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The Copenhagen Summit (Updated)

November 19, 2009

Earth 2007 and 2057Just a few months ago, next month’s Copenhagen Summit was being described as the last chance to save the Earth (which really means save humanity) from global warming. Today it looks like the odds of any binding agreement coming out of the summit are zero to none. Some national leaders will be sending lower-ranking figures rather than attending it themselves.  Canada is sending Environment Minister Jim Prentice rather than Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Ironically, US President Barack Obama, who recently spoke of the need for the US and China to cooperate with each other on environmental issues, will be going to Oslo to accept his Nobel Peace Prize but maybe not to Copenhagen. He intends to outline a plan for environmental protection in his Nobel speech. Rhetoric, however, isn’t what is needed now.

Scientists are speculating that we could see global temperatures rise by six degrees celsius by the end of the century and recent findings suggest that the ocean has been growing less able to absorb the primary culprit, carbon dioxide. The effects of these rising temperatures and the extreme weather they exacerbate will disproportionately affect those less industrially developed nations which have contributed least to the problem. Within those nations, women are likely to suffer most as they are often among the most vulnerable populations in the aftermath of natural disasters.

Given who will suffer most if the powerful of the world continue their failure to effectively fight global warming, is it any surprise that events like the Copenhagen Summit often result in nothing more than promises no one expects will be kept? Maybe when off-shore tax havens and island resorts are swept away, it will be a different matter.

What then is the solution? Lester Brown of the Earth Institute has called for a mobilization of resources similar to that of a war-effort, but there’s still the issue of getting governments to go along with it. Naomi Klein writes about the Earth reparation movement and the idea of climate debt whereby wealthier nations would have to pay the less wealthy for the damage they have done and continue to due. This sort of plan is important as it would directly address issues of environmental justice. The problem, of course, is how you go about forcing the rich (and powerful) to pay.

What do you think can be done? What are your ideas?

UPDATE: As of November 26, the word is that President Obama will attend the summit. Let’s hope this means that a meaningful, binding treaty is likely to result.

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One Comment
  1. Saad Hammadi permalink
    November 23, 2009 5:37 am

    Well, I have been doing some research on my side in Bangladesh about the impacts of Climate Change. Clearly the United States, China and the developed nations have a larger responsibility at the Copenhagen. It will be unfortunate if the leaders and for that matter the believers of change do not have adequate preparation and policies in hand to share with the world at the summit.
    Amongst the few issues, meeting the mitigation targets, setting the new targets after 2012, funding for adaptation are some of the vital factors that have to come under a framework. Bangladesh apparently has a large contingent appearing at the Copenhagen summit. Indeed if promises are meant to be broken, then, the future of survival is gloomed.

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