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The climate news is bad, but prospects for climate talks may be worse

UN-sponsored climate talks opened Monday in South Africa amid grim news on global warming and deeply divisive questions over how, or whether, to expand or extend the Kyoto Protocol.

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Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres speaks during a news conference at the conference at the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, Monday. Almost 200 nations began global climate talks on Monday with time running out to save the Kyoto Protocol aimed at cutting the greenhouse gas emissions.

Rogan Ward/Reuters

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Delegates from 191 countries and the European Union opened UN-sponsored talks Monday in Durban, South Africa, amid deeply divisive questions over when and how to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol with an agreement that is legally binding on all major greenhouse-gas emitters, not just developed countries.

The talks are taking place against a backdrop of grim news concerning Earth’s climate, including rising concentrations of heat-trapping carbon dioxide gases and a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that highlights the increased risks emerging from extreme-weather events.

Adding to pressure on the Durban delegates, a recent analysis from the UN Environment Program found that pledges some 80 countries made over the past two years to reduce emissions or slow emissions' growth rates fall far short of what's needed by 2020 to put the world on a path to holding the increase in global average temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

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