We began class last night with a discussion about the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference. Petra Tschakert (who was at the Conference in Copenhagen) led the conversation and was quite distressed at the results (or lack thereof), particularly China's flat refusal to approve any legislation, even when matters didn't pertain to them. Toward the end of the conference, when many heads of state (including Obama) arrrived at the table, China sent a junior negotiator with no decision-making power. Petra lamented that the Chinese envoy had to call his superiors on every single matter of business, stalling the talks and ultimately dooming the outcome of the conference. The 2 degree threshold, which is almost universally accepted was not even mentioned in the report except for a brief "note."
As I was cleaning out my desk this morning, I came across this article, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the fall, which links warming-induced climatic changes in the African landscape with a proportional increase in violent conflict (specifically civil war) on the continent. This article examines only one of many effects on Africa, a continent that stands to lose much more than other regions as the global climate changes. Because of this fact, at Copenhagen last year African countries were lobbying for a much smaller threshold than 2 degrees, but would certainly have agreed to the very conservative estimate that was ultimately reduced to a "note" in the conference outcome.