The first day of COP21 focused primarily on speeches by the heads of states, setting the tone (an optimistic one) for further days at the conference. With everyone's attention on them, there were very few side events in the morning. We browsed through all the available Countries Pavilions and participated in some of their activities. Of course, a lot of important people were around, but security made it difficult to track them down. However, Thomas was lucky and got a picture with Al Gore!
One of the big highlights, of course, was watching President Obama's speech from the United States pavilion. You can check out the full text of his speech here, but we wanted to highlight some key ideas that we were inspired by!
Watching all the heads of state line up for the honorary photo (like elementary school kids lining up after recess), it's important to remember that they aren't the ones really negotiating here. While appearances by Obama and other leaders show a global commitment to change, it is other representatives and negotiators who now have to hash out the details towards our 2 C goal over the coming weeks.
As President Obama said, "Let's get to work".
The 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to occur in Paris, France from November 30th through December 11th 2015. There are exceptionally high expectations for this year’s conference; it is anticipated a new international climate change agreement will be agreed upon by all of the member states. Here is a breakdown of the impending agreement:
WHO is involved in the new agreement?
All member nations of the UNFCCC will be involved in creating the new international climate change agreement.
WHAT will the new agreement include?
The new agreement will be different from the Kyoto Protocol (click here to learn more about the Kyoto Protocol à Kyoto Protocol). Instead of having one global standard that all nations must “commit” to, the new agreement will have each nation propose a “contribution” on behalf of their country. Each nation will create a plan called, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Although there is currently no standard for what will be included in these plans, generally it is expected that INDCs will include mitigation plans, emissions reductions, adaptation efforts, capacity building etc.
WHY is a new agreement so important?
The Kyoto Protocol did not achieve the goal of reducing the amount of global emissions released and halting the warming of the climate. Many nations (the United States included) never even ratified the Kyoto Protocol. By changing the terminology from commitment to contribution, and allowing individual nations to create their own plans, the hope is that more nations will approve of the new agreement. The climate is continuing to change, entire countries are disappearing as sea level rises (click here to learn about the country of Tuvalu and their struggle with sea level rise Tuvalu), storms are worsening, traditional lifestyles are impacted, and plants and animals are dying off. Climate Change is a global problem and needs to be addressed at a global level. A new international agreement is a step in the right direction.
For more information on the coming conference and international agreement see Expectations
For more information on COP 21 in Paris see COP21
Keep following our blog to see what happens at COP 21!
What is COP 21?
We should probably start off defining some terms...
Who will be there?
What will you see?
Above is a quick break down of the schedule of the themes for each day. As student observers we will have access to the lower level talks, mostly informational and not an actual negotiation. We will get the chance to hear from other countries as they give their perspective of how the climate is changing.
As the number of days between now and COP21 diminishes, the United States presidential primaries are quickly approaching as well. As covered in our most recent blog, candidates from one party are campaigning with climate change solutions as a significant part of their platforms. The other party, however, is not as interested.
Still, a presidential race is more about the future than it is about the past and many voters are more concerned about each candidate’s plans than their track record. NextGen Climate, a political activism group, is leading the fight against climate change by suggesting that our candidates set the goals of 50% clean energy by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2050 (a recent poll found that 69% of Americans support this proposal). Martin O’Malley is the most on-board with NextGen Climate’s suggestions as he has made the demand for 100% clean energy by 2050 one of the key components of his platform. Bernie Sanders has also worked with this timeline, having co-sponsored the comprehensive “gold standard” climate bill aiming to reduce GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Governor O’Malley and Senator Sanders have each suggested implementing a carbon price, denying permits for arctic and off-shore drilling, and creating clean energy jobs. O’Malley’s plan continues further by suggesting a zero-tolerance policy for methane leaks, a phase-out of fossil fuels, and stronger carbon regulations. Hillary Clinton, like the other candidates, seems to love the year 2050 but has not given an official figure in relation to it, saying she will “achieve deep emission reductions” by then. Her specific goals include more than half a billion solar panels across the country by the end of her first term and generating enough renewable energy to power every home in America within 10 years of when she would take office. Secretary Clinton still has yet to release her official policy outlining her plans for doing this.
You check out each candidate's official policy below:
Hillary Clinton: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/climate/
Martin O'Malley: https://martinomalley.com/policy/clean-energy-future/ and https://martinomalley.com/climate/agenda/
Bernie Sanders: http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-climate-change/
More Sources Used:
Well... it's only a week or two out from the Conference of Parties. I think it's time that we covered a quick intro of the US politics and some climate change views. I looked up some of the "more popular" candidates and found an article that covered almost everyone views and you can view that here.
Here's a list of the "Top 6" Top 6 ranking was found here.
So what I want to know is what does the general public feel about climate change?
Check back soon for another post about politics later this week!
As I began to research more and more about droughts, I was immediately curious as to what different states are doing to prepare for and fight against droughts. Water is life, and climate change is directly affecting access and quality of water. With this in mind, I began looking at whether states had plans in place or just fancy rhetoric.
Most of the measures focus on ensuring there is enough water available during drought, but there are no specifics about public health-related measures. The city of Berkeley has more measures in place that include assessments on water resources, and Los Angeles has measures to prepare for increased drought conditions.
The plan in Maryland includes ensuring water availability.
In New York, the plan monitors the possibility of droughts and maintains water stockpiles.
The plan in New Hampshire identifies drought as a health-related threat, but does not include measures to address the issue. Specific cities also are increasing water storage capacity.
The plan focuses on improving technical assistance and establishing incentives to increase water storage.
The state of Pennsylvania recommends to implement measures to prevent health-related aspects of drought.
In Washington, the plan focuses on insuring adequate drinking water and fire protections.
Wisconsin’s plan is to minimize threats to public health and safety by anticipating extreme weather events.
The plan identifies drought as a health-related threat, but does not include specific measures.
As I kept reading through more and more state's alleged plans, I kept finding “measures,” but not a lot of action. I was even more shocked that only 9 states had developed preparedness plans. With climate change as an increasing threat, it is truly imperative that all states and local governments address drought as an increasing possibility.
Information from http://www.nrdc.org/health/climate/drought.asp
A drought is an extended period of dry weather caused by a lack of rain or snow. Examples of current droughts are the southwestern U.S., Brazil, South Africa and North Korea. Drought conditions could negatively affect agriculture, water supplies, energy production, and other aspects of society. The impacts vary depending on the type, location, intensity, and duration of the drought. During this summer my hometown, Puerto Rico, experience a drought, which in some area the water supplies was limited to 48 hours per week. You can analyze a drought based on the perspective of temperature or precipitation. As temperatures rise due to global climate change, more moisture evaporates from land and water, leaving less water behind. Some places are getting more rain or snow to make up for it, but other places are getting less. Another perspective that raised the vulnerability of a drought is the increase in population and water consumption.
Based on the papers, some droughts (Brazil) are caused by the population growth, others (Syria) were caused by the lack of rainfall linked to climate change; furthermore no role on human-induced climate change was found for the Northeast Asia droughts. However, the report explicitly states that the conclusion of “no influence” may be because to the methodology or observations are not enough to detect the influence. Those uncertainties and limitations rise another reason on why we need to advocate not only for climate change literacy, mitigation & adaptation but also for funding basic scientific research; but this will be a topic for another blog. Below is a video from NASA explaining the Megadroughts projected for American west.
Jill Leaness: A Pennsylvania Girl in an Idaho World: My experience at the Northwest Climate Conference
This week I had the privilege of attending the Northwest Climate Conference. The conference changes location every year (across the Northwest United States), and this year it was in northern Idaho. While I am currently attending the University of Idaho, I am not originally from this area, in fact I am originally from the northeast, a suburb of Philadelphia to be exact. What, you may wonder, does my hometown have to do with my experience at a conference about climate change?
Well, ever since coming to Idaho, I have learned and seen very different perspectives on natural resources than I learned as a child in Pennsylvania public school and as an undergrad in New Jersey. Nowhere, has this different perspective been more prevalent than at the Climate Conference. Now, don't get me wrong, this was still a climate change conference, it was a combination of scientists, managers, students, tribal leaders etc that all care about and have a passion for understanding climate change. BUT what was very evident to me at this conference was the different motivators people in this part of the country have to stop climate change.
For example, the opening speaker at the conference spent his hour at the podium presenting why climate change will negatively impact recreational hunters and fishermen. He explained how elk would be harder to find because they will move to higher elevations, how cold water fish such as steelhead will decline. He made extremely relevant and valid points about the ecological impacts of climate change, but all under the guise that we should put an end to climate change so we can continue to hunt and fish. I am not saying this perspective is right or wrong, and honestly in the end it doesn't matter WHY a person wants to take action to stop climate change, just that he or she DOES take action, but I can't say I expected someone to discuss hunting and fishing at a climate change conference led by academics.
Some topics I did expect, but also coincide a lot more with northwest concerns than northeast concerns were wildfires and water resource issues. But, what am I trying to get at here? What I'm trying to convey, is that climate change is impacting the different regions of the United States distinctly and we, as individuals, are each experiencing the effects in varying ways, depending on how we were raised. If you were raised hunting and fly fishing you will be impacted by the loss of the species you hunt and fish for. If you grew up an avid skier you will be disappointed when your favorite slopes lack snow. But in the end it doesn't matter WHAT you notice first, or WHAT motivates you, what matters is that you acknowledge climate change is impacting your life, and that it is time to do something about it.
As we headed down to Washington D.C. last week, we had the opportunity to meet with journalists, a former lobbyist and staff from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate.
We started our day at the National Press Club with discussions about communicating our message. The idea of trust came up. Reporting with integrity is an important part of building trust. Responsibility, Accuracy, and Fairness will guide you to communicating without compromise.
You also need to write well. This should be obvious but it’s something that I’m guilty of ignoring from time to time with last minute deadlines. The better you are at writing, the more people will read your material and follow you through your career. It will also put you ahead of your peers.
Think of that last article you had to read for the content but was so dry that you kept reading the same paragraph over and over without remembering a single word. Compare that with something that was written with the reader in mind: it makes a world of a difference.
Part of writing well is communicating clearly. Knowing your audience and catering to them will increase the likely hood that they actually read what you want to tell them and maybe even passing that piece of literature on to someone else.
The next morning, we got a lesson policy and how difficult it is to pass a bill. We were told it takes 6 years to write a good bill. Although the process is in place to give everyone a chance to review it, it makes it easy to squash a good idea. The main message I took away from this was that a lot of work goes into passing a bill and making it law.
As people, we need to communicate with our government very clearly about what we want and what we don’t want. Your representatives are there to serve you but if you don’t communicate with them they will assume you’re happy with what they’re doing. In North America we are extremely lucky to have the right to voice our opinions, let's speak up.
People in positons of knowledge should call for people in positions of power to make changes.
I challenge you to write to your representative to say what’s on your mind.
You don’t have to write the bill yourself but your idea can definitely make its way into law someday.