#COP15 Political Wrap Up

It is now December 19th, the day after COP15 was intended to end. It didn’t though. It went well on into the the night. I stayed up watching the live feed until a recess was called around 4 a.m. However, I was able to get the idea.

We’re not there… yet?

That is perhaps one of the most bizarrely intended phrases I’ve ever written. Did we get a deal? Sort of. Did we get the deal we wanted (and mind you I’ll refer to everyone with this use of “we”)? No, no one got what they wanted. Is there hope that there might be a future for political action on this issue? I think so, but we must match that with our feelings of failure.

Sigh… Failure.

That’s a bit of what we’re left with. This failure has been attributed to the strong arm tactics of the United States and our president, Mr. Obama. But, I don’t think it looks like our fault. I do think it looks like our (I’m speaking as a citizen of the United States) political system: big, unwieldy, dispersed and slow.

And so it should be to some extent. If we were to railroad it through as a 350 ppm agreement, would everyone suddenly have been happy? No. Sadly, of course, very sadly, no. It is what is ecologically necessary, if not, as I would hope could be pointed out, almost generous as a target. But, I’m on the environmental side. I work in the realm of the arts and typically non-profits/NGOs (Or a hybrid like the CSPA). I could probably get pigeon holed as a leftist activist and you wouldn’t be far off. But, there are other people, who are not like me, in the world. And, despite my spite, I need to respect them and what they want/need (Or, what I, in my bias, will say is what they think they need, but only actually, acutely, want).

Do I give credence to the Rushes of the world who claim that global climate change is a hoax? No, and you may have noticed that to diffuse that, I refer to it as ‘climate change’ and not ‘global warming’. In that early morning recess I listened to some clip talking about how climate change is a great world-wide conspiracy against capitalism and the United States. Which of course is like saying that the peace movement is un-american. No, it’s not, it’s ultimately without nationality. But as McLuhan said, all violence is about threats to identity.

Rush Limbaugh’s Right-Wing America-centric identity is threatened by  taking a worldwide view. The Danish Police, ordered to keep order, have their identity threatened by dis-order, the masses of people coming towards them together. Demonstrators (predominately, but not exclusively peaceful ones) see the locked doors of the Bella Center and the police surrounding it as a threat to their identities. Developing nations see their unequal share of the climate change issue as a threat to their (developing) identity. Low-lying countries see rising tides as a threat to their identity perhaps most drastically.

If we act on the violence, if we don’t seek balance, we’re lost. And trying to get a lot of people to agree on something that is balanced, though rarely entirely fair, is not only hard and time consuming, but very American. The conflicted American attitude that oscillates between leadership and isolation consumes more than 300,000,000 people.

More than 50 times as many people, through unequal representation (favoring the big, rich nations on financial backing of political will and favoring the small, poor nations on per capita representation), are conflicted right now between self-interest and common identity, both reinforced and condemned by their peers. If anything, this isn’t an anti-american conspiracy, it’s an americanization of global politics. Our experiment in democracy, in which we’ve tied everyone’s hands to move forward quickly is binding the world together. And it follows, that people will be angry with us, as we’re a threat to their identity and individual will. Not through our strong arming, but our entropic nature. And if you think about it that way, Obama showed up to do what we hired him to do at home, set an agenda and get things moving. He is a powerfully positioned political man, with very little ability to make unilateral change anywhere. I’ve found myself explaining this to many people here, Obama doesn’t do much directly. No president of the USA does, no individual leader in a democracy does.

Anyway, it was dizzying to me to think we could negotiate anything that works for anyone in 2 weeks when we’re trying to protect billions of lives. And we didn’t. We failed. We failed in trying to get the entire planet to move together. It’s a 6 Billion + 2 legged (a second one on either end) race with ourselves. We’re all lined up at the starting line together. And the, pardon the stereotypes, Kenyan marathon runner is tied to the next contestant on “The Bigger Loser”, who is tied to somebody on crutches.

If we want to get anywhere, we need to figure out how to move together. We didn’t do that in Copenhagen. Instead we sort of figured out how to figure out working together. And there were so many people ready to go, we’ve got some forward momentum. We’re getting closer and closer to critical mass, where it’s not about what’s preventing us from getting go, but what if anything could prevent us from stopping. We’re over coming (and I do mean to say we are doing, not trying) a whole lot of inertia. COP15 failed, but Copenhagen succeeded in bring more and more of the world together, even if we are extremely disappointed (let us not at all downplay this) that this wasn’t enough to tip things in our (unfortunately that refers to everyone, even the climate deniers) direction. We’ll only feel we were successful when the COP comes with us.

Shame on anyone who says we’re going to get things to change at Cop16. Shame, because it’s not going to happen at COP16, it’s going to happen now. Every diplomat prepared to not let the Copenhagen Accord rest, every reporter, NGO and activist inside and locked out of the Bella Center, every climate action, every tweet with #COP15 trending, they are all going to continue without waiting for a year. We all got a chance to be in the same place, at the same time, break bread and see who was here.  We reified the sheer mass of the movement. I think there is something to be said for that as we pull each other along.

So, we failed. Failed to save the world, failed to stop climate change, failed to create a binding agreement for nations to move forward, failed to find faith in leadership. But we only failed in terms of Friday, December 18th, 2009. But each following day we’ve got more hands on the wheel bring us hard to port.

Some Recap from around the web:

2 thoughts on “#COP15 Political Wrap Up

  1. Who cares says:

    How do you stop climate change as the climate is always changing? Man made climate change is about nonsense I for one am glad it failed and I hope future attempts also fail.

  2. Ian Garrett says:

    To Clarify, when I’m referring to climate change and what these discussions about climate change are about are not simply the climate altering in a non-specific way.

    Well I care, or I wouldn’t have written about it.

    First of all, you are right the climate has been constantly change in fairly predictable and cyclical ways for longer than humans have walked the earth. This exist at small scales as the earth shifts on it’s axis over the course of the year as we observe seasons. It operates on a macro level with coming and going of ice ages are a natural cycle in which the globe both warms and cools over longer periods of time due to complex ecological and inter-related systems. The Sahara was once verdant forest, glaciers once covered New hampshire. These shifts happen over millennia and are likely occurring as well.

    It is fairly widely believed that the cause of ice ages begins with global warming, or more accurately: global warming is part of the cycle from which we can start a case study. One result of global warming and polar ice melting is the disruption of ocean currents by altering the conditions under which heat and salinity causes water to move globally. Over time (thousands of years) this then cools the earth until that process happens again.

    However, to your idea that this is nonsense, I want to put this politely, but, you’re wrong. There is a large amount of scientific data that shows that the climate is changing outside of its natural cycle. The planet is warming at a much greater rate than has previously been measured, resulting in changes to the climate that are much more drastic, unpredictable, and hard to appropriately adapt to for the affected species. This results in the destruction of habitat without time to evolve or relocate appropriately, displacement of populations that live on lands near sea levels that have remained consistent for most of human history, and much more violent weather patterns.

    So the issue at hand isn’t one of “if” climate change exists, but the extent to which human activity accelerates it by emitting more greenhouse gases than are naturally generated and expected as part of the Earth’s climate cycle. This has been proven: following the industrialization of the developed and now developing world we are able to and do measure the parts per million of various elements that contribute to the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere and can compare this to the past by sampling things like arctic ice. Carbon is the greatest focus, as our greatest emission. It, however, is not the sole offender.

    And, honestly, if we are wrong, and manmade climate change isn’t happening, the outcome of preparing for such a thing is just cleaner air and a less polluted planet. So it’s not as though someone loses anything here. We either save the planet by making it cleaner, or we just make the planet cleaner despite it’s resilience. While forgetting about climate change for a moment, we know that plastics, toxic chemicals and air born pollutants (to simplify) are not good for human health or the habitats of any living thing. So while the focus is on climate change, this is the trigger to address a multitude of adverse environmental effects caused by human resource consumption as the most immediate and dire concern.

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