The place to be these days, at least through next week, is Copenhagen. The Danish capital is hosting a two-week U.N. conference on climate change. It is a huge world event.
The hottest ticket in town is a laminated piece of paper that is essential for entrance into the Bella Center, the venue for the meeting.
Yesterday, shortly after the sun went down after 4 p.m., hundreds of people were lined up outside the doors of the Bella Center in hopes of getting their IDs for the meeting. The temperature hovered around freezing. Line-standers, including me, huddled in their heavy coats as the line moved forward slowly in small spurts. Mixed together in the queue were diplomats, camera operators, and folks representing non-governmental organizations. NGOs, as the U.N. calls them, are a broad category encompassing environmental and community activists, businesses, and think tanks.
It took me about 40 minutes reach the door to the center. Once inside – warmth at last! – there were more lines. The one for security was about the same as passing through screening in an airport (we got to keep our shoes on) and took about 20 minutes. The next line was for receiving a paper saying you’d be cleared for credentials. (Anyone who hadn’t applied and been approved weeks before the meeting was pretty much out of luck.) I was lucky – the line for the news media took 20 minutes. The queue for NGOs was longer.
The third and final line involved almost no waiting. I sat down in front of a digital camera and a woman snapped my picture. In seconds, she handed over my freshly minted ID card anchored on a maroon-colored lanyard.
Each ID has a bar code. Security guards scan it as participants enter and leave the Bella Center.
Thousands and thousands of people are sporting those badges. They range from diplomats in expensive suits who are negotiating a new climate accord to indigenous folks in tribal dress who see human-induced climate change as a threat to their traditional existences.
I write this from an enormous news media center, filled with thousands of journalists from around the world covering this event on TV, radio, online, and in print. Like me, each of them is wearing a maroon lanyard with their ticket to the action hanging in Copenhagen from it.
C&EN reporter Cheryl Hogue was severely jet-lagged when she got her photo taken at the climate change meeting in Copenhagen.
Paris, Los Angeles, New York, step aside.