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Climate diplomats want to avoid media hype

After the Copenhagen conference disaster last year, climate negotiators have held a low profile. But under the surface in Cancun, Mexico the situation is still dramatic, a climate panel member tells the University Post

Last year, the whole world followed two weeks of debates, protests and negotiations, as Copenhagen hosted the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15). Representatives from 192 countries worked hard to write a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol from 1997.

But it was a flop. It ended up in an agreement drafted by five countries only: the United States, China, South Africa, India and Brazil.

Monday the 2010 Climate Conference (COP16) started in Cancun, Mexico. The delegations will work on a new world agreement to address global warming until 10 December.

Expectations were unrealistic

Ole John Nielsen is Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen. He is also a member of the IPCC, the intergovernmental organ which reviews and presents the science of global climate change by human activities. In 2007, the IPCC shared the Noble Peace Prize with Al Gore.

»Last year the expectations for the Copenhagen conference were too high, and most of them were completely unrealistic. A long time is needed for a global agreement to come through« he says to the University Post.

Indeed, an eventual treaty has to be accepted by all the 192 members of the Climate Conference to become legally binding. And this is quite hard.

To limit media pressure and let diplomats work peacefully, the hype around the climate conference has been deliberately kept low, he says.

Urgent situation

From a scientific perspective, the attempt to curb climate change this year is pretty much based on the same data as last year, he says.

»In the last year there have been no breakthrough discoveries on climate change, only small refinements: the data we have are very good, and there is a very high scientific consensus on them« continues Professor Nielsen.

However this evaluation from a top atmospheric scientist comes with a small, but significant detail:

»The temperature is rising as expected, but sea levels are rising faster than we can explain,« he says.

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