Ed Gerck has a really provocative post on Dave Farber’s Interesting People mailing list on the failure of the Copenhagen conference on global warming to produce an agreement that would eventually become legally binding. (The best rundown of the Copenhagen summit comes from BBC environment reporter Roger Harrabin.) In it he argues that had countries tried to come together and hammer out a legally binding agreement on the creation of the Internet, there wouldn’t be an Internet. Perhaps an understanding among countries that they will work together will lead to more substantive progress than a treaty that most countries will refuse to ratify anyway.
Of course, the problem is that there was a lot of interest in developing the Internet for economic reasons, and we haven’t seen technical breakthroughs that offer similar returns for fighting climate change. Right now countries see what they have to give up (coal-fired power plants, for one) and the short term costs of taking strong action to fight climate change expose any leader to political risk that they probably won’t find acceptable. But given that reality, a binding legal requirement was never in the cards anyway.