Global warning: Greenhouse issue on the table

The United Nations climate change conference has gotten under way in the Danish capital Copenhagen Monday.

Delegates from 192 countries have gathered for two weeks of talks on how to combat global warming.

They want to agree on a deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol – which expires in 2012 – and is aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

56 world newspapers, one of them Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, have combined to run the same lead column today, calling on world leaders to create a meaningful and binding agreement.

15,000 delegates have already registered for the conference, while 34,000 wanted to come. 5,000 journalists are set to attend the event.

The latest news is that various countries have stepped forward with initiatives. South Africa has promised a 30% greater cut to greenhouse emissions by 2020 – if rich countries provide money and technology.

But some skeptics claim climate change is not the fault of mankind, and is being used by some for profit. So far, only one thing appears certain: the earth’s temperatures are rising.

“It’s the problem of how we interpret it and what the causes of global warming are,” says Sergey Roginko, the Head of Environment and Development Group at the Institute of Europe RAS.

Russian scientist Andrey Kapitsa is among those who say man is not to blame for global warming. According to him, carbon dioxide emissions play no role in creating the greenhouse effect.

“There are several factors affecting global warming,” he says, “Fluctuation of sun energy, fluctuation of Earth's axis, with Earth's orbit…As they change, we get either a warming or a cooling effect.”

The temperature surveys show quite clearly that temperatures on Earth have been rising since the mid-19th Century: long before carbon dioxide emissions reached their present level. It suggests the earth’s temperature seems to fluctuate in tune with solar activity.

So why the big hullabaloo, then? Who needs us to believe that factories, emissions, oil and gas production are killing the planet? Who is sending us on a major environmental guilt trip and why?

Russian TV producer Sergey Nadezhdin tried to answer those questions in his documentary on global warming, “A great bureaucracy exists around the idea of global warming, which depends on the danger of an imminent threat. And it's important to understand that the idea employs many people.”

So, when the world’s top environmentalists meet yet again in a fancy hotel to discuss how to save the planet over a glass of cabernet, critics ask: do they really care?