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On climate change, the 'target' goals for summiteers

Science, government policy, and politics come together in official reports and at international conferences.

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As a major public issue, climate change is divided into science and government policy – with both more than a little connected to politics. Increasingly, they all come together in official reports and at international conferences, where representatives try to make sense of it all in a way that points toward solutions.

Last Friday in Vienna, for example, negotiators from 158 countries agreed on rough targets aimed at getting major polluters to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

As the Associated Press reported:

"A week-long UN climate conference concluded that industrialized countries should strive to cut emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent of their 1990 levels by 2020. Experts said that target would serve as a loose guide for a major international climate summit to be held in December in Bali, Indonesia."

Are "loose guide" and "target" code words for "not much was accomplished?" That's the way the cynics at Grist, the irreverent and lively online source for environmental news, saw it. "UN climate meeting ends with a whole lotta nothin',"they headlined their piece.

"Deadlock and vagueness abounded…. [T]he final version of negotiations stated that such numbers provide 'useful initial parameters for the overall level of ambition of further emissions reductions.' Also, it was generally agreed that emissions should be reduced to 'very low levels.' "

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