WASHINGTON -- Intelligent people agree that, absent immediate radical action regarding global warming, the human race is sunk. That is a tautology because those who do not agree are, definitionally, unintelligent. Britain's intelligent Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives scary precision to the word "immediate." By his reckoning, humanity now has about 30 days to save itself. He says that unless a decisive agreement is reached at the 192-nation summit on climate change that opens Dec. 7 in Copenhagen, all is lost.
So, all is lost. The chances of a comprehensive and binding treaty are approximately nil.
The fourth of five parlays preparing for Copenhagen occurred in Bangkok from Sept. 28 through Oct. 9, with delegates from about 180 nations participating. Remember diplomat George Kennan's axiom that the unlikelihood of reaching an agreement is the square of the number of parties at the table? The meeting adjourned with, as usual, essentially no progress toward an agreement on reduced emissions by developed nations or on the money such nations should pay to finance developing nations' efforts against global warming.
The New York Times reports that "the United Nations Adaptation Fund, which officially began operating in 2008 to help poor countries finance projects to blunt the effects of global warming, remains an empty shell, largely because rich nations have failed to come through with the donations they promised." The fund has a risible $18 million, which might not cover the cost of Copenhagen conference.
There they will experience more futility because of, among other things, two stubborn facts -- the two most populous nations. On Oct. 21, China, the world's leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, which ranks fourth -- together they account for 26 percent of emissions -- jointly agreed: They, with their combined one-third of the world's population, will not play in what increasingly resembles a global game of climate-change charades. Neither nation is interested in jeopardizing its economic growth with emission caps of a sort that never impeded the growth of the developed nations that now praise them.