Even if the world's leading climate scientists are only partially correct, then without a fairly ambitious climate agreement there will be dramatic consequences for our planet. And the climate conference in Copenhagen neither delivered such an agreement nor did it show any concievable way of reaching one. Countless scientific studies leave us in no doubt that the whole of humanity -- and in particular future generations -- will lose out. Because, at best, we can only guess the exact nature of the consequences of global warming and the extent of negative change in our natural environment.
Still besides the ongoing dramas which will no doubt ensue, the outcome of the mammoth Copenhagen summit has also indicated who the real losers are, in the short- and medium term.
Island Nations: Threatened by Rising Waters
Any rise in sea levels will affect these nations first and they will, most likely, be left to deal with these problems alone. Their fight for ambitious climate-agreement goals was unsuccessful. Among other things, the island nations of Tuvalu and the Maldives had wanted to set a goal of ensuring that the average global temperature not rise by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial times.
According to scientists, the CO2 reductions that have been agreed upon up until now will lead to a rise in temperature of up to 4 degrees Celsius. And while global warming will certainly be a problem in other parts of the world as well, it is in these island nations that it will be most immediate and most visible. Their environment will begin to disappear in the truest sense of the word, right from under their feet.
Major Industrial Powers: Blamed by the Developing World
The industrial states failed to convince the rest of the international community on the minimal consensus that they had tried so hard to negotiate for. Leaders like American President Barack Obama, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel cannot have enjoyed being taken to task by less geopolitically powerful nations in front of the rest of the world -- even while they maintained their willingness to negotiate some kind of mini compromise agreement.
The way that the consensus had to be structured -- a unanimous decision -- meant that the heads of the most important nations and the leaders of developing nations did not lose face altogether. But apart from retaining some pride, they really did not achieve much.
The US: Threatened by China
American President Barack Obama is probably quite happy that he can transfer his attention back to the issues surrounding healthcare reform back home. Even before Copenhagen ended so abysmally, his international image had taken a beating. That the US -- and de facto, Obama himself -- was not willing to make enough concessions at the summit resulted in disillusionment around the world.
That China managed to resist any consensus with America for what seemed like half an eternity also indicated the future state of world power constellations. And that is a bothersome situation that is likely to crop up for the US all too soon, in other areas too.
The Europeans: Defeated by Their Own Ambitions
The Europeans wanted to show that they were leaders in the fight against climate change. Yet they couldn't even come to an internal agreement about their offer to raise CO2 reductions from 20 percent to 30 percent. European efforts for an ambitious accord at the end of the summit were in vain.
And then the EU had to stand by and watch as initial efforts toward a minimum consensus were watered down even further. Among other issues, they watched the European suggestion that a legally binding agreement for emissions reductions be reached by the end of 2010 at the latest, evaporate. Now Germany wants to rescue what it still can at a meeting of ministers this coming year, before all of the nations meet again in Mexico in November of 2010.
United Nations: Overwhelmed by the Process
The United Nations has always maintained that climate protection can only be effective if it's administered globally -- and that the issue cannot be solved by smaller groups like the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate. It was actually former US President George W. Bush who initiated this kind of forum but at the time many observers were skeptical that it was Bush's way of circumventing a broader, more global consensus on climate change. This most recent effort, featuring 16 major economies, was launched by President Obama in April of this year and was meant to augment the UN talks in Copenhagen.
And although UN chief Ban Ki-moon seemed almost euphoric during his concluding statements in Copenhagen and at a press conference, it seemed that almost the opposite emotion would have been more appropriate.
The chaotic Copenhagen summit showed up the UN's shortcomings more clearly than ever -- non-governmental organizations felt that they were shut out, small nations believed they were overlooked and some of the larger nations -- and the Chinese in particular -- showed exactly how unwilling they were to compromise.
These are all bad omens for next year's negotiations -- and even worse signs for the formulation of any sort of legally binding agreement on climate change by the end of 2010.
The Danish Hosts: From Saviors to Traitors
Denmark would have liked to announce that the world was saved -- and to have that announcement be associated with Copenhagen for ever. But now the city's moniker is shorthand for the fact that the world has failed, and continues to fail, to reach a genuine climate agreement.
The hosts actively contributed to that outcome, firstly by not taking the concerns of smaller nations seriously enough and then later because of Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen's awkward and unwise leadership of the negotiations. In fact, he gave up the chairmanship of the summit early on Saturday morning before the summit had even reached its real conclusion.