Up until 1992, Europe called on the world to limit temperature increases. Given the difficulty of quantifying what such a task entailed, when it came time to craft a treaty (the UNFCCC or Rio Treaty), they realized that was a pretty absurd metric even for a UN agreement. So they went for the (arguably) less absurd promise to “stabiliz[e] greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. The UN’s IPCC refused on each of three occasions that they were asked to quantify that particular promise, claiming that was a “political decision.” Hmmm. Re-read the mandate. Sounds to me like something scientists are being paid an awful lot of money to look into.
Anyhow, it dawned on some folks that maybe Man doesn’t dictate such things – say, Al Gore, who prominently features a chart in his movie purporting to reconstruct, from proxy data, 650,000 years of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations (as well as temperatures over the same period…which charts he elects to not superimpose for the simple reason that it would show temps generally rise and fall before CO2 concentrations, damning his thesis). The only thing Man can dictate, in theory, is his own GHG emissions (and only in theory — and press releases – as Europe is proving). His chart shows them going up up and way up, and down down down all before Man could possibly have had any influence whatsoever.
So, as I have pointed out in detail, of late Europe has decided to loudly and frequently claim that it has agreed to limit temperature increases to 2 degrees C above pre-Industrial times (which happen to fall at the tail end of the Little Ice Age). The problem, of course, is that they have agreed to no such thing. But, as with most things in the Euro-Kyoto context, it is so because they say it’s so — not because it’s really so (see post-below about EU emissions and rhetoric). We know not what, if anything, this rhetorical sleight of hand has to do with, e.g., Pat Michaels pointing out that observations over the past 3+ decades indicate that we should expect up to 1.7 degrees C warming (others say slightly less, none of which says anything about Man’s possible involvement).
Now comes the UN itself, or at least an affiliated panel driven by Ted Turner’s UN Foundation, betraying that silly notion you held that they already had “a detailed plan for combating climate change.” According to Voice of America, “A panel of scientists has presented the United Nations a detailed plan for combating climate change. VOA’s correspondent at the U.N. Peter Heinlein reports the strategy involves reaching a global agreement on a temperature ceiling.” Oh, and they finally get to the point, calling for a carbon tax (you remember the success with which they have pushed for the authority to impose a “Tobin tax”).
That old temperature ceiling again. Which now deserves its own treaty, given how that other one is doing. My colleague Iain Murray suggests that this represents the UN saying that the to-date sufficiently alarmist IPCC is no longer alarmist enough for the task at hand. That is one reading. Another is that Kyoto is now a subtly acknowledged failure.