In 50 days’ time, leaders from across the world will meet in Copenhagen to craft the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, and try to save the planet from the dire consequences of extreme climate change.

No pressure then.

Unfortunately, despite the numerous preparatory meetings that have been held to help sculpt a preliminary plan in time for the Copenhagen summit, agreement between world leaders seems to hover beyond reach.

Today in London, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown gave climate and energy ministers from the major economies (and a handful of developing countries) a stark warning: ‘If we do not reach a deal at this time, let us be in no doubt: once the damage from unchecked emissions growth is done, no retrospective global agreement, in some future period, can undo that choice. By then it will be irretrievably too late.’

What is debated over the next 50 days, and agreed during the two weeks in Copenhagen, will have lasting consequences for the planet. It is also likely to filter down via governments, funding bodies and research councils to working scientists and engineers – the people whose job it will ultimately be to help develop the solutions to take us to a low-carbon future.

There may be 50 days left to settle plans for Copenhagen, but the meeting is likely to mark the beginning of a new generation of researchers who have climate change adaptation and mitigation at the front of their minds.

Anna Lewcock

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