Whether you are religious or not, Pope Francis’ climate plans for 2015 brings together religion and science, two topics that are often seen as conflicting by nature. According to the Guardian, the Pope hopes to be more involved in climate negotiations next year in Paris. However, what is it exactly that the Pope can bring to the table for international negotiations? 1.2 billion Catholic followers (just under the population of China and three times the population of the United States). I never stopped to consider the role of religion in mitigating climate change, but Pope Francis’ statements, asking Catholics worldwide to preserve and protect the environment have certainly gotten a lot of attention.
Of course these statements haven’t been supported by everyone. Fox News reports claim that the climate change argument has weakened over the past two decades and that the Pope is putting himself at risk for making enemies.
As we head into 2015, it will be interesting to see if religious leaders will begin to take more of a stance on climate change.
It is hard to believe it has already been two weeks since our time at the COP ended. It was a hectic and incredible experience every day. There were always several events or meetings going on at once and we constantly found ourselves running from one to the next. However, my personal favorite part of each day at the COP was reading the ECO newsletter which was handed out as you walked into the venue each morning. The newsletter was one page, front and back, and it had several different articles about negotiations or other big things going on at the COP. It was the perfect way to stay updated on everything that had happened the day before, since obviously we can’t be in every meeting or negotiation ourselves.
At the very end of the newsletter was a section called the Fossil of the Day Award. This award, given out by CAN International, was announced every day in the early evening. Its given to a country that is viewed as not doing their full part in the conference that day. There is a ceremony that goes a long with the award, including the playing of the Jurassic Park theme song. The Fossil of the Day Award is a great way to call out countries to do more.
On the last day, CAN gave out the Colossal Fossil, or the Fossil of the Year award, to Australia. Australia received 5 Fossil of the Day awards in the two weeks of the conference. You can watch the last Fossil of the Day below:
Just down the road from the COP 20 venue is the Jockey Club del Peru, the home of Voces por el Clima. Voces is an exhibition that showcases the different aspects of climate change, especially in Peru. The venue includes booths from a wide variety of organizations, as well as side events on topics from sustainable cities to indigenous peoples.
We usually arrive at Voces shortly after it opens at 10 am. We start our day in the food court, sending emails to contacts, planning out of day, and watching the COP which is being broadcasted live on the big screen. Around lunch time, the exhibitions begin to get more crowded, with lots of delegates coming over from the COP to enjoy the exhibitions. We have had great success conducting interviews both with delegates, and with representatives at the booths. Most people here are happy and excited to talk with us, whether it be in English or in Spanish. We have even had the opportunity to have dinner with Gabriel Blanco, delegate of Argentina, to talk about the COP and our research.
When not conducting interviews and exploring the many facets of Voces por el Clima, we had been soaking in the culture, food and sites of Lima. We are staying in a part of Lima called Miraflores, which is a more modern section of the city. However, we had the opportunity to explore the historic section of the city, even watching the changing of the guards at the Presidential Palace. We’ve eaten ceviche, sipped on chicha morado, and enjoyed the many free pisco sours. We are excited to get inside the COP next week, and to continue take in everything Peru has to offer.
Growing up in the city of Pittsburgh, and with a teacher as a father, I spent a lot of time in museums. I learned what happened to the dinosaurs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, what makes earthquakes occur at the Carnegie Science Center and the concept of rotational force when spinning around at SportsWorks. Museums are one of the best supplements to school, taking what you’re learning and bringing it to life.
However, currently in Pittsburgh, and in the rest of the United States, there is a lack of discussion about climate change in museums. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published two article’s (one about Pittsburgh museums and another about museums nation-wide) discussing how climate change is, for the most part, missing for exhibits. It states that only about half of U.S. science facilities address the issue.
The articles allude at two main reasons for this. The first being the stated reason by many museums: climate change is just too complicated for kids to understand. However, the articles also suggest that maybe climate change is underrepresented because the big donors of the museums want it that way.
In my opinion, both reasons are bad ones. Educating the next generation about climate change is an extremely important of increasing awareness and finding solutions. Keeping it out of museums makes it seem like its not important enough to be there.
When it comes to talking about climate change, it is easy to leave the conversation feeling like there is no hope left for the world. Greenhouse gas emissions are rising and policies have yet to be drastic enough to bring levels down where they need to be. Sitting in the comfort of a highly developed country, climate change means having to sacrifice some luxuries, like driving large SUVs, that have become customary. Looking through the eyes of a developing country, climate change hits harder and faster, interfering with the ability to ever reach a point where the developed country’s luxuries would even be attainable. Climate change, among other factors, is certainly an obstacle in the way of sustainable development. Developing countries need financial support, incentives to develop sustainably and help adapting to the damage that has already been caused.
The global nature of climate change requires cooperation from all countries, both developed and developing, despite who was historically the source of emissions. However, even with the idea of “common but differentiated responsibilities” supported by the UNFCCC, developing countries inherently get hit harder by climate change and have less ability to do anything about it. South Center’s report, Integrating Development in Climate Change, discusses that idea of developed countries taking a larger role in decreasing emissions in order to give incentives to developing countries to develop in a sustainable manner (South Center, 7). Developing sustainably, by diversifying the energy sector and increasing reliance on renewable energies can be both environmentally and economically beneficial for a developing country. However, most developing countries do not have the money or resources to implement new policies or develop new technologies. If climate change was not a concern, developing countries could continue to develop exactly how the United States did; by industrializing rapidly without a care about how much CO2 is being emitted. Climate change does exist though, and therefore countries need to develop with climate-friendly policies and technologies. South Center states that future climate change policy “should ensure that the best appropriate technologies for climate change monitoring, mitigation and adaptation be a made available to developing countries…”(17). However, how to make these technologies available and how to finance them are the more difficult questions. Essentially, developing countries cannot develop sustainably, in a world where climate change exists, without the assistance of developed countries.
The path to development is a long one. Climate change adds just another obstacle in order for a developing country to develop sustainable. However, obstacles are meant to be overcome, and it is still possible to develop sustainably in a world with climate change. Global cooperation is necessary and shared responsibilities between developed and developing countries. Getting all countries to make the best decisions, not only for themselves, but for the environment has certainly shown not be an easy feat. Climate change makes sustainable development more difficult, but it doesn’t make it impossible.
South Center, Intergrating Development in Climate Change. Nov. 2007.
The other day, I was making arrangements for traveling in South America after the COP is over. I was purchasing my plane ticket on Student Universe when I noticed, under a box asking me if I wanted to purchase travel insurance, a box that was labeled “Fly Green: Offset Emissions”. Show above, the box asked me if I was interested in taking 3500 lbs of CO2 out of the air and help with forestry projects in the US and China for the low low price of $24.95.
Airplanes are obviously a source of large emissions, but as someone who loves to travel, I’ve never been able to commit to idea of decreasing my use of airplanes in order to reduce my carbon footprint. I feel that many people probably feel a similar guilt when traveling, but are also unwilling to cut airplanes out of their lives. The ability to donate a little money after purchasing a plane ticket that goes to apparently taking CO2 out of the atmosphere could alleviate that guilt. However, what is the $24.95 actually going to? 3500 lbs of CO2 being taken out of the air how? In theory it seems like such a good idea, trying to offset your carbon emissions from flying through. But is this really just a way to feel less guilty and not actually a practical way to help the environment? Or is this an option we will be seeing more and more off when purchasing plane tickets in the future?
A week ago today, we had the opportunity to spend two days in Washington D.C., listening to and learning from many incredible people working in the climate change field. By the end of the second day, I was exhausted and my attention span had been shot. However, our last speaker, Keya Chatterjee from the WWF, said something that caught my attention and has kept me thinking since then. She said that information doesn’t change people. She explained that those people out there who still don’t believe in climate change have already seen the graphs and the statistics and presenting them with more information won’t make them a believer. So then what can we do to get people to care about climate change? According to Keya, the answer lies in music, movies and T.V.
Music, historically, has been a powerful medium to represent cultures and time periods. Recently it has been used to make much more obvious political statements. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis played their hit Same Love at the 2014 Grammys, showing their support for equal marriage to an audience 28.5 million viewers. Similarly, Puerto Rican band Calle 13 has spread the word about the struggles in Latin America through many of their songs, including their recent release of El Aguante. Meaning ‘Endurance’ in English, the song discusses all of the things humans have endured through, from Pompeii to Hitler to Hiroshima. However, despite a comment about severe weather events and a jab at Monsanto, environmental issues are left out of Calle 13’s new song. Which leads to me ask, is the issue of climate change not conducive to songs and movies or do people just not care enough to talk about it in those mediums yet?
My guess is the second. I still think information is important; I firmly believe that education is a key component of solutions to most problems. However, when it comes to climate change, there seems to be a whole lot of people who know the information, but just don’t really care. People do, however, care a lot about music, movies and T.V.
In preparation for COP 20 in Lima, we’ve been learning about the difficulties that arise in climate change negotiations. For such a global problem, we need a global effort and it’s hard to get that many nations, cultures and peoples on the same page.
However, even within the United States, we still aren’t on the same page. Despite all of the data and statistics showing that the planet is warming, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan said today that we still don’t know if humans are causing climate change. When asked in a debate if humans were the cause of climate change, Ryan said “I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think science does either.”
To all climate change deniers, our favorite science guy, Bill Nye, says perfectly, “that living things change through a process that Darwin and Wallace calls natural selection. Those are facts. Tectonic plates move and that’s a fact. And the world is getting warmer because of human activity. And thats a fact.”
With the glaciers continuing to melt, the sea levels continuing to rise and extreme weather events getting more extreme, the pressure is on to make something big happen in climate change negotiations. However, every country has a different point of view on what that something big should be. The hopes of the low lying islands would be drastically different than the hopes of a developed country such as the United States. With the widely different views and goals of the many different Parties involved, a “top-down” approach on mitigation is not the best option, but when combined with a “bottom-up” approach to create a multi-track one, there may be hope for pleasing everyone while doing what is best for the planet.
A “top-down” approach to climate change negotiation starts at the highest level and works its way down. In the international regime of the UNFCCC, the Parties come together to decide on a commitment and in theory will be held responsible to uphold this commitment. In contrast, in a “bottoms-up” approach, commitment and action start at the local level and work up to the international level. Daniel Bodansky in The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement argues that both are relatively equal effectiveness because “facilitative bottom-up approaches score well in terms of participation and implementation, but low in terms of stringency; top-down contractual approaches the reverse” (Bodansky, 2). Basically, the strengths of one are the weakness of the other and vice versa. However, not everyone agrees that the two approaches yield equally effective, or not effective, results. Steve Rayer in How to Eat an Elephant: a Bottom-up Approach to Climate Change Policy (Abridged Version here) states that although top-down approaches are useful for setting goals and standards that all Parties should meet, he doesn’t believe in “setting grandiose emissions targets without any plausible technological pathway for achieving them” (Rayer, 620). Rayer believes that UNFCCC and the Kyoto protocol represent the failures of top-down approaches because they rely too heavily on politicians who don’t necessarily prioritize climate change (Rayer, 616).
While I don’t necessarily agree that top-down and bottoms-up approaches result in equal effectiveness, I also don’t believe that the UNFCCC or the Kyoto protocol is a failure. As the age-old idiom goes “there are too many chefs in the kitchen” when it comes to climate change negotiations. However, that doesn’t mean you put each chef in his own kitchen. In a top-down approach there are too many Parties who want too many different things to find an effective solution that makes everyone happy. However, in a bottom-up approach, there is no one to enforce that changes are being made and that everyone is working together. Climate change is a global issue so it needs to be dealt with in some respect in a global arena. At the same time, local governments and groups have a better understanding on what is practical and possible in their culture and community. A multi-track approach that can allow policies to start at the local level, but still holds people responsible at the international level is the best way to continue climate change negotiations in the future.
Bodansky, Daniel. “The Durban Platform: Issues and Options for a 2015 Agreement.” December 2012.
Rayer, Steve. “How To Eat An Elephant: A Bottom-Up Approach To Climate Policy.” Climate Policy (Earthscan) 10.6 (2010): 615-621. Environment Complete. Web. 7 Oct. 2014.
There are many aspects of life that can seem gender discriminatory, but could climate change be one of them? According to a CBS News article on Friday, a recent study in Japan found a connection between the increase in the number of deaths of males fetuses in comparison to the deaths of female fetuses and the increases in temperature.
The cause of why males may be affected more than females is still unknown and the study only found a connection and doesn’t prove causation, as there are many other environmental factors, such as pollution, that could be a fault. The data certainly isn’t all in yet about this subject matter, but its a interesting concept to think about. Maybe it will be true that females have it easier when it comes to climate change. I guess we will have to wait and see what future research shows.