Is the glass of climate change half-empty or half-full?

by 14 lubica
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As the UN FCCC negotiations start in Peru this week, all the eyes of the world look to Lima to see if a brighter future and action will spark from it.

Last year, at the COP 19 in Warsaw, we saw around 8.375 participants, which included 4.022 state representatives, 664 officials of intergovernmental organizations, 3.031 NGO participants, and 658 media people among them. 1) The intense 11 days of global climate talks and exchange between scientists, politicians and civil society have been described by many as gap widening, a chasm, sobering assessments of the political actions, and negative developments heading into a "downward spiral in policies that is moving us towards a coal-dependent economy and a re-carbonisation of the world energy system that would push us to a warming of five degrees." 2)

Just like in human relationships, countries negotiating are sometimes denying their faults, and sometimes choosing to blame each other for the fact that there is a gap between science and policy action and this gap is getting even bigger. When talking to a young scientist doing his PhD research on payments for environmental services in Costa Rica, I asked him this question: "What do you think is missing in the current climate change talks?"

Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace International, sent a message across the globe this week reminding us that "the challenges we all face are linked and we must link to each other in order to confront those challenges. The fight ahead of us will require radical optimism in a world where those who benefit from the status quo would rather we fell victim to despair and divisiveness."

Indeed big changes often spark from radical optimism at the times when the majority of us are mourning over current state of things. My PhD fellow, a realist and economist, said we should have a plan B. All the negotiators and social movements focus on climate change mitigation battle, but we should develop a strong social movement in climate change adaptation as well. Lets be realistic in the current developments. How can social movements achieve a change if the big polluters are lobbying the governments to continue business as usual? Perhaps if we all truly unite together and push for a change as a big movement, there will be some results, he said.

Often one feels just way too small and unimportant in own local actions and environmental lifestyle when looking at the international climate change "funeral" speeches of big players. Terms like additionality, leakage, carbon pools and reference scenarios are way too abstract for a small forest and agroforestry peasant to think about while working on a farm somewhere in the fields.

Nevertheless, social movements and environmental voices are formed by such enthusiastic individuals who choose to act with courage and don't despair when big obstacles appear on the road. Their actions inspire many others to join the struggle for a healthy planet and just societies for future generations. Asking a local farmer in Costa Rica how does he feel about the big ongoing conference in Peru, his answer was, the planet is here for all, not just for a few of us and there should be greater solidarity among us when discussing our common future.


And so when you will take the next glass of water, ask yourself whether you see the glass of climate change half empty or half full? Because your vision will influence your actions and impact the community around. With a clear vision and united in solidarity, we can achieve the big things.





References:
1) http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2013/cop19/eng/inf04.pdf
2) Bill Hare, director of non-for-profit Climate Analytics quoted here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/planet-oz/2013/nov/21/warsaw-climate-change-conference-global-warming#start-of-comments

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