It is an annual conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change held in a different part of the world each time. For the next 10 days, representatives of 80 countries will be discussing the climate change problem, which has been causing increasing concern, in order to find a way to make the climate more stable.
The main purpose of this year's conference is negotiations: the participants will discuss climate-related issues, exchange opinions, trying to balance different views and work out a common approach. There will be 700 meetings devoted to climate change, which is a truly many-faceted issue. The most important goals of the conference are to develop a long-term strategy for reducing the global emission of greenhouse gases, and to decide on a common approach which should be taken after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
The Kyoto Protocol will come into effect in 2008. Although supported by 161 countries, it still sparks a largely critical attitude from many nations. It is often described as lacking a scientific rationale, unfair and ineffective. But with all the criticism, this document's major advantage is still obvious: it is a major breakthrough, the first experience of international cooperation in protecting the climate, and a specific action plan aimed at reducing industrial discharges.
To preserve the tradition of that highly useful cooperation, and aware of their responsibility to the environment and civilization, the conference participants have gotten down to developing a new strategy. By the results of their discussions, they plan to adopt a "Bali Roadmap Plan" - a general model for agreements which would outline future actions aimed at protecting the atmosphere from greenhouse gases.
Russia is represented at the conference by a group of 40 people, including experts from several ministries, departments, environment and global climate research companies, as well as economists, environmental specialists and power engineers. The Russian delegation is led by Alexander Bedritsky, head of Rosgidromet, Russia's Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring.
Scientific issues take up a major part of the conference agenda. Scientists will discuss the Fourth Climate Change Report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It established that global warming has been accelerating, which could bring the quality of life on Earth down. UN experts confirmed the original assumption that human activities are the main reason for the negative climate change on the planet.
"One of the feelings I have about this conference is a kind of anxiety," Dr Alexander Nakhutin, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences's Global Climate and Environment Institute, told RIA Novosti before his departure for Bali. "New international obligations will certainly be one of the key issues there. Our goal will be to find the golden mean: on the one hand, those obligations should be effective in protecting the climate, while on the other, they should not restrict global economic development and affect living standards. The new international agreement should be more flexible, wise and objective than the Kyoto Protocol," the scientist said.
As an industrially developed nation, Russia has made its contribution to the human-induced burden on the environment, which is no small one. However, Russia's adverse influence is largely compensated by its vast forests, which absorb carbon dioxide from the air like a powerful pump. So far, Russia has not been given full credit for the contribution it makes as part of the global ecosystem. The Indonesians hold a similar opinion about their own forests. Rahmat Witoelar, Indonesian Environment Minister, said openly his country should be financially compensated by the industrialized nations for preserving its forests, because they had sacrificed theirs to the industrial revolution.
Most of the world's scientists agree that the global climate change is linked to human economic activities. However, there are other viewpoints which should also be taken into account. "The specialists of our institute believe that humans are only partly responsible for the climate change," Nakhutin said. "A study of climatic trends of earlier ages suggests that natural fluctuations of the climate are possible as well. Our main task is to determine the relative role of each of the two factors."
Some Russian scientists hold an even more radical view on the global climate issue. Dr Oleg Sorokhtin from Russia's Oceanology Institute is convinced that the current rise in global temperatures is natural, and has nothing to do with the greenhouse effect or greenhouse gases. He said that the true reasons behind the climate change are the irregularities of solar emissions and the precession of Earth's axis of rotation (which means that the direction of the Earth's axis is changing over time), instability of ocean currents, and regular changes in salt concentration in the surface layers of the Arctic Ocean.
Sergei Golubchikov, an environmental expert and vice president of Russia's National Geocryological Foundation, said there was no reason to try to reduce the concentration of CO2 because it is not really toxic but, on the contrary, is a nutrient for plants. "International agreements should be primarily aimed at reducing the concentrations of sulfur dioxide, carbon oxide, benzopyrene, nitrogen oxides, soot, and heavy metals, all of these substances being highly toxic, mutagenic and carcinogenic," Golubchikov said. He added that the climate was also influenced by the World Ocean's pollution, the melting of Arctic ice and permafrost.
It is clear that the international community will need time to work out a position that is close to the Truth. The Climate Change Conference in Bali is a step along that road.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.