The 1950s were times of mixed feelings. World War II had just ended, the smell of gunpowder had not vanished when the reconstruction of Europe and Japan began. The people, although they did not forget their dead, began to live life in the hope that peace and well-being would be lasting. That vision of a better world made many begin to have children. The baby boom was swift, and the population began to grow as never before in the history of mankind. From three billion inhabitants in 1960 the population went to six billion in 2000.
Subsistence needs multiplied. The consumer society, the cheaper products, the new publicity and the massification of television increased the pressure on the resources available on the planet. Cars and airplanes reproduced like mushrooms, emitting jets of CO2 into the atmosphere. Cities began to become overcrowded and polluted megacities, where pollution would soon hinder and even make breathing impossible.
Since the 1950s some scientists had been warning about anomalies in the Earth’s climate system. To support their advices, they were based on their discoveries, added to those made by their colleagues, the climate Pioneers. It had been a long time since they, such as the Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier, first used the greenhouse analogy in times as early as 1826. Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish scientist, proclaimed in 1896 that fossil fuels could accelerate the warming of Earth.
In 1955 Gilbert Norman Plass, a Canadian physicist, published that CO2 emissions affect climate and climate change. Roger Revelle American scientist, co-author of an article with Hans Suess, suggested in 1957 that gas emissions from human activities could create a “greenhouse effect”, which would cause global warming over time.
At the same time, the press began to talk about these discoveries, such as American Scientist who published a series of articles in 1956, including one addressed at the general public. In 1957, The Hammond Times mentioned the terms “global warming” and “climate change” and warned about the effects of large-scale use of CO2. In 1975 Wallace Smith Broecker issued “Climate change: are we on the border of pronounced global warming?”
In 1972 Sweden organized the First Earth Summit. The UN, seeing the seriousness and organization of the Swedes, joined the project. From there came the Stockholm Declaration, comparable to the Declaration of Human Rights, oriented towards the normalization of the relations of human beings with the environment. The spirit of “Homo truly sapiens” floats in its 26 beautiful statements. There is everything that had to be done to reverse the danger. We were still on time.
However, nothing changed. Worse, in the next 20 years, most countries did what they wanted. From the “Great Acceleration of the 50” we go to the “Hyper Acceleration of the 70”, both denominations coined by men of science. In this way they synthesized their alerts, their complaints and their cries of silence, because they were not heard but by a few receivers.
In 1976, the statement of Mikhail Budyko, a Russian climatologist, “global warming has begun,” was widespread. In 1979 the Academy of Sciences of the United States, headed by Jule Charney, described the effects of CO2 in a wider way, attributing its use to the increase in climate change. In 1988, James Hansen, a NASA climatologist, testified in front the United States Senate that man-made warming had already greatly affected the global climate. From then on, the term global warming became popular in the press and in the colloquial language.
Thus, we arrived at the Second Earth Summit, Rio de Janeiro 1992. There was continuity to the 26 statements of Stockholm, proclaiming that it should not be broken. Rio-92 produced a variety of documents that covered the main issues to address Earth’s problems:
The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The creation of the COP, annual Conferences of the Parties, on climate change. The Declaration of principles relating to forests. The Convention to Combat Desertification. The Convention on Biological Diversity and Agenda 21 to promote Sustainable Development.
More complete impossible. But very theoretical, very flexible and very susceptible to to get lost in bureaucratic tangles. Mostly non-binding, that is, left to the free will of the countries the solutions to the disease of the Earth. They were difficult to control and easy to evade. The road was open to national sovereignty as a protective shield against some “interventionist intention”, even when it was about preserving the lives of all those who share this privileged blue habitat.
In this way the planet was left unprotected if something urgent was not done about it. Thus, the idea of creating a climate agreement that would force countries to fulfill their recipes emerged. To do this, what better way to use the newly created tools, the COPs, in which nations would meet annually to discuss and follow up on problems. In theory, climate conferences were the solution to advance the various issues that would arise.
COP1 was held in Bonn, in 1995. It was in this German city where the negotiation of a climate protocol began that was ready for presentation at COP3. Its touched to the beautiful and picturesque Kyoto, gentle and kind Japanese city baptize the new Protocol with his name. Thus, was born the Kyoto Protocol, on December 11, 1997. Without doubt a great achievement for that moment, the first tangible consequence of the Rio Summit. It entered into force on February 16, 2005.
The news ran like wildfire and for the first time many men and women entered Kyoto into their vocabulary, along with some other concepts related to the environment and the symptoms of the Earth. Phrases such as global warming, climate change, greenhouse effect, fossil fuels, carbon dioxide (CO2) and others, were repeated more and more frequently throughout the world.
Everything seemed to go on rails. The Kyoto Protocol was emerging as one of the most important and hopeful documents of humanity to regulate anthropogenic activities, capable of recovering the global environment. However, between 1997 and 2009, the Kyoto Protocol would have to travel a winding road that would culminate in its collapse in twelve years. Who knocked him down? What was its content? What is your spirit? These are logical questions for those who are not involved in the subject.
We will begin by answering the last one. The spirit with which the Kyoto Protocol was drafted represented the commitment to reverse the damage that humans had done to the planet. It was the first regulatory commitment of the Earth’s climate. Having an agreement that would be signed by most countries on Earth was something that inspired many people. In theory, the recovery of lost time began in the second half of the twentieth century, almost at the threshold of the new millennium.
Regarding the content, the nations showed for the first time to agree that greenhouse gas emissions represented a risk and recognized that they had to be controlled. The industrialized countries committed themselves to a series of measures to reduce these emissions. The goal was set at 5% less than the levels prevailing in 1990, to be achieved between 2008 and 2012.
Finally, we arrive at the long awaited COP15, meeting in which an immense hope was encrypted. It was thought that it would be up to the Danish capital the privilege of giving good news to the world by announcing a new protocol for the reduction of GHG emissions. In quantifiable terms it meant the reduction of CO2 emissions to less than 50% by 2050 compared to 1990.
However, with three weeks to go before COP15, China and the United States met in Thailand and decided that the Copenhagen agreement would not be binding, so that the destiny of the Summit was laid before it began.
On the last night, the presidents of China, the United States, India, Brazil and South Africa, without the presence of European representatives, or other countries, held a meeting behind closed doors and in just three pages drafted a non-binding agreement that neither He was even put to a vote. Finally, he was only exposed to the knowledge of the attendees, together with the promise that in early 2010 a political platform would be worked on, the basis for constructing binding legal commitments at COP16.
As expected, the summit was described as failure and disaster by many governments and environmental organizations. The Kyoto Protocol was buried there, since none of the attempts that were subsequently.
We have let too much time pass. Actions to stop climate change can no longer be postponed. Now it is the turn of the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, which will enter into force next year. 2020 will be twelve months of great tension. Black clouds have begun to appear and climate change deniers multiply.
We all have to be alert and put our brains and hearts to in order for the Paris Agreement to run with better luck than its Kyoto ancestor.
Sandor Alejandro Gerendas-Kiss