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There is Still Hope

The last couple of days have been very exciting and informative.  On Tuesday, we got into the Bella Center and I saw Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Al Gore speak.  On Wednesday, I went to a couple of side events in the Bella Center that talked about green jobs that will come from an agreement in Copenhagen.  I also saw a panel of mayors from around the world that talked about how they are reducing carbon emissions in their own cities.  Their overall message was that they will continue to work toward making their cities more sustainable even if the UN does not come up with an agreement—it was very reassuring.  Today, we went to some of the side events in the city such as the Klima Forum which is a side conference about climate change and we went into the center of Copenhagen to an event called Hopenhagen.  We explored a lot of the exhibits and I was very impressed.

I was extremely moved by Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s panel discussion that was sponsored by Oxfam.  I did not know that countries are being so negatively affected by climate change already.  He brought four people who live in different parts of the world that are being affected by climate change and invited them to tell their stories.  Archbishop Tutu was very firm in his message that listening to one another is the key to ending climate change.  He wanted to convey that, “We are interconnected…we are bound together.”  He wanted to remind us that those that are being affected by climate change are not the ones that are causing it and he is calling for the largest polluters to do their part and help these countries. 

A man from Peru talked about the changing seasons in his country due to climate change, “Weather seasons have changed completely.”  He told us that there is rain followed by drought and cold fronts with hail.  Their water sources are depleting which causes less food to be available because there are fewer crops.  A woman from Papua New Guinea also believes that the world’s leaders need to start listening.  Her opinion on industrialized countries is that they need to, “Learn to care and love other people.”  A woman from Bangladesh had an extremely tragic story.  Their family owned a farm, but due to climate change and changing sea levels the soil has too high of a salinity to farm anymore.  Her husband started collecting honey in the jungle to feed their family and was eaten by a tiger.  Several months later, their village flooded and her home was washed away and their village is still under water.  She said that the climate has changed dramatically and describes it as, “Very unpredictable.”  They have long, hot summers and short winters with little rain.  She told us, “I want my life back.”  The final panel member was a woman from Uganda who has flooding in her village as well.  The flooding brought on drought and sickness—especially in infants.  She told us the homes and schools are still empty.  They once had two seasons a year and now they do not have any.  They are having a hard time growing crops because they have no signs telling them when they should plant and harvest. She told us, “We want our seasons back.”  Many of the panelists also called for developed countries to do their part and start helping the developing countries that are being affected by the pollution from the developed nations.

Designating funds for the countries that have been affected by climate change has been a big part of the negotiations in Copenhagen.  Many of these countries brought delegates so that their voices can be heard in the big debate.  With many of the world’s leaders arriving today and tomorrow, I am still hopefully that an agreement will be made.

-Samantha LaChance


6 Responses

  1. Like many supporters of the Copenhagen Climate Conference my expectation is that all countries involved will come to an agreement on how to lower global carbon emissions. However, I am skeptical and fearful that an agreement will not be made. With the final day of the conference nearing, decisions need to be made quickly.

    One of the major roadblocks to an agreement on lowering carbon emissions is the issue of funding. It would be expensive for both developing and developed countries to implement the tactics needed to reduce carbon emissions. Developed countries such as Japan and the European Union have made announcements saying that they will donate money if the emission agreements are made. We will find out soon the United States’ decision on funding, and whether or not they are participating in the agreement.

    Regardless of the final outcome, the Climate Conference has increased the amount of participation in global climate discourse from countries that might have otherwise been overlooked. As discussed by Robert Cox in Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere, the developing countries that are the most affected by global warming and its effects are the countries least included in climate solution conversations. The Copenhagen Climate Conference is aware of how important it is for all countries to have an equal say, which is a step forward in creating a just environment for climate discourse. From reading other students’ blogs it seems that access to some of the conference was limited. My hope is that everyone who wanted their voice to be heard had the chance to express it at the conference, or among conference participants.

    One of the reasons why developing countries are so deeply affected by global warming and increased carbon emissions is because of how much it involves other social factors. Cox cites the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that predicted that changes in the climate will cause developing nation’s natural disasters and shortages in food and water. This is why it’s even more important for developing countries to join the discussions on lowering carbon emissions.

    Cox, R. (2010). Environmental communication and the public sphere. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

  2. Is it true most of those attending Cop15 are not scientists? Just wondering… and why did Chavez receive a standing ovation?

  3. This past week I had the opportunity to watch a CNN special entitled “Trick or Truth,” which investigated the scientific certainty of human caused global warming. Like many of my academic peers, I see little to no debate about the reality or causes of global warming, and have argued till I was blue in the face too many times with people in the “Trick” camp. As the scientific speculation of global warming infested the media over the past weeks, I have found myself divorcing myself from the scientific debate of global warming finding it to be counterintuitive to my cause. Several years ago in their controversial article “The Death of Environmentalism,” Shellenberger and Nordhaus asserted that environmentalism had become just another bickering special interest group. They like many other scholars of communication, politics, and culture advocated a more inclusive environmental movement in which persons from the far right and the extreme left could rally behind a single environmental action. As I watch public figures like Sarah Palin and Senator John Kerry publicly debate the scientific certainty of climate change, I find myself urging the environmental movement to shift the dialogue to a more inclusive policy narrative of climate change, and one that will unite rather than divide the public.

    At a recent lecture given by noted environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy Junior, I was inspired by his ability to keep the climate change debate on an economic track that stressed the benefits and necessities of going to a carbon neutral economy. Every economy that made a major carbon reduction, (Brazil, Iceland, New Zealand, etc…) prior to the credit crisis of 2008 experienced unprecedented economic growth. The economic power many scholars believe will be unleashed by the movement to a post-carbon economy is barely being discussed in the public sphere. Yet as Copenhagen neared the “Truth or Trick” dialogue consumed American dinner tables, car pools, and coffee clubs. I believe the dialogue of climate change must divorce itself from a strategy rooted in the scientific based perception of risk and begin to engage in a broader and more robust set of issues. It is time environmentalists, like myself, realized that our effectiveness will be determined by how many viewpoints we can come to terms with and include in our policies. A belief in economic growth is the social paradigm of the times, so we must at some level embrace this and dismiss the myth that environmentalism is fundamentally at odds with growth. Moving forward the rhetoric must not be one purely based in science but one dominated by the social, scientific, and cultural aspects of sustainability.

  4. Even with all the hype about the importance of The UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, I do not expect this conference to produce any significant results. Similar to the Kyoto Protocols, if there are any pledges, they will be empty promises with inaction. Much to my dismay, I believe this conference will be a disaster because the leaders in the internationally community are not ready to come to the table and discuss and negotiate the main issues confronting climate change. Although I want to see this conference make serious steps towards a comprehensive plan for reducing emissions and helping developing countries cope to the changes, given the progress of the conference so far, it is highly unlikely. With some of the top greenhouse gas emitters such as India denying that they have to commit to any action based on reports, and the US claiming it will not make any pledges unless there is effort and action from other countries, such as China, this conference seems doomed to fail.
    Referring to Shellenberger and Nordhaus’s “The Death of Environmentalism,” it is quite apparent that some tactics of environmentalism, such as the disaster scenarios do not work; rather they just create an individualist approach in which no one is convinced to sacrifice or negotiate for the common good. Similarly, the world’s leaders are taking an individualistic approach to this conference, as they are not making steps to negotiate a plan for action because they do not want to sacrifice economic growth or potential job losses. For China and India, as well as US, it is beneficial in short run to industrialize at the rate their going. If all developing countries continue to function without more regulation, the effects of climate change will escalate and affect the whole international community to the point of no return, an example of the tragedy of the commons.
    Therefore, the world leaders need to act for the benefit of the whole international community, including the poor developing countries by helping to finance a fund to help them face and address the effects of climate change, as they will receive the most negative effects our of the rest of the world. If the leaders at the conference practice the precautionary principle, then they would be more understanding and act in a cooperative manner at the conference, instead of blaming one another about the current situation and lack of significant progress at the conference. It is crucial to realize that this a moment in history that could make or break the wellbeing of the whole international community down the road. Unfortunately, I believe the leaders of the conference will make decisions based on their self-interests and this will produce a least desired outcome, similar to the 1994 Kyoto Protocols.

  5. As leaders from around the world embark on a mission to help curb global warming and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, it is important for the United States to be an active participant in this change, and even more important for United States citizens to realize the importance of global warming and how its effects could not only affect our generation, but generations for years to come. We need to fix the mistakes we have been making now, if we have any hope for our future.
    Greenhouse gas is the number one reason for global warming, and hugely affects the Earth’s global temperature. Because of the gasses being emitted, our Earth is slowly warming, which is having catastrophic effects on the Earth as a whole. The polar ice caps are melting and some island nations are gradually sinking into the ocean, just to name a few. It is vital that greenhouse gas emissions be cut back. If we don’t, the effects will be even more disastrous.
    As of right now, the United States has pledged to cut back greenhouse gas emissions by only three to four percent, while many European nations have promised to cut back at least twenty percent. According to the latest draft, the goal is to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050. Specifically, for developed countries, the draft includes a 75 percent cutback on greenhouse gas emissions. Alternatively, goals of 80 or 90 percent are also included, and it has yet to be decided what the main goal for the year 2050 will be. However, this draft does not include how much specific countries will have to cut back.
    If this conference is to be successful, it is important that the United States try to come closer to matching, if not exceed, the standards set by European countries. If we are to try and fix the mistakes our planet has been making, we must make a commitment to help curb global warming. In order to be successful, it is important that we act now.
    The COP15 Global Climate Summit is arguably one of the most important, if not the most important, summits of our lifetimes. It has brought together scientists and leaders from all over the world who are committed to creating a more energy-efficient and sustainable way of life. We need to ensure the success of this summit. In order to do that, the United States needs to be a more willing participant in the mission to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. Our Earth, as we know it, depends on it.

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