International negotiations designed to address the sweeping global threat of climate change will quite likely be delayed by a full year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Britain, the host of the talks, which were initially scheduled to be held at the end of this year in Glasgow, proposed on Tuesday that they be postponed until November 2021. A decision is to be made Thursday by countries that make up the rotating governing board of the United Nations agency that sponsors the talks.
“Given the uneven spread of Covid-19, this date would present the lowest risk of further postponement and the best chance of delivering an inclusive and ambitious COP,” British officials said in a letter to countries in the accord, using shorthand for Conference of the Parties, the formal name of the meeting. The conference is meant to rally world leaders to chart ways to avert the worst effects of climate change, including fatal heat waves and flooded coastal cities.
The next round of talks, the 26th annual COP, is the most important session since then. Countries are expected to announce revised climate targets in order to reach that global target, which remains elusive.
That's funny -- I thought climate seer and international scold Greta Thunberg told us in January that we only have eight years left to prevent global catastrophe:
Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg called on Tuesday for far tougher action to limit climate change, telling the World Economic Forum in Davos the world has just eight years left to avert severe warming. Thunberg, 17, speaking on a Davos panel with three other youth delegates from around the world, also expressed doubts that the world could develop technologies in coming decades to suck carbon dioxide from thin air to limit rising temperatures.
“A lot,” she said, when asked what she wanted in the coming year or so. “Especially that we start listening to the science and that we treat this crisis as the crisis it is.” Governments are due to meet in Glasgow, Scotland, in November, seeking to ratchet up the ambition of the 2015 Paris Agreement. The deal aims to limit warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times, while pursuing efforts for a tougher ceiling of 1.5°C.
So now it's only seven years. What are we going to do? Luckily for the world, by that time St. Greta will be in her mid-twenties, no longer a "Swedish teenager." Her numinous nature will by then have worn off, the media will have lost interest, the demon Trump will be out of office one way or another, the world will still be spinning on its axis, and we'll have found something new to worry about.
Michael Walsh is a journalist, author, and screenwriter. He was for 16 years the music critic and a foreign correspondent for Time Magazine. His works include the novels As Time Goes By, And All the Saints, and the bestselling “Devlin” series of NSA thrillers; as well as the nonfiction bestseller, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace and its sequel, The Fiery Angel. His latest book, Last Stands, a study of military history from the Greeks to the present, will be published by St. Martin's Press in December. Follow him on Twitter @dkahanerules