By ELAINE MATTHEWS and AMANDA VENDER

 What is the big deal?

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Scientists say we have to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million if we want to avoid climate disaster. Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is already causing Arctic ice to melt and Africa to dry up.

In the U.S., that means reducing our emissions by 80% by 2050 so we need to start making big reductions now. President Obama didn’t want a binding agreement on reductions at Copenhagen.

In the U.S., that means reducing our emissions by 80% by 2050 so we need to start making big reductions now. President Obama didn’t want a binding agreement on reductions at Copenhagen.

Images courtesy of uniteforclimate.org from Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Cap and Trade”. Watch the video!

The United Nations Copenhagen (Denmark) Climate Conference was attended by officials from more than 190 countries.  The conference finished up on December 18, 2009, without final agreements to lower emissions of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are produced by burning coal, oil and gas. They are the primary cause of global warming.

Major disagreements between wealthy and poor countries about responsibility for climate change and its impacts boiled over at the Copenhagen meeting. One big disagreement is about how much the biggest polluters will lower their greenhouse-gas emissions. Another is how much money rich nations will give so poor nations can survive global warming and develop their economies.

On the last day of the conference, President Barack Obama arrived and pushed for a non-binding agreement that would result in emission reductions much smaller than scientists say are needed to avoid environmental disaster. Other countries accepted Obama’s proposal even though they wanted the agreement to be legally binding.

The UN Secretary-General called the accord “a beginning, an essential beginning.” Other negotiators were not so happy about the outcome. Kamese Geoffrey, representing Uganda’s National Association of Professional Environmentalists, told IRIN news, “It has been depressing. There are some countries who think they are going to do us a favor by helping the poor countries, but this is really about helping all of us—everyone is going to be affected by climate change.”