Fiddling while the world burns

1 June 2010

As delegates negotiate here in Bonn, northern parts of India are suffering through a record heat wave pushing thermometers to nearly 50o C and setting new temperature records – a hallmark of climate change.  Hundreds have died, a tragic reminder that adaptation has its limits.  Pakistan, too, has lost lives to the heat wave gripping South Asia. Elsewhere this week other countries also suffered through events that fit the grim trend of ever more extreme weather driven by global warming.  Tropical storm Agatha ravaged Central America, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands and taking over a hundred lives in epic flooding driven by record heavy rains, another likely fingerprint of global warming which drives more moisture into storms.  In Alaska, temperature records are tumbling and wildfires rage in an unprecedented early start to the fire season that has already witnessed 193 fires and emptied every smokejumper base in the state. With negotiators now staring at each other over the tables in Bonn, already six months removed from Copenhagen, the question of the day is whether they have a political mandate from their home capitals to get moving, or whether we will witness two weeks of rhetoric and no action.  The climate has already delivered its mandate, but will politics trump science?

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