Negotiators running on 40 plus hours without sleep are huddling in the corners of the plenary halls, trying to come to agreement on language and terms for a text that will, everyone hopes, chart a course for how humanity will deal with this dire (for some countries, existential) threat. How all of the talk actually translates to a formal agreement can be confounding.
Many scientists and more than 100 governments argue that even a 2° rise in temperature is highly dangerous. Todd Stern, the U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, suggests that we abandon the 2° goal in favor of actions which are politically possible, whatever that means in the polarized context of the climate wars.
The somewhat deflating reality surrounding the global climate talks in Durban, South Africa -- now hurtling toward another arguably empty conclusion -- is that success or failure is heavily contingent on the whims of just two countries: China and the United States. The two nations, after all, produce far more climate-warming gases than their nearest competitors, and their mutual, steely-eyed refusal to budge from their bedrock negotiating positions tends to render even the most conciliatory gestures among lesser polluters both quaint and meaningless.