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Dickinson to Durban » Climate Change » And so it begins

And so it begins

Thursday, September 15 marked our first taste of the struggles of global climate deliberations. Our Global Climate Change Africa Mosaic class along with a first year seminar class attempted to navigate a simplified version of an international climate change negotiations. It was difficult. The painful balance of economic and environmental responsibility at times was almost too much to bear. Staying in character in a room full of first-years and close friends is exceedingly difficult, especially when almost everyone is environmentally aware. Awkwardness, coupled with a significant lack of information, left many negotiators arguing heatedly over negligible points.

I have never realized how little I knew about the value of a dollar before this session. Propositions for “monetary donations” to a “global fund” jumped from a few hundred billion dollars to one trillion dollars in the blink of an eye only to diminish back to ten or twenty billion dollars after finding out that less than two-tenths of one percent of the US GDP goes towards foreign aid. Furthermore, people had difficulty understanding the purpose of the “fund” in general, especially considering that the simulator did not even have a box to factor in the money that was the center of so many disputes.

The phrase “ignorance breeds cooperation” to which Emily Bowie alludes was alarmingly fitting for our mock deliberations. Misunderstandings of what the “funds” went towards or what a country’s best interests really are, were commonplace among the discussions. Ultimately, these illusions of understanding nurtured the environmental side of people and encouraged them to agree to startlingly unrealistic compromises. Unfortunately, the agreements did not last and the ignorance faded as did the cooperation between the blocs of countries.

The end result of the simulation was a warming planet that would displace millions of people. The negotiations ended with developed countries cutting their emissions by forty percent, rapidly developing countries increasing emissions by twenty percent and other developing countries increasing emissions up to forty-five percent. While negotiations certainly resulted in a slowing of global climate change compared to business as usual, they still exceeded what many climate scientists agree upon as a dangerous level. In order to prevent an increase in average global temperature of two degrees centigrade developed countries and rapidly developing countries must reduce emissions by at least seventy percent.

Our mock negotiations lasted only a few hours and functioned relatively smoothly yet we still were unable to even approach the necessary reductions to prevent dangerous change. Real negotiations will only be more difficult. With discussions lasting two weeks during the COP meetings and delegates actually understanding their commitments to their country, deliberations will be even more intense and inconclusive and further away from reaching a sustainable goal.

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One Response to "And so it begins"

  1. Anna McGinn says:

    I second your comment about understanding the value of a dollar. When the developed countries offered 100 billion dollars at the beginning of the negotiations, I did not think to argue with them for more. In reality, 100 billion dollars is not even close to enough money to substantially fund sustainable development in the developing world. I guess I just never stopped to think tangibly about what millions, billions, and trillions of dollars really means.

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