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Some people are still wondering why Qatar, one of the OPEC nations, was chosen to host the 18th U.N. climate change conference known as COP18. An oil-soaked thumb sticking up from Arabian peninsula into the Persian Gulf, the desert country has, depending on who is counting, the first or second highest gross domestic product per capita in the world, zero percent of which comes from agriculture in the hot, dry climate. It depends mostly on exports of oil, liquefied natural gas (of which it is the world's largest supplier) and chemical derivatives from hydrocarbons, such as fertilizer to help other people grow the crops it can't grow itself. Qatar generates 44 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year for each of its 1.9 million people. (The U.S. generates about 17 tons per capita.)

Qatar has made no commitment to cuts of those CO2 emissions and, of course, its export-based economy depends on the rest of the world continuing to burn fossil fuels well into the future. Which the rest of the world seems prepared to keep doing.

Doha, Qatar
Doha skyline
But after Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiya, the former energy minister of Qatar, opened COP18 talks Monday in the capital of Doha—whose gleaming downtown skyline looks like a landing field for interstellar spaceships—he told a news agency that there should be no dissonance created by having the conference there:
"I believe Qatar is a good place [for the conference]. Other host countries produce coal," Attiyah said.

"I never believe in per-capita as a measure for distribution. I think it's calculated to show the small countries as the bad boys," he said earlier. [...]

"The problem with Qatar is that they have not proven they are taking climate change seriously," Wael Hmaidan, Climate Action Network director, a non-government organisation told Reuters news agency.

Attiyeh said, however, that this is not the case, especially since Qatar is one of the 10 countries of the world most likely to be negatively affected by rising sea levels associated with climate change. It is, he said, working to become green.

The talks that will continue in Doha all this week and run through Friday, Dec. 7, will be conducted in more comfortable circumstances than COP13 in Bali five years ago. Delegates whined then that the air conditioning wasn't adequate and the internet connection spotty in the tourist spa town of Nusa Dua while ignoring the irony that the electricity to keep the sweat off them and their laptops humming was being generated by a pollutant-spewing coal-fired power plant in next-door Java.

Whether this year's delegates will make more progress than their predecessors is anybody's guess. So far, the words poured out during 17 years of U.N. climate talks have been exceeded only by the number of carbon atoms poured into the atmosphere. With no relief in sight.

Which is not to say that nothing worthwhile has come out of the previous 17 sessions. But the fierce urgency of now was obvious at COP13 and even COP1 in 1995. It is fiercer still today. But somehow the definition of "now" hasn't quite penetrated the agenda-setters.

heads in the sand for climate change

At Climate Progress, Rebecca Lefton and Andrew Light explain what to watch for in Doha. An excerpt:

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change talks in Doha will continue the progress made to date toward advancing a series of tracks toward a comprehensive international climate agreement. While none of these tracks alone is sufficient to address global climate change, taken together they have gotten us closer than ever to a comprehensive international solution. The biggest items on the three primary tracks of the Doha agenda are:

• The closing of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action

• Agreement on a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol

• Advancement of a work plan for the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action

Closing of the Ad-hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action

During the 2011 climate talks in Durban, South Africa, parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed that the Long-term Cooperative Action should conclude in Doha. The action, which began in 2007 in order to implement the Bali Action Plan agreed to under the Bush administration, gave rise to the Copenhagen Accord and the Cancun Agreements.

Though many throughout the world hoping for a binding international treaty viewed Copenhagen as a disappointment, it was never likely that the 2009 U.N. climate change conference could have ended in a binding agreement. The United States would not have signed onto an agreement that did not solve the problem of rising greenhouse gases, leaving out major emitters such as India and China—now the largest emitter in the world, the country’s per-capita emissions are on par with the European Union’s emissions. China even objected in Copenhagen to developed countries articulating their own 2050 emission-reduction targets in a formal agreement, presumably because it would mean that rapidly developing countries would be responsible for the remainder of required emissions reductions to achieve some level of climate safety.

But for all its criticisms, Copenhagen was groundbreaking. For the first time countries at all stages of development agreed to put forward pledges for national actions to address global warming by 2020. Over the past three years, 141 countries, including all the major emitters in the developed and developing world—which are responsible for more than 80 percent of global emissions—have made voluntary mitigation pledges. This was an important step forward, given that until then the only articulated pledges for reductions were made by developed countries in the Kyoto Protocol, which now account for less than 15 percent of global emissions.

Perhaps most importantly, the Long-term Cooperative Action allowed a pathway for a bottom-up approach, bringing pledges from both developed and developing countries to the table. The bottom-up approach, as opposed to a top-down architecture, allows for varying commitments by country. This is significant because it recognizes the different capacities and levels of development of each country. The question is: How do we ensure that the sum of parties’ commitments will keep us on a pathway where it is still possible to hold temperature increase at 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial levels by the end of the century? This is now the agreed-upon goal of the U.N. process. [...]

Lefton and Light have much more to say at the link.

Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2009Some amendments are more equal than others:

I'm not going all-in for the message of this Mayors Against Illegal Guns "Terror Gap" thing. But I'm struck by what I'll call the "Hypocrisy Gap" instead.

I don't want to take up too much of your post-holiday time with this, but here's what's bugging me: the wingnuts have happily sold you out on your First Amendment rights, your Fourth Amendment rights, your Fifth Amendment rights, your Sixth Amendment rights, and your Eighth Amendment rights, all in the name of their right to crap their pants in fear over the 1% chance of terrorism.

But the minute someone suggests that maybe some aspect of the amendment that actually has something to do with the ability to kill people could stand some reexamination, suddenly it's time to Live Free or Die again.

Tweet of the Day:

Oh man. Tom Friedman's "Arne Duncan for Sec State" column is even dumber than I expected based on the lede.
@jbarro via Twitter for iPad

On today's Kagro in the Morning show, Greg Dworkin joined us at the top of the show for the Abbreviated Abbreviated Pundit Roundup. We take another dip in the waters of Lake Crazytown, reading the election night liveblogging of the "gay fanboy" nominated by wingnut columnist Charlotte Allen to run the fantasy 2016 Palin presidential campaign. Please do this, guys! Then, more filibuster reform fight previews and complaint debunking. Finally, a peek at the Obama administration'd attempt to set rules for drone strikes, just in case Romney won.

High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 08:30 PM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS.


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