 in the air below 450ppm, but increasingly that is seen as too high, with 350ppm a better target -- and we're already above that, at 387ppm. Which is all to say, whatever comes of Copenhagen has to ensure both strong and quick action.
So here are the three scenarios, going from best to worst outcome -- note that none of these are a 'no deal' situation:
1) A Broad, International Climate Pact -- in this scenario the US has already signed a climate bill by December, with a strong 2020 emissions reductions target and funding for developing nations to help with mitigation and adaptation costs. This brings other developed nations into more financial commitment, and brings developing nations to include emission reduction targets in their commitment.
Likely? Frankly, I'd be really pretty surprised if the US gets its climate act together that quickly. If it happens I will be overjoyed to issue a retraction.
2) Seal the Deal in 2010 -- US doesn't pass a climate bill until early 2010, which allows the nation to offer a stronger position at climate talks already scheduled for Bonn, Germany next June -- or, at the outside, at talks in December 2010. In Copenhagen, developing nations offer conditional commitments based on what it is predicted the US will do and the political aspects of this are established. That said, there's a good chance of political stalemate under this situation.
Probably the most realistic of the Reuters scenarios. And as long as the stalemate part is avoided, not the worst outcome. If I had to bet on these three, this is where my money would go, sans stalemate.
3) US Senate Say No -- Here, the US Senate doesn't pass a climate bill, but other nations agree to go ahead with US involvement, in the hopes the US finally gets its act together. The worst manifestation of this is that climate talks begin looking like global trade talks that consistently stall, despite best intentions.
At this point I don't think it's ultimately a question of if the Senate passes a climate bill, rather what's included in it, what's left out, and what's watered down to the point of uselessness. Let's hope, and keep pressure up, to ensure it is strong. But if that 'when' gets delayed for too long, it is certainly possible that the global climate talks become a tragic parody of global trade talks.