Copenhagen Predictions

Predicting the outcome of next week's UN climate summit at Copenhagen is almost as difficult as predicting global warming trends decades down the line. Things are looking up, though, as more world leaders than originally expected are committing to attend the conference. Ninety-eight of 192 UN member nations will send representatives to the conference, up from an expected 65 only one month ago.

The Independent published a "Copenhagen summit at a glance" today, listing the main goals and topics of discussion. A few highlights include:

1) The Copenhagen agreement, a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol ending on the last day of 2012, will attempt to hold global temperatures at 2 degrees Celcius above the pre-industrial level. Developed countries will be urged to cut their emissions by 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

2) It is expected that developing countries will not be held to such a strict standard, but will be required to show they are moving away from "business as usual" and are taking measures to grow their economies responsibly.

3) The new agreement is also expected to include provisions to halt deforestation.

It remains to be seen if these and a host of additional recommendations will be accepted by the global community. Scientists warn that meaningful policy changes to hold temperatures at or below the 2 degree rise are imperative, and any agreement resulting in less will be disastrous to human society. At the same time, constituents who have the power to influence policy have thus far been apathetic.

Perhaps because global warming progresses slowly and is not immediately apparent, people fail to see it as an imminent and prominent threat. But this lack of appreciation seems to be changing, if slowly. We don't know what the political outcome of Copenhagen will be, but if nothing else it is bringing renewed prominence to the issue.

Click to see a new art exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, showcasing thirty international artists' responses to global climate change.