Global environmental challenges
The issues are global and urgent, but the bureaucracy can sometimes be mind-bogglingly slow and petty.
After a day of stalled talks, the 193 nations at UN-led climate talks finally met for a plenary to discuss one of the main drafts floating around the summit, just two days (and two hours) from the deadline for a deal.
First on the agenda – auxiliary verbs. There was a discussion of should vs shall, before an appeal from the chair.
“I would ask you to consider the most scarce resource in this room – sleep”
Today we pose the question to our virtual panel of experts, “How far can we trust the science of climate change?”
Join the debate and leave your comments below.
Bjorn Lomborg, statistician and author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist”:
The vast majority of climate scientists tell us that increases in carbon dioxide cause higher temperatures over time. We know that this will mean changes in rainfall, melting of snow and ice, a rise in sea level, and other impacts on plants, wildlife, and humans.
In the last few days it has seemed like the only thing everyone can agree on in Copenhagen is that time is running out.
The heads of state start arriving today and descend in full force on Thursday.
Negotiators say they don’t want their leaders arguing over the placement of a comma or a set of brackets, and so everything needs to be tied up by Friday morning.
Fighting climate change is a huge investment opportunity but not through emissions trading and investors should instead put their money into renewables which will power the economy in the future, says a leading environmental scientist and cap and trade expert.
As yesterday’s walkout by African nations showed, getting anyone to agree on anything at the U.N. Climate Conference is easier said than done. The use of markets to address pollution is no different. Supporters of cap and trade — the system which allows companies or groups who meet their emissions targets to sell their remaining carbon credits — are out in force, but so are the groups who say the scheme prevents less responsible companies from breaking their bad habits.
There’s no concierge, no bellboy nor even a check-in counter. There’s no lobby, nor mini-bar and not even any heating. But despite the lack of amenities there was still something special about sleeping alongside 2,000 other climate change activists in an empty warehouse in an industrial section of northwest Copenhagen last night.
It’s cold, loud and dusty. But the price is unbeatable and so is the atmosphere. You could say they were all happy campers.
Among the many messages sent out by politicians during the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, “Be sustainable — don’t buy sex” has to be one of the least expected. This was the advice circulated by Ritt Bjeregaard, the city’s mayor and a former EU Environment Commissioner, sent via postcard to all the hotels in the city to tell them to stamp down on conference-goers looking to patronise prostitutes on their premises.
Prostitution is legal in Denmark (though brothels and pimping are not), and sex workers had been expecting to do a roaring trade during the two-week conference.
There are numerous youth groups at the Copenhagen Climate Conference (they are known as ‘Youngos’, short for young non-governmental organisations) and they have all come here to make sure their collective voice is heard as delegates negotiate an agreement on how to tackle climate change.
Youngos represent a significant portion of the 34,000 people who have registered to attend the conference, and some have even managed to gain access to politicans and business leaders to put pressure on them on ethical business strategies.
With the world’s eyes firmly fixed on the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen it is easy to forget that there remains a significant group of scientists and politicians who do not accept that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are the primary cause of climate change.
These climate skeptics are in Copenhagen too and they held their own two-day conference not far from the Bella Center, home of the main summit. The Copenhagen Climate Challenge brought together a cluster of scientists who believe the real causes of climate change are being overlooked, ignored and even purposefully distorted.
from The Great Debate UK:
- John Reid MP, formerly UK Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Defence, is the Chairman of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The opinions expressed are his own. -
Barack Obama’s announcement that there will be no all-encompassing protocol agreed at Copenhagen underlines that climate change is perhaps the most complex issue facing the world today. In part, this is because it involves long-term thinking and modeling which our existing political, financial and economic institutions and governance frameworks are ill-designed and configured to grapple with and resolve.
In the tiny settlement of Boa Frente on the banks of a tributary to the Amazon river, bright blue butterflies flitting through trees and the constant squawks of parrots add to the feeling of a paradise on earth. The poverty endured by most of its residents quickly shatters that illusion, but environmentalists hope this village and 35 others in Brazil’s Juma reserve could be a model for saving the world’s greatest forest from destruction.
This feature about the Juma REDD project, which stands for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, gives a fuller account of the issue.
REDD projects, in which reserves in developing nations with forest like Brazil and Indonesia receive funds from rich nations looking to offset carbon emissions, have emerged as one of the few areas in which a strong deal is possible in the divisive United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen this month.
My trip to Juma, which lies about an hour’s flight from Manaus city in Brazil’s vast Amazonas state, gave me an idea of how much is at stake as the seven-seater plane glided over a carpet of unspoiled forest that stretched to the horizon on every side. I also found that opinion is starkly divided over how to go about REDD schemes and whether Juma, whose backers include Coca Cola and hotel chain Marriott, is a desirable model.
For the 320 families in the reserve, the benefits are already becoming clear. As well as a $30 monthly stipend for all families, Boa Frente has gained a smart new school with Internet access that stands in sharp contrast to the simple huts that residents live in. If the REDD scheme takes off according to plan they could stand to gain $7 million a year by 2020 from carbon credit sales. That would go some way towards fulfilling a long-held truism of Amazon protection — that people will only stop cutting down trees when it becomes more valuable to keep them standing.
Yet some environmentalists I spoke to back in Manaus were surprisingly critical of the project. One worried that such projects would create dependency among the families and do little to address what he saw as the main causes of their poverty — a lack of markets for forest products. Another head of an environmental group who has worked with river communities for decades said that Juma community leaders were being manipulated by the project and were losing their freedom.
While REDD certainly represents new hope for preserving the Amazon and other tropical forests, there is a largely unheard debate over how they should best serve the interests of the forest dwellers who will have to live with them.