The Copenhagen Climate Summit and Global Warming


The Copenhagen Summit was a United Nations conference that continued the series of global talks on our climate. The first such conference about the future of our climate took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

In 1997 the Kyoto Protocol set standards to reduce greenhouse gases, but these standards were only for some countries.

In December 2009 governments and heads of state from 192 countries got together in Copenhagen, Denmark to find a new agreement that was bigger and included all major countries.

After two weeks of negotiations a real agreement and a binding treaty have not been reached. Big countries have agreed that temperature increase must not go beyond 2% of pre-industrial levels. However, there is no treaty that makes countries actually do this.

While some industrialized countries say this is far enough, developing countries are angry about the deal. They say that industrial countries are responsible for global warming and must also cut emissions more than others.


What countries want

While industrialized countries want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next decades, developing countries need something else. They are also looking for technology to help them develop alternative energy sources. They also need more money to help them go through this period of change. In Copenhagen rich countries have agreed to spend $100 billion a year to help developing nations.

Other countries like the Netherlands or flat islands, like the Maldives are looking for ways to protect their countries from the rising sea.

Most countries also realize that we need ways of saving our rainforests, so that they can bind more CO2.



How the climate has changed

In the course of the Earth’s history our planet’s climate has always changed. Natural changes happen because the Earth is not always the same distance away from the sun. Different amounts of sunlight reach our planet at different times.

This leads to ice ages that have occurred regularly in the Earth’s history. The last ice age ended about 10,000 years ago. Between the ice ages there are warmer periods. During these periods greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide are set free. This is called the natural greenhouse effect. When it gets colder CO2 is stored again in the ice sheets.

Since the 1700s greenhouse gases have been increasing more than usual. The Industrial Revolution led to new technologies that were powered by coal. Later on, in the 20 th century, the world’s industries were mostly powered by oil and gas.

Since the middle of the 18 th century the world’s population has been growing at a much faster rate than in the thousands of years before.

More coal, gas and oil are being burned to supply our ever-growing industries. This process produces more CO2 which, together with the natural CO2, traps sunlight in our atmosphere. It gets in, turns into heat, but cannot get out again.

Farmers who raise animals to produce food also contribute to the greenhouse effect. When they eat and digest food they produce methane gas. The UN says about 18% of greenhouse gases come from animals.

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the average temperature has risen by 0.7%. Many experts say that it will rise by 2% even if we stop greenhouse emissions now.



Where countries stand on climate change


Countries that industrialized early, like the United Kingdom, France, Germany or the United States have the highest CO2 production per person, while countries like China and India have the largest populations and lower per person emissions.

China is the world’s biggest producer of CO2. Almost 20% of all global emissions come from Asia’s superpower. While China wants to cut CO2 levels by 40% in the next 10 years it also wants the west to provide them with better technology.

The United States, also one of the big CO2 producers wants to cut emissions to 17% below the 2005 levels. However, it does not want an agreement that forces them to do that. President Barack Obama is taking climate change more seriously than his predecessor George Bush.

The European Union has very ambitious goals. It wants to play a leading role in climate conferences. It also wants to cut its emissions by 20-30% by 2020 and wants rich nations to cut emissions by 80% by the year 2005.

India is the world’s sixth biggest CO2 producer. It has promised to cut emissions drastically if other countries do the same. India states that the richer countries must do more to protect our environment.



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Related Topics



  • agree = to say yes
  • agreement = when two or more people or countries promise to do something ; a treaty
  • ambitious = large, motivated; something that you really want to reach
  • average = normal, usual
  • bind = here: to take up
  • binding treaty = an agreement that you must follow
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals or humans breathe out or when carbon is burned in the air
  • century = a hundred years
  • contribute = add to
  • cut = lower, reduce
  • deal = treaty, agreement
  • decade = a period of ten years
  • develop = to change something
  • developing countries = the poor countries in Asia, Africa and South America
  • digest = to change food that you have eaten into material that your body can use
  • distance = how far away something is
  • drastically = very much
  • emission = the gas that is sent out into the air by cars or factories
  • environment = the world around us
  • equivalent = equal, to have the same value as
  • ever-growing = to grow at a constant rate, all the time
  • force = make you do something
  • global = worldwide
  • goal = aim
  • greenhouse gas = gases like carbon dioxide and methane, that keep sunlight in the Earth’s atmosphere and do not let it escape
  • head of state = political leader of a country
  • however = but
  • ice sheet = layers of ice especially in the glaciers of mountains or the Arctic or Antarctic region
  • in the course = during a period of time
  • include = to be part of
  • increase = to go up
  • Industrial Revolution = period in the 18 th and 19 th centuries when new discoveries were made and new machines and the first factories were built
  • Kyoto Protocol = a treaty, signed by most of the world’s countries in Kyoto, Japan in 1997; it’s aim is to reduce greenhouse gases
  • methane = a gas that you cannot see but can be burned to give heat
  • negotiation = talks, meetings
  • occur = happen
  • per capita = per person
  • power = to run or to make something work
  • predecessor = the person who was president before him
  • pre-industrial = before the Industrial Revolution
  • process = procedure, method
  • protect = defend, guard
  • provide = give
  • raise = to look after animals and grow plants so that they can be sold and used for food
  • rate = speed
  • reduce = lower, cut down
  • seriously = very much
  • source = place where you get something
  • standard = level, norm
  • state = to say officially
  • store = keep, save
  • summit = meeting in which important people or leaders take part
  • supply = provide, give, bring to
  • trap = to keep in and not let out