The much vaunted climate change conference has come to an end at Bali, Indonesia, on an almost anticlimactic note.
For the delegates agreed only to talk again. Yes, new emission targets would be set in two years. Towards that end nations would start talking again.
The Bali conference had been charged with launching negotiations for a regime of deeper emissions reductions to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which requires 37 industrial nations to cut output of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.
But the United States never accepted the Kyoto deal itself.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997 but no one was able to prevail upon the US to ratify it, while other major economies gave in one by one. The Bush administration stood firm, saying the limits set would damage the US economy, instead it wanted developing countries like China and India to do so first.
In a word nations agonized endlessly at Bali over superseding a treaty that never was anyway and dispersed without mentioning any specific targets. The US again played spoilsport.
And thus despite dire predictions of the damaging effects of global warming.
In a series of landmark reports this year, the U.N.'s network of climate scientists warned of severe consequences — from rising seas, droughts, severe weather, species extinction and other effects — without sharp cutbacks in emissions of the industrial, transportation and agricultural gases blamed for warming.
Emissions of two greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide have reached record high, says World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations.
Many greenhouse gases occur naturally, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Others such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) result exclusively from human industrial processes. Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere by the burning of solid waste, wood and wood products, and fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal).
Nitrous oxide emissions occur during various agricultural and industrial processes, and when solid waste or fossil fuels are burned.
Methane is emitted when organic waste decomposes, whether in landfills or in connection with livestock farming.
Methane emissions also occur during the production and transport of fossil fuels.
When sunlight strikes the Earth's surface, some of it is reflected back towards space as infrared radiation (heat). Greenhouse gases absorb this infrared radiation, trap the heat in the atmosphere and reemit the waves downward causing the temperature of the earth to go up.
And this is called the "greenhouse effect," because of a similar effect produced by the glass panes of a greenhouse, where plants are grown under controlled conditions.
The World Meteorological Organization's annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin provides widely accepted worldwide data on the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
To avoid the worst, the Nobel Prize-winning panel said, emissions should be reduced by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.
The European Union too agreed, but the US would not listen.
The Bush administration has continued to insist on a voluntary approach — each country deciding how it can contribute — in place of internationally negotiated and legally binding commitments. Japan and Canada prefer to stick by Uncle Sam.
In the event the final draft removes the specific figures but instead, in a footnote, references the scientific study that supports them!
Even that was an occasion for self-congratulation for the US. "I think we have come a long way here," said Paula Dobriansky, head of its delegation.
"In this, the United States is very committed to this effort and just wants to really ensure we all act together," she said solemnly.
But environmentalists were not impressed.
"The United States in particular is behaving like passengers in first class in a jumbo jet, thinking a catastrophe in economy class won't affect them," said Tony Juniper, a spokesman for a coalition of environmentalists at the conference. "If we go down, we go down together, and the United States needs to realize that very quickly."
It may also be noted that as part of the deal the developing countries have also got out of any commitment. They would not be required to cut down on their emissions either.
Thus the emerging economies like Brazil, China and India also seem to stubbornly refuse to realize that every country on this earth has a stake in keeping global warming within limits.