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Poznan Punch: What You See Is What You'll Get

So, what do we make of this week's climate summit in Poznań, Poland? That may well depend on what emotional baggage we bring on our trip.

So, what do we make of this week's climate summit in Poznań, Poland? That may well depend on what emotional baggage we bring on our trip.The more I read on the subject, the more it is clear that no matter what provisions for greenhouse gas reductions are actually contained within the climate talks there, those on the outside looking in -- including myself -- are bound to see what we expect to see. It reminds me of Ray Bradbury's classic short story, The Jar, in which a carnival goer returns home with a large jar filled with slimy liquid and a floating blob with "its peeled, dead eyes staring out at you and never seeing you." Everyone who stares into it is filled with emotion, sure they know what's inside.

Laughter bloomed in the dark, right out of her mouth, an awful kind of laughter. She finished it, quick. 'It's just junk, Charlie! Rubber, papier-mache, silk, cotton, boric-acid! That's all!' she shrilled. 'No, no!' He sat up swiftly, ripping sheets apart in big fingers, roaring. 'I don't wanna hear! Don't wanna hear!' he bellowed, over and over. She said, 'Wait'll everyone hears how fake it is! Won't they laugh! Won't they flap their lungs!"

The Poznań summit, say its organizers, provides "the opportunity to draw together the advances made in 2008 and move from discussion to negotiation mode" ahead of the next round of talks in Copenhagen in December 2009. Specifically, delegates are expected to:

--Agree on a plan of action and programmes of work for the final year of negotiations after a year of comprehensive and extensive discussions on crucial issues relating to future commitments, actions and cooperation --Make significant progress on a number of on-going issues required to enhance further the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, including capacity-building for developing countries, reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD), technology transfer and adaptation. --Advance understanding and commonality of views on "shared vision" for a new climate change regime. --Strengthen commitment to the process and the agreed timeline.

Among those staring at the conference is German environment minister Sigmar Gabriel, who is quoted by Bloomberg and other news outlets as saying that it is unlikely that the talks will yield concrete results. Bloomberg, separately, quotes Poland's environmental minister, Maciej Nowicki, as saying the economic slowdown will help companies to cut energy use and carbon dioxide emissions.

The executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, appeared pragmatic. On one hand, the Associated Press quotes him as saying investors should see the crisis as "an opportunity for green growth" as they replace up to 40% of the world's power generation over the next decade. On the other hand, "the financial crisis will have an impact on climate change ... You already are seeing around the world a number of wind energy projects being pushed back."

WWF sees the climate summit in Poland as a fundamental stepping stone on the way toward a new global climate deal. "As such, the upcoming talks offer a fantastic opportunity to narrow down options that are already on the table." In a separate announcement, WWF notes that its "analysis of latest climate science, released today (Thursday 27 November) comes to the dire conclusion that humanity is approaching the last chance to keep global warming below the danger-threshold of 2°C."

And, American Thinker, on the eve of the summit, posted this: "Obama's election is really bringing them out of the woodwork, isn't it? Every liberal kook in the world now feels enabled to advance any cockamamie idea they can come up with."

The idea to which the blog posting refers -- some sort of International Court of Justice, but for the environment -- isn't on the table in Poznań. It was a suggestion proffered by a British lawyer.

The climate summit starts today and lasts for two weeks.

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