Making sense out of Durban

So what the heck happened in Durban? Is the world closer to dealing with the problem of global warming? Or not?

If, like me, you aren’t a devotee of the UN climate negotiations, reading the headlines isn’t much help.

From the glass-half-full crowd: Progress at end of Durban Cop17 climate talks (LA Times). Reason to smile about Durban climate conference (Eugene Robinson in the WPost). Climate deal salvaged after marathon talks (The Guardian).

From the pessimists: How the world failed to address climate change–again (Michael Levi at The Atlantic.com). The Durban climate deal failed to meet the needs of the developing world (The Guardian, again). COP out (South Africa’s Cape Times).

COP out strikes me as about right. To gain some insight in what happened, and why, I called David Victor, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, the author of an excellent new book called Global Warming Gridlock and one of the smartest people I know when it comes to understanding global climate politics. David has followed the UN process closely since its beginnings in the early 1990s, and he has become convinced that it is the wrong way to deal with the climate threat.

David Victor

Durban didn’t change his mind.

“In terms of substance, they have not really achieved much,” David says. “They’ve agreed to have negotiations about what they might agree to in the future.” [click to continue…]