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Dickinson to Durban » Summer Reading Responses » World Climate Summit at Dickinson College!

World Climate Summit at Dickinson College!

Imagine if the title of this post were actually true! Not only would students, faculty, and other community members  flock to our conference event, but international persons and other interested citizens would flock to our campus to have a say in the negotiations room!

We, the students in the Africa Mosaic, obviously and luckily, have the privilege of actually participating in the real negotiations in Durban in a few months, but not every student at Dickinson does. To give a larger segment of the campus an opportunity to participate in a similar experience, the Africa Mosaic students and students from a similar-course of study in their first-year seminar acted out a mock-World Climate conference.

The first thing I would like to comment on is that the initially feelings and anticipations I had about the event going into it were radically different from what it ended up being. The emotions of adventure and excitement were super-ceded by frustration and anger, in reality! Representing a delegate from the developed country annex of the Russian Federation, I felt exceedingly angry at the demands made from countries which I felt were in no position to be making such demands in the first place. The sense of cooperation we mutually were hopeful for going in the “delegations” was quickly replaced by self-interest, money, and politics!

Perhaps this basic human desire to peacefully attain goals is what really brings together the delegates to negotiate new targets every year, but what ends up happening is that the deeper human motivation of self-interest and greed take over.

Some situations where this occurred was in the negotiating of basis concepts that had to be solved before details could be worked out, and hopefully a final compromise could occur. Examples of this are in questions such as: Which countries should pay the highest cost in money and morals for their levels of emissions? Where does the question of “historical emissions” come in? Can we hold developing countries to similar standards in a different day and age?

These questions are far from being simplistic, yet it felt during the negotiations, that these “big” and unavoidable questions must first be surmounted before specific figures and models could be made—this was the source of the frustration. But I felt that if these “negotiations” felt frustrating to a bunch of undergraduate students with no real ties, either ethnic or economic, to these countries, then imagine the frustrations felt by the delegates during actual negotiations with real financial figures being thrown around and the threat of real political and social tensions stretching beyond their capacity between countries

By the conclusion of the simulation, I felt that while I had learned a lot, myself and the other students, expressed real hopelessness as to any real progress being made at the actual UN negotiations. However, harkening back to my previously expressed ideas about human motivation—perhaps the reason these conferences keep occurring and new targets keep getting adjusted every five years, is that at the heart of climate change all the delegates from every country, developed or not, want to cooperate on some level and converse to make real and, hopefully, lasting progress.

This is the climate model simulation we used in calculating whether we met our emissions targets or not. Various circumstances can be simulated at the press of a button and realistic models are created.


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