Why Care About Copenhagen?

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Copenhagen. You’ve probably heard the name of the Danish capital about a thousand times in the past month or two. Or maybe you haven’t, and it’s just starting to pop up in your local nightly newscast.

What happens at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this month could very well alter the future of businesses and lifestyles around the globe. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of environmental concern (or if you’re on it at all), Copenhagen is going to be a big deal.

More than 10 years ago, countries around the world joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), working to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable. Representatives from these 192 countries will meet at the Conference to work toward a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

The Convention on Climate Change establishes a setting to discuss legally binding means of addressing these issues, and it “recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

Photo: Flickr/jimg944

Neglecting environment and climate would be the greatest political tragedy of the last five decades. - Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Program. Photo: Flickr/jimg944

The Copenhagen Diagnosis: 2°

The recently released Copenhagen Diagnosis is a compendium of the most current, peer-reviewed science behind climate change theory. Its research is an update of the information previously released in the groundbreaking Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007.

According to the Diagnosis, “The atmospheric CO2 concentration is more than 105 [parts per million] above its natural pre-industrial level. The present concentration is higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years, and potentially the last three to 20 million years.”

Additional findings from the report:

  • Satellite and direct measurements now demonstrate that both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass and contributing to sea level rise at an increasing rate.
  • Sea level has risen more than 5 centimeters over the past 15 years, about 80 percent higher than IPCC projections from 2001. Accounting for ice-sheets and glaciers, global sea-level rise may exceed 1 meter by 2100, with a rise of up to 2 meters considered an upper limit by that time.
  • In 2008, carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels were approximately 40 percent higher than those in 1990.

“The reconstruction of past climate reveals that recent warming in the Arctic and in the Northern Hemisphere is highly inconsistent with natural climate variability over the last 2000 years,” said Dr Alan Haywood, reader in paleoclimatology at the University of Leeds, U.K., and one of the authors of the Copenhagen Diagnosis.

The take-home message: The report concludes that global emissions must peak then decline rapidly within the next five to 10 years for the world to have a reasonable chance of avoiding the very worst impacts of climate change. This means that global temperature changes should not exceed a 2 degree Celsius increase above pre-industrial values.

OK, so all this jargon sounds great, but what does it mean for us?

Arctic sea-ice has melted far beyond the expectations of climate models - about 40 percent greater than the average projection from the 2007 IPCC Report. Photo: Flickr/metrognome0

Arctic sea-ice has melted far beyond the expectations of climate models - about 40 percent greater than the average projection from the 2007 IPCC Report. Photo: Flickr/metrognome0

Climate Change Policy and You

Even though polar bears on melting ice, and even Denmark, may seem too far away to be relevant to life here in the U.S., the decisions reached at the Conference will have resounding effects across the global economy.

The Diagnosis recommends that to stabilize the climate, “a decarbonized global society, with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, needs to be reached well within this century. More specifically, the average annual per-capita emissions will have to shrink to well under 1 metric ton of CO2 by 2050.”

To put it in perspective, this figure is 80 to 95 percent below the per-capita emissions in developed nations (that’s the U.S.!) in 2000.

At this point in time, educated speculation is our only means of guessing, but one thing is for sure, change is in the air.

Governments have cautioned that the conference is unlikely to produce a binding agreement to substantially cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases at this point.

However, others disagree with this forecast. “To me, there is enough reason to have a sense of optimism right now that a deal could be made in Copenhagen that is not just a political deal, but is meaningful in terms of the scientific targets,” said Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Program.

“We just hope we can work together in a way to avoid the mistakes that we made that have created a large part of the problem that we face today,” said Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Systems to mitigate carbon emissions may be put in place here in the U.S. New technologies and cleaner power will probably be in the mix with these adjustments. However, what will actually happen here at home is still part of a cloudy future.

Even if the environment doesn’t fall on your top 10 list of priorities, discussions about climate legislation at national and international levels will affect your lifestyle in the long run. The important factor is to be as educated as possible about the politics, policies and science at hand, and to decide what aspects are most important to you.

“Global climate change is by far the most complex issue we’ve taken on,” said Kevin Tuerff, president of EnviroMedia, a green marketing firm. “But we have faith Americans will contribute to the solution if they take time to understand the connection between our everyday lives as consumers and important issues like cap and trade being discussed in Copenhagen at the United Nations climate change conference.”

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Comments

  1. Let’s hope that, in the wake of the past week’s email “scandal”, REAL progress can still be made on multiple levels without being sidestepped by propaganda.

  2. Pingback: Almost Half of Americans Don’t Believe in Climate Change - Earth911.com

  3. Thank you so much for share this kind of information with us. I certainly was not aware of this. I was born in Denmark and when I read “Why Care About Copenhagen” I just had to click on it to read.

    I work for the company that has been publishing codes (in in USA) and there are many changes acurring within the building industry to help make the world a safer place to live and that is also going “green” along with substainability.

    I do so hope that these talks will come up with some answers and procedures on how to make the world a better environment for the world.

  4. Isn’t anyone at Earth911 aware of the recent “Climategate” episode in which the leading UN scientists have been caught lying big-time about their so-called “incontrovertible” data they fabricated to support their phony “sky is falling” climate-change theory / schemes over the past several years? Schemes that have led thousands of local and state governments, like those in California, to impose cumbersome “emergency” regulations upon their citizens, that waste thousands of taxpayer dollars when we can least afford it and threaten our very standard of living that we’ve all worked so hard to build over the decades for our ourselves and our posterity? This is a scandal of epic proportion, but where’s the media coverage? I guess Tiger Woods shenanigans are more important. I notice Earth 911’s Ms. Berry and Ms. Wills didn’t even mention this scandal once in their articles. The American people are waking up to this “climate-change” fraud and that it is simply a political ploy to overturn and redistribute the prosperity of the world’s developed nations. Oh, I know: Let’s not let the facts get in the way of the schemers’ pre-conceived agenda… I am an avid conservationist and recycler who loves clean air, but fraud is fraud and enough is enough! The false pretenses are becoming very clear to all !!!

  5. Why does this article omit the reality of ClimateGate? Wouldn’t it be refreshing and novel if a news reporter tried to be objective and report all sides of an issue? Whatever happened to THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO KNOW? Try looking at who will financially profit from this mess. One point is case is Al Gore who has made millions on talking the talk while doing virtually nothing to act on all his own rhetoric. Try researching just that one just for starters.

  6. Pingback: Country Meadow » Blog Archive » Eco News: Why Care About Copenhagen?

  7. To M. Erdei:

    Yeah, that’s right Erdei…this whole climate thing is just a ruse! A big conspiracy. The world’s climate scientists are really just pulling a fast one on the public, those evil pranksters.

    I have found that the majority of people who object to the authenticity of global warming are generally science illiterates. Somehow, in their ignorance, they have come to believe that even their illiterate opinion is as valid as those of the experts, and that no one will notice their staggering cognitive shortcomings. Embarrassing.

  8. Because of climate change/global warming, the role of trees to sequester carbon is gaining more importance throughout the world therefore preservation of the green trees and increase in reforestation/afforestaion activities would mitigate the problems of climate change and global warming. Timber extraction should primarily be limited to salvage logging and that to with the aim and purpose of improving the forests. Besides the salvage logging, incentives to the private forest owners of third world countries be given for the retention of green trees. For this purpose efforts should be made to include only and only the existing forests of third world countries in Kyoto protocol for carbon credits in future because
    climate system is a shared resource whose stability is being affected by most of the industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by major developed countries.

    Mumtaz A Qadir
    Conservator of Forests AJK Pakistan

  9. CC is going to change our Mother Earth as now and forever to the WORST and all living things on Planet Earth will die slowly and eventually only the Rich People will carry to live longer as there got the money to buy and pay for their necceseties and finally Co2 level will decrease (less populated in all living things).

  10. Eventually the Rich will have the Last Laugh and Bye Bye to the have nots.THE Beginning of A NEW ERA without much competetion for anything and everything all to Themselves. Ha HA HAA.

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