In the waning weeks of 2009, planeloads of scientists, politicians, and assorted climate wonks from 192 countries will blow through a few million tons of CO2 to jet to Copenhagen, one of the world’s most carbon-conscious cities. The occasion is the much-awaited United Nations Climate Change Conference, aka Kyoto 2. Speeches will be made. Goals and targets will be hammered out. Limited victory will be declared. Set a Google News alert for “Last Chance to Stop Global Warming.”
There’s just one problem. As many of the participants—certainly the scientists—are only too aware, the global war on carbon has not gone well for the atmosphere. The really inconvenient truth: We’re toast. Fried. Steamed. Poached. More so than even many hand-wringing carbonistas admit. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, C02 that’s already in the air or in the pipeline will stoke “irreversible” warming for the next 1,000 years.
Any scheme cobbled together in Copenhagen for slowing—forget reversing—the growth of greenhouse gases will be way too little, way too late. In the apt jargon of industry, a hotter planet is already “baked in.” James Lovelock, the British chemist who redubbed Mother Earth as “Gaia,” tells the ungilded truth: Can we hit a carbon Undo button? “Not a hope in hell.”