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World Leaders Developing a New Plan to Help Earth’s Changing Climate

Leaders from 192 nations of the world are trying to make an agreement about how to limit emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, mitigate climate change, and adapt to changing environmental conditions. They will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7-18, 2009 to decide how the world will deal with climate change.

Their goal is to make a new global climate treaty. However, it may be months or years until they all agree on the details of the treaty. Not all countries see eye-to-eye about how emissions should be reduced, which countries should make the biggest changes, and who will pay the cost of slowing the rate of global warming.

Whatever the outcome, the meeting in Copenhagen will be a historic event. It is the first time that rich and poor nations of the world will work together to try to find solutions to greenhouse gas emissions.

This climate treaty is seen as an important step to tackling the global warming challenge, but it not the first step that these countries have made.

For almost two decades there has been an effort coordinated by the United Nations to reduce the amount of global warming caused by humans. It started with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, a treaty developed at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and signed by 192 countries. That treaty did not set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, but it did create a way for the nations to work together to make new agreements that help reduce the amount of global warming. They would meet each year in a Conference of the Parties (COP) to make progress handling climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

The main agreement that was developed during these yearly COP meetings was the Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997 at the third COP in Kyoto, Japan and entered into force in 2005. The Kyoto Protocol aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from industrialized countries about 5% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. Of the 192 UN countries, 187 signed the Kyoto Protocol. The United States did not sign. According to data compiled by the United Nations the 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can be met by 2012, however not all countries have met their goal. While some countries have reduced emissions far more than they were required, others have increased emissions.

The new global climate treaty that is being discussed in Copenhagen will replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Last modified December 7, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.

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The Winter 2009 issue of The Earth Scientist, focuses on Earth System science, including articles on student inquiry, differentiated instruction, geomorphic concepts, the rock cycle, and much more!

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