CLIMATE CHANGE is global. Unless enough big-emitting nations stop pumping carbon into the atmosphere, no single country’s efforts will matter much. That is why, despite the many unmet deadlines, petty squabbles and dashed hopes, it is still important for world leaders to gather and work toward a climate deal, as they have done many times in the past two decades and as they have been doing in Doha, Qatar, since last Monday.
World governments were supposed to have made a big step toward solving the problem through the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but that agreement has proved inadequate for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the United States pulled out of the treaty. Leaders were then supposed to have achieved the dream of a legally binding, consensus-driven international climate treaty at a U.N. conference in Copenhagen three years ago, but they failed. Three major U.N. climate confabs later, the goal is to have such an agreement negotiated by 2015 and in force by 2020. The science, meanwhile, counsels both faster action and larger emissions reductions than countries have pledged.