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climate betrayal Peter Summers/Getty Images

The Great COP-Out?

If the threat of devastating global warming fails to jolt the world into meaningful collective action, it is difficult to see what will. But as the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow gets down to the nitty-gritty, many fear that governments will once again pretend to support the climate cause while hoping that others will solve the crisis and pick up the tab.

In this Big Picture, Harvard University’s Kenneth Rogoff questions whether political efforts to limit global warming to 1.5º Celsius will warm up as fast as scientists say the planet is. And Jean Pisani-Ferry warns that if governments don’t appear serious about achieving global climate goals, investors will spend less on green initiatives, and the 2015 Paris agreement’s core mechanism will collapse.

But others think that COP26 is doomed anyway. Mark Leonard of the European Council on Foreign Relations notes that previous UN climate summits have failed to produce a global governance model capable of taming power politics, and sees little reason to believe this time will be different. Meanwhile, Maureen Santos of the Federation of Organizations for Social and Educational Assistance and Linda Schneider of the Heinrich Böll Foundation argue that countries’ seemingly ambitious net-zero pledges amount to little more than a new greenwashing strategy.

In any case, bequeathing a livable planet to future generations will require more than just good intentions. Cornell University’s Kaushik Basu highlights what he calls “Greta’s Dilemma,” whereby sincere individual efforts to combat climate change may collectively do greater damage to the environment.

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