Getting Warmer...

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KYOTO, Japan: Filed away under the innocuous heading of "targets and timetables" is the key to the United Nations conference on climate change that begins Monday. The title is diplomat-speak for the greenhouse gas cutbacks everyone is here to discuss that Japan will more or less oppose, Europe will more or less champion and the United States will more or less flounder on, right?

Wrong. In fact, pre-conference positions seem to be shifting quite rapidly. For instance, U.S. negotiator Melinda Kimble was talking for the first time Monday of "limited differentiation of cutback targets," which when translated into English means that every country on Earth will be set a different level of greenhouse gas reduction, based on their national circumstances.

It's a solution that will please neither the Senate nor environmentalists. This is, of course, only the first bid in an international game of poker. And raising the stakes for U.S. negotiators will be a cameo in Kyoto by Al Gore, who has decided to speak in defense of a middling U.S. position he can't be very excited about personally. The author of "Earth in the Balance" surely knows that even if Kyoto produces an agreement, it may be too little too late. "If we stopped emitting greenhouse gases today," Clinton's science adviser John Gibbons tells TIME, "temperatures would still rise another several degrees." Pass the sunscreen it's getting toasty out there.