In the days before the United Nations Climate Change Conference — which will begin in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 7 — there are deflated feelings of anticipation. It is becoming increasingly apparent that a global climate deal is not going to emerge at the tail end of the worldwide get-together. There is hope that examples will be set, and that newly minted unilateral declarations and bilateral accords might together accelerate the path toward a truly global agreement.
Well, maybe next year.
The headlines over the last week have therefore turned to the policy dramas behind the scenes.
Will President Obama's attendance make a difference? Will 60 other presidents and prime ministers from the 192 countries attending be enough to maintain global momentum on climate change policy into the future? Will the U.S. proposal to cut emissions by up to 20 percent be enough to make a difference and inspire others to change?
Science has also shared its drama and scandal. A recent report says unless we change course on current emissions behavior, the world temperature will raise by six degrees centigrade — a terrific plot for a blockbuster disaster movie.
Then, a leaked bunch of emails from a small group of now-dubious climate scientists raised a ruckus for allegedly stifling reports skeptical of climate change. To skeptics, this is the "smoking gun" that there is a global conspiracy to fabricate the evidence pointing to global warming.
The truth, however, is that this is a case of limited academic dishonesty, and that current conclusions of the vast majority of dependable scientists, research institutions, governments and more hold that climate change is as real as gravity.
So where does that leave us as Copenhagen approaches?
Quite possibly we will have a situation where a lack of a deal in Copenhagen signals a lack of urgency, and the debate retreats to questions over the veracity of climate change, not how we slow it down and deal with the impacts felt now and held in store for us in the future. With 43 percent of the U.S. population recently reported as not thinking that climate change is real, as well as 20 percent in the United Kingdom, the likelihood seems high.
What should we do? As dull as it sounds, we need to get onto our political representatives and ask them to take this seriously. They are working for you and, together, you leave the legacy for the world future generations are born into. There is a danger in the democratic world, where 24-hour news cycles and four to six year election cycles hold sway, that the impetus for the politicians, the only people with the power to mandate change, will dwindle. Hold them to their jobs representing your interests. Make it clear climate change matters for your vote, their mandates and terms in office.
Follow those organizations — like Mercy Corps and our partner agencies around the world — that are sending representatives to Copenhagen to keep pressure on the policy makers to address climate change and its impact on the worlds’ poorest and most vulnerable communities.
We will be there representing the work we do around the world in some of the planet’s most difficult places. We want to find more ways to utilize carbon funds to help the poor switch to cleaner and better energy, especially those who will not see an electricity pylon for decades to come. We want to help the many millions in massive coastal slums prepare for rising seas and more flooding on top of the miserable conditions they already face. We want to prepare countries facing food insecurity and the risk of famine in readiness for increasingly erratic weather and access to irrigation water affecting the harvests sustaining life and civilizations across the globe.
We'd like you to join us in saving not only our planet, but its people. Ask President Obama to protect the world's poorest from climate change.