Skunks at Copenhagen's Garden Party
Memo to climate negotiators: Global warming isn't just a PR problem.
Nearly two decades after writing a book that popularized the term "global warming," MoJo contributing writer Bill McKibben founded 350.org. He is chronicling his journey into organizing with a series of columns about the global climate summit in Copenhagen. You can find the others here. Check out MoJo's live stream of collaborative Copenhagen coverage here.
From the distance, you could hear a little noise and rhythmic chanting cutting through the train-station drone that is the normal soundtrack here in the Bella Center, the aircraft carrier of a convention hall on the outskirts of Copenhagen where climate talks are now fully underway.
The chanting grew louder as I rounded a corner. It wasn't an unruly demonstration, but it was insistent. A knot of people—mostly young—were chanting "Tuvalu is the real deal." Tuvalu is a group of islands in the South Pacific—it has a population just over 12,000, making it the one of the least-populated nations in the world. It's not the kind of place that carries much weight in world geopolitics.
But on this day, in this meeting that is supposedly devoted to "saving the world" or "protecting the planet" or "safeguarding future generations" or whatever grandiose phrase occurs to some head of state standing in front of a microphone, Tuvalu was the country standing up for sense. In the morning negotiations they'd demanded that the treaty pledge to hold the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius. That would be almost impossible—the temperature is already up .8 of a degree, with quite a bit more heat already in the pipeline from carbon we've already emitted. But it wouldn't be as impossible as Tuvalu surviving temperature increases of any greater magnitude. They're low to the water, which makes them close to the heart of the problem.