Monday, June 29, 2009

How old will you be in 2050?

So I am finally posting here again after what has been a rather emotional two weeks immersed in the world that is climate politics. Before I jump on my dark-green soapbox, I would like to reflect what an incredible experience attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany was. Thanks to my connection with SustainUs, I was able to attend the conference with a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone agenda (research and youth action). SustainUs is a member of the youth delegation so after an email stating I was coming to Bonn, I was invited to join SustainUs and the other youth delegates as they organized all of their efforts to get the delegates attention that solving the climate crisis is MANDATORY to our future and the survival of our species (not to be too cliché or anything). These young people are some of the coolest, dedicated, organized, on-top-of their-stuff people I have ever met and having the opportunity to interact and chill with them at the Conference and the youth hostel was inspiring. I got to meet two other guys who were also researching US climate change policy who were awesome to talk to and share some ideas.

Last year in Poznan, Poland the Youth movement closed the UN conference with huge banners declaring “Survival is NOT Negotiable”, and after watching a video of this action along with the hundreds of youth chanting, my body was covered with goose-bumps and I became teary eyed. This time the youth delegates participated in several actions, my favorite involving camels rented from the Zoo displaying signs saying “We spit on Weak Targets”. The camels (and sand that also made an appearance) represent the world’s deserts and how they are going to become much worse. There were speeches made from leaders of Africa and India detailing the increased heat and loss of water which made me recall the devastating genocide that is going down in Darfur over water. The worsening deserts action hit a personal note for me since I now attend Arizona State University. Even if I only lived their for eight months thus far, I am fully aware of the water issues Arizona faces and how its getting much hotter thanks not only to climate change but also to the heat island effect. I love checking the weather and despite the weather being in the 50’s in Switzerland, I realize it is so much better than 110 degrees that Phoenix experiences almost everyday. Arizonians tell me that 110 degrees isn’t that hot and that I should be around when it hits 120. Thanks but no thanks. So the camels hit home I guess and I started thinking how cool it would be if camels replaced cars in Phoenix. According to a friend, there are some wild camels running around in Arizona somewhere. Apparently they were used in the civil war and afterwards escaped or were set free or something (more investigation is needed).

This conference the youth sold blue t-shirts with “How old will you be in 2050?” on the front with “Solve the climate crisis for your children” on the back. The t-shirts were sold to raise funds to support the global south (developing countries) youth so they can have an opportunity of attending Copenhagen in December. This cause is really important since the global south represent the poorest countries and ultimately the countries which will be most affected by climate change.

The “science” tells us that in order to avoid catastrophic climate change, countries need to commit to a 40% decrease in our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. The current bill going through Congress which I am basing my ThinkSwiss research on only reduces emissions from 1990 by 4%. The US tries to sound more impressive by saying 17% by 2005, but they do not have the global community fooled. At the conference, my heart was breaking as one of the South American countries (Bolivia I think) brought a man to represent the indigenous people and pleaded with the gathered assembly to stop the emitting so much GHG and to help stop deforestation. Afterwards the entire conference stood and applauded and at the end of the session the youth delegation performed a rap.

So what did the US delegation say? Well they can’t say that the US will simply reduce more because that is a decision by Congress and if the US delegation went back home with a drastic promise to lower emissions Congress would take all deals off the table and we would be in the same situation as Kyoto. In order to participate in the post Kyoto agreement (which will be drafted in Copenhagen at the end of the year) the US needs to have climate change legislation already in Congress so the US delegation can tell the world what they are committing to. Without a bill in Congress, China and India will not set a goal because they feel it is not worth it if the US will just continue to pollute. At the same time, the US feels the same way about China and India with many republicans saying they want to wait to see what China and India does. The whole thing makes your head and heart hurt.

Last week the executive branch of the US released a report detailing the impacts of climate change in the US. The report stated that there would be more deaths among the elderly due to more summer days over 100 degrees in the next hundred years. Even though I am already highly emotionally involved in the subject of climate change, this statement made me think about the T-shirts because in 2050, I will be 62. It all makes me wonder if I will be well enough to survive such heat. I wonder how much the oceans will rise, how warmer the winters will be, and how much different my grandchildren’s America will be from my own. I also look at Switzerland and wonder how long the glaciers will last and how much snow will remain in the winter. It all reminds me how important the bill in Congress is, which is still not strong enough to make a huge difference. I am usually a glass-is-half-full kind of person but I am afraid that climate change is evaporating a lot of that optimism.

1 comment:

Taylor Cantril said...

Don't let too much of that optimism evaporate from your water glass. Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere! Plus Waxman-Markey passed the House on Friday, so we're one step closer to a U.S. delegation with a firm position to negotiate from. Keep us updated on your research.