Friday, December 4, 2009

My COP15 Journal: Day One

Day One. Landed in Copenhagen after sunrise on the red eye out of Atlanta. The T-shirted COP15 volunteers were already out to guide delegates and attendees at every step, and two of them pulled back the rope let us into the COP15 no-wait express lane for passport control. There were no customs agents so once we had our checked bag with the suit, tie, and laced shoes we went straight to the street and more COP15 volunteers handed us a map, marked the rail lines to where we were staying, and pointed us to the free blue metro bus for COP15ers. It feels like the Olympics, or maybe even the Country Music Awards. That level of hospitality.

We are staying at Ross and Hildur Jackson’s farm outside town, so while making a train change we decided to stop for some strong coffee at a Turkish restaurant and ogle the street scene a little. It was still early for a town with a reknowned night scene, but there were lots of bicyclists in the near freezing temperatures and occasional light drizzle. Transit wall billboards and street posters have a very high proportion of climate-related content, and Hopenhagen is the pre-eminent theme.

The news buzz is about India pledging to cut emissions per GDP percentile by 20-25% by 2020. That seems at first glance to be a huge leapfrog over Obama’s pitiful pledge of 4% of 1990 levels (17% of 2005 levels), until you realize that India has every intention of growing its GDP by 9% per year, so what their pledge actually represents is a net increase. This is a game China invented, and it seemed like it might suck in some easy marks, so India set up a table and started hawking the idea too. We expect to run into more of these three-card Monte games in coming weeks.

Saudi Arabia, always the shill for the climate deniers, has latched onto the purloined email Swiftboating and proclaimed the issue will have a "huge impact" on next week's summit, with countries unwilling to cut emissions if climate change does not have a human cause. Those Saudis. What kidders.

Jim Hansen, on the other hand, was not kidding when he said it would be better if the Copenhagen summit failed. "I would rather it not happen if people accept that as being the right track, because it's a disaster track," he told The Guardian. Hansen’s assessment is bolstered by the most recent research findings from around the world that IPCC underestimated the pace and extent of global warming. A report — titled “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” — finds that in several key areas observed changes are outstripping the most recent projections by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and warns that “there is a very high probability of the warming exceeding 2 °C unless global emissions peak and start to decline rapidly” within the next decade.

“I’ve been to several of these meetings,” Richard Somerville, of Scripps told The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert. “The delegates and the leaders say very kind things about the IPCC and thank it for its excellent work. But then, from a scientist’s point of view, once the negotiations start they might as well be negotiating, say, steel tariffs. I’ve actually heard politicians say — I won’t name any names — ‘We don’t want to be constrained by the science.’”

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