James Gustave Speth
Dean, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
In 1896 Svante Arrhenius published On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air
upon the Temperature of the Ground, in which he used models to demonstrate his
theory that emissions from combustion of coal would lead to a warming of the
Earth. With this effort the science of climate change was born, more than 100 years
The politics of climate change, on the other hand, is much younger. It was not
until June 1988, at a conference in Toronto, Canada—The Changing Atmosphere:
Implications for Global Security—that the idea for an international convention on
climate change was proposed.
I doubt that the proponents of the Convention, myself included, imagined the
magnitude or the full complexity of this proposal. In retrospect, I doubt that any
of us, given our current understanding of the enormity and significance of the
issues being negotiated, would have dreamed that just 15 months after the first
intergovernmental negotiating session a Convention would have been signed and
ratified. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change had
been negotiated, drafted, and was open for signature by the time of the Earth
Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. By June 1993, 166 Parties had signed the
Convention, and it entered into force March of 1994. This series of events was a
stunning demonstration of the political momentum that was gathering behind
the issue of climate change.
The global negotiations that have followed in the wake of the ratification of the
Convention have been among the most heated and comprehensive ever. More
than any other issue, climate change and the debate surrounding it have increased
international awareness of global environmental problems. As an issue that is pertinent to development, quality of life, and human wellbeing, climate change has
been effective in convincing both rich and poor countries of the necessity of international cooperation.
This volume has been compiled in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme in an effort to contribute to better understanding of the connections between climate change and sustainable development. The volume
should serve as a tool for decisionmakers in developing countries, who will have
enormous responsibilities in facing climate challenges in the coming years. At the
same time, it is intended to be a resource for university faculty and students and
others interested in exploring the complexities of the climate change debate. By
   
developing a perspective on climate change that is this well-rounded, the volume
should prove valuable both to those concerned about development and those
focusing on the environment.
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