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Q&A: The Copenhagen climate summit

 

Was the summit a success?

 

This depends on your point of view

On the positive side, the Copenhagen Accord, for the first time, unites the US, China and other major developing countries in an effort to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. The Kyoto Protocol did not achieve this – it imposed no obligations on developing countries to restrain the growth of their emissions, and the US never acceded to it. The accord also says developed countries will aim to mobilise $100bn per year by 2020, to address the needs of developing countries.

 

Why is climate change happening –

 and is it the same as global warming?

 

The Earth’s climate has always changed naturally over time.

For example, variability in our planet’s orbit alters its distance from the Sun, which has given rise to major Ice Ages and intervening warmer periods.

According to the last IPCC report, it is more than 90% probable that humankind is largely responsible for modern-day climate change.

The principal cause is burning fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas.

This produces carbon dioxide (CO2), which – added to the CO2 present naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere – acts as a kind of blanket, trapping more of the Sun’s energy and warming the Earth’s surface.

Deforestation and processes that release other greenhouse gases such as methane also contribute.

Although the initial impact is a rise in average temperatures around the world – “global warming” – this also produces changes in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels, changes to the difference in temperatures between night and day, and so on.

This more complex set of disturbances has acquired the label “climate change” – sometimes more accurately called “anthropogenic (human-made) climate change

 

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