COP16 — Sad and uplifting moments

I’ve never been to a COP before, but I’ve been involved in climate change issues long enough to recognize a very sad trend from fighting to prevent it to squabbling over the money to deal with it.  Far more energy is being spent today to discuss the costs of adaptation, primarily for countries that have had very little to do with causing it.  More and more effort is spent by scientists not in evaluating the broad implications of a warming planet, but in evaluating the much more narrow human-scale impacts it will cause.

A few years ago, people who spoke about adaptation were admonished for giving up on preventing climate change.  Today, those people who still focus on preventing the worst effects are criticized for failing to address the very real impacts occuring now, or expected to occur regardless of any efforts we make.

Within the negotiations, the voices of island nations poignantly plead for their survival, begging the world to embrace a target of planetary warming no higher than 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, the only realistic chance these countries have for survival.

Youth groups held a sale today in support of world youth, which I of course felt obligated to attend.  It was, of course, a stunt.  They were selling off icebergs, glaciers, forests and their own future, all at rock-bottom rates while they lasted.

Today, I had the privilege of listening to Christiana Figueres, the new Executive Director of the UNFCCC as she addressed the scientists gathered for a special session to update the science of climate change.  She began by saying she was not a scientist, and for that reason expressed her profound gratitude for scientists working under pressure and attack.  She pointed out that the force of the attacks is proportional to the level of threat that the strength of the science presents to entrenched interests.  She expressed her confidence that science would win out in the end.  And she emphasized the need for scientists to continue to stay several steps ahead of politicians, never wavering, but guiding the political process with strength and persistence.

[Adriana is blogging from the UN climate change negotiations in Cancun, in an attempt to keep the Canadian delegation honest.]

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