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Finally Some Heat in Copenhagen Climate Summit

A week ago the climate summit in Copenhagen looked like a dull whimper of an international meeting in a cold northern European city. Now it's shaping up to be something much more dynamic. 

Forgive the euphoria. My tickets were already booked and I was going anyhow. But now it looks like we might have a story worthy of reporting.

Don't misunderstand the levity of tone, this is a serious story. Whether you agree with the science or not, this has become one of the defining issues of our era. It's just that it has lacked fizzle as the year end has approached.

We've been gearing up all year to cover this summit. Regular viewers may recall I flew out to a very chilly Greenland for a week to see the glaciers first hand. I also hosted a climate debate in China with UN Executive Secretary, Yvo de Boer, where we explored the prospect for a Copenhagen agreement.

We've had discussions with business leaders, politicians and scientists about the benefits or otherwise of a binding set of targets.  

A week ago it seemed there would be little to report except a holding agreement that would set out another timetable for discussions. So many air miles, so many chauffeured journey's around the Danish capital and so little to show for it all.

The Obama Factor

Surely there has to be some point in taking so many government officials subsidized by the hard-pressed taxpayers of the world to a single destination. Having travelled so far, they better come up with something more useful than hot air. It doesn't have to be a binding agreement on climate gas reductions; perhaps a bit more transparency on the vested interests would be useful.

If nothing else President Barack Obama's anticipated presence in the closing shot of gurning politicians will help maintain international focus on the debate for two weeks. And I am all for the general public being better informed about the decisions that are being taken in their name.

What about 'Climategate'?

Frankly the scientific "evidence" is baffling for the layman. I have always had a great deal of respect for scientists, and figure that we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

I don't need to know how aspirin works, after all, to believe that it will help cure a headache. But throughout the year I have met enough "experts" on both sides of the story to know there are still questions being asked about how "conclusive" the conclusive evidence actually is into man-made climate change.

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Without being overly cynical about the motives, I assume the genuinely strongly held views on both sides reflect a real difference of opinion about how to interpret the "evidence." But it should be noted the balance of scientific opinion still seems to be clearly in favour of a link.

The debacle with the University of East Anglia, and the suggestion the data may have been spiced up doesn't help. The timing couldn't have been more extraordinary, or more damaging for Western leaders like UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Obama, who are under pressure to put billions of dollars of our money into a mitigation fund for the developing world.

So it is useful that the UN Intergovernmental Panel will investigate the email exchanges, albeit the conclusions will no doubt come after the Copenhagen summit ends. This controversy is set to run and will haunt the politicians' press conferences.

If it forces the US president and other world leaders to work even harder to make the case for meaningful greenhouse gas reductions then all the better. Kyoto doesn't expire until 2012. While there is a case for significant progress now, better to wait and get the right agreement than one that is either toothless or gets shot down by political opposition in the US and elsewhere.

Our live coverage of the summit begins with the opening ceremonies and we'll be there until the last world leader's jet leaves the runway in two weeks time.