Posted by cdchase on December 17, 2009 | No Comments
I always planned to attend the first big rally and march on the first weekend of COP15. I had heard there was going to be one before I left the US. But the details were a bit sketchy. The announcements I’d heard would only say “downtown Copenhagen.”
When the day came, I asked my Danish friend Barbara and she said her sister was going but she herself wasn’t planning to go. But when she found out I wanted to go, she kindly offered to take Chris and I. But she had her doubts. As we were walking to where we thought it was (more on that later) – she asked me didn’t I think it was dangerous? I said, nah, it never really entered my mind that it would be dangerous. Then she let me know that there was a great deal of coverage in the Danish media about the potential for destructive activities along the lines of what Seattle endured during the infamously bungled (on all sides) WTO event a few years back. She also shared how she had asked a personal friend about it and he shared that he took the situation quite seriously and was leaving town with his kids. She reminded me we are living in a world where you don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In my view, the kind of people this kind of rally would attract are 95% on the peace-movement side. The tiny fraction of those who might hold the view that property destruction is somehow useful, are fortunately not well organized enough to really carry it out – and certainly not in the face of a peaceful, well-trained police plan. So she escorted us so we’d know easily how to get in and out of any where.
We first ended up in the Hopenhagen plaza where they had exhibits, a stage and a bicycle-powered Christmas tree. Anyone could pedal a bike and light up the LED lights on the tree. A pedal-powered sound system worked in another part of the plaza. But this was clearly not the main rally I was looking for. Barbara inquired and led us on more a back route to the Big Rally in Parliament Square. We came across a set of hundreds of Danish citizens marching to the Square with signs, music, and followed by a police van at the end.
The people were old and young, parents with kids and I couldn’t help pointing out to Barbara what “dangerous characters” they are looked like. She ran into a neighbor and a colleague (driving an electric, enclosed bike) in the march.
The Square was mostly filled by the time we got there. It was packed in front of the speaker’s stage and very crowded until you got pretty far back. I decided to basically tour the crowd. We took a generally circling path around the back of the crowd and then circled in closer. I didn’t believe organizers estimates of 100,000 at the rally, but they definitely got into the 60,000+ range for the march itself. I sensed there were a lot more people who were there to march for their support of effective action against climate change than those who were there to hear the socialist messages from the stage.
I noted around 20-25 climate deniers in my crowd sampling. They were true believers of another sort – one I’m greatly perplexed by, though I see I really shouldn’t be. The history of humanity is crowded with folk who denied reality and leave it to history to sort it all out.
I was heartened to hear Senator John Kerry call them out, “Those who look for any excuse to
continue challenging the science have a fundamental responsibility which
they have never fulfilled: Prove us wrong or stand down.” Gosh, if only we could apply that to so many things.
The funniest part of the rally was when one of the speakers tried to do what you do from the stage at a big rally – you get a call-and-response going. It goes like this: “What do you want? “When do you want it” .
Evidently no one told the crowd the right answers! It also helps logistically if you have someone hold up a big sign with the answers – call a “prompt card.” So it was a bit like a Monty Ponthy moment when I was circulating in the crowd and heard the call for: “What do we want?” And there was like a big moment of everyone looking at each other like – us well, gee, what do we want? Climate change! NO that’s not right….uhhhhh gee ….. The announcer moved on to when do we want it? Well, pretty soon would be good….was the collective thought bubble. The speaker now realizes he has to let us know the right answers, so the word goes around and the next time there’s a weak but determined answer: “Climate Justice” and when do want it? Now! We were much more sure of that. Yes, that’s right, whatever we want, we want it NOW! The third time a few more got with the program. But “Climate Justice” just didn’t catch on. So the speaker gave up after a couple of more times.
It got me thinking. Technically speaking, what we want is a stable climate back – but that doesn’t trip off the tongue either. Stop emissions now! Yeah, but again, not great slogan quality. Climate Solutions! Getting Better.
Interestingly enough, 90% of that crowd did not contain the individuals who will actually have to invent or finance the solutions to battle climate change. Though each individual has a part to play, the problem is so challenging, collective government and business actions will be required.
Yet. we’re still arguing as if it doesn’t matter. We are ignoring that nature and physics and chemistry do not negotiate. As I write this the important people are still arguing, and that’s a good thing – as long as they are required to stay in the serious conversation.
Several Danes had gotten there early and taken the high ground (literally) climbing up on a major statue in the Square so they could see and be seen. Their messages: “Respect Our Police.” and here’s a universally applicable slogan: “Don’t Be Idiots.”
By the time police took action by arresting more than 900 towards the end of the march they considered too rowdy or suspicious (including one Buddhist nun), we were having hot tomato soup at a local Danish cafe. As the sunlight retreats beginning around 3:30pm, tens of thousands marched on in the clear, cold darkness to the Conference Center as a moving candlelight vigil demonstrating massive public support for a climate agreement now. (Climate Agreement Now!) Of the hundreds detained by police, only three were arrested, one who had his own illegal firework explode, injuring himself. After treatment, he was arrested. I’m sure the charge was possession of an illegal explosion, but it may have well as been being an idiot.
Let’s hope the negotiators take the sensible Danish anti-idiot advice to heart in the waning hours of the Convention and that we do get a Climate Agreement Now.
Posted by cdchase on December 16, 2009 | No Comments
They are now severely limiting access to the Conference Center itself, but climate change-related exhibits and activities are everywhere around the City center itself.
There was a climate-change-related display in every square I came across in Copenhagen – and every temporary advertising venue had something related to climate change.
Scouting had set-up a gigantic potted-plant sculpture next to Parliament Square. World Wildlife Fund had a Arctic-themed set of photos, the melting ice-polar-bear skeleton sculpture, and a large “igloo” tent with speakers and live music. I came across a huge pile of recyclable trash-as-art along with a display of green rooffing planting examples.
Seimens was at the center of the glossy corporate-sponsored “Hopenhagen” installation near Tivoli Gardens (the world’s first amusement park). At night the earth was projected from the inside onto a large white sphere.
An “Earth Fair” was set up for the Danish public to visit, called Klimaforum09. I couldn’t tell you how many hundreds of exhibits, installations and events there were, since there was no centralized calendar that I came across, but suffice it to say if you wanted to educate yourself about climate change, the causes, impacts and what to do about it, you could – from all possible angles.
The other consistent feature was a very large police presence. They were everywhere in group along with vans making the obvious statement: ‘get out of line and we will cart you away.” And they did. Next installment: what was the rally really like?
Posted by cdchase on December 15, 2009 | No Comments
Best & Worsts (week one)
Most of these are logistical observations as a first-time attendee to a truly global gathering.
Tech services – great bandwidth and power availability – bravo to all! We guesstimate that perhaps 2/3 of the delegates had laptops and the Center provided hundreds of free computers. This was the most digitally wired event on the planet ever. We can only hope that the new speed and bandwidth of communications really makes a difference in the outcomes.
Transit access – Many THANKs to the Danish Metro system for providing both free Metro and Bus access to and from the Conference Center at all useful hours and with plenty of helpers around to educate about how to use the system.
Maps at the Conference Center with big YOU ARE HERE dots and helpful attendants available to aid anyone trying to find a specific room in 77,000 square meters (that’s approx 693,000 sq feet) of Conference space. Special mention for having plenty of fine places for sitting and resting, discussing, eating, typing or chilling out.
Daily briefing meetings with the USCAN (Climate Action Network) and the Sierra Club with guest speakers including reps from the U.S. and other delegations. Really the only way to take meaning from chaos and get an insider feed from closed negotiations.
Security and credentialing – firm, yet friendly – chatty even (during off-peak hours) – though things got bad when the BigWigs arrived. As a decidedly non-BigWig – I found arriving at off-peak hours the way-to-go.
Recycling – why oh why and when oh when will people learn to recycle? It’s really Not That Hard and yet at a Conference where just about everyone is an environmentalist, this aspect was appalling.
The bins were not in enough locations and I often saw recyclables mixed with waste.
Litterature – a subset of the first item, there was way too much litter on the Conference Center floor of all varieties, but my biggest complaint here is really about the number of trees that died for the amazing amount of literature and books and glossy stuff that will not be read in any detail by 95% of the folks who picked it up. This aspect I find quite dismal.
Acronym City – Would someone Please make a list with definitions of all the UN-related COP acronyms? The official COP15 site had a “dictionary” but the acronyms were not in it!
Who’s who? – related to the problems in Acronym City, I guess you have attend these things for years to know who the real power players are.
Meeting schedules – I couldn’t seem to find a consolidated list of Everything That was Going On. Even when I found the official calendar of events and with screens scrolling events in the Conference Center, I still found interesting things just by looking around. This is a minor worst, but I think they could have set up a system to let folks post events to one central online calendar with a set of sorting categories.
Overflowing meeting rooms – Hard to predict I suppose, but sitting on the floor for major presentations was the order of the day.
Names and Group Names on badges – Not BIG enough. Enough said.
OVERALL – it was a good venue and the Danish people were quite welcoming, even with a sometimes overwhelming police response. It seems that’s necessary for any global gathering in this day and age.
Posted by cdchase on December 14, 2009 | 1 Comment
It is Oceans Day at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change on Copenhagen, Denmark.
It has been said that if we were truly honest in our nomenclature, we would call this planet “Ocean” rather then “Earth”.
I made a point to attend a briefing held by scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography where they reported their research on ocean acidification. Ocean acidity has increased by 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This increase is 100 times faster than any change in acidity experienced by marine organisms for at least the last 20 million years. If the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to increase at the current rate, the ocean will become corrosive to the shells of many marine organisms by the end of this century. One recent paper shows part of the Arctic Ocean is already “corrosive” and that’s before what the models have predicted, so we’re seeing organisms that already will not be able to adapt.
Increasing acidification means that organisms either cannot produce new shells, existing shells break down, or it takes more energy than they can muster to create new shells. Literally it means dissolving of shells in an acid solution as the oceans absorb our increasing carbon dioxide emissions.
Sixty-five million years ago, ocean acidification was linked to mass extinctions of calcareous marine organisms, an integral part of the marine food web. At that time. coral reefs disappeared from the geologic record and it took millions of years for the coral reefs to recover.
I asked the SIO scientists what needs to be done. “We are already in an overshoot situation. Our emissions are going past what we regard is a safe level so the actions that are going to take place in COP15 are designed to bring us back down to a safe level as quickly as possible. We’re already past a point that any of us would regard as safe. We need to minimize the time we’re in this dangerous regime.”
Where do the oceans fit into the COP15 process? Oceans are not even addressed directly since they are not “owned” by any one nation. The oceans are a “sink” (dump) for our activities (emissions and waste) from industry, agriculture and land use. If we address those emissions, the oceans should improve.
SIO was also there to report some good news – that they have created the techniques required to improve measurement and verification of what is actually going into the atmosphere. It turns out that current raw measurements and industry reporting of emissions is off by as much as a factor of two and this is extremely significant. “To really know if the actions a community is taking are working, we will be able to put a virtual curtain around an area of the globe and measure the emissions in that area both in and out. This has not been done yet, but we think this is a tremendous trust building opportunity and we will be able to deploy detectors and have measures that can be compared. Methods to verify both from the ground and from space are improving quickly.”
Posted by cdchase on December 13, 2009 | No Comments
Despite the news reports, in the main it was a happy, peaceful scene in Copenhagen today as thousands rallied to demand substantive action from the COP15 process.
Click here to see my pix prior to the bruhaha
p.s. the weather was fantastic! Clear, sunny and beautiful though about 0 degrees Celsius (that’s 32F). My local Danish friends said it probably the best December 12 in decades for such a rally. After the rally I went for a fantastic hot chocolate Danish-style – with lots of whipped cream on top!
Posted by cdchase on December 11, 2009 | 1 Comment
As the negotiations heat up behind closed doors, the supposedly open COP process remains suspended as the temperatures continued to drop outside as winter draws near in Copenhagen.
There were several interesting quotes today:
“This is the largest and most complicated international process that has ever been – because there are so many issues all at the same time.”
“It is chaos from which order emerges with many many people talking to each other”
“The government can lead but it can only lead so far. The biggest thing missing for the US to take stronger action is a large grassroots movement at home creating the political will necessary to move this issue in Congress.”
“If you ever think you’re too small to make a difference, just remember a time when you’ve been stuck in a room with one mosquito.”
Posted by cdchase on December 10, 2009 | 2 Comments
While negotiations in Copenhagen in open session and behind closed doors struggled with difficult conflicts, my first choice for the quote of day is this excerpt from President Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech which I hope inspires everyone at COP15 to rise above their politics and seek common ground.
“…a just peace includes not only civil and political rights — it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.
It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive. It does not exist where children can’t aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.
And that’s why helping farmers feed their own people — or nations educate their children and care for the sick — is not mere charity. It’s also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement — all of which will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action — it’s military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.
Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All these are vital ingredients…. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, the determination, the staying power, to complete this work without something more — and that’s the continued expansion of our moral imagination; an insistence that there’s something irreducible that we all share.”
It is appalling to witness the long lists at COP15 of damages both happening and foreseen – from the acidification of the oceans to the desertification of lands; from the loss of biodiversity to the melting of the Arctic. What is it we cannot understand when we hear these problems? How can we keep dithering over the costs as the costs continue to mount? Is it because the suffering and lives lost are not perceived to be our own?
It seems obvious that we have lost touch with not just our moral imaginations – but with the interconnectedness of life on earth itself.
Which brings me to my second choice for quote of the day:
“Tug on anything at all and you’ll find it connected to everything else in the universe.” John Muir
Posted by cdchase on December 10, 2009 | No Comments
We’re told that China, India and South Africa (and others) oppose stronger climate change emissions reductions (the lower target of 350ppm being proposed by scientists and more threatened nations) because they feel that meeting it would retard their economic development.
But ya gotta wonder – how much would serious climate change retard things? Do they not even ask that question. When you are addicted to one path, it’s hard to change to another without seeing it as a total loss. What they fail to consider is, first, it ain’t gonna happen the way they think and, second, the replacement clean-energy economy should be even better (think energy independence, new technologies and innovations).
There is no question that economic growth would simply take a different path – an even more productive path for everyone – and essentially, if you believe in chemistry – the only path open without massive economic dislocations for all involved.
It’s understandable when the OPEC countries oppose such changes, but to oppose doing the right things as a threat to economic growth is a foolish chimera. One can only conclude that these countries don’t really believe the in the consequences of what the chemistry is telling us.
Posted by cdchase on December 10, 2009 | No Comments
Little did I know that my trip to Paris Disneyland on a whim last week would turn out to be such excellent preparation for COP-15! It’s no accident that the incessantly cheery (some would say creepy) It’s a Small World venue is located in Fantasyland. With it’s happy face “audioanimatronic” dolls miming to a 1960s feel good jingle, it didn’t help that the DJs at Disney had incorporated bad xmas music into the mix and added a few Santa hats on to the robots. They never miss a chance to guild any fake lily in sight.
Much better preparation was found in “Alice’s Maze” – a relatively low-tech walk through “This Way” and “That Way” and “Go Back” with the infamous Cheshire Cat looking down on the proceedings with his sometimes nasty all-knowing-but-I’m-not-telling grin.
Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, I am in total sympathy with those who look at United Nations processes with hopelessness, or even disdain. The idea that all nations can agree on anything is impossibly hopeful. To expect them to address a global crisis like climate change seems too much to ask.
If I owned sea level property, I’d move. I can also understand those who support compromises in the name of progress. At some level, any progress is something, even if that something is out of synch with the hard chemistry of climate change and what would really be needed to address it.
Why for instance would Saudi Arabia and other oil-dependent tribes support anything that undermines their wealth and power? Science is not their strong suit. The island nations who face sinking under the seas are playing for their own survival while the usual powers-that-be seem manifestly unsympathetic. After all, they have politics-at-home to deal with.
Tiny Tuvalu (known in UN parlance as a small island state) cannot think in terms of adaptation but sees its very survival at stake. (Adaptation is the current buzz response to those who see we’re not going to make the changes needed to reduce our emissions sufficiently).
Tuvalu and the other small island nations are insisting on a deal that reflects what the science says about the situation we are in and the effort that must be made. Many of them support a 1.5 degree C global warming limit and 350 ppm of greenhouse gases, while the negotiations by the status quo would be lucky to achieve a 2 degree C warming (if everyone actually did their part). (The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 385.2 parts per million in 2008 and still rising rapidly – up 2 parts per million in one year.)
But Saudi Arabia, backed by China, India, all of OPEC and a few others opposed them. The developed countries (US, EU, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) remained silent. Formal proceedings have been suspended and emergency behind-the-scenes wrangling is going on in earnest.
Posted by cdchase on December 10, 2009 | No Comments
“Will the deal be a good enough deal? They are heading toward doing something and no one who is party to is it going to want to say it’s a bad deal, even if it is.”
Momentum is building for a deal – Obama’s attendance raises the pressure to complete something. But will it be a good enough deal? Whatever is done, they won’t say it’s a bad deal. But that’s the concern on the floor today where negotiations have been suspended except for private efforts by the Secretariat to pull the parties back to the official table.
Private drafts of possible outcomes assessing the level of greenwashing are circulating along with what to do if the deal isn’t “good enough.”
As readers may know, the science is telling us we need to do more while the politics is careening toward whatever can be got. I don’t see the US talking about how much is really enough because too many in the Senate don’t even think there’s any problem. A Republican delegation is headed here to make waves about how this is really a scam to get US taxpayers to foot the bill. Meanwhile, the physics of climate change does not negotiate at all. Silly humans.
cdc from COP15