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Climate change denial still runs strong in US
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 28, 2011

On the US political stage, skepticism and denial of climate change are as popular as ever, and experts say that world talks which opened Monday in Durban, South Africa are unlikely to turn the tide.

But while a binding deal on harmful carbon output remains elusive by the world's second biggest polluter after China, some small signs of progress have emerged at the state and individual levels.

Last month, the most populous US state, California, approved rules for a carbon market that would start in 2013, with the goal of cutting emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Previous attempts to create a cap and trade system to stem pollution at the federal level have failed due to concerns it would cause skyrocketing energy costs, a particularly bruising prospect in an already wobbly economy.

Also in October, a prominent climate skeptic whose research was funded in part by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers' foundation announced he had found that mainstream projections of climate change were correct and unbiased.

"We confirm that over the last 50 years, temperature has risen 0.9 degrees Celsius, or 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the same number that the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says," physicist Richard Muller, director of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, told lawmakers.

Muller said he hoped other climate skeptics would agree with his work, but his newfound stance -- accepted by the vast majority of scientists -- remains rogue, particularly among Republicans seeking to replace President Barack Obama in 2012.

Standout Republican Jon Huntsman -- who ranks lowest in the polls -- may have summed up the differences best when he tweeted earlier this year: "To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

Indeed, many have. Seeking to drum up conservative support, the other Republican candidates have championed their doubts about human-caused climate change in recent debates just as vigorously as they have called for the return of waterboarding for terror suspects.

The entire nation is divided on the issue, according to the latest Gallup poll which shows 53 percent of Americans see global warming as a very or somewhat serious threat, down 10 percent from two years earlier.

"We have got a big problem, domestically, in terms of climate reality," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

When lawmakers cannot agree that climate change is a problem for which solutions must be sought, gridlock ensues, according to Democratic lawmaker Henry Waxman.

"During this Congress, the Republican-controlled House has voted 21 times to block actions to address climate change," he said at a hearing this month. "History will look back on this science denial with profound regret."

Even an idea that was initially floated under the George W. Bush administration and sought no extra funds was recently shot down, when Congress blocked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from reshuffling its staff to create a National Climate Service.

NOAA had described the project as a "one-stop shop" for climate information, much like the National Weather Service.

Republican Congressman Andy Harris said his party's "hesitation" came from concern "that the climate services could become little propaganda sources instead of a science source."

Experts voiced little hope of the Durban talks rousing the United States into long-awaited action to slow fossil-fuel burning that leads to greenhouse gases.

But according to David Waskow, climate change program director at Oxfam America, the United States could make a significant contribution by resolving its objections to the design of the Green Climate Fund.

The fund, devised at the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, would disburse, by 2020, at least 100 billion dollars per year to help poorer nations fight and cope with climate change.

Waskow said that sticking points for the US and Saudi Arabia are in the "institutional architecture, the structure, not the money."

"We are very hopeful that the US will be in a role of moving that forward," Waskow said.

"Congressional action may not be something we will see in the immediate term," he added. "But a bit of pressure from the international community can be a good thing."

With the end nearing of the Kyoto Protocol, a new binding agreement for the United States and China is essentially off the table, said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions.

"We should be focusing more at the national level. Frankly it's where this action has to take place."

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UN climate talks open: Kyoto Protocol and aid top bill
Durban, South Africa (AFP) Nov 28, 2011 - A 12-day round of UN talks on climate change got underway in Durban on Monday, with the task of determining the future of the Kyoto Protocol and pushing ahead with aid for poor, vulnerable countries.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathers 194 countries under a process launched under the 1992 Rio Summit.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Chad president, Idriss Deby Itno, attended the opening ceremony for the talks which will end with a high-level meeting of ministers.

Topping the agenda is the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the only global pact that sets targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, whose current roster of pledges expires at the end of 2012.

The conference must also push ahead with a "Green Climate Fund" that would channel up to 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to countries most exposed to drought, flood, storms and rising seas, which scientists predict will worsen this century.

"In a scarce two weeks we must deliver results," said Mexico's Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa Castellano, who presided over the previous round of negotiations held last year in Cancun, Mexico.

"There are millions of people -- mostly in poor and developing countries -- that depend on our decisions."

But the mood at the talks has been soured by a rift over how to share out the burden of emissions curbs and the world's economic crisis is casting a shadow over climate fund.


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After apartheid, Tutu aims at 'huge enemy' climate change
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Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu on Sunday branded climate change a "huge, huge enemy" that threatened the common home of humanity, imperilling rich and poor alike. At a rally on the eve of the 12-day UN climate talks in Durban, Tutu said that after the battle to crush apartheid, mankind must now unite in the goal of conquering carbon. One the great figures in the effort to end whites-o ... read more

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