In Durban, South Africa, the latest round of United Nations climate negotiations opened with a plea from South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, for countries to look beyond national interests. So far, however, the talks have been marked by many of the same divisions that plagued earlier meets.
A coalition of environmental groups -- including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists -- accused the U.S. of negotiating in bad faith. At the conference, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela stalled on decisions about a Green Climate Fund to pay for clean energy and climate change adaptation in poorer countries.
In response, the European Union (EU) urged a conclusion on the fund, and took the hardest stance it ever has in such negotiations, insisting on stiff conditions for China and developing countries and demanding a road map for moving forward.
Meanwhile, Canada's environment minister called the country's decision to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol "one of the biggest blunders" an earlier administration made since they had no intention of meeting the pledge. This led a group of African leaders to plead Canada to reconsider.
A week before the climate talks began, a new collection of 5,000 e-mails from climate researchers surfaced, apparently part of the same set obtained and then leaked in 2009 in the so-called "Climategate" affair. Despite widespread accusations of bias and manipulation of data, the researchers involved were cleared of wrongdoing.
But the new release of the second batch of e-mails led U.S. Rep. Ed Markey to state: "This is clearly an attempt to sabotage the international climate talks for a second time." Markey called for more intense investigation into how the e-mails were hacked. While U.K. police investigated the apparent crime before, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed the police spent little on this effort.
The latest Greenhouse Gas Bulletin from the World Meteorological Organization recorded an unusually large increase in the CO2 level in the air in 2010 -- a jump of 2.3 parts per million over the year, compared with the average over the preceding decade of 2.0 parts per million each year.
If this trend continued for the rest of the century, the world would warm some 6 degrees Celsius, warned Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
However, this forecast is at odds with other warnings the IEA has made, argued Chris Nelder of SmartPlanet -- in particular, Birol's warning that the world has reached the peak of conventional crude oil production, and that high oil prices are hampering economic growth.
Threat of "Oil Armageddon"
Oil prices may spike again, many analysts warned, after France urged many countries to halt Iranian oil imports, and the U.S., Britain and Canada teamed up to apply new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
However, the EU, poised to overtake the U.S. as the world's biggest oil importer, can't afford to refuse Iranian oil, the Wall Street Journal argued. Likewise, the U.S. had been considering sanctions, CNN reported, but hesitated because of the toll an oil price spike would likely have on the global economy. With relations between Iran and the West quickly worsening, Reuters reports oil consuming nations, hedge funds and refineries are preparing for an "oil armageddon."
The Climate Post offers a rundown of the week in climate and energy news. It is produced each Thursday by Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.
Follow Mason Inman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/masoninman