By Barbara Kessler

The United Nations Climate Change Conference kicked off in Bali this week, where bloggers report that the tropical heat is keeping everyone viscerally aware of the topic at hand. The conference brings together representatives from more than 180pbear-at-bali.jpg countries and hundreds of journalists and environmental activists. The plan is to hammer out goals for beyond the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

Australia, under the new leadership of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, got a standing ovation when it finally ratified Kyoto at the opening of the Bali conference. Australia and the United States had been the only large industrialized nations that failed to ratify Kyoto, in which nations around the world agreed to greenhouse gas emission reductions. The Bush government has maintained that voluntary guidelines, rather than set limits, would work better, and they’ve been cleaving to that position at Bali. One Greenpeace observer noted that the U.S. delegation press conference was a through-the-looking-glass experience in which spokespeople voiced “delusional beliefs in non-existent miracle technologies and assertions that voluntary targets are more effective than mandatory ones and blah, blah, blah.”

Blah, blah, indeed. Hopefully, the now-isolated blah-blah United States (that’s the official U.S. as opposed to the “other” U.S. full of concerned citizens whom the activists say they’re representing) won’t become a laughingstock at Bali, where a turn around in attitude could mean a lot.

Greenpeace’s Climate Blog is a good read — and it includes thoughts from the group’s mascot Polar Bear, who reports he/she(?)’s quite hot there. But for the straight dope on Bali (that’s on not from Bali), go to the United Nations’ website on the conference. It has daily updates and webcasts by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer.

(Photo courtesy of Greenpeace/Rante 2007.)